2021 saw the debut(s) from Jeffrey Alexander’s Heavy Lidders, the PA crushers that he’s been heading for the past few years with members of Elkhorn and Kohoutek. The band last hit the speakers straddling two halves of their headspace — one, a heavy, heady instrumental creep through psychedelic blues, and the other, offering nods to the damaged ‘80s auras of Meat Puppets, Giant Sand and SST-era Screaming Trees. This time around the band smelts their sound to the psychedelic core, keeping quite a bit of the scorch from Elixor Of Life, while pushing the band further into the arms of space rock, flirting with the euphoric ends of the shoegaze family tree, and garnering a few jazz-psych scars.
The record, produced by Chris Forsyth, finds the band’s foundation expand with a litany of studio-side guests. Forsyth himself drops ‘round for some guitar, with soundscapes filled in by Animal Collective’s Geologist on Hurdy Gurdy, vocals from Kate Wright (Movietone), percussion from Ryan Jewell, sax from Jeff Tobias (Sunwatchers), and keys from Brent Cordero (Psychic Ills). Alexander lights into the record with nods back to the Crazy Horse crux that’s underscored a lot of his past work with the band, but things quickly begin to aim for more cosmic climates. The record’s arc follows themes of environmental collapse, tying together into a narrative of that finds Jeffrey putting his children onto a rocket to escape the dying planet behind them. There’s a kind of hope underscoring the bleakness behind that idea, and as the album progresses that hope ebbs and flows, pitting the air of uncertainty against the shadow almost certain collapse.
“Counting Up and Down” is dragged into the dire nature, the grit of reality before the album leans into it’s arc of otherworldly escape. As the record moves towards conclusion, more and more lightness is injected into the mix. “Departure” adopts a doomed folk countenance before the fire and blues-scarred fumes of “Lift Off” lead into the blissful fusion on “Mind Down.” The album’s centerpiece, and its highlight, finds the band entering the cosmic side of the spectrum, letting languid strums entwine higher consciousness curls from Jeff Tobias’ sax. “Star Power” sees the band as close to pop as they’ve ever come, exploring nebulous clouds that trade psych scorch for dreampop float. The album ends in an uneasy stasis, with “Aquanoise” floating off into the unknown, some of that hope worn away, but nonetheless lighter than we began. It’s an ambitious outing from the band, and Alexander succeeds in capturing the post-psych grandeur that he’s aiming for while also creating one of his headiest offerings yet.
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