Album: Crash Canis Majoris
Review by Reed Burnam
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Abiding contentedly and with a sly wink right under the “experimental” moniker in the “experimental rock” category, Bogdo Ula’s newest LP Crash Canis Majoris is a trip to the moon and back.  Keeping in line with previous releases such as Charge and 2011’s transcendental space odyssey Prisoners of Freedom, 2012’s Crash Canis Majoris is more of what Bogdo Ula do best – trippy, erratic, and often electric improv experimentation that cleaves close to its own internal muse, and in its wake crafts dense thickets of instrumental avant jazz-rock that both cooks and percolates in its own juices. 

Crash Canis Majoris is the third album from Bogdo Ula to incorporate the fully realized trio of guitarist Samuli Kristian, bassist Jean Ruin, and drummer Ivan Horder (the outfit was previously a two-piece featuring only Kristian and Horder).  With the addition of Ruin in 2010, Bogdo Ula’s signature style was molded, consisting of Kristian’s blistering, Metheny meets Hendrix-esque fretwork, Horder’s propulsive and attentive skin and metal bashing, and Ruin’s low-end rumble in the jungle bass work, all blended up in the juicer of 100% improvisation, free-jazz anti-structure, and color wheel mood musing.  Tracks on Crash Canis Majoris are more walkabout than structured excursion, and together coalesce into a tonal archipelago representative of the band’s penchant for sonic risk and playfulness.  As far as the extreme end of the impulse to deconstruct convention goes, it could be said that Bogdo UIa’s compositions remain more recognizable than oblique, however, and Crash Canis Majoris will no doubt appeal to closeted free-jazz rockers everywhere who choose to keep a tentative grip on the real rather than drift away into some uncharted deep space sound collage.  To put it simpler – this record will likely appeal to fans of late-era Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Zappa, Beefheart, Sun Ra, Band of Gypsies-era Hendrix, Weather Report, 70’s fusion in general, and other aural oddities that have ascended to become some of the tried and true touchstones of modern experimental paradigm.  Still, despite the exploratory overtones here, there is something touching and familiar in Kristian, Horder, and Ruin’s compositions, which despite their ferociously ardent commitment to 100% improvisation and pushing the envelope generally, still come off with a polarized free jazz tint inherent to the lenses. 

The band is great at what they do, and there are points within the folds of certain tracks on Crash Canis Majoris that hit on something nearing a conjunctive improvisational samadhi, such as with the tense, alien, Doctor-Who-on-amphetamines aesthetic of “I Never Was Away”, the doom funnel ambience of “Vy Cma Pt. 1”, and the space opera voodoo child spiritum of “Vortex in Your Eyes”.  Yet there’s still the feeling that all of this is strangely familiar, and by the time the shimmer guitar pyrotechnics of “Wherever I Lay My Helmet” come calling, any listener with an ear for this sort of thing should have a comfortably numb glow given the simulacrum butterfly effect of previously stated influences on the band’s overall color and feel.  Bogdo Ula have a penchant for black hole suns and the chops to back it up, and Kristian’s signature guitar riffery over Horder and Ruin’s awesome, concussive rhythm attack on tracks such as “Your Sign Cygnus” and title track “Crash Canis Majoris” are enough to turn heads and bend eardrums.  As with 2011’s Prisoners of Freedom, tracks on Crash Canis Majoris follow their own obtuse logic, often as a showcase for the ridiculously adept musicianship that peppers most of what Bogdo Ula cranks out.  As well, as with previous albums, one could make the request/complaint that some of the power that the band could wield might be lost on some listeners due to the sheer frenetics of Bogdo Ula’s experimental hankerings, and tracks could be at times accused of filling too much space when leaving it more unfilled (i.e. restraint vs. going for it) might result in a more balanced overall assault and a more fully evolved record that both wows and flutters.  Still, the band works it and works it well, even leaving spaces for a little humor as well as the band’s DIY work ethic to come to the fore (such as with the drop-out to background noise half-way through on “Portraits Around the Bend”).   It’s hard to argue with these guys too much – they pretty much kick ass.

Once again, Bogdo Ula come correct with a mind-bending interstellar jaunt that isn’t afraid to follow its muses and completely shirk any notion of compromise for the sake of less forgiving ears.  More should follow suit.

Review by Reed Burnam

 

Album: Crash Canis Majoris
Review by Justin Kreitzer
Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

Bogdo Ula, the Finland based instrumental avant-garde jazz-rock trio has recently self-released Crash Canis Majoris, their sixth album in as many years.  The super-prolific and wildly talented band took their name and some inspiration from a majestic mountain near the city of Ulaabaatar in Mongolia and consists of guitarist Samuli Kristian, drummer Ivan Horder and bassist Jean Ruin.  Utilizing a DIY approach once again, the album was self-produced, mixed, mastered, and played and recorded live in the studio by the band, which goes a long way to prove that they write and perform so tightly it is almost symbiotic, sounding like one person or like an octopus playing each instrument at once.   

“Your Sign Cygnus” opens the album with a wild tangle of jazzy guitar runs, loosely constructed drum patterns and rumbling bass fills that sets the tone and provides the perfect introduction to their unique sound for new listeners.  The title track, “Crash Canis Majoris” stands out with some frenetic drumming and sun-scorched rock-inspired guitar soloing that together sounds like the soundtrack to a high speed chase scene and lasts for almost three minutes before ending without even once settling into a noticeable groove.  This is not music for the nervous, nor is it considered “easy listening” meant for peaceful relaxation.  No, this is rock and even punk inspired jazz-rock fusion meant to transport the listener and inspire imagination.  The aptly-titled “Portraits Around The Bend” follows with bending elastic guitar lines and a slight touch of funk in the bass riffing while the drums and cymbals splatter across the spectrum.  Another standout track, “I Never Was Away” opens with some pinging and reverberating guitar and bass harmonics that float along in the ether with cascading drums that gives the song a creepy, lost in space atmosphere.  “Woman-Human” is a fast-paced explosive blast with wiggling guitars, a gurgling bass line and some cagey drumming from Ivan Horder.  “VY CMa (part 1)” is made up of long spaced out guitar notes and discordant scraping and tuning noises that sounds like the band is just warming up before the start of a show but without actually starting the show and yet it still makes for one of the more interesting and ambient tracks on the album.  As a change of pace, “Adhara” is a slight departure from the band’s sound, featuring a consistent head-nodding drum beat with a repeated and hummable melody from the oscillating guitar and a strutting bass line. It is a welcomed change that showcases their broad range and versatility, so much so that you almost even expect a high-pitched prog rock singer to chime in at any moment.  Elsewhere, “Talk, Talk, Talk” features a stuttering rhythm and scaling guitars that lean towards the blues rock end of the spectrum and “Vortex In Your Eyes” roars to life from the beginning with a sound like a robotic beached whale crying for help to no avail for yet another standout moment.  Separated by two tracks, “VY CMa (part 2)” focuses on Jean Ruin’s bass guitar this time around with thick ominous tones and notes while the guitar nimbly fills the spaces in between.  “Where Ever I Lay My Head” closes out the album with energetic tumbling drums and rumbling bass, while Samuli Kristian envelops the whole song in his melodious and fancy fretwork, leaving you exhausted yet wanting more.

Bogdo Ula again has created yet another transportive and captivating album with Crash Canis Majoris which was named after one of the largest known stars, VY Canis Majoris (VY CMa).  In turn, the stellar album has a cosmic and psychedelic theme throughout with their vividly expressive and mostly improvisational sound reaching the stars and beyond.    

Review by Justin Kreitzer