Mild High Club is the solo act of Alex Brettin, a former apprentice and colleague of Mac DeMarco. Just as DeMarco brought surf pop back to the mainstream, Mild High Club is bringing psychedelia back.
With just two albums — “Timeline” and “Skiptracing” — Brettin has created delicately pieced LSD-fueled journal entries in the form of easy flowing, woozy psychedelic pop. Brettin is able to display his technically advanced music skills, complemented by a style derived of music from another time.
“Timeline” begins with “Club Intro,” a musical depiction of one’s entrance into a trip. The drums and bass, repetitive and low, counter the melodic guitar which carries the song forward. Soon, they are interrupted by a slight pause to come together — complimenting each other through rhythm and tonality.
The tracks flow into one another, creating a cohesive listening experience. We hear Brettin’s voice for the first time in “Windowpane,” the album’s second track. While the nearly alarming guitar taunts the listener, Brettin’s voice calms them as he sings, “Life passes on the right / Still life takes you for a ride.”
The album’s nod to LSD is anything but subtle. Each track’s titles has significance to a trip — “Windowpane” is a clever nickname for the drug, “Note to Self” is an observation of the habits of one under the influence of acid, and so on.
The tracks fit together like puzzle pieces, all individually unique, yet linking together with ease. Brettin’s vocals feel far away, as if they’re floating among the clouds, but the guitar is in your face — in a good way.
Brettin’s use of guitar carries the whole album. The drums keep us grounded while the guitar guides us. They’re the kind of riffs and solos that you can feel in your blood as you involuntarily sway and groove.
Many tracks on the album end with the droning of a guitar, carrying on for 30 or more seconds that seems necessary to the ear. However, these drones keep us from falling out of the experience. Rather than a second of silence between songs, Brettin fills that space with sound.
“Timeline” peaks with “Rollercoaster Baby,” an upbeat, lovely track, then begins to comedown with “Elegy.” The final track on the album, “The Chat,” is a moment of sobriety, topped off with that same psychedelic guitar, wrapping us back to the start. Brettin tells us one thing with this album — time is a loop and he knows things about it we do not.
Mild High Club’s sophomore album, “Skiptracing,” is an improvement upon “Timeline,” expressive of that same technical talent, only more personal this time.
The album begins with its titular track as Brettin speaks directly to the listener, asking, “Can you sing to this harmony?” Brettin’s words and use of percussion are more present this time around, working with the melody to create a perfectly packaged and harmonious opening track.
“Homage” is a nod to all the “borrowing” Brettin has done in Mild High Club’s discography. From Todd Rundgren to The Zombies, Mild High Club’s music is blatantly nostalgic and derivative, which doesn’t have to be all bad.
As he pays homage to those before him, he sings, “Please have a laugh with me / ‘Cause you know I’m borrowing by now / These sounds have already crowned.”
“Skiptracing” ends with a reprise of the titular track, leaving a content end to its story, reminding me of The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” another potential inspiration of Brettin’s.
The late 60s and early 70s have been reborn via Mild High Club’s two brief albums. As the modernization of psychedelia progresses, Brettin — as well as bands like King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard — guide its path.
Although Mild High Club has been rather quiet since 2016, they continue to collaborate with other bands among their genre. Their split single with King Gizzard, “Rolling Stoned” was released in 2018, leaving me with hope for their future.