Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sleep Forever - Crocodiles

Sleep Forever

Fat Possum Records.

SCQ Rating: 80%

If rock and roll got its start as the heartbeat of youth and aggression, psych-rock’s origin stemmed from marijuana roaches and comfy couches. A different sort of rebellion, then; one that welcomed grooves and tempos that Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry used, not for the purpose of dancing or flaunting their conservative parents, but as a means to surrender their understandings of a genre that had hardly woken up and become self-aware. As a child of the 80s who missed the mainstream peaks of both genres, I hear psych-rock as rock and roll surviving its adolescence and realizing an enormous world of influences and possibilities. Incorporate some eastern raga influences into your guitar-work, grab some dewy mysticism in the form of blown-out reverb, or maybe just act out by playing tapes backwards and singing far-out lyrics. My generation laughed at typecast hippies talking about mind-expansion but that’s because many of us grew up in a time of corporate radio. The tenets of psychedelic rock are all too real.

September saw the release of two prominent psych-rock outfits, Crocodiles and The Black Angels, harnessing similar strains of psych-rock into very separate end results. And although I initially envisioned penning a psych-rock duel contrasting the two, I’ve since resigned myself not to delve into the latter band’s work. Not to say Phosphene Dream isn’t without its merits; actually, The Black Angels hone a very faithful delineation of psych-rock’s roots, from Alex Maas’ vocal-take on Jim Morrison to the rhythm-section’s early-70s swagger. Yet occasionally punching your guitars out of the mix as the 90s saw fit doesn’t equal the progressive scope that a band like Crocodiles are taking on their spellbinding Sleep Forever.

Inaudible strands of heady loops unfurl from speakers into a chugging roar of distortion that sets the groundwork for ‘Mirrors’. And although that roar may not sound so far-removed from the guitar squalls conducted by The Black Angels or their colleagues, it’s just steadying the foundation for Sleep Forever’s coming permutations. Guitar-fuzz merges to haunted-house organs on the raucous ‘Hollow Hollow Eyes’ yet that fuzz develops an anemic sheen over ‘Girl In Black’ and ‘All My Hate and My Hexes Are For You’, as if their testosterone has been drained in favour of quieter reflections. Such meditative songwriting still presents a watershed moment for the band some publications considered a weak link in 2009’s lo-fi explosion, and Sleep Forever’s eight tracks show that Crocodiles aren’t content to simply rehash psych-rock’s greatest trademarks. Split between distorted aggression and hypnotic soundscapes, this record all but refutes the notion that Crocodiles have any contemporaries at present. Far-out, indeed.

Crocodiles - Mirrors by walleum

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