Psychic Ills

Early Violence (The Social Registry)

In 2006 no rock album spent more time augmenting my headspace than Psychic Ills' Dins. The Brooklyn quartet updated the heat-blasted, exploratory psychedelia of Texan '60s legends 13th Floor Elevators and the Red Krayola while leaving no cheesy aftertaste. What made Dins revelatory was its adept alternation between disorienting atmospheric meandering and thrusting rock motion — with both approaches scorching cerebellums.

Early Violence is Dins' prequel, a CD collection of Psychic Ills' initial limited-edition vinyl releases Mental Violence I and Mental Violence II, plus other ephemera. The disc is interesting for revealing Psychic Ills' gestational developments, but, unsurprisingly, the music on Early Violence is more primitive and less riveting than that on Dins. The gritty, churning rock of opener "Vice" recalls Savage Republic, which is not a bad thing to do, as that Californian group plowed a triumphant path through the underground in the '80s and early '90s. "Killer" uses scattershot drum-machine beats to buttress an odd avant-goth organ motif and coal-black Joy Division-esque guitar riffs. You can tell from this misguided track and the similarly canned-beat-powered "4AM" that Psychic Ills was still trying to find its optimal angle of attack. The band fares better on "Diamond City," whose snarling wah-wah guitars, creeping paranoia, and mantric throbbing hark back to brutish '80s trance-rockers Loop, and "Days," whose dense rock riffage and hard-earned optimism could segue well with many Black Angels songs.

Overall, though, Early Violence reveals musicians not quite manifesting their formidable mind-expanding creativity — that came shortly thereafter on Dins. Dave Segal

 
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