Review and photography by John Bentley

US psych band Psychic Ills hit Manchester tonight for one of only two UK tour dates, before traveling on to the continent for more gigs. So it’s a rare chance to see the band in action. Just recently their new album, ‘Inner Journey Out’, has been getting plays and praise on the radio and their star is definitely on the rise.

Psychic Ills

The Ruby Lounge certainly believes in offering value for money, as tonight there are four bands on the bill. First off is Thing, a four-piece from Stockport, offering some powerful loud and thumping rock. Their last song is particularly impressive, with its changing rhythms and some thundering Bonhamesque drumming.

Thing

Next up are Manchester’s Purple Heart Parade, offering their own brand of shoegaze-psych, with walls of Stooges-like squally guitar feedback. Singer Peter Cowap offers a tortured performance, writhing about and singing from the stage and from the floor of the hall. The band has been going since 2012 and has a strong track record as a support act, gaining good reviews, including from the likes of NME. They finish with a long version of ‘The Room’, one of their staple tracks.

Purple Heart Parade

From London, Saint Agnes prove a real treat, offering powerful and dirty bluesy, heavy rock with terrific energy and attitude. The band thunders-on juggernaut-like for the entire set and never seem to let-up. Maybe they relax with their feet up for a cup of tea after the show. They kick off with their impressive punchy new single, ‘Sister Electric’, with vocal duties shared between lead singer / guitarist / keyboard player Kitty Austen and lead guitarist Jon Tufnell. They demonstrate a mastery of animated stagecraft, with plenty of great riffs and guitar sparring.

Saint Agnes

Guitarist Tres Warren and bassist Elizabeth Hart formed Psychic Ills in 2003 and the band has released five albums. My initial gateway to the band was hearing ‘Mind Daze’ (which is in the set tonight) on a magazine CD compilation of contemporary psych music. The track, taken from the 2011 album ‘Hazed Dream’, marked them out as a band to look out for. The Ills play a brand of hypnotic, trancey, stoned psych in the mould of The Brianjonestown Massacre and Spiritualised. Indeed, Warren’s voice does sound similar to that of Jason Pierce of Spiritualised.

Psychic Ills

The band’s new work seems to be a step forward from previous albums and incorporates elements of gospel and country music in the mix. They’ve even got a steel guitar on stage, along with a retro Farfisa organ. Indeed, the melodic drone of the organ seems to be the glue that holds many of the songs together. These instruments mesh nicely with Warren’s guitar and Hart’s distinct rumbling bassline and the band put-down a laid-back atmospheric groove, a welcome come-down after the frenzy of the Saint Agnes set.

Psychic Ills

The Ills look pretty cool on stage, with Warren in paisley shirt and white suit and a fashionably draped Hart standing tall and serene, while the keyboard player operates his pedals with bare feet.  The hour-long set takes in tracks from over the band’s career, with several from the new album, including its lead single ‘I Don’t Mind’ (the recorded version of which has guest vocals from Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval), the countryish ‘Another Change’ and the spacey instrumental ‘Ra Wah Wah’. The band’s songs are mostly slow-paced, but somehow the groove created by the clever interaction of the instruments and players draws you in and keeps you on track.

Psychic Ills

All in all a lovely, bewitching, hypnotic, droney set to chill-out to and lose yourself in at the end of a busy evening of bands.

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