The newest Tor Johnson Records release, Bloodpheasant‘s Traum, showed up a while back, and it took me nearly a week to get to listen to it. I’m usually prone to throwing whatever Paul’s sent in the mail straight onto the turntable after I get in the house, but somehow, this languished on my coffee table for the better part of six days.
The reason I say all of this is to emphasize how bummed I felt halfway through opening cut, “A Bird and Its Wings.” I could’ve listened to this all last week, but no — I had to do productive things instead of getting lost in this Rhode Island quartet’s twangy, apocalyptic doom.
That opening cut is an instrumental, and the sound’s like a more aggressive Earth (I’m guessing the fact that Traum‘s cover resembles that of The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull isn’t mere coincidence). The instrumental cuts work better than those with vocals. Something about the recording process’ end result of a slightly lo-fi distortion works well with the the guitars’ swimmy delay, but the vocals just come across as flat. “Farwell, Viking” just hurts.
Now, “Wyola” is the exception that proves the rule. Bloodpheasant’s guitars sound absolutely huge on this cut, and there’s a storm-bringing, thunderous low end. The interplay between Shannon le Corre’s soaring vocals and the gutteral roar of Chris Carrera is also excellent, with the theremin ending up as the creepy frosting on the cake at world’s end.
Bloodpheasant knows how to really make songs work. There’s a definite element of surf, with those phased and washed guitars, and it suits the band’s loose, groove-oriented approach to the genre. That almost jammy looseness can sometimes lead to aimlessness, however. It’s especially evident on album closer, “Fell Short,” which is a shame. When you’ve a record like Traum that’s otherwise so forthright and strong, having it peter out at the end is a bit of a letdown.