Turned My Back On Psychic Ills, And Their “Inner Journey Over” Just Knocked Me Over

Long ago, Spaceman 3 — one of the bands that most influenced Psychic Ills, New York’s finest purveyors of psychedelic drones and bluesy space rock — titled an album Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To.  This sort of Ouroboros circularity is what greets us with Psychic Ills’ flat out astonishing Inner Journey Out: music that somehow showcases Texan transplants living on the Lower East Side sounding like Spaceman 3-descendants Spiritualized channeling original L.E.S drone rockers the Velvet Underground.

Weirdly, after the release of a pretty great debut album, Dins, we lost track of Psychic Ills.  What a mistake.  On Inner Journey Out, they’ve produced a gorgeous, transfixing batch of songs, finely crafted and meticulously recorded.  The headline, we suppose, is that Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval backs up Tres Warren on “I Don’t Mind,” a collaboration which helps fix Psychic Ills’ coordinates: think of a set of songs played at Mazzy Star’s signature slowish tempo, containing both a second side of Exile On Main Street meets Alejandro Escovedo alt-rock sensibility, while still steeped in Jason Pierce’s unique, gospel-inflected take on Lou Reed.  Fine company to keep.  Did we mention that Inner Journey Out is astonishing?

So, there’s a bit too much of it: 14 songs when maybe 10 would do.  And it could have used some of the Woods-ish rocking edge of 2013’s One Track Mind to accelerate the pace.  But on Inner Journey Out, Tres Warren and Elizabeth Hart, backed up by a crackerjack combo of musicians, are going for a feeling, a mood, and don’t want to disturb the flow by varying the tempo.  This works and doesn’t work — the album could stand to have been edited a bit, and to be a trace more varied.  But we’re not complaining, because it is a truly great record.

Although the bands have different antecedents and don’t exactly sound alike, somehow this record makes us think of their Sacred Bones label mates, Damon McMahon’s Amen Dunes.  And while Amen Dunes are for playing fairly quietly at 2:00 AM after a long evening out, Inner Journey Out is for playing when heading on a road trip to Big Bend, to Marfa, on that long thin ribbon of highway wending toward the West as the shimmering heat makes the cactus liquid.  Amazing to think that transplanted Texans in New York produced this music. If gratitude is a driver of happiness, and it is, then this is what we’re grateful for this morning.

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