Texan surf-psychedelia five-piece Holy Wave are the epitome of a band born into the wrong generation. Everything from the vintage sensibilities coalescing to form the kind of hook-driven jams best listened to after a hefty dose of Dr Leary’s marvellous medicine. Psych-rock revivalists Brian Jonestown Massacre might be considered excessively convincing in their emulation of the flower power aesthetic, Holy Wave bring just enough of their own mojo to the table to avoid the label of copycats.
Fresh off the back of the band’s sophomore full-length release Freaks of Nurture – issued only last week on the Reverberation Appreciation Society label (Ringo Deathstarr, Indian Jewelry) – Holy Wave are already in the midst of an absurdly demanding 2016 European Tour; an unforgiving circuit compromising 42 gigs in a mere 46 days that clearly demonstrates the band’s pious devotion to their music. From the very outset of the band’ Edinburgh gig at Sneaky Pete’s, it is immediately clear that Holy Wave functions as a collective consciousness: Group member continually swap instruments throughout the night and even share vocal responsibilities, transcending the archetypal ‘front-man’ autocracy that so unfortunately pervades the modern band dynamic.
Following the release of Relax in 2014, the band have shifted further away from the bass-heavy, tambourine-shaking psychedelia that characterised their early sound, applying copious layers of shoegaze fuzz for a livelier kick. This is not to day that Holy Wave have entirely abandoned their roots however; the sitar-like twangs of guitar and echoing vocals are still very much at the forefront of the mix, yet are now hastened along by metronomic bursts of distortion and assertive guitar licks.
The effect of this transition is invaluable to Holy Wave’s setlist, giving the band the ability to punctuate the kaleidoscopic tracks of Relax with the edgier rock of their latest release, tripping out the audience before delivering a euphoric come-down blow. Setting the scene with the mesmeric bassline of ‘Do You Feel It?’, the group progresses through some of their darker material including ‘Night Tripper’ and ‘Star Stamp’, grungy tones of The Velvet Underground permeating the set. ‘She Put a Seed in My Ear’, ‘Western Playland’ and ‘Air Wolf’ from the band’s latest album provide a bittersweet counterpoint, invariably climaxing with waves of distortion and woozy synth instrumentals to keep the crowd on its toes.
Whilst Holy Wave might not have the most riveting stage presence in the business, the band’s unassuming nature is part of its unique charm, imparting a sense of kinship between musicians and audience to craft a memorably intimate, psychedelic listening experience.