Album: Time Travel Dilemma (2017)
Genre: stoner rock, doom
Where to buy: Bandcamp
As I listened to Time Travel Dilemma while preparing to write this review, I found myself reading about galactic collisions, emission nebulas, and other astronomical phenomena. Now that I’ve listened to the album a few times and had a chance to think about it, I am certain this is exactly what Spaceslug anticipated. The Polish band’s sound is perfect for those times when you want to let go of earthly reality for a while and lose yourself in contemplation of things greater than ourselves. This is an album for exploring beyond the horizon, or for the more adventurous, delving temporarily into total self-abnegation. The musical elements are bound not by electromagnetism, gravity, and the strong and weak forces, but by the thick glue of stoner doom. In the songs we hear snippets of the past, intentional looks toward the future, and grooves designed to ease one into altered states of consciousness. This is an album that evokes its title throughout its running time.
This task requires an appropriate sound. Like all good and doomy stoner rock, the tracks on Time Travel Dilemma are driven by the requisite fuzzy drone from the guitars and bass. Layered atop steady drums, the overdrive is an excellent soundtrack to the liftoff of a rocket and its explosive fight with gravity, an appropriate visual metaphor for these songs’ construction. During the slow ascent on the opening track, “Osiris,” the compound meter is accented once per bar with simultaneous hits of Kamil Ziółkowski’s bass drum and crash cymbal, adding a sense of inexorability to the music’s pull. The lead guitar cuts above the drive and pulse in the same way a rocket would punch through our atmosphere, bringing the song to a new level. Here now we are weightless, unburdened of the rules of the surface-dwellers, and able to float with the melody. There is repetition here, of course, as in all stoner rock, but it’s the comforting kind of repetition; musical motifs are played back and forth across instruments, using different vocalizations, call-and-response phrasings, and subtle variations that spice up the songs.
Some of these spicier elements come from bassist Jan Rutka. Listen for his groovy background lines on “Parahorizon” and enjoy the funky fills he adds to the title track, closing the album. No one is having as much fun as Rutka as when he’s playing those riffs, except we who get to listen. He does an admirable job of creatively supporting the guitars and drums, and keeps from falling into that common bassist pattern of merely playing the roots of each bar’s chordal voice. The consequence is a richness of both timbre and intonation, which abets the mostly-horizontal melodies and phrasings that dominate on Time Travel Dilemma. Such melodies are expected in this genre, even among the vocals, which are delivered with exquisite abandon by Bartosz Janik, but the lavish low-end is a welcome surprise. On an album with generally long tracks – two songs more than ten minutes each, another nearly at nine – this sort of inventiveness goes a long way to keeping things interesting. But I have a feeling Spaceslug is happy for you to put the album on and not worry about the voicings and musical layers, and instead contemplate the heat death of the universe, while enjoying their warm and doomy musical embrace.