[sic] Magazine

Lavender Flu – Barbarian Dust

Though prone to some pretty out-there experimentation (see last year’s Lavender Flu record), as well as a right racket when he fancies it, Portland’s Chris Gunn is also very capable of knocking out a decent tune too. That much was true back when he was guitarist in The Hunches, and it was equally true on his sprawling psych-folk debut, Heavy Air, released in 2016. Since then the sound has been condensed and become relatively accessible despite also getting louder and truer to Gunn’s snarling garage-punk past, 2018’s excellent Mow The Glass consequently the best starting point for Barbarian Dust. His first Lavender Flu album recorded in a studio, there’s no cleaning up of the intentionally lo-fi quality either, he and his brother Lucas Gunn, Scott Simmons and Ben Spencer spending their time equally between discordant garage-punk and lightly psychedelic guitar-pop.

Another varied album too, but one that doesn’t quite chuck in the kitchen sink like Mow The Glass did, Barbarian Dust is nevertheless very much at home on In The Red, Gunn’s nasal whine frequently pitted against reverbed strumming and the fuzz of the amp, splashy cymbals and electrified finger-picking adding a bluesy motif that crunching guitars delight in dissembling like those early No Age records did. Strewn in their midst come the sleepy summer jams, jangling garage melodies that still carry enough weight to be very satisfying.

At the other end of the spectrum, the rowdy title-track heads the experimental edge this time around, a surge of guitar offerings speaker-busting distortion, the run-time uncustomarily drawn out to five minutes thanks to a weirdo drone middle, while the instrumental “Keyboard Christ” is later true to its word, a tinny Casio dragging the fuzz off to darker horizons. It’s “In League With Satan” though that’ll grab the headlines. Opening with a corrupted minute of some spoken sample from what sounds like a militant rally, it then revs up be a killer biker-fuzz riot with blatant concessions to full-on noise. The most aggressive Lavender Flu track to date, its stomping bluesy choruses are nevertheless pure gold, exactly the sort of thing Jack White should now be doing if he were even remotely relevant these days. In contrast, Gunn is a current cult hero and has been for some time – Barbarian Dust is just fuel to the fire at this point.

Best tracks: “In League With Satan” / “No One Remembers Your Name”

~Barbarian Dust is released April 10th 2020 via In The Red.~