Octubre may be a record about unhealthy infatuations and debilitating love, but it’s also an inadvertent statement on the past and permanence. Originally offered to the world as a surprise digital release, it might suggest a kind of ephemera, but the underlying motive is to reinvent and bring a new life to these seminal songs from the band's early years. Reimagined and reshaped, these songs not only represent the band's beginnings but also serve as a teaser for the band's future output.
The name is a partial misnomer. Though the band hails from Los Angeles, they do not partake in any sort of witchcraft. Yet their ability to conjure a specific time and place through their sound does suggest a kind of magic. On their eponymous debut album, L.A. Witch's reverb-drenched guitar jangle and sultry vocals conjure the analog sound of a collector’s prized 45 from some short-lived footnote cult band. The melodies forgo the bubblegum pop for a druggy haze that straddles the line between seedy glory and ominous balladry; the production can’t afford Phil Spector's wall-of-sound, but the instruments' simple beauty provides an economic grace that renders studio trickery unnecessary; the lyrics seem more descendent of Johnny Cash's first-person morality tales than the vacuous empty gestures of pre-fab pop bands. This isn't music for the masses; it's music for miscreants, burnouts, down-and-out dreamers, and obsessive historians.
Album opener "Kill My Baby Tonight" is the perfect introduction to the band’s marriage of '60s girls-in-the-garage charm and David Lynch's surreal exposÃ©s of Southern California's underbelly. Sade Sanchez's black velvet vocals disguise the malicious intent of this murder ballad, with the thumping pulse of bassist Irita Pai, the slow-burn build of drummer Ellie English, and Sanchez's desert guitar twang helping beguile the listener into becoming a willing accomplice to the narrator’s crimes. "Brian" follows the opening track with a similarly graceful, if not somewhat ominous, slow-mo take on a well-worn jukebox 7". It's a vibe that permeates the entire album, from the early psychedelic hue of 13th Floor Elevators on tracks like "You Love Nothing," through the motorik beat and fuzzed-out licks of "Drive Your Car," to the grittier permutation of Mazzy Star's sleepy beauty on "Baby In Blue Jeans."