The Black Angels, Passover

Lenny Kaye

By Lenny Kaye

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The Black Angels hail from Austin, Texas, bearing a geographic and spatial legacy inherited from the 13th Floor Elevators (ex-Elevator Tommy Hall, he of the jug and the metaphisique, penned a recent celebration of the Angels 'fuzz-drone for the group's website). Moving through such druidic touchstones as Jesus and Mary Chain, the Verve, and Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Black Angels plant themselves firmly with one foot on tribalstomp earth and the other in the stirrups of space cowboy.

New Age apocalypso from a Texas-based sextet of space cowboys.

Passover is their debut album, containing just a couple of the songs appearing on their introductory EP, and mind-expanding on that promise. Listening to the Black Angels descend into the meltdown that is "The Sniper at the Gates of Heaven," with its vaguely Indo-modals providing a layered and cumulus atmosphere, the feel is less Syd-era Pink Floyd than Hawkwind. Their genre is new age apocalypso, with storm-warning vocals more frontal than many space-core groups, and the lyrics bear parsing: the segue of "Young Men Dead" into "The First Vietnamese War" is hardly coincidental.

Nor is the reference point of their name, after the Velvet Underground's "Black Angels Death Song." Sterling Morrison, the Velvets 'lead guitarist, wound up in Texas, and the Black Angels are the Velvets '"Prodigal Sun" come full circle, tom for tom-tom, guitars approaching escape velocity, in centrifugal gravitation. Like much mood-swing music, the effect is best taken cumulatively, a swirl of textural and perpetual in-motion that only approximates the Angels 'live experience, where they perform before light projections and the hypnotic pulse of their strum and thrum.