Tag: psych rock

New Video: JOVM Mainstays The Black Angels Share Urgent “Empires Falling”

With five albums under their collective belts, Austin-based JOVM mainstays  The Black Angels —  currently Alex Maas (vocals, bass), Christian Bland (guitar), Stephanie Bailey (drums), Jake Garcia (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Ramiro Verdooren — have firmly cemented a unique take on psych rock that remains true to psych rock forebears like  Syd Barrett, Roky EricksonArthur Lee, and The Velvet Underground, while thematically touching upon contemporary concerns. 

Interestingly, during that same period of time, the members of the acclaimed Austin-based JOVM mainstays have also managed to build a global profile within the international psych rock scene, a profile that has been further cemented by their long-running celebration of all things psychedelic, Levitation Festival, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. 

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of months, you may recall that this year is a big year in the band’s almost two decade history: Their sixth album — and first in over five years, Wilderness of Mirrors is slated for a Friday release through Partisan Records. Co-produced by the band and Brett Orrison with engineering by John AgnelloWilderness of Mirrors reportedly finds the band attempting to achieve something fresh and new through a gentle and subtle refinement of the sound that has won them fans across the globe. 

Throughout Wilderness of Mirrors‘ material, the band adds mellotron, string arrangements and an assortment of different keyboards to the mix, which adds different textures to their overall sound. Thematically, the album continues upon their long-held reputation for touching upon contemporary concerns — in particular, our uncertain and urgent moment of political tumult, the pandemic, and the ongoing devastation of the environment and its long-term implications to us and our descendants, among others. 

So far I’ve written about three of the soon-to-be released album’s singles:

  • El Jardín,” a single, which at first glance is classic Black Angels: Bailey’s thunderous time keeping, Maas’ plaintive falsetto and supple bass lines paired with layers upon layers of guitar pyrotechnics and effects from Bland and Garcia — but the song’s sparking and brooding bridge sees the band adding bursts of twinkling Rhodes to the mix. Written from the perspective of our dear Mother Earth, “El Jardín” is a forceful and urgent warning to all of us: destroying the environment will ultimately lead to the destruction of humanity. 
  • Firefly,” a loving yet classic Black Angels-like homage to 60s French pop, featuring a guest spot from Thievery Corporation‘s LouLou Ghelickhani, who contributes sultrily delivered vocals in French and English, alongside Maas’ imitable falsetto and paired with a hook-driven arrangement featuring reverb-drenched guitars, Maas’ supple and propulsive bass lines, some simple yet forceful timekeeping from Bailey and twinkling keys. 
  • Without A Trace,” a bit of classic, Passover through Directions to See a Ghost-era Black Angels centered around fuzzy and distorted power chords, a reverb-drenched guitar solo, Bailey’s thunderous and propulsive time keeping paired with Maas’ imitable vocal delivery and supple bass lines. The song sonically and thematically is an eerie and brooding meditation that asks “is is still possible to be invincible when everyone else is expendable.” 

“Empires Falling,” Wilderness of Mirrors‘ latest single may arguably be among the most politically charged songs on the entire album. Centered around scorching guitar riffs, Maas’ imitable falsetto, a propulsive and supple bass line and Bailey’s forceful time keeping, “Empires Falling” continues a run of material that harkens back to their earliest releases — but with an urgency that fits our desperate, uneasy time.

“‘Empires Falling’ is a critical and reflective plea that examines humanity’s repetitive art of violent mass destruction. As we say in the chorus, ‘it’s history on repeat.'” The Black Angels explain in press notes. ” We are living in a ‘Wilderness Of Mirrors’, where it’s hard to tell what’s right from wrong, up from down, or the truth from lies as we navigate through these times where the fate of humanity is being refracted and reflected from one state of panic to another. The world is a ‘bleeding animal’ and we are left exhausted, polarized, and ‘pleading from street to bloody street.’  History has proven, time and time again, that without a drastic metamorphosis from our leaders, politics, and ultimately ourselves..‘you can be the one who saves yourself, or you can watch it all go to hell.'”

Directed by Craig Staggs and featuring animation by Minnow Mountain, the accompanying video for “Empires Falling” captures humanity’s brutal and oppressive history endlessly repeating in front of a psychedelic hellscape.

New Video: The Murlocs Share Wild and Surreal VIsual for Roaring “Bellarine Ballerina”

With the release of their first four albums, The Murlocs  — King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s Ambrose Kenny-Smith (vocals, guitar, harmonica) and Cook Craig (bass) along with ORB’s Cal Shortal (guitar) and Crepes‘ and Beans’ Matt Blach (drums) and Tim Karmouche (keys)— firmly established a reputation for crafting fuzzy psychedelic blues, which they supported as an opener for the likes of Gary Clark, Jr.Mac DeMarcoTy SegallThee Oh SeesPixies, Stephen Malkmus and The JicksWavves and of course, Kenny-Smith’s and Craig’s primary gig, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard — and as a headlining act, as well. 

Recorded at Button Pushers Studio, last year’s Tim Dunn-produced, 11-song Bittersweet Demons found the band lovingly reflecting on the people, who have left a profound impact on their lives — the saviors, the hell raisers and other assorted and mystifying and complex characters they’ve come across. While being among the most personal and complex batch of material they’ve written in their growing catalog, the album saw the band bouncing between and around sun-blasted pop, blues punk and wide-eyed psychedelia. 

The Murlocs’ sixth album Rapscallion is slated for a Friday release through ATO Records. Self-produced by the band during the early stages of the pandemic, Rapscallion‘s 12 songs were recorded in the home studios of the band’s Kenny-Smith, Shortal, Blach, Cook Craig and Karmouche. Conceived and written as a coming-of-age novel in album form, the album’s material is partly inspired by Kenny-Smith’s adolescence as a nomadic skate kid. The album’s world is wild and squalid, populated by an outrageous cast of misfits — teenage vagabonds, small-time criminals, junkyard dwellers and truck-stop transients among others. The end result is an album that thematically — and narratively — is stepped in danger, delirium and wide-eyed romanticism of youth. 

Sonically, Rapscallion is reportedly a marked departure from Bittersweet Demons‘ garage rock leanings, with the album’s material featuring strains of stoner metal and post punk. And while darker and more formidable, the album’s songs are still fueled by the same freewheeling energy they’ve brought to the stage. 

So far I’ve written about two of the album’s singles:

  • Virgin Criminal,” a decidedly post-punk song centered around buzzing and angular guitar attack, a forceful motorik groove, Kenny-Smith’s punchy and breathless delivery paired with the band’s unerring knack for rousingly anthemic hooks. And at its core is a tale of an unnamed protagonist, who describes his first crime, an ill-fated convenience store robbery, which ends in murder — and the wild thrill the narrator gets from being an outlaw. 
  • Compos Mentis,” a slow-burning and pensive ballad featuring fuzzy and distorted guitars, twinkling keys and a motorik-like groove paired Kenny-Smith’s imitable delivery. While seeing the band exploring a more contemplative — and perhaps even softer — side, “Compos Mentis,” asks a far deeper, far more vexing question: Are we in control of our own minds?

The album’s third and last single before its release, “Bellarine Ballerina” is a roaring and rollicking, hook-driven, most pit friendly ripper centered around buzzing power chords, thunderous drumming and a relentless motorik groove. But underneath is a sense of malice and unease unlike any of their previously released work.

Directed by frequent collaborator Guy Tyzack, the accompanying video for “Bellarine Ballerina” is a surreal romp that fits the rollicking and roaring air of the song. “Growing up on then Victorian surf coast, I’d often find myself hitching rides up and down the Bellarine Highway. ‘Rapscallion’ finds himself experiencing this for the first time, and is picked up by a trucker that’s been behind the wheel for a little too long,” The Murlocs’ Kenny-Smith explains in press notes. “Whilst being away on tour when it came time to shoot the video, our good friend and collaborator Guy Tyzack took this concept in a different direction by hiring actors and even Michael Jackson impersonators to capture the chaotic mayhem of the song.”
 

“’Bellarine Ballerina’ follows a hapless wannabe ballerina, cast off to dirty street corners as no ballet school would have him. He spends all day busking, trying to impress passers-by, but to no avail… only to receive threats and the occasional beer can to the head,” Tyzack shares. “After a pathetic day of pirouettes on street corners, he catches the eye of a mysterious lady beckoning him into a red-lit underground tunnel. With nothing to lose, he follows her in, unbeknownst to him that a motley crew of sewer-dwelling street performers and celebrity impersonators have been watching him with a keen eye, ready to initiate him into their dangerous and secretive world, deep in the bowels of the city.”

New Video: GIFT Shares Ethereal “Feather”

Brooklyn-based psych rock quintet GIFT — TJ Freda, Jessica Gurewitz, Kallan Campbell, Justin Hrabovsky and Cooper Naess — have developed and honed an uncanny knack for crafting soundscapes that are simultaneously turbulent and gorgeous. As a band, they share the quest of the perfect sound rooted in harmony during times of tumult and radical openness. Their overall approach is a desire to live in the moment. In fact, live they’ve created a live experience that sees them pushing their material in wildly improvisatory directions — and as a result, they’ve been selling out shows in Brooklyn, through word of mouth. (I recently saw them open for Frankie and The Witch Fingers a couple of weeks ago, and the Brooklyn-based outfit really blew me — and the entire crowd — away.)

Dedstrange Records, a new label co-founded by A Place to Bury Strangers’ and Death by Audio’s Oliver Ackermann and Kepler Events‘ Steven Matrick recently signed GIFT and will be releasing their full-length debut Momentary Presence on October 14, 2022. Inspired by Ram Dass’ 1971 spiritual guide and countercultural landmark Be Here NowMomentary Presence is a meditation on working through the anxiety and self-doubt that we all, at some point or another, carry. Specifically conceived, written and recorded with the idea of a full-length album being a fully contained work of art, the songs on Momentary Presence reportedly tease something seismic coming around the corner, while featuring dense layered productions that feel and sound self-assured, complete, definitive and impermeable. This is rooted in the band’s belief that each moment has richness, complexity and singularity. And once it’s gone, it can’t be recaptured or repeated.

The album asks the listener several key questions: Can you truly be present? Can you open yourself up and appreciate life in its fullness — the ugliness and confusion, as well as the beauty and joy? The members of GIFT believe that the listener can. And their full-length debut is a chronicle of that chase, and a celebration of the eternal now. 

Last month, I wrote about the album’s first single, “Gumball Garden,” a towering ripper centered around an expansive and densely layered arrangement featuring scorching guitar pyrotechnics, fuzzy power chords, glistening synth arpeggios, thunderous drumming and a relentless motorik groove paired with rousingly anthemic hooks and Freda’s gentle cooing. Sonically, “Gumball Garden” brings Join the Dots-era TOY, Minami DeutschKikagaku Moyo, JOVM mainstays No Swoon and others to mind — but with a swaggering, self-assuredness. 

“I wrote this song way before most people knew what the word pandemic meant,” GIFT’s TJ Freda says. ““I had a dream in late 2019 where I woke up one day and there was nobody on earth. I was walking around looking for any forms of life to no avail. It was sad but also strangely peaceful. When the pandemic happened, this song took on a whole new meaning. We did wake up one day and the streets were empty. Everyone had gone away. This song is about finding peace in solitude.”
 

“Feather,” Momentary Presence‘s second and latest single is a slow-burning and contemplative song with painterly textures featuring glistening synth arpeggios, skittering, metronomic beats paired with Freda’s ethereal cooing, a soaring hook and a blazing guitar solo. While simultaneously evoking both a feather floating in the breeze, Autobahn-era Kraftwerk and The Pleasure Principle-era Gary Numan, the song was written by the band’s TJ Freda the morning after waking from a lucid dream.

“This is one of the most personal songs on the record,” says Freda. “One night I connected with a loved one in a dream, except I was in their mind. I was standing right in front of them and kept trying to call to them but the world in this dream was too loud and noisy. They couldn’t see or hear me. ‘Feather’ is about trying to help someone who can’t be helped, but in the end you accept them for who they are and love them no matter what.” 

Directed by Dylan Brannigan and featuring animation by the band’s TJ Freda, the accompanying video is a series of surrealistic yet lucid fever dream-like vignettes rendered in hazy, saturated VHS-like hues.

New Video: The Post-Apocalyptic World of The Church’s “The Hypnogogue”

Founded back in 1980, the Sydney-based ARIA Hall of Fame inductees The Church — currently founder member Steve Kilbey (vocals, bass, guitar); longtime collaborator and producer Tim Powles (drums), who joined the band in 1994 and has contributed to 17 albums; Ian Haug (guitar), a former member of Aussie rock outfit Powderfinger, who joined the band in 2013; multi-instrumentalist Jeffery Cain, a former member of Remy Zero and touring member of the band, who joined the band full-time after Peter Koppes left the band in early 2020; and their newest member, Ashley Naylor (guitar), a long-time member of Paul Kelly’s touring band and one of Australia’s most respected guitarists — was initially associated with their hometown’s New Wave, neo-psychedelic and indie rock scenes. But they became increasingly associated with dream pop and post-rock as their material took on slower tempos and surreal, shimmering soundscapes paired with their now, long-held reputation for an uncompromising approach to both their songwriting and sound.

1981’s full-length debut Of Skins and Hearts, was a commercial and critical success thanks in part to the success of their first radio hit, “The Unguarded Moment.” And as a result, the legendary Aussie outfit was signed to major labels in Australia, Europe and The States. However, their American label was dissatisfied with their sophomore album and dropped the band without releasing it in the States.

Although being dropped from their American label managed to slow down some of the international momentum surrounding the band a bit, 1988’s Starfish managed to be a smash hit, thanks to their only US Top 40 hit, “Under the Milky Way.” “Under the Milky Way,” received attention once again with its appearance in 2001’s cult-favorited film Donnie Darko.

Despite the fact that since the release of Starfish, mainstream success has been elusive, The Church have developed a devoted, international cult following while managing to be incredibly prolific. In fact, the band’s 25th album, 2017’s Man Woman Life Death Infinity was released to critical praise from the likes of PopMatters, who called the album “a 21st-century masterpiece, a bright beam of light amid a generic musical landscape, and truly one of the Church’s greatest releases.”

The highly-anticipated follow-up to 2017’s Man Woman Life Death Infinity — and their 26th album — is planned for an early 2023 release through Communicating Vessels/Unorthodox. The forthcoming album’s first single “The Hypnogogue” is an expansive and brooding track centered around the band’s unique swirling and textured guitar-driven sound paired with Kilbey’s imitable delivery and a contemporary sensibility heightened by a mix from Darrell Thorpe.

“‘The Hypnogogue’ is set in 2054… a dystopian and broken down future,” The Church’s Steve Kilbey explains. “Invented by Sun Kim Jong, a North Korean scientist and occult dabbler, it is a machine and a process that pulls music straight of dreams.”

“The song is about Eros Zeta the biggest rock star of 2054 who has traveled from his home in Antarctica (against his manager’s advice) to use the Hypnogogue to help him revive his flagging fortunes,” Kilbey continues, fleshing out the song’s sci-fi storyline. “In the midst of the toxic process, he also falls in love with Sun Kim and it all ends tragically (of course…as these thing often do).”

Directed by Aussie filmmaker Clint Lewis and starring Michael Coward and Emilia Eau, the accompanying, cinematic video for “The Hypnogogue” is set a rainy, neon-drenched retro-futuristic world that feels inspired by 80s dystopian sci-fi — in particular Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. But the video also manages to faithfully capture the essence of the song’s storyline. “I gave the director a lot of input into this video but he took my ideas and ran with them and came up with a fair bit of stuff I never envisaged,” Kilbey says. “The Church appear on screens in the Hypnogogue as workers in the system, translating the dreams of users into real time music.  I’m very happy with the way it all turned out. It’d be hard to get a better result!”

New Video: Jonathan Personne Shares Gorgeous “À présent”

Montreal-based singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, animator and visual artist Jonathan Robert may be best known for being a co-founder and co-lead vocalist of internationally acclaimed JOVM mainstay act Corridor. But Robert is also an acclaimed solo artist, writing and performing as Jonathan Personne.

Robert’s solo debut as Jonathan Personne, Histoire Naturelle, sonically drew from desert dream pop, Western Spaghetti rock and jangle pop. Thematically, the album’s material focused on the potential end of the world. Of course, with the album’s timing, it might have hit the nail a bit too hard on the head.

His sophomore Jonathan Personne album, 2020’s Guillaume Chiasson-product Disparitions was primarily written while the Montreal-based artist was touring with Corridor, and came about in a quick and fluid fashion. While the album saw Robert continuing upon the hook-driven yet intimate and sensitive songwriting that has won him acclaim as a solo artist, Disparitions was largely inspired by moment when music became a source of profound disgust. “I spent a lot of time touring away from home. Towards the end I felt like I was reluctantly going to do something that I had longed wished for,” Robert explained in press notes. 

The Montreal-based singer/songwriter began 2022 by signing with Bonsound, who will be releasing his third Jonathan Personne album, the Emmanuel Éthier-produced Jonathan Personne on Friday. Written alone on an acoustic guitar in a cottage, the album took an unexpected turn, when the Montreal-based artist went to Quebec City-based Le Pantoum with his friends and frequent collaborators Samuel Gougoux (drums), Julian Perreault (guitar), Mathieu Cloutier (bass) and the aforementioned Éthier (violin, synths, mellotron, vocals and production). The album’s material features arrangements centered around electric guitar, 12-string acoustic guitar, Rhodes, timpani, mellotron, synths, violin and even samples, the eight-song album continues Robert’s reputation for crafting material inspired by 60s pop and Spaghetti Westerns but with samples from obscure TV shows and movies, blistering rock grooves and extravagant guitar licks, the album features a more polished production than previous releases. 

Packaged with a Jonathan Robert illustration in which two children discover the remains of a dead body, the album thematically is rooted in duality: While continuing his reputation for breezy guitar pop, the album’s material is simultaneously brutal and sinister, yet candid. The album’s material evokes a mysterious world where ghosts, the supernatural, fate and broken characters with broken lives all intertwine and interact.

Featuring a Jonathan Robert illustration in which two children discover the remains of a dead body as its album cover art, the album thematically is rooted in duality: Continuing his reputation for breezy guitar pop, the album is also brutal, sinister yet candid. The end result is an album that evokes a mysterious world where ghosts, the supernatural, fate and broken characters with broken lives intertwine. 

In the lead-up to the album’s release later this week, I’ve managed to write about two album singles:

  • Un homme sans visage” a deceptively breezy song centered around an arrangement of gorgeous Mellotron-driven melody, jangling guitar, simple yet propulsive rhythms, bursts of lap steep, big hooky choruses and Robert’s plaintive falsetto. While continuing to be lovingly inspired by the sounds of the late 60s, the song is a bittersweet, modern fable of sorts that tells a story about a man, whose face is badly burned in a fire. 
  • Rock & roll sur ton chemin,” a deceptively straightforward rocker centered around a loose and breezy surf rock-like riff and a churning groove paired with dreamily delivered falsetto harmonies and Robert’s penchant for big, catchy hooks paired with subtle amounts of bongo, Mellotron and whistles. But despite it’s breezy air, the song is bittersweet and drenched with irony with the song being a tribute to dying art forms and those, who still practice them. “Devoting oneself to a genre destined to failure, there’s something pathetic about it, but also something very beautiful,” Robert says.

Jonathan Personne‘s third and latest single, “À présent” sounds indebted to Scott Walker‘s orchestral pop and Phil Spector‘s famous Wall of Sound production but with a greatest emphasis on the jangling rhythm section, which subtly pushes the whole affair into more contemporary realm. Thematically, the song depicts a world where excess, speed and love coexist in a setting that’s kind of a synthesis of Romeo and Juliet and James Dean’s life with the song’s central couple dying in a horrific accident.

Animated by Mathieu Larone and Henry McClellan, the accompanying video for “À présent” is abstract but centered in dualities, evoking the album’s themes: the animation is both childlike and disturbing, broodingly dark and colorful. But throughout, the intention was to present the optimistic vision of a new beginning.

“Mathieu and Henry were able to translate the song into images, and it’s just beautiful! It’s like an excerpt from the movie Fantasia, only weirder, darker, and done by the NFB rather than Disney,” Jonathan Robert says.

With five albums under their collective belts, the Austin-based psych rock outfit and JOVM mainstays  The Black Angels —  currently Alex Maas (vocals, bass), Christian Bland (guitar), Stephanie Bailey (drums), Jake Garcia (guitar) and multi-instrumentalist Ramiro Verdooren — have firmly cemented a unique take on psych rock that remains true to psych rock forebears like  Syd Barrett, Roky EricksonArthur Lee, and The Velvet Underground, while thematically touching upon contemporary concerns. 

Interestingly, during that same period of time, the members of the acclaimed Austin-based JOVM mainstays have also managed to build a global profile within the international psych rock scene, a profile that has been further cemented by their long-running celebration of all things psychedelic, Levitation Festival, which celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. 

If you’ve been frequenting this site over the past couple of months, you may recall that this year is a big year in the band’s almost two decade history: Their sixth album — and first in over five years, Wilderness of Mirrors is slated for a September 16, 2022 release through Partisan Records. Co-produced by the band and Brett Orrison with engineering by John AgnelloWilderness of Mirrors reportedly finds the band attempting to achieve something fresh and new through a gentle and subtle refinement of the sound that has won them fans across the globe. 

Throughout Wilderness of Mirrors‘ material, the band adds mellotron, string arrangements and an assortment of different keyboards to the mix, which adds different textures to their overall sound. Thematically, the album continues upon their long-held reputation for touching upon contemporary concerns — in particular, our uncertain and urgent moment of political tumult, the pandemic, and the ongoing devastation of the environment and its long-term implications to us and our descendants, among others. 

So far I’ve written about two of the forthcoming album’s singles:

  • El Jardín,” a single, which at first glance is classic Black Angels: Bailey’s thunderous time keeping, Maas’ plaintive falsetto and supple bass lines paired with layers upon layers of guitar pyrotechnics and effects from Bland and Garcia — but the song’s sparking and brooding bridge sees the band adding bursts of twinkling Rhodes to the mix. Written from the perspective of our dear Mother Earth, “El Jardín” is a forceful and urgent warning to all of us: destroying the environment will ultimately lead to the destruction of humanity. 
  • Firefly,” a loving yet classic Black Angels-like homage to 60s French pop, featuring a guest spot from Thievery Corporation‘s LouLou Ghelickhani, who contributes sultrily delivered vocals in French and English, alongside Maas’ imitable falsetto and paired with a hook-driven arrangement featuring reverb-drenched guitars, Maas’ supple and propulsive bass lines, some simple yet forceful timekeeping from Bailey and twinkling keys. 

“Without A Trace,” Wilderness of Mirrors‘ third and latest single is a bit of classic, Passover through Directions to See a Ghost-era Black Angels centered around fuzzy and distorted power chords, a reverb-drenched guitar solo, Bailey’s thunderous and propulsive time keeping paired with Maas’ imitable vocal delivery and supple bass lines. The song sonically and thematically is an eerie and brooding meditation that asks “is is still possible to be invincible when everyone else is expendable.”

“We have always said that if you can rob a bank to our music then we are in the right ballpark,” The Black Angels say in press notes. “And while we don’t condone robbing a bank – the idea alone creates an anticipatable, adrenaline inducing soundtrack for your mind.” 

The band will be embarking on an extensive headlining North American tour that includes an October 17, 2022 stop at Brooklyn Steel. Tour dates, as always are below. 

North American Tour Dates 

8/20: Las Vegas, NV @ Psycho Las Vegas
9/10: Lexington, KY @ Expansion Music Festival
9/30: Dallas, TX @ Granada 
10/1: Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck
10/3: St. Louis, MO @ Delmar Hall
10/4: Omaha, NE @ Slowdown
10/5: Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
10/7: Madison, WI @ Majestic
10/8: Chicago, IL @ House of Blues Chicago
10/9: Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
10/10: Detroit, MI @ Majestic
10/12: Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Theatre
10/13: Montreal, QC @ Corona Theater
10/14: Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
10/15: Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club
10/17: Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
10/18: Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer
10/19: Chapel Hill, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
10/21: Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
10/22: Nashville, TN @ Brooklyn Bowl
10/23: Birmingham, AL @ Saturn
10/24: Baton Rouge, LA @ Chelsea’s Live
11/3: Mexico City, MX @ Hipnosis Festival

New Video: GIFT Shares Trippy and Self-Assured “Gumball Garden”

Brooklyn-based psych rock quintet GIFT — TJ Freda, Jessica Gurewitz, Kallan Campbell, Justin Hrabovsky and Cooper Naess — have developed and honed an uncanny knack for crafting soundscapes that are simultaneously turbulent and gorgeous. Interestingly, as a band, they share the quest of the perfect sound rooted in harmony during times of tumult and radical openness. Their overall approach is a desire to live in the moment. In fact, live they’ve created a live experience that sees them pushing their material in wildly improvisatory directions — and as a result, they’ve been selling out shows in Brooklyn, through word of mouth. (I recently saw them open for Frankie and The Witch Fingers last week, and the Brooklyn-based psych rockers impressively captured the crowd within their first song.)

The rising Brooklyn-based psych outfit recently signed to Dedstrange Records, a new label co-founded by A Place to Bury Strangers’ and Death by Audio’s Oliver Ackermann and Kepler Events‘ Steven Matrick. Dedstrange will release GIFT’s full-length debut Momentary Presence on October 14, 2022. Inspired by Ram Dass’ 1971 spiritual guide and countercultural landmark Be Here Now, Momentary Presence is a meditation on working through the anxiety and self-doubt that we all, at some point or another, carry. Specifically conceived, written and recorded with the idea of a full-length album being a fully contained work of art, the songs on Momentary Presence reportedly tease something seismic coming around the corner, while featuring dense layered productions that feel and sound self-assured, complete, definitive and impermeable. This is rooted in their believe that each moment has richness, complexity and singularity. And once it’s gone, it can’t be recaptured or repeated. So, can you truly be present? Can you open yourself up and appreciate it in its fullness — the ugliness and confusion, as well as the beauty and joy? The members of GIFT believe that the listener can. And their full-length debut is a chronicle of that chase, and a celebration of the eternal now.

Momentary Presence‘s first single “Gumball Garden” is a towering ripper centered around an expansive and densely layered arrangement featuring scorching guitar pyrotechnics, fuzzy power chords, glistening synth arpeggios, thunderous drumming and a relentless motorik groove paired with rousingly anthemic hooks and Freda’s gentle cooing. Sonically, “Gumball Garden” brings Join the Dots-era TOY, Minami Deutsch, Kikagaku Moyo, JOVM mainstays No Swoon and others to mind — but with a swaggering, self-assuredness.

“I wrote this song way before most people knew what the word pandemic meant,” GIFT’s TJ Freda says. ““I had a dream in late 2019 where I woke up one day and there was nobody on earth. I was walking around looking for any forms of life to no avail. It was sad but also strangely peaceful. When the pandemic happened, this song took on a whole new meaning. We did wake up one day and the streets were empty. Everyone had gone away. This song is about finding peace in solitude.”
 

Directed and edited by James Thomson, the accompanying video is an intimate yet stylishly shot visual that captures the band performing the song through a series of gentle closeups and a mind-bending sequence that seems to follow the band as they get into the song’s trippy groove.

New Video: HooverIII Shares a Riff Driven Banger

Created in large part by founder Bert Hoover (guitar, vocals), the Los Angeles-based psych outfit HooverIII (pronounced Hoover Three) gradually expanded to a full-fledged band with the addition of Gabe Flores (guitar, vocals), Kat Mirblouk (bass, synths), James Novick (synths) and Owen Barrett (drums). 

Throughout the bulk of their career, the band has developed a reputation for putting out two releases a year, including singles, live albums and the like — and that included 2021’s seven-song Water for the Frogs, a jam-band-like effort that featured songs with an average length of about 5 minutes. (The album’s closing track clocked in at almost 10 minutes.) 

The members of Hooveriii began to realize that time — our most valuable resources — shouldn’t be taken for granted, they got to work on A Round of Applause, their second album released through Reverberation Appreciation Society. Slated for a July 29, 2022 release, the album derives its title from the late-’80s Roky Erickson song “Click Your Fingers Applauding the Play.” “That’s too much of a mouthful,” the band’s founder Bert Hoover says. “My title, A Round of Applause, just came one day, and we were like, ‘Yo, that sounds like a Gentle Giant record.’”

Reportedly, the most pop-leaning batch of material from the band to date, the album occasionally pays homage to the Canterbury scene while being a sort of palette cleanser. “I am not really a playlist guy or a singles guy,” Hoover admits. “I’m really into the album experience. … So yeah, we made a pop record. But also, to me, this record is very progressive as well, and I think that that provides a nice balance.”  

The band also found additional inspiration from Nick Cave, who once famously said that dabbling with new ideas continues to fuel his near-50 year career. So the band took a decidedly different approach and gave themselves the freedom to explore and play with ideas during the creative and recording process. 

Earlier this year, I wrote about “See,” a sunny AM rock-like bit of psych rock featuring rousingly anthemic hooks, dense layers of guitars, a strutting groove and Bert Hoover’s easy-going, laid back delivery paired with blazing guitar solo. And that was before the song’s trippy and furious coda. While sonically nodding at Creedence Clearwater Revival and Summer of Love-era psych rock, “See” was centered around an overwhelmingly uplifting message.

“‘See’ is about trying not to take life for granted,” Bert Hoover explains. “Some things are easier said than done. It’s our first song to feature Anna Wallace singing along with us and it came together rather seamlessly. It was a pretty bare bones jangle jam until the band filled it with ear candy.”  

“Twisted & Vile,” A Round of Applause‘s last single before its release may feature the biggest set of riffs on the entire album paired with a swaggering and strutting groove and Hoover’s easy-going yet plaintive delivery. But underneath the riffage, is an aching yearning.

It’s a song about trying to figure out your place in life,” HooverIII’s Bert Hoover says. He adds, ““I wrote it with a Hammond Auto-vari drum machine many years ago that sat on a reel of tape untouched. We like to reference the archives when putting together a new record because you never know where inspiration strikes. We dusted this one off and thought we could really make this work. Everyone’s instrumentation fell right into the pocket, especially Gabe’s leads. Very proud of the crew. The song, to me, is about finding your place in the scheme of things – but really we’re just trying to have a good time.”

The accompanying video by Millar Wileman uses a series of animated and playful collages that reminds me of Monty Python introductions but with bright color schemes and a running joke about fish with feet.