The Upshot: Brutal yet beautiful lo-fi psychedelia that’ll leave you both perplexed and sated.
BY FRED MILLS
WVWhite—that would be West Virginia White —makes its bid for flagship status on the estimable Ohio label Anyway, having charmed critics out of their proverbial trees with their 2014 debut. All those slop/slacker-rock labels and Guided by Voices/Grifters/Pavement comparisons seem to have inspired the quartet to make the proverbial rise-above move for House of Spiritual Athletes, and if this med/lo-fi sonic epistle causes you to scratch your head and wonder what the fuss was all about, well, pal, all I can say is, maybe your parents should have conceived you a little earlier. The record is for cueing up and blasting through shitty speakers, not hunkering down in the back of your classroom or retreating during your subway commute with earbuds jammed deep.
It’s a warm, intimate, portastudio/four-track-deck vibe on display, with vocals set on “wander,” guitars proposing sweet melodies one sec and veering astray the next, and the rhythm section gamely keeping up. A beautiful racket, in other words—as evidenced by such gems as “Drag Down” (a fuzzed-out, yowling anthem with worthy Who aspirations), the wobbly, disconcertingly percussive “Truth Is New,” and lengthy, psychedelic epic “Space,” which lives up to its name via grand, echoey chords, mantra-like vocals, and a beat guaranteed to overrule the construction crew down the street that keeps waking you up too early on weekdays.
Brutally beautiful, WVWhite bolts directly out of the gate and, against all odds, not to mention several trips and detours later, busts through the tape at the finish line. True champs.
House of Spiritual Athletes arrives on 12” vinyl, as it should, and if you are gazing at the sleeve art and thinking it might be some long-lost portrait by UK artistic maverick Savage Pencil, guess again, and get out your crayons and medium-point felt-tips: it’s an adult coloring book-type offering, with all the requisite assigned numbers to designate where you locate your scribbling. Speaking as someone who actually was working in a bookstore precisely as the adult coloring book craze was hitting warp speed, I can say with confidence this rendering will provide you with far more profound artistic challenges than any of the moronic offerings—I mean, c’mon folks, mandalas? sunflower gardens? fucking pretty birds perched in autumnal foliage?—you may find on the shelves. Have at it. Don’t forget to paint areas marked with arrows first….
DOWNLOAD: “Space,” “Drag Down”