Douglas Martin’s Dirty Shoes: Psychedelic Horseshit Gets Laced (and Ambitious)

Douglas Martin keeps ’em laced in the illa snakes. Psychedelic Horseshit’s name is instantly recognizable among the lo-fi horde, but for all the wrong reasons. Psychedelic Horseshit...
By    June 13, 2011

Douglas Martin keeps ’em laced in the illa snakes.

Psychedelic Horseshit’s name is instantly recognizable among the lo-fi horde, but for all the wrong reasons. Psychedelic Horseshit jokingly created the rather abhorrent term “shitgaze,” one used to describe scuzzy-as-fuck-but-otherwise-great bands like Times New Viking and Eat Skull. Psychedelic Horseshit is far more famous for this particularly candid discussion with the Washington Post than any piece of music the band has ever released. As far as a lot of people are concerned, this is the comprehensive and unabridged version of the band’s entire history. In fact, Stereogum’s link to the notorious Washington Post interview is even higher than the band’s Wikipedia page when Google searching them.

That’s not to say anything dismissive of Whitehurst as a musician; the bevy of music he’s recorded and released is wildly scattershot but awfully singular. Using the cracked garage of 90’s indie-rock as a template, Psychedelic Horseshit– whose lineup could historically be defined as “Matt Whitehurst and any living organism that can hold a musical instrument for longer than two minutes”– takes on guitar music with a deconstructionist’s flair, subtracting elements (usually “melody“) and adding others (usually “corrosive, unlistenable noise“) to create music that is fractured, jarring, and sometimes can be described with the band’s own name. With Whitehurst and new Horseshit percussionist Ryan Jewell linking up with Fat Cat after stints on Siltbreeze and Woodsist– not to mention a renewed sense of purpose and ambition– new record Laced finds Psychedelic Horseshit not only moving toward the outer edges of indie music, but steamrolling them in their pursuit of new ground.

Laced is hardly without precedent, though. Experimental music specialist Marc Masters cited experimental bands Excepter and Black Dice when reviewing the record, and there are traces of the woozy, beguiling electronics of Strawberry Jam, the record Animal Collective made after leaving Fat Cat for Domino Records. Not only that, but the full-tilt volume of past Horseshit releases is applied to every sound on the record, as distorted and overdriven as ever, only carrying a dirty, synthetic feel. Whitehurst’s distinctive vocals are still in tact, as well; he has the type of grouchy croak that invokes the image of Bob Dylan as a pissed-off punk rocker who is too busy scoring whatever drugs are available to worry about being the best songwriter of his generation. And lyrically, whether taking subliminal potshots at old rivals (he sings “I don’t need no waves” on “Tropical Vision”) or trendy bands (“I Hate the Beach,” woof), Whitehurst’s trademark cynicism has not been lost in the album’s new blissed-out vibe.

Featuring euthanized samples, clipped guitars and distorted synths, Laced finds a way to use the band’s slender means to create some pretty kaleidoscopic widescreen moments. The album’s title track loops around itself and casts it into vertigo and drowns it in noise, while “Another Side” is bright and bouncy and “Dead on Arrival” provides a sense of dreaminess that you would have never expected from this group. The seven-and-a-half-minute “I Hate the Beach” sounds like one of the long-form tracks on Panda Bear’s Person Pitch drenched in LSD and locked in a house of mirrors, giving it an unsettling– almost frightening– effect. Jewell’s percussive expertise bolsters every song, adding polyrhythmic madness to the already chaotic soundscapes. In a lot of places, Laced makes for one hell of a full-length advertisement for Dramamine.

The album’s most surprising moment comes in the form of closer “Making Out,” with its ping-ponging hand drums and ascending chord progression coupling with what are possibly Whitehurst’s most poetic lyrics to date. “Making Out” evokes a profound feeling of optimism, feeling like the sunrise after a horrible all-night acid trip, striking the balance between tense urgency and unfiltered hope. Psychedelic Horseshit’s most uncharacteristic moment is a perfect way to close Laced, as the album is a huge step forward into new territory for the band. One that, whether you love it passionately or hate it with every fiber in your being, is one of the most dynamic pieces of music to be released this year.

MP3: Psychedelic Horseshit-“French Countryside”

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