The Black Angels release third studio album Phosphene Dream on 14 September, on Blue Horizon. The band supports the release with a European and US tour.
Album opener Bad Vibrations.
Conditions for use: Purchase The Black Angels’ latest long player, carefully press play on your musical system. You will then have a few seconds to bring the curtains down on dilated pupils, make the short, mental trip to the doors of the black lodge and wait…here it comes…one, two, three, four!
Phosphene Dream shudders into life with the mesmerising Bad Vibrations. From here on in there is no natural light, just synaptic phosphenes sliding and darting under lidded eyes, as the smiling dwarf and Bob beckon from beyond . You’re in their hands now, as they guide you through the vortex walkways to the charred enchanting heart of The Black Angels.
Formed in Austin, Texas in 2004, the band quickly established a reputation for delivering seismic psychedelic hits. This wasn’t the legal high of a farfisa riff, an illusionary line or litho-cut single covers; this was real.
It’s easy to wake to Sunday Morning, develop a high-contrast negative image of Nico and cut your new, shiny moniker from the beginning of The Velvet Underground’s The Black Angel’s Death Song. But The Black Angels had the musical chops and lithe pose to back it up. They were soon touring with The Warlocks, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and Roky Erikson, briefly performing as his backing band. First two albums, Passover and Directions to See a Ghost, warped minds and drew comparisons with the 13th Floor Elevators, acid-soaked Fillmore jams and The Velvet Underground.
But it turned out that these were the warm-up acts. White noise experiments and deep-space sonic explorations are difficult journeys. And accomplished as they were, these two releases are merely incomplete charts compared to the astral-flashback-mapping on Phosphene Dream.
The scorched shadow of the piper at the gates of dawn stretches throughout the album’s many hypnotic, mind-melting moments. From the reverb-wrapped, guitar treble of Barrett and syncopated off-key organ stabs to soaring, dissonant harmonies, The Black Angels beautifully capture the lost-boy mischief and saucer-like eyes of early Pink Floyd.
The distinctive and unsettling jug sound that drove classic 13th Floor Elevator tracks, such as You’re Gonna Miss Me, is used to minimal and compelling effect. And on True Believers the band take a Jefferson Airplane ride to the haunting brilliance of White Rabbit.
Signposts to the psychedelic masters of the mid-to-late 60s are plentiful. But Phosphene Dream is far from an empty pastiche. The Black Angels, in the hands of producer Dave Sardy, have managed to capture the sonic mind map that propelled the forefathers that clearly populate their musical space dreams. The album switches from distorted explosions, yelps and twisted six-strong howls to wonderfully sparse pastures against a backdrop of rumbling menace.
Many have tried to explore this period in time but few succeed. However, like Spaceman 3, The Warlocks and The Horrors (to name some of the few), The Black Angels manage to evoke the excitement of listening to the 60s pioneers for the first time without inducing sickly, nostalgic rashes. And allied to their more abstract sonic explorations, the band also displays fantastic, scuzzy pop sensibilities. Listen to Telephone and Haunting at 1300 McKinley; neither of which would be out of place on the original Nuggets album.
But why carry on reading my words. Phosphenes are generated from the light within. Close your eyes, press play and conjure your own dreams.
The Black Angel’s European and UK tour kicks off on 24 September. Find out if they’re playing at a venue near you.
Listen to Telephone.