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In its complex simplicity, psychedelic music has found many forms since its early 60s conception and has slinked in and out of the shadows of popularity time and time again. In today’s tamed age, we find ourselves revelling in a period of prolific influence and output from psychedelic outfits and, as such, have entered a modern era of the genre, with a generation-defining distinctiveness emanating in unique ways from psych acts.
The Walking Who have recently put in their two cents for the modern golden era for psychedelia – 2015. The 12 tracks compiling Lewiside (if you include hidden track The Wronging) display a great level of understanding in the integral elements of modern psych-rock creations while injecting varying levels of originality and thoughtfulness throughout.
Lewiside sees The Walking Who discard all the upbeat psych-rock punch of their past, choosing instead a far darker, far more interesting path into progressive shadows.
The Wollongong three-piece have spent a number of years honing their musical craft both in the studio and on the field of battle in live performance. Lewiside is arguably the band’s best effort to date both in production and in the evolution of songwriting. In its grand cathedrals of reverb and its understated vocals, Lewiside introduces the world to a softer, darker side of the band, with a contrasting depth in some of its lyrical undertones.
The album opens with a short instrumental that is pretty and sophisticated in its minimalism. Apolloduction becomes an unlikely standout among the tracks with its soft, building minor chord progression that swims in the deep blue of the classy effects that emboss the lead guitar. The gritty, meticulous production of Lewiside becomes apparent in the seamless transitions between tracks creating a conceptual bridge between each song. The entire album seems precise and well thought out, especially in its varied guitar tones and subtle sound clips that further add to a sense of sophistication.
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In tracks such as 167.3 Jesus Radio, the band hit a more up-tempo stride, introducing rumbling percussion and western-esque guitars with reverb soaked tremolo akin to some of their older material. Vocals in this track are inundated with effects, sending them further to the back of the mix and thus, removing the listener’s focus from the melody and lyrics in a sense. This is a recurring effect in many of the album’s tracks and, for some, will be a mild repellant from reaching the humanity of the record and its message, however, for others it’ll make for a sweet, stonerism that’s given many songs in the past a creative edge.
A standout is With Roses, the first single from the album, which generated buzz in its own right despite a change in direction for the band. With Roses boasts an addictive melody both from the guitar leads and the lusciously layered vocal that elevates the song to originality and impressive creative style.
One of the real strengths of Lewiside is its maturity in creation that is clearly a result of the group’s travels that are said to have both inspired the writing of the record and served as a basis for much of the recording. Part of this maturity is born from the careful molding of soundscapes that is apparent in the band’s clever and copious use of effects; be it in the cool, late-night cruise on an LA backstreet that is Chinese Whispers or the sounds of the album’s title track that sound as though they were played at full volume atop a mountain in the Swiss Alps; the perceived distance is hauntingly beautiful.
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Speakin’ Ma Language on the other hand is an understandable if, slightly unnecessary foray into lyrical comedy for the band. The instrumental of the track itself is characteristically lush and thoughtful however, the lyrics border on ridiculous, which is not always beneficial to the overall perception of such an otherwise tasteful effort.
The album closes out beautifully with Black Stamp which would be at home on the car radio while road tripping down a sunny coastal road yet provides some of the better and more poetic lyrics of Lewiside. Sneakily tacked to the end of the album closer comes the not-so-secret The Wronging a spacious, sustained instrumental played in-part by crooked organs almost reminiscent of the trippy, electronica of film score writer, Cliff Martinez.
Lewiside promises a fulfilling and progressive slice of the psychedelic cake for any hungry fan. While it rolls gracefully in the sonic mud-bath concoction of effects and soundscapes that are thoughtful and elegant, it foreshadows the possibility for even further exploration by a band in its prime. The Walking Who are undoubtedly at the top of the psych-rock tree and prove their belonging there more and more with each release.
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