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Record Review


Aspera, formerly Aspera Ad Astra, hail from Philadelphia, though it would be more appropriate to call it Psychedelphia considering the psyche-pop contemporaries -- the Lilys and Bardo Pond, among others -- with which Aspera share a hometown.

But while the Lilys play more along the lines of the hazy British shoegazer movement on a power pop sugar rush, and Bardo Pond occasionally find themselves crossing into Sonic Youth and noisy no-wave hood, Aspera find their inspiration in the rolling, open fields of Oklahoma. Yes, indeed, Aspera share a whimsical affinity with the Flaming Lips for shuddery, thin, almost off-key falsetto vocals and fuzzy, gently detuning guitars.

Sugar & Feathered is much more concise and less suffocating than previous Aspera releases. Dense, dreamy space- rock is toned down for more accessible, folkier melodies. Like the Flaming Lips, drums are punchy and resounding as keyboard warble and guitar chime share shifting space, though Aspera can't come close to the Lips in emotional vulnerability. Instead, Aspera make breezy pop nuggets with an undated retro feel. It's like they're attempting to recreate fleeting memories of what radio sounded like 30 years ago, but making it with today's production standards and a taste for Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd.

On Sugar & Feathered, Aspera's martial rhythm holds tight, placing them among their Philadelphia cohorts (and along with the Elephant 6 collective) as one of the bands leading the march of indie rock psychedelic revivalism.

Aspera play MJQ Concourse Thurs., June 28.

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