[sic] Magazine

Jason Simon – Familiar Haunts

Aside from 2013’s somewhat mixed Dead Meadow LP, Warble Woom, the last we heard of frontman and guitarist Jason Simon was in 2014 as part of LA quintet Old Testament. Those familiar with that S/T record or with Simon’s debut solo outing will already know of his of sincere love of trad folk and, again stripped of his primary vehicle’s oppressive noise, Familiar Haunts once more dips deep into history for its inspiration. Backed by Scott Seltzer, Jon Randono, and James Acton, this translates as a dusty collection of tracks that instinctively trail towards the setting sun. While Old Testament revelled in similarly weird, windblown Americana and gently psychedelic takes on classic country, the wide open spaces of Familiar Haunts largely avoid that record’s dense drones and tantric drums. In fact, almost all of its jamming takes place during “Wheels Will Spin” – an eleven-minute bad-land rocker that accounts for a quarter of Familiar Haunts’ run-time despite starting out in lolloping country-psych mode.

Simon scratches out a living on the open road for the remainder of the record, cuts like the acoustic “Hills Of Mexico” a starlit backdrop against which sleepy love songs like “Without Reason Or Right” can mosey on a long way from home. The guitars on “The People Dance, The People Sing” twang so persuasively, too, that it lurches from side to side in the saddle, a weird chatter of effects, slide banjo and Wurlitzer colouring and warping the peripheral vision as the peyote starts to take hold. Punctuating jaunty Appalachian Blues come fizzy drones and vaguely Eastern pulses alongside drum-machine skitter, frosty lullabies sequenced next to warped back-masking. There’s an undeniable cinematic quality to all this soundtracking, sepia photographs bubbling and blackening by the campfire, but Familiar Haunts plays out a little overly famililarly just too often. What’s needed is a drunken rant, a dose of intensity and identity that is at risk of dying in the embers. By all means cherish the sparks that crackle out of the darkness. Just don’t go expecting fireworks.

~Familiar Haunts is released October 28th 2016 on acid-blob vinyl via Cardinal Fuzz.~