By Lara Kinne–
The Black Angels share the same picnic table as The Velvet Underground, despite their Austin, Texas roots. Both bands have five members – if someone invites Nico – they all wear black sunglasses and their music acknowledges things that happened before and around the 1970s. At the same time, they are nothing alike. Leather jackets and tambourines aside, The Black Angels are not restrained by time.
Color is a visual inspiration for the Angels, who jam on a spiritual drive to transcend time and space. Vocalist and songwriter Alex Mass said that during the writing process, they attempt to describe the images they hear and see during moments of mutual vibration. It’s driven by hues of color, translating what they see into audible notes.
With that said, The Black Angels’ fourth studio album, “Indigo Meadow,” says the vibrations have strengthened, breathed oxygen and hardened into a black cocoon, one that will burst in time if the limbic energy between them breaks from revisiting techniques of earlier albums. The looping, spindly riffs are too familiar to what is heard on 2008’s “Directions to See a Ghost.” But there’s a sense a romance in “Love Me Forever” and “Always Maybe” that hasn’t surfaced on Black Angel records before. It feels genuine affection for the blatant desire pressed in tambourine-driven “You’re Mine,” a strong hint for making sweet love.
“Indigo Meadow” indicates the Angels using more shades of tone. A colorful salute to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd on the jangly “I Hear Colors (Chromoaesthesia)” celebrates 60s music technology with pop-licked organ. The isolated bassline and echoing riffs midway “Holland” also recall Floyd’s twenty-minute epic, “Echoes,” but the Angels are more restrained in that the tracks shy from lingering on one idea.
In most cases, slow-building melodies deserve a climax, and widely-spaced thunder needs a little spark of lightning. “Indigo Meadow” wants to remain tight, just as they proved on 2010’s “Phosphene Dream,” with a record compiled of songs that stand well on their own. But sprawling melodies are not fulfilled in this format, and straight riff-driven stompers “Evil Things” and “Broken Soldiers” are wrung dry by the end.
Photo courtesy theblackangels.com