The terrifying complexity of the brain is often taken for granted, much like a modern telephone it acts as both receiver and transmitter of information, most importantly it is the centre of our consciousness.
Brain Telephone is the band’s fourth album, having relocated from Bloomington, Indiana to Los Angeles Frankie and the Witch Fingers pick up right where they left off. The record is built on a solid foundation of 60s freakbeat, think The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and The Electric Prunes. On Brain Telephone (Permanent Records), Frankie and the Witch Fingers process their seemingly limitless ideas of sonic expression to produce their most considered full-length record to date.
Production wise, having switched out the Tascam 488 for the 388 the record has a bit more room to explore while maintaining the same tape-based environment conducive to producing electrifying rock and roll. The vocals are double-tracked in parts, feature absolutely appropriate effects and sit nicely in the mix on most tracks. The instrumental is flawlessly tracked, mixed and crafted. Brain Telephone is Frankie and the Witch Fingers at their best.
Title-track Brain Telephone opens the record, beginning with a minute-long jam, incorporating a vintage sample of a telephone exchange, before steadying the ship in a sea of fuzz and electricity, preparing you for your journey into the band’s consciousness. From there the album takes twists and turns, with tracks exploring atmospheric psych, the flower power of the sixties, and dark gems present.
Learnings of the Light and Sunshine Earthquake are perfectly concocted doses of flower powered rock, illuminating the spirit of the sixties. The high tempo instrumentation, unorthodox vocal delivery, sharp hooks and hallucinatory guitars providing the vehicle to traverse the brainwaves into the centre of the mind. Sinister Position feels like walking into a circus on a bad trip, evoking a sense of dread and misguided energy, not a pleasant but absolutely necessary experience. Microscope combines atmospheric jams, pop sensibilities, separate guitar and drum solos and motorik rhythms before descending into a dissonant outro acting as a chaotic stream of lucidity.
Changes in tonality provide two standout tracks in the form of Primitive Delight and Doomed. Primitive Delight is a darker track, allowing the vibrato on the lead vocal to flourish above a muddy wall of grungy melody and simplistic rhythms. Doomed is five minutes of Elevator-like madness, a wild and raw hip-shaker of a track oozing with moments of clarity exploring the way we are trapped within the paradigm of 21st-century living.
Unfortunately, Owsley feels out of place, while it is not unenjoyable, the dower vocal delivery, over the top of what is a lively instrumental, throughout the track sticks out like a ballroom dancing pro wrestler, it is not bad track but a bit more thought into the context surrounding its appearance on the record would be more appreciated.
Let Love Be Love is the slowest tune on the Brain Telephone and acts as the perfect means to lead into closing track Mother’s Mirror, which in itself if a 9-minute psychedelic epic.
On Brain Telephone, Frankie and the Witch Fingers achieve what they set out to do, sculpt a record so powerful it transports the listener to space where they can explore the inner workings of the mind. The album which plays with your mind, the dark patches making way for the light and vice versa as your day progresses. This record won’t venture too far from the turntable in the months to come.