Personnel: Richard Vaughan (vocals, electric guitar, Mellotron, mini-Moog synthesizer, sound effects); Conor Riley (vocals, grand piano, Mellotron, mini-Moog synthesizer); Brian Ellis (acoustic guitar, electric guitar, electric 12-string guitar); David Hurley (flute, drums, percussion).
Audio Mixer: Ian Lehrfeld.
Recording information: Big Fish, Encinitas, CA.
Photographer: Noa Azoulay-Sclater.
Mustering up the necessary cosmic energy to travel all the way from the 1970s to 2012, neo-prog explorers Astra return with an even spacier and expansive sound on their second album, The Black Chord. Feeling like a direct descendant of Yes and King Crimson, the California band's sophomore effort perfectly captures the spirit of early prog, putting the emphasis more on sonic exploration than complexity for complexity's sake. This kind of sprawling sound allows the listener to simply hand control over to Astra rather than engaging them in a battle of music theory, making The Black Chord an album that's more interested in expanding the mind than challenging it. While some might find a more passive listening experience to their taste, anyone looking for a new psychedelic headphone adventure to embark upon will find the album to be quite rewarding. ~ Gregory Heaney