Dinosaur Jr aficionados will know that frontman J Mascis started his musical career as drummer for a little known, but some say seminal hardcore band called Deep Wound. Fellow Dinosaur man Lou Barlow was also in Deep Wound and one wonders whether it was last year’s musical reunion with Mascis – after years of estrangement – that has prompted Mascis to create his latest side-project, Witch.
In Witch, Mascis takes up thumping the tubs again and anyone who liked the “indie” facet of Dinosaur Jr’s music but not the ear-bleeding guitar solos should probably steer clear.
Witch claim to be inspired by ’70s heavy metal and this much is true, especially if by that phrase they mean Black Sabbath. Each song is built around fuzzed, distorted, droning guitar motifs courtesy of Asa Irons, who also takes the opportunity to solo freely while Mascis’ active percussion and Dave Sweetapple’s earth-rumbling bass move things along at a decidedly unhurried pace.
Meanwhile, Irons’ fellow day job partner-in-crime, Kyle Thomas (amazingly they’re both from folk outfit Feathers who helped out on Devendra Banhart‘s Cripple Crow album) contributes a vocal that, whilst not being monotone, is certainly monochrome in its delivery, as well as ethereal, otherworldly lyrics that are unlikely to be troubling Bob Dylan or Bono any time soon.
The musically astute will understand from the description above that, contrary to Witch’s protestations, they play stoner rock pure and simple. It’s speaker-shakingly loud yet somehow far too chilled-out to be anything but background music, and whilst closing number Isadora flirts with Led Zeppelin acoustica before an almost doom metal guitar sludge-fest to finish, this is very much the kind of brew that Kyuss and their imitators have been concocting for years.
But don’t get me wrong. Mascis and friends do what they do masterfully and if you the like the soundtrack to hot, lazy afternoons or post-party, post-midnight sessions to be simultaneously soporific and neighbour-waking, you could do a heck of a lot worse than come under Witch’s spell.