Every now and then someone comes up with a phrase or expression so right you know you’re going to have to filch it for your own purposes. Such is Celestial Scuzz the title of this Vapour Theories album which I’ve happily been letting get under my skin for the last few weeks. It conjures moments of musical ecstasy standing in the eye of a storm of noise; Neil Young and Crazy Horse at Trabrennbahn in 1996, Caspar Brotzmann and F. M. Einheit a couple of years earlier, Sonic Youth, Sunn O))), and Steve Wynn.
Vapour Theories is a name used, but sparingly, by brothers John and Michael Gibbons from Bardo Pond. They attached it to a couple of releases in the noughties, and then to a 2014 collaboration with Loren Connors (aka Guitar Roberts). This gathering of five pieces stems from many hours of jamming out of which they have created sound sculptures imbued with atmospheres of mystic beauty, and utterly appropriate to associate with that esteemed roll-call cited above.
Michael Gibbons has spoken of their becoming vessels: “When we play together there’s a kind of connection to vibrations for us. When it happens, we become vehicles for some unknown forces that work through us to create the music. A kind of spiritual. Most of the time it leaves us stunned; the more stunned we are the better the jam” : but while there’s the sense of transcendent throughout they’ve also clearly perceived the angel in the marble and striven accordingly.
The opening track ‘Unoccupied Blues’ stretches across thirteen minutes in a patient, pastoral drift of kissing guitars, turning and re-turning in stately measure, slow, certain, and entrancing. Equally compelling is the skeletal scape of ‘High Treason’; melodic, almost acoustic, even near-folk. Later the exquisite, addictive wash of their take on Brian Eno’s ‘The Big Ship’ might be an aural equivalent to a Werner Herzog movie; the recently-released video accompanying it only adding to that impression of uplifting dreamscape.
It seems entirely appropriate that Fire Records have chosen to release Celestial Scuzz on golden vinyl as the more you venture into its fiery heart, the more its warming richness manifests itself, and the more spreads its priceless, soothing calm.