Album Review: Garcia Peoples – One Step Behind

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Band: Garcia Peoples | Album: One Step Behind | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock, Krautrock | Year: 2019

From: Rutherford, (NJ,) USA | Label: Beyond Beyond Is Beyond

For fans of: The Grateful Dead, Gong, The Moody Blues

Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music

Garcia Peoples’ 2018 debut album, Cosmic Cash, easily made my personal top 10 of last year, with its mixture of inventive song structures, psychedelic textures, and fun, loose garage rock atmosphere. Their album from March of this year, Natural Facts, while enjoyable, didn’t quite hit the same highs as their debut. It was more overtly folk-influenced, with significant touches of Americana. It seemed they were charting out a trajectory reminiscent of the Grateful Dead. With this context, this album took me by surprise.

One Step Behind is nearly 40 minutes long but contains only two songs, one of which stretches over half an hour. There remain ample doses of Dead-like jangly guitars, but the band have also included krautrock-like meditation and repetition, as well as technical guitar and keyboard lines I would expect from the likes of Yes.

The immense title track opens with dreamy, breathy saxophone over a swelling organ drone. Nearly two minutes pass before the twin guitars enter, playing odd, off-kilter arpeggios that are reminiscent of Tangerine Dream. The pace of this opening passage is slow and deliberate, but there’s enough gradual development that it never seems boring.

Around the nine-minute mark, percussion finally enters in the form of light cymbals. At the same time, heavily wah-wahed and distorted guitar builds before bursting into a rolling, psychedelic rhythm. Thirteen minutes into the song, the first verse begins, and what started as a weird, floating guitar line has gradually morphed into a relaxed, folky psych-rock song complemented with warm synths and electric piano. The vocal melody is catchy, and the playing is top-notch, stuffed with subtle fills and licks that demonstrate robust musicianship.

The folky vocal section ends on a searing guitar solo over a jumpy, cascading backdrop, leading to another slow-building krautrock section. This movement is more energetic than the opening, though, with a prominent, funky bassline topped with atonal organ to create a disorienting atmosphere. The rhythm slowly shifts from funky to anxious, aided by a bizarre guitar part that resembles a burbling synthesizer. The shift to the closing section is a sudden one, led by dual guitars. The climax of the piece is driven with punk urgency, where bluesy saxophone and acidic guitar battle it out to the final seconds.

Following that rollercoaster ride of a song, “Heart and Soul” is (comparatively) understated and straightforward. It begins with soulful piano balladry, channeling elements of roots and Southern rock. The song’s middle section goes in a spacier direction—with airy flute, buzzing guitar embellishments, and cosmic interplay between piano and organ—before coming back to the Allman-influenced verses to close.

One Step Behind represents a massive step forward for Garcia Peoples. Their roots as garage rockers who blended classic and modern sounds into something distinct and fun are still there. But this album demonstrates something much more ambitious. At no point does any of the music here feel superfluous; the movements of the title track feel natural. I doubt their next album will contain another opus of this scale, but I’m curious to see if they revert back to their psych-folk-rock sound or if they continue with this proggy, krautrock-y direction.

Score: 94/100

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