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Scene & Heard

Guillermo Sexo give psych-rock new dimensions

From left: Reuben Bettsak, Noell Dorsey, Ryan Connelly, and Elliott Anderson.

Mary Flatley

From left: Reuben Bettsak, Noell Dorsey, Ryan Connelly, and Elliott Anderson.

The Boston Fuzzstival in August was an all-day show celebrating Boston’s psychedelic and fuzz rock scene. Thirteen bands spread out in two rooms of the Middle East, including standouts like Ghost Box Orchestra, CreaturoS, and New Highway Hymnal. But the set of the night belonged to Guillermo Sexo.

Bathed in the swirling textures of psychedelic light projections, the Boston five-piece jumped back and forth between fuzzed-out noise and the liquid beauty of songs like “Bring Down Your Arms” and “Echo Out My Call.” Both tracks appear on the band’s fifth release, “Dark Spring,” out next week on Midriff Records.

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“It was a great community-minded event,” guitarist Reuben Bettsak explained a few weeks later, on the road to Baltimore in the middle of a tour with Ghost Box Orchestra. “Playing with a bunch of bands that we’re friends with, with a similar aesthetic.”

Guillermo Sexo

Middle East Upstairs, 617-864-3278. http://www.mideastclub.com

Also performing:
Doze, Boogie Boy Metal Mouth, Marconi
Date of concert:
Sunday
Ticket price:
$10

They do share a lot of commonalities with others among the once-again emergent psych-rock scene, but whereas many bands might turn up the feedback and hammer through a wall of sound, Guillermo Sexo’s compositions are more varied in terms of texture and influence. “Echo Out My Call” sounds like a garage-rock Jefferson Airplane; “Dark Spring” is awash in harmonized shoegaze grandeur; and “Balboa” has a hypnotic kraut-rock by way of the ’60s feel, with some Stereolab thrown in.

“We’re stuck between a few different genres,” vocalist Noell Dorsey said. “I guess I would say psych, a little garage, some pop sensibility.”

“I don't think its something that I try to do on purpose when writing, saying, ‘We’re gonna have this part and this part,’ ” Bettsak elaborated a few days later over drinks, before heading over to Royale to check out the Deerhunter show. “But for example, I do stuff with alternate tunings in a way that’s more akin to experimental bands, but try to make catchy songs out of those alternate tunings. I think that’s were a lot of the influences come out, it’s like forms of language that you use.”

As varied as the reference points are on the record, recorded by Justin Pizzoferrato (Dinosaur Jr., Thurston Moore, Speedy Ortiz), the band says this is the most focused it’s ever been, after nearly a decade since Bettsak started Guillermo Sexo as a solo project, and seven years since songwriting partner Dorsey came on board. The two met while students at the University of Hartford. Richard Murillo, Elliott Anderson, and Ryan Connelly round out the band.

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“I’ve always had faith in the songs that we write,” Bettsak said. “but with this lineup it really comes together in the recording.”

That’s part of what drew Midriff head Cameron Keiber to the band in the first place.

“The minute I heard ‘Bring Down Your Arms’ I was sold,” Keiber said. “It’s such a great song. Simultaneously familiar and adventurous, and prickly, angular and sweet.”

It’s a tricky balance. “I think a lot of noise-pop or psych bands are a little too precious and can make work that’s inadvertently or purposefully inaccessible to a listener,” Keiber went on. “They want to make art with a capital A. That’s cool, and that can get boring. I like connecting with a song. . . . I don’t want to always be critiquing its intent.” Instead, what they’ve done here, he says, accurately, is make “an art rock record, with all the clanging, drones, and wonder that go with that, while retaining that sweetness and sincerity that separates them from a lot of what’s happening in the national scene now.”

“Everyone has their things they bring to the table and it forms the sound,” Bettsak says. “I love the Velvet Underground and Guided by Voices, but also nosier stuff like Sonic Youth and Fugazi.” Dorsey, on the other hand, has a more abstract, avant-garde background, whereas Connelly brings the heavier, metal touches. “Even though I know the songs can kind of go all over the place, I still try to make an album sound cohesive,” Bettsak says.

Bettsak, heading across the street to Royale, explained why he’s just back from tour and yet going out on a Monday night to see another band. Hasn’t he had enough? “There’s still a lot of moments where I see bands, big or local, where it still connects and there’s still magic. I’m glad I’m not jaded,” he says.

BONUS TRACKS

On Thursday, the Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science will screen the premiere of “A Song for Echo,” a collaboration between Brooklyn artist Julie Nymann and Boston electronic producer Ricardo Donoso, whose “Assimilating the Shadow” we called “experimentally ambient tracks that sound something like a race through the unconscious labyrinth” here a few months back. Presented by Non-Event, and the art website Vellum, the film is a re-telling of the Echo myth with Nymann’s pensive visuals set to Donoso’s transportive compositions. More info at www.v-e-l-l-u-m.com/a-song-for-echo. . . . Belgian producer Locked Groove makes his US debut on Thursday at Make It New at the Middlesex Lounge (naturally). Expect deep house, bass, and techno from the rising Turbo Recordings affiliated star. Residents Alan Manzi and John Barera support.

Luke O'Neil can be reached at lukeoneil47@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @lukeoneil47.

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