Wilderness of Mirrors

Sep 19, 2022
Web Exclusive

By Hays Davis

For their first album in five years, the psych-rock of Austin’s The Black Angels sounds like a beast that only gets stronger and heavier over time on Wilderness of Mirrors. Sixties psych like that of fellow travelers 13th Floor Elevators may occasionally serve here as a reference point, but Wilderness stands firmly as a product of The Black Angels’ time, both lyrically and sonically, after more than a year in the making.

The band settled into an Austin studio for the album’s creation, and the rich textures throughout these 15 tracks reflect the time invested in their construction. “Without a Trace,” the opener, starts with the kind of trembly organ that might have wormed into the ears of vision-chasers decades ago before a massive curtain of drums and throbbing bass drops over it. In a stylistic swerve that fits comfortably, Thievery Corporation’s LouLou Ghelichkhani joins on the spiky ’60s pop homage “Firefly.”

Through the gentle, melodic progressions of “Suffocation” vocalist/bassist Alex Maas could be looking toward societal discord or singing about something more personal. “I just can’t breathe/There is no more air/A bad dimension/Everything’s melted/And so you wanna know what have we done?” Beginning with the tolling of bells, “La Pared (Govt. Wall Blues)” turns toward recent years’ political turmoil. “You can build this wall of hate,” sings Maas over a pounding rhythm and layers of guitars, “but we’ll never separate.”

As they near the end of their second decade together since forming in 2004, it’s clear that The Black Angels’ connection to their late heroes is as strong as ever. While the swing and fuzz of “A Walk on the Outside” nods directly to their musical forbears, “The River” goes a step further and name-checks them specifically. “Stacy, Roky, John and George, we plead/Answer us and tell us what you see.” (www.theblackangels.com)

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