by Dave Segal

SubArachnoid Space

Sat June 21

Ash Street

Perennially underground, but doggedly durable, space rock--that droney, trippy offspring of Pink Floyd's "Interstellar Overdrive"--now thrives, thanks in part to labels like Strange Attractors Audio House. In particular, the Portland imprint has championed San Francisco's SubArachnoid Space, a quartet is renowned for its spontaneous free-rock sojourns. Normally, SAS's heavily FX'ed guitar lines entwine with the ebb and flow of the rhythm section. So it's surprising that their newest disc, Also Rising, is also its most structured, and arguably the finest of the group's seven-album career.

Also Rising's more linear focus and power derive from the increasingly prominent role of guitarist Melynda Jackson, and is developed further by recently departed bassist Stoo Odom (since replaced by Diego Gonzalez). With SAS founder/guitarist Mason Jones now a non-touring member (Chris Cones will take his spot live), Jackson has become one of the few women to lead a space-rock unit. She's ditched SubArachnoid's improv tactics, while still keeping things unpredictable.

"The whole hit-or-miss aspect of doing [improv] really turns me off," Jackson says. "I am enjoying the challenge of actually writing and playing songs--without counting."

Has SubArachnoid seen a growth in the space-rock audience? Are indie rockers being converted to its lysergic excursions?

"Converting indierockers? Hmm, I sure hope not," Jackson replies, laughing. "I mean, sure, we see a wide variety of nerds at our shows. I consider this a good thing. I do see the whole space-rock thing growing, although I am not sure that space rock is a very accurate description."

Part of that audience growth includes the stoner-rock contingent. SubArachnoid will play the Stoner Hands Of Doom fest in Portland Labor Day weekend. "I'm sure we all have different ideas about this, but personally I'd hope that the music is designed to enhance mental space either with or without chemical assistance," stresses Jackson.