The Heretic’s Bargain is rasping and raw, like a head with tailing entrails, flying through a midsummer evening, on its way to effectuate mass infanticide. Rangda consists of Sir Richard Bishop (Sun City Girls), Ben Chasny (Six Organs Of Admittance) and Chris Corsano (Bjork, Evan Parker), none of whom are strangers to exploring the psychedelic outback. Named after a child-eating queen of the demon Leyaks, Rangda aim for their music to establish a more nuanced relationship with imagery than a Norwegian death metal band might (presuming they had stumbled upon the band name first).
Echoing Dick Dale And His Del-Tones, To Melt The Moon, elicits transverse tensions by juggling oriental guitar licks with a terse, laconic drum pattern. This is what surf music must have felt like to landlocked American youth of the 1950s: an energetic promise of impossible climax. For them, opportunity lay far beyond the horizon and home offered little except for surfing the desert sands.
Later tracks suggest complex mathematics and flirtations with magick. Bishop, Chasny and Corsano, whilst searching for the perfect combination of frequencies, triangulate in their sonic fusion and seem to open up the gates of hell themselves. From the imperfect fissure springs forth the headless corpse of Spiro Agnew (the 39th Vice President of the United States, now immortalised in song), which takes no time at all to roam amongst and terrorise the living.
The band’s knack for humour mirrors the diligent facetiousness employed by their parent label, Drag City (home to Ty Segall, Flying Saucer Attack and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, among many other artists of interest), and certainly makes up for the lack of low-end on the record. Rangda do not have a bass player and this fact, coupled with Corsano’s fluid time-keeping, steers the group into improv-jazz-rock territory. Hard Times Befall The Door To Door Glass Shard Salesman, for example, evokes the sonic temperaments of The Dirty Three, but doesn’t feel lacking in its absence of bowed strings.
The aforementioned track cheekily leads into Mondays Are Free At The Hermetic Museum. This nineteen-minute work alludes to Arthur Edward Waite’s totemic text on alchemical processes and suggests metamorphosis through its diverse and shifting moods. Careful to avoid the ‘epic’ tagline often attached to tunes of elaborate length, Rangda focus instead on fabricating a twitching, introverted environment that hints towards the open air, but never really follows through on its teases.
It’s a cliché to say that psychedelic records take one on a trip, but what else are they meant to do? In this case, one must admit that the sonic tapestry woven by Bishop’s and Chasny’s guitar interplay is masterful to the point of being persistently curious. While general, incessant noodling by the likes of, say, Steve Hillage, serve only to bore, the music on Rangda’s third long-player is anything but dross. Indeed, the record progresses by building up layers of cinematic tracts. At the album’s opening, the listener is placed in the middle of a Tarantino standoff, before being transported through a Moroccan opium den, then to the base of a melting glacier and finally, onto a desolate crossroads, where they meet, deal with and get shafted by the devil. A riveting listen.
The Heretic’s Bargain is due for release on Fri 19 February via Drag City. Rangda are currently on tour in the USA. Follow them here. Photograph by Jason Meagher (Back: Chris Corsano, Richard Bishop / Front: Ben Chasny).