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.
I’m gonna level with all of you. This month’s Brian Jonestown Massacre record is… difficult to talk about. 2008’s My Bloody Underground (A Recordings) pairs some of the most innovative songs the band has released with some of the worst song titles they’ve used. Some are vulgar but funny in their own way such as “Who Fucking Pissed In My Well?” and others (that I won’t even name, you can Google it) are just downright offensive. It gives some credibility to the perception of frontman Anton Newcombe being kind of an asshole (look no further than the documentary Dig!, you’ll see what I mean). Plus, it’s rumored that he enforced a pretty strict “no talking” policy while recording this album. Is it an act? Is he really this terrible? This may or may not be the best album to make that judgment. But the presentation of this record makes it difficult to discuss in detail. I’ll simply say that if you can overlook the shitty aspects of it, it’s an enjoyable listen.
After The Black Angels put out a stellar release in 2017 (Death Song) and frontman Alex Mass wrote and released an amazing solo record at the height of the pandemic, it’s hard to imagine what they could possibly do next. Wilderness Of Mirrors (Partisan Records) is exactly the answer we want. “Without A Trace” starts things strong with a semi-throwback to the Passover days with a more mystical sound that with them is always so inviting. And from there it’s a pretty wild ride for the next 55 minutes. With “Empires Falling” being the band’s most uptempo rocker recorded you almost HAVE to dance to it. I may or may not have is all I’ll say. But through it all you could simply zone out and stare at the maze-like cover art and the hour will simply fly by. Rinse and repeat.
After a pretty tumultuous split a decade ago, it seemed we’d never hear from The Mars Volta again. Even as they patched things up and collaborated on multiple endeavors (including a fairly forgettable At The Drive-In reunion record), I always hoped that they’d resurface and pick up where they left off after Noctourniquet. Their latest self-titled (Clouds Hill) release may or may not have done that. I’ll leave that to the listeners. What I can say is that I REALLY FUCKING DIG THIS. I’m not sure at what point they decided to release a Yes album, but damn if it still doesn’t mark a triumphant return. With lyrics addressing Cedric Bixler Zavala’s experiences within Scientology as well as the death of co-founding member Jeremy Ward, The Mars Volta gives both Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler Zavala a chance to begin anew. A “clean slate” as they’ve put it themselves. We may not see any new music in the same almost schizophrenic psych rock of De-Loused or Frances The Mute, but they’ve certainly taken things in a direction that suits them.
Cash Langdon, after making waves with the duo Caution, proves that he knows how to make a strong first impression. His debut solo album, Sinister Feeling (Earth Libraries), is a record that mixes equal parts Sleeper-era Ty Segall and Elliott Smith. An ambitious task but one that he performs quite beautifully. What makes it so are the curveball moments that keep this from being your basic alt-folk outing. From the added saxophone on “Magic Earth” to the rocker “Hate Is An Object”, there’s a lot to keep things interesting, while not losing the mostly chill vibe he’s trying to put across.
I was hooked on Plankton Wat when I first heard last year’s Future Times (and featured it in the column). Hidden Path (Thrill Jockey), the latest from Dewey Mahood takes me back to last year when I was covering Pink Floyd records. “Dream Cascade” could easily be an outtake from some of Floyd’s more “experimental” soundtrack albums. The most entrancing moment of the record is the title track (and its accompanying video). The video begins with Mahood taking a stroll through nature and it just goes in all different directions from there, most of it pretty amusing but also remains as captivating as the music. The hypnotic beats and synths produce as natural a high as you can experience. And as you’d expect, the trip is over way too soon, so listening on repeat is highly recommended.
Taking inspiration from books like Be Here Now, and also just the joy living in the present moment, the appropriately named band Gift want to guide their listeners through the wilderness with their debut album Momentary Presence. After hearing “When You Feel It Come Around” you can figure out right away why Oliver Ackermann (from A Place To Bury Strangers) signed this group to his label Dedstrange. While not quite as noisy as Ackermann’s band, not to mention a hell of a lot poppier, it has the same new wave-y sound you’d associate with them. It’s just a natural fit. Vocalist TJ Freda channels some of the best in psychedelic pop (Blac Rabbit, Morgan Delt, Tame Impala) while also acting as a sort of shaman that guides you through the 40-plus minute journey. All one has to do is simply let him lead you there.