Posts Tagged ‘Heavy Psych’

Mythic Sunship

While Another Shape of Psychedelic Music might not radically reinvent its own genre the way Coleman did for jazz, or upend possibilities quite as much as The Refused did for punk, their latest for El Paraiso is an immersive and writhing organic beast that certainly reconfigures their own sound enough to warrant the wink on that title. The band’s Land Between Rivers was a stunner, raining down brimstone blasts of doom and psych in equal measures, charring pretty much everything in its wake to a carcinogenic crisp. On last year’s Upheaval, though, they got dense, maybe wandering a bit to far into their own heads and leaving the listener without the spark of unpredictability and terrifying edge-of-reality playing that marked their earlier release. They’re stoking the embers of that fire once again, though, on Another Shape and it feels good to see the madness back in their eyes.

The band incorporates free jazz and a heavier stroke of prog into their usual mix of doom, psych and motorik German references here. Saxophone splashes over every inch of the record, and the frantic squalls fit right into their particular maelstrom. From an opening cut that pushes past the fourteen-minute mark, to their skronk-greased breakdowns, it’s an album that’s not working off of any preconceived set of expectations. They’re playing purely to torch the turrets on their personal temples, channeling the heat of the blaze into a set that radiates genesis and destruction like never before.

The howl of sax seems to have awakened something in them and its great to have one of Scandinavia’s rawest units back in fine form. The record boasts some guidance from label co-head and Causa Sui member Jonas Munk. His production, along with the searing third guitar he’s lent to their gauntlet gives the album a lot of its vibrancy. There have been a lot of great psychedelic records this year, but Another Shape of Psychedelic Music is steadily pushing its way to the top of the pile. It may not be the shape of psych to come, but it’s definitely among the best shapes 2018 could ask for.



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Slift

At this point it might be said that Thee Oh Sees are a genre unto themselves. The psych-scratched garage rock, punctuated by John Dwyer’s echoplexed howl is a calling card of their frantic punk pedigree. As such, its hard not to immediately think of them whenever a band wades into their particular sonic jungle. Whether a new artist is expanding the sound or not, its always going to immediately shift the brain to comparisons with San Francisco’s untethered heroes. Same goes for Animal Collective, I suppose. There are just a few indie bands today that have nailed their milieu and no matter how universal some of their underlying influences are, they own their sound. With that said, its hard not to feel the specter of Dwyer looming over La Planète Inexplorée, the debut album from French quasar-punks Slift.

The album lifts off from the same platform of heavy, syncopated riffs and psych freakouts, even executing Dwyer’s caustic creep vocal patterns. However, they’re working well to try to make their own mark in in the heavy tank treads left behind by SF’s favorite sons. The trio takes the frizzle fry to some excellent heights, drops in some icy flute to creep up the spine and works out their best motorik impulses all over this platter. The record’s burrowed deep into a subterranean cave ambience, feeling like an otherworldly accompaniment to sci-fi wonderlands parched by desert heat and strange magic.

The LP brings to mind the harsh yet vivid worlds built into the comic works of Rick Remender – complicated vistas full of wonder that are often just as deadly as they are breathtaking. The deeper the record goes, the more the band begins to swirl the heavy smoke and smolder that permeates the mind. Divorced from its most obvious influence, its a spot on psych record that’s clearly built by skillful players with a tendency to push their songs as far as possible to the outer reaches of fuzz and froth. The band proves that their initial EPs were no fluke and makes it clear that they belong in the expansive arms of a well thought out full length. Perhaps as they soldier on the band will evolve their sound and hone in on what separates them from their looming shadows.



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Axis:Sova – “Dodger”

Axis:Sova dragged their sound out of the lo-fi ghetto on their last album, Motor Earth, proving they had a handle on boogie-belted face-melters, but breaking through the veil of hiss that dogged their debut. The album still retained a good amount of grit, though, knocking fuzz riffs down with a sonic sledgehammer and indulging in lengthy psych workouts. The band returns for another round and this time they’ve power washed their sound even more. Their devotion to the less terrestrial among us (Hawkwind, Guru Guru) seems to have cooled. There’s still a boogie itch at work on “Dodger”, though, but now they’re burning clean, piping Creedence clairvoyance through the dry ice dirges of Wooden Shjips.

They pair the track with a dizzying video, employing Mylar Chamber photography, bending light around and through the band with kaleidoscopic results. The new album rises up on Drag City imprint God? November 16th, so be ready.



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ORB

If the dearth of the mighty King Gizzard of late has left you with a hankering for Aussie scuzz and heavy fuzz then ORB’s got you covered in Gizz’s gap year. The Aussies are still pining for the days when Sabbath, Leaf Hound and Blue Cheer were chugging ozone to fuel half-stacks of growlin’ fury, but this time they’re letting some lighter obsessions filter to the front as well. The band’s appreciation of nascent Pink Floyd (before the crack swallowed Syd whole) is prominently on display here along with nods to fellow travelers of the ether Kevin Ayers and Gong.

Occasionally the album reminds me of the great lost psych of Zior in balancing heaviness, heat and meandering space, but there’s also a thread of the Black and White years of BÖC in the mix. While in lesser hands (and even on earlier ORB albums) the sound could devolve into slavish devotion to the force of fuzz but the band have instead created their most nuanced and cohesive album in embracing a wider field of view. The record slashes and breathes, coaxes and cools before summoning all the occult fever on full view in the ‘70s.

No matter how much they lighten the load, though, we’re still all here for at least a few crushing riffs. Thankfully those are still plentiful on The Space Between. From cosmic blues to dirty proto punk, ORB have an arsenal of smoke-choked guitar grit on lock. The hook with ORB is that they’re pulling together the threads of heavy psych into one place, crafting records that have as much reverence for the innovators as they do for latter day refiners of amplifier sickness. The band has never sounded as surefooted as they do right here. This is ORB at their best and its great to see them reach this level.



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ORB – “I Want What I Want”

ORB swings back with another reminder of their crushing psych prowess. Still hung on the halls of Sabbath but starting to weigh nascent Pink Floyd just as heavy, the band’s latest video runs their riffs through a Renn Faire filter. ORB’s always good for a bit of ozone crunch and “I Want What I Want” doesn’t skimp. The choruses are oozin’ evil while the rest of the song floats in a Novocaine haze above the clouds. Feels like this is gonna be another big one for the Flightless alums.



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Oh Sees

So, here we are at the crossroads again, another Oh Sees album has hit the table and its time to weigh in. I feel like most of these reviews run down as check in to say: “yeah Dwyer’s still a singular force in garage-psych and we should all be grateful.” There’s always some sonic shift worth noting, though, so here goes. After last year’s double bill, two album exploration of slippery psych, followed by an exorcism of their acoustic roots, the band is charging ahead heavier than ever. Don’t believe me, just check that cover. There’s a demon enshrined in fire. Things don’t get much heavier than that before you break out corpse paint and an organ made of bones. Sonically, Smote Reverser is pulled apart by rhythm, thanks in no small part to the double drum setup of Paul Quattrone and Dan Rincon. Naturally, as you can imagine, once you go double drum its time to get serious with the prog touches, and that’s just what the Oh Sees damn well do. They brought in Tom Dolas for some keys on last year’s mellow meltdown Memory of a Cut Off Head but this time he’s going full Keith Emerson with triple stack complexities that burn hot enough to iron that Yes patch on your threadbare denim vest.

To be sure, these touches all set the stage and dress things nice, but what were all here for is the 300-mph wormhole shred of John Dwyer and for that Smote Reverser does not disappoint. There’s plenty of acrobatic string slinging, punctuated by Dwyer’s now trademarked echoplex howl. His riffs bite at the void and dissolve into effects explosions that cascade through the speakers with a molten growl. The record’s not just heavy though, its nimble too – Dwyer plays guitar with a restless soul, seemingly amusing himself as much as us, the listeners. Still this isn’t the one note heavy hammer that the cover makes it out to be. It’s not all dry ice, devil horns and ear damage. While they turn up the screams to hardcore and bring down the heat on “Overthrown,” they just as easily knock the atmosphere down to simmer for the openings of “Last Peace” and “Moon Bog.” The band knows that without time to breathe, there’s no way to appreciate the sweat.

Without question its another quality Oh Sees LP and once more it seems the game is Dwyer trying to outdo himself with each record. So, as with every release that comes hurtling down from the psych asteroid the band occupies this is an essential addition of weight to your no doubt bursting Oh Sees section on the shelf. The heads already know and the rest better catch up or be left behind to soak in the Sulphur smoke trailing behind Smote Reverser.



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Sundays & Cybele – “Unbalanced”

The good news from GuruGuru Brain continues to rain down in psychedelic sheets. Yesterday flagship band Kikagaku Moyo announced a new LP, but let it not overshadow news that labelmates Sundays & Cybele also have a new album on the way. The band’s fourth record, On The Grass is preceded by the echoplexed burndown of “Unbalanced.” Not to be outmatched by their fellow Japanese psych rumblers the track boasts plenty of guitar shred set to torch the town and walk away in slow motion menace. While the band boasts a heavier reliance on progressive tendencies this time around, “Unbalanced” is pure ‘70s freakout pulling from the ghosts of 13th Floor Elevators and Flower Travellin’ Band.



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Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – “Cake of Light”

UK sludgelords Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs return with a new album on the docket for Rocket. The band is still marrying the vocal intensity of Lemmy at his sharpest and most abrasive with the twenty-foot heat wave of Monster Magnet and the relentless char of Corrosion of Conformity. The record examines the impulses behind sin and guilt, jumping off from their moniker’s obsession with sevens to explore the most notorious association with the number. The first single, the amusingly named “Cake of Light” is anchored to a juggernaut of a riff, bashing the eardrums with the hammer of fuzz as wielded by the gods of rumble themselves. If the oppressive heat hadn’t knocked the wind out of you last week, then this track will surely do the week creeping into this week.


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Purling Hiss – “Out Tonight”

Seems fitting that Purling Hiss are taking a whack at Spacemen 3, the legends’ squall molded psych is an apt precursor to Mike Polizze’s own fuzz-caked face-melters. Though it seems they’re almost doing a twofer here. While the flip of this single is a cover of S3’s classic, “Walkin’ With Jesus,” the Purling original sounds like it came straight off of a day spent flipping Recurring over until the grooves got gooey. The song is sparking with that same ozone bliss that’s been a longtime Spacemen hallmark and the kind of hook that ducks its head under the horizon to let the repetition and guitar splatter do the heavy lifting. Personally, I’m a fan of the “best song a band never wrote” approach to homage, and while the world cries derivative, I just see a love letter blown thirty feet tall and electrified for visibility. It’s a fun curio that keeps the band’s fuzz pop banner aloft until the next album comes creeping in.

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Wooden Shjips

With certain types of recreational drug use, or even meditation for that matter, there’s a point when the subject becomes detached from their current surroundings – a shift in time, an outside looking in feeling of calm introspection that lets slip the boundaries of pressing matters. In this stasis, somewhere between numbness and bliss, exists V the latest record from Wooden Shjips. The band seems to toss around that this is their “summer record” and to be sure there’s plenty here that compliments the staunch humid nights of mid-August swelter – Ripley Johnson’s guitars dripping through layers of wet reverb like condensation down a can, tempos slowed to a molten crawl, and bass that can’t be contained by rolled tight windows. More than merely a seasonal accoutrement, though, this record is a balm, a respite, a state of mind – or in the spirit of summer – a vacation from the current mudslide of daily life that threatens to consume us all.

With V the band has softened the focus on its trademark sounds – the fat, motorik rhythm section that slaps like waves against the breakwater, the sunlight suffused guitars that sparkle and ripple in equal measures and Johnson’s vocals that billow and diffuse in a cloud of vapor overhead. The enveloping warmth of this particular iteration of the band has added a few new moving parts as well. Are those strums peeking out of the haze on “Already Gone?” Were there always this many slinking keys in the Shjips’ universe? The vacation vibes bring on a prog haze that holds over from the lighter half of Moon Duo’s last experiment in duality and it feels like a missing puzzle piece found under the couch, perfectly cut to relieve the anxiety that was created in its absence.

Along with Cooper Crain (Cave, Bitchin’ Bajas) the band has created a perfect headphone record, adding further to the escape hatch mentality of the album. The aforementioned elements dance across the headspace in sketchbook animation while the bass acts as a barrier to the worries, realities, information overload and creeping dread that’s become a constant weight in 2018. For forty-two blissful, nebulous minutes Wooden Shjips let the listener breathe before the waters rise again. Best to gulp in a few last breaths, drop into the airtight bunker b ‘n b of sound and enjoy because those waters show no signs of slowing any time soon.





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