German ambient metal troupe BLACK SPACE RIDERS released one of 2015’s finest albums, “Refugeeum”. This band’s knack for marrying retro rock tones with groove-laden psych metal makes BLACK SPACE RIDERS one of the most forward-thinking bands on the planet. As well-fleshed as “Refugeeum”‘s songs were, it stands to reason a crop of outtakes existed from those brilliant recording sessions.
Four, in fact, plus a pair of ingenious remixes remained, which comprise BLACK SPACE RIDERS‘s spectacular follow-up EP, “Beyond Refugeeum”. These equally terrific songs offense that prompted their rejection from the mother project was their off-kilter natures. In this case, wonderfully so.
A band like BLACK SPACE RIDERS stems in great portion from Krautrock, most especially CAN. The opening instrumental “Willkommen” (and later, “Starglue Sniffer”) rings like the band satisfying their own CAN wish fulfillments. Building from a serene and minimalist infrastructure, BLACK SPACE RIDERS lulls the listener with its initially sparse sound space filled by a laidback drum roll, blithe bass line and tolling guitar plucks. “Willkommen” grows massive with increasing tension between the bass, guitars and organs. The band not only fills the empty and inviting gaps, it smothers them with flumes of distortion.
The up-tempo “Freedom at First Sight” is a brisk mover with copious alternative swirls and a swinging harmony. It’s one of the peppiest numbers BLACK SPACE RIDERS has ever written. It still conforms to the band’s stratosphere-bound scheme, but this time the band opts for a no-frills rock method. It strikes with an exclamation point and gets right on out. The 6:48 “Droneland” thereafter is the bipolar opposite; yet there’s an equally tremendous lilt emitting from the trippy synth swirls setting up a stamping clout that rockets in its own right. The two songs are cleverly positioned together. If “Freedom at First Sight” is the electrifying liftoff, “Droneland” is the anticipatory breach from Earth into the vastness yet to come. The reprise of the psychedelic synthesizers at the end of “Droneland” represent the infinite which BLACK SPACE RIDERS seeks to comb through, album by album.
The stripped funkiness of “Starglue Sniffer” will catch some listeners off guard; it’s a given. What’s incredible about the cut is how BLACK SPACE RIDERS mash CAN and Curtis Mayfield through a super-fly trail of jive grooves and unexpected falsettos while walloping the cut with infectious fuzz grooves.
“VRTX RMX” is a remix of “Vortex Sun” from “Refugeeum”. Once more, BLACK SPACE RIDERS consults CAN‘s playbook (along with NEU!), creating a stark electro drone around fragments spliced from the original track. As if BSR hasn’t dicked with their audience’s heads enough, along comes the DEVO-pumped “Gravitation” remix of “Give Gravitation to the People” from 2014’s “D:Rei”. If the prospect of an electronic BLACK SPACE RIDERS dance number sounds insane, give it a chance. It’s ballsy and it freakin’ works.
How BLACK SPACE RIDERS remains an underground sensation is chalked up to the simple case of there being too many bands in every corner of the world. This band has gotten downright fearless. Better, BSR knows what it’s doing with every crevice, every chord structure, every build-up and every potential dimension it can hurl its explorative music into. BLACK SPACE RIDERS is not merely a moniker.