The third studio album by Tennessee four-piece, All Them Witches is their most confident work to date. If you haven't been following them since their arrival onto the scene with 2012's Our Mother Electricity, you're well forgiven. They were part of the underground in the morass of American desert-blues-psychedelic rock, but showed enough promise for record label interest to mount. The more bog-standard rock-out numbers from Electricity disappeared in the 2013 follow-up Lightning at the Door; Witches seeming to establish themselves as purveyors of self-assured spaced-out jams loosely laid-upon the foundation of Michael Parks Jr.'s relaxed enunciation of lyrics that made up for in imagery what they lacked in coherence.
The following years were busy, seeing the band quietly getting more press and playing Bonnaroo, but any suspicions that their success would lead to them leashing up their sound and producing something safer than Lightning weren't borne out by the smoothness of the jams Witches periodically uploaded on YouTube. Even so I was not ready for the product Dying Surfer Meets His Maker turned out to be when it finally dropped last year.
As beautiful and crisp as the production is, Dying Surfer has the hallmarks of a live-recording and hearing it you could swear you were in the room with them while they hammered out all of it in one go. You'll be hard-pressed to find a contemporary up-and-comer group who sound so attuned to both their instruments and their fellow band mates. The production brings every instrument to the fore when it's time and then returns them to the background texture, awaiting their next turn. The standouts are Parks Jr.'s vocals, which have never sounded so woven into the music, and Robby Staebler's drumming – every impact ringing as clear in your chest as those on “When the Levee Breaks”. A drummer shouldn't miss out on Dying Surfer.
Both halves of the album have the structure of three songs closed by a huge jam, bridged by the fret-noisy guitar picking of “Mellowing”. When the album quietly slips into “This Is Where It All Falls Apart”, it annihilates you. Despite having heard this jam multiple times I still can't quite grasp that it is real.
Dying Surfer Meets His Maker offers All Them Witches sounding their biggest and most adventurous, while managing to also be uncharacteristically intimate. A far cry from the self-indulgent noodling of other psych acts, it's the perfect companion for those nights when you want to feel huge.
Zoheb Mashiur is a prematurely balding man with bad facial hair and so does his best to avoid people. Ruin his efforts by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org