Posts Tagged ‘Psychedelic’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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10th May 2019 – Constellation

Christopher Nosnibor

SING SINCK, SING was always going to be a bit of a trip, being the fruits of a collaboration between Efrim Manuel Menuck – founding member of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion – and Kevin Doria from Growing and Total Life.

‘Do the Police Embrace?’ sets the tone: an immense, repetitive, oscillating drone where melody melts into vaporous abstraction and the vocals, not atonal, but keyless and quavering. There’s a heavily sedated, psychedelic feel which is all-pervasive: the album’s five tracks are sprawling patchouli-scented sonic meditations.

‘A Humming Void an Emptied Place’ is the sound of multitonal dronal collapse, and stands comparisons to some of the extended drone-centric workouts that feature on Swans’ Soundracks for the Blind and the releases from their last iteration, only without the build, the crescendo, dare I say the pay-off? The objective is clearly very different: this is an album designed for hypnotic immersion rather than catharsis.

In music criticism, ‘woozy’ is one of those descriptors that has mixed connotations, perhaps more often than not hinting at a vague mixed pleasure a certain level of dizziness can give rise to, the light flip of the stomach after a rollercoaster or a touch of alcohol-induced giddiness. But are SING SINCK, SING (is that an album title or a band name, or both?) feels more like the woozy of carsickness after a long journey on winding, bumpy roads on a hot day. It’s the awkward, slurring slapback reverb on the vocals on ‘We Will’; it’s the droning organ tones that criss-cross in slightly out-of-time waves; it’s the formless expanses which undulate, heave, and sigh.

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Sub Pop has signed Trupa Trupa from Gdańsk, Poland for a worldwide deal, and will release new music from the group in 2019. While we await details of that release, the band have delivered an official video for ‘Dream About’,  a new song that features a honeyed falsetto that totters over a menacing bassline, and the frisson between them so hypnotic it renders the title phrase as an existential mantra, a lifeline.

Director Benjamin Finger had this to say of the ‘Dream About’ visual: “The video was shot on Super 8, a format I am strongly connected to, and I think it fits the music of Trupa Trupa. There is something poetic about the music, and I think it matches the images in a good way. The “Dream About” video is also about seeing the world through the eyes of the child. The video features footage shot on location in Vancouver, Paris and Buenos Aires.”

Watch the video here:

Trupa Trupa will tour the world in 2019, beginning with appearances at SXSW in Austin, Texas (March 14th-16th), and Slovakia and Poland (April 25th-27th). Additional shows will be announced soon.

Mar. 14 – Austin, TX – SXSW / Hotel Vegas / LEVITATION SXSW presented by CREEM Magazine (12:20 am)
Mar. 15 – Austin, TX – SXSW / Austin Convention Center / Flatstock Stage (3:30 pm)
Mar. 16 – Austin, TX – SXSW / Venue TBC
Apr. 25 -  Gdańsk, PL – Ziemia
Apr. 26 – Poznań, PL – Spring Break Festival
Apr. 27 – Bratislava, SK – Sharpe Festival

Rocket Recordings – 22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Evolution – that’s perhaps the only word when considering Teeth Of The Sea. Their career is defined by it.

Their BandCamp biography gives some sense of context: ‘Since their formation in 2006, London-based Teeth Of The Sea have metamorphosized into the most adventurous psychedelic rock outfit in the UK. Taking on board influences like Morricone, Eno, Delia Derbyshire, Goblin, and the Butthole Surfers, they’ve arrived at an incendiary sound that marries the aural enlightenment of an avant-garde sensibility with the reckless abandon of trashy rock & roll.’

It was with Your Mercury that I joined the trip, sold instantly by ‘The Ambassador’ with its overloading noise intro, spiralling into a slow-paced desert rock weird out.

Each release has been different again, and so there’s nothing of that ilk to be found on Wraith, an album that’s slanted more toward the electronic end of the spectrum, although the guitars, while far from prominent, are very much integral to the texture and depth. But this being Teeth of the Sea, it’s a bit of everything all at once, and this is apparent from the very first track: ‘I’d Rather, Jack’ brings a sonorous bass and droning synth together over a thumping industrial disco beat with crashing snare that stutters and glitches all over, before jazz trumpet and a space-rock guitar fire off on different trajectories. It’s rare for such a maelstrom of ideas and forms to whip together into anything other than a horrible mess, but Teeth of the Sea manage to blend the ingredients into something far greater than the sum of the parts, the atmosphere shifting from oppressive to uplifting.

There’s some of the old Ennio Morricone vibe about the spaghetti western sunset guitar twang of ‘Hiraeth’, before snaking drums and twisted allusions to Asian musical motifs was in and out of expansive layers of brass on ‘Burn of the Shieling’.

There are hints of Tangerine Dream and expansive synthy electronica about compositions like the buoyant, spacey, retro-futurist ‘VISITOR’ and ‘Gladiators Ready’, which combines the tweeky, bleepy Roland sound that echoes Josh Wink’s remixed ‘Higher State of Consciousness’ with some gritty guitar noise off in the background. Equally, the forms belong equally to post-rock, and whereas peers Vessels have gone all-out techno and ditched any vestiges of their origins, TOTS succeed in creating the most dazzling hybrid, discarding nothing and instead assimilating an ever-widening range of elements into their work. There’s so much detail in every bar, from blurred, muttering voices buried in the mix to synth incidentals and shifting reverbs that it’s impossible to take it all in, and oftentimes, Wraith is an overwhelming experience.

The centrepiece of ‘Her Wraith’ and brief counterpart ‘Wraiths in the Wall’ explore more minimalist approaches, the forms vague and vaporous, as echoing piano notes hang in the air over mournful trumpet. Pulling back on the prominent beats and instead allowing ponderous strolling basslines to wander to the fore, they’re as intangible as the album’s title suggests.

An album this eclectic and uncategorizable rarely feels cohesive, but Wraith feels more like a psychotic mind-journey than an album. And it’s nothing short of epic.

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Teeth of the Sea - Wraith

Ritual Productions – 21st June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s perhaps fitting that self-professed occultist doom collective Drug Cult should unveil their debut long-player to coincide with midsummer’s day and the solstice.

They open with a nine-minute sludge-trudge that’s bursting with the trappings of psychedelia and old-school hard rock: ‘Serpent Therapy’ starts so slow, with so much distance between each chord that it sounds like an ending, a protracted grinding to a halt, rather than the start. Yes, this is slow, and this is heavy. The guitars are close to collapsing under their own weight, and threaten to bury Aasha Tozer’s reverb-drowned vocals in the process. It’s the soundtrack to a bad trip into the underworld, and while there’s nothing of such epic proportions to be found during the remainder of the album’s nine tracks, the darkness remains all-pervasive.

There’s a classic, vintage quality to the songs, but it’s all sludged up, twisted and messy, and what the songs lack in duration (the majority are below the four-minute mark) they more than compensate in density. The riffs lumber slow, low, and heavy, the bass grinds just as slow and even lower: the percussion doesn’t propel, but instead lands in thunderous ricochets while the cymbals wash in tidal waves. In fact, it’s like listening to an early Melvins 45 at 33, save for the vocals, which never sound anything less than borderline deranged.

The sense of volume is immense, speaker-shredding, earth-shattering. And just when it doesn’t seem possible to drive any deeper, grind any lower, ‘Bloodstone’ reaches a new low in low, the essence of doom-laden hard rock riffing distilled to its absolute. The form is still apparent: Drug Cult don’t take it beyond the limits as Sunn O))) do, but against contemporaries like Esben and the Witch and Big Brave, Drug Cult stand out for their concision and their eschewing of passages of levity: this is unforgiving, ultra-heavyweight from beginning to end. As such, it’s a truly megalithic work. Worship it.

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