On Shuffle: Purling Hiss – Whipple Dam

Songs stumbled upon, songs remembered, songs because why the hell not?

I’m not quite sure what happened to Purling Hiss. They came out the blocks on fire but never quite backed it up on subsequent releases. I can’t remember where I stumbled over their Passenger Queen ep but when I felt I’d stumbled on something special. Whipple Dam in particular is something else, a hellfire blast of high paced freak outery. Rarely do you find heavy psych with quite so much raw aggression, so much viss and pinegar (see what I did there? It…it wasn’t good, was it?)

It’s like Comets on Fire at their most wild and free – when I think of the idea of Comets on Fire I find myself thinking aboutWhipple Dam. It’s frenzied riff monster with a recording that sounds like the tapes have been dragged through a puddle and respooled backwards. Reverb buried moans, whistles and groans that sound like they were recorded in a wind tunnel make up the vocals – at one point it sounds like the Clangers turn up for a guest appearance – while the unrelenting guitar solo sounds genuinely possessed. The rhythm section nail their groove to the floor with such determination they probably still wake up playing this through a comination of muscle memory and PTSD.

Long story short – it’s deleriously, gloriously bonkers in the way that many psych bands aim for but few achieve. When it finally stops it sounds like they just ran out of steam. Maybe this was it for them – the full lengths that followed sounded more like run-of-the-mill faintly psych tinged rock that jist happened to be recorded at the bottom of a well. Maybe Whipple Dam is the sound of a band flying too close to the sun and everything else is just the long trip down to the sea. Whatever – Purling Hiss gave the world Passenger Queen, four beautifully mesmerising slices of genuinely out there rock n’ roll, which is more than most bands manage in a career. And I’m grateful for that.

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