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Columnfortably Numb: Psych Rock For September Reviewed By JR Moores
JR Moores , September 9th, 2020 10:41

August's psych and noise-rock offerings include music suitable for blasting across the solar system, avoiding Wetherspoons and having a nice walk in the countryside, writes JR Moores

I've just watched a few hours of Glastonbury footage on the BBC iPlayer while consuming my own weight in red wine and camembert, so festival season is business as usual in the Moores household. Seriously though, I am as gutted as a sea bass in a Rick Stein restaurant that events like our beloved Supersonic Festival haven't been able to go ahead as planned. If another year comes around in their absence I'm going to swap the red wine for cyanide and replace my camembert supplies with a delicious big block of arsenic.

At the time of writing, I haven't seen the nitty-gritty details of the government's very welcome funding scheme for the arts. Let's just hope it isn't paid for through (knowing them) taxing lepers and outlawing all universities.

We also have to keep our eyes on whether the funding is genuinely going to reach the places that are the lifeblood of the music scene: those venues where musicians hone their craft and gradually build their audiences while a 90s MDMA casualty dances like Bez in the corner no matter whether they're watching Black Midi or Laura Marling.

What we don't want is for the Tories to pay lip service to the struggling music scene while rescuing only those businesses that they personally frequent themselves, such as the fanciest playhouses in the Home Counties or the private members' mansions where elite millionaires congregate to have promiscuous sex wearing elaborate masks like in that Nicole Kidman film. I think it was called Batman Forever. And we can't have the plan exploited either, just like everything else is at this point in history. You can bet that Hogarthian ogre who founded Wetherspoons already has plans for half an open-mic night to take place once a fortnight in each one of his budget pubs in the hope of eking a few more million quid out of his no-deal chums in the cabinet. Sorry, Brudenell Social Club, you can't reopen in 2021 because Tim Toilet-Mouth needs another holiday home or twelve in which to house his humongous collection of unfeasibly greasy rugby shirts.

Anyway, we should be happy that Rishi Sunak has revealed his package. No, I'm not talking about those elite sex parties again. In tenuously linked celebration, here's my own package of new psych and noise-rock releases. If you can afford to do so, please consider purchasing the ones you enjoy directly from the artists/labels involved. Try not to simply stream these tunes through the Spotify account that Elon Musk embedded into your brain last night in an attempt to sustain Grimes' relevancy. The royalties from that will be pittance and the C.E.O. taxed at a rate of zero Bezos. ONWARD!

Silver Scrolls - Music For Walks
(Three Lobed)

The band that did more than any other act to advance pop music as an art form, in the year 1965, sang the immortal words "Baby you can drive my car beep beep'm beep beep yeah". America's greatest living rock star, Bruce Springsteen, wrote songs about the highway before he even owned a driver's licence. Kraftwerk went from serenading the Autobahn in their own peculiar way to doing the same thing for the Trans-Europe Express and then finally bicycles. Fewer records have been inspired by the most natural form of transport; one that is less glamorous and less macho than all of those involving planes, trains and automobiles: the simple act of walking. (Unless you count The Bangles doing it like an Egyptian or Genesis doing it because they couldn't dance. But those were both novelty walks/songs so they don't really count.)

Step up (literally) Silver Scrolls and their six-track song cycle all about walking. Dave Brylawski and Brian Quast have both played in cult art-rock band Polvo but this is a different kettle of sole. The duo's music is less jerky and urgent than the parent band. This isn't a quick dart to the shops and back, nor is it a calorie-burning power walk across a traffic bridge. Despite its regular bursts of lively drum fills and occasional guitar rippery, the overall feel is a deeply pleasant and laidback one that certainly suits its topic. It's like something Holy Sons, Wooden Wand and Lee Ranaldo might come up with if they were to ramble together. (Though I have heard that, like Kraftwerk, the latter is more a velocipede fiend.) Anyone who's swapped weeklong acid binges for wandering the countryside or else stared at a David Hockney painting of the Yorkshire Wolds for more than a minute will tell you this: going for a stroll can be a very psychedelic exercise indeed. Get this album on your headphones and you'll never look back (until it's time to head home for supper).

OZO - Pluto
(Drone Rock)

OZO have the extraordinary ability to blow away even those cobwebs that have yet to leave the spider's arse [Er... Entymology Ed]. They do this armed with free-jazz alto-sax honks, meaty psych riffs, space-rock spaghetti-lead wig-outs, ear-pounding drum beats, and absolutely no pissing about. It's the prolific Newcastle-based sonic dimension jumper Mike Vest who's on guitar duties so it'll come as little surprise that OZO's debut album only came out a few months ago and here they are again with its follow-up already. February's release was called Saturn. This one's named Pluto. Give them another few months and the trio will have traversed the entire solar system and documented the whole crazy trip on vinyl. It took Gustav Holst a good couple of years to complete his Planets suite, the lethargic loser! He should've enlisted Mike Vest to lay down some righteous licks. That would've got his project moving along, not to mention livening up the duller parts in 'Neptune, The Mystic'. It doesn't matter that Vest wouldn't be born for many decades after Holst had died. He can jump dimensions, people! Using amplifiers and a souped-up Tardis-like transit van or something. Anyway, Saturn was already pretty damn good and although Pluto mines similar free-psych territory, it does so in an even more satisfying way with a richer, heavier sound and more forceful spirit of intent. This is ironic seeing as, technically speaking, Pluto is much smaller than Saturn as well as many times lighter and was unceremoniously stripped of its full planetary status in 2006. Who cares about the details? Bring on the next celestial body!

Mummise Guns - Mummise Guns
(Riot Season)

Mummise Guns feature current or former members of Part Chimp, Luminous Bodies, Casual Nun, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs and Ghold. Given you now possess that information, why haven't you paused reading to order this superbeast already? What exactly are you waiting for? Holding out for some tinnitus-ridden hack whose belly is beginning to bulge out of his grubby old Boredoms T-shirt to tell you it's actually good? It sounds deliciously minging, all right? Happy now? The riffs feel like they were born in the soil. More specifically, the exact stinking mound of soil that separates the back gardens of Ron Asheton and Paul Leary. There are rusty old bits of bicycle poking out of the dirt as well as the amputated limbs of some misused mannequins. A kid from the neighbourhood was digging around in it once and was rushed to hospital after sustaining deep black scratches all over his forearms. He could've sworn something reached out and tried to grab him. He was sure it wasn't human. These days he keeps a vast collection of unusual insects in a massive transparent box. There is so much distortion it's like drowning in space tar. The band proclaim to have a singer but it sounds more like they abducted a distressed uncle who'd been possessed by the spirit of long-dead serial-killing clown and locked him in the recording booth while he spoke in tongues and made unspeakable, indecipherable threats upon his captors. This release is utter filth. Not one for the Elbow fans.

Ganser - Just Look At That Sky

It's probably fair to say that, historically speaking, the Chicago noise-rock scene (and the noise-rock scene in general) has been broadly dominated by WHITE DUDES SHOUTING ABOUT SOME HORRIFIC BODILY INJURY THEY READ ABOUT IN A NON-FICTION BOOK. Nu-metal with a library card, if you will. So it's about time a band like Ganser arrived to shake things up a bit. The vocals are shared by bassist Alicia Gaines and keyboardist Nadia Garafalo. Yes, they have a keyboardist. This serves to enhance the many interesting textures that can found across Ganser's dense sound. It might also explain why some people have been eager to lump the quartet into the post punk category even though this second album feels both too beefy and not so austere as to be filed alongside all those monochrome Mancunians who wear shirts. In fact, it's so difficult to pin down Ganser that while some have them shelved as post punk, others think they're a noise rock act or that they're dabbling in art rock or even no wave. Some critics place them in the Windy City's lineage of Big Black descendants. Others think they sound more like they're from the north of England. This lack of consensus is testament to Ganser's distinctive nature. Perhaps we need a new category for their curiously unique blend of moody bass, bristling guitar lines, arty atmospheres and angsty cool singing. I'm too ridden with ennui right now to come up with something snappy myself so I'll leave it to you lot. Post noise rock? Nu noise wave? Ganscore? I.G.M. (Intelligent Ganse Music)? I've never been very good at this. In the meantime, it's worth mentioning that Just Look At That Sky was co-produced by Mia Clarke of Electrelane, another band that defied categorisation and who, lest we forget, came up with Axes, which was the best album of the mid-00s. Not that most people noticed. They were too busy listening to that yellow Hard-Fi album. Philistines!

Modern Technology - Service Provider
(Human Worth/Cruel Nature)

I've always had a slight suspicion of bands who purport to rock with only two members. The White Stripes needed a bassist more desperately than I need a urinal after more than a pint and a half of pale ale. No Age are often found to be decidedly okay. The Kills are a Royal Trux/Topshop sponsorship deal x 1000. Japandroids have all those yelpy whoa whoas to disguise their lack of true oomph. Every Royal Blood song resembles a Muse recording before little Matt Bellamy has had a chance to overdub his signature widdly guitar scales. I'm not even hugely fond of Lightning Bolt if I'm completely honest. ("Gadzooks! The gentleman speaks pure sacrilege! Revoke the scribe's membership of the noise-rock brotherhood, post-haste! He shall be banished to test his quill on the subject of the Duchess of Sussex for the Tittle-Tattle Gazette!") Big Business are one exception that proves the rule but now we also have Modern Technology. Chris Clarke is on bass and vocals. Owen Gildersleeve is behind the kit. You'd be forgiven for thinking there are a few other members involved, hiding behind a curtain somewhere, given the big thick racket this duo manage to hammer out. Clarke's punishing bass riffs are meatier than a butcher's plughole. The vocals suggest that his disgust at the unjust state of the world have had the corporeal effect of clogging up his throat. Gildersleeve alternates between phat damp beats and crazy drum fills. There's so much distortion that if you shook a stick at it, the stick would run away like a frightened Peperami.

Ellis/Munk Ensemble - San Diego Sessions
(El Paraiso)

Jonas Munk is a member of Danish stoner amp-botherers Causa Sui. Brian Ellis is a Californian multi-instrumentalist who's dabbled in multiple genres with multiple bands. Their two names appear in the largest font on the LP sleeve but there were 11 other ensemble members involved in this jammy, jam-packed recording. Together they make a potent brew all right. It's a busy mixture of funk, psych, desert rock, jazz and perhaps a sprinkling of prog. There's a hell of a lot of talent on display, yet little is sacrificed in the gnarliness stakes. Attention-grabbing opener 'The Wedge' is all frantic and chunky. 'Pauly's Pentacles' brings things down a notch with its steadier pace and sexy lead guitar licks. It's as if Eddie Hazel from Funkadelic has resurrected himself with the express intention of kicking some of the smoothness out of Santana. 'Bucket Drips' is all mellow and hazy, while 'Larry's Jungle Juice' is a touch darker and more threatening in nature. Throughout, the musicians couldn't be any more in the zone if they had painted the letters 'Z', 'O', 'N' and 'E' in huge writing on the four walls of the recording studio.

Next time: What's a guy gotta do to get a byline in the Wall Street Journal? I could've easily cracked a gratuitous Uranus joke earlier on. But I resisted, didn't I? Where's me Pulitzer?