On their fourth album, the good folks in The Cush have neatly grafted the expansively psychedelic soundscapes of their earlier material with a heavy dose of British rock. Transcendental Heatwave alternately floats in space and charges through it, and while you can hear the DNA of bands like Stereolab and My Bloody Valentine, the band’s stateside inspirations — the literal and metaphorical geography of places songwriters Burette and Gabrielle Douglas have experienced as musicians and as husband and wife — manifest in easily notable phenotypes.
That’s a conflated way of saying that you can still hear the seasons of Vermont, where the Douglases lived for a spell, and the put-up-or-shut-up, perennial summer of Texas in The Cush’s newest batch of songs, though these tracks are heavier on the latter. Songs like album-opener “Heavy Psych” deliver the waves of effects and the stoneriffic, headphone-friendly mix you come to expect from The Cush, but it’s actually the Stereolab-esque “Orange Like Water” that is the spaciest cut. It’s not much because its atmospherics open into the wide reaches of the cosmos (though they do), but because it sounds like a Stereolab song from the future. The Cush’s tune has the same pulse and forward trajectory of the Franco-British band’s Can- and Neu!-inspired pop, but instead of sounding like the soundtrack for a Chunnel trip between the Continent and the UK, it sounds like you’re taking the Chunnel through hyperspace. The bass and drums propel it ever forward, while the guitars and synths wall the journey in a tube of psychedelic aural textures, offering a backdrop for the ethereal shimmer of Gabrielle’s vocals to explore.
Stereolab’s are not the only Trans-Atlantic fragments to be found here. A lot of Transcendental Heatwave’s whirs and echoes sound like faint transmissions from forebears like The Stone Roses and Blur. “Highway Brain” and “Broken Radio” wouldn’t sound out of place next to Mezcal Head-era Swervedriver.
But for all the swirl of the effects pedals, The Cush’s head-nod quotient is heavy enough to almost make you look up from your shoes—especially the fuzz-bass bounce of “Droid” — and gaze at the posters on your wall. If your posters thematically find the sweet spot between Spiritualized and Queens of the Stone Age (one of your posters is of the Smashing Pumpkins, probably), then Transcendental Heatwave will feel good settling into your brain.
And yet, despite the obvious comparisons to the big names of shoegaze, The Cush’s sound is still its own. There’s a great balance between Burette and Gabrielle’s vocals, and the harmonies really sell the hook in a song like “Summer’s Gone,” a smoldering, wistful gem that sounds made for college radio. The album’s glimmer is in part built on its momentum, but by the time the lazy slide guitar and Gabrielle’s gauzy vocals calm the proceedings down with penultimate track, “Color Your Eyes,” you’re kind of ready to come down and breathe again, at least until it picks up and sets the vibe in motion for one last stretch before fading into the chilly drum-machine and organ of “Distant Light.” And then “Distant Light” makes a slight turn into forward motion.
Played on repeat, Transcendental Heatwave might sound like a self-perpetuating journey.
celebrates the release of the album on Friday at The Grotto (517 University Dr., 817-882-9331) Wire Nest and Def Rain.[/box_info]