J Fernandez is one of the psych rockers out there who played Levitation in Austin this year, but the Chicago native refuses to just simply plug in and tune out with his jams. Fernandez is a restless, dexterous musician whose varying influences allow him to transcend simple psychedelia.
On his debut album, Many Levels of Laughter, Fernandez definitely takes the listener on a trip. Track to track, this album changes colours; from the chugging, Deerhunter-esque swirl of opener "Between the Channels," straight through to the synth weirdness of closer "Melting Down," which descends into a near-perfect coda, Fernandez keeps the listener on her/his toes.
Along the way, he dares to mimics Beach Boys harmonies on the reverb-soaked "Markers," explore the realm of free jazz on the conjoined duo of "Filled With Joy" and "Holy Hesitation," and allows a formidable organ to almost swallow up the entire mix of "Apophis." The lazy rhythms and honeyed electric piano of "Souvenirs," meanwhile, sound like forgotten remnants of the soft pop era uncovered after 45 years.
Many Levels of Laughter might not have the drugged out vibe that most psych enthusiasts search for, but J Fernandez's versatility makes him one of the most exciting new artists around. If anything, it should also keep him from becoming another victim of the scene's derivativeness. (Joyful Noise)