Found in OuterSpace
"Canyon is a psychedelic blues rock band from beautiful Philadelphia... steeped in blues and soaked in psych. High voltage psychedelic acid rock, steeped in blues...soaked in psych."
At four tracks and just under 19 minutes, the self-titled debut EP from Philadelphia three-piece Canyon give listeners just enough of a glimpse of where they might be headed to emphasize the potential at work. Canyon is their first outing since getting together in 2015 with the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Peter Stanko, bassist/vocalist Dean Welsh and drummer/vocalist Anthony Bove and after an initial digital self-release and tape through Anvileater Records, the short outing shows up as a full jewel-case CD with a picture of the band out front to emphasize the classic ideas they’re working from. I would not be surprised if some of the root jams out of which opener “Mashriq” was formed were some of Canyon‘s earliest, as there is definitely a formative aspect to their approach, vocals following the riff closely in a bouncing rhythm that, even compared to what follows on the palpably airier “She Comes to Me,” seems straightforward in a we’re-a-new-band-getting-our-footing kind of way.
That process itself, honestly represented as it is, can be and is refreshing to hear, and in the context of Canyon‘s style, which benefits greatly from an organic warmth of tone in the guitar and bass along with the interplay of vocals, it makes a particular sense that they would showcase where they’re at in this early stage of their progression. Their sound, captured here by Alex Santilli, who engineered and mixed at Spice House Sound while Mark Trewella at Full Circle Mastering handled the finishing touches, is raw, but still offers plenty to the curious listener, and even more so on repeat visits.
After some initial thud, “Mashriq” starts off with a righteously fuzzed impression. Philly has seen no shortage of heavy psych come through the last couple years, from Ruby the Hatchet and Ecstatic Vision to Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlesome Bells, but right away, “Mashriq” positions Canyon as having a more earthbound take — fitting enough for their name, I suppose — given to roll and straightforwardness in structure. At just under three and a half minutes, it’s the shortest of the four inclusions on the EP and as “She Comes to Me,” “Radiant Light” and “Tell Me Mister” play out behind it, it becomes something of an outlier stylistically for that. Where Stanko, Welsh and Bove soon enough dig into a languid blend of heavy blues rock and, in the case of “Radiant Light” particularly, find a niche for themselves in dreamy vocal melodicism to complement a shimmer in Stanko‘s guitar, the leadoff cut seems more about establishing a context on which the subsequent material builds.
The Deep Purple-referential Mk II title of Canyon‘s second EP, also the follow-up to their 2017 debut LP, Radiant Light, refers to the lineup change that’s seen Dean Welsh move to drums so that he and guitarist Peter Stanko can welcome bassist/vocalist Fred Frederick to the fold. The three included songs, the hooky “Mine Your Heart,” expansively fuzzed “Morphine Dreams” and bouncing “Roam” make a hell of a first offering from the reconstituted trio, who capture classic heavy naturalism in a chemistry between players that’s mirrored in the songwriting itself. Canyon‘s 2016 self-titled debut EP held marked promise, and even after the full-length, that promise would seem to be coming to fruition here. Their tones and craft are both right on, and there’s still some gelling to do between the three of them, but they leave no doubt with Mk II that this incarnation of Canyon can get there. And, if they keep up like this, get there quickly.
Maybe that’s Canyon‘s way of easing the listener into their world, and that’s certainly valid, even on a short offering like this one, but “Mashriq,” while a strong opener and memorable in its hook, ultimately does little to account for some of the fleshed-out vibes that follow, even as “Tell Me Mister” rounds out with a return to a more energetic push and the gotta-hear-it buzz-tone that begs to be turned up even louder than it starts. How one accounts for that will depend on the listener, but if we look at the concept of a “debut EP” doing the work that a band’s “demo” used to do, then Canyon‘s establishes them as an outfit with an immediately varied approach of craft, however nascent it might otherwise be.
Could that be the work of multiple songwriters? I don’t know, but I’d believe it based on how the progression plays out front to back. Most importantly, however, Canyon offer intrigue and show several potential avenues for future growth and where their sound might go, toying with pop elements in their use of backing vocals in a kind of garage-grunge mindset — this happens in “Mashriq” as well — and dedicate themselves to a breadth of approach that stays apparent even in this abbreviated context. As to how that growth might manifest, it hardly seems fair to speculate, but as the self-titled plays out with increasing complexity almost on a song-by-song basis until “Tell Me Mister” bridges the gap in summarizing what the band has been putting together all the while, it’s easy enough to foresee Canyon stabilizing their approach to songwriting in a way that allows them to construct a full-album flow.
This, of course, is essential to the work of an initial outing like this one — to give the band lessons to learn as they move forward, and I hear nothing in the tracks to make me think Canyon won’t do precisely that. On the most basic level, it’s a quick debut outing — a demo by any other name — that shows potential in tone and in trading between bounce and blues and drift and thrust all while holding to identifiable markers and avoiding a direct, blatant flag-bearing of its influences. This already is more than one might reasonably ask of it, and it is not by any means the sum total of what is delivered.
♦ Fred Frederick - Bass, Lead Vocals
♦ Welsh - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
♦ Peter Stanko - Guita
02. She Comes to Me
03. Radiant Light
04. Tell Me Mister
05. Anytime Secrets
06. Ballad of John Gallagher
09. Under Her Spell
10. Outerlude in A Major
11. Mine Your Heart
12. Morphine Dreams