There were few true markers to indicate the shift that Tonstartssbandht would make on their latest album Petunia. While Sorcerer was an excellent bout of ectoplasmic psych — bouncing around the room in reverberated ripples — the album was a decidedly more overcast affair than what Petunia approaches. The seeds of the jam element here take root, so there’s definitely a hint, but the tape scratch shroud lays heavy still, echoing their earlier, more lo-fi days. The title track has fun, but not quite in the more immediate ways that Petunia seems to revel. Plus the songs are more interested in tempo downshifts, something that seems to have burnt off like a morning fog this time around. Between 2017 and now the band’s most prominent pieces were a single for Mexican Summer’s Looking Glass series, which was still rooted in a darker, more ‘lost’ psychedelic sense and another one-off from the label’s 10th Anniversary comp.
This might actually be the germ of Petunia, if honesty prevails. On the surface, its seems unlikely. The song is a cover of The Rutles’ “Livin’ In Hope,” itself a riff on the Ringo-penned “Don’t Pass Me By,” though one might argue that the spoof might outstrip the original in terms of catchiness. The band’s cover lends a looseness to the Tonstartssbandht formula, and this feeling seems to bleed all over Petunia. The brothers snap into a fidelity that they’d eschewed long into their career, finding themselves wading into a jam-psych soaking that’s almost refreshing in its straightforwardness. From the opening moments they’re mixing the lush psychedelics of Super Furry Animals at their most restrained, Popul Vuh at their most pastoral, and rippling with the kind of Cosmic Americana that Garcia Peoples have made their trademark these past couple of years.
With most songs pushing past the seven-minute mark, it’s clear that the aim is to expand these on stage, and this holds over from Sorcerer’s longform tendencies, yet makes the new songs click in a way that the previous album just missed by a hair or two. With their two-piece instrumentation they make the most of a scant setup, feeling like guitar and drums fill out an as much of a footprint as bands pushing 5-7 members. With Tonstartssbandht’s airy psychedelics, its almost not noticeable that the setup is as limited as it is, especially when they stack the harmonies like Apple records aficionados. Every year there’s an album that just leaps out of blue and takes hold and I think that Petunia might be the contender this year. I wasn’t expecting something on this level from the brothers White, but they deliver and then some, sending this album straight to the top of the 2021 favorites list.
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