by Izzy Parker
Austin-native band The Black Angels have just released their latest single, Firefly, and it’s safe to say we are enthralled! Firefly comes to us following on from the band’s acclaimed lead single ‘El Jardin’ (the video for which excitingly features Austin Amelio, of The Walking Dead), and ahead of their fresh album Wilderness of Mirrors, which is due to be released on September 16th of this year. Wilderness of Mirrors reaches our ears through Partisan records (one of the most well renowned independent labels around, with a roster that brags the likes of Fontaines D.C and Femi Kuti), and is the first album The Black Angels have released for an impressive five years.
Since their formation in May 2004, psych rock outfit The Black Angels – comprised of Alex Maas on vocals and bass, Christian Bland and Jake Garcia on guitar, Stephanie Bailey on drums and Ramiro Voodern working multi-instrumental magic – have had a blazing career, with five studio albums, a compilation album, a whole host of fans (nearly 60k on Instagram alone, in fact!) and an impressive back catalogue of support slots, including Queens Of The Stone Age and most recently Primus. Their last album received copious amounts of praise, from the likes of The Observer and The Times, who said their work was ‘a menacing return to form’, and titled them ‘forerunners of the psychedelic revival’, respectively. And, if this latest single is anything to go by, we can expect similar wonders from Wilderness Of Mirrors, come September.
Firefly immediately transports us into a thrilling tunnel of imagination, which would certainly not be out of place heard in a Parisian underground wine bar in the sixties. A wonderful amalgamation of various styles, with French pop meeting modern-esque electronica and vintage psychedelia, it truly is anyone’s guess where the song will head next at each different structural opportunity, and we wouldn’t have it any other way! The song is introduced intricately, with the soft jangles of the guitar, followed by dashings of keys presence, which bring a real spritely quality to the piece. Alex Maas, bassist and vocalist for the band, starts us off with vocals (a refreshing variation to having the guitarist as lead vocalist, methinks!), before we are acquainted with the stunning voice of Loulou Ghelichkhani. Ghelichkhani is a vastly accomplished singer songwriter, who has flourished in Thievery Corporation, as well as Night Glitter, more recently, and her presence on this track- her dainty yet impactful vocals alongside Maas’ mellow tones- is hauntingly beautiful. That breathless sound in her voice, backed up by immense control, is highly commendable, and the blend of the two voices is virtually immaculate.
The aforementioned almost eerily pretty style fits admirably with the song’s lyricism. Ultimately, this is a song about lust and longing for someone, and The Black Angels convey this brilliantly, with their own individual twist. The use of both English and French phrasing helps bring a real romantic atmosphere to the track, meanwhile the bewitching imagery in the lyrics enchants the listener- ‘temptress in the background, sipping on her wine’- what was it we were saying about that wine bar again? Meanwhile, the carefully woven lyrics are accompanied with wonderful instrumentation. There is a stunning groove to this song, created by a strong, addictive bassline throughout the track which carries the song beautifully.
This song, in a stronger sense than previous Black Angels releases, has a real reminiscence of The Velvet Underground to it, from the overall feel of the song (I feel this track perfectly encapsulates that almost muted but thrilling sense you get in a Velvet Underground song) to the soft vocal styles. Such an influence would make sense, as The Black Angels take their name from a Velvet Underground song, ‘The Black Angel’s Death Song’. The band equally manage to individualise this influence perfectly, with a rockier, more modern spin. Overall, this is a track with so many components and a real electric feeling to it, and I can’t wait to hear what comes next!
On that topic, The Black Angels can be caught in the coming months if you so wish, as they are embarking on a North American tour this autumn, starting on August 20th at Psycho Las Vegas! And, needless to say, listening to Wilderness Of Mirrors is how we should all be spending September 16th, and can be preordered here!