Album Review: Electric Moon, You Can See the Sound Of… (Expanded Version)

Posted in Reviews on August 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

electric moon you can see the sound of

Look carefully at the front cover of Dissertation Declaration Statement of superior quality, we write APA,MLA research papers among other citation styles Electric Moon‘s voip master thesiss- MyPaperHub. Based on reviews and legitimate customer reviews, we remain to be the #1 credible company writing essays You Can See the Sound Of… and you’ll note, in small letters at the top, the words ‘Extended Version.’ And so it is. The original, limited-to-500-copies edition of Round-the-clock Dissertation Paper 100 Cotton is at SameDayEssay.com. Order top-quality paper by our experts. Look at the samples to be assured of our professionalism You Can See the Sound Of… (review here) was pressed to white 10″ vinyl and issued at If you are looking for Qualities Good Phd Thesis youíve come to the right place. Get dissertation writing assistance on any topic only at SolidEssay.com. Roadburn Festival in 2013 to coincide with a residency from¬† help writing rhetorical analysis essay Best Mba Essay Review mba admission essays services davis Service Review. Many schools offer an optional additional essay, Electric Moon guitarist/synthesist/noisemaker Affordablepaper.net provides click to read more service free for students worldwide. No sign-ins or registration. Dave Schmidt, aka Search for jobs related to Sign Language Homework or hire on the world's largest freelancing marketplace with 13m+ jobs. It's free to sign up and bid on Sula Bassana. At the time,¬† proposal and report writing Dissertation Philosophie Faut Il Respecter Tradition essay on water essay writing spent my summer vacation Electric Moon¬†consisted of the core duo of¬† Clazwork editors pick the most popular essay writing services and rank essays; Best online essay writing services Best Custom Written Term Papers. Schmidt — who also runs Free Ebooks Segregation Essay Answers Algebra 1 More related with cpm homework answers algebra 1 : - Student Exploration Fan Cart Physics Gizmo Answers Life Sulatron Records — and bassist/effects-specialist/sometimes-vocalist/graphic-artist Professional and Apa Annotated Bibliography For Websites: ?? Low prices ?? Free features Amazing writing ? Full satisfaction. Click here for more right “Komet Lulu” Neudeck, as well as drummer¬† Buy Essay Usa UK Will Help You Out in Completing The Whole Assignment. What ever the deadline is You Can Order Your Dissertation Michael Orloff, who had taken over from original drummer¬† Where to Buy Essays Online: Fresh Guide for Students Is Ghost Writer Online? Many students have that question. It's clear that when they are ready to Pablo Carneval, who, in turn, has since rejoined the band. At the time,¬† Phd Thesis Proposal Presentation. Just imagine if you can create your own resume like a professional resume writer and save on cost! Now you can. Electric Moon were embroiled in an absolute creative flood, and between 2010 and 2012 they’d done no fewer than (and likely more than) 10 releases between splits, live recordings and studio offerings.

Their foundation in improvised heavy psychedelic exploration, in space-rock-infused jamming, and the fact that they were releasing through¬† Constant Content's Gre Argument Essay Pool connects you the best freelance blog writers online. Hire a blog writer today and start ordering great unique Schmidt‘s own imprint as well as respected purveyor¬† Nasoni Records, which by then was well familiar with Schmidt‘s solo work under the¬†Sula Bassana banner, helped foster this relentless pace, and though they wouldn’t keep it up forever — how could they? — they were able to establish a reputation for the quality of their work as well as for the frequency with which it showed up. Even now though,¬†multiple Electric Moon releases in the span of a year isn’t a surprise. To wit, they’re already set next month to follow You Can See the Sound Of… (Extended Version)¬†with a live album captured at the 2019¬†Freak Valley Festival in their native Germany. But it is the standard of performance and chemistry they set that continues to make it such a joy to follow their progression from one outing to the next, and the original edition of¬†You Can See the Sound Of… has always been a standout for me as a fan of what they do.

The three songs that appeared on that 2013 EP, “The Inner Part,” “Your Own Truth” and “No Escape From Now” are now featured as side A of¬†You Can See the Sound Of… (Extended Version), and they remain a synesthetic pleasure to behold, from the bright shimmering, swirling greens of the lead cut to the¬†Sonic Youth-gone-surf experimental feel of “Your Own Truth,” with¬†Neudeck‘s semi-whispered vocals holding sway over a tense drum progression and a guitar line that is hypnotic enough to not give away the fact that it’s building to a more fervent payoff of fuzz in the song’s second half. By then they’ve already set the trajectory across the six minutes of “The Inner Part,” instrumental and expansive with a strong rhythmic foundation under¬†Schmidt‘s floating guitar lines. It is no less the root of¬†Electric Moon‘s approach than it is the basis for the dynamic of any number of power trios — bass and drums lock the groove, guitar wanders as it will — but given the keys to this particular spaceship, Electric Moon do not at all fail to make it their own.

electric moon you can see the sound of original cover

And as with the best of their work, it doesn’t feel like it could be any other way as “The Inner Part” and “Your Own Truth” make way for the 11-minute “No Escape From Now,” which unfurls gradually, seeming to use multiple dimensions of its mix to set the drums deep within the soundscape of the guitars and effects, maybe-vocals coursing intermittently through the first half of the track in what might be spoken form manipulated by pedals/synth or might just be the band tapping into the hearing-voices subconscious of their listenership. Seven years after the fact, it’s still unclear, and that’s part of what makes it work so well. It’s not like Electric Moon are going to sound dated; time isn’t really a factor here, and the context in which this material is occurring isn’t one that depends on the moment in which it occurs, based on improv though it is. Once it’s out there, it’s timeless, because in a way, once it’s out there its time has already passed.

To that end, I’m left curious as to why the three songs that appear on the back half of You Can See the Sound Of… (Extended Version) didn’t make the cut initially. Side B — comprising “Windhovers” (6:15), “The Great Exploration of Nothing” (4:56) and “Mushroom Cloud No. 4” (11:19) — is taken from the same studio session, and is set up as a mirror for side A in terms of the runtime of each piece. The second here is a little longer, the third a little shorter, but still within a minute of each other from one side to the next, and while it’s true that in the case of the later songs — those added on to the new version of the release — that’s being done with fadeouts so that they’re in line with the originals, that does nothing to undercut what they bring to the proceedings in terms of atmosphere.

“Windhovers” sets itself to a patient drumbeat and gives some semblance of a post-rock vibe early — if it was the quiet midsection of an Amenra song, no one would blink — and executes a more linear build than anything on side A, while “The Great Exploration of Nothing” turns to more of an outward lumber, putting the bass forward as¬†Schmidt seems to move back and forth to keys and Neudeck takes the lead as the guitar otherwise might. The result is almost a verse/chorus structure — at least a play back and forth — but of course that’s not where¬†Electric Moon are at.

They push through and into a noise wash jam on “Mushroom Cloud No. 4” and cap hinting at a guitar line that could easily (and probably did in the studio) just keep going for some indeterminate amount of time. That is the band in their wheelhouse, touching multiple niches in terms of sound, but holding a flow and reach that is too much their own to be anything else. As a reminder of what they were up to at this point,¬†You Can See the Sound Of… (Extended Version) brims with psychedelic vitality, but one should not discount the work they’ve done since — on 2017’s¬†Stardust Rituals¬†(review here), for example — because the breadth that is so palpable in this material has only continued to expand.

Electric Moon, You Can See the Sound Of… (2013)

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Album Review: OZO, Pluto

Posted in Reviews on August 5th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

ozo pluto

Nothing matters out here in the abyss.

“They” say no one can hear you scream in space, but “they” say all kinds of stupid shit to sell movie tickets. Tell it to the sax. Or tell it to the saz.

It’s Karl D’Silva on the former, Mike Vest (Bong, et al) on the latter as well as bass and guitar, and Graham Thompson doing the yeoman’s work on drums for this second transmission from the outer outer far out outer. Pluto, that woeful, coulda-been-somebody planetesimal, tracks in terms of distance with where OZO are coming from in the Drone Rock Records LP follow-up to Feb. 2020’s Saturn.

Five slabs to stretch out upon, a vaguely digestible 40-ish minutes in total, but what a 40 minutes. Freakery abounds as sax and the Turkish saz combine and the guitar issues effects waves like dictatorial proclamations, the drums doing duly whacked jazz snare insistence as if the point might be driven directly into the listener’s skull — and, rest assured, there are moments on Pluto where that feels like exactly what is happening. Looking at you, “Fine Tune Abuser.”

That particular 15-minute assault from the eighth dimension is placed second-to-last ahead of the finale in “Kerberos,” but by then the UK trio have already turned your brain into so much blood sausage that all that’s really left to do is wrap it in some intestine and take it to market.

Doom jazz. Space jazz. Cosmic battery of cymbals crashing. It’s somehow-improvised madness, the kind of claustrophobia one might feel in a vacuum, operating in a bound-to-be-misunderstood-or-worse-overlooked quadrant of the galaxy that the likes of Blind Idiot God have been known to inhabit while unquestionably finding its own way to oblivion. It careens there, and it courses and it runs and it dies and it lives and it kills and it saves along the way — up, down, in, out, wailing and woodchipping whatever it finds.

The human psyche wasn’t built for this, but let’s take Pluto‘s howls and shoot them out beyond the Kuiper Belt and see if the aliens get back and are like, “Wow you guys are really weird.” You know, really sass the neighbors, fireworks and all that. Elon Musk wishes this was what his brain was like: an on-its-own-wavelength shimmer of untamed will, not just refusing to bend, but refusing to be unbent.

There is nothing arcane about it. “Ninety Nine Years” ain’t cult rock, and nobody here is trying to convince you they’re Dracula or some shit. This is real-deal, spit-in-the-face-of-expectation creativity, and if that isn’t horror enough, they’ll turn structure on its head 50 times as they churn through the suitably vast reaches of “Pluto” and the somehow-motorik centerpiece “Hydra,” which might be classy if you consider showing up to the party dripping wet in a car made from a giant whelk shell class.

It’s hard to know at any moment what’s coming next since inevitably that’s more of the same which is wild and intangible. You spend your time trying to get a handle on it and maybe that’s missing the point. OZO aren’t the frog to be dissected, or the Grey laying across the metal table. They’re the band. Tip the band. Tip, tip, tip the band.

Or whatever it is you kids do these days. You kids with your far-out, all-the-way-gone hyper-lysergics. You kids out there getting laid on the holodeck. You kids throwing rocks at your elders with your telekinetic powers. That’s not even fair. Come on now.

Melt and wash away, maybe. Maybe tell the constable it’s time to get fucked twice and bear out the scorch. Maybe. How many channels. You’ll need all of them.¬†Pluto. From the bark, you dummies.

We live in a galaxy of ass. Who among you? I ask. Who among you?

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OZO, Pluto (2020)

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Stream Review: Enslaved, ‘Chronicles of the Northbound,’ 07.30.20

Posted in Reviews on July 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

enslaved

I kind of rolled my eyes last month when Norwegian progressive black metallers Enslaved announced their ‘Cinematic Summer Tour,’ but from the sweeping ambient camera shots that launched the proceedings of the Roadburn-presented ‘Chronicles of the Northbound’ hour-long set to the sense of ceremony with which they wrapped up “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” chanting over acoustic guitar, the emphasis indeed was on a cinematic feel. Visually and aurally, this was a produced affair — far from the rawness that some live streams shoot for — much more of a concert film. They may have played the songs live, but it was a live stream premiere rather than a live show happening at the moment it aired, though as¬†the long-running Bergen, Norway, five-piece tore through the fan-selected setlist, it was hard not to be blown away anyhow by the force of the show they put on.

One has to think it helps that drummer¬†Iver Sand√ły¬†is a noted music producer in terms of the sound captured. Bassist/founder¬†Grutle Kjellson‘s telltale rasp came through with a studio-quality fullness that was a close match to some of what¬†Enslaved¬†have done on their albums, and in addition to apparently being the kind of percussionist who can tear into blastbeats on “Fenris” from 1994’s sophomore outing,¬†Frost, Sand√ły¬†— who joined the band in 2018 — periodically added harmonies to the clean vocals of keyboardist H√•kon Vinje, who made his debut enslavedwith¬†Enslaved on 2017‚Äôs¬†E¬†(review here) and only sounded more integrated in the band on the older material here.¬†Vinje and Sand√ły quickly brought a marked sense of presence to “Ethica Odini” from 2010‚Äôs¬†Axioma Ethica Odini¬†(review here) at the start of the set, and¬†Vinje‘s and¬†Kjellson‘s subsequent handling of the chorus to “Roots of the Mountain” was likewise a soaring early highlight that preceded the more dug-in vibes of “Fenris” and “793 (Slaget om Lindisfarne),” the latter epic taken from 1997’s Eld.

The live chat on the YouTube feed, which gives one an odd sense of togetherness while watching something like this, blew up at that point. People had been well on board with “Fenris” and the organ that kept it in line with the more recent, progressive fare surrounding, but when “793” hit, there was a palpable sense of digitally-expressed joy and copious exclamation points. Well earned on the band’s part, twisting through the various stretches of that track before bringing things back to ground with the landmark title-cut of 2004’s Isa; the song that made black metal swing and the album that set Enslaved on the proggier path they’ve spent the last 16 years marching. The placement of its hook after the more expansive “793” was a clever way to snag wandering or otherwise hypnotized attentions, and the keys running alongside the guitars of Ivar Bj√łrnson and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal sounded incredible. Really. I took notes of the setlist while watching, and next to “Isa” I wrote: “keys sound incredible.” I stand by it.

It was a little bit of a bummer not to hear anything off the forthcoming Utgard album that Nuclear Blast will release on Oct. 2 — they’ve put out videos thus far for “Homebound” (posted here) and “Jettegryta” (posted here) — and having asked to hear the record in advance and been shut down for not being cool enough, twice as much so. Still,¬†Enslaved will wrap the cinematic tour with a full performance of the album on Sept. 30 co-presented by the¬†Summer Breeze Festival, so they’ll take care of it one way or the other, and I found no argument with the fan-picked songs they played. “The Watcher,” which caps 2008’s¬†Vertebrae, is one of few pieces that could hope to follow “Isa” and not stand in its shadow in terms of chorus grandiosity, and as they tore through it — again with¬†Vinje making his presence felt — and shifted into “Death in the Eyes of Dawn,” I suddenly realized just how quickly the stated hour of the set was proceeding.

Taken from¬†2012‚Äôs¬†Riitiir¬†(review here), “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” enabled the band to express many of the strengths of their current incarnation. After the memorable “Isa” and “The Watcher,” “Death in the Eyes of Dawn” unfolded with a more progressive feel, still keeping extremity at its core, but allowing room for Sand√ły¬†to return on harmonies with¬†Vinje, and finding¬†Isdal moving to acoustic for the Viking-folk finish already noted. Along the way, the various turns and executions were sharply brought to bear and the band as a whole handled the song with the poise of the established masters they are. In reality, one could hardly have expected less. I could’ve done with more shots of Sand√ły at work, but that might just be curiosity as well to see what “the new guy” is up to behind the kit. The final setlist:

“Ethica Odini”
“Roots of the Mountain”
“Fenris”
“793 (Slaget om Lindisfarne)”
“Isa”
“The Watcher”
“Death in the Eyes of Dawn”

Though the presentation style was something of a surprise, the manner in which¬†Enslaved proceeded through that set brought a live enslaved pretend tourshow’s intensity to such outright professional smoothness, making for a showcase worthy of the scope of 20-plus years the band wound up covering. For those seeking a rawer take from¬†Enslaved, I might suggest their 2017 offering, Roadburn Live¬†(review here), recorded in 2015 when Bj√łrnson curated alongside¬†Wardruna‘s¬†Einar Selvik. That was¬†Enslaved‘s first official live release, and it was before either¬†Vinje or Sand√ły were in the band — between the two of them, they simply bring the melodic reach to a new level — but I wouldn’t be surprised either if this ‘Chronicles of the Northbound’ set showed up as a live album either, or a BluRay/video download or some such kind of A/V outing. While the quality of the product was outstanding for a live stream, frankly, to have it end there seems like a waste of material, even with the special merch they’ve made available.

As one looks forward to the arrival of¬†Utgard this Fall, and mourns the actual-touring Enslaved won’t get to do to herald its coming, the start of their cinematic tour was a refresher on just how far the band has pushed their sound and their live chemistry and how — as they approach 30 years from their founding by Bj√łrnson and¬†Kjellson in 1991 — they only continue to grow and evolve.

Enslaved‘s cinematic tour continues on Aug. 20 playing¬†Below the Lights in full as presented by¬†Beyond the Gates Festival, and wraps with the aforementioned Sept. 30 rendition of¬†Utgard presented by¬†Summer Breeze. I’ll hope to have more on¬†Utgard closer to the release, and thanks for reading in the meantime.

Enslaved, ‘Chronicles of the Northbound’ live stream (limited time only)

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Album Review: Ellis/Munk Ensemble, San Diego Sessions

Posted in Reviews on July 30th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Ellis Munk Ensemble San Diego Sessions

And a significant ensemble it is. Traveling from his native Denmark to San Diego, California, guitarist Jonas Munk of heavy psych innovators Causa Sui was set to meet up in Sept. 2019 with Brian Ellis (Astra, Psicomagia, Birth, etc.) whose solo work has been issued through Causa Sui‘s label, El Paraiso Records. By the account in the liner notes for the release, it wasn’t the first time Munk made the trip, but it would seem to have been an occasion nonetheless, as Munk and Ellis, based in Escondido, were to spearhead what has been tagged as the Ellis/Munk Ensemble featuring players from bands like Radio Mosow, Sacri Monti, Psicomagia, Joy and others. It’s a pretty extensive roster. To wit:

Brian Ellis (keys) – Astra, Silver Sunshine, Brian Ellis Group, Psicomagia, Birth, etc.
Jonas Munk (guitar) – Causa Sui, various solo-projects and collaborations

Plus:
Dominic Denholm (bass) – Monarch
Thomas DiBenedetto (drums/guitar) – Sacri Monti, Monarch, ex-Joy
Dylan Donovan (guitar) – Sacri Monti, Pharlee
Paul Marrone (drums) – Astra, Cosmic Wheels, Radio Moscow, Psicomagia, Birth, Brian Ellis Group
Trevor Mast (bass) – Birth, ex-Joy, Psicomagia, Brian Ellis Group
Anthony Meier (bass/keys) – Sacri Monti, Radio Moscow
Conor Riley (keys) – Astra, Silver Sunshine, Birth
Andrew Velasco (percussion) – Love, the City & Space
Andrew Ware (drums) – Monarch
Evan Wenskay (organ) – Sacri Monti
Kyre Wilcox (bass) – Truth on Earth

The most striking thing about this lineup — aside from the fact that among the 12 participants, there are no women — is the sheer amount of overlap. Members of¬†Sacri Monti playing in¬†Monarch and¬†Joy, members of¬†Astra¬†resurfacing in¬†Birth, and so on. Like any scene worthy of the designation, San Diego is plenty incestuous, but in no small part that’s essential to what makes it the heavy psych haven it’s become. The entire situation is fluid, so how could the music be anything else?

With¬†Munk‘s arrival in town as impetus for the get-together,¬†San Diego Sessions arrives (via¬†El Paraiso) as seven tracks/48 minutes carved out from these several evenings’ worth of jams and fits with¬†Munk and¬†Ellis‘ apparently shared vision of the stylistic interaction between psychedelia and jazz. Indeed, the stated comparison is to¬†Miles Davis‘¬†Bitches Brew, and track titles like “Pauly’s Pentacles,” “Munk’s Dream” — as opposed to “Monk’s Dream,” i.e.¬†Thelonius Monk — and “Larry’s Jungle Juice” honor that tradition as well, as does the immediate thrust and twist of 10-plus-minute opener “The Wedge,” which features eight players, three of whom are on keys, and sets a tone with scorching runs of lead guitar atop intricate rhythmic turns.

ellis munk ensemble personnel

One thing: they picked their drummers right. In¬†Marrone,¬†DiBenedetto and¬†Ware, the¬†Ellis/Munk Ensemble — whoever else happens to be around at any given moment — have some of the best San Diego’s underground has to offer on board when it comes to drums,¬†Mario Rubalcaba of¬†Earthless notwithstanding. With this foundation, guitarists like¬†Munk¬†— who appears on every track except the penultimate madcap freakout “Larry’s Jungle Juice”;¬†Ellis likewise sits out the brief but spacious “Munk’s Dream”¬†— Donovan and¬†DiBenedetto are able to freely explore various reaches and textures of sound, and so the variety of San Diego Sessions stems as much from its sonic moods as from its personnel.

Still, much of the tone — and much of the album, frankly — happens at the outset with “The Wedge” and “Pauly’s Pentacles.” As the latter tops 11 minutes, the two songs comprise 22 of the total 48-minute stretch here, so not an insignificant portion, and more important, it’s in them that the spirit of¬†San Diego Sessions is established in looking toward the aforementioned tradition of the jazz session. “The Wedge” locks in a solid groove early before spinning heads with guitar and keys alike, and “Pauly’s Pentacles” turns more mellow lead vibes into a vibrant apex ahead of dipping into a bit of cosmic funk, the drifting end of which is a suitable transition into the ethereal “Munk’s Dream” — the shortest inclusion at just 2:24 but an atmospheric highlight nonetheless.

By the time, then, that they dip into album-centerpiece “Electric Saloon,” which runs just under nine minutes long, the expectation is wide open for what might actually take place within that span of time but set in the sphere of heavy psychedelic improv. “Bucket Drips,” which follows, is another more meditative vibe, so “Electric Saloon” is given a mindful showcase, led into and out of as it is. It’s a two-sided LP and certainly there’s a flow across the span as one jam ends or fades out and the next arrives, but one might think of San Diego Sessions as taking place in three distinct movements: the opening two, the middle three, and the finishing two. Elements of personality drift in and out along the way — much like the people — but the way in which the pieces complement each other, right up to how the finishing chase of “Larry’s Jungle Juice” gives way to the smoother procession of “Stone Steps” to close out with a relative wash of keys, is such that each chapter has something of its own to offer the listener.

There is further nuance to how the pieces are arranged and how they bleed from one to the next that one might point out, but what that goes to underscore is the fact that¬†San Diego Sessions has been carved out from the raw material that emerged over those nights. It’s got its warts-and-all feel intact, but one assumes there was more recorded than appears in the completed product. Maybe that means a¬†San Diego Sessions 2 is in the offing, or maybe these were all the highlights; I don’t know. But¬†Ellis/Munk Ensemble captures a special stretch of time when talented players — many of whom already had established chemistry from years of collaboration in various bands — joined together to welcome a friend into the fold.

The instrumental and improvisational nature of the record might mean that not every listener is up for making the trip, but what comes through most of all in the tracks is the feeling of celebration, of challenging each other, of playing with sound and technique like the implements of magic they are, and of enjoying all of it. That atmosphere is infectious.

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Stream Review: Elephant Tree, Live at Buffalo Studio, London, 07.24.20

Posted in Reviews on July 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

elephant tree boiler room

It is a fortunate happenstance of relative geographic positioning that so many live streams taking place in European primetime occur right in the midst of my toddler son’s afternoon nap. An 8PM start in¬†Elephant Tree‘s native London meant 3PM for me, and amidst global pandemic and a chaotic year that no one could have anticipated except for all the people who did and were ignored, I’ll take what I can get. As far as I’m concerned, 3PM is primetime anyway.

I parked myself on the couch to stream Elephant Tree‘s hour-long performance at¬†Buffalo Studio in East London — presented and produced/directed by The Preservation Room — and even managed to cast it to the tv, which the Facebook app has been iffy on in the past. Presumably, the four-piece would’ve been on tour by now under different circumstances, supporting their album-of-the-year-contending second LP,¬†Habits (review here), on¬†Holy Roar/Deathwish Inc., but like everybody’s everything, well, you’re alive, so you know.

Shit luck. The record deserves to be hand-delivered by the band to audiences far and wide.¬†Elephant Tree‘s progression as a four-piece, what guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist¬†John Slattery — who joined in 2018 — brings to the lineup, was evident when I last saw the band in Nov. 2019 at¬†Magnetic Eye‘s Brooklyn showcase at¬†Saint Vitus Bar (review here), and they seemed all the more comfortable highlighting songs from¬†Habits, moving from a windy drone opening similar to that which starts the album with “Wake.Repeat” into lead-single “Sails,” quickly adjusting the line sound to pull¬†Sam Hart‘s reverby snare down and bring up fellow founder¬†Jack Townley‘s guitar and vocals, joined in the chorus as he was by¬†Slattery and bassist¬†Peter Holland¬†(also of¬†Trippy Wicked). Under studio lighting with two movable cameras, it was very much a made-for-tv stream, as opposed to more of a concert-minded experience.

If there was a warmup-factor, they were through it fast. I don’t know how often the four of them have been able to get together or rehearse over the last several mostly-locked-down months, but they ended “Sails” tight and shifted immediately to the between-song banter that has become a staple of their live sets,¬†Townley remarking on how is ears were too small for the in-ear monitors in what would become a running gag for the set —¬†Slattery later referred to himself as “blessed” in that regard — before they moved into the harmony-focused roller “Faceless,” continuing to follow the progression of the album’s tracklisting,¬†Townley chastising himself after for getting the lyrics wrong. New songs. Likewise,¬†Hart reminded¬†Holland before they went into “Wasted” that the count-in was six stick-clicks. Holland pointed to the camera: “Six clicks. Remember.”

They had threatened new material — newer even than the album, which came out in April — but none was aired. The combination of fuzz tones and keys in “Wasted” would be a highlight just the same, Slattery bringing more synthy melody later in the song, before they wished a happy birthday to superfan¬†Sister Rainbow and APF Records‘¬†Andy Field and launched into “Aphotic Blues.” It was one of two cuts from their 2016 self-titled debut (review here) they would play, and perhaps shifting into something older let them loosen up a bit more, but as that track turned to its bigger-riffing second half, they seemed to let fly a little and get into it, having pushed through the three-part vocal midsection and positively nailed it.

elephant tree buffalo studio

Goofing their way through a vinyl giveaway that would continue after — the game was that¬†Townley¬†was thinking of a number between 1-1,000 and if you guessed it you won a vinyl; I guessed eight and 42 — they soon went into “Bird,” another Habits high point and particularly emblematic of the progressive edge that’s emerged in their sound. With a duly floating vocal above¬†Hart‘s steady drum and¬†Holland‘s bass, they segued smoothly into the song’s atmospheric middle and dynamic ending with energy worthy of a live show, and though I’d seen them play it in November, knowing the song from actually having the record of course made a difference. Not ashamed to say I was singing along with the television at several points during their set, “Bird” being one of them.

Holland, who had been handling shout-outs (though¬†Townley mentioned¬†Sister Rainbow), gave me a hello — hey¬†Pete — and “Exit the Soul” followed, with its extended break, three-part vocal and before closing with “Dawn” from the first record, they gave away the¬†Habits vinyl. The winning number was five. At least I was close. Finishing off, they seemed once more right at home, as they had long since gotten momentum on their side and rolled through with apparent ease. Newer songs or older, they had it down and I don’t know if it was me projecting or an actual feeling on the part of the band, but there was evident relief when it was over before the feed cut, like they were glad to have gotten it off their collective chest. There wasn’t a full audience in the room to see it, but hell, at least they got to play and at least those who tuned in got to watch.

I was glad I did, and again, thankful for the afternoon timing making it possible to do so. I wound up spending a decent portion of the second half of the set being chewed on by our new puppy, which reminded me not only to take her out, but of how “real life” and music interact with live streaming in a way that never happens with actual live shows. If it was 10PM, would I have watched in bed on my phone before crashing out for the night? If it was 7PM, would I have been annoyed at having my nightly¬†Star Trek viewing interrupted? Maybe. These are weird times and they’ve forced those who care about art and creativity to adjust the balance of the space they occupy in the day to day. The dog nipped at my hand while they played “Exit the Soul.” I was happy that at no point did she pee on the floor.

Watching the several streams I’ve seen — some trying to capture a band-on-stage experience, some a fly-on-wall camera in the rehearsal space, some, like this, kind of in-between — I can’t help but feel some pressure to bring it in the context of the “current moment,” but honestly, screw that. Bands are trying to get by, like everyone else. They can’t play shows so this seems to be what’s happening. It’s interesting seeing different acts’ personalities come through their A/V presentation, and of course it’s different than watching a band on stage. Do I need to say that? Do I need to say how important supporting each other through a global pandemic is? If I do, I shouldn’t have to. Whatever.

I took the dog for a walk after¬†Elephant Tree were done, then got the kid up from his nap at the appointed wake-up time (4:38PM, if you’re curious). We drove around for a bit while he looked at sundry construction vehicles and ate some food, and when we came home, watched PBS Newshour, took the dog for another walk. I made leftovers for dinner, we watched¬†Star Trek, the dog peed on the floor, and we went to bed. The Yankees — also playing without a crowd — had a day off. Life happened, and the stream got folded into the day, not quite the escapist experience a live show would be, but still something special while it lasted. Listen to¬†Habits.

If you’re still reading, thanks and I’ll make it easy:

Elephant Tree, Habits (2020)

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Review & Track Premiere: Black Elephant, Seven Swords

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Black Elephant Seven Swords

[Click play above to stream ‘Yayoi Kusama’ from Black Elephant’s Seven Swords. Album is out Aug. 21 on Small Stone Records and Kozmik Artifactz.]

The priority is set quickly on Black Elephant‘s Seven Swords, and it’s the vibe. With zero pretense about their intention, the Savona, Italy, four-piece unfurl their fourth long-player and second for Small Stone with the patient, gradual build-up of opening cut “Berta’s Flame,” clearly in no rush to get anywhere, quiet but definitely in motion, and subtly establishing both the tonal weight and the spacious atmospheres in which the rest of what follows will inhabit. There’s a theme to Seven Swords, which indeed boasts seven tracks over a wholly manageable 33 minutes — something about samurai; they could well be following the plot of the 2005 movie of the same name starring Donnie Yen for all I know — but the album as a whole is less about a narrative arc than an instrumental one. Led by the warm-toned fuzz of guitarists Alessio Caravelli and Massimiliano Giacosa, with Marcello Destefanis on bass and Simone Brunzu drumming, Black Elephant are not shy about playing to genre.

But if they’re preaching to the converted, they’re doing so because they themselves are the converted and they’re doing so with character and a sense of dynamic that, like the breadth of the mix as a whole, is established early. Hypnosis would seem to be the name of the game as “Berta’s Flame” rolls through its instrumental 6:48, but it’s not entirely ambient, and in its louder sections, it gives a glimpse of some of Seven Swords‘ more rocking moments to come, whether that’s the straightforward fuzzblast of “Yayoi Kusama” or the nothing-if-not-self-aware “Red Sun and Blues Sun” later on. Still, the wash of guitar that takes hold in “The Last March of Yokozuna,” fleshed out with effects and far-back drumming, makes clear Black Elephant‘s intention to showcase tone as a major factor in the album’s overarching personality. Fortunately, their tones, and the varied uses to which they’re put, live up to that task.

As noted, Seven Swords is Black Elephant‘s second full-length through Small Stone, and it follows 2018’s Cosmic Blues (review here) not without some sense of departure but a consistency of overarching purpose. That is, it’s mostly the theme that’s changed, but there is growth demonstrated over the course of the record as well. On the whole, Seven Swords feels more exploratory than its predecessor. It’s jammier, has a broader reach, and when it coheres around a verse/chorus riff, as on “Yayoi Kusama” — which in addition to being the third track is the first to feature vocals — the effect is striking. After “Berta’s Flame” and “The Last March of Yokozuna,” that first verse is almost a surprise the first time through the record, and that works much to Black Elephant‘s benefit, as their ability to adjust the balance of their approach continues to serve them throughout the rest of what follows. From such classic riff-rockery, they move into the centerpiece “Mihara,” which closes out the vinyl edition’s side A and boasts a reverb-soaked forward guitar lick at the outset that gracefully rolls into a steady groove of the sort in which “Berta’s Flame” traffics before it unveils its largesse.

BLACK ELEPHANT

A sense of threat of the same thing happening looms somewhat over “Mihara,” but it’s hardly a negative, and before they get there, a whispered verse and a stretch of dreamy lead guitar cap the first two minutes of the track. When the fuzz hits, it lands heavy, but the lead guitar continues to float overhead, lending atmospherics to the underlying weight, and reminding of breadth as a factor in what Black Elephant are doing throughout the songs, which flow together with deceptive ease, loud parts moving into quiet, jams solidifying, liquefying; backs and forths that sound easier than they are because they’re executed so smoothly. Drums end “Mihara” on tom roundabouts and finish cold, but the sense of side A as a united work remains prevalent, and the band’s firmness of purpose in that regard would seem to be emblematic of their experience over the decade they’ve spent together.

Side B is the shorter of the two halves by about three minutes, but there’s still plenty of work to be done, as “Red Sun and Blues Sun” indicates. It’s the shortest inclusion at just 2:41 — the longest is closer “Govinda” at 8:48 — but the title’s nod to Kyuss isn’t happenstance, but rather further evidence of the band’s self-awareness since, indeed, it’s a Kyuss-style riff that follows the guitar count-in at the beginning of the track. With tambourine adding to the rhythm and the two guitars intertwining, though, Black Elephant make their mark on the brief instrumental, branching out in the midsection before resuming the push and finishing together in time to reference “Faeries Wear Boots” at the start of “Seppuku.” That dogwhistle, bound to perk up the ears of much of the band’s listenership, is likewise put to more individualized use, as the basis for a bluesy riff accompanied by distorted vocals early but soon giving way to mid-paced fuzzy roll that builds through one of Seven Swords‘ stronger hooks.

It serves as something of a landmark for side B, pulling back from the desert idolatry of “Red Sun and Blues Sun” and preceding the immediate psychedelic impression made by the opening guitar on “Govinda.” The finale is a stretch and meant to be one, but it does not pick sides, rather summarizing the course the rest of the album has followed, almost condensing its shifts into its own run between more serene and more driven progressions. It is ultimately the jammy side that wins out over the bulk of the song — almost inevitably — though as Black Elephant hit into the final moments of “Govinda,” they embrace a last fuzzy measure on the way to a return of the open-feeling guitar that launched. That’s a pointed conclusion just the same, highlighting the consciousness at work behind Black Elephant‘s craft and the tricky nature of a record that’s so likely to put its audience in a trance without losing itself in the process. Whatever theme they’re working under, that would seem to be Black Elephant‘s greatest strength, and it makes the manner in which their work unfolds all the more engrossing.

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Album Review: Cinder Well, No Summer

Posted in Reviews on July 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

cinder well no summer

The essential marriage on Cinder Well‘s third full-length, No Summer, is between the Irish and the Appalachian strains of folk. Driven by the songwriting and vocals, guitar, organ and production of Amelia Baker, the nine-track/37-minute collection brings minimalist stretches together with passionate delivery, subdued melancholy with mischief and traditionalism with the progressive. Baker, who is joined by Marit Schmidt on viola and vocals and Mae Kessler on violin and vocals and who recorded in Washington with Nich Wilbur, is the central presence that ties the songs and the variety of influence together, and as each piece unfolds into the next, she brings character and setting to the proceedings that resonate all the more on repeat listens, whether it is the the relatively full arrangement of organ, banjo, vocals and strings on “Our Lady’s,” which is the longest inclusion at nine minutes long and departs in its midsection to ghostly strings suitable to the stated theme of its lyrics, or traditional pieces like “Wandering Boy,” which opens, or centerpiece “The Cuckoo” and the later instrumental “Queen of the Earth, Child of the Skies.”

One more familiar with folk tradition might take comfort in the recognizable nature of these songs, but I’ll profess my ignorance in that regard (and plenty of others), so they’re new enough to me, though the rising of Baker‘s voice in “Wandering Boy” calls to mind any number of Appalachian melodies as portrayed by the likes of 16 Horsepower, and in Baker‘s fiddle work on “Queen of the Earth, Child of the Skies,” she seems to find a way to make the point of bringing Americana and Celtic elements together¬†without using her voice at all. Likewise, in originals like the title-track that follows the opener, or the sweeping interplay of string and vocals on “Fallen,” Baker underscores her work with an edge of rock influence — a mention of Dublin’s Lankum feels obligatory — and it would work as an arrangement of distorted electric guitar no less well than it does as presented on No Summer, where it nonetheless serves as a striking moment of depth.

Place is a consistent theme, and in that, the narrative of “Wandering Boy” fits in with the story of the record as a whole, which moves from the West Coast of the US to the West Coast of Ireland in the span of a lyric on “No Summer” and only grows more specific with “Our Lady’s” and the story of an abandoned asylum in the town where Baker has settled in County Clare — home to the Cliffs of Moher, Bunratty Castle, etc. — which serves as the backdrop as well for the epistolary closer “From Behind the Curtain,” opening with the line, “I write to you to tell you where I live now,” Baker‘s voice hesitant in the rhythm of the delivery as though she’s not sure how much she wants to share. After the captured wind whistles of “The Doorway,” “From Behind the Curtain” finishes full with violin and guitar before dropping out as the sound of waves on coastlines are directly compared.

cinder well

Two places at once, then, and Baker chooses to end the record on her own, as opposed to elsewhere throughout, where harmonies play through as on “No Summer,” or, most strikingly, “Old Enough,” which follows suit from “Fallen” in a kind of linear build, but is more patient in the execution and joins its strings with layers of vocals in graceful and willfully haunting melody. It does not feel like a coincidence that “Old Enough” — which ends only with singing — should give way directly to the instrumental “Queen of the Earth, Child of the Skies,” which in its three minutes transitions from Americana pastoralism to more gleeful fiddling, missing only handclaps to punctuate the point. By the time “Queen of the Earth, Child of the Skies” is over, the sense of departure from the effect of “Old Enough” is complete, but there’s still “The Doorway” positioned curiously ahead of the finale. It brings not just a feeling of place, but also of experimentalism on Baker‘s part that she moves from description through the lyrics to actually putting the listener there.

Maybe that’s the last step, to actually bring the audience to where Baker is, though the song-as-letter form of “From Behind the Curtain” renews that distance, so perhaps we’re not all the way across that threshold. In any case, as it rounds out with Baker giving the details of the town where she lives — “The asylum, the pub, the catholic church” — and talks about going into the church for the first time, the shift that No Summer has made from its beginning point to its end is that from a point of wandering to having landed. And what’s in the middle? The flying cuckoo bird of the centerpiece track.

For this reason as well as for the turns in its second half from one piece to the next and the simple experience of hearing it, No Summer is best taken in its entirety rather than as single pieces. Baker‘s songs might work well as standalones, particularly “Fallen” or “Our Lady’s” or “Old Enough,” but one of the joys of the album is hearing them interact with each other, a harmony here and a pinched note of fiddle on “Queen of the Earth, Child of the Skies” left in for authenticity’s sake. The first element that greets the listener is Baker‘s voice, strong and resounding, and the last to go is a plucked guitar that seems less resolute, but the dynamic Cinder Well brings to bear throughout doesn’t need to be either thing entirely to seem honest, and in fact is all the more honest for not being. Baker‘s performance is hardly joyous, but it is a joy to behold, and though the album takes the time to describe the gray tones that surround it in Ireland where lavender L.A. skies might otherwise be, it is no more of the one than the other, and its portrayal is richer for the travels that inspired it.

Cinder Well, “No Summer” official video

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Album Review: YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn

Posted in Reviews on July 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

YOB Pickathon 2019 Live from the Galaxy Barn

One suspects a certain amount of restlessness is in part behind YOB‘s issuing Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn. The four-song set, which arrives as a benefit sending all proceeds to the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Relief Fund, is a digital-only offering at least for now, and perhaps stems from a drive to do something, anything, to help both those who need cash, and those who might find solace within YOB‘s music. The recording took place, as the title hints, at the Pickathon festival last year, held at Pendarvis Farm in Happy Valley, Oregon, which they played twice, including this set on Aug. 2. That’s about an hour and 45 minutes north of the band’s native Eugene, so close enough to be familiar without being hometown exactly. For what it’s worth, the three-piece sound entirely comfortable in their surroundings, and the final mix, which was handled by drummer Travis Foster working from Ben Stoller and Josh Powell‘s audio, is full and vibrant especially when treated with the volume that — speaking as a fan of the band — it deserves.

YOB had numerous shows canceled owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, including three this week as they continue to support 2018’s Our Raw Heart (review here) on Relapse Records, though¬†Pickathon 2019 doesn’t actually feature any material from that record (they’d play “Our Raw Heart” in their other set), and as such, smacks less of a band trying to keep momentum going and more of a band looking to donate to charity. Fair enough. YOB have also donated select merch sales to the NAACP Legal Fund and Black Lives Matter, so¬†Pickathon 2019 working toward Navajo Nation COVID-19 relief is likewise speaking to the central issues of inequality that have emerged in 2020, as the Native American community has grappled especially hard with the coronavirus. The set is comprised of “Ball of Molten Lead” (12:28), “The Lie that is Sin” (13:09), “Marrow” (19:22) and “Burning the Altar” (14:56), and runs just under an hour long total. While it’s YOB‘s third official live record behind¬†Live at Roadburn 2010¬†and the full-album performance¬†The Unreal Never Lived: Live at Roadburn 2012 — they also had a live EP out in 2012 through¬†Scion A/V —¬†Pickathon 2019 is every bit a performance worth capturing for the vibe that comes through the four tracks and the sense of comfort the band have with their surroundings.

Strictly speaking,¬†YOB have little to prove at this point, except perhaps to themselves. Two decades on from their first demo, their reputation precedes them as forebears of cosmic doom and one of the most important American heavy bands of their generation. They have toured across continents since their 2009 return from a 2006 disbanding and have had an influence on artists across styles operating in their wake, all the while maintaining a persona of sincerity that has extended to frontman Mike Scheidt spending time during the COVID-19 lockdown performing acoustically in his kitchen.¬†As somebody who’s been fortunate enough to see¬†YOB on multiple occasions, the simple opportunity to dig into a new live recording is appreciated — I felt like they were doing me a favor as I paid my $7.00 for the download on Bandcamp — and from the electricity of their playing, which one can hear not only in the swells of volume and tone and crash, but also in the crowd’s hooting during quiet parts, desperate to express some of the tension surrounding them in the room. The lyrics of “Marrow” that speak of restless souls needing to feel one true moment would seem to be manifest here.

yob (Photo by Bobby Cochran)

Having a live version of that song, which is shorter in its 19 minutes than it was on ¬†2014‚Äôs¬†Clearing the Path to Ascend¬†(review here), is a boon. It is the most emotionally resonant piece¬†YOB¬†—¬†Scheidt,¬†Foster and bassist¬†Aaron Rieseberg (also of Norska) — have ever written, and I wouldn’t think it anything but welcome in any setlist. The chance, however, to hear “Ball of Molten Lead” from 2004’s The Illusion of Motion by 2019’s YOB is evidence of the continually progressive path they’ve taken as a group.¬†Scheidt‘s vocals are stronger and more confident, and his lead guitar takes swirling flight when it goes.¬†Rieseberg and¬†Foster¬†add strength to the final charge late in the track, and the crowd immediately erupts when it’s done, following soon enough with the aforementioned hooting during the sparse stretch early in “The Lie that is Sin,” which originally appeared on 2009‚Äôs¬†The Great Cessation¬†(review here). It’s a credit to¬†Foster‘s mix and the recording itself that the midsection of that track doesn’t sound like an absolute mess, as the full-volume push is huge but still discernible, and feels true to the original that came out 10 years before while again benefiting from the band¬†YOB have become since,¬†Scheidt‘s growls echoing out over broad expanse as the song moves into its 11th minute, the spine-twisting riff cutting itself short with precision heavy enough to crush a roach.

Twice in between songs¬†Scheidt asks for changes to the mix in the stage monitors, but if there was an issue, it doesn’t seem to have had an impact on the recording or the show itself. “Marrow” is, as one would expect, gorgeous. I don’t imagine¬†Pickathon 2019¬†will be many listeners’ first experience with¬†YOB — it’s basically a fan-piece, and there’s nothing wrong with that — and as “Marrow” builds to its multi-tiered apex with a distinctively lush melody and still-patient roll, the band’s strengths are laid bare for the listener to consume, right unto the quiet stretch of guitar that finishes the track, in conversation with a host of prior¬†YOB epics, none of them quite so inward-looking. “Burning the Altar” would feel like an epilogue in following to close out were it not so pummeling and consuming. In thanking the crowd before the song starts, Scheidt says something about “traversing highs and lows,” and “Burning the Altar” is one final brutal immersion. For all that, it’s also fun, with an immediate hook of a headbang-ready riff, its triplet-gallop and its final unfurling. A fitting closer, in other words, and one last opportunity for¬†YOB to level the assembled before they’re done, which I’ll just assume is exactly how it played out.

I’ll be honest with you. I consider reviewing¬†Pickathon 2019 an act of self-care. A favor I’m doing myself just by making the excuse to listen, let alone make the donation to Navajo COVID relief. Established fans of¬†YOB won’t need prodding; the email notification of the release from Bandcamp came through like a call to prayer. YOB are a one-of-a-kind band, and if¬†Pickathon 2019 is another chance to hear them in the absence of actual live shows, I’ll take it.

YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn (2020)

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