Posts Tagged ‘Psych’

Causa Sui

El Paraiso Records is already on a tear this year with the epic, crushing release from Mythic Sunship, a slinking Kosmiche LP from Astral TV and now they cement it with an incendiary new record from flagship band Causa Sui. Splitting time between a tsunami of thick, frothy stoner rock vibes and a more space-rock approach that lifts them up out of the Sabbath ‘n Sleep ghetto of doom chasers, this record solidifies the Danish band’s worthiness on the stage of heavy psych flayers. It pushes their profile past the circuit of European psych bands to render them players on the world stage.

Though touted as a ‘mini LP,’ the record is anchored by two huge jams clocking in at 9+ minutes and they know how to use that length to their advantage. Hell, there’s really only one track here that dips below 7-min. Centerpiece “El Fuego” is a hammer-stung bit of metal-tipped prog that seethes with the appropriate amount of fire espoused by its title. “Seven Hills” follows shortly after with an almost cleaner burn, just plowing every living thing in its path with a spritz of lava and pumice before cooling off into a shimmering black glass sheen. The band has always proven their prowess in the live setting (see their recent Live in Copenhagen set for proof) but they’re proving that the studio is every bit their muse with this record. If the band had a foothold in the hearts of psych collectors before, they’ve just latched on permanently with a batch of tunes that never relent.



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OCS

As Castle Face rightly points out in any mention of this album, it seems that in all the amplifier fallout that John Dwyer has amassed in the past decade, people forget that the seed of Thee Oh Sees was a much more acoustic vision. I remember seeing “the guy from Coachwhips” at a show many years back in NY club Rothko (RIP) and trying to get people to hush the constant whinging about when Ted Leo was coming on. Dwyer was still banging the project into shape, but his presence was as indelible then as it is now. Revisiting the hushed ambiance, but with a hefty bit of vision and refinement under his belt, this version of OCS is again acting as a respite from John’s more flammable works.

This time the ramshackle folk is replaced by a loving ode to ’60s chamber folk records. Strings yawn underneath the hushed bedtime pop of Dwyer and longtime Oh Sees companion Brigid Dawson and the compositions skew heavily to the lush, yet mournful. The love of this era of psych has peeked into the band’s catalog but never taken center square until now. There are shades of Subway, Nick Garrie, The End, Susan Christie, and Sunforest flickering into view as we ease into this new incarnation of the band. As the record progresses impressions of The Free Design and The United States of America surface as well, but it’s clear that the synthesis of influence on this can’t be pointed at any one band. It’s a true divination of the murkier side of the ’60s. This is the sound of someone getting frustrated with searching out a certain sound from the crates and just doing it better themselves.

Dawson acts as the perfect melancholy specter on the album, with her veiled delivery sitting Shiva for the hearts of a hundred crackled ’45s. The bench on this record gets even deeper though, with Mikal Cronin chipping in a full horn workup on some tracks and those note-perfect strings, courtesy of Heather Lockie’ (Spiritualized, Sparkelhorse, Cory Hanson) making all the difference here – pushing the listener into a deep, lush vista of sound. There’s even a few breakdowns from original member Patrick Mullins, driving this into Soft Machine territory. The record’s probably not a pickup for the casual Oh Sees fan, maybe not even the devout, if JD’s scuzz is what you crave. But for those of us who are always looking for more candlelit visions of bittersweet warble, this is a nice gift. If you were charmed by Cory Hanson’s excursion into similar territory then you’ll feel right at home here. Honestly, even if you do usually come for the fuzz, maybe just sink back into this one and cool off.



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Sunwatchers – “Silent Boogie”

Brooklyn’s Sunwatchers follow up their chaotic record for Castle Face with a new slab for perennial favorite Trouble in Mind. The first cut off of Sunwatchers II is a searing skin-melter with Jeff Tobias’ sax splitting hairs between the fult-tilt simmer of ’60s garage-punk and the unrestrained reaches of free jazz. They come down hard with a rhythm tumble that’s unstoppable and a sway over skronk that’s formidable and menacing. They remind me of the psych-jazz tumble of Cato Salsa/The Thing/Joe McPhee’s Two Bands and a Legend in a very good way. Gonna want to get into this when February rolls around, it’ll brighten up a the dark days and warm the cold nights.




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Gökçen Kaynatan – S/T

I’d trust Finders Keepers to get me briefed on anything from the glory days of Turkish psych. The label has already proven their mettle with releases from Selda Bagcan, Gençlik Ile Elele and Ersen and they seem to have a conduit that few Westerners are plugged into. They continue the riffling of the past with a reissue of the compiled works of Gökçen Kaynatan. Already a burgeoning part of the Anatolian rock scene and a builder of custom instruments, he was a pioneer of introducing electronics into the folds of Turkish pop.

His discography spanned just four singles, but with access to a private studio filled with technological wonders of the time he pushed psych-pop out of its fuzz-laden lair and into much weirder and wilder territory than before. There were certainly others doing similar work across Germany and eventually the US and UK, but Kaynatan gives it that touch of Anatolian flair that’s endeared the likes of Barış Manço and Erkin Koray to me over the years. The songs slink with a strange funk and reach for something intangibly cool. Following this work, Kaynatan began a career that would see him shape the sound of programs on Turkish National channel TRT 1. Somehow its not surprising that this auteur wound up in Library compositions as there’s definitely a feeling of that ilk pressed between these nine gems.




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Gunn-Truscinski Duo

Has it really been since 2012 that Steve Gunn and John Truscinski paired their prowess to purge a temperamental squall from their instruments? Seems that it has, but the pair is back together and despite Gunn’s rather meteoric rise in the interim, it feels like not a day has passed in their symbiotic sonic pact. Bay Head, their new LP, sounds like two artists making music simply for themselves and the cut cord of commercial appeal suits them nicely.

Moving away from Gunn’s recent reliance on pop structure, the record builds its stormfronts on both his fingerpicked runs, threading the album like looped vines of sound, and a more caustic, rusted metal explosion of corroded fuzz. The album is, for the most part, covered in clouds that are grey streaked and threatening at times, but when the duo lets a little light in there’s a peek of delicacy as well (“Shell,” “Some Lunar Day”). Even Gunn’s most enticing moments, however, are not without a bouquet of thorns for listeners who relax into their twined beauty too quickly. This is not a sunshine ramble of folk, but rather a full picture of turmoil and respite.

The real beauty here is in the interplay between the two artists. With guitar and percussion duos the language is the most important thing and Gunn and Truscinski know how to converse, playing off one another in subtle nudges. When the guitars threaten to boil, scratching at their amps like caged animals, Truscinski pulls the chain, tumbling with Gunn but knowing where the boundaries lie. Bay Head is ecstatic and free, but never messy, never threatening to buck its listener. This album is a reminder of just how potent these two musicians can be, and even if its another five years before we get another one, it’ll have been worth it.




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Headroom

New Haven psych institution Mountain Movers are driven by the restrained fury of guitarist Kryssi Battalene, but whatever impossible dynamics she’s laid down in the past for her mainstay, she’s doubled down on for her own solo work as Headroom. The band’s debut, Head In The Clouds opens with “How To Grow Evil Flowers, a track which certifiably burns down the farm and walks away with a serial killer stare. The guitars are charred, carcinogenic, and aching for more at each and every turn – but what really cements Headroom is that slash n’ burn psych isn’t what defines them.

As the record sidles into the second track there are overt notes of shoegaze that crop up. Battalene’s voice is lost inside a squall, but it’s calm and crouching, a stark contrast to the opener’s napalm glow of guitar fire. The remainder of the album balances these two forces, struggling to see which one wins out. There’s always a notion that Battalene will catch fire like a human torch of bottled emotion and burn the whole track down but the tension that drives that question is the heart and backbone of the entire endeavor. She’s a master of dialed in dynamics, surfing the wave of feedback like a seasoned vet. Where others might easily go in for excess and opulence in the realm of psychedelic fury, Battalne is as nuanced as they come.

This year also saw a record from Mountain Movers, and I must say that it was a captivating release, one that caught my ear and revealed how much the homegrown New Haven band had to offer. She’s saved the best work for her self, though, waiting out her tenure to begin bleeding a feedback whirlwind all over two sides of flat black plastic. This is the eye and the storm, the flame and the fuel. The record winds up both the calm you need and the spark to set it all ablaze, and for that Battalene has bested a good swath of her peers who’d falter in the same challenge.




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VA – Even A Tree Can Shed Tears

Light in the Attic, like Numero, has never gone in for half measures. When a release is compiled, they’re throrough, swaddling it in impeccable design and restoring lost music to its rightful place on your speakers. So, with this in mind it was an exciting announcement that the label would be starting a new Japanese archival series looking at different scenes and subgenres throughout the region. Their first take puts the focus on the ’60s and the folk movement that grew out of student protests, “authentic folk” leanings and the beginnings of psychedelic folk. Much of this came under the banner of “New Music” which tied together the Eastern and Western regional strains.

The collection is stitched with a wonderful slide in and out of the more authentic, stripped-down artists, many of whom find a plaintive beauty in their compositions. The songs are clearly leaning away from what would have been traditional Japanese folk, but also working in the same way that their British and American counterparts had contrasted the more pop sounding beat groups. While there’s certainly an argument to be made for more Japanese traditional influence to rear its head, this collection stands as an interesting argument for the West’s pervasiveness on young people at the time.

Light in the Attic has shone a light over many voices that seem left out of the current conversation in Japanese music. It’s easy to connect the dots between Takashi Nishioka’s subtle boil of fuzz and later works by Masaki Batoh. For me, personally, so much of my contact with Japanese music is rooted in the noisier ends of psych, the discordant ends of rock and, when scrubbed up, the more beat-leaning ’60s groups like Jacks or Apryl Fool. It’s great to have a collection that brings the underground beauty of these artists to the foreground. Can’t wait to see what LIA digs into in this series next, but for now, this one’s a keeper.

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Mapache

L.A. duo Mapache are probably a bit late on their particular sound a couple of times over, but that’s kind of the charm of it. The band is evoking the vibes that ran through the country-tinged revival that pushed bands Beachwood Sparks and The Tyde into the modern lexicon – their own sound itself just a reflection of The Flying Burritos, solo Gram, Gene Clark and The Byrds before them. The connection to those ’90s psych stalwarts is no chance happening, though. The band’s Clay Finch is a cousin to Beachwood’s Chris Gunst, who has championed the youngbloods along with The Tyde’s Brent Rademaker. Both have stepped up to push the young duo to their place among L.A.’s live set.

With that kind of endorsement and lineage you’re either coasting on the fumes of nepotism or you had better be able to back it up. The eponymous debut from the duo boasts more of the latter thankfully. It breaks with the widescreen, panoramic production of their mentors, instead opting for spare arrangements that focus on the pairs’ voices, often all tangled up in one another. Their simple country-folk songs evoke evening light and the feel of sunburn tightening on the skin. Often boasting simple setups that put slide and strum in sway with an amber-hued croon, their songs aren’t overwrought, but it’s easy to see how they could sink a crown into the bliss of permanent summer.

There’s an eternal quality to the songs, a feeling that they’ve just been around bouncing from bar band to bar band in the neighborhoods of L.A. for the last 50-odd years and Mapache has just now put these public domain yarns to wax. That’s certainly what they’re stretching for and more often than not, they hit that vibe effortlessly on the head. Some bands try damn hard to feel like they just showed up and strummed out a weary, road-dusted classic. Seems like Mapache have found a way to breezily harness eleven of them, each one sinking into the horizon with a deeper orange, kicking up the crickets as they fade away.




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Colleen – “Winter Dawn”

Perennial Thrill Jockey favorite Colleen is back and sinking deeper into the Kosmiche end of the pool. Ahead of her upcoming album A Flame My Love, A Frequency, she’s released a slow, mesmerizing video to the track “Winter Dawn”. Where before, Cécile Schott had worked through rippling compositions full of strings and built on an abundance of open atmospheres, now she takes as turn towards buzzing synths closing in her world with the rhythmic hum of a mechanical heartbeat. With her cave-echoed delivery, the song feels as vital as she’s ever been, taking a plunge toward analog psychedelics with a composer’s heart. The video, filled with gorgeously composed oil works by Connor R. Burke, is an absolutely engrossing watch that pairs perfectly with her new reliance on paced thrum.



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Premiere: Frankie & The Witch Fingers – “Sunshine Earthquake”

As they head out on tour L.A.’s Frankie & The Witch Fingers offer up a peek into the psych-soul revival that threads its way throughout their fizzing new album, Brain Telephone. The band has always had a knack for the video format, from the LSD Alice in Wonderland of “Get Down” to the psychedelic noir of “Merry Go Round” and the latest clip just piles on the exploded neon psych vibes that have kept them runnin’ all these years. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check the album, give it a spin and if they’re landing near you, be sure to go get a breath of the real thing. The stage is where they truly shine.

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Full tour dates below:

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