“I tried and tried to buy the Psychotic Reaction LP – I’d go down to the Unimart stoned on grass, on nutmeg, vodka, Romilar or coming glassy-eyed off ten Dexedrine hours spent working problems in Geometry (I was a real little scholar – when I had the magic medicine which catapults you into a manaical, obsessive craving for knowledge.) I tried every gambit to weaken my resistance, but nothing worked. Shit, I had a fuckin’ split personality! And all over a fuckin’ Count Five album! “
Those were the words of the late, utterly bonkers American music writer Lester Bangs, in ‘71, talkin’ some jive about a classic/horrible album by the Count Five that came out in ‘66. I once stole an ‘87 reissue of it from the record store I worked at in ‘90. But anyway.
The point being is that a Goth kid’s curiosity into music of the late 60s and 70s naturally leads her by the silver-ringed hand to the darker, psychedelic stuff. What I wouldn’t give to remember the name of that CD box set of psychedelic hits I once had with, like everything on it. There is a serious warm fuzz – see Bangs’ drug list above – to garagey rock music of the very late 60s and early 70s that is fairly lacking in modern, wall-of-sound pretenders. Most now are clinical, or angry. They don’t quite get the fact that you gotta be both earthy and spacey.
That’s the sound I love. And that’s the sound the Black Angels have stolen.
And they’re bloody well welcome to it.
If you don’t know the Black Angels already, picture a time-bending map with pushpins in it.
There’s one pin jabbed into New York City, around ‘67-68, kinda when Nico left the Velvets, all White Light/White Heat. You’re sprawled on a bean bag chair with foxy people around you and narcotics are licking your cheek. Skip to a year later and the pin’s in Haight Ashbury, San Francisco and you’re meeting some gentle people with flowers in their hair, but there’s some deep-dark good stuff happening, too, even with the Mellotron. And why not pushpin your way to somewhere between 1995-1997 London, England? You’re Spiritualized, all layered and drone and ladies and gentlemen you’re floating in space. Okay, these are obvious Wiki references, but they’re right this time.
Stick a final push pin into Austin, Texas a coupla years earlier than ALL OF THAT and you are where everybody in the reviews say you are: taking a 13th Floor Elevators ride. Scatter around a few snakes and tumbleweeds, then transport yourself to between 2005 and 2010, and you’re sorted.
Which is to say that today, the Black Angels make fuzzy, trippy, molasses music. SXSW’s ‘house’ band has nailed the modern psychedelia. To the wall. With a great big, fuck-off pushpin.
And oh yeah, they were in Van for two nights with BC buds Black Mountain on November 30 and December 1. Like BM, in BA they’re nowt much to look at live – you just gotta nod and wait for the janglier early-60s tune “Telephone” to come around (it does) and stir you. But otherwise, it’s all a wash of layers and wail and to quote Mike Doughty, “the dope’s kiss.”
Live, and when not beset by monitor problems, bearded singer Alex Maas’ voice is a bit like Grace Slick’s. And while I imagine the band aren’t ever really movers and shakers, on the the first night of the Van shows, Alex hid completely inside his hoodie, while slick lead Christian Bland stared off at an unfixed point. And both mumbled. Okay, so the gig didn’t totally kick out the jams, but whatever. Wouldashouldacoulda been better. But let’s forget that for now and pretend that all you need is some good music to feed your ears.
So, introducing the Black Angels. It doesn’t matter where you want to pin them, or in what year, the new album’s called Phosphene Dream. Hear them here. And now. \m/
ALL PHOTOS BY KRIS KRÜG
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