The Psychic Paramount
II (No Quarter)
The first proper studio album by Brooklyn trio the Psychic Paramount was called Gamelan Into the Mink Supernatural. Wow. The second one, released recently after a nearly six-year silence, is called II. Hmm. Well, sure, it could be one of those tongue-in-cheek in-jokes about uninspired titles for follow-ups, but then you put it on. Gamelan was a raging, needles-in-the-red neo-hard-psych beast, a document approximating scarcely imagined bootlegs of Black Flag doing Mahavishnu Orchestra and Steve Reich covers. Jesus Christ, what an exciting record. II, on the other hand, is a respectable album of contemporary progressive rock music by the same band.
Guitarist Drew St. Ivany returns to his obsessive clipped hummingbird strums and his trusty delay unit, constructing tracks primarily out of building and ebbing repetition. Bassist Ben Armstrong once again provides a stalwart bottom-end counterpoint. Drummer Jeff Conaway lays out a carpet of excitable pummel. But if Gamelan seemed like a crude map of a barely explored continent of messy shred and sonic illusion, II is like an exit book: There will be variations, but no sharp turns or other surprises. "Intro/SP" starts things off at an impressively high energy level, and "N5" and "DDB" introduce an appealing shoegaze-y sound to St. Ivany's approach. But II misses its predecessor's explosive dynamics, the sense that anything could happen. Here the Psychic Paramount tends to settle into a groove and rides it into near tedium; for all the instrumental fury "Isolated" and "N6" work up in spots, the tracks eventually flatline thanks to too much tension and not enough release. "RW" consists largely of St. Ivany clanging a single chord for nearly seven minutes. The band still outstrips much post-whathaveyou rock of the current era, but as a listening experience, faint praise is the best II is gonna do.