January, oh January. What a lovely month. For connoisseurs that is. Could the latest Carlton Melton serve as an ideal soundtrack to the winter blues? Let’s dig in.
As usual the amount of interesting releases at this time of the year is at a low. We go to great lengths to find you something that is worth your time. Last January we opened up shop with Boris that both weren’t good enough for a 2022 top 10 listing. This year’s first review comes from the Northern Californian masters of mind melting psych rock outfit: Carlton Melton!
On Resemble Ensemble the trio of Andy Duvall have become a four piece with the addition of Anthony Taibi. Taibi, who is a central figure in another Californian psych band, White Manna, brings in more kraut to the table which should work very nicely with the established sound of Carlton Melton. With five tracks that together take about 35 minutes to complete, the album is relatively short when compared to older releases. Last year’s Microwavelengths however also had the same amount of playtime so are we looking at a trend here? Duvall did move to the east coast after recording Resemble Ensemble so this could very well be the case. Time will tell.
The new album opens with a wonderful display of the band’s skills. On the 11 minute Prescribed Skies atmospheric krautrock slowly fades in and turns into a strong riffed track that breathes out the familiar high standards of Carlton Melton. The band shifts between the hypnotic and progressive at the the right times. Drumming and pulsing guitar play give Prescribed Skies the feel of a jam but is in fact a very thought out movement. We want more where that came from but alas Elsewhere (Need To Be) does not deliver. Here the lightweight drone brings in a seven minute drift that has no fit with the opener but also leads nowhere. Or better said, it leads to the next track So The Story Goes which is of a significantly darker tone. This one also slowly meanders but feels more interesting because of the lingering space rock ambient that is backed by a stretched out synth and riff that could explode at any moment.
How So The Story Goes exactly pans out is something that you have to discover yourself but what we can say is that we went on high alert at the start of High Alert. Here the four piece suddenly twists in a cheap sounding keyboard sound. You know, the one you can play with just two fingers and could repeat for hours. The band also adds a short guitar stroke and starts building. Just before things get really annoying an upbeat groove develops which is best described as Carlton Melton meets CAN. So instead of slowly moving forward between veils of drone, kraut and space rock, the band comes up with an easter egg that, after a few plays, actually sounds pretty, pretty,… pretty good. Okay, it’s not that good, but just view it as a refreshing twist and you’ll be alright. Also know that true pay off still is to come. Closer Route Thirteen rootsy groove offers great hooks and some dazzling guitar solos. It’s the kind of rock song that works well on a playlist for travelling, so if you can’t find your way around this album just add this one to your favourites and hit the open road.
Carlton Melton has always been a band for the few. Fans of Acid Mothers Temple, Bardo Pond or My Bloody Valentine could appreciate this latest album. With the addition of Taibi the band is in search of a new balance so beware that you’ll find yourself on the wrong foot every now and then and thus you also need to attune as a listener. Resemble Ensemble will therefore not nest itself between greater works like Photos of Photos (2012) or Out to Sea (2015). Instead this one offers breathing room because of its compactness and diversity which also could be the groundwork for a new creative direction.
Label: Agitated Records, 2023
Buy it here: https://www.normanrecords.com/records/195501-carlton-melton-resemble-ensemble
1. Prescribed Skies (11:19)
2. Elsewhere (Need To Be) (07:11)
3. So The Story Grows (07:41)
4. High Alert (04:17)
5. Route Thirteen (06:02)
- Andy Duvall – drums, guitar
- Clint Golden – bass
- Rich Millman – guitar, synths
- Anthony Taibi – guitar
Review by Wander Meulemans // 280123