Psychic Ills – “Baby”

I’ve sung plenty of praises on both Psychic Ills’ new album, Inner Journey Out and standout country psych jammer “Baby,” but pairing a perfectly hazy song with a faded, ’70s Urban Cowboy treatment warrants repeating how worth your time this one is. Jason Evans sums up the sweaty summer vibes and pent up “Gimme Shelter” simmer that the band have created on the song. He’s created characters that feel sympathetic and real, balancing their hope against the songs deep burn. Apparently this is only the first half as the video’s credits tease a part two to come. If you are still standing there, not owning this Ills record then I don’t know what else I can do to sway ya.

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Totally You – “One Step At A Time”

Izak Arida’s (of The Memories) new EP Smog City is full of scuzzy odes to L.A.’s grime and lo-fi rumples on hangovers, but underneath a bit of that scruffy exterior lies a solid strain of psych-pop that holds a lot of DNA in common with The Dandy Warhols, Primal Scream and Love and Rockets. Nowhere is this strain more evident than on standout track “One Step At A Time.” It breaks open with that kind of heard-it-before laid back riff that you can’t quite place, but can’t quite ignore either. Rather than feel like simply another plow through the ruts of drug laden pop froth, Arida gives the song a spark of life that catches hard, careening the riff like a teenage joyride through the speakers. Its bigger than most of the other tracks on Smog City, stacking vocals and harmonies into a creamy goodness that brings the West Coast sun and slacker pop saunter with just a dash of Brit-pop pomp. This track alone feels like the match that might touch off Totally You, given the right fuel.



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Wyatt Blair

Ok so the other day, getting pizza with some friends, I was wrapping up out front of the shop. The place’s delivery guy bumped out of the door, cigarette dangling, pies aloft, mullett on point and jumped into a bruised white convertible. He threw the pizza in the backseat, cranked Billy Idol on the stereo and pulled a U-ie into traffic. Clearly he was living his best life and that is probably the truest analogy I can provide for how Wyatt Blair’s album feels. Blair, an unabashed devotee to the ’80s some would like to forget, your gym teacher is still living and Kenny Loggins is still tying to remember has crafted the best love letter to a generation and its excesses than probably anyone has ever taken the time to perfect.

There’s a power pop soul to Blair’s writing, but its been massively perverted by the hair metal overload of an era of MTV. Its been melted into shape by Yacht Rock’s smoothness. It’s harnessed the lightning strike of crisp ’80s overload that most laughingly write off as a trite and forgettable soundtrack to Michael J. Fox films and Tom Cruise volleyball montages. These elements usually slip way back into the subconscious only to be tickled every so often by the flip of an oldies dial, but that’s where the brilliance of someone like Wyatt Blair fully coalesces. He not only embraces the schlock and sheen, he perfects it. Yeah fists are raised, gloves are fingerless and I’m pretty sure all of the drums are triggered but that’s where knowing you’re embracing a bygone image of cool transcends time and space and better judgment to just let that surge of fun light the way. Blair knows that everyone secretly just wants to embody their own montage, that we’re all riding the bus in elementary, junior high, high school and thinking back on that super compressed version of heightened reality with a feeling that’s equal parts ennui and pain.

The funny thing is Blair himself is a bit too young to have been on the buses at the time but he knows how to wrap up nostalgia in a way that bites just right. Every aesthetic bit of Point of No Return is full of the right amount of neon, and the right snap of spandex. The soft focus is racked just right and the ghosts of Eddie Money, Pat Benetar, Lita Ford and Wyatt’s own admitted crush, Kenny Loggins are streaming through the veins of the record without even feeling like an homage. His tracks just feel like they were the jukebox detritus of bands that got passed over. Its a record that could so seamlessly find its way into the soundtracks of teen films from the VHS graveyard that it would make Craig Wedren (aka Wet Hot American Summer‘s secret weapon) blush. So sit back and clip in for a ride that’s big and bold and lit and full of the life that may have left the radio these days, but its not forgotten. Clearly there’s still a little room for excess in 2016.




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Nancy – “I Want One”

Everything about this track is dumb fun, and like Nobunny before them Nancy is completely unconcerned with fidelity, decorum or whether or not you give a shit about them or their knockaround riffs. “I Want One’ is a hundred foot wave of candied amplification crashing down on you from all directions. Its pop. Its punk. Its bubblegum sweet and sticky as hell but its also a perfect blast to beat back the world. Whatever’s bringing the blues can’t withstand “I Want One.” There are plenty of amped up peelers on Nancy’s upcoming LP for Germany’s Erste Theke Tontraeger label, but this one burns a hole like summer incarnate. Technically the first half of this puppy’s already been an EP for Eat The Life Records, but who cares if its old. Its getting a full length treatment with a whole new stack of tracks on the flip and if its new to you then its just as shiny as ever. Go ahead and crank it.



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Jean Bernard Raiteux – Les Demons

Finders Keepers has no shortage of exotica, erotica and psychsploitation among its ranks. Hell, its pretty much the reason to keep running to its embrace, and they up the ante with a reissue of French composer Jean-Bernard Raiteux aka Jean-Michel Lorgere’s score to the very b-movie Les Demons. The movie comes from a treasure trove that Finders and B-Music have touched on before, the film catalog of Jess Franco, here working under the Anglicized alias of Clifford Brown. The film follows much of the same themes that he’s found before, horror, witchcraft, demonic possession and naturally, nunsploitation. Can’t make that up, that’s a man’s motus operandi right there. He literally has more than one film that might fit the term nunsploitation.

As if this weren’t reason enough to investigate, Franco had a habit of hiring groundbreaking composers to work out scores to his films and Raiteux is working his lush psych ass off on this one. Titles like “Kathleen Writhing,” The Weakness of Rosalinda,” and “Three Serpents to Karen’s Dwelling” feel like they should have schlocky porn connotations, but they’re actually top tier psych that far outstrip any of the scenes they underscore. This is a psych odyssey, completely instrumental but no less lysergic. Raiteux ropes in psych-folk, burning acid guitar and a creeping ambience that’s not always present in the the garage-psych indebted debris of the ’60s. Its a higher minded psych and full on fun because of it. Finders won’t ever really steer you wrong. Andy Votel is digging more crates than most of us will ever have time to find, but no reason not to embrace it when it comes your way.




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Ben Chatwin

Chatwin’s last album was full of murky textures, noise beds and ambient float that felt like it was deteriorating as the album progressed. His follow-up keeps the textural fortitude but moves into an area of tension between the natural world and processed sound. At the heart of Heat & Entropy is Chatwin’s reliance on strings off all types, from piano to guitar to dulcitone. He set out to only use forms of stringed instruments but began to process the sounds and fold his love of texture into the mix. As a result he’s found a headspace that falls down the line between Hauschka’s prepared piano eminence and Evan Caminiti’s dust cloud psych. There’s a dark glow about the album, murky and fitting of the album’s reliance on seascapes in artwork and video treatments. Its balancing a feeling of weightless float and the crush of 60,000 gallons from the listener to the surface.

The further on the album progresses the further away that last breath feels, but the surroundings grow more foreign and beautiful. Centerpiece, “The Kraken,” finds the breaking point, emerging from a clouded gust on the preceding track and opening up a beacon-steady beat with siren-like vocals ducking and weaving the repetitive phrases. “Euclidiean Plane” is a whalesong trapped in amber and there’s no easy feeling about ending on a note called “Corpseways.” Chatwin has elevated his ambitions, stepping further from the Talvihorros work he’d done previously to create an album that’s both decidedly post-classical in its execution and experimental in its impact. This is a claustrophobic, anxious and ultimately also serene album in its own right; as contradictory as that may be. It feels like knowing the end is coming and having the strength to let go.


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Acid Mothers Temple

AMT resume their stance poking at the volcano of psych that they’ve had boiling for the better part of two decades now. Kawabata Makoto never fails to invoke the divine power of the psychedelic gods and here, he’s making no exceptions. They’re utilizing the benefit of space on the three longform tracks here, taking their time to build and crash each song like tiny cities turned to ash. The band digs in hard, with a flash of light and then roll deep into mantra territory on opener “Force in the Third System.” On this opening salvo they let things stretch and tumble, invoking bits of thunder and bouts of cinder then flip to backwards vocals sliding over droned and dropped sitar territory. They scrape the stratospheric bounce communications of space rock and dive back towards that welcomed fire with a tear-down of guitar fire and rhythm chug that levels the decks. Twenty minutes in the hands of AMT are never squandered, but the band take the task to wider skies on centerpiece “Nebulous Hyper Meditation.”

The second track eclipses the first, spanning over a half hour, it drops in with a cosmic float that pretty much invokes that title to the fullest extent before swapping the float for Kosmiche burble finding its footing in rhythm. The band chugs along on the rails without letting the beat drop for more than a minute or so. Their meditative state burns a lot hotter than most and under AMT’s watchful third eye any calming impulses start to smolder rather than melt. They close it out with a lonesome and almost mournful bit of space rock worship, bending the will of the six string cyclone to their own wicked wills. Years on there are those who may say that the Japanese collective have been pursuing the same psychedelic shred over the years, but in truth they’ve just been cracking universe one guitar riff at a time, scaling the mountains of madness only to bring fire back to those of us who are cold without it.




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Frankie & The Witch Fingers

The impossibly named Frankie & The Witch Fingers are back at bat for Permanent and this time they’ve beefed up their sound, dropped a dime in the time machine and gone full on groove with the best intentions and some pretty solid results. They roll the R&B rollick of the early ’70s into the psych sway of the latter half of the ’60s with a studied approach that proves these boys have pawed through their ? Mark and the Mysterians bootlegs and Shadows of Knight deep cuts, but they know that there’s always room to blow a things a bit bigger, louder and hazier. There’s also a hangover of six ton glamour from the last great wave of garage before the devil brought the kids lo-fi and the glam got gritty.

Frankie and who knows how many of the Witch Fingers must have spent a little bit of time wading through the likes of The Cato Salsa Experience, The Mooney Suzuki when their sweat was as electric as hell and Jack White’s temporary shelter, The Go. Back when garage was buzz and the budgets were still outsized, there was an impulse to raise a ruckus like it was on the company’s dime and Frankie are playing like they’ve got ambitions far bigger than their reputable, if not necessarily sizeable home on Permanent. But I like their moxie and that’s the sound that rattles the woofers and cones on Heavy Roller. Its 1500 watts of moxie blown to analog bits and seething with charm that probably owns more than one pair of leather pants and is somehow pulling off that hat in a way you know you can’t. The most fun records have that spark runnin’ through them and its just as important as hooks. If you can’t invent the sound, hell you better inhabit it and wear it well. Frankie and the Witch Fingers are doing that and making it look fun.




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Chook Race – “Hard To Clean”

Melbourne’s Chook Race put out a scrappy but fun album last year that showed more than a few crinkles of promise and they’re making good on it this year with a follow up through Tenth Court on the home court and Trouble in Mind here in the States. They’ve never sounded cleaner or more at ease than on their new single “Hard To Clean.” The track is a crisp pop number that belies its hooky charms with a bittersweet bleat running under those jangled harmonies. The video seems like more of a lark, but hell some nice nostalgia for the heyday of the Thighmaster or Sit and Be Fit is always a worthwhile trip. A solid sender and laying a pretty good dose of anticipation for the rest of the album comin’ up down the way.

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Gong – Camembert Électrique

Though its often thought of as the first Gong album proper, its technically the second after Daevid Allen and Gili Smith’s collaboration Magick Brother. But while that laid the stonework for Allen’s psychedelic travels, Camembert Électrique brings the true Pothead Pixies into shape for what would be an eccentric odyssey even by 60’s psych standards. This one stands at the apex of what Gong stood for. There’s a ripple of hard rock that shows Allen, for all his dips into experiment over riff, really did have the power to propel Gong if he wanted to. It has the full on float and free jazz drifts with hippie poetry that would come to fully crystallize on Angel’s Egg. There are two schools on Gong and one might say this is the best entry, the other would probably cite the cosmic float of You. Though they’re really just two sides of the same coin, Camembert Électrique probably captures the picture of Gong’s communal psychedelics more than any other.

There are lots of artifacts from this time period that find themselves in the cringey depths of kitsh after all these years. The effects that seemed so revolutionary tend to wither over time into sad psychedelic birthday card versions of themselves. Not so with Gong. As with Don Van Vliet’s brand of insanity at the helm of the Beefheart, Daevid Allen was also a psychedelic soothsayer and his works touch off the same impulses to wreck the pop paradigm now as they did then. Thankfully this one has been given its proper due and kept among the living with a pretty complete reissue as recent as last year. If this one doesn’t grace your psych pile, then it is high time for a trip to the shop in search of gold. Now I’d lobby for someone to do the same justice for Magic Brother. Its not as hardcore essential, but its undeserving of its scarcity and CD purgatory. Lets hope it finds its way back to vinyl soon.




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