If the Brooklyn-based psych rockers Evolfo felt pressured to repeat the successes of their 2017 album Last of the Acid Cowboys they certainly didn’t show it. They are back with the hotly anticipated follow up, Site Out of Mind.
One might think a band that racked up 6 million plus streams on their debut record would try to recreate this by doing more of the same. But when the 7 members of Evolfo piled into the tiny, sweltering, attic-turned-recording studio of band leader Matt Gibbs’ Ditmas Park home, they intended to step confidently forward into fresh sounds and more vivid conceptual subject matter. They have flipped the world of the Acid Cowboy on its head, departing the earth-bound adventures in melting landscapes, rat cities, and desert sojourns for metaphysical territory and the mountains of the mind. “We’re always going to be in a state of flux,” says Gibbs, who formed the group a decade ago, “I consider this to be an exciting, positive thing. We have to embrace our own change.”
As a seven-piece band, they have grown into a naturally collaborative song writing process. Each member fills a role: Gibbs on guitar and vocals, Rafferty Swink on keys and vocals, Ben Adams on guitar, Kai Sorensen singing harmonies and playing trumpet, Jared Yee on saxophones, Ronnie Lanzilotta on bass, and Dave Palazola on drums. All share in the writing credits on Site Out of Mind and are not overly territorial with their instruments. Adams, a guitar player, also laid down some trombone parts where called for, and while guitars are handled primarily by Gibbs and Adams, Swink and Sorensen are frequently heard playing guitars live and on the album. Evolfo can easily shuffle roles and arrangements on stage with a relaxed refinement that calls to mind Wand or early Tame Impala. Swink also took on the role of producer for Site Out of Mind. After performing his own parts, he would swap hats, mixing each person’s part and overseeing the broader scope of things. “The rest of the group put an enormous amount of trust in me when it came to guiding what became this album,” he says, humbly. “I wanted to make a record more cohesive, lush, and cinematic in scope. Recording Site Out of Mind felt so good because, for the first time, we were free.”
In that, Site Out of Mind is the best of both worlds: thoughtful planning and joyful improvisation. The record is comprised of one-take recordings and partially inspired by concepts pulled from sci-fiction and one group psychedelic drug trip, Site Out of Mind is a thrilling spiral into the depths of the spiritual mind and the afterlife. Lyrically, Gibbs says, it could be interpreted as a continuation of the loose concept that Evolfo’s previous album hinted at. “If the protagonist of that album died at the end of Last of the Acid Cowboys” says Gibbs, “then this was the protagonist’s internal journey, flipping the landscape, and going through the mountain of their mind in that moment of mortality; perhaps a blurring of brain activity between dying and death, between life and the afterlife.”
By far what sets Site Out of Mind apart is Swink’s intuitive ear for crisp, warm production. He presents high energy hooks without neglecting any instrument in the music’s overall mix, a decision that recalls the early albums of Yes or the lush revivalism of Quilt. Collaboration is at the core of Evolfo’s creativity but it’s the subtle overdubs and sleek mixing Swink added that make their new music so rewarding. “The attic is a very small space for all of us to stand in, let alone play instruments and record basics, but I think that was a benefit because our communication was hypersensitive,” says Swink. “We were all set up in a half circle around our drummer Dave with one guitar amp isolated in a crawl space, another in Matt’s bedroom, and a third in his bathroom. By recording this album in Matt’s attic and mixing it in my home studio, we’ve woven together sounds that already have a very special and unique sonic fingerprint. These sounds are ours.”
Opening with ‘Give Me Time’ a hazy tripped out offering that set the scene from the offset for what is to come. Accompanied by an incredible video, this is one to get lost in. ‘Strange Lights’ ramps up the intensity and has an intense motorik beat driving from the rear, blending krautrock and a raw garage style seamlessly. ‘Zuma Loop’ slows the pace and does not just channel psychedelia, it warps it with an experimental flair that they have mastered. Its haunting and provocative, making you sit back and really listen to what is going. ‘Blossom in Void’ is a tale of love, executed with finesse and a delicacy that can get lost easily in this genre. ‘Drying Out Your Eyes’ has a detached quality, somewhere between garage rock and again being driven by a motorik beat. It stands apart from its predecessors as you juggle listening to all the elements, so carefully balanced in the mix.
‘In Time’ pts 1 and 2 tell an interesting tale of two halves with lyrics that are almost poetic due to careful late night overdub session before ‘Let Go’ encourages you to do just that, with a dreamscape that invokes lazy nights spent talking on huge cushions. ‘Broken Hills’ has an added string section, which works in tandem with the existing elements and organ dominated ‘Orion’s Belt’ feels like you’ve walked into a mind-exploding jam session where everyone’s so in tune that they don’t even need to make eye contact and concluding ‘White Foam’ stripes the sound back to basics, slows the tempo and allows the listener to simply indulge.
Evolfo had a big job on their hands in their sophomore LP, but with an unrivalled work ethic and sophisticated tweaking, Site Out of Mind has more than met the challenge presented.