Wand – Golem Review

Wand - Golem

Walls of rock, now with added weird!
In The Red Records, 2015
Purchase: Amazon

7.8 / 10

Wand’s debut album, Ganglion Reef was a hellfire and brimstone garage/psych rock gem released on Ty Segall‘s Drag City imprint, GOD? Records. Golem, their immediate follow-up (only six months after Ganglion Reef) is slightly less Sabbath and gravitates more toward Ty Segall’s sound. This is a particularly odd turn as Golem is not being released on GOD? Records, but instead on In The Red Records — becoming album-mates with The Oh Sees, King Khan & BBQ Show, and (oddly enough) The Ty Segall Band. This is likely a move up for singer/guitarist Cory Hanson, whose previous project, W.H.I.T.E. was more weird, less rock.

While the W.H.I.T.E. stuff was almost pure experimental psychedelia, Ganglion Reef was tons of hard riffs and massive walls of power. Golem takes a slight step back towards W.H.I.T.E. with far more synth exploration, moments of silence, and oodles of weirdness. Though this album still has in-your-face-garage-rock moments (notably on “The Unexplored Map” and “Cave In”), there is much more of Segall’s playful influence throughout.

The second track on Golem, “Self-Hypnosis In 3 Days” is a fast-forward rush through three minutes — punctuated with crazy synth effects, twists, blips, and bloops. The speed and ferocity of “Self-Hypnosis In 3 Days” takes a few breaths here and there, but is otherwise sounds like a speed-addled kid playing as many instruments as he can touch before the adults take them away. In other words: it’s my favorite track on the album.

From “Self-Hypnosis”, the band continues its weird streak, dotting British-affected vocals with bits of synth and even an acoustic track (mostly) with “Melted Rope”. Despite the track’s name, “Melted Rope” is one of the least unusual songs on Golem where Wand finally takes a moment to calm down, and the patient, almost atmospheric sounds prove to be — dare I say it — relaxing. Though it would seem out of place on a Wand album, “Melted Rope” actually proves it’s not all about panicking all the time. Playing out more like Pink Floyd, it’s a welcome break from the typical onslaught. “Melted Rope” is like the soundtrack to spinning untethered through space.

Tracks like “The Drift” further emphasize Wand’s break from straightforward rock into psychedelic wanderings. Filled with droning synths, panning stereo, and huge intro/outros, “The Drift” seems to be more at home with Wand’s aesthetic than the unified headbanging from their first album. It’s a perfect ending to an album that marks the band’s evolution into something far trippier than we’ve seen in the past. Even the recording process — 12 days in the studio with Chris Woodhouse (Oh Sees, Ty Segall, Fuzz) in the always-bizarre Sacramento — is a testament to the progress of Wand.

All of the weird that we get to experience on Golem is certainly no surprise — Wand’s press releases and bio are always an insane treat — and I definitely caught a glimpse of what was to come when I saw their show at The Echo in September. Hanson impressed early on with a breakneck version of “Self-Hypnosis” that nearly stole the show. Wand further proved their dedication to the abstract by covering an Amon Düül II song (I mean, who doesn’t cover Amon Düül II?) and Brian Eno. It was clearly an evening of experimental garage music and a lot more inline with the strange musings that come out of Hanson’s camp.

Golem appears to be an expression of Hanson and friends finally being able to spread their freaky wings and fly — while still remaining listenable. This album can still be cranked to 11 like their debut effort, but the band’s true character is allowed to shine through. A few of the tracks sound so similar to Ty Segall that I had to check the credits, but it’s still unique enough to only be Wand. I would recommend Golem to anyone who loves the direction that west-coast garage-psych is going: cleaner-sounding, more experimental, and more emphasis on the psych than the garage.

Key Tracks:
“Self Hypnosis in 3 Days”
“Melted Rope”