Let’s face it, if Matt Whitehurst had a plan, playing the game would never be part of it. Having spent the last six years heaving up a bile of grubby-pawed guitars and rat-gnarled melodies under the censor inflaming Psychedelic Horseshit banner, the Ohio dwelling enigma carries more hostility than an Al-Qaeida recruitment rally in a New York City fire department. At times, he’s probably just as popular.
Admittedly, in this age of anodyne soundbites and aeon-pondered quotations, Whitehurst’s razor-fanged attacks on even his most tenuously linked contemporaries offers a welcome swoosh of hilarity (never has there been a more expert attempt at trying to fabricate friction as this bile-filled, brawl of an interview). Yet, when it comes to getting a position in the musical races, such an openly malicious stance tends to find the main stables bolting their doors and reinforcing the locks.
So, when Fatcat came calling with a full album deal it must have taken Whitehurst by surprise. After all, this rickety, unreliable semblance of a band he’s clawed together isn’t one to wager a 7-inch single on, never mind a full formed record fit for prolonged listening. But the Brighton-based label excels at transforming risk into results. And Psychedelic Horseshit’s second proper longplayer Laced proves Whitehurst's not lost his touch.
Crafted in the scuzzy, mothball-addled realms of basements, bathrooms and living rooms, Laced is produced like an audiophile’s Airfix kit; a multi-facet of sounds prit-sticked together on reel to reel tape. Despite the admirable lack of studio wizardry, there’s little sign of the obliterating garage-drone Whitehurst’s troupe (now a duo comprising Whitehurst and drummer Ryan Jewell) have been pushing since those first Horseshit CD-Rs were released in 2006. Instead, this is an electronically-tinged record imbued with certainty and precision, bearing the unmistakable glare of a band finally playing to its strengths.
Decked out in deep tribal rhythms and woozy synthesized melodies, the chaotic Horseshit aesthetic remains intact. In a thrilling three minute wave, the primitive beats of introductory number 'Puff' gives way to 'Time of Day’'s thick coating of carouselling synths and mechanised percussion, while Whitehurst barks out a nasal stream of consciousness. As an opening gambit, it’s light years away from the flimsy wares of 'Too Many Hits' or Shitgaze. These are onion-layered arrangements, dense in sound and underpinned by an ever-present pursuit of ear-gluing melodies.
This penchant for adventurism often finds Whithurst exploring a sprawl of effects-board inspired avenues. The intense calypso-varnish of 'French Countryside' is impossibly hip-jaunting, while 'Tropical Vision’s lobotomised feedback pulses to an intense, ritualistic beat that could have been born in the belly of an African jungle. More exacting, the opium keyboards that slowburn across 'Dead On Arrival’s deep nocturnal lament recall the comatose state of an Andy Weatherall-inspired Primal Scream – particularly with Times New Viking’s Beth Murray making an appearance on cat mewing harmonies.
Of course, Whitehurst’s over eagerness with a synth doesn’t always pay off. Airy numbers like ‘Automatic Writing’ and the lifeless title track jar with a feeling of incompleteness, like products of a half-cooked idea still bubbling to fruition. Yet, such gripes are pithy when confronted with the magnificent seven minutes opus ‘I Hate The Beach’. Gearing up to the sound of bending keys and cowbell clatter, Whitehurst drawls out “I hate the beach, but I like the nice weather” as the cut morphs into a cocophony of scratching guitar and virulent drum. From here, it transcends as the sort of riotous, primary coloured acid trip Gruff Rhys would be proud of.
Unquestionably, the track is Whitehurst’s finest moment to date; a euphoric high on a record that doesn’t just build on the band’s potential but kills its ‘shitgaze’ credentials stone dead. Ladling Psychedelic Horseshit in amongst the lo-fi blurting of Wavves and Vivian Girls rejects the grandiose ambitions sought and often scaled throughout Laced's duration. Closing out on the positively charged, almost ebullient, bongo-blast of ‘Making Out’, this coarsely cut sophomore LP represents a pivotal shunt in direction and, perhaps more importantly, psyche for Whitehurst. For once, he can consider the game well and truly played.
8Billy Hamilton's Score