Review: Planets Around the Sun - Ram of Heart and the Earthen Chariot (Sloow Tapes, 2012)
If you haven’t been brainwashed by the trend-setting, hype-creating “cool” webzines into thinking that New Weird America, of “freak folk” (oh for fuck’s sake!) died out suddenly somewhere at the end of the previous decade, being replaced by neo-prog analog whiz kids and chillwave, you are very well aware that the spirit of freewheeling psychedelic folk is alive and kicking - and it’s providing some mighty kicks, based on this mindblowing cassette by American collective Planets Around the Sun.
At head spinning 75 minutes, “Ram of Heart and the Earthen Chariot” (the somewhat paganish title bringing to mind the occultist experimentalisms of Stunned Records), brings out the best from this bunch of lovely weirdos recording wherever possible - in bedrooms, in barns, on boats and ye gods know where else. It also reminds us how important it is to have a competent, yet loosely knit bunch of lysergic players around in order to provide an exhausting and exhilarating musical experience. These fuckers follow the footsteps of the best, and the most far out - Sunburned Hand of the Man, Silvester Anfang, Jackie-O Motherfucker, NNCK and any of the Jooklo collective’s million guises.
The opening “Sundross” sets the pace with an exotic, kalimba-driven reverbed jam that bounces off the walls and back into your ears, amplified with each bounce, waving a disorienting aural hall of mirrors. From that starting point, the Maine outsiders launch in all directions all at once, providing hypnotizing dead man’s blues ballads, slowly rolling, ominous ritualistic music and off-kilter ramblings that seem to go nowhere.
There is a sense of good communal fun in the tracks, with no intention of being overtly “deep” or “religious”. What you hear on the cassette is a group of dudes who are having a ball just by jamming together and gluing together some truly well working jams. This album manages to be immersive and light-hearted at the same time, painting an intense, heavily textured psychedelic work of art in sometimes heavy-handed guitar strokes or primitive drumming. The quality of music varies greatly from track to track, with the opening track having a crystal-clear, studio-like quality, and with many other track steeped in lo-fi hiss. But it just adds so much more to the authenticity and the band’s DIY approach it makes “Ram of Heart and the Earthen Chariot” one of the most satisfying psych folk albums out there. Highly recommended, grab the tape from Sloow Tapes immediately.