5 ON THE FLY: Five Psychedelic Mini Reviews In One Place

UUBBUURRUU – Swamp Ritual EP

uubbuurruu

This Montreal five-piece have certainly put together a tasty little package. They go from the mystic heights with other-worldly vocals and then down to the bowels of damnation with wailing, heavy (near metal) guitar. The variety is fun. “Cosmic Cannibalism” kicks things off with Iron Butterfly-style acid-rock guitar, but then things lighten up with almost Beach Boys sounding vocals on “Laying In An Angel’s Corpse”. “Dear God” with its harmonica and slide guitar veers into country/folk rock territory but the backing instrumentation keeps things trippy. “I Don’t Mind” features a dirty glam-rock vibe, whereas “Radio Waves” is the heaviest track of all with its goth-like Black Sabbath groove.

A treat for those who like their psych rock heavy, melodic and stoned-out.

SEVERED FEATHERS – The Traveler EP

severed feathers

Peterborough’s Severed Feathers take a somewhat different route on their particular trip out to the psychedelic realm, one that includes ‘80s dream pop and ‘90s shoegaze, among a few other things. Things start off with sunny, jangly guitars, but the indistinct and distant vocals on “Occultation” shatter any illusions that this is indie pop. The vocals are less mysterious, more dreamy, on “Spectre”, a song in which you begin to appreciate the mesmerizing quality of the Joy Division-style percussion. The singer’s distance lends a mournful air to “Beggars Tomb”, even as the guitar’s flourishes highlight the songs ebbs and flows. “Sun Orb Bride” provides a moment to wash the palette. It’s a brief spurt of rollicking garage rock. A tentative expectant guitar provides the intro for “Moon Shock”, the EP’s standout track, but eventually the music breaks out into murky post-punk quagmire, where only the drumming seems to be ‘present’. Everything else is off to the side, lurking in the shadows. The closing track fools us into thinking that we are back where we started with bright, jangling guitars. However, the guitar slowly wanders away from the light and into less pleasant but more interesting places.

‘The Traveler’ is highly effective in creating a mood of its own. It’s a mood you’ll want to get with.

THE RADIATION FLOWERS – The Radiation Flowers

radiation flowers

To get you in the right ballpark think Soundgarden at their most psychedelic and then switch out Chris Cornell for a female singer with a sweet, folk-oriented voice. That almost gets you there but Saskatoon’s The Radiation Flowers are nowhere near as heavy and they tend to lull you into a steady groove rather than startle you with dramatic flourishes. The groove they draw you into, though, can be intoxicating. Take the slow-burn swirl of “Something to Hide” where the guitar seems to bounce around inside your skull while lead singer Shelby Gaudet entices you like a siren. Or the slow and moody “Dark Night” with its hint of magic in the woodwind-style synth and the dreamy haze induced by the haunting vocals. At times the band breaks out, such as on the surf garage number “Psychic Attack” which features lively percussion and frisky guitar work. But putting you in a psychedelic trance is what they do best, as most keenly demonstrated on the penultimate track “Peace of Mind”.

As strong and polished as ‘The Radiation Flowers’ is, it does suffer from a certain amount of ‘sameness’ and would likely have benefitted from a bit of trimming. Still, it is one of the best full-length psych albums of the year, and “Peace of Mind” is one of the best songs, regardless of genre.

THE GODSPOT – The Music of Decline

godspot

OK, this one really has no business being here because it’s a real stretch to call it psych rock. However, it does have at least one foot planted in that pre-metal period in rock history. Furthermore, it definitely has a stoner attitude, even though it may not be of the head-tripping variety. So here it is.

The record is a real mish-mash of styles, which is a large part of its mischievous charm. This Vancouver band would no doubt argue that they are not being irreverent regarding the various genres of music they try on, but they are certainly impish, almost to the point of being audacious. Singer Ryan Johnston romps through everything from garage rock and British pop to faux country and folk rock. Although he usually sounds like the guy from The Kingsman, he also has an alarming knack of sounding a lot like Mick Jones (“Trad Cool (Surf Dogs)”), Peter Murphy (“No Heart for the Mercy Kill”) and Greg Keelor (“Bohemian Groove”).

The band is loose and they take on the music with a garage/punk attitude, and yet there is a mark of professionalism on everything they do. The problem is that you can never take them seriously. Even on “The Music of Decline”, which is dripping with country/blues rock sincerity, you can’t help but think they have a collective smirk on their face. But, what the hell. Their energy and playfulness is infectious. This is a fun record.

COCAGNE CHIMERA – Waking EP

cocagen chimera

Don’t let the number of tracks fool you into thinking this is a full-length album. Each track is so short that the total running time is only around 20 minute, or about the average length of an EP.

No matter. Montreal’s Shawn Morgan is economical with the time he allows himself and somehow manages to creates fully realized songs that do not sound rushed or truncated. Most songs are a wonky but delightful mix of folk and ‘60s baroque pop. Morgan also tries on a few other things like surf/garage with “Subconcious” and math rock with “So Much Real”. There are some truly intriguing nuggets too, such as the prog rock instrumental “Roofs” (think Robert Fripp from King Crimson) and “Mister Sunshine”, which is yacht rock from a David Lynch movie.

Morgan’s DIY, one-man-band, approach is charming and lends the record much of its appeal. Not much to dislike here.

(Yeah, this one wasn’t strongly psychedelic either.)