Ryley Walker’s latest makes a strong case for the increased visibility and label placement of psych rock jammers.
After shopping himself around to different labels and being met with the same rejection, Ryley Walker finally self-released this set, which he recorded live with psych-rock band Kikagaku Moyo at a music festival under the moniker “Deep Fried Grandeur” (which is now this album’s title). Soaring to the top of Bandcamp’s charts, the record notched a resounding success for independents in light of the extreme circumstances of the pandemic and the normal ones of a monopolistic recording industry. It’s for these reasons that Deep Fried Grandeur feels especially triumphant when you listen to its thick, radiating psych-rock guitars as they wind through beat changes and blend together different genres, still holding attention through the record’s two 18-minute tracks. Said “track” distinctions exist primarily to mark a clear side A and B for the recording; in reality, this is one cohesive work presented in multiple movements.
It would be a sham of an understatement to say that Walker’s four-piece live band and the five-member Kikagaku Moyo produce a hell of a lot of sound on this recording. But even with that in mind, the music never feels chaotic or inscrutable. The distinct drum patterns that underpin the dominant guitars give a framework to the piece, with each gradual change in rhythm accompanied by an appropriate tonal shift in the rest of the ensemble’s playing. This 36-minute jam session was the result of only one afternoon of practice, as well as a general familiarity with each other’s work. Just on its face, that’s an impressive achievement — but more than that, it’s true to the spirit of the jam band’s genesis, which relied on being in tune with your fellow musicians on the stage, even with limited-to-no practice time. At its core, that’s what makes Deep Fried Grandeur such a satisfying listen: Each of the nine players featured are all feeling each other out as they play, the sign of true musical talent. What’s more, it can’t be discounted that Deep Fried Grandeur helps make the argument for the small label release more valid, especially for the modern psych-rock movement. Hopefully, that also means future collaborations between Walker and others; and if his upcoming schedule is any indication, it appears as if he wants the same.
Published as part of Album Roundup — February 2021 | Part 4.