Columnfortably Numb: Psych Reviews For March By JR Moores

After the proto-dystopian arsestorm that was the last calendar year, JR Moores looks on the bright side of psych

Looking back on it, 2016 wasn’t as bad as it seemed at the time. For one thing, not a single British resident petitioned to have Whitehall’s cenotaph renamed Wardeady McTrenchface. What’s more, Sir Paul McCartney didn’t die. Nor did Brian Wilson, Roky Erickson, Yoko Ono, Kim Gordon, Kim Deal, Lil’ Kim, David Yow, Dylan Carlson, Dave Brock, Iggy Pop, Julian Cope, Matana Roberts, Buzz Osborne, Gibby Haynes, Neil Young, Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, that bloke from The Fall or any member of The Fat White Family. For the entire 12-month period, all nuclear weapons codes lay peacefully unentered. While unable to channel their surges of testosterone into any kind of positive pursuit such as forming a belligerent noise-rock band to vent their fractured masculinity, bloodthirsty young male terrorists still did not succeed in murdering Michel Houellebecq, Hans Teeuwen, either one of South Park‘s creators or billions of other rootin’-tootin’ free-speakin’ individuals. When asked a leading question in an interview, Kate Bush did not endorse the EDL. The Mehccabees, The Enemehy and Bomehbay Bicycle Club all split up. Channel 4 axed its box-based greed show Deal Or No Deal, causing its crackpot presenter to spiral further into comically cosmically ordered psychosis by attempting to launch an actual radio station for people’s pets. Incidentally, Alan Partridge’s latest tome was published. Furthermore, the reverse side of the swanky new five-pound note did not feature a frowningly authoritative portrait of Enoch Powell with an easy-wipe polymer surface for Nigel Farage to jizz liberally across when his German wife or French mistress nips out to the boulangerie.

Sooner or later, kindness will prevail. We will be guided towards the light by Gary Winston Lineker, OBE.

There were also loads of awfully splendid psych-rock records released last year, from the brown-acid fog rock of CCR Headcleaner’s Tear Down The Wall to Mild High Club’s jazzy bedroom concept jangles. I didn’t compile a Top-ten rundown because let’s not dwell on the past, man, and I’m also pretty lazy. I am certainly no King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. They plan to release five albums in 2017. It won’t be all terrible news.

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Flying Microtonal Banana


Here we go, then. They’re off. Straight out of the starting blocks like a fourteen-legged Mo Farah carting a sizeable wheelbarrow of obscure krautrock 12-inches, two drumkits and The Rough Guide To The Music Of Turkey. Let’s hope they too have been dieting sensibly on slow-releasing carbohydrates and stacks of delectable Quorn because 2017 promises to be quite the slog for King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. That’s right, this year they’ve pledged to release more albums than they have zeds in their name. First up is Flying Microtonal Banana which doesn’t disappoint. Given the marathon that lies ahead, the reptilian antipodean warlocks have wisely opted to decelerate the pace slightly following last year’s relentlessly frantic Nonagon Infinity . The double drummers thump, jingle, tinkle and chime excitedly at the back while their colleagues frolic around with an arsenal of customised microtonal instruments and exotic apparatus such as the zurna. Their grooves are floaty, funky, far-out and as fun as you like, even if the lyrics are riddled with fret. Addressing global warming, nuclear fusion and other potential catalysts of doom, perhaps King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard are trying to get as much work done as they possibly can before the clock runs out on us all.

Moon Duo – Occult Architecture Vol. 1

(Sacred Bones)

The first instalment of a two-part concept album, Occult Architecture Vol. 1 is trumpeted as the diptych’s darker panel, inspired as it is "occult and esoteric literature" and purposefully released to coincide with the bare-leaved winter months. Presumably its second instalment will stumble out of a beer garden in early summer, spilling Pimms all down the front of its shorts as its pink shoulders begin to peel. Having said that, this volume isn’t exactly Beth Gibbons Sings Lou Reed’s Berlin. Even when exploring murkier terrain, Moon Duo’s sound remains reassuringly cuddly, based as it is around Ripley Johnson’s pedal-warped guitar effects and Sanae Yamada’s myriad of bohemian synth tones. Traditionally more kitschy and lo-fi than Johnson’s heavier Wooden Shjips group, Moon Duo remain that way even if they do grow gradually less so. Indeed, O.A.Vol.1 has bathed soaking for so long in a gallon of different sonic textures that the skin of its digits momentarily appear all wrinkly; a giggle-inducing premonition of ageing and bittersweet reminder of our own mortality. Sometimes psychedelia rips your mind so far out of the insipid comfort of day-to-day routine that it forces you to stare straight into the eyes of the shocking reality that, as Wayne Coyne dutifully informs us, "everyone you know someday will die". And that includes you, my perishable friend. Still, as Emily Dickinson put it, "That it will never come again / Is what makes life so sweet". After quoting that nugget in an elegantly curled font, what your glazy-eyed cousin’s inspirational Pinterest account doesn’t tell you is that towards the end of her life Dickinson also observed that "the Dyings have been too deep for me, and before I could raise my Heart from one, another has come." Happy new year, by the way.

Richard Pinhas – Reverse

(Bureau B)

This one time on a daytrip to Filey, I paid to have my fortune read. The silver-demanding crone rubbed her nicotine-stained fingers across her crystal ball before giving me the disconcertingly specific premonition that I would never have my own semi-regular psychedelic rock column for an online music publication whose name nobody knows how to pronounce (let alone meet a tall dark stranger). She then had the cheek to advise that my time would be better spent training to be a professional indexer. WELL I ASK YOU, OH CLAIRVOYANT CHARLATAN WHO LOOKED WEIRDLY LIKE CHRISTOPHER WALKEN IN DRAG, WHO’S LAUGHING NOW? Richard Pinhas wasn’t as lucky as I. Shortly after a friend gave him the worst possible reading on a pack of Tarot cards, Pinhas lost both his parents, broke up with his girlfriend and lost his flat. Pinhas’ misfortune is his listeners gain because he managed to channel the emotional and physical upheaval of that time into this phenomenal new record that for a time its creator envisaged could be his last. Working closely with Oren Ambarchi and roping in other collaborators such as Masami Akita (aka Merzbow) whose analogue synth parts were recorded remotely in Tokyo, Pinhas has assembled the first truly cerebrum-melting release of 2017. Even the first time I listened to it, on horrible tinny laptop speakers that really shouldn’t be used to hear anything except maybe the irritating ping of some unwarranted software notification, Reverse still had me pinned to the ceiling, writhing eel-like in lysergic ecstasy. When I finally braved it on serviceable headphones, its four utterly absorbing skitter-drummed cycles of abstract space drone had me clawing feverishly at the oscillating fibres of my iridescent corduroys and orally thanking the Lord that I’ve been blessed with more than my share of R. Pinhas. I was politely ejected from the library.

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Feed The Rats


In Nick Hornby’s novel of list-based male ineptitude High Fidelity, record shop proprietor Rob Fleming is asked by Hollywood funnyman Jack Black to name his top seven porcine musical acts. "That’s easy," replies the commitmentphobic manchild, "Pigbag, Longpigs, Space Hog, Boss Hog, Raymond "PIG" Watts, Miss Piggy singing ‘I Will Survive’ and Pig Floyd." If Hornby were writing today and listening to something other than the complete works of Damon Gough, then Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs might fly to the top of Fleming’s list. For its first couple of spins, Feed The Rats‘ principal effect is to overwhelm. It confronts the listener with just three tracks. Two of these exceed the fifteen-minute mark and each one sounds like the Newcastle nutters are trying to encase you within a dome prison made out of dried glowing sludge spaded from the banks of the Tyne so they can later offer you up as a human sacrifice to the poster of Tony Iommi that’s pinned to their damp wall. Because their brains are fried, they believe that Iommi holds the key to the universe but it also so happens that Iommi actually does (of course). However, after a few repeat plays of their howling, filthy-riffing debut, you’ll feel that three tracks just aren’t enough and will be ritually disembowelling your own kidnappee in the hope it will expedite Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs’ next swilltastic release.

So Stressed – Please Let Me Know

(Ghost Ramp)

So Stressed took their name from other people moaning about menial matters which really aren’t too taxing in the grand scheme of things. I’m sooo stressed about my geography homework. I’m soooo stressed about the single film studies assignment I’m required to complete this term. I’m sooooo stressed about my upcoming performance appraisal at work. I’m soooooo stressed because Waitrose are out-of-stock of the obscure ingredients from the Ottolenghi recipe I was hoping to bake for the in-laws. I’m sooooooo stressed about filing this psych-rock column before deadline that I’ve inadvertently gone off on one about the trivial problems of the privileged world. Anyway, this could be a case of Gil Gunderson calling the kettle stressed because So Stressed sound pretty ruddy stressed themselves, prone as they are to blasting out frantic, trembling noise rock from every conceivable angle. What are So Stressed so stressed about? Love (of the unrequited sort), death (of the inevitable sort) and woe (of the existentialist sort), if Morgan Fox’s shouty words are anything to go by. "I only think about you," he bawls on ‘The King’s Wig’, "I only write love songs / And I wouldn’t change it for anything." You can almost hear his saliva pattering on the outer glass of the patio window as you dial the police to report his violation of your restraining order. Musically, So Stressed are adept at the long-practiced but still most welcome noise-rock trope of crafting short blasts of repetition and crudely sellotaping them into a bludgeoning whole. Just when you think they’re at risk of betraying the noise-rock cause by tumbling backwards into the pit of pure punk paciness, the trio will slow down, soften up or throw in some piercing electronic chirps, while Kenneth Draper’s racketing drum beats astonish over and over again.

Noveller – A Pink Sunset For No One


Speaking of stress, there are various ways to deal with anxiety. Well-balanced meals, daily exercise and deep breaths are all recommended. Some experts suggest wearing a rubber band on your wrist and snapping it against the skin whenever you suffer a negative thought. Another alternative is to channel your consternation into crafting exquisitely cinematic guitar instrumentals that resemble Brian Eno, Daniel Lopatin and Tom Carter having a playful threeway tug-of-war using a distorted whale-song soundtrack instead of a rope. That’s what Sarah Lipstate does with her Noveller project. She’s played in Glenn Branca and Rhys Chatham’s guitar ensembles and has served time in Cold Cave and Parts & Labor but she finds herself less prone to debilitating panic attacks when performing alone. A recent contribution to Adult Swim’s NOISE compilation notwithstanding, the more abrasive no-wave crish-crashery of Noveller’s earliest releases has been replaced over time by calmer and dreamier pedal effects which often make it sound eerily like Lipstate is playing a synthesizer rather than an electric guitar. Layered in beautiful sheets of gently droning melancholy and shimmering introspection, the eighth Noveller album is an aural isolation tank and I have it on reliable authority that this is what Iggy Pop himself listens to when he’s got his feet up with a large glass of vintage Bordeaux after another long hard day spent playing the role of bare-breasted, fang-flashing King of the Dogs. And what’s good enough for Mr Pop is certainly good enough for you eggs.

Hibushibire – Freak Out Orgasm!

(Riot Season)

Do you have trouble keeping track of the prolific output of Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple? Well who can blame you? They seem to put out another record of insanely liberal free-psych astro jamz about once every fortnight. Some of their releases may have passed you by but, of the ones you did manage to catch, have they ever let you down? Naaaaaaaaaaaah. To make matters even more complicated yet also abundantly richer, here’s another act for you to attempt to keep a handle on. Osaka’s Hibushibire plough a similar freaky furrow to Acid Mothers Temple (whose Kawabata Makoto produces here) by taking 60s and 70s hard rock templates as their starting point and then splattering them out like exploding paint cans across the canvas of the universe. With its chunky crowd-pleasing desert riffs and relatively tight six-minute running time, ‘Trepanation Breakdown’ suggests Hibushibire could go down the fuzz-rock route of Boris’ 2005 breakthrough opus Pink, if they so wished. More sprawling is Freak Out Orgasm!‘s stand-out track which is saved until last. Taking up the final side of the LP all to itself, ‘Deep Throat River Holy Mountain High’ is 20 minutes long and remains thrilling throughout its run as the jam meanders confidently and seamlessly through its sacred chants, warped wig-outs and jagged space-rock tomfoolery. We await Hibushibire’s next transmission with baited breath, whether it takes several light years or a mere couple of weeks to crash-land into our atmosphere.

Next time: Seven unsurprising side-effects of owning the complete Gong back catalogue

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