Lost in Space

Rockers Comets on Fire explore terra incognita.

By the time Ethan Miller's voice reaches your ears, it will have been screwed and chopped like the demonic innuendos of a record played backward, filtered through an Enigma machine, and beamed into outer space and back by a SETI device. As usual, "Sir" Noel Harmonson's turn on the Echoplex drowns Miller's primal screams in feedback to the point where even our highly evolved neighbors across the Milky Way can't understand what the fuck he's talking about. Consider "Blue Tomb," the 10-minute marathon that closes Comets on Fire's third album,Blue Cathedral (Sub Pop): When Miller's voice begins to rise in and out of the prurient haze at the halfway mark, it's practically indistinguishable from the rest of the dense guitar scrawl.

But back to the almighty Echoplex, a massive tape-loop and effects box that links the Santa Cruz quintet with its psych-rock forebears. Even the mere mention of its name conjures to mind one of Dr. Zachary Smith's futuristic contraptions on Lost in Space. It's the most salient aspect on the band's first two records, and it dirties up Blue Cathedral like the contents of an overturned bong. This time out, though, like-minded producer Tim Green of the Fucking Champs has given Comets on Fire what amounts to a chemical peel: Deeper pockets get turned out on the skronkiest tracks (opener "The Bee and the Cracking Egg"), while a cascading Hammond organ punctuates junior-sized epics "Pussy Foot the Duke" and "Brotherhood of the Harvest."

Blue Cathedral = Blue Cheer + Blue's Clues + Kind of Blue? Well, that'll work for now.


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