Despite what has to be one of the most throwaway band names of the year, the trio of Phil Manley (Trans Am, The Fucking Champs), Donny Newenhouse, and Phil Becker bring a serious dose of mind flay to the table. The three are all connected to the Bay Area studio El Studio as owners and engineers and the band simply got together testing out new equipment in the studio space. Turns out quite a lot of those late night extended jams had weight, and with Manley on guitar, that’s not hard to believe. The guitarist has been a guiding force not only in Trans Am, but as a producer behind the boards on albums from Citay, Barn Owl, The Fresh & Onlys among others, with engineering work on tons more. With Terry Gross, he lets loose a massive sonic scorch, tearing at the cosmic veins with enough amplifier punishing riffs to force open a black hole or two.
Thankfully in experimenting with their gear, the trio kept some tape rolling and the ad hoc vibes lend a vital bent to Soft Opening. Newenhouse and Becker spread down a bedrock that never lags behind Manley’s clear cut crush, tumbling with a cavernous growl that keeps the pace on tracks that push up to almost twenty minutes. Honesty, I’m never gonna turn down an album that opens with a song called “Space Voyage Mission” and that kinda sets the tone from there. Hawkwind fortified pounders that get thick in the mix leave the band chomping down on the psychedelic tailpipe and exhaling a lungful of tar-laced mind shakers. The record is huge and heavy and lost in a Bermuda Triangle of punishing psych groove that’s hypnotic in its moments. I recommend strapping in for the ride.
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