California psychedelic rock has always had a dark underbelly, from the Dionysian excess of Jim Morrison to the witchiness of Stevie Nicks. Most of the sex, drugs and occultism was hidden beneath the surface, due to restrictive societal pressures, just waiting to be unearthed.
Flash forward to 2016, and there are no such restrictions. Or, there are, but we are ourselves anyway. The true danger, confusion, anger, mystery, seduction, sensuality and spirituality of love, music and living in general are discussed in lurid, vivid details.
Ouroborous, the debut EP from San Francisco's The Old Grey Whistle Test sheds the light in these dark corners, revealing some ugliness, a whole lot of beauty, and many, many shades in-between
The Old Grey Whistle Test deal in a brand of rock 'n roll "a beaker-full of Nancy Sinatra-noir, Linda Perhacs' psychedelia, Stevie Nicks-mysticism, and Jenny Lewis' retro-inspired sounds set to a score of Ennio Morricone." For those that don't speak journalese, that means lonesome, lo-fi folk rock, dipped in swarming echoes, plenty of glammy rock bombast, presented in an attractive, retrodelic production style - like a nostalgic Instagram filter of a psychedelic light show.
The Old Grey Whistle Test is primarily the project of frontwoman Tracey Holland. Holland's spent the better part of the last ten years playing in the band Vandella, where many of the fragments that would become Ourobouros. Following a period of personal upheaval, that turned her life on its head like a topsy-turvy hourglass, the idea for a solo project gained urgency. Although frightening, Holland has found a new freedom in the soul-baring intimacy of solo material. "But ultimately, that fear is what actually pushed me towards the edge of the proverbial cliff, so to speak, as I'm a big believer in doing what scares you shitless," Holland says in the liner notes.
Holland need not be afraid, at least of people not liking her music. Ouroborous' lo-fi intimacy is gloriously, glowing fleshed out with trembling, high-fidelity guitars; swooning, swirling organs; some swelling strings and bright, clear, vivid vocals, which are totally intelligible while still sounding gentle and mellow.
Holland's voice is clear and pure as a brass bell, while sounding warm as whitewashed linen dried in the sun. The guitars sparkle and shimmer like a summer meteor shower, while the drums beat like a distant heart.
Ouroborous is just one more example of the excellence available to even starting artists. Lo-fi has never sounded so good, so full, so hot-blooded. For those sick of the flat-gloss world of Pop, let The Old Grey Whistle Test dose you with some real heat!
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