Review: The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Aufheben

Published on May 12th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams

The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s thirteenth studio album is perhaps more an aural experience than a collection of songs, and the muddying together of disparate elements in its mix makes it work both as a background concern and as something to pay close attention to, to dissect, identify, even hypothesise over if that’s your bag.

Opener “Panic in Babylon” embellishes a hypnotic, single-key groove with various animal noises and an Eastern-sounding instrument that we won’t pretend to know the name of, “Viholliseni Maala” features a gorgeous Finnish-language vocal courtesy of Eliza Karmasalo and otherwise sounds a bit like The Shadows jamming with Boards of Canada, “Gaz Hilarant” takes the same sort of formula in more of a Primal Scream direction, while “Illuminomi” adds flute to the colourful palette thus far, not to mention Anton Newcombe’s first proper lead vocal of the album (various mumbling noises in “Gaz Hilarant” notwithstanding) – well, we say ‘proper’, but it’s still pretty difficult to make out what he’s singing about.

The superbly titled “I Wanna Hold Your Other Hand” is a lovely, woozily sun-beaten piece of psychedelic pop featuring harpsichord and glockenspiel, paving the way for “Clouds Are Lies” to direct this wooziness into something that sounds like a monged Manitoba hanging out with the guitar solo from The Velvet Underground’s “Run Run Run”. Throughout Aufheben the cord progressions remain basic, acting basically as carriers for the shapes, colours and textures that burrow this hazy yet visual journey, although the subtle shuffle of “Stairway to the Best Party” feels as if it could at any moment explode into some big ol’ pop thing, keeping its cool to remind of The Bees, early Gomez and early Olivia Tremor Control.

Caribou and The Beta Band meet up in the ’80s on the wonderfully disorienting, voices-hearing “Seven Kinds of Wonderful”, “Walking Up to Hand Grenades” stirs the reveries with drums that could almost be described as forging a disco beat were they not so fuzzy and loose (recorded through one mic?) – in fact, so smudged is the mix across Aufheben that even clean elements such as strings get submerged into it, although they stand out relatively clearly on closer “Blue Order New Monday”, probably the cleanest production on the album, sounding at once like a sunny morning following an all-night trip and a hung over Go! Team.

Anton Newcombe may still be in thrall to the ’60s, but he sure does a good job of keeping alive the decade’s more progressive ideas of what music can be. Whatever you think of the man himself, he’s put together another fine album here – and, creditably, one which panders to nothing but his own still-fervent artistic whims.

Rocksucker says: Four Quails out of Five!

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Aufheben is out now on a Records. For more information, including a list of live dates please visit brianjonestownmassacre.com or the Brian Jonestown Massacre Facebook page.

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About the Author

Editor of Rocksucker and the website's founder, Jonny is passionate about the music he listens to, both good and bad, as well as interviewing his favourite musicians.