Two years after releasing their highly acclaimed debut full-length effort Passover (The follow-up to their self-titled E.P. from 2005), Austin (Texas) based psychedelic/alternative rock outfit The Black Angels are back with their sophomore effort Directions To See A Ghost. Sophomore efforts can sometimes be a bit of a challenge for bands, especially when high praise is unanimously given to a strong debut effort. But in the case of The Black Angels (Who are vocalist/drone machine player Jennifer Raines, vocalist/bassist/guitarist/organ player/sitar player Alex Maas, vocalist/guitarist/bassist/drummer Christian Bland, bassist/guitarist/occasional drummer Nate Ryan, keyboardist/percussionist/bassist/guitarist Kyle Hunt and drummer/percussionist/bassist Stephanie Bailey), Directions To See A Ghost is just as captivating as their debut.
Of course having said that, the differences between The Black Angels' two albums are kept to a minimum, with the template laid down by Passover remaining intact for the majority of the time the second time around. But that doesn't mean that Directions To See A Ghost is a mere carbon copy either, as the band push their psychedelic rock sound just that little further than they dared the first time, with the results sounding both trippy and totally out there.
Comparisons to The Velvet Underground, Spacemen 3 and 13th Floor Elevators are still plainly evident throughout the album's eleven tracks, but there's also a sense of taking things a step further this time around, with the opening track You On The Run emerging out of the shadows of their sound of old, with a sense of purpose and an underlining feeling of menace and groove that wasn't quite there some two years ago. The single Doves is certainly one of the more accessible and instant sounding songs on the album with its simplistic rock framework, while tracks such as the slower paced Mission District, 18 Years, The Return and You In Color keep the up-tempo rock vibe on a roll throughout the album.
But where the album really shines is on tracks such as the sitar drenched Deer-Ree-Shee, the sombre Vikings and the sixteen minute epic closer Snake In The Grass where the band really stretch out and allow the songs to take you on a real audio journey back into the past. The hypnotic drone of the songs continually ebb and flow in gentle waves, allowing the listener to a truly absorb themselves in the sonic tapestries created by the band.
If psychedelic rock in the vein of The Velvet Underground, Spacemen 3 and 13th Floor Elevators (And maybe even a bit of Jefferson Airplane) sounds like your thing, then The Black Angels definitely come highly recommended.
(Light In The Attic Records/Inertia Music)