All Them Witches: Sleeping Through The War

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All Them Witches
Sleeping Through the War
(New West)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One of the unfortunate trade-offs we have in our progressively more digitally-oriented society is the experience of seeing graphics on albums bought as a download or stream. Quickly fading are the days music lovers would scour album or CD bins, looking for front-cover artwork to catch their eye and maybe take a chance on exposing themselves to new, exciting sounds based on creative package design.

That involvement of touching, seeing and responding to the images adorning CDs is particularly relevant concerning the new release from Nashville’s All Them Witches. The stunning combination of Jackson Pollack-styled color blotches on the band’s fourth studio effort not only grabs your attention but dreamily reflects the wired psychedelic space rock inside. The Rorschach’s test effect is repeated on the inner panels, the disc sleeve and even the platter itself. It’s the rare instance of a band and label working together to create a fully realized audio and visual work that pushes the envelope of the bare minimum that too many acts on the Witches modest commercial level usually settle for.

Musically, this is a combination of stoner rock and space jams slathered with a psychedelic metal haze. The result is somewhat like a combination of Pink Floyd, Hawkwind and a less manic version of Monster Magnet. More than half the eight tracks are over five minutes, with the closing “Internet,” a hypnotic, slow-building bluesy romp with edgy amplified Little Walter-styled harmonica (courtesy of Willie Nelson’s long time sideman Mickey Raphael) blasting through the proceedings, the disc’s longest at nearly 10.

While singer/multi-instrumentalist Charles Michael Parks Jr.’s vocals are clear in the surprisingly clean and crisp mix, it’s tough to glean what songs such as “Bruce Lee,” “3-5-7” and the opening “Bulls” are about, especially since there are no printed lyrics and the words seem more like stream of consciousness ramblings. However, the rather angry “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” seems to be a treatise against conforming to expectations. Maybe. 

None of that matters, though, since the overall sonic attack is what keeps you riveted to these mostly sprawling, fever dream inspired selections. A backing female vocal trio on four cuts broadens and deepens the already thick, spacious, widescreen sound, and producer Dave Cobb (when does this guy sleep?) keeps it from going over the edge with a relatively compact 47-minute total.

Between the album’s imaginative, original art work and music that follows suit, this is one CD you’ll want to hold in your hands and stare at as you strap in and let the inspired music unspool.

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