Comet Control, Toronto’s purveyors of psychedelic tone, are back with their sophomore release Center of the Maze. The self-titled debut of these ex-Quest For Fire musicians came out to favorable reviews two years ago. Does Center of the Maze up the ante?
Yes, it does. Center of the Maze is the logical progression for Comet Control. The songwriting is stronger, more assured, more consistent. The band sounds more cohesive on this release (not that their debut was messy), and the interplay between instruments is organic and effortless.
“Dig Out Your Head” opens things up with an unabashedly ’60s feel, tambourine leading the way and harmonized vocals crooning over an undulating guitar melody. Chaotic, delay-soaked wah guitars take over in the frenzied second cut, “Darkness Moves.” From there, Center of the Maze just gets stronger.
One of the most interesting aspects of Center of the Maze is how the songs progress throughout. The first half of the album is almost pure ’60s psychedelia, while heavier stoner rock movements greet us in the second half of the album, and moody, languid cuts “Sick In Space” and “Artificial Light” bring proceedings to a satisfying end.
Center of the Maze is wonderfully produced, leaving listeners awash in a perfect mix of expansive sound. There is no lo-fi gimmickry here; legit bands and great producers know that authentic clarity trumps deliberate non-production every time. The retro sound comes from the performances and songwriting, not from production gimmickry.
Musicianship is strong throughout the album, with a fluid rhythm section holding things down, swirling keyboards washing each song in light waves of strings, and guitars strumming effortlessly or bleeding fuzz into the speakers as befits the material. But what stands out the most on Center of the Maze is Chad Ross’s dreamy vocals, whether harmonized or solo. Neither buried in nor dominating the mix, Ross conveys the perfect mood for each song, making Center of the Maze a joy to listen to.
No one song stands out from the rest on this album; rather, several songs stand out due to a variety of distinctions. “Dig Out Your Head” is so genuinely ’60s psych that one wishes it could be purchased in quadrophonic format. “Criminal Mystic” is heavy stoner groove at its finest. And album closer “Artifical Light” is a hazy, fuzzy classic that wears its Kid A-era Radiohead influences proudly. If Comet Control weren’t already at the forefront of Canadian space rock, they are now.
(released June 24, 2016 on Tee Pee Records)