From Corrugated to Coruscating – “Grassed In” by Blank Realm

Blank Realm
Grassed In
Fire Records

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For a band whose previous effort, 2012’s Go Easy, attracted among its garnered raves such adjectives as ‘scuzzy,’ ‘fuzzy,’ ‘nerve-jangling,’ and the noun ‘rampancy’ (the descriptors rawer still for their earlier work), Brisbane, Australian’s Blank Realm have, in the interim, apparently found a sonic bar of soap and used it generously. Grassed Inn, while no less jumped-up and excitable, refracts some blindingly clear light in its garage psych grooves and before we go any further you should know that this is a good thing, a positive and illuminative development. There’s always a grubby charm to banging out primal teenage rock ‘n’ roll through primitive amps with shredded covers (though, to be fair, this band has never wanted for the sweet leavening of a well-baked melody) but to stay locked in that particular adolescent basement is to be lost in stasis and besides, growth is where it’s at, baby, it’s the path to (at least partial) enlightenment and Blank Realm are taking that trip.

Comprising a trio of Spencer siblings – Luke on bass, Sarah synthing and singing and Daniel drumming while taking most lead vocals – with an extra Luke on guitar (Walsh, whom I suggest should be called ‘Cool Hand’), the band’s among the front crest of a resurgent Aussie underground psych wave that includes Tame Impala, Beaches, the Laurels and more. It’s almost as if, being somewhat latitudinally equidistant from the equator as San Francisco, the two psych scenes are experiencing some kind of planetary doppelgänger vibe, their energies cross-feeding one another in a photon-based, transpacific mindswap experiment being conducted via lysergic thoughtwaves, the original email. Whatever the case, the results continue to be unquenchably far-out and Blank Realm do nothing less here than add still another gleaming layer of color and texture to that global mandala.

blank realm band shot

“Back To The Flood” bursts out at us like a 3-D shoegaze-gone-aggro thrill ride, respendent of repeating guitar motif, charging densities of rhythm section/second guitar/floating bridges of synth pulling along Daniel’s importunate yelp of a vocal which is telling us “it feels so good” and it is in no way wrong. “Falling Down The Stairs,” with its joyous lurchy fairground feel, the frolicsome trundle of bass, the near-Elizabethan feel of that electrified acoustic, might well be 2014’s “Stoned and Starving,” the “who’s fallin’, who’s falling down the stairs tonight” hook wickedly irresistible (yes, you’ll – ahem – fall for it). It’s a popsike charmer given perhaps a slightly heavier dose of the Down Under windowpane which actually, quite neatly, sums up the tripping gist of Grassed In.

From the creepy Poesque keen of “Bell Tower” through the endearingly skewered, robot funk-infected “Violet Delivery,” from the fulsome throbby drone of “Bulldozer Love” that somehow builds up to a crash to the rousing burble of final track “Reach You On The Phone,” we get a band that have found a path that hugs the ridge between the jutlands of their more wilful lo-fi past and the lusher vistas stretching out in front of them, full of complex undergrowth and limitless side trails. A detour may beset here and there – “Baby Closes The Door” starts out a little wobbly of knee and in truth never fully finds its traction, the attempt at formidable groove stuck running in place – but the buzz here is witnessing, and reaping the rewards of, Blank Realm as they intrepidly, nimbly, navigate their course from corrugated to coruscating. If you haven’t already, now’s a fine time to get on board.