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SPACE DEBRIS – Getting right inside the music of my favourite improvisational rock band (PART THREE)

SHE’S A TEMPLE (2012): Jerry Kranitz enthused about the 15 minute ‘Palmyra’ with its swirling Hammond, and Tommy Gorny’s “ripping guitar” on ‘Cloudwalker’. Winnie Rimbach-Sator’s electric piano “traversed Blues and Jazz” and the miraculous SUN RA even gets a mention. Prog-jazz ambience is the description for the “spacey soundscape” of the two-part ‘Creation’ and the word ‘Soul’ was even used to describe some of the music, not the first time I have heard this! ‘Skinflight’. as the title might suggest, has Christian “front and centre”. Of this CD/ 2 x LP set the band draws comparisons with HAWKWIND and KING CRIMSON (“Red” era), and the latter is evident on the title track.

PHONOMORPHOSIS (2014): Space Debris’ first studio album since “Elephant Moon” saw a further widening of genre influence to include not just various aspects of Krautrock, but Dub and Psych-Funk. ‘Cat Flow Deluxe’ was a “ZAPPA-esque blues” while opener ‘Colossus Stranded’ featured the guest vocals of Magic Petra, who was singer, harpist and songwriter for the splendid PAISLEY TREE album on which Christian played drums. Petra’s paintings also appeared on the album cover. Four pieces of roughly 20 minutes (with a 10-minute bonus on the digital download) made the album just right for a double LP of four side-long tracks. ‘Journey Back to the Moon’ took me right back to the early days with its distorted or ‘greasy’ organ sound, as I would call it.

BEHIND THE GATE (2015): I wrote at the time that SPACE DEBRIS were (and still are) my favourite improvisational space/ progressive rock band on the planet. Tommy and Christian were still there with Janni Schmitt on bass and Winnie Rimbach-Sator on keyboards. “Behind the Gate” was a double CD distributed as always through GREEN-BRAIN RECORDS. I said, “The album never flags from the brilliant FOCUS – like riff of ‘Sunlight’; the title track is a slow burning 14 minute ‘ballad’ that develops into a PINK FLOYD (“Meddle”) riff as the band get a bit funky. I once again made reference to the exchange of solos between Winnie and Tommy, coaxing the rhythm section to settle into an infectious groove.

Interstellar Rex II” could be a good example of ‘Kopfkimo’ (cinema in the head) although Space Debris music is not intentionally thematic”.

In a previous interview I did for ACID DRAGON on the release of a cassette SPACEDELIC ODYSSEY (2016) I asked about the 14 minute long track ‘Interstellar Rex I’I, which I described as “multi-dimensional music, choppy organ chords, fuzz laden guitar, heavy bass, solid drum groove, FOCUS-like in places, with some killer riffs” conjuring up pictures in my mind of a terrible lizard roaming the forests looking for prey, the sustained organ and guitar harmonics implying the Rex is having a contented rest after gorging its meal!

Tommy put the record straight when he insisted that their pieces are not thematic, but was happy that the music had created a movie in my mind! Furthermore, “German listeners talk about the effect of Kopfkino (cinema in head?) while listening to Space Debris which is the exact description of your impressions and visions.” Winnie further explained that when the recordings are done Christian (mostly) condenses everything that happened into the name for the piece. He was also enthusiastic about my comment about my “senses working overtime” as that is “the ultimate goal for instrumental music.” He added, “the pieces are thematic in the sense that we try to tune into the feeling of the moment. Nearly everything is freely and collectively improvised.”

Delving deeper into the album, ‘Ur’ simmers with the subtlest of synth playing, a brilliant climax and a HENDRIX quote at the end, from “Band of Gypsies” for sure! Christian thought the hook melody of ‘Ur’ sounds a little like URIAH HEEP (another obvious reference point for their music). When I suggested some more influences, Tommy picked out HENDRIX, BLACKMORE and TOWNSHEND “for being intelligent and creative but also aggressive and intense, enormous power play, BLACKMORE for a combination of the finest melodic playing, strong riffs and a moody style, and HENDRIX always stays fascinating for his very free, detached style”. Adding to the comparisons I have already suggested, Tommy cited VANILLA FUDGE, TEN YEARS AFTER and KING CRIMSON from his own collection of over 1,000 records.

Further analysing SPACEDELIC ODYSSEY, ‘Dump Diver’ lets the rhythmic qualities of the band shine through before a flowing electric piano, an idiosyncratically funky synth break before an outrageous guitar/ synth/ piano question and answer intervene. The title track has a formidable drum groove, shimmering electric piano, guitar right up the fretboard, and a nice mellow coda. ‘Into the Hall’ has an ALLMAN BROTHERS vibe at the start: rhythmic, danceable (Yes!!), a solid backbeat and a frenzied ending; HENDRIX is back on the radar. ‘Transhuman’sounds a little like RADIOHEAD just briefly before catapulting back into 70s classic rock.

“Space Debris play with different bands in styles ranging from Irish Folk to Jazz to Hip-Hop to Electro-Pop but classic 70s rock is still the main ingredient of Space Debris’ music.”

I asked about modern influences and Winnie came out with the surprising news that “all of us play with different bands through all genres from Irish Folk to Hip-Hop to Electro-Pop. While a minimal House or Dubstep artist would use a synth or a sample, I use a filtered, distorted Hammond. But 70s classic rock is still the main ingredient.”

When I asked if they ever listened to Jazz, bassist Vroni said, “Some of us play in Jazz bands” and “It is improvisation and variation that are the connecting elements that basically define Space Debris.” She went on to explain that they create pieces of art together, each created live on stage, listening to each other and deciding when to join in and what to play – something contrary perhaps? Tommy confirmed that the ideas were developed the way that Veronika described and added that, “after a while the playing gets more subconscious. The band starts floating and the ‘flow’ takes control.”

“Less is more and sometimes more is more, and if you can say what you want to say with a single note or no note at all then you’re there!”

MOUNTAIN ULTIMATE (2017) was a live album. In my review for ACID DRAGON, I praised the title track, the usual stylistic ingredients HENDRIX, question and answer (something close to the way jazz musicians work), the tight rhythmic section, open to being expansive when the muse calls and the colourful palette of organ sounds and refined technique, recognising the importance of holding onto a note and when to go on a run. KEITH EMERSON, my own biggest organ hero was the highest accolade I could think of. Winnie, after giving thanks for the compliment, expressed what I was trying to say more eloquently: “Less is more and sometimes more is more. And everything is nothing and the other way round. And if you can say what you want to say with a single note or no note at all, then you’re there!”

And so, we come to BEST OF 1998-2020 (2020/2022) as mentioned in Part One. There is just one word for it – essential! But before concluding, there are a few more words with the band.

When you download BEST OF 1998- 2020 from BANDCAMP you are asked to name a ‘Favourite Track’ but this is impossible. I thought I had put ‘Freeflight’ simply because this was the one singled out at the top but typed ‘Free Spirits’ instead (!) It doesn’t really matter though. What I am interested in is the process that was used to select the tracks for the compilation.

Are you still playing live?

Yes, surely, look at our website to the nice festival-flyer: we're going to play a really great gig by the sea in France in August as a headliner at the extremely cool and well-known Festival Crescendo, so we're very happy as you can imagine. There will be many more international bands from different countries. Last year we played again at the Herzberg Festival and again the Finkenbach Festival, which was originally coined by Mani Neumeier (Guru Guru). In winter we will play in a legendary live club Flying Dutchmen in Luxembourg. What is the current line-up?

The same as at the DLP "Mountain Ultimate": Vroni Frisch, Tommy Gorny, Winnie Rimbach-Sator, Christian Jäger Is there anything else you would like to say? Yes: Thank you, dear Phil, for such a long journalistic understanding and good luck with your new website and greetings to all Space Debris fans in the world! It's so much fun to know that our music is heard every day all over the world! And if possible, buy a turntable! (Je suis d’accord!)

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