There are bands, and on this website we are lucky enough to deal with a fair few of them, who defy convention and easy categorisation. Reference points may be offered, but essentially such bands exist in their own little world, utterly unaffected by trends or popularist concerns. Carlton Melton are one such band – a wilfully psychedelic beast tinged with blues, doom, drone and feral rock energy that recall the majesty of Earthless and the spontaneity of early Pink Floyd (whom they cover on the first track ‘when you’re in’).
Considering that the band do start with a Pink Floyd cover (an ambitious move at the best of times) it is a testament to the prowess that they exhibit that the album actually improves from this lofty start. While howling guitar swirls through the first track, the second (entitled ‘found children’) opens on a perfect stoner groove with shimmering guitar lines and subtle bass underpinned by the solid drumming of Brian McDougall. Echoing the opening passages of the Floyd’s ‘Careful with that axe, Eugene’ it’s a masterpiece of atmospheric music that flows over the listener like a sweet haze of illicit smoke; no wonder J Mascis proclaimed it to be the best album of the year. ‘Off the grid’ takes the experimentation to new heights, with elements of early Swans rubbing industrial tinged shoulders with the ambient work of Aphex Twin and the NIN Ghosts project. Heavily synthesised percussion fires off against improvised guitar noise. It’s monumental in scope and quite overwhelming upon first listen.
‘Diggin in (F.F shite)’ is a gentle trawl through spacey, psychedelic sounds as reverb laden guitars echo through infinity while the drums maintain their hypnotic tempo. ‘Sequoia’ is equally mellow with ample space allowed for the song to ebb and flow; recalling early Sonic Youth at their most experimental it also happens to be quite, quite beautiful. At over ten minutes it is a lengthy jam, but never dull – a trick the band pull off time and time again making this album a delight to get lost inside. ‘Drizzle’ does exactly what it says on the tin; a light sprinkling of gorgeously understated chords floating in the ether form the backdrop, while none-more-gentle drums keep the whole thing moving in slow-motion towards its distant conclusion. ‘Against the wall’, however, defies all expectations by dragging its stoned carcass out of a mire of droning feedback to remind you that Carlton Melton are a rock band at heart, and quite happy to make excessively amplified noise when the mood so takes them – just listen to the whoops of joy at the close of the song for confirmation fo this one simple fact. The final track of this masterful, epic set is ‘Star of hazel’ a gentle, lilting track that disappears into blissful drone laced with echo and bass hum.
Carlton Melton make music for the mind and soul. It is a journey much akin to Skullflower’s minimalist noise but in ethos rather than sound; where Skullflower lose the listener in static and noise, Carlton Melton approach you from a more listenable angle, vaguely akin to ‘meddle’-era Pink Floyd. Tracks slip past casting you into a reverie, while occasional bursts of noise remind you that at Carlton Melton’s core is a living, breathing rock band who are playing their hearts out. This is the perfect soundtrack to a late-night chill-out session and will appeal to fans of Kyuss and their ilk, as well as those with a progressive bent, alike. A near-perfect release, this is a beautiful, haunting and epic piece of art.