Monday, September 9, 2013

Land of Blood and Sunshine "Servants of Light" on Whoa! Boat Records

The Land of Blood and Sunshine on their latest full length Servants of Light on Whoa! Boat Records have hit on a particular construction of collective vocal psych, which takes traditional four-piece rock psych in an entirely new direction. The album celebrates the mysterious power of a collection of people singing in harmony. The female and male voices chanting in unison set this record apart in an unsettling, unique way. It doesn’t easily fit into a category thanks to the lyrically dark, primal parts of the record when compared to other ensemble indie groups like The Polyphonic Spree. They’re attempting to summon indie golems from the cornfields of Iowa to aid in their hypnotizing tracks. Chanting away in Marshalltown, IA they endlessly perform an important ritual they must be compelled to complete. Land of Blood and Sunshine pushes pop psych into a séance inspired place becoming far bigger than the collection of individuals in the process.

A track like "Wormwood" on the A-Side layers acoustic in an impossible build of jittery chords like Animal Collective’s Campfire Songs ( along with The Fiery Furnaces theatrical sense of scale. Servants of Light is their effort to fill every available sonic space with melody with odd waltz rhythms and fuzzy bass lines squarely grounding the tracks in a garage pop altered state while exploring a Raccoo-oo-oon experimental gypsy feel. A primal tom element pounding recalls day-glo triangles and astro turf in a twisted Wolf Parade feel of insistent polyrhythmic patterns and shouts. With lyrics like a horoscope prediction "Age of the Sparrow" jumps into piles of vocals made up of their own abstract philosophy. They easily find a collective groove and raise the tempo getting swept away in their own hypnotic spasms.
No attempt is made to distinguish one member as having more importance than another, there’s no lead vocal, I have no idea how many people are a permanent part of this group. The vocals have a higher purpose Gregorian chant quality and had me thinking about the idea of this large group of people singing in unison. Is it unsettling because you're the one left out? I don’t think it’s always inherently sinister and Servants of Light at times can even be joyous, but it’s the melodies themselves or the obscure spiritual lyrics that places this into something unsafe.
B-Side’s "Gravity Storm" is especially dark and foreboding with its reverb on the vocal and breathy organ. The number of layered harmonies is impressive; the tracks seem to be written as traditional folk sonnets about universal fears in the natural world and the things you have no control over. It could launch a new religion in warbling guitars and fuzzy electrics in their otherworldly psych.
They avoid their own formula in "Big Pygmy" which is quieter, drawing on a catchy primordial backbeat while Hammond organ highs meet vocal harmonies in a cloud of smoke. "Memory Camp" begins with slow bellowing and call and response drumming by a wandering, ramshackle orchestra in the forest. You might get a glimpse of them through a clearing and end up joining in. The sort of waking dream that no one would believe because there wasn’t a forest there in the first place. Their sound becomes muffled under the rumbling crunches and stomp beat and what I think is the howling of wolves – that was probably recorded by accident in their wilderness studio. "Methuselah" wraps a plinking harpsichord melody around tambourine and handclaps in an outtake from the Rosemary's Baby soundtrack that is now a staple in folk circles. The album roars away at trance inducing speed and if you actually pause to parse out the lyric it’s primal and spiritual, hiding under the guise of it’s own unique take on group pop psych.

Get this from Whoa! Boat, where they’ve got some split color vinyls still available. Nice full color gatefold trance painting sleeve and insert, the night ritual never seems to be far from their minds.

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