The Black Angels – Directions To See A Ghosts

Band: The Black Angels
Album: Directions To See A Ghost
Genre: Psychedelic Rock
Label: Light In The Attic

1. You On The Run
2. Doves
3. Science Killer
4. Mission District
5. 18 Years
6. Deer-Ree-Shee
7. Never/Ever
8. Vikings
9. You in Color
10. The Return
11. Snake in The Grass

When you plunge into the mystical first track on The Black Angels’ Directions to See a Ghost, you may wind up thinking, “Hey, this would be really good music to walk through a desert to.” But maybe that’s just me. Regardless of whether or not you consider this CD a good Sahara soundtrack, you’ll see what I mean when you listen to the Black Angels’ unique trippy sound. Besides, that intro was a really good alternative to suggesting this music is only for accompanying the consumption of certain controlled substances.

When I found out that the Black Angels got their name from legendary psychedelic band Velvet Underground’s “The Black Angel’s Death Song” AND that the Underground were a major influence, (what a shocker) I really hoped this wouldn’t be a copy cat. But thankfully, it was not, as the Directions is considerably more electronic and layered musically than Velvet Underground. The grizzly distorted guitars create plenty of ambient noise when needed, and all the bells and whistle effects are pulled out to create that laid back lounge mood. The drums and bass carry the beat and drive home the intoxicating rhythm that makes this band so hauntingly spacey. Add in Alex Maas’ eerie vocals (reminiscent of Jefferson Airplane’s in some spots) and Directions easily outdoes itself and its predecessor Passover, creating the most modern-sounding 60’s psychedelic rock imaginable.

Overall, the Black Angel’s easy going rock is actually quite busy, as I noticed several tracked guitars on some songs. “You on the Run” starts up meddling and distant, and the outro features a little bit of sitar flavoring plus several guitar sounds colliding that mellow you out.

The band is certainly good at building up songs little by little. “Science Killer” features a fuzzy bass line that carries the song, following it the far-away guitar and pounding toms of the drums. This is the kind of music that will make you stare off into space for long periods of time. “Mission District” begins with a drum beat that induces trance-like head banging and continues the same beat the majority of the song to the happy contrast of the groaning guitars and Maas’ moans.

With the layering and buildups, the Black Angels have this sort of triumphant sound to them. Check out “Doves,” one of my favorite songs of the album. The intro reminds me of some kind of south Pacific beach tune, and then progressively builds up to an almost toe-tapping chorus, a symbol of how lively this relatively chill band is on Directions.

Although there aren’t too many stand out tracks, especially near the end, but that is made up by the fact that the Black Angels stay consistent in their formula of creatively assembled hippy rock, tinted with a 60s feel but still modern and refined. This is one of those albums to be viewed as a whole, something to lounge around to and take in the various sounds and to become entwined with the music. If you dig the psychedelic scene and enjoy the cool sounds that hippies make, this album, is in fact, “your bag.” Also, if you’re into the hallucinogen scene, well…I’d imagine it’d be quite enjoyable. That’s all I’m saying.

*Written By: Jacob Kanclerz*
GRADE: 8.5/10

James Shotwell
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