Written on June 9, 2012
Aquarius Records is a groovy little record shop in the Mission district of San Francisco that’s been churning along since 1970, and has since become an essential mail-order spot for psych, metal, drone, experimental and other related formats. One reason is their excellent newsletter. We’re big fans, and a good deal of our favorite LPs have come from their weekly recommendations list.
This week your favorite unheralded New Orleans psych group gets a bit of love, and we’re happy to share it with you. Read it, then go on over to AQ’s web site and order your copy of East of the Sun & West of the Moon. (Just enter “Chef Menteur” as the artist search term at the top.) ]
Here’s the write-up:
CHEF MENTEUR East Of The Sun & West Of The Moon (Backporch Revolution) 2lp 24.00
This is the first we’ve heard from this New Orleans psychedelic combo, even though this is their third record, but it’s as good a place to start as any, cuz it’s hard to imagine any of the other records competing with the sheer sonic scope of East Of The Sun & West Of The Moon, a sprawling double lp (which was supposedly trimmed down from a QUINTUPLE lp!!), literally years in the making, which finds the band touching on all sorts of different sounds, but all the various sonic strains held together by a thread of cosmic psychedelia that runs through the whole record.
The opener, “Narconaut”, should have space rock nerds losing their shit, totally druggy and drifty, the bass and drums locked tight into a loping groove, while the guitars fill the sky with wild tangles of FX heavy swirls and squiggles, clouds of swirling psychedelia, that drifts from heady and ethereal to churning and heavy. The record unwinds gradually, the second track, a smoldering bit of mathiness, rife with twang, and spidery minor key melodies, and laced with a bit of Appalachia, but building to a serious heavy crescendo before slipping into a brief bit of country, only to return to the mathiness of the opening few minutes. From there the band drift into weird woozy horn driven slowburn balladry, a washed out blues, wreathed in loads of echo and reverb, giving it a serious dub vibe, only to then slip into a brief bit of rhythmic churn, which quickly transitions into some drum driven, almost IDM sounding electronica, but that electronica is wedded to the band’s brooding drifting psychedelia, there’s even some sampled voices, which gives it a definite Boards Of Canada feel.
“Oxen Of The Sun” is one of the record’s two centerpieces, an 11+ minute jam that flits from sound to sound, beginning as a dense chunk of buzzing space rock, driven by low slung bass and wheezing organs, it soon gives way to a sort of blurred countryish drone/drift, which in turn becomes a haunting elegy of organ drone, before exploding into some seriously heavy super distorted psychrock, that itself shifts from dense driving pound, to spaced out abstract shuffle and back again. “Ganymede” is the other one, clocking in at more than 19 minutes, this one less all over the map, a lush organ/synth/keyboard dronescape, softly roiling, spacious and kosmische, gradually building to the occasional Sunroof! like ur-drone, only to slip right back into something much more serene and pastoral. It’s a fantastically heady chunk of droned out psych bliss for sure.
The rest of the record continues the group’s sonic explorations, more heavy psych space outs, bits of droned out minimal guitarscapery, woozy, slide guitar laced twang flecked drifts, pocked with slow build to explosive psychedelic squalls, dark strummed folk that gives way to some seriously dense and druggy psychedelia, and a final bit of spare steel string guitar, a little coda, surprisingly spare, considering how dense and sprawling and ambitious the rest of the record is.
WAY recommended, and pretty much essential listening for all you psychedelic space phreaks out there,
LIMITED TO 200 COPIES. Super elaborately packaged, in deluxe gatefold jackets, each one printed and hand numbered by the artist, the art a handmade woodblock print, includes a digital download.