Album Review: Dark Family — ‘Holiness’

New Year’s Eve at Rozz-Tox

Rozz-Tox, Rock Island — Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 8 p.m.

Dark Family’s second album of 2019 is a fucking groove. Released on Oct. 30, Holiness essentially takes the psychedelic supergroup’s first album, The Reverberation Cult, and retrofits it with all the inky, druidic, pot rock energy the band’s full lineup commands.

Evocative lyrics — penned by Rubin Flores of St. Thomas and the Fervors — resonate in melodies strengthened by guitarist Jeramie Anderson’s (Sunshrine) eerily playful string work. Anderson, who also recorded and produced the first six tracks that became The Reverberation Cult, describes the album experience as floating down a sonic river.

To complete that first recording, Flores rented a car and drove from his home in Iowa City to Moline, Illinois. His pairing with Anderson was a natural success, and they easily recruited the rest of the family: bassist Courtney Jade (Archeress) and percussionists Ian Lambach (Pollinators) and Kelsey Gould (White Stone Awakening).

Which brings us to Holiness. Now complete, Dark Family sounds like the Flaming Lips covering the Black Angels. They make a sound that lets us dance when we are joyful and shoe-gaze when we’re not.

“Have You Seen Lizzy?” is a search for Jesus in the same manner as Lou Reed looks for his dealer. While you listen to “Birdie,” lie on your back and stare up at the ceiling: You’ll feel a kinship with everyone who’s ever been introspective on a breezy summer afternoon.

The record opens with a lingering, mellow tone straight out of Mogwai’s ambient phase. The appropriately titled “Step Inside” offers string chords gently rising from an unwaning single note before Gould thumpers in to cue the remaining spread. The rest of the song is a preview of recurring threads: late ’60s underground-inspired riffs that would make Arthur Brown jealous; ethereal vocal harmonies from an alternate reality where the Beach Boys spent their formative years in a South Asian ashram; Jade’s bass sounding like a mother’s heartbeat as heard from the womb.

If I have to pick a favorite track, it’s gotta be “Summertime,” for reasons both personal and academic. Technically speaking, it may be the best example of the group’s musical strengths in all the aforementioned areas. Personally, it reminds me of my first semester as an undergrad — a time that was as energizing as it was humbling. “Summertime” evokes a similar feeling of real, live, in-the-moment elation in the form of tripping psychedelic sounds made even more vivid by the horrible knowledge that time moves ever forward, with the percussion section taking us on an easy march toward universal entropy with the help of a tambourine.

While the album is amazing, Dark Family is a band you need to see in person. They enjoy turning their shows into occult gatherings complete with shared bottles of wine and breaking bread. Keep an eye out for this Iowa-Illinois band, or catch them for sure and certain at the Rozz-Tox New Year’s Eve party.

This article was originally published in Little Village issue 275.