Wednesday 18 October 2023

White Canyon & The 5th Dimension - Gardeners of the Earth (2023)

Country: Brazil
Style: Psychedelic Rock
Rating: 9/10
Release Date: 4 Aug 2023
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

I hear a lot of intros on albums nowadays and very few of them have any reason to be there. There are some that serve to grab our attention and some that tease us into what's to come, but it's not particularly often that I hear an intro truly nail both those things but Caminho das Pedras is a fair example of an intro that does both. It sets the mood with a hypnotic swirling sitar that takes us all the way back to the late sixties but adds contemporary touches too, before rolling on into the first track proper, which is the title track. We know what we're getting into, we're placed into the right mood to receive it and we flow on into the rest of the album. It's a great start.

Gardeners of the Earth lives up to the intro too. There's that prominent old school Pink Floyd bass that I remember so well from White Canyon's prior album, Spectral Illusion, and it continues that hypnotic groove. Quite frankly, the more hypnotic this band gets, the better they sound to me. My favourite track here may be Black Holes, which is stripped down to its essence, almost like a garage rock song played at half speed. The guitar is prominent and then the voices, but I end up falling for the drums every time. It's so hypnotic that we could believe the band performed it in a trance. Its closest competitor is Harsh Down, which has been playing in my head when I wake up, and Chapter V - Mental Universe isn't far behind that one.

I mentioned voices plural and should explain that there are two vocalists here, whose names are a mystery to me, but one is male and the other female and both get the opportunity to lead songs. I remember a gothic vibe from the prior album that's here too but to a lesser degree. It's there on the title track for sure, with the male voice taking the lead and the female voice bolstering it like an echo, and it's there in Ancient Secrets of Green Leaf, with the roles reversed. As they move into Howling Pines, though, with the female voice leading the way, and Fireflies Dance, which returns to both singing together, the vibe is firmly folky rather than gothic. Others drift between the two.

Now, whether they're folky or gothic, they're always psychedelic rock with an occasional dip into a more poppy sound. Fireflies Dance maintains the American hippie psychedelia that pervades the album, but it starts out like the Beatles at their most psychedelic and never truly loses that. I love the organ in Howling Pines too, which has that perky sound that tends to belong to the earlier pop songs recorded by bands that evolved into rock music in the seventies. There's more of that within Ancient Secrets of Green Leaf, along with more hypnotic drumming, and this one feels like it could be a fascinating reinterpretation of a Nick Cave song.

In other words, there's a lot here and the songs are neatly immersive. It was clearly going to be an album to recommend from the very beginning but it gets better as it runs on. Those favourites of mine start at the end of side one and roll through side two, all the way to InnerOutside, a fantastic closer that reminds of John Kongos writing and singing for Hawkwind. Then again, I expected a lot from this band because they got a rare 9/10 from me last time out for Spectral Illusion, back in May 2021, even though they lost out for my Album of the Month to a killer Flotsam and Jetsam release.

The challenge for them was always going to be to reach and maybe even exceed the standard that Spectral Illusion set. I wasn't initially sure that it matched it, as the album wasn't as immediate for me, but it was clearly excellent and it grew and continued to grow. It reached the point where it's perhaps only falling behind it because it's not my introduction to the band. Had I heard this first, I might have been blown away just as much as I was when I heard Spectral Illusion. As it is, I'm loving it almost as much. Now I just need to stop listening to it so I can move onto another review. That is not going to be easy.

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