Wheel of Smoke is a Belgian band that has been around since 2005. Their sound overlaps a number of categories including psychedelic, stoner, and space doom. Having independently released three full-length albums and an EP through 2016, their newest one is Sonic Cure, out November 29, 2019 from Polderrecords, and it’s a winner. Johan Overloop joined the band on “analog modular synths” in 2017 and appears here for the first time on a Wheel of Smoke recording, along with Filip Remans (guitar), Erik Heyns (guitar), Jouk Opdebeeck (drums), and Tristan Michiels (bass). The addition of keyboards/programmables has expanded the scope and sound of the music and allowed new avenues of expression.
Vocals are used sparsely in the music on the new album so the songs have a largely instrumental feel even when voices are deployed. First up in the set is “Sonic Cure,” where we start off drifting in space, hearing the murmurs of celestial bodies and listening to the sound of building velocities warbling through the void. Halfway through, focus and direction emerge (like the formation of planets from stardust in cosmos over the passage of time). The second track is “Brainshaker” and it starts with a catchy boogie vamp that quickly unwinds into galloping conundrum. The slow open of “Beamed” lets you take a breath before the ride begins. Keyboards are more prominent here than in the first two songs; they are a bigger part of the sound overall and are the main jam before the guitar steps in toward the end. “On A Wave” offers mystical desert rhythms and whispering insinuations that lift your thoughts into impossible planes. After you get there, the guitars reach out and alternate between sharp punches and persistent caresses on your person. The closing, “Electric I,” is a straight-up 9 minute 42 second psychedelic frenzy. When it ends, you are not really sure if it is over, so you feel like listening to the whole album again. I did that twice.
What I like especially about the music of Wheel of Smoke is that way it wraps you up. The compositions find a way to curl around you and before you know it they are working from the inside. It is not as simple as a long fade in or even a slow build. It is more mercurial than that. Once they get you, you’re had. Give the new one a listen and see what I mean. You can get Sonic Cure through the usual streaming platforms [here], and Polderrecords is offering a wide range of vinyl options and a digipak if you want to get physical [here].
Review by Wayne Edwards