I don't tend to plan these things out, but on Saturday I decided to listen to the new EP from this LA trio at the same time I was reading an article about the adventurous NYC label ESP-Disk in the Los Angeles Review of Books (Jesse Jarnow builds his piece around a review of Jason Weiss's Always in Trouble: An Oral History of ESP-Disk, the Most Outrageous Record Label in America).
During the label's heyday, founder Bernard Stollman released records from Sun Ra, the Fugs, the Godz, and other envelope-pushing artists. Says David Utevsky, host of KCBS's "Straight No Chaser" (a show he originated at KCMU*), "I cherish my ESP LPs, which helped introduce me to free jazz." I'm right there with him, though I've got some catching up to do (The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Volume One is an enduring favorite).
I didn't notice a connection between the label and this electronic outfit, but the shared acronym caught my eye, even if the ESP part of ESP-Disk stood for Esperanto, with which Stollman was obsessed, and not Extra Sensory Perception.
* I took over the show for a few months after he left the station in 1991.
Wesleyan University Press
That said, ESP singer/keyboardist Aska Matsumiya doesn't necessarily appear to be singing in English. I mean, I think she is, but it's hard to make out any lyrics. Matsumiya's band mates include her brother Seiya (keyboards, electronics) and Bobby Evans (drums, electronics). On these six tracks, they come on like a more dance-oriented Young Magic, while Aska's stream-of-consciousness sighs recall a more out-there Kazu Makino—or a less elfin Björk. On the dusky, swirling track "Dark Panda," they even bring Mike Oldfield, circa "Tubular Bells," to mind.
Mostly, I like the way they bridge the gap between synth rock and space rock. ESP eschews guitars, but there's a psychedelic spirit wending its way through their work, which includes a remix EP of the track "627" (Hecuba, Dreamers, and Lucky Dragons) and an upcoming split 10" with UFO. They may not sound like an ESP-Disk act, but I wouldn't be surprised if they own a Sun Ra record or two.
ESP self-releases ESP on Aug 28. Always in Trouble is out now on Wesleyan Press.