When the worst you can say about a release is that some of its tracks are merely outstanding it is fair to assume you are in the presence of something special, as in Stranded In Arcadia, the new album from French band Mars Red Sky. The release is a glorious mesmeric adventure casting smouldering and melodically sultry landscapes brewed from stoner and psychedelic rock/pop with a healthy breed of doom seeded shadow to its depths. Even that description does not exactly colour the enthralling and spellbinding encounter, the eight tracks an immersion casting more evocative hues than a hazy summer sunset.
Consisting of vocalist/guitarist Julien Pras, bassist Jimmy Kinast, and drummer Matgaz, Mars Red Sky made their first acclaimed impact with their self-titled album in 2011. It put the band in a certain spotlight which led them to share stages with the likes of Kyuss Lives!, Dinosaur Jr, and Sleep around Europe and light up numerous festivals such as Eurockéennes de Belfort, Roadburn, SXSW, and Desertfests in London and Berlin. A spilt release in 2012 with Year Of No Light only added to their swiftly accelerating rise, an ascent cemented by their Be My Guide EP last year as well as a tour across Europe and shows in Latin America. Stranded In Arcadia though makes all that seem like mere appetisers for its glorious unveiling and If the band was busy and renowned before its release it can expect a tsunami of attention from now on.
A lone guitar caresses ears first, its distant presence an instant coaxing leading towards a senses plundering leviathan built by the bass and heavy slow rhythms. It is an imposing proposition but one soon tempered by the soaring vocals harmonies which paint the song’s sky. The Light Beyond provides an enthralling start to the album, intrigue and sonic mystique enveloping the imagination whilst the drums conjure rhythms with invention and adventure. The voice of Pras brings another smouldering texture to the developing scenery, his smooth flowing syllables sparking fiery guitar enterprise amid greater intensity as the weight of the track bears sizeably down around the stalking bass predation within the constantly evolving terrain of the song.
It is a bewitching proposition challenging and seducing with skill and dramatic poise and swiftly matched in stature by Hovering Satellites. An immediately more rapacious encounter in riffs and intent, the song stomps with a voracious energy aligned to an infectious festivity. It leads the listener into dark intimidating avenues but with a vivacious smile to its melodies, vocals, and atmosphere which shields from the dark realms of the premise. It is a thrilling encounter but soon left looking paler by the following Holy Mondays. It is sheer majesty straight from its opening jazz lent guitar temptation courted by lean rhythms and percussive coaxing. The sultry but subdued start is soon strolling boldly with contagious riffs and an addictive groove before levelling out its gait for a warm caress of vocals and psyche driven guitar. It is a mesmeric treat but still waiting to unleash its strongest lure, a sirenesque chorus of psychedelic pop with glam rock essences swinging their hips within its compelling flame. More anthemic than a gun to the head, the song becomes a virulence which is inescapable, a lingering seducing which has you smiling broadly as you anticipate its return as a slower beauteous fire plays with the imagination. That stomp does leave another dose of aural manna, seizing even greater control of feet and passions to shape another plateau for the album.
The dark almost antagonistic entrance of Join the Race pushes the diversity and walls of the album further still, its slightly funereal gait retaining a small swagger to its devilment as vocals and melodies tease its stubbornness. To the united contrasts the band weaves expressive designs to embrace and lace thoughts, leading the imagination into a new world of spatial heights and cavernous depths. The band’s skill at interweaving light and dark, peace and danger is exceptional and even more impressive ins their ability to entwine it around a rhythmic frame which never feeds expectations.
The celestial spice of the song is spread more intensively with Arcadia, an instrumental sculpting a psychedelically lit passage of exploration through sizzling sonic expression and dark stalking reflections, guitar and bass an evocative merger haunting and soothing thoughts and visions like puppeteers. All tracks have the same potency, but in particular this provides an episode to mentally and emotionally investigate with fresh rewards through every flight of its journey.
Circles explodes and infects the psyche next, its blues scented sonic phrasing an absorbing narrative alone but graced by the soft smooching of vocals and the dazzling rhythmic conjuration, the song is a melodic hymn for body and soul. It is an irresistible tantalising but soon left in the wake of the quite brilliant Seen a Ghost. The strongest stoner essences welcomes its opening gambit, guitars crooning teasingly as rhythms shuffle rigorously and adventurously through the continually growing canvas of the track. Already an ardour is awakened but it is the cultured stroll and punchy rhythms clad in a breath-taking melodic infection which ignites their full allegiance. Interlocked with expressively ambient bred passages, twisted stoner enticements, and melody seeded ravages, the chorus provides climatic yet calm crescendos which simply set the track into a new ferocity of ingenuity. Not only is it the best track on the album, it is the best song heard this year so far and leaves a touch of frustration when it transforms into the closing track Beyond the Light, a rich and sonically distorted instrumental which washes the senses with its tempestuous finale to the album.
Stranded In Arcadia is sensational, a giant of an album in sound, songwriting, and presence. Whether psychedelic/stoner/heavy rock has ever sounded this good is a question which Mars Red Sky now has us asking.
Stranded In Arcadia is available via Mrs Red Sound / Listenable Records now!
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