By Maci Woody
Local Music Journalist
Artist: Thanks Light
Release Date: October 14, 2016
If you are looking to venture into the enigmatic world of Austin’s psychedelic rock scene, then Thanks Light is one trip you will have to take (pun intended). This four-piece experimental rock band has been busy touring the US on their summer ’17 tour following the release of their latest album, Psychonauts. The album features 11 kaleidoscopic tracks that draw from several different sub-genres within psychedelic rock such as space-rock, shoegaze, punk, and acid rock. These diverse sources of inspiration can be heard in their earlier album, Hallelujah, Amen and truly gives their music that eccentric Thanks Light character.
“Dueling Twins”, the first track on the album, opens with a whimsical piano melody followed almost immediately with three comparably heavy notes from the other instruments. The song flits back and forth between these two states causing immediate dramatic tension that persists throughout the rest of the song. Despite the tension, the song has a certain smoothness to it brought forth by the steady rhythm and suave vocals. It has a lot of pride and swagger in its strut. This powerful stride is also felt in the next song, “Dark Star Monstar”, and later in “Damn Dirty Trixxx” and “Born on the Border”.
With the title alone, “Dark Star Monstar” revives the classic Thanks Light motif of space and all things cosmic. The song opens with a low reverberation akin to the sound of a hovering UFO. The song then breaks into a bluesy prowling guitar riff and the belting vocals are reminiscent of those of The Black Keys. The space-rock torch is picked up in later songs such as “Earthling”, “Enjoy”, “Bones”, and “Conquertik”. “Earthling” uses a much broader range of vocals, most notably the higher pitched vocals and the use of layering to create an otherworldly impression. “Enjoy” uses wavy vocals and a moog synthesizer, both of which are staples of space-rock. The two are executed perfectly together to create a funky, creeping pulse that brings extraterrestrial life to the track. “Bones” has a deceptively gentle start for what quickly builds into a very powerful and bold song. This song has a lot of raw emotion behind it that drives it forward at a desperate pace and gives it a very dynamic aura. It is intense and almost reckless. The bridge and outro of the song slow, but the mood does not. Thanks Light manages to keep the tension high even as the song fades to black.“Conquertik” has a slow, dreamy start that feels like a state of trance-like suspended animation you slowly wake up from over the course of 3 ½ minutes, only to be jolted into frantic action for the last remaining minute of the song. This track bleeds psychedelia. It’s lackadaisical attitude, disjunctive sound structure, husky, languid vocals, and strong air of surrealism coalesce to bring us that classic mind-altering ambience we have come to know and love from psychedelic-rock.
The award for most cosmic song on the album, however, goes to “In My Blood”. Listening to this song quite literally feels like drifting through space as your consciousness expands. There is a strong sense of depersonalization, coupled with the seemingly contradictory sense of acute self-awareness that permeates both the song, and the listener. The vocals are extremely delicate and breathy. The percussion is minimal throughout the beginning of the song and highly complementary to the other instruments throughout the rest. The use of a phaser on the guitar infuses the track with a wavy hallucinogenic feel, making this song psychedelic to it’s core.
One of the most exciting things about this album is that Thanks Light has graced us with not one, but two music videos to accompany tracks “V.I.P.” and “Family Jewels”. The prismatic “V.I.P” music video gives the viewer a taste of what it is to see Thanks Light live. The fast tempo song matched with Thank Light’s signature light show, the use of mirror effects, and the psytrance performance of the lovely Phoenix van Cartier all seamlessly blend together to form a hypnotic music video that is the pinnacle of psych-rock. “Family Jewels” is an upbeat trippy song with a conscious that fades in and out throughout the song. The surrealistic music video depicting a game night between friends accompanies the song flawlessly. The odd shaky camera angles, time stretching, hazy smoke, changing moods and existence of bizarre characters such as the ostrich head that accepts money in exchange for wheel spins and magic cards makes for a truly outlandish video.
Thanks Light has carved out their own space in Austin’s music scene by really going the extra mile to recreate that genuine mind-altering fuzzy feel found in the psychedelic rock of the ‘60s. Their attention to detail in their artful use of phasing, delay loops, reverb, disjunction and other numerous effects present throughout the album, and their preference for using analog equipment over newer digital equipment (which can sound a bit choppy to the trained ear), both refine the authenticity of their music, style, and identity as Thanks Light.