Reviews Column 56: Psychedelic Prog

Plenty to shake the bones this month.

Perhaps the most anticipated release is Pan (Cardinal Fuzz), the latest from Northern California’s White Manna. Like its predecessor, last year’s Come Down Safari, the album is a concerted rush of fuzz-coated psychedelia, heavy on the guitars and built for speed. Imagine the grinding noise of The Stooges mixed with Wooden Shjips’ mountainous rumble and the spacey hum of early-70s Hawkwind. Closing track E Shra, an atmospheric journey through the cosmic wilds, is especially recommended.

Another West Coast band worth shouting about is Wand, whose Golem (In The Red) is a terrific follow-up to the recent debut album on Ty Segall’s label. They’re a bunch who clearly worship the sanctity of the riff, although there are plenty of robust melodies lurking amid the stoner grooves and heads-down guitars. The furious Self Hypnosis In 3 Days is a standout, as is roaring jam Planet Golem, which sounds like a not-too-distant cousin of Black Sabbath or Electric Wizard.

If you like Wand, chances are you’ll go for Holy Serpent too. The Australian quartet’s self-titled debut (RidingEasy) is a punishing exercise in doomy psych, heavy on fuzz ‘n’ sludge. Labelmates Monolord are a good touchstone for their sound, best evinced on Fools Gold, complete with piercing solo. “We’re pretty much just regular dudes who want to play loud, drink beers, and smoke weed,” explains singer/guitarist Scott Penberthy.

Less in thrall to volume are Scandinavia’s Uhrijuhla (Finnish translation: ‘Sacrificial Feast’, inspired by cult horror classic The Wicker Man). Their second album on Svart, Jokainen On Vapaa Lintu (aka ‘Everyone Is A Free Bird’), is a schizophrenic affair due to the alternating vocals of Olga Välimaa and Kauko Röyhkä. The latter tends to usher in the more ominous, heavier tunes; the former favours a bucolic strain of psychedelic weirdo-folk. There are moments of real beauty here, not least on the discreet Juokse Poika Juokse and on the pastoral oddness of Uhrilehto.

From the other side of the world – Peru, in fact – come the equally intriguing Kanaku Y El Tigre. Not only does latest album Quema Quema Quema (‘Burn, Burn, Burn’ to non-Spanish speakers) have a fabulous sleeve, it also contains the kind of dustblown, folksy psychedelia that suggests a South American marriage of Kevin Ayers and Calexico. There are also wafts of electronica, wordless harmonies and a prog-like concession to ambient noise. Pulpos, featuring Leonor Watling, is exceptional.

And just to complete this month’s international bent, London’s Comet Gain serve up a new EP, Fingerprint Ritual (Fortuna POP!). Full of garagey hooks and Nuggets-style psych, they go positively interstellar on the epic Breaking Open The Head Part 2, a companion piece to the original song on recent LP, Paperback Ghosts.

Rob Hughes

Freelance writer for Classic Rock since 2008, and sister title Prog since its inception in 2009. Regular contributor to Uncut magazine for over 20 years. Other clients include Word magazine, Record Collector, The Guardian, Sunday Times, The Telegraph and When Saturday Comes. Alongside Marc Riley, co-presenter of long-running A-Z Of David Bowie podcast. Also appears twice a week on Riley’s BBC6 radio show, rifling through old copies of the NME and Melody Maker in the Parallel Universe slot. Designed Aston Villa’s kit during a previous life as a sportswear designer. Geezer Butler told him he loved the all-black away strip.