[sic] Magazine

Wild Raccoon – Half Pine Cone

Many a garage-psych band knocks out the same song ten times in a row, calls it an album and then repeats the trick for its follow-up. Not the ever-literal Mr. Raton Sauvage of Wild Raccoon. He’s a one-man band and that means he can do whatever he wants, which on Half Pine Cone, the successor to last year’s Mount Break, translates into pushing his DIY fuzz, jaunty jangles and stomping hooks on into more overtly experimental and psychedelic spaces. The odd concession aside, (“Hitch-Hike Syndrom”, for example, which condenses the work of Ty Segall and Thee Oh Sees into a garage pile-on of clattering choruses), it’s an album that leans less heavily on smash-and-grab rock as a result. This is seen with the rampaging kosmiche repeats that temper the linear fuzz-rock of a track like “Oh Well, Okay”, while Eastern drones focus “Hootchenoo” into longhair spacerock of the type that that Moon Duo might make if they were actually a bedroom project built on Garage Band.

Half Pine Cone’s eleven tracks (two of which are ambient side-outros) pass unhurriedly over 45 minutes and they swing between speaker-blown bouncers that sound as much like Violent Femmes as they do The Parrots – quiet just as often as they are loud in the true 90s alt-rock style – and minimal rock and roll that digs deep to draw heavy psychedelic riffs from the murk. As such, you get the likes of the banjo-led “Question Mark Mountain” making friends with pedal-driven power sludge, the shiny glam and vicious punk of “Break All Ties” alongside a tender cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “How Do You Feel?” on which the standard is treated to a reworking in the dreamy reverb manner of The Jesus & Mary Chain, additional vocals by Justine and Noémie of E.T. Aloha increasing the effect. Best of the bunch, though, is the album’s opener, “Sasquatch Arms”. Here, onto a bedding of abrasive feedback is first laid scanning sci-fi synth, then wind-blown vocals and the cold strumming of disinterested guitar. It’s a track that builds into slo-motion psych-rock, Eastern motifs coalescing into a syrupy stomp of which both Suicide and Spaceman 3 would be proud.

Half Pine Cone is an album that’s not immediately obvious as either a garage-psych statement, or the product of a solo artist that hails from the town of Lille. Work has been done to obfuscate the thick French accent heard on the debut Mount Break and the injection of so many new ideas at the same time here does the same thing musically. That, and Wild Raccoon’s carefully curated stage persona, lend him a welcome degree of ramshackle mystery. And, if this ready-for-market mix were marketed by, say, Castle Face or In The Red instead of the commendable efforts of Howlin’ Banana, you get the impression Wild Raccoon would already be feasting at guitar music’s top table rather than continuing to rummage through the favoured garbage of his spirit animal.

Best track: “Sasquatch Arms”

~Half Pine Cone is out now both digitally and on vinyl via Howlin’ Banana.~