Occupying a space somewhere in the dark corners of psychedelia and the snake charming swagger of dark folk lay the heart and bones of The Dark Red Seed, the duo comprised of King Dude guitarist Tosten Larson and engineer Shawn Flemming. Where King Dude travels the sonic highways of neon bars and the squalor of dim hallways, Tosten and Flemming migrate to more exotic climates, and their debut full length Becomes Awake is an ambitious if slightly mixed offering that works the weirder and spacier it gets.
Embracing life’s journey out of darkness and into the mystical light, things kick off well with “Dukka.” It goes full on space rock, sweeping bends and calls layering against Larson’s deep voice. The solo section really picks things up, creating a vibrant clash of sounds including saxophones and drums that feedback and rush in multiple directions. The majesty and ambition of “Dukka” somewhat hampers the more tepid “Darker Days” which feels like a King Dude hand-off, at least until things begin to get more chaotic during the solos. The more exotic it gets, the better it is. “Alap” goes full tilt with the exotic, as brass and strings collide in a middle eastern scale that despite being over four minutes long really feels transitory, almost a prologue to “Ancient Sunrise.” Again we get a nice dose of brass, trumpets weaving beautiful melody between some screeching improvised sax and lightly picked acoustic guitar. Larson’s out of nowhere narration has an odd fit, but as things slowly give way to late Beatles psychedelia and the crowd chants start the song really finds a place, segueing right into “The Mouth of God” that feels like a culmination that abruptly ends a minute later.
The second half feels stronger, with “The Destroyer” also feeling like King Dude, but taken and twisted into new form, strings emphasizing the sweeping glory of the vocals. “The Void” feels like a lost Morphine song, and if you’re anything like me you know what a good thing that is. The band cites Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band as a direct influence, and in the instrumental moments of “The Void” they conjure up that same sense of exploration and melody in the orchestrations. “Awakening” is more straightforward, but there’s something in the tremolo on the guitars and swirling noise that recalls Angelo Badalamenti in its penchant for eeriness. If we’re to believe the journey ends in daylight, then “Sukha” feels like the natural endpoint: quiet and contemplative, the song feels like a long exhalation after a steep ascent. You’ve reached the top of the mountain, the lowering sun setting odd and golden shadows from theater peaks and trees. So the fact that it’s not the last track on Becomes Awake feels a bit awkward – instead we get the lurching, evil squeal of “Diana and Ouroboros Dance” with its backwards guitar and Danzig-inspired vocals.
What does it all mean? Is one man’s light another’s darkness? Am I the only one getting the Glenn Danzig vibe there at the end? Does it really matter in the end? The Dark Red Seed have enough ideas to capture and communicate an evocative and stirring sound, and Becomes Awake is a nice example of where they can stretch and carve a unique niche in the world outside the reach of their more (in)famous employer.