Review Summary: The desert heat grows sweltering...
Back in 2006, Texas outfit "The Black Angels" released their desert-wandering, reverberating, cathartic first hurrah over the musical landscape and somehow, it went under the radar. Passover grabbed the collar of the listener to search the deserts with the band and their infectious beat. They took everything that made The Velvet Underground song "Venus In Furs" so ethereal and made it sound new.
On Directions To See A Ghost, instead of turning the fuzz and reverb knobs down for the radio, the band takes a nosedive even deeper into the weary landscape they created in 2006. The droning organ runs on endlessly in the background as effect-laden guitars cast a paranoid trance over the listener. This method of hooky guitar riffing over a looping drone element leaves a lasting impression, song to song. The drums pound away as if they are the soundtrack to a sweaty walk towards a mirage. But, I don't want to convey that this music is tired, or boring. It isn't.
The throbbing guitar line of "You On The Run" sets the pace for the album until the pounding percussion explodes into the song carrying along the rattle of a shaking tambourine and the familiar croon of Alex Maas. A voice that serves as a layer inside of all of the other instrumentation in the bands music, but if you listen closely you'll pick up on themes of paranoia, alienation, and longing.
"Doves" follows with a more upbeat sound that is sustained until it strategically shifts and sends the listener down an eerie spiral that is one of the highlights of the album.
"Science Killer" stomps along with an incredibly dense bass-line and the distant wail of a guitar in a slurry of fuzz and tremolo. This is one of the songs that features incredibly altered vocal effects that weren't used in Passover. The effects on Alex's screams and moans are a part of the distant mood that bring the album's title to thought.
The drone gets overwhelming in "Mission District" to the point where you are begging the band to give you some hope and pick up the pace, but it just serves to further the desperate mood of the lyrics "You only love yourself, you only care for you. I think I heard the truth..."
"18 Years" gives the listener a break from the overwhelming first set of songs and transcends seamlessly into the Sitar" of "Dee-Ree-Shee".
Highlights are "You On The Run", "Doves", "18 Years", and the gripping vocal hook of "You In Color" before the sprawling, indulgent final tracks end the album knee-deep in some surreal desert landscape.
The only problem I had was a lack of the cohesiveness seen on Passover. These songs tend to melt into each other as opposed to each song having a definable personality. Also, the band tends to get a little too lost in their effects and reverb on this release until songs like 18 Years and You In Color successfully break up the monotony. Nonetheless, this is a very solid effort from the evolving sound of The Black Angels. All you'll be left wondering is where they'll take the droning desert march to next...