The colorful world of levitation room’s ‘Headspace’
Written by Chris Ramos on October 8, 2019
Artist: levitation room
Label: Greenway Records
Release Date: October 4th, 2019
It’s been over fifty years since the cultural phenomenon known as the “Summer of Love” and while the days of gulping acid and opposing LBJ’s war have passed, its vibrant sounds carry on.
The L.A-based group, levitation room, has added yet another chapter in the contemporary psych scene with their new LP, Headspace.
The band consists of the following musical cosmonauts: Julian Porte (guitar/lead vocals), Gabriel Fernandez (lead guitar/vocals), Johnathan Martin (drums), Chris Mercado (bass), and Glenn Brigman (organ/piano). Taking advantage of their five-piece core, the group is able to create a richer, fuller sound with the addition of more instrumentation.
It’s been well over three years since their debut album, Ethos, which showcased the band’s admiration for the 60s aesthetic with aspects such as long-winded guitar solos and an emphasis on the use of fuzz pedals. Favoring the retro sound, they were able to make their music sound “fresh” and not dated. On their newest record, Headspace, the band explores elements of R&B and soul while staying true to their psych rock nature.
Three singles led the way in preparation for the album’s release: “Mr. Polydactyl Cat”, “Ooh Child”, and ”2025”. The strongest cut and most representative of the group’s quirky intentions is “Mr. Polydactyl Cat” which has Syd Barrett written all over it. The freakbeat rhythm is really anchored by Brigman’s organ which provides another example of how complementary the organ is within psych rock. Just as Syd Barrett could conjure up strange, fantasy like lyrics, Porte does it and does it well. The strangeness doesn’t come at the cost of melody as the songwriting shares a healthy marriage with the rhythm. Porte also lays down ghostly vocals that in itself sounds like a trip and comes off as mellower Syd Barrett vocal performance.
Credit has to be given to “2025” for possessing what might be the tightest groove on the entire album. It’s full of energy and includes impressive transitions that shows the listener that the band isn’t a one trick pony. The R&B tendencies that were mentioned above are doused all over “Ooh Child” but its sweet sensationalism is far too saturated in the song. It doesn’t hinder the song but rather makes it pretentious. Still, another score for the group.
For as strong as these three songs were, it seemed almost destined that there had to be cuts that would embody the polar opposite. “Friends” is boring as hell. Plain and simple. Originally released in 2015, the song was refined for the record and still manages to accomplish nothing. Calling it slow would be the wrong world to use, instead it’s flat out lifeless. The lyrics also do a poor job of conveying a situation in which one is trying so hard to attain affection from another. There is no emotion to it.
The sitar rock track, “Dream (within a Dream)” is nothing more than a cheap, hazy gimmick that comes off as some half-baked George Harrison demo. This hollow sound will only satisfy those that are either stoned out of their mind or need something to put them to sleep.
It’s crazy to see how lackluster the band can get at times during the course of the album because they can show such a tremendous upside.
“Here Comes the Man” pulls you in right away with its bluesy lick followed by the Gatling gun sound of Martin’s drums kicking in. A sweet melodic bombardment unfolds as Porte sings about the “man” or rather the opportunists in our society and their vices. If there is a moment in which the band sounds most like a well-oiled machine, it’s in this cut.
Headspace does feature some cool jam sessions like on the title track or the closing minutes on the record’s closer. The incorporation of new elements certainly works out well and there are melodies that’ll make an impression. You still have your raunchy, fuzzed out solos but it isn’t treated as a crutch.
Between the bad cuts and good cuts awaits a few OK songs that have their moments. Given the 11-song track listing, the good outweighs the bad. It’s important to consider the musical infancy of levitation room as their discography is light. There’s no debating that they’ve refined their sound on this LP and that there is more flare to the music. It’s more interesting.
They just haven’t hit that breakaway stride yet.
Standout Tracks: “Mr. Polydactyl Cat”, “Forever Tomorrow” & “Here Comes the Man”.