With their sixth studio album, Five of Cups, Holy Wave crafts a psychotropic journey of introspective examination of loss and redemption in equal measure. The album, born out of pandemic-induced uncertainty and steeped in the mysticism of tarot, navigates the churning waters of the subconscious; each track a divination of deeper truths and existential musings. These musings come to Bucharest for the first time as Holy Wave plays Control Club on Thursday, November 16.
On Five of Cups, the Austin, Texas-based band creates an album architecture built upon thematic pillars, with the tracks serving as conduits to the various interpretations of the tarot card’s motifs—loss, reflection, transformation, and, ultimately, acceptance. Five of Cups, the overture, resonates with the card’s symbol of spilled-over chalices, the lingering synth tones setting a somber stage for a tale of faded glory. The protagonist’s descent from a “giant of the scene” to a mere “pest fixed on a pin” is a powerful meditation on the precipitous falls that life sometimes deals with.
Juxtaposing this descent, Nothing in the Dark and the psychotropic single, Happier, bookend the album’s exploration of emerging from shadows into acceptance. While Nothing in the Dark dances on the precipice of fear and transformation, with energetic guitars and drums kindling the promise of a new dawn, Happier confronts the complexity of contentment in a world ensnared by materialism (“When I’m depressed / I take a pill and now I’m happier”). The latter’s upbeat melody, laced with static noise and existential questioning, subtly subverts the listener’s expectations of what it means to be truly satisfied.
Bog Song and Chaparral are aural reflections of the tarot’s introspective essence at the album’s heart. The former weaves an ethereal tapestry connecting the terrene to the celestial, while the latter is a paean to the purity of bygone days, urging a renaissance of dormant fervors through a hypnotic blend of strings and percussion.
The pieces Path of Least Resistance and Nothing is Real stand as the album’s psychedelic soothsayers, foretelling the transience of life and the illusory nature of perception. The former, with its hazy harmonies and eclectic acoustics, contemplates life’s fleeting passage, and the latter, marked by syncopated footsteps and spectral vocals, conjures phantasmagorical vistas, blurring the lines between the chimerical and the tangible.
Hypervigilance injects the narrative with an anthem of lucidity amidst the bedlam. It is a testament to the clairvoyant’s gift—the capacity to discern the veracity beneath the chaos, underscored by the relentless drumbeat and the album’s hallmark guitar distortions. The song’s lyrics speak to the heightened perception of the seer, the bearer of the “secret power” to discern truth amidst the tumult.
The collaborative compositions The Darkest Timeline and the aforementioned Happier, featuring Lorelle Meets The Obsolete and Estrella del Sol of Mint Field, respectively, epitomize the transformative potency of melody. The Darkest Timeline is a confluence of rhythm and reverie, where Quintanilla’s vocals and undulating synths converge in a symphonic crescendo, emulating the dusk of one era and the dawn of another.
While Five of Cups does not chart new sonic territories, it refines the sound that Holy Wave has cultivated over the years. The LP’s soundscape might echo the aural aesthetic of the mid-2010s, reminiscent of Dan Auerbach, Tame Impala, and Lana Del Rey. Yet, it is an invitation to an auditory séance, where the veil between the personal and the ethereal is rendered translucent. Holy Wave transmutes the base metal of despondency into auditory gold, crafting a tome of sound that speaks to both the fleeting and the eternal within the human spirit. It is an LP that echoes with the whispers of the tarot, reminding us that beyond the lamentation over what has been spilled, there remain vessels yet filled with potential and awaiting acknowledgment – a psychonaut’s guide to inner space.