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Black Angels - Clear Lake Forest

  by Adrian Janes

published: 12 / 8 / 2014

Black Angels - Clear Lake Forest
Label: Blue Horizon
Format: CDS


Adventurous new EP from much acclaimed psychedelic Texan band, the Black Angels

The Black Angels have had a slow-burning career since their inception in May 2004, with just a few releases over the subsequent decade and a somewhat fluid line-up. On the other hand, they have instigated the Austin Psych Festival, played with some of the major bands of the past decade (e.g. Queens of the Stone Age, Black Keys), and worked with Roky Erickson. The adventurous spirit of the psychedelic veteran and fellow Texan hovers over this EP. Immediately evoking that ‘60s spirit and sound, with Alex Maas’ vocals deepened and distorted by echo, ’Sunday Evening’ at first strolls, then storms into a fast garage punk pace laced with defiant sentiments (“I’m so tired of those fears we have.”). Next, the excellent ‘Tired Eyes’ bursts in with stomping drums, crashing tambourines and strident guitar, but Maas’ wistful voice, supported by melancholy keyboard, betrays the pain at the song’s heart: ”My tired eyes wake up at dawn/I can smell you’re gone.” It’s a song that in atmosphere and sentiment echoes the Electric Prunes’ ‘I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night’, and would fit right in on a mixtape containing both. Looking at love from another angle, ’Diamond Eyes’ describes a relationship of almost adolescent intensity, the vocals slightly muffled like a teenager shuffling in embarrassment before a crush, as Christian Bland’s raw guitar slashes expose the bittersweet feeling that is “better than letting things die.” A shivering guitar tone that recalls The Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now’ trembles aptly beneath Maas’ bravado. ‘The Flop’ sounds like the name of an unpromising dance craze. Its organ theme and frantic rhythm only reinforce this impression, calling to mind clips of gyrating dancers in cages on old pop shows. But it’s great warped pop, like Ray Manzarek given free rein by Chris Montez. The enigmatic ‘An Occurrence at 4507 South Third Street’ is launched with the thud of kick drum and entwined guitar and organ drone. The hippy hoedown feel grows as Maas sings in a sort of hillbilly or Southern preacher accent of mounting urgency, the tension ratcheted up further with fuzz guitar before the song mysteriously subsides once more to the organ and kick drum. From its slow intro and slide guitar stings, to its opening out into an almost glam rock chorus and then an interlude of mindscrambling, swirling vocals, ‘The Executioner’ (i.e Death), is another example of how the Angels can successfully blend disparate elements into one song. And although it’s something of a comedown after the dramatic energy and melodicism of much of what’s gone before, closer ‘Linda’s Gone’ also achieves this in a completely different way, with droning Velvet Underground strings, the dark mood of the Doors’ ‘When the Music’s Over’ infusing Bland’s guitar and Maas’ voice, and solemn Beach Boys-style backing vocals. Inspired but not imprisoned by ‘60s psychedelia, each song on this EP offers its own surprises in construction, texture and some biting lyrics. More emerge the deeper you go. So plunge into the forest; dive into this lake.

Track Listing:-
1 Sunday Evening
2 Tired Eyes
3 Diamond Eyes
4 The Flop
5 An Occurrence at 4507 South Thi
6 The Executioner
7 Linda's Gone

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live reviews

Forum, London, 22/9/2017
Black Angels - Forum, London, 22/9/2017
Chris O'Toole finds much-acclaimed psychedelic rockers the Black Angels unconvincing at a gig at the Forum in London.
Heaven, London, 27/2/2011

digital downloads



Death Song (2017)
First album in four years from Texan psychedelians the Black Angels rages superbly against the dying of the light
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