For anyone that decides to make music today, there is a bottomless pit of background research available. There is little doubt that any musician can find examples where a similar approach, set up or mood was mapped out before. As far as psychedelic rock music, you have the tremendous arc of the late 60s as well as 5 whole decades since of further developments within the genre.
Knowledge of production techniques, and more affordable and portable means of replicating these sounds and atmospheres is now all just a few clicks away.
This also means it’s pretty easy to just copy/paste and several bands do this perfectly well. But it’s interesting when we come across a release that pushes this whole idea even further, or even manages to wrestle all these loose threads into something that’s actually new. Plant Lab’s self- titled debut seems to do exactly this.
A 45-minute headphone adventure that will simultaneously suck you in, whilst concurrently reminding you of a vast list of bands and tracks you’ve washed your brain in before. What remains completely engaging throughout this experience are the richly rendered details in everything, full stereo layers of texture, rippling, and always just blurred enough to pleasantly fuzz your head and widen your pupils.
Plant Lab is the Seattle based duo of Owen Whitcomb and Brenan Chambers. The pair had been slowly tinkering and detailing a series of demos birthed back in 2015. Clearly this luxury of time, and no doubt endless tweaks and chin stroking has realised every moment presented here in a finalised form, gloriously saturated in lysergic honey.
Split into 15 tracks, the album gathers instrumental textural passages around 5 seemingly more dynamically structured song peaks. Grand Hall is Tame Impala through the looking glass with an upright piano/drum groove, and Choral is the Beach Boys dissolving into a black hole drone.
Plants Don’t Grow ebbs and floats in zero gravity, Bubblegum Sun takes My Bloody Valentine and collides it with some kosmic pop buried under layers of silt. The penultimate track, ironically titled The Unremarkable 60s, is the clearest the duo has sounded as the flute groove slowly flutters and drips into a campfire conclusion.
But what makes the listen so enjoyable is the weird non-linear journey the whole album takes you on. The 4 parts of Ancients drift by like interludes, the dreamy fairground of Lucidity, or the jazzy delirium of Baroque all push you in odd new directions. Weather Frequencies could almost be Boards of Canada whilst Highway Scenery is an old scratched 7” single found in some mouldy attic…
Perhaps the ultimate compliment with Plant Lab’s superb debut is that it attempts what could easily be considered too much. Too many influences, styles and ideas competing in a cluttered and saturated sonic space, it is conceivable that things will sag or simply run out of steam. But despite so many elements converging somehow everything just seems to work. The 100’s of twists and turns here align as blistering sonic statements – nothing feels less than vital.
We may have been late to the party, but Plant Lab is 45 minutes, we wholeheartedly recommend you spare – a treat of pure heady escapism awaits…
Plant Lab is out now on Crash Symbols