Release Date: Aug 26, 2016
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
After releasing one awe-inspiring neo-psych album for Trouble in Mind, Morgan Delt jumped to Sub Pop for his next effort, 2016's Phase Zero. His first album was a stunning re-creation of '60s psychedelia, acid rock, folk-rock and twisted sunshine pop all filtered through a home studio aesthetic and spit back out in technicolor clouds of sound. His melodies were entrancing, the way he layered the fuzz and flowers together was masterful, and he generally made the kind of record that if it were released in 1967, would have been hailed as a classic.
Morgan Delt's first jam bore the hallmarks of '60s psych so thoroughly that some thought it was unearthed from the post-Woodstock era. Drenched in psychedelia, Phase Zero is dripping with dreamy sounds that ooze from your speakers' pores like day-after LSD sweat. Yes, the '60s psych-pop references are accurate, but his best work also draws from the mind-altering repetition of Spacemen 3 or Can, carved down into three-minute pop songs.
Hailing from California, Morgan Delt sounds like a vinyl LP left out in the LA sun, with the melted wax frozen into a popsicle that melts perfectly while you eat it. He returns two years after his self-titled debut with Phase Zero, a record that is as inviting as it is warm, and will reward you if you wade into it’s neck deep psychedelia. Taking cues from Tame Impala and Deerhunter, Delt’s vocals are the attraction, if you can find them, layered beneath fuzz and reverb.
In the two years since his debut Morgan Delt has smartened his act up considerably. The songs that populated Psychic Death Hole and his first self-titled album, were the sound of ’60s utopian psychedelia pushed through a darkened Lou Reed endorsed filter. There was a sunny, stoned blissed-out sound at play, but also a lo-fi haze and slightly disconcerting undertone on songs like Barbarian Kings or Mr Carbon Copy that found Delt exploring the hippy dream at the point that it turned into a nightmare (but not quite at Charles Manson levels).
L.A.-based Morgan Delt has been making quite a name for himself since he first emerged on the so-called neo-psych scene back in 2012 with his debut Psychic Death Hole. Since then, he's jumped from label to label (Inflatable Tapes, Trouble In Mind) but now appears to have found a home over at Seattle-based Sub Pop, with whom he signed a contract "to extend throughout the known universe" in January 2015. With new album Phase Zero, Morgan Delt brings forward his rich Californian musical heritage, with the sole exception of his psych-oriented sound seeming closer to San Francisco than to his hometown of Los Angeles.
Morgan Delt’s 2014 self-titled record was an unexpected melange of power pop and druggy, psychedelic experimentation—a rougher, more unhinged successor to the beloved, defunct ’60s loving Elephant 6 outfits Olivia Tremor Control and Circulatory System. It wasn’t a perfect record and had a number of rough stretches, but it delivered a powerful and pleasant weirdness. Phase Zero, Delt’s second album, seems like an appropriate title, because while he’s not exactly starting over, he appears to be doing a bit of an identity reset.
Like Australia’s Tame Impala, Californian native Morgan Delt is a one-man band who records alone and enlists backing players for touring purposes. Unlike Tame Impala, Morgan Delt hasn’t collaborated with quiffy hitmaker Mark Ronson or had any of his songs covered by Rihanna. That might only be a matter of time because though his trippy music is dense and fuzzy with all sorts of wonky, backwards noises bubbling away in the background, Delt’s three-to-five-minute ’shroomy tunes possess a concise poppiness that many of his reverb-smitten freestyle psych contemporaries are prone to neglect or reject.
West Coast slacker psychedelia – it’s hardly under-represented on the record racks these days. Which isn’t necessarily a problem – at least until originality falls subservient to vibe, and whilst Delt’s first LP on the Sub Pop label acknowledges the former, it does tend to get a little lost en route, as if the Californian singer-songwriter is too preoccupied marking off genre mileposts to truly break any new ground. Vague alt-country leanings, diluted Haight-Ashbury-isms and Taylor Courtney-Courtney vocal touches (A Gun Appears certainly has something of The Dandy Warhols to it) – they’re all present in various measures.