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.
We’re treading international waters in this month’s column. Starting of course, as we have been, “across the pond” with Pink Floyd and 1972’s Obscured By Clouds. Another soundtrack album, once again for director Barbet Schroeder, for the film La Vallée. Immediately after recording, differences between the band and the film company resulted in the album being released under its official title rather than as the film’s soundtrack. As a result the film added Obscured By Clouds to the title of the film. It’s a much more mellow album, with acoustic guitars featured heavily throughout, resulting in a country/folk inspired record with none of the more drawn out experimental sounds the band is known for. It amounts to 10 short and sweet songs. While not their most revered release by a longshot, the highlight (as tends to be the case) is Gilmour’s playing. His solos are that perfect mix and simplicity and innovation. And it’s the almost perfect transition to Dark Side Of The Moon and what began the band’s launch into wide mainstream success.
Hailing from Athens, Greece, Holy Monitor’s latest is as good as any album to explore after Pink Floyd. Southern Lights (Blackspin), the band’s third full length release, draws slightly from the same jazz and prog filled well as Pink Floyd, mostly with their earlier releases. They even sprinkle a fair amount of Hawkwind and King Crimson which, honestly, you can’t steer wrong with that. As a whole, it’s all very epic and otherworldly. But the real strength of this album is its accessibility. It’s not so jazz/prog ridden that it goes over the listener’s head. And it keeps with the same solid soundscape throughout. Even the heavier moments are still subtle and have a laid back feel that makes this an easy record to zone out to.
Melbourne Australia’s King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard have returned with another glorious slab is microtonal goodness. Simply titled K.G. (Flightless Records), it’s the King Gizzard we all know and love. I mean, as much as I loved both Fishing For Fishies and Infest The Rat’s Nest, which saw them experimenting with folk rock and death metal (respectively), this feels like them in their element. Beginning with an ominous wind-blown (literally) intro “K.G.L.W.”, the first official track “Automation” is what we’re all here for. And the momentum continues throughout. Even the disco-inspired “Intrasport” doesn’t feel out of place. Their custom microtonal guitars which give the band a chance to explore the “notes between note” create a hypnotic, Eastern-influenced soundscape that is unmatched, except by the followup L.W., which we’ll explore more deeply next time.
Riding Easy is quickly becoming my go to label for what’s new and exciting in the psych/stoner rock world. And their latest release from Stockholm Sweden’s Spelljammer is just further evidence as to why. Abyssal Trip (note the spelling in the title, not abysmal – this is anything but that) has the necessary heavy, groovy riffs that make for stoner/doom goodness. It kicks off with the slow and sludgy “Bellwether” and hits hard all the way to “Silent Rift”, which is in no way silent. It’s obviously the heaviest song on the entire record. Lyrically, the band explores themes as vast as the title would suggest. As vocalist Niklas Olsson puts it: “The lyrical themes we address, like the ultimate doom of man, and the search and longing for new and better worlds, are still there. The concept of something undiscovered out there in vast emptiness is pretty much always present.” And Olsson’s voice has the perfect amount of strain and grit to add a wonderful eeriness to the subject matter.
We’ll begin to wrap things up with the latest from Miss Lava. Hailing from Lisbon Portugal, their latest album, Doom Machine (Small Stone Records), is more on the hard rock side of the spectrum but still with enough tripped out moments to keep it interesting. “Fourth Dimension” starts the album off with a riff that could easily have been from a Queens Of the Stone Age song (Songs For The Deaf era). What’s great about this album are the handful of brief interludes that in some ways serve as a transition between songs but some also stand on their own. And Johnny Lee, the vocalist for the band, has got a great yell/sing combination that propels each song as much as the riffs. Lyrically the songs center around a celebration of new life as well as the tragedy of life cut too short. Babies being born and one leaving the earth after only a month and a half, both fueled the process of making this record creating an emotional journey that has a weight easily felt by the listener.
One final note: recently the drummer for Palehorse/Palerider Nathan Marcy passed away after a year long battle with cancer. I was only recently introduced to his incredible drumming with his band’s split release with Lord Buffalo from last year (covered in the September 2020 edition of Head Space). However, the music from Palehorse/Palerider was incredibly striking; both on that split and in the records I dove into immediately after hearing the split. And at the center of it all was Marcy’s drumming. It’s possible that as a drummer myself I have some bias, but I’ve always felt that a good drummer can always propel a good band into an amazing band. And he certainly did that.