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Axis: Sova - "Motor Earth" | Album Review

by Kat Harding (@iwearaviators)

Growing from a solo act to a full band is a big change for Chicago-based Brett Sova, also known as Axis: Sova. “It was a unique shift for me, and a welcome one, allowing other voices to make an impression on the Axis: vibe,” he writes. His latest effort, Motor Earth, released on Ty Segall’s Drag City imprint God? Records in October 2016, is what he calls a “heightened level of outward communication,” a collaborative jam recorded live as a band with heavy input from Tim Kaiser on guitar and Tyson Thurston on bass.
It is difficult to elaborate on Brett’s near-perfect description of his favorite song on the album, “Love Identity,” which he called the “prime statement” from the album. As the first track, it bursts forward as a psychedelic-tinged sing-along rock anthem with distant vocals and just enough reverb. “It expresses nearly everything we wanted to put down on tape as a band - something wild and wooly from a hypnotic, boogie-band perfective - and it has the finest example of the three of us improvising live, in the moment, as we do over the course of that lengthy jam in the middle,” Brett said. Only taking about three tries to get it right, the song features a series of “happy little inexplicable accidents” that elevated the track to the impeccable finished product.
Living in Chicago has provided Brett with a solid, central musical community, one that’s “inclusive and incorporates myriad styles, angles and types” all in one place, a scene that was able to support Brett, his growing band, and his changing sounds. When asked what he’s listening to lately, Brett replied with acts as diverse as “Träd, Gräs och Stenar, Crime, Ornette Coleman, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith & Suzanne Ciani, Roy Montgomery, Cate Le Bon, Creedence Clearwater Revival,” showing the reach of his interests and influences. For this album, Brett says his inspiration ranged musically from the “good ol’ classics like ZZ Top, the Stones, and Neil Young,” to his immersion in The Illuminatus Trilogy, a satirical series of science fiction-influenced books first published in 1975, featuring conspiracy theories, drugs, sex, counterculture, numerology, magic, and more. The abundance of information available to consumers today also played a role in the album. “Life in general - perhaps primarily the over-saturation of information and the process of wading through it” influenced the songwriting process, Brett says. “Walking through strange times as they festered and boiled in a dark uneasiness before last year’s gut punching conclusion” comes through in the album as well, such as on “Unraveling,” a heavier, almost experimental, metal-influenced song with buried vocals coming in from the depths.   
The classic rock feel can be felt on tracks like “(Like An) Intruder” and “Eyes Have It,” where guitars reign and you can just picture a young Mick Jagger stomping around on stage. There are plenty of guitar solos on this album, promising a live show that will have you working up a sweat. The strength of each musician shines through in an improvised snippet, “(Jam 4)” with distorted guitar chords over cool percussion. The album ends with “Routine Machine” a long, winding track full of weighty distortion and reverb.