Columnfortably Numb: Psych Rock For April Reviewed By JR Moores

The algorithmic writer-replicant branded "JR Moores" by his egghead manufacturers analyses the latest psych and noise-rock releases. Home page artwork: The Boys Cosmic by Deep Hum

As somebody who valued authenticity to the point of disaster, Kurt Cobain would have been delighted to learn that artificial intelligence has come up with a new Nirvana song. He was, after all, the author of such grunge-era hits as ‘Come As You R2-D2’ and ‘Pennyroyal T2: Judgment Day’.

The song in question, ‘Drowned In The Sun’, was created using Google’s Magenta program which learns how to compose in the style of any given artist by analysing their works. Magenta has also been used to create exciting new compositions that sound exactly like they were recorded by Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, GWAR, Shed Seven, Hoobastank, and Merzbow. Admittedly that final one was simply a recording of a BT modem from the early 2000s trying to connect to dial-up internet while someone else in the same household was already using the landline telephone. (That last reference will be as alien to younger readers as penny-farthings, Tamagotchi pets and wholesomely softcore pornography.)

Congratulations, technology! In accurately replicating the Nirvana sound without the pesky requirements of feeling or soul, you’ve finally caught up with Gavin Rossdale’s Bush. Now it’s only a matter of time before Twiki, Kryten and WALL-E branch out into psych rock. With their digital intelligence and coding nous they’ll soon be able to splice a repetitive krautrock rhythm track with guitar chords fed through a variety of effects pedals. It’ll take less time to program than the Reading & Leeds line-up.

Personally I’m relieved. If robots can make music then they can damn well take on the thankless task of reviewing it too. In the immediate future it will be left to WRITEBOT3000 to generate synonyms for "reverb" and come up with serviceable metaphors for a Ty Segall garage riff that just sounds fine. No longer will I have to maintain this relentless façade of actually caring about records with moons on the cover. Finally I’ll be free to pursue my dream of becoming northern England’s foremost Joan Rivers impersonator. At least until fucking HAL can do that too.

Bear this in mind though, folks. Nirvana’s music, the first time round, was also made by robots. That’s because we all live in The Matrix, obviously. If you need proof of how our so-called "reality" can easily glitch, then consider this: Papa Roach have just released their second – SECOND! – "greatest hits" collection. Talk about dubious déjà vu. Nothing is real! Wake up, sheeple! Take the red pill! Override the mainframe!

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END!


Many of us have used the last year or so to reconnect with certain things from our past. All those comforting relics from bygone days that remind us of a time when we didn’t have to remember to take our facemask to B&Q or worry about anti-vax Laurence Fox fans jeopardising a return to actual society. I was a little surprised to find myself revisiting quite a lot of post rock which I’d gone off a bit since around the time of the sequel to the film with fast zombies in it. I dug out my old albums by Tokyo’s MONO. I found myself listening to an awful lot of Mogwai. (Although still nothing after 2008’s The Hawk Is Howling. I’m not mad.) I found myself caressing an inordinate number of CDs housed in tasteful cardboard sleeves.

So I was fully prepared, then, for the proverbial dropping of a new record by Canada’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Or so I thought. To be honest I was basically expecting the usual. Quiet bits building slowly to apocalyptic crescendos, epic moodiness and the like. There’s a bit of that going on here but the pleasant surprise is the further development of the Godspeed style.

With a title that is far too long and complicated for me to even bother copy-and-pasting, the first track has a loose and lunging feel, opening with the delightfully amateurish sound of somebody vaguely trying to replicate Hendrix. However, for much of this 20-minute ditty’s running time the famous Godspeed stringed instruments fight to be heard over the whooping organ chords. For a band who always placed themselves in the lineage of punk rock, they sure do have some right proggy tendencies. This is music to be played atop a volcano like what Pink Floyd would do. The difference being there aren’t any slickly Gilmourian guitar solos. (THANK G_D’S PEE FOR THAT!) The other longest track is a tad heavier on the soaring strings. That one too is almost disconcertingly huggable. It all feels rather warm and hopeful. This is Godspeed’s most psychedelic record to date. Why so? "This record is about all of us waiting for the end," reads the blurb. "All current forms of governance are failed. this record is about all of us waiting for the beginning. … tax the rich until they’re impoverished." Sounds like a John Ball sermon from the fourteenth century. Some good things happened after The Black Death, didn’t they? Cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty!

Dinosaur Jr – Sweep It Into Space


Judging by the account in Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life, Dinosaur Jr were one of the most dysfunctional bands of the late 80s. The three members – J Mascis, Lou Barlow, Murph – could barely communicate with one another. Needy Barlow was a pothead. Mascis acted and mumbled like one. The latter would repress his emotions to the extent that they only came out in his music. Murph considered Mascis "a fucking Nazi" for dictating every drum part to the letter. Barlow would put random things in his mouth, such as a Cookie Monster doll owned by Mascis, chew on them really loudly and then claim he didn’t understand the word "annoying". Murph would have emotional breakdowns on tour and regularly suppress the urge to murder his bandmates. Barlow ceased contributing songs or playing properly. Passive-aggression would spill over into physical aggression. Barlow was given the impression the band was splitting up when really he’d been given the boot. He remained very angry about that for a long, long time.

Since reforming in the mid-2000s, that original line-up appear to have turned in a super-functional unit. This isn’t as juicy as before but it does mean there’s less chance of anybody bludgeoning a colleague to death. By now we all know what to expect from a Dinosaur Jr album. There will be chugging alt-rock songs aplenty. Mascis will melodically burr out some adult-emo lyrics. He’ll pepper each tune with effects-laden guitar solos. Reviewers will describe these as if he’s frying a steak: sizzling, scorching, searing… Barlow will write and sing two of the songs. His lyrics will be even more emo than those of Mascis. The formula is robotic, almost. Predictable. The thing is though, they’re still really good at what they do. If this was the first Dino album you ever heard in your life, you’d be impressed. What’s more, ‘To Be Waiting’ would immediately qualify for any Dinosaur Jr best-of. ‘Walking To You’ and ‘Hide Another Round’ are also classic Mascis: wistfully catchy and ear-bleedingly heavy in equal measure. When it’s performed live, ‘I Expect It Always’ will threaten to deafen you like what happened to my brother at ATP in 2006. ‘Take It Back’ offers something a little different, thanks to its mellotron.

It’s a comforting experience overall, like sitting under a warm blanket on a Sunday afternoon watching an episode of Columbo that you think you might have seen before but can’t remember the name of the actor who’s playing the baddie. During the commercial break, Iggy Pop will try to sell you a beach holiday. For a passing moment you will wonder why that no longer makes you so angry.

Trees Speak – PostHuman

(Soul Jazz)

Trees Speak are Daniel Martin Diaz and Damian Diaz from Tucson, Arizona, plus other assorted helpers. On the basis of the music they dream up together, it seems as though they must have been raised on a selection of second-hand soundtrack CDs from basically every era of cinema. ‘Chamber Of Frequencies’, for example, is saxophonic noir-jazz meets John Carpenter horror suspense. The album is divided into nearly 20 tracks but the seamless flow between movements and moods suggests it might as well be one complete krautsploitation symphony. There are shades of Goblin, Tangerine Dream, Vangelis, Ennio Morricone, Adrian Younge, Daniel Lopatin, the bloke who did the first two Terminator films and Jimmy Page. (Anyone else remember his sterling work on Death Wish 2?) As such, I reckon if you played this in a record shop then connoisseurs from almost every different crate area would perk up like rival hounds catching a whiff of freshly grilled sausage. If Trees Speak aren’t snapped up by Netflix to score something that involves sexy criminals, sexy androids or sexy alcoholic chess champions then I’ll eat my officially merchandised Popol Vuh bandana. This music craves moving images like Tracey Thorn’s desert missed the rain.

Dope Purple – Grateful End

(Riot Season)

Not to be confused with those ancient ‘Smoke On The Water’ dudes, Dope Purple are a Taiwanese quintet who share members with Prairie WWWW and Mong Tong 夢東. This project is a far heavier affair, however. Opener ‘My Evilness’ recalls the more Floydian tendencies of Acid Mothers Temple, perhaps with the holy ghost of Eddie Hazel on guest guitar. Fulfilling the agenda of its title, ‘Cosmic Rock Is Not Dead’ is a rollercoaster ride that rattles away somewhere between OM, BONG, Blown Out, Les Rallizes Dénudés and Hibushibire. It begins in a menacingly lumbering way but grows steadily more frantic. By the end, it will have robbed the listener of breath and perhaps also their soul. The third track rips in a slightly more meandering way. By contrast the final number is practically punk rock. Well, maybe neo-MC5-proto-punk. If you get what I mean. Spicy.

TEKE::TEKE – Shirushi

(Kill Rock Stars)

TEKE::TEKE are one of those bands who sound like they’re trying to play loads of different styles all at the same time and yet it still feels palatable. No, not like Black Midi. Black Midi will give you a migraine flashback to every Leeds-based math-rock support band from the mid-2000s. Look on my jazz notation, ye Mighty, and despair! It’s not for me. TEKE::TEKE, on the other hand, are wonderfully eclectic. They’re a septet from Montreal who started life as a tribute act to instrumental guitar legend Takeshi Terauchi and then got carried away. Indeed, ‘Yoru Ni’ is so darn surfy it would give Quentin Tarantino the horn. If the foot fetishizing director does ever get around to filming Kill Bill: Volume 3 he ought to prebook TEKE::TEKE to perform a scorching set in a colourful milkshake bar while his femme fatale beautifully decapitates a hundred masked henchmen.

‘Kizashi’ layers the textures in a slower and meatier way, threatening to turn into a full-bore minimalist drone ritual if it were permitted to clatter on for longer. The spiralling and herky-jerky ‘Barbara’ is wackier and rowdier. That’s one for the circus-panted Mr Bungle or Cardiacs fans. Throughout, singer Maya Kuroki proves a revelation. She’ll be crooning chanteuse-like over mariachi horns at one point. Next she’ll be hitting Björkian levels of a cappella quasi-spirituality. Then, as on penultimate number ‘Meikyu’, she’ll just frantically lose her shit in frothing punk-rock fashion. Oh, and who doesn’t love a band who will riff as hard as you like while also wielding a flute?

Deep Hum – The Boys Cosmic


The Boys Cosmic is Deep Hum’s follow-up to 2018’s nicely nebulous Hit Singles From The End Of The World and it finds this trio of Wales-based sci-fi heads going full-on concept album crazy while also attempting to try out a few poppier tricks. It is inspired by the archives of the "definitely real" Ernest Wilmington (late proprietor of the East Maindy Conservative Club and president of the Sixth Unofficial South Wales Paranormal Investigation & Archival Association) that were discovered behind a radiator by Deep Hum’s Lloyd Markham in 2015. Wilmington’s archives concern, among other things, a dentist who thinks that cavities are portals to Hell (£55.50 to have ’em exorcised), erased memories of 1998, cocktails inspired by a dream owl, at least one missing person, and a duck that dresses in a trench coat to crash human nightclubs. You don’t get that with Fontaines D.C.!

As might have been guessed by now, this is more hypnagogic pop than actual pop, if it is even pop at all. Absolute Radio won’t be playlisting ‘Umbilical Pi’ anytime soon. Chunky opener ‘Thoughts Of Cats’ resembles a less fiddly, skronksome cousin of Ozric Tentacles. ‘Gentle Kenneth’ is more akin to something you’d find on the Not Not Fun label. It’s got those dreamy Peaking Lights vibes. ‘Something Feathered’ is a jaunty, dreamy dub number with yacht-psych licks that vaguely recalls Linda McCartney’s seminal ‘Seaside Woman’ (or rather the several Ween tracks it surely inspired). The splattering of synth, samples, electronic drums, guitar and sitar are satisfyingly dense. All manner of hisses and drones bubble away in the background. The echoey vocals resemble a long-lost member of Hawkwind or Soft Machine calling out from behind a mirror having been imprisoned in one of the many limbo dimensions. It’s pop, Jim, but not as we know it.

Next time: 01000100 01100101 01100011 01101011 01100001 01110010 01100100 00100000 00111101 00100000 01110010 01100101 01110000 01101100 01101001 01100011 01100001 01101110 01110100

The Quietus Digest

Sign up for our free Friday email newsletter.

Support The Quietus

Our journalism is funded by our readers. Become a subscriber today to help champion our writing, plus enjoy bonus essays, podcasts, playlists and music downloads.

Support & Subscribe Today