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The Black Angels - Phosphene Dream

The Black Angels

Phosphene Dream

(Blue Horizon Records)

“Not a ghost bloodied country, all covered with sleep, where the black angel did weep.” This is a lyric from the Velvet Underground’s “Black Angel’s Death Song.” It’s also where retro, psychedelic rock band the Black Angels found their name. It’s no coincidence that the Black Angels borrowed their moniker from a band who helped define drug rock in the 1960s because, with their newest album, Phosphene Dream, the Black Angels are helping to reinvigorate the genre.

A phosphene is a hallucination triggered by something other than a substance, often by a sound. They are the dream-like patterns that appear after you rub your eyes. The Black Angels latest release is dream-like, but not in the characteristic wide-open, ambient, dream-pop sense. Guitarist Christian Bland blends tremolo guitar riffs with the droning tones of keyboardist Kyle Hunt to produce a tunnel-visioned, kaleidoscopic channel for this album to wander through.

The Texas-based band clearly borrowed from a slew of 1960s psychedelic rock influences to turn out the well produced, mesmerizing album that is Phosphene Dream. It is easy to track these songs back to their inspirations, bands like the Zombies, the Doors, and Jefferson Airplane. Phosphene Dream doesn’t break new ground, but is instead a testimonial to the psychedelic era. “Yellow Elevator #2,” one of the album’s stand-out tracks, overflows with far-out, organ-toned keyboards and singer Alex Maas’ thick harmonic vocals. His words echo and pan from speaker to speaker before the track melts down into a slow-motion field of rhythmic acoustic guitar chords washed over by liquefied bursts of electric guitar. “Telephone” sounds like a McCartney rip from White Album, while “River of Blood,” with its Indian drone, helter-skelter climax, and cryptic, bloody lyrics, would have Jim Morrison staring off into contemplative oblivion, were he still around to listen.

Although it may seem like the band is ripping off every white guy with a sitar from the 1960s, they actually have a genuine grasp of what it means to make psychedelic, summer-of-love rock, even down to Phosphene’s hypnotizing artwork. As the album’s liner notes say: “We encourage you to rethink your preconceived notions, question authority and create other methods for survival.”

cory perla

The Black Angels perform with Black Mountain October 30 at the Tralf.

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