Call it synchronicity, call it happenstance, call it no more than three friends getting together to give their speakers a workout. Yet The Utopia Strong’s formidable conflagration of psychedelic radiance and beatific harmony has evolved way beyond all or any expectations since the band’s inception at the start of 2018. The following year’s Rocket debut was a powerful document of kosmische transcendence fit to banish all or any talk of its originators’ collective histories firmly into the background.
Yet it’s clear now that this triumvirate were barely getting started. International Treasure chronicles the collaborative collision of Steve Davis, Kavus Torabi (Cardiacs, Guapo, The Holy Family and more), and Mike York (Coil, Teleplasmiste, The Holy Family and more) heading into uncharted psychic territory, seemingly with nothing but their instincts as coordinates. What’s resulted is a step beyond anything either band or audience might have expected – a deeply rewarding voyage into inner space which moves into darker and still more evocative sound-worlds whilst remaining fundamentally off the map.
International Treasure took shape initially in 2020 just as world affairs were changing drastically, and it’s open to debate to what extent this influenced the occasionally sombre and melancholic tones therein. However, this album is ultimately possessed of a vibrant life way beyond the circumstances in which it was wrought.
The aural epiphanies herein traverse on a hallucinatory trajectory from blissed out (the incantatory spiral of Persephone Sleeps) to ominous and unearthly (as in the case of the overcast ambience of Disaster 2 and the non-Euclidean geometry of album centrepiece Revelations) before arriving at a rapturous conclusion with the gloriously balearic end-credit euphoria of Castalia.
Whilst their debut essentially marked the first results of the chemistry between these three, the partnership has further crystallised over a number of self-released records, their improvisatory approach being honed and perfected in various intensive hive-mind sessions at each others houses and home studios. All three musicians here found themselves operating outside of their comfort zones – Torabi’s purchase of a guzheng (a Chinese plucked zither) led to Shepherdess’s lambent allure and York’s spectacular and evolving array of pipes and wind instruments contributed just as much as his ruthless editing.
Davis meanwhile, whose speciality lies in rich tapestries of modular electronics, sums up their relationship in characteristically self-effacing fashion: “I see myself as a strong midfielder, or a centre back. Kavus and Mike are like the Lionel Messi or Ronaldo of the equation, and I’m setting situations up for them”
Influences know no bounds in this context, and the listener would be forgiven for locating the atmospheres and soundscapes of this album on some sonic promontory above and between the potent abstractions of Tim Hecker, the improvisatory excursions of The Necks, and the gothic allure of Bohren Und Der Club Of Gore.
International Treasure is the next chapter in a story which only grows more rewarding with every stop along the way – one in which three heads travel together deeper into their own musical journeys, and the resulting alchemical power transmutes its origins into gold. As no less a sage than Andrew Weatherall proclaimed, The Utopia Strong are “gnostic sonics in a nutshell”.
International Treasure is being released on LTD LP and CD. You can pre-order on Pink vinyl via the link below plus there will be Yellow vinyl and Black vinyl versions available from your favourite record shop: https://theutopiastrong.bandcamp.com/album/international-treasure
INTERNATIONAL TREASURE TRACKLISTING:
1. Trident of Fire
2. Persephone Sleeps
4. Spirits From The Deep
5. The Islanders
6. Disaster 2
8. International Treasure
FORTHCOMING LIVE DATES:
9th April – Wycombe Arts Centre, Wycombe
June 17 / London / The Garage (Supporting Magma)
June 18 / London / The Garage (Supporting Magma)
June 19 / Manchester / Band on the Wall (Supporting Magma)