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Dance the night away

The Revenge of Sonic Soular
The Falcon Project
Idol Records

Whether The Falcon Project's Wanz Dover likes it or not, if music were governed by semantics, the band's debut album, The Revenge of Sonic Soular, would almost certainly be shelved under space rock; it's just too out there to be from here. And like literal space-rock bands such as Man or Astro-Man? and Servotron and Shadowy Men from a Shadowy Planet, The Falcon Project updates its postmodern equation by merging sounds transmitted from the future with nostalgic stylings imported from the past. Yet in The Falcon Project's case, the parts almost become indistinguishable, an inextricable psychedelic weave of sound; it isn't just Dick Dale making a cameo on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Instead of simply orbiting in the extraterrestrial space evoked in the cheeky antics of Man or Astro-Man?, The Falcon Project explores an entirely different space: the one between your ears.

But the album is as much about dancing as it is about thinking, insidious beats providing a slippery backbone to each song. Despite the band's professed admiration for John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Ornette Coleman, followers of Mazinga Phaser--Dover's former band--may still be surprised by The Falcon Project's ability to groove, ranging from the languid hop, skip, and jump of "Zenergizer" to the slinky cadence in "No Sleep 'Til Doomsday." Sonic Soular's pulse doesn't immediately come through clearly, but reveals itself slowly, track by track. "Texas Is the Reason" opens with a groggy electronic heartbeat and a whispered melody, until lyrics unexpectedly float to the surface, turning the song from ambient Muzak into a scruffy lullaby. The song's sparse guitar work builds into a jangling symphony reminiscent of the Velvet Underground's chaotic drone, so it makes sense when the band eventually covers Sonic Youth's Bad Moon Rising nugget "I Love Her All the Time," connecting the dots so we don't have to.

Still, it's hard not to want to slap The Falcon Project with the space-rock tag, especially when you know the album's concept: Inspired by the musings of the band's mythical superhero Sonic Soular, each track represents scenes from an imaginary movie. The conceit works, though, drawing you into a landscape that is somehow both familiar and foreign, like a lazy daydream during a nap on Mars. Given this otherworldly quality, it's not surprising that the label sticks. But the Falcon members' reverence for psychedelic-rock pioneers such as Roky Erickson proves their roots run deeper than "space shtick," as Dover dismisses it, and helps the album work sans concept. Like Erickson, who reportedly professed to being a martian, The Falcon Project is operating in a universe all its own. Just don't tell them that.

--Jenny Land

 
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