This Mystic Braves article was written by Mark Steele, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Ben Kendall.
Mystic Braves are not so much a group seemingly stuck in a time warp, but more of group who have stepped out of a time machine. They have cleverly cultivated their lo-fi acid-splashed brand of west coast psychedelic pop, in addition to conjuring up surf music, beat music, and 60’s garage musings. Three albums later following their surf-rock self-titled debut, then their second album, ‘Desert Island,’ steeped in psychedelic–heavy rock, and now they have a sound on ‘Days of Yesteryear’ which is a bit of both.
This new album sounds so authentically mid-to-late 1960’s hippie that it could be mistaken for a lost collection of golden nugget 45s from the period. Also note that Rob Camponella of The Brian Jonestown Massacre has twiddled the knobs on this recording. The Human Be-in line-up of Braves are: Julian Ducatenzeiler –guitarist, Tony Malarca – bass and vocals, Shane Stotsenberg – guitar and vocals, Ignacio Gonzalez – organ (Wurlitzer/Farfisa) and tambourine, and Cameron Gartung – drums.
The icebreaker on ‘My Self’, a wanting love song happily galloping along in typical 4/4 fashion, then switches back and forth to a swing rhythm –The Monkees sounds close, partly due to Ducatenzeiler’s Davy Jones vocal style. Next up on the magical mystery tour bus ‘No Trust’, is far out Haight-Ashbury hootenanny indulgence with farfisa organ, entwined around tremolo-tastic jangly guitar with reverb saturated three part harmony chanting – The Byrds meets Kula Shaker/Cast comes to mind. Well The Seeds must have pushed too hard, because they left their imprint on the Braves with ‘Now That You’re Gone’, which digs deep into the psychedelic standard cliché riffs and drum beats, with The Beatles-esque bridge and sliced inserts of The Zombies. It is a nice gesture that they pay homage to some of the main players of the early psychedelic sound, whilst incorporating their own take on the genre.
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On ‘As You Wonder (Why)’ incorporates elements of The Byrds’ song ‘Why’ and also uses dynamic apocalyptic horns and wind section flurries which really drive the song, then on ‘5 Minute Dream Girl’ allows the band to take us on a freakbeat rollercoaster journey via speedy drums, chunky bass and fuzzy guitars at full pelt in an ode to a previous love interest.
Though not a tribute band as such to the Merseyside fab four, it can be obviously seen that on ‘Spanish Rain’ there are vocal tonal references to Lennon/McCartney with flowing harmonies and melodic expression. Again Roger McGuinn like vocals carries ‘Corazon’ amongst a driving beat with reverby guitar and Ray Manzarek Fender Rhodes echoes cleverly interspersed. The motown/stax sound sees an inclusion on the album in the form of ‘Down on Me’ with lush harmonies, bubbly bass and clear driving guitars. The electric 12-string guitar (it could possibly be a Rickenbacker) heard on ‘Great Company’ sounds fresh with organ changes keeping the harmony intriguing. A Highlight of this track along with the backwards looped guitar is the great use of sitar coupled with strings that play Indian melodic flights of fancy that would have made the Late Sitar Maestro, Pandit, Ravi Shankar proud.
Final farewell ‘Born to Get You’, uses a sad organ led chord progression similar to Neil Diamond’s Love On The Rocks ballad and continues builds with guitars/drums to an almost climatic finish, then back to the chorus.
To be true to the 1960’s psychedelic music formula, there will be huge elements of shared best practice at work, Mystic Braves have done well in borrowing as much as they can from those who have gone before, and rebirth them into a highly refreshing format on the album. Not only are their recordings a blast from the past, but there are many who bear witness to their live shows holding a real authenticity of the hallowed era of 60’s American music.
‘Days of Yesteryear’ is out now via Mystic Braves Label.