The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Merlin, Execution Single

Posted in Radio on April 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s hard to decide what’s more striking about Execution, the new two-song single from Kansas City five-piece Merlin — the full, crisp production of the tracks themselves, or just how different the band comes across in them as compared to their late-2013 self-titled debut. Since that album’s release last August, Merlin have added rhythm guitarist Ben Cornett to the lineup with lead guitarist/backing vocalist Carter Lewis, vocalist Jordan Knorr, bassist Evan Warren and drummer Caleb Wyels, but it’s hard to believe one six-stringer can bring about so much change in the band’s approach, and that rather, the shift from meandering shoegaze psych rock to heavier crunch and twang-ready stomp in “Execution” can only have been the result of some conscious decision. “Execution,” which comes paired with a cover of Pentagram‘s “Forever My Queen,” meters out an initial roughneck stomp that has twang à la the intro of Clutch‘s “The Regulator” and moves into Melvins-style vocals and (sure enough) Pentagram-style doom and roll. Whatever else it might be, it’s a long, long way from shoegaze.

When Execution first came to my attention, I hadn’t yet heard the self-titled, and so pegged Merlin as looking to fit with bruiser American-style heavy rock, but in the context of the prior album, the “Forever My Queen” cover makes even more sense. The version that opens Pentagram‘s First Daze Here is 2:24, but Merlin‘s take is over six minutes, and since the song itself it kept largely intact the extra time comes from an extended jam on the back end. I hadn’t picked up on it because of the production value of the single — which, again, is crisp and accessible and professional — but what they’re doing there is an extension of the open vibe they brought to tracks like the lazily unfolding “Achimedes” from Merlin, just repurposed to suit their shift in sound. Where “Execution” only seems to build into something more raucous even in its second-half bridge, “Forever My Queen” opts to space out a little more. It makes more sense after one hears Merlin jam all over their self-titled, and where it might at first seem like they’re trying to milk the Pentagram track for everything they can get out of it, further investigation reveals that in fact, jamming has been an essential part of their work to date.

How this might continue to manifest on Merlin‘s upcoming second full-length, Christ Killer (due out April 18), I don’t know, but “Execution” seems to hint that perhaps the band is trying to find a middle ground between boozy heavy groove and trippy psych jams. It’s a noble pursuit, and it shows Merlin have the potential to distinguish themselves in more than just one niche going forward.

Hear “Execution” and “Forever My Queen” now as part of the 24/7 stream of The Obelisk Radio and grab a name-your-price download from the player below, conjured from Merlin‘s Bandcamp.

Merlin, Execution Single (2014)

Merlin on Thee Facebooks

Merlin on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Orange Sunshine, Live at Freak Valley 2013

Posted in Radio on March 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Years from now, when some unfortunate soul is putting together a comprehensive history of European heavy psychedelia, Dutch power trio Orange Sunshine will be one of a select few acts complicating the narrative. Similar to the manner in which their chief point of influence, Blue Cheer (who were also named after a kind of acid), forces those who’d look beyond the simplistic “Black Sabbath invented heavy metal” to broaden their horizons, so too does Orange Sunshine show that not all Euro-retro grooving began with Norrsken in Sweden or On Trial in Denmark. Orange Sunshine got their start kicking around Den Haag circa 1999, and released their debut, Homo Erectus, in 2001, following it up with Love = Acid, Space = Hell two years later, both albums released through Motorwolf Records with reissue through Leaf Hound. The three-piece of drummer/vocalist Guy Tavares, guitarist Arthur van Berkel and bassist Mehdi Rouchiche issued their third outing, Bullseye of Being, via the same labels in 2006/2007, but have produced little studio material since — just a couple singles.

In late 2013, Who Can You Trust? pressed a tape of their 2007 set from Roadburn (they also played in 2010), and just last month, Lay Bare Recordings followed suit with a vinyl of Orange Sunshine recorded at last year’s Freak Valley festival in Germany. The aptly-titled Live at Freak Valley 2013 is presented, even digitally, on two sides, and captures Orange Sunshine‘s ’60s loyalist heavy garage psych groove with a marked flow and thorough looseness. Each side tops a little over 20 minutes but meets a fuzz quota for probably twice that, Tavares‘ vocals cutting through in soulful, bluesy madman shouts. Rouchiche carries a lot of the weight on bass, holding together jams that seem to send van Berkel on solo explorations, but as a whole, the three-piece wind up as tight as one might hope for a dynamic act who’ve been at it for roughly a decade and a half, despite the swing in the songs themselves. Side A includes the opening jam that was their warmup before their time actually started, takes on All Saved Freak Band‘s “All Across the Nation,” and The 31 Flavors‘ “Distortions of Darkness,” and side B boasts Lincoln Street Exit‘s “Straight Shootin’ Man,” Sam and Dave‘s “I Thank You” (co-written by Isaac Hayes)  “Rock Me Baby” — which Blue Cheer also did — and the Rolling Stones‘ “Gimme Shelter.” The latter closes out in jammed fashion, and each is given Orange Sunshine‘s own stamp and stomp along the way, fitting smoothly with the original “Did You Tell the Woman?,” which to-date hasn’t been included on an Orange Sunshine LP.

The vinyl version of the album is just about gone (Lay Bare sold their yellow-platter version, the band has some regular copies left), but Orange Sunshine have made it available digitally through their Bandcamp, and while it’s not a new studio offering and the fact that it’s at least almost entirely covers doesn’t make me think a new one is on the way anytime soon, it still sounds like a psychedelic garage freakout and I wouldn’t ask more of it than that. Check out Live at Freak Valley 2013 now as part of the 24/7 stream on The Obelisk Radio or sample its two sides on the player below and see what you’ve been missing by not tuning in and dropping out:

Orange Sunshine, Live at Freak Valley 2013 (2014)

Orange Sunshine on Thee Facebooks

Live at Freak Valley vinyl from Orange Sunshine

Lay Bare Recordings

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Hull, Legend of the Swamp Goat

Posted in Radio on February 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Written and initially recorded in 2007, Hull‘s “Legend of the Swamp Goat” coincides timing-wise with their debut EP, Viking Funeral as some of the earliest material from the band. The Brooklyn now-foursome never released the song to my knowledge, but it now emerges on a 7″ of the same name released in a variety of colors DIY through their own Iron Works Orchestra imprint to mark the occasion of a European tour with Boston’s Elder that will begin at Roadburn and end at Desertfest in London. It is, however, more than just a dug-up lost recording trotted out because they needed something for the shows. Guitarist/vocalist Nicholas Palmirotto went back in and tracked vocals and reworked the guitar, and the song is newly mixed and mastered, so while it also predates Hull‘s first full-length, 2009′s Sole Lord, it’s also their first studio output since their brilliant 2011 album, Beyond the Lightless Sky (review here). Sure enough, the single — which clocks in at just over five minutes long and features a laser etching on the B-side — is a blend of new ideas and old.

I wouldn’t speculate on which layers are new and which ones older, but the sweeping lead that takes hold at 1:52 certainly reminds tonally of any number of Beyond the Lightless Sky‘s triumphant solos. Likewise, the multiple tracks of vocals show a complexity of arrangement that the band simply hadn’t yet developed on Viking Funeral – destructive as the debut was — and Palmirotto‘s voice holds the confidence of an approach that’s way more coming off its second record than making an initial demo. Fellow guitarist/vocalist Carmine Laietta, bassist/vocalist Seanbryant Dunn, then-guitarist/vocalist Drew Mack (currently in Cleanteeth) and drummer Jeff Stieber blend acoustics and electrics throughout and lock in a solid groove, showing some stoner roots in the verse rhythm, resulting in a Sleep-style march that Hull have since largely left behind. That, taken into account with the title “Legend of the Swamp Goat” itself and the swaggering riff-led midsection, give a somewhat lighthearted feel. It’s not exactly congruous with Sole Lord or Beyond the Lightless Sky, which were conceptual works both in theme and structure, but it’s fun, and the intensity of the final rush that caps “Legend of the Swamp Goat” gives a metallized apex that shows how willing Hull were even seven years ago to play various genre elements off each other, and how effectively they could do it.

Something of a curio, maybe, in terms of their overall catalog, but if the tour was an excuse for the single to surface, then three years beyond Beyond the Lightless Sky, I’m inclined to take what I can get. When or if a third Hull full-length will arrive remains to be seen, but the Legend of the Swamp Goat 7″ offers more substance than a stopgap and provides a listen unlike anything else in the band’s to-date discography. Paired alongside their recent vinyl reissue of Viking Funeral, it provides an insight into Hull‘s beginnings that may also offer some hint of where they may be headed.

Hear “Legend of the Swamp Goat” now as part of the 24/7 stream of The Obelisk Radio, and take a listen via the player below, snagged from Hull‘s Bandcamp page, where the 7″ can also be ordered:

Hull, “Legend of the Swamp Goat”

Hull on Thee Facebooks

Hull on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Bilis Sicario, II

Posted in Radio on February 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

When I started out to add Bilis Sicario to The Obelisk Radio, I was going with their EP, Encuentro de Sutilezas, on Torcaza Records. Then I found that a follow-up single, dubbed II, had been released by the Baja California mostly-instrumental outfit, and though I’m not entirely sure when either of them came out (they don’t seem to be recent, showing a 2012 release date, but some of their reviews are newer) and can’t find a lineup for the band other than the curiously-named Iván Glez. Glez who carries his own punctuation amid a repeated last name and is responsible for recording, mixing and mastering the single, I figured probably better to play it safe with the newer-seeming release. Whether or not Bilis Sicario is a one-man project from Glez or not, I don’t know — their email referred to “our debut demo” — but it’s a full-band sound anyway across the pair of cuts included on II, guitars layering in post-rock ambience to match step with crunching desert riffs. Both “En Vano” and “Argos” owe some of their approach to Queens of the Stone Age‘s early going, and while Bilis Sicario are instrumental, there’s a haunting human touch to each track that comes through in atmospherics more individualized than one might initially think.

Starting out noisy, “En Vano” gradually unfurls an upbeat, jumpy-style riff that’s the root of the QOTSA comparison, while thick bass rumbles underneath à la some lost jam from the 1998 self-titled. There arrive what sound an awful lot like ambient vocals if they’re not, but the crux of the track is the riff work, and though it feels short at just over three minutes, the riff is enough to carry the song, a steady kick drum giving the full tones a sense of march as the final slower progression plays out to an end of sustained amp noise. With “Argos,” which tops seven minutes, obviously Bilis Sicario have more room to jam out, and advantage is taken. Quirky effects swirl around likewise bizarro riff turns as a sample from the 1967 Mexican film Santo el Enmascarado de Plata vs. la Invasión de los Marcianos, in which a masked wrestler is forced to do battle with invaders from Mars. That bit of brilliance taken into account, the song furthers the atmospherics of “En Vano” with patient guitar in a spacious background of effects, returning samples providing a verse for the guitars to play off, until just before the four-minute mark, Bilis Sicario introduce a fuller riff that serves as the basis for the remainder of the song as it’s built around and developed.

What’s most surprising about “Argos” as it works its way out is how big it sounds. In its layers of guitar and bass, yes, but even more in the drums, the song takes on an awful lot of room before its long fadeout ensues. Listening back, Encuentro de Sutilezas put to use some similar methods across its own four tracks, but I figured since both were available as a free download from Torcaza Records, the single would make a good place to start for anyone looking to get introduced. You can hear it now as part of the 24/7 stream on The Obelisk Radio, and grab some files via the Bandcamp player and links below.

Bilis Sicario, II

Bilis Sicario on Thee Facebooks

Torcaza Records on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Bitchcraft, Bitchcraft

Posted in Radio on February 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Stoner riffs and doomed vibes. Blown out amps and follow-the-nod vocals. A sample from Alucarda. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think Polish five-piece Bitchcraft are doing much that’s never been done before, but sometimes in this age of microgenre you just want something that shirks off the complexity in favor of beating you over the head with the things that made you love the style in the first place. Bitchcraft‘s self-titled is little concerned with nuance, but takes post-Electric Wizard unbridled Sabbath riff worship almost too the bone over the course of its four tracks and 32 minutes. Songs roll out in doomy lurch topped with Julia Konieczna‘s vocals in straightforward verses and choruses, and they never really get above what most would probably consider a crawl throughout “Not the One,” “Mouth of a Cave,” “Acid Dream” and “Stoned One” (spoiler alert: they’re all the stoned one), but they don’t need to. The two guitars offer some lead/riff interplay, but really, the crux of Bitchcraft‘s Bitchcraft is in the thick grooves and the hazy vibes derived therefrom.

“Not the One” is probably the catchiest of the bunch, but Konieczna‘s voice offers more variety on “Mouth of a Cave,” touching on some of the same early-Acid King melodicism that Alunah has so skillfully made their own. The production surrounding the vocals is rough, but no more than it should be. The bass still has plenty of thickness distinct from that of the guitar on “Mouth of a Cave” and the subsequent “Acid Dream” — the middle pair being shorter than the bookends at 7:43 and 7:18, respectively — though the fuzz in the two guitars seems to get even hairier on the third cut, which is consistent in pace but so sonically dense that at any speed it would still sound slow. It’s the kind of tone that, if you had to pee in a cup after hearing it, you’d fail the drug test. Later on, the roll gets bigger and badder on the way to smoked-out leads that set up “Acid Dream” as the high point (ha!) of Bitchcraft, but the fivesome rounds out with the nine-minute “Stoned One,” which earns its way through channel-panning feedback that soon enough looses a riff worthy of as much of the song as it consumes. Righteously stoned.

Bitchcraft get better and more consuming the more volume is added, and as their self-titled comes on the heels of a 2012′s Evil Thing, which was of similar length — I’d call Bitchcraft a 32-minute LP, two songs on two sides — they may well still be feeling out their sound, but if it’s a wall of rumble they’re looking to create, they’ve got that more or less set. Not a bad place to start if they want to kick into creative expansion, though when it comes to what they do here, there’s nothing that seems to be crying out to be fixed.

Check out Bitchcraft‘s Bitchcraft now as part of the 24/7 stream on The Obelisk Radio and get a taste on the Bandcamp player below:

Bitchcraft, Bitchcraft (Dec. 2013)

Bitchcraft on Thee Facebooks

Bitchcraft on Bandcamp

[Please Note: This was the Add of the Week, but more than 15 records joined The Obelisk Radio today. See the full list here.]

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Grey Widow, I

Posted in Radio on January 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s entirely possible that UK four-piece Grey Widow‘s fucked-up barrage of monstrous tones and vicious screams will make you feel right at home. Seems like every time I post about a band who make a point of being abusively heavy, someone has to step up and say, “Well I don’t think they’re that abusively heavy.” If that’s you, then congratulations ahead of time on working on a different standard than the rest of the universe, because the way I see it, Grey Widow are maddeningly extreme in their approach, and whether it’s the slow oozing riffs of “I” — which I’d call the title-track of their self-released full-length debut, I, but for the fact that all the other songs follow suit in Roman numeral fashion — or unbridled snare-count-in black metal pummel of “IV,” they’re bound to be a test of sonic endurance which many listeners won’t pass. No doubt that’s the point. Weed ‘em out quick and then kick the living shit out of the rest. Grey Widow seem to have a pretty solid idea of what they’re doing on these eight songs.

But for a few cleaner shouts on “II” or in the punkish second half of “VII,” vocals stick to growls and screams. Those aware that Grey Widow boasts former Dopefight guitarist Owen Carty (also members of The Ergon CarouselThread and Parole) won’t have to strain to hear some of that band’s sludgy take, but Grey Widow are a different entity almost entirely, darker in there atmospheres and more metallic in their brutality. There’s plenty of groove in “III,” in the chaos-build of “V,” and in the consuming end section that begins with “VI” and runs through “VIII” — comprising about 25 of the album’s total 56 minutes — but nothing so stoner on display here, nor does I want for it, its tidal tonality captured by Slabdragger guitarist Sam Thredder late in 2013 at The Cro’s Nest Studio. Rather, Grey Widow commence and carry through an assault of their own, easing the listener into their sundry terrors the way one imagines being tossed off a cliff as “easing.” The Roman numeral titles only make the album more obscure and hard to get a bearing on, but this also seems to be on purpose, the band’s focus not at all on meeting halfway or making overtures toward accessibility.

In the fertile UK heavy underground, Grey Widow‘s debut positions them well on the more extreme end of the scene, and while that will invariably alienate some who might attempt to take on I‘s violent cycle, no doubt just as many other heads will turn in their direction precisely because they’re so unyielding. Particularly as I approaches its finish in the last three tracks, coming to a grisly, excruciating culmination on “VIII,” Grey Widow‘s approach feels terrifyingly solid for being the band’s first time out, and they’ve set themselves up to affect any number of atrocities they might choose in the wake of the genre-spanning cruelties unleashed here. You wanna have the heaviest, most extreme taste in the room? Okay. Meet Grey Widow and prepare to be outclassed.

Listen to I now as part of the 24/7 streaming rotation on The Obelisk Radio and grab a sample of Grey Widow‘s disturbing wares via the player below, snagged from their Bandcamp page.

Grey Widow, I (2014)

Grey Widow on Thee Facebooks

Grey Widow on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Innominandivm, Nocturnivm Ritvalis

Posted in Radio on January 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I happened to see on New Year’s Eve there were a few people who tuned into the radio stream the whole night. Presumably this was done as maybe some background for festivities or whathaveyou. That’s fucking awesome and I was thrilled. Innominandivm‘s Nocturnivm Ritvalis is not that kind of album. Basically, it’s the opposite. Comprised of four unflinchingly bleak drones, it’s not without a pulse, but is so resoundingly dark that light is hard-pressed to escape. The project, whose name is nigh-on-impossible to type correctly the first time — Innominandivm; nope, missed it again — is the dark-ambient alter ego of Chad Davis, multi-instrumentalist for Hour of 13 and any number of other outlets, among them Romannis Mötte, Anu, Tasha-Yar, Chains, Draath, Set, and so on. One more outlet in an already densely-populate discography? Maybe, but that doesn’t take away from the value of Nocturnivm Ritvalis in the slightest.

Each of the four cuts, titled “I” through “IV” on the 35-minute Innominandivm debut is based around a central atmosphere. The first is creeping and cinematic, the second more religious with a slow progression of organ-style tones amid open-drone wind, the third lower, more mechanical like if a cybernetic didgeridoo suddenly became sentient, and the last a 13-minute enfolding that’s tension without mercy and, like the opener, something John Carpenter would’ve been lucky to have in his heyday. Nothing is under six minutes, it’s all instrumental. There’s no payoff, no release, no hope, and since that’s obviously the intent, I can only say it works to glorious fashion. It’s easy to imagine that Davis wound up with these ideas as the result of working on other projects, or that maybe these pieces or the initial sparks from which they arose (such as anything here arises; mostly it sinks deeper and deeper) were intended for use in another context. So be it. They may be formative and minimal, but they resound nonetheless with aesthetic intent. If Davis wants to use them as the basis for future idea development or keep Innominandivm in his back pocket as a project to periodically toss out similar explorations, that’s his business.

What his long-term intent for the project might be, I don’t know, but he seems to hint that there’s more to come from Innominandivm and if that’s the case, Nocturnivm Ritvalis (am I wrong in thinking that U should be a V?) sets a deeply ambient foundation on which to build. It’s not friendly. It’s not party music. The depressive challenge Innominandivm makes, however, is one worth taking on, and for that reason, I’m glad to be able to add it to The Obelisk Radio. Check it out there now as part of the regular 24/7 stream or get a taste of “IV” in the YouTube clip below:

Innominandivm, “IV”

Innominandivm on Thee Facebooks

Chad Davis on YouTube

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Sleestak, Live at the Cactus Club

Posted in Radio on December 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

One thing about Wisconsin progressive doomers Sleestak: You never quite know what they’re going to do next. This minute, they’re putting out a pro-studio EP like earlier 2013′s Book of Hours (review here) and the next they’re giving a behind-the-scenes insight into their processes with something like last year’s Altrusian Moon collection of rehearsal recordings that followed their 2011 full-length, The Fall of Altrusia (review here). To their credit, they’re both prolific in their output and varied in what they issue, sonically and methodologically, and their latest outing, Live at the Cactus Club, is no different. Released just yesterday as a post-Xmas holiday special and made available for a pay-what-you-want download through the Milwaukee outfit’s Bandcamp, the four-track offering checks in at well over two hours of material.

Included in the download — in addition to the cover, of course — are two complete shows from the titular venue in the Bay View section of Milwaukee. The first took place Oct. 4, 2013, and the second Nov. 15. There are two audio sources for the Oct.  4 show, which makes the release even more fascinating, and the whole thing is rounded out with a 33-minute rehearsal-space recording from early in September. Four tracks, all over half an hour long. While one might think that’d put Live at the Cactus Club right into not-for-the-faint-of-heart territory, the psychedelic explorations they get up to in the Oct. 4 show and the natural vibe that persists throughout make it such that Sleestak even at their heaviest are hypnotic in their psychedelia. Guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Matt Schmitz gets into some growling after the ultra-patient build that starts the set, but even then, it’s easy to get lost in the track, and the whole thing unfolds so naturally that before you know it, they’ve heavy-jammed their way past the 30-minute mark, ebbing and flowing, staying mostly instrumental, but never losing a sense of progression.

The second audio source of the Oct. 4 show has crowd noise, which probably means it’s an audience recording and not the direct feed from the soundboard, but it’s interesting to hear the differences between them anyway, and though the Nov. 15 show at the Cactus Club was nearly five minutes shorter, it follows a similar instrumental flow. I don’t know if the difference in timing means the parts are improvised on or at least stretched out and random, but the jam is no less immersive a month later as it’s presented here. In its heavier parts, the rehearsal room version of the same material comes across as a little blown out, but that’s bound to happen with that kind of thing, and in any case, it’s up there with the soundboard source of the Oct. 4 show in being the best presentation of the work itself, whether it’s all intended to be one song or smaller individual pieces just put together here for the ease of being released as a whole. If you told me it was one 30-plus-minute song, I wouldn’t argue there was anything to stop it from being one, since the smoothness of the transitions and the ease with which Sleestak execute it are such that it works well on that level. I might, however, ask what it’s called.

Presumably these things will be revealed in due time, and until then, to have four probably-formative versions here on Live at the Cactus Club follows suit with Altrusian Moon in giving some transparency to the creativity at work within the band’s songwriting. I won’t dare predict where Sleestak might be headed after this, but it seems likely we haven’t heard the last of this jam.

Check out Sleestak‘s Live at the Cactus Club now as part of the 24/7 streaming rotation of The Obelisk Radio and get a sampling from the Bandcamp player below:

Sleestak, Live at the Cactus Club (2013)

Sleestak on Bandcamp

Sleestak on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Michael Wohl, Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar

Posted in Radio on December 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s a release home-recorded entirely with instrumental acoustic guitar, so yeah, it should probably go without saying that Michael Wohl‘s Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar has an intimate vibe. Nonetheless, Wohl, who also serves as guitarist/vocalist in Seattle rockers Mystery Ship – their EP II (review here) was one of my favorite short releases this year — manages to explore a range of emotional expressions within the decidedly minimal atmosphere, from the toe-tapper “No Ticket Blues” to the open-spaced folk of “Lonesome No More.”

Calling it primitive feels like underselling it, but fortunately there’s very little of the cloying-at-authenticity in what Wohl does that one often finds in neo-Americana folk. And it’s not simple by any means. Each of the titular eight pieces has a concept at work, as Wohl himself elucidates in a track-by-track accompanying the digital release even as he gives the tuning info:

Eight instrumental acoustic guitar songs recorded in my apartment between January 2012 and May 2013. Remastered July 2013.

1. Sheepmanblues: drone blues with a nod to Murakami, played in CGCGCE tuning. The SHEEPMAN is ever-present and cryptic in his instruction & aim.

2. No Ticket Blues: Played in DADF#AD. An original composition, indebted to Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Skip James. Ain’t got no Ticket, ain‘t got no ride.

3. Moonfeeder: nocturne played in DADFAD

4. Poor Boy Long Ways From Home: adapted from an arrangement from John Fahey who I think adapted primarily from Barbecue Bob and Booker White. This is one of the oldest songs. No one wrote it but it floats in the firmament of American music. Rev. Robert Wilkins secular song “That’s No Way to Get Along” became “Prodigal Son” when he took up the cloth and this song bears much similarity. Adapted by the Stones on the Beggar’s Banquet album.

5. Melatonin Blues / Fever Dream: I stayed up for way too long and improvised this arrangement of a couple ideas and figures I had been playing for a while.

6. Rainin’ Sideways: came up with on the couch while visiting my home, played in Open C. Recorded in Seattle on one of the ugliest days in history.

7. Long After We Are Dead: one of the first instrumental songs I wrote. It came together after visiting Antietam, Gettysburg, and other Civil War sites.

8. Lonesome No More: In E Standard tuning, capo’d 2nd fret. A foray into spatial composition…echo & distance.

Naturally, having a direct discussion from Wohl on the intent and meaning behind the songs gives the 27-minute album a different context, but even without it, it’s easy to get a sense of where the divide in “Melatonin Blues/Fever Dream” lies, the former staying somewhat in line with the rootsy style of “Sheepmanblues” and the latter wandering into more intricate changes, still keeping a down-home twang, but come into a folkier place.

The overall spirit of the songs is humble — a far cry from some of the swagger Wohl shows in Mystery Ship — and deeply personal, and in some cases, immediately and unconsciously familiar. The take on “Poor Boy Long Way from Home” gives a bare-bones look at where Masters of Reality picked up some of the melody for “John Brown,” and “Rainin’ Sideways” takes even more appeal from the fact that it seems like it’s about to come apart at any given moment.

Wohl has a tape version of Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar out and a 7″ coming that’s also set to feature “Moonfeeder,” but because it’s something that might catch people off guard in listening, I thought it would be perfect as well for The Obelisk Radio. You can hear it there now as part of the regular streaming rotation and check it out on the Bandcamp player below. Enjoy:

Michael Wohl, Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar (2013)

Michael Wohl on Thee Facebooks

Michael Wohl on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Sun Voyager, Mecca

Posted in Radio on December 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Orange County, NY, four-piece Sun Voyager bookended 2013 with demo releases. The first was Cosmic Tides, which arrived in January with three tracks and was issued on cassette, and the latest is Mecca. Also three songs and not yet given a physical pressing that I know of, Mecca finds its breadth in a laid back atmosphere of heavy psychedelia and rolling low end groove. The two guitars of Carlos Valle (also vocals) and Steve Friedman run through a varied level of effects from wah to cave echo, sometimes using a slide to evoke a swamp blues feel amid the pastoral sunshine of their tones and Valle‘s semi-shoegaze vocal approach, which follows the riffs on “Mecca,” “Space Queen” and “Suns of the Future” with burgeoning confidence and poise. Bassist Stefan Mersch is essential in keeping the songs together and moving forward, locking in smoothly with drummer Kyle Beach while the guitars move through and around the central figures of the songs. This is a pretty familiar construction for heavy psych, but Sun Voyager put it to use well, capturing a terrestrial sound that’s at once loose and swaggering and richly exploratory.

They get underway with “Mecca,” which clocks in at five minutes flat of immediately engaging, guitar-led fare. The initial groove rolls slow and subtly bluesy with space-echo lead guitar behind Valle‘s verse, which rests comfortably on the plush bassline. A tension is built leading to a swell in volume, but they’re not quite ready to give away the chorus yet. “Mecca” rises and falls in volume and energy, fluid all the while and progressively gaining volume as it pushes past the three-minute mark. It remains languid as Valle drops the title line, “The Mecca has arrived,” a couple times before feedback ends the song and cuts to Mersch‘s bass starting “Space Queen.” Both “Mecca” and closer “Suns of the Future” are around the five-minute mark, but “Space Queen” approaches eight and its feel is suitably jammed-out. Doubly hypnotic thanks to repetitive lyrics, “Space Queen” is arguably the easiest cut on Mecca to get lost, with a solo topping the jam that leads not to a massive crescendo — there is one, it’s just not overblown — but instead to a quieter finish, peaceful, psychedelic, and improvised-sounding, ending with a standalone feedback hum that gives way to the more active shuffle at the launch of “Suns of the Future.”

Last of the three, “Suns of the Future” is more upbeat, with steady kickdrum hits from Beach propelling its verses, an open chorus and effective tradeoffs between louder and softer stretches united by the delivery of Valle, which carries just the slightest tinge of Americana twang. A natural, classic heavy vibe persists, but Mecca is thoroughly modern, and along with the memorable songwriting, that bodes well for where Sun Voyager might go from here. You can check out Mecca (and Cosmic Tides, for that matter) now as part of the regular playlist on The Obelisk Radio, and get a sampling of the tracks on the Bandcamp player below. Either way, enjoy:

Sun Voyager, Mecca (2013)

Sun Voyager on Bandcamp

Sun Voyager on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Mist, Demo 2013

Posted in Radio on December 4th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

There are a number of bands out there using the moniker Mist, or one derived from it, but the newcomer Ljubljana five-piece probably have the market for Slovenian doom sewn up. The double-guitar/standalone-vocal traditional doom outfit began in Summer 2012, and last month their two-song debut, Demo 2013, was self-released digitally and on limited CD with artwork and logo design by drummer Mihaela Žitko, who’s joined in the band by vocalist Nina Spruk, lead guitarist Nina Grizoni?, rhythm guitarist Ema Babošek and bassist Neža Pe?an, each of whom aligns to her position to prove the universal natural of doom. Anywhere you go, there’s doom. Spruk sings in English as well, and both “Phobia” and “The Living Dead” prove as accessible in their themes as in their riffs. It’s doomer’s doom for sure, but the riffs are there and the songs lock in dark atmospheres that feel dead set on classic metal adherence.

I don’t you’d call either “Phobia” or “The Living Dead” revolutionary, but they’re well done for being the fivesome’s formative work. With backing whispers from Babošek, Spruk tops a straightforward lurch plays out like half-speed Judas Priest, giving a bleak viewpoint sonically while creating a memorable impression in Grizoni?‘s lead work and the vocal delivery. Mist sound like they’re just getting their start — and indeed they are — but this brief document of their first year finds them already knowing what they want out of their doom, and touching on nuance in how the solos are integrated, such as in the second half as a first-noodling-then-bluesy lead takes over and carries “Phobia” to a feedback drenched section to which Spruk adds some final lines before a quick Saint Vitus-style noise barrage leads the A side to its finish. “The Living Dead” is more upbeat, with a stronger hook that rounds out with the line, “You are the living dead!” calling to mind any number of doomly zombie fixations, among them Scott Reagers‘, though the production has a more modern feel than persistent Vitus comparisons might lead one to believe. I guess throwing Pentagram into the mix wouldn’t help that expressing-modernity cause either, but there’s some of that as well going on in the riffing for “The Living Dead.”

As Mist continue to get their bearings on their approach to the ways and rites of doom — maybe these tracks get pressed as a 7″? — it seems only proper to have them added to the it’s-on-all-the-friggin’-time playlist of The Obelisk Radio. You can check “Phobia” and “The Living Dead” out in that stream or take a listen via the Bandcamp player below. Either way, doom on:

Mist, Demo 2013

Mist on Thee Facebooks

Mist on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Øresund Space Collective, Live at Loppen 2013-11-19

Posted in Radio on November 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

If you ever want to know the fastest way into my heart, name a song “Black Sabbath Forever in Space” and see how long it takes for me to nerd out on it. Rest assured it’ll be some record time. That most righteous of titles closes the new live set from instrumental Danish outfit Øresund Space Collective, Live at Loppen 2013-11-19, which was captured just over a week ago at the Loppen club in Christiania, Denmark, as the band was opening for Siena Root (who have a new 7″ out; man I’d like to see that band play). There are four songs, the shortest one of them is 11 minutes long, and true to Øresund Space Collective‘s jam-based ethic, there isn’t a moment of the thing that doesn’t feel like it was made up on the spot. The lineup for the evening was Nicklas and Rune on guitar, Jiri on bass, Birk on drums, and Rasmus and sometimes-Obelisk-contributor Scott “Dr. Space” Heller on synth.

The band also have a new studio album out called Organic Earthly Flotation. They’ll be playing the 2014 Freak Valley festival on May 29-31 alongside Mos GeneratorStubbWo Fat, Samsara Blues Experiment and many others, and Live at Loppen 2013-11-19 is one of several gigs recently uploaded for free acquisition through Archive.org (check them out here). They (rightly) encourage audience taping, and as you can hear following the second of the four cuts here, “Galaxy X74W32,” even they’re surprised sometimes where their songs end up. Dr. Space introduces the lineup and gives the crowd the skinny on their approach, and in a brief moment, Øresund Space Collective are under way again. The set is half over at that point — they opened with the rich textures of “Star Search,” which is a fitting title for what’s essentially an exploration of space rock — and it’s abundantly clear that any warming up or settling in they needed to do is long since past. Though their roster of contributors changes regularly, what remains constant in Øresund Space Collective is the absolute liquidity of their jamming.

I don’t know if the Miles mentioned in “Miles, Where are You?” is in fact Miles Davis, but I’d have to believe it if you told me it was. At a meager 11:32, it’s the shortest of the jams here, but features a highlight bassline in the early going from Jiri and some impressive jazzy guitar interplay as well. Of course, the synth is more or less a constant, filling out the open spaces with brazenly psychedelic swirling and effects, making the whole sound fuller and more immersive. Things start to unravel a bit after eight minutes in, but Jiri and Birk hold the piece together until finally the drums stop and the song ends with a laugh from Heller. Perhaps unsurprisingly, “Black Sabbath Forever in Space” is the most riff-led of the inclusions from the show. Guitars start and stay at the fore for an initial stretch as the texture swells up around, soloing and riffing gradually being absorbed, leaving just the bass and drums to remind of the initial progression. Doubtless if that was the “Black Sabbath,” then what ensues is the “Forever in Space,” but the transition between the two is raw, natural and molten. At their best, Øresund Space Collective present the organic product of a creative process, and that’s just what you get with Live at Loppen 2013-11-19.

Archive.org allows for embedding players, so you can check out the release below. All told it’s a full hour of deep psychedelic hypnosis, but even in its component pieces, Øresund Space Collective manage to put the listener in a trance, and that’s precisely why I wanted to include Live at Loppen in the playlist for The Obelisk Radio. However you dig into it, either there or on the player that follows, please enjoy and space on.

Øresund Space Collective, Live at Loppen 2013-11-19

Øresund Space Collective at Archive.org

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Lizzard Wizzard, Lizzard Wizzard

Posted in Radio on November 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ve expounded at some length before about the virtues of stoner rock charm, and with nerd-tastic references to South Park and Game of Thrones and role-playing games — they bill themselves both as “turn-based” and “four-player” — Brisbane, Australia’s quadruply-zedded Lizzard Wizzard most certainly have that working in their favor. The four-piece band self-released their 37-minute self-titled debut this week, and from the Dopesmoker-esque beginnings of “Twilight of the Terminator” to the almost unfortunately catchy lurch of “Total Handjob Future” — this is not a song you want to be singing as you walk, say, through the aisles of a grocery store on a weekday afternoon — the vibes are as lighthearted as the tones are heavy. Guitarist/vocalists Michael Clarke and Nick McKeon, bassist/vocalist Stef Roselli and drummer Luke Osborne find a nod-worthy balance of humor and crushing riffs, and while something in me seriously doubts that closer “Dogs Die in Hot Cars” was titled after the Scottish indie band of the same name, the awareness of pop culture only adds to the appeal of the album.

To wit, the gang-shout chorus of “Don’t forget your towel!” cribbing Towlie lines from South Park arrives over molasses grooving in the midsection of centerpiece “Bong Dive,” and only underscores what Lizzard Wizzard‘s Lizzard Wizzard is all about: Not taking itself too seriously but still being heavy as hell. Couple that with production that’s both huge and professionally crisp, and while they might be goofing around, Lizzard Wizzard ultimately come off as having a clear understanding of what they want to do as a band and how to do it. With “Game of Cones,” a sample of someone sparking a joint (or whatever the kids are calling it these days) and inhaling echoes over feedback before an oddly familiar riff begins and introduces what turns out to be the theme song of the HBO series based on George R. R. Martin‘s fantasy books redone as doom — a heavy genre that, if I may be so bold, has been sorely lacking in dragons for some time. The screaming verse and feedback in “Chaaaaarles” mounts a palpable tension that only starts to see release once the undulating bastard of a riff gets moving, so even though Lizzard Wizzard are obviously enjoying what they’re doing, they’re also crafting well-structured and effective material.

If that song’s making a reference to something other than a band in-joke, I don’t know what it is, but with talk of an “adamantium boner” and some accusations regarding illicit trying on of blouses, it’s pretty scathing. Meanwhile, “Twilight of the Terminator” breaks out “hail Sagan” and “Dogs Die in Hot Cars” actually winds up making a threat to those who’d abuse animals — the lines “Better be good to your pooch/Or you’ll taste my fuckin’ gooch” epitomize the mindset heard throughout — and while the emphasis is clearly on riffs across the board, the lyrics are a big part of what’s making the tracks stand out from each other and from the bevvy of fuzz-worshipers across various inhabited continents, even if the chanted “bongs, bongs, bongs” makes up three of the total five words included in “Reptile Dysfunction” (six if you count “yeah”). Sometimes that’s all you need to say.

Alright, maybe I’m a sucker for wordplay and big riffs, but I know I’m not alone. All seven tracks of Lizzard Wizzard are playing now in The Obelisk Radio‘s constant, unceasing stream, and you can hear them there and check out the album and grab a free download courtesy of the Bandcamp player below. However you go, go Sagan:

Lizzard Wizzard, Lizzard Wizzard (2013)

Lizzard Wizzard on Bandcamp

Lizzard Wizzard on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Strauss, Strauss EP

Posted in Radio on November 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ve taken to giving London stoner rockers Strauss a two-syllable pronunciation for their name. As Stra-uss, the five-piece seem to revel all the more in the Kyuss influence that shows itself within the tones of their self-titled and self-released debut EP. A collection of six tracks that mostly hover around either side of five-minutes long — the exception, “Trigger,” is 6:30 — StraussStrauss is in deep with the aforementioned desert rock godfathers, the guitars of Charles and Nano owing both tone and riff construction to Blues for the Red Sun‘s blend of garage fuckall and distorted weight. Bassist Bill gets in on the action as well, particularly with his fills winding around the leads of “Trapped Outside,” but there’s also a metallic edge to what Strauss do on their first outing, and “March of One” showcases a more aggressive sway.

The vocals of Stef Sacchetto will be a point of contention for many listeners. While Charles, Nano, Bill and drummer Doc seem set in their sand-hued approach, Sacchetto comes across less sure sonically, whether it’s on “March of One” or opener “Burning Sky.” Mostly rhythmic, there are touches of melody following the riffs, but it’s a punkish take that seems to be waiting for the rest of the band to take on an anger that never comes. I’m not going to rip into somebody figuring out their stylistic niche on what’s been alternately billed as a debut EP and as a demo, but the disjointed vibe never quite evens out by the end of closer “Stop, Pause and Play,” which musically offers some of Strauss‘ most engaging material, working in a laid back exploration atop a solid drum line that moves outside some of the expected desert rock convention and winds up the stretch of the EP that shows the most promise overall, including from Sacchetto, who sounds more confident both in the earlier, quieter going and as he lets out a few screams on either side of the three-minute mark, prior to a jazzy interlude and a finale of forceful riffing.

If he’s a screamer, then I would say scream. Trend has moved away from abrasive vocals for the last five-plus years, but one, who cares?, and two, even if it’s a basis to start from in developing his own cleaner approach, it might at least help the comfort factor in the band’s early going. Either way, Strauss shows the group have a steady grasp on desert tones, and as London’s got a bit of a stoner boom going these days, there exists in their method a potential to stand themselves out from the crowd. You can check out Strauss as part of the 24/7 stream on The Obelisk Radio now, or grab yourself a fancypants free download from the player below, carefully lifted from their Bandcamp page. In any case, enjoy:

Strauss, Strauss EP (2013)

Strauss on Thee Facebooks

Strauss on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Mountain Witch, Cold River

Posted in Radio on November 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

As heavy ’70s loyal as the sound of Mountain Witch (not to be confused with Witch Mountain) is, one would almost expect the band to make their home in Sweden, but the three-piece hail from Germany and release their second LP, Cold River, on This Charming Man Records. Shades of earliest Witchcraft show up on “Ancient Light” and “School of Night” pays off with Electric Wizard levels of fuzzy lumber, and while the chugging swing of “The Covey” is easily traced to “Children of the Grave” — something I view as a definite positive — where Mountain Witch really win favor is in their tones and in the album’s overall presentation. A vinyl-ready 39 minutes, with an evenly split eight tracks, one could argue its style is retro, but really it seems like the trio of guitarist/vocalist René Sitte, bassist Tobert Knopp and drummer/vocalist René Roggmann are focused on cave echo more than on trying to seem like they walked into the studio right after Sir Lord Baltimore left.

That serves them well across Cold River, which feels unpretentious and even lighthearted as the rolling groove of second cut “Shrubbery the Warlock” unfurls, though the mood throughout remains set to perma-doom. It’s easy to imagine that the warm distortion in Sitte‘s guitar is all the more prevalent on the vinyl version of the album, but even digitally, the record sounds natural and not at all short on charm, delving into the occasional fit of noise to offset some of the other vaguely minimal aspects of its style. “Ancient Light” starts at a crawl and seems at first like it’s going to stay that way, but while there’s more of a focus on flow and riffs and low end depth than on-a-dime changes, Mountain Witch remain conscious of putting a build into their tracks, and “Ancient Light” shifts smoothly into a payoff section of faster chugging before returning to its lurch, Roggmann keeping the momentum going over “War Pigs” holdouts in understated but appropriate fills.

Most of the moves the Hamburg outfit make throughout Cold River should be familiar enough to experienced listeners that there will be little problem accessing their methods, right down to the air-pushing bass that rests under the layered guitar solo in “School of Night” and the vocals that reach up from the recesses of the mix on the closing title-track, giving a sweet, hungover sensibility to its first stretch, from which it launches into a standout riff and ends the album on a resoundingly smooth back and forth that in itself is a summation of what Mountain Witch do so well with their sophomore outing — creating an atmosphere that draws you in and carries you on the waves of its tones. Whatever aspects of its sound might be recognizable, Cold River makes use of these elements in a way that distinguishes Mountain Witch as bending their influences to their own purposes, and it’s a take on doom that warrants hearing.

You can check out Mountain Witch‘s Cold River now as part of the regular playlist on The Obelisk Radio and get a sample from the Bandcamp player below. Enjoy:

Mountain Witch, Cold River (2013)

Mountain Witch on Thee Facebooks

Mountain Witch on Bandcamp

This Charming Man Records

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