Texan cosmonauts The Black Angels are key components in what you could loosely term the psychedelic underground - a Venn diagram between shoegaze, noise rock, '67 psych, and other shades of luminescent sound.
A band in perpetual quest to locate The Other Side, the group's catalogue has built up into an imposing monolith of entrancing sound.
New album 'Death Song' is incoming, a blast of microdot dosing that steadily melts down preconceptions on how a 'psychedelic' band could/should operate.
A heady listen, it's a record that travels in two directions at one, using The Black Angels' forward-motion to reaffirm the principles by which they were formed.
Perfect candidates for our regular Foundations column, then...
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The Velvet Underground & Nico - 'The Velvet Underground & Nico' (As picked by Alex Maas...)
To me this record is just so believable, beautifully dark and timeless. It's simple chord structures alongside it's dreary dark melodies made me feel "cool" in a way. I immediately wanted to embody and understand what they were manifesting.
When I first heard the record I was completely turned on in every way. The androgyny of Nico's voice in 'All Tomorrow's Parties' made me feel so hauntingly aroused. I never get sick of this record in part because each track seems to evoke an undeniable emotional response which in my opinion is a gold standard in which I unfortunately hold all music up too.
From 'Sunday Morning' in its simplicity and innocence to 'Venus In Furs' dungeoned-debaucherous seduction makes me want to be bound and controlled. This transition from light and dark on this record is so wonderful and honest to me. Every single song on this record is magical to me in part that they appear effortless.
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Suicide - 'Suicide' (As picked by Alex Maas)
This record is ferocious and still way ahead of its time. It definitely changed my perspective of music in that you can be boarder line psychotic and in that exposed venerability generate so much power and emotion. I thought I was hearing someone on the verge of death and insanity the first time I heard Suicide. I truly thought at any point it sounded like Alan Vega could reach out of the speakers at any moment and drive a stake into my chest and convince me that was just a part of the record.
The way he sang blew my mind and unpredictable, it had all the 50's and early 60's rockabilly qualities you loved but was spun in a way I had never heard. They were the first band I had heard making trancey, Krautrock, electronic, rockabilly. They did it in the most sinister way possible, again so believable.
Their use of the drum machine, keeping everything so linear but insanely progressive blew my mind. It is perfect in all its toughness and terror. I loved hearing them pay homage to 50's and 60's dreamy pop but flipping it on its ass.
I feel like Suicide got as close to embodying actual death and what it feels like to die through their music than anything I have ever heard ever. The organs are spot on, grindy transistor percussiveness, its perfect. The whole thing is so dangerously sexy from start to finish. 'Ghost Rider' may be my favourite Suicide song.
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13th Floor Elevator - 'The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators' (As picked by Christian Bland...)
“It is the quest for pure sanity that forms the basis of the songs on this album…” so the liner notes say.
This is the first ‘psychedelic’ rock ’n’ roll album, and it all started in Austin, Texs in 1965. The lyrics from ‘Rollercoaster’ sum up one of the The Black Angels main ideals, and that is to “open up your mind and let everything come thru”. Without the 13th Floor Elevators there would be no Black Angels.
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The Beatles - 'Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band' (As picked by Christian Bland...)
This was the first record I discovered in my Dad’s collection, so it holds a special place in my heart. I would stare at the cover while I’d listen to the record and be transported to a different dimension.
The songs bounce from rock ’n’ roll, to dreamy kaleidoscopic vision scapes, to drony Indian music, to 1920’s big band, and back to rock ’n’ roll, while still seeming to fit together perfectly, which is the magic of the Beatles.
The Beatles answer to ‘Pet Sounds’ was definitely a worthy reply.
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The Silver Apples - 'Silver Apples' (As picked by Jake Garcia...)
The Silver Apples’ self-titled release from 1968 on Kapp is a big one for me. They were an American group of two from New York and were pioneering this completely original electronic sound, which at the time hadn't existed. I love how the record is minimalistic, pulsing and laced with hollowed out ghostly melodies.
This record has a really futuristic feel and has been a big inspiration for me ever since I discovered it in Chicago for $1 when I was 20 years old.
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The Black Angels release new album 'Death Song' on April 21st through Partisan Records. Catch the band at the following shows:
22 London Forum
23 Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia (headline)
25 Glasgow SWG3
26 Birmingham Institute 2
27 Bristol Trinity