Chicago’s Dark Fog offers trippy escapism on two new EPsMonica Kendrickon May 15, 2020 at 4:30 pm

When I wrote about prolific Chicago three-piece Dark Fog last winter, the trippy psych voyagers were releasing three albums within a three-month span. It’s nice to know that, even in these uncertain times, some things you can still rely on: Dark Fog dropped the EP Escape Into This on April 6 and followed it up with Escape Into This 2 on April 20 (as if there were ever a chance they’d let that date go by). Both releases arrived just a couple months after February’s Psychedelic Landscape, which closes with the masterpiece “D.T. Suzuki’s Bathrobe.” The band’s founder, vocalist and guitarist Raymond James Donato, recently told me that he created both Escape records out of material from his extensive collection of archival Dark Fog tapes. Before the Illinois shelter-in-place order went into effect, Donato, drummer Yt Robinson, and bassist Drew Kettering were in the habit of recording every rehearsal and jam session, which is most likely the key to their prolificacy. Donato built these lush tunes by layering extra guitar and effects onto previously recorded songs “in a haze of THC and pandemic freak-out.” He captured each new addition in one take, creating something as close to the Dark Fog live sound as we’re likely to get during social isolation. The first record consists of four tracks, though the mirror-image titles of “The Fantasy Driver” and “Revird Ysatnaf Eht” indicate that they’re plants grown from the same root. Psychedelia is what happens when the mind’s inner space becomes vast enough to overwhelm physical reality, and these records feel like a beautiful snapshot of the isolated consciousness. Gritty, clicking loops evoke claustrophobia, which prompts the listener’s mind to react like a caged wild animal, releasing adrenaline in a desperate attempt to break free. And Donato’s frenzied, ululating guitars are like rocket fuel for the spirit, powering it up to levitate right out of your body. On the fizzing “Dnim Ruoy Daer” and the fey “In Golden Curtain’s Yellow,” the two-song punch that wraps up Escape Into This, astral projection reaches full fruition with futuristic grandeur. Escape Into This 2 continues in a similar vein, with shorter cuts and a slightly more turbulent sensibility–even when the vocals are soothing, as on “In Dove Daze,” the spiky, processed-through-a-black-hole guitars ripple with unease. On “Lick Celestial,” a rhythm slightly reminiscent of “Misty Mountain Hop” provides a heartbeat under a plasma shimmer that keeps threatening to explode but never quite hits the breaking point. Both albums are available digitally on Bandcamp as pay-what-you-can lockdown offerings, and Donato says that they’ll be released on vinyl this summer. v

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