Psychedelia lives on

Jan 26, 2005 at 12:00 am

Hatched in San Francisco in the ’60s and perpetuated by Jefferson Airplane and the like, psyche-rock is an important part of rock’s tapestry. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the baton was passed to a little English band called My Bloody Valentine, and, since then, the style has moved headlong into the future. New bands like Kinski, M83, Manitoba, Mogwai and even TV on the Radio take psyche’s original palette of droned-out guitars and booming percussion and add electronic elements, soul music and even more volume to formulate a modernized version of the genre. Many people might not know, however, that Detroit has its very own psyche-informed torchbearer in the band Paik.

Guitarist Rob Smith, bassist Ali Clegg and drummer Ryan Pritts have been producing noisy bursts of droney space-rock for nearly a decade. They liken their sound to a cross between a jet engine and Swedish avant-garde group the Parson Sound.

“Our van has no rearview mirror,” they say in an e-mail. “We are constantly searching for new ideas, ways to increase the density and shape of our sound. That is the entirety of what makes us do this in the first place.”

Detroit had a magnetic pull on Smith, Clegg and Pritts — all of whom hail from Ohio. Seeing Detroit groups like Swervedriver, Ride, Curve and Slowdive hypnotized the future drone-heads and made them realize that if they were to operate as Paik, they had to do it here. “We had come to shows in Detroit for our whole lives, so it was like a second home. It was the only city cheap enough to get the building we needed to suit our lifestyle.”

Paik’s love affair with the city is evident. Any member of the band can be found drinking cheap beers in Motown’s darkest bars, or in the front row of any one of the city’s nightly local rock shows. The lead track on their 2002 release Orson Fader is titled “Detroit,” and their towering bunker of a living space often swells with after-party bliss. They find merciless romance in the city, describing it as a kind of “Wild West reality of chaos.”

Amid the chaotic freedom, Paik has crafted four albums of sonic monstrosity. Effects pedals are stomped on and manipulated. Drums crash as much as they simmer. The bass rumbles like the underbelly of the ocean. It’s a dynamic affair that culminates on their recent release, Satin Black.

Recorded at the recently closed Detroit Art Space and released last year, Satin Black soars as high as any record made by the bands Paik admired in their youth. The five-song movement is the result of two years of heavy songwriting and experimentation. Smith’s iron-like guitar tones swirl around pulsating, slow-motion beats. The band dips into pockets of hypnotic, krautrock-like repetition, grinding home grooves that would put most stoner-rock wannabes to shame. It is through the repetition that the true essence of Paik is revealed. “Patterns emerge from sounds that aren’t necessarily there,” they say. “The volume adds to this by focusing the entire auditory system on the sound being created. Thusly, you have the listeners’ complete attention. Or they leave.”

It would be safe to say that sometimes people just “don’t get” the band: “It’s hard to tell what exactly people do or don’t get. Freedom is not caring weather they do or not. We’ve never done this for anyone but ourselves.”


Paik performs Feb. 1, at the Magic Stick, 4120 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-833-9700. Tristeza and Larval open.

Ryan Allen is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]