Holy Wave

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Interloper Review

by Tim Sendra

On the four albums leading up to 2020's Interloper, the Texas quartet Holy Wave quietly established themselves as reliable practitioners of top-notch psychedelic sounds. The band fill their psychedelic beakers with typical ingredients like echoing guitars, spacey melodies, and hazy atmospheres, while also adding potent strains of washed-out shoegaze textures, hypnotic motorik rhythms, and reverb-heavy garage rock. On their previous album, Adult Fear, the group added more vintage keys to the mix and that's a trend that they expand on here. Almost every track has a Vox organ or mini-Moog lurking in the background, and sometimes there are sweeping synths or clanky drum machines working away, too. The album opener, "Schmetterling," has enough trilling sequencers, thick organs, and burbling synths to give Stereolab a run for their money, and the rest of the album benefits greatly from the subtle tricky placement of the keys in the arrangements. It's all a part of the more considered sonic approach Holy Wave undertook while recording the album. Not only have they added more keys, each song sounds like it was created in a laboratory setting. Any rough edges have been smoothed off, leaving the songs sounding soft, supple, and almost peaceful at times. Gently swaying tracks like "R&B" and "Maybe Then I Can Cry" are easy to cuddle up as the guitars jangle and twang, the rhythm section sways, and the vocals croon soothingly, and the trippy epic ballad "Escapism" has a stately and majestic feel that even a half-ton of reverb can't bury.

To go along with the calming, almost somnambulant feel found on the majority of the album, there are some up-tempo tracks to keep eyelids from drooping too much. "I'm Not Living in the Past Anymore" or "Buddhist Pete" have plenty of rollicking energy and guitar firepower, and "Hell Bastards" is the sharp stick hidden in the soft grass and the malevolent vocal melody and gnarled guitars combine to draw some blood. Even on these tracks, though, the band's sound is lighter than air and about as tough as a preschool pillow fight. This fits in with their usual mode of operation and the increased care given to sound and production only makes it seem more like their music is hovering a few feet off the ground, shimmering in front of disbelieving eyes like a heat-induced mirage. Holy Wave aren't the showiest neo-psych band around and their lack of image might make them seem a little pedestrian to the casual observer. That's never been the case, and as their music continues to expand and grow like it does here, it could be that they outlast all the hotshots and show-offs to end up as the leader of the 2010s class of psychedelic wanderers.

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