12 Dec


“Hope just means another world might be possible, not promised, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope.” – Rebecca Solnit, “Hope in the Dark”

The Name of the Snake” is the third full-length album from the Richmond, Virginia-based Souvenir’s Young America. My hope is that you’ll give them a listen. My hope is that more people will discover that they also love their unique and awesome sound. My hope is, of course, that they would be asked to come to Texas for Austin Psych Fest 4.

Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

This is perhaps unlikely; one may question where the Souvenir’s Young America sound fits in the psychedelic landscape. Indeed, one may question even how to describe their sound (then again, what defines the psychedelic sound? Then again, why define the psychedelic sound?).

Largely instrumental songs (with the occasional tribal chants played backwards for good measure) built upon neo-Sabbath/Celtic Frost riffs and huge keyboard washes, thundering drums and a high-lonesome amplified harmonica drone in what might ordinarily be the vocal spot, transformed to a wordless, world-weary, angry and sometimes vacant drone. Cowboy music for the third slave revolt of Saturn, perhaps.

And perhaps more simply, the SYA sound is the somewhat unlikely and very much undeniable union of the members’ musical inspirations: Neil Young, Cerberus Shoal, Thin Lizzy, Labradford, Amebix, Miles Davis, ZZ Top, Neurosis and Townes Van Zandt, for a start. “Apocalyptic Americana,” perhaps.

Perhaps I could never clearly articulate what it is about “The Name of the Snake” that I find so compelling, so inspiring, so utterly odd and singular and somewhat disregarded in our sometimes cold, cut and paste universe.

Perhaps it’s worth disclosing that the band are, by and large, friends of mine. I foamed at the mouth over their first album when writing for the local daily paper back in 2006, and a relationship bloomed. Trading music, attending family birthday parties, becoming co-workers – it’s safe to say we are friends, and to what degree my impression of the great appeal of SYA’s music is colored by that friendship, I can’t say for certain (though I will say I am more likely to be listening to SYA than hanging out with them, and I do have friendships with bands that I don’t particularly care for and won’t be featuring on my blog anytime soon – sorry, Bono!).

“The Name of the Snake” captures me with its music, its mood and its motivations. Few albums this year – or any year – will take their sonic structure from revolutionary essayist Rebecca Solnit, and her book, “Savage Dreams: A Journey Into the Landscape Wars of the American West.” Fewer still could build such a solid, freestanding – even monolithic – sonic structure.

I hope you’ll give Souvenir’s Young America a listen. Keep hope alive.

Download “Vanishing (Remaining)” by Souvenir’s Young America

“It was still intellectually permissible to believe in ‘the existence of an unseen order of some kind in which the riddle of the natural order may be found explained.’ What was not possible was the old dogmatic certitude – but that was less a loss than a gain, an opening to the enchanting world of ‘maybe.’ “

– Jackson Lears, “Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920


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