If it feels like there’s been a lot of instrumental heavy psych reviewed around here lately, you’re right. Joining the pack with their second studio full-length on R.A.I.G. (they also had a live album out) is previously On-the-Radar’ed Moscow trio The Re-Stoned, whose latest seven-track collection of wah-jam voodoo is called Analog. A lot of what you need to know about the band and the album is right there. As their moniker might lead you to believe, they’re stoned again – playing a kind of heady guitar-led stoner/psych rock – and they’re not at all shy about highlighting the analog warmth of the cuts included; calling it Analog feels almost brazen, daring the listener to take on the album’s natural feel. And in so doing, one is making a considerable investment in both time and energy. The three-piece cover a wide swath of mostly familiar ground on Analog, and with opener “Northern Lights” as the shortest piece at 5:58 and closer “Dream of Vodyanoy” the longest at 14:01, the record clocks a robust 61 and a half minutes, which is a lot and feels like it.
Immediately that’s a kind of drawback for The Re-Stoned. “Fronted” in a musical sense by heavily-effected, Orange-amped guitarist Ilya Lipkin, Analog takes shape around classic psych jams like “Crystals,” and while the bluesy favor in Lipkin’s playing is often satisfying as offset by the double-Vladimir rhythm section of Vladimir Nikulin (bass) and Vladimir Muchnov (drums), as “Crystals” turns into “Feedback” turns into “Music for Jimmy” and the album’s middle becomes its end, the course of jam parts, the occasional plotted riff and extended solos starts to feel samey, in concept if not actual sound. The Re-Stoned recorded Analog live, which was undoubtedly the way to go considering the spontaneous vibe of the material, and in multiple sessions, and one can hear that mostly in Muchnov’s drums, which have an entirely different snare sound on the title-track than they do on the riffier “Put the Sound Down or Get the Hell Out.” And while this change in the actual audio keeps Analog from sounding overly redundant, there’s no denying the ethic is the same. That said, “Analog” blends the more riff-led and jammier elements in The Re-Stoned’s approach better than nearly everything else on the album, so it’s not like Analog is lacking in satisfying moments or is somehow entirely without merit or appeal. Just the opposite.
The thought of saying a record works best as sonic wallpaper I find personally offensive, even in cases of ambient drone, so to write it for something as active as The Re-Stoned’s Analog seems like a stretch. Nonetheless, the laid back vibe that persists through most of these seven songs is so much a constant and so directly related to the thrust of the album that in a way, a hard-listen/close-analysis of every move Lipkin, Nikulin and Muchnov make feels like the wrong avenue to take, and the better choice is to tilt your head back and go where it takes you. Not necessarily that you have to be doing something else while you listen or that Analog loses something when you concentrate on it too hard – although it might if you start picking apart the pieces – but just that the impulse to take it on as a whole shouldn’t be ignored despite the fact that The Re-Stoned make use of many of the same tactics as the album progresses.
“Dream of Vodyanoy” is a suitable closer for the ultimate chill-out it provides, showing just how far The Re-Stoned have come from the more straight-ahead crunch of their previous album, last year’s Revealed Gravitation. They still have some work to do if they’re going to stand out from the post-Kyuss/Colour Haze mélange of desert-hewn European psychedelia, but The Re-Stoned’s jams come across organically and heartfelt, and in this genre, that’s more than half the battle. As a part of the growing Eastern European scene and joining the several other formidable exports from that scene – thinking mostly of Russian and Polish acts like The Grand Astoria and Elvis Deluxe – they do fill a niche in their market. Transcending that to the larger international underground is the next step, and given the strides between Revealed Gravitation and Analog, there’s little reason to think The Re-Stoned won’t be able to do it on some subsequent offering, be it their next or the one after. For now, Analog is heavy jams for heavy jammers and a few stonerly moments to keep the riff heads happy. A tried and true method with considerable execution.
Tags: Moscow, R.A.I.G., Russia, The Re-Stoned