Wall Of Death
After a 1st album on Born Bad Records (more than 7,000 copies sold), tours with Black Angels & Brian Jonestown Massacre, Paris-based trio Wall of Death is coming back in 2016 with ‘Loveland’, a new album produced in Los Angeles by Hanni El Khatib.
There’s so much that went into French psychedelic trio Wall of Death’s new album Loveland. There’s the band itself: Gabriel Matringe, the guitarist and ex-cello player, and Brice Borredon, who grew up in the country in the south of France and who dedicated himself completely to the piano at age 6, and Adam Ghoubali, who taught himself drums after hearing the Doors. Then there’s Innovative Leisure’s Hanni El Khatib, the genre-smashing guitarist who shares songs with GZA and who devoted his most ambitious production work yet to Wall of Death. There’s the giant stack of vintage equipment—organ, synthesizer, electric piano and a positively luscious Mellotron. There’s the live chicken named Chickpea, who guarded the outside of Jazzcats studio in Long Beach and wouldn’t let anyone pet her except Borredon. (“We directly understood and respected each other,” he explains.)
And of course there are the decades of inspiration and dedication that push Loveland past the limits of what “psychedelic” means in 2015—a connection that sparks to life with 60s groundbreakers like Soft Machine and King Crimson and leaves a comet trail across Creation Records on its way to Radiohead (and past Tame Impala!) to a destination beyond the horizon. With able and agile studio help from El Khatib and engineers Jonny Bell (also of Innovative Leisure’s Crystal Antlers) and Sonny DiPerri, Wall of Death have created a dense and deeply individual album that transforms an instant into a lifetime and more: “Loveland is like the last steps you do in the desert,” says Matringe. “Dry and exhausted, one minute before dying.”
Produced by Black Angels compatriot (and BBQ expert) Texan Brett Orrison, their 2012 debut Main Obsessions on France’s Born Bad label was an album forged in that desert, like if Ennio Morricone had taken over for John Cale on that first Stooges LP—an album as desolate as it was heavy. But for their new album, Wall of Death wanted something … well, new, in every way. They wanted to take that extra step further—to make modern music with the most exquisitely vintage equipment possible, explains Ghoubali, and to seek out a new producer with unfamiliar ideas to make it happen. The idea, says Matringe, was pure and simple: “I was interested in getting lost in some uncomfortable ways.”
Enter Hanni El Khatib, who met Wall of Death on tour in 2013. El Khatib was then fresh off his Head In The Dirt album and full of his own ideas about music production, thanks to particularly instructional sessions with Dirtproducer Dan Auerbach. That same year, he’d do his first official production work on California psych-garage band Feeding People’s Island Universe LP, and then in the spring of 2014, he’d lock himself in L.A. studio the Lair for 30 days and emerge with his ferociously experimental album Moonlight. That’s the one that sealed the deal for Wall of Death: “It’s hard
sometimes to let people touch your music,” says Matringe. “But he found what we were looking for.”
And so Loveland reveals itself as a psychedelic album, but in its own irreproducibly unique way—and not like the usual bled-dry psychedelic albums of 2015, which smear reverb across almost everything and put fuzz on whatever’s left. Instead, Loveland is a work of art or even architecture, a castle-slash-cathedral built on catacombs and caverns and secret passages, where the way in is also the way out. Precisely one minute into Loveland, Matringe’s vocals suddenly explode into infinity, and then the bottom drops out—and from there, Wall of Death dive into the void. There are no brutish garage ragers here, and no plotless jam sessions, either. Loveland is the definition of a slow-burn, with cinematic pace and limitless space and that Mellotron as practically the fourth member of the band.
If there’s one album they all own, they say, it’s Pink Floyd’s transcendental Meddle, and that underwater sound—as depicted on Meddle’s album cover—is everywhere on Loveland, especially on nod-along songs like “For A Lover” or “Blow The Clouds.” (They probably all also own the soundtrack to trip-out film extraordinaire La Planéte Sauvage, too.) But then there’s suddenly an unexpected Terry Riley-style synthesizer fractalization, and then suddenly an unexpected Pink Fairies- style guitar-break, and then the song itself powers down to make space for “Dreamland,” which plays like This Heat miraculously allowed to remix slivers of My Bloody Valentine. (Yes, it’s as dreamlike as the title promises.) Listen close and hear how the final moments of closer song “Memory Pt. 1 and 2” slip seamlessly into the title-track opener—that means this album is endless, if you’d like it to be. And in between, says Matringe, is exactly everything Wall of Death knew they really needed on this album: “The sound between love, paradise and fantasy,” he says, “with songs about love, freedom, youth and hope. For me, it’s the spectrum of what we love.”