Tag Archives: psych

Disappears, “Era” Kranky

Era record cover

Chicago’s Disappears release their new record Era on Kranky Records and it’s a crashing, looping mantra of spooky noise and circular lyrics making for a album of occasionally unsettling character. The skeletal thrum of Girls opens the album setting up things perfectly for what’s to follow with singer Brian Case sounding so close, as if his breath could be felt on your ear while the music distracts your conscious mind using slinky electronics, metallic guitars and shadowy electronics.

Ultra clicks in after Power humming with menace like a White Hills tune. Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space and it is uncomfortable… real uncomfortable, especially when three voices haunt the last minute of the track: “if you go, I’ll go…Does it end together? Does it end soon?” Weird House could almost be a tag for the music that Disappears have written for Era: all dance music for zombies with a hard hitting beat from Noah Leger making the undead twitch.

The creepiness continues with Elite Typical poking and prodding and Case goading, “you think about her all the time.” Disappears revel in sparse constructions and the creep and murk of their freakish industrial-kraut-psych. Ultra does this best, Era (the song) toys with something approaching rock while the rest of the album stays closer to the minimalism of Spacemen 3 with Case’s voice providing the personality.

The album signs off with New House with its Doppler screeches and Case telling us that he “can’t seem to shake this anything, anything, anything, anything” and you’ll feel that way too after completing this obsessive noirish record.

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Endless Boogie + Xaviers, Corsica Studios, 22nd April 2013

Poster for Endless Boogie live

So it was gnarled blues rockers Endless Boogie most recently for the excellent ech(((o)))es and dust people. Read what went down over on their website here.

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The Black Angels “Indigo Meadow” Blue Horizon

Indigo Meadow Cover

Austin psyche revivalists The Black Angels have returned with their fourth LP, Indigo Meadow, in slightly amended form. The band are down to a four piece of Stephanie, Christian, Kyle and Alex and the record sleeve exhanges the geometric trip of their past records for a swirly Fillmore concert poster layout. Despite these tweaks in presentation, the core sound of The Angels persists; there’s plenty of fuzzed up guitar and bass, 12 string jangle, sci-fi keys, bass drum beats and Christian Bland’s nonchalant vocals and yeah, the year is still approximately 1966.

The Byrds, The Velvets and Nuggets-style hooligan rock are such noticeable influences on the band’s song-writing that, by this stage, it’s not worth dwelling on their genealogy. What is striking is how the band seem to be reprising themselves on Indigo Meadow. There’s something of the law of diminishing returns about this record – the need for the field to sit fallow for a while to regenerate. Holland, whilst being worthy of inclusion, sounds immediately familiar, while Evil Things is basically a grumpier Haunting at 1300 McKinley. Elsewhere Don’t Play With Guns comes off as glib and tossed off and The Day is a wafer thin proposition.

In the plus column, Love Me Forever is saturated in gooey keyboards absorbing the circular twang of the verse guitar riff, letting it seep out for a fuzzy run in the chorus behind Bland’s deadpan delivery. Broken Soldier revisits the Vietnamese backdrops of their debut album Passover; all stomping menace and thousand yard stares, “it’s hard to kill when you don’t know whose side your on.” Later on, there’s Syd Barrett style whimsy on I See Colors (Chromaesthesia) lead by Alex Maas’s rainbow organ and backwards tape effects and brooding menace on closer Black Isn’t Black. However, four songs isn’t a lot to be getting on with on a 13 track record.

At the moment The Black Angels feel a bit like a wrinkled balloon – there’s the nostalgia and good time recollections from the bright colour and initial usage but also a sigh as you watch it lose its vim, fall to the floor and collect bits of fluff; but you still don’t feel ready to pop it. There’s enough on Indigo Meadow to suggest there will be more to come from The Black Angels but they need to find some of their past vitality to avoid becoming mere re-enactors.

First published on Roomthirteen

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Oneida, Corsica Studios, 15th March 2013

ONEIDA gig poster

First live review for the good people at ech(((o)))es and dust – an incident packed event of bonhomie from US veterans Oneida in Elephant and Castle. Have a read here.

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Moon Duo “Circles” Souterrain Transmissions

Moon Duo Album Cover

Circles is, of course, the most close-fitting and apt title for the 2nd full-length record made by cosmos travelling partners Ripley Johnson (Wooden Shjips) and Sanae Yamada as the titular Moon Duo; it easily sums up the way their songs progress and how the two members’ contributions flow together like a well mixed drink. The distance between this and a Wooden Shjips record isn’t really that great but if anything the main difference is that Moon Duo seems less rock and more fun.

Songs revolve around fuzz leaden guitars, dusty synths and revolving drum patterns with vocals and melody largely devolved to the background as Moon Duo operate their magical mystery tour on a loop. Happiness and good-time grooves abound on Circles; there are no sonic dirges delivering pin-pricks to stoned bodies spoiling the trip – it’s all very mellow, akin to the final hours of a party experienced through diminishing senses. The album, gestated in the Rocky Mountains and recorded in various locations, takes inspiration from “Circles” an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson; inspiration that can be heard clearly on the lyrics of the title track “The end is beginning”.

Opening number Sleepwalker is suitably dreamy, “Am I dreaming/Am I sleeping?” with its woozy guitar blending with the Johnson and Yamada’s overlapping vocals. Usually, it’s his muffled low-key croon that commands the microphone on Circles with Yamada contributing her vocals sporadically. When they do get it together though, it makes for some of the album’s best songs: the hand clapping Free Action and Trails with its languid chorus and three note hook.

Elsewhere there’s rockabilly guitar bends on the kitsch Circles, slinky rhythms on the purring Sparks with the album’s head nodding red-eyed flow only interrupted by I Can See and its off-kilter, out of place 80’s student disco feel. On the whole, the album wields Johnson’s usual touchstones of 60’s garage, krautrock and freakbeat in a package that swirls together like your grandparent’s carpet for maximum effect just without the headache.

First published on RoomThirteen

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High On Fire “De Vermis Mysteriis” Century Media

The torch bearers for no-nonsense, blood pumping heavy metal High On Fire return with 6th record De Vermis Mysteriis (translation: Mysteries of the Worm a reference to a fictional grimoire conceived by Robert Bloch) . After his stint in epoch making stoner band Sleep, Matt Pike could have rested on his laurels and accepted ‘legendary’ status but no, instead he has forged ahead with his six legged beast of a band High On Fire – a band that has produced more than it’s fair share of thrills in the last decade taking Hunter S. Thompson’s most sensible advice: “Live steady. Don’t fuck around” to heart by being both consistent and prolific. While peers such as Mastodon and Kylesa have achieved mainstream critical press by changing and [arguably] softening High On Fire have continued to delight their core audience with record after record of hard hitting, sludge shattering heavy metal. De Vermis Mysteriis is no different and, in ditching the controversial production and epic song lengths of Snakes for the Divine, Pike with bassist Jeff Matz and drummer Des Kensel have assembled an improbably heavy affair this time around.

As with previous records there’s a loose theme to be found on De Vermis Mysteriis as Pike explains: “I got this idea what if Jesus had a twin who died at birth to give Jesus his life and became a time traveller right then? He can see the past through his ancestors’ eyes, but his enemies can kill him if they kill the ancestor that he’s seeing through at the time. It’s kinda like that old TV show Quantum Leap.” The singer/guitarist admits most people won’t get it and it’s true that the concept can easily be missed amongst the cauterizing riffs and war drums of the songs.

The opening songs on De Vermis Mysteriis are a very American take on Tony Iommi and like a fossil fuel guzzling hot-rod produced in Detroit there’s plenty of chest beating power that’s best enjoyed at full throttle. Opener Serums of Liao gets down to it straight away blasting ever forward and Bloody Knuckles harks back to the molten grit of third album Blessed Black Wings. There are fewer, shout-it-out loud “Frost Hammer!”/“Bastard Samurai!” soundbites on these songs but Pike’s guitar continues to be a singular sound in metal and the Matz/Kensel partnership kicks untold amounts of arse – just listen to the rumble on the THC dripping Fertile Green.

Madness of an Architect ushers in the expansive journey into space of Jesus’ unknown brother with a bassline so dripping in menace and power that it should come with a health warning especially when topped off with a stomping megalithic-riff. The psychedelic-doom approach (the other side of the ‘stoner’ coin) continues in the middle third of the record with the suitably titled Samsara. The title coming from the Sanskrit meaning to ‘flow on’ and again Matz’ bass dominates – undulating purposefully building a framework for Pike’s exploratory lead guitar – going as far as you’ll get from the rabid dog sound of the opening tracks that is, until the raging Spiritual Rights clatters into earshot bringing back the metal.

The best of these mellower, head nodding, cosmos orientated songs has to be De Vermis Mysteriis’ longest track: King Of Days. There’s actual melody to be found in Pike’s sunset croon and Jeff Matz’ bass coda brings back memories of a certain Cliff Burton as he harmonises with Pike’s visceral guitar over rolling toms in an evocative finale. Speaking of finales Warhorn is how it should be done. Kensel’s accented groove introduces an ominous yet muscular tale of battle and fear: “Lay the charge!” indeed. One thing is for sure on these ten tracks High On Fire understand dynamics; when to turn it up to 11, when to slow it down and when to bring it down to earth.

Matt Pike’s tar-lined, scarified throat; the one that produces a noise like the bellow of a fishing boat captain in particularly heavy seas, cedes space on this record as the bass and drums tangle and vie for attention making for a noisy record with very deep, complementary grooves. Production man of the moment Converge guitarist, Kurt Ballou must take some of the credit for this sound as he organises and highlights every player on De Vermis Mysteriis and frankly the band have never sounded better.

By this stage in their career fans have expectations for how a High On Fire record should sound hence the reaction to the change in production on Snakes For The Divine but on this record the trio have tempered their usual megaton heaviosity with improvisation and a few left turns and the results are breath-taking. Contender for the album of the year no doubt, but then again, that is my expectation for any High On Fire album.

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