Berlin based The Third Sound have recently released their fifth album First Light, via Fuzz Club Records. Dealing in a hypnotic blend of neo-psychedelia, post-punk and new wave, The Third Sound are led by the Icelandic musician Hákon Aðalsteinsson, who is the guitarist in Brian Jonestown Massacre and formerly played in the cult rock’n’roll outfit Singapore Sling. A mainstay of the European psych underground in his own right, not just through his collaborations with the likes of Anton Newcombe and Tess Parks, The Third Sound has been Hakon’s primary solo endeavour since the release of his self-titled debut on Newcombe’s A Recordings a decade ago.
Arriving following 2018’s All Tomorrow’s Shadows, First Light marks an evolution into a brighter and at times uplifting sound. Marrying moments of light and dark, the result is The Third Sound’s most dynamic full-length to date. Talking about the album, Hakon said: “This album is definitely less gloomy than the previous one, although some ghosts from the past are lurking in the background. We always try to make something new on each album and never make the same album over again, but this feels like an even bigger change than usual, especially regarding the mood. Something new is beginning although the past is not forgotten. I think the title, First Light, describes the overall feel of the record pretty well.”
Opening with ‘Tidal Wave’, a shimmering piece of shoegaze-inflected psychedelia that the band explain that “it has a mix of programmed and real drums which resulted in a more upbeat and groove-focussed approach and talks about something awakening. It sets the tone for the album I think.” This moves into ‘Your Love is Evol’ which starts gently, with shimmering shoegaze-inflected psychedelia but soon breaks loose and shows itself to be something much darker. Perhaps a potent message for current times, where nothing is as it seems. The infectious bassline lurks menacingly below complex organ riffs before things dissolve into distorted wall-of-noise guitars. ‘This Is The Way I Know’ offers a complex mixture of shadowy new wave, jangling guitars and a baritone vocal that cuts right to the quick in this love tinged track. Hákon explains “I haven’t done a lot of love songs in the past, but this could be seen as one. It’s about when you find something that you believe in. Kind of like the first line from the song That’s How I Got To Memphis by Tom T. Hall: ‘If you love somebody enough, you follow wherever they go’.” ‘Ghost of Memphis’ is a seven-minute number which begins with an atmospheric drone interspersed with a manipulated recording of a story that Hakon’s girlfriend (the photographer and filmmaker Lilly Creightmore) sent him as a voice note, before slowly building into something totally hypnotic and an all-consuming wall of sound driven by a motorik bassline, cinematic guitars, mesmerising backing vocals and smatterings of reverb, delay and feedback.
‘Dissociation’ offers a more upbeat reprieve from the intensity of the previous tracks, with a motorik beat at its heart and layers of tastefully distorted guitars washing with evocative lyrics. ‘Hex’ continues the theme started previously but with a more sinister tint that captures from the first bet, aptly suited to its title. It’s the type of track you expect to hear in The House of Love discography, a parallel I’m sure they will approve of. ‘Stay for Another’ rounds off this trinity and moves it into the album concluding duo which are largely driven by an acoustic guitar; a style utilised by Hákon in his other outfit, Gunman and the Holy Ghost. ‘Not Even Jesus’ and ‘I Don’t Need Anything Anymore’ make it clear why Hákon was asked to join the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the stark, eerie atmosphere of the latter makes for a perfect album closer. He explains; “this was the last song I wrote for the album, only a couple of days before we went into the studio in France. The rest of the band hadn’t even heard it. We had these twins from Algeria singing backing vocals on a few songs from the album, but here I think they totally lift the song and make it something really special.”
There is something alluring about this album, something you can’t quite place that pulls at your consciousness and makes you want to listen to it repeatedly. It’s a thing of delicate beauty that stands out and in a saturated market, that’s not easy to do.