Posts Tagged ‘Psych’

Grouper

Days were when Liz Harris had a new album on the way it was the rippling fringe that was excited. Now by the grace of gauziness, Grouper is practically a household name (ok maybe not quite) and expectations are high going into Grid of Points. From the very first moments those expectations are met. Harris’ voice is still battling with hiss for prominence, but this time it’s winning out handily, soaring in a heartbreaking lilt over “Parking Lot’s” somber refrain and soaking the album through with a confessional nature that pushes her past the markers of dreampop and noise that used to pen her in. There’s still that natural warmth that makes Grouper Grouper, but it seems over time Liz Harris has seen fit to let us further into her world with an intimacy that’s palpable in every moment of the new record.

It’s almost too bad that warmer climes and sunny skies are on their way because every inch of Grid of Points makes me want to hollow out a couch cushion and bunker down to weather frigid gloom for another few months. The album is, as is usual with Grouper, haunting in its ability to draw sadness out like a fragile divining rod. Even without the cocoon of aural foam and tape hiss that’s ever present, there’s a feeling that just Harris and a piano would command rapt attention for an album twice this length. If anything, the problem is the album’s brevity leaves the listener wanting more – needing Harris to commiserate and tug gently at the toothache of longing just a little while longer.

I’ll take what I can get though, and this is Harris at her best, showing an artist willing to evolve, even if that evolution is just a gradual peek from behind the curtain over time. If there’s a shred of sadness looking for relief inside of you, then Grouper is here to rub salt in the wound. The pain is real, but the sparkle is worth it.



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Medistation

Slicing off from one’s longtime band for a solo venture can be a dicey roll, especially when traversing similar ground, but Eric Strand of Swedish psych band The Orange Revival manages to leave his past behind on his debut EP as Medistation. Where the Revival tends towards clouds of reverb, repetition and vocals buried in the murk of their impenetrable haze, Strand uses Medistation as a jump off to explore other indulgences. The guitars slice with a clean edge, still using a rumble of fuzz on a few tracks here but feeling his way further out of the My Bloody Valentine / Black Angels grip.

Further in the 12” boasts a dream-laden country croon, evoking the collective members of Galaxie 500 and Luna picking through Primal Scream’s record collection one minute and stomping on the Spiritualized effect pedal the next. The EP feels like an artist grappling with his influences and finding what works. Heads who are already into the touchstones flashing high on Strand’s radar will no doubt appreciate this EP, but like me probably leave wanting it to stretch just a bit further. What does work here is that unlike The Orange Revival, Medisation doesn’t feel indebted to a sound and the variety gives the release a good flow, working its way down slow at the end from the sunburn psych that starts his record off. For what it’s worth he’s emulating many of his influences quite ably, and with the word that Strand’s fleshing this out from the “one man in a room”-type affair to full band vision, means that more input could form this into some high-octane space rock for sure.


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Minami Deutsch

It’s hard not to get sucked in by the tag of ‘Japanese psych pounders obsessed with Krautrock’ as a hook into Minami Deutsch, and the band certainly makes good on the promise, but with their second LP they move beyond that one-note sentiment. While their debut traded in the Krautrock concept wholesale, pushing a motorik and fuzz-crusted take on German Progressive patterns, on their sophomore album for Guruguru Brain the band softens the blunt impact to embrace the fragile beauty in their sound. There’s still a furious storm of rhythm and noise floating as the basis of With Dim Light, but now there’s a whole new appreciation for soft shading and glycerin guitars. The record’s far less of a love letter to Dusselforf, ‘71 than it is a balance between the propulsion of their heroes and the cracked sky shimmer of their contemporaries in present day Japan.

The band is enmeshed with Guruguru Brain’s main hive, having been housemates with banner act Kikagaku Moyo and sharing stages with Sundays & Cybele, and it seems that the subtleties of their pals couldn’t help but rub off on them as they grew their sound. Over the course of six winding songs on the new record, the band works through restrained build, cool-bliss shudders, and caustic fuzz all the while maintaining their dedication to the altar of repetition. This time, though, rather than hit the listener like an electrified brick, the repetition isn’t so upfront. As the throb slides down in the mix it’s allowed to creep up the listener’s spine in the way some of the most accomplished German Progressives practiced their hand at groove.

That groove becomes the heartbeat of the record rather than the impossible to ignore rattle in your face. This time, when explosions of fuzz crop up, as on the highlight “I’ve Seen A U.F.O.,” they tear a hole in the fabric of the album, feeling like a downpour of relief after a humid build up of pressure in the system. Just as often though the band are tamping down the lid and letting a song simmer through as on the cooldown stunner “Bitter Moon.” If they were looking to standout among a stable of great artists at Guruguru then With Dim Light goes a long way to make their case.




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Flowers Must Die – “Oroa Dig Inte”

Swedish psych warriors Flowers Must Die follow up their Rocket Recordings LP, Kompost, from last year with a more abstract set of space rock scrapers. Where the previous record tapped into some Krautrock fueled psych-pop, this time the band stretches for the edges of the mind with a track that’s free floating in a psychedelic haze of feedback, flute and noise. Its a beautiful din, though, and makes the case once again for the band as high-level purveyors of expansion-minded music. The record is released in increasingly limited versions with 20 different covers spread over its run of 300.




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Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Over the last three albums UMO’s Ruban Nielsen has evolved as an alchemist of psychedelic blue-eyed soul, Stevie Wonder disco epics for the earbud mafia and cracked indie pop that fizzes fast but spreads smooth. It would be hard to top his previous album, 2015’s neon-hued groove garden Multi-Love, and to be fair Sex & Food doesn’t really. Its more of a lateral shift in the same environment, pulling from similar roots with often equally compelling results. This time around Nielsen injects a bit of psychedelic fire into the proceedings, as on first single “American Guilt,” a song built on speaker cone-crunching volume and guitar riffs that feel like they might shake the shutters off of the house. He hot-glues the guitars to infectiously rickety beats that sound like they might have been penned down under MacGuyver-like pressure using what bolts and bits were on hand.

The single is a scorcher and it finds a kindred spirit in the transistor-psych howler “Major League Chemicals,” however, If the whole record were operating on that level things might get exhausting. To his credit most moments are nowhere near as raucous as these peaks, opting often for Nielsen’s R&B butter-edged soul, soothing and smoothing things into bedroom eyes territory. Only he’s ruminating on the various consumptions that drive our lives and how they’ll hurt or heal us in equal measures. These calm eddies are where the album shines, grabbing hold tightest when the songwriter reaches just past the ripple-rainbows of shimmer in his production for a spark of soul. He latches on perfectly with “Not In Love We’re Just High,” another single cut that finds him grasping for the notes and making the audience feel the pull.

The album is a chemically induced k-hole that pulls listeners into Nielsen’s headspace, whirling pop splashes of glow paint all over the deep embrace of a couch and dimmed lights. There’s a certain satisfaction in an artist’s rendering of life as a stoned dive into your phone with the stereo on too loud. Anxieties and pleasures come quick and many, but ultimately the effects wear off and we’re left to deal with the dishes. Its good to know that UMO’s got you covered when you want to stay in and succumb to the cycle of slack, obsession and insecurity though. I’m on board for that ride.



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Gemini Sisters

Bound by the inspiration of daughters born on the same day in the house of Gemini, John Kolodij (High Aura’d) and Matt Christensen (Zelienople, Mind Over Mirrors) team up for an exploration of the intertwined ethos of the twin Zodiacs. Gemini Sisters finds both musicians diving down a sound cavern that’s cool and damp. Moss notes curl at the edges of their compositions. There’s a distinct chill in the air and a whistle at the cave opening where these songs tread. Christensen’s vocals are sparse, but effective when they rise up from the craggy noise floor, pushing down the layers of tape hiss and the rumble of amplifiers lit up with a Sulphurous growl. There’s something spiritual here, not religion but rite instead, a collection of moonsongs meant to align one’s soul in some manner that’s beyond us – like crop circles or runes without a key to guide their true meaning.

The burnt-core musings and psychic projections here make this an almost unconsciously perfect companion piece to Wet Tuna’s long player from earlier in the month, and perhaps a more humid sibling to Prana Crafter’s excellent tape for Beyond Beyond is Beyond. All three are widening the fold of drone-throttled psychedelia via a shower of vibrations that seek to shift the body from its moorings. While Prana Crafter is taking up the folk segment of this aural bombardment and the boys in Tuna are wranglin’ the choogle down to psychedelic grooves, Gemini Sisters seem to find themselves tethered to the frozen space blues blazed by Loren Connors before them. They’re splitting the middle of the trifecta of albums, while simultaneously connecting the dots. I’d highly recommend chaining these three releases up for your listening pleasure.

Associations aside, though, this collaboration is a highlight for both artists involved and no mere diversion or side project to be shuttled to the side of the tape-only bin of small runs. Repeated listens only proves the eponymous cassette to be a high order dealer of hazy harmonies and twilight float. Consider yourself warned.




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Pretty Lightning – “This Machine Is Running”

If you missed out on the late 2017 release from Pretty Lightning (guilty) then there’s still time to catch up on the band’s motorik blast via this hypnotic new video for the excellent, “This Machine is Running.” The video is a dizzying display of color and light and it only serves to underscore the track’s hammerhead blast of psychedelic pop. Needless to say, as with most Fuzz Club releases, if this is missing from your shelf then you need to right the wrong. At the very least run this video on repeat for a good hour to cure what ails ya.



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Tim Blake – Crystal Machine

Those of you reminiscent for a bit of laser Floyd might want to thank stynth wizard Tim Blake. Following a tenure in Gong and just preceding one in Hawkwind, the artist ventured out to dip into solo synth float and struck up a collaboration with French lighting designer Patrice Warrener, adding lasers and lighting effects to his live show as psychedelic spectacle. The two dubbed their working symbiosis Crystal Machine, and the name doubles as the title for Blake’s first solo album, now remastered and expanded with live bonus cuts by Esoteric Recordings.

There’s definitely a burble of the old German Progressives foaming underneath Blake’s work, but you’d unearth more clues looking to his time with Gong. On albums like You or Angel’s Egg Blake created a heady heatwave of synth that’s never stuck on its own ingenuity. He continues that tradition here, riding psych opuses for optimum enjoyment rather than mere Rick Wakeman levels of tech wizardry. The album winds up a bit uneven given that portions of it are live, but considering that was how this particular portion of Blake’s career was inspired, it makes sense that he’d capture himself in the element with Warrener’s light show fueling his direction. He’d follow this up with a proper studio album, New Jerusalem, before heading on to his run in Hawkwind. It’s an artifact of its time, but well worth checking out for fans of Tangerine Dream and their ilk.




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MIEN

MIEN is, for lack of a better word, a supergroup. Though perhaps it’s just four consecutive side projects, who can tell? The term is pompus at best and often overshadows the music of any who dare don the mantle. For what it’s worth, MIEN compiles the talents of members of The Black Angels, The Horrors, The Earlies and Elephant Stone. To most its going to be those first two that draw water and grab attention but, I for one, am excited to hear The Earlies mentioned in earnest in 2018. The band’s John-Mark Lapham would bond with Elephant Stone’s Rishi Dhir over a love of sitar in pop music, as would Dhir and The Black Angels’ Alex Maas. So, it winds up that the sitar is the glue that holds together MIEN’s eponymous debut.

Dhir also played the instrument with The Brian Jonestown Massacre for several years, so he’s done his time in the psychedelic trenches. His drones here swirl around the band’s embrace of a hypnotic pop that recalls the dark grind of The Black Angels as shot through the junkyard Krautrock of Clinic or current contemporaries like Snapped Ankles. They work off of chugging rhythms one minute and then lay back completely into the abyss with reverberating thrum the next – meting out blissful altered states of droned consciousness. The album isn’t flashy, despite boasting such talent and a flagpole raised on ‘60s sitar. MIEN takes a little while to wrap around the listener, boasting the kind of exhaust fume ambience that’s permeated much of The Angels’ work.

It’s easy to draw comparisons with Maas at the vocal helm, but the band distinguishes itself from most of the members’ other tributaries, swapping in mantra for hooks and embracing a repetition dropout that winds up engrossing in its own way. The moody atmospheres are no surprise to those who are working their psych band bingo on this project, but the band’s not one to miss out on levity, pushing for “Tomorrow Never Knows” cartoon squiggle territory on back half bubble “Odessey” to lighten the mood. If this album winds up a one-off, then it remains a curio worth investigating and if this is the seeds of something more permanent, I’ll mark this as some good roots to grow.



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Landings – “Nod”

Oh man, Landing are back and like a good friend they’re still kicking up the same psych fallout that endeared them to me over all these years. The band turns up on the great El Paraiso Records, taking their Connecticut psych to the Danish hub and slotting in nicely alongside the label’s packed roster of home country haze wranglers (Mythic Sunship, Causa Sui). The track is pure dreamop reverberation weaponized by the low-slung rumble of guitar thunder. The motorik chug and woofer pushing volume slides this out of the wispy territory that can often trap dreampop like a pothole, instead balancing Adrienne Snow’s delicate vocals and the instrumental shred in perfect proportion. Produced by Justin Pizzoferrato (Dino Jr., Elder) the album looks to pack a pretty heavy punch when it lands in May.


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