Posts Tagged ‘Psychedelic’

Vinyl Eddie Records – VINED006 & VINED007 – 9th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Opposites and opposition – and the way in which those contrasts are core to our understanding of the world and our place in it – have been key points of exploration in art for centuries. The concept of either / or, light / dark, heaven / hell is the foundation of Judaeo-Christian religions and those polarities became the core tropes of Elizabethan poetry, at the dawn of modern literature. Sir Thomas Wyatt’s ‘I Find No Peace’ cements these tropes that have come to define both internal conflict, the turmoil of love, and the fundamental dichotomies of the human condition.

And yet it’s Earth’s Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light, released in two parts that comes to mind when presented with Soma Crew’s new offering, a twin vinyl release capturing two days’ intensive recording to collectively forge one monumental document of the band’s creative work since the release off 2019’s F for Fake in 2019.

I know, I know I always say the same when writing of Soma Crew – which I have done often since they formed under the guide of Muttley Crew back in 2013 – that they get better with every release, with every show. But that’s the simple fact of the matter. They tend not to deviate far from their psychedelic drone style that’s most reminiscent of Black Angels, but that isn’t to say they don’t push their limits in the execution. But most importantly, they know how to batter away at a riff for an age and whip up a psychedelic haze.

Out Of Darkness / Into Light is a slow-burner, and marks something of a shift, and on first listen, I was a shade concerned by the lack of motoric beats and shimmering walls of distortion and delay rippling over cascading riffs. But this is the new direction: the beats are still motoric, but simply more minimal and subdued, and the emphasis has shifted toward a more understated and minimalist sound.

The first track, ‘Phantom’ starts off simple, plugging away at a four-chord riff with a hint of swagger that’s almost Primal Scream. The guitar sound is clean, shimmering, and Si Micklethwaite’s vocal is pretty low in the mix, meaning everything blends together gently. There are heavy hints of early Fall about the six-and-a-half-minute ‘You’re So Cool’ – the easy-tripping clean guitar with its naggingly repetitious riff is straight off Live at the Witch Trials or Dragnet. It’s simple, it’s immediate, and the fact it was recorded on the spot only accentuate these qualities.

Soma Crew don’t do short songs: of the twelve here, only two are under five minutes, with the majority clocking in around the six-minute mark. There’s plenty of throbbing bass runs and repetitions and spacey slide guitar going on here, and these qualities are integral to the Soma sound. They’re not a ‘chorus’ band, but a band who create a hypnotic atmosphere through their endlessly cyclical riffs and the plod of the percussion – by no means a criticism here, as drummer Nick understands that less is more – using a setup consisting solely of snare and floor tom for the duration. This minimal ‘Bobby Gillespie’ setup works well, meaning the instruments occupy the space – or don’t – instead of the conventional sound whereby crashing cymbals fill the sound the a load of top-end mess that so often sounds crap.

‘There’s a Fire’ steps up the urgency eight songs in, but instead of going all guns blazing with distortion and a blast of cymbals and snares, Soma Crew hold steady. The slow down again for the forlorn country meandering of ‘Broken Matches’ and counterpart ‘Machines’ with some nice lap steel work, and there’s no question that Out Of Darkness / Into Light is a more ponderous, reflective set of songs, and rather than being a set of two distinct halves, it’s very much a coherent and unified work.

If anything about Out Of Darkness / Into Light intimates production values that eschew slickness and polish, that’s one of its real selling points: recorded live over two days in January 2020, this is a band at work, and it’s an album that captures what they actually sound like, rather than a studio-based tweaked and fiddled fantasy version of what they might sound like if they were another band entirely. Hearing them stripped back and sparse, they sound musically confident even while Micklethwaite’s plaintive vocal navigates seams of self-doubt and introspection through the lyrics, and this album shows that plugging away at simple, cyclical chord structures is as effective and hypnotic without the deluge of effects as with.

AA

a3992898530_10

2nd July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Did I ever mention that I am absolutely fucking swamped, every single day, to the extent that while I’m working the dayjob, I’ll; see emails flowing via notifications on my phone, and by the time I actually get to check my emails on an evening, I just stare bewildered, wondering where to begin? And so often, I don’t even. It’s not a complaint, and the fact of the matter is, that while I barely even open 10% of my emails, the standard of music is such that daily, I’m probably missing out on at least half a dozen acts who could utterly blow me away.

It’s a good job I didn’t pass on Yammerer: I felt a certain urge to pass after a day of corporate backslapping being posted on the company’s Yammer community, but something drew me in. The words dystopian and existential in their write-up more than likely. That, and references to WIRE and The Dead Kennedys. It certainly makes for an intriguing cocktail, and despite it’s cumbersome title that hints at noodlesome post-rock, ‘Tell Me What the Ancient Astronaut Theorists Believe’ is a manic blast of energy, raucous and raw. It’s a giddy riot of off-key half sung, half spoken vocals amidst a blurred whirl of space rock guitars, a thunderous, strolling bass and relentless, motoric drums. It’s kinda chaotic, and reminds me of the swirling twelve-minute encore segues of ‘Ghostrider / Sister Ray’ the Sisters of Mercy used to kick out live circa 1984 – dark, murky, hypnotic, vaguely psychedelic, and utterly absorbing.

There is, however, one major shortcoming of this single: at three minutes and eleven seconds, it’s about twenty minutes too short.

Artwork3000x3000

CONFIRMED TOUR DATES 2021

29/08 – Alexanders Live / Chester

11/09 – Futurama Festival / Liverpool

24/09 – Smithdown Road Festival / Liverpool

07/10 – Focus Wales / Wrexham

06/11 – Hot Box Live / Chelmsford

19/12 – The Castle Hotel / Manchester

Pennies By The Pound present classic/psych-rock-imbued ‘Indigo Screams’ ahead of new LP, mastered by Ride’s Mark Gardener. 

With comparisons to Bob Mould, And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Marillion, and Jethro Tull being tossed around – and not wrongly – there’s a hint of early 90s Dinosaur Dr in the mix, too. Check ‘Indigo Screams’ here:

Hailing from Helsinki, Pennies by the Pound was formed in 2016 by Johannes Susitaival as a solo project, but it quickly became a three-piece involving musicians from his past bands.

While still part of a punk rock band, Johannes began exploring some quite different musical avenues, which led to the self-produced ‘Bloodshed and the Blinding Sunlight’ EP in 2018. Having found their ideal producer after several years of searching, they began recording demos in 2019 for what would become this album. Due to the pandemic, they were finally able to record these tracks in autumn of 2020.

Pennies By The Pound’s sound blends ’80s prog rock and ’90s-early ’00s alternative rock – essentially heavily guitar-driven with a touch of keyboards… Big choruses, quite a few guitar and keyboard solos and grandiose arrangements.

878608

12th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Released digitally last autumn, Para Lia’s Gone With The Flow gets a ‘proper’ physical release this month. The second album from the German duo, consisting of René and Cindy Methner, has already drawn comparisons to Dinosaur Jr, Arcade Fire, and The Mission, as well as referencing in the press release – the hearteningly specific – ‘early Editors’.

It all makes sense with the blistering opener, ‘My Muse’ – a post-punk influenced adrenaline shot that showcases some wild soloing that somehow manages not to sound wanky. See, I’m not one for guitar solos myself, but find that J Mascis’ best efforts are enough to reduce me to tears. ‘Kassandra’ hits that spot: it’s a cutty post-punk revival effort that’s got the pomp of The Mission, complete with the wordless backing vocals Julianne Reagan delivered to absolute perfection on songs like ‘Severina’, and topped with an absolutely melting solo that twists, turns and weeps all over it. I should probably be tired of this by now, but when presented with just the right blend of nostalgia and quality

They don’t always pull it off: ‘Riders on the Dike’ is more ramshackle punk-folk with a ragged vocal delivery reminiscent of Shane Macgowan that simply doesn’t quite sit, and ‘Time and Again’ follows a folksier bent that grates a shade, feeling slightly forces and off-track despite some soaring harmonies from Cindy.

But it’s more hit than miss, as the slow-burning ‘Fools’ brings swathes of mournful strings to the post-rock tempest that swells as the song progresses, and the tense jangle of ‘Fire’ evokes the spirit of 1985, not just instrumentally but with its thick production, where the bass and guitar clump together, cut through by a sharp-topped snare sound.

‘Kaleidoscope’ is every bit as shimmeringly layered as the title suggests, and notes of New Model Army and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry are present as they drive a forward trajectory with an insistent rhythm section and some choppy guitars pinned back in the mix. Last track, ‘No Time for Butterflies’ combines psych-hued 60s pop, folk, and 90s alternative to forge a pleasant and exhilarating finale, and if there’s little about Gone With The Flow that’s overtly ‘new’, it’s a unique combination of older forms rendered with real style and some solid songs.

AA

a1263001157_16

Panurus Productions – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Bunker is pitched as ‘A heavy shelling from the York based two-piece’ and the drum and bass – and no, certainly not drum ‘n’ bass – duo offer up a monster that, despite having only seven tracks, runs to almost an hour in duration.

On a personal level, there’s a certain degree of pride here: for so many years, York sat under the shadow of Shed 7, as if they were the only band the city had ever produced. And while in terms of commercial success, there’s a certain truth to that, the dreary indie landfill merchants’ success eclipsed everything else – although again, for some years, everything else seemed to consist of largely acoustic blues, which is great for background on a night down the pub, but ultimately, variety is the spice of life, and the last decade has seen York’s diversity thrive – thanks in no small part to supportive venues giving truly alternative acts a platform. And the more diversity is showcased, the more breeds. And so, out of this melting pot emerged PAK40, mining a seam of stoner / doom, but with a keenly experimental edge that really set them apart.

This is all explored in full here, and it bulldozes in on a cascade of feedback that emerges into a lumbering riff on the deep psych grind of ‘Sausage Roll’, the first of three tracks which originally appeared on the ‘Crusts’ demo release a couple of years ago. When they take it down a notch, there’s a certain swagger to the strolling bassline, a subtle jazz swing to the percussion – nothing fancy, just a bit of groove. There are vocals and other details echoing away low in the mix, and it’s quite spacious and trippy. And when the distortion kicks back in, it’s fat and dirty.

‘Rain’ spreads out sedately over a whopping ten minutes, taking its time wandering an almost blues-tinged modern psychedelic territory (off the cuff references to Desert Mountain Tribe and Ghold come to mind) before bringing the weight. It’s a slow-burning, meandering effort that holds back more than it gives until the final couple of minutes.

When they do ‘proper’ vocal songs, as on ‘Hollow Man’, said vocals are all but buried by the grumbling, buzzing bass, and a shedload of reverb. And when they do shift from strolling psych to unleashing the riffs proper, they really do grind ‘em out. ‘U-96’ goers more post-punk minimal, but packs a massive kick at the end.

The heavy afterburn of ‘Pyramid’ is scorching, but it’s almost inevitable that the fourteen-minute ‘Elephant’ should be the album’s centrepiece, and it looms like a monolith in every sense, and encapsulates the entirety of PAK40’s sound and scope in one truly epic composition. It does low and slow, a crawling, stealthy intro taking its time and taking its time and taking its time, through a gradual build, with real suspense and atmosphere developing.. and when the riff crashes in – fuck yes, does it crash in, hard and heavy.

Closing off with the title track, a mere seven minute jaunt, they really step up the volume and it’s some weighty drone that drifts like a pea-souper fog from the speakers as they go full Sunn O))). And it’s absolutely glorious. These are the kind of crushing power chords you can simply bask in as they fill every inch of your being. It’s immense and borders on transcendental. You don’t just hear it, but you feel it.

Bunker feels like a full summary of the band’s range and vision, and it’s both accomplished and exciting, and creates a real anticipation of more to come.

cover

Libertino Records – 11th December 2020

James Wells

Debut singles are interesting things: a statement of intent, perhaps but equally likely to be a mere taste of an artist’s capabilities, and not necessarily direction. It all depends on the career-stage of the release, of course: an emerging act releasing a single in that initial rush of enthusiasm may regret it, or, if not, will rapidly transform into something quite different.

Gwir’s debut, pitched as ‘a perfect marriage of both of their influences… With its 90s baggy groove and Flaming Lips twisted popness’, and it’s certainly a solid introduction, and an indication of a band with no small degree of talent.

I can’t say I get so much of a baggy vibe from the swirling, layered sound of the tune, but it’s definitely deeply steeped in eras past. It trickles in on a slow-rippling, shimmering haze, a flickering psychedelic-tinged trip that’s a glorious twisted hybrid of shoegazey / neo psych with a slightly trippy / folksy vocal delivery, and while it may not fully convey ‘the uncertainty and emotional vulnerability of the lyrics’ which aren’t so readily decipherable, ‘Gwir’ builds eddying currents that transport the listener into the clouds. One to pay over, and over, and get lost in.

893235

19th September 2020

James Wells

We love an unsolicited approach from bands who just bung all the press blurb and links on a message via FB. Because we’re not already so swamped we can’t read even a quarter of the emails we get sent, which means in terms of listening and coverage – maybe 10% on a good month.

We’ll forgive Swedish psychedelic act Melody Fields, though, since their brand of swirling, paced-out psychedelic shoegaze has heavy hints of early Ride and Chapterhouse as well as more recent acts like The Early Years, but then there are also vaguely baggy hints that call to mind early Charlatans. So when they describe themselves as ‘No retro, no seeking for effects’, and as a band with ‘a depth and a substance in their song writing, that feels unique in an ontherwise effect seeking scene’, my instinct is to ask if they’ve really done their research.

There are heavy far eastern influences in the serpentine guitar lines which they describe as ‘LA meets mystic Far East meets melancholy North’, as much reminiscent of The Mission’s drawing on Led Zeppelin as anything else and it’s not shit it’s just derivative.

The title track captures a hazy 60s vibe – a blandly generic assimilation of the era and the style, there’s a hippy-trippy wide-eyed wonderment spun into its folk-infused pickings, before the pleasant but predicable and somewhat turgid ‘Painted Sky’ brings Black Angels drone into a slow-mo collision with plodding Kula Shaker indie. There are some nice harmonies, but not nearly enough to make Melody Fields special.

AA

Melody-fields-12inch_Album_3mm_spine-FINAL.indd

Only Lovers Records – 4th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to change the mood of the day, and for me, it’s often the case that the ping of an email containing a release by an act I like that can be that mood-lifter on a barren or otherwise unremarkable day. The arrival of Mayflower Madame’s latest offering was today’s: having been snared by their debut album, 2016’s Observed in Dream, I’ve been on the edge of my seat for more, and while 2018’s Premonition EP was more than welcome, it felt like something of a placeholder ahead of the next event proper.

With album number two, Prepared for a Nightmare around the corner, they’re offering a taste of what’s to come with single ‘Vultures’, a song about ‘desire, gluttony and vanity – both on a personal level and as a general symptom of the excesses of modern society’ which is ‘partly inspired by the art of George Grosz and Hieronymus Bosch’.

‘Vultures’ very much cements the style and sound they’ve showcased previously, with reverby guitars dominating a psych/goth hybrid form that’s got tension and drama by the spade, but also a brooding, doom-laden atmosphere. The pessimism isn’t explicit, but hangs heavy in the air. But while retaining that psychy / dark surf twang, ‘Vultures’ is harder-edged than anything they’ve released to date, pinned down by an insistent beat with the vocals low in the mix and soaked in reverb and angst. The production more muscular, too, and it all stacks up for a belting blast of tense, dark contemporary post-punk that says the album is going to be a corker.

AA

Mayflower Madame - Vultures (cover)

Sargent House – 24th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Once more, Earth continues to evolve. The band that singlehandedly created a genre it has now long left behind, and which began as a duo, is a duo once more and returns with another album which in many ways resembles much of their output from over the last decade or so, but which in so many ways is worlds apart.

Listening to each album as a sequential progression, one ay be forgiven for thinking that much of Earth’s output post Earth 2 has mined a similar seam, notably since their post-millennial return, but also in particular since the Angels of Darkness albums, which marked a shift in the approach to composition. “In the past I’ve usually had a strong framework for an album,” Carlson says. “This one developed over the course of writing and recording. It just felt like ‘Earth’—like just the two players doing their best work at playing, serving the music,” adding, “It was definitely a very organically developed record,”

It’s perhaps the process which informed and led to the creation of Full Upon Her Burning Lips which is key to the latest transition. “I limited the number of effects I used. I always like the limiting of materials to force oneself to employ them more creatively. Previous Earth records were quite lush sounding, and I wanted a more upfront and drier sound, using very few studio effects.”

Not since 2005’s Hex have Earth release an album of such an overtly conventional album-format, with ten tracks on offer here. That’s where the concession to convention ends, though: Full Upon Her Burning Lips does not contain ten concise, crafted, three-and-a-half minute pop tunes (although a large portion of the compositions do sit within the three-to-five-and-a-bit minute bracket), and commences with the twelve-and-a-quarter sprawler, ‘Datura’s Crimson Veils’, which begins tentatively, a guitar motif built around chiming harmonics and the tones in between as the notes sustain and decay. And then it moves into the epic, rolling repetition that soon yields to meandering but always returns to its starting point. The drums don’t drive it, but simply hold time the sedatest of ways.

Being an Earth album, it is instrumental, and the structures are based around protracted cyclical repetitions than any overt verse-chorus demarcations, or any separations of passages or movements, instead pursuing indirect paths toward a distant horizon.

‘Descending Belladonna’ has almost a Shadows twang to its glow, granular guitar unfurlings. Unexpected? Yes, but also no, as somehow it sits comfortably and feels completely natural. And again, this is perhaps the clearest indication of how Earth have evolved, and continue to do so.

‘She Rides an Air of Malevolence’ is the album’s centrepiece, another epic spanning over eleven minutes: there’s no real air of menace, and far from being dark or menacing, the focus remains firmly on tonality and texture, the notes peeling an drifting, interacting as they do so, the strolling bass maintaining a respectful distance while adding depth and a certain drive.

There’s no escaping that the pieces here are – as is always the case with any Earth release – variations on a thematic template, an, if I’m not mistaken, played in the same key and also very much at the same, deliberate tempo. But this is, in fact, integral to the experience, both of the album and Earth as a musical entity. Everything is so gradual as to be almost beyond the senses, which are continually lulled into a sort of fugue state by the soporific undulations and sedate – or sedated – pace. With the music this stripped back, it does come down to tempo and tone, the interactions between sounds, and with Full Upon Her Burning Lips, Earth reaffirm that less is most definitely more.

AA

980483