If there is one word that is practically unavoidable in any discussion of the Norwegian band Furze, that word is “weird.” To put it plainly, Woe J. Reaper, Furze’s prime mover, is a bona fide black metal weirdo. I imagine he eats weird things on his toast for breakfast, wears weird shoes, and probably tools around his local fjords on a very weird bicycle. So weighty is the legacy of his weirdness, in fact, that even though there is, in fact, zero black metal on the band’s new platter Psych Minus Space Control, it still seems like weirdo black metal.
Psych Minus Space Control continues the trend begun on 2010’s Reaper Subconscious Guide by using completely abstracted elements of black metal to make a blurry painting of decrepit, analog doom. By all rights, this kind of warped outsider homage should disintegrate into laughably bad music (and there are more than a few who’ve leveled precisely this charge at Furze over the years), but through some unknowable alchemy, the Reaper & Co. have produced another charmingly demented winner.
The basic elements of Psych Minus Space Control are rather rudimentary Black Sabbath or Pentagram riffs, played with the drugged-out cosmic overdose of Hawkwind and the keen, crabby eye of a black metal expatriate. Of the classic doom inspiration of these songs there can be no clearer illustration than the 4:00 mark and onward of opening tune “Occult Soul, With Mind”: No, your ears did not deceive, that is a complete winking rip-off of The Song That Started It All, “Black Sabbath.” All manner of outer space bleeps and sworls butt in just after 7:00, and I’m gone; Hawkwind out. The last 45 seconds of the song give us precisely two pained gut-groans, but apart for some grunting on the closing track, Psych Minus Space Control is otherwise completely instrumental.
The first five minutes of the brilliant album centerpiece “Psych Mooz Space Control” are a spare, psychedelic guitar excursion of the bizarro astral plane that sound, at times, like they could have come from Steve Von Till’s earliest work under the Harvestman moniker. What sounds like a violin backs the tremolo riffing for a while, but it might just be a particularly diseased fifty-year old guitar. Part of the charm with Furze is that one just has no earthly clue what’s happening, even when the component pieces are simple enough. Turn off your logic brain, then, and amp on the weirdo brain. The drums shuffle, the bass swings, the guitar needles out some disaffected sounding tremolo runs, and the whole mess clatters along like the band is rehearsing in a train that runs right by your bedroom window. The last several minutes of the tune reprise the initial psych guitar noodling in full band form for a hobbling return to the country of your provenance, tired but wiser. Sadder, too.
Psych Minus Space Control succeeds primarily by effortlessly twisting an air of relaxed familiarity into head-spinning strangeness at a moment’s notice. When the main riff to “Reaper Subconscious Guide” (also the name of Furze’s last full-length because, I guess, why the hell not?) bounces in after a minute’s worth of arcane synthesized strings and unsettled chiming bells, it almost sounds like it could come from a bunch of modern retro-frotteurs like Witchcraft, until a little later in the song when that same riff is backed by a voiceless alien chorus, and perhaps a xylophone.
Still, even when these successes can be quantified, I’m never quite certain why this album works so well, but I nevertheless keep coming back and finding new, spooky thrills, whether in an unexpected drum hit, or a spare bit of previously unnoticed sound-effects-fuckery, or a riff that comes out of nowhere and, in that particular moment, is the World’s Most Perfect Riff, and then it goes away, because we’re done with it now. The riff returns to its winter home, far from the prying haunts of man. “Triad of Lucifer” is defined by this restless approach; a profusion of riffs, each too impatient to linger.
Psych Minus Space Control well and truly launches itself into the far reaches of inner/outer space with its closing track “When Always Ready.” It’s the shortest song by far, has a heavy vocal presence, hits the hardest, and is a suitably disorienting conclusion to an otherwise heavy grooving album, as it starts off with a raw punk toppling before dipping back into a swinging doom riff topped by sedated, drunken caterwauling, diabolical laughter, nearly comical rhythmic grunts, and, I don’t know, glockenspiel? There’s a more than decent chance that you’ll hate this, and write it off as exactly the sort of laughably bad music I mentioned above. And you know what? I couldn’t really blame you. This isn’t the time when I spout off some nonsense about how “this isn’t for everyone” which pretends to be neutral and measured but is really the worst sort of condescending, elitist pandering. This may well be a terrible album, but I keep playing it, and shaking my head at it, and loving it.
There is something unaccountably alluring about the brand of weirdo space doom fuzz swing freak rock Furze taps into here, so if you fire at any of these frequencies, come join me with my invisible umbrella beneath a pale purple sun. And if you don’t, well, have a pleasant day. I guarantee you Woe J. Reaper couldn’t give two measly rabbit shits whether or not you speak black metal weirdo. Maybe there’s something noble in that. Caveat emptor, carpe diem, so long and thanks for all the fucking whatever. This rock and roll is noise pollution, and proudly so.