Hailing from El Paso but relocated to Austin (because, of course), Holy Wave is a psychedelic rock quintet with an uncommon sense of nuance and ambience. Freaks of Nurture, the group's third long player, is an excellent example of a band at its early prime, still sporting the boots of its heroes (think Nuggets compilations, The Kinks, The Zombies) but dancing its own desert-wind-dance.
While there's plenty of tight, precise execution here, which rewards repeated listens mightily, precision is not the point. These songs, while there are some real standouts (noted below), are best digested as part of a full album. The mood is the message and the meandering massage of the reverb is the moon-moaning messenger, dressed in paisley robes and exhausted from walking the desert all day, high on shrooms, in search of enlightenment or pizza, as if there were really any difference.
For my money — an electric, Texan currency with Roky Erickson's face on it — the San Anto frequenters have become the standard-bearer of new age field hippie jams, rife with jangling, lackadaisically dawdling guitar licks, waves of bendy notes and sun-drowned vocals.
"Western Playground," the album's most arresting and catchy track, is a hemming and hawing barnburner, stomping shattered neon shards into the hay. While the song's vocals are equal parts soaring and smudged, the glistening guitar work teases the motion ever-forward. In the delicacy of "Playground," as with another album standout "Air Wolf," we can see the full scope of Holy Wave's prowess and glimpse the band's attention to detail, which sets them apart from your run of the mill, garage-psych trend chasers.
Freaks' closing number "Minstrel's Gallop" is pure dream-psych charm, with meditative swaths of guitar which hang high up in the humid mood like sitar notes dancing with aimless, slo-mo flies. And then, it ends. And we are left to briefly contemplate the dull roar of a buzzing cicada — a little homage to the Lone Star State — with a head still full of deep-dish riffs, molten glow and glorious Guadalupe River muck.
Holy Wave's Freaks of Nurture will be released March 11 on The Reverberation Appreciation Society.