On a mountain top I will pitch my tent right up
And be a holy man, oh, so deep and true
a shoeless holy man…with a view.”
And with that amusing verse begins one of Motorpsycho’s observations of Los Angeles, the city providing inspiration for their brilliant new album The Tower. The lyrics of A Pacific Sonata conjure the same image of cliff-hugging, mega-mansions that we all see when we stare up at the monuments of the 1% along the coast. And if you look closely at the spaces between the mansions you’ll see other shoe-less holy (and not so holy) men with tents clinging precariously to the hillside. But such is the magic of the coast, whether millionaire or vagabond or travelling Norwegian psych-rock band; it inspires.
The change of recording venue was not the only new element at play for this double-album follow-up to Here Be Monsters, it also features the debut performance of new drummer Tomas Järmyr, who fits beautifully into the Motorpsycho universe. The bulk of the album was recorded at White Buffalo 7 studios in the hipster enclave of Silver Lake, with a few days of additional acoustic sessions at the famous Rancho De La Luna studios at Joshua Tree in the Mojave desert. Based on the finished material their muse shows no signs of age, The Tower is 85-minutes of musical bliss without a superfluous second.
Compared to the hazy, laid-back groove that permeated most of Here Be Monsters, The Tower gleefully breathes fire. This is perfectly illustrated in the back-to-back punch of Bartok Of The Universe and A.S.F.E.. The former marries the dirge of Black Sabbath with the rhythmic drive of Thin Lizzy and some beautifully layered pop harmonies. The latter is a deliriously entertaining riff-rocker seemingly geared toward blasting at ear-bleed volume while driving way-too-fast down the highway; top down, fist in the air, headbanging all the way. If this track doesn’t get your body moving, you’re dead.
The California vibe becomes most evident on the quieter material. Star Dust is a lovely ode to the Laurel Canyon folk-rock scene conjuring memories of Buffalo Springfield and CSN&Y. The aforementioned A Pacific Sonata swims in similar waters during the first half of the piece and features some lovely guitar work from Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan before morphing into a glorious circular psych workout during the second half.
Throughout the album Motorpsycho demonstrates exactly how modern acts should approach vintage instrumental sounds. While the sounds heard on this record were created using gear nearly as old as I am, it never sounds intentionally “retro”, Motorpsycho are far too talented for that. Their conception is beautifully organic, it’s timeless. The sound of musicians that have fully absorbed the past 50 years of musical evolution and use that vocabulary to create a unique and wholly modern experience. The arrangements are perfectly balanced, they have the deftness associated with progressive rock without sacrificing spontaneity and improvisation. In other words; they’re a treasure.
The Tower is easily one of the most enjoyable albums of the year, it’s so infectious that once you reach the end of album-closing masterpiece Ship Of Fools you’ll want to immediately go back to the beginning and play it all over again.
01. The Tower (8:42)
02. Bartok Of The Universe (6:07)
03. A.S.F.E. (6:53)
04. Intrepid Explorer (9:50)
05. Star Dust (3:34)
06. In Every Dream Home (8:19)
07. The Maypole (3:39)
08. A Pacific Sonata (15:39)
09. The Cuckoo (7:20)
10. Ship Of Fools (14:41)
Total Time – 84:38
Bent Sæther – Bass, Vocals
Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan – Guitar
Tomas Järmyr – Drums
Record Label: Rune Grammofon
Country of Origin: Norway
Year of Release: 2017