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 its modern incarnations.
Happy 2021! And while the year is certainly off to an… interesting start, one can hope that better times lie ahead.
Atom Heart Mother, Pink Floyd’s fifth album, is probably one of the most difficult albums I’ve tried to dissect. It’s not a bad album, it just further points that this is a band that played with so many sounds and styles before really becoming the band we all know. Beginning with the 23 minute title track that is as expansive as it is captivating, we’re starting to see even more hints of where the band would take their music into their more pinnacle years. More than once I found myself wondering if this was an intentional prelude to Dark Side Of The Moon, albeit with less structure of an actual song. Stanley Kubrick apparently wanted to use portions of this track for A Clockwork Orange, which would seem fitting. One can only wonder how the dynamics of the movie, and of Pink Floyd for that matter, had that idea come to fruition. The album continues in a similar fashion to Ummagumma, where we have songs written by individual members. “If” (Waters), “Summer 68” (Wright), and “Fat Old Sun” (Gilmour) are simple songs with a mostly classic folk vibe to them. Mason’s contribution that closes the album, “Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast” follows the same “lack of structure” as the opening title track. Atom Heart Mother is an odd chapter in the band’s life. You see them still trying to find their voice. Eventually they do with a few more detours along the way, which will be examined later.
When anyone asks me about modern psych rock, Austin Texas’ The Black Angels are typically the band I think of first. Helmed by vocalist Alex Maas, they’ve spent the last 15-plus years keeping a classic sound fresh and relevant. And Maas has now graced us with his debut solo record. Inspired (both in title and feel) by the birth of his son, Luca (Innovative Leisure) is an eerie meditation on the simultaneous anxiety and hope of fatherhood. Especially so, in such an uncertain time. As a father myself I found a lot to relate to. Without the rest of The Black Angels backing him, there is a more minimalist vibe to the songs, but they aren’t necessarily lacking anything. It’s almost as if the subject matter is so delicate that Maas wanted the sound to match it. And it’s a beautiful pairing that will resonate heavily.
At some point, I’m sure that I’ll be able to write a column without mentioning Osees or any other John Dwyer related project. Not that I’m complaining, it’s just worth mentioning that, even in a pandemic, he never seems to stop. So here we are again with a new release, Panther Rotate (Castle Face Records), which amounts to a reworking of the songs from Protean Threat. In a sense this is Osees making a remix album. The songs are less in the noisy, garage rock realm and more in the noisy psych realm. And I have to say, I almost dig this more than the original versions of the songs, which doesn’t take away from Protean Threat’s greatness, but more speaks to Dwyer’s rare ability to take an already formed and finalized idea and not only shape it into something new but make it even more impressive.
A band based on the premise of “Black Sabbath playing afrobeat” is intriguing on its own. Once you hear the opening riff “In These Dreams”, the leadoff track from Here Lies Man’s latest album Ritual Divination (Riding Easy), you’ll know there’s no better descriptor. Stoner rock and afrobeat may or may not be a likely pairing, but Here Lies Man makes it work. The riffs are thick and groovy sure, but the rhythm and beats are really where this stands out. They create a whole new kind of psychedelic vibe that’s equally entrancing as the more rock elements. The chant-like vocals typical with the Afrobeat style, it ties it all together into something truly fresh.
A 2019 edition of this column featured an examination of Kid Cudi’s Man On The Moon trilogy, a wonderful mash up of psychedelic and hip hop. Unfortunately the column was left open ended as the trilogy hadn’t been completed and most signs pointed to it remaining that way. Lo and behold right at the tail end of 2020, (after my “best of the year” list had already been made, of course), we now have the thrilling conclusion of this saga. And boy was it worth the 10 year wait (not discounting Indicud – on Republic Records – in the slightest). Whether the album was shelved for this long or it’s taken Cudi this long to craft the conclusion to this saga….does it matter? His trademark personal lyrics paired with otherworldly beats (“Mr. Solo Dolo III” having the absolute best of both worlds) live up to the anticipation.