Review Summary: The Brian Jonestown Massacre sail off to India.
By now, a lot of people have heard about The Brian Jonestown Massacre and especially of frontman Anton Newcombe, whether through the Dig! documentary or witnessing his occasional live neurotic behavior. Then there's the musical output which is seen as biased as opinions are on Newcombe himself. Throughout their 22-year career, The Brian Jonestown Massacre have ventured anywhere from shoegaze, 60s pastiche, eastern-tinged psychedelia, americana and lately the wild and underrated neo-psychedelia found on My Bloody Underground. However, Aufheben
is in turn a bit different from the others, combining a more settled down eastern psychedelic sound found on Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request
and parts of Give It back!
and the rather electronic elements such as dance drum patterns and synths akin to previous album Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?
No doubt, this is one of the tamest BJM albums. The music follows the same dreamy drones, only this time there's a lot borrowed from Indian music and designed to build a wall of sound behind which there is only a sparse, almost dub-like instrumentation. In Anton's words, the album is more cinematic and acts more as a soundtrack and this appears to be true, since the music plays the biggest role, while the vocals are mostly mixed to complement the music. Even if the material here is not always BJM at their best, Aufheben
is a really solid album filled with great contributions from longtime member Matt Hollywood and Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized ex-bassist Will Carruthers.
Opener "Panic In Babylon" is mostly representative of the album as a whole, being a groovy instrumental filled with organs and sitars working really good together with a recurring Indian voice sample. There are lots of small tweaks such as weird horns, bird noises, monkey laughter that pop up from time to time giving a really interesting yet odd feel. The next three tracks each go on the same sequence adding to the atmosphere and the depth of the album's direction. While some of the band's records feel a bit scattered because of the ever changing sound, on Aufheben
there is a prominent Indian theme that really ties the album up. "Viholliseni Maalla" has a jangly, almost dreamy atmosphere that is really nice and effective given the fact there aren't any major changes in the structure throughout it. "Iluminomi" intertwines some elegant, eerie guitar and flute leads, focusing on the tantric atmosphere created by these two. This is one of the best Brian Jonestown tracks in more than a decade now, very simply built but so beautiful in sound. Also, this is one of the few moments when Anton's restrained vocals help the songs because he is put in the background complimenting the music. Another song heavily indebted in Indian music and a highlight of the album is "Face Down On The Moon" which finds the band at one of their most spiritual points in their career. The whole song acts like a spaced-out mantra becoming the central point of Newcombe's aspirations for this album. Nowhere in the band's career do they sound so focused yet so loose.
In time, with each album Anton's vocals gotten worse due to his continued use of drugs and alcohol, thus keeping to a minimum the songs sung by him. Reportedly sober now, he actually sings a lot better here and even though his vocals are soaked in reverb and echoes, they have more power. On one of the best tracks here, "Waking Up To Hand Grenades", he shines most. Over a beautiful ambient soundscape, he manages to sound mournful, before breaking into yet another dub-like groove, that grows adding etherial synths and sparse piano leads. Album closer "Blue Order/New Monday" is perhaps the biggest reason for calling the album cinematic, because there is a really nice, orchestral sound in the song reminiscing 1940s and 1950s classic American movies soundtracks. Nothing sounds forced and it just flows greatly along with the rest of the tracks while portraying a different side of Anton's creativity.
Overall, this is a really interesting and great album from The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Fans of early output like Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request
and Give It Back!
will like this, but this is also a great welcome to all newcomers even though it doesn't represent most of the discography preceding it. The best thing about Aufheben
is the fact that is not a demanding album, relying more on being a fun listen. The Dandy Warhols released their latest album, This Machine
, last week and showed signs of maturity. The Brian Jonestown Massacre give the same feeling with Aufheben
, but what makes this slightly better is the cohesive nature of the album, which is something The Dandys haven't achieved this time.