Archive for The Black Angels

Tulip Frenzy #5 Album of 2010: The Black Angels’ “Phosphene Dreams”

Posted in Music with tags , on November 30, 2010 by johnbuckley100

If we’d wanted to have fun at the expense of our critical chops, we might list Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Black Dub, and the Black Keys, all of whom had decent albums in 2010, before these guys.  But the best of the black bands were The Black Angels, whose Phosphene Dreams was a revelation.  Earlier Black Angels’ albums have been one-dimensional affairs, and don’t get me wrong, with these guys, sometimes one dimension is enough.  Phosphene Dreams., though, had playfulness in its late ’60s reverb, and not just drones but melodies, and just as a song shaped up in some kind of predictable form, they’d juggle the iPhone and a new shape would appear.  If you were to draw a Venn Diagram and in one bubble had fellow Austinites the 13th Floor Elevators and, say, the Doors in the other, The Black Angels prowl the overlap.  Yes, too much of what they do is still limited by some of the same elements of beat and vocal phrasing, but this isn’t a band that plays outside the box, this is a band that plays outside the dimensions any box might fit in.  They opened for their pals Black Mountain on tour this fall, but this is one time where the opener’s album may have outshined the headliner.

Playing Catch Up: Black Angels/Black Mountain at 930, Sufjan at The Beacon, And Of Course Keef’s “Life”

Posted in Music with tags , , , , on November 17, 2010 by johnbuckley100

There is no truth to the rumor that Tulip Frenzy World HQ has been shut down whilst the gang finished Life.  It is however true that those moments not taken up by the vagaries and jaggedness of ends-meeting in the business world have, in part, been given over to the remarkably informative Keith Richards, whose autobiography is for the rock’n’roll set what Speak, Memory was to fans of Nabokov.

What have we learned from Life that we didn’t previously know?  The depth of Keith’s contempt for Brian Jones.  Exactly how his discovery of open tuning led to the great riffs of the ’70s.  How not just “Street Fighting Man” but also “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was recorded with Keith on acoustic into a little cassette recorder, the tape of which played in the studio somehow gained its “electric” sound. How the title Exile on Main Street referred to the nautical ties between the Italian and French Riviera.  Let’s see, how innocent that Mars bar was.  The extent to which Britain’s policy on providing heroin to addicts led to Keith becoming one.  (And — who knew? — how they used to give out cocaine to heroin addicts to keep them from nodding off, thus providing Keef with access to the pure flake.)  So much more… An excellent book.  When you think about it, this has been an incredible year for Stones’ fans — starting with the 40th anniversary box of Ya-Yas, Ethan Russell’s great book of photos from the era, Let It Bleed, the Exile reissue with new songs, the release of Ladies and Gentlemen on DVD, and now Keith’s book.  Whew.  Best year since…’72?

We never posted about the excellent Black Angels/Black Mountain show at 930.  The Black Angels were pretty mindblowing.  Yes, it would take a fraction of a second for the Shazam algorithm-decoder to determine a song is by the Black Angels, as for the most part they all have the same number-of-words-in-a-lyric/number-of-beats-in-a-chorus formula.  But who knew that voice came out of a guy hidden between his beard and his hat?  Or that the drummer was a woman?  Or that the guitarist looked like he might have been playing for Big Brother and the Holding Company?  Or that over the course of the evening, four different people would play bass?  Black Mountain got into a groove — fascinating how all the songs from In The Future seemed to be on a loop.  They were tight to the point of metronomic regularity, but still exciting.  Amber Weber seemed to pick up strength as the set wore on.  Stephen McBean seemed downright frisky.  Methinks the next time Black Mountain come round these parts, they’ll be opening at the Verizon Center for some band you don’t really want to see… You know, the next rung up from headlining clubs.  We have mixed emotions about this, but do root for them, given their manifest excellence as musicians and sonic adventurers.

We read Jon Pareles’ review of the Sufjan Stevens shows at the Beacon and, having been there Sunday night, found ourselves for once not wanting to strangle the Chief Music Correspondent Of The New York Times, or whatever is the position of authority through which Pareles has for far too long helped destroy our enjoyment of music.  Though where Pareles sees Sufjan’s near-closing extravaganza of “Impossible Soul” as almost Lady Gaga-like — given its raw theatricality — another analogue came to our mind: we saw Max in Where The Wild Things Are, rumbling with those wild things and emerging with his crown askew.  Now we’ll admit, this was that rare show where what we most loved was what rocked the least — Sufjan as folky was far more interesting than Sufjan as David Byrne circa True Stories.  Although truth be told, one of the things most remarkable about Sufjan in his Age of Adz phase is precisely the extent to which he is sui generis, with no antecedents, not even himself.  I think that album would be better, and his music stronger, if he had the time, fortitude, and resources to construct his elaborate music around an orchestra — a real orchestra, not just the thirteen other musicians who accompanied him — rather than electronica.  (Yes, we understand that performing The BQE with a symphony was a ball-buster,  in his mind, apparently, a failure.  We don’t care; we’d rather hear strings than synth.) The theatricality of what he does is probably closer to Laurie Anderson than Lady Gaga.  And at its core is a young genius with a beautiful voice and a heartbreaking sense of melody, even though right now he seems hell-bent on encapsulating it all in something mechanical and able to withstand reentry from space. And we know he is ready to rumble with the wild things.

The Black Angels Flutter Their Wings

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on September 17, 2010 by johnbuckley100

Kismet might seem to be at work this week, given that Black Mountain releases a new album, Wilderness Heart, that sounds like a great Led Zeppelin record, and Robert Plant releases an album, Band of Joy, that is as fresh as produce from a farmers market and maybe just as tasty.  It can’t be an accident, though, that another one of the Black bands — The Black Angels — have alighted once more on Earth, flapping their wings and spreading their own gospel of paranoia, intrigue, and thundering drums. You see, they’re going out on tour with Black Mountain, and it’s not bloody likely the two bands “accidentally” released albums the same day.

When their eponymous debut came out midway through the last decade, followed by the sublime Passover, we thought The Black Angels were  charter members in the psychedelic punk club, playing atmospheric space rock with a kick. But the new ‘un, Phosphene Dreams, has these shape-shifting songs that punch their way through the fog to reveal melodies, hooks, and heapin’ slabs ‘o chewy goodness, like the best baked spiked brownies.

Reference points here are as disparate in nature, if similar in time frame, to their Austin forebears The Thirteenth Floor Elevators and The Doors. Some time ago we might have thought of them in the same category as The Warlocks, although maybe playing axes not so bold.  On Phosphene Dreams, though, The Black Angels play like they’ve locked the doors of the Shindig set and they and the whole studio audience have quaffed a flagon of soma…and the shadows we see on our black and white television are mesmerizing to an extent that only later do we realize it wasn’t the fault of that rabbit ear antennae.

Can’t wait for The Black Angels to open for Black Mountain at the 9:30 Club on November 7th.

The Black Angels Prove Black Is Beautiful

Posted in Music with tags , , , on July 18, 2008 by johnbuckley100

I wasn’t much of a fan of Black Oak Arkansas, I enjoy but don’t need the Black Keys, and the Black Crowes leave me cold.  Black Sabbath?  Please. Still, I’m ready for a show in basic black.  How ’bout a triple bill of The Black Angels, Black Mountain, and BRMC? The Black Angels would probably have to go first to warm up the crowd, since they’re less well known than Black Mountain or the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.  Plus, they’d set the proper mood, which is to say, trance.

Austinites, they do not come from the same musical neighborhood as Flaco Jimenez.  It’s nice to know that after Roky Erickson, the words “Texas” and “psychedelia” don’t automatically lead to discussions about Tex Watson.  I think what really got me about these guys was “Bloodhounds on My Trail,” which is mesmerizing.  Think of “Hellhound On My Trail” done by a supergroup starring Lydia Lunch, John Fogerty, and Peter Green.

I’m not just trying to be clever about the links to Black Mountain and BRMC — these guys are jacked into the same amps both those disparate, not necessarily kindred, but nonetheless spiritually linked bands play.  Their debut album “Passover” brought comparisons to the Velvet Underground, Galaxy 500, the Gun Club, and Led Zep.  Can’t go wrong with those references thrown in the blender. Their second album, “Directions To See A Ghost,” adds the Fall’s descending guitar lines to the BRMC dynamic, and cops song structures from “Astronomy Domine”-era Floyd.  Alex Maas has this weirdly androgynous voice, and when the levee breaks, he slightly drowns in Robert Plant’s lower registers.

Missed them at the Rock and Roll Hotel, where I think they opened for the Warlocks — more kindred spirits.  When John Cale wrote “The Black Angel’s Death Song,” who knew that someday these guys would catch its wind?

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