King Buffalo, Orion: Sleeping on Vines (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

king buffalo orion

[Click play above to stream King Buffalo’s debut LP, Orion, in its entirety. Album is out officially on Aug. 5 and King Buffalo play The Obelisk All-Dayer (tickets here) on Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn.]

A debut long-player from King Buffalo has been eagerly anticipated since the Rochester pastoralists issued their initial demo in 2013 (review here). That short release found guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay and bassist Dan Reynolds, both from Abandoned Buildings Club, and guitarist/vocalist Randall Coon and drummer/backing vocalist Scott Donaldson, both formerly of Velvet Elvis digging into landscape-infused heavy psych riffing; jams that seemed to spread out as they grew. It was an encouraging start to say the least. Having lost Coon to a move to Philadelphia, King Buffalo tested the waters as a trio both live and on their 2015 split LP with now-defunct Swedes Lé Betre on STB Records (review here), and with more touring under their collective belt, they make their full-length debut under the banner of Orion, offering immediate invocation of big constellations spread across even bigger nighttime skies that perfectly mirrors the ambience and seamless flow of the album itself.

Though their delivery has a vitality doubtless born from their not-inconsiderable time on stage together, and seems to have been captured in the studio with that in mind, it is the languid, serene-but-not-necessarily-peaceful ease with which they execute the eight songs/47 minutes that stands out even more. McVay and Reynolds‘ tones are geared toward the organic, and Donaldson‘s ability to give even the most subdued stretches and circular jams a sense of forward motion, as on the opening title-track (also streamed here) or the rolling nod of “Kerosene,” resides among King Buffalo‘s greatest strengths.

They’ve been compared on more than one occasion to Nashville’s All Them Witches — a band with whom they’re closely linked, having toured together more than once and brought aboard bassist Michael Parks to fill in for Reynolds at shows as recently as this summer — and that’s fair enough for some of the jammy feel and Americana flourish, but if Orion does anything at all, it establishes King Buffalo as an entity on their own wavelength. Even those aspects of what they do that might come across as familiar have been shaped into something new here, and the songs set a dynamic range that is wildly open and populates a world with its own characters and settings, be it in “She Sleeps on a Vine,” “Goliath,” “Drinking from the River Rising” or “Orion” itself, which begins the album that carries its name with a graceful unfolding, stretching out with guitar and bass for its first minute-plus before Donaldson comes in on drums. Right away, they’re taking their time — patient, fluid, lightly hypnotic — but nothing about Orion comes across as lazy, and it’s worth noting that where they could’ve easily gone with an intro track before the start of the opener, they built their introduction from the song itself and took a more natural, less pretentious route.

A driving swing emerges in the second half of “Orion,” the first of several righteous thrusts the record has on offer, and amps fade into the quiet lines that open “Monolith,” joined soon by McVay‘s vocals. It’s a not dissimilar start, but “Monolith” goes in a different direction, setting a more active jangly guitar shuffle punctuated by toms and held together by Reynolds‘ bass. McVay takes a swirling solo late and the transition into “She Sleeps on a Vine” is direct, the song at 7:31 second only to “Drinking from the River Rising” in length and with the foundation again in the low end, hits into a highlight jam, smooth flowing, right in its pace and building vibe, and still catchy enough to be one of Orion‘s most memorable impressions. It’s pretty raucous by the finish, and that momentum carries into the upbeat start of “Kerosene,” the six-minute roundout to side A that has its footing in just about everything King Buffalo have thus far had on offer and offers a hook of its own that stands up to “She Sleeps on a Vine” easily in its midsection before breaking to drums and bass and sparse guitar noise to set the bed for a riff-driven concluding push that gloriously builds and pulls itself apart as it leaves stratosphere behind.

king buffalo

Side B immediately expands the context of the album overall by bringing acoustic guitar forward with a gentle vocal from McVay, who soon layers in accent notes of electric slide or pedal steel. Bass and kick drum join in seamlessly but the spirit stays quiet, contemplative, sweet and almost melancholy, and even when Donaldson brings in the hi-hat and snare in the second half, they hold that firm, and rightly so to lead into the immediate spaciousness of “Goliath” — by title alone it should be the heaviest song on the record but I don’t think King Buffalo use standard measurement principles; all the better — which moves from that stretch into another forward push, this one marked out further by its fuzz-toned guitar and rhythmic verses.

A complement to the opener, “Orion Subsiding” seems to be an answer more in vibe than what’s actually being played, reenacting the liquefied motion that the band seems to conjure at will, subtly moving toward louder riffing and more fervent crash in the back end but shifting before they’re done once more to the languid lines of guitar and bass that ultimately define the cut along with McVay‘s vocals, which underline their importance to the mood and hue of the album with the folk-blues inflection that begins “Drinking from the River Rising,” calling to mind David Eugene Edwards as much as the aforementioned Parks, and carrying the first two minutes of the 10-minute closer easily before the central guitar and basslines and drum progression take hold. From there, King Buffalo set quickly about winding their way through one more expanse, gradually, again patiently, making their way toward the apex of the album, and in that doing well to reinforce the chemistry and dynamic between the three of them, as seen in the midsection flourish of bass from Reynolds and the far-no-farther-out guitars from McVay that complement over Donaldson‘s drums.

At 6:20, McVay asks, “Where will you go when the well runs dry?” and the final build begins in earnest, thudding, chugging and all. The remainder of “Drinking from the River Rising” is given to a molten, heavy jam that, yes, brings Orion to its peak, but also emphasizes one more time the live feel that has remained throughout, no matter how many layers are in play at any given moment. That may be finally where King Buffalo are defined — on stage — but they’re not there yet either way, and they benefit greatly from the open creativity on display in Orion‘s tracks and from that sense of exploration of their sound and their dynamic. It would be a great third LP, but factoring in that this is their first, Orion is even more impressive for the cohesion that so clearly rests beneath all that exploration and the skill with which the band walks the line between the two. No question it will stand among the best debuts of 2016.

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Nathanael Larochette, Earth and Sky: Horizon Meeting (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

nathanael larochette earth and sky

[Click play above to stream Nathanael Larochette’s Earth and Sky in full. Album is out July 29.]

First thing to know about Nathanael Larochette‘s solo debut, Earth and Sky, is that it’s actually two albums. Presented across a pair of CDs, one dubbed Earth and the other Sky, the complete offering presents distinct looks between its component parts, as Larochette — the Ottawa-based guitarist known for founding chamber neofolk trio Musk Ox — explores intimate pastoralia via solo classic guitar throughout the six-part initial movement before compiling a massive, 41-minute drone simply called “Sky” for the second. The separation of these two musical personae is worth exploring in itself, and we’ll get there, but the fact that Earth and Sky‘s beginning is fractured, cut up into different pieces — like the land itself — while “Sky” is presented as one larger entity should say something about the conceptual basis on which Larochette is working.

His material is complex, and songs like “Monument” show a bit of the progressive tendency also demonstrated in the likewise new 36-minute single-song full-length from Larochette‘s progressive instru-metal outfit, The Night Watch, even if the project as a whole is more related to Musk Ox for its foundations in quiet acoustic contemplations, just taken to a more pared-back place sonically. “Sky” might be more lush with keys and effects and whatnot, but I’m not sure I’d call the Earth portion of Earth and Sky minimalist in anything beyond its just-guitar, no-vocals arrangement ethic. The textures Larochette brings to life across the six tracks — and really, the seventh as well — remain vibrant and evocative.

Larochette made his solo debut in 2012 with Threshold of Transformation, a 14-track outing melding guitar, glockenspiel, cello, etc. with his own spoken word performance. Obviously Earth and Sky is looking to show a different face these four years later, but a clear expressive undertone comes through nonetheless, bolstered by the clarity of the production and the natural body of the guitar. The presentation is not overblown by any means as “Awaken” slowly takes hold to start the album, but neither is it raw, as the longer stretches of “Oceanic” and the nine-minute “Invocation” demonstrate.

nathanael-larochette

As Larochette weaves the material into and through technically and melodically complex movements without losing the emotional crux underlying, the light reverb on his guitar almost becomes a character in the play. Earth and Sky was recorded and mixed by Simon Larochette in Nova Scotia and London, Ontario, and I’m going to assume that the common last name between Nathanael and Simon is more than just coincidence. Earth and Sky sounds like it was made with a familial touch, and that helps carry through not only the musical flow, but the thematic feel and intricacy of composition as well.

Of course, 37-minutes of solo guitar followed-up by a 40-minute drone exploration is no small ask of an audience, but Larochette meets this fact head on with an easy flow and immersive ambience within his songs, so that when “Slumber” — which no doubt could just as easily have been called “Death” — rounds out the first disc, its sweet wistfulness is no less engaging than was the launch of “Awaken” at the outset. What comes next is the slow unfolding of “Sky,” a departure in form and atmosphere if not entirely in intent. Given that the entire release is instrumental and that its two parts are standalone guitar and an ethereal wash, one might be tempted to combine Earth and Sky‘s pieces, playing both at the same time.

I did precisely that — waiting until “Awaken” picked up about two minutes in before starting “Sky” — and found the impression that both halves made together a deeply rewarding listen. Larochette has referred to the two pieces as “complementary,” but I don’t know if that’s what he had in mind. Even so, with variation of volume and timing, it is another layer of depth added to a work that, on its surface, seems to be simple but ultimately has so much more to offer. Taken on its own, “Sky” brings forward a post-rock sensibility as a central electric guitar figure emerges from the surrounding undulations of tone, but as the two play out together, the experience seems all the more resonant.

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Swamp Witch Premiere “Slither into the Circle” from The Slithering Bog LP

Posted in audiObelisk on July 25th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

swamp witch

The forthcoming LP edition of Swamp Witch‘s The Slithering Bog — out soon on Tribunal of the Axe — isn’t technically a reissue. Though the Californian death-doom outfit’s second full-length was released on cassette in 2015 via Transylvanian Tapes, the new version, mastered for vinyl and encompassing in its atmospheric density such that it makes even the air it fills seem heavier, is the first on a vinyl format. Built of two songs on its first side and four on its second, it’s a record that revels in the seemingly wretched. Cave-echo growls, lumbering riffs, and fervent plod are conjured with a depth of low end that feels sludged in its roots, but has turned to something even more rotten and vicious and crawling, and as the rolling “Strange Cults” leads the way into the trenches that follow, it is the utter hopelessness of the thing that stands out most. It’s like that part of the sea where the fish had to evolve their own light because the sun couldn’t get down that far.

Currently comprised of vocalist James, guitarist Ben, bassist Jacob and drummer Phil, Swamp Witch recorded The Slithering Bog two years ago in July 2014. They made their debut with Gnosis in 2011, but the second album, as it should, expands intensely on the first, digging into more of a classic death-doom style, as heard in the mournful guitar swamp-witch-the-slithering-bogof “Marsh of Delusion,” or the depressive buzz that emerges as “Slither into the Circle” leads off side B. The play from side A to B in the vinyl — moving from longer tracks to shorter ones — isn’t to be ignored, as it signals intent on the part of Swamp Witch essentially to overwhelm their listenership as much as possible at the outset and then move outward stylistically from there. To wit, the snare work on “Slither into the Circle” adds a subtle bounce cutting through all the decay and crash surrounding, and though it cuts the pace seemingly in half (actual percentages unknown), the subsequent “Bayou Tomb” lurches out some of the hugest and most engrossing tones The Slithering Bog has to offer, not necessarily moving away from the other material atmospherically, but expanding the context of the release overall and adding a sense of dynamic to the consistent, obscure ambience.

That context is pretty much set by the time Swamp Witch get down to the closing duo of “Dead Root” and “Lost Symbols,” but especially the latter continues to add layers of personality to The Slithering Bog through some post-Aldebaran or even earlier Novembers Doom-style guitar melody, not quite as emotionally wrought as the latter, and still a good deal rawer in overall approach, but potentially on a like-minded sonic path, though I’m not sure I’d trade the utter brutality of low-end they bring to bear across The Slithering Bog in favor of existential woes — it would obviously depend on how their songwriting continues to develop and the lineup takes shape and/or continues to discover its chemistry. In any case, Swamp Witch‘s second LP carries with it a tome-style impression and so feels worthy of the vinyl treatment it has received. No doubt its plunge will be too deep for many to take, but that’s precisely the intent, and The Slithering Bog lives up to it with artistry and without compromise.

The decaying sounds of The Slithering Bog were captured during July 2014 at Earhammer Studios in Oakland, California by Greg Wilkinson (Brainoil, Annihilation Time, Noothgrush, et al) and mastered at Trakworx in San Francisco by Justin Weiss (Ludicra, Slough Feg, Cormorant, et al). Initially released on cassette last year via Transylvanian Tapes, the collection of nightmare rituals that made this release so necessary and bizarre has finally oozed its way onto vinyl on three color variants (black, purple haze and swamp green) thanks to Tribunal Of The Axe Records who will unleash the offering later this month.

The Slithering Bog Track Listing:
Side A:
1. Strange Cults
2. Marsh Of Delusion
Side B:
1. Slither Into The Circle
2. Bayou Tomb
3. Dead Root
4. Lost Symbols

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Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel, Human Collapse: Choice to Arrival (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 25th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

los disidentes del sucio motel human collapse

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel’s ‘Departure’ from the new album, Human Collapse, out Sept 9 on Ripple Music.]

French heavy rockers Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel have been conceptually-focused since their outset, so it’s little surprise that their third full-length and Ripple Music debut, Human Collapse, would follow a similar course. What is surprising about the album is just how tight that focus has gotten when taken in consideration with the band’s songwriting. The Strasbourg-based five-piece of guitarist/vocalist Nico, bassist/vocalist Julien, guitarist Romain, keyboardist/vocalist Dany and drummer Greg began their tenure with 2011’s Soundtrack from the Motion Picture (review here), a charm-laced and uptempo run through the tropes of desert rock that stood itself out from an increasingly-crowded post-Truckfighters sphere of heavy rock by following a genuine plotline.

The inevitable follow-up, 2013’s Arcane, brought this to ideas and themes less directly related to desert rock itself, and the music followed suit, taking on a sharper edge — something that Human Collapse continues to push forward. To go with its ominous title, the band offers a lyrical journey of seemingly just one particular human — as opposed to it being the whole species collapsing; though I suppose one could stand in for the whole — from beginning to end, following a logical course of loss and redemption in song titles as the narrative seems to dictate the mood of the songs; “Community,” for instance, is a more melodic, welcoming post-rock sway after the semi-metallic tumult of “Border.” In light of Europe’s ongoing refugee crisis, it’s impossible to ignore a social context in which Human Collapse arrives, but even apart from that, the level of dynamic that has developed in Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel‘s sound would be enough on its own to carry a weightier sense of impact than either of their prior LPs.

For anyone who has followed Ripple Music over the last several years, the West Coast imprint has emerged as one of the most reliable American purveyors of heavy. Already in 2016, they’ve issued new records from heavyweights Wo Fat, Foghound and Gozu and continued their ambitious The Second Coming of Heavy split series, so to say that Human Collapse is arguably the most forward-thinking album they’ve put out to-date should not be taken as rank hyperbole or a statement disregarding of the context in which Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel‘s latest arrives.

los disidentes del sucio motel (Photo by Bartosch Salmanski)

Rather, it’s an acknowledgement of the breadth that the band covers in these 10 tracks/56 minutes, which begin with “7PM Choice” and end with “5PM Arrival,” taking us as listeners through 22 hours of travelogue musical and lyrical, a journey that starts with grand crashes and progressive melodies and moves through driving moments early in “Decision” and “Departure” presented with a commercial-production-style crispness — which, in the tradition of European heavy rock, doesn’t necessarily draw away from the impact of the songs — and only growing broader as it moves past “Border” into later stretches like “Rebirth,” “Determination,” and at last, the eight-minute “5PM Arrival.” Moods vary across the span but the prevailing impression is somewhat brooding, and the band works well with that, finding room in their multifaceted songs for vocal harmonies and resounding hooks, clever arrangements of guitar and keys, and in an earlier cut like “Trip,” clear evidence of how far their craft has come in the last half-decade delivered via efficient, progressive, still-straightforward heavy rock and roll, the screams in the second half setting up fluidity into the more lumbering “Border” that typifies the flow enacted across the entire album.

Perhaps most impressive of all is how easily Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel make it sound to blend songs that are individually catchy and that stand on their own — “Departure,” “Border,” “Community,” the thick-chugging “Determination” — with an overarching linear concept. One wouldn’t want to speculate as to which came first, the music or the concept, but either way, it’s no small feat for a group to compile material that would work so smoothly on both levels. As Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel wind up pushing through “5PM Arrival” into the melodic apex of the album, it’s no small arrival whatsoever, and it would also seem to mark their own arrival as a band working under their own impulses rather than feeding off the influence of others — at least to such a degree as to make the material distinguished in its sound.

This blend of progressive storytelling and heavy-riffed roots may continue to define them, it may not, I don’t know, but with Human Collapse, Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel would seem to realize the vision that they set out with more than five years ago, while also refining their songwriting to its most potent, resonant degree. It plays smartly to its strengths in multi-layer vocal arrangements and interweaving of guitar/key textures with big, nodding rhythms, but what it accomplishes with these elements is not to be overlooked.

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audiObelisk Transmission 058

Posted in Podcasts on July 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

In my defense, I’ll say it’s been a really hectic couple months. Truth be told, even I think it’s been a really long time since the last podcast, so if you do too, at very least we agree on it. If the tradeoff for that is getting to use a bunch of new tracks, some of which have been featured around here for streaming — like Foghound, Monkey3, Slomatics, Comet Control, Mindkult, New Planet Trampoline, etc. — and some of which haven’t shown up around this site yet — Besvärjelsen, Monolord, King Buffalo, Fungal Abyss, Landing, etc. — then I think it’s a decent tradeoff to make. Listening back to it now that it’s finished, as is my tradition, I dig it.

And of course I hope you dig it as well. We start at full run with Foghound and add some boogie to the mix with Långfinger before crashing into the wall of riffs that is Monolord and digging into the garage swing of Mindkult, so right off the bat there’s a decent amount of ground covered, and it only gets weirder as it moves forward, but hopefully even more immersive as well. The second hour, and really from New Planet Trampoline on, keep an open mind and try to just go where the sounds go. It should be a satisfying trip either way.

Track details follow:

First Hour:

0:00:00 Foghound, “Message in the Sky” from The World Unseen
0:03:58 Långfinger, “Feather Beader” from Crossyears
0:08:20 Monolord, “Lord of Suffering” from Lord of Suffering/Die in a Haze
0:14:44 Mindkult, “Witch’s Oath” from Witch’s Oath
0:20:34 Besvärjelsen, “Havets Sista Vals” from Exil
0:27:48 King Buffalo, “Kerosene” from Orion
0:33:46 Slomatics, “Super Nothing” from Future Echo Returns
0:37:36 Monkey3, “Dead Planet’s Eyes” from Astra Symmetry
0:42:06 New Planet Trampoline, “Acts of Mania” from Dark Rides and Grim Visions
0:51:03 Comet Control, “Artificial Light” from Center of the Maze

Second Hour:

1:00:52 Landing, “Morning Sun” from Third Light
1:15:10 Fungal Abyss, “Perfumed Garden” from Karma Suture
1:37:20 Atomikylä, “Katkos” from Keräily

Total running time: 1:55:09

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 058

 

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Saint Vitus Announce Live Vol. 2 Due in Sept.; Premiere “War is Our Destiny”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on July 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

saint vitus (photo by Audry Jarrett)

The 1990 Live album by Saint Vitus is a landmark, showcasing the doom legends’ raw power in a still-shockingly pure form. Originally released by Hellhound and reissued by Southern Lord in 2005, it was no less visceral 15 years later, and more than a decade after that, to say it still holds up is to brutally understate the case. Season of Mist will issue a follow-up to Live in the form of the aptly-named Live Vol. 2 on Sept. 23, from which one can stream a premiere of “War is Our Destiny” below right now.

Recorded in 2013, it captures Saint Vitus supporting their 2012 reunion album, Lillie: F-65 (review here), on a European tour with that album’s lineup: vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, guitarist Dave Chandler, bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez. Original vocalist Scott Reagers has since stepped back into the frontman role, and with him, the band will head out with The Skull and Witch Mountain on a US tour just days after Live Vol. 2 comes out.

From the PR wire:

saint vitus live vol 2

Doom pioneers SAINT VITUS are a heavy metal institution. The forthcoming ‘Live Vol. 2’ captures a dominating, Wino-fronted 2013 Euro festival headline set from the ‘Lillie: F-65’ line-up. The band roars through a set of classics (“War Is Our Destiny”, Born To Late”, “Dying Inside” + ) at maximum volume leaving no doubt that this is prime VITUS. Strictly limited to one-pressing only on CD and LP. In stores on September 23rd.

Track-list
01. War Is Our Destiny
02. Look Behind You
03. Let Them Fall
04. The Bleeding Ground
05. Patra (Petra)
06. The Troll
07. The Waste Of Time
08. White Stallions
09. Thirsty And Miserable
10. Dying Inside
11. Born Too Late

Recording line-up:
Dave Chandler: guitar
Scott “Wino” Weinrich: vocals
Mark Adams: bass
Henry Vasquez: drums

Pre-order link: http://smarturl.it/SaintVitusLive2

Available formats:
Digipak CD
Gatefold double vinyl
Digipak CD with digisleeve bonus CD
Triple gatefold vinyl with bonus album

Saint Vitus on tour w/ The Skull & Witch Mountain:
Sept. 27 Austin, TX @ Midway Field House
Sept. 28 Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Dallas
Sept. 29 San Antonio, TX @ The Mix
Sept. 30 Shreveport, LA @ Riverside Warehouse
Oct. 1 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jack’s Saloon
Oct. 2 Atlanta, GA @ The EARL
Oct. 3 Raleigh, NC @ Kings
Oct. 5 Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
Oct. 6 Boston, MA @ @Middle East
Oct. 7 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar
Oct. 8 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop
Oct. 9 Indianapolis, IN @ 5th Quarter Lounge
Oct. 10 Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Bar
Oct. 11 Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
Oct. 12 St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club
Oct. 14 Missoula, MT @ Erosion Festival
Oct. 15 Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
Oct. 16 Portland, OR @ Star Theater Portland
Oct. 18 Sacramento, CA @ Starlite Lounge
Oct. 19 Oakland, CA @ Oakland Metro Operahouse
Oct. 20 Costa Mesa, CA @ Wayfarer.
Oct. 21 Los Angeles, CA @ The Viper Room
Oct. 22 San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
Oct. 23 Tucson, AZ @ Southwest Terror Fest

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https://twitter.com/SAINTVITUSBAND
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Saint Vitus, “War is Our Destiny” (Premiere)

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Mindkult, Witch’s Oath: Bone and Root (Plus Full EP Stream)

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

mindkult witchs oath

[Click play above to stream Mindkult’s Witch’s Oath EP in full. Out soon on Caligari Records.]

Enter Mindkult. So far as I can tell, Witch’s Oath is the debut offering from the Virginia-based outfit, a 25-minute four-songer with a heart geared toward analog-grain horrors and distorted riffs to accompany. The reason I say “so far as I can tell” is because there isn’t a lot to go on when it comes to Mindkult. In the tradition of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ beginnings — and the songs on Witch’s Oath work in that tradition as well — Mindkult‘s sole inhabitant, who goes by Fowst, has kept much a secret going into this first release, presumably to add a sense of mystique.

A search on Monticello Studios, where the EP was reportedly recorded, likewise yields little result, but I’d be surprised if by the time Fowst gets around to following up Witch’s Oath — which is being pressed to CD and tape by Caligari Records — there isn’t more public info available, since the one-man band tap into modern cultish swing and sound natural and full doing so, like a complete band. Which I suppose it is if it sounds that way. Whether or not Fowst recorded “King and Priest,” “Witch’s Oath,” “Serpent’s Nest” and the crawling closer “Chief of Devils” himself is my most pressing question, since being so utterly self-contained could play heavily into the trajectory of the project, but I take it as a sign of the positive impression these cuts leave that one might be tempted to think about the future in the first place. Mindkult, though I won’t say much for the moniker, could most definitely have a future.

To call the project insular seems fair, and while I obviously don’t know Fowst‘s background musically, the signs showed here of having such a clear aesthetic foundation for Mindkult would seem to hint toward past experience in one kind of band or another, though confirmation on that is nil. Could be that dude is 19, has never put anything out before and just happened to nail it — one scenario is as likely as the other. The important thing is he did nail it. Opting to actively depart from the blueprint of the aforementioned Uncle Acid in the vocals becomes a major factor in Witch’s Oath‘s success.

mindkult witchs oath tape

Whether it’s on the rolling opener and longest track (immediate points) “King and Priest” or the more uptempo and swinging title-track that follows, Fowst keeps a calm, morose pout, almost shoegazing, in his voice, which is forward in the chorus of the leadoff, but almost buried in “Witch’s Oath,” which seems to run in an attempt to catch up with its winding guitar line during the chorus, setting up a depth in the mix that doesn’t undercut the rawer garage doom vibe in the sound but makes the EP a richer listening experience overall. As side one of a tape, there’s little more one could ask of “King and Priest” or “Witch’s Oath” in establishing the groove and the palette with which Fowst will work on the complementary two tracks, and the leads at the end of “King and Priest” follow a bluesy but plotted course that speak to an underlying consciousness at work, buzzing into the shuffle of “Witch’s Oath” with fluidity bolstered by the haziness of the guitar and bass tones, though as ever, it’s the drums — or drum programming; could go either way — that ties everything here together.

Side two essentially reinforces what Mindkult had on offer in the first two songs, but builds on it as well, as “Serpent’s Nest” finds middle ground between “King and Priest” and “Witch’s Oath” in terms of tempo while blowing out the EP’s best riff and hitting on a balance of obscure vocals and bright-toned lead guitar that one can only hope will become a building block for Fowst going forward. “Serpent’s Nest” saunters to its finish and “Chief of Devils” chugs in soon after, not quite on the beat but not far off it. It’s a quick start to a slow march. Like the opener, the closer tops seven minutes and much of the time difference between it and the 4:44 “Serpent’s Nest” could likely be attributed to pacing. Not a complaint.

Fowst peppers in layers of leads amid the central forward rhythm and his downer vocals, taking a particularly engaging solo toward the end of the first half of the track before the guitar rings out in the second’s verses as the starting point of the EP’s last push. The tempo picks up a bit at the end — a change to ping ride is the marker — and cuts out suddenly like they ran out of tape, which of course may or may not be exactly what happened depending on the circumstances of the recording, though it sounds more purposeful than not. Whatever Fowst‘s real name, whoever produced the album, whatever bands he or they’ve worked with before, it’s the songwriting coming through most of all on Witch’s Oath and the sense of stylistic accomplishment that songwriting showcases. It’s early in Mindkult‘s tenure to make a guess as to directions the band might go, but this initial EP makes a compelling argument in favor of finding out.

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Cuzo, Ensalada Ovni: Alien Communications (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 19th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

cuzo ensalada ovni

[Click play above to stream ‘Noches de Sol’ from Cuzo’s Ensalada Ovni, out in September on Underground Legends Records.]

At its core, Cuzo‘s Ensalada Ovni seems to be most about balance. A balance between guitar and keys, guitar and bass, bass and drums, drums and keys, guitar and drums, and the fluidity that emerges from that balance. It is the Barcelona trio’s sixth album and their first for Underground Legends Records, having made their debut with 2008’s Amor y Muerte en la Tercera Fase (review here) and followed it with 2010’s Otros Mundos (review here) as they continued to develop their deeply progressive instrumental approach.

The next year, they hooked up with Can‘s Damo Suzuki for Puedo Ver Tu Mente, and Alquimia para Principiantes and Son Imaginacions Teves followed in 2012 and 2013, respectively, but three years is the longest stretch between Cuzo albums to-date, so it’s with more than a little interest that guitarist Jaime Pantaleón, bassist Fermin Manchado and drummer Pep Carabante make their return with these nine tracks. As to what the time has done to the band’s sound, Ensalada Ovni offers something of a shift in tone from Son Imaginacions Teves, some movement away from the fuzz that record proffered at times and which their earlier work did as well, toward a cleaner, more purely progged take, but they were headed in that direction already. The key is in how dug into the sound the three-piece is, how linked they are through chemistry when they play.

I don’t know if it’s fair to say “it sounds like a band’s sixth record” — first because it might not necessarily sound like a compliment, second because who the hell knows what a sixth record sounds like — but Ensalada Ovni clearly benefits from Cuzo‘s prior experience and dedicates itself to moving that forward across its tight-woven but not overly dense 36 minutes. For all its flow and for all the grace with which it blends the elements at work, Ensalada Ovni almost feels like it should be more self-indulgent than it is. Any even semi-experimental offering is going to have that side to its personality, and Cuzo‘s latest definitely qualifies, but PantaleónManchado and Carabante keep a human core underlying the twists and turns of “Cuenta Atrás Muda” and the subsequent “Plutonium” that sets the tone for what plays out across the rest of the record, establishing the across-the-board balance noted above. That’s a tradeoff, inherently.

cuzo

Balance comes at the expense of danger, but I don’t think a song like “Il Dio Serpente,” which sounds a little in its dreamy guitar like it’s auditioning for a Gary Arce collaboration, would necessarily work as well if it sounded like it was about to fall apart. Rather, the skillful hand(s) that guide it lead the listener through its jam-influenced course easily, and as long as one is prepared to go along, it’s an engaging trip to take, particularly backed as it is by the shorter psych freakout/keyboard wash of “Todo Ha Terminado,” a quick but linear part meld that gives way to Ensalada Ovni‘s centerpiece title-track, which feels lush in its keys early but still manages to bold hold a groove and avoid getting lost in itself. Very much emblematic of the album that shares its name.

Guitar leads the way into “Noches de Sol,” but the drums still play a foundational role in the track, giving Pantaleón the space to establish the initial breadth of the track before moving into the jangly central figure, spacing out from there and returning once again to the simple strum. Cuzo‘s tones may have gotten less fuzzy over time, but their delivery still has presence in its motion, and the funky start of “Maquina Suau” demonstrates that cleanly. The song is under four minutes long but among the most singularly immersive on Ensalada Ovni, more driven by its synth, though it’s the guitar that ultimately wahs the way out over a cymbal wash, jazzy and funky in kind.

Space continues to be the running theme through “Cuzolar” and closer “Good for Business,” the former with a more laid back roll that highlights Manchado‘s smooth tone beneath its forward keyboard line, and the latter which seems to start out on a similar course but shifts into more manic guitar strumming at about its halfway point. Never quite knowing what to expect, toying with nontraditional structures, playing up one side over another — these are all pretty consistent factors throughout Ensalada Ovni‘s run, but the overarching sense of design behind the record shouldn’t be ignored, and though they have worked at a prolific clip to get to where they are, it’s very obvious that Cuzo have reaped the benefits of their experience as a band. Expect Ensalada Ovni to be another step on a much longer path, though it offers landmarks on its way as well.

Cuzo, Ensalada Ovni teaser

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