ndian Jewelry do not make dark music to trip to; they make dark music to pack with you on spirit quests. Taking the bad acid freak-out aesthetic of fellow Texans the Butthole Surfers, and cutting it in with the droning electronic menace of Suicide, Indian Jewelry are the new robot shamans, projecting nano-bot visions on expansive wastelands and conjuring snippets of digitized desolation. On this, their debut LP, they display an impressive degree of sonic cohesion and daring. Their sound palette is jarring; vocals echo and delay toward incoherence, synthesizers are distorted to within an inch of overload, guitars are strummed and manipulated with distant indifference, and drums are banged on in primal communion or automated as hissing syncopated throbs.
Although the band has three central members, Indian Jewelry employs upwards of 20 other performers playing instruments such as “Ozark percussion, ghostworm, sequential circuits, and pizzazz.” The range of barely ordered performances on every track lends the songs a sense of tribal communion, similar—in spirit at least—to Parliament. Bizarre sounds are given the latitude to enter and exit at their own discretion, yet there appears to be just enough communication between the performers to keep songs from collapsing. Indian Jewelry counts on the knowledge that chaos is right at the door, that any unity of purpose is tenuous (or maybe just another mirage in the big hot desert).
Fortunately for the listener, the tracks don’t follow any uniform rules as to their accessibility. Sure, the material is dense, and there are tracks designed specifically to fire the neurons of those who play “Frankie Teardrop” as a daily ritual, but there are also a couple numbers that should lure adventurous Depeche Mode fans, making this album a sort of gateway.
The tracks are sequenced adeptly, traveling towards the abyss without careening into it. The journey begins with “Lesser Snake,” wherein a simple guitar and tambourine rhythm plod along while a much-abused bass drum stomps for the entirety of its four minutes, as multi-instrumentalist Tex Kerschen echoes his way through the track until it’s gobbled up by a convulsive bass synth, sputtering to a halt. It’s followed up by a warbling hallucination entitled “Powwow,” with a bending synth line underwriting some semi-conscious guitar scratching as Tex mumbles muffled la-la-las and warns you that “You won’t like what you’ll find.”
The descent from darkness to blackness is stalled somewhat by the swaying sex beat of “Come Closer,” one of two tracks sung with sultry bleakness by Erika Thrasher. As some hyper-distorted something or other bellows and scrapes, Erika and a Quaalude ghost voice entreat and enchant, allowing some breathing room for the pumping road trip epic “Going South.”
Reaching the bottom with the hazy depressive stretch of “Health & Wellbeing,” the album draws to a close with another Thrasher track, a shimmering strangulation entitled “Lying on the Floor,” before the primitive séance—and most direct Suicide rip on the album—“Lost My Sight.”
In an age where psychedelic music is reduced to stylized reference, Invasive Exotics comes as a revelation; fevered and dreadful. Pushing further than any of their Texas-derived contemporaries (the Black Angels, the Secret Machines), Indian Jewelry have assumed The Lone Star State’s psych crown. So much more than a background to bong rips, the album impresses because Indian Jewelry are actually bold enough to deal with the comedown, wrestling fiercely with the darkness between perception and reality, the known and the unknown. It’s a trip in more than one sense.
Reviewed by: Sam Roudman
Reviewed on: 2006-11-20