When someone mentions the word psychedelic, so many interpretations of the word can come to mind. Everyone has their own idea or concept and opinion of what it means to them. The music. The arts. The culture. The drugs!!
In music, psychedelic, since its strange inception, has morphed, evolved, and integrated itself into the many genres that abound in our weirdly wonderful world.
Psychedelic music operates on a broad spectrum of sound. From tunes that will gently tingle the senses. To songs that will free your mind and take you away on lysergic rivers. Right through to the thoroughly drenched sounds that take you over the cliff’s edge of sanity into the imagination’s playground of absurdity.
The psychedelic charm works to detach the listener from everyday reality and sonically paints otherworldly experiences where the only limitations are you. One such album that harnesses the power of psychedelia to take the listener on a wild ride, tripping the light fantastic, is Ambrosia by Arbiter. An album that was seven years in writing and a further three in recording!!! An album that quietly surfaced on The Doom Charts at number 20 the month of its release in May of 2022.
The band line-up:
Caleb Blackwell: Bass, Guitar, Lead Vocals, Percussion
Robert John Garcia: Synthesizer, Percussion, Vocals
Jonah Gonzalez: Drums, Percussion, Vocals
Only a little is known by me about Arbiter other than being a three-piece-heavy psych band from out of San Antonio, Texas. Their social media shows that they enjoy playing a live show or two around the Lone Star State.
So, with creative license and reckless abandon, I will offer my own wild assumptions!!
Arbiter created their album Ambrosia after lighting the fire of inspiration a mere seven years before its recording. So to take a shot in the dark, I would say the three band members know each other better than their own mothers would.
I can imagine them locked away in their practice space, dabbling in Albert Hoffman’s signature substance that defines the psychedelic scene. Through the night until the sunlight creeps through the cracks. They were jamming, laughing, creating, and shaping their sound in a wild blur of colours that ran down the walls like melted cheese over hot nachos.
Taking three years to record, in a period of tumultuous times that was the height of the pandemic era, shows dedication and determination. And I would suspect there was a supreme amount of elation once complete. To see this project through must be an epic relief. To set the album off into the wild after becoming so intimate with each song, sound, and nuance must garner many emotions. It is so much more than the end of a chapter. A decade of diligence in a society riddled with high-speed lifestyles, short attention spans, and constant distractions. A massive amount of time, energy, and sacrifice was made throughout this process. So as a listener, take your time to soak in all that Arbiter offers.
“Snakes” begins with the immediate sound of a guitar played backward. Like that of a teenager finding messages hidden on vinyl in phonetic reversal, it creates a quirky, nostalgic sound that conjures images of government propaganda aimed at the free-wheeling hippies of the 70s and ties their aesthetic together nicely. Commanding tribal-esque percussion bursts forth, layered with a taunting fuzzy riff. Almost immediately, Robert John Garcia fills all other unoccupied spaces with his synthesizer. Caleb Blackwell’s chant-like prophecies materialize, offering us the first taste of his shamanic guide-like vocals.
“Clarity” begins with lush guitar work that permeates the soul like fragrant Indian spices while enchanting, whispered vocals soothe the soul and bring a Zen-like calm to the fore. Miles apart from Color Caravan’s intensity, the structure of Clarity weaves sounds, turning them into exotic patterns of comfort.
“The Arbiter” boasts nine minutes of Arbiter ecstasy. But before a cataclysmic explosion of weirdness, this track hits the ground running with a seemingly perpetual climb through a cosmos full of colour and wonder. The climb turns into waves. Lapping against the edge of reason. This is the acid-soaked bandana jam that will have feet stomping barefoot next to the bonfire of inhibition and releasing the ego, and waving goodbye to reality.
Final Thoughts on Arbiter’s Ambrosia
The album Ambrosia played out in full feels like meditative madness. A cacophony of chaotic calm. It radiates a spiritual vibe and, in the right circumstances, can create an almost holy experience. Their clever use of snippets from government speeches about wayward youth, illegal firearms dealings, and the like take you back to the era that brought about the psychedelic revolution.
Creating a feeling of rebellion and a brewing curiosity about the strange world of the psychedelic renaissance. Their sound also has a strong aroma of India flowing throughout. Whether it be the madness of Goa, which of course, is a psychedelic haven. Or the streets of Delhi, with its mesmerizing snake charmers, and the colourful monasteries with their antiquated mystique. Together with the influence of the 70’s Psychedelic rock movement, they set about also pushing the boundaries of our current world.
However, the wild kaleidoscope of sound Arbiter brings to the table is certainly catered to a niche market. It is no straightforward riff fest that is synonymous with the Stoner and Doom scene. It is more suited to a quiet room with headphones where the music can come to life, envelop your being, and take you away on the holiest psychedelic adventure.
If you are in the Arlington, Texas area, you can catch them live on Wed., 5 April 2023, playing at Division Brewery as an opener for King Bastard, and you can get the Arbiter experience in the flesh.
Get a taste of Ambrosia and get totally psyched!!
Support Arbiter by checking out their Bandcamp or finding them on Instagram.
This review was written by Justin Morrison. Justin has been an avid music enthusiast for many years now. His passion for the many genres in the heavy underground is evident as he is frequently dropping his thoughts on Bandcamp and posting music videos on his Blind Mouse Visuals YouTube page. Check out Justin on Bandcamp and his Blind Mouse Visuals project on Facebook and YouTube.
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