Columnfortably Numb: Psych Rock For July Reviewed By JR Moores

After some words of warning for The Fab Two, JR Moores gets down to more pressing psychedelic concerns, and reviews new releases from King Gizzard, Dead Sea Apes, Yawning Man and more

Bobby Lee by Gemma Rayner

Don’t get me wrong, I adore The Beatles as much as the next Anthology-smitten child of left-wing boomers. BUT LEAVE IT NOW, PAUL. As someone who remembers the simplicity of life before broadband and Wi-Fi, I remain suspicious of most non-medical advances in technology because it tends to lead to antisocial behaviour in train carriages, cinemas and theatres (such as talking). PLEASE DON’T DO THIS, PAUL. We’re told that that "the final Beatles song" has been completed using artificial intelligence to "extricate" John Lennon’s voice from a demo cassette. SIR, PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR AND STEP AWAY FROM THE VAULTS.

‘Free As A Bird’ was okay. NOT BRILLIANT, THOUGH. Embellished from a home recording Lennon had made in 1977, The Beatles’ 1995 "comeback" single did not match the timeless magic of the classics that’d been made when the band members were all still alive and on speaking terms. REALISTICALLY, IT COULDN’T. Jeff Lynne’s clodhopping production didn’t help, providing as it did that sense of accidental self-parody. SURE, GEORGE MARTIN WAS GOING DEAF AT THE TIME BUT HE’D NEVER HAVE GREENLIT THAT DRUM SOUND. Still, some listeners found the piece to be quite moving, partly due to the eeriness of hearing Lennon’s ghostly voice accompanied once again by his ex-bandmates who were then at the riper age he’d been so cruelly denied. BY DEATH HE WAS ALSO DENIED THE OPPORTUNITY TO VETO ANYTHING HE MIGHT’VE DEEMED DISTASTEFULLY NAFF.

Then there was the follow-up: ‘Real Love’. REMEMBER THAT ONE, PAUL? Created again from scrappy tapes the surviving "Threetles" had received from Yoko Ono, and once again resembling ELO, ‘Real Love’ was an even damper squib, famously excluded from the Radio 1 playlist. NOT BECAUSE OF AGEISM, AS STATUS QUO INSISTED, BUT LARGELY BECAUSE IT WASN’T PARTICULARLY FAB. Plans to pad-out further Lennon home recordings didn’t work out because George Harrison got in a grump (again) — HARE KRISHNA — and now he’s gone too, so the democratic spirit of the band has shifted further to some Beatles (the living ones) being more equal than others. THERE’S NO NEED TO DWELL IN THE PAST, PAUL. MCCARTNEY III WAS EXCELLENT.

Reflecting later on ‘Real Love’, McCartney admitted, "That was good to do but it was a bit like ‘boiling your cabbages twice’. An old Liverpool expression you know… You do a thing that’s so exciting, you do it again and the novelty’s eroded." HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN THAT, PAUL?

Even if the AI is being used to extract and polish Lennon’s vocals rather than creating a frighteningly accurate simulation of his voice singing some words he’d never chosen to, is this really worth doing? LET IT BE, PAUL! Now the cat’s out of the bag, we face a boldly vanilla future where Fab Four avatars will bob their heads on the roof of the O2 Arena like the Broadway musical Beatlemania fused with that ABBA fiasco that’s scheduled to run longer than The Mousetrap. THE TRICK IS TO KEEP THE BRAND ALIVE WITHOUT CHEAPENING IT… SOMEHOW. Entire new Beatles albums will soon be written collaboratively by T-1000 and Robocop. Imagine the violent fallout over any co-writing disagreements there. Just when we’re gawping at whether the surprisingly blissful ‘Good Afternoon Everlasting Radiance’ should be credited to "Robocop/T-1000" or vice versa, that’s when the mechanical bastards will strike and hook us all up to The Matrix. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT, MACCA?

"What’s important about the Beatles is that the timing was good," said Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker on hearing about ‘Free As A Bird’. "They stopped it just when they should have stopped it, and so their memory has not been violated in the same way that maybe the Rolling Stones’ memory has been violated by some of the abominations that they’ve produced since then." Pulp have reformed twice since their split but haven’t released any new music since 2001’s We Love Life. The learned Mr Cocker ought to consider writing something into his will that’ll prevent a Pulp tour of 2076 fronted by C-3PO.

I am inclined, therefore, to agree with the majority on Twitter that a "new" Beatles song assisted by AI technology is the year’s worst music-related idea this side of going to see Primal Scream ever again. SO HERE ARE SOME NEW RELEASES FROM ACTIVE PSYCH BANDS YET TO ENTER THE CURSED CREMATORIUM OF HOLOGRAMISATION.

Hozomeen – The Void

Hozomeen is a new project from Graham Thompson who plays everything on The Void except the guest trumpet part. Thompson has been in a bunch of cult Newcastle bands including OZO, Gullich and the heroically named Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaind. Whereas his Sea Ninety project has an emo flavour, Thompson shoots for cathartically hefty alt-rock on this eight-part offering. Among many highlights is ‘Lack’ which basically boils the best two elements of Soundgarden — i.e. the groovesome riffs and vocal wailing — to their purest essence before segueing into almost classical territory. Elsewhere, ‘One Kilohertz’ is about as slow and sludgy as Harvey Milk with their ankles stuck in a peat bog. ‘Balk’ sounds like David Yow has been kicked out of The Jesus Lizard and replaced by the horn-parping ghost of Miles Davis. Another instrumental piece, ‘Coursing’, has a proggier feel and the final song is a little more darkly ambient than the rest. Quite the showcase.

Yawning Man – Long Walk Of The Navajo
(Heavy Psych Sounds)

I don’t know what the longest gap is between a band forming and releasing their first album but Yawning Man must be contenders. Lynchpins of the Californian desert rock scene, they began playing together in 1986. The year of their studio debut? 2005! Dopesmokers can take a little while to get around to certain pressing matters but that’s ridiculous. Working at their own pace, the band have now made it to album number six, although guitarist Gary Arce is the only remaining original member with even long-yawning bassist Mario Lalli no longer present, perhaps because they lost him around the back of a cactus or something. Joined by Billy Cordell and Bill Stinson, apropos of the album’s title Arce is in no rush to get anywhere on these three long and improvised instrumentals. The music is heavy in a sense, with Stinson hardly holding back with the weight he puts on those skins. It also has a certain post-rocky elegance to it, thanks in part to the slow tempos and shimmering guitar effects. At times it’s like listening to a surf-rock record at the wrong RPM, which is no bad thing.

Bobby Lee – Endless Skyways
(Tompkins Square)

Bobby Lee looks and sounds like he’s from a different time and country. Moustache. Long dark hair. Headband. Boots. Denim. He appears every bit the Californian 70s rock dude. As for his sound, it’s in a similar vein to that of Nashville’s William Tyler (whose recent live album with The Impossible Truth is well worth hearing), i.e. a comfortingly cosmic and relaxed-sounding yet technically impressive fusion of country, space rock and krautrock. This subgenre’s been dubbed "ambient Americana", "ambient country" or "kosmische pastoral". It is having a moment right now, although you could trace its roots through Ry Cooder and Bruce Langhorne until you got all the way back to some original pedal steel player in the old west, off his head on some entheogens in a process inspired by the rituals of the native peoples. It’s double-take time once you realise Lee is from Sheffield, a city with a musical history better known for The Human League, Heaven 17, Def Leppard and John Shuttleworth. Mind you, Alex Turner is from those parts and he’s sounded worryingly American since about 2010. Authenticity? Authenschmicity! If this release had appeared on Three Lobed Recordings or Ryley Walker’s Husky Pants and we’d been told someone from Rose City Band was behind it, not even Grayson Currin would’ve raised any doubts.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – PetroDragonic Apocalypse; Or, Dawn Of Eternal Night: An Annihilation Of Planet Earth And The Beginning Of Merciless Damnation


…or PDAODOENAAOPEATBOMD for short. This is a spiritual sequel to 2019’s Infest The Rats’ Nest by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard (or KG&TLW, for short). That is to say KG&TLW have gone all thrash metal again to rip out another record full of brutal riffage, whip-sharp solos, firecracker drum fills and vocals that are a bit more growly than usual. That said, it was written in the same way as last year’s Ice, Death, Planets, Lungs, Mushrooms And Lava, with no preprepared ideas brought to the studio and everything emerging from the scratch of their jams. It’s resulted in a proggier album than Infest The Rats’ Nest with most songs longer than those on that new Metallica album. Crucially, though, these ones have a lot more ideas in them than 72 Seasons‘.

As with much of KG&TLW’s recent work, themes of imminent environment apocalypse loom large in the doomsaying lyrics, often via Godzilla-style metaphors. The story becomes clearest on the final side of the double-LP when the music retracts to mere ambient gurgles so that Leah Senior can resume her role as KG&TLW’s chief narrator. As Gizzard honcho Stu Mackenzie explains of the concept: "It’s about humankind and it’s about planet Earth but it’s also about witches and dragons and shit." Just call him the Warhammer roleplayer’s Greta Thunberg.

Artifacts & Uranium – The Gateless Gate
(Riot Season)

Like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Newcastle’s Mike Vest is more prolific than a speed-addled beat poet chained to the typewriter because he knows his days are numbered. Isn’t this what musicians are supposed to do? Make their art and put-it-the-fuck-out. Not schmooze around backstage at the Springsteen show, launch their own insufferable podcast or advertise data bundles. Of the countless Vest-featuring projects out this quarter, Artifacts & Uranium sees him joined by Fred Laird (Earthling Society, Taras Bulba, Empty House, etc.) It’s unclear which member identifies as the "artifacts" and who is the "uranium" but each musician contributes several instruments. There’s one long ‘n’ dense jam on the first side of the LP and — lo and behold — another on the second. ‘Twilight Chorus’ is lively from the off and manages to build and build from that starting point. It’s not quite as busy as Ozric Tentacles and remains tastefully skronkier. Still, it’s approaching that fruity ballpark. Richard Pinhas is another touchpoint, as the guitar riffs, licks and distortion dance and writhe around synth patterns which appear to have minds of their own. The surprise comes about five minutes from the end when the maelstrom winds back to introduce the sound of a freaky choir, backed by pious-sounding organ chords and intermittent blasts of iconoclastic axe violence.

On ‘Sound Of Desolation’, the pair are joined by viola player Martin Ash. His string drones compliment those emanating from elsewhere, with the chaotic sonic swirliness locked down by the warm and hard-rocking authority of the bassline. Another aspect that’s worth highlighting is Nigel Adams’ vibrant artwork, full of trippy tentacles, bugeyes and gnashers. Stare at it in fixated wonder as the music launches you into alien dimensions.

Jegong – The Complex Inbetween

With their Jegong project, Dahm Majuri Cipolla (MONO, Watter) and Reto Mäder (Sum Of R, Ural Umbo) take inspiration from the enduring influence of krautrock. They are named after a song by Dieter Moebius and Mani Neumeier. Listening to their music, names like Neu!, Can and Faust spring to mind. However, their multi-mooded homage to the tradition is interesting enough to counter any accusations of derivativeness. The duo are at pains to keep everything sounding "organic" and not too robotic or nonhuman. Cipolla’s earthily recorded drumbeats help to achieve that, as do the in-moment decisions Mäder makes with his pile of guitars, synthesisers and whatever electronic boxes he’s using to manipulate the sound of each.

Their second album kicks off with the propulsive ‘Come To The Centre’. With ‘Clear The Way’, the record takes a more ominous tone, as if the pair decided to produce a heavier score to John Carpenter’s Halloween. Despite the record’s colourful sleeve and the press release’s mention of psychedelic Wolds painter David Hockney, the atmosphere remains fairly dark with songs such as ‘Former Wish’ taking the form of a confrontational dirge. After that punishing experience, ‘Focus Defocus’ offers floatier and jazzy relief, introducing a more optimistic feel to the final leg of the experience.

Dead Sea Apes – Rewilding
(Cardinal Fuzz)

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of witnessing Manchester’s Dead Sea Apes support the American alt-rock legends Come. One of the most endearing things about the opening act was the way guitarist Brett Savage would punch the air with his fist at the end of each song as if he’d just made it through to the semi-final of Masterchef with a tastebud-tingling bowl of Pad Thai rather than impressed a pub-roomful of people with another phat portion of chest-rattling stoner rock. Their line-up has slimmed back down to a power trio for Rewilding, an album that doesn’t mess around with its choice of opener. ‘Denialist’ boasts riffs thicker than Gregg Wallace and lead licks that lash at your throat like a chain-wielding biker.

At other moments, Dead Sea Apes permit themselves to meander a little more loosely and quieten down the mood in places before cranking everything back up to 11. Such contrast is illustrated by the fast, lively and playful ‘Truther’ which rattles out of the speakers after the preceding number, ‘The Sleep Room’, has offered nearly seven minutes of gloomier space rock. Some of the song titles suggest an indignancy with the post-facts world of misinformation, fake news and other assorted bullshit. With no vocals on offer, that could be open to interpretation.

Búho Ermitaño – Implosiones

Búho Ermitaño formed in Lima on a mission to fuse krautrock with Andean folk. Really, that’s selling short the breadth of their ideas and talent. Most of the songs have no vocals although the operatic theremin part on ‘Ingravita’ might as well be singing to us from space. ‘Explosiones’ is the one track with human vocals. Their tone, sung over such celestial rock, makes it sound as though Panda Bear has joined Eternal Tapestry. But who needs much singing anyway when, throughout, the instrumental melodies are so strong? They’re Beatles-esque, I dare say, in certain places. (Specifically, the 1967 era.) Clearly, Búho Ermitaño take great care in crafting these jams rather than tossing off any old porridge of distortion as some groups are prone. A little more dystopian than the lightness elsewhere, ‘Entre Los Cerros’ is dominated by an intense and almost foreboding synthesiser pattern. Over the top of that arrive expressive lead guitar licks and fevered drumming, as if providing South America’s answer to Heldon’s ‘Jet Girl’. Suggesting it’s going to be the most "traditional" sounding song, ‘Renacer’ opens with the delicately picked sound of the charango. Before long, it’s accompanied by deep, wooziness-inducing bass and the kind of successive, mortality defying guitar solos of which Funkadelic would be proud.

Rumours that JR Moores is working on a book about Paul McCartney are yet to be confirmed

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