ALBUM REVIEW: Mr. Bison – Seaward

Those who deserted Pisa-based riff kings, Mr. Bison, after their 2012 debut album We’ll Be Brief (Dracma Records) will recognise neither the physical nor the sonic entity that exists today. Only guitarist/vocalist Matteo Barsacchi remains from that initial incarnation, now replenished by two more Matteos – vocalist/guitarist Sciocchetto and drummer D’Ignazi – and the dry, ZZTop-influenced sound of that first effort has been gradually replaced by an oft euphoric leaning towards a form of Desert Psychedelia as progressive as it is retrospective. Their fourth album Seaward (Subsound Records / Ripple Music) is the band’s biggest step forward yet, displaying a level of invention and confidence that is both profound and joyous.

Each of the band’s albums has seen a marked yet identifiable evolution from the last and from the outset, Seaward is no different. The atmospheric siren call of the opening title track is broken by the crushing drums of D’Ignazi and some howling guitar oscillations which in turn provide melodic, Desert-flavoured rhythms, with resonant harmonies adding to the multi-faceted force and the whole belying the lack of a bass guitar. A slight Eastern tinge to the third movement heightens the late 60s vibe, continued by the brief acoustic intro of the ensuing ‘From The Abyss’: the relaxed air and honeyed voices lending themselves to the wondrous Psych-Folk of Nottingham’s Baron and blending ecstatically with the galloping, plundering melodies of the bridges.

The growing familiarity and unity of the threesome is evident in the complexity of tracks such as ‘I’m The Storm’: D’Ignazi’s Jazz background shining through his dazzling patterns and ability to alter the pace with deft intricacy; while the twin guitar attack builds the sound from a hypnotic murmur to a euphoric swell with organic ebb and flow. The noodling keys of ‘Oudeis’ invoke the Manzarek-filled sensuality of The Doors while the frenetic jam workout remains cohesive, driving a wonderfully dusty Stoner trip whose leadwork and harmonies are so nostalgic as to reduce those of us of a certain age to tears, while providing a spiritual energy long forgotten.

It’s a feeling that governs the whole album: more feverish rhythms enlivening ‘The Sacrifice’ yet slightly tempered by the tunefulness of Barsacchi and Sciocchetto, the climbing solos layered to magical effect and complementing those vocals perfectly. The penultimate ‘Underwater’ is a heavenly trek through the shimmering Britrock of Kula:Shaker and Toploader, but with a powerful seductiveness neither of those bands quite mastered: while leadoff single and album closer ‘The Curse’ is another example of how the move from indolent rhythm to rapid, earth-shaking might can seem unnoticeable, as if through the miracle of osmosis.

The Italians’ move from ‘Cheap Sunglasses’ copyists to Psychedelic groundbreakers has seemed equally effortless yet striking, understated yet impossible to ignore. God knows how they’ll better this moving, monumental effort but if they even match it, it’ll have been worth the wait. Magic-carpet-ride magnificence.   

9 / 10

PAUL QUINN