Album Review: Low Hums – Zzyzx

There’s a happening taking place in Seattle, helmed by Low Hums’ “band-guru” Jonas Haskins. Or is it Sanoj Snikhas?

Before the references to Manson Family occur though (who are back in the spotlight by virtue of Tarantino’s somewhat polarizing Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood), we are assured that Zzyzx, the fifth release from music-nauts Low Hums is one of love.

This is a zeitgeist of the golden, luscious sounds that emanated from the humble LP, with an “alien allure” to “fuzzy, good-time danceable vibes.” At least that’s what we’ve been informed ahead of listening to the album.

Tracing back through their back catalogue, it’s understandable why a number of their efforts have been reissued on the vinyl format – Haskins and company have a knack for creating a very meditated psychedelic melody throughout their anthematic works.

“Bongs and Gongs” was the first track from the band that caught me, with its hazy saxophone work throughout a sandstorm of Middle-Eastern tinted rhythms. So on their fifth release and perhaps there most vital of releases, is it much the same? After all, psychedelia has a few formulas that aren’t worth deviating too much from.

Yet, Xxyzx draws more inspiration from the American psych movement than perhaps the previous nods to British psych; this is more of a desert singed take on the style, informed by garage rock and the likes of Lou Reed.

“Ghost Babe” the third track of the album, drives homes those garage rock influences with Low Hums’ omitting the esoteric nature of their previous work and instead of going, ahem, “balls to the wall” in what feels like a fitting homage to Stooge’s era protopunk.

But the band are careful not to deviate too far away; “Supernova” sees the guitar work in full chorus/pitch-shifter effect-laden mode, ensuring in true fashion those high ends pierce through the composition. The tried, tested and trusted hazy sway is also present throughout a few of the tracks, “All The Brave Fuzzy Cousins” in particular an example of a band wearing their heart on their sleeves regarding their influences.

It is a little hard to stray too far away from the hallmarks of psychedelia though – anything too restrained becomes jangle-pop and anything too progressive becomes, well, prog rock. Why tamper with a formula that for years has been refined? If the band had done so with “Last Days of The Summer”, I honestly would feel disappointment. It’s just so well done in the genre they have immersed themselves in.

Which does lead to one of the problems of the record; it’s probably not going to be for everyone. Psychedelia popularity in the mainstream consciousness ebbs and flows; for every time we get a band like Temples who draw strong influences from the genre rather than be part of the movement, we seem to overlook those who are fully committed to the cause.

It seems the public’s dalliance with psych (when it’s not on-trend during festival season and being sold at a high street clothing store) is more attuned when it’s fused together with something else rather than when it’s at it’s most pure. Zzyzx sits predominantly as a psychedelia album and is great in its execution.

It is going to be more for those accustomed or very much getting into the scene though rather than for the casual listener.

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