Last year saw the second running of the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia, an event expanded to two days with an audience doubling in capacity to witness bands old and new celebrating psychedelic music in all its idiosyncratic shapes and forms. The success of the event shows a newfound appreciation for psych imbued music across the wider musical mainstream. One of the festival’s most striking acts were Mexican duo Lorelle Meets The Obsolete.
Mexico is not a place you immediately think of when looking for challenging rock music. But Lorena Quintanilla and Alberto Gonzalez have begun to make some waves in Europe following their appearance on last year’s Psych For Sore Eyes EP, released on excellent London based label Sonic Cathedral. There are a few notable points of difference though that mark Lorelle Meets The Obsolete out as far more than psychedelic revivalists. Their brand of primitive garage rock has its own distinct dark allure that is markedly different to, say, the retroism of Temples or the pop tinged dreaminess of Tame Impala. Their world is dark, shrouded and oblique.
Chambers is the duo’s third album and the first to be released in the UK and Europe, once again on Sonic Cathedral. One of the most striking things about the record is just how primitive it sounds. The duo have eschewed any sort of production tricks or glossy sheen in favour of an enveloping fug that cloaks the simple riffs and grooves. The record is characterised by a heavy ambience; not heavy in the sonic sense of the word, but in terms of atmosphere. Precious little light is allowed in. From the opening prowling groove of opener What’s Holding You the duo create a dark, fractured and flaying sound. Almost every song is swept away on perpetually swirling, teasing and meandering effects-laden guitar crescendos.
The formula is, on the face of it, simple. Quintanilla, who acts as Lorelle, handles the ragged guitar and provides the breathy, largely obscured vocals while Gonzalez (The Obsolete) keeps things together on drums. Illuminating their rather functional songs though is the sheer alluring capacity this music as to alter your state of being and throw you ever so slightly off kilter. The shrieking, cacophonous siren-like guitar hook that introduces the rollicking Sealed Scene is particularly bracing. Elsewhere, the guitars bristle with kinetic energy, shooting off from rudimentary riffs into the sky scraping ether as on the strung out Music For Dozens. There is a strange mix at work throughout the record between the very basic and the ambitiously expansive. It’s a compelling relationship as the two sides to the band rub up against each other.
It’s easy to see why the duo was so appreciated at the Liverpool Psychedelic festival. A heady, ecstatic ambience is always present in their music. Perhaps, some of the credit for helping to harness their garage rock into something more discombobulating should go to the production team that helped to work on the album. Both Cooper Crain, guitarist with drone band Cave who recorded the album with the band in Chicago, and Spacemen 3’s pioneering sonic scientist Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember, who mixed the album, have pretty much peerless credentials in the world of progressive psychedelic rock.
Yet there’s still the sense that Lorelle Meets The Obsolete were in control. Chambers is an album that reveals more of itself and ever more nuances and clever touches with every listen. Final track Thoughts About Night Now, featuring Gonzalez on vocals, is a rather lovely pop tune, showing that they can try their hand to pure melody for good measure. There’s much to savour here from a band that are just hitting their stride and attracting new audiences all the time.