By Jennifer Graciano
Two years after the release of their last record, Sacramento’s Ganglians return with a double LP out through Lefse Records. Still Living is the latest from the four piece, an hour long work that dabbles in just about every genre and sheds most of the lo-fi psych-folk tag they’ve toted following their debut release. The weird brand rock Ganglians had mastered takes a back seat as they stretch their abilities, and prove they’re more than capable of making great music without smoke and mirrors.
Album opener “Call Me” and the three tracks that follow: “That’s What I Want,” “Evil Weave,” and “Sleep” could turn into one long track if you’re not paying close attention. Transitions for the first half of the album are on point as tracks flow naturally; Ganglians sound more attentive, settled, than on their previous efforts. The roundabout psychedelia the four-piece established early on in their career is, for the most part, gone. Either songwriting has improved since Monster Head Room, or the lack of noisy reverb on Still Living makes it easier to appreciate; on “Good Times,” Ryan Grubbs sings: “I can’t find a job/what’s the use of trying at all?” and despite the desperation, quickly follows up with “I’ll be having a good time/I’ll be having a wonderful, wonderful time.”
“Jungle” and “California Cousins” carry a lively beat with mid-track pauses and vocalizing vaguely reminiscent of 60’s pop. And “Faster” lives up to its name picking up the pace with garage edge. “Bradley’s” instrumental intro is the clear-cut turning point on the double LP; A slow jam that happens to be the longest cut of the album, and the biggest pay off for those patient enough to appreciate it. “Things To Know” follows and strays from the direction the album set out on. It's a song that becomes the most out of place and languid track on Still Living. An insignificant hiccup as the remainder of the album proves a pleasing listen.
From Adrian Comenzind’s standout bassline on “That’s What I Want,” to the sinuous “California Cousins,” Still Living is an exploration of sound. They haven’t completely abandoned all aspects of their repertoire as some tracks are still a little rough around the edges. What they have done is let go of the haphazardness of their previous releases which makes Still Living a cohesive and mature work. Independently, Still Living’s twelve tracks hold their own catchy weight and are well-crafted, some more than others. It’s not a work that’s easy to pigeonhole into a genre, but it is easy to say this is a successful effort. Ganglians managed to do what many acts in their musical niche haven‘t been able to do: release an excellent sophomore album that proves they’re capable of making great music beyond a certain aesthetic.
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