EP: L.A. Witch – ‘Octubre’

With All Hallows Eve just a couple of weeks in the past, West Coast garage trio L.A. Witch bring us the appropriately named Octubre. Physically released on what the band have dubbed ‘Halloween Orange’ vinyl with a cover depicting a spider web background behind a bat perched on a headless torso, the EP combines five – mostly unreleased – tracks whose lifeless bodies have been reanimated and reworked by the band and producer Gregg Foreman.  

The record kicks off with thumping, distorted drums courtesy of percussionist Ellie English. Just at the point where the doom starts to get a little too creepy, ‘Haunting’ snaps into its sludgey bass (from Irita Pai) interspersed with top-line cymbals. Spry-sounding guitars moan all the way up the mix, enveloping Sade Sanchez’ slurred vocals like a dense fog, before a non-lyrical chorus of sharp chords shines through. The layers build as the song continues, its broken guitar effects repetitively flickering between shadow and light.

 

‘Sleep’ is a more upbeat Western style stomper, replete with a hooky tremolo lick and Sade’s old-timely croon – “Ooh baby, where did you go?” she intones. The track’s honky-tonk piano helps it capture the gothic tendencies of the Bad Old West until the ringing alarm of its middle eight leads into a surf-style guitar solo and a coda of the song’s chorus.

Next up, old style ballad with a whirly organ swing in its verses, ‘BB’s Momma’ is a deceptively simple slice of garage. On its opening half, Sade sounds like a laconic Wanda Jackson, whereas its second is a freak-out jam, combining bubbly guitar, piano thrash and stabs from the organ. Something in its jarring repetition and lyrical nihilism brings forth Murder Ballads era Bad Seeds.

Penultimate effort, ‘Heart of Darkness’, is the only track previously released – taken from a 2013 self-titled and self-released EP. Largely acoustic, it mostly consists of guitar and bass, with a single bass drum acting like a clarion, and some heavily distorted vocals. It’s another Western-esque take, as though Joseph Conrad’s tale of ivory greed and insanity has been transported to the West Coast in the 1800s, Colonel Kurtz and all.  

The EP closes with the appropriately named ‘Outro’. Also led by acoustic guitar, its waves of picked notes dovetail with electric feedback that creaks like seagulls, and ultimately winds up resembling Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Albatross’. And before you know it, it’s flown by.

Designed as more of a teaser of where the band might go in the future than necessarily a glimpse of a future output, L.A. Witch have crafted an EP that does more than just satisfy the completists. Whereas the band’s eponymous debut dealt in a straightforward blend of garage and rock ‘n’ roll, Octubre suggests a willingness to tell stories, switch up styles and blend layers of sound. And, with the nights getting colder, darker and mistier, perhaps it’s November that heralds the season of L.A. Witch.

Octubre is out now via Suicide Squeeze Records.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

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