Badwater incarnate is just as likely to be wearing a poetry slam beret as it is a Norwegian sweater, and when invited over for a film night is likely to bring copies of Gene Wilder’s Chocolate Factory and the Science of Sleep. The album provides an aural recap to a dimly lit bar in the Mohave circa ’76, whilst simultaneously retaining aesthetic relevance to a coffee shop in Williamsburg circa seven o’clock this evening; it transcends time and space via a sonic kaleidoscope of analogue warmth and mature psychedelia. Having been pummeled over the last decade by revamps of music lost in time, I am thoroughly refreshed to hear this modern adaptation of 70’s guitar music. Remember Wolfmother? They literally screamed their influences at you until you were physically unable to reach your vinyl collection and were thus forced to listen to the Zep-Sabbath spawn that was stuck in your cheap and failing CD player. Speck Mountain have taken the high road, sporting influences in their back pocket as a kerchief rather than wiping them on their sleeve.
Album opener “Caught Up” is lethargic without being lazy; contemplative whilst having momentum. If you’re a gear junky such as myself then your curiosity is likely to be tickled instantly as one ponders over what the band use to get such a legit analogue sound. I find it hard to believe that this was recorded digitally then processed to sound like vintage circuitry. This sounds warm due to an application of original warm sounding tools. The crisp drive of the guitar shimmers and shakes whilst commendably giving the keys room to breathe. The drums have impact without having lost definition, which in turn allows the listener to easily place themselves in the performance space. The vocals seduce you with a ‘I bet you want to talk books, records and films?’ chic that has often been lost to female fronted music in today’s mainstream.
“Slow So Long” is perhaps the most interesting track on Badwater as it infuses the bands consistent texture with a chaser of sampler claps more akin to hip-hop. The synth and guitar parts are a fantastically subtle arrangement alongside the lulling vocals that guide you through the trip before they are enveloped in lush layers and delays. Imagine a couple placing a drink order; a glass of absinthe and a gin ‘n’ juice. The bartender makes the ‘really’ eyebrows, whilst thinking ‘who’d have thought that these two could get along?’ Meanwhile the couple stare into each others eyes seeking approval from no-one. The styles employed in this track truly can get along and it is here where the omnipresence develops. This is where Speck Mountain thwart any suggestion of being dated or vintage as they stake a claim on today’s musical landscape.
I can’t stop coming up with analogies for this album; if High Fidelity was a film about me then this would be the motif for every time I flicked through records; this is what shoegaze and soul would listen to in the motel when they started their tragic love affair; this is what would happen if Jim Morrison and Grace Slick had four children and they all formed a band together. And this is what I like about this band, the pure volume of imagery that is struck up in my mind is a sure sign of truly great psychedelic music.