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  • Writer's pictureCase Cockrell

Nolan Potter's Nightmare Band awakens again for a psychedelic masterpiece on Music is Dead


When I first met Nolan Potter, I was sitting at a picnic table at Austin’s glorious psychedelic stronghold Hotel Vegas during South By Southwest 2019. During SXSW 2019, legendary California psychedelic act OSEES announced they were planning a 5-day stand at the beloved 6th Street venue during the festival, which made me pack my bags and head for hills without hesitation. Please note I have just moved to the City of Austin, and live music has become a priority over most things since the world has allowed us to witness live bands once again. One of the days when OSEES was playing one of the daytime showcases at the venue, I was sitting at a picnic table eating some of the greasy, yet delicious food truck cuisine we’ve all come to know and love. While sitting down at the venue, I was lucky enough to happen to be sitting adjacent to the mastermind behind The Nightmare Band, Nolan Potter.


For those who haven’t met Nolan, he’s the kind of guy who will talk music with you all day and night. Fortunately, I’m one of those guys too, so it wasn’t long before we talked of the music that brings us to Hotel Vegas for every weekend on end, which led to Potter finally detailing his Nightmare band, an act that would quickly become one of my favorite acts to grace the stages of Austin, Texas. On the band’s new set of tunes, Music is Dead, Potter once again pushes the boundaries of Austin music, and makes a substantial effort to keep psychedelic music alive and well.


On the album’s first track, One Eye Flees Aquapolis, there seems to be a sense of patience that’s just waiting to snap into a colorful composition that delivers a jam section that showcases the band’s ability to sculpt soundscapes that would be akin to flashy light shows as the band locks into a groove that puts you right into the hypnotic trance that we all have to come to expect from Potter’s creations. At around the 4-minute mark, the jam erupts into a dueling synth and guitar orchestra, and when the band erupts into this jam until the track’s end, you’re right there with them. This track gives an introductory taste of what’s to come in this multi-instrumental, totally trippy journey.


On the album’s next track, the band showcases a heavier side of its sound. At the beginning of Stubborn Bubble, a sound effect plays. I'll let you decide what it is, but you can probably guess what I mean. When the band kicks in, the heavy riffage shows that they mean business for what’s to come on this nearly-nine-minute epic. Potter’s brand has become more and more apparent with every release, and his output only gains higher octane with every entry to his ever-growing discography. On this track, the heavy sections and jam section interweave smoothly, with the listener being hooked at every turn. The heavy riffage on this track screams of heavy psychedelia, with the instrumental section sealing the deal of pure musical bliss.


On the 3rd track, Gregorian Chance, the band finds themselves dabbling in a world of folky goodness. Opening with crisp acoustic guitars, Potter delivers a soothing ballad with vocal melodies that are reminiscent of King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard’s Paper Mache Dream Balloon, with reverby background sounds that only add to the dreamy atmosphere the track provides. Potter’s passion for flute on this record is infectious. Potter’s flute skills are reminiscent of the great Herbie Mann, with solos that take the listener on a spiritual journey that could be akin to the free-spirited flute jazz of Mann and other flute greats alike. Potter melts faces with his brand of acid-rock while also creating pieces of music that could be seen at the peak of the jazz era in music history.


On Holy Scroller, the opening piano chords make for a Beatles-y introduction that intersects the likes of Ween during their White Pepper era. The fuzzy guitar licks on this track carry the comforting vocal melodies that Potter seems to take so much pride in creating. The drums on this track pack a punch, and with the help of the rest of the band, create a landscape of blissful noises that never subside until the track’s end. The fluttering instrumental at the end of this track keeps you hooked in, making you anticipate what Potter has in store for the last leg of the record. Like Potter says on his Bandcamp page, “If you're listening to this on your phone, you're not doing yourself any favors.” Oh, how right he is, you should listen to this on the biggest speakers possible and load a bowl or a glass of something, because it’s a special treat in every regard.


Preeminent Minds is possibly the best blend of the best things the record has to offer. When the fuzzy electric guitars combine with the twinkly acoustic guitars, Potter delivers a catchy vocal line that is joined by joyous background vocals that will have crowds singing along when and if the band chooses to unveil this track in a live setting. Just before the 4-minute mark, the background vocal line joins in a call and response with the band, marking a break before the band breaks out into a Pink Floyd-esque tangent of spacey amazingness. The track continues this flow of ambiance until burning out into the album’s title track, Music is Dead.


The title track of this record wastes no time getting to a woeful lyrical recounting of the tiresome process of writing songs and hoping they turn into something that satisfies the artist enough to let the audience hear it. Potter’s flute carries the vocal melody of this track, and Potter’s sense of humor shines through on this track as the Austin musician is backed by ballady instrumentals that carry Potter into the end of this record, which is an amazing trip if you haven’t been able to tell already. The album doesn’t end here though, there’s still a jam session that carries the record home. The keyboards that kick the jam off are backed by low-pitched voices yet again that only set up what the last few minutes of this record has to offer. The flutes on this record most likely serve as my favorite addition to the compositions presented, as Potter shows us that he can and will do more and more with music as the time comes. For now, I am content with basking in all of his music that already exists as there’s something to be noticed on every repeated listen.


Don’t let the record’s short track listing fool you, there’s a journey to be had here, and Potter’s bodies of work will take you on a trip that you’ll want to relive again and again. As a new resident of the Austin area, I hope to hear the enormous output that Nolan Potter hopefully has planned. I’ll check out every EP and LP he chooses to release, as every release has a wide variety to enjoy for audiences of all kinds.


LISTEN HERE: https://nolanpotter.bandcamp.com/album/music-is-dead-2


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