Nostalgia is my friend. I seem to always find myself drifting away, revisiting remarkable moments of my past. Sometimes, entire blocks of time seem to blur and mash together, and I’m not able to recall specific events but I can recapture the general feeling of one of my life’s phases. Sometimes, I even long for a past I’ve never lived in. Regular readers of the site might have noticed how I’m drawn to art that channels the late 60s, early 70s vibe – a place in time where I wasn’t even a microscopic tadpole yet.
In their new LP, Tennessee band All Them Witches manages to activate several nostalgia receptors in my brain, in both sonic and personal ways; yet they can’t be described as a “retro” band. Praise the Maker.
In music, one of my main reasons to go old school is the production. I hate clicky drums. I think they’re bullshit. I hate brickwalled albums. Also bullshit. In Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, everything sounds perfect. Every instrument sounds exactly like it’s supposed to, takes exactly the amount of space it needs to take and, more importantly, every note played in this record is meaningful. There’s a variety unfound in many modern rock bands, with acoustic guitars being plucked prominently on “Call Me Star” and “Open Passageways”, harmonica in “This Is Where It Falls Apart” and multiple effects and tone variations throughout the album.
Charles Michael Parks Jr., the band’s vocalist and bassist, has said that the band “is really like having four guitars”. The statement could not be more accurate, as every track sees the instruments alternating in dominance, sometimes with multiple changes within the same song.
Portland Mercury described All Them Witches’ sound as “Allman Brothers gone Dopesmoker“, an analogy that fits second track “El Centro” to a tee. A repetitive, tectonic-shifting riff echoes like it’s being summoned by the ritualistic drumming. Soaring through the clouds of fuzz and drumbeats, the Allman element of the band’s sound delivers a rich and beautiful guitar tone. Sometimes sweet like a Red Velvet cake, other times incendiary, the guitars in Dying Surfer sound so good they seem to be from a long lost age.
While the band definitely reaches for the past as inspiration, they write songs with a modern and unique voice. Some moments are so infectious and energetic, like the chorus on “Dirt Preachers”, you could picture them echoing through a sold out arena. Before things get too comfy, you get hit in the face with dynamics, shifting the entire feel of the song. Because of the variety in instrumentation and composition, listening to Dying Surfer Meets His Maker as a whole can be a riveting experience.
I suffer from migraines. Although it’s been a while since I’ve had frequent episodes, there were moments in my life where I wanted to shove a power drill through my skull. The feeling of a pulsating pain that lasts for hours and – slowly and steadily – increases in intensity is incredibly shitty. The upside is, you kind of know when it starts wearing off. Coming down from a migraine can be a glorious sensation.
If you ever watched House M.D., there’s an episode in season 2 called “Distractions”. In it, House takes nitroglycerin, which acts as a blood vessel dilator, to induce a migraine on himself and subsequently prove someone wrong. Later on in the episode, he drops acid to terminate his bitching headache.
For some reason, the more I listen to this record, the more I equate it to the feeling I get when I’m healing from a migraine. I turn the volume all the way up whenever I crave an immersive, releasing experience. Then, I instantly recall that one House episode, and from there on I start making multiple mental journeys to wherever Dying Surfer takes me.
With this record, All Them Witches proved that psychedelia doesn’t have to be derivative nor kitsch. It can still be healing, like it used to be. For that, I am thankful.
4 out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Dying Surfer Meets His Maker was released October 30th. You can buy it here.