Live Review: Psychic Ills, Paris, France, Nov. 25, 2016

psychicills

One cannot step into the same river twice, but most rock bands dip regularly into the same well.

New York’s Psychic Ills are an intriguing counter example. Over the course of five albums in a decade and a half, the group has transitioned from experimental space rock to psychedelic indie pop. With latest LP Inner Journey Out, the band dials down the grittier rock elements in favor of a more sophisticated production with string arrangements, lap-steel guitar, brass and even back-up gospel howlers. Gems such as “Coca-Cola Blues” and “All Alone” bear the marks of Luna’s graceful dream pop and the rustic simplicity of Anders Parker’s folk rock.

Longtime fans won’t bemoan this development. The chill psych rock is now simply a chill psych alt-country. And the hipster vibe still reigns.

On tonight’s elevated stage, under the ceiling’s unflattering metal gratings, the band’s core of Tres Warren and Elizabeth Hart make a curious visual impression. Warren’s cream-white suit is a string tie and top hat shy of snake-oil salesman. Hart’s flowing, ankle-length dress; her long, jet-black hair; and the thick crucifix dangling from her neck all scream goth priestess.

And yet, these are no charlatans. The songs are honest and exposed. Stripped of their orchestration in this live setting, they are pleasantly lazy, inviting the crowd to lose itself in the swaying melodies.

A languid “Baby” from Inner Journey Out and a sharp “One More Time” from One Track Mind set a deliciously trance-y mood. But the song most emblematic of the combo’s evolution is the drowsy-yet-chic “Another Change.” Over delicately insistent cymbals and a ticklish slide guitar, Warren drawls, “I don’t know if I can handle what I got coming/I’m going through another change.”

Indeed, the one constant is change. Or, at least as Psychic Ills have shown, it ought to be.

—Eric Bensel

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