Album Reviews

Psychic Markers – Hardly Strangers

(Bella Union) UK release date: 23 February 2018

Psychic Markers - Hardly Strangers Following on from London psych-rock five-piece Psychic Markers’ 2015 debut Scrapbook No.1, the ‘supergroup’ predominantly laid down Hardly Strangers during a week in Devon, their other interests presumably driving the need to wrap things up as quickly as possible, with the album originally pencilled in for a release date much closer to that of the debut. Having supported acts such as Ulrika Spacek, it’s little surprise that the ‘five kindred spirits’ often build around motorik-influenced beats and that’s where Hardly Strangers showcases its main highlights.

Pyramids is the first track to employ motorik grooves but, unusually for the genre, it’s all over in little more than two minutes of monotone vocal-based psych. The excellent Play It Safe, however, lays down a more commonly found five plus minutes of a firstly hollow motorik beat that grows into a tempered yet dangerously infectious effort, its mesmerising, repetitive hook encapsulating the essence of psych-rock amongst atmospherically spoken words.

Instrumental Sea Waves utilises more motorik, this time menacing, as we head into Electric Eye jamming territory, but ultimately it feels agonisingly close to a modern psych classic had the length been doubled and vocals added. The brilliant single and title track then possibly tops the lot as it weaves a captivating spell of a call and response distorted guitar hook before building to a cacophonous crescendo.

Elsewhere though, when motorik beats are absent, results vary. Single Dreaming is decent enough, vocals coming across like a lazily engaged Alex Turner adorning a curiously warped doo-wop cut; images of The Veils dipping their toes into psychedelics are envisaged for the spacey reverb of The Powerful People, begging the listener to wonder if the band were stoned when this one was laid down.

The pedestrian Fields Of Abstraction – about memories and how they change over time – impresses with spacey psych guitars and a dreamy chorus but contrastingly instrumental opener Creepin’ bores, as does the lacklustre The Moon Sits In Lonely Places whilst the largely acoustic closer A Surprise (Reprise) feels misplaced, its hushed toned Courtney Taylor-Taylor vocal delivery failing to ignite matters.

Things appear to be heading in the right direction for the collective but perhaps the amount of time afforded to the project is hampering the momentum of progression. In a well-trodden genre it’s always difficult to leave a noteworthy footprint of your own but all things considered, this assortment of musicians appear capable of doing just that – if they afford themselves the time to do so.

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Psychic Markers – Hardly Strangers