Psychedelic conglomerate project Ayahuasca Dark Trip will embark on a European tour next month heralding the arrival of their second album, II. The multinational outfit draws members from Peru, Brazil, Greece, the US and the Netherlands and outfits like Montibus Communitas, Queen Elephantine and Necro, so if you’re wondering why a second full-length behind 2012’s Mind Journey (review here) might’ve taken five years to realize, consider the amount of logistics coordination involved in everything the band does. Consider that as well when wondering about whether or not you should show up at a gig — an Ayahasca Dark Trip tour does not seem like the kind of thing that will happen every day.
To further entice participation and perhaps to give the open-minded a glimpse at some of the dronescaping they’re up to on II, Ayahuasca Dark Trip today premiere the song “Water from Above, Water from Below,” which encompasses seven-plus minutes of weighted lysergic resonance, seeming to pull from all sides and all contributors around its central guitar figure as it lumbers toward its noisy, echoing conclusion. How it may play into the rest of II surrounding remains to be heard, but if the band wanted to effectively tease their second outing, consider the mission accomplished. I’ll hope to have more as we get closer to the release.
For now, an album announcement, a tour announcement and a track premiere seem like plenty for one day. Dig into all of it below, and enjoy:
Uncompromising and fearless in its approach, AYAHUASCA DARK TRIP creates hypnotic music that combines doom metal, acid psychedelia and ritual drone into an intense and explosive trip.
FEBRUARY 2017 EUROPEAN TOUR —— The band is preparing for their first European tour. Looking for release, performance, and press opportunities. We need help to fill Feb 11-12 in Netherlands and Feb 25 between Wiesbaden and Amsterdam.
Ayahuasca Dark Trip Feb. 2017 tour: 02/13: Gent, BE – Kinky Star. 02/14: Brussels, BE – Cafe Central. 02/16: Karlsruhe, DE – P8. 02/17: Dresden, DE – ChemieFabrik. 02/18: Berlin, DE – Urban Spree. 02/19: Prague, CZ – Potrvá. 02/21: Vienna, AT – Weberknecht. 02/22: Ljubljiana, SI – Prul?ek. 02/23: Nuremberg, DE – Kunstverein. 02/24: Wiesbaden, DE – Kreativfabrik.
The multinational project was formed in 2010 by prolific Peruvian musician Brayan Anthony (Montibus Communitas) and Buddy van Niuewenhoven of the Netherlands (Cosmic Nod). The group soon expanded with Indrayudh Shome (USA, Queen Elephantine), Pedro Ivo Araújo (Brazil, Necro), Sifis Karadakis (Greece), and Floris Moerkamp (Netherlands). AYAHUASCA DARK TRIP blasted off to explore revolutionary new possibilities of fluid musical collaboration across great physical and cultural distances.
DISCOGRAPHY New album “II” coming 2017. Mind Journey (2010, 2012. Cosmic Eye/Greece) “Manantial” Falling Down IVV compilation (2012. Falling Down/France) Unknown Trip at the Top of the Mountain (2011. Buh/Peru)
[Click play above to stream Kings Destroy’s None More EP in full. It’s out Jan. 13 on War Crime Recordings, and Kings Destroy are on tour with Truckfighters starting Jan. 18 (dates here)]
Brooklyn heavy noise specialists Kings Destroy will release their new EP, None More, on Jan. 13 via War Crime Recordings. Like everything they’ve done up to this point in their seven-year tenure, it’s a departure. It departs from their last album, 2015’s self-titled (review here), and from 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), and certainly from their 2010 debut, And the Rest Will Surely Perish (originally released through this site’s then-existent label, The Maple Forum). “Departure” is pretty much the running theme of everything the five-piece do in one way or another, so it’s all the more intriguing as regards None More — this limited, one-song, 14-minute curio EP pressed to tape with a Mech-battle Josh Graham cover almost two full years after the band’s last record came out and with numerous tours home and abroad behind them — that they should sound so much like themselves on it.
“None More,” the track itself, is presented in five component parts, each with a subtitle: “I. Rise of the Betrayer,” “II. The Blood Waters,” “III. The Battle,” “IV. Requiem,” “V. The Awakening” and “VI. Rise of the Betrayer (Reprise).” It does not feel like some great leap of insight to note the clear narrative at play here, or that “None More” comes full circle at its conclusion — an instrumental move as much as a dramatic turn — or that it’s the grandest scope the lineup of vocalist Steve Murphy, guitarists Carl Porcaro and Chris Skowronski, bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik have enacted in a given piece. More to their credit, None More moves through its extended but brief stretch, it flows not like a disjointed assemblage of parts, but with a careful and patiently executed arc. It’s not the first time Kings Destroy have told a story in their work, but it’s the first time they’ve put so much into the telling.
I alluded to it above but should say outright that Kings Destroy and I have collaborated in the past and I continue to consider myself a fan of what they do and I’m fortunate enough to feel comfortable calling them friends — something I’ll just about never do — so what minuscule impartiality I might otherwise claim is right out the window. If that means this review comes with a grain of salt, so be it. That does nothing to change the level of achievement Kings Destroy have reached as they’ve grown over the course of the last seven-plus years, or the substantial mark in their progression None More signifies. One might be tempted to relate “None More” to “Time for War” from the self-titled, and indeed, the EP track does seem to make a direct predecessor of the last album’s closer.
But true to their commitment to always moving forward, it builds on what that song did, beginning after an initial crash and extended count-in by establishing the nodding, Earth-style riff that will serve as its bookend. In less than a minute they’re into the verse — the sound full and spacious as captured by Mike Moebius at Moonlight Mile (Pilgrim, etc.), whose work with Kings Destroy extends back to their first 7″ single (review here) — and guitar leads mournfully interweave beneath as Murphy begins to set up the storyline. Like “Time for War,” it’s a battle.
Specifically the Battle of Clontarf, which took place in Ireland in 1014 and pitted the Irish High King Brian Boru against Vikings as well as other Irish forces, and which — though everyone seems to have died in the process, because war — resulted in the first Irish victory over the Vikings and a turning point in Irish culture after nearly 300 years of raids. Murphy‘s telling is way less prog-rock-history-lesson and way more working to convey the impression of the sunrise-to-sunset slaughter. With a shift into a quicker tempo at around 2:45, ‘The Blood Waters’ takes hold and introduces layered-in tight backing vocals, almost chanting, but more grunted. Sefcik‘s drums hold together a torrent of guitar soloing and the band settles in around a faster riff that’s as much classic metal as it is true to the band’s New York hardcore lineage, and as the next movement makes its way in, what seems to be the key line of the whole song is delivered in dual layers for effect: “We will be victorious/The dead will honor all of us.”
From there, they’re in the thick of it. We would seem to have been through ‘The Battle,’ which plays out instrumentally until about six minutes in, but as it should, “None More” gets murkier from there. Some turns are clearer than others — you know it when they hit into the reprise of ‘Rise of the Betrayer,’ for example, at the 11-minute mark — but between ‘The Battle,’ and the subsequent pair of ‘Requiem’ and ‘The Awakening,’ the progression is fluid enough that they essentially bleed into each other. Harmonized guitar lines lead a march punctuated by Sefcik and Bumpus through the midsection in an intricate play of melody and stomp, and by seven and a half minutes, all has come to a halt and what’s probably ‘The Awakening’ has begun. It’s a from-the-ground-up motion, quiet and ultimately shortlived, but it further conveys Kings Destroy‘s growth in its lack of rush to get where it’s going, instead spreading out a kind of hypnotic drift until they crash back in with the more emotional crux of the song, patient and effective. That they can pull it off and not give in to tension or sound like they’re just waiting to pounce is a definitive step.
Again, it’s quick, but telling. The rolling groove that ensues will carry through to ‘Rise of the Betrayer (Reprise),’ with a momentary break between the two sections and then a resumption of the introductory movement, bringing “None More” full circle rhythmically as a guitar solo takes hold at 11:40 and serves as a finishing move topping the nodding fluidity until the drums and bass drop out and feedback holds sway until clicking off just past 14 minutes. That ending conveys an in-the-studio feel that offsets some of the gritty grandeur of “None More” itself, but has the dual effect of jerking the listener back to reality after the band has dug so deep into the track’s final statement, and that would seem to be intentional. In any case, it fits with the narrative of Kings Destroy themselves, which is no less prevalent here than the Battle of Clontarf, and is shown through the dedication to pushing their approach forward in style and performance. None More might prove to be a stopgap en route to a fourth full-length, but it finds Kings Destroy in a crucial moment as a group and presents their story in a metaphor that could hardly be more apt.
[Click play above to stream ‘Pathfinder’ from Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP, out Jan. 13 on Aqualamb Records.]
One might consider In Tensions and the band who made it both as limited edition. Ohio’s Lo-Pan — who, by my estimation, remain among the best currently active purveyors of heavy rock in the US — enlisted guitarist Adrian Lee Zambrano (also Brujas del Sol) after parting company with Brian Fristoe following the release of what’s still their latest full-length, 2014’s Colossus (review here). That album, their fourth and third for Small Stone, marked a sharpening of sound for the hard-touring four-piece and left a tighter, faster, and overall more aggressive impression than 2011’s Salvador (review here), while still maintaining the groove and thrust that have been central to Lo-Pan since 2007’s Sasquanaut (reissue review here) and their formative 2006 self-titled debut.
Clearly they were a band in the midst of changes or at very least a stylistic refinement, but the lineup shift seemed significant. Zambrano, however, quickly proved himself. With him alongside bassist Scott Thompson, drummer Jesse Bartz and vocalist Jeff Martin, Lo-Pantoured Europe for the first time in 2015, as well as the States, and worked with Joe Viers at Sonic Lounge to record the five tracks of In Tensions. “In tensions,” as in both “tense” and “intensions,” and “intensions” as in “the best of…,” which speaks to the idea that things don’t always work out the way we think they’re going to. And so, In Tensions, which is released by Brooklyn’s Aqualamb Records as a limited CD/LP with a 100-page artbook containing tour diaries, might have been the moment when Lo-Pan established themselves with Zambrano on a studio recording.
Instead, following Zambrano‘s departure and subsequent replacement by Chris Thompson (also Sleepers Awake) this past July, the blazing, air-tight 22-minute collection is a look at what might’ve been had Lo-Pan been able to continue writing in that incarnation for a fifth full-length. One hesitates to call it their best work to-date, if only because as a fan of what they do it doesn’t seem fair, but the simple truth of the matter is they’ve yet to put something out that wasn’t a decisive step forward from the preceding release, and that applies to In Tensions as regards Colossus as well, despite the EP, obviously, being shorter.
But it does showcase some of Zambrano‘s progressive flourish on guitar — he’s a different personality of player than was Fristoe during his time in the band — starting from the tense chug of opener “Go West,” which Bartz meets head-on with toms, and it does boast the most accomplished vocal performance of Martin‘s career thus far, taking his soulful, gonna-belt-this-out approach and adding methodical, layered harmonizing for emphasis in the hooks of “Go West,” the subsequent “Sink or Swim,” the centerpiece “Long Live the King” and the six-minute closer “Pathfinder,” which quite simply is the best song Lo-Pan have ever written.
Actually, there’s really nothing simple about it, from the sleek and fuzzy bassline from Thompson that opens to the backing volume swells of guitar (is that ebow?) that provide ambience as Martin and Bartz kick in for the verse to the linear build that moves toward an apex as affecting as it is memorable, shifting after an airy solo circa the four-minute mark to a concluding movement that takes the energetic shove of “Long Live the King” and the crashing gracefulness (yes, both) of “Alexis” — which actually might be Martin‘s boldest performance here — and adds the laser focus that typified Colossus to finish out with maximum force while still remaining in complete control of the torrent they’re making.
If there’s a drawback to it, it’s that that single payoff, with its carefully arranged vocal layers, choice riff, and all-go rhythm, runs the risk of overwhelming the rest of In Tensions. But repeat listens, which aren’t hard to do when the offering is 22 minutes long, show that’s not at all the case, and while “Pathfinder” lands a bigger impact than a short release requires — that is, it could easily have served as the payoff for a full-length — it’s not out of place among the no-nonsense, headbang-worthy drive of “Go West” and the careening chorus of “Sink or Swim” or the thicker impression of low end that Thompson brings to “Long Live the King” and the wistfulness of “Alexis.” Rather, it ties these elements together and highlights further what could’ve been had In Tensions turned into Lo-Pan‘s next album, and it’s for that reason that the EP is a little sad in addition to being such a triumph for the band.
Hearing Zambrano‘s scorcher solo on “Alexis,” it’s difficult not to think of In Tensions as a showcase for the potential in this lineup of Lo-Pan. The title would seem to acknowledge this idea as well, but while they may not have lasted with Zambrano on board, another way to think about In Tensions is how fortunate it is that the band got to record when they did to capture this material which otherwise might’ve been lost to the personnel change. When one considers the artbook format (the cover is by Chris Smith) and numbered pressings from Aqualamb, the emphasis on the fleeting nature of the band that wrote and recorded these songs is all the more prevalent — thus “limited edition” at the outset — and while it’s a quick listen, In Tensions earns every bit of the intricacy with which it arrives. It is a welcome document of a moment already gone. That’s not, however, to say Lo-Pan have necessarily peaked and it’s all downhill from here as they move forward with Chris Thompson on guitar. After all, In Tensions demonstrates that they pulled off one difficult lineup change in the face of daunting odds. There’s nothing to say they can’t do so again. If anything, they seem to be a band who thrive on the challenge.
Posted in Radio on January 9th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been a long time. Long enough that I’m not even going to link back to the last time I did a round of Radio Adds. Life happens, and with the Quarterly Review, I guess my focus went elsewhere. Well, I just did a Quarterly Review, and that actually kind of inspired this, since I found there was yet more records that wanted covering even after that over-full round of 60 that closed out 2016 and opened 2017. So here we are.
There are, in fact, more than 50 albums being added to The Obelisk Radio playlist today. I can’t promise I’ll do Radio Adds weekly like I once did, or monthly, or again in 2017, or ever, but the opportunity presented itself and it seemed only right to take advantage. This stuff all came out last year, so it’s all readily available, and audio samples are included, because, you know, music and such.
Let’s dig in:
Lord Mountain, Lord Mountain
Of all the styles under the vast umbrella of “heavy,” traditional doom is among the hardest to execute – especially, I’d think, for new bands. You need a balance of atmosphere and lack of pretense, a classic vibe, riffs, and groove. On the surface, you’re playing to the past, but if you put out something that just sounds like Sabbath and bring nothing of yourself to it, you’re sunk. Santa Rosa, California’s Lord Mountain – vocalist/guitarist Jesse Swanson, guitarist Sean Serrano, bassist Dave Reed and drummer Pat Moore – would seem to have it figured out on their self-titled debut EP. Released by King Volume Records on limited tape, it brings forth four tracks in 21 minutes that are no less comfortable playing to the downer riffing of Candlemass – opener “Fenrir” – than to the epic chanting of Viking-era Bathory – “Under the Mountain” – and that find distinction for themselves in nodding to one side or the other as they make their way across the bass-y Sabbathism of “Dying World” and into the concluding solo-topped gallop of “Tomb of the Eagle” (more Dio-era there, but effectively translated tonally). As an initial offering, its presence is more stately than raw, and part of that is aesthetic, so I still think Lord Mountain will have growth to undertake, but their EP shows marked potential and brings a fresh personality to doom’s rigid traditionalism, and there’s nothing more one could reasonably ask of it. A CD would probably be too much to ask, but it’s hard to believe no one’s snagged it for a 10” release yet.
Behold the winding, self-directed narrative of underrated, underutilized and underappreciated New York heavy rockers The Giraffes, who issued Usury via Silver Sleeve Records in Jan. 2016, on the cusp of their 20th anniversary and with it welcomed back frontman Aaron Lazar (also a one-time contributor to The Book of Knots, speaking of underrated) to the fold alongside guitarist Damien Paris, drummer Andrew Totolos and bassist Josh Taggart. Comprised of just six songs with a 28-minute runtime, it nonetheless holds to a full-album sentiment, with songs like the tense “Washing Machine” working in a vein not dissimilar to their righteous 2008 offering, Prime Motivator (review here), while the preceding “Facebook Rant” and “Product Placement Song” bask in a social commentary that one can only hope the ensuing decades make dated and the subsequent “White Jacket” has a melancholy danceability that one might’ve related around the time of The Giraffes’ 2005 self-titled debut related to System of a Down, but now just sounds like an enrichment of their approach overall. Usury gets off to a slow start (not a complaint, given the groove) with “Blood Will Run,” which seems to shake off its dust initially before commencing its real push and chug circa the halfway point, but by the time they get down to eight-minute finale “How it Happened to Me,” the sudden conclusion of the jam leaves one to wonder where they went and when they’ll be back, which presumably is the whole idea. Behold a band who did it before it was cool, should’ve been huge, and still kept going. The story is more complicated than that, but there are few tales more admirable.
The first Saint Vitus live album – Live – surfaced in 1990 via Hellhound Records and captured the band in Germany in 1989. Its 2005 reissue on Southern Lord played a large role in introducing the pivotal doomers to a new generation of fans. Live Vol. 2 follows some 26 years later via Season of Mist and likewise documents a crucial era in the four-piece’s existence, having been recorded in 2013 in Luxembourg following the release of their 2012 album, Lillie: F-65 (review here), with the lineup of vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, guitarist Dave Chandler, bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez. It’s a 59-minute set, all told – one suspects some of Chandler’s stage rants between songs were shortened or removed – and among the most striking impressions it makes is how seamlessly Lillie: F-65 cuts “Let Them Fall,” “The Bleeding Ground” and “The Waste of Time” fit in alongside classics like the speedy “War is Our Destiny” and “Look Behind You” or the more grueling “Patra (Petra)” and galloping “White Stallions.” Of course, the anthemic “Born too Late” closes out, with Chandler’s wash of feedback and all-low-end tone at the start the ultimate hallmark of what Saint Vitus have always been – a middle finger to square culture unlike any other. This era of the band may be over, with original vocalist Scott Reagers stepping back into the frontman role, but as one continues to hope for another studio album, Live Vol. 2 proves more than a stopgap and takes an active role in adding to the band’s legendary catalog.
After two successful full-lengths in 2010’s Skygrounds and 2012’s Slow Rivers, next-gen Swedish heavy rockers Långfinger join forces with Small Stone Records for their 10-song/46-minute third album, the crisply-executed Crossyears. Like their countrymen labelmates in Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, the Gothenburg three-piece bring modern edge and production to what a few years ago might’ve been purely retro ‘70s boogie rock, as tracks like “Fox Confessor,” “Say Jupiter,” the more languid “Atlas” and “Caesar’s Blues” bask in a showcase of tight, natural performance with a clean production style that still highlights same, bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Victor Crusner, guitarist/backing vocalist Kalle Lilja and drummer/backing vocalist Jesper Pihl proving the maturity of their songwriting while still delivering the push of “Silver Blaze” and closer “Window in the Sky” with a sense of energy behind them. Their approach so solidified, Långfinger don’t seem to leave much to chance in their sound, but Crossyears engages heavy rock tradition effectively while bridging a gap of decades across its run, and that, frankly, seems like enough for any one record to take on.
Soggy’s self-titled LP, released in this edition by Outer Battery Records (see also Arctic, Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket), is a reissue of a 2008 collection of tracks from a span of years that find the blown-out French punkers paying direct homage to The Stooges with a cover of the seminal “I Wanna be Your Dog,” immediately drawing a line to what seems to have been the band’s most prominent influence. Some 35-plus years after they were initially put to tape, Soggy’s tracks continue to feel dangerous and raw in their frenetic proto-punkery, and that would seem to be exactly what the Soggy LP is looking to convey, digging into the vast trove of lost artifacts in heavy and punk rock and finding a treasure ripe for hindsight appreciation. As much as it just makes me want to put on the self-titled Stooges record or Fun House, I can’t argue with the success of Soggy’s Soggy or not admire its mission, even if some of its blows land harder than others.
Call it a flair for the epic, but as Baltimorean five-piece Blood Mist make their debut Feb. 10 on Grimoire Records with their self-titled five-track EP, the pattern of classic metal grandiosity and swinging-mug heavy rock groove can’t be missed. Across the 25-minute outing, the relative newcomers show marked cohesion of purpose in taking cues from early, pre-self-parody Danzig as well as Candlemass, but even with those names as core influences, I wouldn’t necessarily tag them as only being a doom band. Certainly those elements are there, as one can hear by the chugging slowdown that finishes opener “Burn the Trees” as much as the foreboding guitar and cymbal wash interplay that begins the subsequent “Blood Mist,” but guitarists Kevin Considine and Nick Jewett, vocalist Matt Casella, bassist Scott Brenner and drummer John de Campos (also artwork) pick up into near-High on Fire onslaught later in their eponymous cut. With the sense of drama that Casella brings to his approach, in places calling to mind Scott Reagers as well as the likes of Witchfinder General and others from the NWOBHM, everything Blood Mist do on this offering just feels that much bigger.
Blood Mist hits its most fervent nod in righteously-titled centerpiece “Goblin Overload,” pulling back on the tempo, upping the fuzz and giving Casella and the lead guitar all the more room to flesh out what were already impressive performances, some of the shoutier vocals recalling King Giant, but ultimately winding up less burly as they set up a transition into speedier fare circa the four-minute mark, de Campos taking point in pushing the song to its break, when it snaps back into a mid-paced revisit of its chorus to end with what seems to be a well-earned big rock finish. Dueling leads start the shorter, faster “As the Crow,” which highlights its hook as it courses through like something that might’ve opened a Dio-era Sabbath record en route to what seems to be a companion piece in closer “My Lord.” The finale is the only song included under four minutes long, but the impression it leaves is brash and substantial in kind, setting up its last minute as a build into a final thrust that comes topped with more stellar guitar soloing and righteous crash for an ending that, to be perfectly honest, probably could’ve ridden out its groove for another two or three minutes at least if it wanted to. Maybe next time.
Take that “maybe next time” as evidence of a desire to hear more from Blood Mist. The band treads on some dangerous ground in providing a next-gen take on traditionalism of sound coming from where they do — Baltimore has some very definite ideas about what makes a doom or otherwise heavy record — but frankly, that’s how innovation happens. Like all of Grimoire‘s fare, the EP was recorded by Noel Mueller, who gives ample space to each instrument (vocals included) while bringing them together all the more as a unit priming themselves to develop the potential to capture hearts and minds of heshers and weirdos alike. As with many early releases, debut EPs, etc., it’s hard to guess where Blood Mist might go from here — “Blood Mist” and “My Lord” are very different tracks, may have been written over a greater span of time, and so on, and while they sound like they’re all-in from the start of “Burn the Trees,” there’s yet no context for assessing what their sonic intent will be over the longer term. However, Blood Mist excite with the possibility of what their metallically-tinged heavy could become on this initial collection and already showcase a will to distinguish themselves from their surroundings. Do it loudly enough and someone’s bound to pay attention.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting “Goblin Overload” as a track premiere ahead of Blood Mist‘s Feb. 10 arrival. Please find it on the player below, followed by the release announcement courtesy of Grimoire, and enjoy:
Formed in 2015 and hitting the stage in March of 2016 Blood Mist has been on a tear of performances sharing the stage with acts such as Valient Thorr, Black Lung, Gateway to Hell and others. This culminated in Blood Mist being invited to record with local metal label Grimiore Records and producing their self titled debut release with label head Noel Mueller.
The self-titled 5 song EP features meaty, stoner rock riffs, hard hitting drumming, ripping guitar solos, and over-the-top theatrical vocals. “Blood Mist” is only the beginning of the epic tale set to unfold. What evil power birthed the blood mist? Who will survive the roaming, rolling cloud of madness? The answers are found in the pounding, guitar driven, hazed musical metal maelstroms crafted by the now battle tested Blood Mist. Don’t miss out on the first chapter as we journey into the thick fog of destruction.
Posted in audiObelisk on December 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Seattle-based folk-blues guitarist Michael Wohl will release his new album, Windblown Blues, early next month. He’ll offer the full-length on CD and tape as he did with his prior Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar (review here) in 2013, but while both bask in a warm and organic creative spirit, the two outings could hardly be confused for each other. True to its title, that album was a minimalist affair, Wohl with a recording-into-a-tin-can-in-a-room sensibility to his approach, the whole thing feeling as DIY as it was and instrumental in its entirety. For Windblown Blues, Wohl expands the scope significantly. Still humble in its acoustic and organic roots, the 12-track/43-minute sophomore outing signals an immediately different intent on opener “Animals” via cello accompanying the guitar, and the arrangements continue to flesh out with fiddle, bass, pedal steel, drums, piano, all played by a range of guests, and — perhaps even more notably — vocals from Wohl and others as he takes on new original songs like the countrified “If I Could,” the semi-plugged “I Said too Much” and relatively minimal “Leaving the House of a Friend,” as well as traditional pieces like “In the Pines” (popularized by Lead Belly, also interpreted by Nirvana and countless others), “Cocaine Blues” (you may have heard Robert Johnson‘s version), and “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor” (see also Mississippi John Hurt). There are still plenty of instrumental pieces, from the aforementioned opener to the rambling solo guitar of “Ship of No Port” and electric-and-drum toe-tapper/near-samba “Ribosome,” but it’s a marked departure Wohl is making here, and one that ultimately serves him well over the course of the record.
The confidence of his vocals should be highlighted outright. Hailing from now-defunct classic-style heavy rockers Mystery Ship, he did sing in that band, but to do so in a context like Windblown Blues, with no distortion or tonal blast to hide behind, feels especially bold. Granted, he’s joined by no fewer than four other guest vocalists throughout — Alex Hagenah (also bass/guitar), Aaron Semer (also guitar), Danica Molenaar and Kate Voss — but his versions of “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor” and “In the Pines” find him standing alone and shining in the performance nonetheless, and as broad as the almost-CSNYian “Drown” seems next to the wholesome fiddle-laden finish of “Eastern Avenue Rag,” Wohl himself remains at the core of Windblown Blues and is responsible for guiding it down its deceptively varied path. That becomes a significant task as the lush melodies of “I Said too Much” shift into the piano-and-guitar “Pajaro,” but Windblown Blues holds firm to a clean-sounding sensibility no matter what its arrangements might bring — it was produced by Wohl and Tom Meyers, who also recorded at Ground Control in Ballard, Washington — and is united across its span by that while still coming across as natural and fluid in its transitions thanks to traditional songwriting and a generally subdued feel to the material. I wouldn’t at all call it humble in the same way as Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar, and Wohl seems to be moving at least partially away from willful primitivism in these songs — there are stretches on Windblown Blues that sound like a full band is playing because, essentially, one is — but this is still genuine Americana and carries with it a ready familiarity, whether that’s in the originals or the other pieces Wohl has chosen to include, and no doubt that will carry forward into whatever he decides to do from here.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting the premiere of “In the Pines” ahead of the proper record release next month. Amid this sonic expansion, it seemed only fair to get Wohl‘s perspective on the changes in approach that Windblown Blues represents, and he was kind enough to offer thoughtful introspection and insight into what went into the album’s making below.
Michael Wohl on Windblown Blues:
I started work on this record about two years ago. It represents a period of initial frustration that became one of a lot of musical growth and development . I was writing a lot of the songs as my old band, Mystery Ship, was coming undone. We had put in a lot of work, and I felt like our best days were around the corner, but things didn’t turn out that way. I’d started developing a solo style during the last part of those days, writing, recording, and playing out by myself. All of a sudden I found that to be my only outlet, which was scary and liberating at the same time.
My first solo recordings were all instrumental acoustic guitar explorations. As I continued to play shows by myself, I found that I wound up singing more and more, so this album represents a change in style. It’s not acoustic album; I’ve tried to push myself to write and arrange with respect to what the song calls for, rather than setting up initial parameters in which to work. I was also fortunate to have a huge stable of phenomenal players backing me up. Trying t o figure out which musicians would fit best in what songs as well as which would be better solo was a really cool part of the process. It was a new experience for me, and it brought the songs to a lot of places that I wouldn’t have expected. I’ve found that freedom to pursue whatever sounds I’m feeling to be one of the most rewarding things about my own music. I have a hard time zeroing in on a style to work within, so many times in my life I’ve shelved a song because it didn’t fit in with the aesthetic of a band I was with. I don’t have that problem any more.
In the process of recording, I think I developed as a singer a lot — “found my voice” so to speak — and more confidence in that. I also realized I pretty much blew my voice out and messed up my throat every time I sang with a loud band because I was trying to keep up with the volume.
I didn’t necessarily set out to do so, but I think the album paints a pretty good picture of the threads of my influences. I guess I’m trying to connect the dots and demonstrate that though there are some seemingly-disparate elements, it’s all a cohesive scene in my head. I started playing “In the Pines” a few years ago. I remember singing it with some friends on a lake up on Vancouver Island beneath a black blanket of stars and thinking it would be a good tune to offer up. I’d heard so many versions of it; Lead Belly’s original, the Kossoy Sisters version with the beautiful, haunting close harmony singing, Dave Van Ronk, Joan Baez, and of course the Nirvana version from “Unplugged in New York”.
It got me thinking about how these days I listen to a lot of these old folk and blues singers, but I’ve known that song through a different lens since I was very young. Like a lot of kids who were picking up guitars in the early-mid 90s, Nirvana and the Seattle scene had a huge influence on me. It was heavy, honest, and intense. Thinking about that really drove home the sense that there is a continuum from the folk, country, and blues tunes of the pre-WWII era through the folk revivals, psychedelia, and singer-songwriter eras of the ’50s/’60s/’70s, through the music of the ’90s and ’80s I was so inspired by when I first picked up a guitar.
Lori Goldston, who played the cello on the album on “Animals” played with Nirvana on that recording. When I thought about that, a lot of things kind of felt like they were folding inwards and like maybe musical development is not a linear thing. When the tunes all sound so superficially different, you start to think of the underlying fundamental quality – – what is it that draws you to a song in the first place, and what keeps you coming back? There’s an intense, unpolished quality to all of it, in which I think some grain of truth can be found. Trying to tap into that feeling is the guiding force for my music. If I feel that way upon playback, I’ll have done what I set out to do.
Through five full-lengths, Hamburg-based Larman Clamor kept up a near-impossible clip. One might expect a creative burst of sorts from the likes of Alexander von Wieding, a noted graphic artist who’s done work across the heavy rock underground on covers and posters for the likes of Karma to Burn, Kind, this site, and many many more, but it seemed that especially since Larman Clamor functioned as a solo-project after its first, 2011 self-titled outing (review here), von Wieding was able to really let it flourish on his own terms. Those terms may vary, but under both the various EPs and singles that have supplemented and his proper albums — 2011’s Altars to Turn Blood (review here), 2012’s Frogs (review here), 2013’s Alligator Heart (review here), and 2014’s Beetle Crown and Steel Wand (review here) — he’s kept a consistent thread of otherworldly boogie blues, a swampy porch stomp, and though the break between has been longer, that’s maintained on his sixth offering, Beyonder, as well.
One can hear it in the early cut “Pig Priest and the Motor Hag,” as von Wieding layers banjo and acoustic guitar and provides his own percussion amid electric guitar flourish: He’s progressed, but the core of his approach to Larman Clamor is intact. Self-released digitally with a potential physical release to follow, Beyonder is the longest Larman Clamor record at 14 tracks/42 minutes — seven of which are dedicated to closer “In the Circus of Night” alone — and though many of the elements will be familiar to those who’ve dug into von Wieding‘s songwriting before and the songs were evidently born of some significant personal struggles, one finds some of the most striking moments to be almost playful in their nature. To wit, the way the opening title-track seems to beam Queens of the Stone Age‘s stop-start “Little Sister” riff in from another dimension, or how even beneath the sad story of “Something Bitter to Do,” the rhythm feels so vibrant and builds such momentum over a still-short three-minute run. Elsewhere, the hook of “Fo’ What You Did” taps darker impulses and turns them into one of Beyonder‘s catchiest hooks, von Wieding experimenting with falsetto vocals as he provides his own backups to his generally gruff delivery, and interludes like “The Draining,” “Come See…” and the instrumental “Tarnkappe” broaden the scope of the album overall with spoken narrative or even just an additional stretch toying with atmosphere.
Could well be that taking his time — relatively speaking — between one long-player and the next allowed von Wieding to further develop the rubber-band bounce of “Swamp Healing” and the tortured string-pull of “Haunted, Hexed, Let Down and Torn,” but from wherever the progression in scope comes, Beyonder is the most forward-thinking Larman Clamor album yet, and though von Wieding has clearly established his aesthetic across his six records, he’s just as clearly a restless soul within that, working to reshape what’s been done before. Long after the mud-psych of “And the Hand” and past the penultimate quietude of “All Wrongs are Right,” the plainest evidence of his creative evolution is found in “In the Circus of Night,” which narrates its way through an intertwining of worlds via mumbled discoveries pushed along by stomping feet, handclaps, foreboding drones and of course much more, building a tension that resolves itself in a rising hum of electric guitar tone that sounds just as much like a beginning as an ending. Which it may well be. We’ll have to wait to find out where von Wieding takes Larman Clamor from here, but the fact that even with a year between Beetle Crown and Steel Wand and Beyonder he’s produced six albums in five years with the project speaks to the significant measure of urgency with which he hones his craft. That, maybe even more than the boogie, is likely to remain the unifying factor no matter what else the next record brings.
Today I have the extreme pleasure of hosting a full stream of Larman Clamor‘s Beyonder as an album premiere. Release date is tomorrow, Dec. 24. Below, you’ll find a full track-by-track courtesy of von Wieding, who was kind enough to discuss his motivations and inspirations in how these songs came together.
Please dig in and enjoy:
Track-by-Track through Larman Clamor’s Beyonder with Alex von Wieding
Like every Larman Clamor riff, it came out of nowhere. Suddenly I had this punkish riff and thought: Damn, this doesn’t work for LC stuff… And then there was the idea of putting those two Thin Lizzy-ish solo guitars into the third quarter of the song — and I was even more like “Naah, c’mon… I guess I’ll have to start a second band for this”… But who was I to tell, ha. As the idea for the lyrics came up, it suddenly turned into a Larman Clamor song. And I thought, hey, this is so straight rockin’ and sorta-different (at least to me), why not go the whole nine yards and even make it the album title song? And there you go. So story-wise, there’s this paranoid wizard sitting in the heath wasteland and he puts one rock unto another in the river, making art. And even though he does know something bad might actually happen, he continues to create. Like manic at some point. Simply because what’s this life for if not to create. Create joy. Beauty. Art. Inspiration. Make your mark, come what may. And even if the wizard’s nemesis-esque creatures, the owl-priests (don’t ask me, I dunno), appear, he is facing his fate with something along the lines of “Even if you kill me now, you won’t be able to destroy what I’ve created in this life. My legacy will remain.”
2. “And the Hand”
A gloomy wanna-be-intstrumental. The fragment it’s based on is back from the Frogs era, but I finally found a place for bringing in my Danelectro Sitar. Yay. Because I suck at playing full chords, I decided to use it more like a drone-guitar. Which made the whole thing sound “vast” to me… Like a theme for a… wasteland. Maybe it’s the sort-of theme song for the world of Larman Clamor? I don’t know. Maybe I will know at some point. And because even wastelands are full of beauty, why not stroke them a little? You know. Give them a little love. Even in the biggest chaos, destruction and weirdness – at some point, beauty will reveal itself. You just have to be willing to look close enough. And care. So, there’s the hand caressing over the wasteland.
3. “Fo’ What You Did”
Originially turned up on the Blackwolfgoat / Larman Clamor split 7″ we did on H42 Records in 2015. And I’m very proud of that. That one was fun. The inspiration for the song wasn’t that much of fun though. I was scammed. But when I realized that it actually had been ME who maneuvered myself into that bad situation, being dumb, instead of wasting even more of my life’s energy on the shit, I rather gave it a smile and carried on. As The Dude says, “I can’t be worried about that shit. Life goes on, man.” That’s where the lyrics started from. In the end, atmospherically speaking, I guess it turned into a pretty (meant literally) dark song… Ha. So it sort of feels like the character in the song might be friendly waving when he tells us his story, but snipped his opponent’s nuts off before that anyways. Guess that’s a double ha.
4. “Pig Priest and the Motor Hag”
Also a song from the Frogs era. Finished this one a long time ago, but didn’t know what to do with it, as it was so furiously riffin’, it didn’t fit in anywhere 100 percent. When I added the dueling banjos, it suddenly all made sense. And it perfectly fit on this album. So there you go.
5. “Haunted, Hexed, Let Down ‘n’ Torn”
…Originally was a mean, mean song. But that didn’t fit the album theme anymore. Also one of the reasons why I layed ‘Beyonder’ to rest for a long time. At the bottom line, this song is another one of those “being given something bad and making the best out of it” songs on this album. The story in this one is something like a summoning ritual. But with a hint of Beetlejuice. Drawing a door unto the wall with chalk and wait for the ‘right’ person to stumble through to you, after you mumbled the correct incantation phrases. Come, dance with me!
Hey, a German title?! Yes, indeed. I always liked that word. Like a lot. And “magic hood” (the literal meaning) felt just lame. For instrumentals, I usually like to put on a strange title, one that makes your mind paint the picture to the song. But then, it’s a thin line. You wouldn’t want to give too much of a direction… So, I can’t really say much about this song, except for: “Tarnkappe.” That word’s cool sound should be inspiration enough.
7. “Swamp Healing”
You should never say never… But for the moment, I guess this song is the closest to ‘reduced oldschool blues guitar stomp on a porch by sundown’ I’ve done yet. Aside from the ritual aspect of the track (I’ve had it on my list to do a “ritual song” for a while), it’s simply about seeing the good things in life. Again. And anew. You may get down, and it may take some weirdo shit to get you up again sometimes, but in the end, when noticing all of that is rather stupid and funny (and that’s why it brings you up!) – you’ll get the essence of everything again: Get up, move on, enjoy life! It’s short enough! So go on, make the best out of it!
8. “Somethin’ Bitter to Do”
Also was on my ‘songs-to-do-list’ for some time: A “counting” song. Mourning over a broken heart can poison you. So, after some failed attepts and desperate measures and rituals, the character in this song decides to do something bitter. What exactly that is, I don’t know. Seems that he already cut out one heart (his own?)… Rock-bottom, put into a trash-can drums banjo stomp, executed with a smile.
9. “The Draining” / 10. “Soul Sane Juice”
A little one I wrote in the middle of a gloomy fall night. Nothing too deep. A song about an UFO landing and alien capture …maybe? The return of the “intro song” for LC. I wanted to do something like that again since “Lost Path Through the Mountains / Deep tn the Tar” (on Altars to Turn Blood).
11. “Come See…” / 12. “…Sighed the River of Larvas”
So I had this instrumental based on a breathing choir, mumbling some nonsense. The lyrics of “River” were never to make any sense, but at some point, it sounded like there’s a group of people rowing a boat… That’s when it took more shape. Maybe this is even the ghouls from “Caravan of Ghouls” (on Beetle Crown & Steel Wand) again. Who knows? Like the narrator at the beginning tells us, it’s no use hanging around and wasting your life away. In the end, the River of Larvas awaits us all. So you might as well get your ass up and do something of worth. Be creative. Row a boat on a river made of spaghetti… or larvas. Whatever.
13. “All Wrongs are Right”
You ever had one of those nights, where you find yourself alone and can’t be with the one you love? But it’s not sad or anything, it all feels right? It’s like a test. You know you love her and you know she loves you. You just can’t be together right now. No matter why. The ‘why’ is neither of importance nor of to be taken care of. So you just center your spirit and go on an astral journey to your loved and loving soulmate…
14. “In the Circus of Night”
Even if I spoil something here: This is a revamp of an old song if you didn’t notice. It’s in the same tradition as “Aether Bound” (on Alligator Heart) or “My Lil’ Ghost” on Beetle Crown & Steel Wand). I’ve had that riff flying around my head since 1997. And this finally is THE song made of it. Instead of making it into a straight blues song (what the riff itself might scream for), I rather wanted it to be sort of otherworld-ish romantic. Imagine one of these nights, when spring turns to summer. And you’re strolling around alone, out in the fields, when a smooth breeze comes up. And it’s warm. Suddenly. Strangely warm, being the first real summer breeze. And then the magic appears, making the night a circus. And it’s all around you, with its weedy scents of the night flowers awaking, the cicadas singing and the moon and starlight guiding you onto your way into the wild… And it more becomes a real “circus” when suddenly — in the Larman Clamor cosmos, a path surrounded by fiery lights appears, and at the end of it, a real big top shows up… And there’s these strange figures inviting you in to enjoy their show, the main character being a Mephisto-ish mesmerist guy… You don’t know what he’s up to… but you follow him… into the Circus of Night.
Consider this your usual disclaimer that, like any of this site’s coverage of year-end whatnottery, this podcast is by no means attempting to capture all of 2016’s best tracks. It is, however, over four hours long, and frankly that seems like enough to ask. If you decide to take it on and sample what I found to be some of the best material to come down the line over the last 12 months, please know you have my thanks in advance. For what it’s worth, it was a lot of fun to put together, and that’s not always the case with these.
But about the length. I’ve done double-sized year-end specials for a while now. It’s always just seemed a fair way to go. And the last few at least have been posted the week of the Xmas holiday as well, which for me is of dual significance since it just so happens four hours is right about what it takes to drive from where I live to where my family lives, so when I look at this massive slew of 34 acts, from the riff-led righteousness of Wo Fat and Curse the Son to the crush of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and SubRosa to the psychedelic reaches of Zun and Øresund Space Collective (who probably show up in podcasts more than anyone, oddly enough), I also think of going to see my family, which has become my favorite part of the holidays.
Whatever associations you might draw with it, I very much hope you enjoy listening. Thanks for taking the time.
Track details follow:
0:00:00 Wo Fat, “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind” from Midnight Cometh
0:09:35 Greenleaf, “Howl” from Rise Above the Meadow
0:14:57 Elephant Tree, “Aphotic Blues” from Elephant Tree
0:20:49 Brant Bjork, “The Gree Heen” from Tao of the Devil
0:26:27 Sergio Ch., “El Herrero” from Aurora
0:29:44 Child, “Blue Side of the Collar” from Blueside
0:35:31 Geezer, “Bi-Polar Vortex” from Geezer
0:43:59 Zun, “Come Through the Water” from Burial Sunrise
0:49:27 Baby Woodrose, “Mind Control Machine” from Freedom
0:54:11 Curse the Son, “Hull Crush Depth” from Isolator
0:59:31 Borracho, “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away” from Atacama
1:05:50 Scissorfight, “Nature’s Cruelest Mistake” from Chaos County
1:09:19 Truckfighters, “The Contract” from V
1:16:30 Spidergawd, “El Corazon del Sol” from III
1:21:24 Fatso Jetson, “Royal Family” from Idle Hands
1:26:13 Worshipper, “Step Behind” from Shadow Hymns
1:30:57 Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” from Y Proffwyd Dwyll
1:39:42 Druglord, “Regret to Dismember” from Deepest Regrets
1:46:34 Moon Coven, “New Season” from Moon Coven
1:52:03 Gozu, “Tin Chicken” from Revival
1:59:49 Year of the Cobra, “Vision of Three” from …In the Shadows Below
2:06:53 The Munsens, “Abbey Rose” from Abbey Rose
2:14:56 Lamp of the Universe, “Mu” from Hidden Knowledge
2:21:26 1000mods, “On a Stone” from Repeated Exposure To…
2:26:45 Church of the Cosmic Skull, “Watch it Grow” from Is Satan Real?
2:30:43 Vokonis, “Acid Pilgrim” from Olde One Ascending
2:37:35 Slomatics, “Electric Breath” from Future Echo Returns
2:43:02 Droids Attack, “Sci-Fi or Die” from Sci-Fi or Die
2:47:20 King Buffalo, “Drinking from the River Rising” from Orion
2:56:51 Comet Control, “Artificial Light” from Center of the Maze
3:06:37 Øresund Space Collective, “Above the Corner” from Visions Of…
3:22:51 Naxatras, “Garden of the Senses” from II
3:33:14 SubRosa, “Black Majesty” from For this We Fought the Battle of Ages
3:48:23 Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, “Escape Through the Rift” from Tranquonauts