The Lumerians from Star Trek have a singular unique quality: distinct forehead markings that grant them empathy. The quality comes with a slight catch – the empathy is only extended to other Lumerians, and those possessing telepathy. Some Lumerians are capable of performing a “dump” onto others, where a slew of negative feelings is bestowed upon another to process. It’s both a bond that can’t be untethered and a sort of unwarranted psychotherapy.
Oakland’s Lumerians, in that sense, are incredibly attuned to channeling the psychic orbs of their space-rock luminaries, especially Spacemen 3 and the revamped Spiritualized. The band – not to be confused with the arena-folk giants the Lumineers – create otherworldly psychedelia fit for exploring the crevasses within space, traditionally known as the final frontier. On the band’s latest, The High Frontier, there’s an awe that transcends what we know about what’s beyond this galaxy. Perhaps it reaches even further than the possibility of other universes.
It’s not clear to the listener where The High Frontier is, exactly. It’s definitely somewhere in space, where beings vaguely reminiscent of humans reside. Wherever it is, the place is a discovery waiting to be made, whenever “the stars align.” From The High Frontier‘s very beginnings, Lumerians place a great responsibility in the listeners’ ears, at once an exciting and daunting prospect.
Still, the prospect at hand is itself fuzzy. The High Frontier doesn’t have a clear unifying aesthetic, nor does it carry a certain thread that resonates as distinctly Lumerians. The album’s opener, “Dogon Genesis” barrels forth with an anti-rallying cry that cowers: “Afraid of disasters, we drink, fuck, and smoke.”
Despite the lyrical confession of indulgence, it’s a relatively catatonic opener for The High Frontier, and especially sleepy for a band who has demonstrated their capability to produce explosive instrumental arrangements. Lumerians suspend themselves, preferring to float instead of exercising their ability to throttle and create a resonance that’s as powerful as a jet engine launch.
The album picks up near the center, with songs strung together by dissonance and a series of sparse, intriguing arrangements. “High Frontier” delves without warning in medias res, straight into a krautrock burner that’s both heady and menacing. Lumerians are at their best when they keep it simple, and “High Frontier” stands as a mighty watermark on the record. Sadly, the promising “The Bloom” never fully blossoms, meandering in monotonous percussion and an alien industrial tone that scares more than swoons.
The following “Koman Tang” is a more meditative and tabla-driven pursuit, celebrating the abstract veins of expression that krautrock heroes Neu! and Faust pursued in late-’60s Germany. The High Frontier reaches a small peak with “Smokies Tangle”, the album’s longest track. Clocking in at seven and a half minutes, the extended length allows for Lumerians to flesh out into physical forms, with a propulsion forward not unlike that on Can’s opus, “Halleluwah”. And like the infamous German psychedelic collective, the quartet dabble here in a realm as divisive as it is strange.
The High Frontier is neither about the takeoff nor the landing. It’s about reaching a destination unhurried, and that mentality carries itself throughout the uneven pace of the record. The throttling factor is absent here, and the record floats in and out the ear. As a listener, you almost drift out of consciousness as you listen, forgetting if it’s an ambient background tick or an album at all. Languid and drone-heavy, The High Frontier is for the star-gazers that don’t get tired of looking up and wondering what’s out there, as opposed to going out and seeing what’s there for themselves.
Essential Tracks: “High Frontier” and “Smokies Tangle”