I’ve been living with the new Carlton Melton long player Out To Sea for a while now. Just letting things soak in a bit. Letting my brain float in that psychedelic brine, if you will. After careful listening -and enjoying a few beers along the way- I think it’s safe to say this is the band’s shining moment. Out To Sea takes all those hazy, grainy moments we’ve come to love about a Carlton Melton LP and puts them through a proper recording studio filter. The result is a clear-eyed vision of the CM philosophy: Let the music take you where it may. That slightly woozy, slightly druggy cloud that settled over past albums has lifted to show Carlton Melton in all their psych rock glory. Rich Millman, Andy Duvall, and Clint Golden come across as the true rock and roll warriors they are after burning touring rubber all over the world for the past 7 years. Out To Sea is a sprawling psych rock masterpiece.
First off, let me say that I love the geodesic dome recordings. Just because the band went to a proper studio(El Studio in San Francisco with Phil Manley, to be exact) doesn’t mean that everything that came before it is null and void. On the contrary, albums like Country Ways and Always Even are what turned me into a fan. The lo fi-esque qualities, the grainy haze, and Rich Millman’s gauzy synths kept me coming back. Out To Sea is almost like an experimental album for these Northern California psych wizards. Can a band that usually records with a hefty dose of analog hiss and muffled mystery pull off something more studio polished? The answer is a resounding hell yes.
“Peaking Duck” comes out of gates roaring. It’s like Led Zeppelin jamming with Klaus Schultze as massive drums and wavering synths collide with some good old crunchy wah wah guitar. There’s no mistaking it, Carlton Melton rocks. “Wheel and Deal” keeps that Zeppelin vibe going at first, with a riff pulled right out of the Physical Graffiti playbook. Pretty soon though the CM guys add their own take on the classic rock vibe and shoot this rocket ship directly into the heart of the sun. “Diamond in the Rough” is a beautiful seven minute daydream. Sunset light and mid-fall breezes come to mind while listening to this great mellow tune. It’s reminiscent of some of Yo La Tengo’s spacier moments on And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. “Out To Sea” is a cacophony of feedback and dissonance. Tremolo’d guitars ring and pierce through the darkness with what sounds like something lighter and shinier in the distant background. “Similarities” opens lightly, with a cleanly delayed guitar line. The track builds into a walloping, upbeat rocker. A stoned ambivalence permeates this excellent tune. “It’s Been Summer All Winter” is sprawling and epic. It feels both grounded in terra firma and as light as thoughts in orbit. “The Barrier” is as heavy and doom-laden as something you’d hear Godspeed You! Black Emperor throw on the middle of Side A. Buzzing and tribal, it’s overwhelming in it’s wall of noise. “Perdiddle” lights things up a bit with it’s envelope filtered guitar riff and uptempo beat. “Realms” showcases Rich Millman’s keys a bit more than the rest of the record, which seems to be a good way to close this record out.
Out To Sea is a guitar album for sure. Even more so than past CM records. The synths take a spot in the background so Carlton Melton’s guitar prowess can be shown in the spotlight. This is not a complaint, folks. So many people complain that guitar just isn’t used like it used to be used on records. Well, Carlton Melton and Out To Sea are here to rectify that. Sprawling, dreamy, rocking, atmospheric; shove any adjective you want in there, they’ll all do just fine. Carlton Melton just gave us an epic, heady summer spinner.