Goya Stream Nirvana Tribute Single Drain You / D-7 in Full; Out Tomorrow

Posted in audiObelisk on September 23rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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Tomorrow, Sept. 24, is the 25th anniversary of the release of Nirvana‘s generation-defining second album, Nevermind. Of course, the truth behind the narrative that that record single-handedly reshaped the rock and roll of its time is actually more complicated — even Nirvana were taking influence from Earth and the Melvins — but the level of impact is ultimately impossible to overstate because it’s still ringing out a quarter-century later. To wit, Phoenix, Arizona, trio Goya, in bringing in their new bassist Sonny DeCarlo, bonded over their collective experience with the music of the one-time Seattle forerunners, and the result was the recording of this new single, Drain You / D-7, which will be used as part of a split vinyl with Aneurysm, from Boston, later this year or early in 2017. For now, GoyaDeCarlo, guitarist/vocalist Jeff Owens and drummer Nick Losegoya-drain-you-d7will release the songs digitally tomorrow via their own Opoponax Records imprint, to coincide with the aforementioned anniversary.

No doubt that if it’s not already the internet will be flooded with thinkpieces this weekend and for probably the next month waxing various levels of nostalgic about Nevermind, but let me just say that as someone just beginning to come of age at the time, it was legitimately a transformative moment. For me it wasn’t ever just about NirvanaAlice in Chains, Primus, Metallica, C.O.C. played early roles — but they were certainly a factor, and the death of Kurt Cobain just three years later in 1994 was a moment at which a generation pulled together to mourn as a collective in a way that one hadn’t probably since John Lennon and wouldn’t again until David Bowie or Prince passed away — these huge figures of their times. Goya give due respect to the catchy punk of “Drain You” and the rawer “D-7” — itself a Wipers cover taken on by Nirvana as the B-side to the “Lithium” single — while remaining set with their own thicker tones as shown last year on their second full-length, Obelisk (review here) and earlier-2016’s The Enemy EP (review here).

In addition to the coming Goya/Aneurysm split that will contain these tracks, The Enemy will be released on vinyl Oct. 8 through STB Records. Both “Drain You” and “D-7” can be streamed on the player below, and under that, you’ll find a quote from the band about the making of the single and more info on the EP vinyl.

Goya will have a new album out in 2017.

Enjoy:

Jeff Owens on Drain You / D-7:

Nirvana are a heavy influence on all three of us from our youth. There was a recent article calling Nirvana the most coverable band of all time, due to the simplicity and catchiness of their songs, and there’s certainly something to that. It’s easy to get bogged down with trying to do something “different”, or worrying that the notes you’re playing are too “predictable”, but we feel it’s important to listen to that inner voice telling you that the next note is obvious. Despite what some would have you believe, there’s nothing wrong with standard chord progressions, and that is one of the greatest strengths of Nirvana. Sometimes, a song writes itself, and there’s no reason to fight it or twist it. We all still consider ourselves fans of Nirvana, and we are all fans of basic chord progressions and a more punk approach to writing music, so it’s been a lot of fun for us putting this release together and playing these songs live, and we hope that that comes through in listening to them. And who knows? Maybe it will even have some sort of influence on our writing process as a three-piece in the future.

2016 marks Phoenix, Arizona-based stoner doom trio GOYA‘s fifth year as a band. After singer/vocalist Jeff Owens and drummer Nick Lose recently recruited Sonny DeCarlo on bass, they wanted to get into the studio as quickly as possible to celebrate what they could bring together. Knowing that it takes time and care to craft original material, they decided to record a couple of covers for the time being. All three members grew up in the ‘90s, so the logical choice of band for them to cover was Nirvana, particularly with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Nirvana’s seminal album Nevermind full-length on the horizon.

After only a few rehearsals together, they entered Switchblade Sound in Tempe, Arizona to track “Drain You” and “D-7? with long-time friend and ex-GOYA bassist, Joe Asselin, who recorded their last album, Obelisk. Though “D-7? is originally by ‘70s Portland punk band, Wipers, and was later covered by Nirvana, GOYA plays it in the true spirit of Nirvana. The tracks are mastered by Brad Boatright (Obituary, Sleep, Magrudergrind, Gatecreeper et al).

Their last EP, The Enemy, is being released through STB Records, who released their 2015 full length, “Obelisk”. Goya will be hitting the studio in the fall to record their follow-up to “Obelisk”, due in Spring 2017.

Goya have shared the stage with countless bands (Sleep, Windhand, Dead Meadow, Valkyrie, etc.), and have performed at Psycho Las Vegas, Southwest Terror Fest, and Day of the Shred. Having no plans to stop here, Goya are poised to extend their reach in 2017. The songs they are hitting the studio with in the fall show them to be pushing their sound further than ever before.

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1000mods, Repeated Exposure To…: Potential for Lasting Effects (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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[Click play above to hear the premiere of ‘Loose’ by 1000mods. Repeated Exposure To… is out on CD/DL Sept. 26 with vinyl Oct. 30 via Ouga Booga and the Mighty Oug Recordings.]

With their third full-length, Repeated Exposure To…, Greece’s 1000mods affirm their place at the head of the pack of European heavy rock and roll. I mean that without qualification. Not just Greek heavy, but Europe as a whole. They were already leaders in their home country after their 2014 offering, Vultures (review here), which followed their 2012 Valley of Sand EP (discussed here), their 2011 debut LP, Super Van Vacation (review here), 2009’s Liquid Sleep EP (review here), and their first short release, Blank Reality, which came out in 2006, but a full decade later, the Chiliomodi four-piece have become bona fide masters of the form.

Released through their own Ouga Booga and the Mighty Oug RecordingsRepeated Exposure To… derives its name from the photo on its cover, the warning on the tube amp that reads, “Warning! Repeated exposure to high sound levels (more than 80 decibels) may cause permanent impairing of hearing.” And so it might. Nonetheless, for 1000mods, one might take that as a credo under which they’re operating throughout the album as a whole.

Repeated Exposure To… runs at eight tracks/51 minutes and is easily the band’s most realized offering yet, produced and mixed by themselves with George Leodis and mastered by Brad Boatright with a crisp feel that demonstrates the professionalism they’ve hard won over the course of the last several years on the road throughout Europe, making their name internationally and coming to fully represent not only the vibrancy of Greece’s well-populated underground, but their own take on classic riff-driven songwriting, which finds its greatest accomplishments to-date here in cuts like “Above 179,” “Loose,” “The Son,” “A.W.,” “Groundhog Day” and “Into the Spell.”

A returning lineup of bassist/vocalist Dani G., guitarists Giannis S. and George T., and drummer Labros G. set the tone with the aforementioned opener “Above 179,” which declares its fuzzy roll outright and meets it head on with a galloping chug and the first of many resounding hooks. The tones are full, the drums sharp, the vocals cut through perfectly — it’s clear right from the start that it was a production with effort behind it; more an attempt to make an album with its own energy than represent a live show in raw form, and that works for the material as “Above 179” slows down and crashes into the riff that launches the subsequent “Loose.”

Tied with “The Son” as the longest tracks on Repeated Exposure To… at 8:41, “Loose” finds tension in the drums and builds toward its verse over the course of its first minute, a swing taking hold that finds interplay opening to its chorus, memorable almost immediately upon entering the ears. It’s only part of the impression “Loose” makes, however, as a thicker push kicks in to back a bridge and they move into a solo section at the halfway point that leads to a quiet section as part of a plotted instrumental jam that moves through the remainder of the track. Even as tight as they’ve shown themselves to be just a couple songs in, 1000mods let “Loose” live up to its name.

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Its somewhat more hypnotic and long-faded finish is a smooth setup for the boot-to-the-ass that is “Electric Carve,” a 3:37 rush topped by more aggressive vocals in its chorus that’s the shortest inclusion at 3:37 and arguably the most intense — a barnburner, though one not quite willing to let go of the overarching groove 1000mods have built over the album’s early going. That turn of approach is all the more noteworthy as “Electric Carve” splits the difference between “Loose” and “The Son,” which holds to its swinging progression more than “Loose” but also has plenty of room for another extended instrumental section in its second half, changing the context in which it and both the tracks around it arrive. Again, 1000mods benefit from experience, from professionalism, and Repeated Exposure To… is a stronger record for it.

The play back and forth in thrust continues with the faster “A.W.,” though in this instance it’s the guitar doing the screaming following a quick intro line that seems to play directly off Monster Magnet‘s “Powertrip” prior to a chorus of “I know I’m living in a bottle,” that proves no less infectious. A slowdown at the halfway mark builds back up to full-throttle push and where both “Loose” and “The Son” left their hooks behind to go exploring, “A.W.” cuts the runtime by about 50 percent and reinforces the underlying notion of songcraft that’s been there all along by returning to what becomes its signature line near the finish.

Though it gets somewhat swallowed up by the closing duo that follows in “Groundhog Day” and “Into the Spell,” the subsequent “On a Stone” rolls out yet another showcase chorus and plays successfully off a mid-paced vibe that serves as a fluid transition into the ending section while satisfying in its structure and the ground it finds between the drive of cuts like “Electric Carve” and the more spacious material elsewhere on Repeated Exposure To… — a category in which it seems fair to include “Groundhog Day,” if only for the largesse of its central groove.

Both the penultimate track and the closer top seven minutes, and comprise between them an immersive finale for 1000mods, “Groundhog Day”‘s roll a standout moment for the album as a whole and put to effective use as a kind of instrumental chorus in the first half of the song until about three and a half minutes in when the drums signal a shift into the righteously half-timed solo section that will cap the remainder, a lone guitar line leading into “Into the Spell,” which announces itself with echoing guitar backed by bass and an emergent drum line over the course of its first minute-plus before the main riff makes its presence felt. If there’s anywhere on Repeated Exposure To… that 1000mods show their roots, it’s in “Into the Spell,” with a line drawn directly to Kyuss that still shifts back and forth into the more individualized jam while also keeping a forward motion overall.

Like the album overall, it’s not a minor accomplishment, and as they move from raucous, good-times heavy into the long fade that ends side B, it becomes increasingly clear what a special moment for the band Repeated Exposure To… has managed to capture. Like Dozer was once able to do in successfully transcending their early influences to create something individual from them, so too have 1000mods produced a work of such quality built from the strong foundation of their two prior full-lengths. I won’t attempt to conjecture as to future impact they or the band might have, but these songs hit with an effect that feels geared toward longer-term appreciation, and the immediate sense is that Repeated Exposure To… might just get even richer with time and, suitably enough, multiple return visits.

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Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil: Desert Iconic (Plus Lyric Video Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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[Click play above to watch a lyric video premiere for Brant Bjork’s ‘The Gree Heen.’ Tao of the Devil is out Sept. 30 on Napalm Records.]

Brant Bjork didn’t invent desert rock, but there’s nobody who more closely epitomizes it or whose work has become so synonymous with it. Whether one is considering his pioneering work in Kyuss and Fu Manchu, the stylistic exploration undertaken with Ché or his 17-year solo career, which has undoubtedly become his greatest contribution at this point, in songwriting, style and persona, Bjork is a singular icon and a touchstone of the desert underground — by now a worldwide phenomenon long grown out of the confines of its initial Southern California home.

His second through Napalm Records after 2014’s righteous Black Power Flower (review here), the newest outing, Tao of the Devil, is also the second to feature the backing of The Low Desert Punk Band, with guitarist Bubba DuPree (formerly of Void), bassist Dave Dinsmore (Ché) and drummer Ryan Güt (who makes his debut here replacing Tony Tornay), and it presents eight songs/50 minutes in a spirit of celebrating the laid back, soulful groove of which Bjork has long since established himself a master, while tightening the songwriting some from the last outing, so that tracks like opener “The Gree Heen” — with a roll worthy of Goatsnake — and “Luvin'” stand out early and the later section of the record gives way to longer-form jamming on “Dave’s War” and “Evening Jam,” which run nine and 13 minutes, respectively, and are smartly divided with the ultra-languid mega-vibe of the title-track between them.

Counting outings with The Operators (not quite a full band, but still some other players involved), The Bros. and The Low Desert Punk Band, as well as those solely under his own name — the most recent of which was 2010’s Gods and Goddesses (review here) — Tao of the Devil is upwards of the 11th full-length to bear Bjork‘s name, and longtime fans will to some extent know what’s in store.

Hard to imagine seeing that as anything other than cause for jubilation, and be it the classic ’70s boogie of “Humble Pie” that takes hold after the massive stoner-is-as-stoner-does riff of “The Gree Heen” or the in-conversation-with-the-blues slow-motion shuffle of “Biker No. 2” later on, which gets a sleek pulled-string solo as it moves into its second half and boasts one of the album’s many resonant hooks, if it’s a familiar form, it’s one still changing and progressing as well.

In that way, “The Gree Heen” sets the tone for a lot of what follows it, in that it’s instantly memorable, though its thicker tones are actually something of an aberration in themselves and go unmatched throughout, despite a more aggressive lyric and rhythmic push on “Dave’s War” before the jam takes hold — marked out by lines like, “No ass left to fuck/No cock left to suck/Well you must be on top” — but if it’s the songwriting that stands out across Tao of the Devil as much as Bjork himself, the songwriting feels like it’s more than up to that considerable task.

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I’ve jumped around a bit in the tracklisting to this point, but it’s also worth pointing out the flow from one song into the next and just how easy Bjork and company make it to traverse the album from to back. From “The Gree Heen” through the funk hypnosis of “Evening Jam,” it’s a collection that speaks directly to its audience with a complete lack of pretense about needing anything more than a good time and maybe to crash for a couple days if that’s cool? Won’t be more than a couple days, I swear? Awesome. You’re the best.

To the point, the early personality that comes through in “Humble Pie,” “Stackt” (video posted here) and “Luvin'” digs deep into quality, classic songwriting after the opener’s larger push and weedian anthemic — the first lines, “I got all that I need/I got the gree-heen,” tell the tale — and it’s probably fair to put “Biker No. 2” in that category as well to comprise an A-side that hits its target head-on without fail. I don’t actually know where the vinyl split is, but it’s likely with “Dave’s War” leading off side B, and between that track, “Tao of the Devil” and “Evening Jam,” which by the time it hits nine minutes in has morphed into minimalist progressive bass noodling, only to surge forward again in grander-finale fashion — still pretty laid back, which works — side B opens wide from the crisp delivery of Tao of the Devil‘s first half, only really letting go when it wants to as it jams out toward natural-sounding purposes.

“Evening Jam” may just be that — the jam they recorded that evening — but it’s also the perfect closer after the moody, bluesy title-cut, and the liquefied transition from “Dave’s War” to it and into the wah-twang intro of the closer isn’t to be underappreciated. Not that Bjork needed to demonstrate he knows how to put a record together, but such stretches, particularly when paired with the depth of songwriting, organic tones and spirit of the earlier tracks, only serve to reinforce his position as the Godfather of Desert Rock.

Tao of the Devil‘s greatest victory might be in how much of Bjork‘s own it seems to be even as it expands that definition from its predecessor, and its honesty is crucial to that success. It’s a rare figure who earns that kind of hyperbole, but it’s even rarer to find someone who 17 years on from their first LP is continuing to grow and refine their craft in the way Bjork does on Tao of the Devil, adding to his signature approach here and reveling in a full-band dynamic there as he presents yet another piece in his catalog that should be considered essential to longtime fans and novices alike. Very clearly one of 2016’s best albums.

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The Well, Pagan Science: Conversion for the Agnostic (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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[Click play above to hear a new track from The Well’s Pagan Science. Album is out Oct. 14 on RidingEasy Records.]

In 2014, Austin trio The Well offered up Samsara (review here), their first full-length, on RidingEasy Records. The album wasn’t a revelation in style from what they’d accomplished on their 2012 single, Seven (review here), or the subsequent First Trip EP, but it was a definitive step forward and, to my ears, represented a key piece in the arrival of a new league of US bands ready to take up the mantle of heavy rock.

With the follow-up, Pagan Science (also on RidingEasy), guitarist/vocalist Ian Graham, bassist/vocalist Lisa Alley and drummer Jason Sullivan confirm that supposition. They’ve put in no shortage of road time in the interim, and that would seem to have affected the songwriting in making their material tighter, with shorter, crisply executed songs that manage to fit four more tracks in and still only be five minutes longer than the preceding outing at a vinyl-able 44 minutes.

Not only that, but the arrangements of Alley and Graham‘s vocals, as heard on songs like “I Don’t Believe” and the closing Crosby, Stills and Nash cover “Guinnevere,” as well as the flow between tracks particularly earlier in the proceedings, how “Skybound” picks up from the curiously but rightly placed second-track interlude “Forecast” and leads directly into “A Pilgrimage”‘s tales of gypsy woes all speak to the growth the three-piece have actively undertaken over the last two years, and it makes Pagan Science an expansion of reach even as it seems to have tightened the reins on some of the loose, jammy feel of the first LP.

As in the best of cases, songs feel written to stand out and run together in kind. The band returned to work with producer/engineer Chico Jones at Micro Mega Studio (Mark Deutrom also worked on the last one) earlier this year, so there’s some consistency in overall sound. From the harmonies that signal the beginning of opener “Black Eyed Gods,” The Well still skulk around a murk somewhere between garage doom, heavy psych, classic stoner and yet-undefined Sabbath-born impulses.

Riffs lead the way through the shuffle of “Black Eyed Gods,” and the effect of pairing that with the 41-second low-end noise wash of “Forecast” isn’t to be understated in giving Pagan Science an open sensibility immediately.

The drive of the speedier “Skybound” is introduced and from there, The Well dig deeper into the heart of what their second record is all about — Graham and Alley coming together vocally over Sullivan‘s steady roll busting out memorable tracks that remain spacious in their intent and echo while working around a deceptive structure that even in a longer cut like “Skybound,” which is one of four songs to top five minutes, though none hit 5:30, holds the material together even as they directly tie songs into another to create the whole-album spirit.

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“A Pilgrimage” has a landmark chorus and laid back solo that should translate well to the stage if it hasn’t yet, with Alley and Graham trading parts back and forth to conversational effect and though “Drug from the Banks” seems to shift the narrative, its build and chug balance an airy feel in the verse and far-back hook that keep the momentum going, underscoring the efficiency that’s taken root beneath the spiky leaves of The Well‘s sound.

Further in that argument, the chants that mark the arrival of centerpiece “Byzantine” make that song feel all the more appropriate for its position and its gradual unfolding, but it’s still under four minutes long, despite leaving a much grander impression.

I’m not sure where the vinyl split is, if it’s before “Byzantine” or after, but that track is a definite landmark for Pagan Science either way, and “One Nation” picks up with Graham‘s vocals introducing the hook before the rest of the band crashes in with a two-and-a-half-minute nod of some lyrical social comment cloaked in suitably ethereal language.

Could that be The Well showcasing a punk side? Possible, but it fits nonetheless, and “One Nation” ends with a cymbal wash that leads into the ultra-languid bass-highlight start of “Choir of the Stars,” the back half of the album’s own instrumental (save for some samples that may be shouting, may be dogs barking; it’s all pretty obscure) that works to a mirror the effect of “Forecast” in broadening the context of its surroundings. Again, it’s just three minutes, but the effect is longer lasting.

With a sort of Eastern minor-key flair that draws on Om without directly emulating them, “Brambles” introduces the closing trio with a purposefully repetitive course no less memorable than that of “A Pilgrimage” earlier, and “I Don’t Believe” provides immediate complement in that regard, with its long-since-dropped-out-of-life righteous vibe and sing-along section in the second half leading to a faster charge to close out.

Might be fair to think of “Guinnevere,” since it’s a cover and since “I Don’t Believe” caps with such a push, as a bonus track, but it works exceedingly well with the rest of the material here and offers one last vocal highlight from Alley and Graham while taking the central progression of the original and turning it into a more malevolent, thickened riff backed up by atmospheric noise.

It ends Pagan Science on a somewhat understated note, but if anything, The Well‘s second offering makes the clear point that the band is ready to keep rolling onward on their forward course, progressing and expanding and refining what they do as they go, but going most of all. As a part of that up and coming surge in American heavy rock, they only prove themselves more crucial here.

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Katla, Embryo: Crazy Worlds (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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[Click play above to stream a track premiere from Katla’s Embryo. Album is out Sept. 30 on Svart Records.]

There are moments, as in the second half of second cut “Endless Journey” or the first of closer “A Black Slimy Smooth Tongueshaped Form,” when Katla ignite a space rock so pure it seems born of a direct Hawkwindian lineage, enough to make it tempting to check whether the listed-as-first-name-only lineup of Nils, Johan, Lisa or Nilz hail from the family Brock. But that’s by no means the extent of the stylistic range they cover.

Their debut album, Embryo, arrives via respected purveyor Svart Records with a loose heavy psych affiliation, classic in its swing, modern in tone, strangely melodic with Lisa‘s breathy delivery and delivered with an embrace of prog-of-old weirdness that comes to be one of its defining aspects as it plays out its vinyl-ready nine tracks/48 minutes, encouraging listeners to “break free,” presumably of their square existence, on “Eat Sleep Die” and starting off with the shuffling oddity of “Horsehead.”

Cosmic theremin makes its first appearance on that opening cut, but it’s not at all the last, Katla putting its sci-fi-sounding properties to work throughout, adding further depth to a sonic meld that showcases not only a sense of breadth, but also one of cohesion in style and execution. That is, Embryo‘s tracks aren’t haphazard in approach and the flow that Katla create between them isn’t to be understated. From the patient opening of “Horsehead” as it moves into the build and launch of “Endless Journey,” it is a record steeped in vibe and born of a musical tradition that, by its very nature, must expand in the way it does here.

The theremin comes back into play on “Endless Journey” and the tone is in some ways set for the course of the album, but by no means are Katla finished with their demonstration. Interestingly, Embryo was recorded in 2014, the Stockholm-based outfit working with Silence Records studio in Värmland before finishing and going on hiatus for a time owing to geographic concerns (i.e. somebody moved).

That probably puts them at some distance from these tracks by now, but Embryo, while of course playing toward an identity based on classic forms, sounds no “older” than it’s intended to, and as the band pushes through the end of “Eat Sleep Die” and into the psychedelically meandering open of the seven-minute title-track — also presumably the closer of side A — the guitars and toms setting a mood from which a fluid build takes hold, the amorphous feel of their identity thus far is anything but staid.

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“Embryo” is a standout on the album that bears its name, nodding at psychedelic folk even as it pulls together some significant momentum going into its back end, remaining patient as it cuts to quiet just before the five-minute mark then with keys and voice included casting forth a heavy psych push that becomes a satisfying wash of cymbals and noise. That apex for the first half of Embryo fits well, but cuts out and they actually finish side A on a note of subdued ambience, leading to side B opener and tracklist centerpiece “I’m Your Queen,” the lone opening guitar of which seems to land with that much more impact for the wildness preceding.

For those listening on a linear format — digital or CD — the immersion should be pretty well complete by the time “Embryo” has finished, so “I’m Your Queen,” which feels intentionally geared toward enhancing that with its initial repetitive guitar figure and lyrics that sound like a hypnotic spell, has no trouble diving further into the consciousness. A gradual rumble emerges, but they hold the tempo for the most part, resisting what must have been a considerable urge to take off à la “Endless Journey” and instead shifting into the mellow vibes of “Circles,” with organ adding to a spacious line of guitar over steady, calm drums and warm bass tone.

They do launch for a short orbit in the last minute or so, but hold back on the theremin for the time being, instead working it into the finish of the subsequent “Illusion,” which starts with a flourish of strings the only shame of which is that they don’t actually stick around long enough to pair with the vocals. “Illusion” boasts one of Embryo‘s most memorable hooks and brings back the strings in its second half as it locks into an instrumental movement that, when it’s over, has gone a surprising distance from where the song started.

It’s not Katla‘s first build, and as if they sensed that, the penultimate “Collision” shifts the structural focus so that an atmospheric beginning rises some in the middle and recedes again at its finish, a bookend that underscores the songwriting process at work and how purposeful this material is overall leading into the revitalized swirl of the aforementioned closer “A Black Slimy Smooth Tongueshaped Form,” which brings back the theremin of the opening salvo while taking a victory lap around a solar system of boogie.

A layered solo and theremin wash end the album just past four minutes in, somewhat sudden but fair enough to fit an LP, and Katla return their audience to solid ground with a command that undercuts the notion of Embryo being their debut. One can’t help but wonder what the last two years have brought in terms of growth in their songwriting — these songs will be old to them by now, I’m sure — but as a public introduction, their kosmiche conjuring is engaging across a span that seems like it can only keep growing.

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Burn Pilot, The Taurus Triangle: Levitate and Transform (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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The Taurus Triangle doesn’t necessarily sound like a band’s seventh album. That is to say, after putting out seven records in the span of 11 years, one might expect that German trio Burn Pilot — or Burnpilot, depending on who you ask — to have settled into something of a creative routine. Even if their sound was still growing, which by no means is a given, it would be at kind of a steady pace, in the same manner each time out.

That’s not the case with these seven tracks, which do indeed build on the style of 2014’s Intense, but do so in a way that seems to strip down that album’s approach down toward its core in songwriting that runs a span between modern boogie, rawer punk — hello, “Death by Machine Power” — and flowing psychedelia.

It’s a progressive blend that would pair exceedingly well with Russia’s The Grand Astoria on tour and even being my first experience with the work of brothers Sidney (vocals/drums) and Joel Jaffe (bass/vocals) and guitarist/vocalist Jonas Hehemann, it’s easy to hear the sense of accomplishment with which they move back and forth between the various elements at play, whether it’s beginning the crisp 34-minute run of the Pink Tank Records release with quiet, grunge-style guitar work before moving into the almost frenetic fits and shuffle of “Hit the City,” or injecting instrumental centerpiece “Levitation” with a bluesy lead and rolling, languid nod.

Because so much of their approach is based on push and movement and go-go-go-go-go, the actual scope of The Taurus Triangle feels subtle, and by no means does any single track represent the entirety of the album. Combined with the momentum the three-piece build as they move from one piece to the next, from “Hit the City” into the initial jangle and subsequent thrust of “Death by Machine Power,” and on from there, it’s that variety that makes The Taurus Triangle so intriguing.

Since they close with their longest song, the six-and-a-half-minute (they’ve gone much longer in the past) “Justice at Play,” side A has four tracks and side B three, and one finds that even with the initial push of the opening duo as it bleeds into the quieter start of “Krautrausch,” which almost tries to nestle into that Graveyardian heavy ’10s mid-paced boogie but can’t quite let go of the throttle by the finish of its build, the diversity of songwriting remains the most constant factor throughout.

burn pilot

Underlying that, of course, is a considerable amount of chemistry, not only between the brotherly rhythm section, but with Jonas as well. That may well be the most telling factor when it comes to understanding that Burn Pilot are on their seventh record.

Their songwriting is fluid despite its often angular take and more than just swapping back and forth between quiet and loud, fast and slow, they mount a dynamic take that plays up resonant hooks like that in “Krautrausch” and give each half of the record its due as a whole entity in addition to offering some standout factor in each song.

So yeah, they sound experienced. They are experienced. Maybe it’s because they’ve worked at a rate of putting out a record every year and a half — a classic model if ever there was one — and maybe it’s because The Taurus Triangle is my first time really digging into their sound, but it’s striking how established they come across while still being refreshingly energetic — to put it in a word: young — in their delivery.

Granted there’s a side-swap in between on the vinyl version, but the range is perhaps best displayed as “Krautrausch” and the flowing, solo-topped instrumental “Levitation” move into “Transformation,” which mirrors the earlier push, if in a somewhat expanded mindset, gradually moving toward a more intense thrust as it goes until by its end, the effects-laden solo gives way to a fuller sprint and the song caps with a build that cuts off to let “You Will Fall” take hold. It does so by teasing a slowdown and then reviving the gallop before opening again to its verse, also more ’90s than ’70s in its roots, and playing to more direct switches in tempo and drive.

In this way, Burn Pilot add breadth without giving up the already-noted momentum they’ve clearly worked to gain. And as one might expect, it’s up to “Justice at Play” as the finale to round out the front-to-back flow and summarize the ground covered and the methods by which they’ve covered it, which it does by boasting yet another blazing lead from Hehemann — there are many, they shine — some jagged, almost noise-rock groove, punker thrust, and heavy blues command. In one song.

For the simple fact that it doesn’t completely fall apart, The Taurus Triangle‘s closer impresses, but again, it’s hardly Burn Pilot‘s first time at the dance, and they very obviously know what they want their songs to do at any given point. I guess that’s the biggest takeaway from the record in the end.

Burn Pilot, as a group with more than a decade together under their belt, show themselves as having a dynamic songwriting process, fervent execution and a seemingly ongoing creative progression that one can hear sharply realized in their tracks. Seven albums later and still actively, willfully growing? I dare you not to admire that.

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Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce, Double Quartet Serie Vol. 1

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 9th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

hifiklub-vs-fatso-jetson-gary-arce-double-quartet-serie-vol-1-700

[Click play above to stream Double Quartet Serie Vol. 1 by Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce in full. Album is out next month on Subsound Records.]

In 1960, saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman recorded Free Jazz with what was deemed a “double quartet,” including two trumpets, two basses, himself, a clarinet, and two drummers, each quartet playing in one channel. Roman label Subsound Records would seem to be following that blueprint with the beginning of its own Double Quartet Serie Volume 1 that pits Californian desert rock mainstays Fatso Jetson and Gary Arce of Yawning Man in right channel and Toulon, France-based experimentalists Hifiklub.

The project, the connections to jazz for which can be found through the general spirit of improvisational exploration more than swapping solos or anything like that, was recorded in Coxinhell Studio in Southern France. Fatso Jetson were working with the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli, bassist Dino von Lalli and drummer Tony Tornay on a European tour with Yawning Man, and Hifiklub — who in the past have collaborated with Mike Watt, Lee Renaldo of Sonic Youth, and Alain Johannes, who mixed and mastered this release, are comprised of bassist/vocalist Régis Laugier, guitarist Nicolas Morcillo, art-and-stuff-ist Arnaud Maguet and drummer Pascal Abbatucci Julien.

Eight dudes, in a room together, making their way through seven tracks/37:41 of improv vibing, it’s no wonder one can hear bits and pieces of conversation taking place throughout, though that might also be samples playing through the songs. With such a wide-open sonic range, it’s important to acknowledge any number of possibilities for what could be happening at any given moment.

Goes without saying that Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson + Gary Arce, as a whole, eight-piece unit, are tailor-made for headphones. Any single one of those entities would be headphone-worthy on their own, and together, their sounds coming through different channels on the vast “A la Fin Je l’Espère Calme,” that’s even more the case. The album glides through a suitably varied scope of moods, from the rolling, massive-in-the-low-end march of side A closer “Glorious Whores” — also the longest cut at 8:02 — to the noise-wash build of “Safe in Pieces,” which is almost straightforward compared to some of what’s going on.

That’s not to say there isn’t a sense of structure throughout. Beginning with “Tenderloin Vignette” (video premiere here), Double Quartet Serie Vol. 1 pairs longer tracks with shorter ones. It’s not that “Tenderloin Vignette” is a rocker and the subsequent “Un Gribouillis De La Beauté” (3:10) an interlude — both keep a consistent focus on ambience — but it seems more about different jams working in different ways depending on which element is in the lead.

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“Tenderloin Vignette” follows the guitar and “Un Gribouillis De La Beauté” presents a more sparse, key-led wash that gets immediately contrasted by the double-drum solo from Tornay and Julien at the launch of “Glorious Whores,” soon enough joined by a bass tone so rumbling it’s almost funny that turns out to be a defining aspect of the song around which the guitars and drums build to a considerable plod.

There are vocals on several of the tracks, “Glorious Whores” among them, but no discernible lyrics to form a verse/chorus trade, which only underscores the dudes-in-a-room-playing-off-the-cuff spirit of the record as a whole. None of these players are strangers to improv or to collaboration, so to have them working together is still an experiment, but definitely one that benefits from their general readiness to plug in and play.

And the shorter, more atmospheric pieces — “Un Gribouillis De La Beauté,” “Black Without White,” “A la Fin Je l’Espère Calme” — do much to avoid a “sessions” kind of feel, adding range to the project overall and giving context to the post-grunge guitar work on “Safe in Pieces” or the dreamy meld in “Tenderloin Vignette.” That tradeoff becomes even more apparent on side B, with four tracks beginning with “Black Without White” leading into “Safe in Pieces” and the pair of “A la Fin Je l’Espère Calme” and “The Rocky Road to Holiness” closing out.

More conversation is had — literal and figurative — as guitars play off each other in “A la Fin Je l’Espère Calme,” but with how fluidly they do so, it would be easy to listen to a a whole record of nothing but that, particularly with the keys surrounding. To call it a jam I guess is fair enough, but it’s more of a standalone piece, and it comes apart to let the quiet start of the finale set its mood with more foreboding guitar, toms and cymbal wash, introducing chanting before the two-minute mark and dropping out circa 2:30 into its 7:29 to let the guitar introduce the figure on which “The Rocky Road to Holiness” will roll Double Quartet Serie Vol. 1 to its conclusion, both drummers working in lockstep as the bass and guitars build around them.

By the time they’re about five minutes deep, they’ve brought the wash to its head, and topping it with some “ohh”-type vocals from one side, the other, or both, it’s a cohesive way to cap the release as it winds down, underscoring the point that throughout, it’s not so much a case of Fatso Jetson and Gary Arce opposing Hifiklub as working in concert with them. I said as much with the video premiere, but really, what the eight-piece Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson + Gary Arce conjure is molten to the point of liquidity, and with how well they fit together, Double Quartet Serie Vol. 1 is able to engage front-to-back with a genuine sense of adventure and immersive depth.

Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson + Gary Arce, The Making of Double Quartet Serie Vol. 1

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Asteroid Interview & Track Premiere: “Last Days” and First Ones Too

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on September 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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Digital preorders for Asteroid‘s third full-length, III, will go live on Sept. 12. The proper release date in Europe is Nov. 11, while the US gets it on Dec. 9, but wherever you are, however you order it, the arrival of a new Asteroid record is indisputably good news. The fuzzhappy trio from Swedish heavy hotbed Örebro first made their reunion official here last November, so by the time Fuzzorama Records delivers the 36-minute long-player, it will have been a productive year for Asteroid, playing shows, writing, recording. You know, all that “we’re in a band” stuff.

Well, they weren’t for a while. It’s been six years since their last offering, II (review here), and while they never melted down or anything, it seemed for a long time like that record might be their swansong. III follows in the second album’s footsteps in several crucial ways — its organic tones, its balancing between heavy blues and psychedelia, the vocal tradeoffs between guitarist Robin Hirse and bassist Johannes Nilsson — now joined in the trio by Jimmi Kolscheen — the tendency to follow the spirit of a given track, and moments like the bassline of centerpiece “Wolf and Snake” are about as quintessentially Asteroid‘s own as anything they could’ve put to tape. There are atmospheric stretches, as on “Silver and Gold” — also the most accomplished vocal performance of the band’s career — and cuts like “Last Days” (which you can hear above) tip hat to classic rock while “Them Calling” delivers an album-defining mega-hook while looking toward a more heavy metallized progression on the whole. It’s the fuzz rock you can pump your fist to.

But if III is united by any single principle, it’s the chemistry at heart in Asteroid‘s approach; the way the band interacts sonically and what the results of that interaction do for their songwriting. I’ll be reviewing it as we get closer to the release date (one or the other of them), but as a preview, I wanted to talk to the band about making III and how things came together since they got back, played their first shows and undertook the work of really being a band again after their years apart, including bringing in Kolscheen on drums and hammering out a new dynamic there. Lots to discuss and I feel like the surface has barely been scratched on III, so look for much more to come as we move into the fall, which also finds Asteroid on tour with Limestone Whale. The dates:

Asteroid with Limestone Whale
This tour is booked in cooperation with MAGNIFICENT MUSIC!
10-09 (ESP) Madrid – Madrid Stoner Festival
17-09 (UK) BRISTOL Snuff’est All-Dayer*
22-09 (D) HAMBURG AstraStube
23-09 (D) BERLIN BassyClub
24-09 (D) SIEGEN Vortex * (w/ Yawning Man)
25-09 tba
26-09 (D) FREIBURG i.B WhiteRabbit
27-09 (CH) Winterthur – Helvti
29-09 (AT) WIEN ViperRoom
30-09 (AT) LINZ Stadtwerkstatt
01-10 (D) Munich – tba
03-10 (PL) WARSAW Chmury
04-10 (PL) GDYNIA Ucho
05-10 (PL) POZNAN u Bazyla
06-10 (D) HALLE Hühnermanhatten
07-10 (D) WÜRZBURG Immerhin
08-10 (D) JENA Kulturbahnhof
*ASTEROID only

Full Q&A with Hirse and Nilsson follows the jump. Please enjoy:

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