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The visual language of psychedelia is awash with tie-dyed skies and third eyes, but nothing is so psychedelic as emptiness. On their fifth album in six years, Wand demonstrate their understanding of this truth. Their first three albums came out in a neon blur, spilling over with ideas, but as they slowed down, their music opened up. They used the extra time between releases to subtract, not add, and Laughing Matter continues the band’s elevation via excision. Though a few Byrds-like pastoral flourishes remain, the tough, slinky rhythms and vast negative spaces of the first two tracks, both stunners, set the album somewhere closer to the world of Can.
Opener “Scarecrow” is primitive yet sleek; it sounds like Evan Burrows is playing his drums with dinosaur bones. There’s a sinister elegance to the vocal and the sidewinding melody, offset by the nervy synthesizers. Second track “xoxo” offers a similar off-kilter trance, but this time with a pitch-slider effect that evokes Clinic. The grooves in both are deeply syncopated yet feel brutally, hypnotically flat.
But the softer folk elements of 1000 Days also flourish, usually with the predictable elements hollowed out so something strikingly weird can take their place. “High Planes Drifter” is a beautiful, lonesome ballad shot through with erratic horse hooves. In “Wonder,” a filthy, blown-out riff opens up into a dewy idyll, like Jon Spencer were having a gentle shroom epiphany. “Evening Star” wrangles no-wave guitar skronk into something between Rufus Wainwright and Pavement. Whatever form the songs take, the careful removal of extra elements distinguishes them. As they pare away at their sound, Wand move further away from psych-rock and closer to true psychedelia.