Friday, June 15, 2018

Big Blood - Operate Spaceship Earth Properly Review



Sorely under-appreciated, Big Blood's discography has been one both enigmatic and expansive. Powerful yet frail. Endearing yet cold. Since discovering the family-bred, Maine-based Big Blood earlier this year, my obsession, intrigue, and absorption hasn't subsided one bit. Operate Spaceship Earth Properly, the group's 20th-something album since 2006, adorns my wall in vinyl format, Colleen Kinsella's sword-swallowing art framed alongside it. There's something authentic about their existence, embracing a love of art that beams out from all escape points. With Spaceship Earth, Big Blood continue their path of thematically-rich collections that embrace a novel style displaced from modern trends and norms. This time around it's retro-futuristic Sci-Fi, an interest previously undiscovered by Big Blood prior to 2018 as both Spaceship Earth and their experimental collaboration with Thunder Crutch take a fancy to Octavia Butler's galactic odyssey's.

Perhaps the first thing an inquisitive Big Blood fanatic will notice is the complete lack of Caleb Mulkerin on vocals. There's no denying Kinsella's place as jack-of-all-trades lead, but his wholesome charm always offset her excursions past Folk. This time around however, the tethers are stripped as Kinsella's free to explore this occult world filled with psychedelic synths, unsettling cries from deep space, and human desolation. Even more apparent is Mulkerin's entrusting hand to his daughter Quinnisa, the perpetual life blood servicing Big Blood's ambition, care, and rectitude. Not to mention the purveyor of Dark Country Magic's folktale 'Moohoo.' With Spaceship Earth though, Quinnisa's grown up enough to lend her voice and guitarist talents, fitting eloquently into the Big Blood mold of distorted drone with weighty consequences. That's visible during the first piece 'When I Was Young,' a stout and corpulent uprising that evokes the Rock-based stone march of Old Time Primitives or Unlikely Mothers. Here, Kinsella's wildly-charismatic approach to nostalgia abstains from using the typical rose-tinted glasses in favor of a gritty, cabalistic fervor dream. A similar approach is used on 'Takver' as well, this time including what's arguably the only semi-Folk appearance on Spaceship Earth.

Unlike the disappointing Big Blood & Thunder Crutch, wherein the latter band acquiesced using absent-minded Electroacoustic Improvisation, Spaceship Earth utilizes the Sci-Fi binge through more analytical means. The first instance of which comes on the jarring, alien jubilee of 'Jagged Orbit.' Nothing in Big Blood's discography resembles such computerized means, emitting an early Kraftwerkian vibe. 'Jagged Orbit' is short-lived, and therefore acts as an interlude describing the spacious surroundings aroused by ensuing track 'Wishy Wishy I.' In some sense, the demented, hallucinatory trudge, which features a closing sequel in 'Wishy Wishy II,' resembles an altered dimension of 'Blind Owl I' and 'Blind Owl II,' two humanistic pieces featured on Big Blood's last solo project; 2017's A Daughters Union. That diversification summarizes the artistic integrity Big Blood bestows, traveling from the dirt and grime of a farm to the metaphorical dirt and grime of our galaxy's asteroid belt. For a band perpetually defined as psychedelic, it's striking that 'Wishy Wishy' might be their most mind-bending hymn yet.

That being said, Kinsella's psychotropic vocals on the two-part series, in connection with 'No Human Color' which acts as the ratified solemnization of each 'Wishy Wishy' half, doesn't come equip with a high-level enjoyability factor. Worry had set in come A Daughters Union over Big Blood's ability to continue creation of high-quality, original compositions, considering 'Our Love Will Still Be There' (cover of The Troggs) and 'I Have Known Love' (cover of Silver Apples) were the two best efforts. However, come Spaceship Earth's second half, that worry subsides with the three-track streak of 'Pink Eye,' 'Olamina,' and 'Queen Day.' First up is the startling Art Punk of 'Pink Eye,' a track that ironically sounds inspired by both the rambunctious Garage Rock of The Troggs and the unconventional noise drips of Silver Apples, even down to the nonsensical lyrical nature each conveyed. If not for the expeditious 'Pink Eye,' the monumental excursion of 'Olamina's' nine minutes would be for naught. Kinsella's witchery prowess blossoms on the track owed to Octavia Butler, one that stammers, crashes, and breaks like the third wave of Swans' Experimental Rock didactical's. The violence and wickedness pounding away towards the end engages Kinsella's vulnerability in ways Big Blood hadn't attempted before.

'Olamina,' the longest song, then bleeds into 'Queen Day,' the second longest song, as nearly every Big Blood release post-Dark Country Magic has been prone to do. Here, Kinsella rises above her family, giving Spaceship Earth its best performance. Her seething vocals, which pierce as well as they heal, waver in place atop the weightless gravity of space, bearing some resemblance to her standout appeal of destruction on the hopeless panic of 'Water.' Mulkerin's quivering strings stand at opposition of her confidence, while simultaneously matching the rhythmic catchiness of the background vocals. Once again, Big Blood reasserts themselves as an artistic force that is not only consistent, but seems to be gaining second wind thanks to Quinnisa's silent insertion. Layers upon layers drown Operate Spaceship Earth Properly in measured automation, using the circumferential being known as Colleen Kinsella to humanize the spiritless vacuum of our cosmos.

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