As some readers may already know, I am something of a devotee of space rock godfathers Hawkwind. Some, like Mrs Mac for example, would argue that by owning sixty-plus Hawkwind vinyl albums (and counting) I am less a devotee and more an obsessive lunatic. Regardless, the band has released, and in fact continues to release, many wonderful albums. The pinnacle for me, however, remains their monumental ‘Space Ritual’ live album from 1973; a truly mind-frying combination of thunderously heavy rock underpinned by relentless driving rhythms, extended jams, all manner of electronic sounds and spacey effects, spoken word interludes and cosmic and anarchic lyrical musings.
And what is often overlooked is that the band at this point (which comprised founder Dave Brock, Nik Turner, Robert Calvert, Del Detmar, Simon King, Dik Mik on ‘audio generator’, and of course the redoubtable Lemmy) were incredibly tight and finely honed after several years of almost constant gigging behind their first three studio albums. Furthermore, they were (and remain) far from just a bunch of ‘peace and love’ hippies left over from the late ‘sixties that many mistakenly believed them to be. The sensory overload resulting from the combined effects of the music and a retina-ruining liquid light-show masterminded by artist Barney Bubbles (who also came up with the iconic ‘Space Ritual’ album cover), not to mention the hypnotic gyrations of their legendary dancer Stacia, is alleged to have caused many a freak-out amongst audience members. As Lemmy himself described it in Mick Wall’s 2016 biography of the great man, “Hawkwind were dangerous man. We used to give people epileptic fits… we used to have strobes pointed out at the crowd. We used to fuck people up good, man.”
The influence of Hawkwind runs deep through many and varied bands down through the years, but ‘Space Ritual’ in particular is for me the spiritual space rock forefather of today’s growing crop of bands who are similarly setting their musical controls for the heart of the sun. There are endless great bands out there in the space rock universe (way, way out there in fact), and here are just a few of my particular favourites. Of course listening to such cosmic music should be accompanied by beer that is similarly otherworldly… dark, impenetrable, and perhaps brewed with galaxy hops (see what I did there… galaxy… space rock… chortle).
It’s Not Night: It’s Space is a power trio from New Paltz in New York State who remind me just a little of Causa Sui and Colour Haze, particularly with their guitar tone. Their music is, however, rather more urgent with blazing guitar solos and fuzz drenched riffs backed by a thunderous rhythm section who just keep pushing things relentlessly onward and outward. Last year’s ‘Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting’ album also sees the band occasionally explore slightly more ambient territory, which just adds to the atmosphere and otherworldliness of their music. If you are lucky enough to be able to get your hands on a bottle or two, Woolshed Brewery’s limited run Bunyip imperial stout (8.5% ABV) is a perfect accompaniment. Black as night… or space, lightly carbonated with a creamy brown head this beautifully crafted stout is lush and silky smooth. Lashings of dark malt are complemented by enough hops to bring the Bunyip up to 85 IBUs. Bitter dark chocolate flavours are well balanced by some stone fruit and a hint of old port sweetness, and there is plenty of alcohol warmth to keep the bitter cold of deep space, or a Riverland winter, at bay.
Germany’s Space Invaders are masters of the slow burn. Their lengthy improvised instrumentals ebb and flow with lashings of effects-laden guitars on the back of rumbling rhythms. All the while the momentum slowly, almost imperceptibly builds and builds until you find yourself in the midst of the sonic equivalent of sun collapsing in on itself. Of their four albums released to date (including a live album ‘Sonic Noise Opera’ which features founding Hawkwind member Nik Turner), 2015’s ‘Dreadnought’ is my personal favourite. While listening to Space Invaders I can’t go past the Cthulhu on the Moon black IPA (6.5% ABV) from Kaiju! Beer. An interesting, hazy aroma grabs your attention first and of course being a Kaiju! Product, hops are very much to the fore. But while this is certainly a big bold beer, there is also a degree of subtlety and stealth in the way everything comes together. The flavour features is coffee and cocoa bitterness rounded out by fruity new world hops before a lovely bitter but surprisingly clean finish.
Yuri Gagarin is an instrumental five-piece from Gothenberg in Sweden, and also one of absolute favourite bands on the planet. Take some Hawkwind circa the ‘Live Seventy Nine’ album, a whole bunch of searing acid-fried guitar solos and jams akin to Earthless, relentless motoric rhythms and haunting, spacey atmospherics and you are just part of the way there. To date the band has released two full-length albums and an EP, all of which are just blindingly good. You should buy them immediately. You should also buy some Cascadian Howl Black IPA from Modus Operandi Brewing Co immediately while this outstanding seasonal brew is still quite readily available. A huge herbaceous hit of hop aromas assails your nostrils as soon as you crack the can, and those hops remain very much to the fore throughout with wild fruity flavour and a thick resinous finish. The dark malts don’t so much as compete as provide a solid base and subtle background flavours of chocolate and a hint of ripe plums. Dangerously easy to drink at a lazy 8.1% ABV.
All of the afore-mentioned bands and many more of their ilk can be found on Bandcamp, or if you would like to get your grubby fingers on luscious vinyl versions you should check out Underground Records at http://www.undergroundrecords.com.au/ (or if you live here in Adelaide, you can pay them a visit at 47 The Parade, Norwood).
So dim the lights, slip on the headphones, have your beverage of choice close at hand and drop the needle…