You know Alex Maas as the sorcerer vocalist and bassist of The Black Angels but there is also a softer, folkier side to this musician that is displayed in his song “The City,” taken off his soul-baring solo debut.
His new album is a powerful work of gentle psychedelia, and a notable sonic departure from the heavy, pulse-raising sound that Maas has become renowned for. For more than 15 years, The Black Angels have served as one of rock’s preeminent purveyors of blissful walls of fuzz and intensity. They’ve also served as ringleaders of a larger psych-rock scene, particularly through their Levitation music festival, which inspires a pilgrimage of kindred spirits from around the world to the Austin area year after year.
But Luca scratches a new itch for Maas. “It’s a whole different part of my brain,” Maas says of the album, which finds him putting aside his Jesus and Mary Chain LPs and instead looking for inspiration in acts varying from The Everly Brothers to Portishead. Opener “Slip Into” delivers extraterrestrial themes over a funky beat and an eerie synth line, while “American Conquest” is a trance-inducing journey that focuses on issues much closer to home, like the horrific shootings ravaging the country in recent years. “The City” is a woozy campfire song reckoning with the larger cycle of human violence, and official single “Been Struggling” is a dreamy waltz that takes a winking look at memory and fate. “I wanted to go someplace musically that I’ve never gone before,” Maas considers. “Wu-Tang meets Leonard Cohen.”