Carlton Melton - Hidden Lights EP

by Mark Steele Rating:7 Release Date:2017-08-11

Just because you hear of a band arising out of the San Francisco area that happens to play psychedelic music, it does not necessarily suggest that they have to, by default, fall into the mid-late 1960's Haight-Ashbury lysergic blues vibe, or some spaced-out instrumental odyssey. Carlton Melton, incidentally happens to produce elongated instrumentals and acid rock adventures, yet here they choose to go more ambient without vocals. The effort uses various devices and techniques for sonic expressions, not dissimilar to Country Joe And The Fish, most particularly on their new 3-track EP Hidden Lights. Alongside the standard trio of Andy Duvall, Clint Golden, and Rich Millman, is featured keys man John McBain (Monster Magnet, Evil AcidHead).

The initial constant droning of 17-minute opus "Rememory" produces echoes of vintage electronica artists such as Mike Oldfield and even Vangelis. It builds slowly and meditatively, with the feel of some New Age yoga session background music.  Delayed, clean, and jangly to lightly overdriven guitars chime around seven minutes in, then a simple earthy percussive pattern joins, keeping the whole piece afloat and carefree. The relaxed improvisational manner of their arrangements seems to invoke a contemplative calm, one that could quite easily render you asleep. Amongst a pulsing tambourine/shaker rhythm, there are echoed dreamy raga like guitar notes on "The Warbler."

A present, hurdy gurdy-esque synth drone moves along amongst phased passages and reversed tape loops, which leads to the title-track closer "Hidden Lights." Pounding toms with tribal ritualistic bite and cymbal splashes usher in fired guitar tones that prowl in and around the bustling rhythm. The bass is deep in the mix and allows the other instruments to lead the campaign. When the guitar does spew out a few feral licks here and there, they are enough to light the way into a cavernous expanse that settles the album down to just the remaining drone.

This is an album which seems like the calm after the storm, albeit a raucous storm that was released two years ago. Yet, the storm is not settled for too long, as there appears, at the end of the recording, some stirrings arising again from Carlton Melton.

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