“The mindspace is colored with dreamy tones, with touching memories, faint hopes, dark forebodings.” – Rigobert Dittmann BAD ALCHEMY
“Each song has an own identity and style, which gives you overall a very diverse album that should appeal to both jazz and progfans!” – Gabor Kleinbloesem STRUTTER’ZINE
“A psychedelic-tinged, avant-jazz rock-fueled sonic dream, ensyruped in fractal and kaleidoscopic energy.” – João Morado, BEATS FOR PEEPS
OSLO, NORWAY — This Celestial Engine, an exciting new project that fuses the talents of three remarkable musicians from diverse musical backgrounds. Featuring the extraordinary lineup of drummer Ted Parsons (Swans, Prong, Godflesh, Killing Joke, Jesu), bassist Dave Sturt (Gong, Steve Hillage Band, Bill Nelson), and keyboardist Roy Powell (InterStatic, Anthony Braxton, Mumpbeak with Bill Laswell), the album delivers a unique blend of experimental ambient avant-jazz rock improvisation.
Hailing from various corners of the globe, these seasoned musicians found their creative synergy in the vibrant city of Oslo, Norway, where they united their talents to form This Celestial Engine. The resulting collaboration has given birth to a sound that is nothing short of otherworldly, transcending the boundaries of conventional music genres.
Ted Parsons, a force to be reckoned with in the world of heavy music, brings his extensive experience to the project. Having contributed his powerful drumming to iconic bands such as Swans, Prong, Godflesh, Killing Joke, and Jesu, Parsons’ rhythmical prowess is an integral part of This Celestial Engine’s sonic landscape.
Dave Sturt, known for his pioneering work in sound design and fretless bass playing, is a key figure in numerous art rock and progressive bands. With a rich musical history that includes Gong, The Steve Hillage Band, Bill Nelson, and Jade Warrior, Sturt adds a unique dimension to the band’s sound. His accomplishments in film scoring and album production further highlight his multifaceted talents.
Roy Powell, a UK-born musician now residing in Norway, brings his eclectic musical journey to This Celestial Engine. A member of acclaimed groups like InterStatic, Mumpbeak with Bill Laswell and Naked Truth, Powell has collaborated with some of the brightest minds in the music industry. His keyboard wizardry and innovative approach to composition are vital components of the band’s experimental sound.
This Celestial Engine’s debut album is a testament to the remarkable chemistry between these three musicians. Through freely improvised sessions, they have crafted compositions that are surprisingly coherent, taking listeners on a sonic journey through uncharted territories. Fans of avant-garde, experimental rock and ambient music can look forward to a groundbreaking release that pushes the boundaries of musical exploration. Prepare to embark on a sonic voyage like no other with This Celestial Engine.
Composed and recorded live at Stagger Home Studios, Oslo, July 2022 except Mindmelding recorded live at Kafé Hærverk, 4th May 2021
Recorded and mixed by Dave Sturt
Produced by Roy Powell and Dave Sturt
Dereck Higgins discussed this release on his online blog here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ua4x9v8bZf8
This is one of the most unusual trios it has been my pleasure to some across; hard-hitting heavy drummer Ted Parsons, most famous for Swans, Prong and Godflesh; prog-leaning fretless bassist Dave Sturt, who had stints with Gong, Jade Warrior and closer to home The Anthropology Band; and jazz-adjacent keyboardist Roy Powell, long term Bill Laswell collaborator and leader of numerous other line-ups.
Convening in Oslo, the trio has managed to produce something that sounds nothing like you might expect and over the course of five improvised and experimental compositions, leads you further and further away from any mainstream influence and into the realm of pure imagination.
The opening piece, with its meditative, drifting intro, is sparse, its make-up as yet unclear, like a planet coalescing from disparate parts. The fretless bass, elastic and mysterious, creeps into your consciousness and the ambient sensibilities are tempered by cymbal washes that appear midway through, accompanied by pastoral piano. Three very different ingredients, all awash with echo evoking an enormous empty room with the three players huddled right in the centre, oblivious to their cavernous surroundings.
I have to say, I was surprised by how measured Ted’s contribution was; rhythmic structure only becoming apparent two-thirds of the way through, the hypnotic piano and wavering bass meaning three suddenly become one. There is such warmth in the bass and when Roy switches to organ, the piece gathers further momentum and hits a groove that is way off limits.
The sustain is incredible as the piano makes its romantic, melancholy way. A bed of seahorse electronics and a rumour of bass allows a song to dictate the need for content. Nobody is rushing to fill up the void, and instead space is allowed to drift before any rhythmic interjection might be considered. When it arrives, it always changes the mood, drums shattered by echo, leaving shards of sound spraying around the bass anchor, interspersed with other less obvious elements. Each piece here is very different, with percussion on “Any The Wiser” sounding like somebody smashing a garage door way in the distance, while “Rewire My Subtext” is more soundtrack-based, with all three diverse parts somehow coalescing into a sturdy, rhythmic whole.
The final piece was recorded live and perhaps this is the ideal experience as the sounds gradually emerge from slow, suffocating spaces, timbral ranges stretched to tearing. It is dark, shadowy and portentous as effects screech, percussion rattles, troubling the teeth with the bass barely recognisable. Gradual murmurs of structure and the integration of unexpected sounds finding common ground amongst wind-borne detritus. A slow percussive rhythm draws away from the fractured fear and into something engaging as the V8 organ surges, the bulbous, wandering bass propels and the trio suddenly find a way out of the darkness and into hearts of the audience.
Considering what these three diverse players bring to the party, you could be forgiven for assuming This Celestial Engine might be a noise fest; but is a heartfelt and measured collection that allows space for all, with no one person hogging the limelight. They work so well together, drawing the best from one another, knowing exactly how to engage the listener and knowing exactly what is best for the song. Whether this is a one-off or the start of a beautiful friendship, This Celestial Engine is an excellent example of why the trio is best and how satisfying something can be from unlikely ingredients. – Mr Olivetti, FREQ https://freq.org.uk/reviews/this-celestial-engine-this-celestial-engine/
In their self-titled debut album recently released by the British label Discus Music, This Celestial Engine presents a psychedelic-tinged, avant-jazz rock-fueled sonic dream, ensyruped in fractal and kaleidoscopic energy. The trio is formed by drummer Ted Parsons, bassist Dave Sturt, and keyboardist Roy Powell, musicians with established credits in the fields of jazz, metal, rock, and experimentalism. Currently based in Oslo, Norway, but hailing from both the USA and the UK, This Celestial Engine draws on its musicians’ background to create new and exciting ambiences that take the listener on a journey through the outer regions of space. The album starts with “The Astral Doctrine,” a track where the band brings forward the strong arguments underpinning their sound aesthetics: subdued drones flowing undercurrent, glittering cymbals juxtaposed with heavy and steady drum beats, spacey bass lines that transmute into groovy takes, and tonal-centred piano melodies that turn into lysergic trips powered by the keys. Following a quiet and contemplative introductory section that lasts about 10 minutes, the trio plunges into a shiny musical space driven by hulky drums and on-beat bass. The least appealing sound is when the keys are heard in their raw form, without effects, but as soon as Powell turns on his psyched-out 70s-inspired sound, magic happens, bringing the track to an apotheotic conclusion. Healing and echoey piano melodies kick off “Supranormal Headspace,” as they are slowly overtaken by arpeggiated synthesizers that push the trio into collectively freely improvised segments. It is in these moments that all the creative energy encapsulated in this band really pours out, and the trio comes together in a crescendo to deliver uncharted, oneiric landscapes drawn on the fly. The bass dominates the track in “Amy The Wiser”, initially sounding round and warm, and gradually transitioning into punchy and clicky interludes. All the while, the background is splattered with jazzy synthesizer wizardry and textural percussion effects, culminating in an industrial, anxiety-inducing twist that concludes the track. In “Rewire My Subtext” we hear This Celestial Engine at their most experimental. Suspense film soundtrack effects create an ominous atmosphere wrapped in reverse and delay effects, dissonant chords, and sprinkled with diffuse bass lines that threaten to increase the tempo of the track. Eastern-inspired keyboard melodies weave a colourful tapestry supported by the rhythm section, before fragments of trip-hop begin to emerge, as if DJ Shadow had gone into spiritual seclusion in India. At last, “Mindmelding” wraps the record, following the same structure as the previous track, based on dark atmospheres that slowly rise up to expose all the vibrant matter that this band’s free music is made of. Just like some of the instruments played by Dave Sturt in this record, it, in itself, is weird shit… but definitely good, weird shit! It is worth a listen, and, hopefully, this is not the last time we hear about This Celestial Engine. – João Morado https://beatsforpeeps.com/reviews/this-celestial-engine-self-titled/
The debut CD of THIS CELESTIAL ENGINE is described as GONG meets SWANS! This is not that strange if you consider the fact that the band features in their line up Dave Sturt (UK)- bass (GONG/STEVE HILLAGE), Ted Parsons (USA)- drums (SWANS/PRONG) and Roy Powell(UK)- keys (ANTHONY BRAXTON/BILL LASWELL). Their first CD is one to check if you like your prog to sound dark and avant garde ish, experimental, but not too much, so a mix of GONG and SWANS is actually pretty much close. Opener The Astral Doctrine starts dark and calm, in a sorta krautrock kinda movement of the 70s, but especially the last 5 minutes show a sensational instrumental modern post-progressive rockband! Following Supranormal Headspace even heads a bit into 70s symphonic jazz fusion with a touch of 80s new age, although at some point it could also easily be called a neo-progressive rock tune, and a good one for sure! Actually all 5 songs reflect the aforementioned influences, but each song has an own identity and style, which gives you overall a very diverse album that should appeal to both jazz and progfans! (Points: 8.7 out of 10) – Gabor Kleinbloesem STRUTTER’ZINE
With This Celestial Engine (DISCUS 166CD) and the trio of the same name by Roy Powell – keyboards, loops, Dave Sturt – bass, Ebow bass, weird shit and Ted Parsons – drums, percussion, artwork, Martin Archer only goes beyond the discus radius at first glance. The music originated in Oslo, the home base of Powell, who met with Naked Truth, InterStatic and Mumpbeak on RareNoise (the London label that has since disappeared behind the trans-Neptunian planets). But Powell is English, and Sturt, who has already archerized with the Anthropology Band and The Archers Of Sorrow with his background in Jade Warrior and since 2009 bass player of the undead Gong, pulls him aboard the flying Discus disc. With Parsons, the drummer of Swans, Prong, Godflesh, Killing Joke, Jesu, Teledubgnosis, N.I.C. etc., who also landed in Oslo, he brings a truly dazzling figure into play. The ‘Supranormal Headspace’, ‘Rewire My Subtext’ and ‘Mindmelding’ reveal what it’s aimed at. As a trip to the extreme and innermost, as a dive into the waters above the sky and the abysses under the skullcap. Forgotten in time, with crashing cymbals, crystalline keys, sweeping drones. The bass touches on black matter, electro-organ chords roam longingly through the mind, increasingly grasping space, Parsons stoically turns the beat crank. The mindspace is colored with dreamy tones, with touching memories, faint hopes, dark forebodings. As if the gong and dub spirit and the Swans and Godflesh urge had always had the same goal, which the three of them are striving towards here with the span of a universal giant ray. How they hum, arpeggiate, roar and thunder in ‘Any the wiser’ melancholically, but unresignedly, even defiantly, and then flood the subtext in a jellying, rushing, organ-like dub manner and rise from the swamp into the clear, fabulous. It reminds me of the bass odysseys of the Fin de Millennium, the hyperdub on WordSound, Laswell & Namlook, Gaudi and Schwalm on RareNoise, while Powell’s wafting keys lead you through the dark valley, and anger and despair melt away in the final meltdown – live. – Rigobert Dittmann BAD ALCHEMY
This Celestial Engine are a ‘new experimental avant rock supergroup’ and they seem to be from Oslo. So, at least the key-pusher Roy Powell, although born in England, lives there, and the album reviewed here was recorded in the Norwegian capital. But I don’t think Powell or the two other musicians involved are Norwegian. Bassist Dave Sturt is otherwise known from Gong, the Steve Hillage Band and Jade Warrior (the more recent albums), while drummer Ted Parsons was already active with the Swans, Prong, Godflesh and Killing Joke. The trio together with Powell, who is already represented on these pages with InterStatic and Mumpbeak, can definitely be described as a supergroup. This Celestial Engine recorded their self-titled album in Oslo in July 2022. So, tracks 1-4. The final “Mindmelding” was written in 2021 and was recorded in May of that year as part of a concert at a venue called ‘Kafe Hærverk’, which is probably also located in Oslo. In January 2024, the material was then released on CD by Sheffield-based Discus Music. To the music! Experimental avant-rock? Well, the music isn’t that terribly experimental … Of course, what is offered is not particularly suitable for radio. “This Celestial Engine” offers a very dynamically performed, all in all quite voluminous, sometimes intensely driving, sometimes elegiac reverberating mixture of colored keyboard sounds, pithy to floating rumbling bass tones and versatile percussion, which could be described as modern, jazzy, rather atmospherically meandering, perhaps partly improvised instrumental prog. The recent productions of Moonjune Records (e.g. the ones in which Markus Reuter is involved – see “Bleed” and “Kosmonautik Pilgrimage”) are not so far away here, this post-Crimson-Prog in the successor of the ProjeKcts, as you can also find it e.g. with the Stick Men Finds. There is also some Retroptog (Retrogeorgel), Canterbury-like electric piano pearls, some free-format-angled clay tinkering and all kinds of electronic-jazzy-airy floating, echoes and wafting. The result is not really new, but the British trio (from Oslo) has their own variant of this kind of prog at the start. “This Celestial Engine” offers a very varied sound journey, a gritty, quite expansive and richly decorated atmosphere with a jazz touch, which should appeal to the clientele of the above-mentioned label, or to all those who appreciate edgy-hypnotic, modern instrumental prog. Exciting! – Achim Breiling, BABYBLAUE SEITEN https://www.babyblaue-seiten.de/album_21438.html#oben
So imagine that while your brain is tuning into Alpha waves, there between sleep and wakefulness, a vehicle descends from an unspecified somewhere, picks you up, and together you rise into the heavens. This machine has sound. It has navigators too – and with formidable resumes at that: keyboardist Roy Powell has played with Anthony Braxton, Naked Truth and doesn’t get along. Bassist Dave Sturt has stints in Gong and the Steve Hillage Band, while drummer Ted Parsons has worked with Swans, Killing Joke, Godflesh, Jesu, Prong. Despite their past, the three navigators built this new machine with new materials. After finding common ground in Oslo, they improvised until the fruits of their expression structured something with shape and specific characteristics. They call it “experimental ambient avant jazz-rock improvisation”. A lot of words to just say: sound ethereal and dreamy. Sound without ground and without roof. At least half of the material on their self-titled debut is ambient in nature, with keyboards coloring star projections and the unyielding bass adding its melodic shapes. The reverbs and the spaces are vast, the forms wide open, the eyes directed to the most distant galaxies. The ten-plus minutes “The Astral Doctrine” and “Supranormal Headspace” spend more than half their time in ambient improvisations before Parsons comes into play and provides an atmospheric prog/fusion pulse. The journey seems to have the gentle character of a calm but beautiful dream. Without ever turning completely jazzy, your sonic take will also reach more awkward places, if Sturt’s wonderful, long-winded bass improvisation on “Any The Wiser” or the more experimental and dark nature of “Rewrite My Subtext”, before he settles into a funkier ending. “This Celestial Engine” is an album that finally manages to distance itself from genres. Its jazz, prog or electronic elements are left in the background, as they are distorted in favor of a persistent spacey feeling. If you like fusion or the space pastures of old psychedelia, the warm soundscapes of Tangerine Dream or the cinematography of GoGo Penguin, the journey that This Heavenly Machine will take you will be a journey of seduction and peace. Without unpleasant surprises, the dream will end together with the mysterious aura of “Mindmelding”, the jamming atmosphere will give a soft landing. The alpha waves will fade, the next morning you may not remember anything, but what happened to you, really happened. This is not music to tear you down but to caress your soul for a while. Your navigators are good craftsmen, come on. – Antonis Kalamoutsos, ROCKING https://www.rocking.gr/reviews/album/This-Celestial-Engine-This-Celestial-Engine/11874
This Celestial Engine features Roy Powell on keyboards & loops, Dave Sturt on bass, ebow bass & weird effects and Ted Parsons on drums. Over the past decade a British keyboard player named Roy Powell started to pop up on more than a dozen discs mostly on the Rare Noise label. He was a member of different projects like Jazzmob, Interstatic, Mumpbeak and Naked Truth, playing with musicians like Bill Laswell, Cuong Vu, Pat Mastelotto (from King Crimson) and Lorenzo Feliciati. I actually caught Mumpbeak at the old Stone when they were a trio with Powell, Shanir Blumenkranz (from Abraxas & Rashanim) on bass and Pat Mastelotto on drums. Hard to believe but it sounded like King Crimson playing at The Stone!?! British bassist Dave Sturt has played with Gong as well as being in a handful of other Martin Archer projects for Discus. American drummer Ted Parsons has played with the Swans, Material and Metallic Taste of Blood (with Laswell & Rammelzee). Hence the line-up for this trio is certainly an odd one. This disc was recorded live at Stagger Home Studios & Kate’ Haeverk in Oslo, Norway in May of 2021 and in June of 2022. “The Astral Doctrine” is first and it is spacious sounding with Sturt on fretless bass, Powell on eerie, skeletal keyboards and minimal drums. Mr. Powell is playing some piano and synth with some dubby grooves by the Sturt and Parsons. The trio hit their stride later on in this piece when Powell starts to play his Farfisa like keyboard, the groove getting heavier, the vibe more prog-like. On “Supranormal Headspace” Mr. Powell starts off playing subtle, eerie echoplexed piano & drifting synth. Mick Karn-like dub bass enters midway and the trio break into a hypnotic laid back groove. Mr. Sturt’s superb, nimble, haunting fretless bass is featured on “Any The Wiser”, his long solo flows throughout this piece and it most exquisite. Powell switches to electric piano which has that cool seventies sound, the drums like soft thunder. “Rewire My Subtext” has a prog-like keyboards: several organs with effects altering our consciousness a bit. The bass groove here is a bit funky (so get up & dance, perhaps) and sounds great with long el. piano solo. “Mindmelding” is the perfect name for the last piece here, kind of like slow building space-rock. Roy Powell has an arsenal of keyboards and keeps adding different lines or parts to the throbbing Hawkwind/Gong/Pink Floyd-like vibe/sound. I haven’t listened to anything quite like this recently outside of some early Gong listening when Daevid Allen passed in 2015. The last piece has applause at the end which sounds about right, nothing live hearing some live prog/space-rock live! A rarity nowadays – Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery NYC
You can buy your CD or DL either direct from Discus Music or from Bandcamp. The prices and the postage charges are the same on both sites, but Bandcamp will charge you VAT on DL only purchases. Whichever site you choose, the DL element is delivered to your Bandcamp collection.
Discus pays a 10% commission to Bandcamp on sales there, but if you buy direct from Discus Music we get to keep 100% – which of course we prefer! But in the end, please buy from whichever site suits you best.