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Album spotlight: Getting “High” with Freebase Hyperspace

Portland cosmic rock quartet’s new album “Planet High” marks a creative leap forward.

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Freebase Hyperspace.
Freebase Hyperspace.

When Craigslist and Nextdoor came along to replace the listings you once found in the print pages of newspapers and alt weeklies, those classified ad sites also supplanted one of the go-to ways for potential bandmates to find one another. Gone are the days when Kim Deal found herself joining Pixies after answering an ad in a Boston paper from a band looking for a bassist into both Peter, Paul, and Mary and Hüsker Dü. 

Now, as was the case with the members of Portland cosmic rock band Freebase Hyperspace, tracking down like-minded musicians just takes a few lucky keystrokes. 

“I found your ad,” guitarist Justin Acevedo says to his bandmate, vocalist Ayrian Quick as we all huddle around a table at the Hawthorne Asylum food cart pod. “I was doing keyword searches and the word that I got was ‘James Dewar,’ and I was like, ‘Shit!’ Because not that many people know him!” 

Bonding over the late bassist and vocalist best known for his work on Robin Trower’s run of ’70s heavy blues rock is just the kind of geeky connection that is often the start of a beautiful musical friendship. Acevedo’s ad, meanwhile–which made mention of influences like stoner rock paragons Weedeater and classic rockers Deep Purple–drew in a series of rhythm sections over the years. But the current lineup, with drummer Peter Hurd and bassist Stephen Moore, seems to be the most solid one yet. 

That’s borne out by the impressive creative leap forward that the group took between its 2018 debut Activation Immediate and new album Planet High. The latter recording has much more swing and boogie than its predecessor, evoking the funkier moments of Black Sabbath’s catalog or Band of Gypsys-era Hendrix. 

“That’s because these guys are tight,” Acevedo says, gesturing to Hurd and Moore. “It allows me to be able to slip in between those spaces.” 

“I wasn’t around when they recorded the first one,” says Hurd, “so I don’t know what the energy was in the room. I think Steve I and both ground each other and give each other room to explore. Justin feels the same way. There are definitely times during Justin’s solos where Steve and I get way out. We know where we’re at and we want to push it a little bit.” 

Anchoring the far-gone-and-out work by the instrumentalists is Quick, a vocalist fed a steady diet of gospel and R&B while growing up in North Carolina who didn’t decide to take music seriously until about seven years ago. His booming tenor voice–which bears a striking resemblance to Tunde Adebimpe of TV On The Radio–easily cuts through the thick swells of sound created by his bandmates as he sings of seeking enlightenment or vents his spleen about broken relationships. 

“This time around, it felt appropriate for the lyrics to be pretty simple and straightforward,” Quick says. “I’ve tried to get really deep in the past, but I didn’t want to force it. But I have no qualms about writing a very dumb song. I don’t want to sound dumb, but at the same time, I don’t care. I looked at this album like a combination of Parliament, Temptations, AC/DC and Zeppelin. I don’t feel like you always got the deepest lyrics from those bands, but still great songs.” 

Freebase Hyperspace.
Freebase Hyperspace.

There’s no better indicator of how great the chemistry is with this lineup of Freebase Hyperspace than learning that, even before Planet High was set to be released, the group was already polishing up a new batch of songs for the next album. 

Planet High is awesome,” says Acevedo. “The new material is pretty awesome, too. I think we’re definitely pushing each other. There’s a progression trending upward.”

“Planet High” is now available via Bandcamp, either as a digital download or a limited run 180-gram vinyl LP.

Robert Ham is a critic and journalist living in Portland, Oregon’s outer reaches. During his time in the Rose City, he has contributed to The OregonianWillamette WeekPortland Mercury, and Portland Monthly, while also amassing a healthy amount of clips for print and online publications including PitchforkDownBeatBandcamp, and Village Voice. In 2019, he was the recipient of the SPJ Award for Best Sports Feature. In addition, Robert produces and hosts Double Bummer, a radio show focusing on new and newly reissued experimental music from around the world that airs every Tuesday night at 11pm PT on XRAY-FM. To read more of his work, visit his portfolio site or follow him on Twitter at @roberthamwriter.

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