Sunday, 18 July 2010

THE PSYCHEDELIC SOUNDS OF THE SONIC CATHEDRAL


Tributes are statements in style and the task of honoring cult bands is definitely not easy.
When one has tasted Dom Perignon, why would they want to try Californian champagne? (No offense to Californians, of course!)
So, what makes a good cover?
Pure originality?
Added richness in sounds?
The ability to recreate the spirit of the band in focus?
In my opinion, all those skills are to be taken into account, along with a form of self-coherence, that is using its own niche and trademark sounds to make it sound “yours” and not “theirs”.
Thirteen bands aimed to follow in the footsteps of psychedelic pionneers the 13th Floor Elevators, a tough but sometimes mesmerizing goal!


Right off the bat, all The Saints kick off the Elevators’ spirit with the romantic tune “Don’t Fall Down”, endowing the latter with a more modern and a poppier feel.

Who better than mighty austinites The Black Angels could have been Roky Erickson’s rhythmic band live?
This is pure psychedelic legacy with Roky the Pygmalion inviting his disciples and honouring them that way. The Angels do a brilliant job, magnifying “Rollercoaster” , each instrument being magnetic like the little bubbles you can hear that are one of the Elevators’ idiosyncracies.
Erickson’s voice is vigorous as ever, tremendous after over four decades. You gotta open up your mind and let everything come through!

Going one notch deeper, A Place To Bury Strangers “Tried To Hide” is phenomenal. More than a version, it’s a hell of a song, noisy and powerful as those brooklynites know how to nail it and also shoegazingly hypnotic with Ackermann’s singing at its peak: sensual, mysterious and shadowy…

Likewise, Dead Meadow transforms “Kingdom Of Heaven” with its trademark distortion. Join the stoner Elevators!

Poetically melodic and glowing, Darker My Love’s craft of “She Lives (In A Time Of Her Own)” is a knock-out. The song is adorned with flashes of magic that let the band’s supersonic groove shimmer and thus lives up to the seemingly untouchable splendor of the original.

Between, why didn’t anyone work on the marvellous Scarlet & Gold? It could have been such an interesting addition to the tribute…

Sarabeth Tucek’s folk effort of “Splash 1” is successful, her voice sounds like a delicate interlude, a genuine moment, as if she was the author of the song.

Meanwhile, the smartly named Lower Heaven seems to have stopped the flames of hell of the Fire Engine to put it a dreamy peace haven…mellow bliss.

“Reverberation” by The Strange Attractors plainly appears as copy and paste. If you’re going to pick a song that’s a psychedelic standard and is as catchy as that one, you ought to make sure that it stands out, right?!
There is no point in listening to a song if the cover is flat out the same as the original (in a far less impressive way), except for the fact that it gets kids to discover older artists through contemporary ones.
On the other hand, while some artists try to be somewhat original, they just fail to get it spot on in regards to the artist they are covering. Le Volume Courbe “I Love The Living You” gets fake at its best and corny at its worst with an annoyingly high pitched whispering voice that reminds of Nouvelle Vague, those bossanova covers. If anything, this cover is almost an offense to the Elevators, no soul, no gutts and no rhythm.

The last tracks on the tribute wind up a little too similar, not in terms of sonic cathedral but in terms of ethereal pop which lacks substance. The penultimate song “Unforced Peace” by Black Acid, is one to remember, though, ambitiously shaped and gradual in its climax.

The batch may be uneven, but as a whole, this rich patchwork of psychedelic sounds is worth listening to, with its creative gems and sparkling radiations by some of the best current bands.
Slip inside this house as you pass by, you’ll compare and discover…
You think you can’t, you wish you could. I know you can, I wish you would.

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