There’s a blurred vision aesthetic to the debut from The Holy Family. That particular vision comes from the mind of David J. Smith and over the course of his eponymous LP for UK psych outpost Rocket Recordings it’s passed through dense forests of psychedelic folk, sweat-beaten dessert rites, and dark catacomb rituals. Sewn together into a dizzying tapestry of an album, the shades shift at whim — pleasant, warmed by the sun one moment and in the next, fraught and hunted. While the album is rooted in rhythmic psychedelia, the pop moments that sneak in are just as welcome. The record crawls in across the coals, but by the second half of “Skulls The…” Smith is working through Talk Talk explorations and circular swings. Before the pop can take hold though he’s back slicing through the underbrush with a patter of drums and echoes of vocals rising from the canopy — incantations swirling in the smoke with a pungent pulse that wipes away the notion of pop under the breath of flutes.
Once into the fray Smith lets a bit of his notions of playing nice float to the edges of view. Skronk begets a hypnotic tangle of cosmic noise and the album compresses from cathartic crash to embryonic journey over the hinge point of “Stones To Water.” Yet each time the listener thinks they may have nailed the direction that The Holy Family sliding, the tapestry folds in upon itself once more. Robert Wyatt-drenced squee-rock and Pocahaunted temporal shifts and rhythm jaunts give way to bass-crusted Skull Defekts excavations of the mind. The Holy Family is no light undertaking — a massive double disc dystopia that threatens to consume the unprepared listener. With the right maps and an open mind, Smith’s labyrinth of lysergic impulses proves instead a garden of enchantment.
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