Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: Plankton Wat / Super Minerals - Split (Stunned, 2011)

It turns out that the Portland based Stunned Records still had one last surprise up their sleeves before they ceased to function; some “save it for the final moment” material that just waited to be released into the public. The ultimate Stunned release is the split between the Portland’s own Dewey Mahood (who also shreds in caveman kraut unit Eternal Tapestry), known as Plankton Wat and Magic Lantern’s own William Giacchi and Phil French, a.k.a. Super Minerals, this time backed up by Caitlin C. Mitchell and M. Geddes Gengras himself. The split between the two projects may be read as a psychedelic tribute to the West Coast, with Plankton Wat side recorded in Portland and the Super Minerals side recorded in Los Angeles.
Side A, despite Plankton Wat’s more northern origins, presents the warmer, sunnier side of psychedelia in a series of shimmering, relaxing guitar meditations ranging from shamanic folk, where the phased wordless moans sound like the ultimate deconstruction of the singer/songwriter format (“The Path Obscured”) to beach head dubby reverbations in the vein of his Edibles project (“Borneo Canopy”) with stealthy wah-wahed guitar barely, yet noticeably making presence within the abstract, non-rhythmic drumming. Mahood goes for a shorter, song-oriented format which sounds almost poppy compared to the flipside’s lengthy, cavernous explorations. Despite making some more experiments, his trademark style of instrumental, bassy guitar strumming stays – “Dark Temple” and “Still Lake Reflects” are the example of this, being the mystical invocations much in the vein of this year’s In Magical Light, released on a UK label Reverb Worship (highly recommended, both the label and the album itself).
Super Minerals’ side consists of only 2 tracks, which are more abstract and slightly darker, while exploring more “oriental” areas. Gone is the lo-fi musique concrete of The Hoax and Contacteer. Super Minerals redefine themselves once again, this time going for complex, multi-layered psychedelic folk compositions with a touch of sustained guitar dark ambience from The Pelagics and the liberal use of heavy, bassy moans. The cascading, aquatic guitars and the chaotic pipes and flutes sound like the calmer moments of Magic Lantern, devoid of much structure and stretched out in time to create a thick, psychedelic ambient soup which sounds like a more-cohesive, hi-fi descendant of the ultra-weirdos The Skaters. Additional drumming by MGG and Caitlin C. Mitchell provides a ritualistic, rhythmical atmosphere and further adds to the rich sonic tapestry of Super Minerals’ side.
Stunned Records ended their career with a bang; both parties present their own, unique take on the vast and multi-faceted genre of psychedelic folk. Plankton Wat is the more conservative side, with distinctive guitar tones and relatively simple style, putting focus on melody and an easy flow. Super Minerals go in the opposite, much more liberal direction, often blurring the line between traditional instruments and electronics, rising confusion about the source of sound, blending everything into an abstract, mapless and shapeless jam without dissolving into unnecessary chaos. What also makes Super Minerals one of the most exciting bands on the psychedelic scene right now is their ability to effortlessly change their sound and ideology on each album. One can only wait what new ideas and styles the future brings for the Minerals (who I hope will last longer than the gone-too-soon tropical psych rock outfit Magic Lantern).

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