Psychopomp by Sphinx Moth is a mix of bluesy shouts, grunts, gritty buzzes of sound and some interesting soundscapes. Most of the album works very well showing a flickering flame in a twisted haunted house.
The vocals and guitars sound very fuzzy in a good way throughout the album and when the songs use some non-traditional approaches to percussion they really shine. “Bones and Smoke” is a conglomerate of samples of speech, honking harmonicas, distorted vocals and backwards cymbals. The unorthodox approach to percussion works for the song, which includes sounds of footsteps through gravel, the aforementioned cymbal and the ELO-esque compressed snare. “Away Awhile” starts out with foghorns of guitars singing to each other and it makes for some beautiful dissonance. Here again, the rattles and other percussion techniques work very well to support the song.
The songs that use a drum kit tend to feel more precarious. The singing is a mixture of droning grungy guitars and a dirty vocal that sounds like Beck by way of Captain Beefheart. “Skull Tree” has a great bluesy melody. “All The Fruit Is Ripe” has a trippy stereo effect on the synth-like solo that’s very effective and a great guitar solo later in the song. If the groove was steadier, the song could really take off, and that’s the case with all of these, they tend to be hindered by drums that lose the groove and trip over themselves. “The Other World” begins with synths and shaker but descends to another out-of-time section that loses the effect of some Ribot-ish guitar by never quite falling into place. “Cosmological Blues” does not follow the traditional blues format, but is a dark minor lament with buzzy guitars. Again, the mess of percussion takes the edge off the song, which is a shame because the vocal is so powerful.
The one song that is the steadiest of all of them that use an actual drum kit is “Terrified,” which is built around a great minor riff that builds on the mantra like statement of the lyric. With the beat so steady, it really heightens the song’s catchiness and build.
“The Night Birds Sing” closes the album with a soundscape of dissonant guitars and an eerie vocal that leans into Tom Waits territory. The song picks up at the end with some great harmonies that builds the swirls of sounds like a whirlpool washing over.
Overall, Sphinx Moth has some great songs and ideas. The songs shine more with the non-traditional approaches to the percussion rather than a traditional drum kit. Playing up the unorthodox approaches to this not only adds a lot in groove but also an interest in timbre for which Sphinx Moth is knocking on the door of.
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