Say Psych: Album Review: Holy Monitor – Southern Lights

Athens based quintet Holy Monitor last week released their eagerly awaited third LP Southern Lights on Blackspin/Primitive Music.

They are a psychedelic rock quintet whose sound incorporates elements of krautrock, space rock and ambient music. The band’s reverb-soaked vocals crawl beneath waves of pulsating minimal rhythms, while fuzz driven guitars and prog style keys create a hypnotic sonic ambience. Formed in the summer of 2015 they released EP’s Golden Light and Aeols on Ongakubaka Records. In February 2017 they released their first LP, self-titled pm Greek independent label Blackspin/Primitive Music. The critically acclaimed debut was followed by intense live performing, sharing the stage with established psych-rock bands like The Black Angels, Wooden Shjips and Kikagaku Moyo. Their second LP II came the following year and introduced a heavier, droning spaced out sound from rhythmic krautrock to blissed-out space rock and on into modern-day psych permutations.

Not a band to rest, they then self-released EP’s Ghost and This Desert Land, signifying a new era for the band with a focus on jamming and experimenting. This path leads them to their current position. Southern Lights offers eight songs that are overflowing with celestial melodies, encircled by psychedelic warmth. With lyrical themes inspired by Aristotle’s cosmology the band invite us into a dreamy journey in fizzing waterfall keys plunging down from space rock guitars.

Opener ‘River’ builds slowly into a powerful, krautrock inspired wig out, with a strong psychedelic backbone that is certain to set bodies moving. The introduction of delicate vocals stands in stark contrast, adding to the mystique. ‘Naked in the Rain’ comes straight from the past, tripping from the Bacchanalian frenzied rites. With an organic drum sound, it’s an intoxicating psychedelic groove that transports you into hedonistic, mad dances; they encourage you to exorcise the rain and revolt against reality. ‘Blue Whale’ is a blissed-out piece of psychedelia that contains all the expected elements but executes them with such precision and prowess that its easy to imagine you’ve slipped back to the 70s when this sound dominated. Title track ‘Southern Lights’ takes you on an aural journey through psychedelic history, just close your eyes and float away with this on.

‘The Sky is Falling Down’ changes tact with a hypnotic bass starting the track and steering it through a whirlwind of fuzzed-out guitar riffs and a pounding synth layer. It’s the longest and meatiest offering. ‘Hourglass’ is a slower paced instrumental that fully shows the versatility of the band and would prove the perfect repose in a live set. ‘Ocean Trail’ comes back with a bite and builds on both the calmer and chaotic tracks, entangling the two together to create something that has the best of all. It’s probably the strongest track on the album and will appeal to psychonauts across the globe. Concluding ‘Under the Sea’ is the perfect way to end the LP, with a mellow countenance that invokes dreamscapes of hazy summer days spent enjoying nature. It lulls the listener out, and makes you want to restart the album from scratch.

Southern Lights is laden with luscious soundscapes which offer a glimpse of a utopia just beyond reach, a connection to unspoiled nature that we can all appreciate right now with the uncertainty that surrounds humanity.

Order here

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