I think that I’ve pretty much established by now, that there is some amazing music coming out of Canada at the moment. Anyone who has got the recently released ‘Return of the Son of Gutbucket: Canadian Underground Psych Explosion’, will know this, and the bands on there are proof of the variety and quality of Psych music that just keeps on coming from over there. In this 4-pack I’m looking at more evidence of this. Three of the bands here are either on or related to bands on the ‘Gutbucket’ compilation; while the fourth, The Psychic Alliance, came to me through members some of those bands.
So strap yourself in and get ready for another ace Canadian ride.
Evil Against Evil by The Psychic Alliance
The Psychic Alliance lists twelve people as contributing to the album, and this is reflected in the breadth of tracks on it. Hailing from Vancouver this is a band who really seem to go for it when they get in the studio, and I can only imagine how mad one of their live shows must be. Actually there is a real live and immediate feel to this album, borne out of an approach that dictates that every backing track be recorded live with a maximum of three takes; with overdubs kept to a minimum. As for the tracks themselves, most are punchy and could be broadly located in the psychedelic music of the late sixties with takes on Barrett-style English whimsy, West Coast garage, surf rock and counter-culture folk. The exceptions to this include the longer tracks ‘Great God Plan’ which forwards slightly to Ziggy-era Bowie, and ‘Maggie Malone’ which seems to bring the album together nicely with a melange of influences that convinces through sheer enthusiasm alone. This is an album that is in many ways just bonkers, but bonkers in a good way because its sheer exuberance makes it an absolute joy to listen to.
Tidalwave by The Backhomes
I totally missed this album when it came out back in May. That may have remained the case had the band not had a track on the ‘Gutbucket’ compilation. When I went over to the Backhomes bandcamp as a result on hearing their track on there I was absolutely stunned by what I heard. The band describe themselves as purveyors of ‘scruffy spacey psych pop’, which is bang on the mark. There is all sorts going on here with nods to the likes of JAMC, Wooden Shjips, Hawkwind…. well I could sit here and the list would go on. The best way to describe the way this album sounds is to get you to look at the album cover above, because it perfectly sums it up. There’s an overall sense of calm and warmth to the album, but also a sense of competing light and dark with is evident throughout. This means that there are melodies on here (and Tidalwave is really well arranged) that just hit you and make you melt, but there’s also a sense of unease here too. A fantastic album that’s definitely going to be a candidate once the best of the year list is being considered.
El Hombre by Al Agua
Al Agua is a solo project from Moths & Locusts/ Anunnaki’s Dave Read, and consists of two sixteen minute ‘guitar meditations’ that are cold, haunting and minimalist. These two tracks move at glacial pace, but have to capacity to completely overpower you if you let them. First track, ‘Beneath The Waves At Yonaguni’, has a certain emptiness to it with lots of space around the instrumentation, but there is also power there too. So while it could be considered an ambient piece, I can understand how it is reflective of the long Canadian winter, I note that it was recorded ‘Spring into Summer 2017’; and there is a definite sense of thawing and emergence towards the end of the track. The other track, ‘The Eye of God’ shares many of the elements of its counterpart but is heavier and more bleak. There are more sinister elements to the music here evoking, for me, the discomfort of isolation and a sense of melancholy that is never fully resolved (which if these are meditations it would not necessarily be)…it is like staring into an abyss. This is an unsettling piece that I had to be careful about when I listened to it, there is a darkness here that could be quite disturbing… but also strangely profound.
Overall I found both the pieces here to be affecting and found their respective coldness and bleakness to be strangely addictive, these are compositions that I am sure I will come back to at times when I need to just be.
Flavour Country by Shooting Guns
One of the musical highlights for me last year was finding Shooting Guns. A couple of releases from Cardinal Fuzz in early 2016 gave me the heads up, while then discovering the rest of their oeuvre (check it here) just sealed the deal. I played ‘Brotherhood of the Ram’ on repeat, and saw that they had more strings to their collective bow with the amazing ‘Wolf Cop’ soundtrack. So when this new album slipped out in August I was all over it like a cheap suit. That I’m only now getting round to writing about it is frustrating because it’s another winner to my ears. The first two short openers (‘Ride Free’ and ‘French Safe’) are absolute brain crushers, while the longer ‘Beltwhip Snakecharmer’ and ‘Vampires of Industry’ are more the Shooting Guns that you can totally zone out to. The title track and ‘Black Leather Jacket’ (collectively side 2 of the vinyl) are also total zoners, but you may emerge from listening to them to find your face in a gloopy mess on the floor such is the heavy psych power of these guitar-laden attack bots. In short this album had pretty much everything you want from a Shooting Guns release, these guys have range… and on this range they’ve once again hit the target every time.