The problem with dark neo-psychedelic acts like the Black Angels and the Warlocks is that their attempts at hazy drugginess are a lot more narcotizing than awareness-expanding. San Francisco’s Siddhartha may not exactly cleanse the doors of perception on its debut — not surprising, perhaps, since the salient lit name drops on If It Die include Herman Hesse and James Baldwin, not Aldous Huxley — but the music won’t put you to sleep, either.
Certainly, singer-songwriter Marlon Hauser likes his drones, pseudo-Eastern tonalities, and kooky cosmic revelations as much as the next visionary type to find equal inspiration in Nuggets and the Velvets. Where he succeeds and so many others fail, however, is in how he filters his mystic hokum through genre experiments, never forgetting that the best musical psychedelia is still pop at heart, enriched by variety rather than commitment to a single, monotonous vibe. Hauser and his bandmates take their flange pedals and garage rock hiss down some unexpected avenues, navigating doo-wop, harp, and handclaps for “Her Useful Dream” and bringing some Daydream Nation guitar duel dissonance to “Blood Laughter Kisses”. Given its home recording origins and Hauser’s admirably outsized ambition, If It Die is psychoactive guitar rock on a budget, slightly baked, but not overcooked.
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