While psychedelia never left the landscape of modern music once it arrived, there have been various points at which it’s been quelled in popular consciousness. Now is decidedly not one of those times, though the fact that things like the Austin Psych Fest exist don’t help the cause of legitimate sonic transcendence. Of course, transcendence is a very personal thing, and often some of the “truest” psych practitioners have put forth paths of discovery as auditory confessionals rather than a map of the zeitgeist. One thinks of figures like Roky Erickson and Syd Barrett in that regard, and a similar vibe emerges from artists as diverse as Opal and early Flaming Lips. Back to Chris Rose: Robust Worlds is his solo outfit (guitar, voice, loops, percussion), and Emotional Planet is this guise’s debut on wax. Rose is a musician-composer for whom the personal-ness of psychedelic music is decidedly front and center. For that, he might seem like an artist outside of his time, but anachronisms are easily mitigated by dedication.
The set starts near the bottom of a comedown with “Heavy Moon,” which imbues Perfect Prescription-esque reverbed and folksy plaint with a lysergic vocal twang that, at first blush, is reminiscent of D. Charles Speer’s earthy baritone. It would be easy to wrap this music completely in an addled 5 AM haze, but Rose is more interesting than that. There’s an uplift that’s almost choral to the following “Outlaws I” (cueing J. Spaceman), canned beats, and guitar covered in a gauzy wash but rendered with recognizable power. The stark plod of “Jackie Diamond” recalls the piano part of The Flaming Lips’ “Love Yer Brain” (from 1987’s Oh My Gawd!!!) and, while at first this piece appears to be a stoned refrain, the chorus’ delicate lilt and needling guitar work gives it a cottony and unsettled tenor. “Cave” is positively sunny in demeanor, taped percussion lending a calypso-like accent to a particulate and impressive range of guitar dynamics.
The set very nearly transitions into dusky dance-rock on “Human Stomp,” Rose’s vocals sliding between throaty tenor depths and a slicker, dry mid-range that rides atop a clipped backbeat and insistent six-string cells. Following a deep and terse reprise of “Outlaws,” on which the guitar work has a tundra-coating lope à la Windy & Carl, the LP closes with “It Is Not Possible,” an expansive and toothy slice of balladic grit. Emotional Planet doesn’t necessarily offer revelations, and it would be easy to see how this could be something of a “sleeper” album, but it’s a rewarding and powerful slice of tripped-out contemporary folk. Isolationist and deceptively massive, it’s also hard to imagine the curious individualism of Robust Worlds coming from anywhere other than the Great White North.