The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 16

Posted in Radio on May 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

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This was the first episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio to air in the new timeslot of Friday at 1PM Eastern, and I’ll just be honest, I think it was the best one I’ve done yet. The music was right on, the rhythm of one song into the next. There’s a way to make a thing like this that carries a flow — remember mixtapes? Same deal. This one had that. It tripped out when it needed to with Kandodo3 and instead of going psych-blast at the end, it went heavy with Nomadic Rituals and Thronehammer. I loved opening with 16 Horsepower as something unexpected and apart from both the riffy and the Gimme norm, and from pairing Lord Vicar and Destroyer of Light — someone book that tour! — to Sacri Monti and Wild Rocket, everything just came together right.

Tapping Monster Magnet for a classic track (classic track! yay!) didn’t hurt either, but even aside from that, it was a cool show. I’m not sure of the timing on re-airings — they’re every Sunday now at 7PM Eastern; the old timeslot for new episodes — but Gimme also has that Brigade thing you can join and listen to their full archive of everything. I’m not trying to spend your money; just want to give you options and not be like, “Hey this awesome thing happened and you missed it!” On that thought, maybe I should start posting these playlists before the show airs. Hmm… Things to consider.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 05.24.19

16 Horsepower Hutterite Mile Folklore (2002)
Abrahma Last Epistle In Time for the Last Rays of Light*
Giant Dwarf Repeat After Defeat Giant Dwarf*
BREAK
Monster Magnet Ozium Spine of God (1992)
Vorrh Myths Nomads of the Infinite Wild (2018)
Kandodo3 Everything – Green’s – Gone K3*
Lord Vicar The Temple in the Bedrock The Black Powder*
Destroyer of Light Eternal Death Mors Aeterna*
Faerie Ring Lost Wind The Clearing*
Ruff Majik Speed Hippie Tarn*
BREAK
Sacri Monti Waiting Room for the Magic Hour Waiting Room for the Magic Hour*
Wild Rocket Caught in Triangle Again Disassociation Mechanics (2017)
Slomatics Mind Fortresses on Theia Canyons*
BREAK
Nomadic Rituals Face Down in the Sea of Oblivion Marking the Day (2017)
Thronehammer Behind the Wall of Frost Usurper of the Oaken Throne*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is June 7. Thanks for listening if you do.

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Friday Full-Length: 16 Horsepower, Folklore

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

16 Horsepower, Folklore (2002)

I suppose the first question when it comes to 16 Horsepower‘s fourth and final long-player, Folklore, is whether it’s an album, since less than half of it is original material from the band. Based in Denver, Colorado, the band got their start in 1992 and would release Folklore a decade later through Glitterhouse and Jetset Records, even as frontman/principal songwriter David Eugene Edwards had already begun his next project, Wovenhand. With Folklore, Edwards and the original trio lineup of the band — drummer Jean-Yves Tola and bassist Pascal Humbert — came together to work seemingly in direct defiance to their preceding full-length, 2000’s Secret South, which had adopted a more modern style to what’s been lazily dubbed “alt country” but is really a much richer sonic pastiche, drawing from Americana, goth, folk, indeed country, rock and gospel. One might see Folklore as 16 Horsepower reclaiming their central influences in taking on traditional songs as well as Hank Williams‘ “Alone and Forsaken” and The Carter Family‘s rousing “Single Girl,” but they never fail to make any of this starting material their own, and their sound is one of such character and depth of arrangement that their take still remains original, whether it’s the accusatory “Sinnerman” late in the record or the stirring narrative of “Outlaw Song” earlier.

Of the 10 tracks, opener “Hutterite Mile,” “Blessed Persistence,” “Beyond the Pale” and the penultimate “Flutter” are 16 Horsepower compositions, credited to the band and Edwards specifically. “Outlaw Song,” “Sinnerman” and the French-language closer “La Robe a Parasol” are folk songs, and the other two inclusions are as noted above. What keeps Folklore from being an EP packed with covers, basically, is that the originals are spread across the two sides, with “Hutterite Mile” beginning the album with a deep sense of foreboding and downtrodden heart, while “Blessed Persistence” uses snare drum for tension amid strings later while its early moment jabs in jazzy fashion behind Edwards‘ vocals, keys, harmonies and so on fleshing out an arrangement that sounds minimal and isn’t at all. Elements come and go throughout — the organ on “Hutterite Mile,” the telltale banjo of “Outlaw Song,” the consuming cello in the chorus of “Alone and Forsaken,” and the chorus of voices on “Single Girl” on side A, piano and backward cymbals on “Beyond the Pale,” string drones on “Horse Head Fiddle,” acoustic guitar in “Sinnerman,” piano and strings on “Flutter” and accordion on “La Robe a Parasol” on side B — but the entire spirit of Folklore is about nothing so much as the songs themselves. That is, though Edwards is a significant presence on guitar, banjo, vocals, and so on, even he seems to approach this material with a sense of reverence. And fair 16 horsepower folkloreenough, since that goes back to 16 Horsepower returning to their roots, but the care and craft put into making these tracks still can’t be called anything other than progressive in the final result, whatever other genre tags with which one might want to saddle them. There are many that would apply, if incompletely.

Each half of Folklore ends in joy. “Single Girl” arrives after the gorgeous and sad “Alone and Forsaken” and takes the country strum of the Carter Family original and layers Edwards‘ vocals on top for a loyalist chorus effect that begs singing along. Likewise, “La Robe a Parasol” appears after arguably the darkest stretch of material 16 Horsepower ever produced in “Beyond the Pale,” “Horse Head Fiddle,” “Sinnerman” and “Flutter.” Certainly there’s a groove underlying “Horse Head Fiddle” and “Flutter,” but the emotional and atmospheric weight with which they’re executed is crushing, and “La Robe a Parasol” offers 2:15 of escapist snare-brush shuffle and accordion, drunkard’s French and backing woops and hollers to underscore the at-the-fair feel. Side A undergoes a similar shift, to be sure, as it heads toward “Single Girl,” but “Hutterite Mile” — the lines, “It’s only misery/It’s only ankle-deep,” some of the most efficient lyric-writing I’ve ever heard — and “Outlaw Song” and “Blessed Persistence” and even “Alone and Forsaken” aren’t as dark as what the second half of Folklore has on offer. It’s a question of ambience in some respect, but side B simply pushes further into whatever unseen reaches of the American plains the band are traveling. “Horse Head Fiddle” is perhaps the most experimentalist moment on Folklore, with flute, string drones, layers of noise and vocals all too obscure to be readily discernible, and by comparison, “Sinnerman”‘s interwoven dual-track verses are resoundingly straightforward. The underlying structure of Folklore, though, is a tapestry. Of originals and choice covers and folk songs all brought into a singular context the likes of which 16 Horsepower had never built before and never would again. My understanding is that when it came out, response was mixed, but of all the work 16 Horsepower did during their time together, Folklore has arguably held up best — though I won’t take away from Secret South or 1997’s Low Estate or ’95’s Sackcloth ‘n’ Ashes either, frankly — perhaps as a result of seeming so out of its own time in the first place.

As mentioned, it’s the band’s final studio outing. They would follow it with a compilation titled Olden the next year, but by then, Edwards already had two Wovenhand releases out in the 2002 self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2003’s Blush Music, and that band would ultimately take priority, going on to issue 10 albums moving in an increasingly heavy direction from their neo-folk beginnings. The latest of those albums, 2016’s Star Treatment (review here), is the most outwardly heavy work they’ve done, but it still retains a tie both to their earlier material and to 16 Horsepower‘s roots as shown on Folklore, with Edwards‘ inimitable style as a driving force. 16 Horsepower have had periodic releases out post-breakup, with two DVDs in the mid-aughts, as well as the excellent Live March 2001 collection in 2008 and a 2CD comp of greatest hits and rare tracks, respectively, titled Yours Truly in 2011. That latter would seem to be a true signoff on the part of the band, which is fair enough, but especially listening to Folklore, it’s clear that there was still so much exploring of these ideas to do when they called it quits, even if that creative growth was taken in different directions in the years since.

I love this record.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

It’s about five-thirty in the morning. I’ve already put up two posts of the six slated for today — yesterday wound up being seven, which is a lot — and I’m still getting caught up on stuff post-Roadburn. Man, what a trip that was. So good. Every year. So good.

It happens once or twice a year that in the span of a day or two you wind up getting what you immediately know will be some of the year’s best records. For my own future reference, I’d like to note that this week albums from Slough Feg, Sun Blood Stories, Kandodo3, Slomatics, Beastwars, Zaum and Yawning Man came in for future coverage. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a week where I’ve ended up so happy to check my email.

Ah, the baby’s getting up.

Okay, I’ll keep it short then. Notes for next week, cut and paste right from the document. Next week rules:

MON 04/22 LOS MUNDOS ALBUM STREAM/GETAWAY VAN VIDEO PREMIERE

TUE 04/23 ALTAR OF OBLIVION ALBUM STREAM

WED 04/24 WORSHIPPER TRACK PREMIERE

THU 04/25 STONE MACHINE ELECTRIC REVIEW/FULL STREAM

FRI 04/26 THE WELL VIDEO PREMIERE/REVIEW

As you can see, I have no set format for these things. I just put them in all caps and hope to remember them when the time comes. Being a one-man operation has its ups and downs. Doing the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch daily fanzine at Roadburn always brings those into relief, though I will note that this year particularly made me miss having a writing staff. I don’t think I could take one on here, but yeah. That’s a good bunch of people over there and I’m fortunate to work with them.

Looks like a permanent move back to New Jersey may be in the cards for this summer. I’ll keep you posted.

More on that later, I’m sure, but for now let me go grab this poor kid and start the day. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please don’t forget there’s merch at Dropout, and please don’t forget the forum and radio stream.

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