Though they’ve remained largely unheralded by the local press, Catacombz have been consistently gigging around town for a couple of years now, gradually building a loyal fan base and occasionally putting out batches of their psych-bent Krautrock on cassette. (Dead medium? Maybe. Affordable? You bet!) They’ve always been uncompromising, often pushing the limits of a song solely for their own pleasure, so it’s unsurprising that one of the most striking things about their latest, self-titled album (their third overall, and the first to be pressed on vinyl) is the ambitious scope of the tunes contained therein. Only one—album opener “Russia”—is curt enough to dip below the six-minute mark, but that’s not to say the others can be accused of being long-winded or noodling. Ceaselessly propelled by an irrepressible motorik rhythm, even the ten-minute-plus “Anhinga Tundra” seems to pass in the blink of an eye, which makes repeat listens a necessary (and enjoyable) venture.
But if Catacombz’ ambition is impressive, the confidence with which they achieve their aims is doubly so. Whereas many similarly psychedelic-leaning bands tend to pile on the trippy baubles wherever they can, Catacombz make deft use of distended synths and sound effects, finding more affect in restraint than in overload. The playing (all top-notch, by the way) is similarly egalitarian, serving to strengthen the whole instead of focusing on showy displays of virtuosity. Recorded in part by Cooper Crain (of kindred spirits Cave) and mixed by Ben Glawe and the boys themselves, the sound balance stresses the slow build and gradual ebb of roiling, heavy grooves, with the vocals often mixed low enough to support the music, and not the other way around.
In the end, there is little to find fault with, and the complaints one could level would come off merely as compliments in disguise. Chief among them: While the album comes close, it fails to completely encapsulate Catacombz’ explosive (and loud) live performances, where the jigsaw interplay between elements feels all the more organic. Hopefully, though, the strength of this outing will inspire more people to find that out for themselves.
The band celebrates the release of the album tonight at Quarters.