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.
Continuing our exploration of Pink Floyd, we arrive at 1971’s Meddle. After a slew of albums that showed a band not quite sure where they wanted to be, this is the first look we see of the band becoming the Pink Floyd we all know. Waters’ driving bass line in “One Of These Days” is the most “rock and roll” we’ve seen from the band and it’s exhilarating to hear. “A Pillow Of Winds” follows, which is at its core a basic acoustic ballad. Again, semi-new territory from the band and indicative of what we’ll hear from them down the road. By the time we get to the 23-minute closer “Echoes”, we see that although they’re not done with their experimental freeform mindset, the bulk of “echoes” still consists of a fleshed out song. Yes littered throughout is the chaos you expect from the band’s longer songs from previous albums. But by the end, you can definitely tell that they are finding their voice. Or what the voice that drives them to success will become.
After analyzing another Pink Floyd record, the only right way to transition is to feature Mexico City’s Rostro del Sol (LSDR Records). They have a near perfect blend of jazz and psych rock, with dashes of blues and prog thrown in. Baruch Hernandez’s organ/keys sounds are right out of the 70s in the best possible way. And Dan Samhain on the saxophone brings amazing texture to the song’s longer interludes. Each song keeps to a solid structure, but there are these great moments of improvisation that you have to wonder if they knew prior to recording what shape they would take. As a band they lock in together really tight but they also give each other freedom to explore. “Bop C Sketches” starts with the band at their most King Crimson-esque moment. The busy, jazzy drum intro gives way to thick layers of prog melodies then pushes its way into an amazing improvisation set with Mitch Balaant delivering an amazing Hendrix-like solo, something straight out of Band Of Gypsys.
I’m excited to feature a couple of releases from Thrill Jockey records this time around. First off, Terry Gross has given us a great introduction to their brand of jammy space rock with Soft Opening. Featuring the guitar sounds of Phil Manley (from Trans Am) at their heaviest and most laser focused. The album’s opener (which comprises the first half of the album as a whole) “Space Voyage Mission” is the probably best first impression a new band can give. With so many different movements and ideas presented, it might seem daunting for an opening track. But by the end and the near seamless transition into “Worm Gear” you’re already along for the ride and it’s just gonna keep going. Born out of a few years of improvising in a studio and simply playing with ideas that came to mind, Soft Opening is as strong a beginning as you can get.
Also from the Thrill Jockey family is the latest from Plankton Wat. One of Dewey Mahood’s wonderful mind melting outputs, its latest album Future Times is yet another wonderful snapshot of what has otherwise been a tumultuous year. Opener “The Burning World”, in reference to the west coast wildfires, fades in with synths as bright as the embers from the actual fires. As the album progresses the balance between keys and guitars shifts back and forth to the point where some songs veer into the mid 2000’s era post-rock sound. The three song combination of “Sanctuary”, the album’s title track and “Defund The Police” (that title in particular) are an interesting homage (whether intentional or not) to Godspeed You! Black Emperor. At times it’s hard to grasp an instrumental record’s take on social/political issues (a feat I not so eloquently attempted many years ago), but it’s quite obvious that in looking at the song titles and paying close attention to the feel of each song, you know where Mahood is coming from. And he “says” it as best as anyone can.
I tend to cover a lot of what would fall under the genre tag “stoner rock”. It’s characterized by big, thick riffs and (typically) slow heavy beats. But Dayton, Ohio-based… Marijuana Johnson (yes, that is their name) are stoner rock in about every sense of the word. Musically they fit the style perfectly, and their particular….”strain” of it is pretty damn good. Plus thematically, the band primarily centers around getting stoned. Their latest, Gem City Kush, features great song titles like “You Don’t Get Off Until You Cough”, “Kush”, “Trees”, you get the idea… One can only imagine the haze that floated through the studio while this album was made. “Smoke Signals” stands out as a highlight track with subtle tempo and rhythm changes throughout. For a band that centers around a singular idea, these guys really tap into different influences and make them their own.
For what probably is one of the most laid back releases I’ve covered in this column, Sweden’s Lykantropi creates beautiful and mesmerizing classic psychedelic folk. Tales To Be Told (Despotz) is the band at their most fresh, whereas previous albums had music written over a much longer span of time. The dual vocals of Martin Östlund and My Shaoli rival that of Fleetwood Mac and Shaoli on her own is so reminiscent of Grace Slick I did more than a few double takes. Ia Öberg brings the most unique sound to the table with the flute. It adds to the overall mystical vibe that Lyknatropi is clearly intending to portray. And the songs tell many stories all at once. Some are true and personal, others mythic and fantastical. It’s up to you to figure out which is which. And you’d probably be wrong.