Columnfortably Numb: Psych Reviews For May By JR Moores

JR Moores has a religious experience after shopping at Cheeses Of Nazareth - yet he still had time to deliver reviews of albums by Bardo Pond, Wolf Eyes, Pontiak, Endless Boogie and Part Chimp

I have recently taken to microdosing on feta.

It’s well established that, as the most psychedelic dairy product this side of the Müller Corner, cheese can get you high. You have to be cautious though because it’s also as addictive as crack, a fact which has substantial historical as well as scientific basis. At the nadir of his own crippling dependency, Samuel Pepys murdered one of seventeenth-century London’s most beloved cheese mongers for little more than a snifter of rare parmesan. Pepys then buried the evidence and started the Great Fire of London to cover his tracks. It’s said that when the flames eventually died down, all that remained was dust and de brie.

It starts out as innocent fun. A Kraft slice here. A Laughing Cow segment there. A carefree Dairylea dunking session behind the bikesheds at break time; all of them gateway cheeses to the far harder stuff. Soon enough, you’re living solely for that sweet moment when your cheese buddy returns from a late-night telephone call to the black-market monger. There comes a smile on her face: "There’s still some of the Ädelost we got yesterday." More and more frequently you take to cheesing alone, drawing the moth-eaten curtains and shovelling molten Gruyère from the fondue bucket using a fuck-off brick of cheddar instead of a spoon so desperate to get a fix that you haven’t the patience to let it cool down or blow on it a bit. You wake three days later ridden with amnesia; your clothes, sofa and coffee table coated in a thin layer of cracker powder; your insatiable mouth blistered, aching and excruciatingly Bonjela-less. Driven half insane by the guilt and shame and with no one else to turn to, you have deranged conversations with your elegantly curved but barely washed cheese knife. "We gouda get out of this place," you weep. "I agree, ricotta get out of this place," the knife appears to reply. It really starts to grate. You feel edamned for eternity. [You’re fired, Ed]

It’s no use alternating between those binges and what is known in the underground cheese scene as going "cold halloumi": a sudden withdrawal that’ll have you sweating, puking and hallucinating that the ceiling is crawling with dead Babybels. It doesn’t take much to fall off the wagorgonzola. Errington in moderation is what I preach. Consuming strictly no more than a quarter of a cubic centimetre of hard cheese every couple of days or so has transformed my life. My therapist agrees that my depression, anxiety and mood swings have eased. My doctor thinks my cholesterol is back on track. Best of all, my literary agent says that if I reduce the cheesy puns I could publish the biggest selling self-help title since Paul McKenna’s I Can Mend Your Self-Disgust For Just 7 Days Now With A Free CD. Like the nerds of Silicon Valley dropping minuscule amounts of LSD, my concentration and creativity have improved drastically so I can fully focus on compiling the latest psych and noise rock releases without distraction. Here are the latest recommendations, in bite-sized review format. Handy psychrodoses, if you will.

Bardo Pond – Under The Pines


I can handle Prince’s departure. I knew Leonard Cohen wouldn’t baritone us forever. I have made my peace with Bowie’s passing and the split of Sonic Youth. Were Bardo Pond to suddenly call it a day however, I’d be as inconsolable as Channel 4’s Supervet in one of the few tragic instances when his pet-healing powers prove less than super. I am not possessed with the faculties to tell you what holy combination of pedals the Gibbons brothers have fed their guitars through to construct their latest soul-shaking barricade of glorious distortion, nor whether it’s an overtly different combination to that used on the previous album. All I know is that it has the same effect on me as all of Bardo’s output, which is something bordering on the ineffable. When I interviewed a couple of Fat White Family members last year, they insisted there was no excuse for writing lyrics that go "baby, baby". (True art addresses the Third Reich, heroin and celebrity instances of interspousal violence, of course.) They’ve overlooked one key method of getting away with it. Ask Isobel Sollenberger to repeat the word "baby" while adding a sprinkling of psych flute to a track and the result is not the by-numbers disposable songwriting that the Fat Whites imply. In the right hands, IT’S DOWNRIGHT HEAVENLY. Just play Under The Pines‘ ‘Moment To Moment’ to hear for yourself. Another sweet spot is the refrain on ‘Out Of Reach’ which vaguely resembles John Lennon’s aah-aah-abridgements from ‘A Day In The Life’, only slowed waaaaaaaaay down and smothered in amplifier smog. Elsewhere, Sollenberger sings that she could "sleep here until the end of time." Frankly I could listen to Bardo Pond until the end of time. They’re without doubt one of my Desert Island Bands and if you beg to differ then I’m shoving you off this sundrenched paradise in a leaky dingy, Mr Crusoe. 

Wolf Eyes – Undertow

(Lower Floor)

Last night the squeaky gate outside my house wrenched itself free of its hinges, crept its way up the staircase and throttled me in my sleep while it shat rust all over the duvet. Coincidentally that’s also what the new Wolf Eyes record is like, especially the corroded shriek that is ‘Laughing Tides’. Three studio albums and sod knows how many obscurer releases since Wolf Eyes declared noise music dead and entered their so-called "trip metal" phase, the Detroit mavericks continue to explore the psychedelic, restrained and mature side of themselves in contrast to the sheer black noise terror of their earlier work… and are all the more unsettling for it. The title track consists of a minimalist bass trudge adorned with eerie background fuzz reminiscent of the looped final sputter of an off-brand bonfire sparkler as the dead-eyed effigy of Guy Fawkes stares out from behind the flames, judging our follies. Over that smouldering mess, Nate Young mutters dystopian beat poetry like a basket-brained character from some Philip K. Dick novel: angry, impotent, confused, paranoid and unsure if he is alone or even himself. Despite taking up the whole second side of the LP to sinisterly uncurl itself, ‘Thirteen’ leaves you wanting more. If you had the foresight to pre-order Undertow, more is exactly what you’ll get in the form of the limited bonus CD Right In Front Of You. How d’you describe that one? Our old nemesis The Possessed Gate returns for a second nightly session of metallic strangulation and rust-scat mischief, backed by a free-jazz car-horn solo.

Pontiak – Dialectic Of Ignorance

(Thrill Jockey)

The Hanson of High. The Weedy Bee Gees. The King-Sized Rolling Papers Of Leon. Apologies, I’ve only recently discovered that Pontiak’s three members are brothers. Whereas 2014’s Innocence alternated between Nebula-esque sand stompers and acoustic fireside lullabawls, Dialectic Of Ignorance‘s eight cuts all have the swagger of an unrushed bigfoot. This makes for a samier work, yes, but also a stronger, more consistent and satisfying one. A lot of slow bands on the psych/stoner spectrum are fronted by mountain men whose throats have been sanded to gravel through the incessant inhalation of cannabis smoke and cactus-spiked desert wind. Either that or it’s a skinny magician’s nephew disguising his maladroit whine with a wacky excess of reverb. Neither is the case for Pontiak, whose Van Carney has taken to vocalising in a modest near-whisper, complimenting the music rather than detracting, distracting or dominating. That’s not to say he’s got nowt to say – the line "ignorance makes me high" stands out, for example – it’s just that you have to listen closely to pick apart Carney’s lyrics which are said to be influenced by such intellectual literary talents as Karl Ove Knausgård, Bohumil Hrabal and Leo Tolstoy. You don’t get that from Royal Blood frontbro Mike "shooby dooby figure-it-out" Kerr. Another of Pontiak’s plus points is that you get the impression that they thoroughly, honestly, passionately care about their various drum sounds. It’s an attention to detail that has paid off in spades. Sometimes crisp and neat, at other times splodgy and echoing to buggery, Lain Carney’s beats are a joy to behold.

Feral Ohms – Feral Ohms
(Silver Current)

Feral Ohms’ studio debut enters the pantheon of Cult Albums With Primates On The Sleeve, joining Ventura’s Ultima Necat, the first Grinderman LP and GRRR! by The Rolling Stones. The inky mandrill was drawn by talented fellow Ethan Miller who is the guitarist and chief bluesy wailer in Feral Ohms. You may already know him from his commendable work with Comets On Fire, Howlin’ Rain and Heron Oblivion. Clearly he’s a busy chap which might go some way to explaining his latest project’s breakneck take on psych & roll. Seriously, drummer Chris Johnson plays so damn fast he might as well be chasing a 9lb round of cheese down an 80 degree grassy slope in Gloucester as Miller and bassist Josh Haynes tumble down beside. They’re from California so they probably don’t literally engage in such eccentric pursuits but you get the picture. Presumably they recorded a bunch of takes and insisted that only the most caffeinated ones made the final pressing. Living up to their name, the result sounds blooming primal. (But not really primal. It takes an awful lot of practice to rock so hard and so fast. Making it look primal, that’s the secret.)

Endless Boogie – Vibe Killer

(No Quarter)

According to the blurb, Vibe Killer is a concept album inspired by the life of Aaron Burr, the third Vice President of the United States. So far, so Gore Vidal. If that sounds way too highbrow for ya, do not fret my frazzled friend because this is Endless Boogie we’re discussing. Like when your flatmate attempts to articulate a coherent historical-political thesis after hitting hard at his bamboo bong, the ‘Boogie can get plenty parenthetical to say the least. Who else would find it necessary, on a record focusing on the duel-prone disgraced politician Aaron Burr, to include the line "Give me a nickel and I’ll show you Don Rickles"? Remember Nick Cave’s rejected screenplay for Gladiator 2 in which Russellimus Meridicrowe is resurrected to fight in Vietnam? We’re a few tracks into Vibe Killer‘s narrative when Burr appears to be dropping acid at a 1974 Kiss concert some 138 years after his own death. Lyricism aside what really matters is the choogly woogly geetar noodlin’ and although this is the ‘Boogie’s least endless (i.e. most concise) studio effort to date with the longest track being a mere 11 minutes and 42 seconds long, they’re still better at jammin’ than the official Women’s Institute Bob Marley Covers Band.

Flowers Must Die – Kompost


It’s tempting to say that if you only buy one psych-rock record this year, make it Kompost. I wouldn’t go quite that far because you should obviously buy loads of ’em including those neglected by this column as a result of short-term memory loss. Plus, Bardo Pond have just released a new LP (see above and distribute your pocket money accordingly). Even so, such is the wealth and diversity of psychedelic gubbins lurking in Kompost‘s yellow grooves that you could spend countless rewarding hours in its company. The record is dronesome in certain places, funky in others, with generous smatterings of krautrock, space rock, jazz, proggy freak folk and other fuckings about which all prove more colourful than Joseph’s Amazing Technicolor Pollock Palette Spillage. Amon Düül II certainly spring to mind, as do Can, Acid Mothers Temple and Flowers Must Die’s fellow cosmic Swedes Träd, Gräs & Stenar. Having said that, one section masquerades as a lost Donna Summer blaxploitation soundtrack being run through a mangle. Oh, and do you prefer a male, female or robotic vocal? Don’t worry, in different places Flowers Must Die experiment with all three. Kompost has something for everyone plus a little bit extra.

Part Chimp – IV
(Rock Action)

One of Britain’s greatest ever noise-rock groups has resurfaced and some people have been championing Part Chimp’s unsung gift for melody. They tell us that, while Part Chimp may be louder than placing the hoover nozzle directly over your ear and sucking out your tympanic membrane, the band also has a dapper knack for a tune. Frankly, if I wanted melody I’d be scouring YouTube for Live Lounge-indebted busker renditions of ‘All About That Bass’. I came for the phat riffs, smothered bellowing and piercing feedback. Part Chimp haven’t let me down. Theirs is truly a wall of sound and, furthermore, it’s an imposing 40-foot wall that’s covered in mud, grease, mould, scary bugs, barbed wire, irreverent graffiti and human faeces. According to a recent interview, the album’s lyrics cover Godzillian slug monsters, interminable car journeys and a traumatic nightmare suffered by Bouncer the dog from TV’s Neighbours. That’s good to know, although Tim Cedar could be shouting a Buzzfeed listicle about home-counties Tinder faux pas for all I care. To reiterate, I’m here for the thunderous guitar noise which is duly denser than Buzz Osborne’s hair.

Christian Fitness – Slap Bass Hunks

Andrew "Falco" Falkous will ruin other lyricists for you. First he did it with Mclusky, then with Future Of The Left, and now with his sideline venture Christian Fitness. Spend a little time with his riff-backed words and "Should’ve known, little girl / That you’d do me wrong" doesn’t cut it anymore. He claims to have exchanged the miserable office temp work he used to undertake between FOTL tours by self-releasing Christian Fitness records via Bandcamp, the lucky Falker. You’d expect his appeal to be more niche than that but such are the number of fans desperately and generously queuing up for their latest fix of shouty Falco loquaciousness. This fourth ‘Fitness full-length doesn’t disappoint by ruminating loudly on – SPOILER ALERT – puppy haters, homemade canoes, Stan Collymore, rotting gazeboes, bees, bees and more bees (or lack of, in the immediate future). It’s another ear-crunchin’, home-rockin’, tight-drummin’, eyebrow-raisin’, rump-shakin’ idiosyncratic beast, even if the fancy bass line on the final track does sound worryingly like Muse.

The Cosmic Dead – Psych Is Dead

(Riot Season)

This is news to me, psych being dead. That means I’m out of a gig and will have to return, tail-tucked-between-thighs, to my prior occupation of re-enacting imaginary Edwardian ghost sightings for the entertainment of bemused Danish tourists. Luckily Psych Is Dead is a misnomer, as if Slayer declared the end of thrash. Imagine Elbow’s next album being titled Omnipresent Faux-Soulful Orchestral Indie Piddle Is Dead. Or if The 1975 had called their latest opus Sounding Exactly Like INXS Is Dead. No, The Cosmic Dead have not rebranded as a quasi-Balearic vapourcore fourpiece. This triptych of well-long acid improvs was recorded "in a sweaty Sardinian kitchen". That seems an idyllic setting for Brydon & Coogan to exchange jovial impersonations over an expensive bowl of gnocchetti. Did The Cosmic Dead record in the middle of the night or at wintertime? Is this a case of being able to take the guys out of Glasgow but not the Glasgow out of the guys? Because Psych Is Dead is bookended by two numbers of dark and ominous fogginess. The rusty swirls of ‘Nuraghe’ are built around a heavy, simple and repetitive bass line that’ll flatten you into submission. The title track’s much lighter; reminiscent of Acid Mothers at their pinkest and most floaty. Then ‘#FW’ brings the LP to a fiercely dirging no-wave climax not dissimilar to revving the engine of a fucked rocket until it flatulates poisonous fumes over all surrounding flora. Maybe psych is dead after all. The Scots have killed it. The dream is over. I’m looking for something on PAYE. Sayonara, you post-psych suckers.

Next time: you won’t believe what these ex-King Crimson members look like today!!!!!!! #literally #WTF #ageing #progbantz

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