Words by Andrew Fetter
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.
So, things are kinda weird aren’t they? I hope each and every one of you are staying safe and healthy. And managing your sanity the best you can. Most of us haven’t left our homes for weeks or at least days. I had a hard time figuring out how to start this month’s dispatch from the haze. New music is probably something that’s the furthest from people’s minds. I’ll admit, I tuned it out for a minute as well. But at the same time, music is the best form of escapism, which can come in handy during these times, if only in small doses. And I’ve got a handful of releases this month that should do the trick quite nicely.
Hailing from Greece, Electric Feat (Inner Ear) brings to mind a lot of staples of 70’s heavy stoner rock with their self-titled debut. Sure, the Sabbath and Hendrix influences are flat out undeniable. There’s even hints to Bad Company (which believe me, I have no problem with). But even more there are fingerprints from bands like Dust (with drummer Marc Bell, later known as Marky Ramone), Leaf Hound, Sir Lord Baltimore and Toad. The highlight on this album is “The Caveman”, which has this cool dark and eerie start that’s similar to The Doors that you can easily get lost in. It then kicks into high gear halfway through and doesn’t let up until the end. It’s on the much heavier end of the Psych Rock spectrum, so you can headbang to it, after you light one up.
If there was any band at all that could write the soundtrack to the times we’re living in, it’s Lord Buffalo (Blues Funeral Recordings). As much as you could classify them as a folk act, they write what seems a bit closer to “anti-folk.” Their latest album Tohu Wa Bohu is a dark ominous and yet heavy album to listen to while watching the world just get more and more fucked up, whereas most traditional folk will point out the flaws in the world but also search for solutions. The title itself translates both as a void/emptiness and chaos/disorder. Songs like “Dog Head” and “Wild Hunt” have that heavy blues vibe that you get from earlier All Them Witches albums. “Halle Barry” is as close to a single as you can get from an album this heavy (both in sound and subject matter). Elements of Sabbath and Swans just draw you in with a hypnotic groove that just abruptly ends with no build to it, adding to Tohu Wa Bohu ’s overall bleak vibe.
It’s only April, but it’s safe to say Irma Vep’s (Gringo Records) latest album, Embarrassed Landscape, is a top contender for Album Of The Year. It’s an album full of contradictions that all seem to fit together. The 10 minute opener “King Kong” takes several twists and turns to give a taste of what the next 35 minutes will bring. Songs like “Not Even” and “The Feeling Is Gone” are more simple and straightforward, bringing a more heavy psych pop/rock vibe that’s also “balanced” out by mellower songs like “Tears Are The Sweetest Sauce” and the album’s closer “Canary”. The former has an almost classic country ballad vibe that, even if it fits, creates an odd centerpiece to the whole record.
I have always had a sort of love/hate relationship with jazz. It was forced on me in high school as “real music.” And the rebellion often paired with the punk rock I’d been cutting me music teeth on always made me reject it. Sure, I’ve grown an appreciation for the influence it’s had on music I listen to now (particularly bands like Tortoise), but there’s still something that I will occasionally cringe at when I hear it in its “purest” form. Oh Yeah? the latest LP by Sunwatchers (Castle Face Records), has elements both of what I love about the genre and, to be fair, what I don’t love about it. However, the psych elements of each song, particularly the album’s lengthy closer “The Earthsized Thumb” make those not so enjoyable elements fade pretty quickly.
The last morsel I have for you is the latest 7” from Psychic Ills (Sacred Bones Records). Sadly, frontman Tres Warren passed away earlier this month, at a time when the band had an album’s worth of material ready to be recorded and released. Music that was said to take the band in an interesting new direction. It seems that material will not see the light of day. However, they did record this last pair of songs that have a pretty interesting connection. The A-Side is a cover of The Beach Boys’ “Never Learn Not To Love”, the B-Side a cover of the song “Cease To Exist” written by Charles Manson, which became the inspiration for “Never Learn Not To Love,” which is part of the much discussed connection between Manson and Beach Boys’ drummer Dennis Wilson. There’s a significant difference between the two original songs, but what Warren does with them seems to bridge the gap a bit. You still hear subtle differences, but the similarities are possibly unavoidable because of the legendary connection between the original artists, or maybe because it’s the same band covering both songs.