For just under the past decade, shoegaze conglomerate LSD And The Search For God have been a prominent constituent in the San Francisco underground, headlining numerous regional leftfield rock events like Gathering of the Tribes, Dreamgaze, and Popfest. The band has simultaneously transcended the Bay Area, attracting notice from Cosmosis Festival (they’ll be at the Manchester, UK fest this March with headliners Wire and Jesus & Mary Chain) and Austin Psych Fest (now called Levitation), the latter at which they played in 2013. Besides festivals and their hometown, LSD have also been shown tremendous praise from the internet’s indie-loving niches. On streaming service Last.fm, for example, LSD often landed in proximity to My Bloody Valentine on the site’s “artist similarity” spectrum (which is unfortunately no longer a feature on the site), opening them up to a greater audience than that of the San Francisco and festival crowds. However, all the band had in their back pocket for proof of their prowess and My Bloody Valentine-ness — in fact, all they had in their back-pocket — was a self-titled EP from 2006.
Along with Last.fm, LSD have gained a lot of their traction from the community of 4chan’s music forum /mu/. They frequently come up in conversation whenever shoegaze-themed threads get initiated, but they’ve also appeared on /mu/’s trademark “essentials” charts and flowcharts: in an example of the former, their EP is listed alongside albums by classic genre acts like MBV, Slowdive, and Ride, as well as other contemporaries like Deerhunter and Have A Nice Life; in one of the latter, the EP is recommended for fans coveting shoegaze “more like [MBV’s Loveless].” As 2006 slipped farther away, LSD’s music was being embraced more and more by these internet niches. However, upon release and afterward, the EP didn’t gather much attention from major music publications (but the band has been featured in some popular San Francisco-based outlets), and there hadn’t been any sign of follow-up material in the works. The Last.fms and 4chans seemed to exude the sole online praise for LSD and their five songs. In essence, they were (and still are) a buzzband without the journalistic validation.
While brief in duration (just 22 minutes long), LSD’s EP is euphony that’s vast and formidable, sounding like a plunge into a chasm of wintery, jagged din that’s at once encumbering and bittersweet. Mixed in with their gazing is post-punk-like unyieldingness, marked beautifully by the droning six-string fanfares and dramatic pockets of silence of “I Don’t Care.” Another one of the hallmarks of LSD’s EP is penultimate track “Starting Over.” On it, guitarist/vocalist Andy Liszt duets with the band’s second vocalist Sandi Denton, their lyrics mostly sounding like inscrutable streams of vowels that seep through levees of consonants. The melatonin-dunked guitars seem unearthed from ancient, sepia found-footage, but they coagulate into a mass of tremolo-picking for the epic choruses. When the lyrics become remotely clear, “Be careful what you wish for,” Denton sings — “‘Cause it might come true,” follows Liszt.
In spite of their abstractness, LSD have been acute at explaining it: “Our music would be perfect for a viewing of ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ meets ‘Requiem for a Dream,’ played on mute while reclining in a dentist’s chair five minutes after novocaine shots and a steady flow of nitrous,” said Liszt in an interview with The San Francisco Gate. Liszt’s description is perfect, expounding LSD’s style as a melange of the bizarre, scintillating, paralyzing, and psychedelic — which it is. Their major chords recall Wonka-esque elation, but once they’re filtered through the effects pedals/amplifiers of Liszt and accompanying guitarist Chris Fifield, they become preternaturally grim and overpowering, like Requiem’s cinematic strain of drug trips.
If there’s been any vitriol toward LSD, it’s that they’ve been deemed “too 90s,” as in their grainy, far-from-crystalline production isn’t hi-fi enough for the new century’s general aesthetic. “Too 90s” implies that the band is anachronistic, when in fact LSD sound that way because they have legitimate roots in classic shoegaze. When Stephen Lawrie, head of formative outfit The Telescopes, first performed in the US in 2006, LSD acted as his backing musicians — meaning the band at one point was simultaneously LSD and The Telescopes. Also, LSD have connections with the great Spacemen 3, having opened for a member (specifically Peter Kember, better known as Sonic Boom/Spectrum) and hung out with another (“When I met Jason Pierce [of Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized] in 1994 or ‘95, he told me he considers his music to be — if anything — soul music,” Liszt told The Big Takeover). LSD’s roots indicate that they don’t merely play shoegaze, they also live and breath the genre; so despite it not coming out during the 90s golden age of shoegaze, the band’s EP succeeds as a grail of authenticity.
Eight and a half years following the EP, there came new LSD And The Search For God music, when in July 2014 the band posted a video for their track “Heaven.” It’s set to be on LSD’s upcoming EP Heaven Is A Place, which is dropping January 15 on the label Deep Space. Sounding as glistening as its video looks, “Heaven” has a more tonic spirit than that of the 2006 material. Voices, though, get lost in each other within “Heaven’s” harmonies and the lyrics are impenetrable, proving that LSD still reside in the obfuscated. With Heaven Is A Place being an EP, maybe that means it’s a mark of perfectionism (a well-known quality of shoegaze, as evidenced by My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields), or maybe the band’s playing off the fact that they’ve been so esteemed thanks to just an EP. In any case, a full-length album is unlikely at this rate and doesn’t even seem to be a goal. While a debut album would be spectacular, any dose of new LSD is something to be excited about. After all, this is a band that’s somehow remained fresh and durable off the pedal-fueled panache of just five songs from nine years ago.