Bardo Pond’s Gibbons brothers return as Vapour Theories with a scorching suite of soaring guitar anthems at a time when the world needs them most. With Celestial Scuzz, the duo is pulling music down from a higher place, channeling the sonic heavens into a living, breathing sonic aural monument. Shifting between mind-melting electric guitar blowouts and contemplative acoustic pieces, the album is a soothing, almost religious listening experience.
At its most dense, Celestial Scuzz configures itself into a sort of maximal ambient headspace. Opener “Unoccupied Blues” is huge. Dueling electric guitars push and pull in an attempt to light the path ahead. Both want to lead and yet both end up following as some greater, heavenly force takes over and the entire 13-minute masterpiece ascends to unfathomable heights. Lamentations on death and deliverance pour through the speakers like monolithic hymnals. I think about Killer Mike saying “I’ve never really had a religious experience in a religious place. The closest I’ve ever come to seeing or feeling God is listening to rap music” on “R.A.P. Music” and with “Unoccupied Blues,” I feel that viscerally. This is spiritual music in the truest sense. Sanctified sick indeed.
Impressively, the rest of Celestial Scuzz isn’t a disappointment at all. I have endless respect for John and Michael putting a piece like “Unoccupied Blues” at the beginning of this record. It sets one hell of a standard, but they’re smart enough to put together a narrative script that complements its mass with different moods. The meditative all-acoustic “High Treason” is the perfect come down; you can catch your breath and collect your thoughts before “Breaking Down (The Portals of Hell)” ramps the energy up again, digging deep into the Earth for a taste of snarl and dirt.
Celestial Scuzz feels like coming home. There is familiarity here, even comfort. I have seen these pieces put together in different shapes before, but not necessarily like this. John and Michael Gibbons continue, after so many years, pushing forward and finding new ground to burn down so that the ashes can rise in their wake.