Music Reviews

Bali Yaaah A Synthesis Of Early and Contemporary Psychedelia

Bali Yaaah Lost Behind The Clouds

Lost Behind The Clouds is the strongest collection of songs to date from Bali Yaaah. This album is a perfect entry point for new listeners and will be a favorite for fans. Their songwriting, sounds, production, skill and creative expression is in top form. They are able to move closer to popular music compositions while retaining their too-cool underground art-house aesthetic. They sacrifice nothing retaining the dark vibes of their early music and simultaneously finding joy and light-hearted sounds for the butterflies among us. Lost Behind The Clouds is the first full-length album from Bali Yaaah. The vinyl and streaming are available on December 9th 2022. Bali Yaaah is from Austin, Texas and they describe their music as “a unique synthesis of psychedelic experimentation, filtered through the memory of early psych legends like Pink Floyd, The Pretty Things, and The Velvet Underground.” The four member band consists of Matt Presley on bass, Jonas Hodges playing guitar, Jason Ferguson of Experimental Aircraft and Magnet School on drums and Chris Brown on keys, organ, synth and vocals.

Austin, Texas is a hot bed for psychedelic rock music. The first psychedelic rock band The 13th Floor Elevators in 1965 were a group of outlaws with legendary stories and tragic endings from Austin, Texas. Austin is the site of Austin Psych Fest, founded in 2013 which is now known as Levitation and has become and international music festival in multiple locations including France, highlighting psychedelic rock. Levitation is more than a festival it is also a record label known as Reverberation Appreciation Society a must know label for psych fans. The label was started by Christian Bland, Alex Maas and friends from the bands The Black Angels, Christian Bland & The Revelators and UFO Club. Other contemporary Austin bands have included Night Beats, The Holy Wave, Spoon, Peelander Z, Black Pumas, Manifest Destiny’s Child and Bali Yaaah.

Bali Yaaah released their first EP, Never Early Always Fate in 2011. The band was just guitarist Hodges and keys / vocalist Chris Brown with former bassist Alan Uribe. This early album combined new wave vocals and beat machines with cosmic spin-outs in the flavor of early Pink Floyd and Can. Their sound has evolved since this early self-recorded album but inspirations and a love of psychedelic effects of the late 60s and beyond, groove based rhythms, and experimentation run through their latest releases.

In 2018, they released the single, ‘I Know I Know’ with swirling atmospheric sounds, fuzzy guitars, vintage organs and vocals with a stronger balance between percussive attack and sung melody. This single has a dark mood and a retro vibration with greatly improved sound quality compared to their first EP. Shortly thereafter, they released the song ‘Tastes Like Rain’ which has a melodic focus and adds 90s alternative styled vocals the define the song. This track moves away from the moody beat machines to live drums, clearer guitar tones with lead lines drawing from the vocals with the most ‘pop’ oriented song with a clean mix giving depth to the song. This was their first forage into songs focused on vocal melodies rather than a blender of enjoyable sound experiments with art-house effects and beat machines.

The following year, 2019, Make Belief EP dropped. The album combined their retro-psych and new wave tendencies with a greater focus on dynamics that build from soft to loud and minimal to expansive arrangements. There is a clear trajectory with each album adding to their creative process displaying growth in songwriting, arrangement and musical vision. Make Belief is a pivot point where the band has found its sound bringing retro psych sounds balanced with melody and songwriting.

This brings us to the present with Lost Behind The Clouds which is available on December 9th 2022. The first single from this latest release is ‘Feel It A Bit’ released in late 2020. This is an upbeat song with the highest production value from the band. The kick drum has a punchy attack; the vocals have a charming sound with beautiful reverbs and echo trails. The guitar dances between single note arpeggios and quickly strummed chords that shine with a smile all the while splashing with reverb and slap back echo. The bass stands wonderfully between the guitar and the drums accenting beats and playing off the guitar for a bopping good time rhythm. The keyboards hum in the background and take on a synth like role layered in mind warping effects that sit back in the mix.

The second single from Lost Behind The Clouds is ‘Take Me To The Beach’. Before getting to this track I want to acknowledge the song titles; the titles seem to fit the songs perfectly which is a rare feat. This single is a sunny bright song with feel good vibes, hints of surfy guitars and up beat poppy start and stop rhythms. The vocals are cheerful and suggest that they go to the beach in the day time instead of being up all night. The production elements from ‘Feel It A Bit’ are full present in this song giving it an excellent sound and immersive production. This song adds analogue monosynth which sprinkles in a flavor of vintage psychedelia that the band knows and loves.

Lost Behind The Clouds is an album that has variety, ‘Take Me To The Beach’ is a sunshine tribute but many deeper cuts spiral into the moody depths of kraut styled experiments and many of the songs have an undercurrent of complex feelings. The band’s early music was darker and that residue remains as a feature of their sound that rears its head when the moment is right. An example would be the intensity in the song ‘Call It’ which has a hint of punk with experimental sounds that are somewhat like Pink Floyd‘s early psych-out jam ‘The Heart Of The Sun’. Their ability to draw from heavy psychedelic as-well-as contemporary Neo-psych sounds like those from Sonic Boom and Tame Impala give Bali Yaaah a special charm. They move closer and closer to popular music compositions while retaining their too cool underground art-house aesthetic.

Bali Yaaah is playing a record release show in Austin, Texas at The 13th Floor Bar on December 8th 2022 with The Coffin Fits, Fogwood, Kenton Mackay And The Sensors. If your in the area be sure to slip inside the 13th Floor as you pass by.

I am a part of the emerging psychedelic musical revolution and the wizard behind the curtain at I am lucky enough to be in contact with performers and labels around the world and discuss music that is weird, transcendent, creative and psychedelic. It’s no surprise that I live in San Francisco, California where the psychedelic revolution was born. I am a multi-instrumentalist musician, songwriter, digital and visual artist in the bands Temple Rose and Black Satori. I have written about music for the, GigSoup Music, Sic Magazine and professional corporate copy writing. Discovering new music from artists large and small gives me a special thrill and I feel compelled to share the excitement. My journey began when I started attending coffeehouse concerts at 14 years old, seeing acoustic and hardcore metal bands. I soon started making music of my own. A pivotal moment was when I picked up my first record player and started collecting vinyl records from the 1960s and early 1970s in acid folk, garage rock, psychedelic and krautrock genres. The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, David Bowie, and Black Sabbath laid a firm foundation. Then I discovered CAN, Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, and Pink Floyd which blew convention out of the water and my musical horizon extended into the experimental and abstract. Today there are thousands of bands which have taken the legacy of psychedelic music and created something new. I seek out these bands and performers, spreading their latest revelations to the world. Some of my favorite contemporary artists are The Black Angels, Oh Sees, Woods, Acid Mothers Temple, Kikagaku Moyo and L.A. Witch.