Ya know that feeling when you wake up at 5am with your stereo still quietly playing whatever it was you fell asleep to? You're in a NyQuil-induced haze, with one foot still firmly planted in the dream world. You feel as if you've melted into your bed; every inch of your body is Jello. Heavily sedated, utterly euphoric, your consciousness is a blank slate. You fell asleep with your favorite bedtime album on loop; Wish You Were Here or Agaetis Byrjun or Music for Airports plays for the 9th time, and suddenly you're awake. The music enters your ears yet again and courses through your body like an aural opiate; you've heard it before, but in this moment you feel as if you're hearing it for the first time. It sounds new and makes you feel dizzy, like you're underwater. You continue to lazily drift in and out of a blissful trance until your first alarm goes off and rudely thrusts you back into full consciousness. Throughout the day you plot to recreate the situation and resulting feeling, but the moment's gone.
Do yourself a favor: make sure that the next time you encounter this admittedly idiosyncratic scenario, the album you awaken to is The Lava Children's self-titled EP.
This Tulsa outfit, led by Taylor Clark and Sherri West, specializes in the kind of freaky art-folk that seeps into your pores and pierces your soul. You won't need the NyQuil; the music is the drug.
Quantifying their sound by the use of easy descriptors like "psychedelic" or "experimental" doesn't begin to convey the originality, creativity, and sheer otherness of the sonic blanket they cover on their debut, a 20 minute mini-LP featuring five songs dripping with eerie, spooky sonic ecstasy. Think of Air with a more pronounced Eastern influence, or a gauzy, slo-mo Animal Collective.
Singer West possesses an ethereal, child-like voice that she utilizes to sometimes shocking effect. Vocals to upbeat, quirky album opener "I Am a Pony" are beautifully incomprehensible. One can't tell if she's uttering nonsense or singing in a different language, but it's evocative, playful and extremely pretty. Ominous "Particles" sees slightly more conventional vocal melodies complemented by the repetitive creep of Clark's opium-den guitar work, and the aggressive swagger of Firefly finds the angelic crooner turned to emotive fire-breather.
The Lava Children plays interior pop music filtered through a woozy, off-kilter equilibrium--it's alien, unfamiliar, but instantly accessible.
"Sherri and I have been together for a long time," Clark said, explaining the inception of The Lava Children. "And I've always been obsessed with music--collecting it, listening to it, playing it."
Clark said that the concept came together when he and West (who've been a couple since '96) moved to L.A. six years ago. They teamed up with a couple of musician friends and eventually wrote and recorded the EP in their garage, with Clark basically acting as producer and engineer.
"We were in L.A. five years," he continued.
"We played a lot in the Highland Park area, Silver Lake, Echo Park, kinda more the edge of the city. LA has a lot of good under the radar stuff, a lot of good art music, but ya know, it was a bit taxing, time in the car and all that stuff."
About a year ago, Clark and West decided to move back to Tulsa.
"Coming back here, there was a really big dread. I started hanging out at Soundpony and making friends with the people there. Then I got a job there, which has been a really great thing, especially as a musician. I have a lot of freedom, and I get to listen to my weird music all day."
As Clark and West became re-acquainted with Tulsa, their EP was being passed around Graveface Records. The indie label, home to bands with national cult followings like The Octopus Project and Black Moth Super Rainbow, signed The Lava Children and released the album this past May.
Clark credits Black Moth for bringing The Lava Children to the attention of the label.
"We love Black Moth," he said. "We played with them several times in California, they stayed with us and they really helped us get on Graveface... We actually had plans to tour (with them) this summer, and we had to push it up so now we're going in the fall."
Right now, they're honing live material by playing frequent shows over the summer here in town. (They've recruited musical super-siblings Jesse and Dylan Aycock to fill out the rhythm section of the live show--Jesse on bass and Dylan on percussion.) Last Saturday they played the Crystal Pistol to a near-capacity crowd, and this Friday they're scheduled to play a free show at Soundpony, along with The Panda Resistance and Daniels.
The band is on its way up and is by no means tied to Tulsa (Clark mentioned that another move in the near future is possible), and the show is one of several opportunities you'll have to see them this summer while they're still in the local underground.
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