Words by Andrew Ryan 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 (Past episodes are archived online). 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.
Pink Floyd – Ummagumma (Harvest)
As we inch ever closer Pink Floyd’s era as classic rock radio darlings, this month we’re taking a look at Ummagumma. Certainly one of their more bizarre releases, this showcases two parts of a band that often get overlooked by a mere studio album: how their music translates in a live setting, and highlighting the songwriting capabilities of each individual member. Ummagumma provides us with both. The first disc consists of live recordings of songs from their first two albums. It begins with a Syd-less version of “Astronomy Domine” from Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. I’m instantly in awe of how they were able to seamlessly incorporate Gilmour into this song, while not erasing one bit Syd’s influence. Also performed is a b-side called “Careful With That Axe Eugene” which features Roger Waters screeching like a wild animal. It’s great. The second disc consists of solo compositions written and performed solely by each individual member. And each piece not only uniquely showcases each member’s abilities to craft and perform on their own merits, it also highlights what each member brings to create the sound we know as Pink Floyd. It makes for a very interesting transition into Atom Heart Mother, which we will tackle in the new year.
Montreal’s Population II is a perfect fit to the Castle Face roster with their debut album À La Ô Terre. One minute into “Introspection” and it’s easy to see why John Dwyer was enthusiastic to work with them. It’s in that same vein of noisy distorted psych-punk as Osees, but with a much jazzier, prog vibe. After spending so much time with these early Pink Floyd records, this record fits right in that same niche, in the best possible way. With the lyrics being in French, there isn’t really a “language barrier” if it’s not your first (or even fifth or sixth) language. The vocals are used sparingly, as if just another instrument to layer under the rest of it. And those layers, including distorted saxophone here and there for good measure, create a pretty great soundscape to put you in a good trance.
And from that we jump (though not too far) to “The Loser That Always Wins”, the ominous opening track from Holy Sons’ latest album Raw And Disfigured (Thrill Jockey). In just the songs’s chorus, Emil Amos has captured wonderful melodies and harmonies reminiscent of great 70s singer/songwriters. And while another dark and gloomy album might be the absolute last thing we need to close out this year, Amos isn’t necessarily summoning armageddon. Sure there is a dark vibe throughout, but it’s paired with a bit of hope to create an accurate sense of where we are. You have to weave through the mystery a bit to find it. With Amos performing the bulk of the instruments (with some assistance from Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley), there’s almost a channelling of Floyd at certain spots, whether in the vocal harmonies or in the Gilmour-esque guitar playing throughout. And the album’s closer “Bloody Strings” with Amos solely on piano ties everything up with a nod back to earlier song “Permanent Things.” It’s just a simple reminder of the trip he’s taken us all on.
I’ve been wondering for a while if a six degrees of Ty Segall could be a real thing. He’s in, what, 10 bands? Plus a plethora of solo releases in a fairly short run. And I don’t think I’ve been more excited for a Segall-adjacent release than the third Fuzz album, simply titled III (In the Red). This collaboration with Segall, Charles Mootheart and Chad Ubovich (both also from a slew of bands that roam all the same circles as Segall) centers around the members’ affinity for simple heavy rock riffs. And the riffs on III are the most Sabbath laden from Fuzz yet. And one of the things that is so great about Ty and all of the collaborations he’s involved in: no idea stays put. They are able to expand on these riffs in several directions and the end is usually on the other side of the world from the beginning. But it’s at least still the same world.
Splintered Metal Sky is probably the most appropriate title for the latest release from New York City’s White Hills. After years of honing their Hawkwind meets Stooges brand of psych rock, they seem to have gone down the noise/industrial road with this latest album. They’ve created an album that, at first listen, sounds like splintered metal. And while it’s a very jarring change from their past work, it’s still a great album. And more so a great White Hills album. Songs like “Honesty” and “Illusion” would fit just fine in a set list with “Pads of Light” (from Flying On This Rock released on years ago). And there slight hints to it on their last record, but I think they were really looking to embrace a whole new aesthetic with Splintered Metal Sky, and it’s one that suits them.
The Brown Acid series has been one of my favorite recent discoveries. Riding Easy Records has assembled now 11 albums worth of lesser and in some cases entirely unknown stoner and psych rock tunes from the 60s and 70s. And this latest installment is just as amazing as its predecessors, with more selections from pretty unlikely places. And honestly, that almost adds as much allure as the music itself. Opening track “Something Else” by Tacoma, WA’s Adam Wind, starts this collection strong by channeling Mudhoney a couple of decades before they even existed. And while Sault Ste Marie, MI’s Renaissance Fair should lose a point or two not spelling it “Faire”, their insanely weird and great track “In Wyrd” might be understandably obscure, but the oddness of it pushes it into “gem” status. And as an Iowa boy I can’t not give a small shout out to Fort Dodge’s West Minist’r. Their track “I Want You” might be easily labeled as textbook radio classic rock. And it is. But it’s easy to see why they enjoyed at least a limited run as a band, releasing a handful of singles in the span of six years. The whole collection is another great addition to a series that gets better with each new addition.