Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sonic Jesus' "Neither Virtue nor Anger": Music Review

Imagine a double album full of some of your favorite bands from the past fifty years. The first disc revives the metallic depths of early Joy Division in their post-punk phase. A few songs soften a bit, as with the Velvets. But most churn on, relentless, with a drony guitar wash, thundering drums, a Krautrock icy blast on bass and electronics, and appropriately gloomy vocals. The homage this British band pays to its forebears is honest, They are neither derivative nor repetitive. The fresh punch of the music leaps out, the pulse that pushes it forward, into our brains and our hearts. The post-punk tension that links the Velvets to the early 80s is here. So are Spacemen 3, Loop, and Hawkwind, filtered into a catchy set of downbeats, somber as they may be. This also reminds me of peers, Farflung.

On the second disc, the tribal vibe dominates. The first singles and albums of The Black Angels found this place, where the heartland of Native America meets the dessicated psychedelia of Austin, Texas. So, the songs here follow this groove. More percussive if as distorted as those on the post-punk first disc, the second disc drifts from Northern Europe's chill into Eastern and indigenous moods. But the band keeps its cohesion, stretching out into long pieces on both discs, to explore dank inner realms.

It's rare for me to give full stars to a new band, and a first album. Yet this fulfills the promise of maturity, difficult for some musicians who capture the essence of past bands' triumphs, yet who manage to meld the sounds they love into a new mold. Sonic Jesus brings this off by allowing the space of two discs to delve into their more jittery early-80s and the more lysergic late-60s directions of their forebears. It's a clever combination, and for all the dark corners they explore, an inviting place. (Amazon US 5-20-15; edited @ Spectrum Culture 7-4-15 for Best of 2015 Music, so far)


Trish Nicholson said...

Hello John Murphy, this post made me realise how narrow is my musical experience, and diverted me to the extent that I almost forgot what I came onto to your site to do - to make contact with you. I used the email link on your profile but my message has been bounced back. Is there another email address I could use please? Dr Trish Nicholson (author of Journey in Bhutan)

John L. Murphy / "Fionnchú" said...

Hello, Dr. Trish. I thought I had responded to you already, but my alternative e-mail is fionnmaccu at aol dot com or DrJLMurphy at the same domain. Thanks for asking (and pardon any delay as somehow this popped up in my messages pending file).