Andrew Fetter has been writing about music for over the last decade and playing in bands for even longer. His latest endeavor is the radio hour, The Noise Kaleidoscope which airs Tuesdays from 4:30-5:30pm ET on 99.1FM WQRT in Indianapolis. On it he covers his personal collection and influences of psych rock from over the last half century, starting with early influences and reaching to it’s modern incarnations. Past episodes are archived online.
Apologies for my brief absence (for those that noticed). 2019 was an intense year. On a personal level, it was a shit show. Highlights were there of course: starting my weekly radio show, as well as this monthly column. Psych rock is a world that I am just a few years into really exploring fully. And both creative outlets have been amazing guides into that world. Last year, my columns explored broader topics within the genre, but coming up with those topics and exploring them in a timely manner (for if nothing else out editor’s sanity) became daunting. So, I didn’t. Moving forward, my intent is to start highlighting great psych releases that are out or on the horizon. The broader topics will still be explored here and there, but it’s more about what’s happening with the artists.
After so much hype and anticipation, Tame Impala finally released their new record, The Slow Rush. Despite being a few years old already, Currents (their last album) pretty much summed up last year for me, in so many ways. So I was anxious as hell to see what they would do next. After an appearance on SNL and the release of singles “Patience” and “Borderline,” I knew this was going to be a very different record for them. And the end result is definitely their strongest to date. It certainly has caused some extreme reactions, both positive and negative. Because why wouldn’t it? I saw a lot of comparisons (mostly meant as an insult) to the Bee Gees. But is that a bad thing? Sorry, nope. It might actually explain my love for this band in general. Yeah, I’ll say it, even “Elephant” could have been a Bee Gees song. Sure it’s much poppier and not as guitar/rock driven, but Currents gave such a huge hint of the band heading in this direction. Plus, if the beat for “Lost In Yesterday” doesn’t make you want to dance, sorry, you’re dead inside. The thing is, pop music is like comfort food. You consume it and it just makes you feel warm and cozy. And we need shit like that right now, while the whole damn world is on fire.
Arbouretum has provided another great album to accompany the current disarray the world has found itself in. They’ve always been one of those bands where you always know what you’re going to get when a new record comes out. I’d argue it’s more a matter of consistency than predictability, however. The elements of folk and 70’s psychedelic are as present as ever on Let It All In, with some new ideas thrown in (piano and layers of horns provide some perfect accents without drawing unnecessary attention). And what ties it all together is that David Heumann is just a damn good songwriter. The sounds and lyrics always take the listener on a journey that’s so surreal. In the midst of so much chaos, this is a record that can provide a bit of escapism and set your mind at ease, while not necessarily shutting the world out.
Earlier this year, Big Scenic Nowhere (a collaborative project with Gary Arce of Yawning Man and Bob Balch from Fu Manchu) released Vision Beyond Horizon a nice thick slab of desert/stoner rock. The riffs are sludgy as hell, heavy and hypnotic with moments that bring to mind the best of Monster Magnet and even Alice in Chains. And how can you not be into a band that formed over a mutual love of Del Taco? “Hidden Wall” which begins more subtly than the more heavy tracks, truly highlights the vocal abilities in the band, with harmonies that are just haunting and captivating. As with all great collaborations, you hear the best of each individual’s bands, but also something that is new and stands just fine on its own.
Finally, Ben Chasney has upped his game with Companion Rises, the latest release from his project Six Organs Of Admittance. It’s really a beautiful album, combining acoustic guitars and hand percussion with synths that just add color without overpowering everything else. The overall feel of the album is summed up in the title “Two Forms Moving.” With the contrast of acoustic and electric instrumentation, everything just builds on each other and it all blends together and it becomes just one singular voice (and that includes his actual vocals). There’s an hypnotic vibe to each song that’s actually quite eerie. And, much like other psych and folk records (particularly the previously discussed Arbouretum), Chasney’s songs take the listener on quite a journey. But this journey is different. There is a bigger feel of uncertainty, because of the contrast between the different sounds. And Chasney’s voice doesn’t have the same soothing effect as, say David Heumann’s. The higher range of his voice makes it feel more strained, almost as if he’s not totally sure where he’s going to take us either. Which, with psychedelic music, is sometimes the better way to go.