Axis: Sova

Early Surf

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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas

Chicago-based psych band Axis: Sova was started as a solo outlet by guitarist/songwriter Brett Sova as his former band, Mass Shivers, was falling apart and he was having a personal renaissance with Jimi Hendrix's mind-expanding classic Axis: Bold as Love. Over the course of a few 7"s, cassettes, and his 2012 debut album, Weight of a Color, Sova and occasional collaborators twisted the roots of psych rock into unbelievably mangled shapes, blurring the lines between dark psychedelia, Chrome-like industrial rock, and art-damaged bedroom recording. Second full-length Early Surf is the culmination of all of these wild impulses and more, migrating slowly from the dazed stoner jamming of mutated opener "We Turn Pale" or "Glass" to the more aggressive, noise-laden Suicide-isms of the propulsive "Fractal Ancestry" and other various shades of ugliness and beauty, all filtered through Sova's particularly rough-edged lo-fi lens. Sova plays almost all of the instruments, but manipulates them to sound like a full band of feral ragers, storming through the nearly seven-minute repetitions of "Ask Me About My Smell," ultimately sounding like White Light/White Heat-era Velvet Underground recorded by Helios Creed at Lee Perry's studio. Moments later, instrumental "Secret Hand" comes on far gentler, with pensive guitar tones leaning more toward Felt than the wah-wah-heavy Spacemen 3 vibes of next song "Glass." Blown-out recording can be little more than cheap microphones and lazy engineering, but that's not the case with Early Surf. Every alien texture and unholy tone is a nuanced choice, each differing from the last. By the time the Cream/Hendrix riff of the title track arrives to close the album, Axis: Sova has presented a rainbow of different narcotic colors, brilliant abrasiveness, and some heavily blasted version of what pop music could sound like on other planets.

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