Psych, such that it is, has many touching points; it borders onto other types of music from jazz to stoner, folk to metal, space rock to techno and beyond – and I’ve covered releases that have had elements of all of these. What I’ve tended to avoid recently are releases that have tended towards ‘indie’. Like ‘psych’ indie has in the past been used as a catch all word, especially by PR people, as a short way of saying cool and/ or contemporary. The term ‘indie’ has, though, lost it’s currency over the last decade or so. The phrase ‘landfill indie’ showed just how many bands emerged that were frankly rather beige and unremarkable.
Nevertheless, there have been some fantastic bands over the years who have worn the epithet ‘indie’ with pride; bands that are revered to this day…I’m not going to single any out but you’ll probably have your favourites. Now I notice that there is nothing in the notes for This Other Kingdom that would suggest they are an ‘indie’ band, but there are elements in their music which does remind me of some of the better proponents of that genre…and I mean that as a complement.
What this is a roundabout way of saying is that when I first started listening to This Other Kingdom I was sceptical, and their music had to fight through all sorts of layers of prejudice on my behalf (and that really is my problem)… but fight through it did and I think this is a really fine album.
This is also a varied album that seems to take more risks the further you get into it. This is not the ‘two sides = two tracks’ album that I normally review, it’s eleven songs none of which are longer than five minutes, and I can’t remember when I last reviewed such an album. Anyway enough rambling and lets get down to the music itself…
The album kicks off with ‘Common Colours_Common Sounds’ which is a solid song, but doesn’t really give you the sense of what is to come, although it does build up nicely and at least gets you attuned to the band’s sound. The real take-off comes with ‘Eye Do Eye’ which is an absolute cracker of a track, lots of treated guitar, fantastic harmonies and a superbly uplifting chorus that makes the track soar…one of my favourite tracks of the year so far.
Follow that! Well ‘Telescopic State of Mind’ does with its more intense feel and visceral leading edge which gives a sense of the track almost getting away from the band, which is just how I like it. ‘Comatosed’ has a really good pace to it, and I particularly like the organ part on it which really adds depth. Like the rest of the album there’s all sorts of influences in the mix, but put together in a way that really works.
Things slow down a bit with ‘Chemikle’ which has the sort of deep vocals and pace that are reminiscent of Jim Morisson, or early Cult of Dom Keller more a more contemporary comparison, although the sound is altogether cleaner and the chugging riff gets better with every listen. ‘Rays for Days (When the Sun Did Shine)’ frankly sounds like a early Happy Mondays Shaun Ryder, in a totally good way, and by the end its Scremadelica-era Primal Scream mixed in with some Spiritualized, yet it also weirdly has its own sound…and that’s the thing, there’s lots of bits here that you think of other bands…but in the end its an album that stands on its own sound.
‘Hellion’ sees the band just begin to introduce some more Eastern sounds to their music, which is the sound of things to come in ‘Morning Skies’ with it’s floating guitar and dreamlike atmosphere. As you might guess from the title, ‘नई दिल्ली सात’ (New Delhi Seven) this is where it is fully realised with a raga-like structure creating a meditative break which is well done and does not feel out of place. After that ‘Valley of Nowhere’ comes in quietly but then bursts out into a veiled and more fuzz-laden track, darker and more oppressive.
Last up ‘This is War’ is tinged with the sort of Ry Cooder guitar favoured by the likes of Spindrift. There’s a sense of the desert and rattlesnake as the vocal really powers through the thick instrumentation, with doom-laden bridges in-between the verses. ‘Rêveur’ gets darker as it progresses.
This is an album that some ‘psych’ fans will get from the outset, others (like me) will perhaps need to persevere a bit more. But for those of us who generally like long improvised numbers I think that ‘Rêveur’ offers a lot. It reflects a lot of the different influences that are going into contemporary psychedelic music, and for me it is the right sort of album to break out of the ‘psych’ scene and draw others into it.
This Other Kingdom are a three-piece from Dublin, Ireland and comprise, Del Kerton (vocals, keys), Declan Dunne (guitar, vocals) and Git Sweeney (drums).