Since their formation, Religious Knives have built up a reputation, albeit one only familiar to a select group of people, as D.I.Y. noise and psych-collage artists, releasing CD-Rs of material and playing shows in basements. Granted lots of bands burn their own discs, or play loft shows—a friend of mine even recalled seeing Enon in a Warehouse in New York, where $5 screwdrivers (or vodka, or orange juice) could be purchased at a card table. Yet given Religious Knives trippy, abrasive sonic beginnings, to hear them emerge on Thurston Moore’s Ecstatic Peace label (with his production help), as an accessible, if droning and abstract, psychedelic rock band comes as something of a surprise.
Don’t mistake `accessible’ for `commercial,’ however. The Door, the band’s first for Ecstatic Peace, is adrift in hazy sonic planes. There are melodies and there are structures, maybe even hooks, but forget about finding a single in this lot. Rather, the six tracks on The Door are complex aural tapestries, layering tribal beats, buzzing organs, heady guitar effects and often ominous vocals. A track like “On A Drive” finds the foursome taking a figurative drive so to speak, late at night and likely toward oblivion. It’s not so much a Highway to Hell as an occult pathway toward a purgatory of lost souls. But it’s awfully cool sounding, similar in some respects to The Stooges’ epic drone of “We Will Fall.” Meanwhile, leadoff track “Downstairs” pulses and grooves with a more approachable sound, bolstered by a soulful dose of Hammond organ.
“Basement Watch” is a bit more upbeat, but with more instrumental jamming, while “The Storm” opens with a super cool, sparse drum beat, opening a pathway to a minimal organ repetition. It builds with a slow-burning pace, but it’s easily one of the most stunning moments on the album, just creeping until Maya Miller’s detached vocals enter the frame. While Religious Knives don’t play a very conventional sort of psychedelic rock music, they certainly give it a refreshing update, taking it to farther regions, with sinister grooves lurking within the free-flowing instrumental interplay. Heavy.
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.