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The term psychedelic-country is an unusual and seemingly arbitrary genre tag used to describe the music of Minneapolis band Night Moves that didn’t quite make sense until I actually saw them in person. The description of their music manifested itself in their presence more obviously than in their music, with their style being half hippy, half cowboy. There was denim on denim, partly pink hair, cowboy boots, 60s haircuts etc. all giving the band members the appearance of hippies who like to ride horse in their spare time, or maybe farmers who grow a very specific crop. The band themselves seemed to be appropriately apathetic on the tag, “I think were just in the middle,” said lead singer John Pelant “it’s just a journalist tag, we never said it was psychedelic” “I don’t know,” continued guitarist Mark Alfano “ I don’t mind it, its decent.” They were criminally hip nonetheless, and their presence made me feel like a middle schooler among high school seniors. This unique sense of style carried its way into the music as well when they performed a stripped down set of songs from their latest album, Colored Emotions, in the WERS studio.
The band started the set with their song “Headlights”. It had an immediate alt-country vibe to it, characterized by a subtle twang that didn’t overpower the song. The song was also “psychedelic” in the way that it manipulated traditional rock/country style characteristics. With the splashy reverb effect on the twangy acoustic guitar and the repetitive and rumbling bass line, “Headlines” was nothing like anything you would hear on a local top 40 Country station. Lead guitarist/singer John Pelant showcased an impressive vocal range, singing falsetto when the chorus hit. Essentially, the song felt like an acid trip down the Mississippi river in a makeshift wooden raft.
The band followed with the appropriately titled “Country Queen”. The song made interesting use of the 12 string guitar, pairing its natural chorus effects with the semi-tonality of a slide guitar, producing a truly psychedelic sound completely naturally and without the use of effects pedals. Perhaps the band’s most admirable characteristic is their ability to make psychedelic music without reliance on the typical manner in doing so. They recently got to perfect their sound in studio after getting backed by Domino records after releasing Colored Emotions for free on Bandcamp. Despite the quantity of bands releasing music for free currently, the band went with the label “If it just existed online as some digital file that’s not interesting,” explained Pelant “we wanted it pressed on vinyl, we liked the idea of being on a label as great as Domino” Their performance had a very specific and unique sound that is more interesting and psychedelic than any reverb pedal can ever be on its own. During the performance of “Country Queen”, Pelant made himself comfortable mid song by crossing his legs and leaning back on his chair, confirming my suspicion that he acquired all of his guitar chops playing at bonfires in high school and on front porches on summer nights.
The band wrapped things up with the title track from their latest LP. IT was the slowest and most gentle of the bunch, and, more so than the other two songs, showcased a strong soul influence. The bulk of the song consisted of just instrumental sections, layering the jangly 12 string with the reverb soaked electric guitar, achieving a shimmering and immersive effect. As relaxing and soothing as the song was, it was quite cerebral and captivating, and just as soon as you would slip into a subconscious indulgence of the music, it would jump out at you and demand your attention.