Monday 5 August 2019

Dendrites - Grow (2019)

Country: Greece
Style: Stoner Rock
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 9 Jun 2019
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My virtual travels around the world over the last couple of weeks netted me a couple of interesting submissions for review and I'm always happy when my inbox sparks up with quality new music from bands from all around the globe. First up are Dendrites, yet another interesting outfit from Greece who don't sound like any of the other interesting outfits from Greece I keep finding. They're from Volos on the Aegean, home in antiquity to the hero Jason, but this bunch are a heck of a lot more laid back.

They call what they do "groovy southern stoner rock" and, for once, that's a pretty accurate description. In keeping with the overtly American influences that I heard in Voidnaut, Skybinder and Soundtruck, Dendrites often sound as if they're closer to Athens, GA than Athens, Greece. Thanasis Tiblalexis has a fluency in English that many people in the deepsouth don't have and that's not just regular language but profanity too, which isn't throwaway.

It does highlight a certain attitude to kick off an album with a song named Get the Fuck and then follow up with Bullet Dodger about "your sensitive son of a bitch". Then again, their debut album from 2016 featured a track with a name as subtle as Whiskey Preachin' Motherfucker. They feel like the sort of band who play gigs on Tennessee stages that are protected by chicken wire and love it.

What's notable is that both Bullet Dodger and the next song, Throwing Rocks, are regular vocal based tracks until, well, they're not, each of them ending but then carrying on with a couple of minutes more jamming. Stoner rock has never been a single thing and Dendrites bring a lot of different influences from those worlds. There's as much Hell Yeah or Black Label Society here as there is Kyuss or Fu Manchu. There's also a grunge influence in the way the vocal lines are phrased, as if they know and like melody but don't ever want to be seen as radio friendly.

While the album rocks for a while, the first three tracks playing relatively consistently, Dendrites cover more ground than that. Dreamhouse Pt. 1 is far too deliberate for me, rather like alt country on a forced tempo, but I love the liquid guitar of Giorgos Alexiou. This is psychedelic territory and it's interesting instrumentally if not vocally. I'm Gonna Fly, which wraps up the album, is even more laid back, so far that it features a saxophone. It's a trip and it's gorgeous.

Mostly, though, Dendrites stay in that grungy stoner rock mould with a southern edge, nailed home by Tiblalexis's accent. That's not shit creek he's stuck up, it's shit crick. They do this sound well, but it gets a little samey in the second half of the album. Bullet Dodger is a much stronger single than Leave Me Behind; and a song like River, with its wild solos, ought to sound great deep into a live set but next to one of the band's catchier songs.

With the exception of I'm Gonna Fly, the best songs for me are in the first half, not just the rockers that start things out but also Dreamhouse Pt. 2, which builds off an old school riff to feel like a much dirtier Cathedral, less doomy and less cheesy but even more psychedelic and wild. As much as I didn't like Tiblalexis's vocals on Pt. 1, I think he makes up for it on Pt. 2 because he really cuts loose on this one to wail with style.

I wanted to like this a little more than I did, but it's good stuff and it's another really interesting sound to come out of Greece. The southern stoner thing works and fans of the genre will dig this, but the looser the band gets, the more interesting they get. I wonder if they jam more on stage.

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