They came, they saw, they created spine-tingling psychedelic rock and then left quietly. Just like one of those cosmic moments when everything seems crystal clear and the universe is encapsulated in a flash, Desert Mountain Tribe hit a peak, but then go in search of the next layer.
The Anglo-German psychedelic trio comprise Jonty Balls on guitar and vocals, Philip Jahn on bass and his brother Felix on drums. They are well positioned to lead us into the modern age as the cyclical nature of rock music has once again turned on its axis and come to rest on psychedelic stoner rock. It’s a trip (pun intended) into a post-Paisley world, where old-school, jammed out guitar driven psychedelia meets Primal Scream and Oasis.
What distinguishes DMT from their predecessors is that they have an essential drive, built on subtle progressions, an inherent psychedelic spark and bone crunching riffs, which all fly on the back of a repeated vocal line. Drummer Felix anchors their excursions and shapes the whole thing up with an essential drive built on subtle tempo changes.
There’s a suitably loose feel to the band’s presentation as they surreptitiously amble on stage, make a cursory nod at the sound man before kick starting a sonic explosion of layered sound predicated on a bank of foot pedals and delivered at maximum volume.
DMT fashion audio sculptures with psychedelic drones and refracted melodies that pick up their momentum as they apply layer upon layer of enveloping guitar figures that hover above our heads and swamp the room with an imposing wall of sound.
But it’s the combination of subtle dynamics, musical tensions and their subsequent resolutions that makes Desert Mountain Tribe more than mere recycled copyists. Each sonic layer leads them to another musical possibility and mirrors the way a painter fills a canvas with unexpected splendour.
Front man Jonty’s moody countenance and studied concentration (think Jim Morrison meets Liam Gallagher) is suddenly broken a sudden: ‘who are you?’ query from the crowd. This brings a knowing smile from Jonty who mumbles his reply before once again immersing himself in the band’s collective consciousness and aggressively chopping the introductory chords of the dreamy ‘Coming Down’.
As the drums kick in, he leans into the eye of the storm with an ascending wah-wah attack that rattles the chandeliers with it’s sheer volume. The effect is both overwhelming and uplifting as the melodic layers of sound enhance the linear feel of the set.
Such is the intensity of their collective drone that they remarkably manage to meander in and out of a song that apparently has only one lyrical line (title unknown). It’s as if they’ve taken a leap of faith, pointed their spaceship to the heart of the sun and never looked down.
As with all expansive trips there’s always an inevitable come down. And as the last arc of notes drench the crowd and suddenly fade way, the band nonchalantly put down their instruments, slip on their leather jackets and busy themselves on the stage as if nothing has happened. Talk about cool!
Review by Pete Feenstra
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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