Sonic Jesus – “Neither Virtue Nor Anger” (2015)

sonicjesusneithervirtueThis is the last of the Sonic Jesus albums that arrived in the mail the other day from Fuzz Club, and while it’s the last one we’re listening to it’s actually their first full length album. And it’s a doozy because it’s a double, 16 songs on four sides of wax, complete with a trip-fold gatefold jacket. Sonic Jesus obviously impressed the hell out of someone over there at Fuzz Club to warrant this kind of investment.

Whereas the other Sonic Jesus releases I listened to and blogged about recently had a certain unceasing relentless to them, Neither Virtue Nor Anger seems to be of a somewhat different breed. It opens with “Locomotive”, the kind of plaintive song that reminds me of Þórir Georg before picking up the pace and moving into more industrial territory. That leads into the full-bore “Triumph”, which also appeared on a 7″ single I wrote about recently and one of my favorite Sonic Jesus tracks, a aggressive driver of a number. By time we get to the tripped out “Sweet Suicide” to close out side A, I’m hooked.

The intensity seems to continue as we flip over to the B side, but it could just be the effect this type of psych has on my brain. At times it can wear me down, flattening me underneath a thick layer of fuzz that seems to surround me from all sides at once. Fortunately they bring it down a bit with a very Velvet Underground-y “Paranoid Palace” with it’s slow jangly guitar, a welcome respite to the sensory-numbing pounding of the previous four songs. It does build to a bit of a crescendo, but that initial breather is all I needed.

The one thing that differentiates Neither Virtue Nor Anger from the other Sonic Jesus albums and EPs I’ve listened to over the last few weeks is the vocals – while they continue to be effects-laden as they are the other releases, there’s more variance here in how the vocals are treated and that gives the songs a bit of variance, even when the guitar pedals are threatening to punch a drill bit into your brain. It gives everything a certain nuance that was lacking in the sheer weight of the later efforts.

Side C opens with “Monkey On My Back,” which originally appeared on Sonic Jesus’ self-titled 2012 EP, a song that reminds me a bit of the Brooklyn-based Imaginary Friends, and not only due to the monkey reference. (♠) In fact the C side in toto has a different vibe to it than the first disc did, more sparse at times in a way that gives more power to the meatier parts. And the D side kind of brings in a whole Eastern thing, so good on Sonic Jesus for managing to give us 16 songs that have an certain consistency while also mixing it up enough to keep things fresh.

(♠) But it does not remind me of Peter Gabriel’s “Shock The Monkey,” something that just sounds needlessly cruel especially when he goes on and on about shocking the monkey.

Sonic Jesus – “Reich” b/w “Triumph” 7″ (2016)

Having just listened to Sonic Jesus’ latest release, Grace, it’s now time to check out some of the back catalog, starting with this 7″ that came out last year.

“Reich” is leaps and bounds faster than the material on Grace, a surf-infused runaway psych train, one that is musically great fit for the effects-heavy vocals that almost sound like a guitar. The pace is quick – this is the kind of song that will get you a speeding ticket if you’re listening to it late at night while driving, making your foot feel like a concrete block that gravity is pulling down upon the accelerator. The guitar work is particularly notable, crackling along the top of the rhythm like an electric buzz.

The B side “Triumph” is more of a fuzz-fest, the vocals distorted to the point of incoherence and with a much darker feel than “Reich”. Driven along by the bottom end, it pushes against your psyche like a huge concrete block, an irresistible force, mass incarnate.

Both these tracks appear on Sonic Jesus’ first album, the 16-song monster Neither Virtue Nor Anger. I bought a copy of that record as well, and if “Reich” and “Triumph” are any indication of what it has in store for me, I can’t wait to drop the needle on it. I’ll share an online link to that album when I review it, but for now you can check out this live version of “Reich” to whet your appetite.

Sonic Jesus – “Sonic Jesus” (2012)

I’m continuing to work my way through the Sonic Jesus catalog, and this time around I’m going back as far as I can go, all the way to 2012 and their debut self-titled four song EP Sonic Jesus.

Sonic Jesus provide more vocal variety than does 2017s Grace, and now that I can hear tracks with this kind of range I’ll double down on my comments about Grace that it would have benefitted from mixing things up a bit, because these four songs are great. “Underground” is the best number on the record, sounding like a demented Stooges track, while the surfy “Monkey On My Back” provides an old school psych feel, getting back to the genre’s trippy roots. The EP closes with “It’s Time To Hear” and its Persian influences inducing a trance-like state.

Sonic Jesus is available to stream free HERE, and I think it’s a good starting point to experience their overall feel.

Sonic Jesus – “Grace” (2017)

A few months back I got an email from Fuzz Club about some new releases they had in the pipeline, and for whatever reason Sonic Jesus caught my eye. Maybe it was the name. Maybe it was the architectural photo that adorned the cover of their new album Grace, which looked exactly like the kind of picture I like to take. Maybe it was the whiskey. I don’t know. But regardless, a few minutes later I received my email receipt for Grace and a couple of Sonic Jesus’ earlier albums (that was definitely due to the whiskey) and patiently waited for them to arrive..

Italian musician Tiziano Veronese has performed under the name Sonic Jesus since 2012, releasing a handful of singles, an EP, and the 2015 double album Neither Virtue Nor Anger. Grace is his second full-length effort, which came out in March in advance of a 14-show tour of the Mediterranean region. I debated as to which Sonic Jesus record to listen to first, but eventually decided I was more interested in hearing where Veronese is at today so I could hear Grace with fresh ears before heading into the back catalog.

What struck me most during my first listen to Grace was the vocals, which have a lo-fi and echoey quality about them, dripping with a feeling that isn’t quite depression but more resignation, the sense that life being a struggle is inevitable, that gloom is a foregone conclusion. It’s a vibe that fits the music well, a moody psych that flows like thick, black velvet curtains, surrounding and muffling everything around you. It’s a bit more on the drone-y side of psych than the more in-your-face sound of say Singapore Sling, still driving but in a slower more plodding way. The density and blending of the music makes it difficult to focus in on the individual elements, but when I’m able to do so it is the bass that carries most of the songs, pushing them forward and signaling mood changes, particularly on “Modern Model” and “No Way”.

The B side ups the tempo a bit. “Space Heels” is a transitional track that seems to try to find the way before leading into the almost upbeat “Outdoor” with it’s quick, snappy bass, brief 80s style synth interlude, and a guitar that hangs out in the higher range to pull the vocals up with it. By the time we get to “Funeral Party” we’ve gone full-on old school post-punk, the vocals transitioning from resignation to insistence, demanding that you listen to them instead of letting them blend with the rest of the sonics. It’s probably my favorite track on Grace.

All in all Grace is an interesting album. I like that Sonic Jesus didn’t get stuck in a rut and mixed it up a bit as the record progressed, though I’d have liked to have heard a few tracks with less effects-laden vocals to break things up a bit more. That being said, I’m looking forward to checking out the self-titled 2012 EP and Neither Virtue Nor Anger to get a sense of how Sonic Jesus has progressed. More to come!