Formed in 2011 by pianist and composer Hugo Selles, Psychic Equalizer creates a distinctive and rather beautiful sound based on a mix of jazz, prog rock and contemporary classical influences. The Spaniard’s full-length debut, The Lonely Traveller, released at the beginning of 2017, is a collection of twelve tunes, showcasing musician’s sparse and surprisingly delicate approach to composition.
The band Selles gathered around himself is adept at building each tune gradually, layering sounds on top of each other with restraint and creating real tensions. Often this involves bass and drums playing a repetitive, insistent rhythm over which Selles adds his piano lines. Quico Duret’s guitar, often coupled with electronic effects, is used effectively to give additional color and dynamics to the music.
It’s a consistently successful approach. The tension created on opening “Mezuz” becomes almost unbearable but still keeps the attention, while the delicate two-part suite “An Ocean of Changes” builds almost imperceptibly around Duret’s fragile and controlled guitar solo, and Morten Skott’s percussive work. “Lagrimas” creates a sad, almost desolate, soundscape and contrasts effectively with the happier and more up-tempo opening to “A Collection of Marbles.”
There are a couple of exceptions to Psychic Equalizer’s approach. The lovely though brief “The Lonely Traveller” features Selles’spacious and romantic piano, supported by some subtle touches from Jan Irlind’s balalaika. “Adrift,” with two violins, a viola and a ello, begins typically, with Selles’s rolling keyboards motif, before Skott emphasizes the 4/4 rhythm with a solid drum beat. Once the electric guitar enters, however, the tune takes on a much freer pattern, with an assertiveness to the sound that also darkens the tune’s mood.
The low-key, almost minimalist sound of The Lonely Traveller is refreshing—the sound of a band that knows how to hold back, and realize how effective such an approach can be. Psychic Equalizer has made an emphatic and impressive record.
Get a copy of the album from Bandcamp.