Black Angels – Phosphene dream
The Skinny: A very psychedelic trip.
The Review Proper: The newest album by The Black Angels is a proper punch to the head. Now with more tremolo. And Stephanie Bailey drumming the hell outta the water a lot of her male colleagues.
Listen to the album on Spotify while you read this rant!
A very low “1, 2, 3, 4” and then it explodes. No previous warnings, no lifejackets and not even a packet of Polo mints. Phosphene dream just kicks you with its psychedelic cudgel in the face and you’re left to wonder if what you are listening to is music or just some strange hallucination before passing out.
‘Bad vibrations’, a beast of an album opener and a keeper for the annals of “Rock of 2010” certainly does some damage. The atmosphere feels like a drone, until a strange, sudden change in pace that jarred the first time changes your perspective of what you’re listening to. Yes, it jars, but it really fits. This is one of the many little surprises The Black Angels have for you in store. They even re-use it in the fantastically trippy ‘River of Blood’, a real gem of a track that’s waiting for you in the middle of the album. The trip is long, you’ve been warned.
What can you say about their rhythm section? Well, the bass playing up and down the fret during the album (specially on the tremolo heavy ‘Bad vibrations’ )is the first and easiest one to point out. But what about the skins? The drumming by the always amazing Stephanie Bailey is bar none one of the best in current bands (and you can quote me on that). No flashy stuff, no distractions, just a proper session of beats and attitude. Of course, guitar wise, the crunchy fuzz tinged part of Black Angels arsenal of proper psychedelic rock is always cranked up to full.
Another beauty of a song is ‘True Believers’, starting in a deceptively peaceful mood, until succumbing into the sound of Phosphene dream: part dream/part nightmare and a total hoot. The ending of ‘True Believers’ is spine chilling. Very creepy and feels like the darkest recesses of the soul surfacing.
Maybe if you stare into the abyss for too long, the abyss stares back. And blasts this album just to make you feel a little better.
I’d like to say that the “ah shit! They changed the pace again!” trick is just a gimmick. And it might, but it does work, probably switching gears on the head trip/bad acid flashback atmosphere that permeates and leaches through Phosphene dream.
More heavy tremolo use (gotta love that atmosphere in ‘Phospene dream’, and that chilling ending! Brrr!), layered voices and screams and a fantastic rhythm section, all tied up in a psychedelic package. Take a bow, Black Angels, you’ve done a pretty good album.
Although I’m left to wonder: what’s in the water supply in Austin that makes so many bands go so trippy and cool (name drop: Explosions in the sky, Pompeii, Shearwater, And you will know us by the trail of dead)? And more importantly: why aren’t there more female drummers? They can certainly hold their own and Stephanie Bailey certainly has a great style that puts a lot of male drummers to shame.