Play One Note

Psychedelic music blog covering psychedelic, folk, drone, metal, and all other forms of out music.

Posts tagged with ‘psych blog’

Peaking Lights – 936

May 26, 2011

peaking lights 936I’ve really really really really really been digging 936, the new Peaking Lights album.  To describe an album as a “stew” is such a shitty music crit cliche but I’m fighting a strong urge to employ it to describe this record.  Because, really, that’s what 936 is, a steaming, humid pot of stick-to-your-ribs ingredients simmered long and slow until everything blends together into something appetizing, inviting, and of a piece.  And yeah, it’s fucking delicious and it tastes better the next day.  What about it?

About those ingredients: There’s dubby production (and I mean dubby as in, echoing guitar stabs, rivers of deep, burbling bass, and cavernous expanses of dark, sultry space, not dubby as in “reverb”), muffled and clattering percussion like a robotic drumkit breaking down, perfectly artless female coos, spiraling and arcing sound effects without origin, and trebly wefting keyboards.  On 936, Peaking Lights combine carefully measured, varying quantities of each of these and make some seriously circular and ever-deepening musical hypnosis.  This album is one of the more engrossing, replayable things I’ve heard come out in quite a while.

Though 936 is Peaking Lights’s best foray into immersive psychedelic wormhole-construction, it’s not their first.  Their previous album, 2009’s Imaginary Falcons, was a nearly great record that fell just short in a couple areas.  For one, the rich, syrupy low-end that keeps nearly every song on 936 anchored in the sublime is nowhere to be found, and it’s sorely missed.  Instead of riding supple, sweltering grooves, songs (tracks?) on Imaginary Falcons float in a helium’d aether.  They’re incredibly, almost disorientingly trippy.  And as much as I’m into disorientingly trippy, the bass backbone on 936 is welcome.  The results range from the simply addictive (as on “All the Sun that Shines” to the positively time-warping (which the transformative “Birds of Paradise Dub Version” most certainly is).

Peaking Lights has also shown an increased interest in actual legitimate songwriting on 936.  Though it’s obvious that the duo is still totally in love with getting lost in the aural possibilities available to them, it’s no longer enough for them to suture a handful of otherworldly sonic elements together and let it ride for a few minutes (not that that approach is necessarily bad).  No, now melodies (or at least grooves) are of preeminent importance, with assorted intergalactic and subterranean sounds providing (welcome) filligree.  That means we get songs (songs!) like the gorgeously sweet and totally unexpected “Key Sparrow,” an adorably lilting melody that is at once soaring and small-screen, bleary and sparkling.

I’ll be honest: “Key Sparrow” is, really, the whole reason why I wanted to write this thing.  It’s new love and dreaming and nostalgia and warmth and flitting surges of hope and sadness wrapped into a perfect four-minute package.  I don’t think I’ve been as desperately in love with a song all year.  It’s beautiful and small and it secrets away an infinitude of fine-grained emotions in it.

Love it:

 

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Loop – Heaven’s End

February 27, 2011

loop heaven's endBefore the Black Angels, there was Loop, and Heaven’s End was their Passover—a fuzzed-out, bump-and-grind swaggerfest of razor-wire guitars, drug-fueled paranoia, and addled sexual menace.

Loop got its start in London in 1986, where leader Robert Hampson allegedly learned four chords on a guitar and promptly began ripping off fellow travelers Spacemen 3.*  At least, that’s the prevailing idea.  And admittedly, Loop at times—okay, most of the time—does sound an awful lot like those late, great(er) purveyors of psychedelic sneer.  But Loop does Spacemen 3’s aggressive, addled hypnosis so damn well it’s hard for me to hold it against them.†

Take “Soundhead,” for example, which starts off the album with a lean, muscular rhythm section pounding out a deliciously repetitive riff, anchoring waves of hissy, trebly, wah’d-out guitars.  “Soundhead” is, without qualification, an excellent song, all raw, druggy menace and sneering swagger, a nearly unrivaled opening salvo for any appropriately mean-spirited, drug-addled record.  Derivative, perhaps, but rock criticism’s age-old emphasis on originality loses much of its relevance when you’re restraining an overwhelming urge to do an embarrassingly nerdy fist-pump dance at your computer desk.  Like, ahem, this guy, right now.  I think it’s probably time to turn Heaven’s End down a little bit, here…

I digress.  “Soundhead” isn’t the only highlight on Heaven’s End.  Many of Loop’s engrossingly circular riffs are bass-driven, with layers of noisy guitar wailing added for that particular mind-melting aggro-texture.  It’s a winning recipe, one that Loop exploits to particularly excellent effect on “Straight to Your Heart”:

Yum.  Worshippers at the Black Angels’ feet (and I include myself among that rapt throng) can be forgiven for assuming “Straight to Your Heart” is a lost, Directions to See a Ghost-era cut from Austin’s finest.

And not everything sounds entirely Boom-and-Pierce-derived.  Loop seemed to be at once more experimental (such as on the title track, with its squalls of guitar and reversed cymbal smashing) and more song-oriented (as on “Head On,” which, if it wasn’t smothered in acid-drenched guitars, would sound positively poppy).  On Heaven’s End, Loop was already straying a bit from the template they lifted off of Spacemen 3, a trend they’d continue (hesitatingly) throughout their career.

Loop went on to record two more albums, one of which (1988’s Fade Out) I haven’t heard, and one of which (1990’s A Gilded Eternity) is fucking spectacular, before disbanding in 1991.  Hampson continued his Sonic Boom-aping by starting the experimental group Main, which ripped the buzzsaw distorted guitars out of Loop’s song structures and suspended them in murky, cavernous, cacophonous, dark ambient soundscapes.  Main was good, but not great (certainly no Experimental Audio Research, the drone project Boom dabbled in after Spacemen 3’s demise), and Heaven’s End remains one of the better “These guys should be paying royalties” albums out there.  It’s not original, but it sure does kick ass.

*Amusingly, Sonic Boom of Spacemen 3 has, on-record and with fangs bared, alleged Hampson of doing this very thing.  The quote was something like this: “Yeah, they really ripped us off!”  Who knew songwriters in the 80s psychedelic underground beefed so hard?

†There’s a bit of George Brigman’s Jungle Rot in the band’s swagger as well, but really, the two referents are the contemporary one (Spacemen 3) and the current one (the Black Angels).  Not bad bands to be sonically joined at the hip to, in my humble opinion.

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Play One Note on Twitter!

April 28, 2010

IT IS HAPPENING: I will now be dropping knowledge on the Twittersphere, <140 characters at a time.  On it, I’ll basically do what I do here–write about the music I love.  That’s the goal, anyway.  Hopefully, I’ll do it in an entertaining and illuminating way.  Except updates will be shorter.  And more frequent.  IT’S TWITTER.

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