Review & Full Album Premiere: Red Eye, Tales From the Days of Yore

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

red eye tales from the days of yore

[Click play above to stream Red Eye’s Tales from the Days of Yore in its entirety. Album is out Feb. 22 on Alone Records.]

Spanish four-piece Red Eye give some credit to the history and natural environs of their home in Antequera, Spain, in helping them conjure their sound, and that may well be true. What the consideration of the karsts — limestone formations jutting from the earth; you would see one and say, “oh so that’s what those things are called!” — and centuries of culture don’t necessarily account for is the skillful hand with which the double-guitar outfit blend influences from modern and classic doom together to create the amalgam of their Alone Records debut album, Tales from the Days of Yore. It is a substantial work even when not considering its 51-minute runtime across just six tracks, but with largesse of tone tying it together and a songwriting modus that draws at any moment from Pallbearer on “Azathoth” or Pentagram on “BHC” or Sleep on opener “Encounter,” Red Eye — the lineup of guitarist/vocalists Pablo Terol and Antonio Campos, bassist Antonio Muriel and drummer Ángel Arcas — dig into epic vibes on “Hall of the Slain,” engage a psychedelic sludge on “Yagé” and plod out in mammoth style on closer “Waves” before the semi-hidden track “Halcyon Rhythms” closes out with folkish acoustics and flute.

The question there, of course, is where were the folkish acoustics and flute hiding for the rest of the album, but there it’s important to remember Tales from the Days of Yore is Red Eye‘s first album, and while their accomplishments throughout are significant, this may just be the beginning of a larger progression. Maybe next time, more flutes and acoustics. In the interim, it’s not like the preceding stretches of Tales from the Days of Yore are lacking anything for fullness of sound. “Encounter” serves notice early as the opener and longest track (immediate points) by beginning with a fading-in swell of distortion-drenched guitar, and it’s a full minute before the drums join. Soon enough, the drudge is underway, and Red Eye cast their lot in a nodding rhythm and focus around that central riff, one guitar dropping to feedback before the throaty first verse begins. The immediate touchstone is earlier Sleep, but in its second half, the rumble fades from “Encounter” and quiet guitars intertwine for a stretch to build back up to a full-blown solo and last riff-out, so immediately, Red Eye refuse to be beholden to one single impulse in songwriting. That only continues to serve them well throughout the rest of what follows.

Both Terol and Campos would seem to contribute vocals to the verses of “BHC” — the acronym standing for “Black Horse Carriage” — and the shift in approach from the opener is palpable even as the tempo remains on the slower end and a lumbering groove continues to hold sway. Some of the underlying swing in the chorus seems to tip a hat to Elephant Tree‘s sense of melody, but just before the midpoint again, “BHC” drops to atmospherics. Backward guitar, other noise and general drift take the fore until the bass — or very low guitar — picks back up to introduce the solo-topped section that closes out. One might expect them to return to the hook, which is arguably the strongest on the album, but instead they crash into a fadeout ahead of “Azathoth,” a more active stomp and (single) melodic vocal echoing out over the likewise mournful riffing until, indeed, a midpoint break brings them down to a subdued stretch of mood-setting. This time, subtle tom hits hold the tension and when they return, it’s not to a solo, but huge riffing and compressed-sounding semi-spoken vocal declarations — the righteousness palpable — but sweeping guitar leads the way out nonetheless, the three first tracks diverse in their approach but united in structure.

red eye

Time for a change, and “Hall of the Slain” is it. A faster tempo, a more prevalent Sabbathian swing and a catchy chorus make the early going of “Hall of the Slain” a jolt of energy well placed to continue to expand the band’s horizons, and they change the structure as well, going quiet in the first half quickly to tease a longer break to come. It’s a minute difference, but a difference all the same, and the contrast it sets up with the impressive tonal plunder on the other end isn’t to be understated. Vocals become chanting incantations in the midsection and the quiet stint — could use some flute, maybe? — heralds the return to the song’s central instrumental figure. There are no more vocals, but the repetition in the second half of “Hall of the Slain” works well to set up “Yagé” which starts off with airy psychedelic guitar and gradually makes its way forward for the first three minutes-plus, the patient linear build ably making the turn to full-tonality sound organic. While they’ve incorporated different influences all along, “Yagé” is as far into alternate structuring as Red Eye have thus far gone on Tales from the Days of Yore, and the shift suits them, a last verse ending with a shout and faster riffing taking hold momentarily as a solo seems to call back to the song’s beginning in an effective bookend.

That leaves “Waves” as the finale, and there’s no way it’s anything but. At about five and a half minutes, it’s a somewhat scaled-down summary of what Red Eye have done throughout, bringing together various ideas and loud/quiet tradeoffs, but the level of plod is upped in such a way that it couldn’t be anything but the conclusion, and very likely the band knew that even as they were writing it. It crashes to a somewhat unceremonious end, but “Halcyon Days” takes hold shortly thereafter, carrying the next several minutes with classic prog flair in a flute-led jam met with percussion and strummed guitar, ending with some conversation and laughing. For a band who already has room in their songs for such things, it would seem only natural to combine this apparent underlying influence with the heft they otherwise bring forth — hard to pull off live in the studio, but not impossible — but again, Tales from the Days of Yore is a debut album, and among its crucial functions is to set up avenues for future growth on the part of the band. It does that and more, providing a deep-running listening experience that shows Red Eye as thoughtful in their use of structure and pace as well as schooled in the style in which they’re establishing their roots for future development.

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Varego, I Prophetic

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

varego i prophetic

[Click play above to stream I Prophetic by Varego in full. It’s out Feb. 15 on Argonauta Records.]

Sure, Varego have the piano intro. Sure, they have all kinds of progressive nuance. They’ve got the six-and-a-half-minute title-track full of Voivodian sci-fi weirdo crunch. They’ve got the off-in-the-distance, spaciously-mixed vocals of bassist Davide Marcenaro. But you know, listen to the start of that title-track, or to the central riff from Alberto Pozzo and Gerolamo Lucisano of “When the Wolves,” or the intensity of Simon Lepore‘s drum changes in closer “Zodiac,” and Varego are still very much a metal band. Shades of Judas Priest can be heard throughout in Pozzo‘s and Lucisano‘s guitars, and while they’re definitely just shades — since it’s not like Varego are carbon-copying, well, anyone — that gives the clean 36-minute run of I Prophetic a foundation from which it’s working its way out. I don’t think they’d call it space metal or cosmic metal — the latter somehow would imply less psychedelia, so might fit as a tag, though “Zodiac” and others do touch on the ethereal as well — but it’s definitely in that nebulous region where “progressive” becomes a catchall standing in for saying the band are conscious of what they’re doing as songwriters.

There are eight tracks on the Argonauta-released I Prophetic, counting the aforementioned piano intro “Origin,” and while they open with the catchiest of them in “The Abstract Corpse” and thereby answer the question of what might’ve been if Primordial had been from Mars instead of Ireland with a fervent forward drive that stands tall among any of those to follow — at least before they hit the brakes — the Italian four-piece subsequently find themselves expanding parameters of structure and sound alike on the title-track and only continue to go further out from there. Regardless of genre, one might read I Prophetic as a kind of linear path. Following the brooding “Silent Giants,” which opens the second half, “When the Wolves” provides some measure of grounding, but still, it’s clear by that point that there’s really no coming back, and the closing wallop of “Duelist” and “Zodiac” bear that out.

So what is it? It can’t just be the echo on Marcenaro‘s vocals. Looking back to 2016’s Epoch (review here), their second album, it seems like I Prophetic has a tighter, sharper overall approach. Its songs are more sure of their purpose, and that underlying foundation of metal weaves itself like a thread throughout the tracklisting. One can hear that even on side A capper “Of Dust,” which moves from its initial progression toward more expansive fare while still holding to a core groove in the drums and bass. The interplay of the two guitars is definitely part of it, and the breadth of the mix is definitely part of it, but as “Of Dust” ends with a guitar solo, there’s still something so intentionally traditional-metal about the proceedings. Craft has definitely become more of a factor for Varego, though, and as the abiding buzz of the guitars work alongside the drifting bassline at the mellow-but-tense outset of “Silent Giants,” the sense of atmosphere becomes all the more prevalent.

varego

After “When the Wolves,” which at 3:03 is the shortest non-intro inclusion here, that continues into “Duelist” as well, and the more Varego depart from their sludgy beginnings, the more they seem to find themselves out there in the cosmos, frozen like in some lump of comet ice charting an irregular orbit all their own. Individualism suits them, unsurprisingly, but one doesn’t necessarily get the feeling they’re done growing. “The Abstract Corpse” howls into its barrage after its quick drum-fill introduction, and together with “I Prophetic” itself, it forms a statement of purpose that’s varied and rich, not without melody, but coated in effects — the title-track will earn them some Monolord comparisons, particularly as it moves into a bigger riff after the verse around the two-minute mark — and working on its own level. The end stemming from their means isn’t entirely clear yet, but the unsettling element of I Prophetic — its refusal to simply be one thing; metal or sludge, progressive or traditional — is part of its appeal and in the end, the basis for its success.

With Epoch, Varego made the transition from a five- to a four-piece lineup. With I Prophetic, they refine their approach to a striking degree, making it all the more their own and all the more intricate. Even “When the Wolves,” which is the most willfully straightforward thrasher included, has a level of sonic detail that begs for multiple listens and a kind of mental dissection: “What are they doing here?” The answer to that question, though, requires stepping back and taking the album in its entirety. What they’re doing is melding heavy metal to their own purposes. It’s not about homage to the past so much as building off the past, their own as well as that of others. It takes time for a band to discover who they really are in terms of sound — and, I suppose, everything else — but it feels like Varego have found themselves here, and like I Prophetic works so fluidly across its span to move outward from where it begins, one would expect the band to do no less their next time out in continuing to progress along the line they’re drawing.

A key, perhaps telling moment is shortly before three minutes into “Zodiac,” when the song hangs a left and slows down in the guitar, vocals layering over what’s clearly the final march. They ring out for a while to end it, but before that, they stake their claim on a marked distance from where they started out in “The Abstract Corpse,” and the spectrum they’ve run in that time — still an utterly manageable 36 minutes — is an accomplishment unto itself. Do I think they’re done growing? No. This kind of progressive songwriting rarely stagnates. But I Prophetic serves a crucial function as that moment of arrival for them, and of course thereby sets up the inevitable departure to follow. Varego have come into their own. What they do now is entirely up to them.

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Dealer Premiere “Gemini”; Release New Single of Final Recordings

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on February 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

dealer

Oakland rockers Dealer have called it quits, but their final recordings surface in the form of the single End Breed / Gemini, issued as a seven-inch platter through Who Can You Trust? Records in an edition of just 100 copies as part of something the label is calling the “From WCYT? With Love” series. I don’t know what else is in the series or what might be coming, but Who Can You Trust? is streaming the Dealer track “End Breed” now and I’ve been given permission to premiere “Gemini” and it’s a three-minute banger with no time to screw around, as though the band was like, “Okay let’s finish these songs so we can stop being a band already,” and though the imprint continues to ask the question in its name, they’ve proven more than trustworthy in the past, particularly when it comes to mining obscure studio sessions for 7″ releases like this one. And they’re not half bad at series either, as the Sweet Times split singles — in which Dealer took part — also showed.

Dealer‘s lone full-length was released in 2016, and though I haven’t seen a reason for their disbanding, they leave a striking bit of potential behind in doing so. You can stream the premiere of “Gemini” and the A side “End Breed” at the bottom of this post.

From the PR wire:

dealer end breed

Dealer – End Breed / Gemini

“Dealer rips” should be a familiar adage to anyone in the Bay Area who has given a damn about rock and roll through the past few years, and the band’s final recordings—“End Breed” b/w “Gemini”—hammer in that sentiment like a nail in a coffin. There’s very little beauty in this music. The songs are ugly and mean, way too fast and a little out of tune, everything competing and melding together in some vain, chaotic display of ignorant bravado. You might even call it Dealer at their finest.

1. End Breed
2. Gemini

Edition of 100 copies on black vinyl, housed in a hand-stamped recycled cardstock sleeve.

Part of the “FROM WCYT? WITH LOVE..” series.

The exact moment of Dealer’s formation is almost impossible to pin down. Lost in a fug of thick smoke, alcohol and noise; somewhere and someplace out of time and mind.

Tentatively starting out life as Sexless – featuring founding member Kevin Klausen on guitar/vocals and fellow Los Angelean Samantha Mancino on drums – the duo would make a habit of throwing open jam sessions to anyone in earshot. Years prior and by his own admission, Klausen had lost heart after numerous false starts attempting to form his own band and gave up on making music to assume the mantle of tour manager for close friends, The Shrine. Helping the band across Europe and struck by their professionalism, after years on the road he returned in the Spring of 2013 with a handful of songs and a newfound focus.

Relocating to Oakland, Sexless performed a first few shows with whatever bassist could be landed until the night the band met Aaron Cundy of local outfit Easy Living. Followed soon after by the conscription of John Zamora on drums after the departure of Mancino they soon hit upon the sound they were seeking. Sorely shredding their way through discordant moments of pre-punk history – often in a crazed reverie of hard rock solos and cocksure hellfire – they stalked the grooves of Black Flag’s “Slip It In” and the riffs of Voivod’s “Killing Technology.” All the while, sporting the sharpest Canadian tuxedos they could find.

When Zamora eventually chose to leave the band in May 2015, Klausen and Cundy sought total reformation. Drafting in new drummer Darien McKinney for shows, they performed their final gig as Sexless on the 4th of June 2016 before entering Earhammer Studios to record a debut album with producer Greg Wilkinson (Iron Lung, Graves at Sea, Lecherous Gaze) just two days later.

A proposed “cocktail of heavy metal, punk, grunge and rock and roll,” the trio emerged with “Billionaire Boys Club” in hand as Dealer. With the journey at its end, the album is now available worldwide through the band’s own imprint, Wicked World Records.

Dealer:
Kevin Klausen – Guitar/Vocals
Aaron Cundy – Bass
Darien McKinney – Drums

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Dealer, “Gemini” premiere

Dealer, “End Breed”

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Labirinto Premiere Divino Afflante Spiritu in Full; Out Tomorrow on Pelagic Records

Posted in audiObelisk on February 7th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

labrinto

This one happened pretty suddenly. Yesterday afternoon I got a note asking if I wanted to do a last-minute stream for Labirinto‘s third long-player, Divino Afflante Spiritu, which is out tomorrow on Pelagic Records. I took a couple minutes to skim through and knew quickly that, yes, it was the kind of thing I wanted to be involved in, but my usual I’m-gonna-play-the-record-a-bunch-of-times-before-I-write-about-it-thing? Yeah, not so much. Way more of a first impression here, and all the more because Divino Afflante Spiritu is my first exposure to the São Paulo-based mostly-instrumental six-piece. Their sound draws from modern progressive chug-ism and crunch tones blending with airy effects on a cut like “Eleh Ha Devarim” or the later and flowing “Asherdu,” but there’s a post-metallic bent there as well, as can be heard in the “Stones from the Sky”-moment transfigured into second track “Penitência” and in some of the general atmosphere of urgency throughout, keyboards and three guitars intertwining for a sound that is full when it wants to be and spacious nonetheless, culminating its seven-track/35-minute run in the seven-minute title-track, which is marked by graceful surges of volume and a distinctive heavier post-rocking feel. It is an ambience of color, but on a dark background, and its depths of mix are significant, even as the weight of its low end does precious little to keep the guitars from soaring when they choose to.

labrinto divino afflante spirituEach side features some measure of vocals, whether that’s opener “Agnus Dei” with the ensuring screams of guest singer Elaine Campos (Abuso Sonoro and others) or the later ethereal interlude “Vigilia” that follows the centerpiece “Demiurge,” and though there’s a certain expectation set up by that appearance at the outset, the prevailing vibe lacks nothing for atmosphere as guitarists Kiko Bueno, Erick Cruxen and Luis Naressi (the latter also synth), percussionist Lucas Melo, drummer Muriel Curi and bassist Hristos Eleutério conjure an alternately crushing and expansive feel. It’s a complex outing that bridges earthbound and otherworldly elements, and very clearly feels no need to commit to one side or the other of that equation, if it sees a difference between them at all. Progressive in their construction, Labirinto‘s songs nonetheless flow together to convey a singular idea through diverse means. I’ll admit this is a first impression, but it’s a positive one.

And when it comes right down to it, I like sharing good music. If there’s a chance this is gonna make someone’s hard day better, then hell yes, I’m on board. I don’t usually do things so last-minute, but every now and again you need to be flexible.

I’ve included the full text of the PR wire info below, so you can have more background on the recording and the fascinating remote-production process by which Divino Afflante Spiritu came about.

That, of course, follows the full stream of the album, which you’ll find below. It’s out tomorrow on Pelagic.

Please enjoy:

Labirinto, Divino Afflante Spiritu full album premiere

São Paulo’s LABIRINTO are not the spearheads of a vivid local scene, but to stay within the realms of post-rock metaphory, more of an isolated island within a vast ocean of nothingness. There is not much contemporary instrumental heavy music anywhere in South America. There are hardly any record labels and international bands seldomly make it over on tour. All the more surprising that this island of LABIRINTO has been releasing records for 13 years already.

Divino Afflante Spiritu is already the band’s 10th release, but only the 3rd full-length album. The band’s back catalogue is made up of a number of EPs and splits (with THISQUIETARMY among others), a detail which showcases the band’s strong roots in the DIY scene. Guitarist Erick Cruxen and drummer Muriel Curi, a long-married couple, have learned how take control of every aspect of the band’s universe themselves: from running their own record label to booking their own tours to running their own recording studio, the internationally renowned Dissenso Studios in São Paulo.

The band flew in Billy Anderson for the prodcution of previous album „Gehenna“.This time, Cult Of Luna’s Magnus Lindberg was hired, but the entire production happened via the internet, exemplary for this time we live in, without Magnus ever setting foot on Brazilian soil. „Since the pre-production phase, Muriel kept in touch with Magnus“, Cruxen comments. „We talked a lot to him about our plans and ideas for the tracking sessions. He did an online support video session during the recording sessions, and we were aligning ideas for technical decisions. He was monitoring the whole recording process, basically. At the end, we sent him the audio files and he mixed and mastered the album at his own Redmount Studios in Stockholm.“

The result is an album of dense and menacing atmospherics, textural drones carefully layered over and blended into the heavy guitar riffs’s shimmering, beautiful distortion-scapes – and for the first time ever, vocals make their debut on a LABIRINTO album, on opening track „Agnus Dei“. „We invited Elaine Campos, she’s been singing in Brazilian punk and crust bands for over 20 years“, comments Curi. „It’s a huge pleasure for us to have such a veteran from the punk scene, a feminist and anarchist, guest on the track.“

It’s clear from the first synth drones inaugurating the opening track that doom lurks on the horizon, that „Divino Afflante Spiritu“ is not going to be a soundtrack to a tropical paradise – it’s a dark, cold record. „This album has a great emotional weight,” explains Cruxen. „It flourished during a very difficult phase in which we lost a very dear entity. It was a whirlwind of emotions that are materialized whenever we play the songs. This album, more than anything, represents for us loss and suffering, but also, passion and friendship.“

LINE UP: Hristos Eleutério – bass, Lucas Melo – percussion, Kiko Bueno – guitar, Luis Naressi – guitar, synths, Erick Cruxen – guitar, Muriel Curi – drums

TRACK LISTING:
01. Agnus Dei
02. Penitência
03. Eleh Ha Devarim
04. Demiurge
05. Vigília
06. Asherdu
07. Divino Afflante Spiritu

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 09

Posted in Radio on February 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

gimme radio logo

Good show. I had fun, anyway. I cut the voice breaks for this one while The Patient Mrs. and her mom took The Pecan out to the grocery store, but the breaks nonetheless worked out to be maybe a minute longer than usual and that gave me a little rant time. Right before I played Goatsnake, which was the “new classic” choice cut for this episode, I went off about doing my dishes as rock and roll. As usual with words coming out of my mouth, the idea was kind of half-represented, but what I was talking about was the notion that your love of music should be a part of your life, not something separate from the rest of it. If you love music, it shouldn’t be something you segregate from the rest of who you are — something you sneak off to a dive bar to partake of — it should be a part of your everyday. I cut radio voice breaks while running the dishwasher. It’s a part of who I am.

How fortunate I have this post to explain the half-formed notions I don’t have the wherewithal to properly express vocally. Huzzah.

Anyway, if you got to listen, I tried to set this one up with a good flow from front to back plus a couple stark contrasts in the second hour. The break is between Graven and SubRosa, contrary to what the playlist says, but I liked that transition anyhow, and I think you can see early on that the focus is on some boogie with a sense of atmosphere. I talk up the Green Lung record again, because, well, it’s worth talking up, and dig into a few other things that I think are killer, including that Mount Saturn EP, which is likewise right on. And then I dip back from new music to play SubRosa’s “The Mirror” from their SubDued: Live at Roadburn 2017 release, because it’s a song I sing to The Pecan when I put him down for naps and have just about every day since he was born some 15 months ago. Fun stuff.

If you missed the show, it airs again tomorrow at 9AM Eastern at http://gimmeradio.com

And if you dig this and want to hear more of The Obelisk Show, Gimme of course has their archive set up that you can sign on for at a reasonable price and dig into a bunch of various kinds of metallurgy.

Okay, here’s the playlist. Thanks to reading and/or listening:

The Obelisk Show Ep. 09 – 02.03.19

Straytones Dark Lord Beware, Dark Lord! Here Comes Bell-Man* 0:04:07
Green Lung Let the Devil In Woodland Rites* 0:05:02
BREAK
Geezer Spiral Fires Pt. 1 Spiral Fires* 0:05:50
Seedium Mist Haulers Seedium* 0:09:15
Crypt Trip Wordshot Haze County* 0:04:22
Cloud Catcher Beneath the Steel The Whip EP* 0:04:45
Heavy Feather Waited All My Life Debris & Rubble* 0:03:10
Mount Saturn Dwell Kiss the Ring* 0:07:08
BREAK
Goatsnake Mower I + Dog Days 0:06:05
The Black Heart Death Cult Davidian Beam Dream The Black Heart Death Cult 0:05:50
Crystal Spiders Tigerlily Demo* 0:05:37
Swallow the Sun When a Shadow is Forced into the Light When a Shadow is Forced into the Light* 0:07:26
Graven Backwards to Oblivion Heirs of Discord* 0:06:15
SubRosa The Mirror SubDued: Live at Roadburn 0:04:43
BREAK
Electric Octopus Mouseangelo Smile* 0:12:58
Tia Carrera Early Purple Visitors/Early Purple* 0:16:28

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Sunday night at 7PM Eastern, with replays the following Tuesday at 9AM. Next show is Feb. 17. Thanks for listening if you do.

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Brant Bjork Premieres “Guerrilla Funk” from Jacoozzi LP; Preorders Available Today

Posted in audiObelisk on January 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork (Photo Aija Svensson)

Brant Bjork beaming in a nine-year-old seven-minute instrumental jam? Well, around here that’s what we call a good day. The Dude of Dudes will issue Jacoozzi on April 5 through Heavy Psych Sounds, and while his work over the course of this decade — let’s say, across the post-Vista Chino solo-ish records: 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here) and 2018’s Mankind Woman (review here) — has seen him increasingly become an ambassador to earth from the California desert and an arbiter of unmatched cool, nine years ago, as he headed toward the release of Gods and Goddesses (review here) coming off the release of the earlier-recorded Punk Rock Guilt in 2008 and 2007’s Somera Sól (discussed here) before that, it seems in hindsight there were a couple different competing impulses happening in his sound. Of course, his signature approach is mellow heavy, smooth, funky, and melodic, at once punk and soul and based around that inimitable desert groove that’s audible as well in the track “Guerrilla Funk” below, but at the time, Bjork was coming off working as bandleader for Brant Bjork and the Bros. and as his style got clearer and fuller in production across the 2007 and eventual 2010 outings, it seems it wasn’t always easy getting there.

The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — has it that Bjork got tired one day of ramming his head into the studio wall, rolled tape and brant bjork jacoozzijust jammed his way to what became Jacoozzi. Actual history is always a little more complex than that, but what a great image that is. Classic. Guy’s making a record, not feeling it, and just let’s loose and produces something raw and honest, and as you can hear in “Guerrilla Funk,” it could hardly be more his own if he was actually singing on it. I don’t know how well “Guerrilla Funk” ultimately represents Jacoozzi, since it’s all I’ve heard from the long-rumored, long-awaited offering, but it represents the context of its making beautifully, and seriously, if all 10 tracks included are seven-minute instrumental jams and it turns out to be well over an hour of Brant Bjork just grooving out, it’ll probably be my most-listened-to album this year. Again, I don’t know that that’s what it is, I’m just exploring the possibility.

Either way, you can hear in “Guerrilla Funk” the roots of how Jacoozzi was put together. It’s got a strong backbeat as the foundation and then is built up from there as Bjork jams out guitar, bass and percussion on top of that. Simple enough idea, but Bjork‘s ability to play as a one-man band is highlighted by the completeness of sound here. In the second half of the song, as he moves to a wash on the ride cymbal and the percussion gets more complex, he follows the change on guitar and bass and everything seems to surge forward for a bit before it recedes back into the core bounce of the track. It’s hypnotic to some degree, but most of all it’s funked out, and it gives a better sense of Bjork‘s root songwriting process than just about anything since 2006’s mostly-acoustic Tres Dias (reissue review here), showcasing a genuine exploration of ideas as they happen and the satisfying, engaging results that can yield. It’s worth noting again that, after putting Jacoozzi to tape and resting it on the shelf to be mentioned casually in interviews for years afterward, Brant Bjork went on over the course of this decade to make himself desert rock’s most indispensable purveyor. So, you know, clearly getting it out of his system before moving on was the right call.

Maybe it’s fan-piece, but whatever, I’m a fan, so I’ll take it. I’ll hope to have more once the rest of Jacoozzi shows up hopefully sometime before April, but in the meantime, get your finest boogie footwear on and have at it with “Guerrilla Funk” on the player below, followed by more info off the PR wire.

Enjoy:

Joshua Tree, California, 2010: Brant Bjork has just started to record another solo record. About 4 days into the sessions, the desert rock king decided to abandon the 8 songs he was working on, and told his long time friend and engineer, Tony Mason, to start rolling tape and Brant proceeded to play drums in his natural improv style. After multiple drum track performances were recorded, Brant started layering guitars, bass and percussion in the same improvisational spirit. The former Fu-Manchu and Kyuss-legend essentially decided to “jam” by himself and for the rest of his scheduled sessions.

When the recording session had come to an end, Brant put the 8 unfinished tracks on the shelf as well as his “solo jam session” tracks. “I was much more content with the “jam” tracks as it was a creative release that was needed at that time.“ he says. “I decided to call the collective tracks, Jacoozzi. At the time, it reminded me of the feeling of my first solo recording sessions for my first solo release, Jalamanta….only more “free”.“

BRANT BJORK New album “Jacoozzi”
Out April 5th on Heavy Psych Sounds Records
– Vinyl and CD preorder available: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm#HPS097

Brant Bjork – Keep Your Cool reissue preorder: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm#HPS098

The ‘Jacoozzi’ tracklist reads as follows:
1. Can’t Out Run The Sun
2. Guerrilla Funk
3. Mexico City Blues
4. Five Hundred Thousand Dollars
5. Black & White Wonderland
6. Oui
7. Mixed Nuts
8. Lost In Race
9. Polarized
10. Do You Love Your World?

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Hey Zeus, X

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Hey Zeus X

[Click play above to stream Hey Zeus’ debut album, X, in its entirety. It’s out this week on Argonauta Records.]

Hey Zeus have been kicking around Boston’s heavy rock underground for last six years to some degree or other, following in a tradition of straightforward, catchy, well-composed heavy rock that’s no less a cultural institution for the city than local-sports worship, yelling shit at pedestrians from moving vehicles and drinking. Signed early last year to Argonauta Records, their debut full-length, X, follows a 2014 split with White Dynomite (review here), and other tracks posted as singles such as “Caveman” (premiered here) and “Richard the Elder” (posted here) in 2016. A penchant for covering Deep Purple — legit — that manifests on X as a duly head-spinning take on “Bloodsucker” also goes back to the band’s earlier days playing live, so it seems safe enough to argue that X is the realization of multiple years of putting the material together and refining it, and as the resulting nine-song/29-minute offering arrives nearly six years to the day from the band’s first show, one can hear those efforts in the tightness of composition throughout.

Songs like “Richard the Elder,” opener “These Eyes,” “Save Your” (as opposed to “saviour”) and careening speedsters like “I Don’t Want It,” “X Marks the Rocks” and closer “Queens” realize a hooky, engaging energy that vocalist Bice Nathan gleefully puts over the top, though in the company of guitarist Pete Knipfing, bassist Ken Cmar and drummer Todd Bowman, he’s hardly the only one catching that charge. And as much as a comparison to erstwhile Beantown kingpins Roadsaw feels inevitable, perhaps even more relevant is the connection Knipfing and Bowman share from their prior outfit Lamont, whose dedicated sans-frills urgency seems as well to inform some of the writing in X. It should be to the surprise of no one that Hey Zeus can get the job done — the job, by the way, is kicking ass — given the time they’ve spent honing their approach, but that hardly makes the record a less impressive debut. Quite the opposite.

And though one might look at X and find it short at 29 minutes, it’s not so much that there’s anything lacking in terms of what the band wants to convey, but just that they’ve packed it all into that time. That’s not just a question of speed. Even “Gilded,” or “Caveman,” which is the longest inclusion at 3:53, varies its tempo in order to find the right niche of groove that suits the song. They’re not forcing that feeling of electricity to what they do — it’s just there. No coincidence that the Deep Purple song they take on was from In Rock, which was arguably that band’s most lethal of outings, but there’s more to X than just rushing through a collection of songs. Nathan brings a subtle sense of arrangement to the vocals and finds melodies between the distorted lines of Knipfing‘s riffs. Cmar‘s rumbling bass proves essential early on to the drive of “I Don’t Want It,” and is unrelenting, and though Nathan adds percussion later in a break within “Save Your,” Bowman‘s drumming is intermittently furious enough to cover that ground anyway, shifting fluidly from the swinging finish of “Richard the Elder” to the classic riff rock strut of “Caveman” and the starts and stops that permeate “Queens.”

hey zeus

So what do we have? Rock album. Heavy. Rock and roll. Sharp songs. Crisp performances. Clear, full production value. Boot-meet-butt energy. Cool. What separates Hey Zeus from multitudes working from essentially the same elements, however, is the level of their craft and the way they use it throughout X. While I don’t think it’s anyone involved’s first record, it’s still the first record from the band, and their dynamic is not to be understated as a pivotal factor in their approach. The interplay between Knipfing and Cmar on guitar and bass during the former’s solos alone stands as testament to the work they’ve done in terms of developing a conversation between players, and with Bowman as the grounding force, they’re able to smoothly shift tempos and moods at a measure’s notice, making their songs less predictable even as they’re en route to an immediately familiar chorus. Throw in a healthy dose of attitude from Nathan and the chops to back it up, and not only carries forward the legacy of Boston’s heavy rock history, but seeks to find its own place and build upon it.

Or maybe they’re just looking to down some beers and have a good time, blow off steam from hating their jobs and whatever else. That’s no less valid a take. What’s important are the results they get across this collection of songs, and one of the great strengths of X is the momentum Hey Zeus amass as they wind their way through the progression of tracks. Even the Deep Purple cover, which though lacking organ is otherwise pretty loyal to the spirit of the original, feeds into the thrust of the material surrounding, picking up from the breather ending of “Caveman” and leading the way into “Queens” at the finish. It’s part of an overarching push that begins with “These Eyes” and continues through everything that follows; the classic “set the tone” spirit of the opener indicative of the proceedings on the whole, and though it’s easy enough to tag the whole thing as straight-ahead, all-go, etc., Knipfing does find room to slide some Southern edge into his guitar on “Save Your,” and the gang shouts behind Nathan on “X Marks the Rocks” is no less an important sonic detail.

What those convey, once again, is the work that’s gone into this material. While not staid at all — shit, it barely stands still long enough to be heard — X has a foundation it’s building from. As much as they might try to convince you otherwise, Hey Zeus didn’t just throw these songs together and — whoops! — come out with an air-tight collection of tracks that just happen to throw a punch in the gut as they run past. But at the same time, they do successfully balance that level of songmaking with the vitality that’s so central to making it all function. That might be the record’s great accomplishment — it feels true to a live experience without losing hold of itself as a studio outing. And it may have taken Hey Zeus more than half a decade to get to this point, but it’s hard to take X as a whole and not consider it worth the effort on their part.

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The Pilgrim Premieres “Peace of Mind”; Walking into the Forest Available to Preorder

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the pilgrim

This is the first audio to come from The Pilgrim‘s debut album, Walking into the Forest, and when one finds out that the figure behind the project — who might indeed be the pilgrim in question — is Gabriele Fiori, known as the head of Heavy Psych Sounds and frontman of Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie, that will do little to prepare you for what’s coming. Sure, there’s still a bit of psychedelic edge — okay, more than a bit — to The Pilgrim‘s work, but as Fiori launches this new project, he indeed begins a new exploration in style and form. Space folk, acid psych, classic psychedelic serenity — all of these feed into The Pilgrim‘s work on Walking into the Forest but there’s a foundation in rock too, and it could hardly be more appropriate that “Peace of Mind” is the track to be unveiled with the album announcement, because it sums up a lot of the point of view on display throughout.

Fiori, whose presence in Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie The-pilgrim-walking-into-the-forestbleeds through those bands’ recordings in larger-than-life form, creating an increasingly grand cosmic wash in the former and a classic heavy shuffle in the latter, rawer, but still turned on and tuned in, is very much front and center throughout Walking into the Forest. And fair enough so, since ostensibly it’s a solo-project. But with effects on his vocals and layers of keys and the drums of Black Rainbows bandmate Filippo Ragazzoni worked in intermittently, there’s a wide-open sensibility to the creative sphere in which he’s working. He’s honest in terms of his influences — he’s not coming out of the gate pretending he’s Hank Williams or something — but it’s new ground for him to cover, and he does well in making it his own as he makes his way through the album.

I’ll have a proper review up — I also wrote the bio, so might post that — at some point between now and April 26, which is the set release date, but you can take a listen to “Peace of Mind” on the player below and get yourself introduced.

Info follows from the PR wire, as well as a quote from Fiori himself.

Enjoy:

Gabriele Fiori on The Pilgrim:

“This is a project I really care about, it has been in my pocket for so long but without any available time for it. Finally we made it! And I am so happy, proud and relieved to have accomplished it. To me, it’s an authentic work, it came out really spontaneously from the inside and it’s a challenge cause we never played so low and calm!”

PEACE OF MIND is the first single of The Pilgrim debut album Walking Into The Forest. The record will be released on April 26th via Heavy Psych Sounds. Cover art by Maarten Donders.

Preorder available now: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm?#HPS092

AVAILABLE IN:

20 test press vinyl
250 marbled yellow background – red vinyl
250 orange background splatter in black green blue vinyl
black vinyl

digipak (6 panels)

digital

The Pilgrim is the latest solo project of Gabriele Fiori, frontman of Rome-based outfits Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie.

With “Walking into the Forest”, Fiori evokes a sound that is both classic and fresh, melodically rich and creatively constructed. It is a new outlet for Fiori that demands spiritual as well as auditory engagement, and an all-things-permissible sonic context.

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