Psi Corps are a new outfit yet with familiar faces. Formed by the two principal members of Space Mirrors, Russian based multi-instrumentalist Alisa Coral, and Australian guitarist Michael Blackman, the duo has launched Psi Corps as a side project. On their debut effort Tekeli-li for RAIG, the two musicians have chosen to offer their interpretation based on perhaps one of novelist Edgar Allen Poe's most undistinguished works entitled The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Scoring a soundtrack to film is one thing but attempting to create images and feelings from a text can be equally, if not more challenging, but I have to say they have done a remarkable job with their music in capturing the overall feeling of Poe's writing style.
Without delving into the story too much, which would be working on the assumption that the listener has read Poe's tale, the six compositions are basically titled around the actual chapters of the book. In a nutshell its based on the central character Pym, whose adventures and misfortunes at sea include shipwrecks, mutiny and cannibalism. Sound interesting?
The first track "Party at Barnard's (Is Over) deals with Pym's drunken evening with his friend Augustus Barnard, prior to them sailing out on Pym's small boat the Ariel, which later capsizes during a violent storm at sea. The mood on this relatively composed opening piece of music perfectly sets the tone as Coral's delicate synth washes and rather erratic drum rhythm's give off the feeling of someone stumbling around in a slowly advancing state of inebriation. Whereas "On Board the Ariel" finds the tempos picking up speed, allowing Blackman plenty of opportunity on this ten minute track to carve out some memorable and spacey guitar lines, highlighted by more of Coral's unique synth textures. Close your eyes and let this trippy music wrap firmly around the mental images of Pym and his friend being tossed about on the rough waters and you'll find yourself right there along with them. "On Board the Grampus" signifies the duo's second adventure at sea, this time aboard the whaling ship the Grampus. Coral and Blackman's fantastic interplay, creates an ominous feeling of heightened tensions as the ship undergoes a violent mutiny which eventually results in Barnard's death. The fourth track "Tsalal" is certainly one of the high points of this disc and quite possibly my favorite overall as well. The track begins with a brief, frantic synth passage before Coral lay's down an infectious tribal sounding electronic drum pattern , and Blackman seriously kicks things up a notch with a plethora of searing leads and equally scorching slide work. This engaging composition shifts gears a few times but the duo keeps the gloriously intense, psychedelic themes flowing for the full duration. The album concludes with the epic, thirteen minute title track which succeeds largely because it captures many different moods while it undergoes a myriad of various themeatic changes. Blackman's jagged guitar work is front and center once again, but Coral offsets this nicely with her spooky textures which are performed on the theremin. All in all this is another standout track and a wonderful way to draw things to a close.
Psi Corps have crafted a truly masterful opening statement with Tekeli-li, as both Alisa Coral and Michael Blackman prove once again why they are at the forefront of the kraut/ prog/ space rock scene. This album has taken their creative abilities to new levels. If you've read Poe's story that's great, because here's an excuse to dust it off and perhaps revisit it while you let Tekeli-li provide some aural background accompaniment. If you haven't read it, that's no big deal, it's not like it's a prerequisite or anything that might prevent you from getting the maximum results out of the music. All you really need to do is kick back, let your creative impulses flow and allow these two splendidly talented musicians to take you away from the real world for an hour.
1) Party At Barnard's (Is Over)
2) On Board the Ariel
3) On Board the Grampus
5) Further South