How does a band craft a “big” sound? You know what I’m talking about – that feeling of being swallowed up by a wave of expansive, boundless energy. The easy answer: fire up the rotary effects, slather on the reverb, bust out some synth explosions at the peak of the song. Now, Burnt Ones‘ first LP has all of these classic elements in spades – the synth-strings are intoxicating, the echo-charged vocals soothing and energizing at the same time – but the band has figured out a way to create songs that are not only “big” in an atmospheric sense, but also in a temporal one. I don’t mean to say that the songs drag on (the longest track is only 3:48), but rather, that the song structures create a complex game out of the listener’s expectations of what should come next. Take the opening track, “Pulse”: the whirling feedback, the cherubic layered vocals, and the threads of tremelo-picked guitar solos all contribute to that familiar psych-rock texture. But what really makes the song interesting is that band’s choice to jump the gun on the intro chord changes, to give the listener three-and-a-half-plus-two measures when s/he expects groups of four.
It’s disorienting in the best possible way, and it forces the listener to get lost in the pacing of the music as well as the soundscape – and since that overwhelming feeling is kind of the whole point of this style of music, it’s really quite encouraging to see the band creating it from multiple sources. You hear something similar in the tambourine and jangly-strummed hiccups of “Is It Over”; in “Mirror Too/ You & Me”, the vocals shift chords before the guitar, offering you a glimpse of what’s to come while drawing out the tension created by the overlapping keys; the interlude-esque “Pineapple Program No. 31” creates that temporal grandness by bleeding the tempo of the sample track into the drumbeat of the song proper. The band toys with time, and what slides out of your speakers is not just a depth of sound, but also a distinct length of sound – and that’s what sets this San Francisco treat apart from other run-of-the-mill, psych-fetish bands. Stream the full LP below, snag a copy from Castle Face Records, and dive in.