New York experimentalists Psychic Ills return with their honest and most alluring record to date.
Breaking out of New York in 2006, Psychic Ills are now established as veterans of the modern psychedelic scene. From their caustic debut ‘Dins’, to 2013’s straight up rock’n’roll album ‘One Track Mind’, they’ve been a band unafraid to experiment with structure, instrumentation and genre. But ‘Inner Journey Out’ sees them turn to a more heartfelt, sensual sound than their previous work, and it’s a sound they execute with a real sense of directness, compared to their other releases.
This is by far the most accessible music the band have released yet, but don’t let that make you think that it’s not as intricate or circuitous as their earlier music. Over the course of 14 tracks (this is their longest record to date, clocking in at just over an hour), they writhe and twist through psychedelic country, in a haze of acoustic guitars, Wurlitzer pianos, chunky bass lines and tranquil synthesizers.
However, we still see some of the riff-centric rock’n’roll music that was brought to us in ‘One Track Mind’, in tracks like ‘Mixed Up Mind’, with it’s laid back, overdriven guitar which carries the song, and also in ‘All Alone’ which sees the band take slightly more simple and scuzzy approach, reminiscent of The Brian Jonestown Massacre or their psych rock contemporaries Wooden Shjips.
Lyrically,the record is quite subtly poignant; common themes are departure, regret, uncertainty and self doubt. However, this is by no means a gloomy record. The melancholic words are offset by the sun kissed, dreamy vibe of the music that accompanies it, and it’s this juxtaposition that gives the music it’s air of mystique. From the album’s opener ‘Back To You’, right through to the closer ‘Fade Me Out’, singer Tres Warren mixes his slightly despondent lyricism with his bands’ new found brand of sleazy, lo-fi country psych, and it works beautifully, and there’s still the simple yet indirect lyricism we’ve heard before. Take ‘Coca-Cola Blues’ for example, where Warren sings of how he “don’t drink no coca-cola anymore/I don’t drink it, it’s keeping me up ’till 4″. Is this a metaphor? Is it a euphemism? Probably. Or maybe he just really doesn’t drink coke anymore.
In terms of sound and instrumentation, this is probably the Psychic Ills at their most rootsy. The majority of the tracks on the album are carried by the resonant acoustic guitar and characterised by slide guitar (it sounds like there’s even a Dobro used on one or two tracks) and drone like synthesis, which takes the old school country aesthetic to whole new kaleidoscopic level, which is a long way away from their debut ‘Dins’, which saw them mainly experiment with synthesis, processors and samples in a very through-composed way.
But that’s not to say that ‘Inner Journey Out’ doesn’t experiment as much as their other work, it does, just in a slightly more traditional way, focusing on traditional instrumentation but using these instruments and effects to create sonic landscapes which have echoes of 60s psychedelia. There are some fantastic instrumentals in there too, something which the ‘Ills have always done well. ‘Ra Wah Wah’ is a 9-minute epic which swirls on through a simple guitar riff and is complemented by the shimmering rhythm guitar harmony.
‘Inner Journey Out’ is out now via Sacred Bones Records.
This Psychic Ills review was written by Lou Minion, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse. Photo credit : Kenny Jossick