The Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia 2013 played host to an incredible amount of promising (or already delivering) modern psychedelia bands. Amongst them were Seattle heavy-lidded trio Night Beats. Their new album Sonic Bloom follows their debut self-titled record, which was released in 2011.
By following the path of least resistance through the narcotic sounds of previous generations of space cadets, Night Beats make a striking, garage-influenced ruckus that carries well from the stage to headphones. Sonic Bloom is a colourful palette of retro-rock, and there’s more than enough variety to satisfy listeners put off by the blatant sonic appropriation.
Over the course of the album, the variety is impressive. Night Beats take the time to hit all the touchstones of psychedelic music, and opener Love Ain’t Strange (Everything Else Is) opens in a heavy, groovy bluster, before dropping into a shimmering 13th Floor Elevators garage-pop vibe, complete with shoutable chorus, only substituting the jug hoots for an all-too-brief wonky guitar solo.
The second lesson in psychedelia comes from the J Spaceman-alike narcotic shuffle of the title track Sonic Bloom. It’s a slow-burn track, the drums laying down a rhythm the haziest minds can dig. The vocals mimic Spaceman in their dry sneer, and the languid feel-good vibe is carried into Playing Dead, amongst the most classic (read: oldest) sounding psychedelic tracks here. Choppy, chiming guitar chords hover above tight bottom end, building towards a wig-out guitar solo.
Outta Mind is the same kind of noisy, twitchy pop the Velvet Underground peddled on tunes like There She Goes Again and I Heard Her Call My Name. It’s the kind of sound a lot Night Beats’ contemporaries (and collaborators and labelmates) have used to great effect. Real Mind is another track about which the same could be said, a squalling, haunted house jam with a dense guitar-as-organ solo, hung on more choppy, staccato chords and on-the-button drums.
Satisfy Your Mind is one of the more succinct tracks on the record, for which they’ve disinterred early Rolling Stones R&B and added a layer of reverb, and it swings and sways dutifully in time with the listener. Following number Catch A Ride To Sonic Bloom is a welcome piece of sparse dream pop, its frazzled, burnt out vibe embellished with rattling percussion and far-away vocals.
There’s an official video out there for the next track Seven Poison Wonders – and it’s one of the best tracks on the album. The trippy video opens with the guys in a van, one of them smoking a joint, before all manner of psychedelic craziness breaks loose. Musically, it lies somewhere between Taxman and Gimme Some Money. And that’s effectively the highest praise you can give to psychedelic music.
As You Want is a superb garage stomper that translates superbly to the stage, as a footage of Night Beats playing in South Africa attests. And of the four great tracks that close out the album, Rat King goes voodoo psychic melodrama, all ominous bass rhythm and tightly wound drum line, while epic closing jam The New World is an appealing cross-pollination of motor city & kraut rock tropes.
This is a fabulous album that really shows its depth with multiple listens. If a listener is prepared to ignore, accept or love the fact that they’ve heard all these sounds before, they will be well rewarded. While none of the songs and moods and tones here are new, and superb albums can be made by other bands using this very set of sounds (see Crystal Stilts), it’s the variety, vigour and conviction that makes this new record by Night Beats so impressive and engaging. Best listened to when you’re ‘relaxed’.