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.
Dark Side Of The Moon. What could I possibly say about this record that hasn’t been said before? It’s been analyzed to death and every possible interpretation has been explored, to the point where it’s almost impossible to simply hear this as just a good rock record. And for our purposes doubly so. At the risk of a cop out, a large portion of that can almost be put on the band themselves. Musically, they significantly phased out a lot of the “psychedelic noodling” (David Gilmour’s words) the band were known for, which signifies a new course for them. Lyrically, they explore the struggles of success and fame that they had already encountered (plus still feeling the effects of Barrett’s mental health struggles, which over the years had significantly worsened in the years since his departure from the band) in songs like “Time”, “Money” (the two main singles from the record) “The Great Gig In The Sky” and “Us And Them”. You can’t expect fans and critics alike to not notice and ponder those things. What makes it even more interesting is that the problems the band dealt with concerning their success must have been exacerbated by what this record meant for the band. Between Dark Side Of The Moon and The Wall you have the bulk of what has made the band a staple in classic rock radio to this day, and understandably so. Shit, some of the money they made from this record was used to invest in the production of Monty Python and The Holy Grail. I don’t know what I expect you to do with that information, for me it adds to the lasting impact this record made.
As promised in last month’s column, we’ll explore the companion album to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s album K.G. The appropriately titled L.W. (Flightless Records) picks up right where we left off, and yet there are some major turns and twists (because of course there are). Completing the “Microtonal Trilogy” of sorts, L.W. is the most eclectic compared to its predecessor and of course the first installment Microtonal Flying Banana. Leading off with “If Not Now, Then When?” we have King Gizz with one of their funkiest tracks ever. And from there it speeds off and doesn’t care if you keep up or not. Featuring Eastern melodies and fun polyrhythms (especially the flow between “Static Electricity” and “East West Link”) give a good insight into what it must have been like making these records in isolation. The band’s minds were free to roam and yet find a central point. “Ataraxia” is probably what is closest to what we hear on K.G., but it still belongs on the record it’s on. They polish it all off by revisiting the theme “K.G.L.W.” which eerily opened K.G. , this time around they bring heavy riffs into it and just jam on it for 8 and a half minutes. There’s almost no point in asking what they’ll do next because any guesses would be off by miles.
Triptides were one of the last bands I saw live before everything went to shit. And after hearing their latest full length Alter Echoes (Alive Records), they’re a band I want to see as soon as seeing bands live is a thing again. The handful of singles the band released between 2018’s Visitors and Alter Echoes gave the impression that the band wanted to fine tune their style. Not that it hadn’t already been established. As far as psychedelic pop rock goes, nobody does it quite like them. But a band (a good one anyway) is always trying to move forward and find a new version of themselves, while keeping the spirit of the band’s sound intact. Glenn Brigman has certainly taken things to an almost otherworldly realm and yet keeps that classic 60s-70s psych feel that always makes their records so damn great. With guitars that would even make The Byrds stop in their tracks and elements of 70s funk at certain points (sprinkled mostly throughout “Elemental Chemistry”) or just straight power pop (“Hand Of Time”), this takes the band to new heights and it seems like they can only ascend further and I personally cannot wait for the chance to see these songs translated into a live setting.
In between Oh Sees albums, John Dwyer seems to be making the most of the pandemic by exploring every creative impulse he has (and thank God for that). Endless Garbage and Witch Egg carry on the same ideas explored from last year’s collaborative album Bent Arcana. Endless Garbage (Castle Face) is probably Dwyer at his most “experimental” (a word I usually hate, because music should always be experimental, otherwise it’s boring). Built from sporadic free form drum beats from Ted Byrnes (heard from outside his garage by Dwyer), Dwyer recruited regular collaborators Greg Coates, Tom Dolas, and Brad Caulkins and simply built on what Byrnes had already given them. It’s as if the drums just set the tone and the rest of the instruments simply try to keep up. And sometimes, sometimes, they’re able to match Byrnes’s intensity and creativity. So much of this brings to mind a lot of free jazz I would hear in high school. But it always presented to me in a way that made it seem like nonsense. And that spirit is very present here. The songs, if you can even call them songs, have almost no structure to them at all, and yet every hit and every note feels intentional. Nothing ever feels out of place, but despite Dwyer being the mastermind behind this record, Byrnes is as close as it gets to “leading” the group of players.
Alternatively, Witch Egg (Rock is Hell) still carries that more “free spirit” jazz vibe but here there is the presence of actual songs, or at least as close as we’re going to get. Nick Murray taking over the drums and Brad Caulkins further highlighting his saxophone chops, which, despite their tendency to veer into almost amelodic territory, don’t necessarily clash with what the rest of the group is doing. And with Murray’s ability to find that perfect groove coupled with Greg Coates on stand up bass and sonically you’re hearing something that is beyond anything in the rock world Dwyer has excelled at for so many years. The traces of garage/psych/punk insanity we expect is balanced by dashes of the more timeless 70s funk aspects of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters. Maybe not a pairing you’d expect, but when you hear the whole package, it’s simply perfect.