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Somewhere between an LSD overdose and punk rock, somewhere between this planet and the next, you'll find Ganglion Reef. On their new record, Wand have created a brightly-colored little world with more than a few swamp people roaming about. A veritable beehive of guitar reverb and sepia lullaby vocals that recall every polaroid memory of decades ago, the psych-rocking foursome from Los Angeles have created a gloriously bastardized version of what the 1950s instellar future — Flash Gordon discovers acid.
Delightfully, Wand don't seem to be the only ones playing in a vein that runs back quickly to Syd Barrett and others. Identifying trends in music seems to depend on who you ask in the sprawling digital music landscape, but considering Wand share not only a tour but an album release date with psych-god Ty Segall and considering also the kick fans of Tame Impala will get out of "Ganglion Reef," psychedelic rock at least has the top-end quality to give the trending impression. (Segall himself signed them to his Drag City Records imprint GOD?) There is something whimsical and then quickly gangrene about the swirls of guitar tie-dye on "Ganglion Reef,” but Wand's sound differs in that their guitars grind a bit more toward the blackness of the final frontier. Like a popped champagne cork, like Tom Hanks flying what was left of Apollo 13, their swells of guitar swing wildly from Barrett-like folk to punch-in-the gut punk to borderline metal, stomping especially hard right off the bat.
So, let's start the rocket voyage. Grinding and clashing on ignition, "Send/Receive"’s screeching sludge introduction and bang-beat-then-cymbal-fuzz-offbeat drumming is calmed slightly by frontman Cory Thomas Hanson's soothing fuzzy touch. One complaint throughout "Ganglion Reef" might be that the vocals change little, but it befits the style well. Then the hailing signals go out to pinpoint any potential life among the stars on "Broken Candle," the most accessible and classic sounding track on the record. In addition to some Doors-esque organ incorporation, it has a California surfer sing-song quality. Much of the album, actually, has a "Strange Inertia," making your head swaying side to side in a vaguely Beach Boys kind of way. Then the West Coast falls into the ocean on "Fire on the Mountain," much to the crescendoing woe of Hanson and a lonely classic guitar solo. The whole thing is preceded by what sounds exactly like a bubbler hit, but of course that couldn't be because what is this psych-rock?.
After a brief welcome to "Ganglion Reef," you then get the ride on the "Flying Golem" you were promised. Evading grungy guitar swamp people and circling up toward the rainbow, the 3 minutes and 20 seconds are the album's peak. The guitars sound like they’ve been packed into a balloon and left to fly around the room deflating in a wonderful barrage of color. By the time you careen back down to Earth on "Growing Up Boys," seemingly the downtempo story of an old space cowboy reminiscencing in his dusty New Mexico trailer, you are ready to relax with "Generator Larping," the album's longest song.
Ten tracks seems a fitting place to end the album — not overly long, not punched-out short. Treading the line between punk and jam, Wand do well crafting songs with direction, that are still very much psychedelic.