Psychic Ills - Biography
The trajectory Psychic Ills has taken is an interesting one. Forming in 2003 around Tres Warren and Tom Gluibizzi, the duo recorded some razor sharp post-Jesus and Mary Chain scuzz-rock augmented by primitive drum machines. Soon after the duo’s debut release bassist Elizabeth Hart and drummer Brian Tamborello joined and Psychic Ills became a full-on live band, engaged with New York City’s art-rock scene. Over the course of a couple EPs and three full-lengths the quartet has shed its riff-rock skin to become a sprawling psych-rock outfit capable of creating some seriously hypnotic motorik-noise-drone.
On forming in 2003 Warren and Gluibizzi self-released the Killers 7” that year and the Mental Violence I EP in 2004. Following the release of the EP, Hart and Tamborello signed on to perform live and record a new EP for Brooklyn’s The Social Registry label in 2005 titled Mental Violence II: Diamond City. All of this early, vinyl only material is collected on CD as Early Violence, also released in 2005. The sound here recalls a loose Jesus and Mary Chain with murky riffs, buried vocals, thick sheets of shoegaze guitar and textural synth noise, all anchored by simple, dirty drum machine beats. The songs are enjoyable, if not overly original, and do nothing to hint at the greatness of the Ills’ proper debut full-length to come.
Working completely as a quartet and settled into its new home on The Social Registry, Psychic Ills released Dins in 2006. Light years away from the band’s early material, these eight tracks show a group locked in to a hypnotic internal logic. Elements of shoegaze, krautrock, classic synthesizer music, acid rock, and post-punk converge with mesmerizing results. The group sprawls out, passing through harmonically dense electronic drones, queasy, undulating free-form jams, tribal percussion stomp, and the occasional fragmented rock song. Album closer “Another Day Another Night” best captures what this band is up to with its pulsing minimal throb, distant vocals, and chiming, otherworldly guitar.
The band toured for most of 2006, gaining the title of Best Psych Rock Band in the Village Voice’s Best of NYC issue that year. By the end of the year founding member Tom Gluibizzi left the group and Psychic Ills decided to continue on as a trio. Maintaining an active performance schedule, the band began to move even further away from traditional song form toward a unique hybrid of repetitive minimalism, improvised rock, and electronic ambience.
During 2007 and 2008 all three members branched out to participate in a bevy of other projects. Warren formed the organic drone outfit Messages with Taketo Shimada, played in Brainscan with Excepter’s Nathan Corbin, as well as Compound Eye with Drew McDowall of Coil and performed as a touring member of Can singer Damo Suzuki’s Network. Hart formed Effi Briest as well as the experimental dance and music group Skint. Tamborello became a fixture at Boredoms’ Boadrum concerts and lent his drum skills to Mike Wexler’s Sun Wheel record. During this time the group also recruited new member Jimy Seitang on synthesizers.
In 2009 The Social Registry released the band’s second full-length. Mirror Eye is largely improvised and reflects Psychic Ills’ ever evolving sound. Over eight tracks the group creates a textural dust cloud of drifting, swirling textures and pulsating tones. Song form is almost entirely ignored in favor of repetition and structural decay. Signifiers like shoegaze and abstract techno play a role here, but this music is largely the band’s own, sharing some similarities with likeminded groups such as Growing or Black Dice, but with a nod to psych-folk and various ethnic music traditions. Later that year the band embarked on a US tour with legendary art-rockers Butthole Surfers.
Psychic Ills show no signs of slowing its freaked-out roll. In 2010 the band has issued four releases; the Astral Occurrence and Catoptric EPs, a limited cassette titled Telesthetic Tape, and a remix record featuring reworkings of Ills’ music by techno legend Juan Atkins, Butthole Surfers’ Gibby Haynes, and Hans-Joachim Irmler of pioneering krautrock band Faust. The band is currently at work on a new full-length due in 2011.