Tuesday 13 July 2021

White Canyon & The 5th Dimension - Spectral Illusion (2021)

Country: Brazil
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 9/10
Release Date: 7 May 2021
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

Of all the subgenres that I cover regularly at Apocalypse Later, psychedelic rock surely has to have the broadest sweep. It ranges from extended instrumental stoner metal jams to perky sixties pop ditties or wild pagan ritual. Nepal Death and Mooner are as different from King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard as they are from each other, but they're all psychedelic rock. Here's a fantastic album from Brazil that feels endearingly unique even though I can put my finger on a bunch of the influences that prompted it.

The title track, for instance, that opens up the album in style, kicks off with Sabbath bells and Spanish chords, then sensuously waltzes into a sixties psych prog song that reminded me of early Pink Floyd. It thinks about Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun early on and Astronomy Domine late. It's dark, but also melodic and unstoppable. It's also submerged in atmosphere, not quite obscured by clouds—ha!—but everything's partially buried in the mix, as if we're somehow watching a TV show in a witch's cauldron and the swirling mist constantly threatens to hide our view.

That's quite the heady mix to kick us off, but Seven Kingdoms is heavier and more urgent. The sound is consistent with what's gone before, but there's a new gothic layer reminiscent of the Sisters of Mercy, albeit just as partially buried as before, except for a riff that almost manages to escape the cauldron at a couple of points. There's some Hawkwind here too, but it's never space rock. What this band take from Hawkwind is their uncanny ability to conjure up a unique sound and let it roll on effortlessly.

Electric Ghost adds an eighties electronic beat and guitars that think about that U2 jangle. There are more Andrew Eldritch style vocals, but they're still subdued. Sensitive Fate makes the female voice I'd caught earlier a lot more prominent. She's singing simultaneously with the male voice but leads it on this one. There's also a solo that reminds of Fleetwood Mac's The Chain in that it emerges out of a big sound but dominates it, searing but patient.

And then there's Endless Sea, which is a gem of a song that crests the nine minute mark. It's glorious from the outset, with more Floydian grandeur, as if they're not playing this in some Minas Gerais back street studio but to a vast audience from a stage that was built a couple of millennia ago. It's music that reaches us the way a haboob reaches us: we can see it coming, but it seems smaller than it is until it suddenly washes over us and we realise the true scale of what's going on. The goth angle is gone here, replaced with an atmospheric post-punk one, a Dead Can Dance sort of vibe.

There are two more songs to come, both of them worthy and Oroboros may be my favourite song here after Endless Sea, but if my raving about the album thus far is leaving you dry, then nothing I can say about those will make any difference at all. This may just not be for you and that's fine. It's definitely for me and I know I'm going to struggle to move on to review another album today. It's not going to be easy letting this run all day on repeat. I'll be listening to this one a lot and not just here in the office but in bed in the dark through headphones.

I have no idea who's in this band or how they divvy up instrumentation, but it seems to be a duo from the town of São Tomé das Letras, which is nestled in the middle of nowhere, seven hours from three of the biggest cities in Brazil. Given that most of the sounds I'm hearing here are British and they sing in English, I have to wonder what's going on in this part of Minas Gerais, given that Varginha isn't too far away and that's home to the excellent Brazilian Celtic rockers Tuatha de Danann. I'd like to know more about White Canyon & The 5th Dimension and if there's some local DJ who's triggering the wild bursts of unusual musical imagination coming out of their state. Answers on the back of a postcard please.

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