With a name alluding to both a voodoo curse and Cajun slang for drugs, the Gris Gris’ latest effort is appropriately intoxicating. The Oakland, Calif., natives — frontman Greg Ashley, bassist Oscar Michel, and drummer Joe Haener — offer a more experimental take on garage rock’s typical stomp and swagger. On their sophomore release, For the Season, the trio combines dirty, bluesy riffs with stream-of-consciousness verses that sound like the ramblings of someone who’s all too familiar with the gris gris.
Album opener “Ecks Em Eye” unleashes a dizzying whirl of manic instrumentals, while “Cuerpos Haran Amor Extrano” is a somber, reverb-filled dirge. Elsewhere, crashing cymbals, hypnotic vocals, and squealing licks complete the ’60s throwback sound. At best, the array of competing arrangements is exhilarating. At worst, they produce jolting and perplexing transitions. “Down With Jesus” is a sunny, hand-clapping affair that devolves into an electric guitar freak-out (a familiar theme on the disc) and “The Non-stop Tape” is a misguided John Cage-ian blend of hisses, chimes and ghostly operatic vocals.
The lyrics on the record are similarly freeform and occasionally delivered in Portuguese. In “Big Engine Nazi Kid Daydream,” Ashley utters lines that are quite possibly weirder than the song’s title. “Save your kids / Cut their wrists,” he sings over a plodding melody, “Before they die inside machines.” A bit apocalyptic, but with all that psychedelic haze, it’s still easy to dig this Big Easy voodoo.