Category: Psychedelic

Live review: Roky Erickson with Okkervil River at the Fonda [UPDATED]

In a 90-minute concert filled with images of vampires, demons and multi-headed hounds, the most striking imagery did away with B-movie specters. It was late in the evening when Roky Erickson -- once thought to be a causality of the psychedelic rock era -- sang "Goodbye Sweet Dreams." It's a heartbreakingly simple sentiment, but one that humanized Erickson's nightmare visions. 

With his howling rock 'n' roll work in the '60s with the 13th Floor Elevators, Erickson is credited as a pioneer of the psychedelic movement. The decades that followed, however, were marked by battles with mental illness, and the resulting music flirted with the bizarre and the macabre. 

He was paired Tuesday at the Music Box @ Fonda with exquisite roots rock force by Okkervil River, which supported the Austin, Texas, artist on his recent Anti- Records album "True Love Cast Out All Evil," Throughout the night, as he has done for much of his career, Erickson sang about walking with zombies and killing strangers. Today, however, he owns a voice that's gruff, commanding and more than a little worn, and the 62-year-old's tales of horror were remade into songs of survival. 

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Thursday preview: Phantogram whips up psychedelic atmospheres from a barn


Bands and critics often speak of using the studio as an instrument. Yet technology doesn't have to be bleeding edge for the environment to play a major role, especially when one is working till dawn in a barn in the middle of nowhere. 

The music of Phantogram, which will be in Los Angeles for a performance Thursday night at Bordello, conjures, at times, fanciful, late-night dreamscapes, a rural-meets-computers sound crafted about 40 minutes outside of Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Dusty, hip-hop ready beats, warm electronic grooves and spacey atmospheric guitars combine for a low-key psychedelic mix, resulting in a sound that falls somewhere between the trip-hop soul of Massive Attack and a more digitized version of Mercury Rev, which has also recorded in less urban parts of New York.  

"We wrote the album during the winter months of 2007, out in the barn," said Josh Carter, who, along with Sarah Barthel, makes up the instrument-and-vocal-swapping duo. "That might be the reason the record has a lot of dark undertones. We felt a lot of isolation, and it was cold and dark all the time. We were working very late at night, out in the middle of nowhere. Even though we had each other, there was this feeling of loneliness going on. I think that translated into the music." 

The act's debut, "Eyelid Movies," was released last month by the Seattle-based independent label Barsuk Records. The album opens with one of the first songs the pair -- high school friends who reconnected post-college -- composed together: "Mouthful of Diamonds," a slow-burning churn of sci-fi effects and Barthel's comforting vocals. 

"I came up with a bleep-and-bloop loop going on in the song, and I was just screwing around with that on a synth and began playing guitar on top of it," Carter said. "That song came together in probably about one hour, fully written. We kind of put it to the side because I couldn’t come up with any lyrics. About a month later, I stayed up all night and wrote the lyrics and the vocal melody."

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