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.
1975 brings us to Wish You Were Here. Essentially a thematic follow up to Dark Side Of The Moon where we see the band struggling with success and Syd Barrett’s even further declining mental health. The former portrayed brilliantly by “Have A Cigar,”
“Well I’ve always had a deep respect
And I mean that most sincere
The band is just fantastic
That is really what I think
Oh by the way, which one’s pink?”
“Welcome To The Machine” explores this as well but not quite as sardonically. The latter theme (being Barrett’s mental state) highlighted by a surprise visit from Barrett himself in the studio while the album was being mixed, a story I was mostly unfamiliar with before really diving into the band’s story. The trouble is, nobody recognized him. He had gained a significant amount of weight and had shaved off all his hair and eyebrows. And clearly his mental state was such that he barely resembled the man his former band mates had known in any way. It makes the title track even more heartbreaking because you have to wonder if they were truly wishing their friend and former collaborator was there even as what remained of him was standing there right in front of them. Musically Wish follows the same dark and melodic trajectory as Dark Side… with the epic “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” bookmarking the album in two parts that capture everything the band is trying to say all in one piece.
It feels odd to explore a Castle Face release that doesn’t have John Dwyer playing on it. But Grave Flowers Bongo Band certainly have hints of Osees’ influence (more the earlier “Thee Oh Sees” incarnation) throughout their second album Strength Of Spring. And with psych garage icon Ty Segall at the helm there’s so much about this short and sweet record (just under 30 minutes) to appreciate and make you want more. While vocalist Gabe Flores isn’t heard a great amount on the record, when it’s there, it’s really there. The spotlight throughout is on the Zeppelin-y, Hawkwind-y riffs that Segall’s production captures in a way that makes it soar. Particularly the acoustic intro on “Sleepy Eyes”. That closer than close mic placement makes you hear each little noise on every string.
Tucson based duo Los Esplifs have created something truly magical with their debut Estraik Back! merging psychedelic music with cumbia, a music style originating from Colombia. Cumbia, put simply, is a traditional dance/music style with roots in indigenous African and European culture. The way Los Esplifs pair its complex rhythms with mesmerizing organ sounds make this an easy record to dance to but also zone out, whichever mood you find yourself in. “Galaxia”, released as the second single from the record, is an eerie journey exploring curiosity itself. Ending with an echo of “no entendere“ (meaning “I Won’t Understand”), it adds to the mystery that surrounds the entire record. The music itself may take some time for some to understand, but once you do, you realize you’ve been moving along to it the whole time and you’re unable to stop.
After a 3-year hiatus and primary songwriter Jason Edmonds suffering a near fatal car crash, Minneapolis’s Magic Castles have returned, quite triumphantly, with Sun Reign, their fourth release on Anton Newcombe’s label A Recordings. Sun Reign begins with “Sunburst” and Edmonds takes a few tips from The Byrds’ to hit all the sweet spots to hook you right in. “Lost Dimension”, is full of trippy melodic pop reminiscent of Morgan Delt with sprinkles of early Tame Impala. It’s followed by a stunning cover of Danny and the Counts’ 1966 dark, moody garage tune “Ode To The Wind”. The folk-laden “Valley of Nysa” serves as an eerie but still pleasant centerpiece to the record and sets a more mellow tone for the remainder of the record, carrying the same spirit as the first half has all the twists and turns necessary to captivate the listener until “Relax Your Mind” wraps this journey up nicely.
Riding Easy Records has blessed us with yet another great collection of forgotten/unknown stoner rock jams with the Twelfth Trip of their Brown Acid series. Released on 4/20 no less, this now “toker’s dozen” (as the label describes it) of a series compiles some of the most interesting gems that they’ve compiled. Kicked off with The Waters (based in Louisville, KY) and their one of only a handful of released songs “Mother Samwell”. With a swirling fuzz riff it kicks off this trip in the best way possible. Minneapolis based White Lightning and “1930” give a nice prelude to 70s heavy metal but still have that otherworldly vibe. The highlight for me is “Woman (Don’t Go)” from Shane. Mixing fuzzy stoner rock with a heavy blues vibe, it actually makes me sad that this was their sole single released. An entire album of their brand of rock could easily have made this band huge. There’s likely more to come in this series and it’s a good chance it will deliver as much as the past 12 installments have.