According to their website, Astra were “born in San Diego but bred in the mists of Avalon”, so you can’t say you weren’t warned. If you missed it, their 2009 debut album, The Weirding, also issued the most resounding heads-up: here be prog, several capefuls of it. Like the early King Crimson, Astra proffer two blokes equipped with Mellotrons: serious shit.
It takes a certain bloody-mindedness to be in a young prog group in the 21st Century. Like the last clog-makers or trebuchet operators left standing, Astra have to nobly combine a better-than-working knowledge of arcane (or outlawed) practices with a thick-skinned immunity to market forces. So what possible relevance can they have to contemporary life?
Well, if one stops fretting about such a thing and concentrates instead on much-needed transcendence, their contribution to the contemporary canon suddenly makes sense. From a mid-paced and imperiously Floydian default setting, Astra branch out into slabby, forbidding Van Der Graaf Generator territory on Quake Meat, do the 15-minute brainmelt epic thing on the title track and cheekily snaffle the acoustic guitar motif from In The Court Of The Crimson King on the slow-burning Drift. Surrendering your psyche to stoner sentinels who can guide you clean out of your gourd never gets old.