Sonny Simmons to Collaborate with Members of Blaak Heat Shujaa and Abrahma on New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

sonny simmons

Could probably count on three fingers the number of posts that have gone up in the last five-plus years that had much more to do with jazz than a vague influence via prog, but the upcoming Nomadic from Oakland, CA-based alto saxophonist/English horner Sonny Simmons sounds like an interesting project anyway, and incorporates a few familiar heads in Thomas Bellier of Blaak Heat Shujaa and Abrahma‘s Seb Bismuth. They make up two-thirds of Simmons‘ backing band, Moksha Samnyasin, with Michel Kristof of Other Matter rounding out.

The four have been working together for a few years now, so should be interesting to hear how the LP trips out when Svart issues it come late November. Until then, to the PR wire:

sonny simmons nomadic

Free jazz legend SONNY SIMMONS to release new heavy psych experimentation on SVART

Today, Svart Records sets November 28th as the international release date for Nomadic, the latest psychedelic exploration of free jazz legend Sonny Simmons. At 82 years old, Simmons has joined forces with Moksha Samnyasin, a bass/drums/sitar trio consisting of French musicians Thomas Bellier (Spindrift, Blaak Heat Shujaa), Sebastien Bismuth (Abrahma), and Michel Kristof (Other matter).

Nomadic stands at the peak of Sonny Simmons’ quest for Middle-Eastern, psychedelic sonorities, the latest sonic accomplishment of a career spanning seven decades, during which Simmons has investigated and deconstructed every form of mind-expansive music. Moksha Samnyasin lays a heavy, vibrant, and improvised foundation that gives Simmons’ alto sax and English horn the space to explore the sonic spectrum and push the boundaries of conventional psychedelia. Unfolding visions of the Far East, hinting at the minimalism of free jazz, the result is a peyote-laced Bitches Brew making way for a brand-new form of “jazz fusion.” Recorded between Paris and New York, the album was mastered by Grammy Award-winning producer Matt Hyde (Slayer, Deftones).

One of the last originators and godfathers of 1950s free jazz alive, Sonny Simmons’ explosive sound was revealed to the public by Sonny Rollins, Eric Dolphy, and John Coltrane. Bridging the gap between the West Coast and the East Coast, Oakland (where he was raised) and Woodstock (where he co-founded an artist commune in 1968), he recorded for the visionary ESP label in the 1960s, rehearsed with Hendrix (the neighbor next door…), and relentlessly pushed the limits. Re-launched by Quincy Jones on Warner in the 1990s, while maintaining a high profile within jazz circles, Simmons’ interest in the newest electric and electronic experimentation continues to support his timeless reputation.

Nomadic features striking original artwork by renowned artist Tokyo Ayoama. The album will be released on CD, vinyl LP, and digital formats. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Sonny Simmons & Moksha Samnyasin’s Nomadic
1. Help Them Through This World
2. We Are Entering The Place Of That
3. I Put It In A Dark Area Where I Don’t Remember No More
4. When It Comes, I Don’t Fight It


Sonny Simmons & The Moksha Samnyasin, “Hey Mankind Pt. 2″ (2012)

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Myelin Constellation Digital Comp to Fight MS Available Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Originally announced at the beginning of September, the first volume of the Myelin Constellation MS benefit comp has been released. You can see below all the artists who took place in the thing with previously unreleased material, but seriously, it’s the $6 price tag that should be catching your eye. To shell out so little cash, have it go to a good cause — because, really, fuck MS — and get 20 tracks from killer bands, including Sleestak, whose own Matt Schmitz put the whole thing together can’t be seen as anything but a bigtime win if you’ve got ears and six dollars to your name.

Schmitz sent the following down the PR wire:

Myelin Constellation Vol. 1 is released!

I’m just gonna make this quick because I’ve been fairly busy with a handful of different things.

Myelin Constellation Volume 1 is out now (actually released October 1st but only got around to doing an email for it now). Please go to to download your copy. 20 bands, $6 or more if you can. Every bit helps us out over here and I appreciate everyone who has downloaded it so far! Thank you! Bands that appear in this first edition include:

Sons Of Otis
Gates Of Slumber
Backwoods Payback
Wo Fat
Stone Magnum
Apostle Of Solitude
Sons Of Alpha Centauri
Black Capricorn
At Devil Dirt
Confused Little Girl
Narcotic Luxuria
Headless Kross
Myopic Empire
Switchblade Jesus

Make sure to read the liner notes on the Bandcamp page please! Visit our Facebook page at and stay tuned for news regarding Volume 2. As always we are constantly accepting submissions from bands who have live, unreleased, alternate version, remixed, demo, rare, or just plain brand spankin’ new songs in their archives and want to be a part of this benefit comp for Multiple Sclerosis.

Thanks to all the bands who have helped, all the blogs, radio stations, and individuals that have helped with promoting this project!


Various Artists, Myelin Constellation (2013)

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Visual Evidence: Abrahma and Mother of God Tour Poster

Posted in Visual Evidence on September 25th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Neither band is British, and I tend to think tour posters are their own excuse for being, but if you need a connection to the UK special going on this week, French heavy psych rockers Abrahma and Swedish grunge enthusiasts Mother of God will begin their European tour Oct. 25 in London. From there, they’ll hit France, Germany, Austria and Italy in a round of dates you can find below.

This poster was just too cool not to put up:

Abrahma & Mother of God European Tour 2012

25.10.2012 – LONDON (UK) – WINDMILL
26.10.2012 – T.B.A (UK) – T.B.A
27.10.2012 – KOBLENZ (GER) – SK2
28.10.2012 – FREIBURG (GER) – T.B.A
02.11.2012 – NANCY (FR) – T.B.A
03.11.2012 – T.B.A – T.B.A
05.11.2012 – T.B.A – T.B.A
06.11.2012 – TOULON – LA VALETTE s/ VAR (FR) – LE VOX
07.11.2012 – TORINO (IT) – UNITED CLUB
08.11.2012 – SAVIGNANO (IT) – SIDRO CLUB
09.11.2012 – ROSA VICENZA (IT) – VINILE CLUB (w/ OJM)
10.11.2012 – MILANO (IT) – COX 18
11.11.2012 – T.B.A (FR) – T.B.A

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audiObelisk: Stream Abrahma’s Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives in its Entirety

Posted in audiObelisk on June 8th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Formerly known as Alcohsonic, the Paris foursome now called Abrahma will release their Small Stone debut, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives at the end of next month. The album, which was recently reviewed, works in a variety of religious contexts from Christianity to Hinduism to voodoo to cover a whopping 70-minute span that’s as diverse musically as it is conceptually, while still retaining a central core of heavy rock. Sometimes they get a little psychedelic, but some of the record’s strongest moments come from its straightforward and chugging riffage.

Even so, the record never seems to capitulate to expectation the way one might think. Abrahma are straightforward, but they’re also uncompromising. One can see that on even the most superficial level — it takes balls to make your first album 70 minutes long — but it’s also in the scope as Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives plays out. There’s something arrogant in the transition as “Honkin’ Water Roof” gives way to “Loa’s Awakening (Prelude),” which begins the second and more substantial part of the record’s progression, and it turns out to be exactly that arrogance that lets the band pull it off.

That might sound strange, but probably not nearly as strange as how much sense it will make once you listen. Don’t forget to look out for guest appearances from Ed Mundell (The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic) on “Big Black Cloud” and Thomas Bellier (Blaak Heat Shujaa) on “The Maze.” You’ll find the monstrous entirety of the 15-song album below. Hope you enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

With front cover art by the venerable Alexander von Wieding, Abrahma‘s Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives is set for release July 24 through Small Stone. For more info, check out the band’s website or hit up the label to place a preorder.

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Abrahma, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives: Ghosts Sleeping on an Ocean of Sand

Posted in Reviews on May 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It could be posited that Parisian heavy rocking four-piece Abrahma (formerly known as Alcohsonic) take their name either from the notion of something negating the Hindu god Brahma, the creator of humankind. In this instance, they’d be undoing of humankind, presumably more aligned to Shiva, the destroyer – though that may be a gross simplification of the complexities of Hinduism, and if it offends, I apologize – or otherwise atheistic. Fair enough. The word “abrahma” also appears in the work of 19th Century British historian Godfrey Higgins, who put forth the idea of Pandeism, that all modern religions Eastern and Western had a common root. Higgins uses “abrahma” as a bridge between Brahma, in Hinduism, and the Judeo-Christian figure Abraham. Whether or not the members of Abrahma are students of obscure 19th Century religious theorizing, I don’t know – stranger things have certainly happened – but in either case, their moniker is a roundabout way to express a very specific, if abstract and ethereal, idea. One might say the same thing about their Small Stone Records debut, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives. At just over 70 minutes long and comprised of 15 individual tracks, the album develops from relatively straightforward heavy rock – tonally thick and incorporating some elements of psychedelia, but never at the sacrifice of structure – into a more expansive feel, so that by the time closer “Omega” comes around with its techno-style bass groove and keyboards, it’s hardly out of place at all following the 10-minute ranging exploration of “The Maze.” I don’t know if the cuts between “Omega” and opener “Alpha” (the dichotomy furthering the vague religiosity of their name) follow an overarching narrative or not, but with a slew of guest appearances from the likes of the recently-interviewed Ed Mundell of The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic, Thomas Bellier of fellow Parisians Blaak Heat Shujaa and Ehécatl, and cover artist Alexander Von Wieding, who composed and performs “Oceans of Sand…” a welcome change of pace late into the record.

Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives is almost like two albums put together – or perhaps more appropriately, an album and an EP. It even has two separate introductions. The first 21 minutes, preceded by the ringing tones of “Alpha,” find Abrahma tangling with memorable choruses and heavy, large-sounding riffage. “Neptune of Sorrow” begins a string of four songs – the others being “Tears of the Sun” (guest vocal by Pascal Mascheroni of Marseille trio Rescue Rangers), “Dandelion Dust” and “Honkin’ Water Roof” – that stick largely to the same catchy modus. Vocalist/guitarist Sebastian Bismuth keeps a John Garcia-esque lyrical cadence to “Honkin’ Water Roof,” but it’s more Hermano than Kyuss, and his riffing, complemented by fellow six-stringer Nicolas Heller, leaves little to be desired in tone, “Tears of the Sun” culminating in decidedly modern Eurostoner progressions that feel intricately composed despite their familiarity. The momentum shows its first signs of shifting with “Dandelion Dust.” Drummer Benjamin Colin – the band is rounded out by his brother, Guillaume Colin, on bass – moves to the cowbell for the verse and continues the push on the kick for the chorus, but the mood is darker than “Neptune of Sorrow” or “Tears of the Sun,” and the guitars begin in the second half to show some of the spaciousness they’ll maximize later on, Guillaume taking the fore in holding down the groove. Expectedly given it’s countrified title, “Honkin’ Water Roof” offers some Southern inflection in its guitar figure, made insistent by start-stop bass and drums – a slide also shows up in the chorus – and aligning Abrahma sonically a bit to their labelmates Dwellers, whose Good Morning Harakiri was released earlier this year. A killer solo toward the middle precedes another round of the chorus, and the ending of the track – the longest yet at 6:49 and the longest of the rest of Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives but for “The Maze” – tosses in amp and effects noise against the backdrop of the still maintained central progression, which is a pretty decent example of how the album as a whole works. It keeps itself aligned to the straightforward, accessible ideas it presents even as it adds more and more varied elements on top.

That said, Abrahma change their methods when it comes to track six and everything after. A subtle build on “Loa’s Awakening (Prelude)” begins a widely diverse 48-minute run that incorporates some of the best material that Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives has to offer, but can also confuse first-time listeners because of its shifts from the initial movement of the record. To offset this potentiality, Bismuth, Heller and the brothers Colin put the best song right in what is effectively the beginning of this second movement, “Vodun Pt. 1: Samedi’s Awakening” having both the funkiest verse and the most memorable chorus of the record’s 70-minute entirety. The theme is so strong, in fact, that Abrahma reference it either musically or lyrically in both “Vodun Pt. 2: I, Zombie” and “Vodun Pt. 3: Final Asagwe,” but the trio of “Vodun” tracks is broken up by two in between each part, and two more follow the final installment, so they’re by no means all the band has on offer in the second, lengthier piece of Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives. Still, the thread exists and its prevalence clearly is no accident. And though it’s tactics are different, more spacious and spiritually minded, particularly in a bass-rumbling midpoint break, “Vodun Pt. 1: Samedi’s Awakening” (both Samedi and Loa are references to voodoo, or vodun, mythology, though “Samedi” is also French for “Saturday”), Abrahma hold fast to the verse/chorus framework they’ve built, which helps them as they switch between the “Vodun” pieces and the other tracks. Mundell’s appearance on “Big Black Cloud” – a joy to anyone who appreciates psychedelic heavy rock soloing – helps recovery from the punch of “Vodun Pt. 1: Samedi’s Awakening”’s chorus, the rhythm guitar tone behind recalling the sound of “Neptune of Sorrow” without directly repeating it, and “Headless Horse” delves further into heavy atmospherics, soft guitar lines getting buried under a mass of tone and Guillaume’s increasingly prevalent bass. There’s any number of heavy psych comparisons one could make, but the one foremost in my mind is Arc of Ascent, and Benjamin’s echoing drums only add to the likeness, although the later guitar solo maintains a gloomy feel that’s more reminiscent of mid-period Amorphis (if we’re going to stick with ‘A’ bands) than anything specifically psych. If this is how Abrahma will carve their identity, so be it.

Read more »

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Where to Start: The Obelisk’s Guide to Small Stone Records

Posted in Where to Start on May 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Founded in 1995 by Scott Hamilton, Detroit imprint Small Stone Records is the single most influential American heavy rock label of the post-Man’s Ruin era. What started as Hamilton releasing local Detroit acts of varied genres like Morsel, 36D and Perplexa soon took on a dedication to the heavy aesthetic that remains unmatched in both its scope and its reach of influence. Looking back, Five Horse Johnson‘s 1997 Double Down debut, seems to have been the beginning of Small Stone‘s turn down the fuzzly path. It’s like Hamilton followed the riff right down the rabbit hole and never looked back.

Now, 17 years on, Small Stone has a reach that goes beyond even the distribution of the albums it puts out. Thanks to the diligent work of Hamilton and oft-encountered names like Mad Oak Studios engineer/mixer Benny Grotto, mastering engineer Chris Gooseman, graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, among others, the label has earned a reputation for quality output that new releases are constantly reaffirming. Over the years, Man’s Ruin refugees like Sons of Otis, (The Men Of) Porn, Acid King and VALIS have come into the fold, but the crux of Small Stone‘s catalog is made up of acts like Roadsaw, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Throttlerod, Puny Human and Novadriver, who no matter what else they put out or who they put it out with, will always be considered “Small Stone bands.”

That designation and those groups specifically have helped establish a core American-style heavy rocking sound that the label seems to delight in toying with even as it continues to promulgate. Next generation bands like Gozu, Lo-Pan, Freedom Hawk, Backwoods Payback and even newer newcomers Wo Fat, Supermachine, Lord Fowl and Mellow Bravo — who don’t yet have albums out on the label — are expanding its breadth, and recent international signees Asteroid, Abrahma, Mangoo, Nightstalker and Mother of God should help ensure that Small Stone keeps pushing both itself and genre boundaries well into the next several years.

One of the hazards, however, of an ever-growing catalog, is that it can be hard to figure out where to start taking it on, and to that end, I’m happy to provide you with 10 essential Small Stone picks. Note I didn’t say “the 10 essential Small Stone picks,” because the reality of the situation is this is just the tip of the fuzzberg. If it’s any indication, I started out with five and couldn’t leave the rest out.

Here they are, ordered by the date of release:

1. Novadriver, Void (ss-022/2001)

Still an album that’s more or less impossible to pin to just one genre, the stoner/space/weirdo jams of Novadriver‘s 2001 outing, Void, reside somewhere between Monster Magnet‘s early Hawkwind worship and the unbridled intensity of groove that came out of Detroit’s early- and mid-’70s heavy rock and proto-metal. The fact that Novadriver also came from the Motor City speaks to the label’s local roots, but if Void was coming out even today, it’d be coming out on Small Stone.

2. Los Natas, Corsario Negro (ss-028/2002)

Personally, I think 2005’s El Hombre Montaña is a better album and 2009’s Nuevo Orden de la Libertad is an even better album than that, but Corsario Negro earns the edge as a starting point because it was the beginning of the Argentinian rockers’ relationship with Small Stone (they too were left without a home in the wake of Man’s Ruin folding). Plus, if you haven’t heard them before and you get this, you can still marvel at the subsequent offerings. Either way, totally necessary.

3. Various Artists, Sucking the ’70s (ss-032/2002)

In a lot of ways, this is what it’s all about. Badass bands playing badass songs. By this point, The Glasspack, Los Natas, Fireball Ministry, Halfway to Gone and Five Horse Johnson (who lead off the first disc) had already put out at least one album through Small Stone, but Sucking the ’70s made the most of the label’s burgeoning reputation, bringing in Clutch, Alabama Thunderpussy and Lowrider, along with bands who’d later add records to the catalog like Roadsaw, Suplecs and Lord Sterling, all covering hits and obscurities from the heavy ’70s. A gorgeous collection that would get a sequel in 2006. Still waiting on part three.

4. Dixie Witch, One Bird, Two Stones (ss-037/2003)

The Austin, Texas, trio would go on to become one of the most pivotal acts on the Small Stone roster, and they’d do so on the strength of their Southern riffs and the soul in their songwriting. Led by drummer/vocalist Trinidad Leal, Dixie Witch hooked up with Small Stone on the heels of their 2001 debut, Into the Sun, which was released by Brainticket, and quickly gained a reputation for some of the finest classic road songs that Grand Funk never wrote (see “The Wheel”). Their 2011 offering, Let it Roll, affirmed their statesmen status among their labelmates.

5. Sasquatch, Sasquatch (ss-044/2004)

I was pretty well convinced that when the L.A.-based Sasquatch released their self-titled debut in 2004, rock and roll was saved. Whoever it needed saving from, whatever needed to take place to make that happen, this record did it. Truth is, rock and roll didn’t really need to be saved — it needed a stiff drink, as we all do from time to time — but Sasquatch would’ve been right there even if it had. They’re a Small Stone original with all three of their records to date out through the label, and still one of the strongest acts in the American rock underground, even though they’d never be quite this fuzzy again.

6. Dozer, Through the Eyes of Heathens (ss-061/2005)

Even now, seven years later, I can’t look at this album cover without hearing the chorus to “The Roof, the River, the Revolver.” Between that and songs like “Man of Fire,” “Born a Legend” and “From Fire Fell,” Swedish rockers Dozer made their definitive statement in their label debut (fourth album overall). Another former Man’s Ruin band, they’d already begun to grow past their desert rock roots by the time they hooked up with Hamilton, and Through the Eyes of Heathens played out like what heavy metal should’ve turned into after the commercial atrocities of the late-’90s. A gorgeous record and still a joy to hear.

7. Greenleaf, Agents of Ahriman (ss-074/2007)

It’s like they built nearly every song on here out of undeniable choruses. Even the verses are catchy. I’ve championed Agents of Ahriman since before I started this site, and I feel no less vehement in doing so now than I did then. A side-project of Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa that on this, their third album, included and featured members of Truckfighters, Lowrider, The Awesome Machine and others, Greenleaf became a distillation of many of the elements that make Swedish heavy rock unique in the world. It wasn’t aping classic rock, it was giving it a rebirth, and every Hammond note was an absolute triumph.

8. Iota, Tales (ss-084/2008)

Once, I had a t-shirt with the cover of Iota‘s Tales on the front. I wore it until it got holes, and then I bought another. That’s the kind of album Tales was. A trio crawled from out of Utah’s Great Salt Lake, Iota took Kyuss, launched them into space, and jammed out for five, 10 or 20 minutes to celebrate the success of the mission. Recently, guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano has resurfaced in the bluesier, more earthbound Dwellers, which teams him with the rhythm section of SubRosa. Their debut, Good Morning Harakiri, was a highlight of early 2012, building on what Iota was able to accomplish here while pushing in a different direction.

9. Solace, A.D. (ss-093/2010)

It took the better part of a decade for the Jersey-bred metallers to finish what became their Small Stone debut after two full-lengths for MeteorCity, but when it finally dropped, there was no denying A.D.‘s power. My album of the year in 2010, the band delivered front to back on seven years’ worth of promise, and though it was recorded in more studios than I can count over a longer stretch than I think even Solace knows, it became a cohesive, challenging album, giving listeners a kick in the ass even as it handed them their next beer. I still get chills every time I put on “From Below,” and I put it on with near-embarrassing regularity.

10. Lo-Pan, Salvador (ss-116/2011)

If you know this site, this one’s probably a no-brainer pick, but the Columbus, Ohio-based riff merchants took on unabashed stoner rock fuzz for their Small Stone debut (third album overall) and made some of 2011’s most memorable songs in the process. Subversively varied in mood and heavy as hell no matter what they were doing, every part of Lo-Pan‘s Salvador worked. There was no lag. Small Stone also reissued the band’s 2009 outing, Sasquanaut, in 2011, but Salvador surpassed it entirely, bringing the band to new heights of professionalism they’d confirm by touring, well, perpetually. They’re still touring for it. You should go see them and behold the future of fuzz.

That’s the list as much as I could limit it. If you want to immediately add five more, throw in Roadsaw‘s self-titled (they’re writing the best songs of their career right now, I don’t care how attached to the early records you are), Puny Human‘s Universal Freak Out, Halfway to Gone‘s High Five, Milligram‘s This is Class War and Five Horse Johnson‘s Fat Black Pussycat. If you want to semi-immediately add five more than that, get the reissue of Acid King‘s Busse Woods, Mos Generator‘s Songs for Future Gods, The Brought Low‘s Third Record, Tummler‘s Early Man and Erik Larson‘s The Resounding. There. We just doubled the length of the list.

And the real trouble? I could go on. We didn’t even touch on curios like Axehandle, Lord Sterling and Brain Police, or The Might Could‘s Southern aggression, Hackman‘s instrumentalism or the druggy post-grunge of VALIS. Suffice it to say that Small Stone is one of very few labels out there from whom any output will at least be worth a cursory investigation. As the label continues to grow and develop in 2012 and beyond with new bands and new releases from its staple acts, taking on new avenues of commerce — like releasing vinyl for the first time, which it did in 2011 — whatever changes might crop up, Small Stone seems ready to meet the future, distortion pedal first. Can’t ask more of rock than that.

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