08 July 2018 (released)
28 July 2018
Let me set the scene: You're out on the town on a Saturday night. You've stopped in at a couple obvious spots for a cocktail or two. You get to talking to the bartender about your next destination and he points you to a little tucked away club behind a building, down some stairs. You settle in a with a killer New York Sour as the band hits the stage. They're good, the band's tight and the singer's got a sweet set of pipes. At first, they seem a little generic. They have to be for the owner to make sure he's not scaring off the hip crowd who are looking for that cool, low-key hangout, not some spastic noise for the kiddies. As the set rolls on, you and your date have stopped chatting, getting more and more sucked into the band who have moved past the conventional introductory material and are now taking you on a journey you didn't know you had signed up for. You leave the club raving, thankful for that your night had taken such a fortuitous turn.
California's Crooked Flower have put such a set on record with their latest venture. Blooming - The Light Rail Sessions starts rather inauspiciously with a laid back, jazzy rock beginning but soon turns the room into an entrancing psych-dub wonderland, transporting the listener miles and miles from the club where they began. Hailing from the jam-band capital of Berkley, California, the quartet (with two added members for this live set) take you on a trip with cocked-wah guitars, seafloor-scraping bass, tight-but-loose percussion and a smooth, watery organ that tap dances up and down your spine. They top it all off with the stunning vocals of Miss Angie Dang.
Part 1 of the album's bookends 'Came to Me in Dreams' has the band merging the feel of Pink Floyd's “sit back and fade away” bridges and Zeppelin's No Quarter. Angie Dang's voice comes in like a bright light cutting through the fog. Crisp, clear and soulful. She interjects to give context then ducks out to give the band plenty of space to go off.
The band plays it safe with a few light poppy numbers but delves back into the denser, more enthralling material with 'Who You Are (Do I Want You)', another murky, nebulous track. The guitars and organ lay out a jungle after dark vibe while the bass keeps you pushing steadfast into the unknown. 'Coming Back (To You) also lets the group fly around in ethereal jam band territory.
On Blooming, Crooked Flower demonstrates their incredible prowess at playing loose, improvisational material extremely tight. What begins as a fairly straightforward jazzy rock album morphs into a lush spacey trip. Just like bands like Gov't Mule, Crooked Flower has found a way to sit back and create sonic spaces rather than just riffs in verse, chorus verse format. If they continue to lean further into the psychedelic elements and leave behind the conventional pop fare then they could make some albums for the ages. Let the stodgy club owner be damned.