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Album Review: Higher Authorities, Neptune

Higher Authorities, Neptune (Domino, 4/20/2016)

Higher Authorities is a side project of Ade Blackburn and Jonathan Hartley, founders of Liverpool paranoid psych-rockers, Clinic.  Joined by ace dub producer Adrian Sherwood, the three have created a fantastic dub/psych meltdown in Neptune.

To put the paraphernalia on the table, then:  yes, the use of “higher” in the moniker is likely not a coincidence and, yes, the album was purposely released on 4/20.  Waiting to exhale, apparently, was rejected as an album title.

The link up with Sherwood as a production partner is inspired, with him raiding the Black Ark and adding his trademark foreboding atmospherics to every track, from skittery echo chaymbah vocal samples, squelchy keys, and burbling bong water (er, “found sounds”).  While dub and psych, while both constant reference points (see “Colours”, with it’s killer dub drum and bass rhythm), are not the only influences on show here.  Cheesy, lo-tech synth tones abound, with shuffling rhythms and typically mumbled vocalizations from Blackburn.  Tracks like “…and why not” are hazily dreamlike and pastoral, recalling not so much “Black Gun” as a tripped out take on gloriously cheesy 70s AM gold staple, “Loving You” – and it absolutely works.  “Monocle Man” strides along like some kind of demented cabaret number; “Abracadabra”, a lascivious, lost disco deep cut.  “Neptune” oozes, at around the 2:15 mark, into a middle tiptoe through the elysian fields; lovely stuff.

Overall, the album seems a bit less structured than the recent output of Blackburn’s and Harley’s main gig.  Highlights abound here, the overall sense being of musicians having a really freaking good time making music together.

Neptune is available now, on Domino.   While their internet presence is elusive, you can check out the band on fbook and their website.

Highlights include: “and why not”, “Colours”, “Neptune”, “Twilight (In the Luminous Lodge)”, “If”.