The Black Angels + Elephant Stone @ Botanique, Orangerie, Brussels, Belgium
After a gorgeous set (complete with sitar solos courtesy of frontman/sitarist/bassist, Rishi Dhir) by Montreal-based, self-professed “psychedelified-hindie-rock” four-piece, Elephant Stone, the Austin, Texas-based psychedelic five-piece take the stage.
Made up of Stephanie Bailey (drums/percussion/bass), Christian Bland (guitar/vocals/bass/drums), Kyle Hunt (keyboards/percussion/bass/guitar), Alex Maas (lead vocals/bass/guitar/keyboards), and Jake Garcia (guitar/bass/vocals), The Black Angels have returned to their familiar stomping grounds at the Botanique’s Orangerie in support of their latest release, this year’s Indigo Meadow.
Indigo Meadow, their fourth-long player since 2006’s Passover, is widely considered to be the group’s most accessible offering to date, and their ease on stage attests to their ever-expanding level of connection with the audience. They kick off with a scorching rendition of ‘Mission District’ (Directions to See a Ghost, 2008) with Maas, pivoted at the helm of his Vox, proving his chops as a formidible figure in the neo-psych movement. Complete with monklike incantations laced with subtley understated acidic jabs, Maas is a subtle figure who, when he opens his mouth evokes both the sagelike swagger of Jim Morrison with the icey fragility of Nico. It would be a mistake to write-off Maas’s natural tenor/baritone as merely a knock-off of Morrisons’ (the two obviously seem to share vocal similarities, but that is as far as it goes). There is no one ‘star’ of The Black Angels, and they are a collaborative alliance in the deepest sense.
From time-to-time Maas’ vocals are a bit submerged, occasionally swaying into off-tempo territory (‘Don’t Play With Guns’), but these trifling imperfections are brief and transitory in nature. Adept instrumentalists, they frequently switch instruments, such as during ‘I Hear Colors (Chromaesthesia).’ Maas switches from keys to bass, and they execute a vicious ‘Paint It Black’-laced version of the song. Drummer Stephanie Bailey proves herself as an epic percussionist, consistently maintaining a level of energy and attention-to-detail . While maintaining a consistent level of quality and depth towards their material, it would be interesting to see the Angels branch off into even more experimental fair, lest they fall into too familiar territory. Nevertheless, they are a bold group who seem to be consistently growing and challenging their own barriers. They have the goods, and they deliver them as well.
Photo: Black Angels by Elise for the girls are