By Chris Pacifico
Upon inception in 1999, Santa Cruz's Comets on Fire were wise in their choice of band name because their sound does hit first-time listeners with the force of an errant and blazing meteor falling from out of nowhere. Back with their fourth official album as well as their second with the addition of guitarist Ben Chasny, the brainchild of psych/drone rockers Six Organs of Admittance, Comets on Fire have chosen a road less traveled in their career yet haven't lost their wavering psychedelic touch. Whereas their previous release, 2004's Blue Cathedral, was awash with raw noise and feedback and a thick dose of proto punk cut from the cloth of the Stooges and MC5, Avatar is more toned-down in terms of noise, with more of an emphasis on the always swooping guitar of front man Ethan Miller (not to mention his ashtray like voice) along with woozy psych jams sounding like they came from an old live Fillmore recording of Country Joe and the Fish or Jefferson Airplane.
Even as the chill mode is the path taken on "Jaybird," drummer Utrillo Kushner keeps apace with an intensely rapid flow of a be-bop scat-shot percussion groove that also remains tepid. With plenty of half-buried and squelching organ lines and a rustic overtone, it would be a topic of great debate to say that Comets on Fire veer off into an improv mode, but their free jazz approach is undeniable. The organ and keyboard elements are more audible here than they have ever been with Comets on Fire, especially with the druggy lounge blues of "Lucifer's Memory."
Being the mélange of intoxicating mind sets that it is, Avatar is like a sponge of sorts that is absorbed in a mixture of PBR pounders, potent cannabis, and Orange Sunshine LSD. The album also exhibits some of the flourishes of Six Organs of Admittance and Miller's side project Howlin' Rain. Overall, Avatar is a kaleidoscopically gritty effort that contains the sound and vision of an acid test party ethos and a belligerent dram of punk rock defiance.
JamBase | Santa Cruz
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