Say Psych: Album Review, Phantamonium by Hotel Wrecking City Traders

I first came across Hotel Wrecking City Traders last year with the release of the amazing Australian split 12″ with Hey Colossus on Wild Animal Records. While the Hey Colossus track was a great as you would expect from this ever improving band, the Hotel Wrecking City Traders track, ‘Droned and Disowned (Pt.2) was a revelation; a twenty minute master class of how to build up a head of steam, stop, and then really rawk-out. This track, more like two tracks put together in reality, seems to have slow-burned its way round the world as the message has spread, and I’ve a feeling that only postage costs have prevented it from selling out long ago.

Hotel Wrecking City Traders

Hotel Wrecking City Traders are a duo (Ben, drums and Toby, guitar) from Melbourne and have been going since 2007, releasing a string of split and solo recordings; and are joined on this album by Raul Sanchez i Jorge (River of Snakes/Magic Dirt/Midnight Woolf). Artwork is by none other than Mike Eginton of Californian psych legends Earthless.

Given that before hearing this album I was only familiar with one track from the band I, of course, was interested to know whether or not this was a one off both in terms of quality and sound. I can immediately say that it wasn’t because this really is a great album comprising four relatively long jams that are both satisfying and varied. First up is ‘Dusted Pines’ which begins slowly with a repeating guitar riff before the drums pound in and the track sets off, slowly at first but very gradually upping the ante until at just over three minutes it begins to break out in a gradually growing cacophony of fuzz and feedback before really hitting its stride at around five minutes. From then of it just keeps going and going drawing the listener in to the metronomic drone and thud of the drums, then there’s a great bridge at about seven minutes before the guys really bring it home with a massive wall of sound finally disintegrating in a miasma of sirens.

Next up is the title track which begins with a sinister sounding guitar playing almost underneath the drums which are well forward in the mix. ‘Phantamonium’ has a more bluesy feel to it, having a a certain languidly to it, but then really begins to pick up the pace after the five minute or so mark. It’s one of those tracks where you just know that something is going to jump out at you any minute, and it’s like the band are playing with that until the whole thing explodes into life at around six minutes…and boy does it go off with a bang…no one is coming back from this one…just brilliant!

I was particularly looking forward to hearing the side 2 opener, ‘Droned and Disowned (Pt. 1)’, given the link to the track I already knew. Coming straight out of the traps with some massive feedback and rolling drums this isn’t a number which hangs about but gets right into you brain before dropping out briefly then building for what seems like an eternity; again with the drums really driving the track forward before the guitars take over and power it on to another level…I swear I could feel the skin dripping off my face. Listen to this and ‘Pt. 2’ together and you might well need reconstructive surgery. This is an absolute monster of a track and worth the entrance fee alone!

How the hell do you follow that. Well with ‘Entering The Lodge’ which really gets straight down to business. This is the shortest, at just under nine minutes, and probably the most immediate of the track on the album. There’s no pissing about starting things slow here (although that’s good as well) as we’re immediately locked into a groove which, despite the speedy beginnings, still manages to pick up the pace with just a short bridge halfway through to help us appreciate just how fast and funky this is.

All in all this is an album of four tracks that, while all sharing the band’s DNA, each have their own characters and approaches. It’s not necessarily an album which progresses from track to track, but where each and every track has its own thrill and in that sense is really a must listen for through who love riffed-up psyched-out repeato-jams.

The album is a very limited release on white vinyl, and can be pre-ordered from Sheffield’s very own Evil Hoodoo records here.

You can find my other writing for Backseat Mafia here.

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