The idea of “background vs. foreground music” has been “band”-ied about a lot with the resurgence of drone, psych-lite (not an official genre name but maybe someday?), and Tangerine Dream-y ambient of late, and I’d make the argument that Psychic Ills’ Astral Occurence — with its noncommittal grooves, lackluster basslines (think Religious Knives without the Punch), and meandering compositions — falls into the play-it-while-you’re-doing-something-other-than-listening-to-music category.
It’s not that I’m against this gazing-into-the-distance, sedated brand of rock; it’s just that I don’t hear any compelling reasons to keep listening. Once I’m done writing this review, I’ll likely relegate this gorgeously rendered, 200-gram white-vinyl LP to my shelf for an indefinite span. Laying down an expansive, spacious meditation exercise is one thing; absolutely refusing to include anything of interest is another. The best example of this listlessness is “Sun Bath,” a relatively aimless exercise that delivers a high-pitched whine, some light can-clanking, and— well, nothing else that I can decipher over the course of seven minutes. Would it kill Psychic Ills to engage in some sort of shift, or at least a tweak or two, to let us know they’re not cruising on autopilot here?
If Astral Occurrence is the result of all this rushing-to-release-as-many-records-as-possible trend (I blame Wolf Eyes, though I love them; Emeralds too, though I don’t quite love them), then my vote will be cast for more prudent use of studio time. The fact that the first cut on this record, “Second Sight,” is reprised (or, as you’ll see on the tracklist below, “return”ed to) on the flip doesn’t help matters, either. Why revisit a tune that kicks up little dust when the space could be used to kick some actual, of-the-moment ass?
I don’t get it. Too bad, because Spring Press just released a KILLER-diller drill-’n’-face LP by Dead C’s Bruce Russell. Seek that out before you snatch up this lukewarm effort.