Hour-long songs can be somewhat of a hard sell. For starters, there has to be an audience of listeners who are willing to carve out the time and sit and engage for sixty-plus minutes. Additionally and most crucially for instrumental projects, the sounds have to be there. Dopesmoker is an hour long, but it tells a story to go along with the riff. When it's all instruments, the riffs have to be at the front along with everything else. The elements have to work in concert with one another. Ideally, the finished piece will move seamlessly and open up paths that weren't there before. And it'll do so, while continuing to reveal other, intimate details on subsequent listens.
"In a Dutch Haze" is a 58-minute-long recording of a collaboration between California stoner rock titans Earthless and J Mascis' psychedelic instrumental project, Heavy Blanket. According to the press release, the seeds of this joint effort were first laid out in 2009 at South by Southwest when Mascis struck up a "impromptu heavy psych jam" withEarthless, the San Diego-based trio comprised of guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba. Shortly after that one session, the involved parties would be asked to conjure up a jam once again. This time in Holland at the annual Roadburn Festival. While Mitchell would be unable to take part, Mascis, Enginton and Rubalcaba along with second guitarist Graham Clise (of Heavy Blanket, Witch, Lecherous Gaze) would take the Roadburn stage in 2012 and take another stab at sonically tearing the earth apart.
The end result, "Paradise in a Purple Sky," is equal parts weird and sprawling. It takes about ten minutes for it to really take off, but the following 47 minutes and change is a mind-melting psychedelic reckoning. In a more grounded reality, there may be some who pine for more signature Mascis shredding on the track, but to get caught up in that is to miss the bigger picture. And this is a very big-sounding piece.
When it's all over, it's hard to believe just how far you've gone in 58 minutes time. To think about the course that you took is almost too much to bear. In a lot of ways it feels like having followed a free balloon all the way to its natural end. When the ribbon on the inflatable rubber vessel first slipped out of that small child's hand, the sphere rose slowly, almost suspended in the air. Eventually, it began to soar in the wide open blue sky and then soaring gave way to climbing and then, from a distance, it just started to look like a goddamn hard-charging helium dart. The sky falls into the rearview and the red balloon rockets out of the atmosphere and into space, skipping across both celestial and astral planes. It slides, it stumbles and it glazes over all the heaviness on display in outer space. It skirts on with just enough light to get by. It proves to be flexible and resilient; stretching when it needs to and swelling when it's permissible. This doesn't last forever, though. Shapes are suddenly stretched too far out and there's a slight sag, and then that's it. Silence. It's over.
8.5 / 10
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