Death Valley Girls: Under the Spell of Joy (Suicide Squeeze Records)

Hollywood Babylon: LA psych / noir outfit make superb return

Released Oct 2nd, 2020 via Suicide Squeeze / By Richard Lewis
Death Valley Girls: Under the Spell of Joy (Suicide Squeeze Records) The fourth LP from singer / multi-instrumentalist Bonnie Bloomgarden and guitarist Larry Schemel, Under the Spell of Joy sees Death Valley Girls tap deeper into the rich history of their home city of Los Angeles.

Intertwining a strain of LA noir that has produced countless classic albums and films with the dreaminess of Laurel Canyon, the group maintain the quality exhibited on 2018s Darkness Rains.

Led by Bloomgarden’s excellent lead vocals, the perpertully ascending Hypnagogia sets the tone for an album deeply inspired by dream states as the titles underline: I’d Rather Be Dreaming, Dream Cleaver, Bliss Out and the title track. The latter constructed around a riff that recalls Floyd standard Money and a children’s chorus chant that evokes a playground skipping rope rhyme, showcases the spiralling sax work of guest player Gabe Flores.

Changing gears the Phil Spector-esque Bliss Out is Shangri-La’s stye teen heartbreak, while It All Washes Away showcases their dynamic chops, a Sweet Jane / Velvets motoric rocker that sets off on the offbeat and stays there, a simple enough device but difficult to pull off effectively.

Augmented by keys player Gregg Foreman, the atmospheric Hey Dena is heat-hazed desert noir while The Universe is star-gazing space rock. Piloted by Larry Schemel’s redoubtable guitarwork upbeat stompers Hold My Hand and Little Things where Bloomgarden sounds like Tusk-era Stevie Nicks highlight the group’s sure grasp of guitar pop. Venturing into gnarlier territory 10 Day Miracle Challenge boasts the punchiest riffs on the LP as Schemel serves up a marvellously scabrous central motif and off-kilter axe solo.

One of the set’s strongest cuts doomy torch song I’d Rather Be Dreaming meanwhile hinging on Bloomgarden’s breathless “I like you / No matter what you do / I like you / It’s true” is underscored by Foreman’s gothic keyboard patina sounding like the pipe organ from Norma Desmond's Sunset Boulevard mansion.

An incantation well worth experiencing. 4/5