Now here's a fine how do you do, by prolific psychedelic bedroom auteur Jon Schiedermayer, the man mostly responsible for The Smalt Mines. He's released 8 albums in the last 2 years, since The Smalt Mine's inception, and The Outer Rings is his most accomplished effort so far.
The Outer Rings builds around a nervous system of experimental psychedelic indie folk pop - acoustic guitar and Schiedermayer's reedy but warm vocals. These sketches are fleshed out with weird and wonderful swooning electronics, sustained organ tones, little bits of percussion, layered vocals, this is truly an 'everything and the kitchen sink' style of production. The closest approximation for The Outer Rings would be Olivia Tremor Control's Dusk At Cubist Castle, with the same mixture of truly infectious art pop, which suddenly veers into The Outer Limits, with moments of harrowing musique concrete, and deconstructionist folk, which unsettles the ground beneath your feet, like watching a movie or a dream disintegrate before your eyes.
With psychedelic music, an interesting phenomenon happens. The more a band seems to howl for your attention, the more ignorable they may be, while the weirder and more mysterious an album, the more it makes you curious, makes you want to lean in and listen to the whispers, trying to figure out what's going on. So for anyone who misses when The Flaming Lips were still weird, before relying on gimmicks and guest appearances (well, they always had gimmicks, to be fair), The Outer Rings will be a welcome dose of surrealism into your afternoon.
Smalt Mine calls his music "infinitely re-listenable songs with unpredictable bends." This is exactly right. So much of the time, psychedelic musicians are weird for weird's sake, the sonic equivalent of an teenage emo kid, acting out for attention. But every once in a while, you get that true oddball, that genuine diamond in the rough, that has something unique and distinctive to say. A world inside their head, that they will do anything to get out.
The Outer Rings stands up against classic records like Pink Floyd's Meddle, those Olivia Tremor Control records, as well as the less Balkan moments of Neutral Milk Hotel. It's got the same warm, mellow strum as Floyd's "San Trope", on "Lumenon", and while the multi-part suites of "Amun-Ra" and "Staying Power" are this record's "Green Typewriters". Smalt Mines has toned down the shrillness of some indie folk, however, rounding out the sound and warming it up with some solid electronic beats and mutant R&B vocals, like on "Honey". "Staying Power" also prevents this from being mere homage, as it fleshes out the folk template with some noisy Sonic Youth guitars, proving you can't pin down Smalt Mines.
This is the sound of someone who has grown up with the arty explorations of lo-fi music and the ambitious prog art rock of bands like Radiohead. Schiedermayer's sound worlds are very weird and very personal, yet delivered with startling fidelity and perfect execution.
You will get caught in these grooves, like a rabbit in a snare, but the difference is, you won't want to go anywhere. You'll be happy to explore the neon fauna and sweet breezes of The Outer Rings for ages, for as long as it takes. Let this be a dose of sunshine and radiation, to help you get through the cold months.
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