Carlton Melton ‘Photos Of Photos’ CD/LP/DD 2012

Carlton Melton ‘Photos Of Photos’ CD/LP/DD 2012I first encountered the blissed out three-piece psychedelia of Carlton Melton in a somewhat incongruous setting as they were support to “transcendental black metal” scamps, Liturgy (WELL worth checking out by the way). However the two bands did share an aesthetic in that they were more about the vibe than the pose, and about transporting you to somewhere else using a bit of patience, and musical guile.

This album has been touched by the hand of Monster Magnet alumnus John McBain, adding bubbling guitar, synth and Echoplex textures (the latter often employed by the likes of Earthless to bong-tingling effect). The effects are clear, the overall vibe created of a vast, opaque silky sea, scattered with beautiful musical debris like rotting fruit and leaves. Your brain gently wends its way across the waters, conveyed in a very comfortable vessel blown by rocking yet repetitive lo-fi guitars and drums, soloing away into the sunset. The opener’s title ‘Nor’Easter’ even suggests that kind of propulsive natural force, driving everything along with sustained, and sustaining gusts.

Apparently this thing was recorded in a geodesic dome, and you can just imagine the heady, tropical atmosphere that nurtured and enhanced the band’s earthy groove no end. While sometimes some fairly digital-sounding synths are allowed to surface, for example on the title track, they are still subsumed in the overall languorously warm feeling of the album, everything is fuzzed out, but becomes one as a result. The effect is therefore far more esoteric – Spacemen 3 or Neu! than stoner rock jam, these are real landscape watercolours in musical form, messy but attaining total integrity when seen from a distance. The tracks are jams, yeah (the band only does one take, ever), but they are really fully formed things, due to the intuitive level of affinity the players display with each other.

Track three ‘Space Treader’ is perhaps destined to become some kind of bliss-rock classic, it’s as well realised as Spacemen 3’s revolution or any of that stuff, circling around a dizzy proto-riff, over which a Jimmy Page harmonised guitar line hovers, and the weight slowly accumulates in the track, but perversely causing it to slowly lift off into the stratosphere. Later on its chord changes and soaring synth solo also bring Pink Floyd to mind, but without any of the cold Englishness that can be a problem with that band.

Like Spacemen 3’s epic track, this isn’t revolutionary, but unlike it, it’s taking the essence of psychedelia, and drenching it in another palette of colours, achieving a warm glow rather than a sense of futility. ‘Wingspan’ is another reason why this album is a worthy addition to the canon of great psychedelic albums, holding down an immense oscillating pulse of keyboard, while guitars just idly play in the background, it’s effortless and brilliant.

The two final tracks ‘Adrift’ and ‘Smoke Drip’ only appear on the CD version, and have been previously released, but tweak the band’s formula another direction, with a clearer, slightly starker aesthetic. The former is almost an epic preamble to ‘Wingspan’ in effect, in terms of its basic construction, but doesn’t suffer from following it.

This isn’t really an album, it’s just a wonderful place to visit, you won’t feel any actual songs have touched you, but you will definitely feel you’ve been on a journey. A totally beautiful one.

Label: Agitated Records

Scribed by: James Parker