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Mapache

The sophomore LP from West Coast duo Mapache doesn’t knock the wheel too far from the road they set down in 2017. While the temper (and tempo) doesn’t rise from the comfort of that first LP, the colors do deepen. From Liberty Street is rife with shades of earthen ochre and dust-kicked sandalwood. There are more than a few pale blues that stretch far and wide as the skies that tie Los Angeles to the Baja. There are deep set oranges and amber golds that bake in the sun and seep into the copper rimmed strings of their guitars. Moving against any and all prevailing winds at the moment, the record is full of an endless summer bliss — capturing the kind of lost weekend aimlessness that feels either blissfully ignorant of its own innate good fortune or imbued with the charm to talk its way into those good graces with gambler’s finesse.

The pair swaps seamlessly between Spanish and English as if border hopping between small towns in an era less locked with tension. With the kind of stubbled yet square jawed vocal harmonies that made Fleet Foxes a household name, the band reaches back to a Canyon croon that’s embroidered over every inch of this record. There’s a bygone feeling beat into the bones of this album — patched and faded like a thrift store Nudie suit jacket missing its presentational partner but pulling the outfit together all the same. There are tales of hammock swung afternoons that feel flush with melodies traded back and forth like pot-luck parcels. Half-hewn notes of Gene Clark, The Fist National Band, David Crosby, and a much less Anglophile Heron seem to flutter through the speakers in patchwork perfection. While the band haven’t really shaken the roots that took hole from their beginning, the combination of calm winds across a few different eras all seem to blow this one in the right direction. Seems like if you’re looking for a bit of relief right about now, this is a damn sure bet.



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Wax Machine

Brighton’s Wax Machine pick up the yoke on a specific strain of psychedelia that seems to have gone into hibernation over the last couple of decades. With their sun-dappled, earthen approach they lock into the kind of Aquarian psych that’s doused in a permanent humidity — cut through with a quotient of languid jazz, a touch of limber lounge, and a heavy dose of lysergic headspace. The band leans into a microcosm of flute-psych that’s sprung up and, in my own personal opinion needs to dominate the next few years. As much as I appreciate a resurgence of liquid fire sax barreling into psychedelia, the flute feels like the right path to soothe the souls of the stricken in recent times. The band’s nearest tangential acquaintances come from Canada, and this pairs well with the last album and EP from the inimitable Badge Époque Ensemble.

Like their Toronto compatriots, the band finds solace in the experimental seance workshops of The United States of America and their brethren, San Francisco’s poet-pharmacists The Serpent Power. While a lot of publications have grasped at the tendrils of Broadcast in relation to this record, there’s only a bit of Keenan’s inimitable pallor in the vocals but, of course, their exists the same sort of dedication to the cosmic spirit. However, this whole record smacks of an older breed of psychedelic vision. It’s built on the seeds that Broadcast grew their vision quest from in the first place. The songs have a vibration to them that’s natural and beholden to a time of utopian ideals. It’s not a naive record, but it’s hopeful in its absorption of the most verdant valleys of the bygone days of the love, peace, and poetry.

There are flecks of Fifty Foot Hose, Harumi, Silver Apples (minus the triumphant march of technology), and Ultimate Spinach under their skin, and the band funnels their fluid psychedelics into a new dawning of Earthsong solstice rituals. While the band finds a few hooks among the ethers, they’re more about feel than anything else. The record feels fluid, fermented, and fragrant. It’s an ecosystem of psych that launches spores out into the atmosphere and infects everything around it with a feeling of warmth, whimsy, and contentment. This is an vortex of vibe, and you should lock in and sink deep.



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Dungen – Live

The live album occupies a lot of facets in a band’s catalog. If it rears its head, it can act as a placeholder, a preview of a new dawn and shift in direction, the requisite a cash grab or fundraiser, or a beacon of a band’s true place beyond the studio. For Dungen, in 2020, it seems to act as a beacon, but not of the band transforming their catalog by padding out or pushing the boundaries of their normal material, rather as a mercurial showcase for their musicianship beyond their established works. If Haxän proved anything, it’s that a band known for psychedelic prowess and studio savvy was also interested in expanding the horizons of genre by injecting an experimental spirit into their catalog that put aside notions of commercial draw . While this is not quite the seismic shift that led to a soundtrack for an obscure Russian silent film, it is imbued with the same experimental impulses. On Live they transform their acument into an album of whirlwind motion, psychic interplay, and virtuoso solos.

The record showcases the band over two nights in November 2015, at Stora Teatern in Gothenburg and Victoriateatern in Malmö. In addition to the consistently searing guitar work of Reine Fiske and the flute of Gustav Ejstes, the set features their Allas Sak collaborator Jonas Kullhammar laying down some fire on the sax. With a turbulent sea of rhythm behind them these three set loose a psychedelic dervish that’s spun sound into a dizzying conjunction of psychedelia, jazz, and acid rock. The band is at their peak on these recordings, not bound by notions of what Dungen has been defined by in the past, but building something that stands as a singular document of instrumental fortitude. It’s Dungen, in as much as the players are all there, but aside from lingering recurrent melodies from their past, this is a powerful document of players pushing themselves to redefine psychedelia in the live setting. This album, paired with the recent live album by Mythic Sunship from their Roskilde appearances sets a new bar for where the live record can reach. If there was a time that Dungen sparked a fire in your soul, then let this rekindle it yet again. The band’s never lost a step, but this some of the soundest evidence how exactly they’ve kept psych vital.



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Wasted Shirt

Adding to the ever-growing list of Segall collaborators, Brian Chippendale (Lightning Bolt) joins forces with Ty to form Wasted Shirt. Though there’s probably a bit more of the Bolt in the mix than anything that crops up close to the surface of Ty’s catalog, Fungus II proves to be a fruitful collaboration. Built on the frantic drum damage that’s marked LB’s path of destruction for so long, the pair tear through nine cuts of calamitous punk pounce that leaves the listener heaving on the floor by the time the needle bounces off the record. Volume swells as we, the listeners are led into the cavern of Echoplex punishment at the core of their sound. Guitars squelch and tones are squeezed within an inch of life, distorting the air around them and giving off a sickened glow.

The two personalities involved have left such an imprint on their respective catalog’s that its hard not to hear the halves pulling at one another – Segall reaching for squeamish pop and Chippendale looking to push the songs hard enough to make the bolts pop. That tension drives Fungus II and propels it along with a sickening glee. This is a psychedelic album given hardcore’s hammerlock impulses. It’s a blunt force given the keys to reality joyriding through rips in the wormhole. Its also the work of two artists clearly having fun with what they’re doing. Despite some of the seething anger and emotion at the heart of Wasted Shirt, the two sound like they’re having a hell of a time bringing this monster to life.



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Kanaan

Good to see the fertile jam genes of Europe also embracing in the more improvisational side of psych, with Oslo’s Kanaan following up their 2018 debut with a live in the studio take that pushes them into freeform territory. With the label’s Jonas Munk behind the boards, the LP shows a more experimental side of the band. Kanaan holed up in Munk’s studio Odense (hence the title), and Munk joined in on guitar to take these four tracks beyond where the band had pushed prior. As with their debut Windborne, there’s a sense of unease and tension built into the bones of Kanaan’s sound, giving these tracks a sense of freedom but also a forboding wind at their backs. Opener “Seemingly Changeless Stars” builds slow and steady on riffs that threaten to break and cascading ripples of guitar that come straight from the Ripley Johnson school of liquid licks. The floodwaters break by the end and the band brings a wave of relief crashing down on listeners.

The addition of a second guitar suits the band, and Munk seats himself well into their sound, carving out delicate textures through the band’s monolithic rock structures. Over four tracks, the band cements their status as ones to watch on the psychedelic spectrum. The band’s debut was solid, but this moves them beyond echoing their influences and into etching a few new pages in the ledger of lysergic travelers. They strip away some of the tension by the time the second side rolls around and we’re treated to a mercurial melt on “Vacant Spaces,” slowly creeping to a growling close. The band doesn’t let the eleven-minute mark define the limits of their mind expansion, though. They tip into the fourteen + closer that also balances nimble fretwork and tempered chaos, exploding through the second half with a clear-cut fury. If you missed out on Windbourne pick up the story here, this feels like the moment that Kanaan begin.


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White Heaven – Out

I wrote about this one a little while back, but it bears another mention since this is the first time that this essential LP has been readily available. White Heaven’s proper debut may stand as one of the greatest psychedelic records of the ‘90s and argument goes to push it well up the all time list as well. The record brought together a formidable collection of musicians, lead by the talents of You Ishihara and Michio Kurihara. The former would go on to form The Stars and the latter would helm Ghost, but while they were together for a short time, they stood at the epicenter of a Japanese psychedelic bloom that can still be fell flowering today. Later, the band would bring Shimura Koji (Mainliner, Acid Mothers Temple) into the fold, but here, even though they were just beginning, their sound had already begun to form the exploratory blues pyrotechnics that cemented them as a primordial force in Japanese rock.

Prior to this album, the band released a live tape that documented their early shows, but the studio lit the light of some fertile collaborations. Kurihara’s guitars singe and demur over the course of the album, especially the epic centerpiece “Mandrax Town.” Following this album both Michio and drummer Ken Ishihara exited, but this was a document of the band at their most vital and elemental. The band would finally call it quits around the release of 1997’s Levitation and Kurihara would take Ghost on to be one of the premiere exports from the scene, but this moment of inception and incubation proves where much of his sound got its start. Black Editions has restored this LP to its proper position as a centerpiece in any psychedelic bin. Necessary by all measures.



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Horse Lords

Baltimore’s Horse Lords bring a constrained chaos on their fifth album, The Common Task. Built again on the hypnotic hurl of riff repetition that have cemented them in the halls of avant rock thus far, the band sets out to create one of their most cutting creations yet. The album opens with no pity, firing off heavy shots of guitar bounced through a maze of twisted glass tessellations on “Fanfare for Effective Freedom.” The song, tethered to the Earth only slightly by the lock-step rhythm section, is feeds melody and mechanics through the wood chipper and steps back to enjoy the spray. The tension on the song is shattered by the slide into the appropriately titled “Against Gravity,” which cuts that tether and slides into the stratosphere with some help from a humming sax and the celluloid slip of bass over the track. Its here that the band begins to make the album dig for blood. There’s still that hammerlock of repetition, but here the band begin to work the angles. Sax slashes from both speakers, the guitars still cycle into oblivion but it feels more dangerous and unpredictable. As the middle of the record looms, the band take post-rock punctuality and tie a tourniquet on the beat until it blackens.

Sharing a love for groove that begs some comparison to contemporaries like 75 Dollar Bill, the band tied together a work that’s diligently planned but still surprisingly unhinged. They delve deep into the tessellated inner workings of the spiraling mind. By the middle of the record the band push the listeners limits with the sonic scrape of “The Radiant City,” before diving again once more into the gnarled groove hammock of “The People’s Park.” The noise respite drives into bagpipe tones that threaten to slit the seams of the album before they interpolated Latinx funk with a political edged on the follow-up — a double punch that proves worth the wait. They cap the platter with a triple-sized dose that takes up 18 plus minutes on the flip, winding its way through simmering tones before smashing out the backdoor on a wave of Saharan funk and violin. The band’s been rightly heralded in the past for their precision and fire, and again they prove to be at the top of their class merging the desert, the basement club, the street corner, and the conservatory into one mindset shredded by an obsessive-compulsive chaos.



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Waterless Hills

Manchester’s Waterless Hills lay an absolute gem on us, quietly eking out an eerily calm eddy of prog from under the scarred English skies. The group, which features previous Feeding Tube alum C Joynes on guitar and Dan Bridgeood-Hill on violin (Irma Vep, Charles Hayward), trades in a dark strain of folk that wanders the streets at dusk and wanders states of reality after that sun finally sets. There’s an outworld quality to the songs of The Great Mountain, and as much as that title conjures up visions of Jodorowsky’s nightmare wonders, the band makes good on them with aural imagery that’s as tarnished by ash, sand, and soil as his films. The record is dried by the sun — scorched, leathered, and laid bare — and in many moments that simmers from the speakers there’s a feeling of palpable sweat seeping through the songs. It’s not constant, though, there’s the respite of dusk and the cool ripples of clean water tumbling through natural cut rock in the bones here as well.

The guitars chime and bend, roll and ramble. The drums crash and skitter with a malevolent force and all the while that violin drags us to our feet time and time again to take the journey to the mountain on the mantle. The journey is the through line and we, as listeners, arrive changed certainly, but not exhausted. Instead there’s an elation, an unplaceable euphoria humming through the invisible wires of Waterless Hills’ offering to the endless horizon. Aside from a lone lathe cut sourced from the same sessions this is the band’s only output, but here’s hoping its not the last. The record finds its home here in the states on Feeding Tube and abroad in the arms of Cardinal Fuzz. Best grab one of these because neither of those labels has a tendency to let record sit idle in their bins.



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Mosses

On their latest under the Mosses moniker Ryan Jewell and Danette Bordenkircher run the psychedelic gamut, creating a twilight quilt of influences that all seem strung together with a cosmic thread. The duo wanders the path from dark and ragged psych-folk to kosmiche winds that bump the bounds of the German Progressive barrier. Threaded with a subtle ripple of programming that recalls Ben Chasny’s latest in places, they prove that no niche of the psychedelic spectrum is out of bounds to bring into the mix. Their songs sparkle with pop in places — laden with catchy corners that beg for repeated listens. Elsewhere the notion of hooks melt away altogether, letting the moment take them down corridors as twisted and tangled as the can find. The band’s no stranger to an extended outro, but that urge to explore only cements their status.

Though they remain a pair at their core, this psych duo brings a few more friends into the fold of their Karass, with Meg Baird (Espers Heron Oblivion), Arjun Kulharya (Aquarian Blood), and Robbie Lee (Kahoots, Che Chen) among others lending some extended instrumentation to the mix. While things can get downright dark (“Ahh Auspicious”) there are moments of bright-footed pop (“MSR,” “T.V. Sun”) that prove that Ryan and Danette can craft a damn catchy tune, they just don’t seem beholden to the idea. There’s even a moment when the band pits the instincts latter day Jay Reatard against a strain of ‘60s organ pop (think Jay covering The Standells in the bones of “Time In Your Mind”) and it works. The untethered nature of the album gives the band license but they never abuse it. Instead Mosses have created their best yet — a psych-pop dark horse that slips into your brain under cover of night and makes its home there. Each listen just opens this wider and wider.




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Matt Lajoie

While I’m not likely to do this any extra justice after Jesse Jarnow’s taken a crack at it, a four-day weekend away left this off of my rolls at the end of last week and its more than worth raising more of a fuss about. Lajoie’s been a constant fixture here at the site from Starbirthed to Ash & Herb, Herbcraft and more, but his solo slices come into clear view on Everlasting Spring. The album baptizes guitar in the crystal clear waters of the Kosmiche spring and we all come out born anew because of it. Matt sets the songs adrift on waves of repeated phrasing, mulling figures in circular sway, letting the listener lose themselves in the cascades of notes that fall all around. While this is gorgeous in the room, the headphones hold even more power as they lock the world away outside of the binaural bliss that seems to surround from all sides.

There’s a languid, late morning movement to the record. It’s an embodiment of the unhurried state of mind. Each note holds onto the listener with a subtle comfort, like hands on shoulders in times of pain. In the same regard it only serves to give shelter, shade, and understanding. Lajoie’s creations build a sanctuary of sound that doesn’t feel the need to push or pull with strong arms. Instead the movement of the record is measured in millimeters, but each tiny breeze he stirs up guides the fairest hairs on the skin towards a more enlightened existence by the time the record whispers to a close. Matt’s created a beacon of hope, lighting the path away from the malaise and malign of modern times. Should we all find ourselves inside its beam, we might just make it out, or at the very least make it through another day.



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