Play One Note

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

Posts tagged with ‘psychedelic rock’

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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George Brigman – Jungle Rot

May 1, 2010

george brigman jungle rotFinally!  For a dude who’s writing a psych blog, I haven’t really, you know, written a whole lot about, well, psych.  No more!  Time for some out-and-out jams, you know, stuff with debauched electric sex all up in it.  Here’s Jungle Rot, a 1975 album by Baltimore shreducator George Brigman.  (Like that?  Shreducator?  I just made that shit up.)

Brigman’s an outsider, and he compares favorably to other lonesome wanderers of first-wave psychedelia like Skip Spence.  Unlike Spence (or Syd Barrett, to whom Spence is most often compared), however, Brigman never had a previously successful outing as a recording artist.  (Also unlike those two, there is no documented history of mental illness or debilitating drug abuse, just the creation of music out-of-sync with its milieu.)  There was no Moby Grape or Pink Floyd for Brigman before Jungle Rot.  This was his debut, and it’s savage, debauched, and remarkably assured.

Briefly: the reason this album is considered a sort of lost artifact is twofold.  First, Brigman recorded it and then more or less quit recording for decades after the untimely death of his bassist.  Jungle Rot was released and then vanished.  Second, the music on here really is pretty unique, especially in 1975.  It takes proto-punk’s muscular snarl and applies that aesthetic to psych-blues.

The title track, which opens the album, absolutely kills, with Brigman throwing down some panning, spiky, metallic chord stabs for a bit before launching into a flat-out destructive (and fucking anthemic) riff.  It sets the tone for the rest of Jungle Rot, which is essentially extremely well-executed bluesy psych jams.  This isn’t one of those crate-digging disappointments that has one scorcher and two or three middling jams among a largely faceless bunch of trash.  Every song on here kicks ass, with Brigman turning again and again to the deepest, druggiest strain of psychedelic revelry.

It also doesn’t hurt that Brigman is an absolutely blistering guitar player firmly in the acid rock mold.  And though he’s fleet of finger, his technical prowess never gets in the way of the mood of Jungle Rot, which is always drunkenly aggressive in a way that threatens (but never quite devolves into) sloppiness.

Even when he takes a break from shredding with aplomb and slows down, as he does on the sweet-sounding ballad “Schoolgirl” (naturally about sex), Brigman’s m.o. of keeping the mood good and confused shines through.  (Writing about this album really makes you run out of synonyms for “druggy” and its variants.)

I used to think Spacemen 3‘s brand of drug-addled, minimalist psych was, for all its simplicity, essentially unprecedented.  Not so.  George Brigman proves that there is nothing new under the sun.  And while I’m inclined to doubt that Sonic Boom and Jason Pierce were aware of Jungle Rot before they released The Sound of Confusion, simply because it’s a pretty underground record (and this is before, y’know, the age of the internet, this time when everything is available to everyone again), there was at least a sonic precedent indirectly pointing toward that band’s strung-out riffage.

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