Since the advent of digital B2B and streaming, the promotional records and CDs that labels used to send to music writers like junk mail are now mostly a thing of the past. This bums me out somewhat. Digital is fine, I like hearing new music irrespective of the “container” it comes in, but not only am I an incorrigible vinyl hoarder (and don’t get me started on the whole uncomfortable commodity-fetish aspect of that hobby, believe me, I KNOW IT), getting surprise records in the mail is just a lot of fun.
So when, unbidden, I got a vinyl copy of Unconscious Collective’s epic 2xLP Pleistocene Moon in the mail, it was a nice surprise, and it felt pleasantly like a throwback. Then I opened it to behold the most beautiful records I’ve ever seen. I’m not even slightly exaggerating. If what follows seems uncomfortably like a record-boy travesty of the business card passage from American Psycho so be it: each record is a lush, opulent vortex of a dense, eggshell cream and a raw, subterranean gold. They feel satisfyingly hefty in the hand, the 180-gram thickness of the media imparting further depth to colors that seem, almost magically, to alight and shimmer just beneath the grooves. It is stunning and elegant. I’ve seen a hell of a lot of great-looking records. This is the best. The glamor shots provided by the label and pressing plant don’t even come close to doing justice to these slabs, so I had a try at shooting some record-porn with my own DSLR. I think I got a lot closer, but this still ain’t quite there; alas, only reality is reality.
The packaging is equal to the media. Printed and foilstamped on heavyweight unbleached artboard (again with the Patrick Bateman-ing, sorry), the sleeve and inserts feature the cyanotype and tintype photography of artist Ginger Berry. Both of those processes are well older than anyone reading this, and so impart a distinctively antique look. Further, the package includes three 12x12” collodion photographs of the band’s members in their stage costumes, reprinted on linen paper. I absolutely adore it when a band goes to the trouble to make a release a proper art object, and Unconscious Collective have gone several extra miles on this one. Again, pixels fail to properly convey the depth and sheen you’d see in the real thing.
So now, at last, I’ll actually talk about the tunes: Unconscious Collective are Texan brothers Aaron and Stefan Gonzalez (bass and drums, respectively) with guitarist Gregg Prickett, and their music is a beefy and ritualistic jazz/prog/post-metal hybrid that’s full of amazing moments. Do not mistake this for mere jazz fusion. Their jazz elements are sinewy and tasteful, and contrived more to resonate emotionally than to showcase any one member’s ability to play tricky passages—though they can and do. And their rock has a goddamn spine of steel. (It’s entirely fitting that some tracks here feature the saxophone of Mike Forbes, of the equally powerful and genre-defiant Chicago jazzists Tiger Hatchery, who are one of my all-time absolute favorite bands to see live, and whose Sun Worship album is essential.) I could probably wax as rhapsodic about the music on this godmonster of an album as I have about the art, but there’s no need. Tofu Carnage Records have very graciously given us permission to stream the entire LP right here on DM, so you can hear it all for yourself.
Lastly, to give you an idea of the U.C. live experience (health issues forestalled their tour until this coming spring), here’s a live-in-studio video of the band performing “Kotsoteka.”