The Gris Gris w/the Cops, Invisible Eyes
Fri Aug 27, Sunset, 9 pm, $7.

Getting stoned and listening to records is the new snorting coke and chattering like an asshole. Alongside the emergence of fashion-focused dance punk and brash garage cock rock, psychedelic-oriented bands are going on head trips that have nothing to do with making your nose bleed. There's the quiet balladry of dewy-eyed folk nymphs like Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom, the heavy cosmic rock bluster of Comets on Fire, and the liquid LSDisms of Ghost. Flying a little more under the radar are Oakland's the Gris Gris, whose organic psychedelic style walks the line between the acid rock of 13th Floor Elevators and the darker dementia squirreled inside mangled Sonic Youth riffs.

Listen to the Gris Gris' eponymous debut on Birdman and you're shot into scenes from cult classic hippie headspaces--movies like The Trip or Performance--where serenity comes in hallucinogenic doses and sound effects float like dandelion seeds across the planes of a song. On The Gris Gris, maracas and tambourines get the shakes. Hammond organs set the sonic time machine into retrograde motion. Faint whistles and bells hover between instruments, and vocals move from a soothing, Loaded-style Lou Reed lullaby to manic, distorted crow calls. Topnotch songs like "Necessary Separation" morph into Nuggets-style rave-ups, steady beats pushing the vibe into heady exaltation. All in all, the record is a dynamic breakthrough, switching up instrumentals and effects often enough to keep you glued to your headphones for the duration of their intense trip.

Texas native and multi-instrumentalist Greg Ashley formed the Gris Gris--taken from the name of a voodoo spell--after releasing a solo album, Medicine Fuck Dream, in 2003. His penchant for sonically prismatic music came from stagnation in the straight-up rock thing. "I was into garage music and stuff like that," he says, "and then I started to get into more '60s and psychedelic records. I just thought it sounded cool. You listen to punk rock and garage all the time and then there's all these records you never buy because you're like, 'Ah, that's hippie shit.' But then you finally buy them and you're like, 'Damn, this shit kicks ass.' It was kinda like that for me."

From the Electric Prunes' I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night) and classic Roky Erickson, Ashley's world moved beyond the strip malls and suburban sprawl of his Houston-area upbringing. He says that the only thing his hometown provided was enough downtime to practice. "I never really went to Houston, which was like a half an hour away, but there isn't shit to do there either. So I had plenty of time to sit around my house and play and record music."

That concentration has stayed with Ashley and his bandmates (bassist Oscar Michel, drummer Joe Haener, and new keyboardist Lars Kulberg), who pore over the details of songwriting. On his solo record, Ashley took a page from Brazilian psych act Os Mutantes, who often used laughter throughout their records, and added a laugh track to one of his songs. "It actually ended up sounding creepy because it was my friend holding his girlfriend down and tickling her, and she's freaking out. Afterwards I was like, 'Ah, that sounds like some nasty, drugged-out rape scene.' So that didn't come out exactly as I wanted."

The new Gris Gris record includes less rib-tickling and more mind-bending, as Ashley distorted his guitar strings using tricks like gluing plastic pens to a $10 guitar. And the literal basement production adds another level of the grimy, organic vibe that good psychedelic acts know all too well. Between his old Texas band the Mirrors and his new material, Ashley says he's never been in a studio and he'd like to keep things that way. "If something doesn't come out right I have a lot of time to mess around with it and try to record it in different ways," he explains. "It's really fun to geek out on that kind of thing. The whole recording studio thing is kind of creepy. I like the homemade shittiness of records. A lot of my favorite records were made at home or recorded at some house on a four-track. Professional-sounding records are just kinda weird."

jennifer@thestranger.com

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