The Black Angels
Phosphene Dream (Blue Horizon)
Reviewed by Raoul Hernandez, Fri., Sept. 17, 2010
The Black AngelsPhosphene Dream (Blue Horizon)
Cold sweat beading the Black Angels' full-length debut, 2006's Passover, on boutique Seattle indie Light in the Attic, still pools like malaria. "The First Vietnamese War" teamed with "The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven" (also an EP) power a dread electric hum of reverberating chants, conspiracy guitars, and percussion that snake-charms the reptilian tributaries of Southeast Asia. Directions To See a Ghost two years later slowed the chopper whir. "Bad Vibrations" opens the local quintet's third LP, Phosphene Dream, at a similarly intestinal tempo, an extension of its predecessors, then hits double-time – the new weapon in the Black Angels' arsenal. Finally, the apocalypse comes at a gallop. A hand-clap flip on "Haunting at 1300 McKinley" jolts every time its overlay of quickening bash-and-strum cuts crop circles in the lawn. "River of Blood" thickens its organ-lit crash of acid guitars with intervals of pulsating freak-out. Not that the Angels' trademark trance time has become roadkill. On the contrary: "Entrance Song" locks its mantra's steely hypnotism ("rolling down I-35") into a lethal hook, and underwater malaise floods the title track. Further riff recall pushes the buttons of "Yellow Elevator #2," Clinic's bad fun-house dissolving into Pink Floyd, though it's the succeeding "Sunday Afternoon" that spooks up the Angels' blueprint, psych pioneers the 13th Floor Elevators, by doppelgänging electric jug while this time honing their Brit-pop aura on the Zombies. Alex Maas' nasal drone further puts the English to "True Believers," then "Telephone" swings like London 1966, or even the Sir Douglas Quintet's Vox-shaking heyday as voiced by the Yardbirds' Keith Relf. Closer "The Sniper" fires off rounds that recall its titular elder. Phosphene Dream, count backward from 99.