I think I just grew up. At the recommendation of a Lego-themed guy, I purchased the most recent album by Psychic Ills, One Track Mind. I had so much faith in his opinion that I bought the album having never ever heard of/by/from/through/etc. this band before. Also, I don’t think I’ve had a good new music experience in a while so I needed help. Honestly, if I had researched or listened to this at all, I would have complete ignored this album … and been wrong. I would have scoffed, been bored, showed a sign or two of snobbery and moved on. The music itself is so understated and simple that it demands a listener set aside expectations and barely attend. In short, it’s exactly what I need when stress and insomnia follow me down the highway to work. Psychic Ills calms me with their gentle undemanding sound.
OK, so what is a psychic ill and how do several of them combine, get capitalized (into Psychic Ills) and release albums? I’m sorry, but that’s too many questions to answer. Besides, I forgot the first part. The band itself consists of several psychic ills, specifically Tres Warren (guitar/vocals/keyboards) Elizabeth Hart (bass), and Chris Milstein (Drums). Over time, their sound has varied, but always centered around the neighborhood of psychedelic rock. If I’d done actual research, I could tell you how it has changed, but, alas, research is my job, not my hobby. If you believe Pitchfork — why not, they seem like nice folk — Psychic Ills appear to have dabbled in musical realms associated with altered cognitive states: raga, new age, electronic, and other minimalist sounds. I encourage you to listen to their past catalogue and tell me what I’m missing.
The past is the past, how about the present? What about this latest album? I’ll tell you about it. It certainly has the hallmarks of psychedelic, but not the dense or highly textured version of label-mates Moon Duo.
“One Track Mind” sounds a little like a hazy drugged out cover version of the Rolling Stones, but without any of the energy or charisma. It’s just a few sleepy dudes in an empty performance hall, pulling out the simplest riffs and reverb they can find. The result is oddly reminiscent of Widowspeak debut album with a little more testosterone. Moon Duo gets the same treatment just one track later in “See You There”. The most evocative tune, “Might Take A While” reminds me of some sleepy, but popular, slacker band from the 90’s. If I could remember their name, I’d tell you and look brilliant. Instead, I’ll seem exactly like the music: simple, psychedelic, and bluesy. Continuing the other-band reminscence, “Depot” comes across as a less-lush version of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s eponymous debut. Since BRMC had a similar album-to-album sonic restlessness, it’s not that surprising to find the infection reach her. Skipping over to the second side (or second half for fellow digital owners), “FBI” has a sleepy paranoia that, this time, is a minimalist version of Wooden Shjips (what is a shjip, anyway?). The simple rhythm and minimalist sound really does it for me, feeling much like if a stoned version of the Violent Femmes performed a clean-sounding imitation of the Jesus and Mary Chain. It works. It really works! After several forgettable tracks — I forgot how many — the album gets back on track with “Western Metaphor” for which I have description only, no metaphor: it’s good. Then comes “Drop Out” by which time I’ve always dropped out wondering, “What was that song early on? The twangy bluesy one?” Then the tremolo-picking closing solo grabs me, slowly, and drops me off abruptly.
Look, this is not Van Gogh quality of art, but neither is it my uncle Rog’s knitting (he’s actually pretty good). If you seek the definitive version of any genre or sound, you won’t find it here. It’s just a sleepy take on psychedelica, interesting enough to listen to, but not entrancing enough to … well … entrance you. I suspect they’re more interesting live and, in fact, my recommender had just heard them live, on my birthday, no less. Whatever he heard live, it turned out to be exactly the kind of sounds, I require right now: simple and just three steps above boring.