Review and photos – Psychic Ills at Little Mountain Studios, Vancouver, July 14 2009
– review by Shawn Conner/photos by Jessica Bardosh
I don’t know what it’s like in your town, but in Vancouver the authorities hate to see citizens congregating for the purpose of having fun. There are exceptions, such as the annual fireworks brouhaha and the gong show that is Granville Street every weekend, but that’s so the fuzz can keep an eye on horse-punchers and the drunk bridge-and-tunnelers.
So last night’s show at a barely (if at all) authorized location felt kind of dangerous, at least for this city. People flagrantly smoking, packed shoulder to shoulder, in a small room with no lighting and less oxygen, and an odor redolent of vintage clothes that hadn’t yet gone through a rinse cycle, and with one bathroom and rancid canned beer as the beverage of choice. I loved it.
Yet it did have its downsides, the chief one being; I couldn’t see a damn thing.
Granted, I stood towards the back of the room, the better to not be sweating down on the packed floor in front of the stage. But opener Indian Jewelry played in a cloud of smoke or dry ice, making the Texas group impossible to see, while all the members (four? 20?) but the drummer for headliner Psychic Ills stood on the floor. Once in a while I did catch a glimpse of too-hot-for-indie-rock bassist Elizabeth Hart as she raised a tambourine, but for the most part, I just closed my eyes and let the ‘shroomusic wash over me with its hallucinogenic properties.
This was full-on psychedelia, extreme and unapologetic. Indian Jewelry is rougher around the edges, with rhythms (live? programmed?) adding an industrial texture to its tunes. At the same time, the band did have a closer approximation to actual songs, though I’d be hard-pressed to identify them; the synth and noisy beats overwhelmed (in a good, purposeful way) the melodies and vocals.
Mirror Eye, Psychic Ills’ latest, is largely improvised, according to the New York band’s bio. Usually this means formless and indulgent, but the tunes as played last night were hypnotic and monumental, even shamanistic (!), especially when Hart raised various doodads as if in some kind of witch-y ritual.
Though Indian Jewelry’s music evaded easy reference points, at least for this reviewer, Psychic Ills’ lineage – great ’90s psychedelic bands Loop and Bardo Pond, ’70s Krautrock, magic mushrooms and really good pot – was a little more obvious. But no less exotic and thrillingly put together for all that.