Indian Jewelry are noisy, distorted and dense, but don’t call them `shoegazer.’ Indian Jewelry is trippy and surreal, but don’t call them `psychedelic.’ Indian Jewelry is cacophonous and unhinged, but don’t call them `noise.’ For all intents and purposes, I’ll defect to how the band’s music is listed on my iTunes, namely “unclassifiable,” as the sounds on the Texas-based group’s sophomore album Free Gold! are vast and vicious, an overwhelming assault on the senses with little regard for genre or structural limitations. Partially because of this unpredictability and descent into an abyss of distorted weirdness, Indian Jewelry is a consistently thrilling listen.
More accessible than the group’s previous effort Invasive Exotics, though no less immersed in effects and hallucinogens, Free Gold! finds Indian Jewelry coming closer to humanity from their jam session in the netherworld. As the slow, sludgy groove of “Swans” comes blasting through the speakers, Indian Jewelry’s sound announces itself as almost…normal? Almost; with the heavy use of vocal effects, squealing guitars and phase shifters, it’s still a sonically over-stimulating journey, but a friendlier sort, not quite as prone to harrowing doom-trips as the Houston group has been known to engage in.
Then again, Free Gold! is still somewhat unsettling. “Temporary Famine Ship,” for all its gigantic synthesizers, is more like Joy Division in Hell than any kinder, gentler sort of synth-pop. “Pompeii,” meanwhile, has a country twang and a classic rock sound, and, better yet, unobstructed vocals, which make it the catchiest track here, as well as one of the best. That doesn’t mean, however, that Indian Jewelry can’t sound completely awesome when at their peak weirdness. “Walking On the Water” bathes every note in a heavy fuzz wash, while the stunning “Too Much Honkytonking” gallops with a Western stomp, yet buzzes and throbs with the abrasiveness of Public Image Limited. IJ even seems primed to get downright danceable on “Nonetheless,” propelling the track with a drum machine beat, yet the bizarre noises and eerie vocals are more prone to make the listener squirm.
One clever soul on Last.fm tagged Indian Jewelry’s music as “mindfuckery,” which is about as accurate a one-word descriptor as you could attach to the band. I’ll concede, they do have elements of noise, psychedelia, even shoegazer to some degree, but their aesthetic is one so detached from direct influences that what they ultimately create is not only unique, but likely hard to replicate. Whatever their secret ingredient (feedback, drugs, mental illness?) it’s one that sets them apart as being not just weird, but truly talented in their idiosyncrasies.
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.