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.
1996 is the year where we see The Brian Jonestown Massacre at their most prolific in terms of official releases. The albums Take It From The Man, Their Satanic Majesties’ Second Request, and Thank God For Mental Illness (all released on Bomp!) show the band truly coming into their own. Shedding their shoegaze roots right at Take It From The Man’s opener “Vacuum Boots”, they fully embrace the 60s psychedelic garage rock that became the sound they harness with a vengeance and that has been imitated by many bands to come. This is also when we see the volatile yet brilliant partnership between Anton Newcombe and Joel Gion begin. Gion’s tambourine becomes as much a signature part of their sound. Despite (or possibly because of) the tumultuous background of recording the album (it was originally recorded by an unnamed producer and eventually scrapped by said producer with the physical recordings actually destroyed), it remains even one of Newcomb’s favorite albums by the band, not to mention enduring adoration from critics and fans alike.
Belgian psych-rockers Hugs Of The Sky have unleashed their fourth album Tangerine Boredom Delusion (Wagonmaniac) in all its fuzzy glory. The album balances thick heavy riffs with garage/surf rhythms. “Nirwana Surf,” one the singles off Tangerine Boredom Delusion, is a simple 3 minute concoction with equal parts grit and shimmer. The opener “Champagne Planet” is in a similar vein. It brings to mind some of the more lo-fi moments of early Ty Segall records. In all the fuzz and noise, there is a lot of melody and harmony to make this a treat to listen to.
The latest full length from Letting Up Despite Great Faults is packed full of heartfelt, dreamy shoegaze that’ll break your fucking heart. The closing song “Self-Portrait” starts with “Do me a favor and look away”. Released by the band themselves and simply titled IV, there’s a matching beautiful simplicity in the layers of sound. And it’s presented in a way that can let you zone out or even drift off to sleep with a great soundtrack to accompany it. Frontman Mike Lee’s vocals reach that soothing falsetto similar to Greg Gonzales (Cigarettes After Sex) or even Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine). And those respective bands clearly have their fingerprints on the band’s sound as a whole, while not being a cheap imitation of those artists.
Alright, Cloakroom had me at space western. I’m a sucker for that shit. And the record is pretty solid to boot. Dissolution Wave (Relapse) starts strong with “Lost Meaning” and doesn’t let up. We’re given the narrative of an asteroid miner who is also a songwriter. In both instances the stakes are incredibly high. And that comes through in tidal waves, particularly in the shoegaze-packed title track. Inspired by personal loss and the desire to simply escape the current world we’re all stuck in, this collection of melodic space rock packs so much energy and emotion in an album that marks a decade for the band.
Ever since I started writing this column I’ve debated including certain genres that may fall right on the line of psych-rock without it being specifically in the genre. Certain instrumental post-rock bands walk that fine line while often veering outside of that realm. The latest by El Ten Eleven hits that sweet spot though. Bassist/guitarist/loop pedal wizard Kristian Dunn creates some amazing soundscapes that will give off a vibe similar to other artists covered in this realm. New Year’s Eve (Joyful Noise Recordings) is 8 tracks of trippy and dancy pop with layers and layers of sounds that will send you into a trance that you won’t want to leave. Dunn’s creations paired with Tim Fogarty’s clock-like drumming lock the groove from the opening title track all through to the end.