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BLACK ANGELS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Passover (Light in the Attic) 2006
Directions to See a Ghost (Light in the Attic) 2008

The Black Angels' obvious reference point is the Velvet Underground. The Austin band, which traffics in dark, droning psychedelia, is named for a VU title. They perform the occasional death song and even have a female drummer. But it's still a deficient and lazy comparison. There are all kinds of ways to drone darkly, and the Black Angels favor a low, slow-burning rumble that has as much in common with Cream, the Jesus and Mary Chain and early Pink Floyd as the Velvets. Passover is a pretty cool disc overall, but does suffer a bit in the pacing. Enough songs lurk at the same tempo that it's sometimes hard to tell one from another. The ones that shake up the formula the most — "The Prodigal Sun," the raga-inflected "Manipulation" and the almost sprightly "Bloodhounds on My Trail" — are the standouts.

Directions to See a Ghost is a vast improvement. Bringing Stephanie Bailey’s drumming to the forefront, the Angels forge a more rhythmic sound, swapping atonal drone for added melody. All of the familiar psychedelic touchstones remain — the Doors and early Echo and the Bunnymen most especially — in suitably haunting tracks like "18 Years" and "Doves." Elsewhere, the band experiments with a sitar (the Zeppelinesque-down-to-the-title "Deer-Ree-Shee") and break out some big rock guitar chords ("The Return"), but the sound never strays too far from black light poster grooving.

[Brad Reno / Jason Reeher]