The psych revival currently sweeping Milwaukee and the rest of the country tends to lean toward a heavier, rock-inspired sound. Reverb-drenched guitars, reverb-drenched vocals, reverb-drenched…well, you get the idea. Largely lost in the din is the more delicate folk- and pop-inspired psychedelia practiced to perfection by Milwaukee’s Ravi/Lola. On the group’s 20-song sophomore record, II: Ravi’s Tramadol, finger-picked guitars fall from the sky, wide-eyed melodies sprout from the ground, and a childlike sense of wonder blows in from the coast. It’s a lovely, sprawling record with plenty of joy and creativity to spare.
Ravi/Lola is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Casey Seymour, who is joined this time around by collaborators James Green and Nick Wieczorkowski. (Ravi/Lola’s self-titled debut album was released in 2014.) The bulk of Tramadol’s songs were written and recorded between 2009 and 2012; that three-year lifespan gives the record an all-over-the-place aesthetic, ranging from the relatively lush (yet still decidedly lo-fi) production of “Bumpity Bump Bump” and “Feet,” to the fucking-around-with-a-four-track sound of “Oliver From N. Hampton” and “Collective Agency.”
Holding it all together, however, is a kitchen-sink approach to songwriting and recording that yields some real gems: “Ravi Ball” and “Rainy Danger” feature lovely guitar work and even lovelier vocal harmonies; “Chinese Cheaters” and “Love You” are perfectly charming sing-alongs; “Signed Me And You” mixes a recorded-underwater sound with some beautifully off-kilter vocals to create a bittersweet song of love and devotion; closer “Don’t Tell Mother” goes all in with ethereal guitars, swirling organs, droning tambourines, and mantra-like vocals.
True, it’s a lot to take in, and some tracks are harder to get a hold of than others (curiously, the album’s first song, “Eyeless,” is its most unconventional and obtuse), but it’s a trip worth taking. Does it all add up to a delightfully spaced-out and druggy album perfect for nodding off while wearing a pair of headphones? Well, there is a prescription drug name in the title.
Before Ravi/Lola celebrate the release of II: Ravi’s Tramadol Friday, July 10 at Circle-A (with Scrimshaw playing in support), listen to it now, only at Milwaukee Record.