In case you haven’t been paying much attention, psychedelic rock is once again coming on like an acid flashback. Most new bands mining this bygone era do so with a painful degree of transparency and come off sounding silly. Not Austin’s Black Angels. This coed outfit’s 2006 debut album, Passover, was a brooding stunner that used the genre’s devices merely to fortify its menacing drone. The follow-up, Directions to See a Ghost (Light in the Attic), is no less riveting. Now a sextet, the band has musically fleshed out its slow-crawl surges. Low frequencies dominate, chords change infrequently, and guitars and organs swirl around, pounding tribal beats. On top sits vocalist Alex Maas, who on several tunes, including the opener, “You on the Run,” ratchets up the foreboding by channeling a Jim Morrison–type vibe (though thankfully minus Morrison’s numskull poetics). The album’s centerpiece, “Never/Ever,” finds him with a more melodic voice, at least before the band builds the intensity to a glorious and ferocious din. The group repeats these sonic crescendos throughout and, instead of wearing out its welcome, manages to thrill you again and again.
From the May 2008 Issue Subscribe