Phosphene is the phenomenon of seeing light with light not actually
entering the retina, often experienced by users of hard psychedelics. But never
mind that. The Black Angels sound too pissed off and freaked out to be truly
narcotic, no matter who their stoned influences may be. Their mellow long ago
harshed by war, injustice, and, y’know, stuff, this Austin outfit deploys dark
‘60s counterculture rock to depict dark ‘00s paranoia, an approach has served
them well on two previous albums.
On Phosphene Dream,
the Angels avoid a rut by slyly and subtly expanding their sound. Distorted
vocals chant through the eerie “Yellow Elevator #2,” and the standout “Sunday
Afternoon” bops along on an electric jug beat practically quoted from the 13th
Floor Elevators. The music is, occasionally, more beholden to the past than
anchored in the present, but Alex Maas still howls righteously across the decades
and the band still works under the bleak faith that Vietnam-era America isn’t
too different from Iraq-era America.
Afternoon,” “Yellow Elevator #2” STEPHEN M. DEUSNER