Holy Wave – Five of Cups
For the past however many years, Holy Wave has been working in the Austin music scene, often times as the sort of bastard step-child of heavy-hitters the Black Angels, and sadly overlooked more often than not. Careful ears will have seen that the group have been gradually moving away from similarities, and Five of Cups is the perfect statement album, making the group a powerful beast all their own. Broke it down into track by track for you all, with some trite final thoughts at the end.
Five of Cups – Initially, the buzz at the open was a bit startling, but as it fades, you’retreated to this plodding space-aged balladry. It’s a solemn number, setting up the flow of the record. Perhaps a bit too loud in the mix with some of the synthetic buzz for me, as it overpowers the vocals, but all in all, its a start that sets listeners up for the rest of the LP.
Bog Song – If you hadn’t been listening to the singles leading up to the release of Five Cups, this might be the track where you’re immediately taken aback at the band’s progress. Keys set up this playful background, allowing the vocals to kind of lull between the guitar notes, almost rolling down a hill in a sense. I love some of the high notes that get hit here.
Chaparral – This is the first tune where I really felt the band’s live style come through. There’s this guitar line in the intermittent space where you can really feel the band letting go as it sort of solos and noodles, only for the tightness of the group to pull it right back into a steadied pop croon, sporadically accentuated by perfectly aligned key notes. Plus, you get tons of spaced out jammy bits.
Path of Least Resistance – The more time you spend with this record, tracks like this one show you how much detail went into building Five of Cups. On the surface, its this nice little tune, mellowly bouncing on the air’s surface. But, listen closely as it unfolds. The band build these perfect little nuanced moments beneath the front of the mix, adding layer upon layer of fuzzy notes that charm and disorient alike.
Nothing is Real – Again, listen beneath the surface. There’s almost a galloping bit of percussion moving from the start; it creates that sort of movement necessary for a song built around a slow churning burn. It’s flexing jazz notes while still adhering to a more progressive brand of psychedelia.
Hypervigilance – While prior tracks had movement in a sense, this number feels like the first one where the rhythm is propelling the track forward. The vocals are playing catch up to the marching beat, waiting for the song to jettison into a more spaced out realm. I love the restraint, which is fitting for the album as a whole; they toy with noisy ambiance, but never overindulge.
The Darkest Timeline – A tune with guest vocals from Lorelle Meets the Obsolete. It’sright on par with the rest of the record, but be sure to get to the two minute mark where the track begins to sparkle and shine, glimmering notes of sharper psychedelia as the voice begins to stretch into the higher tones. Lorena’s performance is the perfect foil for the heavy groove applied to the latter half of this one.
Nothing in the Dark – Certainly a standout number, thus why it was one of the album’s singles. I described it as a jazzy bit of krautrock, jumping on the back of a snappy bit of drum work with some feathered vocals adding a dreamy layer to the top. The movement of this song feels like its spinning you forward, though it never fully gives in, hanging onto the tension for the song’s entirety.
Happier – Another guest vocalist on this one, this time with Estrella del Sol from Mint Field. I love the combative nature of this track. There’s a wash of feedback fighting against the bright keyboard notes that cruise throughout the song; it creates this weighted vibe of rock, only to breakdown in the latter half into a jazzed-out musical flex where Estrella makes her entrance.
My final thoughts on the record are as such; it rules, but it takes time. You don’t get to spend time with Five of Cups and not just get swept away in the moment, which is how an LP should be. I think there are moments when perhaps they take it too far, and I got a touch lost, but they pull it back almost every single time and keep you guessing with each tune. I truly think its a nice collection we’ll look back at in a few years time and see that the old-fashioned, riff-heavy psych needed a facelift. Just look at the guest artists from Lorelle Meets the Obsolete and Mint Field and you’ll realize these are all artists messing with the expectations of the genre, and brilliantly so.