Ups & Downs, Twists & Turns…That is an appropriate way to describe the path traveled by the Asteroid #4 since the latter half of the Clinton years.
Supposedly named after Vesta, the brightest asteroid in our solar system, the moniker is an obvious nod to Spacemen 3, the classic UK band which Philadelphia's Asteroid #4 repeatedly cite as an influence. In fact, one of the group's earliest recorded offerings was an even spacier (if that's possible) version of "Losing Touch With My Mind" on Rocket Girl's tribute compilation to the psych giants. Pete "Sonic Boom" Kember himself named the song as a stand-out track on that compilation in an interview with Magnet Magazine.
Now the Asteroid #4 is ready to release what will be their 6th full-length album. This collection of albums, accompanied by a host of compilation selections, digital-only rarities and a number of 7" singles, is all the more impressive considering the revolving cast of band members over the years. Like the Brian Jonestown Massacre or Philly brethren The Lilys, the Asteriod #4 have maintained a few core members but watched countless others come and go. Despite this challenge in continuity, the band has never called it quits. If truth be told, perhaps it has been the near-constant change in personnel over the last decade or so that's made the band what it is today. Their sound, a hypnotic hybrid of several different genres filtered through the kaleidoscope of all things psych, krautrock, shoegaze, folk and even 70s "cosmic" countryrock, has matured them to the point of originality rather than simply homage.
However, The Asteroid #4 have never shied away from wearing their influences squarely on their sleeves. Ask any member of the band who his personal biggest influence is, and you're likely to hear anything from Echo & the Bunnymen to Popol Vuh to the Flying Burrito Brothers. However, where some bands may find resolving such varying influences difficult, or even counter-productive, the Asteroid #4 have used this library of tastes to their advantage.
Musically, this situation became clear for them around the release of their 4th album
Following a long hiatus for much of 2004 and 2005, the group's longstanding core, Scott Vitt,Eric Harms and Adam Weaver, reunited and recorded the material for this spectacular album. Many fans, and critics alike, would later cite An Amazing Dream as the first real A4 record, meaning the one that revealed a sound all their own. Within months of its release, the band added guitarist Ryan van Kriedt (Sunsplit, Dead Skeletons), who proved a key role as a primary songwriter and even the engineer of most of their recorded material since. Two years of touring the US, UK and Europe ensued, as well as the decision to sign onto The Committee to Keep Music Evil, a label started by Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre.
With their new label behind them, the band released These Flowers of Ours in 2008.
As touring in support of These Flowers concluded, the Asteroid #4 again entered the studio throughout the cold and repeatedly storm beaten, northeast winter of 2010. Perhaps it was the weather's influence on this new material that spawned a noticeably darker vibe than on previous releases. As the snow fell and the wind chilled, the band locked themselves away to write and record the songs that would eventually make up, Hail to the Clear Figurines, a record that again has hit the reset button on the band's aesthetic. The songs pay special attention to detail through accents of instrumentation ranging from harp to horn sections. One can also hear an almost Baroque sensibility to the overall sound reminiscent of 60's luminaries, Arthur Lee & Love, the Left Banke and even the Association. This could easily be considered the group's most accomplished effort in song writing and orchestration, with all of A4's tendencies intact, including the required dose of heavy reverb and psychedelia.
It's official … the Asteroid #4 are on a roll and their new record, Hail to the Clear Figurines, will certainly not disappoint their ever-growing fan base. This, their 6th record, also to be released on The Committee to Keep Music Evil, is due out February 8, 2011 with tours planned for Europe and the US… Vesta only appears to be getting brighter.