Thursday, 18 September 2014

Pale Fires: Mammoth Review

U.K-based Psych-pop outfit, Pale Fires, manage to strike the perfect balance between Bunnymen-esque shimmer, classic Brit-grunge, and sedated space rock psychedelia. This new record follows up Pale Fires' 2014 EP release, Louring Skies, pressing on towards new sonic territory, and delving into previously unexplored, musical environment. - Review written by Daniel Sharman.

Released in: September 2014
Genre: Psych-Pop/Space Rock
Record Label: Self-release
Medium: Digital download, CD
Recorded at: Shrubbery Recording Studios

Even before writing as a listener, or a reviewer for that matter, Mammoth holds a special place in my heart due to its being the product of one of the few psychedelic groups local to myself. Recorded at a local studio, and preformed by local musicians, this record holds both critical, and emotional importance to me. 

As soon as we hear the album's opening track, River, an immediate precedent is set for Mammoth, clearly showing it to be more upbeat and lively than the band's first studio offering, the harmonies and percussion section providing a mellower sound than previously demonstrated in the band's work. However, there is an angst and tension still ever-present in the music, thanks in part to the fuzzed-out guitar work. The playing juxtaposing joyful melodies with heavy, distorted riffage.

Furthermore, the album's eponymous track, Mammoth, opens with a rolling beat accompanied by a shallow bassline groove evocative of some of the same bass grooves of the '80's. Dreamy, dreary guitar follows along, before exploding into an all-out explosion of distortion, a sonic presentation which gives validity to the track's title. Equally dreamy lyrics come into play, being segregated by returns of guitar fuzzdom. 

This album is not all upbeat thrills though, as Mammoth does have is more subdued and restrained moments, more evocative of their Louring Skies LP. Peace of Mind shows a preference for a calmer, darker edge, with a sizzling, wah-drenched Kraut rock guitar refrain (backed with a vocal hook and rhythm section reminiscent of more classic R&B). 'The Boat That is Rowing Slow' is also more subdued, calling to the styles of bands like Kasabian.  

Moreover, the EP's 5th track, Howl, my personal favourite, shows a more classic-psych rock edge. A harrowing set of single guitar notes, with haunting vibrato action to boot, leads into yet another, this time more classically grunge/garage rock, fuzz explosion. The driving grunge riff is joined by a howl and various clever octave-shifting techniques, causing me to think of bands like The UFO Club, and the vocal chant of ''no, no, no'' making me think of some of the later work of Roky Erickson. 

The closing track somewhat combines the elements of the rest of the album's tracks, juxtaposing fast, overdriven riffage with calmer, more passive instrumentation. The vocal delivery on this track didn't particularly inspire me, but does pick up with an ending outro featuring righteous, free-jazz saxophone work.

Critic's Comment: Not for everyone, but certainly for most, Mammoth is another pleasant, wholesome offering from Camden shoegazers Pale Fires. Investigating new territories that their previous EP did not, Mammoth is suggestive of the growing musicianship and artistry that this quartet does have to offer. Although, maybe not as full-blown and raw as my usual preference of psychedelia, Mammoth certainly has plenty of enjoyable, spaced-out moments. 

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