NYC’s Psychic Ills craft music that’s just as rooted in the early 90’s shoegaze scene as to the experimental atonal wanderings of early Sonic Youth. The recently released Dins gives an eight song slab of the psychedelic 60’s by way of the early 90’s that struggles to balance murky pop leanings with experimental wanderlust by alternating between the two.Moments like Electric Life, the dichotomy of proper song and drone escapade struggle to find a place within a single song. They’re confident enough in their design to pass two and a half minutes of a track with stray moments of loose tribal drumming, while wandering into clouds of harmonica echoes and clattering percussion. The second half of Electric Life sits comfortably in the vein of Spaceman 3‘s finer work; reverb drenched slow-motion Brit-pop that sounds like it was miked from halfway across the room. The shift between the two forms happening mid-song is successful, as positioning the chunk of noise before the proper tune gives it place and purpose.
January Rain comes closest to a ‘pop’ song; letting the Joy Division styled guitar and drums come across cleanly, yet still leaving the vocals sunk in the murk of reverb. Straying into Interpol territory, the lead guitar sneaks around the warm reverb, but the vocals remain consistent with the rest of the album, almost unintelligibly drenched in reverb.
You can hear how much of Dins would fly better in a live context. There’s a ton of room to breathe in almost every song that the band could flesh out and let them grow into more massive, expansive beasts on stage. Even as there’s a hesitant feeling throughout much of the album, I Knew My Name is one of the few tracks that breaks away. For eight and a half minutes, a driving drum track ebbs and flows, pushing the band’s sound away from the dreamier meditations and leading the song to a satisfying guitar drenched peak.
Another place where this works is the album closer Another Day Another Night, which like I Knew My Name clocks in at over eight minutes. Despite the pre-delay mangling the vocals beyond any coherency, the song climbs a slow, satisfying ladder to a more explosive build than many of the other songs on the album. The more coherent arc of both I Knew My Name and Another Day Another Night is what makes the songs so successful. While many of the other songs are simply content to wade through the fog, the energy expelled to lift through makes them work so well.
Dins is the sound of a brain trying to decide if it’s still reeling from a half sheet of acid or it’s finally sobering up. The tradeoff of true song and noise ‘skit’ doesn’t always work for the flow of the album, but the longer more focused tracks like I Knew My Name and Another Day Another Night make up for the occasional inconsistencies.
Previously published on Spacelab.tv