Having only had occasional fleeting embraces with songs from Brian Jonestown Massacre, it was almost like meeting a new band for the first time going into “Aufheben” their new album. The thoughts and emotional impressions gained up to this point had been of, in Anton Newcombe the major force behind the band, an artist/songwriter who caresses thoughts, ideas, and inspirations from wide and far into provocative and intriguing manipulations.
Missing from the brief excursions into his work to date was a personal warmth or accessibility to draw a fuller attentive curiosity towards his music. This is just a personal experience of course and it did not mar a respect for what he was trying to and had achieved. With “Aufheben” it is hard to say that one has found an immediate understanding of his intentions or thought process nor a new insatiable affection for the sounds within, but there is a sense of having missed out in the air and the inspiration for a retrospective companionship on the cards.
“Aufheben” features, alongside Newcombe, returning original member Matt Hollywood, Will Carruthers (Spacemen 3, Spiritualized), Constantine Karlis (Dimmer), and Thibault Pesenti (Rockcandys). The album feels a mellower and more relaxed collection of songs than those previously acquainted with them, whilst the release has a previously vacant warmth across it that endears whilst still offering a challenge. It is also varied ensuring even when it does not truly capture the imagination it is never less than intriguing.
The opening ‘Panic In Babylon’ is the immediate star of the show and an overall brightest highlight. A fire igniting instrumental with rich golden middle eastern sounds the piece is stunning, a mesmeric infection to win any heart. It takes you on a journey across exotic lands with invigorating melodies and insatiable glee. It is surprisingly familiar though without giving a defined source to draw from.
The album flows through another evocative track in ‘Viholliseni Maala’ with enchanting Finnish vocals from Eliza Karmasalo. Again as with the opener there are parts that have been seemingly heard elsewhere which is slightly strange but at the same time comforting and makes for an easy going union with the ear. There is a definite eighties feel too which drizzles from each chord and note that pleasantly wraps around the senses.
Songs like ‘Gaz Hilarant’ and ‘Illuminomi’ continue the glorious ambient warm soak and wash of caressing weaves, and that mellower breath mentioned earlier becoming a full yet gentle wind upon the ear. A slight upturn in texture and energy emerges midway through the album with songs like ‘I Want to Hold Your Other Hand’, ‘Clouds Are Lies’, and the great ‘Stairway to the Best Party’ offering a rawer discordant edge to their still reserved drive. The latter two of these three brings a House Of Love/The Jesus & Mary Chain vibe which offers an upturn to the already slowly building affection towards the release.
As the album winds down it offers another highlight to challenge the opener in ‘Seven Kinds of Wonderful’. An incessant fuzzy mesh of energy, eastern sounds, and passion it is a striking mix of Echo and The Bunnymen, Birdland, and My Bloody Valentine. Though “Aufheben” does not hold a consistent firm rein on the attention songs like this ensure repeating visits with each return bringing a closer association to the rest of the album.
The one element that still feels strange is the so many familiar elements like in ‘Waking Up to Hand Grenades’ with its obvious The Cure references. Brian Jonestown Massacre from day one wore their inspirations on their sleeve so not much has changed presumably.
“Aufheben” is an openly enjoyable album and one that brought far more satisfaction than imagined. It does not always ignite the brightest sparks but certainly inspires a willingness to let it keep trying. It certainly gives food for thought and the need to take a closer look at previous Brian Jonestown Massacre creativity.