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The Psychic Paramount - Gamelan Into the Mink Supernatural

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Artist: The Psychic Paramount

Album: Gamelan Into the Mink Supernatural

Label: No Quarter

Review date: Aug. 23, 2005

You ever watch that TV show Entourage? Pretty fun stuff, right? I have a theory about that show that I’d like to share with you. The secret to its success is payoffs. Characters are so excited when good things happen that the writers cram at least two moneyshots in every episode, to the point where the episodes are almost framed around them. We watch the exploits of a young movie star whose career is on the rise, his friends who get to go along for the ride; their world is juxtaposed into reality to the extent that certain celebrities portray themselves on the show, the characters go places that we’ve read about, experience luxuries we can’t afford, and have a great, amicable, noncommittal time, which we get to look at for a half hour each week. Score! Somebody fucked a model. Bonus! Floor seats at the Lakers game, followed by a party at a mansion on the beach. Alright! Free Maserati. You see where this is going. Snowboarding down the slopes near Park City seconds after James Cameron offers you the starring role in his movie from his private helicopter. What’s not to love? You got Gold! Payoff! BAM!

This parallel is apt because the debut album by the Psychic Paramount works on a lot of these same strengths, protracted to indie rock terms. Judging from the album and their live performance, memorable payoffs in sound are part of the band’s M.O.; it’s expected that a lot of people who want to think too hard about such thing will find flaws in this approach. They’ll find them, too, but you can find flaws in anything if you look hard enough, and if you need to extrapolate what exists as evidence to fit whatever beef you’re holding against your target. What’s at stake here is whether these flaws impact such a tremendously satisfying album, one so produced to seduce that it’s very difficult for fans of the artists and influences they draw from to make a solid case for any criticism other than how these guys re-twurk familiarities into singularities. They don’t do anything particularly new, or more than mildly revisionist, with those influences, but what’s accomplished here is more theatrical and stunt-worthy than their peers, and sometimes that’s all that’s needed to help the music ascend to stratospheric levels of heat, and keep it there. It’s deliberate, stranger-than-cock-rock, action-oriented psych-noise that holds its hand up for something sky high.

The Psychic Paramount works, roughly, within two domains: noise and rhythm. On Gamelan into the Mink Supernatural, these two domains are fleshed out for all they’re worth. This works because the band is capable of extracting noise-melodies through majestic force, in the tradition of sculptors like Jim O’Rourke, Kevin Shields and Matthew Bower, and they grasp rhythm and its importance to traditional song structure and hamfisted studio trickery as well as any drummer and bassist around today. On the noise end, opener “Megatherion” blasts – backwards – into a disjointed, texturally shifting sea of harmonic chaos, as if someone were to condense all the interstitial tracks of Loveless into one three-minute opus; the wall of sound Phil Spector pulled his hair out trying to create. “X-Visitations” succeeds where knuckledragger rumblers like Sunn 0))) fail, in creating a captivating, momentous crest of extended noise, a hundred guitar army condensed into one axe, with appropriately calculated dynamic and tonal shifts applied to create memory-epics of formidable power and weight, drug symphonies to Yahweh on High Five.

As for their work in the rock domain, imagine the internal inferno of a current Kraut-prog outfit like Turing Machine turned inside out, volcanic emissions spewed from inner earth to their inevitable ends as hardened black magma, ash and scorched earth. There’s less control exhibited in these tracks, maybe even a few mistakes, but it is alive and thrashing and immediate music, and that is almost all it needs to be. Let’s look at “Para5,” a two-note bass anchor rolling in and out of aggressive drum patterns while guitar riffs trade off with nimble jamming all over the scale. Around the two-minute mark, the music quiets to nothing but the drums, just for a split second – then as it completely disappears, bursts forth with renewed strength, right in time, as guitar lines start to lose their focus and enter a massive, hand-of-God solo breakaway. By the time the bass melody shifts, it sounds positively heroic. Around 5:30, the friction of the session causes the tape to – get this – break, signaling the third part of this monstrous composition, one which will see it to its inevitable end with more of the same hellacious, azonic halos of densely packed instrumental rock music to hit the scene since Don Caballero 2. More attuned to jumping on pedals, “Echoh Air” and the closing title track rely on more circuitous guitarrage, lots of delay and reverb, lots of catch up play and timing control to the point where the guitar lines, busy as they are, begin to resemble electronic compositions.

To that end, the entire album has been pinned in the red, mastered so hot that it threatens to destroy speakers if it’s played at top volume, the same trick that brought out the intensity in Mainliner or Acid Mothers Temple or High Rise records. A theatrical concern, of course, as are the dropouts and sudden breaks in tracks, but they are ultimately so satisfying to hear, and bring the audience right to the edge of their machinations. In the live setting (which is artfully represented in a video on the CD for “Echoh Air”), not only did the band demonstrate a control over precise, jarring composition a la This Heat, but they did it under the auspices of a filmmaker/4th member who shot silent Super-8 footage of the band while shining a blinding magnesium light onto both band and audience. He’d turn this light on and off at specific points in the set, the Paramount oblivious to the brightness and heat it was generating, and it made their set – the entirety of this album and then some being played – that much more memorable.

Drew St. Ivany and Ben Armstrong are the guitarist and bassist, respectively; former members of the band Laddio Bolocko, whose live show and rigorous prog-math-thrash dynamics overshadowed their hard-to-locate recordings. Drummer Jeff Conaway spent the 90s in the band Panel Donor, all-but-forgotten interlocker indie rockers who portrayed glimpses of the kind of recklessness displayed here. These past endeavors were fantastic, yet criminally underheard and unrecognized; perhaps that’s what’s driving them to add so many moneyshots to their music now. Is it cheap to do so? Maybe. Can anybody do it? Not this well. Through scant few concessions to technology and arrangement, the Psychic Paramount have made exhilarating music, akin to finding a briefcase full of gold bricks and the keys to a restored muscle car within moments of each other. Sweetness, meet the light.

By Doug Mosurock

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