A triple split release where each band takes two sides of a 7”, this is a showcase of classic Californian heavy acid blues. It’s strong on the covers, with four out of the six tracks paying homage to different influential names in sonic mind expansion.
First up on the billing is Harsh Toke, performing two Roky Erickson numbers, ‘Bermuda’ and ‘Burn the Flames’. The band recently performed a full live set at Roadburn Festival entirely made up of jams on the solo tracks of the 13th Floor Elevators legend. It was incredible, massive stoner psychouts turning on a dime to delivery the punchy Erickson 50s-rock-n-roll style wailings about demons and vampires, a perfect match up of two quite different methods of exploring the limits of consciousness in music.
Here on the record, there is nice stereo guitar to begin, and some good divebombing explosions in ‘Burn the Flames’ together with a great organ/piano/sort of dulcimer sounding thing. Maybe on a recording it’s natural that more of the song is carried by the vocals, and here really Harsh Toke come up short against Roky. That is by no means a severe criticism, since alongside Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Roky is one of the very greatest deliverers of unhinged wide-eyed macabre tales with utter conviction.
While of course a late night festival jam is a particularly charmed zone in which to engage with such things, I can’t help but think maybe it would be better represented on record as longer versions, 12 minutes each either side of a 12”, where they could showcase what was so great about the live set: the combination of the compact yet bursting-at-the-seams wildness of the original versions, while also allowing them to expand into their own trademark interstellar excursions. With things as they are, Iwas most excited to hear these tracks but the fairly straightforward covers end up being the least essential on this release- why not listen to the incendiary originals?
Next up is tourmates Joy, and I’m astounded to discover that the first of their tracks isn’t a Blue Cheer cover. In fact it’s an original, but it has the exact compulsive sort of strained funky aggression, thundering bass/hot-oil-spattering guitar sound and throw-it-down-the-stairs clattering attitude that it could have come from Blue Cheer’s legendary Vincebus Eruptum. Musically that is. Unfortunately, lyrically this new song is way retrograde: “Come on darlin, turn me on, don’t have time to wait til dawn” or some such utter crap. Their other track tries out Road’s ‘Spaceship Earth’, not a song I was familiar with but it fits well in the psychout vein as established thus far, with riffs and vocal sneer matching well while the magnesium firework guitars constantly look for an excuse to ignite.
Sacri Monti finish the job, and they contribute two more blasts of heavy 70s freakout. Their cover, Atomic Rooster’s ‘Sleeping for Years’ has a brilliant down the plughole and into the abyss vocal which, like Joy’s Road cover, is a great fiery burst of seesawing energy. The other track, despite starting out with a pretty dumb-sounding ‘Womuhhn!’ makes great use of a jabbing organ sound amongst the guitar squealing and squalling.
All in all, a pretty decent survey of what’s described as the San Diego psych scene in an unusual triple package.