Friday Full-Length: Wovenhand, Woven Hand

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I love this album. There are certain bands where I can be relatively assured that, when I write about them, there will be just about no response whatsoever. Wovenhand is one of them. I don’t know if people just aren’t into it or if it’s not a fit stylistically or what, but I already know going into this post that I’m basically doing it for myself. Fine. Still worth it. Like I said, I love this album. As I love very few others.

Led by then-16 Horsepower frontman David Eugene Edwards, Colorado’s Wovenhand released this self-titled debut in 2002. It was a departure from the alternative roots Americana that formed the foundation of 16 Horsepower, into a vibrant and varied take on folk, heavy in presence and melody and diverse in arrangement and mood in a way that would become a signature of Wovenhand‘s approach as Edwards took on the central role of auteur and began to explore influences and instrumentation from around the world. In that regard, the 10-track/40-minute Woven Hand is relatively straightforward, with most of its songs working from a base of acoustic guitar or piano, but even in the backing drones, the plucked notes (mandolin, maybe? bouzouki?) and the percussion of “Wooden Brother,” Wovenhand‘s fascination with elements outside the standard guitar, bass and drums was well on display — though of course this was the case in 16 Horsepower as well.

The difference is one of aesthetic and craft. In the brooding “My Russia” or the lonely-banjo cover of Bill Withers‘ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Wovenhand taps into a dark, full-sounding reach that finds contrast not only in the shimmer in the guitar of “Arrowhead” or the hoedown-gone-boogie “Glass Eye,” but also in the relative minimalism of closer “Last Fist” — turn the volume way up to hear the counting cymbal crashes in the otherwise muted-sounding parts — and the echoing vocal showcase “Story and Pictures,” with its soft standout piano line and deceptive depth of acoustic guitar, keyboard and drum. Edwards‘ Christian faith is a prevalent lyrical factor from opener “The Good Hand” onward, framing perspective and phrasing alike — for example, the first line of “Blue Pail Fever”: “Thy will be done here on this highway” — but there’s still plenty of room for earthly concerns as well, as in the corresponding lyric in “Wooden Brother”: “We hit the floor just like a blue silk slip.”

This balance too forms an essential part of what makes Wovenhand‘s Woven Hand such a rich album, but I will gladly argue for the insistent push of “My Russia,” the tension in its masterpiece later-album-answerback “Your Russia,” and the sheer moodiness of “Ain’t No Sunshine” as heavy works prescient of the full-band Wovenhand would become, and that fluidity, toying with different musical traditions and ideas, heft among wovenhand woven handthem, is part of what ties the material together, though one shouldn’t discount Edwards‘ voice in that either. He is the central figure across the entire span of the record, with his compressed voice in the verses of “Glass Eye” — on stage he uses two mics — and self-harmonizing on the joyous “Arrowhead.” That track begins with a sample of a grandmotherly-sounding woman talking about going to grade school for an immediate tap into nostalgia, so Edwards isn’t necessarily the only presence throughout the entire album, but for plenty of it he remains the focal point, whether it’s the gospel resounding of “Story and Pictures” or the interwoven layering in “My Russia” earlier on. Working with Daniel McMahon and Stephen Taylor on the recording, he’s nonetheless more than up to the task of carrying the songs.

And the songs are the focus. Whatever Wovenhand conjures in terms of arrangements and melodies, it is consistently in service to the song in question. The sustained backing melody that fills out beneath “The Good Hand,” the brush snare of “Glass Eye,” the far-back echoing bells resonant in “Story and Pictures,” and the empty spaces without them, all work to making the material more dynamic, open and, ultimately, effective in conveying thought and emotion as well as a broad instrumental sensibility. In kind with this, Woven Hand — or, you know, Wovenhand, depending whom you ask and on what day — functions with two primary salvos: one at the beginning of the album and one toward the end.

Starting out with “The Good Hand” and the turn into “My Russia” helps set the course of breadth in and beyond Americana, an entire musical world at the project’s disposal, and after the meditative “Story and Pictures,” to have the bright strum of “Arrowhead” and its so-alive uptempo kick isn’t just a surge forward later in the tracklisting, but also a lead-in for “Your Russia,” which serves as the apex of the album, driving from a tense buildup of verses into a push of vocals that seems to be the moment of release to which the entire record has been leading. It’s not the end — I’d count the quiet aftermath in “Last Fist” as a worthy epilogue — but neither is its placement accidental both in speaking to “My Russia” before and in providing a landmark for the band that, 16 years later, is still capable of running a chill down the spine.

Wovenhand‘s discography of course would continue to build. Several of Woven Hand‘s cuts were reworked on 2003’s Blush Music, and as 16 Horsepower entered hiatus, Edwards diverted his full attention to his new outfit, digging into an increasing range of composition on 2004’s Consider the Birds and 2006’s Mosaic before beginning to build a complete band around himself with 2008’s Ten Stones, and getting outwardly heavier while remaining sonically adventurous on 2010’s The Threshingfloor (discussed here), 2012’s The Laughing Stalk (review here), and 2014’s Refractory Obdurate (review here). The band’s latest outing, 2016’s Star Treatment (review here), pushed their farthest yet into weighted tones and styles, and as it seems that barring a surprise announcement for a November release 2018 will pass without a new album from them — you’ll note the even-years pace of releases — one can’t help but wonder if some turn in their approach isn’t in the works for their next offering. Though they’ve toured a lot as well, so the timing could just as easily be affected by that.

I don’t know if Woven Hand will hit home for you as it does for me. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. If you’ve never heard it and give it a shot, or if it’s already familiar and you’re coming home to it, as always, I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

It’s just after four in the morning. Alarm went off at 2:30AM, as it has been for I don’t know how long at this point. Last night I sat on the couch with The Patient Mrs. around 8PM — The Pecan put to bed at 6:30 upstairs — and was falling asleep reading a Star Trek novel while she answered email and worked on whatnot. I went up to bed and called it a night, maybe 8:15PM. Big Thursday. At least it’s dark now when I go to bed. It kind of felt silly over the summer to hit the sack when it’s still daylight out.

A bumpy start to the week, but we got there by the end of it. Before I went to Norway for the Høstsabbat fest last weekend, my prescription ran out, so I was off my depression meds for a few days. Thursday through Monday, and by Monday, I was curled up in the shower wishing my life would end. That sucks. I’ve been on meds at different periods in my life, and I always thought of them as a crutch kind of help you get through it. Not a longterm thing. It’s been 10 months now that I’ve been taking them, and I still can’t really go without for any length of time. What a shitter. My wife and my baby both deserve better.

Norway was incredible though, my subsequent inner collapse aside (there wasn’t really time for such things at the fest itself). Seeing Elephant Tree again, and Asteroid, and SÂVER, who, yeah, I know it’s the dude who runs the fest’s band, but were really one of the highlights of the weekend for me. I was into Tombstones as well going back before Høstsabbat was a thing, so if you think I’m blowing smoke because of the good work being done with the festival, I’m not. Pelagic Records would seem to agree, what with having signed them and all.

Anyway, we had a couple nice days this week in Massachusetts while Hurricane Michael was devastating Florida and the greater Southeast, so I got to spend some time outside with The Pecan before the big winter lockdown comes. I don’t know when the clocks change — nor do I know how that’s still a thing — but we’re losing light each day and soon enough it’ll be dark at like 3PM and cold and rainy all the time for what probably 30 years ago would’ve been December snowfall but now that doesn’t really start until January.

He went down a slide on his own for the first time, and he claps hands now. These little things become a big deal. He’s a pain in the ass, but fun too. I feel ways about stuff.

I should do the notes. Ostensibly next week is the Quarterly Review, but between the fest last week and I’m still fucked up in terms of timing from being robbed in May, I’m not sure it’s going to work out. Tomorrow I’ll know for sure. I’m thinking I could skip it and do a plus-sized one to close out the year in December, though that inevitably comes up against list season as well. Maybe earlier in the month? I don’t know. I’m thinking of these things as I type them. That would allow me to get back on track, rather than be half a month late on the QR as I seem to have been throughout 2018. Will debate, and pending that I’ll actually hold off on notes. Be surprised.

I’m waiting on a date for when it will air and waiting to record my voice tracks for it, but I’ve turned in a second playlist for “The Obelisk Show” on Gimme Radio. Hopefully sometime next week I’ll find out when it’ll air and I’ll let you know. They’ve also launched an archive so you can sign up and hear past shows. It’s five bucks a month or something, which sounds like a lot until I think of the bullshit I blow five bucks on like every single day. Bags of ice and chewing gum. Protein bars. I’d count coffee in there, but that’s more of a life-support issue than bullshit expenditure.

So I kind of talked about it on the social medias while I was at the fest, but I’m going to do merch again. This site’s coming up on a special occasion, and in addition to my own way of celebrating, I thought setting something up tshirt-wise would be a good way to go. Yeah, I said I’d never do it again, and I’m not doing it the same way, but we can talk about that when the announcement goes out.

Alright. 4:30 now. I’m gonna go prepare the ground for when the baby gets up, hopefully not for another hour at least. Or maybe just crash on the couch for a bit.

Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thanks for reading and have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

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Leonov Premiere “I am Lion, I am Yours” Video; Wake out Oct. 26

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

leonov

Norwegian atmospheric doomers Leonov are getting ready to release their sophomore collection, Wake, on Oct. 26 through Fysisk Format. “I am Lion, I am Yours” is the leadoff among the included five tracks, and in its haunting melodic echoes and cacophonous wall of sound, it speaks to a duality that plays out across what follows in loud/quiet tradeoffs and patient builds. There are stretches of marked intensity and reaches where minimalism holds sway behind the vocals of Tåran Reindal, which remind a bit of what Sera Timms brought to Black Math Horseman in terms of effects and ambience. Still, through the crunching “Eucharist” with drummer Jon-Vetle Lunden rolling out a nod marked by the low end of bassist Morten Kjelling and the spacious guitars of Ole Jørgen Reindal and Rune Gilje, and into the 10:50 “Shem,” Leonov demonstrate a fluidity in their transitions that smooths out the noted juxtaposition. They’re not any more jagged in a given turn than they want to be.

Part of that is the aforementioned bass, which ties together a lot of the material along with Reindal‘s vocals, but leonov wakepart is the expectation of drift set up in “I am Lion, I am Yours.” That’s brought to fruition in “Shem,” which in its second half marches toward what at first seems to be an apex and turns out instead to be a deconstruction and looped static, and even more so in 15-minute closer “Wake,” but between the two is “Oceanode,” which follows a more distinctly post-metal direction and opens up after about a minute and a half into more a more churning riff that in the second half of the song comes to a head in the most prevalent wash of the record. The title-track follows a more experimentalist but ultimately linear course, offering a highlight vocal performance and subtlety of keys and percussion that bring tension leading to Wake‘s mountainous finish. The depths and heights, however, are clearly foretold in the opener, as is the wash, and Leonov execute their charge with a graceful balance between heft and space. Their methodical delivery seems to have grown in the four years since they made their self-titled debut, and Wake offers sonic spiritual catharsis in its heavier stretches and an otherworldly presence in its quieter moments.

If you’ve got an aversion to high-contrast or flashing lights, you might want to hold the screen out or step back before you hit play on the video below, because there’s definitely some of that going on and I’m not looking to give anyone a headache (honest.). Otherwise, you’ll find “I am Lion, I am Yours,” directed by Simen Skari, on the player immediately following, with some more release info courtesy of the PR wire afterwards, including the preorder link.

Hope you enjoy:

Leonov, “I am Lion, I am Yours” official video premiere

I am Lion, I am Yours is taken from Leonov’s 2018 effort ‘Wake’ out on Fysisk Format October 26th. Pre-order the album here: https://smarturl.it/IamLion

Ever since its formation in 2010, Leonov has found inspiration for its celestial doom in the existential, the darkness and affliction, as well as the curiosity and hope in things beyond our reach and comprehension.

“Wake” is an album that contends with life’s great journey in the face of these forces, from cradle to grave. From the childlike and fundamental quest for belonging, acceptance and affirmation – to the mature recognition that we are ever coming up short and are not in control of our existence, and as a summary, the titular song “Wake” conveys the melancholy and nostalgia over what has been found and lost. The song encloses a celebration of life and a grief over the things left behind, a pain that everything ends and at the same time a hope that death is not final.

Recorded at Taakeheimen Lydrike, with the exception of “Eucharist” recorded at Malabar Studio with Christoffer Gaarder, the band’s second album was later mixed and co-produced by Morten Øby at Taakeheimen.

Leonov is:
Ole Jørgen Reindal – Guitar
Rune Gilje – Guitar
Morten Kjelling – Bass
Tåran Reindal – Vocals/Synth
Jon-Vetle Lunden – Drums

Leonov on Thee Facebooks

Leonov on Bandcamp

Fysisk Format website

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Greenleaf Solve Lineup Issue in “Good Ol’ Goat” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

greenleaf good ol goat

So I guess maybe Hans Fröhlich couldn’t make his flight and Greenleaf and video director Peder Bergstrand — a bassist himself — decided to run with it as a video concept? Fair enough. The results are pretty hilarious in the Swedish heavy rockers’ new clip for “Good Ol’ Goat,” which comes from the impending Hear the Rivers, out Nov. 9 on Napalm. The song itself — its bluesy hook with Arvid Hällagård‘s vocals an all the more essential element to their approach and the classic stomp in Sebastian Olsson‘s drums — is kind of lighthearted, so it works on that level, but the story they go with is that because Fröhlich didn’t get there in time, they decide to hold open auditions for a bass player to fill in for the video. Chicanery ensues.

A bunch of first names appear at the end of the video: Jugglo, Kapsylen, Linus, Chris, Rikard, Lena, and so on, but I’d love to see a comprehensive list of who all the people are who show up to “audition” for the bassist role, because I’m willing to bet a couple of them would be familiar. Not to spoil it — though it’s handled pretty cleverly, and I won’t give that away — but it’s all the more fitting that they resolve the issue by having guitarist Tommi Holappa step into the bassist role himself. As the founder and sole remaining original member of the band, who are coming up on 20 years as a unit around Holappa, it’s kind of always been his answer anyway. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that Bergstrand does not himself show up for an audition spot. Maybe he didn’t want to give the impression that anything was taking away from the work he’s currently doing in the studio on a long-awaited new album from his band, Lowrider.

In any case, the video rules, and could hardly be a better lead-in for the arrival of Hear the Rivers, a month away. Also a month away is that release tour — and I think at this point I’ve posted these dates at least three times before; watch out, this might not be the last, either — Greenleaf will do with Germany’s Samavayo, who as well will herald a new album.

Clip follows. Have fun:

Greenleaf, “Good Ol’ Goat” official video

Mighty Swedish Stoner force GREENLEAF just released their amazing and amusing music video for “Good Ol`Goat”. The band on their epic movie:

“We wanted to do something funny and entertaining and Peder Bergstand came up with this idea. It’s a very fitting video since it’s packed with dad jokes and some of us recently became fathers. Enjoy the bass!”

On November 9th, Hear The Rivers comes into world via Napalm Records. This album turns out to be quite the mesmerizing bag of tricks that seizes the Swedish Stoner sound and enriches it with so many wonderful things, like the just released unforgettable riff-o-rama “Good Ol`Goat” or the slow soul-feeder “We Are The Pawns”. An absolute gem of an album that is best kept in the family – which is why former GREENLEAF- and Dozer drummer Karl Daniel Lidén (Craft, Bloodbath, Crippled Black Phoenix amongst others) produced it.

Pre-Order HERE!

GREENLEAF – Live w/ SAMAVAYO
08.11.18 DE – Dresden / Beatpol*
09.11.18 DE – Berlin / Musik & Frieden
10.11.18 DE – Stuttgart / Keller Club
11.11.18 AT – Vienna / Viper Room
12.11.18 DE – Munich / Feierwerk
13.11.18 CH – Olten / Coq d’Or
14.11.18 DE – Cologne / Helios 37
15.11.18 UK – London / Underworld
16.11.18 FR – Paris / Glazart
17.11.18 NL – Eindhoven / Helldorado Festival*
*without SAMAVAYO

Greenleaf is:
Arvid Hällagård: Vocals
Tommi Holappa: Guitar
Hans Fröhlich: Bass
Sebastian Olsson: Drums

Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks

Greenleaf on Instagram

Greenleaf at Napalm Records

Napalm Records website

Napalm Records on Thee Facebooks

Greenleaf at Sound of Liberation

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Review & Video Premiere: Wasted Theory, Warlords of the New Electric

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on October 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

WASTED THEORY WARLORDS OF THE NEW ELECTRIC

Wasted Theory, ‘Rawhide Hellride’ official video premiere

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Wasted Theory’s new video for ‘Rawhide Hellride.’ Their new album, Warlords of the New Electric, is out Oct. 26 on Argonauta Records.]

Wasted Theory have a thing for titles. Their third record, Warlords of the New Electric, is their second for Argonauta Records behind last year’s reissue of 2016’s Defenders of the Riff (review here), and both albums set lofty ambitions as regards positioning the band. This is interesting to note, because their songwriting could hardly be more grounded. Based out of Delaware, the Southern heavy riff rockers have brandished straightforward, ultra-dudely chug and groove since even before the release of their 2014 debut, Death and Taxes (review here), and done so proudly. It’s worked for them, and it continues to work for them as they push their sound forward on the eight-track/36-minute long-player, which is inarguably their tightest and most professional-sounding collection to-date.

They toured both coasts supporting Defenders of the Riff, so some sonic progression was to be expected, but in teaming with producer/engineer Joseph Boldizar at Retro City Studios in Philadelphia, they’ve found a space for themselves that is both crisp in and full in its tone on Warlords of the New Electric, and as their penchant for titles extends to the songs themselves in “Rawhide Hellride,” “Bongronaut,” “The Son of a Son of a Bitch” and nearly every other inclusion — you can keep “Doomslut Rodeo,” which feels willfully blind both to the cultural moment we’re living in and general decency to others; you’re not 12, grow up — and familiar homage is paid to whiskey, weed and Black Sabbath, there’s no lack either of live energy in the material. Indeed, Warlords of the New Electric itself feels both born of touring in terms of its craft on shorter, stage-ready cuts like “Rawhide Hellride,” “Heavy Bite” and “Drug Buzzard,” and in some nomadic implication of the name they’ve given it, which, whatever else it may be hardly feels like happenstance. They clearly put some thought into these things.

Comprised here of guitarist/vocalist Larry Jackson, Jr., guitarist Andrew Petkovic, bassist Rob Michael (since out of the band) and drummer Brendan Burns, Wasted Theory work quickly to demonstrate how far they’ve come in two years with a sound less outwardly about burl than the groove itself. Burns is right at home on his hi-hat in “Drug Buzzard” following the opening “Rawhide Hellride,” and as Jackson belts out lines like “Heavy metal heavy drinkin'” in the second track, even his guttural delivery seems to have taken on more character than it’s had in the past, and as they move into “Bongronaut” and “The Son of a Son of a Bitch,” and especially “Bastard County,” he reminds here and there of Earthride‘s Dave Sherman, who over time has also been able to make a rough-throated, “whiskey-soaked” vocal style his own.

wasted theory

Petkovic, who’s new to the lineup as of this record, provides standout work on guitar in “Bongronaut” and the later “Weed Creature” particularly, adding a sense of spaciousness to the songs that is welcome alongside Wasted Theory‘s signature crunch, which itself makes a highlight of “The Son of a Son of a Bitch” at the end of side A, with a post-Pepper Keenan central riff brought to bear with fervent push from Burns and a righteous slowdown of an apex. Still under four minutes long, “The Son of a Son of a Bitch” is emblematic of nearly everything that works so well on Warlords of the New Electric, and alongside the rolling “Bastard County,” it’s a subtle dynamic at play as the band looses memorable hooks and weighted vibes, Boldizar (who’s worked with The Age of TruthRuby the Hatchet and others in the Philly heavy underground) complements their work excellently with a full mix that allows some Geezer-style effects to make their way into “Bastard County”‘s second half and still sound natural doing so. The speedier fare on “Heavy Bite” only furthers the impression of Wasted Theory‘s overarching progression, tapping into more angular, semi-metal riffing as the drums gallop crisply behind. For all their grit and dirt-rocking mindset, they sound awfully clean in these songs.

And it works because that doesn’t seem contrary at all to their mission. Cuts like “Heavy Bite,” “Drug Buzzard,” “The Son of a Son of a Bitch” and the harder-push of “Weed Creature,” which touches on latter-day Orange Goblin fist-pumpery in its verses, feel like they were written with the intent of kicking ass on stage, but the momentum translates to the recording as well. “Weed Creature” just about splits in half from its raging front end to a more nodding finish — take your pick on the leads; they’re both gems — and as Jackson‘s vocals emanate from deeper in the mix as growls in the latter part of the track, it underscores the point of how comfortable Wasted Theory are expanding not just their aesthetic, but the reaches their mix occupies. I don’t know if Petkovic is the difference-maker on guitar or if it’s a general evolution of their style, but the balance between earthy rhythm and that airier lead tone help establish Warlords of the New Electric as moving toward the goal it has laid out even more than Defenders of the Riff made a show of its straight-ahead attack.

They finish with the aforementioned “Doomslut Rodeo” on a riff that channels Goatsnake taking on “Hole in the Sky” with a slowdown on drums in the bridge that mirrors “The Son of a Son of a Bitch” and a last chorus to remind that it’s the songcraft where they’ve most progressed over time, and while I’ll gladly argue they still have some kinks to work out of their titles — doesn’t have to be “safe,” but there’s a difference between edgy and hateful — they meet the task before them on Warlords of the New Electric with a vitality that indeed speaks of the album’s own triumphs, of which there are many. Though lineup changes invariably mean Wasted Theory are more likely to have a shifted dynamic their next time out, that they’ve been able to capture the band as it is here is worth preserving and provides a high water mark for their boozy flood of heaviness. They’ve only ever moved forward. They keep moving forward.

Wasted Theory website

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Wasted Theory on Instagram

Wasted Theory on Twitter

Argonauta Records website

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Argonauta Records on Twitter

Argonauta Records on Instagram

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No Man’s Valley Post “Lies” Video; Outside the Dream Due Early 2019

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

no mans valley

It’s been fairly quiet since earlier this summer when Netherlands-based classic heavy psych blues rockers No Man’s Valley announced their intentions toward a second full-length to be titled Outside the Dream, and launched a crowdfunding campaign for its completion. Well, I guess it all worked out, because the album is recorded and set for release in early 2019 through Tonzonen Records as the follow-up to 2016’s Time Travel (review here), which came out via Nasoni. They’re giving a first glimpse of what’s in store with the new release in a video for the track “Lies.”

And in a relatively concise three minutes laced with organ, a Stooges-style stomp and a catchy hook that may or may not switch between “It’s alright” and “It’s all lies” — kind of hard to tell with the vocal effects — the song makes its impression melodically and in terms of its structure and tone, as well as in its tight-knit, get-in-rock-and-get-out-again attitude. There’s nothing spare about it, no extra pieces left hanging about. It seems to pull its influence from the time when the only option for it coming out might’ve been pressed as a 45RPM record in a paper sleeve, and sure enough its shuffle and push would well earn that distinction if it came to it. As it stands, it’s just the first piece of Outside the Dream to be made public.

The video is assembled footage from what looks like the public domain — nothing really landmark, but the purpose it’s serving is to highlight the song, and it does that fairly enough. You can and should check it out on the player below. No Man’s Valley have a few live dates in the next month-plus, including later this week in Berlin with Daily Thompson. All info follows the clip itself.

Please enjoy:

No Man’s Valley, “Lies” official video

Check out the new video for the song Lies, taken from our upcoming album Outside The Dream. The album will be released on Tonzonen Records early next year. The album was recorded with Mathijs Kievit (Bartek, Luwten) at Studio Joneski and mastered by Pieter Kloos (Motorpsycho, Beaver, Komatsu). Catch the band live this year at:

10-6 Berlin (DE)- Zukunft Am Ostkreutz w/Daily Thompson
10-26 Arnhem (NL)- Popronde
10-27 Sittard (NL)- Popronde
11-2 Bonn (NL)- Kult 41 w/Giirl
11-15 Breda (NL)- Popronde

No Man’s Valley on Thee Facebooks

No Man’s Valley on Twitter

No Man’s Valley on Instagram

No Man’s Valley website

Tonzonen Records on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records on Instagram

Tonzonen Records website

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Friday Full-Length: Fu Manchu, Daredevil

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Fu Manchu, Daredevil (1995)

What’s most incredible about listening to the earliest Fu Manchu albums, whether that’s 1995’s Daredevil or their preceding 1994 debut, No One Rides for Free (reissue review here), is just how vividly the band knew even at that point what they wanted to do. Granted, guitarist/vocalist Scott Hill, bassist Mark Abshire and drummer Ruben Romano had worked together in the prior outfit, Virulence, whose work Southern Lord reissued in 2010 as the collection, If this isn’t a Dream… 1985-1989 (review here), but even so, for all of Fu Manchu‘s reputation as a bunch of aloof, laid back surfer dudes who, I don’t know, just happened to plug in their guitars and help define fuzz rock?, the coherence and the consciousness at work in No One Rides for Free and Daredevil, the sheer songcraft in cuts like “Trapeze Freak,” “Gathering Speed,” “Sleestak,” “Egor” and “Push Button Magic,” the structure of the album — CD era linearity, to be sure, but still vinyl-ready at 11 tracks/43 minutes, and indeed reissued by the band on LP in 2015 via their At the Dojo imprint; it’s up on their Bandcamp page — and the performances themselves leave no doubt that Fu Manchu were aware of the sound they were seeking out. The groove that would so much come to fruition on subsequent outings like 1996’s In Search Of… (discussed here) and 1997’s The Action is Go (discussed here), the Eatin’ Dust 10″ in ’99 and 2000’s King of the Road, was already embedded in their sound, and in its toneand overarching flow, Daredevil shows that without question. It emits that SoCal sense of cool born of skate and surf culture that still resonates nearly a quarter-century later, and not just because kids are walking around in flannels and boots again (hilarious though that is), but because it taps into the timeless notion of American self-determinism; the will and ability to look at what the masses are doing and say, “nah, not for me.” As long as there’s been cool, that’s been it, and listening back to Daredevil now, thinking of it in its world-just-getting-over-grunge-and-wondering-what’s-next context, Fu Manchu were doing precisely that.

As the band continued to evolve into the immediately-identifiable processes it continues to carry out to this day — their latest album, Clone of the Universe (review here), is a winner — so too did the lineup change. Daredevil marked the departure of Abshire from the four-piece with HillRomano and lead guitarist Eddie Glass, and the arrival of bassist Brad Davis, who remains in the lineup. One might then think of it as a bridge between the debut and In Search Of… to come, but that does something of a disservice to the chorus of “Coyote Duster,” the fu manchu daredevilstart-stop riff and Glass‘ solo there, or the shimmy in second cut “Tilt,” which backs “Trapeze Freak” at the outset and, like that track, tosses the name of the record into the lyrics. Certainly at the time Daredevil came out, no one knew Fu Manchu would be back the next year with a genre landmark, and while Daredevil still has its formative elements in terms of their approach, to listen to the semi-spaced push of “Travel Agent” and its ultra-stoned nodder compatriot “Sleestak” and its consciousness-drifting answer in “Space Farm,” the roots of what they’d become are right there in the depth of distortion, the weight of their rhythm and their seemingly endless supply of hooks. “Lug” has some elements of the Southern Cali punk scene that birthed them, and “Egor” and “Wurkin'” back-to-back are solid mid-paced groovers that are no less memorable than anything before them while retaining their edge as more than just exercises in songwriting. Top it off with “Push Button Magic” as a late highlight, and Daredevil winds up as a completely underrated inclusion in the Fu Manchu catalog. It may be the that the Hill/Glass/Davis/Romano lineup were getting their feet under them in these songs, but there’s no question they absolutely did so at some point before they hit the studio to record. Seriously, who’s gonna fight with Glass‘ watery solo in “Space Farm?” Jerks, that’s who.

There’s no denying — and I mean none — what Fu Manchu would go on to create, and I’m not taking anything away from those records. And as Glass and Romano departed in order to re-team with Abshire in Nebula, and a fresh-off-Kyuss Brant Bjork took over on drums and Bob Balch came in on lead guitar, Fu Manchu‘s delivery only continued to smooth itself out to a point of unmatched fuzzy refinement. One could argue that 2001’s California Crossing and 2004’s Start the Machine (the latter their lone release on DRT Records, which at that point was also handling Clutch) took them too far into a commercial direction, but that’s mostly a quibble with production value, since Fu Manchu have always been and remain an immediately accessible listen. Even unto their Century Media years with 2007’s We Must Obey (discussed here) and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power (discussed here), which beefed up their fuzz considerably, they never had anything approaching pretense in their sound, and their latter-day work on 2014’s Gigantoid (review here) and the aforementioned Clone of the Universe, has found them reopening the conversation with their punk and hardcore roots with a rawer take while retaining an affinity for the heavier elements they helped make so essential in the first place. Classic band? Definitely.

And most importantly, the value of Daredevil extends beyond the academic to the songs themselves. 23 years after the fact, it’s still a gnarly listen, brimming with attitude and a quality of output that, yes, demonstrates clearly that Fu Manchu‘s vision of fuzzy heavy rock was not happenstance, but moreover, simply kicks ass. To my knowledge, they’ve never played it in its entirety live as they have The Action is GoIn Search Of… and (I believe) King of the Road, and I’m not sure they would, as it doesn’t have the same kind of profile as those records, but if any of these tracks made its way into a set, as “Push Button Magic” still does every now and then, I can only imagine feeling lucky to be there to see it.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

If you’re reading this, that at least means I made it to the end of the week enough to get it posted, so you’ll pardon me if I take a second to congratulate myself on that.

Before I get into anything else, I want to say thanks to everybody who listened to the first episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. Can’t even begin to tell you how much that means to me. If you get the chance, it’s re-airing two more times over the next couple days:

Saturday, Sept 29 at 11am ET / 8am PT
Monday, October 1 at 11am ET / 8am PT

If you get to check it out, it’s hugely appreciated.

I’ve already turned in a playlist for a second episode — yes, it starts with YOB — but have to learn how to use their voice-recording dealy before it actually gets to air. We’ll see how it goes. Either way, my plan is to bring on The Patient Mrs. for a guest spot following up on the first episode’s cameo.

And next week I’m also traveling to Norway for the Høstsabbat festival, so I might try to chase down dudes in Asteroid or Elephant Tree, etc., and see if they want to record a couple minutes to air at a later time. That would probably be episode three. Look at me, thinking ahead.

I leave for that on Thursday, get into Oslo on Friday. Fest starts Friday evening, runs through Saturday, starting in the afternoon, and then I fly back on Sunday. Quick, efficient, in and out. My flights have a layover in Copenhagen, but nothing long enough to actually leave the airport. Still, I’ve never been to Denmark. Now at least I can say I was in and out. That’s more than I’ve ever been able to do with Sweden, much to my ongoing shame.

But I’m looking forward to Høstsabbat and incredibly grateful for the chance to get back there. It’s going to be good.

The Patient Mrs., The Pecan and I were in Connecticut last weekend, and it was good to get out of the house for a couple days and kind of reset the brain after having to put The Much-Missed Little Dog Dio down. At least not be somewhere where everything reminds me of her, which seems to be the case at home. It’s been rough. I know loss is universal, and everyone goes through it, and it always sucks, but some you feel more than you feel others. This one I’ll have with me for as long as I have anything.

What part of the week I didn’t spend writing or falling asleep against my will, I mostly spent taking care of the baby. Last semester, The Patient Mrs.’ schedule allowed her to come home between classes, feed him before she went back, and at least give me a couple minutes to get a post up or do something crazy like shower or go to the bathroom. The shifts (that is, mine) are longer now and her commitments outside of teaching classes are manifold. Lot of meetings, lot of favors done for colleagues. The Pecan is 11 months old as of earlier this week. He’s walking and babbling, climbing the furniture and getting into absolutely everything, but he’s also a lot, a lot, a lot of fun right now.

He’s had stretches where it’s been hard to take — those early teething stretches were not great — but (fingers always crossed) he’s sleeping through the night, which I know because I’m up for most of it and have the baby monitor on while I write, and he wants to play and read books and mash up blueberries and laugh and have a good time. Sure, we spent all day yesterday watching the Kavanaugh hearing, and that was probably the most screen-time he’s ever had, but even so, it’s a blast to chase him around the room, pick him up, give him his stuffed Porg to play with and so on. A lot of fun. Feels good. Money is super-tight — as in, The Patient Mrs. got paid last Friday and we were broke by the time I finished grocery shopping and buying gas this past Tuesday — but “daddy” is the best job I’ve ever had, hands down.

Emotions.

I’ve got a lot of stuff in the works for next week, including at some point a Wasted Theory video premiere that needs to get placed, but here’s where the notes are at right now ahead of the Norway trip:

Mon.: Megaton Leviathan interview and track premiere.
Tue.: The Exploding Eyes Orchestra album stream.
Wed.: Bourbon album stream.
Thu.: Probably Wasted Theory video premiere or otherwise Windhand review.
Fri.: King Buffalo interview… me.

A word about that last entry: Yes. Drummer Scott Donaldson from King Buffalo wanted to do an interview with me. He sent me questions and I answered them, and I’m going to post that on Friday. It was a fun, silly kind of thing, and it feels super-weird and self-glorifying in a way that makes me really, really uncomfortable, but it gives me another chance to talk about their new record, so whatever. I hate the thought of posting it like it’s some ego trip like who the fuck am I to think anyone gives a shit about anything I say other than “yo, riffs are cool,” but yeah. I’ve told myself I’m putting it up and in all likelihood, unless I can manage to talk myself out of it between now and then — as, rest assured, a big part of me is trying to do — it’ll be up sometime before the fest starts on Friday in Oslo.

Alright, that’s enough. It’s 5AM and time to put up the first of today’s six posts. Woof. Then maybe I’ll have some more coffee and read or go back upstairs and try to crash out for a bit until the baby gets up, which I expect he will within the hour. I was up a few times between when I first fell asleep at 9PM and 2:30AM when the alarm went off, so whether it’s during baby-nap or what, more sleep is probably going to happen today one way or another.

Have a great and safe weekend, and again, thank you for reading. Back Monday, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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Bismuth Announce The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef Due Nov. 2; Premiere Album Trailer

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Whathaveyou on September 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

bismuth

You only get a taste of it in the album trailer by Chariot of Black Moth streaming at the bottom of this post, but the 32-minute title-track of Bismuth‘s upcoming second full-length, The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef, is heavy enough that you’ll be mopping your melted brain cells off the floor after they leak out your damaged ears. Provided you still have enough coordination to do so after the onslaught of noise and tonal weight. The Nottingham-based bass/drum duo will release the album Nov. 2 through no fewer than four labels — Dry Cough Records, Tartarus Records, Medusa Crush Recordings and Rope or Guillotine — and hearing it leaves little mystery as to why they’d garner such populous backing. Comprised just of the title-track and the subsequent six-minute scathe of noise-doom in “Weltschmerz,” it works around the theme of climate change and human impact on the planet, so yes, it is quite fucking grim. Quite fucking grim indeed. Just like our prospects for making it out of the next two centuries with a civilization intact. Good work, my fellow fuckwads.

Bassist/vocalist Tanya Byrne, when she’s not rumbling out the extreme-sludge chaos of Bismuth‘s low end alongside drummer Joe Rawlings in a bevvy of splits with the likes of UndersmileGnaw Their Tongues and Legion of Andromeda — significant company to keep, all of them — works as a volcanologist, and wrote the lyrics for The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef in consideration of exactly what the title describes. Not subtle, but certainly a devastating aural interpretation of a continually devastated ecosystem. You”ll find some comment from her below relating to the album, followed by the release info, followed by the trailer premiere.

All thanks to the mighty and seemingly-carbon-free-but-still-probably-somehow-toxic PR wire. Remember, kids. We’re all complicit:

Bismuth The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef

Tanya Byrne on The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef:

Last year I’d been reading a lot about climate change and the impacts it has been having on various parts of the world. There are particular habitats that act as warning flags for other ecosystems, because they are more sensitive to subtle changes. The Great Barrier Reef is one such area: It has been experiencing drastic changes due to a rise in global sea temperatures. In recent years, up to 70 percent of the reef has experiencing bleaching. The corals die, and as less survive every year, the extent of the reef decreases.

My hope is that through listening to this album, listeners will be prompted to do their own research into the effects that our species are having on this planet, and to rely less on the over-simplification of this issue that is so often presented by media outlets or political parties. Their soundbites are good for quotes, but not for explaining this complex and interconnected problem. As an environmental scientist, I try to be hopeful for the future, but I feel optimism can only be gained if all countries and political parties stop blaming each other and start working together to prevent further degradation of our planet.

The current political discourse on how to reduce our impact on ecosystems is stuck in semantics, all while these systems degrade. I believe we can reduce our impact, and I am hopeful that solutions will be found. However, many of these solutions are halted, while governments argue over who is to blame. The album title makes reference to the fact that climate change is affecting this habitat extremely, and inaction is one of the biggest causes of its decline.

Heavy/ slow duo, BISMUTH’s upcoming album, titled The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef, will be released on November 2 via a collaboration between four independent labels; Dry Cough (UK), Rope or Guillotine (NL), Medusa Crush (CA), and Tartarus Records (NL) who will jointly share release duties.

The two piece are based in Nottingham, featuring Joe Rawlings on drums and Tanya Byrne on bass/vocals. The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef is their second full length release, and is in many ways a continuation of earlier work; a strong focus on multiple layers and frequencies coming together to create an enveloping and often oppressive sound is very much BISMUTH’s MO.

The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef is a two song opus with quite self explanatory subject matter, lyric-wise. Outside of the band, Byrne, is a volcanologist with a passion for environmental science.

The title track is a 32 minute behemoth, which stays true to BISMUTH’s own description – heavy with a core of fragility. The second track, Weltschmerz is – musically and thematically – a continuation of the first. Whilst their songs lean towards being lengthy, the message and passion behind them never diminishes.

BISMUTH UK tour dates:
23.11 – Nottingham
24.11 – Manchester
25.11 – Glasgow
26.11 – Edinburgh
27.11 – Liverpool
28.11 – Leeds
29.11 – Birmingham
30.11 – Cardiff
01.12 – London
02.12 – Bristol
03.12 – Brighton

All dates are with VILE CREATURE.

The Slow Dying of The Great Barrier Reef is released on November 2nd via Dry Cough (UK), Rope or Guillotine (NL), Medusa Crush (CA), and Tartarus Records (NL).

https://www.facebook.com/bismuthslow/
https://bismuthslow.bandcamp.com
www.drycoughrecords.com/product/bismuth-slow-dying-pre-order
https://ropeorguillotine.bandcamp.com/album/the-slow-dying-of-the-great-barrier-reef
https://medusacrushrecordings.bandcamp.com
https://tartarusrecords.com

Bismuth, The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef album trailer

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Brant Bjork Posts “Chocolatize” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork

Whoever keeps the records of these things, let the record state that when I started the very first episode of ‘The Obelisk Show’ on Gimme Radio, it was with this track. The opener from Brant Bjork‘s new album, Mankind Woman (review here), which was also premiered here over the summer, is a clarion to anyone who’d be so bold as to let a little funk into their heart, and frankly, we should all be so lucky to do precisely that. And of course the video keeps it loose, opening up with Bjork turning on the camera and sitting down next to his record player to check out the test pressing of Mankind Woman, only to pick up his guitar and play along to the song before he, as a full band on drums, bass and guitar, jams out the track in its entirety.

That’s a blast in itself, and of course it ends with him lighting up a joint and shutting off said camera after the song has ended, but there’s more going on in the video than just that. It’s loaded with easter eggs and references. To wit, in the opening shot, when Bjork is sitting in his badass retro living room — look at that lamp! — there are two piles of records in front of the cabinet, and facing out from them are the covers for Bob Dylan‘s 1965 album Bringing it all Back Home, on which the then-folk hero went electric, and the 1970 self-titled debut from Funkadelic, which aside from being one of the best albums ever released by anybody — period — relates to the song via the use of “chocolate,” as that same unit, as Parliament, would soon enough issue 1975’s Chocolate CityBjork might as well be recommending these to viewers, and with Hendrix showing up later on as well, one could hardly argue with his picks.

Note as well the Star Wars action figures in a display case, and the television in the living room where he’s playing bass that has the early Star Trek episode “Shore Leave” on wherein the crew of the Enterprise trips out on some planet’s atmosphere and all conjure various oddities in their mind, for Captain Kirk a certain Cadet Finnegan who used to beat him up at Starfleet Academy. It’s not there for long, but trust me, that’s the episode. Those are both cool inclusions, but perhaps the best of all is the Dylan reference, which continues into the video itself as the song makes its way to the chorus, the trippy visuals of the verse cut out and we see Bjork standing outside switching hats with words from the lyrics on them: “chocolatize,” “right on,” etc. This of course is a nod to Dylan‘s iconic promo video for “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” much referenced for his holding up signs with the words to the song on them. It’s a smart twist and fits the vibe of the track well. He ends with “love” and “dig.,” respectively. Badass.

One might also spot an open gatefold Black Sabbath LP on a shelf and I’m sure there are numerous others to be found. Either way, this is one of the best songs I’ve heard this year — it’s on that list, to be sure — and the more opportunities to dig into it, the better.

So here’s one. Enjoy:

Brant Bjork, “Chocolatize” official video

After the successful release of his critically acclaimed, thirteenth solo album “Mankind Woman”, BRANT BJORK is now premiering a brand new music video for the track “Chocolatize”. Welcome to Brant’s living room, dive with him into the desert and the psychedelic grooves of his brand new album, your trip starts below!

With an unprecedented sense of groove – the one and only Brant Bjork Groove – “Mankind Woman” is BRANT BJORK’s first ever release on European independent powerhouse Heavy Psych Sounds Records. Already described as his catchiest to date, this 11-track gem presents the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist’s take on 60s and 70s music era. Joined by long-time friend and Low Desert Punk musician Bubba Dupree, Brant Bjork blends the finest of his classic rock, rhythm’n’blues and funk influences to craft a groovy, hook-laden record that adds to a prolific and always heat-warming collection of records from the legendary desert rocker.

Once again, Brant Bjork makes here a record that reminds the listener that it was the ingredients of jazz, blues and funk that makes rock music taste so good.

Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman (2018)

Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks

Brant Bjork on Instagram

Brant Bjork on Twitter

Brant Bjork website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

 

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