PSYCHIC ILLS opening for ARIEL PINK at the Boat (158 Augusta), Monday (February 20), 8 pm. $8. 416-593-9218. Rating: NNNNN
The arrival of a new recording that sounds like the acid-damaged product of a Houston hippie commune circa 1969 is more than a bit unusual, even more so considering that it was made by New York's Psychic Ills at the Brooklyn studio of Black Dice producer Charles Burst.
The sprawling Eastern-tinged jams buzzing with the over-amped guitar drone of the Psychic Ills' entrancing Dins (The Social Registry) disc is definitely not the sort of dance-floor-ready post-punk jerk typically associated with Burst's Seaside Lounge, the Park Slope hipster haven favoured by Radio 4, Bloc Party, Cloud Room and many others. But, then, Psychic wonders Brian Tamborello, Elizabeth Hart, Tom Gluibizzi and Tres Warren aren't your typical Big Apple hipsters.
The fact that Warren grew up in Dallas and Austin where he studied film at the University of Texas should help explain why any similarity to the mind-melting experiments of the 13th Floor Elevators and their trippy International Artists label brethren is not coincidental.
"Growing up, I listened to the 13th Floor Elevators quite a bit, and the Red Krayola, too. Other than the Golden Dawn, I'm not overly familiar with all the second- and third-tier acts on International Artists, but there was some crazy stuff on that label. If it were still around, I'd definitely want to be on it."
Much like those strangely mystical guitar-slinging avatars of a generation past, the Psychic Ills have developed a certain mystique of their own, due in part to infrequent interviews, rarely published group photos, intriguing song titles like Witchcraft Breaker and unconventional sleeve graphics. (The Dins disc uses the painting Three Hairs And Shadow, a 1968 Vietnam War comment by the late German "capitalist realist" Wolf Vostell.)
True to the group's name, the Psychic Ills apparently share a special telepathic connection that has proven to be a great asset in the compositional process.
"I don't really know where our sound comes from. There's never really any pre-written material or much discussion between us everything's sorta understood and the songs just happen.
"We have this rehearsal space in Brooklyn where we get together, and the ideas just present themselves like suddenly they're there. If it's the right idea, it stays. That's how it works for us I can't explain it."
It could be that the unique Psychic Ills sonic grind bears some connection to the music the individual members have been listening to lately, although Warren would prefer that those elusive sound sources remain a secret.
"I guess we've all been listening to different music," he replies vaguely. "Definitely things from India, parts of Asia and Africa, too, but there's not one particular influence. It's just a frantic mix of a lot of ideas.
"As for me, I've been listening to some of King Sunny Ade's stuff. It's interesting how the guitarists, playing different rhythms, work together harmoniously. It never sounds too dense. That's cool."