Crazy Dreams Band - "Separate Ways" (Crazy Dreams Band)
Last year’s Sacred Mountain demonstrated that Lexie Mountain can do damned near anything with her voice. Clicks, growls, croons, giggles, woofs, twangs and in-jokes are nothing to this woman. She and her all-girl “Boys” formed an entire a capella orchestra, with percussion, strings, horns and woodwinds emerging from the epiglottal area (and sometimes from feet, hands and fingers). What she didn’t do, mostly, was conventional singing, but that was never because she was incapable of it. Here, on an apparently one-off collaboration with Religious Knives and Mouthus drummer Nate Nelson, noise artist Chiara Giovando, bassist Jake Freeman and moog/guitarist Nick Becker, she’s back to prove that she could also be a 1960s diva, singing not quite conventionally, but certainly in the rock idiom. She sounds, here, like a younger, looser, funkier Grace Slick or a slightly more humorous Sandra Barrett (of Major Stars).
The best, most accessible cut from this five-song EP is the first one, “Four Winds of the Owl,” an echo-chamber evocation of classic 1960s psych. (The kind of song, really, where one pill makes you larger … and one pill makes you small.) It’s not all psych, though; that’s just the top layer. The drums have a dry, funky swagger to them, a clamped, syncopated slush of high-hats that sounds almost like a disco beat. And the moog, melting like warm plastic over controlled chaos, is distinctly kraut-ish. These elements come together loosely, more knocking against each other than jelling into a single sound. And yet, there’s a sense of celebration in this raggedy parade, a raffish sense of both nailing and upending the conventional rock aesthetic.
“Asian Rollers,” where Giovando takes the mic, is far odder, laying high-pitched Asian vocals over a dirge-like, slow-timed beat. “Exhaustion,” which closes out the album, is rough and incantatory. Mountain howls and groans “I found a way,” against a roiling turbulence of electronic sounds, Giovando threading melodic counterpoints through the trance. It’s a bit too long, though, and unlike the rest of the album, totally without levity or danceability. Much better, or at least more entertaining, is “Nightcrawler,” with its robot-funky beat, its dream-like vocal descants, its odd blurts of squiggly electronic sound. The cut is the album’s longest at just over 10 minutes, but it moves like a freight train, the drums pushing all the way through. And here, Lexie Mountain finds a bridge between rock-star charisma and alternate vocal technique, layering skip rope chants over a blues-based, kraut-damaged beat. It’s trippy, but more than that, it’s fun. The best crazy dreams, it seems, are the ones that make you want to dance.