March 8 2016 04:00 PM

Psych rock outfit’s Aura Obelisk is epic weirdness

Octagrape are most in their element onstage. They're a loud and fiery bunch, prone to playing intense sets of fuzz-heavy psychedelic rock that moves the body as much as it alters your state of mind. Singer and guitarist Glen Galloway is the focal point of the band, an animated leader who deals out the bulk of their wonderful noise, and manages to play his guitar without strapping it to his shoulders—a feat that's considerably harder than it looks.

The band's new album, Aura Obelisk, captures and bottles up that live energy to great effect, each of its 19 tracks dripping with trippy weirdness and an almost disorienting level of distortion. There is, however, a pretty significant difference between Aura Obelisk and the band's live sets: It's a hell of a lot longer. As you might imagine, an album containing 19 tracks tends to stretch on for quite a while, and though most of them aren't that long it's a sum total of around 73 minutes of music. That's a lot of Octagrape.

It's not, however, a surplus to complain about. Aura Obelisk is an embarrassment of volume-cranked riches, and one that features a pretty diverse range of sounds within a reasonably straightforward guitar-bass-drums setup. Opener "Strange Light" is one of the weirdest of the bunch, a jerky krautrock-inspired dirge that lurches deeper into mind-bending psychedelia as it goes on. That song is followed by the screeching garage rock of "Too Fly," which can hold its own against the speaker-blowing anthems of contemporary garage gurus such as Thee Oh Sees or Ty Segall.

That Octagrape doesn't frontload the album with catchier, simpler numbers is a testament to their ability to create a flow to Aura Obelisk, allowing it to build up to different peaks. One such high point is "Hightropics," a two-chord barnburner that aims straight for the pleasure zone. And just two tracks later on "Seizures," they stomp harder than ever, hammering out a psychotic glam rock anthem with one of the biggest choruses on the album. Because Aura Obelisk is a lot to process in one sitting, it might be best experienced in smaller chunks, but wherever you start from on the tracklist, you're guaranteed an ass-kicking rock 'n' roll experience.


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