California psych rock purveyors Carlton Melton have been putting out wobbly, gauzy, far out rock and roll for well over a decade now. Recording in a geodesic dome in northern California amidst redwoods and the faint crashing of waves on a Pacific Ocean coastline, Andy Duvall, Clint Golden, and Rich Millman make music as more of a communal act than wanting to write three minute psych jams. The fellas in Carlton Melton are about the vibe and finding a balance between composition and connection. They are well versed in the art of the “jam”, but they are equally adept at long-gestating interludes of both pastoral beauty and galactic star-gazing.
On the band’s latest album, the epic and meandering Where This Leads, Carlton Melton split the difference between their psychedelic stomps and liquid acid navel-gazing. The band continues on the epic path created on 2015s Out To Sea and 2018s Mind Minerals with Where This Leads clocking in well over an hour. The songs sway from meditative to brick-to-the-skull crushing. You bought the ticket, so you might as well enjoy the ride.
“The Stars Are Dying” is one hell of an opener. Softly subtle, it tickles the synapses like a touch of ether to the nostrils. A sweet peace marches over your brain for the course of 17 hallucinogenic minutes. As much as I love it when these cats plug in and crush noggins with a swift tube amp death, when Carlton Melton get serious with the hazy atmospherics that’s some absolute sonic magic. But speaking of tube amps, “Waylay” locks into some serious sludgy riffage and doesn’t subside till ears are bleeding. It’s like a Kevin Shields and Tony Iommi mind meld with some Dino Jr thrown in for good measure. “Dezebelle” feels like new territory for the Carlton Melton fellas. Dark, mysterious, and what sounds like piano leading the shadowy track, it puts me in mind of Danish psych rockers Causa Sui. Truly stunning piece right here.
There’s a real gritty, folks-y vibe to “Smoke Drip Revisited”. I imagine Neil Young and Crazy Horse messing around in a barn on the moon in 1974 as stars collide just outside the door. Bad Stone phaser always gives the proceedings an added touch of class, and that’s going on here. This is spaced-out groovy bliss. “Crown Shyness” is tasteful picking. Tinkering on beauty in a broken world, drones and picked guitar strings will always make things better. “Three Zero Two” cranks up the volume for an old school geodesic stomp. Blues groove for the end times, sister.
70 minutes of pure Carlton Melton, that’s what we’ve got here. Crystalized sonic goodness straight from the earth to your ears, Where This Leads gives us just what we need to cure those existential blues and pandemic anxiety. A rock and roll sonic head trip that’s worth freaking out to.
8.3 out of 10