Do you like drugs? Well, me too. So, sit down over there and take a rip of Baltimore’s Salvia Plath, the predictably psychedelic project from Michael Collins, former freight train hopper and occasional experimenter in mind-altering substances. With a barely chuckle-worthy moniker and a psych-folk sound that matches rather than subverts its name, Salvia Plath stands precariously at the border of self-parody which is ultimately just where Collins wants to be.
Collins’ story doesn’t begin here, but with Run DMT, a nom de plume since co-opted by a couple of brostep dudes from Texas. Collins’ early explorations were narcotic in nature, hazy chronicles of his questionably legal cross-country travails. It was art school music, the product of an undeniably creative person working with limited technical knowledge in his chosen medium, tunes that were inspired in their creation if crude in their mechanisms. With his final LP as Run DMT, Dreams, and this debut record for Domino Records’ Weird World imprint, we find Collins in a different mode: equally focused on explorations of the subconscious and altered zones, but undertaking those explorations from more traditional songwriting modes.
Gone are the ambient interludes and opiate-laden instrumentals that set Run DMT’s beach pop bliss apart, and in their place is a fully formed songwriting voice. “House Of Leaves” takes on the big “Where/what can we be?” existential questions in the form of dusty, dollar bin psych. “Bardo States” moans through a technicolor reverb fog, and “This American Life”, in its scratchy forlorn doo wop, finds itself a spiritual successor to Ariel Pink’s cover of Donnie and Joe Emerson’s “Baby”.
The Bardo Story can tread toward the familiar, especially on the Sacred Bones psych of “Salvia Plath”. But, even in those moments it’s clear that Collins’ ever-developing songwriting voice is moving toward something even more noteworthy. This time around, it’s his attempt at conjuring at an intellectual sort of psychedelia, creating transportive states and confronting big questions without the aid of those mind-altering substances.
Don’t let the puns fool you. Michael Collins likes drugs too, but The Bardo Story proves that’s not all he has on his mind.
Essential Tracks: “House of Leaves”, “This American Life”