Carsick Cars — 3
(Tenzenmen 158tzm, 2014, CD)
Flavor Crystals / Carsick Cars — Mirror in My Mind / Yoko (Split 7")
(Tenzenmen 150tzm, 2014, 7")
by Jon Davis, Published 2014-08-11
A change in personnel for Carsick Cars has not resulted in a change of style — singer/guitarist Zhang Shouwang remains the driving force of the band. 3 is perhaps more refined than the first two releases, but retains the combination of wall-of-sound guitar and catchy melodies, but with a more polished sound. There's been 100% turnover in the rhythm section, with He Fan covering bass and Sun Heting drums, both of whom had made names for themselves in other bands (Birdstriking and Boyz & Girl respectively). The album was recorded in New York, and once again features some lyrics in English and some in Chinese (and on the CD, one of the bonus tracks is a Chinese version of "15 Minutes Older," which appeared previously in English). And while the music is indeed more accessible than previous outings, it's still far from mainstream, even mainstream pop-punk (Green Day and the like). There are some really nice guitar arrangements, with Zhang putting down multiple parts with different tones and different voicings for the chords, and often working harmonics into the sound. The instrumental track "The Best VPN So Far" (a title that will amuse anyone who's lived or traveled in China) is the most unusual track, with some great backwards effects and thunderous drums leading into a propulsive rhythm and all sorts of different noises from the guitar. When deciding if 3 is the band's best effort, I hesitate because I like the others so much, and in all fairness, they're aimed in a slightly different direction now, perhaps a bit less experimental, but more solid and relatable. There's enough art here to please someone who has long tired of the same old thing over and over again. When they throw out something downright freaky like the bass/guitar harmonies on "Reaching the Light," I know I've found something that will last.
Also on offer from Carsick Cars in 2014, we have a split 7" single with Minneapolis psych band Flavor Crystals. The Cars' contribution, a previously unreleased track called "Yoko," is of a piece with 3. It's a catchy, energetic tune with unusual chords and features a piano part. I can't make sense of the lyrics, but it's a fun song. I'd never heard of Flavor Crystals before listening to "Mirror in My Mind," but going on this example, they are a good example of contemporary American psychedelia, along the lines of The Black Angels, though with a hint of a krautrock influence. They're definitely worth investigating.
Related artist(s): Carsick Cars
Jon Christensen RIP – Word reaches us today of the passing of Norwegian drummer Jon Christensen, a musician whose sensitive playing did much to help define the atmospheric sound of ECM jazz recordings. His work with Jan Garbarek, Bobo Stenson, Terje Rypdal, and many more was sensitive and varied, adapting to a wide variety of styles while maintaining a distinct identity of its own. Christensen was 76. » Read more
Gong Announces UK Tour for 2020 – Having spent the last few years touring the world, including dates in Japan with psych legend Steve Hillage, multiple headline European tours and festivals, America’s Cruise to the Edge festival, a South America headline tour, and a headline performance at Tomorrow Festival in China, the band have won the hearts of both traditional and modern Gong fanbases. During this live journey, Gong has delved further into the truly psychedelic, exploratory, and mind-expanding side of the music. » Read more
Wolfgang Dauner RIP – Pianist Wolfgang Dauner, one of the pioneers of both European free jazz and jazz rock, has died at the age of 84. With his own groups and with the United Jazz+Rock Ensemble, his playing and compositions were a prominent presence in European jazz from the mid-60s until just recently. » Read more
Michael Allison RIP – Michael Allison, who since 1997 has been recording as Darshan Ambient, passed away on January 9th after a long and brave battle with cancer. He has been at at the forefront of the new ambient/electronic music scene, with over eighteen releases to his credit. » Read more