Modern Primitives mix psychedelic R&B with noise-rock on ‘Hot Water Woman’

By Lane Claffee

Cover photo: Bridgette Aikens

March 28, 2017

“Sun Ra on outer-space amphetamines.” That’s how Modern Primitives’ noisy, bluesy garage-glam has been described since the band’s creation in 2011. With previous projects like 2013’s “Illuminaughty” and numerous singles released via Bandcamp, the band has already established a tried-and-true delivery of their own brand of psychedelia. Having undergone a lineup change in 2016, with Black Pope’s Tim Nhu joining the band on bass guitar, the new lineup has created room for relatively more experimental guitar work than their previous records. Straying away from the inherent Chuck Berry riff-worship of typical rock ‘n’ roll, their new record Hot Water Woman shows the band’s growth, mixing their psych-R&B with bits of alternative noise rock. Think hints of Sonic Youth with the Modern Primitives that you know and love.

‘Hot Water Woman’ album artwork by Wils Glade and Ben Gelnett

This new sound is immediately present throughout the A-side of the album, with “5 PM,” “Big White Van,” and “Food Stamp Angel” being prime examples. The album opener, “5 PM,” sets the stage for their new hybrid sound, starting off with a Daydream Nation-esque kick, and ultimately ends with a tough, junky blues guitar solo. “Big White Van” is almost a shoegaze track, getting oddly close to a pre-Loveless My Bloody Valentine. The glimmery, trashy guitar riffs of frontman Travis Phillips are both unique and complementary of their garage-blues of the past, especially the whirring slide guitar in the latter track.

However different these new tracks may be from the rest of their repertoire, Modern Primitives also show that they still know how to hit the audience hard with traditional blues, perhaps more so than ever before. Tracks like “Feet” and “Lay With The Dead” show their gritty Southern prowess, with intricate guitar leads and drum fills that show the band as a polished version of themselves, but not too polished… it’s still got that element of the rough, brazen rock ‘n’ roll. Use the music video for “Feet” as a reference, which was directed by drummer Phillip Gripper.

Travis Phillips and Phillip Gripper. Photo by Bridgette Aikens

Overall, Hot Water Woman shows maturity and experimentation from one of Charlotte’s best rock outfits. Sonically, it’s not that straightforward, old-time rock ‘n’ roll that some people might expect from earlier Modern Primitives joints. The sound’s gotten much bigger, vaster, and riskier due to line-up changes and broadened influences; riskier for the fact that not many bands can pull off psychedelic R&B and callbacks to 80’s noise in one project, let alone do it well. This project turns artistic risks into reinvention, and shows a new, reinvented Modern Primitives, one that takes their outer-space amphetamines with a side of “Goo.”

Listen to “HTA” from the new album Hot Water Woman by Modern Primitives

Watch the music video for “Feet”

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