Tuned In To Music

Reflections from a lifetime

Review: The Black Angels, Directions to See a Ghost

There are six musicians in The Black Angels.  Among the six there are five bass players, three drummers, and three guitar players.  They also provide vocals, percussion, rogue sitar, organ, vox jaguar and drone machine.  If you think about it, the emphasis on bass guitar and drums provides a pretty good clue about what kind of music you’re going to hear on Directions to See a Ghost – heavy and grinding, drone and pulse.  And that’s what you get.

it’s easy to make fun of this kind of music.  “ZOMG! a chord change!”  “That was a nice album.  Do they know a different song?”  However, if you pay attention to Directions to See a Ghost you quickly realize the people making the jokes aren’t really listening.  The Black Angels are really good at this and there’s a lot more going on in their music than initially meets the ear.  Just as people who drilled down through the feedback on the early Jesus and Mary Chain albums found a band in love with pop and rock, listening through the grit and roar of the Angel’s guitars and basses will find a band that has a tight grip on raga rock and rhythmic power. 

Many bands who play this type of music rely heavily, sometimes exclusively, on ebb and flow arrangements and the much over-used quiet-loud dynamic.  The Black Angels have almost no interest in this approach and their music is the better for it.  On their best songs they favor propulsive rhythms that drive both their music and the listener forward.  Embedded in the storm are guitar and organ riffs and vamps that catch the ear and hook the interest.  In most cases the vocals are buried so deep in the mix that they serve more as an added texture than as a means of conveying information.  The Black Angels are noisy but they make a noise that is based on an understanding of harmony, harmonious noise if you will.  Their music almost never descends into squall and noise for it’s own sake and when they use feedback and dischord they usually bury it in the mix so that it flavors rather than dominates the music.  The more you listen to Directions to See a Ghost the more you come to realize these guys really know what they’re doing and they really do it well.

Not everything works.  When they bring the tempo too far down, as they do on “Vikings”, the result is a dreary dirge that can’t end soon enough.  Great name, not such a good song.  “Vikings” is the exception, however, and for the most part Directions to See a Ghost is a very good album made by a band at the top of their game.


07/15/2008 - Posted by | CD reviews, music, music reviews | , ,

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