Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Black Angels' "Phosphene Dream'': Music Review

Compared to "Directions to See a Ghost," which for me fulfilled the promise of "Passover," this third album's less consistent and more eclectic. I understand why. The band risked getting trapped in their overwhelming, percussive, intense drones. I loved these (see my reviews on Amazon US or my blog of both CDs), but I admit if they had produced another record full of the same darkness, without room for light, it might have been nearing a dead-end however polished and raw both.

So, with no idea what to expect, hearing these ten tracks shows me that the band recognizes what had to be done. I will briefly comment on each song to give you an idea of the range. "Bad Vibrations," a would-be slogan for the band's earlier work, starts with their familiar distorted guitar on top of a heavy beat, but it races towards a livelier end than usual. "Haunting at 1300 McKinley" continues this approach, but "Yellow Elevator #2" mixes a Clinic-like vocal processing with stacked and interwoven voices to add layers to what in the past has been the same intonations from a single throat. It works well to vary this style, which as the song goes on reminds me of very early Pink Floyd blended into "Dark Side of the Moon"'s title track: the song definitely evokes this period.

"Sunday Afternoon" opens with perhaps an electric jug like their Austin, Texas, predecessors 13th Floor Elevators used; this tune also recalls "Nuggets"-era garage rock. "River of Blood" returns to their signature sound with a war theme but it hurries up the pace also as it progresses. "Entrance Song" continues a tribal beat.

"Phosphene Dream" as the title track alters the tone and moves to a thicker, clotted production that recalls Echo and the Bunnymen with its chiming keyboards. "True Believers" adds a folksy, artsy twist that hints of Clinic and Elf Power in an experimental take on indie ambitions that filter older melodies into lo-fi studio atmospheres.

"Telephone" dramatically departs for a peppy song that could be the Beatles circa 1964. "The Sniper" ends it all with a guitar rock-based song that's rather straightforward by the band's standards, and somehow the guitar riff and delivery suggests an epic passage of the first or second Led Zeppelin albums. So, you can hear how varied this record is, as it draws upon a lot of 60s' inspired psychedelic influences. Like the best interpreters today, rather than imitate this creative period, The Black Angels filter and play and alter it into their own reality. (Posted to Amazon US & 9-15-10)

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