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Ulaan Markhor

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Album Review

Steven R. Smith's continuing work in fields of solo psychedelic experimentalism continued with Ulaan Markhor — coming off the three albums under the name of Ulaan Khol, it might be a bit of a side step, but in ways Ulaan Markhor is a bit of a return to his Thuja roots in its rock band instrumentation. But there's an engaging, careful stateliness evident from the first song, "Pharaohs," the way a central guitar part only appears after a full introduction to provide the anchor for a rough, scuzzed solo all while shuffling drums play. It's arguably that sense of rhythm that also underpins this approach, lending the album a feeling of being like a temporally distant set of martial field recordings refracted through a moodily epic drone haze. When the drums cut out, as they do for a section of "White Markhor," that sense of the moodily epic takes over in full beautifully. In turn, when things go full-on, without being as hugely monstrous as some recordings in the field, it's still an overwhelming listen — "Half Ricochet" is one prime example, while the concluding "Dancing" could almost lend itself to just that even while feedback screams around the central progression of keyboards and drums. Even a mid-paced number such as "Hand in Circles" feels like a perfect full-band jam, a slice of something larger that lopes and fuzzes out to the distance. Smith deserves note for some striking song titles as well — "Plague of Farewells" is a striking image in its own right, and the song happily lives up to that, a stirring combination of bright rhythm guitar, sprawling fuzz, and once more a rhythm punch that if less noticeable than on some other tracks is no less gripping.

Ulaan Markhor, Ulaan Markhor
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