VESPERO - Hollow Moon
The second half of 2018 shows Russian space rockers Vespero in their busiest mode. Not that the guys from the South of Russia have ever been lazy, because usually they release one to two albums per year. But this year, they started in July with their collaborative album with Spanish guitarist Ángel Ontalva, followed in August by a live album together once again with the aforementioned musician. In September they came up with a split-single with renowned Russian prog rock band Roz Vitalis. And now in October, they finally release their first proper longplayer for the year. Hollow Moon comes out on Tonzonen Records, a quality label for all kinds of psychedelia, and that should show already that despite having already released over two dozen records in their fifteen years of existence, Vespero never leave anything to chance and prefer to write real material instead of senselessly jamming in free style improvisations.
The first thing that will catch your attention is the stunning artwork that owes a lot to the steampunk charm of late 19th century science fiction authors like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. The inner sleeve features a gorgeous oil on canvas painting of an astronaut on the Moon, together with gigantic tardigrades and trippy moonscapes that could have emanated from a Roger Dean on a serious acid trip.
The music itself shows the instrumental space rockers from their most mature and developed side. There are four short ambient pieces that work as intro, interludes and outro, leaving us with six fully-fledged major compositions that range between seven and eleven minutes. Vespero consider themselves a progressive space rock band, and that makes sense, as they often use acoustic instruments to make for a more sedate atmosphere.
The album begins with the ambient intro Watching The Moon Rise, a serene piece of music that reminds me of some of Brian Eno’s soundscapes. The first regular track, Flight Of The Lieutenant, is a surprisingly fast piece with nice duelling between guitar and keyboards and lots of bubbling effects in the background, somewhat like Hawkwind at their craziest. The following Sublunarian is the exact opposite, being a mostly acoustic piece with violin and mandolin, although its second half features a nice saxophone solo. Lunar Trovants goes back to being a more traditional space rock track, with a hypnotic rhythm that made me think of Ozric Tentacles. The generous eleven minute long Feast Of Selenites, wedged between the two short interludes Mare Ingenii and Watershed Point, is where Vespero show that they also master the progressive variant of space rock. It all feels a bit like Soft Machine’s third album minus the jazz parts. Tardigrada’s Milk is another quiet track with some nice accordion and mandolin parts making for a very unusual sound, and Space Clipper’s Wreckage is a more high-energy tune that even has a mellotron part reminding of early King Crimson, followed by the outro Watching The Earth Rise, thus finishing the story.
In some ways, the album mirrors itself, with the first and last track being about the Moon rise on Earth and the Earth rise on the Moon, the second and second last track being rather energetic, the third and third last track being mellower, giving the impression that in the end we have come full circle. At a little over an hour, Hollow Moon is a very generous affair, and one that does not feel boring at no time at all. I have heard already many albums by Vespero, and can claim that Hollow Moon is their best and their most accessible one. This is certainly the place to start as an entry-point to the vast discography of Vespero.