With the release of their latest LP Water on Mars (Drag City), Philly natives Purling Hiss depart from familiar territory. Famed for his duplicitous talents, frontman Mike Polizze (who also fronts jamtastic power trio Birds of Maya) transcends his lo-fi beginnings in exchange for the newer soundscapes of Water on Mars. As if having undergone an evolution of sorts, Polizze and his bandmates’ prior penchant for psych-infused garage has expanded to include palatable pop-inspired tracks and elongated guitar riffs delivered with impressive precision and speed.
In thevein of famed locals like Kurt Vile and The War on Drugs, Purling Hiss’ signature blend of rock meets psych meets fuzz is present throughout Water on Mars, yet in a refreshingly unfamiliar way. Guitar riffs nostalgic of Cobain and J Mascis intertwine with malleable croonage by Polizze. Throughout, Water on Mars’interstellar instrumentation transports listeners to lyrically visceral landscapes rooted on an extraterrestrial plane. The appropriately titled “Lolita” conjures feelings of frustration and tortured longing framed by deliberately garage-y vocals, while the jangly semi-sweet melodic lines of “Mercury Retrograde” audibly captivate by way of unshakable soundscapes fostered by innovative lyrical narratives. “Rat Race” plays out to be equally memorable much like the driving chords of “Dead Again.” The polished yet palatable cadence of “Dead Again,” an audible juxtaposition to the lo-fi rawness of earlier tracks like “Bedroom” or the dark hums of “Malice in Wonderland,” proves to be a possible homage to the late great Elliot Smith’s repetitive yet emotively genuine malaise. Equally shaking, the mellowed out psychedelics of “She Calms Me Down,” perhaps a more familiar sound for fans, is awash in Spector-esque precision which shifts gears with “Face Down,” a full-throttle anthem with face-melting riffs and a reverberating percussive pulse. “The Harrowing Wind,” with toe-tapping inducing beats illustrates Polizze’s vocal range, offering listeners a pop-inspired diction slightly different than what is presented in prior tracks.
Closing with “Mary Bumble Bee,” Water on Mars, from start to end is far from predictable, demonstrating the probable genesis of a new approach towards psych for Polizze, Purling Hiss, and their limitless future. - Dianca Potts