PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Earthless + Harsh Toke: Acid Crusher / Mount Swan

This is psychoactive music for psychoactive times, and neither Earthless nor Harsh Toke falter in their mission to sing the words of the muse.

Earthless + Harsh Toke

Acid Crush / Mount Swan

Label: Tee Pee
US Release Date: 2016-05-27
UK Release Date: 2016-05-27

Earthless has a way of making brilliant artistry seem effortless. The San Diego trio has issued a positively awe-inspiring series of recordings that trace back to 2005’s Sonic Prayer. There’s a spontaneity in the juju, a sense of surprise that crawled from the deep lake of jazz, came ashore, and mated in a deeply spiritual ritual under the psychedelic moonlight. In the distance a fragrant blend of something grown in the fertile soil rose into the air and asked us to consider an intersection of soul and fusion and doom. It all creeps in and out of the spaces between the notes like breathing. You could be forgiven, listening to the all-time greatest live recording ever made in this style, 2008’s Live at Roadburn, if you thought maybe this stuff just tripped into the air itself, delivered by some kind of sky prophet.

We’ll never know if that’s the case, but we do know that the men of Earthless work hard to be ready when the muse comes calling. She visited the trio and gifted it with an easygoing 15-minute foray into the psyche called “Acid Crusher”. It occupies the first half of this split release with Harsh Toke and sounds as brilliant as anything these tres hombres have summoned in the past. There are dashes of jazz/soul organ floating in the air like perfume from a bygone era, something a little extra witchy atop the bass-heavy grooves that unfold like a dark desert highway when the peyote kicks in. The soul-searing guitar figures and Latin-inflected rhythms prove hypnotic, positively trance-inducing as they rush by at the speed of a spiritual epiphany.

Forget traditional structure, the verse-chorus-riff stuff that your parents instilled in you. Forget the jams the Grateful Dead laid out or the way the Allmans did witchy stuff over at the Fillmore. Forget the way that Can could take you deep inside the music. Forget all that and then brace yourself when it kicks in overtime via your genetic memory. It’s like déjà vu all over again. Earthless is stoned. Immaculate.

If a perfect sense of calm overtakes you at the end of this first side, then be prepared to have your illusions of tranquility shattered by the louder, brasher Harsh Toke. After opening with a groove that could be culled from Robin Trower’s classic Bridge of Sighs LP, the San Diegans lay into something more aggressive, more mathematically minded, something that only kids who grew up knowing the harsh realities of a circle pit would understand.

And yet the 20-minute monster that resides under the name “Mount Swan” is never as straightforward as anything you’ve heard before. There are twists and turns galore, passages that sound exactly like the mushrooms you scraped off your best friend’s kitchen floor and ingested with some Hawaiian Punch before you took off for waterskiing lessons. Others are mellower, more reasonable, cut from a cloth that feels as comforting as mom’s Psilocybin Stew and a warm glass of milk Grandma laced with some kind of hypnotizing powder Uncle Paul brought back from Haiti.

It’s no less cohesive than what Earthless gets up to, just a little more diverse. Together, these bands bring a perfect tide of psych-inspired rock that’ll leave you breathless and, yeah, floating about 75 feet above the ground.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.