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Auburn Lull - Regions Less Parallel

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Artist: Auburn Lull

Album: Regions Less Parallel

Label: Darla

Review date: May. 18, 2005

Of the many regional scenes to have exploded in the mid-to-late '90s, Detroit’s space rock scene was certainly among the most exciting. Less outwardly psychedelic in nature than the Philadelphia sound (although bands like Transient Waves would later head for the City of Brotherly Love), Michigan bands like Windy & Carl, Miss Bliss and Mahogany cultivated a more ethereal, Eno-inspired approach to songs that were just as likely to last three minutes as 15. Among the most exciting of the bands to emerge from this scene was Auburn Lull, a four-piece ensemble whose debut full-length Alone I Admire also marked the first CD from Burnt Hair records – unquestionably the label most responsible for cultivating Detroit's sound. Alone was a tour de force – Slowdive-inspired melodies cast across Sean Heenan and Jason Kolb’s often-complex, ever-evolving waves of guitar. A second Auburn Lull full-length, Cast from the Platform, was released in 2004 on bliss-friendly Darla records. Cast applied the same inspirations and cast to a decidedly lesser end, succeeding on paper and failing to capture the magic of their debut.

That a band with only two full-length releases to date would release a CD of early works and rarities would seem unmitigated hubris, were there not more to the story. Central to a scene that took hold just as tape trading and a wired world were taking hold, Auburn Lull’s vinyl-only releases have attained near-mythic status in the space rock world – most notably their Dual Group Split 12” EP with fellow Michiganers Mahogany. Nearly impossible to locate today, the six songs found on this 12” were held by many to be the quintessential document of the Detroit space scene, and became a closely-guarded secret to be played in bedrooms and dorms with the door shut. The lucky few who have the record in their possession will likely be thrilled or disappointed to find that Regions Less Parallel contains all three Lull songs – "Astor Heaven," "Watching," and "June Tide" – from the split EP, along with "North Territorial" and "Van Der Graf" from an equally-coveted 7” release on Belgium’s Zealrecords. Of these, "Watching" sounds the least-dated, with its plodding, steady rhythm and soaring guitars recalling another classic recording from the same scene – Transient Waves’ lovely "Heroin Jam." "North Territorial," a colder recording with the sublime addition of Jessica Fuller’s voice, is an equally-inviting reminder of where the Detroit sound might have evolved, carefully approaching the cool pop of more contemporary groups like Flowchart and pulseprogramming.

The remaining tracks here lack the immediacy of the aforementioned rarities, and are certainly less-compelling reasons for a first-time Auburn Lull listener to start with this recording. Primarily short recordings – "Secor," "Salvo" and "TI-99" are each under two minutes in length – these songs sound more like the sketches that informed other compositions than standalone pieces. The lone exception to this is the closing track, "Steady Lights" – an early Auburn Lull piece re-recorded during the sessions for Cast. Heenan’s vocals mesh perfectly with the cascading wall of sound that captures the quartet at its finest. Fans of Windsor for the Derby or Miss Bliss’s first incarnation Naming Mary will immediately love this and wonder why the song hadn't a home before now.

More a remembrance of things past than a vital recording for today, Regions Less Parallel finds a fitting home in the library of even the most casual fan of the Detroit space sound, albeit not the most ideal introduction to Auburn Lull. More avid fans will find relief, however qualified, in the fact that their beloved recordings are now available in a format that need not be hidden away. All told, it is a warm reminder of a scene that continues to inform tastes and directions long after its decline.

By Ian Fitzpatrick

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