Release Date: May 13, 2008
Record label: Light In The Attic
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
As an Austin native, I've often wondered what it is about the Texas climate that has induced not only the Black Angels but also everyone from the 13th Floor Elevators to Stars of the Lid to drench their clangy guitars in such hypnotic outer-space reverberations. Is it the heat? The shimmer of mirages on an asphalt horizon in August? The warm throttle of a motorcycle engine underneath an endless arid blue sky? Whatever the reason, the tradition of Texas psychedelia is on full display on this record, whose greatest strength is that it plays out less like a collection of songs than one epic snakewinding track, very well sequenced, in which the steam generated by high-gear stompers gets a chance to dissipate in incense-laced bliss-outs. The gorgeous fury of amplified drone kicks in from opening menacer "You on the Run" and triumphantly doesn't let up--it gets sped up, slowed down, inverted and transformed enough that although the tracks are at times difficult to discern from one another, the album never feels like it gets caught in a sonic backwater.
Name yourselves after one of the Velvet Underground's most aggressively amelodic songs and package your second album in an op art burnt orange and chartreuse freakout and you'd better be able to deliver the psych-drone goods. What's most impressive about the Black Angels' Directions to See a Ghost is that not only does the Austin-based sextet deliver like few bands have been able to manage since Spacemen 3 split -- see the dark, doomy "Science Killer" and the epic 16-minute closer "Snake in the Grass" for details -- but the group also leavens its heaviness with a functioning knowledge of pop hooks and how to deploy them: as a result, songs like "You in Color" and "You on the Run" not only buzz and howl in a manner suitable for nodding along, they're also unexpectedly catchy in a style reminiscent of Love or the Doors. The sitar-laced two-chord stomp of "Never/Ever" sits comfortably alongside the post-punky desperation of "Doves," testament to the variety of sounds and moods the Black Angels squeeze out of their chosen idiom.