[sic] Magazine

Kaviar Special – Vortex

Ever wanted to dip your toes into the contemporary garage-psych pool but didn’t know quite where to start? Of course you haven’t – you’re already experts, but say you weren’t. Well, in that case and with their third full-length Vortex, Kaviar Special may just have put together the handbook-for-the-uninitiated you’d have been searching for.

Slightly less rock ‘n’ roll than their last and often more squarely in the camp of John Dwyer et al. now, Vortex isn’t all perfect but neither should it be. Instead the Rennes four-piece make chugging, mid-fi nuggets with a strangled surf shimmer sometimes giving way to heavy pop-fuzz, sometimes to over-the-top soloing. Consequently you get a series of crunchy licks toasted with liquid wah, shouty garage-punk/pop hybrids and, on the title track, a healthy dose of pedal-driven reverb and blown-out axe-work that stomps all over the groove – a real whirlwind of a cut if not quite an actual vortex.

So far, so garage-psych though so where does Kaviar Special’s lesson for the beginner begin? Right from the off. At one of the spectrum, you have the dirty opener “Run Away” in which a big, dumb DIY rhythm chases the synth-fuzz melody up peak and down dale as they probably don’t say in France. With a smile on its face a mile wide, it’s kinda like a Moon Duo demo as tackled by a bunch of kids hopped up on sugar. Keeping the sci-fi vibe going, the pogoing brilliance of “Bedroom” is spun out with Southern rock riffs, gnarly guitar action and a chatter of space-rock FX. Considerably more chill however, “Back To School” lollops along gently on its lazy baseline, kicking back under dappled West Coast sunshine in a stoned haze. Altogether darker, “How Come” houses in turn an insidious little churn that sucks all the light from the room, a spidery guitar line hanging tremulous above the gloom. A curious mish mash of quick-fire riffs and blatant Jim Reid vocal rip offs, “Dead End” is an acquired taste even on this map, but one that grows on you nonetheless.

Always able to dig some sweet riffs out of the feedback and fuzz to elevate the headache from fuggish to piercing and always able to temper the result just before dropping off the cliff with a candy-coated chorus, Vortex is a kaleidoscopic inspection of decade and genre and one that it’s almost impossible not to get swallowed up by entirely.

Best track: “Run Away”

~Vortex is released January 26th 2018 via Howlin’ Banana.~