The Psychic Paramount has returned to envelope its listeners in an instrumental psychedelic maelstrom, a buffeting, pummeling, guitar-driven miasma of math rock and rushing, breathless riffing. Much like its 2005 debut, Gamelan Into the Mink Supernatural (Bewilderment and Illumination Records), II, the band’s No Quarter debut, is a journey of jazzy improvisation, punk-rock intensity and swinging, swirling and swallowing rhythms and repetitions.
With a moniker that walks a fine line between superciliousness and self-parody, The Psychic Paramount is delivering much more than a bill of damaged post-rock goods on II. Here, the NYC trio construct seven cathedrals of colorful cataclysm, the perfect soundtrack to a green day that is at turns harrowing and hazy, or a mescaline-fueled journey into a 21st century “Twilight Zone.”
Virgins uninitiated to the sound of The Psychic Paramount need look no further than the previous and upcoming performances to ponder passing similarities and like-mindedness to Battles (who are curating All Tomorrow’s Parties’ “Nightmare Before Christmas festival” in the UK; TPP play on Dec. 10), Trans Am, Chicago’s Disappears and Plastic Crimewave Sound, Maserati, Pontiak and Arbouretum, but they need not have heard any of those artists to be moved and entranced by the bracing, electric passion of the sonically inspiring triumvirate.
Aside from the aforementioned, other musical antecedents include the intensity of … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, the creative fury of fellow instrumentalists Russian Circles, the hell-strom of Hella, and the mind-blowing musicscapes of Holy Fuck. The Psychic Paramount diverges from fellow instrumental also-rans Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky in that the TPP tends to dwell less on the notes and more on the concussions; in other words, less of the quiet, simmering sizzle of the fuse burning and more of the fireworks factory burning down.
Even a minute into the first track, “Intro/SP,” one wonders if (and when) their own fingers will start bleeding in sympathy. II is a mess of metallic math music that wallows in its messiness but never falls into a morass. It’s quirky without being silly, and the driving drums serve to propel the music out of the quicksand quagmire crafted by the constant, cutting riffage. Having said that, it’s not an “easy” listen, and people looking for power-pop purveyors would probably be better advised to pick up the new Sloan release from Yep Roc.
Melody and “hooks” are definitely not a high priority for The Psychic Paramount—the members want their population to operate as one world under a drug-induced groove. The cymbal-laden, backbeat driven “Isolated” could well function as a sequel to the sonic craftsmanship of The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Given that no vocals are present, it’s easy to imagine this would provide a perfect mash-up opportunity, and as it fades out, it borders on encroaching into post-rock territory.
Drew St. Ivany’s guitar is never afraid to hold a note and see where it goes next, and on the concluding cut, “N5 Coda,” his guitar gives way for drummer Jeff Conaway to insert some delicate spaciousness into the conclusion, providing some much-needed breathing room. Befitting its title, the track is the only selection that clocks in at less than five minutes, and it bookends the record, drawing the frantic festivities to a lovely ending.
II may not be the most wonderful instrumental record ever; after seven tracks, it does start to sound a bit samey, but it’s hard to argue with the majesty of rock this powerful power trio produces.
The Psychic Paramount – II tracklist:
- “N5 Coda”