psychedelic - The I-94 Bar
We all know it’s an imperfect mainstream world especially where we’re talking music - or whatever passes for it in some circles. Danish songwriter Lorenzo Woodrose is fairly well-known on the European festival circuit and at home in Denmark, but his name recognition is close to zilch in most other places. In that perfect musical world for which we all should strive, his moniker would be up there in letters larger and better known than the iconic Hollywood sign.
Woodrose was a drummer for a band called On Trial when he took a ‘60s psych project called Baby Woodrose out of his Copenhagen bedroom with a debut album called “Blows Your Mind” in 2001. It did blow the minds of many critics and was a stunning piece of heavy psych-garage rock.
A long line of albums and band personnel have followed, most of the records on the indefatigable Bad Afro label. One long-player, “Love Comes Down”, cracked the mainstream. Baby Woodrose’s prodigious output ranges from ‘70s space rock to ‘60s-derived garage rock and pop and it’s uniformly excellent. The last full-length album was four years ago.
"Come To My Party," intones Colter Langan on the severe and opening cut of the same name on the latest opus for Montana psychedelic collective Donovan's Brain and, although wrist-slashing is optional, he sure ain't breaking out the fairy bread and streamers.
One of France's finest trios of psych noisemakers go part of the way down an acoustic path for their newest record and it's hypnotically effective. Little Green Fairy don't leave the fuzzbox and wah wah pedal at home in their town of Sette but vary their textures enough to open up new vistas of light and shade.
Can you define psychedelica? Behind punk, it’s probably the most over-used term in the musical genre lexicon. That won’t change with this sprawling two-disc exploration of Australian psych, past and present.
Mixing ‘60s and ‘70s tracks with contemporary ones is an approach that could have gone horribly wrong.The wonder of this is how well the old tracks blend seamlessly with the new. Compilers Gaz Cobain (aka The Amorphous Androgynous) and Brian Dougans have done a splendid job of unearthing lost, forgotten and current nuggets and the mastering is great. It’s the fourth edition in a global series.
Sometime I-94 Bar scribe Ken Shimamoto has birthed a new band online. Brokegrove Lads is a psychedelic improv rock group with musicians from Fort Worth and Albuquerque and their first release is a single, composed in tribute to late Deviants vocalist, writer and Pink Fairies alumnus Mick Farren.
Pigeons don’t belong in holes.
In other words, just as soon as you peg Off The Hip as Australia’s home for “Thee Garage Rock Sound” exclusively, they throw another curve ball like this here Brown Spirits CD.
Brown Spirits are from Melbourne and are an instrumental trio made-up of Tim Wold, Agostino Soldati and Andre Fazio, whose collective curriculum vitae includes bands like Mod Vigil, Kids of Zoo, Deep Street Soul, Russian Roulettes, Go-Set and Legends of Motorsport.
To the best of my knowledge (and I’ve heard most of them), Brown Spirits sound nothing like any of the above.
Members of sublime Danish '60s throwbacks Baby Woodrose make up two-thirds of Telstar Sound Drone, but that's where the resemblance ends. Recorded in a WWII bomb shelter, it mimics the sound of a psychedelic lava flow with each of its seven tracks seamlessly flowing into the next.
One definition of a convolution is “a twist”, and there are more of those in the history of Donovan’s Brain than Donald Trump’s Twitter stream.
Starting as a garage band in 1986 - playing Thunders and Stooges covers - the Brain has evolved into a shape-shifting, back woods psychedelic musical collective, with nine albums and 26 past or present members. “Convolutions” covers 1991-2017 and generously spans three discs. That’s 49 songs and a touch under four hours of music.
The only constant in the Donovan’s Brain story is Ron Sanchez, a musician, radio host, restauranteur and producer who relocated many years ago from the US West Coast to the bucolic and relatively remote location of Bozeman, Montana.
It’s been brow-beaten, down-trodden, emasculated and generally forced underground but hard ’n’ heavy rock and roll has never been fully wiped out these last 20 years.
Purists will tell you that it still exists in the cracks and crevices of grimy back-streets in a select number of cities. They’ll go on to say that the so-called power trio format is its most genuine manifestation because it allows each element to stand out in the sharpest of relief.
Montana-based psych collective Donovan’s Brain returns after a four-year hiatus – hardly a blip, really, in a trajectory that’s now spanned two decades. Joining San Francisco expat Ron Sanchez for the festivities are his fellow Montanan Deniz Tek and Mississippi power popster Bobby Sutliff, who once drove 13 hours to record with Let’s Active honcho Mitch Easter. His Career stablemate Roy Loney, who’s been shaking some action this year in tandem with his Flamin’ Groovies partner Cyril Jordan, is also on board.
This is the second retrospective package but the first well-rounded “best of” for the late (1994-2012) but great Swedish psych-rock-pop conglomerate. While the 2 CD “A Present From The Past” focused on outtakes and rare gems, “Golden Greats” is a single disc that’s largely what it says on the package.
The nature of Rock is that it sometimes comes seeping out of the most unlikely places. Sonic Assassin member Rauky leads the three-piece from southern France with the funny name. Southern France is a great place to visit but hasn’t been renowned for Rock Action since Keef and Co copped the eviction notice back in the early ‘70s. This disc makes us wonder if we’re getting out enough (air fares to Europe will be gratefully accepted).
Americans watch their football games in four quarters. The Rest of The World tends to do things in halves. Just because “Heirloom Varieties” is neatly sliced into a couple of equal portions of contrasting music doesn’t make it any less of a trip to the psychedelic and pop backwoods of the US of A.
The first half (the review copy is a 14-track CD but you can score it as an 11-song LP) plays out in Paisley Underground territory, circa California 1986, with a huge nod to the jangly folk-psych of two decades earlier. That’s to say Rain Parade (that band’s Matt Pucci is a member), Green On Red and The Dream Syndicate. Steve Wynn fans will lap it up. The second half switches the mood to something darker and more psychedelic.
If you're looking for an expert on Danish acid rock of the early '70s you're in the wrong place. That period of music is the reference point for Spids Nogenhat but if they hit their mark, I have no idea. I do know that this, their second studio LP on champion Copenhagen label Bad Afro, is excellent.
The "art" of review writing (if there is one) is partly about saying something in the first few lines ("the lead") that makes you, the reader, take notice. So let's say The Movements from Sweden are the greatest exponents of psychedelic rock in the world today. Taking notice yet? It's just one person's opinion - but it's true. Read on to find out why.
If you are just surfin' around the net on the lookout for this week's dime-a-dozen Richie Rich, aggression free, smiley-faced, redundant, Ramones tribute band with the obligatory Lewis leather apparel and Betty Page hair-do's, this might not really be your thing. But if your chakras are open to some really far-out psychedelic, cosmic consciousness, vibrating at a higher frequency, maan, this might be your new trip-room soundtrack.
Junkyard Prog, Freak-Jazz, Magic Mushroom instrumentals from other solar systems, other dimensions, other times. Kooky, Otherworldly, Stoner-Pop reminiscent of the Hendrix Experience, Blue Cheer, MC5 jams, King Crimson, solo Steve Vai records, it has an interplanetary sensibility, this guy obviously still communicates telepathically with Sun Ra, and Captain Beefheart, and Brian Eno and Lee Scratch Perry, ya know what I'm sayin'?
Here it is folks - this is the sound the “cool kids” make these days. “Cool kids” being what the wearers would dismissive as a totally pejorative term, but essentially being a title for whatever constitutes a “scene maker” in these musically fractured times. “Scene” being another pejorative word.
It’s hard to keep up with contemporary music once you pass a certain age - even when you’re consciously trying to cock an ear to what seeps out of cracks in the footpath and shuns daylight. Of course it’s a given that you shouldn’t pay attention to just about ANYTHING that makes it to commercial radio airwaves, but in this case "contemporary" means the underground shit, maaan. And Los Tones are under the commercial radar by any measure.
The Electric Guitars are fucking extraordinary. I saw this outfit in Geelong and they deliberately mess with your expectations. Partly I spose it's 'cause there are so many fucking rock'n'roll bands. And these days, there's a big swing towards the manner of psychedelia (without the bad trips and foul behaviour) in the US and UK.
Yeah, so the Electric Guitars use wah-wah. But it's hardly a mannered thing - they use a lot of effects, and they ain't shy about it. This outfit don't need drugs to get your attention, instead they have carefully set-up songs and wield them like scalpels, chainsaws and bludgeons, sometimes all at once.
You think you know where you are with a band like this, you'll fall on your face. The second song alone ("Three Body Problem") is a case in point... you're sucked in, frankly, and after a while your sinuses are aching and your inner ear is rattling. If you have fillings, take them out before you listen.
Allowing for a near death experience and a lengthy hiatus, they’ve been around for 20 years. It’s been more than a decade since their last album. So does Rocket Science still matter? Yes.
“Snake” is their fifth long-player and in the genre classification stakes, Rocket Science is still playing hard to get. Psych-rock? Post-punk garage rock? Trashy new wave? Whatever you want to label them, go right ahead, it’s probably fine by them. The one thing we can all agree on is that “Snake” is one very dark hombre of an album.
Dark, you say? Whatever do you mean? It is hard to out a finger on. It doesn't have to be explicitly stated in the lyrics or through minor chords. In the case of "Snake", it's a mood thing and very much a sum of the band's parts.
They don’t have Real Rock and Roll bands in New York City any more, do they? Don’t kid yourself, kid. They might be hard to find but they’re still there, their beating hearts buried under 50 feet of radio-friendly dross and cultural fragmentation.
No, Virginia, there’s no CBGBs. They made a shitty telemovie about it and moved the awning to an airport bar, somewhere. It was a shadow of what it was, even when I got there in the mid-‘80s. There’s no Max’s, either. Times Square is more family friendly than a Disney dance party. Even The Continental is just a dive bar now, more famous for (literally) banning a figure of speech than the Joey Ramone parties it used to host in the ‘80s.
Gentrification has a lot of downsides and one is squeezing cultural outsiders to the extreme margins. Art mostly doesn’t pay the rent, pegged or non existent. The NY rock “scene” is in Brooklyn these days, by all accounts. It has been for quite some time but it’s mostly disposable pop. Thank fuck, then, for Beechwood.