(New Album Review) Föllakzoid- II

I think that the neo-psychedelic scene has a new sleeper classic in Follakzoid’s enrapturing sophomore effort, II. The Chilean hipster-spacerock outfit, who have attracted some attention opening for their Sacred Bones labelmates Psychic Ills, have refined their sound, and seem poised to surpass most if not all of their contemporaries. This album, a heady mixture of mumbled vocals and muscular, tightly-controlled jamming, will mesmerize both fans of experimental music and blissed-out psych-rock.

The first bar of the groove that anchors the opener, “9”, gives more or less the manifesto of these Chilean cosmonauts: 1. they obviously have as much affection for Neu! and La Düsseldorf as for Hawkwind, and 2. they have a sound that’s more focused and rhythmic than most other neo-psychedelic bands. The jamming doesn’t wander around aimlessly like it did on their self-titled debut in 2009, though a respectable EP they recorded in 2011 foreshadowed them coming into their own. The songs are long but they don’t seem to be seeking a destination dramatically different from the origin point– they, like their influences, are fascinated with repetition and the energy that builds up with it. Drummer Diego Lorca and bassist/vocalist Juan Pablo Rodríguez lay down an earth shaking beat while guitarist Domingo Garcia-Huidobro and keyboardist Alfredo Thiermann shimmer and burn.

In the midst of this cloudy psychedelia, Juan Pablo’s detached vocals add an air of seductive mystery, and even the vague semblance of a pop-song structure. Tempering the spacey repetition like this with dreamy vocals is effective– it’s sort of understated, as if added as an afterthought. It is worth mentioning that this group of musicians apparently came from different paths in the Chilean punk/alternative underground to form this krautrock-inspired vision, and they are all active in other areas of art. Their music is founded on a tension between minimalism and over-the-top psychedelic sensuality. There’s a dreamy languor to “Rio” and “99”, an insistent energy in “9” and “Trees”, and then something a bit more cerebral and dark in “Pulsar”. It all comes together beautifully.
The centerpiece of the album, “99”, showcases what gives these relatively young musicians the edge on a scene that’s entertained the likes of Magic Lantern, Barn Owl, Lumerians, Mugstar, and Moon Duo. Garcia Huidobro and Thiermann seem to drift in and out, layering textures over the rhythm section but never seeking to dominate it. Juan Pablo’s vocal refrain beckons you along the trance-like journey, but he does nothing more– after all, he doesn’t need to. A band as a crossroad between four minds– this is inspiring stuff. This level of balance in their overall sound is what puts them ahead of the rest. In fact, I’d say that this would be a perfect album, were it not for the fact that the closer, “Pulsar”, lingers on a bit too long, almost breaking the spell. Nevertheless, as the most pared-down, exploratory track on the album, it certainly rewards repeat listens. II could perhaps strike some listeners as a little derivative– after all, not all of us are as in love with the apache beat as I am. My hope is that this album will bring this unpretentious band of cosmic warriors to the forefront of the scene. I’m awaiting their next effort with sky-high expectations.

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