A Parisian present to post-psychedelic rock
Depending on who you are, ‘Wall of Death’ may bring to mind a vintage motordome, a Braveheart twist on a mosh pit or a Parisian trio who peddles rock psychédélique. Since 2010 Adam Ghoubali (drums), Brice Borredon (keyboard/vocals) and Gabriel Matringe (guitar/vocals) have been churning out dogmatic post-psyche, though at this point classifying music as ‘psychedelic’ is no longer a delineation as much as an umbrella term for the corner of the music universe that shares particular personality and effects traits.
Wall of Death bounces between spaced out acid and progressive rock, with industrial sized organ and synth topped with Pink Floyd piety. Self described via the band’s Facebook page as ‘a synthesizer reaching deep into the bass register, an acid-tinged guitar drenched with echo, a warm-toned organ and violent drums combine with voices that range from soaring to fathomless, creating a masochistic yet flamboyant universe in which this group heals its collective wounds.’ Loveland is Wall of Death’s second album, released under Innovative Leisure and produced by multi-instrumentalist Hanni El Khatib. Overall Loveland is lovely and strange, playing like a rotating cast of unearthly characters, but with an identity that’s difficult to pin down as a whole.
Title track “Loveland” kicks off the album with tentative mellotron before building up to a pummel with reverb soaked delivery, successfully utilizing cascading echo effects. Quick and deliberate percussion gives the swift melody a backbone over which fluttering keys ramble before devolving into a hammering, space heavy third act. “Loveland” provides a full bodied beginning that is potent and just a tad overlong. “For A Lover” boasts bright tones and heavy synth with strong and overbold vocal delivery, maintaining harmonic chants coupled with peppy keyboard; a form of attack that conjures Polyphonic Spree parallels. “Mother Tongue” takes us back to Barrett territory, a reverb soaked track emboldened with a layered texture and other-worldliness that takes center stage. “How Many Kinds” glides along for a minute or so before adopting a darker tone, with moments of dread infused synth and lowered vocals that make the track shine, filled in with atmosphere during the interim. True to the formula that has been established thus far, “How Many Kinds” features a robust, crashing culmination starring an electrified organ before trailing off into a wind tunnel.
“Blow The Clouds” begins with a humble build, crafting a misleading ambiance before diving into a wailing guitar that slices through the air, sounding like something off Pond’s Man It Feels Like Space Again. “Blow The Clouds” succeeds in lending a soaring, spiraling effect from deftly bedding a bevy of instruments together in a measured method topped off with ethereal vocals. So far Loveland has tread known territory and done it well, applying a build, break and intermission technique that mostly achieves the desired effect of tension release, though occasionally making moments drag. In “Blow The Clouds'” case it’s justified with a fiery last minute and a half of paced, cathartic guitar that ties everything together. “Dreamland” serves as a palette cleanser, a short burst of synth infused dance sensibility that could belong to Bloc Party in a parallel universe, ending with a surprising and playfully misplaced jangle. “Little Joe” comes in heavy, dramatic and organ dense, as though it’s clambering through the grate in the floor from a cell in the basement. “Chainless Man” is a blues tinged track that rings like a Dan Auerbach B-side until halfway through when it unexpectedly hits Radiohead road, eerily floating along before making a rolling return to Hammond heavy hits.
Loveland’s most lustrous moments might be found in closer “Memory Pt. 1 & Pt. 2,” an opus that clocks in at nearly 11 minutes in true swan song fashion. Using harmonic, hymnal and celestial vocals that glide on glistening tones, “Memory” is a track with an apocalyptic feel, paced well and closing out the album with a kick, tossing in some tinkling chimes at the end for added chilling effect. All in all Loveland is a solid tribute to the singular and exceptional rock and rollers that came wailing before Wall of Death – an effort bursting with dexterous virtuosity, emotional sensibility and cathartic payoff – that only leaves a distinct identity to be desired.