Live from the Seventh Psychedelic Network Festival
Recorded, as the title almost tells you, in Wurzburg, Germany, on November 28 2014, at the band’s first ever German date, six tracks sprawl across a double vinyl package that we could, were we prone to weary redundancy, simply sum up as 100 minutes of brain damage, and leave you to pick out the Space Ritual reference.
Sendelica, however, are worth more than that. Live… is worth more than that.
Anybody tracing the history of this so remarkable band across the seventeen releases that are available from their Bandcamp page, will already be aware that they are no shrinking violets when it comes (a) to live albums; and (b) to extended jams that hearken back to the best of old British improv-heavy space rockers. So Hawkwind are in there, and so are the Ozrics, but if you want to play fast and loose with definitions, so are Man, so are the Broughtons (shorn of the vocals, naturally), and so are those moments in myriad other careers that lock onto a riff you cannot believe had not hitherto been invented, and send it soaring.
But so are Sendelica themselves. They wear their influences proudly, of course (“Standing on the Edge” is more or less a Hawkwind cover; “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Buddha” at least listened to early Pink Floyd once; “Manhole of the Universe” is a magnificent pun). But their strongest elements are those that come out of the sheer joy of playing together… again, locking onto a riff, into a groove, and then chasing it as far as it can run. So, even when you think you know where they’re going, there’s always a moment when things fly out on a tangent, and it’s the listener who’s left to play catch-up.
Of course the bulk of this album could readily double as Sendelica’s greatest hits – two-thirds of its bodyweight consumed 2014’s Live at Crabstock; one third starred on 2012’s Live at Kozfest. But the converted know that that’s not the point. Sendelica are no more capable of (or at least, willing to) playing the same song the same way twice than… to pick another new release out of thin air… ELP could play the same one slightly differently, and there’s a three CD boxful of their live shows out there, winning plaudits all over the place.
It’s not completely freeform. Even at Sendelica’s brashest, the same structure is (usually) adhered to, the same highs and lows appear where they ought to. But the band’s strengths lay not in the notes but the nuance, and that doesn’t simply shift from show to show, it varies from sequence to sequence. And when they really let rip, as with the forty-seven minute (no, that’s not a typo… it really does last for three quarters of an hour) “Master Benjamin…,” they are seriously racing towards salamandrine new pastures, throwing more great ideas into what might well be a jam than many bands can squeeze onto an entire album’s worth of songs. Just make certain there’s nothing to interrupt you while it’s playing. Or nothing to try to, anyway. You’ll be as lost to the world as the band was.
All of which, if you’ve heard them before, you already know. So down to the nitty-gritty. With the band’s usual gift for the kind of packaging that Santa Claus would be humbled by, Live at… is available as (deep breath): signed and numbered limited edition 2LP (violet vinyl) or 2CD box sets with a live DVD and an array of additional goodies (t-shirt, postcards, badge, hand numbered certificate with free download code, and beer sweets); a regular 2CD set, and double vinyl sets in purple and black vinyl. Oh, and a regular old download, but where’s the fun in that? Music that touches you as profoundly as this needs to be touched in return, and the artwork is a journey in itself.
There’s probably more to say about the music itself – long, wordy passages filled with the kind of thoughtful terms that only rock critics (and Thomas Hardy fans) deploy, but in a lot of ways they’re self-defeating. Sendelica is not, and could never be, a band that you experience in the same way as everyone – or even anyone – else; catch them in full flight, and one person’s dark star is always going to be another’s sonic attack; one inner-city unit is another ozric’s tentacle.
Sendelica sound like Sendelica, and only you know what means. Plus, it’s more like 107 minutes of brain damage, so there’s plenty here for everyone.