Cheese and pineapple on a cocktail stick has always been a curious combination, yet it’s one of the most popular buffet nibbles going. Maybe it’s just a British thing, but there’s a whole host of other weird food combos on offer from all over the globe. Some things though, just ain’t meant to go together. Or are they?
Out of all the musical genres to find themselves under similar ‘chuck ‘em in the mixing pot and see what happens’ experimentation, New York’s Psychic Ills seem to have had a go at most things, with a constant base ingredient of psychedelia.
Occasionally the experimentation provided some thrilling excitement, but the focus was largely centred on a hazy whacked out atmosphere. Their debut album Dins from 2006 was hailed a success despite its radical structure where techniques warped convention to provide an altogether weird sonic patchwork; this somehow managed to capture the effects of light drug use through sound. Although it isn’t a prerequisite to get high when listening to their music, it probably helps, and that feeling continues into their fourth long player Inside Journey Out.
There’s little doubt that blending country with psychedelics isn’t the most commonly seen coupling but that’s where several tracks pitch themselves. Throw in some gospel too, which they do, and it’s really starting to sound like a strawberry and marmite sandwich.
Having seen various band members come and go, Psychic Ills are essentially just a duo consisting of Tres Warren and Elizabeth Hart, so when recording the new collection several other musicians were rounded up, most notably Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval who contributes to a duet on lead single I Don’t Mind, and unsurprisingly it’s a highlight. It’s a laid back, blissed out cut that sees the country element hit upon with a telling pedal steel guitar presence, portraying a hypnotic picture of psychedelic country blues.
The same concoction appears for Another Change where the guitar twang is all but country in name, Warren’s vocals remaining in exactly the same place throughout – a trait that continues for the entire album. With an added dollop of gospel courtesy of backing vocals, the strange meld works well off a basic canvas of simple beat and singular reverb guitar notes. Baby also pulls the same trick but they all, perhaps remarkably, provide some of the best moments on the album.
Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre possesses a very distinct guitar tone and for a number of tracks, it sounds as if Warren may have borrowed Newcombe’s amp set up. Mixed Up Mind is a fuzzy, slow trudge through psychedelic blues and this vibe continues into the following cut, All Alone, which is possibly the closest you’ll get to earlier BJM work without it actually being BJM, all the while continuing at the same lackadaisical pace. Coca-Cola Blues is another that follows suit, this time at over seven minutes, where its harmonica soaked blues are constantly punctuated by a meaty bass.
Elsewhere, we’re treated to a little psychedelic ambience, even. Hazel Green and the nine minute Ra Wah Wah are so similar in style you’ll struggle to remember which is which at first. There’s a bit of tedium for the uneventful African-like chanting in New Mantra but Confusion (I’m Alright) rebalances the album with its brilliance. Built around a repetitive, addictive guitar riff, the track enters the realm of The Warlocks and The Black Angels where staccato organ adds an extra dimension for a psychedelic gem.
The mood Inner Journey Out creates is seriously laid back. You can imagine (ahem) enjoying this album through a thick hazy fug of intoxicating smog and it’s hard to see anything but total relaxation being felt by anyone playing the album from start to finish. Exceeding an hour in length, though, some may find it a little too lacking in variety and be soundly asleep before the end – which would be a shame, as it’s one of the better psychedelic albums to reach our ears this year.