Brooklyn based PSYCHIC ILLS are a band that just seem to get stronger and dare I say, better, with each release. Their previous album, ‘Hazed Dream’ was a terrific slab of down-tempo psych – so good that PSYCHIC ILLS joined a select group of bands whose music I had to search out and buy on vinyl even though I obviously had access to a digital review copy.
‘One Track Mind’ which I believe is the band’s fourth long-player release, and their second on the iconic Sacred Bones label, will soon (February 18th 2013) be neatly sitting alongside its 2011 ‘sibling’ in my rather anally-retentive, alphabetically (band!) listed filing system!
My initial impression was that on the whole ‘One Track Mind,’ is more ‘upbeat’ than its fug- infused precursor. However, on reflection and several plays later, it may just be a case of the manner in which the music is presented that creates such an impression.
By this I mean that the ten tracks seem to be delivered in a more direct fashion – they don’t appear so, well ….. ‘Hazy.’
Sure – Tres Warren’s vocals still have that downbeat, at times trance inducing, at others just plain depressed feel. It wouldn’t be PSYCHIC ILLS otherwise, would it? But – and here’s where I think the band have moved on – I would say that where previously there was a heavy reliance on supporting his vocals with reverb-loaded and distant soundscapes, there is now more of a leaning towards the repetition and looping techniques that have evolved from the original krautrock era and have now become ensconced in psych music.
This gives several of the tracks a far more accessible feel. I would stop short of the word ‘commercial’ but certainly songs like ‘Might Take A While,’ will appeal to a wider audience group than just devotees of the psych genre. Similarly with album opener ‘One More Time,’ which actually carries a foot-tapping beat and a catchy little guitar hook.
‘See You There,’ is a prime example of the employed repetition techniques I mentioned earlier, but with a great fuzzed-up guitar solo playing over the top of a rumbling bass line and the integration of single-note piano arpeggios to lighten things up a little, this is a bit of a monster track!
‘Depot,’ is pretty much in your face right from the off. It’s very much bass driven and slightly threatening in its delivery. Again, nice use of distortion gives the song a ‘traditional’ PSYCHIC ILLS feel. ‘Tried To Find It,’ is kind of ultra downbeat with a heavy background drone given some life really only with the closing minutes’ guitar solo. ‘FBI,’ is along the same lines, but with more focus on the drums and reverb-enhanced vocals.
The pace picks up again for ‘I Get By,’ with its chugging rhythm and then ‘City Sun’ goes a little acoustic on us, what with the whine of harmonica and lightly-strummed guitar. ‘Western Metaphor,’ is a five-minute instrumental with a looped guitar riff and steady, regimented beat overlaid with shimmering guitar and keys gently fading in and out.
Album closer ‘Drop Out,’ is also the longest of the ten tracks. The distorted guitar strumming, the metronomic drumming and laid-back vocals are enhanced by another great guitar solo to create a warm, almost ‘desert-rock’ type of track; a terrific way to complete the album!
Overall, I think this is PSYCHIC ILLS’ best to date although it’s one of those albums I feel you have to actively listen to, to gain full appreciation.
So crack open a beer, sit back, close your eyes and just go with it. You’re in for a very pleasant ride.
(Released through Sacred Bones Records on 18th February 2013)
(9 / 10)