With psychedelic music steadily gaining popularity, and new acts popping up all the time to add their own flavor to the psych movement, it continually boggles me that this type of music hasn’t hit the mainstream yet (besides maybe Tame Impala). At the forefront of this amazing wave of neo-psychedelic acts is The Asteroid #4.
While the band has gone through a slew of lineup changes in its 17 years active, they have persevered and continued to reinvent themselves stylistically, even trying their hand at a country-blues tinged album with 2003’s Honeyspot. Moving from their native Philadelphia to San Francisco has also helped inform the band’s ever-changing sound over the years.
Almost without warning, the band has released the self-titled digital album The Asteroid No. 4 on October 8th. As expected, this new A4 is a wonderful addition to the band’s already strong catalog, and Psychedelic Sunday is ecstatic to bring you our review of it.
Opening up the album is the grand, expansive sound of “The River”, a gorgeous piece of psychedelic pop that sounds like it would fit just as well on The Beatles Revolver as it does on this album. The layers of airy guitars and background vocals will keep you coming back to this track.
An innocent group of children count down from 5 to prepare us for the fuzzy guitar intro of the album’s second track “Rukma Vimana”. The song is named after an early 20th-century sanskrit text that claims to have discovered a method of advanced aerodynamic flying machines through psychic channeling and automatic writing.
Lyrically, the track invokes imagery of soaring through psychedelic landscapes on a rocket of your own imagination, urging the listener to “Relax and close your eyes / Take off within your mind / The ship is set for taking flight”. Clocking in at nearly 7 minutes, the song is probably the most explorative piece of psychedelic rock on the album, seducing you into a trance with the repeating chant, “Rukma Vimana is a flying machine”.
As the flying machine fades out of view, the swirling, dreamy track “Ghosts of Dos Erres” drifts onto the scene to help ease you out of your transcendental state and bring you into one the album’s biggest standouts, “The Windmill of the Autumn Sky”.
Previous released on an EP of the same name, “The Windmill of the Autumn Sky” is a perfect piece of thought provoking pop music, done in a style that only a band like Asteroid #4 can do. The song is a textbook example of the softer side of the band, that shows off a bit of the influence of British acts like Kaleidoscope and Echo and The Bunnymen.
“Mount Meru” serves as a nice midpoint for the album, featuring a droning spoken word piece over a lush arrangement of guitars, sitars, and tabla drums. It sets the stage for one of the album’s more straightforward psychedelic rock tracks, “Back of Your Mind”.
The Asteroid #4 have been proving that they can make fast-driving psychedelic rock music since the later half of the Clinton years, but what really stands out in my mind are the songs that wipe away the layers of reverb and distortion to reveal the serene and simplistic beauty of their songwriting.
“Ropeless Free Climber” is one of those tracks. The cathartic refrain “Suddenly it occurs to me, I’ll never ever be the same / But it’s alright, I don’t want to be” sums up the song’s overarching theme of allowing change to occur and to not be bothered by it.
The second half of the album pushes on with the instrumental track “Ode to Cosmo” which brings back the use of Eastern instruments and is a great companion to the album’s other sitar heavy tracks. This interlude segues effortlessly into the fuzzed-out protest song “Revolution Prevail”, which is easily the most political song the band has ever written.
Closing out the album with the soft acoustic guitars of “Yuba” makes this 10-track journey complete. The instrumental composition fits right in with the rest of the album and invokes the same serene feeling as a song like Jefferson Airplane’s “Embryonic Journey”. The song is a simple yet beautiful end to this remarkable album.
This new album marks the band’s third release of the year, following an EP released in May and a brilliant collaboration with ’60s UK band Kaleidoscope’s frontman, Peter Daltrey, on the album The Journey, released last January.
The Asteroid No. 4 is available to stream for free and to download for a mere $8 via bandcamp. Or for $15 you can buy a stylish A4 t-shirt that includes a free download of the album. Also don’t forget to head over to the band’s record label, The Committee To Keep Music Evil, to pickup physical copies of the band’s back catalog.