New York Music Daily

No New Abnormal

Tag: acid rock

Obscure Heavy Psychedelia Rescued From Vietnam War-Era Obscurity – For the Tenth Time

The great thing about the Brown Acid compilations is that there are a ton of unbelievable rare treasures amid the obscure singles by marginally talented bands who did their best to imitate Cream, Led Zep, the MC5 or Uriah Heep. Yet while pretty much all these bands rescured from obscurity over the course of the series’ ten volumes sound high on one thing or another, ultimately they have one thing in common: they embraced freedom.

All but one of the songs on the new anthology Brown Acid: The Tenth Trip – streaming at Riding Easy Records – were made in the US during the Vietnam War. The privileged kids whose parents could afford to put them through college to escape the draft weren’t making music that sounded much like this. Acid rock was a working-class subculture, created by musicians who were in danger of being drafted into a war that virtually all of them opposed. There’s only one overtly political song on this record, but let’s not forget that songs which openly endorsed drug use identifed their makers as subversive. This music was more radical than most people today realize.

The first track, Tensions, is by Flint, Michigan band Sounds Synonymous. With slinky organ and fuzztone guitar, it’s basically a one-chord jam  til the chorus. The haphazard doublespeed outro is a classic 1969 stoner touch.

Instead of accelerating, Louisville’s Conception follow a similar pattern with their 1969 single Babylon, with cheap amps, a phaser and a slow blues jam that appears out of nowhere. California band Ralph Williams and the Wright Brothers’ Never Again is a hard blues recorded in mono – three years later.

Atlanta band Bitter Creek’s 1970 recording Plastic Thunder has MC5 snarl and ominous lyrics that reflect the turbulence of the era: it’s one of the album’s best songs. New Orleans group Rubber Memory’s All Together – a ramshackle Vietnam War plea for solidarity – is one of the longscale gems these anthologies are best know for, slinking along with fuzztone bass, wah-wah scratch guitar, and a bridge from nowhere to basically nowhere as well.

First State Bank put out the impressively multitracked, scampering riff-rocker Mr. Sun in that same year. The album’s lone novelty song, Brothers and One’s Hard On Me is a pretty obvious dirty joke (say the title slowly and you’ll get it).

Tucson’s Frozen Sun contribute a Hendrix ripoff with super-spacy lyrics, followed by the album’s most hilarious song, The Roach, a 1969 stoner classic by Alabama band the Brood. “Leave him around for when you begin to come down,” their singer rasps over wahs and organ and a weird white noise loop: is that supposed to be somebody toking hard?.

The album’s final cut is Tabernash’s Head Collect, a surreal 1969 mashup of the Beatles and mid-60s Pretty Things.

It’s unthinkable that any of the bands in the ten-album series could have made this music while wearing masks and standing six feet from each other. Folks, this lockdown bullshit is never going to end unless we put an end to it. It’s time to mobilize.

New York’s Best Heavy Psych Band Play a Rare Intimate Show at Pete’s This Saturday Night

The idea of New York’s best acid rock band in the cozy, comfortable confines of Pete’s Candy Store this Saturday night at 10:30 PM is just plain sick. Are Desert Flower going to play an acoustic set? Or are they going to rip the roof off the room like they did at Sidewalk one Friday night in the spring of 2016, when they opened for one of Lorraine Leckie’s quasi-rehearsals in between Bowery Ballroom gigs?

Maybe it was the OMFG moment right before that show when it looked like lead guitarist Migue Mendez’s pedalboard had suddenly died. But even if he hadn’t managed to bring it back to life, the show would have gone on – and on, and on, relentlessly, wave after wave of sonic assault. Classic psychedelic intricacy and interplay and world-class chops, punk rock volume. It was like being transported back to an imaginary Isle of Wight in 1972, right on top of the stage and the crushing banks of Marshall stacks.

As loud as the guitars were that night, frontwoman Bela Zap Art would not be denied. She can sing tango and blues with the world’s best, but this gig is where she gets to cut loose and let that otherworldly, crystalline wail rise to the rafters. Belting to the top of her register, she channeled righteous rage and distantly horror-stricken angst back-to-back with an uneasy allure, at the very edge of terror. LSD is scary stuff. Obviously, it’s not clear if anyone in the band is experienced that way – and nobody onstage was tripping, But that’s what gave this music its initial surreal jolt of microcurrent back in the 60s.

And Desert Flower’s music was sublime. Like a lot of bands with roots south of the border, they like minor keys. In a particularly strange stroke of irony, the best song of the night was Traveler, Mendez’s ominously lingering phrases and furtive pull-offs opening it over Paola Luna’s stately, carefully articulated broken chords. Bassist Seba Fernandez, playing through the house amp, didn’t have his usual crackle, so he stuck with looming ambience. Drummer Alfio Casale was the one guy in the band who treated this like the small-room gig that it was: he knew he didn’t have to hit hard to fill the space. As the majestic 6/8 anthem peaked out, Zap Art’s voice went with it, solace to anyone on what seemed to be a trip that would never end.

The fury of the rest of the set was something that room has probably never seen, at least since the days of popular punkmetal band the Larval Organs there about fifteen years ago. The blast and syncopated crash of Sube, with Zap Art’s enigmatic “going down on the grey skies” chorus was matched by the carnivalesque strut of Warrior. On that one, the band brought up a guest trombonist who put the bell of his horn around one of the vocal mics and then blew feral snorts, a psycho hippo’s death song. It will be worth the trip – in every sense of the word – to see what Desert Flower are going to to do in an even more intimate and far more sonically welcoming space this December 23.

Radio Moscow’s Live in California – Best Heavy Psych Album of the Year

Do you love Jimi Hendrix? Heavy psychedelic power trio Radio Moscow, San Diego’s best export since Karla Rose, are the closest approximation for those of us who missed the 60s.

Guitarist Parker Griggs echoes Hendrix in the purest sense possible, faster than you can say “Frank Marino.” Hendrix was a noisy player, and so is this guy. He takes a whole bunch of ideas springboarded by Jimi – playing off a root note a full step below the octave; letting a phrase bleed out in a pool of hammer-ons, leaving the natural reverb all the way up, and doing all sorts of deviously trippy things with feedback – without being blatantly derivative. The band’s titanic new double gatefold album, Live in California, is streaming at youtube. As heavy psych sounds go, there’s nothing that’s been releasd in 2016 that can touch this.

Radio Moscow also distinguish themselves with a surprisingly nimble rhythm section. Where other metal bands plod, bassist Andrew Meier and drummer Paul Marrone swing, hard. The album’s opening track, I Don’t Know echoes Hendrix but with three times the amp firepower and tighter rhythm – where Jimi would stretch his strings to the point where he needed his wammy bar to stay in tune with himself, Griggs works a savagely tremoloing lefthand on the fretboard: somewhere Jimmy Page is drooling with envy. The song’s trick ending on the way out adds a cool touch.

Death of a Clown – an original, not the vaudevillian Kinks classic – opens with lightning upper-register clusters and unhinged solar flare riffs, a galloping Purple Haze of a psych funk tune. The guitar trills at the end are precise, but not so much that Griggs can’t fly completely off the handle when the time comes. Broke Down takes a turn toward vintage Sabbath, echoed by Marrone’s trailing lines, up to a lysergically fried doublespeed wah boogie.

I Don’t Need Anybody kicks off as a turbocharged Train Kept A-Rollin’ shuffle, Griggs’ acid blues anchored by trebly, distorted fuzz bass that eventually mingles with the guitar’s low strings. 250 Miles Brain Cycles, a blues, comes across as a joint homage to Hendrix’ Machine Gun and Meddle-era David Gilmour, then hits a sick boogie peak with divebombing Are You Experienced sonics. The flurry of crazed blues about 6:45 in is worth the cost of the album alone.

Before It Burns has catchy Foxy Lady riffage matched to a heavy Nektar drive – the screaming sheets of guitar sound like the acid is really kicking in hard here. Then Griggs backs off into Middle Eastern territory for a bit, over a Caravan bassline. The trip continues through rises and falls, an echoey, suspenseful interlude over growly bass as the drums tumble around a little back, up to a screaming peak and a sudden, cold ending. It leaves you breathless.

The Escape sounds like the James Gang as Hendrix might have done it, with those crazed accents at the end of the riff. City Lights is punctuated by searing fuzztone leads. Griggs really cuts loose with the leaps, screaming harmonics, divebomb effects and a nasty tremolo on Chance of Fate, one of the best and wildest tracks here. Then the band takes a detour into slowly swaying acid blues with The Deep Blue Sea.

The hard-charging, vamping These Days is one of the catchiest tracks in the set, taking the energy back up to redline, even when the band goes halfspeed during a break that gives Griggs a launching pad for some of his most pyrotechnic bluesmetal work. Thee follow the scampering boogie Rancho Tahoma Airport with the album’s most epically psychedelic track, No Good Woman, rising and falling with Griggs’ most echoey, deep-space work here. The trio close out the show tersely and emphatically with the hammering, funk-tinged riffage of So Alone.

What are the best chemicals for experiencing this album? Good acid or mushrooms, obviously; good weed too. For purposes of coming up with evocative descriptions of the tracks, an evening of black russians did the trick. As the fifth of vodka got closer and closer to empty, the trajectory of the album matched the mood – these guys definitely programmed this show, and this album, to be a party.

Purist Psychedelic Tunesmithing from the Allah-Las

The Allah-Las play period-perfect 60s-style psychedelic pop, folk-rock and punchy garage rock sounds, but more tunefully than most of the bands who were playing that stuff over forty years ago. Byrds twelve-string guitar jangle? Check. Dark, surreal, hard-hitting Arthur Lee garage stomp? Doublecheck. Nonchalantly sinister Peanut Butter Conspiracy psych-folk? Some of that too. What makes the Allah-Las different from all of those bands, other than the Byrds, is that they jangle and clang their way through their songs rather than playing riffs or recycled blues and R&B licks. Their not-so-secret weapon is lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian’s twelve-string, although frontman Miles Michaud will sometimes play twelve-string as well for extra chime and clang. Their album – streaming at their Bandcamp page – is one of the best original retro rock efforts of recent years. They’re scheduled to play Rough Trade on March 27, but whether the venue has reopened or not, you won’t get a chance if you don’t already have a ticket because that show is sold out. What a heartwarming story these guys are: a year ago, when they made a stop in New York, they’d be at the Mercury. If there’s any proof that there’s a massive audience for good music in this town, these guys are it.

The album’s opening tune, Catamaran is a classic, catchy midtempo Ventures-style surf tune which they beef up with organ after the first chorus. The kiss-off anthem Don’t You Forget It sets Spencer Dunham’s trebly descending bassline over a gorgeous twelve-string hook, Siadatian’s solo spiced with eerily bluesy bends. Drummer Matthew Correia builds from a rumble to a steady backbeat on the wickedly tuneful, Byrdsy Busman’s Holiday. The surf instrumental Sacred Sands has a lush beauty that rises to a more incisive chorus with the twelve-and six-string guitars in tandem.

No Voodoo goes more in a trad garage rock direction, but with more lush sonics. The ominously echoey backing vocals on Sandy reminds of the Yardbirds, while Ela Navega could be Los Destellos playing a Brazilian tune, something the Peruvian psychedelic legends did frequently. “Tell me what’s on your mind, cause I can’t find it,” Michaud suggests on the jangly number afterward.

Catalina is clinic in tasteful, incisive twelve-string playing, followed by Vis a Vis, which sounds like the Church at their poppiest, with the two twelve-strings answering each other as the song hits a high point. Seven Point Five works a brooding psych-folk groove, while Long Journey, with its low, creepy Yardbirds vocal harmonies, slashing fuzztone breaks and murderous lyrics, is the darkest and longest track here. There’s reverb on everything, especially the guitars, and an underlying sense of unease throughout all of these songs despite all the catchy clang. If psychedelia and just plain good retro songwriting is your thing, keep your eyes out for when these guys make another trip through town.

Mothership: Tuneful Texas Metal That Doesn’t Waste Notes

Imagine a metal band that doesn’t waste notes or get self-indulgent. Hard to believe, but that’s Texas power trio Mothership, whose self-titled debut album is out today from Ripple Music. In a style where so many acts either ape the classics or the flavor du jour, it’s refreshing to hear a band who have an instantly recognizable sound, one that draws on 40 rich years of heavy rock but isn’t reverential about it. There’s plenty of post-Sabbath, Orange Goblin-ish chromatic riffage, but without the death-rattle vocals. It’s a compliment to say that there actually a couple of tracks here that could have been radio hits back in the 70s, when a couple of obvious reference points, Blue Oyster Cult and Molly Hatchet were peaking. Guitarist Kelley Juett is the real deal, capable of rapidfire Adrian Smith/Dave Murray runs but more likely to bend notes into the ozone and build a tune like Buck Dharma, or go surrealistically screaming in the same vein as Nektar’s Roye Albrighton. Juett’s bassist brother Kyle and drummer Judge Smith keep it low to the ground with a cast-iron swing, without cluttering the arrangements.

The opening instrumental, Hallucination, has a long intro that nicks Pink Floyd’s Welcome to the Machine before the first  fuzztone riff kicks in, multitracked bluesmetal  riffage with a neat Hendrix allusion kicking off a doublespeed stampede. Cosmic Rain is heavy Texas boogie as BOC might have done it – think Buck’s Boogie, but more creepy and sludgy, the bass kicking off a Maidenesque interlude that finally gets an overamped wah guitar solo.

City Nights motors along with a vintage Molly Hatchet groove, sounding straight out of 1978, with a wickedly haphazard guitar solo running down the scale and obliterating everything in its path. From there they segue into Angel of Death and its Motorhead-meets-BOC assault.

Win or Lose is not the Sham 69 classic but an original, sort of the Kinks’ Superman as Sabbath might have done it and a clinic in good, smart, heavy guitar: slurry chromatic riffage, East Coast boogie, nonchalantly maniacal tremolo-picking and acid blues. Elenin works a fast/slow Maiden dynamic for all it’s worth, through a squalling, psychedelic end-of-the-world scenario.

Eagle Soars blends Texas boogie and Sabbath into a crunchy, menacing roar. The album ends with Lunar Master, a hallucinatory biker epic that nicks the long interlude from Maiden’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, right down to the tasty bass solo and a zillion menacing, echoey layers of guitars as the song rises again. The vinyl record (!!!) and cd each come with a download card and a poster; you’ll have to supply your own hooch. And you don’t have to be a metalhead to like this: much as it’s loud and trippy, it’s also catchy as hell. Let’s ask the devil to send them to New York and book them into St. Vitus.

Psychedelic Balkan Grooves from Choban Elektrik

Choban Elektrik made some waves last year when they debuted as Electric Balkan Garage, a psychedelic keyboard rock band playing traditional Balkan melodies. Since then keyboardist Jordan Shapiro and bassist Dave Johnsen (both formerly of Zappa cover band Project/Object) and drummer Phil Kester have made a mind-warpingly original album and have continued to play live around New York, with a gig this Thursday the 15th at 7:30 PM at Littlefield opening for the Debutante Hour, who’re doing their album release show. Choban Elektrik’s album is creepy and intense and like nothing that’s been made since probably the late 70s, maybe earlier. And the acts who were playing this kind of stuff back then, like Estonian acid rockers Suuk, were basically metal guitar bands. Music doesn’t get much more original than this.

And this isn’t fusion: it’s rock. 95% of the time, Shapiro carries the solos: no slaphappy Dave Matthews bass, no retarded brontosaurus drums. While the tempos here are sometimes cruelly tricky, Kester keeps it steady: he could go in a metal direction if he wanted to, but he doesn’t. Likewise, Johnsen plays warmly and melodically, sometimes doubling the keyboard line as the band hits a crescendo on a turnaround, occasionally firing off deep, earthtoned chords or tremoloing a note for extra menace. Shapiro is a monster player: fast and precise when he’s playing a clarinet line as he does on the album’s tenth track, dark and murky on the organ, surreallistically bright and edgy on Fender Rhodes. He also plays murderously slithery, roaring Balkan metal guitar on the album’s fifth track, similar to Eyal Maoz’s adventures in this kind of music but with a more nimble rhythm section and more of a corrosive noiserock edge.

The opening track sounds like the New York Gypsy All-Stars (or similar Turkish or Bulgarian electric gypsy jazz outfit) on opium, basically a one-chord jam with Shapiro’s organ doubling guest violinist Jesse Kotansky’s biting lines, the violin throwing off microtonal sparks before going off what sounds like a Macedonian tangent, the organ taking on a funky approach like Jimmy Smith gone to the Balkans. That’s just the first song on the album, by the way. A similar track later on begins with accordion carrying the melody and winds up with the organ swirling around.

Eva Salina Primack lends lush, otherworldly vocals to the echoey, dub-flavored second track, wah-wah electric piano giving way to sweeping organ and then back again. She also sings the poignant eighth track with aching but intricate microtonalities as it morphs from a pastoral violin tune, to funk, to echoey, prickly psychedelics. The darkest track here is amusingly called Mom Bar, trippy atmospherics rising to a torrential organ crescendo and a noisy outro that’s downright macabre. Their version of Steve’s Gajda, by Raif Hyseni goes from burbling to blippy to biting with a surprisingly bluesy organ solo and then downwardly spiraling violin, steadily speeding up to where everything eventually collapses on itself: it’s the most metal moment here. There are also a couple of bouncy Mediterranean-flavored numbers, one with trippy gamelanesque sonics, the other a funk song with growling bass and wah-wah Rhodes piano. The album ends with what’s essentially a big roaring powerpop instrumental with a tricky Balkan tempo. Right now cdbaby has it; watch for an album release show sometime this spring.

Creepy Apocalyptic Songs from Tim Foljahn

Tim Foljahn’s new album Songs for an Age of Extinction, out on Tuesday on Jennifer O’Connor’s Kiam Records label, is a masterpiece of gloomy, psychedelic retro rock. As the title implies, it’s about as far from optimism as you can get. Musically, like Rachelle Garniez (see yesterday), Foljahn looks back to other eras for his influences; swirling Pink Floyd grandeur, doomed Nick Cave neoromanticism, hushed gospel rapture and a dark rustic folk ambience that reminds of Swiss-based cult songwriter Bobby Vacant. Foljahn’s baritone voice is often hollow and haunted; when it’s not, the former Townes Van Zandt and Cat Power collaborator takes on a laconic country twang. Much as many of the arrangements are often ornate, they’re also terse: no wasted notes here. The lyrics are a litany of apocalyptic signs – it’s not clear whether the world ends because of nuclear war, Fukushima-style poisoning, global warming or all of the above. What is clear by the time the morbidly starlit, ten-minute closing instrumental comes around, building artfully from a minimalist light/dark dichotomy to an inescapable vortex, is that it’s gone for good.

With its oscillating layers of sitar mingling with guitar, the hypnotic title track, which opens the album, draws a straight line back to George Harrison. “Dying trees stand shore to shore, animal lovers in their midst, we’re heading for your holy war,” Foljahn sings with a tired, stoic resignation. The second cut, All Fall Away is a doomed gospel tune with a gorgeously ominous, all-too-brief Wurlitzer organ solo. Faded gracefully blends Kirsten McCord’s cello with washes of Foljahn’s slide guitar for an ambience that’s part Atomheart Mother-era Floyd, part Richard Buckner, with an ending that simply and cruelly seals the deal. With its web of blues-tinged fingerpicked guitar, the dark folk War Song is the closest thing to Bobby Vacant here, building matter-of-factly to atmospheric ambience with slide guitar, nimble bass, violin and echoey Rhodes piano behind a forlorn soldier’s tale.

New Light hypnotically overlays two sets of lyrics in the same vein as David J’s Stop This City, a warmly bucolic scenario contrasting with an apocalyptic nightmare. The god in Foljahn’s God Song is strictly Old Testament: “I’m not gonna leave you a sign, and I’m not gonna leave you alive,” he announces while the band channels Country Joe & the Fish at their creepiest circa 1967. Foljahn’s stinging, reverb-toned acid blues licks against a macabre funeral organ dirge give this song a mighty, surreal wallop, setting up the deathly spacious sonics of the closing theme. Without question, this is one of the most haunting albums of recent years: let’s hope it turns out to be a cautionary tale rather than a prophecy. Foljahn, O’Connor and their bands are currently on tour, with a stop at Union Pool on March 4 with Amy Bezunartea and Kleenex Girl Wonder opening the show at 8.