Tidal wave-sized grooves punish us with a mix of distortion and sonic decadence in “Belly of the Beast.” Supple strands of psychedelia infused with a progressive, ascending instrumental harmony hypnotizes anything within earshot of “Kingdom Illusion.” Slow-churning chaos washes over an otherwise simple rhythm in “Rattlesnake,” but much as the case is with “The Great Unknown,” a mashup of melodies and a mighty percussive wallop makes for only one reason to listen closely to the musical discharge taking place here. Gritty balladry gets a kaleidoscopic makeover in “Villains” where “Be Real,” “Fuck Yeah” and “Something to Love” follow a far more eclectic path to the hearts of listeners, but no matter where you start in Whiskerman’s new LP Kingdom Illusion, you should definitely plan on staying buckled-in for the duration of the tracklist. Blending surrealism with psychedelic-tinged rebelliousness, Whiskerman emerge from their latest trip to the recording studio with an album that stands up to the enormous competition in the underground market marvelously this March, and it would surprise me a great deal if I were the only critic saying so at the moment.
There has been no shortage of mind-bending melodies coming out of the alternative rock community in the last half-decade or so, but personally I think that the sophisticated production quality in Kingdom Illusion goes a long way towards setting this record apart from the scores of others available to listeners this spring. “Villains,” the title track and “Something About Love” are all contrast-driven compositions, but similarly to the most straightforward “Rattlesnake” and “Fuck Yeah,” they’re mixed with a deliberately jagged edge as to avoid sacrificing any natural tenacity for a well-varnished finish. The detailed intricacies in the music add to the narrative in “Be Real,” “The Great Unknown” and “Belly of the Beast” significantly, and I would really love to hear all of the songs included on Kingdom Illusion live just to see how the substance of this material would translate in a stage setting. Something tells me it would make the transition seamlessly, but I’m still looking forward to finding out for myself (preferably before the year is out).
I was only somewhat familiar with Whiskerman’s music before I picked up a copy of Kingdom Illusion just this month, but I’m going to be keeping them on my radar throughout 2020 on the strength of this phenomenal new album. Kingdom Illusion asks nothing more from its audience than 44 minutes of uninterrupted listening in exchange for some of the most fascinatingly experimental psych-rock the underground has produced in the new decade, and though it isn’t without a few rough edges here and there (all of which I wouldn’t have altered to be softer in any scenario), I don’t know that you’re going to discover another LP quite like it this season. Whiskerman are carrying forth a torch lit by legends some sixty years ago here, but I get the vibe that they’re not about to start looking backwards for inspiration as they continue to make mind-expanding music to be enjoyed by the masses.