Genres can be bothersome things. They can inform, yes; they can guide the prospective listener to hidden gems and desultory statements they might otherwise have missed; but they can also limit the artists bound by them and they can instigate assumptions amongst prospective audiences—conventions that creative minds are then expected to adhere to.
This, of course, is rarely healthy for the artists in question—a fact which rather raises the question of why a greater number of creators don't simply abandon the concept of genre altogether. That's certainly something that Spiritczualic Enhancement Center—a pan-global conglomerate totalling eighteen musicians—seems to have done. Carpet Album, their fourth long-playing collection, acts as the sum total of a bewilderingly broad range of influence, its hazy soundscapes serving as a magnet to just about every style one can imagine.
The murky explorations of Miles Davis' similarly genre-busting '70s work comes to mind, as does the deft finesse of early '70s European library music—with the work of Piero Umiliani and Stringtronics standing as particularly potent reference points within the band's sound. The combustive jazz-fusion of One Size Fits All-era Frank Zappa is likewise evoked in their squelching synthesisers and nimble rhythm section, whilst the atomic rumble of King Tubby's prime dub plates is mustered in the album's swampier moments.
Ultimately, though, Carpet Album is the work of artists intent on looking to the future, rather than losing themselves in the familiar realms of the past. The hallucinogenic space-rock of Hawkwind and the acid-drenched desert blues of Kyuss might also come to mind at points through this collection but, where the bulk of Spiritczualic Enhancement Center's peers—in as much as they have any—might be considered retro-futurist throwbacks, this continent-spanning collective are ultimately distinctive and, indeed, even fresh. Indeed, out of neo-psychedelia's current crop, it is perhaps only with fellow auditory-investigators Neptunian Maximalism that this collective can accurately be compared. Both bands have a knack for reinventing the vernacular of musical traditions that go back at least a half-century—and, in many cases, plenty past that.
Issued by German indie outfit Kryptox, the vinyl release of Carpet Album appears on shelves as a heavyweight slab of black wax. The LP certainly feels sturdy in-hand—and, though we did notice a few light abrasion marks on both sides, playback was not affected in any meaningful way by these minor imperfections. Indeed, this is by and large a great sounding record; we did pick up on a few errant pops and minor crackles in the case of our copy but these were few and far between. For the bulk of the album's runtime, we found playback to be clear of any issues, allowing us to enjoy its heady soundstage on its own terms—which is a good thing too, as this is a well-mastered record. The amount of care that each musician involved has put into the construction of this album is apparent by virtue of its evocative soundscapes alone, so it seems only fitting that the album should also boast punchy mastering.
Though Kryptox have opted to present Carpet Album in a standard-width, gatefold sleeve, the art direction is nevertheless so striking as make it one of the most arrestingly packaged releases we've seen in some time. The cardstock from which the cover has been manufactured is a little lighter than we would have ideally liked it to be but it feels sturdy enough when being handled—though, as always in such cases, it would have been preferable to have seen the barcode attached to the shrinkwrap as a sticker, rather than having been printed directly onto the back cover. A purple printed paper inner sleeve is also included but no actual information or artwork is clearly visible upon it, perhaps rendering its inclusion extraneous. Nevertheless, this is a strikingly-presented vinyl release of an album that is immediately arresting in its execution. At once both familiar and fresh, Carpet Album announces Spiritczualic Enhancement Center as ones to watch—and, ultimately, those intrigued by exploratory, sonic innovations both new and old are likely to enjoy this set no end.