Posts Tagged ‘West Coast Psych’

Hurt Valley – “Apartment Houses”

Can’t go wrong with a Woodsist record, but this new cut from Hurt Valley is a particularly amber-hued reminder of what makes the label great. The band is the conception of California songwriter Brian Collins and he channels the windswept, sea salt sanded vision of West Coast country-psych with a steady hand. Honestly been looking more and more to this sound lately, so the beach chair strums and wisp of twang that soak into the struts of “Apartment Houses” are just what this week calls for. While Hurt Valley are definitely nestled into that Cali sound, which always evokes a bit of unseasonable warmth, there’s something of an Autumn appeal to this song — the summer sun has long since set, with the track pulling its sweatshirt stings tight against an evening chill that even the California coast can’t fight. The new record is out Decmber 6th. Gonna want to keep that date in mind.




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KAK – KAK

Almost too perfect that alongside the new cosmic collectives releasing sunshine and shade this week there’s a classic back on the table thanks to Mad about Guerssen. I first picked up a copy of KAK at the WFMU record fair years back. That cover just draws you in, a Kodachromed vision of California utopian psychedelia. The record makes good on the visual with room to spare. The record owes a great deal to Moby Grape, but they work to make their own way. The band, formed by Gary Lee Yoder and Dehner Patten, grew out of the pair’s former roots in the short-lived Oxford Circle. They recorded their sole album, released in 1969, but as usual with very little push from their record label, which sent it into obscurity for years. The record is built on a split between bluesy West Coast rockers and some more faded folk touches that dip into the waves with the sun.

While the record is often derided as being derivative of larger names, since the band came up alongside many of them its likely they were just swimming in the same stew. The hinge the record on the huge triple medley “Trieulogy” but the rest of the record easily stands up to the might of that one. After the record’s dismal reception, the band would part ways with Yoder going on to join Blue Cheer and recording a few solo singles. Guersson does this one good with a remaster, heavy sleeve, OBI and new liner notes by writer Alec Palao and members of the band.



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Allah Las – “In The Air”

Allah Las already made a nice divot in 2019 with their instrumental contributions to MexSum’s Self Discovery for Social Survival soundtrack, and if they’d stopped there I’d have called it a win for the band all around. Seems they have more in mind for the year, though and the band is springing off of that project to get back into the album game with their fourth album LAHS which finds its way out October 11th. The band is back in the breezy swing of West Coast jangle with salt in its beard on “In The Air. Calico Review saw the band darken their sound just a touch, putting an overcast air on their beach-bound sound, but the first taste of LAHS is little less than sun dappled and sand swept. The band’s making light with a Weekend At Bernie’s leaning video that makes good use out of their budget — hopping from hot air balloons to helicopter rides with comatose (or dead, you never know) band member in tow. I’m excited to see how the sand shakes out of this one when it lands in October. Check it above and catch the band on a full US tour this Winter.

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Monarch – “Beyond The Blue Sky”

Adding yet another voice to the current wave of Cosmic Americana, the sophomore LP from SoCal psych five-piece Monarch wafts in on canyon breezes. “Beyond The Blue Sky” is faded in that Kodachrome sunburst hue, worn-in just the right amount but still with a bit of burn. The band makes the most of a six-minute tumbler – entwining twin guitars with the sun-in swagger of their ‘70s forebears and lighting up the solo like fellow West Coast CA toasters Howlin’ Rain. The track comes as a warning shot from their upcoming LP, also titled Beyond The Blue Sky, out later this summer on Denmark’s El Paraiso Records. If you missed out on their first LP, this one threatens to eclipse it nicely, so there’s time to catch up and crack in.


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New Rose

Its been a solid year for country hued indie. From Aussie exports to homegrown US acts, there’s been plenty of mournful slides and a ton of twang among the best of 2018. You can now add to that clutch of releases the latest LP from New Rose. The Brooklyn band embraced country’s cradle on their previous album, Morning Haze, and they’ve settled nicely into the valley of the bittersweet bend for Crying Eyes. Recorded between Nashville and two visions of New York – the city and various upstate locales – the album is an autumnal comedown that’s seasonally adept with its heartache hues and mournful sighs. Where their last album found them in a state of transition, they’re now on a clear path to the depths of the human condition as rendered in the sunset’s golden glow.

On the new album the band taps into a ’70s vision of California as their core of inspiration, more-so than any Texan tropes or Nashville niche. While they pick up a bit of the latter from their studio time in country’s capitol city, essentially they’re drawing their grey skies from the Western whiles of the West Coast class this time around. There’s a languid approach to their drawl, unhurried, unfussed, but not unaffected. There’s a sense of loss and a resigned sigh to the band’s approach. The world has ground them down but not out and they’re here to give solace to others in the same sling of damnation.

While it might be hard to give the Laurel Canyon cred to a bunch of East Coasters who skewed closer to Gun Club than Gram Parson just a few short years ago, it has to be said that the band has put in the work. With their second foray into the cradle of croon they’ve smoothed out the kinks and found a buttery soul that’s hard to ignore. The record comes across more than just ten gallon dress up and nickle bourbon charms. They’ve spent some time wallowing in the sorrows of their ’60s country-psych predecessors and, even if its just osmosis working its magic, New Rose seem to have found sweet relief on Crying Eyes.



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Fapardokly – Fapardokly

California songwriter Merrell Fankkhauser touched down in severally ‘60s groups, beginning with the surf-bent Impacts before forming the psych group Merrell & The Exiles in 1964. The Exiles would eventually shuck that name to become Fapardokly. The thorny name was the result of combining letters from each of the members’ names, something that probably seemed a better idea at the time. The band held down a residency at the Pismo Beach venue The Cove while laying down songs over a number of years at Glenn Records’ founder Glen F MacArthur’s nearby studio. One of the tracks the band recorded, “Tomorrow’s Girl,” found its way onto Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, which helped turn their hodgepodge of studio tracks into an album for the hometown label.

Since it was recorded over several years, the style on the record evolves alongside the trends that transpired between ’64 and ’67. There are straightforward janglers, baroque ruminations and psych standouts peppered all over their eponymous LP. The record has found its way out before, but rarely in an authorized version. Sundazed worked out a CD a few years back, but this marks the return to vinyl and even boasts some archival photos and liner notes from Fankhauser himself. Its also returns the album’s original cover art, which had been degraded to lesser versions among bootleg issues of the record.

Though it would comprise his most essential recordings, Fapardokly didn’t mark the end for Fankhauser. He’d go on to have some nominal psych success with H.M.S. Bounty, a band that shared much common ground with later period Fapardokly. He’d wander towards a fractured blues in the ‘70s with MU, which saw him reconnect with Beefheart band member Jeff Cotton. Notably, Cotton was also briefly in Merrell & the Exiles, but wouldn’t become a member of Fapardokly proper. Nice to see this little gem back in print. Its probably not the most essential piece of the puzzle from the ‘60s but Fankhauser’s talent deserves a bit of a showcase. Well worth the time for Nuggets aficionados.



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Mixtape: Goin’ West

Been a while since there was a mixtape up, but these things take time and tenderness. For the latest mixtape I’m taking some inspiration from 2018’s slide towards Cosmic Americana. With albums from One Eleven Heavy, Garcia People, Howlin’ Rain, New Parents and Wet Tuna leading the charge back towards ’71-’72 I though it might be in order to round up some of those West Coast sounds that hit on resonant frequencies to the new crop of smooth players. While most, if not all, have already pledged allegiance to their own favorite boots of The Dead and there’s a communal love for Royal Trux, Little Feat, Crazy Horse and Levon Helm, I thought I’d scoop up some outer-stream suggestions to fit the bill. Ok, sure, I’m cheating a bit with the Flying Burrito inclusion, but despite a wealth of praise from any outlet that would let you listen, that one’s just a great song that fits the vibe.

Travel further down this roadmap of country-tinged, sun-soaked songs from ’69 on and feel the vibes slow down to a simmer for the end of summer. It’s not all West Coast -The Wizards from Kansas were actually from Kansas, Mountain Bus were from Chicago despite longing for the country – but each of these hits on that cosmic view of American psych that cropped up along the coast. It all winds down with one of the germs of the sound, The Charlatans’ “Alabama Bound,” a song that’s often been noted as being the proto-“Playing In The Band.” Artwork inspired by so many Grateful Dead bootlegs. Click below for tracklist and stream.

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Cool Ghouls

Three albums deep, Cool Ghouls are hitting their stride nicely. They’ve always had a good handle on the germ of West Coast rock that’s practically embedded in the pavement of their native San Francisco, now they’re just working to perfect it. With Kelley Stoltz on board, they’re coming pretty close, that’s for sure. The veteran engineer and producer (Thee Oh Sees, The Mantles, Sonny & The Sunset) helps the band find that eternal sunset, tightening the tracks on Animal Races into the kind of album that breezes by effortlessly and feels like its always just been a part of the West Coast jangle-pop lexicon. Where their previous album, A Swirling Fire Burning Through The Rye found them playing up the Beatles/Kinks harmonies, now they’re leaning full-bore into their Dead/Byrds/Quicksilver Messenger Service motions and feeling like they’re nailing the amount of carefree composure and sunlit harmonies necessary to pick up that yoke some forty years on.

What really makes it feel right, is that they’re not pedaling sunshine and cheer. The Byrds knew how to make a 12-string sing and lift your heart, but they also knew that a bittersweet soul makes a catchy chorus stick with listeners long after that earworm fades. Animal Races has that lilting sadness running through its waters, evident in the forlorn sighs and yearning pedal steel of “When You Were Gone” and “(If I Can’t Be) The Man” or the world weary lyrics of “Days.” If you want to be the kind of person to nitpick, no there’s nothing revolutionary happening on Animal Races. The sound has been around and, as I mentioned, Cool Ghouls are merely perfecting their take on it, and honing a crisp version of their heroes’ headway. But no one says that the walls all need to crumble for a record to be great. Animal Races succeeds because it sets a tone and blooms as an album of skilled tradesmen finding sweetness in sadness.



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Sitting Bull – Trip Away

That this record ever nabs a Krautrock tab is solely because the band is German and came up during the
70s timeframe that produced many of those bands. It bears none of the hallmarks of the genre. What’s more interesting is that its a German band that seems to wholly and heavily in-debt themselves to West Coast American rock. They pull much more from Quicksiler Messenger Service, heavier Moby Grape, Kak or West Coast imitators like The Wizards From Kansas than any of their own country’s heavy hitters. The band is often most notable for being founded by Bernd Zamulo, who joined The Lords around 1965 and would remain in their lineup throughout their most successful years. Stateside The Lords are a bit of an blip, garnering some acclaim on compilations like Nuggets that focus on some of their more accessible garage fare. In their home country though, they were highly successful, albeit erratic and prone to lean into drinking songs. They’d release five albums and at least a dozen singles in the span of just four years.

Zamulo sought to break out of The Lords shadow to something more progressive and formed Sitting Bull, named after his fascination with Native American iconography, a trait that’s a bit cringe-worthy in hindsight but not so surprising in 1971. The band secured a deal with CBS and was allowed to record at their whims mostly on the good will of Zamulo’s ties to The Lords and his former success. The recording sessions proved lengthy and after the record was finished the company promoted two singles and setup a continental tour for the band, who immediately soured their reputation with the company by proving unreliable in getting to gigs. They’d break up two years later and by ’75 Zamulo would be back with a reformed Lords. The record, however stands up as a solid run of ’70s early progressive, with the band’s strength leaning on heavy jams that extend into solos and breakdowns that pushed the length of pop tracks at the time. Surprisingly the album itself actually did well in Germany despite the band’s efforts to self-sabotage. The reissue on Long Hair draws in two bonus singles that the band cut for Philips just before they broke up. Its probably not going to be the most essential piece in a collection but for completists and West Coast-style enthusiasts its a fun listen.



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