Across Tundras Release Complete Altered States Companion Remixes for Latest Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I’ve been kind of expecting something like this, but it’s still kind of an overwhelming project. Since the release in June of Across Tundras‘ latest full-length, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds (review here), founding guitarist/vocalist T.G. Olson has been going through and revisiting the album with track-by-track remixes, resulting in a series of digital EPs that have been trickled out one at a time over the past few months. He’s gone in order, one to the next through the entire album. They range from the “Hot Radio Mix” collection — which probably could’ve been released as the album proper — to more experimental styles like the “Ennio’s Mix” tracks, but the root of each is still the original itself. It’s in there somewhere. The only question is how hard one has to dig to find it.

Olson — self-releasing, as ever, through Bandcamp as a name-your-price download — has it organized in the same order as the tracklisting of the album, but as I’ve been going through, I’ve been listening to one version of the whole record at a time. I admit I’m not through the entire 28-track Complete Altered States at this point — only so many hours the day — but it’s a fascinating project however one might want to take it on. As Olson has done homemade CD box sets in the past, the chance to do a Complete Rugged Ranges collection seems to be self-evident.

Whether or not that comes to fruition, here’s the info off Bandcamp and the streams of both the remixes and the original for those feeling adventurous:

across tundras the rugged ranges complete altered states

Across Tundras – The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds ~ Complete Altered States

Altered States of The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds

released November 7, 2019

1. The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds (Ennio’s Mix) 03:35
2. The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds (Hot Radio Mix) 06:05
3. The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix) 06:57
4. The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds (Campfire Mix) 05:52
5. Slow Down and Breathe (Ennio’s Mix) 02:29
6. Slow Down and Breathe (Hot Radio Mix) 04:18
7. Slow Down and Breathe (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix) 04:18
8. Slow Down and Breathe (Choral Mix) 06:22
9. Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues (Ennio’s Mix) 01:43
10. Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues (Hot Radio Mix) 04:22
11. Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix) 05:41
12. Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues (Campfire Mix) 05:44
13. Boots of Snake Leather (Church Organ Mix) 04:44
14. Boots of Snake Leather (Hot Radio Mix) 04:14
15. Boots of Snake Leather (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix) 05:00
16. Boots of Snake Leather (Big Bass & Wide Slide Mix) 05:09
17. Whirlwind Reapin’ (Drone Out Mix) 03:00
18. Whirlwind Reapin’ (Hot Radio Mix) 05:17
19. Whirlwind Reapin’ (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix) 06:50
20. Whirlwind Reapin’ (Bass & Drumz Mix) 06:49
21. When We Were All One (Ennio’s Mix) 02:16
22. When We Were All One (Hot Radio Mix) 03:41
23. When We Were All One (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix 04:00
24. When We Were All One (Sky Jam Mix) 04:00
25. New War on the Range (Ennio’s Mix) 04:48
26. New War on the Range (Hot Radio Mix) 05:55
27. New War on the Range (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix) 07:39
28. New War on the Range (Thunder Jam Mix) 04:48

Tanner Olson ~ Ben Schriever ~ Caleb R.K. Williams ~ Abigail Lily O’hara ~ Noel Dorado

https://acrosstundras.bandcamp.com/

Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds – Complete Altered States (2019)

Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds (2019)

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 18

Posted in Radio on June 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Before I get started, I want to say thanks to Mark Kitchens from Stone Machine Electric for the artwork above. He did the platypus design and I added the blue background and yellow text kind of thinking it would be like one of those old title cards from David Letterman or something. I love it, so yeah. Thanks, Mark.

Like the prior episode, this one was themed around a playlist of some of the best of 2019 so far. I actually didn’t get to hear the whole show because I was at Maryland Doom Fest this past weekend, but I did check in on it while doing other stuff in Frederick. One way or the other, the playlist starts with Holy Grove and has Yawning ManMagic CircleDuelNebulaRoadsawEarth and Across Tundras on it, so you know it’s going to be killer. Really, the only thing I’d have listened for was to make sure I didn’t ruin it with my own derpy derp derp.

I wanted to include some lesser-known stuff here too, so check out the Cosmic Fall, SÂVEREaldor Bealu and Mount Saturn tracks if you haven’t, and that Centrum at the end I really dig a lot. Hell, the whole thing is great. You really can’t go wrong when your operating theme is “stuff that’s awesome.”

Thanks if you got to check it out.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 06.21.19

Holy Grove Valley of the Mystics Holy Grove II 0:10:37
Duel Drifting Alone Valley of Shadows 0:04:27
The Well Death Song Death and Consolation 0:04:48
BREAK
Across Tundras The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds 0:06:58
Yawning Man I Make Weird Choices Macedonian Lines 0:07:21
Cosmic Fall Lackland Lackland 0:08:32
Lamp of the Universe Rite of the Spheres Align in the Fourth Dimension 0:05:12
SÂVER Dissolve to Ashes They Came with Sunlight 0:07:43
Atala Upon the Altar The Bearer of Light 0:06:06
Magic Circle I’ve Found My Way to Die Departed Souls 0:05:11
BREAK
Mount Saturn Idol Hands Kiss the Ring 0:04:11
Nebula Man’s Best Friend Holy Shit 0:04:56
Ruff Majik Seasoning the Witch Tårn 0:06:31
Earth An Unnatural Carousel Full Upon Her Burning Lips 0:06:51
Ealdor Bealu Smoke Signals Spirit of the Lonely Places 0:07:32
BREAK
Roadsaw Under the Devil’s Thumb Tinnitus the Night 0:03:54
Centrum Sjön För Meditation 0:08:39

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is July 5. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds: In the Ashes of Idealism

Posted in Reviews on June 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

across tundras the rugged ranges of curbs and broken minds

It has been six years since Across Tundras released their last full-length. That record, Electric Relics (review here), was a triumph of the band’s songwriting approach, blending elements from heavy rock and psychedelia with Americana and folk roots in a way that, even though they’d been at it for nearly a decade by then, still remained forward-thinking. It was also their first album to be released through their own imprint, Electric Relics Records, following 2011’s Sage (review here) coming out via Neurot and others released either by themselves and other labels. One could hardly say The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds follows a period of inactivity, given the fact that in the interim, the band has issued 2015’s Home Free EP (discussed here), a 2017 two-songer single, Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain (discussed here), as well as various archival offerings, and founding guitarist/vocalist T.G. Olson has issued numerous solo full-lengths, singles and other releases, under his own name and several other incarnations, experimenting in folk, drone, assembled noise and so on, all being issued, like The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds, through Bandcamp with little to no prior announcement and as a name-your-price download and limited, usually hand-crafted, physical pressing.

That kind of promotional minimalism hasn’t done much for Across Tundras in terms of fanfare, but is has let Olson control and build his discography on his own terms, which is very much how the band operates throughout the new album, which, though again, they haven’t exactly been gone, has been nonetheless long awaited. To wit, before this stretch, the longest they’d gone between full-lengths was two years. And the crafting of these tracks would not seem to have been uncomplicated, recorded during moves between Nebraska and Nashville, Tennessee, with the final lineup of Olson, Ben Schriever, Caleb R.K. Williams, Abigail Lily O’Hara and Noel Dorado, but the fluidity that results serves as a reminder of what has always been a signature strength for Across Tundras in terms of creating space with their sound.

From their 2005 debut, Dark Songs of the Prairie onward, their mission has been in part to capture the spirit of a heavy Americana, and that remains true on The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds, but like the land itself, the shape that has taken in their sound has changed, and some of the ramble that found its way into Across Tundras‘ rolling grooves in years past has turned sullen, gazing less at shoes than out at an expanse of empty land, but gazing all the same. In darker moments like “Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues” or the wistful leadoff title-track, there’s a clear line to be drawn to some of Olson‘s recent solo work, which has blurred the lines between full-band-style soundcraft and guy-and-guitar folk, but one of The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds‘ most engaging aspects is the wash it creates and the deceptive depth of its mix, with pedal steel and drones resting far back behind the strumming electric guitar and voice, the drums subtle sometimes and more forward others, as when they lead the march of uptempo second cut “Slow Down and Breathe,” which boasts arguably the most memorable hook on the record, or in the later “Whirlwind Reapin’,” the midsection of which rises from a soundscape of distortion and heartsick melody to move into a wash of tone before closing with residual noise.

across tundras rock pile

Though it does not struggle to make an immediate impression, the album is best on repeat listens — a slow burner that lets the voice speaking at the beginning of the penultimate “When We Were All One” come through, and gives the soft-touch blues of centerpiece “Boots of Snake Leather” its proper room to breathe — and the more its genuine scope is revealed, the more those listens are earned. Whether it’s the tale-telling of “The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds” or the noisy, organ-laced finish of “New War on the Range,” which is also the longest track at 7:42, the band hold firm to an experimentalist purpose and care of arrangement that goes beyond the surface of Olson‘s songwriting, and the vision of the prairie they’re using as their backdrop is that much richer for it.

As a fan and someone who — if I didn’t get the point across — was waiting for a new Across Tundras LP to come out, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds is all the more satisfying because it doesn’t ignore what Olson has done over the last six years. It ties to his solo work in a way that isn’t trying to be something that it’s not. It’s still rooted in that heavy Americana ideal, but more patient in its songwriting than the band have ever been, and more willing to, like the song says and eventually does, “Slow Down and Breathe” almost as an act of escapism from the modern chaos hinted at in the album’s title. In its blend of naturalist wash and country folk, it is both lush and organic, with Olson‘s mostly laid back, breathy post-Dylan vocal style providing the human core around which the other elements swirl and churn and do whatever else it is they might do.

All told, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds is seven songs/43 minutes of material that pushes the band into places where they’ve never been, and while it does so, it seems to find itself closer to the heart of what they’ve been going for all along, that kind of resonance shared between emotionality and place. In the howling leads of “Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues” and the way “When We Were All One” seems to bask in imaginary sentiment — what could be more American? — Across Tundras are able to manifest their ideas in a way they’ve never been before, and they’re ultimately stronger for incorporating what Olson has learned in the intervening years of solo work in making that happen. Though the American underground is rife with heavy blues of various shapes and forms, Across Tundras are unto themselves, and whether one thinks of it as heavy bluesgaze folk or whatever else, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds is a welcome reminder of that fact.

Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds (2019)

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

Across Tundras/T.G. Olson on Bandcamp

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Across Tundras Release New Album The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

You know, after six years, I just didn’t want the release of a new Across Tundras album to go unmarked. I’ll have a review up in about a week after I sit with the thing and give it its due — it’s currently slated for June 18, if you want to keep track; that may change — but just for my own satisfaction as a fan of the band, I wanted to put up a post just with the stream for anyone who wanted to check it out to do so and just to say, hey, here’s a thing that exists.

So yeah, it exists. It’s been a long time coming. I’d love to know the recording circumstances, as frontman, founder and principal songwriter T.G. Olson has been back and forth between Nebraska and Nashville over the last couple years, but I guess that’s concern for another day. If The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds was pieced together over however long, it certainly doesn’t lack fluidity for that. But all that is concern for another time. Right now, I’m just glad it’s out there. They put it out the same way Olson does his solo releases: with just about no prior notice and no fanfare — a link shared on social media and that’s it. There are CD and tape preorders though — got mine in — and I imagine if those sell through, the topic of vinyl will be broached.

But anyway, it’s a name-your-price download in the meantime, and you can listen below as well as on the Across Tundras/T.G. Olson Bandcamp page, as always. Dig it:

across tundras the rugged ranges of curbs and broken minds

The new full length album from Across Tundras is available now for free/name your price download!

Pre orders for CD and Cassette are up now. All proceeds go towards getting this album pressed on vinyl. We need your support to get this album on wax where it belongs!

Pulled from the jaws of defeat 2018-2019.

Sounds by T.G. Olson ~ Ben Schriever ~ Caleb R.K. Williams ~ Abigail Lily O’Hara ~ Noel Dorado. Recorded by T.G. Olson and Caleb R.K. Williams, Mastered by T.G. Olson, Caleb and Abigail appear courtesy of The Eagle Stone Collective.
eaglestone.bandcamp.com

Photography and design by T.G. Olson.

Tracklisting:
1. The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds 06:58
2. Slow Down and Breathe 06:24
3. Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues 05:42
4. Boots of Snake Leather 05:02
5. Whirlwind Reapin’ 06:50
6. When We Were All One 04:39
7. New War on the Range 07:42

Thanks to Jackson C. Frank, Carl Sandburg and Librivox Public Domain Recordings, Rainy Day Women, Dogs, Road Trippin’, Strange Days and YOU for listening.

BLUE CHEERS Y’ALL!

https://www.facebook.com/AcrossTundrasBand/
https://acrosstundras.bandcamp.com/

Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds (2019)

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Quarterly Review: The Atlas Moth, Across Tundras, The Wizards of Delight, Against the Grain, Our Solar System, Dommengang, Boss Keloid, Holy Smoke, Sabel, Blackwater Prophet

Posted in Reviews on April 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

This is a crucial moment in any Quarterly Review. Today we hit the halfway point one way or the other. I still haven’t decided if this will be a 50- or 60-album edition; kind of playing it by ear, but either way, today’s a landmark in my mind in terms of how far to go vs. how far we’ve come. Uphill vs. downhill to some extent, but I don’t want to give the impression that I’m either half-assing it from here on out or that I don’t enjoy the challenge of reviewing 10 records in a day, one after the next, for (at least) five days in a row. I’ve always been a glutton for a bit of self-flagellation. Ha.

Alright, let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

The Atlas Moth, Coma Noir

the atlas moth coma noir

If one still wants to consider Chicago’s The Atlas Moth post-metal after hearing Coma Noir, at least do them the courtesy of emphasizing the “metal” part of that equation. For their debut on Prosthetic Records and fourth full-length overall, the five-piece worked with producer Sanford Parker to solidify a progressive metal sound that, whether in the harsh and weighted impact of the opening title-track or the later interplay between guitarists Stavros Giannopoulos and David Kush on screams and cleaner vocals in “Furious Gold,” seems to take cues from groups like a less manic Strapping Young Lad and a less watered-down Mastodon more than Isis or Neurosis. With prominent synth from Andrew Ragin (also guitar), and the solid roll from the rhythm section of bassist Alex Klein and drummer Mike Miczek, the band brings revitalized edge to “The Streets of Bombay,” and even on the slower, more atmospheric closer “Chloroform,” they’ve never sounded more lethal. It suits them.

The Atlas Moth on Thee Facebooks

Prosthetic Records webstore

 

Across Tundras, Tumbleweeds III

across tundras tumbleweeds iii

A collection of odds and ends from Across Tundras, the 10-track/52-minute Tumbleweeds III may or may not sate anyone hoping for a follow-up to 2013’s Electric Relics (review here), but it provides some curio fodder along the way to be sure, from raw opener “Final Breath over Venom Falls” to the acoustic-percussion jam “Bullet in the Butt” to the fuller roll of “Cold Ride” and later demos for “Spinning Through the Cosmic Dust,” “Hijo del Desierto,” “Stone Crazy Horse” and “The Stacked Plain,” which later became “Seasick Serenade” on Electric Relics, it’s at very least something for fans to dig into and a fascinating listen, as Across Tundras’ rambling sound is almost eerily suited to a home-recording vibe, as the “Stone Crazy Horse” demo, featuring vocalist Shannon Allie-Murphy along with frontman Tanner Olson, sounds all the more folksome as a result of its lack of production polish. Closing with Bob Dylan’s “The Ballad of Hollis Brown,” then, could hardly be more appropriate. Still waiting for a proper long-player to surface, but happy at this point to take what comes.

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

Across Tundras on Bandcamp

 

The Wizards of Delight, The Wizards of Delight

the wizards of delight the wizards of delight

Like a chicanery-laced dusty vinyl with a naked lady on the cover, The Wizards of Delight emerge from the London underground to solidly declare “We’ve got the rock ‘n’ rollz.” And yes, they spell it with a ‘z.’ The presence of frontman Andreas “Mazzereth” Maslen will be familiar to anyone who ever even briefly encountered Groan – dude makes an impression, to be sure – and the four tracks he and the surrounding five-piece of guitarists/backing vocalists Dan Green’s Myth and Lenny Ray, bassist/backing vocalist Eponymous, organist/backing vocalist Henry and drummer Reece bring is both funky and classically heavy, “Gypsy” referencing Dio Sabbath in the first line while “Mountain Woman” brings a heavy ‘70s shuffle to answer the way-un-P.C. “Shogun Messiah,” which seems to be working under the thesis that because it sounds like it’s from 40 years ago, they can get away with it. I’ll give them that the track is, to an unfortunate degree, catchy. As to the rest, give me the groove of “We Got the Rock ‘n’ Rollz” any day. It’s been a while since anyone so brazenly interpreted Mk. II Deep Purple and actually pulled it off.

The Wizards of Delight on Thee Facebooks

APF Records website

 

Against the Grain, Cheated Death

against the grain cheated death

Hard-touring Detroit heavy rockers Against the Grain are known for speed, and rightly so. When they burst into high gear, as on “Sacrifice,” “No Sleep,” “Last Chance,” “Rolling Stone,” “Enough’s Not Enough,” and “Jaded and Faded” from their latest offering and Ripple Music debut, Cheated Death. The follow-up to 2015’s Road Warriors (review here) sees them no less infectious in their live energy, but it’s hard to ignore the more versatile approach that seems to be growing in their sound, from the classic rocking “Smoke” to the near-centerpiece “Devils and Angels” which ballads-out its boozy regrets before entering into an effective mid-paced build that rounds out in choice dual-soloing. Likewise, though they open at a good clip with the title-track, closer “Into the Light” finds a middle ground between thrust and groove. The truth is Against the Grain have never been just about speed, but they’ve never so directly benefited from a dynamic approach as they do on Cheated Death either.

Against the Grain on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Our Solar System, Origins

our solar system origins

Immediate kudos to Stockholm-based psychedelic progressive explorers Our Solar System – aka Vårt Solsystem – for opening their third full-length for Beyond Beyond is Beyond, the five-track/41-minute Origins, with the side-consuming 21-minute “Vulkanen.” One could hardly ask for more effective immersion in the band’s world of patiently unfurled, languid psychedelia, and with the accompaniment of “Babalon Rising,” the jazz-prog tracklist centerpiece “En Bit Av Det Tredje Klotet,” the birdsong-laced “Naturligt Samspel” and the semi-freaked-out melodic wash of “Monte Verita” on side B, a full, rich, and mind-expanding cosmos is engaged, free of restriction even as it remains thoroughly lysergic, and adherent to no structural will so much as the will to adventure into the unknown, to find out where one progression leads. As regards the long- and short-form material on Origins, it leads far, far out, and if you don’t come out the other side wanting to own everything the band has ever released, you’re decidedly in the wrong.

Our Solar System on Thee Facebooks

Beyond Beyond is Beyond website

 

Dommengang, Love Jail

dommengang love jail

Once calling Brooklyn Home, Los Angeles trio Dommengang waste no time in getting down to the business of boogie on their second album for Thrill Jockey, Love Jail. Produced by Tim Green (The Fucking Champs), the 10-track/50-minute long-player has all the room for organ/guitar mashups, righteous West Coast vibes and easy-flowing classic heavy rock one could hope for, and in the opening salvo of “Pastel City,” “Lovely Place” and “Lone Pine,” the three-piece of guitarist Dan “Sig” Wilson, bassist Brian Markham, and drummer Adam Bulgasem reaffirm mellow bluesiness as well on the title-track and dig into ‘90s-style alt bliss on the penultimate “Color out of Space.” There’s a welcoming air throughout that holds steady regardless of tempo, and in heavier moments like the second half of “I’m out Mine,” the band resonates with fuzz and noisy elements that bring just enough danger to the proceedings to keep the listener riveted. Classy, but not too classy, in other words.

Dommengang on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records website

 

Boss Keloid, Melted on the Inch

boss keloid melted on the inch

It would seem that Wigan, UK, outfit Boss Keloid — newly signed to Holy Roar Records for the release of their third LP, Melted on the Inch – internalized a few crucial lessons from their sophomore outing, 2016’s Herb Your Enthusiasm (review here). At six tracks and 40 minutes, Melted on the Inch is about 20 minutes shorter than its predecessor. Its title isn’t a weed pun. Its cover art conveys a work of dimensionality, and most importantly, the album itself turns to be precisely that. Taking a significant step toward a more progressive sound, Boss Keloid maintain the heft of their prior outing but base it around material that, frankly, is more complex and dynamic. I won’t say that “Tarku Shavel” and “Lokannok” are without their elements of self-indulgence, but neither should they be for the five-piece to do justice to the multifaceted nature of their purpose. They still roar when they want to, but Boss Keloid strike with breadth on Melted on the Inch as well as sheer impact.

Boss Keloid on Thee Facebooks

Holy Roar Records website

 

Holy Smoke, Pipe Dream

holy smoke pipe dream

After forming in 2015, Philadelphia’s exclamatory Holy Smoke! issued their first three-track release, It’s a Demo! (review here) the next year and showed marked stylistic promise in cuts like “Rinse and Repeat” and “Blue Dreams.” Both of those tracks, as it happens, stand at the opening of the band’s latest EP, the five-song Pipe Dream, and reaffirm the potential in the group. The opener (also the longest track once again; immediate points) is a tale of workaday redundancy, the very sort of monotony that the rest of the offering seems to leave behind in favor of post-grunge heavy rock, marked by the wah-bass on finale “Asch Backwards” and the brooding sensibility of the prior “Golden Retriever,” which surges in its midsection like a lost Alice in Chains demo only to end quiet once again, a departure from the linearity of centerpiece “Missing the Mark” just before. Less psychedelic than their initial impression conveyed, they seem to have undertaken the work of crafting their own sonic niche in Philly’s increasingly crowded scene, and there’s nothing on Pipe Dream to make one think it’s not a realistic possibility they’ll get there.

Holy Smoke on Thee Facebooks

Holy Smoke on Bandcamp

 

Sabel, Re-Generation

sabel re-generation

Sabel know what they want to be and then are that thing. Their third album, Re-Generation, arrives via Oak Island Records as six tracks of to-the-converted stonerism, and from opener/longest track (immediate points) “In the Walls of Eryx,” the Swedish trio do little more than ask their listeners to smell the smoke emanating from their speaker cabinets (oddly sweet), and hone walls of fuzz that each seem to be bigger than the last. There are some elements of earliest Electric Wizard at play in “Atlantean” or the sneering “Voodoo Woman,” but belters like “Interstellar Minddweller” and “Green Priestess” stave off their sounding overly derivative, and though at the end of Re-Generation’s 42-minute run, one might feel as though they need a shower, the record itself proves well worth the dive into the muck. The band would seem to have carved their own descriptor with the title of their self-released 2015 LP, Hard Doom, and that’s as good as anything I could come up with, so let’s roll with it. They seem to.

Sabel on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Blackwater Prophet, As I Watch it Freeze

blackwater prophet as i watch it freeze

Cheers to Christian Peters of Samsara Blues Experiment for putting me onto Spokane, Washington’s Blackwater Prophet, who with the seven-track As I Watch it Freeze collect various tracks recorded between 2015 and 2017. Thus something of a compilation, the 40-minute outing wants nothing for overarching flow, “In My Passing Time” leading off with a mellow psych-blues spirit that only grows more classic-feeling through “House of Stone” and the gorgeously pastoral “The Swamp.” The band have two proper full-lengths out, and if they wanted to count As I Watch it Freeze as their third, I don’t think they’d find much argument, as centerpiece “Gold in the Palm” opens like a gateway leading to the increasingly resonant “Careworn Crow,” the fuzzy swing of “Eating the Sun” and finally, the title-track itself, which answers the acoustics of “The Swamp” earlier while adding flourish of volume-swelling and swirling electric guitar and late choral vocals that only make the proceedings seem all the more complete in their engagement.

Blackwater Prophet on Thee Facebooks

Blackwater Prophet on Bandcamp

 

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

This is the hardest list to put together, no question. Don’t get me wrong, I put way too much thought into all of them, but this one is damn near impossible to keep up with. Every digital single, every demo, every EP, every 7″, 10″ one-sided 12″, whatever it is. There’s just too much. I’m not going to claim to have heard everything. Hell, that’s what the comments are for. Let me know what I missed. Invariably, something.

So while the headers might look similar, assuming I can ever remember which fonts I use from one to the next, this list has a much different personality than, say, the one that went up earlier this week with the top 20 debuts of 2017. Not that I heard everyone’s first record either, but we’re talking relative ratios here. The bottom line is please just understand I’ve done my best to hear as much as possible. I’m only one person, and there are only so many hours in the day. Eventually your brain turns into riffy mush.

With that caveat out of the way, I’m happy to present the following roundup of some of what I thought were 2017’s best short releases. That’s EPs, singles, demos, splits — pretty much anything that wasn’t a full-length album, and maybe one or two things that were right on the border of being one. As between genres, the lines are blurry these days. That’s part of what makes it fun.

Okay, enough dawdling. Here we go:

lo-pan-in-tensions

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

1. Lo-Pan, In Tensions
2. Godhunter, Codex Narco
3. Year of the Cobra, Burn Your Dead
4. Shroud Eater, Three Curses
5. Stubb, Burning Moon
6. Canyon, Canyon
7. Solace, Bird of Ill Omen
8. Kings Destroy, None More
9. Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam
10. Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme
11. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
12. Rope Trick, Red Tape
13. Eternal Black, Live at WFMU
14. IAH, IAH
15. Bong Wish, Bong Wish EP
16. Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie Demo
17. Hollow Leg, Murder
18. Mars Red Sky, Myramyd
19. Avon, Six Wheeled Action Man Tank 7″
20. Wretch, Bastards Born

Honorable Mention

Across Tundras, Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain
The Discussion, Tour EP
Fungus Hill, Creatures
Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven
The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny
Test Meat, Demo
Blood Mist, Blood Mist
Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell
Dautha, Den Foerste
Scuzzy Yeti, Scuzzy Yeti
Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 2
Decasia, The Lord is Gone
Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore, Split 7″

I can’t imagine I won’t add a name or two or five to this section over the next few days as I think of other things and people remind me of stuff and so on, so keep an eye out, but the point is there’s way more than just what made the top 20. That Across Tundras single would probably be on the list proper just on principle, but I heard it like a week ago and it doesn’t seem fair. Speaking of unfair, The Discussion, Howling Giant, The Grand Astoria and the Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore split all deserve numbered placement easily. I might have to make this a top 30 in 2018, just to assuage my own guilt at not being able to include everything I want to include. For now though, yeah, this is just the tip of the doomberg.

Notes

To be totally honest with you, that Lo-Pan EP came out Jan. 13 and pretty much had the year wrapped up in my head from that point on. It was going to be hard for anything to top In Tensions, and the Godhunter swansong EP came close for the sense of stylistic adventurousness it wrought alone, and ditto that for Year of the Cobra’s bold aesthetic expansions on Burn Your Dead and Shroud Eater’s droning Three Cvrses, but every time I heard Jeff Martin singing “Pathfinder,” I knew it was Lo-Pan’s year and all doubt left my mind. Of course, for the Ohio four-piece, In Tensions is something of a one-off with the departure already of guitarist Adrian Zambrano, but I still have high hopes for their next record. It would be hard not to.

The top five is rounded out by Stubb’s extended jam/single “Burning Moon,” which was a spacey delight and new ground for them to cover. The self-titled debut EP from Philly psych rockers Canyon, which they’ve already followed up, is next. I haven’t had the chance to hear the new one yet, but Canyon hit a sweet spot of psychedelia and heavy garage that made me look forward to how they might develop, so I’ll get there sooner or later. Solace’s return was nothing to balk at with their cassingle “Bird of Ill Omen” and the Sabbath cover with which they paired it, and though Kings Destroy weirded out suitably on the 14-minute single-song EP None More, I hear even greater departures are in store with their impending fourth LP, currently in progress.

A couple former bandmates of mine feature in Tarpit Boogie in guitarist George Pierro and bassist John Eager, and both are top dudes to be sure, but even if we didn’t have that history, it would be hard to ignore the tonal statement they made on their Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam EP. If you didn’t hear it, go chase it down on Bandcamp. Speaking of statements, Supersonic Blues’ Supersonic Blues Theme 7″ was a hell of an opening salvo of classic boogie that I considered to be one of the most potential-laden offerings of the year. Really. Such warmth to their sound, but still brimming with energy in the most encouraging of ways. Another one that has to be heard to be believed.

The dudes are hardly newcomers, but Grief offshoot Come to Grief sounded pretty fresh — and raw — on their The Worst of Times EP, and the Massachusetts extremists check in right ahead of fellow New Englangers Rope Trick, who are an offshoot themselves of drone experimentalists Queen Elephantine. Red Tape was a demo in the demo tradition, and pretty formative sounding, but seemed to give them plenty of ground on which to develop their aesthetic going forward, and I wouldn’t ask more of it than that.

Eternal Black gave a much-appreciated preview of their Bleed the Days debut long-player with Live at WFMU and earned bonus points for recording it at my favorite radio station, while Argentine trio IAH probably went under a lot of people’s radar with their self-titled EP but sent a fervent reminder that that country’s heavy scene is as vibrant as ever. Boston-based psych/indie folk outfit Bong Wish were just the right combination of strange, melodic and acid-washed to keep me coming back to their self-titled EP on Beyond Beyond is Beyond, and as Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass debuted his new project Rattlesnake with the Outlaw Boogie demo, the consistency of his songcraft continued to deliver a classic feel. Another one to watch out for going into the New Year.

I wasn’t sure if it was fair to include Hollow Leg’s Murder or not since it wound up getting paired with a special release of their latest album, but figured screw it, dudes do good work and no one’s likely to yell about their inclusion here. If you want to quibble, shoot me a comment and quibble away. Mars Red Sky only released Myramyd on vinyl — no CD, no digital — and I never got one, but heard a private stream at one point and dug that enough to include them here anyway. They remain perennial favorites.

Avon, who have a new record out early in 2018 on Heavy Psych Sounds, delivered one of the year’s catchiest tracks with the “Six Wheeled Action Man Tank” single. I feel like I’ve had that song stuck in my head for the last two months, mostly because I have. And Wretch may or may not be defunct at this point — I saw word that drummer Chris Gordon was leaving the band but post that seems to have disappeared now, so the situation may be in flux — but their three-songer Bastards Born EP was a welcome arrival either way. They round out the top 20 because, well, doom. Would be awesome to get another LP out of them, but we’ll see I guess.

One hopes that nothing too egregious was left off, but one again, if there’s something you feel like should be here that isn’t, please consider the invitation to leave a comment open and let me know about it. Hell, you know what? Give me your favorites either way, whether you agree with this list or not. It’s list season, do it up. I know there’s the Year-End Poll going, and you should definitely contribute to that if you haven’t, but what was your favorite EP of the year? The top five? Top 10? I’m genuinely curious. Let’s talk about it.

Whether you have a pick or not (and I hope you do), thanks as always for reading. May the assault of short releases continue unabated in 2018 and beyond.

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Across Tundras Release New Single Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Somehow, no matter how many times I sign up for the email updates and no matter how regularly I check in, I perpetually feel like I’m playing catch-up with the Across Tundras/ T.G. Olson Bandcamp page. Releases tend to show up unannounced, and by the time they’re there, well, you’re already late. There’s been a flurry of activity of late as the prolific-as-ever Tanner Olson has made a number of offerings available as limited CDRs with handmade packaging in addition to posting new outings from his drone projects Inget Namn and Funeral Electrical — lest we forget it’s only been two months since his latest solo album, Searching for the Ur-Plant (review here), surfaced as well — and yeah, it’s a lot to keep up with.

Nonetheless, any new Across Tundras is good news as far as I’m concerned. Their next full-length has been in progress on one level or another for a couple years now, and in 2015, they issued the stopgap Home Free EP (discussed here) that was said at the time to feature tracks that would be on the record. I don’t know if the same applies to the just-issued two-songer Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain, but for a recently-recorded sampling of the band’s trademark heavy rambling style and a more acoustic-based complementary piece, I’m not about to complain. 10 minutes of new Across Tundras; today was a good day.

As ever, the release is available as a name-your-price download via the Bandcamp page linked below, so go and get it before the next offering shows up and you’re already behind. Trust me, it can happen. In thinking of the delay on the new Across Tundras LP though, note that Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain was recorded between Olson and bassist/drummer Matt Shively in Nebraska and Virginia. That’s one hell of a geographic divide to overcome for a writing/recording session. Might explain some of what’s taking so long, even if they’re just working as a two-piece rather than the band’s traditional trio incarnation.

Alright, here’s the goods:

Across Tundras Blood for the Sun Hearts for the Rain

Across Tundras – Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain

Recorded, mixed, and mastered by Matt Shively and Tanner Olson in Plattsmouth, NE and Roanoke, VA in the Summer of 2017.

1. Blood for the Sun 05:32
2. Hearts for the Rain 05:28

Tanner Olson – Guitar, Vocals
Matt Shively – Bass, Drums

Released December 8, 2017.

https://www.facebook.com/AcrossTundrasBand/
https://acrosstundras.bandcamp.com/

Across Tundras, Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain (2017)

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T.G. Olson, Searching for the Ur-Plant: Solitary Brigade

Posted in Reviews on November 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tg olson searching for the ur-plant

T.G. Olson is rarely far off from his next release. At this point, the Across Tundras frontman has settled into a steady rhythm where every few months, new songs will be recorded and presented for those who’ll have them as name-your-price downloads on Bandcamp. Sometimes — as in the case of his latest, Searching for the Ur-Plant — these DIY digital offerings will be complemented by limited, usually gorgeous and suitably organic-looking handmade CDRs pressed through the auspices of Olson‘s Electric Relics Records imprint. Sometimes not. Either way, the next thing always seems to be on the horizon. This has led to a remarkably productive few years and an increasingly complex narrative as to just what Olson‘s solo work encompasses in terms of style and craft.

Searching for the Ur-Plant was preceded this Spring by the full-length Foothills Before the Mountain (review here), which in turn followed a busy 2016 that produced La Violenza Naturale (review here), the From the Rocky Peaks b/w Servant to Blues single (discussed here) and the albums The Broken End of the Deal (review here) and Quicksilver Sound (discussed here), and the newer work follows a path distinct from its most immediate predecessor in a way that makes it more difficult to guess what Olson‘s next move might be. Other, of course, than (presumably) putting out another record. Because that’s kind of how he does. The question is how that record will be defined, and the reason that’s harder to determine as a result of the eight-song Searching for the Ur-Plant is because how much it strips down the approach taken on Foothills Before the Mountain.

On sheer sonic terms, the drone-folk arrangements of cuts like opener “On a High Like a Mountain” or the later “New Resistance Blues” aren’t necessarily new ground for Olson, but they represent a turn from what seemed to be more full-band-style fare his last time out toward a more distinctly “solo” feel. The story goes that the material was “handmade from scratch during one rainy week in October 2017. All songs were written new on the spot and recorded one by one until 33:32 minutes had been laid to bare to tape,” and having been completed on Oct. 11, Searching for the Ur-Plant found issue three days later: written, performed, recorded, produced, mixed, mastered and pressed by Olson himself.

At its most minimal, as on “Time Flies By and By,” the album carries that insular feel, but there’s also a good bit of reaching out done in these tracks, which from the early Paul Simon-style bounce of “The Old Brigade” to the later handclaps of the penultimate “Back on the Cross” seem to be in conversation with the human interaction at the root of Americana and folk traditionalism — the idea that songs were meant to be shared, sung by groups together, and so on.

t.g. olson

A big difference is in percussion and the general lack thereof, and where Foothills Before the Mountain was less shy about including drums, those handclaps in “Back on the Cross” are about it as far as outward timekeeping goes. Elsewhere, the key seems to be in call and response vocals — a theme “On a High Like a Mountain” sets early and which continues through the repetition-minded, harmonica-laced “A Constant Companion,” “Time Flies By and By,” “The Old Brigade,” “Trying to Take it All In,” “New Resistance Blues,” and closer “The Ur-Plant” itself — Olson answering his vocal lines in delayed time over acoustic and electric guitar that free-flows between drift and ramble, wistful and playful.

Given the timeline in which Searching for the Ur-Plant was put together — written and tracked in the span of a week — that such consistencies would develop makes sense. Sometimes an idea just gets stuck in your head and needs to be exorcised, and despite that steady element, the songs remain varied in their intent, whether it’s the classic melancholy of “A Constant Companion” with its echoes of airy slide guitar or the soft and swaying guitar and harmonica execution of “The Ur-Plant,” which rounds out in less chorus-focused fashion than cuts like “On a High Like a Mountain” or “The Old Brigade,” but with an absolute center based in the realization of its pastoralia, humble even as it brims with creativity and understated nuance. This too is familiar ground from Olson, but brought to bear with a fascinating patience that would seem to fly in the face of the urgency with which Searching for the Ur-Plant was written and constructed.

It would’ve been easy, in other words, for Olson to come across as rushed on a record that took a week to make. But he doesn’t. Instead, he harvests an eight-song/33-minute collection that sidesteps expectation while remaining quintessentially his in terms of atmosphere and overarching style, which is a balance that, so well struck as it is, defines Searching for the Ur-Plant and serves as the basis for its ultimate success. In intent and manifestation, Olson‘s work would struggle to be any less pretentious than it is, but it remains propelled by a fierce and apparently unyielding creativity, and though this particular outing makes it harder to imagine where Olson might go next — whereas after Foothills Before the Mountain he seemed so primed to continue working toward one-man-band-style arrangements — that unpredictability, met head-on by such depth of songwriting, only becomes yet another asset working in Olson‘s favor.

The discography he’s built at this point is something truly special, and whether one meanders through it as through tall, pathless grasses, or follows step by step as each installment arrives, journey and destination alike seem to satisfy with a warmth all their own. Searching for the Ur-Plant winds up in a lonelier place than some of Olson‘s other offerings, but its sense of longing is resonant, beautiful, and honest. Clearly the search continues.

T.G. Olson, Searching for the Ur-Plant (2017)

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Across Tundras/T.G. Olson on Bandcamp

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