Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Matt Oliver
We are guessing that the Black Angels have a difficult time holding things down. They have slippery fingers, they have shooting pains, feet that wander and a careless grip in their forearms. As you may have already perceived, it has nothing to do with their music, which they hold down and shake triumphantly - getting to the bottom of it, getting the answers they desire, but everything to do with all else, other than music. We're talking about jobs. We're talking about relationships. We're talking about the nuts and bolts of life. Holding those things down seems as if it could be challenging and fit-inducing for these people, as preoccupied with all that doesn't and cannot fit onto any kind of pie graph that could chart productivity and general health and well-being. We come to these conclusions after having listened to the Austin, Texas, band's latest full-length album, "Phosphene Dream," multiple times and deciding that they are unstable men and women and that they likely cannot be bothered to arise most days before the afternoon is already winding down. It sounds as if they might consider the daytime hours all of the rotten periods, during which the magical apothecaries refuse to make house calls. It's too hard to roam through the light and so they choose not to. They probably have a difficult time keeping their minds on any straight direction, any task that an employer would ask of them. The songs on "Phosphene Dream" are filled with the delectable, psychedelic sounds of the lost parts of the 60s, those blacked out parts, and they're filled with a rushing and energetic flash of bushy paranoia. "Bad Vibrations" is an ace number that keeps our legs frozen in a place where the werewolves and witch doctors would sleep, if they ever chose to sleep. If you're imagining fog - real, Mother Nature-pumped fog, thick as a cold split pea soup, and not the vapid machine-made shit - spewing all around our ankles and the red eyes of devil dogs, you're there. You're where you need to be to get the full experience. Lead singer Alex Maas begins the song, singing, "Can you tell a wish from a spell?/A hug from a lie/They both make you feel so good," and we later hear of a woman "eating hearts again," before he peels the paint with a blood-curdling wail that wakes the capacity crowd at the nearest graveyard. Black Angels style is that of haunted halls and loud thuds in the night. They're about the bloody knife found in the ditch and they're in favor of the dark stories that might be associated with that sharpened edge. They find themselves drawn to the shadows of things turned bad, possibly turned evil, and trying to get into their crooks and creases, trying to make friends with the feelings of lost sanity and living with the gargoyles.