Toronto garage rock trio Mexican Slang apparently have a few EPs dating back to 2012 under their belt, but Inside the Velvet Castle is their first “official” debut release. And it’s quite haunting. The EP is inspired by the time spent by singer Annabelle Lee in a psychiatric facility, making it something of a short concept album. “Each song is written from the perspective of a different patient, struggling with a distinct dilemma,” she said in a press release. “The songs are a combination of frantic, schizophrenic, manic episodes between periods of lucidity and sedation. The theme of this album is the collective purging of shame, anger and isolation by these individuals and therefore by me, as each subject’s story actually represents a personal thought or experience.” So, as a whole, Inside the Velvet Castle hangs together as a statement, even if the words are fuzzy and indiscernible. Recorded on a cassette four-track in the band’s practice space, Inside the Velvet Castle is suitably lo-fi and, well, “garage-y”.
The EP kicks off with “Blisters”, which has a creepy guitar riff and seems overall reminiscent of Thee Oh Sees. It’s scuzzy and horrifying, and a great way to begin things. “Pink Fog” is slightly brighter sounding, with a chorus that’s hopped up on adrenaline. “L’Appel Du Vide” simmers things down, and suckers the listener into a vortex of gently chiming guitars, bass and drums. It’s the first thing on the record that feels wholly original and unique, and shows that Mexican Slang is a group to be reckoned with. “Halycon” offers reverbed vocals against a spooky guitar line, and it’s on these last two songs that the buzzy guitars get turned down a notch, which makes these songs the most appealing and less rotoscoped. Inside the Velvet Castle is not going to be for everyone, given the rather bleak subject matter, but those adventurous enough to walk into the world of the mentally ill will find stuff to sink their teeth into. Mexican Slang is a blistering group (just as the first song on this EP would suggest), and it’ll be neat to see what they can do with the canvass of a full-length album.