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… with all the crazy shit going on in 2020, there’s been a bit of mid-90s nostalgia that I’ve been digging on lately. Shiner released their first album in almost 20 years that easily plants both feet in the era they existed in and the present. And now there’s a new Hum record. Yeah, a new Hum record. Inlet (Polyvinyl Records), their first release in 2 decades as well, was released with almost no promotion to build on. Sure there had been rumors here and there about songs being written, but just all of a sudden, it was there. It’s almost like the band wanted the record to stand on its own as opposed to some hyped up “reunion album”. And it really does. Much like the new Shiner record, this is obviously the same band that made “Stars” and “Green to Me.” But this record isn’t 90s Hum. This is 2020 Hum. In both instances it’s hard to really explain what I mean by that. Just that the gap in time between records is evident but in a very natural way. And it’s been one of many nice audio escapes that’s been keeping my head above water this month.
This month’s dispatch from the haze features new psych rock releases that all lean on the heavier side of the spectrum. Almost in the heavier stoner rock category, but still applicable for us. We’ll start with two new badass fuzz rock records released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Black Rainbows’ eighth offering, Cosmic Ritual Supertrip, will have you headbanging in between bong rips. The riffs are as thick as anything you’d get from Sabbath. The lead off track “At Midnight You Cry” as well as “Radio 666” hit hard and fast right off the top, reminiscent of the last Hound record. By comparison, Geezer’s album Groovy, is a bit more, well, groovy. With a heaviness that matches Black Rainbows, there are hints of Monster Magnet and Kyuss which give a more slower and droning feel. “Dig” starts us off, which, sure, continues with the slightly ridiculous hippie lingo as the band’s name and album title. But it’s such a great song and a hell of an opener makes that it’s a pretty easy thing to overlook. The title track, again, lives up to the name perfectly. Tied all together it makes for an easy record to just zone out to. Plus, the artwork looks like a poster you’d see in a head shop, so the complete package should give you a nice contact high.
Tia Carrera’s latest album Tried and True (Small Stone Records) is an enjoyable 37 minute blues/psychedelic rock trip. This Austin, Texas based instrumental trio (duo until the recent addition of bass player Curt Christenson) brings you essentially what would happen if Hendrix made a follow up to the Band Of Gypsys LP. The long, drawn out jams are reminiscent of Earthless and Jason Morales’s guitar work brings to mind bands like All Them Witches and Dead Meadow. Doing this instrumentally is tricky. You either run the risk of making the songs too repetitive or too showy with guitar solos that go nowhere and just last too long. Thankfully Tia Carrerra have found that sweet spot that keeps things interesting and easy to just enjoy the ride.
Is it fitting that band in the “sludge” realm of heavy music is based in our nation’s capital? I’d like to think so. D.C. based Sorge has a nice little EP out that gives a good introduction to their brand of psychedelic doom. While I’m hesitant with releases that veer into straight metal territory (that’s another Andrew’s column) this still has that “Head Space” appeal. There’s just an incredible power behind Joshua Gerras’s vocals, only matched by the band as a whole. Even for an EP, there’s a lot to absorb here in these four songs. Closer “Astral Burnout” is the standout with riffs that almost give the Melvins a run for their money.
Lastly: in a previous column I touched on the subject of psychedelic substances with an analysis of Jefferson Airplane’s classic song “White Rabbit.” I recently watched the new Netflix documentary Have A Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics. It shows the contrast of anti-drug propaganda and the experiences of people like Ad Rock, Sarah Silverman, Natasha Lyonne and A$AP Rocky and the like who have actually experienced psychedelics. Their experiences are mostly positive and followed up with a few tips to get through your first “trip.” The most obvious being “Don’t Drive”. But things like “Don’t Look In The Mirror” …something I wouldn’t have thought of but makes perfect sense. The film already gets bonus points for using the music of Yo La Tengo throughout. Plus having interviewed Anthony Bourdain before his passing gave me some happiness. But overall the anecdotes (both good and…well…interesting) aren’t attempting to sway the viewer in one direction or another, just saying, “here’s what I experienced.” What happens beyond that is up to you.