The world is in need of a psychic healing: it is entering a new phase of unsettling geopolitics steeped in bilious hatred and vile intolerance and more and more of us negate the agonising reach of this all-too-real-world. We become more and more detached from who we are whilst everything around us falls apart – after all, nothing matters…right? The individual struggle is real for all, so why worry about what we, as individuals, cannot control? At the dawn of 2017, Nashville psych-rockers All Them Witches return to remind us that these times are indeed real, that we need to brace ourselves for what lies ahead. But ultimately, they command us to heal, to reconnect with ourselves. Not only is fourth album Sleeping Through the War an infernal diatribe our modern times so desperately needs, it is above all else a glistening triumph, a light in the dark, a heroic achievement in sonic enlightenment.
Barely a year since the group entrusted unto us their mesmerising debut for New West Records – the crowning achievement that was Dying Surfer Meets His Maker – Charles Michael Parks and co. spent six days penning arguably the most important record of the year after relentless touring; Sleeping Through the War’s importance transcends a wider symbolism in that it foregrounds the continual evolution of a band growing from strength to strength. More structured and focused than anything they have previously done, Sleeping… takes the listener on a journey which gradually becomes less and less fixed to the modern world. It is a world enveloped in the warmest of tones, one which bathes in the fuzzy glow of the desert sun; with each song the ground below disappears leaving the listener suspended in a swirling vacuum of trippy psychedelia and prophetic incantations. Within these walls the pieces maintain discernible song-structures yet, somehow, struggle to contain the colossal energy erupting from every single component.
Armed with a mellotron and a group of female backing singers, All Them Witches unveil their hidden weapon: the charisma deep within their frontman. Whilst previous albums had forgone vocals in a huge way, Sleeping… sees Park’s voice in the forefront of these blossoming textures. What is astonishing is his beat-like persona: on songs such as the surprisingly powerful ‘Don’t Bring Me Coffee’ and album highlight ‘Alabaster’, with its hypnotic tribal percussive dirges amidst the desert rock tonalities, Parks’ oration is on par with that of any of the big name beat poets or even Jim Morrison himself. Maybe it just wouldn’t have worked on the paths they previously floated down, but on Sleeping… it elevates the music to new heights and the listener cannot help but be hooked on every word the man utters.
As with the best stoner rock albums, this is one to be played in full purely for the trip. All Them Witches desire to connect the listener to who they are without losing purpose along the way. Beginning with the fuzzed-out riffage on ‘Bulls’ and the near post-rock textures of ‘Bruce Lee’, the album progresses deeper into the more familiar psychedelic territories with the horizon-expanding opus of ‘3-5-7’ and the mesmerising dance of ‘Cowboy Kirk’, which features the longest jam session on the album (one you wish would just continue) and continues until the enchanting blues number which closes the album – ‘Guess I’ll Go Live on the Internet’ really is a song of the times and is rich in the beautiful sunset glow that spans across the American heartland.
It is extremely rare to find bands that push themselves into new territories with each album and come out on top – All Them Witches are one such band. Sleeping Through the War is an immensely powerful work of art from start to finish and gets better on every listen. It might not be as conscience-expanding as their previous work but it is their most spiritual; an uplifting and kaleidoscopic affair through planes no other music can tap into. Parks asks “am I going nowhere?” – the question many of us find ourselves asking – and finds his answer in a seemingly peyote-induced exploration of what is previously lost. To find the answer, one must simply press play and follow the music. It is the psychic healing the free world needs.
2. Don’t Bring Me Coffee
3. Bruce Lee
5. Am I Going Up
7. Cowboy Kirk
All Them Witches are:
Charles Michael Parks, Jr. – Vocals/bass
Ben McLeod – Guitar
Allan Van Cleave – Keys
Robby Staebler – Drums