Posts Tagged ‘Psych’

ORB – “Space Between The Planets”

Must be something in the water, I was just thinking about ORB the other day and here we are with a new single on the docket and an album on the way. “Space Between The Planets” taps right into Zak Olsen’s holster of heavy psych weapons – crushing fuzz riffs, phased space-rock atmospherics and a rumblin’ rhythm section that pounds heavy and menacing as tank treads. The new song locks into this Hawkwind / Sabbath comfort zone and honestly, that’s just what I came for. There’s still room for the bong-rattling basics of prog-psych these days and if the formula’s solid, why shake it too much? The song will wind up the title track of an upcoming LP for Flightless, so keep an eye out because you know there’s some limited, splattered petroleum platters on the way soon.



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Simply Saucer – “Lo-Fi Garage Symphonette”

As reissues begin to mount interest in bands the next stage brings the inevitable rumblings of reformation. For fans that missed out on the live shows of ‘blink and you miss ‘em’ bands this is sometimes a godsend, though it also holds the possibility of besmirching a tight catalog with an experience that can’t hope to live up to the originals’ weight. Its with such weight that bands also embark on the endeavor to extend the catalog. It’s a hard rope to cross without leaning too far into imitating one’s prime or updating it into something that’s well out of the scope of what fans came to hear. Canadian psych obscurities Simply Saucer have been having a year full of reissues and they now come to the precipice of adding to the conversation with new works.

Their first single in 40 years ropes in two original members along with studio friends and Jesse Locke (Century Palm, Tough Age) who has been instrumental in getting the band’s work back out to the public. The songs are sown from their same well of weirdness, though it’s clear in their present state they’re working with much better equipment than the machines that wrought Cyborgs Revisited. With the technical upgrade comes some wish fulfillment in fleshing out their sound with a battery of keys and backup vocals. They don’t push too hard into making it a recording “of its current time,” so it sits well with their back catalog, but it loses a bit of the immediacy and electricity of something like “Bullet Proof Nothing” and neither captures the off the rails quality inherit in “Instant Pleasure.”

That said the single’s not without its charms and indeed its not an addition that falls into the besmirch category. 40 years is a lifetime and that the band still have some of the same tinfoil wobble that blew through their amplifiers when they stood on the edges of punk is a testament to their core. “Alien Cornfield,” taken without expectations and stripped of associations is a prime slice of sci-fi garage, though “Lo-Fi Garage Symphonette” gets a bit grandiose for my taste. Regardless, its good to have the band back in the public eye. As I mentioned with the reissue, they’re an essential piece of the psych-punk lineage.



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Ulaan Markhor

Anytime I see the Ulaan prefix and Steven R. Smith’s name flagging up in a given year I’m excited. Its guaranteed that whatever’s coming down the tubes is an instrumental crusher. So, after having capped off last year with a new Ulan Passerine album – the doom folk member of the family – Smith is circling back with a new tape from Ulaan Markhor, kicking through scuffed dessert psych with equal aptitude. Within his universe this iteration of himself winds up the most scathing, the most brutal and the most outwardly psychedelic. Picking up ques from Amon Düül and Guru Guru as well as post-punk bands like 13th Chime, the record is stark and discordant but oddly beholden to rhythm’s sway. Smith saws at the songs with John Cale scratches of violin while the dust-choked atmosphere projects menace and lonesome desperation.

The album revels in an almost hallucinatory loneliness in fact, like trying to find the way out from the folds of one’s own mind. The edges keep shifting though, and the exits flicker and disappear without pattern. All the while Ulaan Markhor underscores the frustration and deepening delusion with a hungry, voyeuristic eye. Smith has crafted a cinematic score here and the titles tell as much, but he’s pushing beyond the normal bounds of post-rock groundswell or Morricone-lite Western cloud gathering. Smith works the mechanics of build and simmer better than most and when he reaches a break in the damn on “Flowering” it rips the tension to shreds, never quite easing it, just turning up the volume to a roar and pounding imagined footsteps on the base of the listener’s neck. With Helm he’s created something heavy and lasting, an album that’s gets its claws in you, the kind where you’re sweating through the good passages and only notice once the storm has cleared.



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Matt Valentine on Takehisa Kosugi – Catch Wave

I’m steadily working through the great wishlist of artists who have shaped the path of Raven for the Hidden Gems series and this week we land on another. Along with Erica Elder, Matt Valentine’s tenure in MV & EE and its various incarnations was instrumental to the aughts psych-folk wave. In his stewardship of the great Northeast label Child of Microtones he’s given a home to The Tower Recordings, Samara Lubelski, Ash & Herb and Dredd Foole among others. And just this year he’s carved out yet another classic with PG Six as Wet Tuna. So, it came to pass that I asked Matt to pick out a record that had perhaps eluded the grasp of the masses all these years. Coming on the heels of the news that Taj Mahal Travellers’ August 1974 has found its way back to LP, Valentine’s pick from the band’s Takehisa Kosugi – his 1975 album Catch Wave – seems quite fitting. See how this record found its way to his life and what impact it’s had on his own works below.

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Al Doum & The Faryds

During a magical hangover of the ‘70s jazz found funk and psychedelia then wrapped their tendrils into its own serpentine form. This period birthed the best electric of Miles, Sun Ra dabbling with soul and Don Cherry ripping at the shreds of the universe to push rhythm through a black hole and pull it out the other side. The long tail in the movement saw plenty of bands utilize what they’d heard in the freest of moments and fold it back onto their own sounds. The German Progressives from Can to Vuh to Düül all found that same wormhole that their jazz-psych contemporaries were sailing through and they traversed the light bridge it provided to the center of the Earth to pound out the sound of the beating heart at the center of the beast. Meanwhile Hawkwind and Heldon took the sound to the quasars and etched out the framework of Spacerock as it was handed down by the gods.

On the backs of this era rises Spirit Rejoin from Al Doum & The Faryds. The band’s latest is snatching cosmic jazz back from the heart of the sun – pushing past those Spacerock quasars only to slingshot back with frightening velocity for a trip to the center of the mind through psychedelic shred. The Milanese band taps into the holy altars of their neighbors to the East, divining Kosmiche moments with the same reverence and quest for the edges of perception that drove Krautrock’s core like a mad engine. Unfit to be simply labeled a modern jazz album, like Brooklyn’s Sunwatchers the Faryds are a pure psychedelic experience devouring skronk, lashing out with guitar drenched in the ozone puff of amplifier fallout and tumbling over polyrhythms like the current crop of psychedelic Swedes. The record is the distillation of an age of discovery, looking back with perfect hindsight at what each pocket of progress was accomplishing and brewing it all together into an enticing potion. This one’s not for the lighthearted.



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Lay Llamas

Heading into Nicola Giunta’s second outing for Rocket there’s a sense that the Italian artist has reached further and deeper than he has previously under the Lay Llamas moniker. Where his previous outing saw fit to ruminate in the Krautrock kiddie pool, Thuban embraces an immersive psychedelic experience, roping in African polyrhythms, snaking Thai funk, German Progressive sweat and late ‘90s UK psych-pop. The tapestry he weaves out of those pieces makes it clear that Giunta’s record shelf runs deep, and while emulating (and to some extent, yes, appropriating) these sounds can often place an artist on a precarious perch, Giunta layers his influences like samples, finding the common threads in his preferred sounds and tightening the seams until they fit snug.

Given his curatorial bent and label affiliation it should come as little surprise that there is a crossover kinship between Giunta and Goat. The bands met while playing shows together and hit it off well enough for Giunta to snag a vocal contribution from band members on “Altair,” a tack that can’t help but sound like Goat as a result. Though the album is largely Giunta’s own, having parted ways with Lay Llamas previous steady vocalist Gioele Valenti, there’s a collaborative air to the record that accentuates its patchwork quality. Aside from the aforementioned Goat drop in, Mark Stewart of The Pop Group and members of Clinic also find their way to the grooves of Thuban and Giunta makes the most of the input of his influences.

Unlike his Swedish counterparts who might take it a step too far in the cosplay department, trying on their inspirations in full regalia, Lay Llamas have created an album that’s obsessed with the cornucopia of sounds blooming from the subcontinent but crafting that interest into a collage rather than an homage. The record winds up dark and danceable, brooding, apocalyptic and shambolic. With Thuban the band has succeeded in marrying the deep crates of Andy Votel’s Finder’s Keepers label with the sound-sculpture progressive pop of The Beta Band. More than just a sum of its parts though, the record works these into a flow that’s cinematic in its approach, never sticking too hard on one particular facet of the sounds he’s clipping and arcing from pop sunrise to a danger-imbued sunset by the album’s close. Thuban elevates Lay Llamas beyond the ones to watch pile and into endless repeat bin for all time.



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The Babe Rainbow – “Supermoon”

Aussie’s own sunset psych purveyors The Babe Rainbow return with a new album and another track that’s dipping into the narcotic beach vibes that have propped them up. “Supermoon” swings on a placid groove that’s buttered and balmy, just right for the onslaught of heat waves (well up in our hemisphere at least). They succeed in melting the track right into the floor, pooling with an ease that’s admirable in its resolve to relax. The track is the first salvo off of a new Flightless / 30th Century Records album, Double Rainbow out in July.

The band accompany the single with a hazy, psychedelic video that’s chock fulla, well, fruit. It’s got a ’70s Sesame Street educational segment quality to it that fits the breezy vibes quite well. Check it out below.




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New Parents

Out of the verdant and bountiful Pioneer Valley scene, recently a bastion of psych, comes the debut from New Parents. The band, largely the undertaking of Adam Langelloti (formerly of Sore Eros) takes its approach to psych lightly. Rather he keeps a light touch on the gas, not that he doesn’t take his work seriously, I’m sure his songs are his children, etc, etc, but the record proves that restraint fares just as well as dayglo effects and scorched guitars. Langelloti’s psych is ensconced in a peach haze of guitars, ghosts of brass and mournful strings trickle in through the background, and he’s warping everything just slightly at the edges in a way that brings to mind Gary War if he embraced pop in a much more ardent fashion. It seems that’s not such a stretch for comparison, as War himself is a collaborator and shows up on the standout track, “Well,” giving it a soft tweak of backwards vocals.

On tape New Parents are a vastly different beast than live. The stage sees them pull these songs out into a much looser territory, but while that’s fine in the room, its often hard to replicate on the record. To that effect Langelloti’s sun-baked pop does just fine in its compact form. There’s a hazy afternoon light haloing the entire record and over the course of eleven tracks he’s creating a summer sundown effect that’s initially carefree but lets its heart weigh heavy as the album weighs on. It’s a solid debut pulling from the worlds of folk and psych in equal measures with nods to Vetiver and Espers’ takes on the the same straddle. There’s also a shadow of Sore Eros in Langelloti’s work, but since that was largely Robert Robinson at the helm, its mostly a textural holdover.

As the days wax longer Transient Response feels like it might become a constant companion, a balm on the heat that’s as welcome as a cool rag on the back of the neck. In his debut Langelloti’s nailed the hammock swung feeling of idleness without guilt. The least we can do is indulge.



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Vive La Void’s Sanae Yamada on Midori Takada – Through The Looking Glass

When this feature first found its footing one of the initial participants was Ripley Johnson from Moon Duo / Wooden Shjips who dug deep on a sorely lost Aussie stunner from Fabulous Diamonds. A year on, and quite a few more Gems later, its great to now have both halves of the duo represented with a pick from Ripley’s partner in crime Sanae Yamada. With dozens of great Moon Duo records in her portfolio, Yamada broke out solo with her hypnotic new outing this year as Vive La Void. I was intrigued to see what Yamada’s pick would be, given her background in synth / psych / Kosmiche and as always the picks wind up being great surprises that further add to my own need to get to the record store. Sanae picked the 1983 album, Through The Looking Glass, from Japanese percussionist Midori Takada. She goes in depth on how the record came her way and how its impacted her own writing.

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Samara Lubelski

Samara Lubelski inhabits a world of subtle psychedelia. Her songs don’t hit you over the head with guitar pyrotechnics, effects or gimmick. Where other vocalists would belt, Lubelski prefers the intimacy of a whisper. Her songs hum along on a slipped frequency, and like a secret stretched between the notes her soft touch pushes the listener out of sync with time and space for just a while before it snaps back with an elastic ‘thwap’ as the album clicks to a close. She stitches the rhythmic burble of Krautrock to a knotted pop and sends it twisting through the mind with an effervescent fizz. Her hushed composure, paired with the delicate machinations of Flickers At The Station give the feeling of being shrunk and zipping through a molecular backdrop in perfect precision to Lubelski’s click-stop kaleidoscopic pop beat.

Though Lubelski has a folk and experimental background, her solo work increasingly picks up cues from Stereolab, melding the band’s progressive rubric to the airy folk-pop delivery of The Free Design or Wendy & Bonnie. Chalk this up to Lubelski’s continued collaboration with German pop tinkerers Metabolisumus, who serve as backing band for the recordings here. With their aid she helps to push her songwriting through the cigarette burn flicker of the film strip pop she’s been working towards, winding up in a feeling caught between sleeping and dream, nodding out while the 60’s science lesson filters in through the classroom speakers above. Flickers winds up yet another solid notch in Lubelski’s catalog- warm, nostalgic, and expertly built.



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