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Taking the Red Eye with Ojos Rojos

Claremont, California, four-piece Ojos Rojos (“Red Eyes”) play a psychedelic brand of post-rock that varies in meter, space, structure and memorability. Their new album, Disappear (available via Cobraside Distribution), bravely begins with the aptly-titled, eight-and-a-half-minute “In My Head,” and it’s clear from the start the band aren’t shy about self-indulgence. Anyone who’s ever enjoyed, well, anything, knows that’s not necessarily a negative, but there are moments when I find myself wishing Disappear, or a given track therein, would make its point and be done. The songs tend to meander, lost in swoops and swirls of delay in a kind of ambient desert nighttime vibe that, when it’s nailed, is nailed really well, and would probably come across even better live than on disc.

The band is comprised of Aaron Emil, George Serrano, Luis Vera and Rhett Delang, and though they claim “love” as their primary influence, there’s a good bit of Dead Meadow’s shoegazing psych-rock in there as well. That’s not to say Ojos Rojos aren’t doing their own thing, but they’re working within a genre even if doing so reasonably well. In the end, I find I’m not wowed by Disappear, but neither am I underwhelmed. Again, at night, plugged into a desert generator, drunk on cheap keg beer — and while we’re at it, let’s just pretend I’m someone who can enjoy himself, ever — the case would almost certainly be different. It’s fair to say, then, that Disappear is a strong enough album to accompany such a mood, but not necessarily strong enough to change a contrary mood to better suit listening.

Still, there is plenty of material on Disappear that keeps it from getting into “meh” or “pass” territory. The bass tone that sits under the heavily-delayed guitars throughout the album and most especially on “To Nowhere and Back” and “Step Outside” is warm enough to be a highlight on its own, and though the vocals aren’t changed much approach-wise over the course of these nine tracks, they are well and invitingly done. Likewise, the pure stoner groove of later cut “Honeydew” is a welcome change, even with the lead line that rests on top of it drawing it back into the context of the rest of the material surrounding. And the bluesy “Hear You Runnin’” just rules. Ojos Rojos don’t wind up doing anything radical with Disappear, but the resonant tones of “So Wrong” do well to affect an atmosphere that’s at once positive and thoughtful, which is a rare combination these days even in psychedelic music.

Some will be put off solely on the basis of Disappear’s chic nature, but I’ve heard way worse come out of skinny-jeaned rockers who get off on their effects pedals and pass the six-minute mark on more than half their songs. Ojos Rojos are hip, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean that on the right kind of warm, summer night I won’t want to reach for this album and experience it as I think it was intended to be experienced — near sand, probably inebriated. Emil, Serrano, Vera and Delang keep info tight — I don’t know who plays what (apart from Serrano, who drums and sings), or if this is their first album — and likely that’s on purpose, but one hopes they have more to say in the future, as their development could take any number of interesting turns before finally getting where it’s going. For now, give me more “Hear You Runnin’.”

Ojos Rojos on MySpace

Cobraside

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