Plankton Wat

Future Times

Imbued with a rich sense of place, Plankton Wat's new record finds inner peace, finds Tom Bolton

From the turbulent alternative heartland of Portland, Oregon, a dispatch arrives. The Pacific North West may seem further away at the moment than it has for generations, but Plankton Wat’s new album drops us into the heart of the city and its mountainous surroundings, beset by political and climactic upheaval during the dying days of Trump. The swirling, guitar-driven instrumentals are pure psychedelic exploration, but the album addresses forest fires (‘The Burning World’), Black Lives Matter protests (‘Dark Cities), and police violence (‘Defund the Police’). It also offers spiritual redemption through the wild places that surround Portland (‘Future Times’, ‘Wind Mountain’).

Plankton Wat is Dewey Mahood, when he’s not involved with Eternal Tapestry or any number of other psych bands lucky enough to benefit from his absorbing guitar improvisations over the past couple of decades. Influenced by Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders, as well as Can and The Minutemen, Mahood’s brand of music is playful as well as intense. He draws out strong melodies while hinting throughout that a full-on Wooden Shjips drone rush could be on the cards. There’s John Fahey in there too, as is clear on ‘Modern Ruins’ which is based around a lovely, yet doom-laden finger picked figure shadowed by an electric guitar, and delivers a bone-crushing finish.

It is representative of an album that is filled with an almost overpowering atmosphere, generated through Mahood’s improvisation skills and his connection to the place where it was made, during Spring 2020 lockdown. Clashes with the police in Portland, and accelerating extreme weather events are reflected in the first half of the album, including an inner rumble on ‘Nightfall’ and mounting tension on ‘Dark Cities’. Yet the second half dissolves into optimism, channelling the wild landscapes where freedom can be found among the azaleas. ‘Defund the Police’ is actually a calm and lovely track, while ‘Wind Mountain’ is unashamedly ecstatic. This may well be the hippy dream, with overtones of fleeing to the hills to start again, but it sounds so good. ‘Future Times’ is a comforting record, delivered by a highly-skilled musician taking on the epically harsh world of the 2020s, and facing off against the dark forces with the pure power of mind-melting music. That kind of optimism is in short supply and we need more of what Plankton Wat has to offer us: mind expansion, inner calm, and irresistible fuzz.

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