Royal Baths – Litanies

Royal Baths – Litanies

Back when Ty Segall travelled through El Paso, Royal Baths opened for them. There was much confusion when the promoter initially sent out a release stating that his would be a Segall/Baths show – which would mean that electronic artist, Baths, who’s album Cerulean is a terrific listen would be splitting the bill with Segall. Eventually, the notices and more importantly, word of mouth, corrected the issue and it was to be San Francisco band Royal Baths that would open for Segall. Segall would end the night with what is still one of the most memorable performances that small venue has witnessed but before him – inside and next to the bar – Royal Baths proved to be a remarkable opener.

Their music flashed with a massively huge wall of sound; the trio would tear away through song after song with a relentless drive of noise. The guitars swelled with a snarling intensity and drummer Eden Birch would recklessly strike away at her drums. A month later, their album Litanies is a stark contrast to the heavy sounds they created in that aforementioned live setting. The album is a swirling collection of psychedelic rock that never reaches the extreme highs of their live show. It’s a startling modification from what I had remembered of them but at the same time – as dissimilar as it all seems – the music on Litanies is in many ways, a greater accomplishment.

Listening to the chugging trance of “Nikki Don’t” – with its advisory words: “Nikki, never, lose your cool” – recalls the 1960s scene that permeated all throughout Haight Street. Maybe that’s where their influences shine the most; precursory roots that precede their music with culturally and locally-honed spirits lend their hands on all of Royal Baths’ music. Just even the slow grunge of “Drudgery” – and especially the way the music mirrors the storyteller’s lackadaisical day where there is so much to do and yet, so much time being wasted – channels the trudging vibe of psychedelic rock.

Litanies makes use of sensible sounds to pace the album’s tempered mood. “Needle and Thread” has the band sounding like Yo La Tengo when they sing in unison and with the heavy amount of reverb and feedback, it’s as if you’re listening to one of the seminal band’s old hits. It’s hard to believe that we’re now 20 years removed from that time but certainly, for Royal Baths, influences like the aforementioned seem like the most logical of progressions. These sounds never sound tired and forced; however, it’s the band’s ability at being able to bend the sounds into even larger scales with seamless transitions that evoke a substantial amount of standouts.

So it makes perfect sense that even touring mate, Segall’s drummer Emily Rose Epstein, would choose to write about them in the SF Weekly, stating, “The band has its obvious influences – The Velvet Underground and Spacemen 3 – but to define them by these comparisons would be to vastly oversimplify their sound.” Bands often change their sound and sometimes, change can always lead to greater things. For Royal Baths, the sounds they’ve captured on Litanies are definitely excellent but who knows, that might all change by the next live show and hopefully, it’s for the best as well.

Woodsist Records