Say Psych: Album Review: The Asteroid No. 4 – Northern Songs

Psychedelic rock legends The Asteroid No.4 will release their new album Northern Songs this Friday through a partnership with UK-based Cardinal Fuzz Records and Portland’s Little Cloud Records. Stalwarts of the modern ‘psych’ genre, they are known for their prolific discography of reverb-drenched recordings and liquid-projected live performances. With a sound all their own and neo-psychedelic / shoegaze leanings, they are often compared to acts like Spacemen 3 and Paisley Underground kingpins The Rain Parade.

Now based in the San Francisco Bay Area, The Asteroid No.4 originated in Philadelphia in the latter half of the 1990s and gradually began to relocate westwards in 2011. After several lineup changes, for the last decade, the band has been foundationally comprised of Scott Vitt (vocals, guitar), Eric Harms (guitar), Adam Weaver (drums, vocals) and Matty Rhodes (bass, vocals). Northern Songs is the band’s 10th LP following up the Collide LP in 2018. On this new album, they did all writing, playing, recording, mixing and mastering in their own studio. This is the first time they’ve gone fully DIY since their fourth album An Amazing Dream (2006), where the band finally found their own trademark sound.

“This is a first for us as we’ve always had at least guest musicians or someone else mix or master. It was an experiment on what we could do ourselves and testing our new studio in San Rafael, CA for the first time. Our sound is primarily rooted in the British indie music from the 80s and 90s. This is the music we grew up on, we still listen to today, and what happens as a natural result of our song writing,” says Scott Vitt. “Lyrically there’s reference to what is happening both socially and politically in the world around us. We wanted to make an album that brought an air of calm or even nostalgia, to remind people that there was a time, not all that long ago, when things seemed way more normal compared to what we’re experiencing today.”

A dynamic live act, The Asteroid No.4 integrate multi-textured guitars and reverb-drenched vocal harmonies over an unwavering rhythm section. Their prolific output has earned them a dedicated fan base within the flourishing underground psychedelic scene, with over a dozen compilation appearances, digital-only rarity releases, and multiple singles and EPs.

Opening with ‘All Mixed Up’, a funky upbeat number that channels raw 60s psychedelic grooves and adds displaced vocals to create something fresh and in keeping with the modern vibe. ‘Hand Grenade’ goes other worldly, with ethereal vocals creating a disarray that dominates before a piercing guitar melody cuts through in its brilliance and a bass ditty keeps the track anchored in reality. ‘Paint It Green’ stands in opposition, with a washed-out melody and indistinct elements that create soundscapes of lazy days and beach afternoons. ‘No One Weeps’ is about as ‘psychedelic’ as it comes, get the lava lamps out and crank the volume up and drift away.

‘I Don’t Care’ captures the sound that we have come to know and love from these guys, if you ever wanted a track that would introduce you to The Asteroid No.4, this would be it. ‘Juniper’ is a faster paced, higher intensity track with a groove between the instruments that makes you want to move; this is one that you can tell would be excellent live. ‘Northern Song’ captures a sound strongly reminiscent of Northern English bands such as The Las, The Lightning Seeds or Cast; it captures a feeling that warms and cannot easily be put into words. ‘Stardust’ continues with theme started in its predecessor, and adds parts of Manchester, with hints of The Stone Roses amongst others; the sense of nostalgia is overpowering. ‘Swiss Army Myth’ and ‘The After Glow’ compliment each other to end the album, with swirling layers of sound that captivate the senses.

The Asteroid No.4 take you on two simultaneous journeys in Northern Songs; one is high octane and otherworldly, the other walks through English music history, (whether intentionally or not). Its an intense juxtaposition and placement of sound that is bravely, and perfectly, executed.

Order US here – Order UK/Europe here

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