Blackwater Holylight – Blackwater Holylight (2018) REVIEW

The self-titled debut from Portland, Oregon psych rock scenester collective Blackwater Holylight aka BlackWater(HolyLight) pulls a warm 90’s alternative/power-pop blanket over it’s gangly psych rock legs and kicks out one of the more accessible and sonically lush neo-psych releases so far this year. Founded by vocalist/bassist Allison Faris, formerly of psych rockers Grandparents, Blackwater Holylight is a heavier, brooding beast looking to celebrate the honesty inherent in more vulnerable song-writing. Striking out on her own and sourcing like-minded musicians from some of the Portland area’s best (Cat Koch, Death Parade, Dan Dan) is a great success that feels far more genuine than the rather kitschy by comparison Grandparents. The confidence and sonic lustre invoked across ‘Blackwater Holylight’ has an infectious chill to it that aches it’s way across 45 minutes of worthy smoke-ring blowing psychedelia.

Within the space of a few songs the tone of ‘Blackwater Holylight’ goes from mid-90’s style grunge influenced psych, closer to something like The Amps ‘Pacer’ with a touch of slow-going psych-jangle a la early Real Estate, all the way to highly capable doom rocked heavy psych. It has the jammed ease of Colour Haze with the quirked variety of some sort of third generation Pixies spawn and makes for a listen that stands out against the more typical variations of neo-psych and stoner rock kicking around 2018. Trying to find an appropriately draped description of of the record becomes a bit of a stretch no matter what direction I pull in, and that is either due to a small frame of reference or a testament to the space Blackwater Holylight appropriately fill. The important reference point is simply 90’s alt-rock and a mix of neo-psych and modern doom rock.

The two sides of this record more or less represent the Spring season in the Northwest united states as the sun and the rain battle it out on an hourly basis with the grey gloom winning on average. It begins with the tingling romp of “Willow” and the 70’s gloom of “Wave of Conscience” and right into the ‘Kim Deal-meets-The Raincoats’-esque “Babies” and then everything goes a bit dark beyond with the exception of the heavier push at the end of “Sunrise”. I’m not sure if I prefer the dreamy or the dreary side of Blackwater Holylight but I found I got the most mileage out of the darker edged tracks “Paranoia” and “Carry Her”. I think the final track could have been edited a bit and set in the middle of the track list, as I dont’ like it as a closer versus “Carry Her”.

The whole thing has a killer vibe and as I said an underpinned accessible alt-rock influence that keeps it weird beyond the usual spaced-out psychedelic rock predictability. It doesn’t riff hard or rock out loud very much but the songwriting is clever and memorable enough to pull me through the full 45 minutes without any real complaints. I found this lent itself well to repeat listening despite my insatiable need for a big doom riff once in a while. Well worth a spin or two.


Artist Blackwater Holylight
Type Album
Released April 6, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on RidingEasy Records’ Bandcamp! Follow Blackwater Holylight in Instagram

Adherent dissociation. 3.25/5.0

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