Plankton Wat – Drifter’s Temple (Thrill Jockey)

Oregon’s Dewey Manhood returns with a strong effort, but is overshadowed by his previous work

Released Sep 9th, 2013 via Thrill Jockey / By Norman Miller
Plankton Wat – Drifter’s Temple (Thrill Jockey) Plankton Wat is the solo moniker of Portland muso Dewey Mahood, a fine past contributor to modern psych outfits including Eternal Tapestry, Edibles and Jackie-O Motherfucker. But while 2012 saw an often outstanding album Spirits plus 5-track EP Mirror Lake, Drifter's Temple seems an unfortunate backward step.

Where those 2012 efforts showcased fluid skills in stitching together genres that have been described as kosmische drone, burnt-out psych, spiritual improv and sun-baked folk, way too much of Drifter's Temple can be filed under the less edifying heading of ‘drifty psych noodling’.

The problem likely lies in Mahood's change of working methods here. In place of previous taped improv put through a process of judicious editing, these 10 tracks emerge from rehearsals and live performances and are offered here in a fairly unfiltered form that might have sounded pretty good on stage but just seem unfocused coming out of your speakers. Particular culprits crying out for more shaping and less aimless noodling are ‘Bread of Dreams’ and ‘Klamath At Dusk’.

Thankfully, Mahood is way too talented to not also provide fantastic textures and details on almost every other track as he shows off his skills on 6 and 12-string guitar, lap steel, bass, organ and synth.

Beautiful detailing nods to Mahood's truly eclectic tastes - from Appalacian folk on the lovely ‘Empire Mines’ to the vampy, Doorsy blues keyboards that lift ‘Towards The Golden City’. ‘Hash Smuggler Blues’ oozes dissonant charm, like the soundtrack to a weird 1960s movie chiller, while ‘Nightfall’ stands out precisely because it feels much more considered in its blend of folky acoustic guitar and tortured Neil Young electrics.

Too often, though, tracks stick in mid-tempo grooves that are shoegazey here, drifty folk there, or offer several minutes that sound like the quiet bits from Explosions In The Sky without the soaring counterbalancing crescendos.

If you're coming to Plankton Wat fresh, check out Spirits instead. Or decide for yourself if this stuff works best live by rocking up to a gig on his imminent UK tour.