I can still remember when Psychic Lemon’s debut hit me last year, something I can still best describe by regurgitating the start and end of the review I did at the time:
Hold the front page…this just in…Psychic Lemon formed a couple of years ago in Cambridge and, from what I can find out, have had a few tracks out and have been building a local following for themselves. Then, blammo, they appear as if from nowhere with a fully formed and with really good debut album that is out at the beginning of March.
This is a really confident and accomplished debut from Psychic Lemon who could go off in any direction next such is the breadth of its music. Never mind holding the front page…let’s have a special supplement!
I’ve quoted this back because I’ve pretty much had the same feeling about this second album from the band which has both appeared out of nowhere fully formed, and fulfilled the rather obvious prediction that I made back then: that the band could go off in any direction. In fact they seem to have gone off in all sorts of different directions while at the same time producing an album that is coherent and properly exciting. I am totally made up to be premiering the full album stream of this release (see below), which comes out on Tonzonen Records on 12th January 2018, pre-orders now available.
The album comprises five tracks, each between six and ten minutes long, and for me comes across as an experience that is both intense and highly positive; the latter in particular not much of a given in the music I usually cover. In fact I’ve listened to this album in a number of different settings now… sitting on the sofa, out on a walk, late night in bed (that’s probably enough information)… and on each occasion have found myself saying at different parts of the album “fuckin’ wow”… or something of that ilk. This was always likely to be the case with an album title like ‘Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay’, something which I asked the band about:
The album title is essentially the manifesto for the album and all our music at the moment. We became a three-piece (from four) about a month after the first album came out. As a result, a great deal of the sounds we’re making now have come from doing everything we can to retain a “full” sound. Even live, we are looping guitar lines, playing keyboards, using drones and so on, in addition to guitar and bass effects (including distortion and delay).
So enough of this generalised superlative throwing, let’s get into the thing. ‘Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay’ opens with ‘Exit to the Death Lane’, not the title that you would automatically associate with something I’ve already described as ‘highly positive’ but it just gets me off on totally the correct foot with the album as the instruments kick in one by one, pretty much summing up the album’s title in the first thirty seconds. From then its a psychedelic ride through a forest of oil projections then …and then… when the band step it up a gear just before the three minute mark I got the first of my “fuckin’ wow” moment, leaving the rest of the track to do the job of sealing the deal through a series of variations are the central riff that makes you wonder how Psychic Lemon are going to top this.
I wasn’t wondering for long as ‘Hey Droog!’ slammed its way into my brain, seemingly by-passing my ears and going straight for the cortex. This is a face melter on an industrial scale… a heavy as fuck track that has a ‘chug’ to it that alternates with some great distorted guitar. As I write this I’m struggling not to go completely over the top in writing about it but is just feels perfect to me as I listen to it now for probably the fifth time. Oh sod it, you’re going to have to listen to it yourself but I warn you, it’s more than a little bit addictive.
As ‘Hey Droog!’ finished it seems to have adopted something of a ‘scorched synapse” policy on me… but with this album you just don’t get time to recover. ‘You’re No Good’ is straight out of the traps, less dirty and distorted than it’s predecessor, but no less effective at getting to the heart of things through its high-tempo, compelling and über repetitive form that just has you going from the first minute to the last. Don’t get me wrong, this is still heavy and fast; but it has a lightness of touch to it… and when (spoiler alert) that cacophonous sax kicks in with a minute to go… well that just seals the deal. What also strikes me at this point is how ‘live’ and ‘raw’ the tracks sound. I asked the band about this:
We would record the three of us playing at once, so a lot of it is live, but as always there were plenty of parts that wanted to re-record. The whole thing is pretty DIY: We recorded in the same home-built studio as we did for the first album. The bass player, Andy H, built it single handedly. It’s a kind of lean-to, maybe about 8 foot square, plus a little bit for storing our cases, lights and so on. The entire recording and production process was done by Andy B. He seems to know a great deal. The mastering was done by a guy in London called Pete Maher, who did a lovely job of giving all the tracks a more “finished” sound.
So far so absolutely frenetic and that, I’m assuming, concludes side one of this album. If so, side two is made up of the two longest tracks of the set. ‘Interstellar Fuzz Star’, which initially lets you think that there’s going to be some sort of let up in the action. In reality the eponymous subject of the track was just waiting to explode into a fuzz-laden super nova that then sends flares shooting of into the sonic star system. This is not exactly space rock, but has that sort of ambition as the track ends with the emanation of distorted debris flying from the speakers. There is a real sense of journey and the sort of improvisation that you would associate with the space rock genre. Again, I asked the band whether this was fair:
…we have jams where we play for a long time, but focus on listening and reacting to one another. It’s spontaneous, almost subconscious creation. In one live review we were described as a “conduit for sounds”, and we would probably agree with that. The tracks emerge from these jams that we record informally and then listen back to and boil down to the best parts. We also want there to be a groove of some kind in every track, which is often the responsibility of the drums. Wherever it comes from, it has to be something that benefits from repetition, instead of being spoiled by it. In that same review, the music was described as “space rock power”. We’d never really thought of ourselves as space rock, but that line really stuck with us, and has been with us ever since. Who wouldn’t want to be described in that way?? There’s one new track we’re playing at the moment [which will be on a four track live EP to be released at a later date] and it’s probably a good indicator of what “space rock power” means to us.
If there was any respite to be had with this album it comes with the final track, ‘Satori Disko’. This is a slower and more considered number that helps you chill out after the aural whirlwind of the other tracks. While zoning out to this I found my mind settling on the title, which I find intriguing. ‘Satori’ is a Japanese Buddhist term which is probably best described as ‘awakening’ and, very crudely, is the equivalent of ‘nirvana’… while disko is the German variant of that popular word. This lead me up the path of looking for ways of engaging more deeply with the music while also looking for German antecedents in the sounds. Whether of not this is wide of the mark the point that I’m making here is that this is very much a track that you can lose yourself in… that you can take thoughts and run with; and as such marks an appropriate end to what is for me a stunning album.
As I write this it is not yet the end of 2017 and I am already starting to think that I may well have heard one of 2018’s albums of the year. This, for me, is an absolutely brilliant piece of work that presents variations around the themes that are boldly set out in the album’s title and somehow nails then in a variety of different ways. This, for me, is part of the appeal of ‘Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay’, that it reflects some of this different areas of heavy psychedelic music currently being explored and provides the band’s own take on them. I said at the end of my review of Psychic Lemon’s first album that the band could go off in any direction next… for me that still is the case but from any one of the five starting points that the band have laid down here.
‘Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay’ is released on 12th January 2018, and is available for pre-order now on 180g Purple Splatter with gatefold sleeve from the Psychic Lemon bandcamp & Tonzonen Records.