On their 2013 debut, Mystic Hits, Sugar Candy Mountain layered hundreds of tracks into a grandiose and immersive blend of psychedelic pop. But on their follow-up, 666, the California group has taken the opposite approach. With Jason Quever of indie rock band Papercuts on the boards, Sugar Candy Mountain largely abandon their maximalist soundscapes, opting instead for sparse arrangements that throw the group’s lyrical guitar figures and the voice of frontwoman Ash Reiter into sharp relief.
While Mystic Hits buried Reiter in the mix, on 666, she cuts through like a laser. Her voice is a brilliant and complex instrument; in the course of a single line, like the one that gives the album its title, she is able to sound both sweet and steeled, menacing and serene. Throughout 666 Reiter turns her gaze to profound questions of existence, and the mysterious quality of her voice makes the open-ended questions in her lyrics feel all the more haunting.
For every mesmerizing hook Reiter sings, there’s a guitar part of equal magnitude. Opening track “Windows” is ripped apart by a harrowing and buzzing solo, and on “Tired” a serpentine riff nods strongly to the album’s surf-rock influences. Now that they’ve been given the proper space to shine, these elements drive home the message at the core of Sugar Candy Mountain’s sophomore album: sometimes less can be much more.
—Max Savage Levenson