I’ve never much considered myself a fan of long songs. This might come as something of a surprise from someone who has shared his love for the better part of Can‘s catalog with the world. Generally speaking though, I mostly prefer dynamic songs in small packages. I had only one song on my 2006 year-end list which extended beyond six minutes, and most remained in the three to four minute range. A friend once put a 12-minute Grateful Dead song on a mix tape he gave me, and I was practically livid. Yet I countered the gesture by giving him a mix with Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,” a 19-minute funk juggernaut that was this close to being replaced by Miles Davis’ “Shhh/Peaceful,” an even longer track. See, there actually are quite a few gargantuan songs I dig, but they have to be pretty amazing for me not to let my lack of patience get the better of me.
While the good majority of the songs I’ve been enjoying on repeat so far this year have been bite-sized nuggets themselves, I’ve since become caught in a bewitching, bewildering spell cast by Alex Delivery’s “Komad.” “Komad,” the 10-minute sonic marathon that opens the band’s debut Star Destroyer, doesn’t fall into the typical space rock epic traps. It’s an extremely energetic song, one with a swift pace and a heavily propelled progression. Never does “Komad” become the endlessly floating Floyd tribute, bong smoke billowing lightly beneath the stars. Instead, it pounds and throbs, drums crashing furiously amidst a whirling, chiming Rube Goldberg device of sampled, effects-drenched psychedelia. It’s a noisy, chaotic beauty, quite confusing to make out just what’s happening throughout the whole mess, but halfway through, the song evolves into a distorted instrumental krautrock jam, only to return to a subdued, piano-driven reprise of the verse in the song’s final minute.
“Komad” is a hell of a ten-minute ride, so I’m thankful that Alex Delivery follows it with the subtle, three-minute “Rainbows.” By comparison, the song is far simpler and more traditional, a pleasant retreat from its predecessor’s careening carnival sideshow. It’s still noisy and weird, but in a warm, pleasant way. Once it’s over, the band gets back to stretching out their highfalutin, arty avant-rock in the nine-minute “Milan.” This song is structured much differently than “Komad,” starting out slow and light, allowing the noise to collect over the melody, rather than having it emerge underneath the clamoring layers. “Milan” takes several side streets into instrumental pleasantries, ultimately sidetracking away from its initial progression. And as the journey reaches its final destination, the group transitions into, you guessed it, a short song. The two-minute diversion titled “Scotty” sounds pretty much like a carousel being pelted with asteroids. In other words, really bizarre and disturbing, but quite fun, nonetheless.
Continuing with the band’s pattern of long/short/long/short, track five, “Sheath-Wet,” is eleven minutes long, hypnotic and repetitive, yet still fiery and unruly. Distortion clings to everything this band does, and even at their most serene, they lie in a blanket of static. Their shroud of fuzz still carries them through quite a melodic adventure, travailing through seemingly endless, yet logically advancing movements throughout the song’s course. Closing off the album is the conservatively five minute long “Vesna,” the one moment where the band sounds most like a typical space rock band, playing a slow, swirling ballad with a dizzy vocal harmonization that recalls the early, more unsettling days of Mercury Rev.
While Alex Delivery takes much of their music into seemingly endless realms that swell beyond the cosmos, they’re kind enough to offset the space odysseys with smaller ones. It’s funny, though, that the lengthy ones are my favorites here. You know, maybe I like obscenely long songs more than I realize. Now where did I put that copy of “Drumming”…
Neu! – Neu!
Mercury Rev – Yerself is Steam
Oneida – Happy New Year
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.