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Sky Sounds
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  • Minneapolis neo-psychedelic quintet Magic Castles threaten to topple their own ramparts with a deluge of effect-laden, garage-toned acid jams on their sophomore release Sky Sounds. A mix of melodic, '60s-inspired pop melodies and droning, spaced-out grooves, Sky Sounds expands on the menu proposed by their 2012 self-titled debut, this time piling on the color almost to the point of oversaturation. From the tape-echo wash and backward guitar of the standout opener "Trembling Hands" to the interplanetary shake of the eight-minute "Mole People," the band stays in character, mining the pillboxes of early Pink Floyd and 13th Floor Elevators with the necessary savvy and free spirit. Replicating a sound built on boundary-pushing experimentation from almost half a century ago is no accident and Magic Castles are astute pupils of the original psychedelic era. In that regard, it's hard to find anything particularly new here. Echoes of any number of classic bands from Hawkwind's dirgelike chug to the Grateful Dead's freewheeling mysticism all pass through Magic Castles' gates without giving much of an indication as to who they themselves really are aside from being hardcore record collectors. It's not that they don't play this music well; "Dragonfly" and "Silent" are pleasing, tuneful songs that deftly weave together classic psych spirit with the more self-aware aspects of the contemporary neo-psych scene. The richly realized "Rebecca's World" is probably the album's brightest moment with its elegantly crafted harmonies and epic midtempo Mellotron and guitar jangle played to near perfection. Sky Sounds, while still indulgent, is a marked improvement on the band's debut and its sound and scope have swelled nicely to fit the room. It may not break any new ground, but fans of new and old psych, garage, and space rock will enjoy Magic Castles' signature blend. ~ Timothy Monger
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