Sometimes it is necessary to detach yourself from what is generally regarded as reality. Taking a step back and relishing in your cosmic insignificance can lead to the realization that life is meant to be enjoyed. San Diego’s psychedelic jammers, Harsh Toke, exemplify this sentiment precisely with their debut on Tee Pee Records, ‘Light Up And Live’. They have stepped up their game quite a bit since their previous release last year, entitled ‘Jams’. The audio engineering is improved and the songs are more concise, allowing them to be more driving. On ‘Jams’ the songs averaged around twenty minutes, and on ‘Light Up And Live’ they are about half that.
The album begins with an anthemic melody with the quartet in unison. A swelling organ tone leading into a gallop on guitar gives a sense of “Ready? Here we go!” The band comes in full force and doesn’t let up. A strong vocal performance in this first song ‘Rest In Prince’ comes as a pleasant surprise, considering ‘Jams’ was entirely instrumental.
The second and longest track on the album ‘Weight Of The Sun’ starts off by putting you into a tribal trance. Polyrhythms build on the toms, while a rain stick and shakers add to the atmosphere. Cosmic synth tones coalesce while a Native American flute line comes in. The guitar enters and the song seamlessly transforms into another high energy jamming exploration. This song tricks you into thinking it might fizzle out around the nine minute mark as the tempo begins to slow down, but it almost immediately starts picking back up for another five more minutes.
Next is the album’s title track ‘Light Up And Live’, which is an adaptation of ‘E Minor Jam’ from ‘Jams’. The bass starts things off with a heavy, groove-based, doom influenced riff which you can’t help but head bang to. This riff cycles through the entirety of the nearly ten minute song, but it never gets tiring. Reverb and delay soaked guitar soloing washes over you as the rhythm section keeps you buckled in. Another brief vocal appearance in the middle of the tune charges things up even more.
The last song on the album ‘Plug In To The Moon’ is where Harsh Toke lets completely loose, pouring every last bit of energy they have into creating a powerful ending to an already vigorous record.
This is a very lively album about enjoying life by a group of musicians who do just that. Give it a listen and take their advice ‘Light Up And Live‘.
Scribed by: Mick Schrier