Wo Fat, Psychedelonaut (2009)
[Please note: For consistency’s sake, I’m using a YouTube embed above. The album is available direct from the band on Bandcamp here.]
I distinctly recall getting and reviewing Wo Fat‘s sophomore outing, Psychedelonaut, in 2009. It was an easy record to dig, so full in tone, so unabashed in its groove, but I don’t think it was possible to appreciate at the time just how pivotal the Dallas trio would become, not just to Texas fuzz, but to the breadth of US heavy in general. Seven years later, they stand tall among the finest and most accomplished heavy rock acts the nation has to offer — and does offer; they have a couple Euro tours to their credit and more to come — and on many levels, Psychedelonaut was the nexus point for what they’d go on to accomplish, blending swamp blues, ultra-stony fuzz tone and heavy psychedelic jazz-jamming into a sound that’s only become more their own as they’ve gone on. Granted, that’s a lot of context to expect to be able to pull out of one record seven years before any of it has started to unfold, but listening back to Psychedelonaut now, whether it’s the riff-chanting of “The Slow Blade,” the vicious, still-infectious hook of “Analog Man,” the slide on “Shake ’em on Down” or the ranging jam in closer “The Spheres Beyond,” which pushes the album past the hour and 70-minute marks with complete abandon, a lot of what the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter would go on to accomplish sonically got its start here.
That’s not to take anything away from the underlying sense of blues-monster threat in 2006’s debut, The Gathering Dark, but there’s a self-awareness that bleeds through Psychedelonaut — the idea that Wo Fat knew who their audience was and how to reach them — that particularly in hindsight only makes it seem more masterful. It was an essential step in an ongoing development that would see them sign to ultra-respected German purveyor Nasoni Records for 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here), and then Small Stone for the subsequent two outings, 2012’s The Black Code (review here) and 2014’s The Conjuring (review here), before linking up with Ripple Music for the forthcoming Midnight Cometh, but even taken on its own level, its songs deliver an already-shaped identity and lyrical wit — references to Hendrix and Parliament in “Enter the Riffian,” lines like “Vacuum tube voodoo” in “Analog Man,” the entirety of “Two the Hard Way” (also another Funkadelic reference there for good measure) — as well as an instrumental chemistry demonstrated across “Not of this Earth” and “The Spheres Beyond” that was the true point of potential. Even seven years ago, Wo Fat could jam. Some bands have to grow into that. These cats came in ready to roll.
And again, it’s easy to know that now, but as Wo Fat get ready this spring to unleash the next stage of their progression — the aforementioned Midnight Cometh — it’s worth taking the time to fuzz out on how what they’ve done in the years since really started to take shape, or at very least to get lost in the percussive hypnosis of “The Spheres Beyond.” If that’s how you want to go with it, that’s cool too.
Either way, I hope you enjoy.
My original plan for this weekend was to put together my Most Anticipated Albums of 2016 list to go up early next week. Gotta push that back. My living room is full of t-shirt boxes, and those things need to get gone as soon as humanly possible. So instead of writing tomorrow and Sunday (well, I’ll still be writing on Sunday), I’ll be filling out address forms and packing up hoodies to ship out across the planet. This is all happening as quickly as it can possibly happen. Please be aware I work full-time, so it’s not like I’m sitting on my ass with your money not fulfilling orders. I’m doing the best I can.
Next week, reviews of Mammoth Grove, Conan and Mars Red Sky (their new EP). This week was in-fucking-sane for news. Six posts a day. Seven posts a day. And more coming in all the time. I have news stories slated for Tuesday, never mind Monday, and Monday’s already a seven-post day. Today was six. Yesterday was seven. Apparently everyone decided this was the week to send out their press release. Fair enough, but give me a minute to catch my breath or, I don’t know, earn a living. Have been feeling way, way overwhelmed by everything.
That said, I appreciate all the kind words and support upon hitting 7,000 posts earlier this week (for example: that was Wednesday and this is post #7,016). There’s an anniversary coming up in a couple weeks that has occupied a goodly portion of my consciousness of late, but I guess we’ll talk about that when we get there. Announcements coming through for the Obelisk All-Dayer at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn on Aug. 20 as well in the next week or two. So, so much to do.
For now though, that’s taking Sharpies to envelopes. Please have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.