The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream
I remember the first time I heard this band. It was two years ago in a dimly lit stiflingly hot Internet cafe the size of a decent walk-in closet on the Avenue Felix Faure in Nice. While the rest of humanity was sunning itself in the 80 degree plus heat, my fellow cybernauts and I were sitting in front of computer screens tapping away, oblivious to the summer sunshine outside. Our soundtrack was this trippy music sung in a ghostly whine, as if traveling through another dimension to reach us. Later as I was paying I asked the guy who it was. "Les Anges Noir" he said. The Black Angels. I had never heard of them. Where were they from? French? American? British? "Don't know" he shrugged. "But they're cool."
Indeed they are. Their music is like those old black light posters your boyfriend had hanging on his wall; there is something eerie and otherworldly about it. Alex Maas's distinctive whine, the understated music that swirls around you like cigarette smoke. Opening track 'Bad Vibrations' slithers in, ominous, almost stand-offish, then at the end it lets loose as if the pent up energy it was trying to control has spilled out over the sides. 'Yellow Elevator' continues along in the same tone. This is 21st century psychedelic rock that many want to do - but few do well. The melody is insistent, hypnotic and will have you covering up all the windows in your room with dark blankets to help block out the sun.
'Sunday Afternoon' is upbeat (well, upbeat for these dudes) and charges along at an infectious clip. The creepy 'River of Blood' brings the mood back down again. The song is one of the album's highlights, glorious and powerful with the cacophony of guitars and Maas's wonderful voice powering it along. This gives way to the stupendous 'Entrance Song', beautiful in the extreme. The rhythm is deliberate, menacing, the vocals trance-like. It is one of those songs you ache to hear live as you know it will blow you away. Title track 'Phosphene Dream' continues the album's winning streak. Dark and brooding, this what the Four Horsemen would rock out to. 'True Believers' is perhaps the album's crowning glory. The song is gorgeous, with its strong Indian influence and Maas' hypnotic vocals giving it an exotic colour and shape: "Woo hoo they said as they crossed the river / Woo hoo they said as they prayed to Jesus...well who knows which birds will be left to sing...well no one knows"
Unfortunately the goofy retro fun of 'Telephone' let's things down a bit. Although a cracking tune, it sounds very, very Yardbirds and distracts from the homogeneous feel of the album. Fortunately final track 'The Sniper' rectifies things somewhat and restores the gratifying gloominess of the earlier tracks.
Despite slight glitches this is a fantastic album. An album to hide away with, to listen to on your own with all the lights off and the stereo turned up to 11. Let these guys be your guardian angels.