With debut full-length Water Near a Bridge, Melbourne, Australia-based psych trio Krakatau manage to weave a spellbinding web of instrumental textures, branching into various neighborhoods of the psychedelic, prog rock, and space rock spectrum with a seamless precision.
Several things about Krakatau's approach make this album instantly remarkable and stand out from any number of the band's peers. Where a large percentage of Krautrock-inspired ensembles or ambient pop purveyors lean on heavily processed electric guitar to create either atmospheric waves or burning solos, Krakatau make their sounds with just organ/synths, bass, and drums. This might be a challenge for the band, but the songs here are full and propulsive, sounding large and looming even in their most minimal passages.
This album is also particularly interesting in that it contains just three tracks, each lingering near the ten- to 15-minute mark. Instead of dematerializing into aimless jamming, each of the three tunes feels composed and deliberate. First track "Riddells Creek" exhales meditatively at first, stretching out with patient delay-coated organ and gentle chimes in its droning first half. The lengthy intro recalls the opulent organic psychedelia of early nature trippers like Popol Vuh, as well as the foggy sounds of Ghost or even newer-comers Cloudland Canyon. Right around six minutes, however, the song shifts gears into a stoner-funk backbeat and increasingly flashy organ riffing. The production feels live and fiery, but dipped in a decidedly retro sheen.
The first tune melts into the tape decay and synth bubbling of second track "All Water Near a Bridge" and slowly morphs through various windswept echoes and organ tones into the slow-building nightmare soundscape of final track "Kuriere."
This last tune wanders a little over the course of its 15-plus minutes, eventually inviting the rhythm section to join in a brooding groove. As epic as the psychedelic sojourning of these three tracks may be, it becomes clear that there's very little jamming happening. Instead, the tunes feel like finely crafted, deeply wrought studio compositions. This detracts only slightly from the usual spontaneity of this kind of acid-dipped cosmic traveling, but in the end, the far less messy performances feel full of purpose and passion instead of just the momentary flaring up of excitable improvisation.