Droogs with an ear for acid-fried guitar worship may have Boston’s Skyjelly tagged as another bunch of loon-pant fuzz addicts with their controls set permanently for the heart of Haight Ashbury. But for me the band’s free-form cavalcade has always had its lobes wide open to the shapeshifting possibilities of the now, not the past. True, the prickly, tangled guitar lines that predominate on ‘We Pull The Stars Over Our Heads Like Covers’ ooze the plangent trippiness of a primer-era Dead bootleg, like some version of ‘Dark Star’ hidden on a Dick’s Pick from all-day mung bean wig-out at the Tallahassee Hayloft in 1972. Yet in switching out the lame jazz beats for a motorik chug that brings a little bit of endless Europe into the all-American swag, this crew burnish their jams with a contemporary sheen.
And even if that ain’t a million miles away from the template of contemporary psych-rock, Skyjelly’s dedication to their sun-bleached meanders gives ’em a unique frazzled beauty. Their whirligig stumbles and needle-drop jumpcuts are daubed with infinite shades of brown, their psychic journeys stalking through the same psychic canyons as some zonked late-era Pynchon protagonist, Doc Sportello from ‘Infinite Vice’ maybe, those squint-eyed shuffles arriving at some blurred, lopsided version of the truth despite their own best efforts.
In any case, I’d put money on the fact that Skyjelly know full well that too much slickness isn’t the done thing these days. Thus although ‘We Pull The Stars Over Our Heads Like Covers’ isn’t a bootleg, it sure has the rough-hewn quality of one. ‘The Holy One’ and ‘Terra Nostra’ are bleary snapshots, recalling that old-fashioned practice of editing tracks from longer cuts to better fit two sides of tape or vinyl. In particular, the latter’s scorched horizon is poorly served by its relatively short runtime. Better to imagine it as a frug that runs eternal, the choppy rhythmic chassis stepping through hours, days even, while its guitars carve spiralling circles of light through the haze.
‘White Wolves’, meanwhile, does that great outsider rock trick of starting off from the point at which other bands hit the faders. Its clomping, ragged structure allows plenty of space for the gunked-out mantras to mutate into unruly fungal organisms, with grouchy engine noise and factory whirrs spreading mucky tendrils all over its base layer. The mulch is hypnotic and all too enclosing, the devotional sha-la-las and simmering plucked vamps enacting a tractor-beam pull that can’t fail to draw everything into its mossy vibrations.