Mojave Red is the sounds of ghosts haunting the present. The 13th Floor Elevators meander within the hazy samples. Quieter moments hide within the murky psychedelic dreams originally born of bright minds like Syd Barrett and Robert Wyatt. In the same way acts such as How to Dress Well, with their deep reverence of Ready for the World and El DeBarge, blazed a trail for new renderings of that period of pocketed pleasantry, Mojave Red finds comfort in rock music’s graveyards.
“I’ve been into the retro-chic psychedelia and garage forever now, from Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd to the 13th Floor Elevators,” states the enigmatic leader of Mojave Red, J.C. “The fact that these bands sounded fresh even 50 years later always blew my mind.”
However, it would be shortsighted to throw Mojave Red into the growing collection of freak-folk acts. Hints of Animal Collective exist; yet CAN and Curtis Mayfield also permeate the band’s brilliant debut EP, C r e e p e r. “Dare Not” opens with a guitar intro that conjures Mayfield and other classic soul players before backward-masking takes the place of a traditional guitar solo. Vocals scream jubilantly over the meticulous arrangement.
It is more than a good song; it is a song that pushes forward the notion that there is plenty to be mined in music other than past electronic pioneers. C r e e p e r sounds anything but creepy. It comforts, it soothes, it reminisces.
“I wanted the listener to be like ‘What is this?’ The cover is meant to make you feel like you’re transported to some underground-psychedelic-glam jungle,” J.C. says.
Clandestine intentions abound in the noir-ish track “Do It (Again).” If love is the central theme, then the deep longing loiters around for it to only get better. It is the sound of a man crawling on his hands and knees across a filthy floor, approaching his lover with a quiet determination, knowing he is going to get his way.
“The band’s music and image is more or less constructed by myself,” J.C. remarks. “The other members are there to make the songs come alive, and they are what transforms Mojave Red from chill bedroom jams into an intense live show.”
The stark contrast between their recording and their performance is sharply felt. Audiences appear puzzled by the swells of danceable psychedelia. To win the crowds over takes little effort, however. Once the music begins, it encourages witnesses to the truth to turn on, tune in and fuzz out.
Mojave Red presents a clear alternative to the burgeoning future-beat movement and the oversaturated EDM scene. It is a reminder of the simplistic power of a well-written song. Samplers play like acoustic guitars at a folk festival. The continued appreciation for the past becomes a vehicle that moves toward the future.
As for the future, shows and new songs loom large in Mojave Red’s crystal ball. The band is working with rapper Guilla on a remix of their track “Ur Already Gone.” Just as important, they're looking forward to the throng of shows coming their way.
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“We have gigs coming up at Fitzgerald’s, Walters Downtown, and [are] also planning to tour this spring,” J.C. says. “There are already some songs that are written and ready to record, so a new album or some singles coming out isn’t off the table.”
C r e e p e r is refreshing, and Mojave Red’s presence in Houston’s impressive pool of talented electronic musicians is invigorating.
“The album has a mysterious air to it, kind of lurking in the shadows of the Houston music scene," says J.C. "To me that’s pretty ‘creeper’.”
Mojave Red performs Friday, December 11 Fitzgerald's with special guests the Warplanes and Get a Life. Doors open at 8 p.m.