Witchrot Premiere “Strega” From 8″ Single out June 12

Posted in audiObelisk on April 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

witchrot

With the premiere of its title-track, the new two-songer Strega from Toronto doom-drifters Witchrot is streaming in its entirety. By that I mean the other song was already streaming.

The release, cartoon-boobs cover and all, will see issue as an 8″ single — that’s right: “it’s one more, innit?” — through the cross-ocean partnership between Toronto’s Fuzzed and Buzzed Records and the Netherlands’ DHU Records, and to be sure, it puts that extra inch above the standard to good use. With a total 13-minute runtime, “Strega” and “Hey Hey My My” dwell in a realm of hypnotic riffy largesse. With the guitar and bass of Peter Turik clearly attuned toward maximum density, drummer Shane Tyrer brings forth a slow march on the B side after conjuring a pointed thud on the leadoff, in both cases giving Lea Reto a not-at-all-missed opportunity to cut through the morass as only melody can.

For added intrigue, not only does Reto do this, but she plays into the hypnotic aspects of both tracks almost entirely, patterning lyrics around a few repeating lines rather than whole verses and choruses. “Strega” is just “La strega/Hit me with her evil eye” — though certainly there’s a story behind it, as you can see in the quote from Turik below — and even “Hey Hey My My,” which derives straight from Neil Young, chooses one of the most distinctive progressions of his long career and reinterprets it as almost a religious chant. The attempt isn’t to turn it into the stuff of cult rock cliché — despite the fact that the band have “witch” in their name, I don’t actually get much of that kind of “I’m a spooky supernatural being and I live in the woods” vibe, thankfully — and neither does it need to be. Witchrot are plainly able to conjure the ethereal without hyperperformance of genre tropes. All they need are the riffs, and clearly they have those.

One would be tempted to call Strega deceptively memorable if there were anything deceptive about it. Rather, Witchrot are up front about what they’re doing and ask little indulgence on the listener’s part other perhaps than a definitely-earned nod along. So get to it.

Enjoy “Strega” below, followed by a few words from Turik about the song, and “Hey Hey My My” under that, for completeness’ sake:

Peter Turik on “Strega”:

This song was recorded at Candle Studio by Dylan Frankland. He has become the ultimate behind-the-scenes man for our band. He always knows what works and what doesn’t. Of course Lea belted it all out on this track with minimal effort. There is never a time when she goes into the studio with something set, she is in a constant state of experimentation.

I wrote this song about an encounter my Nono had with a witch back in Italy. She asked him for a ride on his donkey and when he denied she cursed him with some sort of paralysis. Apparently he was bed ridden for weeks and nearly died. His family eventually had to get another witch to reverse the spell.

DHU Records is releasing the song on a special edition 8″ vinyl with our Neil Young cover as the B side. So heavy a 7″ wouldn’t cut it! We also had a tour planned for May which would have been our first time heading to the USA, as of now I can only imagine that will be postponed. Along with that, Fuzzed and Buzzed was going to help us finish recording our first full-length. Of course that will be put off as well.

The state of the world is completely fucked up right now and I can only hope that there is a way to reverse this curse laid upon us.

It seems we’re doomed. Time will tell.

Stay safe… stay heavy.

Witchrot are:
Lea Reto – Vox
Peter Turik – Guitar/Bass
Shane Tyrer – Drums

Witchrot, “Hey Hey My My”

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 31

Posted in Radio on April 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

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The theme for this episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio is pretty straightforward if you listen. It’s comfort songs. You would not necessarily believe that of a playlist that opens with Total Fucking Destruction doing the title-track of an album called To Be Alive at the End of the World, but again, once you listen, it’s actually kind of soothing. There’s a fair amount of instrumental material included, led off by Yawning Man, and I think the part with Vinnum Sabbathi and Forming the Void is probably as heavy as it gets, though that new Elephant Tree track certainly has some roll to it. God damn that’s a good song, not that that’s a huge surprise from those guys.

I haven’t cut the voice breaks for it yet but will do so sometime before this is posted, but I intend to talk a bit about the Om song and my association with their early work and seeing them at SXSW for what I think might’ve been the first time. It was a while ago and it’s hard to remember for a few reasons, but anyway, if I can remember it between typing this and speaking that, I hope to speak to it a bit, because I know that’s not their most soothing stuff by a long shot, but the memory I have of it puts it in that framework for me. Closing with YOB’s “Marrow” was, of course, a given.

Thanks for listening if you do. I hope you enjoy, and if you see this and don’t listen, then thanks for reading. If you’re not reading, well, you’ll never know you were being thanked.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at http://gimmeradio.com

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 04.03.20

Total Fucking Destruction To be Alive at the End of the World To be Alive at the End of the World*
Yawning Man I Make Weird Choices Macedonian Lines
Acid King Center of Everywhere Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
Colour Haze Peace, Brothers and Sisters! Colour Haze
BREAK
Pretty Lightning Boogie at the Shrine Jangle Bowls*
Elephant Tree Bird Habits*
Charivari Lotus Eater Descent*
Tia Carrera Layback Tried and True*
Vinnum Sabbathi Quantum Determinism Of Dimensions & Theories*
Forming the Void Manifest Reverie*
BREAK
Om Annapurna Variations on a Theme
YOB Marrow Clearing the Path to Ascend

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is April 20 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Review & Track Premiere: River Cult, Chilling Effect

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

river cult chilling effect

[Click play above to stream “Neo Dog” from River Cult’s Chilling Effect. Album is out May 1 through Nasoni Records (LP) and Tee Pee Records Annex (DL).]

River Cult feel like a band-in-waiting for the hype machine to take notice. They are as yet likewise underrated and loaded with potential. Chilling Effect is their second LP behind 2018’s righteous debut, Halcyon Daze (review here), and a well-received 2016 EP, and the three-piece use it as an opportunity to organically present a sound that spans decades as fluidly as it spans tracks. Uniting through an overarching loose and psych-prone tonality and vibe, they conceive a vision of heavy that’s adherent to a ’70s-style power trio ethic of putting the live performance to tape in as meaty fashion as possible, while 11-minute opening title-track and longest inclusion (immediate points) could hardly feel more modern, with guitarist Sean Forlenza offering a vocal pattern that calls to mind All Them Witches even as the massive jam that ensues sets the stage for the thickened, slowed Fu Manchu roll of “Left Hand Path,” the Nebula-esque strut through “Neo Dog” and the heavy psych instrumentalism of the penultimate “Red Return” ahead of “Fool’s Gold,” which rounds out with a surprising post-punk-goes-grunge shimmer.

Concerning their overall craft and range, they are likely a few years ahead of their time, but with the sure presence of groove from bassist Anthony Mendolia and drummer Tav Palumbo behind Forlenza‘s riffing and airier leads, there is never a misstep when it comes to transitions within and between the songs. This is true even as “Fool’s Gold” hits the brakes on its swirling solo and moves into a doomier slowdown before shifting back toward more molten fare and ultimately capping Chilling Effect not much with a scorching apex — which they’d be well within their rights to do, given the proceedings as a whole — but with an expanse of residual amp noise and hum, hypnotic in its drone, a lower-end echo and complement to the keyboard flourish that begins the outing in the title cut. One way or another, the name of the record would seem to be no coincidence.

So be it. If the measure of River Cult‘s sophomore full-length is to be the record’s ability to have an effect of the mood of the listener or at very least its own atmosphere in terms of how one might relate to it, then Chilling Effect can only be considered a success. At the same time, it’s hardly void of movement, even if one counts the most basic level of tempo alongside the shifts from one element of style to another. As “Chilling Effect” emerges from that initial keyboard line, it does so around a fuzzy groove that’s comfortably paced and makes a fitting bed for Forlenza‘s proclamations. A doubtful influence, but there’s some of the natural density that drove defunct North Carolinian acts like Caltrop and Black Skies in the aughts, picking up on a nascent heavy Americana that came to fruition in this past decade at the behest of other acts. River Cult never quite touch that line either, but in the wailing guitar and spoken lines that set up the solo as “Chilling Effect” oozes through its midsection, there’s a bluesy shade being drawn just the same.

river cult

In River Cult‘s hands, however, it becomes the foundation of the aforementioned jam, an instrumental outward motion that brings into emphasis the bolder ideology of putting the longest song first on the record — the safe thing to do would be otherwise. As it is, the feedback of “Chilling Effect” fades seamlessly into the creeping opening progression of “Left Hand Path,” which unveils its sludgy sleeze early and holds to it for the duration. Mendolia makes it a high point of low frequencies. Even as the noisy guitar solo arrives late and the drums pick up in kind, the bassline is a repetitive and hypnotic joy, giving further credence to the laid back delivery of the verses before. The rumble resumes after the solo and a cold stop brings to the digital version the arrival of “Neo Dog,” which is something of a departure in being about half as long as the shortest of what surrounds at just 3:11, but makes up for runtime in attitude and its alternating between swing and push, neither refusing to give ground as it winds to a stylized, stage-ready bop of a conclusion.

With that, River Cult put themselves to the task of pushing deeper and deeper into side B. Leads are layered in “Red Return” and the song forms around welcome returns to a drifting line of guitar, quiet and nodding all the more as it starts to meander in blues fashion after four minutes in, coming to a full stop before a snare snap from Palumbo brings the three-piece into a faster closing section, this one marked by a wash of noise that continues in abrasive fashion even after the drums and bass cut out as the guitar seems intent on breaking whatever manner of amplified conveyance it’s being run through.

The initial turn of “Fool’s Gold” is rightfully jarring coming out of that, but as River Cult shift into more densely-toned riffing — recalling the heft of “Left Hand Path” — they do so around a particularly Sleep-y progression, which soon gets translated into a floating lead that becomes the ground for the Forlenza‘s last solo, returning to guide the band through their final quiet stretch ahead of one more dose of mega-fuzz before the last 90 seconds or so drone into an oblivion that comes not with the long fade one might expect, but a sudden, cold finish that stands in defiance of much of Chilling Effect‘s chilling effect. Perhaps that’s the band’s way of shocking their audience out of the trance they’ve incited, but in any case, the prevailing sentiment throughout the 35-minute stretch is one that, even in its most thrillingly savage moments, exudes a casualness and a raw chemistry that can only help earn the attention River Cult are proving to be due.

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Aural Hallucinations Stream Debut LP Alucinações Auditivas in Full; Preorders up Now

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 1st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

aural hallucinations

Aural Hallucinations will release their debut album, Alucinações Auditivas, through Space Rock Productions on May 1. The ocean-spanning experimentalist duo brings together Massachusetts-based Matt Couto — best known as the now-former drummer for Elder, and also currently of Kind — with Scott “Dr. Space” Heller, who, though currently residing in Portugal, nonetheless continues to work as the prolific synthesist and bandleader of Øresund Space Collective and also, so far as I know, still hold a place in the otherwise-Norwegian Black Moon Circle and a few other projects as well.

The semi-self-titled Alucinações Auditivas is their first release of any sort as well as being their first album — though they led up to it by unveiling “Brain Stimulator” and “Fly Free, Furry Friend” as singles — and in its vinyl-ready form it runs seven tracks and 41 minutes of way-far-gone mostly-instrumental collaboration. Pieces like “Hills White, House Blue” become a kind of miasma of synthesizer sounds, and from the leadoff cut “Formigas,” on which the applied “vocals” would seem to be recorded and manipulated breathing, onward, the prevailing sentiment is that anything is welcome noise-wise so far as the vibe is maintained.

To wit, the underlying low end synth progression behind the penultimate “Don’t Take the Granite Acid” follows an eerily similar rhythm to that of my basement washing machine when heard through the floor of my living room. There are eerie whispers there as well (not in my basement, fortunately), and “Spore Cloud Dispersion” offers a drum progression and bassline that echoes the space rock at its most frenetic, while closer “Surreal InhiVisions” finds its anchor in acoustic guitar almost in a manner reminiscent of Lamp of the Universe were that outfit more given to conjuring a total wash AURAL HALLUCINATIONS ALUCINACOES AUDITIVASof effects rather than sticking to some semblance of structural traditionalism.

Despite all the far-out-itude of Alucinações Auditivas and the piercing high-pitched frequency that makes its way into “Brain Stimulator,” the project is consistent with elements of both Couto‘s and Heller‘s past work. Certainly the latter has been no stranger to improvised-seeming experimentation — that’s Øresund Space Collective‘s wheelhouse — and the former has handled modular synth and other noisemaking whatnots in Kind as well, so it’s not that Aural Hallucinations comes out of nowhere in terms of their approach, just that the two parties involved have very clearly made a conscious decision to highlight this aspect of their creativity together.

The mission and resulting LP are likewise admirable though both by their very nature are not necessarily widely accessible. Still, the wide open range that Alucinações Auditivas establishes nearly immediately and only continues to push into broader spaces is a closed-eyes-headphones-on escape that one can easily imagine as a ready foundation for future such expeditions. With their driving principle seeming to be just building pieces from the ground up and seeing what works, they show an awareness of that and a corresponding awareness of when a piece is done or might not need anything else going on in it.

This makes Aural Hallucinations dynamic as well as varied in their approach, and from minimal to maximal, Alucinações Auditivas demonstrates a dimensionality that goes beyond the depth of its mix. Actually, its dimensionality kind of goes outside of this dimension altogether, but I suppose that’s a different matter.

Also it’s not made of matter.

You get the point.

With preorders open as of today ahead of the release next month, Aural Hallucinations have opened the floodgates and are letting the noise drift through with a full album stream of Alucinações Auditivas below. Should you choose to plunge in, I most certainly hope you enjoy:

This is the debut album by Matt Couto (Kind, ex-Elder) and Dr Space (Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle). It features a number of tracks to have Aural Hallucinations to. Luis Antero has kindly provided us with several field recordings that have been mixed into a few of the tracks.

Matthew Couto- Moog Opus III, Moog Werkstatt, VRL Modular Synthesizer, Drums, Bass, Acoustic guitar, Electric Guitar, Vocal

Dr Space- Yamaha CS10, Custom Modular Synthesizer, KORG SQ-10, Nord Lead 2, ARP Odessey, Vocal

Artwork by Matt. Logo and cassette/CD layouts by Josh Yelle.

Mixing and mastering at Éstudio Paraíso nas Nuvems, Central Portugal by Dr Space.

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Space Rock Productions website

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Review & Full Album Stream: Beesus, 3eesus

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 30th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

beesus 3eesus

[Click play above to stream 3eesus by Beesus. Album is out Friday on Go Down Records, More Fuzz Records and New Sonic Records.]

As the title hints, 3eesus is the third full-length from Roman heavy fuzz rockers Beesus. Also their first offering through long-established Italian imprint Go Down Records as well as More Fuzz Records and New Sonic Records, the seven-song excursion spreads languid and loose across 40 minutes that are alternately spaced and driving and swinging and rolling, with guitarist/vocalist Francesco Pucci, bassist/vocalist Emiliano Gianni and drummer/vocalist Adriano Bartoccini putting a clear priority on sonic diversity throughout. Consistency is maintained through the tones of the guitar and bass — that is, the fuzz is thorough — but after the push of opener “Reproach” and the spacier “Sand for Lunch,” third cut “Suffering Bastards” offsets its hooky nodder chorus with verses of spoken word on the way to a jammier second half marked out by airy soloing and unbridled groove.

Having all three members of the band ready and willing to contribute vocals adds to the band’s ability to build more complex arrangements, and even as the wall of fuzz overwhelms the shouts of centerpiece “Sleng Footloose,” those shouts clearly arise from different sources and are themselves something of a shift from what’s come before. Those who’ve followed Beesus across their two prior outings, 2015’s The Rise of Beesus (review here) and 2018’s Sgt. Beesus… & the Lonely Ass Gangbang! will find the elements at work to be familiar, particularly with the latter, which expanded on the more straight-ahead approach of the debut, but while it wouldn’t feel appropriate to go so far as to call 3eesus experimental, there’s no question the band are actively working to push their sound in multiple directions, thinking of the album on its own terms with individual cuts serving a larger purpose within the whole. Those efforts are successful across the 40 minutes of 3eesus, right down to how “Sand for Lunch” teases some of the more psychedelic aspects of side B’s “Flags on the Sun,” “Gondwana” and the scorching closer “Sacoph.”

In some ways, whether it’s the interwoven layers of synth in the opener or the overarching Fu Manchu-style groove they offset, 3eesus reminds of some of fellow Romans Black Rainbows‘ melting-pot take on grunge, fuzz and psychedelia, but Beesus bring a more terrestrial sound on the whole, and the multi-vocalist aspect is a distinguishing factor that, along with the persistent sonic changes from one track to the next, helps distinguish PucciGianni and Bartoccini from the arguably forerunning counterpart three-piece. Beesus are nonetheless well at home in the psychedelic flourish of “Sand for Lunch,” calling to mind a ’90s drift without being shoegaze or post-rock, letting the bass and drums carry the guitar across the chasms of its own making, like a river cutting through a canyon.

beesus

beesus 3eesus gatefold

The elements at work in “Sand for Lunch” are exceedingly well balanced without purposefully sounding like it, and the band are able to affect a laid back atmosphere and a looseness of rhythm even though they’re very clearly pushing the song ahead toward its break before the five-minute mark at which point a more solidified low-end riff takes hold and the three players lock into the progression and ride out through the final chorus. That song, surrounded on side A by “Reproach,” “Suffering Bastards” and “Sleng Footloose,” is something of a triumph for 3eesus, and it’s doubly fortunate that it acts as a precursor to some of what the second half of the record brings with the final three tracks. The more the merrier, as it were. That’s not to discount what they do across the rest of side A, which is to bring more than just a feeling of variety to the work in terms of quality, whether it’s the structural play of “Suffering Bastards” — the chorus lyric, “We’re never wrong,” repeated as an anchor for some of the LP’s most out-there fare — just to point out the success on the part of the band in terms of tying the material together despite the shifts that take place particularly early in the proceedings.

And when it comes to the massive groove of “Sleng Footloose,” well that’s just good fun, and all the more as 3eesus‘ centerpiece. “Flags on the Sun” follows immediately as the longest individual song at 7:29 with a Doors-y night-in-desert — the time of day somewhat ironic given the sunny title — openness of tone and a relatively patient unfolding compared to some of what comes before; a clear indication of the shift taking place from side A to B, even in the digital realm. Deceptive in its melody, the track moves with marked fluidity and a gradual forward progression, not building to a huge payoff, but instead bringing in (seemingly) all three players on vocals toward the finish and capping with a somewhat understated flourish of drums behind distorted strumming guitar, the arthouse-grunge vibe palpable. “Gondwana,” which takes its name from the Neoproterozoic supercontinent made up of India, Arabia, Australia, South America, Africa and Antarctica, revives some push in its second half while also calling back to the spoken word of “Suffering Bastards,” but still draws atmospheric impression from “Flags on the Sun” prior and even as it moves through its shouts just prior to six minutes in, it does so with the current of effects/synth running alongside swirling to the inevitable fade at the conclusion and arrival of “Sacoph,” which, in contrast, seems to be named for a grocery store. Go figure.

The final cut begins with a righteously slow nod and some scorcher lead work from Pucci, and that sets the tone for what follows as the band with three singers decides to go it instrumental at the end, letting the guitar ring out into open space with a clarion shimmer underscored by the weight of the bass and accompanying fuzz. There’s a kick of tempo in the second half, but they end slow and dramatic and that feels well earned after all the various turns preceding, both within and between the songs. As much as that’s a somewhat inevitable focal point of 3eesus, the greatest effect it has on the band’s work overall is to emphasize the cohesion with which Beesus are able to unite the material. I don’t know whether the tracks were recorded live or not, but the feel of band-in-a-room is palpable, and it’s that singular energy that most comes through in drawing songs together as a singular presentation. It enhances the various strengths of the trio and only makes the listening experience richer and more consuming, which would seem to have been precisely their intent for it.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 30

Posted in Radio on March 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

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There’s some stuff here that was recently premiered — Moura, King Buffalo, the Thunderbird Divine track that went up today — but I’m also bringing in a few things from the Quarterly Review that I’ve got slated for next week. That’s stuff I haven’t had the chance to write about yet like Mindcrawler and Lemurian Folk Songs, Ritual King and Dystopian Future Movies. I know I’m biased here and I always say this — if you dig back through the old podcasts, I used to say it about those too, but I think it’s a pretty good show.

It was a little weird cutting voice tracks for it yesterday though, I’ll say that. Yeah, it’s awesome new music and that’s always great to be excited about, but it feels a little lightweight to be stoked on cool songs when there’s a pandemic on and obviously bigger issues at play. The way I look at it is music is ultimately that escape that people need and if I can maybe give someone something they haven’t heard before and might dig, then I guess that’s not nothing. It ain’t driving a truck for Meals on Wheels when it comes to lending a hand — I should be doing that shit, as should we all, all the time — but it’s what I’ve got, anyhow.

Thanks for listening if you do, and if you see this and don’t listen, then thanks just for reading.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today at http://gimmeradio.com

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 03.20.20

Moura Ronda das Mafarricas Moura*
Dozer Rising Call it Conspiracy (2020 Reissue)*
Lord Fowl Fire Discipline Glorious Babylon*
Ritual King Dead Roads Ritual King*
BREAK
Thunderbird Divine The Hand of Man The Hand of Man*
Mindcrawler Dead Space Lost Orbiter*
Elder Omens Omens*
Arbouretum Let it All In Let it All In*
BREAK
Dystopian Future Movies Countenance Inviolate*
Lord Buffalo Raziel Tohu Wa Bohu*
Lemurian Folk Songs Logos Logos*
Sorcia Stars Collide Sorcia*
BREAK
King Buffalo Red Star Pt. 1 & 2 Dead Star EP*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is April 3 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Thunderbird Divine Premiere Title-Track from The Hand of Man EP

Posted in audiObelisk on March 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

thunderbird divine

Psychedelphia four-piece Thunderbird Divine release their new EP, The Hand of Man, on March 28 through Salt of the Earth Records. It’s only three tracks and about 12 minutes long, but The Hand of Man works quickly to blow the roof off of where Thunderbird Divine were early last year when they made their full-length debut with the rousing Magnasonic (review here), with the three-and-a-half-minute opening title-track throwing its Fu Manchu-style fuzz and riff-worth-remembering out the airlock into an open space of guest organ and backing vocal arrangements in preparation for the Monster Magnetism of the ensuing six-minute centerpiece “Boote’s Void,” a triumph and moment of arrival certainly for bassist Adam Scott if not the rest of the band — though also definitely the rest of the band, as the guitars of Flynn Lawrence (also sitar; yup) and Erik Caplan (also vocals, lap steel, theremin, etc.) grow richer in tone with the surrounding keys and drummer Mike Stuart shows his style as malleable either to the swing of “The Hand of Man” and the roll of “Boote’s Void” as well as the move over to percussion alongside Caplan for the psych-bluesy instrumental finale “’88 Testadoon,” a hypnotic instrumental that one only wishes jammed on for about nine minutes instead of the two it does.

Run-on sentence much? Hell yes, but The Hand of Man functions that way as well, with one piece moving fluidly into the next and into the last, the songs building off each other along the way. Granted, “’88 Testadoon” is something of an epilogue, but eventhunderbird divine the hand of man that brings a sense of patience and atmosphere to the proceedings that bolster the whole outing and broaden the band’s sound overall. Magnasonic showcased no lack of potential on the part of the former Wizard Eye and Skeleton Hands members, who also recently took on The Yardbirds‘ “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago” — which one only hopes will see a physical pressing of one sort or another soon — and The Hand of Man finds them working quickly to fulfill that potential casting a melodic swirl in “The Hand of Man” made stronger through the backing vocals of Brittany Marie and Avalicious and the keys of Charles Newman. Hate to say it — actually I don’t — but Thunderbird Divine might end up having to play shows as The Thunderbird Divine All-Stars if this keeps up, because what they’re doing here really, really works, right up to Caplan channeling his inner Dave Wyndorf as the deceptively patient cosmic unfurling of “Boote’s Void” takes place before the harder fuzz kicks in, righteous and spaced and soulful in likewise expanding measure.

That’s always the question though with a release like The Hand of Man — perhaps even more so as it’s coming after Thunderbird Divine‘s debut album — in terms of how indicative it is of their sound moving forward versus is it a one-off, the band trying an experiment that just happens to work exceedingly well. Hell if I know. Maybe they don’t either. What’s exciting about The Hand of Man though, aside from the material itself, which is electrified in any number of figurative senses, is that it makes Thunderbird Divine a less predictable band on the whole. Going into their inevitable second album, whenever it might arrive — shit, the sooner the better — I feel like I have less of a grasp after listening to these three songs on what to expect for a follow-up to Magnasonic than I did before the EP came along, and that is invariably a good thing. Whether they continue to build on the fluidity as presented here in a style that, were it not so short, would definitely be album-ish, or push into something rawer in terms of arrangement or again decide to take an unanticipated direction, they’re very quickly beginning to earn a basic level of trust that they can carry their songwriting through any number of diverse applications. Dudes have it down, is what I’m saying. Let the nonsense move you, because the nonsense is awesome.

The Hand of Man was recorded at Retro City Studios in Philly and Cottage Sounds Unlimited in Brooklyn. You can stream the premiere of the title-track below, followed by a quote from Caplan on the making of the song, that Yardbirds cover, and a trailer for an upcoming recording documentary on the making of the EP.

Please enjoy:

Erik Caplan on “The Hand of Man”:

This track started as a riff that existed before I joined up with these dudes back in 2017. Flynn is a masterful riffologist, and this one has a lovely swagger. We previously tried to cram this riff into a bunch of other song structures, and none of them were quite right. Eventually we realized we needed to let it breathe, and it developed an identity of its own. After that, the song grew naturally into its final form. I love Mike’s break before the bridge. It’s a small moment, but it feels very natural. We wanted it to be a banger, but we also wanted it to have a foreboding, scattered feeling as an overtone to the groove in the bridge.

Basic tracking took place at Retro City Studios in Philadelphia, where we nailed down the essence of the song, my main vocals and all of the backing vocal arrangements. Picture me acting as a lunatic choir director from behind a baby grand piano as the ladies (Avy and Brittany) attempted to decipher my conducting for the backing vocals… it was pretty amusing.

Joe Boldizar and the crew at Retro City got excellent, organic sounds for us in the main tracking phase. Adam and I then took the track to Cottage Sounds Unlimited in Brooklyn to add the Wurlitzer, B3 Organ and lap steel guitar. Charles Newman is a talented musician, and keys are a specialty for him. He interpreted our (admittedly offbeat) sonic requests brilliantly. When we brought the tracks back to Retro City for mixing, Joe sort of instinctively knew what we wanted. It was a very smooth process overall.

The lyrics are my musings about a documentary called Discovering Bigfoot. The filmmaker, Todd Standing, put a lot of time and effort into making this sort of visual poem for the Bigfoot population he clearly loves and respects. I’m not saying his research is flawed or anything like that, but his approach was certainly a little unconventional, as I suppose it should be, considering the subject matter. I’m not sure he proved his thesis by making this film, but he succeeded in providing entertainment.

Thunderbird Divine “Hand Of Man”
Available @ www.SaltOfTheEarthRecords.com

Thunderbird Divine is
Erik Caplan: electric guitars, vocals, theremin, lap steel guitar, percussion, vocal arrangements
Flynn Lawrence: electric guitars, electric sitar
Mike Stuart: drums, percussion
Adam Scott: bass, synth, 3-string strum stick, percussion

With
Brittany Marie and Avalicious: backing vocals
(Additional backing vocal arrangement by Brittany Marie on “Boote’s Void”)
Mike Scarpone: djembe on “Boote’s Void”
Charles Newman: keys, synths on “Hand of Man” and “Boote’s Void”

Thunderbird Divine, The Hand of Man recording documentary trailer

Thunderbird Divine, “Happenings Ten Years Time Ago”

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Review & Full Stream: King Buffalo, Dead Star EP

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

King Buffalo Dead Star

[Click play above to stream King Buffalo’s Dead Star in full. It’s out this week and available to preorder from the band. Their Spring tour is in the process of being rescheduled due to pandemic. Read their statement here.]

Dead Star is anything but. What’s billed as the fourth King Buffalo EP is actually a sneaky third full-length from the Rochester, New York, three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson, clocking in at 35-plus minutes long and marked out by an expansive, creative and spacious flow that willfully builds on the accomplishments of the band’s past while bringing them to new places in terms of sound and arrangements.

From the outset, the sprawl in their sound that came to such satisfying fruition on 2018’s sophomore LP, Longing to Be the Mountain (review here) — which was the best record put out that year not by a band called Sleep — is pushed further, as the 16:21 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Red Star Pt. 1 & 2” embarks on an extended, from-silence-up linear build through its first part only to find itself nearly 12 minutes in as Donaldson‘s drums begin to gallop through its second part and McVay‘s vocals take on more of an urgent delivery suited to the space rocking thrust surrounding.

Underscored with reliable, underrated, secret-weapon-type low-end from Reynolds and fleshed out with undulations of synth and/or effects, it is King Buffalo on a cosmic grandstand in a way they simply never have been. Even their Jan. 2018 EP Repeater (review here), which opened with its 13-minute title-track, didn’t dare explore the regions of far-out that “Red Star Pt. 1 & 2” claims as the trio’s own, and certainly the heavy-psych-blues of 2016’s debut LP, Orion (review here), or the 2015 split with Sweden’s Lé Betre (review here) and the 2013 demo (review here) that preceded it only hinted at the barriers of sound the band would soon enough be breaking.

The latter piece of “Red Star Pt. 1 & 2” is immediate in classic space rock tradition, but still consistent with the slower psychedelic unfolding over the 11-plus minutes that it grew from, and when it crashes, it does so in righteous fashion, a slowdown-into-nod landing heavy and letting go into about a minute of cast-aloft noise and effects drift on a long fade.

If that was it, then sure, Dead Star would be an EP, but the progressive guitar piece “Echo of a Waning Star” — much shorter and just over three minutes long — picks up with a quieter melody of its own that comes to life at about halfway through. Beginning with plucked start-stop notes that stay consistent even as the full tonality and drums kick in circa 1:30 and then come back to the fore after that wave recedes, fleshed out with soft-hit toms and keys, the track is perhaps most reminiscent indeed of an echo — an atmospheric impression rather than a fully structured statement of its own, something intended to set a mood and feel not only hypnotic with that guitar line repeating.

But the complement that follows with the arrival of “Ecliptic” is cinematic in a way King Buffalo have never attempted to be, with McVay taking on the task of setting a four-minute John Carpenter or Goblin-style bed of ’70s prog synthesizer, complete with an underlying pulse of a beat. Entirely instrumental, it is a clear experiment for the band — a way for them to grasp for something new in their sound as they’ve done on EPs in the past — but with the addition of what seems to be a fluidly-mixed wave of distorted guitar (it’s hard to tell after a certain point), there’s a way forward for them in terms of future integration of these elements with their already established modus.

King Buffalo

That is, they’re not just throwing “Ecliptic” in without giving it some context; they’re hinting at what might be things to come as their evolution continues on their next full-length, whether you want to call it their third or fourth, after this. Sampled television or radio static — which used to actually be a thing, you know — underscores the point of interaction with soundtrack media and serves as a transition into the tense guitar line that opens “Eta Carinae.” Also proggier and more exacting in its central riff than some of King Buffalo‘s past work, it is in the Reynolds‘ bass that one most finds the groove holding sway even as Donaldson‘s snare provides steady pops along the way.

A subtle line of synth signals a change to a winding transition and the band are soon enough underway on a still-precise, plotted jam, with a lead and instrumental stretch bringing about a section of chug and the return of McVay‘s vocals, soon enough opening to a stretch of tension-release guitar soloing, but ending ultimately on that chugging riff, accompanied by a touch of synth before a sudden stop.

The title-track, which presses the words together to present as “DeadStar,” is a sweetly melodic four-minute piece based around acoustic guitar that still manages to bring all the pieces of the EP into one shared space, whether it’s the cosmic psych, the spaciousness, the weight of tone — which, yes, shows up — the synth and the vocal melody. McVay‘s presence as a frontman here is undeniable and perhaps a corresponding narrative along with the stylistic development of King Buffalo as a whole, but it’s important to note that the group remains balanced, and “DeadStar” shows this as well as it moves fluidly into its second and third minute, Reynolds smoothing out what might otherwise be stark shifts and Donaldson on the bell of his ride cymbal.

That King Buffalo should not only be toying with their aesthetic in these ways, but also finding solid footing as they do so probably shouldn’t be a surprise to listeners who’ve been exposed in the past to their songwriting, but it remains impressive all the same and it speaks to the quality of their work that seven years on from their demo, with multiple domestic and international tours behind and likely ahead of them — not to mention the specter of an always-pivotal third LP (if this isn’t it) looming on the horizon — that their potential should still resonate so vividly.

I’m a fan of their work, so if you need your grain of salt, take it, but I’ll bottom line this for you as best I can: King Buffalo are a special band. They’ve yet to put out a release that did not significantly bolster their reach, and their progression is met likewise by melodic growth and a consistency of songcraft that make their output all the more a joy to hear. They make it easy to open your mind and embrace new ideas, and if Dead Star is an EP, then it seems damn unlikely 2020 will see a better one.

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