Psychic Ills – Mirror Eye

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Psychic Ills – Mirror Eye (The Social Registry; released January 20th, 2009)

Sometimes my interest in a record is piqued not by critical acclaim, but by outright critical disdain. So what, Pitchfork gave this album a 1.4- that to me means it merits some sort of critique. On the plus side, the editors of eMusic gave it its “Pick” tag, and with 100 downloads a month sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and give in.

Needless to say, this record was everything I expected it to be after hearing their 2006 album Dins; an apt title for its psychedelic drone, tribal drumming and noisy feedback-laced textures. It borrows from styles as far ranging as traditional Indian sitar ragas and that whole drum circle aesthetic, while forcibly mashing it into a “rock” context- it worked well for this band on that record, so it was interesting to see what direction Mirror Eye was heading in.

Psychic Ills want you to go with them as they explore otherworldly, ambient soundscapes- it’s a hallucinogenic trip set to music. The album’s almost eleven minute opener, Mantis, meanders through a long synth intro until it settles into a plodding bass line with occasional whispered and delay-heavy processed vocals. There’s a sitar over all this, and the song eases itself into a niche that’s both creepy and comforting. I think I smell sandalwood in this track; or at the very least it reminds me of smoking hookahs of opium in some chick’s tapestry-covered dorm. It’s like a trip that’s just about to go bad; you’re sensing the impending doom but everything sort of just hangs on as the next track, Meta, seeps up into your consciousness and takes you to visit a Middle Eastern theme- we’re eating hummus and pitas sitting on huge pillows behind a curtain as a barely visible Salome does the Dance Of The Seven Veils.

Eyes closed now for the track Eyes Closed; the deepest possible bass line coils itself around your chest and begins to squeeze the air out of your lungs; the vocals are set to a long delay interval and the drums-versus-synth reverberations are tightly woven into a finely made fabric. It’s the most interesting track on the album, the one I keep revisiting. I Take You As My Wife Again‘s intro alternates between a helicopter-esque roto-Leslie effect while bells-and-whistles echo down a dark alleyway; all for cinematic effect, it’s when you took that wrong turn out of the bazaar in Marrakesh, stoned on hash so blonde you could’ve swore it was Marilyn Monroe’s sister. In your confusion you ended up cornered by some Moroccan street thugs. You tighten your grip on your wallet, try to swallow hard but the dust is choking you. You see a flash in the corner of your eye. A knife? They’re closing in. No time to think…

You wake up several hours later in a strange bed. An olive-skinned woman is pouring you mint tea. “Is this mint?” you ask. She points to her henna covered hands. You grimace in confusion, still groggy from the hashish. She points to her fingernail. Fingernail Tea. There is far-away singing. A bass line and a gourd filled with seeds is shaken somewhere nearby, the next room perhaps; a repetitive melody is played on some type of string instrument. You fade back into unconsciousness and awake to a start; it was all a dream…

The Way Of begins with another extended rotary drone until a hand drum breaks the whir, another Saharan guitar excursion grabs your attention; a two-note bass line eases its way into your upper spine, causing your head to bob while your brain melts slowly away, delicately, I may add, and into the closer Go To Radio. It’s like a lost transmission, the vocals are so coated in syrupy reverb and delay it’s impossible to make out what’s being said. We’re to be everywhere? Get me to the aviary? Nevermind, it’s gone…

Mirror Eye is less a recording of music and more a meditation on sound, forcing the listener to ponder his/her relationship with “noise”. It’s heaped up with layers upon layers of thick, hazy atmospheres. If you’re thinking about taking some mind-altering chemicals and want to have your consciousness expanded, put on this record. I would strongly recommend that one person stay straight throughout the 43 minutes to act as a control; but then again they’d probably have their mind blown by the album, so it won’t do you any good.

Tracklisting:

1.  Mantis

2.  Meta

3.  Sub Synth

4.  Eyes Closed

5.  I Take You As My Wife Again

6.  Fingernail Tea

7.  The Way Of

8.  Go To Radio

Psychic Ills