In Voodoo belief, the soul is made of two parts. The ti bon ange, literally “little good angel,” is the part of the soul that contains the individual qualities of a person. The Suspirians’ sophomore release lives up to that title by showcasing how distinct individual influences can merge into one coherent, and at times, stunningly good album.
The obvious touchstone for Ti Bon Ange (Super Secret Records) is psychedelia befitting not only the trio’s Austin homeland but the fact that drummer Lisa Cameron played with Roky Erickson, which more than lends an air of authenticity to the proceedings. She can rip shit up, but more often than not she doesn’t betray the necessary backbone the material requires. This frees things up for Marisa Pool’s vocals and guitar to cover a lot of ground. She drenches both in reverb so thick you might imagine heat waves emanating from hot, Texas sand. Alongside Stephanie Demopulos’ thumping basslines, it’s reminiscent of the moment when punk rock went postal, swirling drone and churlish moans, eyes to the sky but still rooted on earth. This aesthetic is evident on album opener, “Fortune Spider,” which sounds more like a Lee Ranaldo composition than something Kim Gordon might have come up with even though the vocals imply otherwise, and “Moonwave,” which imagines Joy Division led by Siouxsie Sioux.
The most fascinating facet of Ti Bon Ange is not just the fact that ‘90s alt-rock rears its head (Savages is a kindred spirit in this regard), but in ways that are far more Lollapalooza than Lilith Fair. “Clean Evil” is disjointed in all the right ways, like a beefier Polvo gone psychedelic grunge; “Scarlett Sleeps,” the penultimate track (and really it’s the last song since album closer “Divine Spark” is just a half minute of noise), is like Nico joined the Deftones.
And then there’s the centerpiece of the album, “Black Holes.” Clocking in at nearly nine minutes long, the song kicks off with a riff not unlike Hole’s “Teenage Whore,” repeating it for more than two minutes before a drum fill kicks the track into hyperdrive. Helios Creed, founder of the legendary Chrome, said that his desire when starting that band was to make “stoney-ass punk rock”. The last five minutes of “Black Holes” fulfills those ambitions. You can’t help but think it might be a religious experience to see the Suspirians play it live.
The other part of the soul in voodoo belief is called gros bon ange, the life force shared by all human beings. Maybe Suspirians are just working their way up to that for album number three, but they’re pretty close right now.