Moonsicles Bay of Seething

[Feeding Tube; 2016]

Styles: psychedelic, art rock, stoner/doom
Others: The Weird Weeds, No Mas Bodas, Earth, Silver Apples

When a band dissolves, there’s often a hope that the individuals’ follow-up projects will be at least as distinctive (if not more so). There’s also an impossible-to-avoid tendency to compare new outfits to last season’s jumpers. Case in point: The Weird Weeds. The long-running Austin group’s evolution followed a path from semi-improvised outsider folk with grafted-on emotional crescendos to didactic, somewhat doomy minimalist rock by the time their self-titled final album was released on Sedimental in late 2012. They were eventually hampered by geography, as percussionist Sarah (né Nick) Hennies left for Ithaca, New York in 2013, while guitarist Sandy Ewen’s involvement in improvised music circles in Houston became more significant. Remaining in central Texas were guitarist Aaron Russell and bassist Lindsey Verrill.

To a certain extent, Moonsicles picks up where The Weird Weeds left off. The group — which features Russell and Verrill alongside drummer Carolyn Cunningham and visual artist Sheila Scoville, Russell’s wife, on synthesizers — presents dirge-like instrumentals occasionally shot through with tinny-sounding guitar and electronic skree, with a greater emphasis on atmosphere. Following a somewhat ragged self-released debut, Bay of Seething is their first proper album and presents a tight melange of swirling, gooey, synth-laden psychedelia and tumbling, repetitive riffs across six tunes.

Earth-like choppiness makes up most of the opening “Pacifica,” placing Russell’s wiry surge against the garagey slop of Cunningham’s toms and cymbals (she’s closer to Skip Spence than Moe Tucker), as garish candy-coated synth-whines act as an odd connective tissue. The quartet enters into a reverberant holding pattern on “Glitter Matrix,” nasal buzz and twangy flecks offset by Verrill’s methodical plod and the drums’ taut, soft crash in an interlocked pattern both cottony and extremely tough. Russell and Hennies were the two founding members of The Weird Weeds and more than a bit of his folksy scumble carries over from that band into Moonsicles — the appealing splay of his rejoinders on “The Frozen Pond” and the plaintive finger-picked dust slicing through the gauzy whorls and stark footfalls that open “Milk Thistle.” The latter is perhaps the closest Moonsicles get to a rave-up, with chugging tempo sections and metronomic sludge supporting Russell’s Steve Wynn-like fervor.

The closing “Klamath” presents doom-laden pulses of bass and guitar, Scoville wrapping the strings in a nattering wheeze before Cunningham lays down a resonant, shimmying stomp and the tune takes its advance in a weary haze. While cognizant of heavy predecessors, in listening to Moonsicles’ monolithic hum, embracing the quartet’s singular approach to electronically-charged Texas psychedelia should be the day’s order.

Links: Moonsicles - Feeding Tube

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