Mars Red Sky - Stranded In Arcadia | Review

The "psychedelic stoner rock" description that this Bordelais trio have imposed upon themselves does little to actually describe their lightness of touch or just how inventive their songwriting can be. Soon to be released in the US (Europe had it back in April), Stranded In Arcadia contains tracks that sound like they've simply drifted in from the desert with deeply stylized, sultry vocals that place you in amongst the buzzing swarm of rich, tripped-out instruments competing for space. The majority of songs here reside within the stoned triangle of Kylesa, Fu Manchu and Band Of Skulls as the band seek to draw inspiration from everything in between and beyond.

From the off, there are big hits of Kyuss and Electric Wizard as "The Light Beyond" sets off pumping out a voluminous, elephantine bassline supplemented by floor-shaking fuzz and wailing vocals. Very quickly you'll hit the volley of catchy choruses and cutting vocal hooks like those that punch forth powerfully from "Hovering Satellites", "Holy Mondays" and "Join The Race".

Do look out for the sharp, bluesy groover "Circles". It's a unique track that goads the sweet dual vocal of Julien Praz and Jimmy Kinast into suddenly mimicking duos like those that appeared in The Animals or 60s-afficionados Arlo. The end result is unbelievably rich in colour, insistently introspective and comes complete with a mile-deep groove and a timeless, sun-kissed vibe. Elsewhere, there is an abundance of warbling pedal effects, "Arcadia" and "Beyond The Light", and glitching electronic techniques employed, most probably in what would have been an intensive session of post-production. These are the tracks that reveal the most about the band's intentions. They are clearly invitations to release your shackles and travel as far along their emotional journey as you dare.

There is an elegant simplicity to so many of these structures. The cosmos-stretching cursive sections and the repeating motif certainly allow the listener to fully explore the variety of spaces into which they are thrown. To that end, there are those who may find the music to be a little too repetitious, unnecessarily twee or, at worst, agonisingly self-indulgent (the stomping "Seen A Ghost" is a particularly tiresome prospect), but persevere and there is far more to marvel than to sneer at. It is certainly the case that those who drink deepest will undoubtedly feel the soothing qualities of this one part-doom, two parts-psych soup best of all.

John Skibeat 

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John Skibeat is a self-described word monkey hampered by cravings for strong ale and stinky cheese. He continues to practice surgical dissection on most genres of music with the leftovers currently reaching publication at 'zines like Heavy Blog Is Heavy, The Line Of Best Fit or Ave Noctum. When not smacking seven bells out of various sizes of orb, he tumbles at johnskibeat, tweets @johnskibeat and blogs at, yes, you guessed it, johnskibeat.