At its absolute best, psychedelic rock can be among the most transcendental of art forms; a group of musicians going for it with face-melting guitar licks, banshee-screams and drones ad infinitum is truly a sight to behold.
Whilst all too many plastic psych bands wear their ‘psychedelicness’ on their ruffs, when you do come across a group in this genre that do more than just pop songs with reverb it can be one of music’s truly great spectacles.
In the city of Eindhoven, in the south of The Netherlands, last weekend, a number of psychedelic rock combos assembled for the second annual Fuzz Club festival, and the results were marvellous. Yes, like any ‘psych fest’, you had your fair share, a minority this time round, of deadbeat duds playing reverbed-up snore-pop in the vain of the Brian Jonestown Massacre (so much blood on their hands), but so often the bands just got it right.
Fuzz galore! Kraut-rock jams that stretched into eternity! Freak disco! Fuzz Club Festival brought the very cream of the psychedelic crop to the Effenaar – a building which, in England, would definitely be a public swimming baths, but in Eindhoven was a monolithic cathedral of noise and wah.
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Kikagaku Moyo waft on stage at 11pm on Saturday – the headliners, if you will – and you can just tell immediately by the cut of their jib that these boys haven’t even listened to the Brian Jonestown Massacre, or the Dandy Warhols (not even 'Bohemian Like You'). The Japanese quintet’s set is devoid of reverb; the cleanest, most precise guitar music you’ll ever hear. They craft delicate stage jams almost unaware that they’re playing to an audience.
So gorgeous are the guitar lines, so satisfying are the occasional percussion klangs, so intuitive is their game, that the whole of the venue – nay, the whole of Eindhoven – transcended in one moment together.
Earlier that night, Iceage march on to the main stage, having travelled from the other end of the psychedelic spectrum. Having forged their earlier careers as lippy punk saviours, they’re now a fully fledged mind-bending unit – Elias Ronnenfelt has his hair down to his shoulders, and the group are dressed in immaculate blouses, a kind of skewiff outlaw chic.
Johan Wieth hammers an angry fist down upon his guitar, and stamps malevolently on a pedalboard that now looks like a starship interface; the Danes batter their way into a version of ‘Hurrah’, from album #4 ‘Beyondless’, that sounds like Sonic Youth after a week on the vodka redbulls. It is the best that they have ever sounded live, and considering they’ve spent a decade as the go-to “you’ve got to see ‘em live” band, that’s quite the statement.
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Evening sometime and all that is clear is Tess Parks is one bad motherfucker; her songs all start with one emotive, swirling guitar idea, and which she jams out over and over, and over some more. Velvety guitar twangs like a Modern Lovers tape left out in the sun meet a piercing vocal that sounds like the first coffee and cigarette of the day feels. Hazy and husky, her music echoes through the Effenaar’s main hall like nothing else, as she piles into a particularly gorgeous version of ‘Cocaine Cat’.
It’s the night before and London titans of the scene The Oscillation stand on the venue’s smalled stage in their battle formation. There are three of them, but they make the noise of a whole nation rising up again the bland. The trio’s rhythm section spend the vast majority of their set locked into zippy motorik grooves, while the group’s leader Damian Castellanos makes so many horrific alien screams on his guitar at once that it feels like something unholy is about to come out of the ground.
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Indeed, something unholy being summoned from beneath the ground is something that threatens to happen all weekend. Vuelvetoloca blast through some gnarled stoner metal, fit for the devil themselves, whilst Teeth of the Sea combine dark, dank beats with a hypnagogic trumpet meltdown in what is potentially the weekends strangest set.
But it is at 3am on the Saturday, when Portugese noiseniks 10000 Russos, whose 2017 album 'Distress Distress' is already somewhat of a lost classic, that I realise thus; something unholy has indeed been summoned out of the ground, and it is a power trio from the Iberian Peninsula.
There are ultimately an endless list of highlights from this year’s Fuzz Club Festival in Eindhoven (I’ve not even mentioned costumed crusaders Lumerians and Snapped Ankles), but the main takeaway is this; when a bunch of musicians get together with their own unique ways of expanding the consciousness through sound, the results can be well and truly Earth shattering.
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Words: Cal Cashin