As a child of punk (I was 13 in 1977) I had a pretty narrow mind about what I thought late 60s/ early 70s rock was. In my early days I had tend more toward the glam of The Sweet and Bowie, and was then blown away by the likes of X-Rax Spex, The Damned, Foxx Ultravox and Numan. Anything before that seemed pre-historic to me for many years and I only latterly came round to a lot music from earlier times. I say this here because these are two albums that dropped into my in box that are very different in many ways but do seem to have the influence of turn of the 60s rock at their core.
Cosmic Cash by Garcia Peoples
Garcia Peoples are a five piece from New Jersey who have produced an album that is probably a bit of an outlier as far as what I normally write about is concerned. That’s because ‘Cosmic Cash’ is up beat, open window cruising, boardwalk wandering, sunny psychedelic rock that seems to hark back to happier times; to summers gone by when being care free seemed to be the norm… for the most part at least.
The opening track, ‘World’s Illusions’ gets straight down to business delivering a bright and balmy soundtrack of melody, understated vocals and some pretty marvellous guitar work thrown in without fanfare. It is put together in a way that makes it sound pretty mainstream, but listen more carefully and there is much more going on here as the track moves through different phases and genre. Yes the overall feel is as described, but this is not just a re-tread of old tunes… it feels fresh and contemporary too.
This theme continues into ‘Hangin’ On’ with its luscious feel and melange of country (in the way that the early Allman Brothers was country), blues and hazy psychedelia all wrapped up with some funky tunes that give this track, and the album as a whole, such a bright and airy feel. The band are so light on their feet, in many ways you feel as if they are barely touching the surface, and yet the music is digging right into you.
‘Show Your Troubles Out’ is a slower and more jaunty number that just screams longing and melancholy from the first few bars, even before the vocal kicks in to confirm that feeling. Then the band fairly bang into a wild cathartic moments which break up the song as they go totally crazy. This has the effect of making the more plaintiff moments sound more sane, but give the listener a real sense of turmoil before just breaking out at the end into a brilliant funky/ bluesy jam. Love it!
After that ‘Four Walls’ feels quieter and more settled, but still has themes of melancholy and regret when you listen to the vocals, and while the the track is about feeling trapped I can fully imagine absentmindedly walking around daydreaming and letting my mind wander in a beautiful way while listening to it.
Up to now this has kind of felt like a regular album with a series of average length tracks, something that is punctured by ‘Suite’ of songs… a thirteen minute epic comprising tracks entitled ‘Cashing Out / Sigh of Relief / The Midnight Dancer / All the Time / Distant Lands’ that begins with a really rather punky overture before segueing into one of the most powerful parts of the album, ‘Sign of Relief’, which is the sound of a band straining at the leash yet containing itself… that sense of wanting to break out yet remaining on the edge itself is a skill in itself. ‘The Midnight Dancer’ is a funky slow groove of a movement that goes off-kilter in a Talking Heads sort of way before segueing into ‘All The Time’ with Garcia Peoples twin guitar attack really coming to the fore. Again elements of blues and rock are nicely folded into an overall feeling of love for the music the band are playing. This before bringing the whole thing to a close with ‘Distant Lands’ with its infusion of southern heat that really helps this track and, again, the album generally radiate warmth and a certain generosity of spirit. This ‘suite’ is a terrific fourteen minutes of music that, for me is worth the admission fee on its own.
After that ‘The Sweet Lie’ feels like a natural next step, avoiding a potential pitfall of sounding like an anti-climax with its mellifluous guitars and busy vocals that keeps the album going nicely… I miss that ‘suite’ but this is easing that particular longing, and this acts as a good bridge into the last number, ‘I Ain’t Hurt’, which is a lovely slab of offbeat southern country rock which finishes ‘Cosmic Cash’ off with song of defiance that leaves you feeling strong and ready for… well… sticking the album on all over again.
While I wouldn’t say that I necessarily had to overcome any prejudices in listening to this record, I would say that it is outside my usual sphere of experience, and on the edge of my musical awareness. Despite, or perhaps because of, this I have found it to be a refreshing album to review because the playing on it is excellent, the music is a great antidote to a lot of the drone-like sounds I like to write about, and because… although a lot of the subject matter of the music is downbeat an melancholic… there is a certain light redemptive quality to the music which just makes me happy to listen to it. For me it’s 60s/ 70s rock but not as I understood it… it’s a crisp and invigorating take on psychedelia that more than holds its own in todays exciting and diverse music scene.
‘Cosmic Cash’ is available to pre-order now from Beyond Beyond is Beyond records here.
ValdeInfierno by Atavismo
I think its fair to say that Atavismo are the more experimental of the two bands featured here bringing is elements of prog, space rock and kraut in addition to the 60s/ 70s rock influences that they share with Garcia Peoples. Nevertheless I really like the contrast that this two albums give, with this one also going of into territory such as Andalusian folk (the trio hail from this part of Spain) and Afrobeat… giving it a really different variation on their shared themes. This album also reminds me a little bit of the Familia de Lobos album that a reviewed at the start of the year, and I’ll certainly be having an evening listening to these back to back in the near future.
This album does not so much start as dawn, a short overture (‘Trompetillas de la Muerte’) rising over the musical horizon before Avatismo breaks through the clouds with ‘La Palmosa’; what at first hearing sounds like an Iberian ‘Alone Again Or’, capturing beautifully the absolute perfection of that track and giving it a really different feel without losing its essence. It feels like one of those days that just starts right, when everything seems to be in the correct place from the get go… and from there just keeps getting better. That’s because the band don’t dwell on this but, like a good sunrise is special because it’s fleeting, they go on to blaze a trail of psychedelic spaciousness that seems to expand outwards until bringing right down to a intricate, almost fragile, bridge… an oasis of calm that comprises the aforementioned Afrobeat elements that seem appropriate for such a moment. From there things begin to hot up again as the band work their way up to an absolute monster crescendo… an almost vertical climb up a wall of increasingly fractious sound that fragments into a fuzzy cloud of unknowing. How the hell did they get from ‘Alone Again Or’ to here. I may just have to listen to that again before going on…
Have a go yourself too..
…ok, well I’m still not sure how they managed it, but let’s move on. ‘Quejigo’ starts more traditionally with some ace blues guitar and kraut drumming before the vocal kicks in and adds something much darker. I particularly like the way that the guitar follows the vocals but then lets go where the chorus might go. Here elements of heavy rock a more evident, but then at the halfway mark the band shift through the gears and really open it up into an upward spiral pulling the music up like a tornado sucking up the air into a maelstrom before topping out and bringing the track home with a hot languid beat.
That slower tone is continues with the title track. Once again you can feel the heat, but here there is less fire and more glow. There’s a certain understated feel here that is bordering on the sinister. The Spanish-Influenced guitar infusing wonderfully with the kraut-like rhythm section. Then at two minutes thirty the most beautiful redemptive guitar playing kicks in. It’s the sort of thing that steals your heart and soul… the heat suddenly becomes warmth and you are transported to somewhere that feels good. This is interrupted by a far more chaotic Afrobeat that takes to on the next step of the road. Is this a coherent journey? I’m not so sure, it’s more like an adventure with its highs and lows, it’s different textures and experiences… where as before it was an oasis, here you feel as if you’ve reached a clearing with the fire this time open and there to be danced around.
The final track here, ‘Sapo Sagapo’ seems to glide along effortlessly in a manner that seems almost self perpetuating. The band seem so at ease here that you wonder about the lack of sonic friction. This gives a certain sense of the track being a fragment of something greater. Yet is also holds its own in its own inscrutable way. For me this is the sort of track that you initially struggle to get inside, but once you have cracked the external layer there’s all sorts of detailed goodness inside; and that riff goes from being something that nice to listen to to something far more penetrative.
If ‘La Palmosa’ at the start of this set feels like the dawn, ‘Sapo Sagapo’ has a real feeling of dusk about it. The heat has been taken out of the day and you are recovering in the relative coolness and shade, kicking back and reminiscing about what has been… and with the short postscript to ‘Etreum al ed Sallitepmort’ at the end you have come full cycle, ready to face the night with a certain sense of satisfaction and clarity.
‘ValdeInfierno’ is available now from Adansonia Records here.
Having written and reflected on both these albums here I’m feeling pretty happy that I looked at them together. Yes there is a shared experience and influence of late 60s and early 70s rock here, but this may not have been enough to bring them together in the final analysis. What does bind them is a sense of heat in their respective music. Sometimes this is the heat of the sun shining through the car window as you drive along, sometimes this is the baking hot sun of the desert or forest and the relief of reaching an oasis or clearing, and sometimes this is the sheer feeling of warmth that these albums well up inside you. For me they work well together, and, however they make you feel they are certainly hot stuff!
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