Monday, 11 March 2013

The Alchemical Mixture - Dead River & The Valley (album reviews)


Dead River - ST
Highlights include: "Wash His Bones" and "Burn Alive".
From: Melbourne, Australia.  Rating: 4/5

Dead River's self-titled EP is one of the toughest psychedelic rock records I've heard in a long, long time.  It's the burnt out and slightly strung out toughness of an all-nite diner with blues-inflected slide riffs and the ambience of the neon glow of disinterested guitars ringing and wailing in the background.  'Dead River' is loaded with leather jacketed and puke stained band t-shirt attitude that lets one know that these three ladies (Bindi Masterson - Vocals & guitar; Bonnie Mercer - Guitar and Shaunagh Furlong - Drums) have been through the wars and come back with a few missing teeth but a few stories to tell as well.

As a general thing, the Dead River flows with fuzz, providing said toughness.  A thick froth of fuzz like the skin that grows on old beer that's been left out for a little too long in an open container.  From there the cacophanous drums crash and bang continuously, relentlessly until all that's left along the shore is bloody pulp.  The lead guitar can then play the role of the disembodied ghost, possessing a riff every now and then but mostly content to be a truly free spirit, floating atop the Dead River like smog, haunting each of the four tracks with that strung out and burnt out vibe.

Dead River carry on the tradition of the drugged out side of Spacemen 3 and the rougher and readier side of early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club while showing signs of maturing into their own sound with "Burn Alive".

The Valley - ST
Highlights include: "Rad Dungeons" and "Royal City".
From: Seattle, Washington.  Rating: 4/5

And if the fuzz comes down from the Mountain and flows down the Dead River, it certainly does so cutting a swathe through The Valley.

This Seattle quartet (Dan Beloit - Guitar / vocals / songwriting duties; Doug Manis - guitar; Colin Faddis: drums; Tim Basaraba - bass/vocals) play a driving style of melodic fuzz rock, somewhat along the lines of a stoner band like Red Desert through the lens of a band like Sloan.  They've been around for over ten years now and even though I live in the general area this is the first I've heard of the band.  It's a fine introduction to a band, it feels like hitting them mid-stride.

Fuzz and flange characterize this eponymous EP with some nice big, meaty riffs, smothered in fuzz gravy, especially on the first and last tracks, and a generous helping of rock and roll pop sensibilities.

They say opposites attract and stylistically, The Valley's glossy melodies couldn't be further from the dirt-encrusted assault of Dead River.  But where the twain meet is in the muddy groves of fuzztown.  "Rad Dungeons" and "Royal City" are satisfyingly fuzzy and heavy tracks with just enough aggression to match the driving rhythm and convince the listener that The Valley mean serious rock n roll business.  "Northern Cascades" and "Blue Sonic" feature plenty of drive of their own, but shows the band in a more spaced-out psychedelic light.  These latter two tracks have slightly less howl to them than the former and are more rock oriented with catchy melodies on the vocals all the way through, especially "Blue Sonic".  When The Valley plays around with psychedelia, it's usually in a textural context with wide-open spaces of staccato riffing with flange that 'suggests' more it 'tells'.  As subtle as this band gets though, they're still  not above bludgeoning the listener over the head when need be.

Genre: Psychedelic, Stoner, Fuzz Rock

Release Date: February 13, 2013 (Dead River); October 30, 2012 (The Valley)

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Digging for fuzz clams on the bloody banks of the river.

Dead River facebook
The Valley facebook

Thanks to The Soda Shop for introducing this author to The Valley.

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