Late in 2004, Gris Gris gave what I am told was their very first public performance at a backyard BBQ in Berkeley, CA. I was holding a spicy chicken wing and was enthralled with the psychedelic mastery of what was then Greg Ashley’s much smaller semblance of musicians (I believe it was two, but I had had a few beers…) The very simple, straight-forward subtlety of the whole thing brought a strange serenity to the audience of generally rowdy East Bay rockers.
A couple weeks ago, the group agreed to play a warehouse party in San Francisco, despite the fact that they had played the four previous nights in different local venues. Admittedly, and expectably, it was not a hugely attended show, but the sweeping, swirling, organic set enraptured the small audience, and was all the more captivating to the small crowd, as the now five-piece scrambled all over the stage making noise come from everything that could be dragged up to a mic and struck, rubbed, blown on…
For The Season captures both of these sides of Gris Gris perfectly. The opener, “Ecks Em Eye” takes flight with howling noise, particular clarinet that flutters about wildly in John Zorn form; then everything planes off into determined, marching rock perfection. The entire first side (or six tracks) of the album are strung together in an intentional continuity that weaves from slow-paced orchestral to dramatic, repetitive banner waving rock.
The second half, beginning with “The Non-stop Tape” is more traditional Gris Gris, with individual tracks that build themselves before your very ears, climax, persist, and carefully deconstruct in perfect timing.
For The Season is quite possibly the best psychedelic garage rock album of at least the past ten years.