Monday, November 21, 2011

The Heavy Company - The Heavy (Please Tune In . . .)

It's Sunday morning. Third cup of coffee is already drained but the desired caffeine effect is evading my brain. Hiding from my cortex as if I was a movie slasher and it was my prey.  Details are hazy, but I remember last night something about some Gin.  And some Bourbon.  There may me more to the story, but until pictures appear on Facebook or an embarrassing video on YouTube breaks 1,000,000 hits, I'll deny it.

Just setting the stage here.  Giving you a peek into my brain as I plop down at my Ripple desk.  There's submissions to go through, reviews to write, and the ever present threat of needing to catch up with the Record Label accounting.  I need some music to get my brain moving. Something heavy but not damaging.  Something with enough energy to clear the cobwebs and kick that caffeine into effect, but not enough to make my eardrums shudder.  I want it slightly dark, definitely psychedelic.  I want some bleeding guitar effects to swirl through the clouds in my mind but enough of an edge to cut through that haze like a ray of sunlight blitzing down from the heavens.  I want it to light up my brain.

I want The Heavy Company.

Metaphysical psychedelia is the name of the game here and The Heavy Company do it just about as well as anybody out there.  First and foremost is the understated, yet always effective guitar work of Ian Gerber.  Psychedelic rock of this irk has a tough fence to straddle.  Somehow, the guitarist has to find a way to evoke the hallucinogenic dreamscapes that he sees in his mind, layering his tone with effects and variety, yet never lose himself up his own ass.  Too much masturbation and the music become boring.  Not enough variety and it feels empty.  Ian finds that place.  Each note seems perfectly chosen; not necessarily planned--because that would lose it's spontaneity--but felt perfectly in time with the music and the flow.

Behind Ian, Jeff Kaleth on drums and Ryan Strawsma on bass propel the compositions forward, filling in the spaces between the strobe-light guitars and smoky haze.  Again, no over playing here.  No bass lines trying to compete for attention.  It all just flows into one seamless swirling flow.  One kaleidoscopic river, currents of sound and colors, smells and visions.  A mushroom trip of music.  Perfect.

I suck again at my empty coffee mug.  Nothing but air.  Yet, I'm feeling better.  Somewhere within the six songs of this free EP, I've started to revive.   "Please Tune In . . ." opened the doors for me slowly, an introductory opium den of gentle drums and cloud-puffs of guitar.  Nothing too harsh, just an invitation for what's to follow.  Then somewhere during "The Heavy," my brain starts to awake.  Slowly, nothing jolting.  Ian's guitar reminds me of passages of Colour Haze or My Sleeping Karma.  Spartan and clear, tracing out a delicate harmony.  Vocals are a bit buried in the mix, but by the time they come in, something new is hinted at.  Maybe it's because the boys come from Lafayette, Indiana, but there's a definite earthiness to the song.  A lone cowboy riding the prairie feel.  Western-tinged, rootsy, yet still defiantly psychedelic.  That's not a mix I'd heard too often and lays claim for new territory.  Like a prospector staking out a claim, The Heavy Company have declared their piece of land.  Midwest psychedelia.

"Black Tuesday," adds a touch of classic 60's-70's rock to the mix.  I hear a touch of Bad Company in the main riff, while the bass percolates behind, before the song wanders into pure jam territory.  Bring that harmonica in, let the riff dirty up a bit, pick up the pace.  Yep, I'm feeling stronger now.  Maybe I'll actually be able to face the day.   "Wormweed," brings in even more muscle to the tone, effectively toughening up the sound, getting my heart beating just a bit, pumping that long-awaited caffeine to my limbic system.  It's all been a perfect progression from the haze to the rock, as if the whole EP tells one singular story.   "Monsignor Charlie Bird," brings the sky down, the requisite coolness, before the final cut "Caged Bird," kicks my mind back into regular time.  A chugging guitar riff, still earthy and classic.  Good stuff.

The Heavy Company find that rare balance for many psychedelic bands, effect-laden and THC-adled, yet still focused and rocking.  I dig the rootsy-vibe under the fuzz, it keeps the album rooted in terra firma even as they float off and explore.  The riffs are driving enough to keep the song moving, the jamming is spontaneous and extended enough to fuel the imagination synapses.  Dig into this album for your own hangover, or make it the focus of your future hangover to be.  Heck, get the hangover out of the way completely, just dig into this album.  If you're a fan of the Elektrohasch label brand of darkened spectrum psychedelia, this album will hit your sweet spot.

Download it all free here


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