Guitar psych-drone purist Steven R. Smith (Hala Strana, Ulaan Khol, Thuja, Mirza) assumes yet another identity as Ulaan Markhor with this self-titled album, again on Soft Abuse. Lurking in the same dark and hazy atmosphere as his work as Ulaan Khol but with a sense of direction, Smith brings a sense of volume and veracity that wasn’t as present before. “White Markhor” brings this sentiment quickly into focus with a near-Bardo Pond blow-out of tuned-in, tripped-out distortion and sound. Percussion drums along with shambled noise while maxed-out amps fuzz and hum in a disconnected symphony. Tension builds with resounding darkness as if Swans were hashing out new material. “Slipped God” furthers the channeling of the Brothers Gibson (Bardo Pond) with an all-to-brief exercise in Spacemen 3-channeled raga. Not so much in a bluesy sense, but druggy ditty that’s as sweet as it is dark. Smith exposes his “lighter” side on tracks like “Plague of Farewells” and “Half Ricochet,” incorporating a brighter progression and steady pacing. The latter track could very well be Earth on speed, or Stereolab on smack.
The songs on Ulaan Markhor are certainly brief but it’s not detrimental to the album overall. These sketches seem to float in and out mid-session, never quite signalling the start or finish of anything in particular. It’s a weightless affair, unencumbered by narrative.