Expo Seventy‘s Frozen Living Elements—the latest in a long line of impressive efforts—is an album of three progressive movements that are immediately striking in their formation, yet feature a warmth and accessibility that is often lacking in the spaced-out, kosmische rock field.
Led by Kansas City-based guitarist and synth player Justin Wright, Expo Seventy also features the work of Aaron Osborne on bass and synths, and Jim Button on percussion. Wright has led a prolific output of over fifty releases as Expo ’70, not to mention collaborations and production work outside of his own projects (see our 2012 review of Light Poured Out of Our Bones, his collaboration with Aaron Martin, for a fine example).
The story behind Frozen Living Elements unfolds in slow motion, with a heavy drone leading you through raw elements that have been placed in the forefront of the mix. The bass is heavy yet not entirely leaden; the drums are slow, purposeful, and initially sparse. The lead guitar is the driving force, enhanced with echo and delay amidst its lengthy passages. Synths punctuate the proceedings, yet they remain clouded in the purposefully grey mix.
I might imagine these sounds would make for a dense live performance, yet in the comfort of one’s home they blend into an intoxicating sonic groove, making Expo Seventy more akin to swirling psychedelia than studious genre protectors. Given that there are only three tracks on the disc, this allows each piece to comfortably find its own pace, to flesh out the portions that work well together, and to dispel those that belong elsewhere.
This is free-form music, defiant of categorization, even from one track to the next. The atmosphere is dense, cloudy, and heady, with nary a glimmer or sparkle to speak of, and yet the balance remains approachable, fluid, and even peaceful. When the final chords play out on “Thunderbird Mound,” you are returned to your center, a rapid dénouement from the thrall that immediately preceded this very moment. It is from that moment that you find the sanctity in your own surroundings once again.
01) Frozen Living Elements
02) Curiosities of Levitation
03) Thunderbird Mound