The first thing you notice about the Abyssmals‘ new record The Abyssmals Present Gospels, Hymns and Other Trash – streaming at Bandcamp – is how how much reverb is on it. But it’s not a cheesy slapback effect: it’s more trebly. Just to be clear: the upstate New York five-piece are not a gospel group. Their retro sound oozes through dark garage rock, primitive psychedelia and the occasional dip into the surf. Brian Jonestown Massacre are the obvious reference point; some of the shorter, punchier tracks bring to mind the unhinged R&B of the Pretty Things right around the time they’d discovered LSD.
The first track, Enter…the Abyssmals is a dark surf song; in less than a minute, the downward cascades of tremolo-picking have kicked in and it’s obvious this record is going to some shadowy places. The second cut, Sleepwalker starts out with drummer Nick Nigro’s muted ba-bump Cramps beat, then the envelopingly opiated post-Velvets ambience takes over.
Death Row Messiah is all about cool contrasts: cheap Vox amp jangle versus resonance, the peaks driven not by the guitars of Jarpon Reyes and Bob Forget, but by Boris Cahrenger’s emphatic bass. Muffy Reyes’ organ bleeds with the two guitars into a deep-sky pool in the slowly swaying Mansion of Happenings. Then the band pick up the pace with For All of Time, post-Rubber Soul verse rising to gritty powerpop chorus.
Imagine the Pretty Things taking a stab at go-go music and you get See You Go, with its burbly bass and roller-rink organ. Spare, dissociative acoustic phrases punctuate the gritty, riff-driven spacerock of Nobody Cool. A slinky McCartney-ish bass hook propels the hypnotic No Sleep Til Low Beat, while the droning organ and subtly oscillating guitars of Good Faith bring to mind the Black Angels. The album winds up with its longest track and most obvious Velvets homage, Kiss, Kiss Abyss. In case you’re wondering how this band managed to form in a backwater place like Poughkeepsie, keep in mind that musicians like this would still be flocking to New York and creating a scene if housing was affordable here.