Intense, surreal, remote, dynamic. Come along with us as we chronicle the adventures of the soul through psychedelic, drone, noise, experimental, pop music based around Chicago bands in particular and local bands everywhere.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Spirit Smoke / White Noise Sound

One of the valuable results of the recent embrace of psychedelic culture in independent music is the residual focus on 1980s and 1990s trends in psychedelic music. Behind the outbreak of punk and alternative recording and songwriting trends in those decades, psychedelic influences were played down somewhat; perhaps they were hiding in plain sight at the time, but the development of heavier aesthetics in recording and songwriting kept whimsical, wet, and repetitive sounds to a minimum. Those sources of psychedelic sounds in the 1980s and 1990s are receiving their due during the last few years, providing listeners with a library of sounds to dive into, in order that listeners might understand the skeleton of contemporary psychedelic music somewhat better.


I have absolutely no idea how I missed White Noise Sound when their debut record was released in the United States last September, but I am making up for that now by wearing down the wax of their United Kingdom release in 2011. Hailing from the U.K. themselves, this group combines heavy and driving sounds from the Jesus and Mary Chain revival with symphonic or progressive elements from Echo and the Bunnymen (at their most symphonic). That heavy revivalist sound results in exceptional industrial distortion tones, completely distinct from the usual germanium fuzz attacks of psychedelic acts. Resulting from this sound, along with heavy dancey beats is a group attack that is not unlike the Welcome to the Monkey House Dandy Warhols, with the teeth of A Place to Bury Strangers.

On each side, the band starts with a fast and heavy rocker, retreating to introspective songs immediately thereafter. Here the listener has the privilege of diverse instrumentation that is executed in a sufficiently dark and reflective manner; from here the songs meander to their eventual conclusion, and the album itself is completed with one of the best symphonic psychedelic passages of recent years. Not unlike the swells that accompany Darker My Love's "All the Hurry and Wait" suite on their second album, White Noise Sound execute their symphonic passages with more dissonance and less logical conclusions, allowing for heavily emotional involvement in the closing moments.

This is obviously a record that I love because I enjoy the repetition of the Jesus and Mary Chain's fuzz cycles, and their logical conclusion in The Raveonettes and A Place to Bury Strangers, and I have a soft spot for bombastic progressive psychedelic sounds to boot. Needless to say, this disc executes progressive sounds with a succinct vision, and even though I feel like this disc could be twice as long, I appreciate that it is a release that leaves me wanting more. Overall, this is one of the best contemporary releases I have heard that includes psychedelic and progressive elements.


Not too long ago, I sent PayPal to a nice man in Belgium who happens to run a cassette label. Yesterday I received my copy of Great Society Mind Destroyers Spirit Smoke in the mail, and was immediately driven to a land of blistering fuzztones, stomping rhythms, and ethereal vocals. Having my mind sufficiently blown the first time I watched these guys play live over a year ago, and following the progression of their live demos and Dark Fog split 7", my mind was yet unprepared for the comprehensive attack of this new cassette.

In complete contrast to the White Noise Sound review above, this release accentuates certain aspects 1990s psychedelic production (some of the moments remind me of the heaviest and most psychedelic elements of the Smashing Pumpkins when they are at their very best), but the group itself sits more firmly in the traditional stream of psychedelic music originating from the 1960s (especially San Francisco's acid rock). This traditional slant includes organization of events that promote psychedelic culture in Chicago, promote independent psychedelic bands in the city, and also embraces the spiritual possibilities latent in psychedelia (not unlike The Pyschedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators).

When Great Society Mind Destroyers are at their best, they remind me of the complex instrumental arrangements of the original Big Brother and the Holding Company, and the disgusting, saturated tones of that classic acid blues (think "Ball and Chain"). Riffs are at the center of most songs on this release, rather than repetitive, meandering passages, and the execution of these hooks is perfect, bathed in effects, with varied rhythmic approaches from the bass and drums. Typically, the rhythmic section drives the songs in a rather subtle manner, clearing the way for the up-front guitar sound and dreamlike vocal sound. At various points the songs are raving-up or completely controlled, providing the release with diverse sounds and approaches.

One of my favorite things about psychedelic music is the basic template that allows groups to work within familiar conventions while presenting their own unique vision and their own attempt at providing spaces for the mind to reflect and explore. In this regard, Great Society Mind Destroyers pay homage to tradition while commenting on it with relentless, saturated passages.

Even if you're not into psychedelic tomes, this tape straight up rocks. Part of me wondered how this new release would relate to the development of the Chicago sound, and the group turned in a striking statement.