Tess Parks & Anton Newcombe

I Declare Nothing

The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s Anton Newcombe has certainly suffered at the hands of his detractors, both within his fanbase and outside of it. To the former, his excursions into the territories of loops, electronics and beats since the release of 2010’s Who Killed Sgt. Pepper and his subsequent relocation to Berlin have proved a step too far; for them this is less of a band and more a one-man show displaying way too much interest in technology. For the latter, Newcombe has ploughed his psychedelic furrow too deep and too long, which is a bit like complaining that only Catholics are eligible for the Papacy.

I Declare Nothing, a collaborative effort recorded with Canadian Alan McGee protégé Tess Parks, finds Newcombe moving back into the more languid and hazy grooves that chacterises much of his pre-European work. The emphasis is very much on kicking back, zoning out and locking into mid-tempo beats and hypnotic repetition of chord sequences. While certainly not re-inventing the wheel, there a few people who do psychedelic economy with quite the panache that Newcombe does.

Indeed, there’s a comfort to be had hearing the screech of feedback and the fuzz guitar that ushers in opener ‘Wehmet’ before giving way to funereal drums and Newcombe’s acoustic guitar taking stage, as indeed it does throughout most of the tracks contained herein. In the main, Parks proves to be a fine foil for Newcombe’s music; her voice embodies that 3am haze and languor that suggests one too many hits from the bong and a forty-a-day smoking marathon. Elsewhere, most notably on ‘Friendlies’ and ‘Melorist’, Parks and Newcombe work well in tandem to create an air of tension and menace. ‘Friendlies’ is particular is underpinned by an elasticated guitar motif that burrows into the brain and stays there long after the event.

There are some caveats. The one-paced nature of the album ensures that it fails to hold the attention throughout, with the mind frequently dipping in and out of the record, and the suspicion lingers that I Declare Nothing would work better as a pair of EPs and some judicious pruning. But the biggest shortfalls occur when Parks is taken out of her comfort zone of shortly phrased vocal delivery and required to apply some chops. Her attempt to sustain a long note on ‘Peace Defrost’ sees her flip from mystery into something quite ugly and the result truly grates.

Yet despite its shortcomings, I Declare Nothing suggests that with a few more ideas, change of pace and playing to Parks’ strengths, this may be the start of a beautiful friendship.

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