The Austin music collective Thousand Foot Whale Claw don’t seem afraid to explore those darker recesses of existence. In fact, they seem most comfortable when they’re embracing them; floating in space, firing walls of droning synth into the great empty. There’s equal parts late 60s psychedelia and early 70s Berlin School experimentation happening with them. Tasteful guitar lines that range from Peter Green eloquence to fuzz-fried barn-burning ala Michael Rother. Their rhythms are constant and repetitive, like a tribal beat emanating from the blackness of space. And of course the synths build walls of impenetrable drone, lulling you into some kind of cosmic peace.
For four guys, there’s a hell of a lot of noise going on.
But what’s unique about Thousand Foot Whale Claw is that they’re also an actual band. They explore with drums, bass, guitar, and synth. They jam and improvise live, letting the vibes take them where they may go. That comes across on their records, and especially on their newest album, Black Hole Party.
Black Hole Party sees Thousand Foot Whale Claw continuing the sonic explorations of previous releases Time Brothers and Cosmic Winds and expanding those heady vibes into both space madness and even dance floor abandon. It is their best record yet, and that’s saying a lot.
The band consists of members Justin Goers, Adam Jones, Zac Roesch and Neil Lord, whom all play in bands as diverse as S U R V I V E, Troller, Single Lash and Future Museums. Where other bands that have come together like a Voltron-style supergroup tend to lean towards one member’s sound, Thousand Foot Whale Claw leave their main gig’s baggage at the door. You don’t get the feeling that any one member is leading the group down a single sonic path.
“No Kingdom” opens the album on an epic note. Guitars and synth swirl together in a psychedelic display as a robotic beat carries the vibes along for over 8 minutes. It has both a heady electronic lean, but also the vastness of epic post-rock. You can easily get lost in this track. “Deridium Rail” pulls you out and takes an almost subtle techno vibe and builds it into a dance floor banger. It’s exquisite and hypnotic.
The title track “Black Hole Party” seems to take everything that came before and works it into a heady, deep space jam. This is definitely the most accessible track Thousand Foot Whale Claw have recorded. It’s got everything; heady vibes, catchy melodies, and a propulsive rhythm that pulls you into the grooves. It’s both dark and gorgeous in its simplicity.
Side B has the one-two punch of “Naiad” and “Double Abyss” which bookend the epic 10-minute “Genesis Effect”. “Naiad” is my bread and butter. Pure droning beauty. Part Dinger/Rother bliss with some Harmonia new age enlightenment thrown in for good measure. Equal parts granola and Psilocybin. Pure earthy enlightenment. “Double Abyss” is a mammoth psych rock album closer. Laid back jam led by drums and bass. The guitars slip and slide like some cosmic snake. Very reminiscent of acid casualties Eternal Tapestry(if those cats could play their instruments better.)
Of course the main course here is “Genesis Effect”. A 10-minute chunk of enlightenment that is pushed forward with 12-string acoustic and droning synthesizer. This is the perfect coming together of psych’s improvisational mind expansion and the German equivalent that we got heavy doses from in the form of Tangerine Dream and Popol Vuh. This track feels like a palate cleanser for your mind. A reboot for the soul. Repeat as many times as needed.
Black Hole Party is an immense and immersive record that is palpable enough for the passive listener, but dense and heady enough for those looking for deeper waters to tread. Thousand Foot Whale Claw have released a masterpiece of sonic delights.
8.3 out of 10