Psyche Rock is one of those weird terms. Like ‘Surrealism’, the phase is often used, and seldom understood. Putting a turd in a wig and painting it at the desk of the Oval Office is not a surreal image. It’s highly possible that this is just someone’s shitty depiction of a president. Surrealism, in the sense of the actual tradition, is informed by an awareness of psychological theory, philosophical conjecture, and the juxtaposition of intuitive concepts. Similarly, Psyche Rock isn’t just about making droning noises sounds pretty, or loud. An awareness of time, space, and the expectation of melodic progression is required. The discipline required to make good psyche rock is not small. The Myrrors album, Borderlands, is an album that meets the purest criteria of being psyche rock, and wonderfully surreal. Let’s talk about it for a bit.
The Myrrors are from Tucson, and they appear to pull the Arizona dust up through their soul. The sense that we arrive at when listening to Borderlands is the kind of thing we experience when watching a movie. A protagonist finds himself out in the desert. He stares out across the sand. Heat distorts light to throw up a mirage of water. Light is bent, perception is toyed with. There are shapes, and there is movement, but reaching out to grasp the vision immediately forces a shift, and things are dissolved. It is this paradox of being utterly in a scene, but also entirely separate from the scene, that is played with in Borderlands. The division between states (real and imagined) is the subject.
Through this sequence of tracks the atmosphere passes through a heavy kind of air, where pressure brings in a rolling stormfront. The threat of thunder is felt more than the actual detonation of explosive force. The Myrrors have the sense to sustain the magic of possibility, rather than spoff their load with a bunch of loud bangs or dumb crescendos, delivered for the sake of ‘dynamic’. No, this is an album that prowls with intention. The intention shifts as targets are encountered, assessed, and moved beyond.
The album demands to be listened in sequence. Opening track, “The Awakening” is about fifty-seconds long. Closing track, “Note From The Underground” has a duration of almost twenty minutes. Each track is the perfect length for the subject at hand. We’re either being jolted into a new way of perception with a quickening effect, or we’re being dragged through a cautious deliberation of something deeper than all of us. It’s going to take time. It’s the playing with time codes that adds to the decentralization of the senses. The Myrrors draw lines in the sand, then they move beyond them, or turn them into circles, or weird petroglyphic shapes. The reward is not in paying attention, but in letting go and following the process.
Production across the tracks is unusually clean. Typically, bands think that distortion is enough to make psychedelia sound authentic. The Myrrors avoid lazy thinking. A violin spirals, and something in the drums references classic Indian time signatures. The space of raga and/or tala phrasing cuts in to the bluesier guitar riffs of the album, avoiding any possible accusation of simply being a jam band. There’s an awareness of something much more significant than the eagerness to indulge a single ego.
“Biznaga” – a track that details the quality of a spiky plant – brings a flute into the mix, it brushes lightly across the face of hollowed-out depth. This thing is beautiful, but it may also reference the Aztecs who used this plant as part of their ritual sacrifices – so it’s never without a sense of darkness in the scale of things.
Where Borderlands differs from previous releases from The Myrrors is perhaps hard to say. The consistency of this band and their vision is reassuring. One distinguishing mark of the album, and perhaps a key to how it could be received, is in the title. Coming from Arizona, a state that sits on a border with Mexico, the band will have experienced the effects of human migration. The track “The Blood That Runs The Border” is an explicit reference to the real scale of political push-me-pull-you. The rights and wrongs of borders are not explicitly discussed in the reverb-distorted vocals. Instead, an image of heartbreak, dislocation, and loss is held up. This is the real situation, presented in a surreal, dissolving frame. On one hand it’s a nuanced approach to a difficult subject, on the other it’s an explicit call for basic kindness. Oh, and it fucking rocks.
Surreal, dark, sometimes distressing, always beautiful, and rooted in a tradition of true psych rock mysticism, Borderlands is one of those albums that sounds exactly like the place it pays tribute too.
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