Trance Formers: I Is The New Album By Föllakzoid

On fourth album, I, Föllakzoid’s music swells and convulses with desert spectres and spirits, finds Cal Cashin

Photo credit: Ebru Yildiz

Looking at a South American map for the first time, the first thing you notice will always be Chile. Purely in terms of shape, it’s the most anomalous nation on the globe. It’s a long, thin country – an average of 109 miles, edge-to-edge – to the west of Argentina, with a 4,000 mile coastline that hugs the Pacific Ocean. Its north has the among the most arid climates in the world, whilst its southernmost points are almost Antarctic. Chile is a weird one.

For nearly a decade now, Chile has also boasted one of the best psychedelic scenes on the planet. The Land of Poets has produced some truly transportive music. Like Brazil, Bolivia, and Venezuela (see Soul Jazz’s excellent VENEZUELA 70 compilation), Chile was host to a fervent scene of astral travellers in the 60s and early 70s, before a military government took over the country in 1973. Today, however, the volume of sweltering psych-rockers in the country is higher than ever, with capital Santiago being a particular hotbed for gnostic music.

Sacred Bones’ Holydrug Couple are in the midst of a run of serene, ethereal records, whilst Fuzz Club’s Vuelveteloca deserve a mention for a handful of devastating albums of red-eyed Sabbath worship over the last decade. A bit of digging, and there’s dozens of names you might come across. But one stands above all else in the pantheon of Chile’s contemporary gnostic musical exponents. That name is Föllakzoid, one of Brooklyn label Sacred Bones’ flagship groups

The trio have been at it for the best part of a decade, and with new album I, more than ever, they stick almost dogmatically to their established credo. Their music and aesthetic is intensely minimalist and can be boiled down thus: bass, drums, guitar, locked into a strictly rhythmic 4/4 groove, with occasional slow burning drones and heavily distorted vocals.

But with a cold, scientific analysis of Föllakzoid’s sound and the individual ingredients that make it up, the point is completely and utterly missed. Indeed, I does follow a certain formula, but the band’s execution of it is inch perfect. All of Föllakzoid’s music swells and convulses with desert spectres and spirits, it’s music that occupies a world wherein the horizon can never fully be focused on, and all is far from how it seems.

Opening track ‘I’ is the perfect example of this; a rhythm section heartbeat propels the sprawling curtain raiser onwards, with a constant buildup of hushed industrial synth sounds, before, around the ten-minute mark, the guitar gives way to heavily phased, delayed vocals that buzz atop the beat. A thudding kick drum takes centre stage on a composition that owes far more to minimal techno than the krautrock that the group are often accused of ripping off. A lot of psych bands are hastily labelled ‘modern day krautrock practitioners’ but the reality is often a lot more nuanced. Föllakzoid see themselves sharing a common ancestor with the likes of Ash Ra Tempel and NEU! that is megalithic and ancient. It’s easy to roll your eyes when a psych band talks about ancient forces, but so transportive is Föllakzoid’s schtick that it’s easy to get on board with whatever jargon they throw your way.

Repetition is Föllakzoid’s lifeblood. They will lock into a groove in the first few bars of a composition and keep it for the often lengthy runtime with only slight deviations in tempo and gradual mutations in texture. Second track ‘II’ features an array of retro synth kronks, fashioned into a hypnotic sound bed, which the band fleetingly combine with extremely satisfying cosmic blips and pulses. ‘IIII’ features an almost growling drum pattern, that fluxes beneath yet more indecipherable phased vocals, as its main melodic idea, whilst ‘III’ is notable for vocals that sound like a deactivating cyberman before the cosmic pulses take hold of the track.

Perhaps there is a simplicity to Föllakzoid’s music when you boil it down to its parts. But the reward you get for giving yourself over to the sweltering incantations of South America’s premiere noise shamans is truly special.

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