earthless-harsh-toke-splitFor some reason watery metaphors were washing through my brain when I realised what I’d let myself in for with this split: ‘In at the deep end ‘, ‘sink or swim’, ‘out of my depth’ kind of thing. I mean a split EP from two psyche/stoner bands, two tracks and 35 minutes total. And although I have a fleeting awareness of Earthless, Harsh Toke were a new name to me.

Still, on the bright side for me this arrived in that tiny window of UK sunny weather and as Earthless cranked out the beginning of the fifteen minute ‘Acid Crusher’ I felt warm and relaxed. Within the first few bars of their instrumental track you’ve got the basics; a languid, unchanging, unhurried bassline and a simple eleven note melody wrapped in a loop and of course the joy that comes with the variations around this laid back theme. Keyboards, guitar noise, tricky rhythmic slides, trippy runs and leads meandering and occasionally breaking over the thematic spine but never pulling you out of the nod. It’s a lovely drift, a beautifully deft piece of weaving complex variations around a deceptively simple theme until the layers they build up and pass through fade for the next tide. A lovely piece.

Harsh Toke are…. well a little harsher but only by degrees. They arrive slowly in a rise of drone before breaking into a prog tinged stoner/doom riff. Vocals too, briefly, pushed down, echoing from within a fairly turbulent opening section. Things slow down and space out; scattered swoops and patterns of space rock as a harder edged guitar approach defines the twenty minute ‘Mount Swan’. It flirts with outright heavy rock and dances with the desert. It’s a different ‘theme and variations’ approach to Earthless. Where they flowed and drifted, Harsh Toke have a definite pull and drive to their music. Like the acrid taste of the last drag on a joint, there is an edge here in the distortion, just an aftertaste. Nothing to darken the clouds just a flavour change which kind of makes for the perfect split; same styles, different approach, distinct flavours

Genuinely this is a fine split. Easy to get into but with a musical depth that will keep you sipping at the well as the colours of each band swirl and expand. This last weekend Earthless edged it for me. Next weekend it might be Harsh Toke. It’s all about mood.

Lovely, guys. Very much recommended. Thank you for inviting me in; the water’s fine. .

(8/10 Gizmo)