With a title like Paralytic Stalks and songs like “Gelid Ascent,” “Malefic Dowery” and “Exorcismic Breeding Knife,” you’d expect psychedelia on this, the 11th album from this Athens, Georgia band and indie mainstay. It is a psychedelic head-bender of an album with long multi-part tracks and plenty of wild passages, but it’s also very soulful, albeit in a twisted way. Just listen to “Spiteful Intervention” (which could equally be called “Soulful Intervention”) or “Dour Percentage.” These are soul/R&B tunes decorated with odd touches – a dreamy flute run or a background vocal that wanders off in a strange direction.
The aforementioned “Gelid Ascent” starts the album firmly in the psychedelic world with its electronic noises and spacy verse leading to a melodic and urgent chorus of “You speak to me like the anguish of a child doused in flames” augmented by jet engine guitars. Then it slides off into soul for awhile before things get seriously weird again partway through “We Will Commit Wolf Murder” with its shouted “There’s blood in my hair” chorus repeated over heavily processed sound and rollicking percussion.
The middle of the album is the quiet “Malefic Dowery,” a song that seems to examine the psychological remnants of love gone wrong. As befits this band’s experimental nature, it’s not an entirely straightforward song with its odd lyrics, chirping flute and unexpected chord changes.
The album ends with four long and more experimental tracks (three of around eight minutes and one over 13) that spiral off in multiple directions with passages of melody interrupted by eerie string parts, heavily processed guitar, electronic sounds, ambient noise and other tools of the psychedelic trade. Like “Revolution 9” in an earlier era or a band like Spiritualized more recently, these songs can be trying. I can admire the artistry and find them interesting, even while they also tax my patience. Hang in there and you’ll hear some gems, such as the piano coda on the final “Authentic Pyrrhic Remissions.”
Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea but a fascinating and artistically compelling effort.