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Friday, May 9, 2014

Album Review: The Golden Grass – S/T

The Golden Grass are all about kicking back in the summer sun and letting their combination of blissed-out blues and warbling psych rock gently fold in around you. If their moniker didn’t give you a heads-up, most certainly the artwork on their debut album, a beautifully coloured piece by Niko Potocniak (founder of space rockers Seven That Spells), should do. Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, the band combine the sultry, sparse qualities of 60s groovers like The Move and The Animals with 70s boogie bands such as Cactus and Steely Dan. With added retro psychedelic soundscaping, the combination produces a rhythmic drive and tonal quality not unlike the funkier, trippier side of contemporary stylists like those of Danava and Horisont.

Most certainly it is Joe Noval’s bold electric bass that provides the solid framework allowing Michael Rafalwich’s wacky use of sustain and distortion to colour the picture with oodles of fuzz and echo. Fleshing it all out, the laid-back vocal harmonies are a case of steady-as-she-goes. Lyrically, there’s plenty of reassuring repetition allowing it all to stick in the mind. Hooked throughout, the wordplay and riffs will have you humming and singing in the bath long after the last note has faded.

The wildly theatrical psychedelic intro of “Please Man” quickly kicks into a head-bobbing verse. There’s a sweet, shuffling middle-eight, a dropout into chilled-out half-time and a switch into yet another echoing backdrop of cosmic wash. On the flipside, “Stuck On A Mountain” is more straight-up. It has fistfuls of smooth harmonics and an enigmatic pinged, top-end bassline that gets you deep in the gut. The rhythm jinks and jives always adding flavour. “One More Time” and “Sugar N’ Spice” both have lashings of soft-bellied guitar buzz and a harder, bluesier edge that both evoke plenty of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The groove and blatant funk kick on the latter makes it well worth the extended running time.

The album’s balance rocks a little with the over-indulgent “Wheels”.  At 13 minutes, it does account for almost half the album, so its choppy nature is somewhat concerning. Opening and closing as a fine piece of music to stick in your car when you’re breezing down country roads, the groove suddenly goes missing in the middle. Whether the plethora of warp effect guitar solos and disconnected drum showboating can really warrant repeated listens is debatable. At one point the track implodes, becoming little more than a series of disturbing whale sounds. Surely, this isn’t just an attempt to stretch an EP into an LP, is it? What does stand out is the walking bass and passionate jamming.

The Golden Grass’ crowning glory, of course, is that seemingly effortless, lush groove that they generate. Be it a field of flowers or the warm sands of a tropical beach that you imagine running through your fingers as you listen, the very fact that they take you drifting along with them proves that they are pushing all the right buttons. So hop on board… you really won’t regret it.

Also online @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2014/05/the-golden-grass-st-svart-records/
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