Band: Ananda Mida | Album: Cathodnatius | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock, Stoner rock | Year: 2019
From: Venice, Italy | Label: Go Down Records
For fans of: ‘80s King Crimson, Spock’s Beard, Led Zeppelin, Kyuss
Italy has a proud history of producing some of the best progressive rock out there. At its peak in the early 1970s, the Italian scene was arguably on par with the British. The Italians carved out a unique sound for themselves, drawing heavily from jazz, classical, and folk and singing in their native language. Even now, a few bands play in this distinctly Italian style. Ananda Mida are not one of those bands.
That’s by no means a swipe against Ananda Mida. I’ve listened to and thoroughly enjoyed both their albums, but if you had played their music for me and asked me to guess, I would’ve told you they sound like they come from the American Southwest. They’ve got that sunny, desert-y stoner vibe commonly found in bands from the region. Blues riffs loomed large on their debut, 2016’s Anodnatius, interspersed with spacier interludes and a handful of more adventurous moments. Their new album, Cathodnatius, keeps that desert vibe, but they’ve amped up their experimentation, drawing influences from sources as diverse as early 1970s Pink Floyd, new wave, and math rock.
The opening “The Pilot” features some weird, angular riffs between expansive-sounding guitar lines. The vocal performance reminds me a lot of Neal Morse, and the bridge features an off-kilter spoken word bit over stuttering instrumentation. The decision to minimize the amount of distortion on the rhythm guitars was an interesting choice that helps to add character.
“Blank Stare” leans hard into new wave influences. The vocalist reminds me of a demented Joe Jackson, and spiraling guitar lines and elastic bass harken to King Crimson’s ‘80s output. (And King Crimson’s ‘80s output was effectively progressive new wave.)
“Pupo Cupo” sees Ananda Mida explore their stoner rock roots more explicitly than elsewhere on this record, and the acoustic interlude “Out of the Blue” helps to set the table for the closing epic. This pair of songs, though, doesn’t do much to stand out to me. “Pupo Cupo” is fine. It’s cosmic stoner rock. The music has its moments, but it could have been tightened up by a minute or two. I doubt anyone listens to stoner rock for the lyrics, but “Out of the Blue” pushes them to the fore. This three-minute piece is packed with overwrought drama, and it feels like it’s taking itself far too seriously.
The closing 22-minute epic, “Doom and the Medicine Man”, focuses on the band’s space rock influences. They leverage big walls of fuzz against ragged, reverbed clean guitar tones. There are some neat moments of wonky, quirky musicianship that have a great sense of forward movement despite the riff’s halting nature. This song is full of moments that reminded me of other artists, but the influence was never so direct that I could firmly put my finger on it.
There’s no shortage of stoner bands out there that will label themselves as psychedelic or progressive, but it’s uncommon to find one that actually lives up to those labels. Ananda Mida are one of those uncommon exceptions, and this is a fun, engaging record. The middle section is somewhat nondescript, but the rest of the album is strong enough to at least partially cancel that out.