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.
1974 brings us In The Past, the second album from Zamrockers W.I.T.C.H. A slightly poppier release, the American and UK garage rock influences shine through more. The songs are simple both melodically and lyrically, but the otherworldly vibe is still there, which can be equally attributed to the musicianship of the band and the leadership of frontman Jagari Chanda. His command of this ensemble speaks volumes to what made this band great. From the opening title track to the rocking closer “Mashed Potato” In The Past is just an outer space party, one that we’re all invited to join.
We’ll stay in the 70s briefly to yet again show some appreciation for Riding Easy Records. The recently uncovered record by Fraction, Moon Blood, hits a few different areas of nostalgia, not least of all the overtly religious content of many songs. Christian rock was a big part of my upbringing and adolescence, and while both the music and the faith itself haven’t been a part of my life for quite some time, revisiting it has been… interesting, let’s say. Regardless, Moon Blood is a solid record. Lead guitarist Don Swanson has some pretty amazing solos that sort of pre-date the stoner rock sound. I’ll say this as often as possible, if not for the Brown Acid series we’d be without some great sounds that did so much of the groundwork for modern psych rock.
After taking us on a journey to the planet Abraxas, Danny Lee Blackwell’s other outlet, Night Beats brings yet another cosmic journey with Rajan (Suicide Squeeze). Opening track “Hot Ghee” is Blackwell’s signature “Spaghetti Rock” and sets up the rest of the album beautifully, with “Blue” taking a slow trip through a colorful desert where all directions seem limitless. “Osaka” is arguably one of the best songs Blackwell has written, with enough chaos and noise to make the listener hold on for dear life. “Morocco Blues” closes the record with a more straightforward 60s psych pop feel similar to acts like Wooden Shjips or Moon Duo, but still with the sound that Night Beats has been bringing for years with the gusto of a true outlaw. If Ennio Morricone took acid he’d likely write an album similar to this.
Being Dead – the band, not the concept – is cut from similar desert-tinged cloth, with more elements of jazz, dream pop, and a bit of surf rock for good measure. An album almost six years in the making, When Horses Would Run (Bayonet) shows all the eclectic influences of best friends Falcon Bitch and Gumball, creating a soundtrack that describe their long friendship. “Muriel’s Big Day Off” one of the album’s singles tells a story of living in the moment and seizing the opportunities for joy while you have them. “Last Living Buffalo” despite its light quasi-punk vibe, puts the state of the world in context of species disappearing due to humanity’s greed and hubris. “Daydream” is a wonderful pop tune that really serves as a great focal point of the record. It all builds up wonderfully to “Oklahoma Nova Scotia”, the album’s closer. It has an artsy yet eerie sound that almost screams “Wes Anderson movie end credits”, and is over much too soon.
I recently started listening to the audiobook for Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. Some of it stems from my increased awareness of climate change – due to the world being literally on fucking fire – but also just thinking about our place in the universe. One listen to the latest from Upper Wilds, I’m instantly wondering if they’re on a similar trajectory. Jupiter (Thrill Jockey) continues the space theme that primary songwriter Dan Friel has been, well… exploring with the past few records. Just like the planet it’s named for, the sound of Jupiter is massive. Layers of thick, heavy fuzz coupled with amazing vocals and harmonies. “10’9”” has one of the best “stoner” grooves I’ve heard in a long time, with nods to bands like Dead Meadow. The album begins with greetings to the universe in 55 languages, taken from the Voyager Golden Record, sent with the voyager probe in 1977. And Jupiter has segments from those recordings spread throughout the record, creating an exploratory vibe that pulls you in. It’s a record that, much like Cosmos, is full of wonder about the universe that we’re a part of and will make the listener ponder our place in it.