A while back, someone at Uncut pointed out to me that one of the words I overused when writing about music was “feral”. He was right, too: I’d got into a habit of using the term whenever the psychedelia and crypto-primitive folk jams that I listen to so much got a little wilder and smellier, became a bit more instinctual, or at least convincingly pretended to be instinctual.
It’s a neat way to mythologise the acid-folk and New Weird American stuff, making the musicians sound like they have lived all their life in a bramble bush, and were accidentally captured in the field by a passing interloper with some recording gear. A fair few of these musicians clearly gun for that illusion of naivety, but I think most are smarter: like the first generation of hippies, their attempts to go wild in the country, slough off the taint of the urban military industrial complex, recapture some kind of formative innocence and so on are pretty knowing.
Citay, from San Francisco I think, are part of that scene but distinctly different. Like their debut album from last year, “Little Kingdom” has a vibe which is rustic but plush, more Bron Y Aur than Mesozoic swamp. Listening to it, you’d imagine its creators had spent the last decade or so making giant, opulent stadium rock, then had spent six months getting their proverbial heads together somewhere remote, accompanied only by a fleet of engineers and dogsbodies.
In fact, Ezra Feinberg and Tim Green come from a broadly post-rock background: Feinberg used to figure in one of the fluctuating line-ups of Piano Magic; Green is the leader of blocky, post-metal types The Fucking Champs, whose music I’ve always found a bit bloodless. Green is also, though, a fairly sought-after producer, working with Comets On Fire, Six Organs Of Admittance and all that lot.
If you like Six Organs, you’ll probably go for Citay, too. But you should also be aware of their avowed intentions with this music: to make something influenced by the point where ‘70s heavy rock went a little bucolic. In the press notes that come with “Little Kingdom”, they mention Popol Vuh, “Animals”-era Pink Floyd, Fripp-Eno and early Mike Oldfield.
Mainly, though, like its predecessor, the dominant vibe is that of “Led Zeppelin III”, with the additional input of twin lead/harmony-pedal guitars that have a strong whiff of Thin Lizzy and Queen to them. Feinberg’s vocals drift in and out of the mix, a melodious whisper that lets the ravishing instrumental arrangements take precedence. But, again, the whole atmosphere is woody and inviting, but also purposeful. These songs like “Eye On The Dollar” chug meticulously rather than wandering around in a daze.
It can get a bit samey after a while – “Little Kingdom” sounds even more hermetically sealed into its warm brown soundworld than its predecessor. But this is still a very nice place to be; ideal, I suspect, for solitary meditative retreats with a retinue.
I think Feinberg rather than Green drives Citay, because Tim Green has a solo album out too. The project is called Concentrick, and the slightly patchy album is called “Aluminum Lake”. Some of it is brilliant, and explicitly related to Citay: “Transillumination” especially, while the opening “Waterfall” is an acoustic fantasia that sounds like a Boards Of Canada song. At times, though, you can sense Green being pulled between the two extremes of Citay and The Fucking Champs, with the chill modal rock-outs and electro-squelch of the latter just coming out on top.