New York Music Daily

Love's the Only Engine of Survival

Tag: plan 9 band

Another Scorching, Dark Psychedelic Record From the Electric Mess

Over the last few years, the Electric Mess have established themselves as one of the best dark, punk-influenced psychedelic rock bands around. Plans for a release show for their latest and fifth album, The Electric Mess V got knocked off the calendar by the coronavirus scare. But you should hear it – when it’s online – if sizzling fretwork and retro sounds are your thing.

They set the mood immediately with Too Far, frontwoman Esther Crow and lead player Dan Crow’s guitars building a slinky, shadowy 13th Floor Elevators intertwine along with Oweinama Blu’s organ, Derek Davidson’s bass snapping over Alan Camlet’s drums.

Bad Man could be a minor-key midtempo Girls on Grass tune, Dan’s guitar scrambling and searing up to a vicious tremolo-picked peak. Like a lot of these songs, the loping Last Call has bits and pieces of a lot of classic psych influences, in this case the Doors and Plan 9.

Cesspool is a briskly surreal mashup of Chuck Berry and new wave, followed by City Sun, the band working catchy four-chord major/minor Elevators changes punctuated by a couple of searing Dan Crow solos. Then they shift to abrasively riffy Fun House-era Stooges territory for Speed of Light.

In Laserbrain, the group add some lingering haze to the layers of guitar textures along with some tasty vintage McCartney-esque bass from Davidson. Before the World Blows Up – how about that for a good song title right about now? – could be Radio Birdman taking a stab at 60s Vegas noir pop…or the theatrical hit the Doors should have used to open The Soft Parade.

“Take no counsel from your captains of war,” Esther warns in Strange Words, which in a way is the most hypnotic track here. The albums winds up matter-of-factly but somberly with the brooding Laurel Canyon-style After the Money’s Gone, awash in tremoloing funeral organ and spare, jangly guitars. It’s a little premature to think about anything other than survival right now, but if there’s enough reason to put up a best albums of 2020 page here, look for this one on it.

Revisiting a Hypnotically Enveloping Psychedelic Gem From the Philistines

The Philistines’ 2016 album The Backbone of Night – streaming at Bandcamp – could be the lost classic the Brian Jonestown Massacre never released, a rapturous lysergic labyrinth of jangle and clang and roar and ripple half-obscuring frontwoman Kimmie Queen’s vocals.. Full disclosure: the record has been sitting on the hard drive here since it came out, in hopes the Kansas City band would play New York. If they have, it slipped under the radar here.

There’s a mix of clang, icy wash and ripple from Cody Wyoming and Rod Peal’s  guitars, Michelle Bacon’s bass  and Josh Mobley’s Rhodes piano in the ominously catchy opening track, Steep: “I had nothing left to show to show, just another day alone,” Queen intones.

1971 is a forest of psychedelic guitars over a 1-4-5 chord patttern: Rhode Island legends Plan 9 come to mind. The epically hypnotic Radiation Drive has a deftly shifting spacerock drift, part Brian Jonestown Massacre, part the Church, the mix rippling with multitracked rings and pings up to a sarcastic chorus. Is this a Fukushima reference?

A Twitch of the Death Nerve slashes into stoner riff-rock territory: with its layers and layers of keys and guitars, Plan 9 again come to mid. The band swirl around a tersesly clanging Rickenbacker guitar riff in the Beatlesque Accretion Disco, up to a spiky, Middle Eastern guitar solo midway through. It’s the album’s most delirious delicious track.

With its luridly multrtracked web of acoustic and electric guitars, the pouncing Arecibo is a dead ringer for brilliant/obscure New York art-rock legends Of Earth, A Heart Like Candy is an imaginative transformation of early 60s doo-wop pop into reverberating art-rock: it’s easy to imagine Blondie wanting to be this epic.

Stygia, awash in quasar guitar pulses and Steve Gardels’ tumbling drums, follows a delirious intertwine up to a sudden coda. The band wind up the album with Get Inside, an enveloping, Bowie-esque anthem built out of a simple two-chord vamp. If you buy the concept that psychedelics are as Halloween as Halloween gets, you can consider this today’s Halloween month installment.

The Allah-Las Bring Their Ominous, Wickedly Catchy Psychedelia to NYC This Friday Night

The icy river of guitar reverb that echoed off the walls of Baby’s All Right in South Williamsburg turned out to be the perfect antidote to the hostility of the indian summer heat outside the sold-out first night of California psychedelic band the Allah-Las’ weekend stand late last September, the band’s most recent appearance here. The industrial-quality air conditioning blasting from the ceiling didn’t hurt either. And the decision to leave the room lights off, allowing illumination to filter in from the stage and from the back bar, only added to the hallucinatory ambience.

That the best song of the night – a dusky Steve Wynn/Karla Rose style desert rock theme – didn’t have any words at all speaks to how catchy the Allah-Las songs are. That one appeared about an hour into the set. They’d also opened with an instrumental, a crepuscular, propulsive Doors/Frank Flight Band style vamp flickering with lead player Pedrum Siadatian’s twelve-string guitar, dancing, Indian-flavored flute lines and bubbling percussion in tandem with drummer Matthew Correia’s steady, cymbal-splashing groove. It set the stage for the rest of a shadowy, wall-warping evening

The swaying, clanging, 13th Floor Elevators-ish Had It All kept the dusky ambience going. They opened the Del Shannon-noir number after that with a little Cape Canaveral launching pad noise, awash in reverb and distantly swirly organ. Bassist Spencer Dunham’s tersely cutting lines propelled the brooding sonics of the song after that up to a bittersweet major/minor turnaround on the chorus.

From there they went into steady, twilit Velvets clang-rock territory, Siadatian hitting his fuzztone pedal at the song’s end. Brief two-chord Elevators vamps interchanged with catchy, chugging, riff-driven Lou Reed tunesmithing, then a detour into ominous chromatic Laurel Canyon psych-folk, bristling with the occasional fuzztone lead. A misty, bittersweet ballad, a midtempo mashup of the Elevators and Arthur Lee punctuated by Siadatian’s surgically precise, lingering, tersely bluesy lead lines led to aurrealistically motoring Doorsy interludes mingling uneasily echoing electric piano into the echoey sonics. A dead-monk Yardbirds b-vox chorale made a brief appearance.

A later number blended Byrds chime with Plan 9’s distant sense of the macabre, then they played a dead ringer for LJ Murphy’s savagely classic Happy Hour. As incredibly catchy as this band’s music is, there’s always trouble on the horizon – just like our lives. The Allah-Las play this long strange trip back to you this Friday night, March 24 at Webster Hall at around 10; $20 advance tix are still available as of today.

Heaters Bring Their Envelopingly Tuneful Psychedelia to South Williamsburg

Heaters‘ new album Baptistina – soon to be streaming at Bandcamp, and available on both green and black vinyl – further cements their reputation as one of the world’s most consistently excellent dark retro psychedelic bands. What’s most impressive about them is that a close listen reveals how seldom they change chords. They can vamp out on one for minutes on end and it never gets boring because there are so many interesting things going on, texturally and melodically: repeaterbox echoes flitting through the mist, shifting sheets of feedback and jagged twelve-string guitar incisions in contrast with an enveloping quality that seems to draw on Indian classical music as much as it does classic 60s psychedelia. The trio – guitarist Nolan Krebs, guitarist/bassist Andrew Tamlyn and drummer Joshua Korf – also shift tempos on a dime, making things all the more strange and compelling. They’re playing the album release show at Baby’s All Right on August 5 at 10 PM; cover is $10.

The obvious influence is the 13th Floor Elevators, but there’s also a little early Country Joe & the Fish as well as Brian Jonestown Massacre in the mix as well as a whole slew of other influences. The sonics are period-perfect: guitars awash in reverb with a clanging, slightly tinny vintage Vox amp attack, trebly melodic bass hanging back with the drums. The opening track, Centennial, begins with a Byrdsy jangle and ends with White Light/White Heat guitar freakout .The lushly crescendoing Ara Pacis puts Syd Barrett on a Magical Mystery Tour bus, while the expansive soundscape Orbis brings to mind early Nektar.

Elephant Turner pounces along on a tricky fuzz bass riff, sinuous guitar interweave overhead. Garden Eater sets a nimbly scampering bassline over a steady, swirly stomp and then floats off into spacerock. Another catchy fuzztone bassline fuels Dali, which then sinks in a morass of trippy waves. Then the band picks things up again with Mango, referencing both the Kinks as well as early 70s proto-metal.

The resonant spacerock ambience returns as the band sets the controls for the heart of the sun in Voyager. The album winds up with the teasingly loopy instrumental Turkish Gold and then the catchy, propulsively tumbling Seafoam, Del Shannon on brown acid, winidng up with the longest, most searing guitar solo here. This is music for people who won’t settle for merely being stoned: it’s a soundtrack for getting high as a kite.

Their excellent, somewhat more kinetic previous album Holy Water Pool is also streaming at Bandcamp, for the most part. Kamikaze, a slowly simmering, echo-drenched minor-key neo-Elevators number, opens it, bass rising as the chorus winds up, twelve-string guitar piercing the reverb cloud. There’s also the loping and then frantic spaghetti western blues of Master Splinter; the careenng Highway 61 vamp Sanctuary Blues; Propane, with its spiky/drony neo-Velvets sway and artfully menacing rhythmic shifts. the jangly, catchy Hawaiian Holiday and its playful tv theme references; the uneasy Bakersfield twang-influenced Detonator Eyes; Bad Beat, a mashup of early Pretty Things, Brian Jonestown Massacre and Radio Birdman; the starlit stoner soul of Gum Drop; Honey, a Blues Magoos/Count Five hybrid; Cap Gun, which very cleverly nicks the chords from a new wave-era cheeseball hit; and Dune Ripper, part BJM, part Byrds. The band takes their time with each of these, although they don’t go on nearly as long as that previous sentence.

Darkly Glimmering Psychedelic Garage Rock Brilliance from the Mystery Lights

For the past few years, the Mystery Lights have built a devoted cult following for their shadowy, psychedelic garage rock. What differentiates them from every other bump-bump-BUMP-bump-bump, HEY band out there? They’ve got the trebly, reverbtoned vintage Vox amp sound down cold. Frontman/guitarist Mike Brandon delivers the requisite gruff, vintage soul-inspired vocals. But their songs are longer, and full of all kinds of interesting textures and touches you don’t usually find in bands who can ape everything on the original Nuggets compilation. What this band plays is a very old sound – yet they make it fresh and new and an awful lot of fun. They’re playing the album release show on June 24 at midnight at the Mercury; general admission is ten bucks. Then they’re off on US tour with fellow dark garage-psych band Night Beats.

Their debut full-length album isn’t out yet, so it’s not streaming at the group’s Bandcamp page, although fortuitously it will be available on vinyl. They go up the scale with a catchy four-chord progression to introduce the first song, Follow Me Home – with its creepy chromatic series of chords, Kevin Harris’ funereal organ and deft use of backward masking, it’s a cool update on classic 13th Floor Elevators. Drummer Noah Kohll’s flickering pulse underpins the lingering ultraviolet menace of L.A. Solano’s guitar as the band slowly makes their way through the ominous Flowers In My Hair, Demons In My Head, part Country Joe & the Fish, part late 60s Pretty Things, maybe.

Too Many Girls is funny, and pretty straight-up, in a Lyres/Fleshtones vein. Without Me is even catchier, a study in contrast between Alex Amini’s growling, melodically climbing bass and Solano’s mosquito lead lines. The stampeding Melt has a brooding flamenco tune at the center. The album’s best and darkest track, Candlelight, pairs moody minor-key organ against Brandon’s melancholy chromatic guitar lines – and then they take off on a breathless doublespeed sprint down the runway.

21 & Counting has an easygoing, swaying second-generation feel, like Rhode Island cult favorites Plan 9. Too Tough to Bear is the most trad, blues-based, Electric Music for rhe Mind and Body-type dirge here. Before My Own works the fuzztone sonics the band first made a name for themselves with. The album winds up with the uneasily swinging What Happens When You Turn the Devil Down, building to a machete thicket of guitar savagery.

On one hand, a lot of this is party music, but it’s just as enjoyable as late-night bedroom-floor or pass-out-on-the-couch music. Spin this record for a crowd of people who think garage rock is all cliches, and you’ll change a lot of minds.

Hauntingly Brilliant Retro Psychedelia from the Mystic Braves

Los Angeles quintet the Mystic Braves have grown into one of the most darkly interesting retro psychedelic bands out there. Throughout their new album Desert Island – streaming at Bandcamp – the menace doesn’t relent. They’ve also got a show coming up at the Mercury on May 7 at 7 PM; general admission is $10.

The album’s opening track, Bright Blue Day Haze works around a catchy, jangly four-chord hook that brings to mind Rhode Island psychedelic legends Plan 9, its many layers of guitar mashing up surf, funk and paisley pop. Ignacio Gonzalez’s swirling organ mingles with the layers of ominous reverb guitar on There’s a Pain, Tony Malacara’s trebly bass tiptoeing over drummer Cameron Gartung’s uncluttered pulse. Coyote Blood has a swaying, lingering desert rock ambience lit up with deliciously watery Leslie speaker guitar, something akin to the 13th Floor Elevators taking a stab at a late 60s Laurel Canyon sound.

The album’s title track glides along on dark Doorsy changes, Gonzalez’s funeral parlor organ anchoring an expansive, Robbie Krieger-esque lead guitar track and frontman/guitarist Julian Ducatenzeiler’s memories of “relationships gone to shit.” Valley Rat takes an iconic surf theme and syncopates it almost beyond recognition before going in a funkier direction and then adding mariachi trumpet. By contrast, You Take the Dark Out of Me makes ominously straight-ahead rock out of a creepy border bolero, Gonzalez’s ghostly, keening organ again serving as the icing on the cake.

I Want You Back isn’t the Jackson 5 hit: instead, it’s a propulsive mariachi-rock anthem with a devious Animals quote and a long, memorably scrambling tremolo-picked guitar break. Born Without a Heart mashes up surf with a hypnotically vamping Elevators/Chocolate Watch Band groove. In the Past kicks off with an spikily macabre folk-rock intro and then works a characteristically catchy four-chord hook. The album comes full circle with Earthshake, another track that could be Plan 9 doing the Elevators. For anyone who loves the early Doors, Peanut Butter Conspiracy or Country Joe & the Fish, this is heaven. Is this best album of 2014? It’s one of them.

Menacing Psychedelic Epics from the Frank Flight Band

If the Frank Flight Band‘s latest album, Remains, had come out in 1975 instead of earlier this year, it would be regarded as a psychedelic cult classic today. Much of it sounds as if could have been recorded then; they absolutely nail the moment right before metal and art-rock diverged. Ten-minute epics, and one that clocks in at more than twenty! Three-minute acid blues guitar solos with no wasted notes! OMFG! The whole thing is streaming at the band’s Soundcloud page.

This is a concept album with a persistent death fixation, sort of the long-lost, doomed sequel to Procol Harum’s A Salty Dog. Bandleader/guitarist Frank Flight’s tunes shift uneasily from major to minor through spaciously stark interludes that rise to epic proportions. It wouldn’t be farfetched to describe them as a British Blue Oyster Cult. Both bands favor straight-up rhythms, anthemic choruses and a surreal lyrical side that offers a leering embrace to the darkness. Frontman/lyricist Andy Wrigley’s gravelly vocals rise over a rich, lush backdrop of Michael Woodward’s multi-keys, the dual guitars of Flight and lead player Alex Kenny anchored by Danny Taylor’s melodic bass, drummer Dave Veres propelling the beast through the waves with unexpectedly subtle dynamics.

Although the first three songs are credited to Wrigley and Flight, pretty much the whole band contributes to the songwriting,  maintaining the uneasy mood so consistently it’s as if there’s a single voice behind all this. Every track here segues into the next one. The Ballad of Alice Grey opens and sets the stage for everyrthing afterward: first it’s a swaying minor blues, then it’s a surreal, chromatically-fueled Lewis Carroll art-rock epic. Woodward’s massive orchestration swirls symphonically – at one point recalling a swooping woodwind section – finally followed by the first of Kenny’s many snarling, searing yet terse guitar solos, this one with a grisly, vintage Robin Trower-style vibrato.

Dark Waters, an ominously propulsive seafaring narrative, offers a nod to Don’t Fear the  Reaper, then twists your ears as the guitar solos switch channels from left to right, followed by a menacing, Doorsy organ-bass-drums interlude leading up to an absolutely incendiary guitar maelstrom over the band’s titanic sway. The roughly nine-minute title track builds gingerly up and around a lingering guitar vamp straight out of the Nektar playbook, stormy synthesized strings pulsing over a hypnotic groove. There’s anger, and maybe murder here; Wrigley narrates a litany of disquieting imagery at the end as the band reaches back to the shoreline in a whirl of cymbals. By contrast, The Island offers a triumphant view of alienation – the guy in Veres’ lyrics seems perfectly content to watch the birds leave the shore for the sky (symbolism, anybody?).

Razor Glass, by Kenny, begins jangly and swooping before it builds to an ominous, rich Pink Floydian atmosphere. Allusions to Orbison noir, resonant Nektar-ish guitar, rippling piano, cascading synth and organ – not to mention Kenny’s mean, purist soloing – fuel this bitterly elegaic, phantasmagorical barroom scenario. Sinaloa, by Kenny and Veres, tells a gothic flamenco rock tale of death and destruction in a Mexican civil war that ultimately proves futile: it’s their Conquistador.

The final track, by Flight, is Cat, weighing in at mammoth Pink Floyd Echoes proportions. There’s so much going on here that chronicling it all would take an album-length review. In brief: jangly guitar and organ echoing Rhode Island psychedelic legends Plan 9’s Dealing with the Dead; a long, waterfalling organ solo straight out of the Dave Greenfield or Ray Manzarek playbook; more allusions to Nektar and the Doors; ominous, minimalist bass/drum grooves, evil churchbell samples, and finally, finally, a series of increasingly incendiary Kenny solos that go on for the better part of ten minutes but ultimately leave you wishing for more. As far as sheer herculean energy, epic sweep and intensity are concerned, no other band has done anything this year that can match this. There will be a “best albums of 2013” page up at the end of the year here and this one will be on it.

Great New Psychedelic Rock from the Blackfeet Braves

In a lot of respects, the Blackfeeet Braves are basically a first-class surf band with vocals and psychedelic overtones. These Los Angelenos really know what they’re doing, setting a surreal mood and maintaiing it all the way through their new album, which is streaming at Bandcamp, with a free download.  Their songs are catchy, their twangy, reverbtoned vintage guitar sonics deliciously echoey, their solos interesting , their use of effects imaginative. The bass is trebly and cuts through the mix; the drums push the beat a little and keep things uptempo. Their songwriting draws as much on early 60s Orbison-style noir pop as it does the Ventures, Dick Dale and trippier bands like the Electric Prunes. They sound like they’d be great fun live. Reputedly, this album was recorded on the site of an old Indian burying ground – whether or not that contributed to the lingering menace of many of the songs is open to interpretation.

Mystic Rabbit kicks things off with a jangly minor-key surf gallop. The first thing it brings to mind is the Ventures’ version of Runaway, but slower. Nice hollowbody bass tone cutting through the mix, too. The bouncy surf-pop of Trippin’ Like I Do reminds of Milwaukee’s Exotics, while the distantly latin-tinged Open Your Heart introduces one of the guitars running through what sounds like a repeater box (analog forerunner of the delay pedal), an effect they use frequently from this point on.

Misery Loves Company, with the repeater box set to strobe, reminds of great second-wave Rhode Island psych band Plan 9 crossed with the Ventures in propulsive outer-space mode  Please Let Me Know sets a nonchalantly swaying soul strut verse up against an apprehensively jangly chorus  and then segues into Dockweiler, an allusively menacing, vamping garage-rock tune. They follow that with the chiming, organ-fueled stoner-pop song Oh So Fine.

Cloud 9 sets warbling funeral organ over a garage rock tune with aggressive vocal harmonies, a tasty, ringing guitar solo and a scampering doublespeed interlude. Strange Lovers features a theremin keening over catchy staccato guitar; it’s one of the most memorable tracks on the album. Hanging ‘Round is the slowest and darkest track here. Vicious Cycle, a free download, follows the same arc as Cloud 9: biting chorus and then another scurrying romp where the guitarist fires off some agile tremolo-picking instead of using the repeater box. The album ends with the short, catchy, syncopated minor-key bounce of High ‘n Dry.

As with a lot of psychedelic bands, their lyrics tend to be the neither-here-nor-there kind, when they’re not going for a surreal menace – somebody “spills the blood on the victim’s hands,” “I put a spell on you, you pur a curse on me.” So it doesn’t hurt that there’s so much reverb on the vocals that it’s sometimes hard to figure them out.