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Last Days of May: Radiant Black Mind

Derek Taylor By

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The closest referent for this group that I can think of (and my knowledge of this kind of music is admittedly severely limited) is the Bay-area based Mermen, a group led by another underground guitar icon, Jim Thomas, which traffics in similarly loose-ended paeans to the psychedelic age. Surf overtones are largely absent here, but the two groups share an obvious affinity for psychedelic sound experimentation and both guitarists fraternize heavily with the possibilities afforded by the amplification of their instruments. “The Mezz” serves as a fitting encapsulation of their credo joining jangling guitar, hollow percussion and electronic raindrop percussion. Pogo-stick rhythms and snarling guitar ignite in a slow burn on “Apollo Cabinfire.” The collective groove is a subtle one that starts out slow, but soon gains momentum and grabs you by the seat of the pants chucking you head long into an ever-widening sonic breach. All the while Precoda stomps his effects pedal into floor churning out a barrage of wah-wah doused feedback that unfurls like a writhing mass of electrically-charged eels.

Cavernously creaking reverb inhabits “ECG 102A” for what seems like an eternity, broken by bouts of post-industrial noise and clattering string machinations. “Up From the Equator” is somewhat less opaque. Precoda indulges in a vaporous buzzing solo floating above the ghostly percussion of Ralston. A recognizable groove eventually coalesces seemingly out of thin air, but upon closer inspection with clear antecedents in the formerly abstract discourse. It’s this sleight of hand and clever kind of obfuscation that makes the group so enjoyable. When the four lock in on a discernible target the results are often exhilarating. The cryptically titled “The West” has a strange desolate feel. Across its fractured expanse Percoda’s heavily distorted lines converge with cowbell and hand percussion sounding like the musical accompaniment to some postmodern cowpoke’s journey herding his cattle across an inhospitable range. Though these players are highly accomplished in the final count this disc was largely hit and miss for me. The hits, like “Apollo Cabinfire,” were solid bullseyes, but the misses left me on the verge of skipping to the next track.

Tracks:The Mezz/ Apollo Cabinfire/ ECG 102A/ Up From the Equator/ The West.


Personnel: Karl Percoda- guitars; Thomas Howard- electric bass; James Ralston- drums & percussion; Leonard Wishart- electronics.

Title: Radiant Black Mind | Year Released: 2000 | Record Label: Squealer


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