Monday, June 3, 2013

The Black Angels - Another Nice Pair/Indigo Meadow

Record Store Day from two years ago has worked its magic of introducing the VVers to a new band, The Black Angels.  Ka-Chunk! Records in Annapolis had a leftover 2011 RSD copy of Another Nice Pair sitting on the shelf waiting to be snatched up.  Although we had only heard of the band in passing, this was an easy purchase seeing as the cover art was attractive and the package not priced too high.  We really had no idea what to expect, but in the past two years this record has had frequent spinning action. The music is entrancing.  It will suck you into a vortex of methodical drum beats, guitar distortions, and ominous, yet catchy bass undertones.  This disc is actually a reissue of the band's first two EPs which apparently had not previously been released on vinyl.  Oh, and it's translucent red vinyl (yes, we are suckers for this).  Is Another Nice Pair named in homage to Pink Floyd's A Nice Pair where they also bundled-up and reissued their first two albums in one nice package?  Experiencing the psychedelic, retro vibe here...seems likely.

Great excitement hit the house of VV when we noticed The Black Angels were playing a show at the Black Cat, our local go-to venue.  We promptly snatched up tickets and convinced a bunch of friends to join along.  The show sounded stellar and was accompanied by a trippy light show.  We even found out they have a female drummer (the liner notes from the previous album are a bit sparse); regardless she killed it.  They brought along what was made out to be a mini-Moog or equivalent electronic, boxy device to emit waaa-waaaa-ing sounds.  Needless to say, we couldn't turn down buying their just-released LP Indigo Meadow.  The impressively hefty chunk of vinyl is accompanied by a song lyrics/picture book mounted in the cover, making for a nice little package.  Surprisingly, this LP features a more pop-friendly style, yet the band still manages a plethora of hazy guitar riffage and distorted vocals.  The vibe is more reminiscent of 60's surfer-rock than their previous stuff.  It is speckled with plenty of low-tuned chords, high pitched keyboards, and tambourines.  Many of the songs are heavy stompers with thundering rhythm sections and bass coming in hard at times.  The title track starts the album off with loud drums layered in with hypnotic, circular guitars, then semi-monotonal, fuzzy vocals which, when combined, create a very catchy, evil sounding tune.  "Black Isn't Black" channels Ray Manzarek on the keyboards to build up to a pulsing, yet menacing drone beat.  "Don't Play With Guns" is the first single from the album and it has one of those hooks that will stick with you.  It is unmistakably forward in sound even with all the retro touches.  "She lays down with her revolver.  She's so cold, my heat evolves her."  Black Angels lyrics are often vague, but we get a bit of hallucinogenic story telling here.  Vocalist Alex Maas has one of those old timey voices that haunts and occasionally warbles.  He tends to talk his songs which certainly helps for lyrical clarity.

Color runs throughout several songs on these records: Check out "Black Grease" and "Manipulation" from Another Nice Pair, and from Indigo Meadow the title track, "I Hear Colors," and "Black Isn't Black."  A truly visual listening experience (weird right?).  This isn't by accident.  The Black Angels make no bones about connecting to the LSD era of sonic exploration and make every effort to do it proud.  In their newest effort they keep their distinct sound found in their early work, but create a more concise format.  They are pulling from early Sabbath, Floyd, Doors, Jefferson Airplane, and early psych bands that we are yet to discover.  We would love to raid their record collection!  This VVer recommends that both albums should be played at escalated volumes to get the full experience.  But isn't that applicable to most records?  With such a high level of pounding fuzz you might be pissing off your neighbors (or perhaps the entire neighborhood), but it's worth it.

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