Seattle trio Hovercraft have unjustly vanished from the Discourse™. You never see them mentioned during discussions of greatest bands/albums of the ’90s or even talk of best groups out of Seattle, which is a shame. Not even opening for Mike Watt in their early days—with Eddie Vedder on drums—lifted Hovercraft’s profile very high, though it likely helped them to get signed to Mute Records.
During Hovercraft’s existence (1993-2001), guitarist Campbell 2000 (Ryan Campbell), bassist Sadie 7 (Beth Liebling), and drummer Dash 11 (Ric Peterson) piloted a unique strain of space rock that was as psychedelic and baffling as a chemical equation. Their second and final (and best) album, Experiment Below, features seven tracks that all segue into one another—a series of outrageous jams that ebbs and flows like rivers of magma down a volcano.
Hovercraft were masters of quiet-and-loud dynamics, their lulls portending imminent terror, their crescendos explosive and extreme. The band forever kept you on edge, waiting for the next comet on fire or supernova to come to pass. Everything on their records (and during their live performances, if you were lucky enough to catch them) seems spontaneous, yet also precision-tooled. It’s a wonderful paradox.
Experiment Below‘s songs are rather long and vocal-free, and their intricacy and spurts of sculpted noise, power chords, and ice-pick tinglings never let you fully get your bearings. Some folks might flash on the longest cuts from Pink Floyd’s Piper At The Gates Of Dawn or the French band Spacecraft’s 1978 LP Paradoxe as Hovercraft touchstones, but Experiment Below hits with more brutality and scientific rigor than those classic works. Plus, Hovercraft’s fascination with technology’s effect on human physiology and psychology—judging from their song titles—sets them apart from most of their sonic peers.
Experiment Below has never been reissued, probably because it didn’t sell well during its initial run. That’s a sad commentary on the music public’s taste, but most things are. Last year would’ve been opportune for a 25th-anniversary edition, but alas, no. As with most ’90s records, you’ll likely have an easier time scoring the CD than the vinyl (one US dealer is selling the LP on Discogs for $200!), but as the Pop Group sang, where there’s a will, there has got to be a way. Lastly, if you dig Hovercraft, you should seek out the self-titled record by Schema, their 2000 collab with Stereolab’s Mary Hansen. -Buckley Mayfield
Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Jive Time is always looking to buy your unwanted records (provided they are in good condition) or offer credit for trade. We also buy record collections.