Greg: Ah, the fine line of record vs live that is walked by musicians . The rather daunting task typically struggles from album to stage because on album you can level better, you can fine-tune things a little more and you can spend much more time ironing out the details.
The quartet of Phil McGill, Graham Powers, Ben Hackett and Alex Woolley, based in Athens, Georgia are not immune to this challenge. And with the release of New Madrid’s Sunswimmer, having experienced them live at Treefort 2014, it becomes blatantly obvious that album to stage do not match. But that is because there is no way humanly possible to capture the sheer power they possess live.
Clay: Since we’ve already spilled ink on their live set, if you want to read about said show, you can go here. Like I said at the end of that write-up, what interested me was to see how it translated. Sunswimmer works well because it plays like a live set. Aside from layer upon layer of reverb on McGill’s vocals in the opener, “All Around the Locust,” the recording session sounds like it was recorded in a single take with all members present.
The other thing that works well is the tenor of New Madrid’s music. Aside from the radio-friendly pop-punk “Manners,” the rest of the album is a progressive and trippy slice of campfire space rock. On tracks like “Homesick,” they crank the ethereal up past eleven and the wormhole that passes through my brain has me seeing the code from the Matrix. It can make for a difficult commute if I’m in the car but I get by.
Greg: Each track within the album is strangely comforting as well. Not strange in the sense of playing a Beatle’s track backwards, but in a hypnotic, dreamlike sense that brings me into a state of pure bliss. It is as if these guys know something everyone else doesn’t and they capitalize on it with each chord and beat. What’s more is that these guys don’t seem a day over 21. I could be wrong but let me sit in awe of such profound sound from such young minds; or, in awe of the fact that they still have a lot ahead of them, which means more of this fantastic sound.
New Madrid finds a place between psychedelic and rock while settling confidently into their vision and casting a trance over all who will listen. Struggling to identify if I am under a spell, I know for certain Sunswimmer has made a Olympian-like sprint to the top of my list for Best of 2014.
Clay: It should top anyone’s list for this year. Go get this album. Go see them live. Go bake them a cake, whatever. Just make sure to include New Madrid in your life in some way. That powerful blend of psychedelia and rock Greg mentioned is just too good to pass up. Like a cake.
Clay and Greg co-founded Nanobot. Seeing New Madrid live at Treefort left them changed individuals and believers that time travel is real. Feel free to email them your favorite cake recipes.