In December of 2014, the fourth edition of SpaceFest brought together some of the biggest names in progressive rock from all sides of the Pecos — if the Pecos were the center of everything — to Gdańsk, Poland. Among them was Mark Gardner (Ride) and Ray Dickaty (Spiritualized 1997-2002/Moonshake 1994-1997/Skree 1992-1996).
Their purpose was to complete the entirety of the annual Pure Phase Ensemble which is a workshop of collaborative musicians who, no doubt, secretly compose their work to feature it for only one performance in the festival. Like, wow! If that doesn’t sell tickets, right?
Back in the late nineties, I used to walk through the local city arts district from my school to home almost daily and I’m glad I had no choice as I was fascinated with the area. Who wouldn’t want that kind of stimulation? It all made perfect sense, I was studying the visual and theater arts and I didn’t have to leave it all behind, I could still living within that climate.
During those walks, I would take my walk/discman with me and listen to my soundtracks to go with the urban artistic scenery, such as eerie-industrial space rock and whatever else helped settle and guide the wandering mind. One of those albums was Field Of The Nephilim’s Earth Inferno, which I thought was my first purchasing mistake because as my first Nephilim purchase, it’s not a studio but rather a live album.
If I remember correctly, I shunned it before I became obsessed with it. I never thought I would revisit it again aside from a casual listen, until I heard Pure Phase Ensemble 4.
The aptly named Notatki starts bordering on a RadioHead beat pattern before it turns into epic space rock with the build of distant guitar rings before it rocks out. And since I’m tracking a lot of comparisons here already, I’ll also say that Dickaty’s improvised sax performance also sounds at time as if I’m listening to a lost recording of early Bauhaus live. At 15 minutes, you would think it would be a good sample of the entirety of the album experience but it isn’t.
The track that follows Zostan Na Noc triggers that live Nephilim album I find myself cornered with but it’s not until Peter Song that I’m a little disappointed with the recording quality. I’m one of those who didn’t hear the difference between a 128kbp quality MP3 when that In Rainbows album was widely available for download and so I defaulted back into that when listening to this one. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to the Space Fest people to do a studio release of this and throw the live recording in as a freebie? It would also make sense to go straight through the board for the recording, which I believe the Nephilim did with Earth Inferno.
But let’s be honest about some of this space rock stuff, if you can hold a note for more than several beats and keep cycling it, you only need a little push from a ingested substance or at least willing to be mesmerized with minimalism to drift with the music, so you can just toss out Intro like, for realz. Yet, that won’t do for a live recording as they’re all probably getting on stage at the moment of that intro so yeah, forget I said anything.
In its entirety, this album is very pop heavy which we can thank Mark Gardner’s for, his vocal melodies aren’t restricted since his pre-set tenor gives him a lot of flexibility to accent and pose to the music. All of this adds up to a very versatile set of live recordings that’s too short-lived to enjoy with just one listen.
I feel also as if it would have been a better idea to switch the closer Happy Dancing Woman with Morning Rise and we’d have a real closure for the overall effect of the album. Despite all of that, we’ve got to hand it to SpaceFest and especially Nasiono records for capturing rare and precious moments like these.
SpaceFest returns this year with a new ensemble from which there will definitely be a record ready around this time next year? But check these guys out and get behind them!