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.
Leaving behind the overall unpleasantness of My Bloody Underground, we move onward in the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s catalog to 2010’s Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? (A Recordings) A slight step in a new direction musically for the band, we start to hear the point that they dabble into adding electronica influences to their brand of moody psychedelic rock. It’s present in later albums as well, but it was interesting to hear the beginning of that shift. Starting with “Tempo 116.7 (Reaching for Dangerous Levels of Sobriety)”, we see Anton Newcombe probably at his most self-indulgent but in a completely new way. “Þungur hnífur” (Icelandic for “A Heavy Knife”) feels more like familiar territory, with the loud droning guitars and pounding drums we love to hear, but the new sounds Newcombe has been experimenting with aren’t going anywhere. “Let’s Go Fucking Mental” is an odd chant-based tune with a big and simple beat that pulses through all the other layers. Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? may or may not be a deliberate attempt at Newcombe reinventing his own sound (which he seemingly has done multiple times already), but it’s another sign that he shows no signs of sitting still.
Well, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have done it again. It seems like every time they release a new record they change the game entirely. This time is no exception with three (THREE!) new records all released in a single month. And of course they all sound different because why make it easy? We’ll start with Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms and Lava. Starting with “Mycelium”, you can pick up on some Fishing For Fishies vibes with a more chilled rock sound. The second in this trilogy Laminated Denim and while not a giant shift in sound from the first, in concept it’s a whole different animal. Similar to Made in Timeland from earlier this year, Laminated Denim (the title being an anagram from its companion) is a 30 minute album divided into two 15 minute (pretty much exact) songs. The songs are written around a ticking clock with rhythms that dance all over the place. But one thing that’s always made King Gizz’s albums great is their accessibility even with more complicated music ideas. And from there we move to Changes, our third release from this batch. Here, we find ourselves on a much more soul/jazz vibe. The most odd part is that this particular album has been in the works for the past 5 years, during which the band wrote and released hours of other music. But this sounds like an album that took 5 years to craft and perfect. The songs are more deliberate, not the more extended jams that we’re used to hearing from them. Each song is built out of one chord progression from the opening title track. With everything else we’ve heard from this amazing group of musicians they certainly closed out the year perfectly.
Abraxas (a collaboration between friends Carolina Faruolo (ex-Los Bitchos) and Danny Lee Blackwell (Night Beats) makes a mesmerizing debut with their first full length Monte Carlo (Suicide Squeeze Records). The album was born from trading ideas between the UK and Texas and the end result paints a beautiful picture of a mythical planet (Abraxas) with dense air and lush jungles, complete with soothing rhythms and cosmic melodies. Faruolo’s Uruguayan cumbia influences really shine through on the opening track “Sunrise State (Of Mind) and that vibe carries throughout. “Monte Carlo” takes you on an eerie night drive in the desert, to the point where you can almost feel the warm humid air. From a project born from the isolation of quarantine, Abraxas is a strong collaboration that has an intimacy unmatched by many other “studio projects”. In a live setting, one can only imagine the connection made between Farulo and Blackwell, as well as with an audience.
Yet another great batch of otherwise forgotten 60s and 70s psych and stoner rock jams from Riding Easy Records. Brown Acid: The Fifteenth Trip reminds us that these folks are doing the dark lord’s work and doing it well. The amount of umph in these ten tracks is unmatched. With sole singles from Scrapiron (hailing from Carteret, NJ), The Looking Glass (not the 70s soft rock one hit wonder) and Detroit-based The Zoo there’s a lot to enjoy here. Past compilation contributors White Lightning bring another amazing track with “Under Screaming Double Eagle” (also, Riding Easy just unearthed and released a full length from these guys that’s well worth your time). The highlight of the comp for me is Truth & Janey’s stellar cover of The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb”. Even back then, bands knew how to take an already great song, put their own spin on it and turn it into something golden. I don’t know how Riding Easy finds all these gems but here’s to another trip around the corner soon.