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"Sonic Bloom"

Release date: 03 February 2014
Night Beats – Sonic Bloom
06 February 2014, 13:30 Written by Erik Thompson

The grimy, distortion-drenched guitars didn’t stop rumbling out of Seattle in the mid-’90s when the grunge hype died down. The untamed musical torch was carried on by a fitful new generation, and the next in that raucous line of boisterous groups now rattling the windows and walls of the Pacific Northwest is Night Beats. The soulful psych-garage trio seem poised to win over a worldwide fan base on Sonic Bloom, their inspired, insanely catchy second record that builds on the swelling buzz that they have been cultivating over the past couple of years through their scorching live shows and plenty of hazy, reverb-fueled songs to match.

Night Beats’ rollicking new collection of expansive, swinging psych rock is heavily indebted to their sonic forebears, the Zombies, but the vibrant songs never come across as pastiche or mere knockoffs, because the riffs are far too filthy and the relentless rhythms form a dynamic, shadowy squall that every music fan would be happy to lose themselves in. The record gets off to a stormy start with the jangly pulse of “Love Ain’t Strange (Everything Else Is)”, which draws the listener in with its seemingly effortless hooks before dissolving into a tempestuous spiral of guitars that gives way to a droney bass line that eases the track smoothly out the door.

The rest of the album builds on that momentum, as Danny Lee Blackwell’s crunchy guitar riffs are augmented by his Summer of Love-era vocals that would sound frozen in time if they weren’t teeming with such vibrant self-assurance. You don’t necessarily get clued in to the knowing in-jokes and blurry story lines that comprise much of Blackwell’s lyrics, but you follow him anyway just to see where the night ends up.

“Sonic Bloom” and “Playing Dead” both roll over you with a chromatic hum led by the spirited rhythm section of bassist Tarek Wegner and drummer James Traeger. And just when you’re completely on board Night Beats’ hard-charging psychedelic train, the group unleashes one of the album’s best moments, the urgent garage-rock churn of “Outta Mind,” which makes it entirely impossible to sit still and not shake something — if you were even bothering to remain seated in the first place after the rousing start to the album.

Sonic Bloom is certainly a record that is meant to be felt as well as heard, as the songs are packed with slinky, addictive beats that crawl inside you and work their own way out. The tracks never seem to be in any hurry to arrive at their destination, but the ride is always wild anyways, as the monstrous guitar squall that rings out at the end of “Real Change” turbulently proves. The acoustic strum that introduces “Satisfy Your Mind,” is reminiscent of the outlaw-era Rolling Stones, and swings with that same cocksure attitude that occurs when irrepressible youth aligns with outstanding talent. “Catch A Ride To Sonic Bloom” continues down that Stones-y road, starting off like an outtake from a bacchanalian late night jam session before blossoming into an experimental sonic journey that gradually dissolves within itself.

The album’s second half doesn’t let up on the grooves or the gusto, as the sprawling, hallucinogenic charms of “The 7 Poison Wonders” flows stylishly into the ’50s-sounding appeal of “As You Want.” It would be easy for a record as sonically dense and relentlessly compelling as this to run out of gas at the end, especially for a young band who wouldn’t be the first to tall into the trap of frontloading an album. But Night Beats have plenty of hooks left in them to draw the album to a strong close, as the propulsive throb of “The Hidden Circle” discordantly leads into Sonic Bloom’s finest moment, the riotous, “Love Buzz”-esque “Rat King,” which is full of feedback-laden guitars and brazen attitude galore.

The free-jazz freakout “At The Gates” suggests a monumental arrival in its title, a sensation that is backed up by the sweeping scope of album closer “The New World,” a nearly eight-minute sonic excursion that finds the band confident enough to make one final grand, psych-fueled artistic statement. The minimal production really places the listener squarely in the heart of the song, as you hear it untether itself from all confines of reality as it blusterously floats away, leaving you shaken and stirred by the rowdy rock ‘n roll journey that Night Beats have just taken you on.

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