When the Italian band Desert Wave reached out and asked me to review their latest release, Deafening Silence, I was feeling a bit skeptical. They had the balls to write about their love for King Buffalo, but they were so damn nice (and somewhat flattering) that I broke Cardinal Rule #12 and responded with “yes.” I knew that I was either going to regret the heck out of it or feel like I just found a diamond in a mound of coal.
Verdict: I found a natural, ready to be polished gem.
I struggle a lot with references, which I’ve made pretty clear lately. So when the band referenced King Buffalo, it set my expectations. It will probably set yours as well, especially when you hear Outside Parts 1 and II. I mean, if that opening synth swell doesn’t take you back to Orion, then you haven’t heard Orion. I’m a total sucker for that, by the way. KB didn’t invent it, and ever since the synth was used in heavy psychedelia back in the 70’s, it’s never failed to grab my attention. I go nuts over that stuff, so keep that in mind.
To be brutally honest, they were in danger of losing me at this point. Outside Part II continues the King Buffalo worship to a deeper level, to the point I expected to hear Sean McVay come in on vocals. Thank goodness it’s not, and Logan has his own voice. That’s the last of the overt KB worship though, and as the song plays out they start to diverge in some really interesting ways.
Deafening Silence is where Desert Wave start to assert themselves. There’s so much love and adoration in this track, it’s like a melting pot of everything that means something to the band. Even better, this is what a band sounds like when they go into a studio and jam. Closing my eyes, I could imagine the three of them grinning from section to section, bobbing their heads in unison as drummer Drugo holds everything together. It’s just a fun track, and they clearly don’t use a click track. Timing ebbs and flows, adding to the psychedelia of the moment. This is the kind of stuff that makes me feel stoned. There’s only one major problem with this track: it’s too damn short. At 5:22, it’s the longest on the album, but ya gotta know your audience, guys. Some of us avoid anything under 8 minutes!
But then I’m rewarded with Above, the 4th track. Yeah, this is it, man. I’m totally on board at this point. Drugo and Logan are totally locked-in throughout the song, and here’s where guitarist Burton starts to shine. Before you dismiss this as another KB moment, I’d like to argue that the feel for this goes back to the late 60’s/early 70’s, when forgotten bands like Aphrodites Child roamed the earth. The Greek/Italian scene goes back, way back, man. Desert Wave has entire millennia of culture to pull from, and it oozes out of this track. When I dream of riffs, I dream of this…
Vortex comes flying in next, with some serious Kyuss vibes. Until it doesn’t. By now I’m figuring these guys out: they entice us with an overt nod to a band or genre, then take us down a similar yet unknown path. Like Deafening Silence, this is another instrumental track that bobs and weaves at its own pace. I can only imagine the impact of hearing this live.
Venus Chains just rips. More dreamy psychedelia with that sense of groove that a lot of us chase, usually in vane. By now, this whole thing is feeling like a soundtrack to an obscure Italian director re-emerging after 50 years in exile and releasing a new flick to an unsuspecting public. Logan’s bass sounds incredible on this one, and the tone and pace shift during the last minute is juicy as heck. And then it ends…
Finally, Endless Night closes us out. THIS, my friends, THIS is what Desert Wave promised throughout the preceding tracks. The trippy riff, the patient doomy drums, bass guitar hitting hard on the down beats and the whispered, menacing vocals combine for a sonic delight that will clearly be on my “best of” soundtrack for the year. Man, these guys fucking deliver, in a big way, in what I want out of epic, cinematic psychedelic stoner. The only problem is I need to listen to it three times in a row to truly get the trip I want to get out of this.
I have an interview with the Desert Wave that I’ll be publishing soon. I purposely wrote impressions before the interview, so that the words and thoughts of the band don’t influence me too much. I think it says a lot that the references they talk about, and the decisions they made, line up 90% with what I thought was going on. I have no idea if this is going to make sense to anyone, but I can’t help but think that this is the most honest and earnest album I’ve heard all year. I mentioned “love and adoration” when I commented on Deafening Silence, and after reading their answers to my questions, it really stands out for me.
Desert Wave love and adore stoner/doom and heavy psych. There’s a celebratory, almost joyous bliss on most of this album that’s infectious and engaging. On the parts where that’s not apparent, it’s the sound of a band almost asking, “is it okay if we do this?” I don’t it mean in a bad way, it’s more like they’re not entirely sure if we love this stuff as much as they do.
To Burton, Logan, and Drugo: we do!
The only problem is, we’re gonna want MORE! This album builds, song upon song, to the point it could have been a concept album. I can only speak for myself, but I want to hear the 16-minute extended mega-jam version(s). Again, that’s my bias, and it’s similar to observations I’ve made about other artists. I need at least 90 minutes of this music, so I can get lost in the soundscapes Desert Wave can create.
On the other hand, always leave them wanting more…
As always, I have to give a nod to Andrea “Spazza” Rigoni, the dude I will forever think of as the Chris Goss of Italy. How he captured the raw intent of Desert Wave is marvelous. This doesn’t sound like one of the millions (AND MILLIONS) of rock albums recorded with Pro Tools, filled with some digital drum software and compressed to a brick wall. It sounds real, and it sounds good. Bravo!
Seriously, this is great stuff. If you’re a total sucker for pure, heavy, and psyched-out stoner rock that gets better, song after song, then you need to buy this.