[Grade: A-]

Space: the final frontier. Few have been there, but many have written songs about its mystery. Our burden of living restricted to the ground has inspired generations to reach for the sky and beyond. The space rock scene evolved from the underground jazz clubs into the mainstream, with bands like Pink Floyd and Yes and artists like David Bowie and Elton John writing celestial lyrics and melodies. Using group collaboration to write new music, Groovatron’s creative outlet has expanded from its humble beginnings in Hammond, Ind., to beyond our planet’s atmosphere.

Groovatron’s newest studio release, called In The Machine pays respect to those who pioneered space jams before them, while also fusing heavy jazz influence into their expansive compositions. A quick glance at the track list on the back of the album will clue you into the spaceyness of this album. The first track, “Star Biscuit” sounds like a journey through the outer realms of the imagination of a movie character on the run. The hi-hats keep a steady tempo on top of a funked out synth-bass. A great sax riff comes and goes, alternating with tense keyboard chords that provide the song’s great tension.

The bass, sax and guitar groove in the second track “Seizures Salad” kick hard for the first couple of minutes, until they break away into a soft, but up-tempo section with a galloping bass line. Finally, it builds into its instrumental refrain with a crescendo and a dramatic pause. My favorite sax part in the whole album is in the intro to “17 X’s” as it’s set over flowing guitar chords, which stay right in the bluesy groove. This song almost reminds me of a song off the Blues Brothers soundtrack, except that it’s in an odd time signature and really breaks down into a crazy culmination of congas and chromatic diddies.

The last track of the album, called “The New Mash Tater Controversy”, might be a song to check out fresh out of the cellophane. “Controversy” starts off with a great syncopated full band refrain that slowly evolves into this great marimba solo in the middle. Although it remains unclear whether it’s synthesized or not, either way, it is funky as hell. It’s another song on this album that fits the trend of being straight out of one of the most intense moments of a movie soundtrack. All of these songs have a great sense of urgency to them that really make the listener become enveloped in their sounds.

Overall, the entire album is a great listen for anyone who has an interest in progressive and fusion type musical genres. Groovatron uses a lot of great sounds on this release, ranging from electronic drums and synths to Stratocasters and saxophones. They do an amazing job to not make it sound cluttered or rushed, as every song takes on its own quirky character. Look for this Midwestern jam band to come on strong in 2008.

Make sure to check out Groovatron when they come to Canopy Club, Friday, April 25, with special guests Zmick. It should be a hell of a show!

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