20 Jan 2015

Various Artists / Reverb Conspiracy Vol. 3 (album review)

"I look at it as a more modern Nuggets series..." said Fuzz Club Records' Casper Dee, curator of the Reverb Conspiracy series. Obviously this is a bold statement, that could arguably make or break this compilation of underground psychedelia; after all, apart from maybe the NME C86, no compilation has ever impacted on music in the way that the original Nuggets compilation. Bringing together the greatest bands of the sixties garage-psych scene, Nuggets has influenced bands from every major underground music scene of the past 40 years. And you can't forget it does still sound absolutely incredible - so whilst a modern Nuggets series sounds like maybe a good proposition, it could be a bit of stupid hyperbole to say that some a series of compilations released in the 2010's could even stand up to Elektra records' legendary Nuggets.

The Reverb Conspiracy brings together bands from all accross Europe; Sweden's Goat is the most well known name on the comp, as well as Italy's New Candys, Berlin's History of Colour TV, Iceland's Singapore Sling, and on top of that, Mugstar, who hail from the deepest depths of Liverpool. Where the Nuggets compilation covered only American artists, and was very strictly of one scene, the strength of Reverb Conspiracy is probably that it goes right against that; sure, all the bands can safely classify themselves as part of the European Psych Nouveau movement, but they're from all over the place, and that's fantastic. This compilation could show thousands of people a whole new load of artists that they wouldn't have otherwise come across.

All neo-psychedelia is to some extent influenced by the past to quite a large extent, but with neo-psycehedelia, you're always walking a tightrope between fresh, forward thinking music that takes influence from the past, and simply becoming a ropey 13th Floor Elevators pastiche.

Of course, the strength of this compilation kind of depends on just how much material falls into the former of those categories, rather than the latter. And I'm delighted to say that it certainly does that; the album's highlights are mind-blowing, and whilst it covers a range of genres, a lot of the songs are fantastic psychedelic nuggets that still kind of works as a pop song.

The overarching highlight comes from Berliners The History Of Colour TV's beautiful Suddenlines. It's kind of like a euphoric song that has a definite Slowdive influence; it's both abstract and fully formed, and it's one of the most perfect and complete releases of the past few years. Of all the lesser known bands that have made it onto the compilation, The History Of Colour TV are an absolute gem.

Berlin's offerings on this compilation are rich; the experimental space-rock of Camera is the out and out most batshit crazy track on here, and let's face it; with psych compilations, the batshit crazy stuff is what you want to hear the most. It's also probably the only song which sounds like the future, because there aren't really any reference points to compare it to.

No bands endear themselves to me, however, like Norwegian psych-punks Deathcrush. Kind of like a Sonic Youth- hybrid, their singer sounds like a slightly less venomous Courtney Love as she wails over the top of some filthy guitar lines. It's also maybe the most in-your-face song on the compilation, as Linn Nystadnes' vocals are absolutely unignorable.

Whilst it's hard to look past the blatant influence of Psychocandy, the only thing that comes near to the Deathcrush song in terms of being in-your-face comes from Iceland, which has a surprisingly rich punk past. Icelandic noise-makers Singapore Sling, who are no strangers to Reverb Conspiracy comps, do channel the Mary Chain to a point you can't ignore on their song You Drive Me Insane, (god, even the name is so Psychocandy it hurts) but god do they do it well. The singer sounds like a Jim Reid, sexy deep voice et al, and the band balance feedback and pop melodies perfectly.

The UK's contribution to the Reverb Conspiracy Volume 3 is maybe as far away from what you'd associate with British psychedelia as possible. The dark, murky sounds of the Jim Sclavunos-produced Lola Colt song Away From The Water sounds a lot like a Black Angels song - maybe it would make a great soundtrack to the second scene in Pulp Fiction, if Jules was played by Jimi Hendrix. Maybe. And Liverpuddlians Mugstar, practically psych veterans offer a song called Hollow Ox, which is typically hypnotic, organ-driven and huge-sounding, complete with what is the best drumming performance on this album.

The legend that is Anton Newcombe's remix of Goat is perhaps the song that hints at genius the most; it's initially as exciting as Goat's original Hide From The Sun, but it does kind of drag. At six and a half minutes, it's not really as mesmerising as you'd like, and you could arge Hide From The Sun was without a doubt a perfect two-minute pop song that didn't really ever need tampering with. But despite this, you'd be wrong to say that it this is a bad remix; it's just not as perfect as maybe a Newcombe-Goat collab could be.

And although there's a few tracks that are almost outright Spacemen 3 carbon copies, this compilation is the gateway to a huge number of great new bands. It's potentially every bit, to the neo-psychedelia fan, as essential as Nuggets would have been to your average mid-eighties psych obsessive. It lumps together modern exponents of psychedelia from all around Europe in one handy compilation, and whilst it's not perfect all the way through (gosh, the Future song sounds like a modernised Tears For Fears tribute) the Reverb Conspiracy is something that you've got to listen to at least once - lots of the bands are bands that people will connect with after one listen, and the compilation as a whole has enough character to make it a very enjoyable 75 minute listen.

Released: January 25th via Fuzz Club Records

Links to the best songs from this compilation
Suddenlines - The History of Colour TV
You Now - Deathcrush
Meltdown Corp - The New Candys