INTERVIEW

Thomas May meets the Mexican duo and finds out just how much they are contesting the myths of psychedelic rock’n’roll

lorelle

“If music is transcendent, at some point it depends completely on the listener, not on the artist.” These words of Alberto González might seem somewhat at odds with his band’s status within the burgeoning movement of New Psych, for psychedelic music’s utopian vision of escape from the physical has always seemed paramount to its unity as a genre; an ideology as central to its definition as the layers of reverb, drones or the requisite hallucinogens. That said, it’s a point on which Lorelle Meets The Obsolete’s members are in agreement, with the group’s other half, Lorena Quintanilla, elaborating: “I think an artist shouldn’t attempt for transcendence. We as musicians don’t when we write music because we are not trying to change anything. We’re just trying to communicate.”

These sentiments are relayed via email a couple of days after I speak to Alberto on the phone ahead of the group’s European tour in support of their third full-length record, ‘Chambers’. We had been discussing Albert Camus’ essay ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, a work cited by Lorena as an important touchstone for the group’s music. “I’d say its influence might be all over the record,” she told me, “I always keep coming back to his books on a regular basis, so I think he has influenced us not only in the music but also in how we work as a band.” Central to Camus’ thesis is the contention that art should refrain from offering any false sense of unity, clarity, or indeed transcendence. Instead an artist should aim simply to describe the irreconcilable meeting of the human mind, which above all desires rational explanation, and an irrational and chaotic world: that which Camus refers to as “the absurd”.

“Our records fit that description in a very precise way,” Lorena explains. “I also really like when Camus describes ‘the absurd’ as ‘this discomfort in the face of man’s own inhumanity, this incalculable tumble before the image of what we are…’” It’s an especially ambiguous description, but one which seems to capture something intangible, some ineffable feeling, in Lorelle Meets The Obsolete’s evocative, yet somehow aloof, music. Hailing from Mexico, the group’s music is a heady fusion of expansive psych jams, kosmische repetition, and the ragged bubblegum of garage pop. This is art that continually fragments and distorts known forms only to reconstruct them into something that simultaneously conjures both nostalgia and surreal unease.

And the interaction between these two affects is particularly prominent on ‘Chambers’, the first of the group’s albums to be distributed widely in Europe thanks to London-based label Sonic Cathedral. Towards the end of second track ‘The Myth of the Wise’, for example, the claustrophobic fug of noise recedes to reveal Alberto’s drums, quoting the instantly recognisable beat first used in The Ronettes’ classic ‘Be My Baby’, only to be subsumed once more by Lorena’s vocals and phasered guitars. “That’s what is very interesting about the first Jesus and Mary Chain album,” Alberto tells me, citing another album which, incidentally, employs this very drum beat, “because it could be a record from the sixties – actually from The Ronettes – but with a lot of noise on the top. That’s very interesting.”

It’s this nuanced approach to past music that should preclude any categorisation of Lorelle Meets The Obsolete as lazy pastiche: rather than simply providing comfort, the halcyon strains of the familiar are made strange through continual processes of re-contextualisation and obfuscation. It might seem unfair, then, that the duo have often been placed so neatly into the psych revival movement, a classification encouraged by their performance at last year’s Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia and their contribution to Sonic Cathedral’s influential ‘Psych For Sore Eyes’ compilation. Perhaps surprisingly, however, the duo is decidedly enthusiastic about their place within this community of contemporary psychedelic music. “Last year when we were playing at the Liverpool Psych Fest, I remember Nat from Sonic Cathedral was spinning some records between the bands… It felt like suddenly as if you share a lot of background with all these people gathered in this huge festival,” Alberto recalls, marvelling at music’s uncanny ability to draw together otherwise disparate, unconnected lives.

Yet, he is sure to distance New Psych from accusations of retromania or obsolescence: “For me, it’s like every individual has something to offer. If, let’s say, you listened to 13th Floor Elevators and I listened to them as well and both of us make a band, we will have different interpretations of those influences. It’s like every individual is a different filter,” Alberto tells me. “So I don’t agree with people who say: ‘I already listened to that band, I liked them more when they were called The Doors, or I liked them more when they were called Pink Floyd’. For me, it always has something new to bring.”

This emphasis on reinvention, over and above invention itself and distinct from simple re-creation, seems central to this duo’s ambitions as artists in the contemporary moment. After all, it’s through this process of deforming and misremembering the past that tracks like ‘The Myth of the Wise’ are able to evoke such complex interactions of construction and destruction, memory and amnesia. Certainly, as both Alberto and Lorena contest, this music isn’t transcendent; rather, the seductive mystique of Lorelle Meets The Obsolete’s work arises directly from its very failure to transcend those spectres of the musical past that continue to haunt and define its entire fabric.

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