Refusing to abuse beliefs, old group from Montana locate fresh groove ahead of them.
It was tragic for the Bozeman troupe to have fought through the pandemic – a period spanning three of their platters – and emerged unscathed only to lose two ensemble members in 2022, both Bobby Sutliff and the legendary Ric Parnell being much more than mere musicians or the group leader Ron Sanchez’s pals, and “Faith In Failure” preserves for posterity their final performances. Still, looking for gloomy signs here is a futile exercise even in hindsight, as there’s hardly any darkness on the record which seems to bypass "Chiêm Bao Thấy Bậu" – the band’s foray into a soundtrack field – to pick up where "Turned Up Later" left off a decade ago, yet this album infuses their woozy psychedelia with über-cosmic sensibilities.
It’s touchingly tangible on the record’s instrumental centerpieces, the spaced-out instrumental epic “It’s All Opening Up” which scopes the expanse of sonic fantasies the ensemble envisage and manage to implement with an array of flurries and flourishes, and the funereal, if not too sorrowful, “Biscuit Tin” which offers a hypnagogic journey beyond the veil of sleep. But in order to get there the listener has to be excited enough by Parnell’s heavy beat on actual opener “Bancroft Way” which exposes the aural wealth of a twelve-string wave Sutliff, Sanchez and Scott Sutherland – the collective’s three S’s, or aces – employ throughout the platter to elevate their jingle-jangle to the Haight-Ashbury heights of the ’60s, before locating the vestiges of that innocent age in the less intense, and possibly less sweet, “You Will” whose orchestral passages and piano splashes are just as magnetic.
As “Designer Fabrics” assesses otherworldly fads via swelling organ and lysergically layered vocals, the songs start to form a majestic landscape, and the title track turns out to be a pop-tinged gem with a scintillating, Mellotron-spiced undercurrent which can pacify the most disturbed soul there is, while the infectious “Not For Me, Anyway” will take those prone to nostalgia for a ride on the time machine. So when “Charging Confusion” brings the album to a close, the listener shouldn’t feel lost: they’ve been given a map of a dream to explore and leave all their troubles behind. That’s what faith in failure must result in.