By: Sarah Hagerman
When I find the time I love to run, but naturally I need the music to motivate me. The ominous opening notes of, appropriately, "You On The Run" make me feel as if I'm being chased from my apartment complex by shadowy government agents as I make my way through the park. The echoing, single guitar strum quickly crashes into cymbal rhythms and muddy buzzes that rain down like the sky is falling. When Alex Maas' hypnotic vocals kick in, I already feel drawn into the getaway, constantly looking over my shoulder as I continue by the river. There is graffiti spray painted on the stone wall near the water that shows bombs dropping and sarcastically reads, "Enjoy Freedom." The otherworldly noises floating in my eardrums suggest that maybe the artist's paranoia is justified.
With Directions to See a Ghost (released May 13 on Light In The Attic), Austin's The Black Angels further the psychedelic rock trip begun with their self-titled EP and continued on their debut album, Passover. The aesthetics are distinctively retro; the album caps with a 16-minute, feedback-sprinkled, distortion-heavy jam called "Snake in the Grass," and the artwork suggests something you might find while flipping through your cool hippie uncle's record collection. But, that hardly makes the Angels a nostalgia act. The usual musical gimmicks of the genre - jingly percussion, droning guitars and even swirling sitars - are given life and warmth on this record. The dense sound pulls back from the over the top punches that would pigeonhole the band, making the music grounded in a way that is timeless.
The peak of this is perhaps most evident in "Never/Ever." Delicate, feathery noodling slips into Maas' shamanic soft wailing before breaking down into the distorted sound of muffled screams. In a pupil-dilating moment of sonic clarity, the driving bassline and drums suddenly kick aside the fuzz in favor of some heavy, classic sounding rock 'n' roll. Acid rock by way of lo-fi, this album creeps up your spine, like a nice dose of liquid, and then completely absorbs your brain before you've had a chance to scratch that itch. By the end the chase has become a vision quest.
JamBase | Texas
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