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 was the radio hour, The Noise Kaleidoscope which aired on 99.1FM WQRT in Indianapolis (now on hiatus – 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.
In the 1950s, the country of Zambia saw the emergence of a music scene known as “Zamrock”. Timed closely with the country’s independence from British rule, Zamrock incorporated elements of African music with contemporary sounds, particularly psychedelic rock. One of the biggest names in the Zamrock scene was W.I.T.C.H. (We Intent To Cause Havoc). Led by Emanyeo “Jagari” Chanda in its early years (and currently), the band has seen many lineup and stylistic changes throughout their time. And they’ve seen its rise and fall timed with the economic climate of the country – but also seen a resurgence over the last decade. Over the coming months we’ll explore the band’s history as we dive into their incredible catalog.
Starting with, appropriately, Introduction! Released in 1972, it’s a phenomenal debut. The opening title track introduces each member of the band and in each transition, Jagari simply sings out “I need you, I love you.” Throughout the album, each band member’s musical agility is highlighted and makes for a strong start.
There’s really no other way to say it: Black Rainbow’s latest album just kicks so much ass. Superskull (Heavy Psych Sounds) ups the ante from their last release, Cosmic Ritual Supertrip, with 12 pieces of cosmic hard rocking magic. Each song has a sweet groove and the riffs are gritty and muddy as hell. While at many moments they find themselves veering towards straight 70s hard rock, there are still plenty of those fuzzy, trippy moments that make this a fun ride. “Children Of Fire and Sacrifices” has this moment right in the middle where the tempo noticeably shifts slower and it’s just glorious. The band is perfectly in tune with each other and each twist and turn just sounds natural.
Another solid Heavy Psych Sounds release comes to us courtesy of desert rock legends Yawning Man. Long Walk Of The Navajo (Heavy Psych Sounds) is a slow, thick, droney slab of space fuzz. It provides the perfect soundtrack to the desert storms in Joshua Tree that inspired the record, with the same sonic ebbs and flows you’d experience in nature. At many points they seem to borrow from bands like Russian Circles, particularly “Respiratory Pause” as the album’s centerpiece. The soaring, echo/delay soaked guitars give the right chills the more they build. And “Blood Sand”, the album’s closer, lets all of that buildup spill over into a beautifully noisy climax.
Italy’s Demonio have created what will likely end up being the gnarliest (a word I never thought I’d use in this column) record of the year. Reaching For The Light has what every good stoner/psych-rock album requires: fuzzy guitars, heavy hitting drums, sexy artwork, all of it. Basically the same well that Monster Magnet draws from. The album does have a few rough moments, particularly in “I’m Free” where the band seems to be losing each other, but in a way it adds to the experience of it. You’re along for the ride and all the bumps that go with it.
If there is any band that can successfully blend psychedelic rock and thrash metal, of course it’s King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. Besides having a ridiculously long title, PetroDragonic Apocalypse; or, Dawn of Eternal Night: An Annihilation of Planet Earth and the Beginning of Merciless Damnation is the band at their most absurd in terms of genre blending. And I, of course, mean that in the best possible way. No matter what they do, they’ll never not sound like them. “Supercell” starts with the standard intro to any Slayer/Anthrax tune, but in no time you’re in psychedelic microtonal heaven (or hell, whichever your preference). The rest of the album follows the similar path and proves for King Gizz the formula that always works is: throw the fucking formula away!