Here Be Monsters germinated with a museum’s centennial commission, which led to a one-off performance by Motorpsycho and keyboardist Ståle Storløkken. Since Storløkken was too busy to take the project any further, Motorpsycho took the material into the studio with Thomas Henriksen, The Dipsomaniacs’ keyboard player, who co-produced, engineered and mixed the album, and also gets a playing credit.
The result is a tight, song-focused set by Motorpsycho standards, with a brief piano intro and reprise (“Sleepwalking”; “Sleepwalking Again”) that bookend three new Motorpsycho songs and a cover of Terry Callier’s “Spin, Spin, Spin” (specifically, American psych rock band H. P. Lovecraft’s version). Then they drop “Big Black Dog”, a 17-minute marathon more in keeping with the band’s more expansive recent offerings.
As it is, with neither Storløkken and his lamé cape nor Motorpsycho’s other regular collaborator, Dungen guitarist Reine Fiske at hand, Here Be Monsters continues their run of relatively compact and lyric-based albums (Still Life With Eggplant and Behind the Sun) following 2012’s epic The Death Defying Unicorn.
That said, the whole thing plays as a suite, and is best heard as one. There’s certainly lyrical continuity. “Lacuna/Sunrise” is a study in psych serenity with churchly uplift: “Come dawn come sunrise I’ve pawned my heart and I gave the rest to shame,” sings Bent Sæther, over a track that blends pulse, drive and drift with a really lovely bass line and an instrumental section that accommodates solo guitar lines but always puts the melodic charge first. It reminds me of Pink Floyd circa Animals (a personal favourite). “Running With Scissors” keeps the vibe going, and the concise lead guitar playing here is so gorgeous it comes off like a song though there’s no vocal.
“I. M. S.” packs a bigger punch. It begins with piano emulating a peal of bells, but soon picks up speed and surging insistency, ultimately ending piledriven and impacted. Along the way it picks up the lyrical thread with lines like “Lost forever in the sprawl spun out and dizzy as I fall no soul within …”, but the listener’s likely too busy hanging on to their coattails to notice. Even here though, the seven minute duration allows enough flex for the songcraft to show through.
“Big Black Dog” picks up again on the theme of dissolution, but before we get to it there’s that update of “Spin, Spin, Spin”, the folky original tightened up and re-spun with a hint of west coast psychedelia, but otherwise remaining true to the source.
“Big Black Dog” is the big reveal, a arc-form, full-spectrum epic. The gentle opening song is brushed aside by a more anthemic, riff-centric and churning bridging passage that mirrors the lyric: “steady insistent incessant”. An increasingly stormy, slow crescendo, with fx’d guitar depping well for the absent Storløkken’s synths, ultimately breaks only to rise again from scratch, more ineluctably than before, giving the album a double climax, then falls back onto the earlier anthemic plateau and finally returns to acoustic lyricism.
OK, so it’s a big, sweeping roller-coaster of an album after all.
Magnus ’Snah’ Ryan; Bent Sæther, Kenneth Kapstad, Thomas Henriksen.
Motorpsycho – Still Life With Eggplant.
Motorpsycho and Ståle Storløkken / Bushman’s Revenge – The Death Defying Unicorn / A Little Bit of Big Bonanza.
elephant9 with Reine Fiske / Motorpsycho – Atlantis / Blissard 4CD Reissue.
Motorpsycho – Demon Box 2LP/4CD+DVD Reissue.
Buy Here Be Monsters direct from Rune Grammofon.