David Fricke’s Guitar Picks
“We’re called Unrehearsed Blue Öyster Cult Cover Band, and we’re from San Francisco, Texas,” singer-guitarist Chris Forsyth announced as his jamming-guitar quartet, the Solar Motel Band, took the stage at the Brooklyn club Baby’s All Right one night in April of last year. None of what he said was true. Forsyth and his group are from Philadelphia, and they didn’t play anything from Tyranny and Mutation, rehearsed or otherwise, in their opening set for Howlin’ Rain, who are from the Bay Area.
But the four extended, mostly instrumental trips that night – all previews from Forsyth and Solar Motel’s new double album, The Rarity of Experience (No Quarter) – came with enough lysergic modal majesty and spearing improvisation, sheathed in feedback-precipice distortion, that it was easy to hear the ’66 Texas postmark of the 13th Floor Elevators and the Fillmore-dance-floor command of Quicksilver Messenger Service, not to mention flashbacks to BÖC’s hard-treble swordplay. I immediately hightailed it to the merch table for copies of 2013’s Solar Motel (Paradise of Bachelors) and 2014’s Intensity Ghost (No Quarter); Forsyth also has an extensive solo and collaborative discography that includes beyond-psych work with the minimalist-blues guitarist Loren Connors and trumpeter-composer Nate Wooley.
<a href=”https://chrisforsyth1.bandcamp.com/album/the-rarity-of-experience” data-mce-href=”https://chrisforsyth1.bandcamp.com/album/the-rarity-of-experience”>The Rarity of Experience by Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band</a>
The Rarity of Experience is twice the surprise I got in Brooklyn – 10 pieces across two discs (on both CD and LP) – with colors and inferences that passed by a little too fast that night. The dancing leads in “Harmonious Dance” – probably Forsyth, possibly guitar foil Nick Millevoi – suggest Jerry Garcia in studious ascension. “The First Ten Minutes of Cocksucker Blues” mimics the circular ennui of that notorious Rolling Stones film, until trumpeter Daniel Carter blows in like a Miles Davis wake-up call from Live-Evil. Forsyth pays literal homage to British guitarist Richard Thompson in Rarity‘s closing cover of “The Calvary Cross,” but Television’s Tom Verlaine is in there too, lurking at the long bent-note turns and chopped-note clusters. Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band pack The Rarity of Experience with great spirits, then deliver on every expectation.
That night in Brooklyn, after Howlin’ Rain roared through a thunder-and-acid rendering of songs from their latest album, Mansion Songs (Easy Sound), guitarist Ethan Miller told me about a record he was making with a new band, Heron Oblivion. The music was, he said, “a combination of Fairport Convention and Quicksilver Messenger Service.” Heron Oblivion – Miller on bass, singer-drummer Meg Baird, and tandem guitarists Noel V. Harmonson and Charlie Saufley – have finally issued their debut LP, Heron Oblivion (Sub Pop), and it is exactly what Miller promised: an iridescent surge of garage-raga crosstalk glazed with Baird’s British-folk-angel vocals. The band flies bright and thoughtful at length (“Rama,” “Seventeen Landscapes”) but also excels in the tighter quarters of “Oriar,” a buoyant delicacy soaked in sun-shower wah-wah.
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