Psychedelic Horseshit


(Fat Cat; 2011)

By Alan Baban | 2 June 2011

Psychedelic Horseshit’s massively destructive second full-length—and debut on new label Fat Cat after the brain-shelving Magic Flowers Droned (2007)—is not just an acid-etched upheaval of the band’s core sound and dynamic, but also a rather brilliant, disheveled take on all aspects of popular music. That is, every single aspect of popular music ever, in general. Laced, then, is a relentlessly over-inclusive record. Non-stop maniacal in a way even this band has never approached before, the album is a pure and sustained attack on song structure, lyrical meaning, meter, and common sense. It is overdubbed to hell and back—more precisely, to Overdub Hell and back. It is a big, wet, squelching doo-doo in a forum of musical canvassing, with reminiscences of the straight-talking nonsense and substance-excitement of early Velvet Underground, or perhaps the stubbornness of early Animal Collective. In places Psychedelic Horseshit’s latest comes across as Black Dice’s Beaches and Canyons (2002) as played at full blast in the centre of an enormous faecal compactor. Laced is nonstop noisy, brash, cacophonous, and grating; the rotten insides of Laced are churning. In other words, the album is psychedelic and it sounds a lot like horseshit.

Matt Whitehurst and his percussionist Ryan Jewell have really outdone themselves here by working with what basically is an entirely new palette for the band: a minimal framework of synth-squiggles and off-kilter drum patterns. It’s all right there in skeletal form on opener “Puff,” and from “Puff” on, Psychedelic Horseshit do little but add layer over layer over layer of improvised samples pulled from a number of sources. Whitehurst’s guitar, which is sometimes slowed-down and stretched out to a low drone (as on “Time of Day”), and at others times played backwards, leads the gamut, but we also get snippets of dialogue pulled from movies, screwed-with electronic sound effects, and junkyard percussion—trash cans, bin tops, and creepy heavy breathing from the band members.

Gone, for the most part, are the cardboard boxes mic’d up to sound like live drums, or the use of guitar as a primary songwriting instrument. On Laced‘s best tracks—“Revolution Wavers” and the truly epic centerpiece “I Hate the Beach”—Psychedelic Horseshit offer us a unique mix of practiced, organic grooves with what sound like drug-induced spazz-outs on whatever instrument’s close at hand. Crucially, this is not one morphing into the other, not a groove turning violent and becoming a spazz-out, but both happening at the same time, all the time, across the album’s eleven tracks.

On first listen it’s disorientating stuff, particularly on “Revolution Wavers,” which marries the most conventional electronic beat here with an onslaught of treated guitars and aggressively EQ’d cymbal crashes that call to mind, sure, My Bloody Valentine at their creative apex, but does so in a way that’s different from a rote carbon copy. What Psychedelic Horseshit shares with its influences is the spirit of experimentation, of being in the continual process of subverting one’s inspiration. So, Laced continues to surge and surge like the crest of a wave that only breaks on “Dead on Arrival,” the album’s sole ballad and a beautiful duet with Times New Viking’s Beth Murphy. That track and the phased-keys instrumental “Automatic Writing” offer a belated come-down after what has been one long trip…a long trip that’s included refried advertising jingles (“French Countryside”), vulgar harmonica work-outs (the brilliant Dylan-copping “Another Side”), and rhythmic coughing which sounds more like the band members have several cacti grazing the back of their throats.

It’s heady stuff. The title track takes the synth runs from Eno’s “St. Elmo’s Fire” and flips them into a bit of light space-opera with a heart attack for percussion. Closer “Making Out” allows the album’s prettiest melody—in a shocking last twist—to just happen (for the most part; there are hiccuping drums). But what finally brings Laced together is the charismatic, phlegmatic vocal delivery of Matt Whitehurst, his religiously-canned vocals ending up not a lot unlike how I’d imagine a dying insect or contagious spherical bacterium ending up if it landed on a buzzing microphone in a concert venue where an angry audience regularly throws beer (and other substances) at the stage. It sounds accidentally beautiful, slipshod but weirdly measured, hissy without once over the course of this record becoming overbearing as it has before. What I’m getting at: Laced is more than a real step-up for Psychedelic Horseshit, it’s the best album of its kind I’ve heard this year.