Astrosoniq, Big Ideas Dare Imagination: Celebration

Posted in Reviews on June 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Astrosoniq Big Ideas Dare Imagination

One year ago, on June 3, 2017, Astrosoniq lost one of their own with the passing of programmer, booker and friend Bidi van Drongelen. Bidi was known throughout the Dutch and greater European heavy underground as the head of Bidi Bookings and his passing was and continues to be deeply felt by those who knew him. Among the tributes in his honor is Big Ideas Dare Imagination — note the first letter of each word in the title — which is the fifth full-length release for the Wizards of Oss and, fittingly enough, an experiment unto its very making, with a core duo of Ron van Herpen (guitar, bass) and Marcel van de Vondervoort (drums, programming, recording, mixing) employing a succession of vocalists across six widely varied tracks running a total of 40 minutes.

Some play guitar or bass as well, and Otto Kokke of Dead Neanderthals adds scorching saxophone to the penultimate “Vision Factor,” and Astrosoniq vocalist Fred van Bergen and bassist Robert-Jan van Gruijthijzen — who with keyboardist Teun van de Velden (not featured here) rounded out the basic five-piece that appeared on the last Astrosoniq record, Quadrant (review here), in 2009 — both make appearances as well. Of all the singers involved, van Bergen is the only one to show up twice, on side A closer “Mindless” and the aforementioned “Vision Factor,” while van Gruijthijzen helms the vocals and lyrics on opener “King,” plays bass on that song and second track “The Great Escape,” and contributes to the writing of that song and “Mindless.” It doesn’t get any less complex from there. Ah hell, here’s the tracklisting with guest personnel:

1. King (RJ van Gruijthijzen on vocals, bass, lyrics)
2. The Great Escape (RJ van Gruijthijzen on bass, Rob Martin of RRRags and Bliksem on vocals/lyrics)
3. Mindless (Fred van Bergen on vocals)
4. Keppra! (Joris Dirks of Moodswing and Agua de Annique on vocals, bass and guitar)
5. Vision Factor (Fred van Bergen on vocals, Otto Kokke on sax)
6. Freezen (Fred Händl of A.P. Lady adds lyrics for Mark Watson’s spoken word and Peggy Meeussen of Bliksem’s singing)

Astrosoniq aren’t strangers to switching up their sound. Going back to their 2000 debut, Son of A.P. Lady (discussed here and here) and across 2002’s Soundgrenade (discussed here), 2006’s Speeder People (discussed here), and the aforementioned Quadrant, there’s been very little outside their purview in terms of style. Country, funk, metal, psychedelia, space rock, weirdo noise, on and on. They have been and remain a deeply creative band. The difference is that on Big Ideas Dare Imagination, that extends to the makeup of the band itself.

In that way, it would be a mistake to judge Big Ideas Dare Imagination like a conventional album, because it isn’t one. Astrosoniq‘s project here isn’t simply to make another record, but to memorialize their friend and compatriot, like sitting shiva in a recording studio. One has to wonder if a fifth Astrosoniq LP would even exist without van Drongelen‘s passing as the driver. After being sidelined for several years owing to health problems on the part of van de Vondervoort, the group had made a sort-of return to playing live, but it’s entirely possible they wouldn’t have reconvened for new material, and even if they did, it almost certainly wouldn’t have been in this form/format. It could be argued, then, that Bidi should get some credit on that tracklisting too, for inspiration and for being the driving force behind pushing the band to create a new work. Certainly though, the clear dedication to him shown in the outing speaks to this.

astrosoniq bidi van drongelen

And of course, though it’s also a record about more than just its songs, Big Ideas Dare Imagination also does work to fit in the Astrosoniq catalog. It’s helpful that longtime listeners of the band know to approach with an open mind, because even with the vocal swaps that follow the ultra-memorable, sort of bizarrely lurching hook of “King,” there is a root beneath that feel contiguous with what they’ve done before. Ron van Herpen‘s riffing style, varied in its influence and execution, but always crisp and classy, is present throughout the drift and later drive and apex of “The Great Escape” and the more down-to-earth turns of “Mindless” as well, which has elements of classic metal in its sharper edges but still remains firmly entrenched in heavy rock, particularly with van Bergen‘s vocals in the forward position and van de Vondervoort‘s uptempo timekeeping. The side A finale might be the most grounded stretch of the album but it’s by no means the only rocking moment. From the grit-fueled, noise-backed stomp of “King” onward, Astrosoniq hold firm to who they are throughout all the changes, which is all the better, because of course the changes are a part of who they are.

Joris Dirks‘ performance on “Keppra!” is an immediate standout. Taking it next to its side A-opening counterpart “King,” it’s a far more fragile-sounding and emotionalist vibe, with a semi-indie spirit in its fluidity that reminds my East Coast US ears of Cave In‘s post-punk, but the guitar solo that emerges just before the halfway point is more rocking at its foundation. Between his vocal style and adding bass and guitar to the song, there’s no question Dirks makes “Keppra!” his own, and following the long instrumental stretch that begins with the already-noted solo, a turn back to the verse and chorus wrap it up smoothly just in time to have the sax at the start of “Vision Factor” hit like a punch in the face. In its way, this too is quintessential Astrosoniq — knowing what the song needs and being creative enough to make it happen, without concern for genre or expectation, being always in service to the song itself.

It’s that spirit that has allowed Astrosoniq to get as outwardly strange as they sometimes will over the years — everything they do, they do in the name of songwriting. It’s the expression of an idea that’s paramount. The sax in “Vision Factor” leads the way in a freaked-out second half of the track with a steady space rock chug beneath, and “Freezen” pairs thick-English-accented narration and a soaring chorus (that’s Watson and Meeusen, respectively) with a thickened thrashy riff beneath, creating a tension that each hook pays off even as it provides some reprieve with the drum gallop holding steady. The story being told paints a picture of a character being kidnapped and murdered by a man, maybe a time traveler, coincidentally (or not) named Marcel, and at just under 10 minutes, a full narrative unfolds, finishing Big Ideas Dare Imagination on its farthest-out note yet and with the music dropped out, the line, “But as we know, Marcel was not a kind man,” the record ends.

The impression the album as a whole makes is, naturally, contrary to that final statement, and indeed both van Herpen and van de Vondervoort and their cohorts seem both kind and genuine in giving tribute to their friend and still maintaining the band’s always-forward mentality. Again, while it’s not a record to be judged by conventional criteria, one can’t help but admire the creative process at work across Big Ideas Dare Imagination — they dare logistics too, it would seem; can’t be easy to coordinate among this many players — and though the circumstances of its happening are unfortunate, the album is nothing but a triumph of spirit. I didn’t know Bidi well, but it’s hard to imagine Astrosoniq‘s homage wouldn’t bring a smile to his face. It certainly does to mine.

Astrosoniq, Big Ideas Dare Imagination (2018)

Astrosoniq on Thee Facebooks

Astrosoniq on Bandcamp

Astrosoniq on Spotify

Big Ideas Dare Imagination at Ván Records

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Friday Full-Length: Astrosoniq, Son of A.P. Lady

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Astrosoniq, Son of A.P. Lady (2000)

Vastly underrated album from a wildly underrated band. First released in 2000 via Freebird Records, the quizzically-titled Son of A.P. Lady would mark the full-length debut from Netherlands heavy rockers Astrosoniq, and the band, who’d come eventually to be known as the “Wizards of Oss,” could hardly have made a more powerful opening statement. Son of A.P Lady (previously discussed here) bears some of the hallmarks of its era, with a CD-minded 50-minute runtime and its use of samples as a means of transitioning between its eight component tracks, but it’s also got classic-style drive and groove and an underlying progressivism that not only shows itself as much in the funkified “Earthquake” as in the bounding weirdness of “Afterlife Rulers” and the self-aware post-Motörhead charge of “Godly Pace.” It’s a record that brims with personality to a righteously arrogant degree, seeming to borrow some of its hell-fucking-yes-we’re-about-to-do-this snottiness from punk rock at its finest, but never failing to live up to the significant ambitions it sets forward for itself, whether questioning if it’s possible to make a record without selling your soul before even beginning opener “Fistkick” or bassist Erik de Vocht taking the fore vocally to reimagine Ronnie James Dio as a stoner rock singer on the party-time blowout “Ego Booster” later on.

That cut is one of several genuine getdowns Astrosoniq throw on Son of A.P. Lady. Already noted was “Earthquake,” which not only bounces and swings accordingly, but behind a mess of feedback and noise in its midsection actually goes so far as to sample what would seem to be Funkentelechy-era P-Funk with a speech making references to “Flash Light,” Free Your Mind… and Your Ass will FollowChocolate City, “Bop Gun” and so on (though I’ll admit I haven’t put on Funkentelechy in a while, so it could be from another source), and even the speedier penultimate “Doomrider,” something of a complement to “Godly Pace” earlier in the tracklisting, doesn’t lose sight of the fact that the band are and are supposed to be having fun. Van Bergen, guitarist Ron van Herpen, drummer/producer Marcel van de Vondervoort, de Vocht on bass (since replaced by Robert-Jan Gruijthuijzen) and keyboardist Willum Geerts, no matter where they were headed on a given track, be it the snarling attitude and nod of 13-minute closer “You Loose” (actually “You Lose,” and complete with Willy Wonka samples and the most expansive jam on Son of A.P. Lady) or the proggy and percussive swirl of “Pegasus,” it turns out to be their willingness to do whatever they want that most unites the material together across the album, creating a flow out of a consistent-sounding tonality in the recording itself and the wide-open vibe that lets Astrosoniq explore. There are moments of Son of A.P. Lady one would be tempted to relate to grunge, or to the post-Kyuss sphere of heavy/stoner rock — certainly that was booming throughout Europe circa 2000, as Freebird Records could well attest — but the edge of complexity Astrosoniq bring to “Ego Booster,” “Afterlife Rulers,” “Fistkick,” etc., makes them as much kin to the latter work of countrymen 35007 as to Swedish outfits like Dozer or Lowrider, the latter of whom made their debut the same year.

It feels almost impossible to overstate the level of achievement Son of A.P. Lady presents, especially as Astrosoniq‘s first album. Formed by van Herpen and van de Vondervoort in the wake of their prior outfit, A.P. Lady, they’d follow the 2000 Astrosoniq outing with 2002’s Soundgrenade (discussed here), the 2005 Made in Oss EP (discussed here), and 2006’s Speeder People (discussed here) before releasing their latest full-length to-date, Quadrant (review here), in 2010. Each of those releases — and let me just say that the bevvy of links there stems from a willful exploration I did their discography in 2010/2011; one of the most satisfying and least-regretted projects I’ve taken on in the eight-plus years I’ve run this site — continued to build on what Son of A.P. Lady set forth as the tenets of who Astrosoniq were as a group, and not a single one of them failed to add new elements or take a step forward from where they’d been previously. Whether you know their material or not, this is a special, special, band. 17 years later, Son of A.P. Lady still proves that was true at the outset.

Respected purveyor Ván Records did a vinyl reissue of Son of A.P. Lady last year as a deluxe boxed-set 2LP that’s gorgeous enough to say it’s the record getting its due, and though health issues have largely sidelined the band over the 2010s, I was fortunate enough to see them play at Roadburn last year (review here), where they were nothing short of jaw-dropping. I keep my fingers crossed for a new album — long said to be in the works — but the band also recently suffered the loss of manager/programmer Bidi van Drongelen, and though they paid him homage at memorial concert in June, that loss no doubt cast a pall over future plans as well. Still, one can hope.

And along those lines, I hope you listen to, absorb, and come to love Son of A.P. Lady if you already don’t. Thanks for reading.

Little bit after 5AM as I pour my first cup of coffee and get ready to close out the week. The sun isn’t up yet but it’s starting to get lighter out. I’ve been up since about four — alarm was set for 4:45, but I rolled over and was awake — but it’s taken me a while to really get myself going. Last night for dinner I overdosed on #garlicworship and made myself kind of sick. Gonna have to lay off for a week or two, maybe.

What did it, you ask? Well, the homemade pesto I was having with cloud bread was thoroughly-enough garlicked, but then I took an entire bulb and roasted it in the oven for an hour. Then I took another half-bulb of raw garlic, and another pack of store-bought roasted garlic from the salad bar at the Whole Foods down the way and I put all that in the food processor with some salt, pepper and olive oil. Blamo: garlic paste. It actually hurt to eat, but that didn’t stop me from spreading it on the bread in combination with the pesto or licking the spoon when I was done. It was awesome, and my thought at the time was if that’s how I’m going to die, at least I’m enjoying it.

Likelihood of my survival is yet to be determined. In the meantime, I have a well-earned stomach ache and garlic coming out of my pores. As I said to The Patient Mrs. when the meal was done, I’m the garlickiest garlicky who ever garlickied. She could do nothing but agree.

Needless to say, today’s a protein shake day. Going to take it easy. Have to.

On a completely different note unrelated to gastrointestinal distress, as of this week, for the first time in more than a year, I’m completely caught up on the mail. Not email (that I’ll never catch up on), but physical mail. Fun fact: I log every CD, LP, 7″, tape, etc., that comes in for this site. All of it. And I throw away nothing. The note a band sends with a disc that says, “Thanks for checking out our stuff?” Yup, I keep it. I’ve got a drawer full of press releases and notes like that — some are just post-its, some are on the backs of stickers or show flyers — going back a decade at this point.

And all the discs and so on themselves get logged in an Excel file, to keep track of what came in, when, what format it was in and from whom it came if that info is available. Sorting through everything is a time-consuming process and though I kept up as best I could with actually writing about the releases that were being sent, it had been since 2016 that the log was completely up to date. Now it is. I got four pieces of mail yesterday and logged them immediately. The box that was holding stuff is empty upstairs, just sitting there in the corner as my quiet victory. I could tell you how stoked I was to get through it all, but you likely wouldn’t believe it anyway.

To my silly, feeble and garlic-addled brain, that counts as part of baby prep, so I’ll say that’s proceeding well, despite the basket of laundry upstairs that still needs to be folded. The Patient Mrs. is tired but doing great because she’s amazing so of course she’s doing great. She’s been tired a lot, but The Pecan is getting bigger and so has all the more feet with which to be kicking her ass, so yeah, fatigue isn’t necessarily unexpected at this stage. By the end of next week we’ll be about two months away. Staggering.

I don’t usually do this, but I want to point something out before we look ahead to next week’s reviews and such. Let me put it in bold so it stands out to anyone skimming: I featured some seriously fucking awesome music this week. Seriously. I know it wasn’t all super-high-profile releases, but from the Radio Adds on Monday onward, it was excellent stuff all the way. Here are links because I think they deserve reiteration:

The Obelisk Radio Adds: Boris, Sólstafir, Desert Suns & Chiefs, Elara, Fungus Hill

Review & Lyric Video Premiere: Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

Review & Track Premiere: Papir, V

Review & Track Premiere: Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 2

Review: Zone Six, Live Spring 2017

Put those in combination with stuff like the Beastmaker Six Dumb Questions on Wednesday and yesterday’s Sergio Ch. video premiere and the Astrosoniq record above and you have the makings of one very kickass week. I don’t know how much of it you got to check out, but if the answer to that is “any,” you were only doing yourself a favor.

Next week is shaping up to be pretty choice too. Here’s what’s in the notes, subject to change as always:

Mon.: Pagan Altar track premiere/review; Argus lyric video.
Tue.: Six Dumb Questions with Demon Eye; Dead Heavens video.
Wed.: Six Dumb Questions/track premiere with The Quill; Blaak Heat track premiere.
Thu.: Paradise Lost review.
Fri.: Mindkult review.

I expect some of that will shift, but yeah, more righteousness there. I put in a request to do a track premiere for the Mindkult record and wasn’t cool enough, but whatever. The whole thing’s streaming now anyway and it’s good, so I still want to get it featured. The Paradise Lost is right on too. Hell, all of it is. I don’t cover bullshit. Not enough time.

Speaking of time, I’ve taken up more than enough of yours. As I sit here and sip my coffee and continue to burp garlic, I wish you a great and safe weekend with just the right amount of moderation in whatever you do so that you don’t make yourself ill. I may be another day in recovering, but I think I’ll make it.

Thanks for reading and please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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ROADBURN 2016 DAY THREE: Times of Grace

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 16th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2016 day three (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.17.17 – 01:26 – Hotel room, Tilburg

We were done with the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch folding ritual early this afternoon. Third time’s the charm. The issue was finished and printed and put online (you can read it here) by a little bit before one o’clock, so I decided to head back to the hotel to have a drink of water, get my head around the day, dick around on my phone, etc.

dool 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)En route, something caught my ear wafting out of the Cul de Sac. It was Rotterdam natives Dool soundchecking, and from outside, they sounded pretty damn good. Their name had come up in the office since they’re this year’s “Roadburn Introduces” pick, and I decided pretty quickly that I’d have to check them out even just going by what I heard on my way by, so I got back in time to get a spot up front and attended their arrival. They’ve got members of The Devil’s Blood in bassist Job van de Zande and drummer Micha Haring and Gold‘s Nick Polak on guitar along with Reinier Vermeulen, and guitarist/vocalist Ryanne van Dorst, and maybe since they’re not brand new players out of the gate it shouldn’t be a surprise they were in such command of their sound, but for a band who doesn’t have more than a single out, they were impressive in their presence on stage and in the cohesion of their aesthetic, copping elements of goth rock to darken up heavy grooves for an early crowd.

When they got to “Words on Paper,” van Dorst switched out her electric guitar for an acoustic one, and the effect of the added resonance to Polak‘s and Vermeulen‘s guitars was palpable. Every Roadburn brings a pleasant surprise. Dool were definitely mine this year. This morning, I knew nothing about them. Now I’ll be keeping an eye out for news about their debut album. They’d wrap up in time for Skepticism to start on the Main Stage. skepticism 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)The Finnish funeral doomers hit the quarter-century mark in 2016, and they marked the occasion with a special fan-selected set that focused heavily on their 1995 debut LP, Stormcrowfleet, with “Sign of a Storm,” “By Silent Wings” and “The Everdarkgreen,” as well as their 2003 third outing, Farmakon, with “Farmakon Process,” “The Raven and the Backward Funeral” and “Shred of Light, Pinch of Endless.” They had “The March and the Stream” from 1998’s Lead and Aether in there as well, but whatever they were playing, it all crawled, gruelingly, further into a deep, black abyss of church-organ-laced doom, heavy on drama and impassable in tone.

Frontman Matti Tilaeus added to the drama, the bowtie of his formalwear undone — as apparently it will be — and the white roses he carried out with him when he came on stage laid on the tops of the monitors for extra funereal effect. They played mostly in the dark, and were a reminder of just how much what we think of today as death-doom owes its crux to what Finland conjured in the mid-’90s. It was a surprise to walk out of the Main Stage room when they were done and find the sun was still up. How could daylight still even exist after such a thing? I’d ponder the question during an initial loop through the merch area while waiting as I have been for months, years, to see Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, also playing the Main Stage. The Tad Doyle-fronted outfit released their also-awaited self-titled debut (review here) on Neurot Recordings, and though they toured to support it — with Neurosis, no less — I didn’t get to go to that show and my soul has had a dent in it ever since.

brothers of the sonic cloth 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)Well, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s sheer tectonic heaviness took that dent, bumped it out and polished it up real nice. And by that I mean that, while the video screen behind them showed suitably-themed images like the earth as a ball of fire, volcanoes, arcane rituals and so on, they played so furiously loud and with such heft of low end that the floor of the big room actually shook. They had a second guitarist on stage right with bassist Peggy Doyle, and drummer Dave French was in the back, but as a whole unit, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth came together to hone pure aural destruction for the duration of their set, Tad‘s seething rasp and screams placing him at the center of the churn, not nearly as morose as Skepticism had been, but viscerally angry and geared for maximum impact. When the asteroid hits planet earth in whatever year that is — could be tomorrow for all I care; I’m at fucking Roadburn — it will sound like Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. I own two of their t-shirts. When they were done I felt like maybe that’s not enough.

Aside from the fact that Astrosoniq drummer/producer Marcel van de Vondervoort is deeply involved with recording and mixing the audio streams of each Roadburn that so often become groups’ live albums, and aside from the fact that after I first dug into their last studio LP, 2010’s Quadrant (review here), I decided I needed to hear every record they’d ever put out — 2006’s Speeder People (review here), 2005’s Made in Oss EP (review here), 2002’s Soundgrenade (review here) and 2000’s Son of A.P. Lady (review here) — I have been waiting years to see Astrosoniq play Roadburn, and their set was made all the more special by the fact that fest organizer Walter was doing live visuals as he did for The Heads last year. The band hasn’t had much if any live activity over the last few years. It’s now been seven since Quadrant was first issued in Europe. I knew it was going to be something special. I knew I was lucky to see them. I don’t think I knew just how much that would be the case.

On record, they hop genres with attention-deficit regularity, but in the Green Room, tastrosoniq 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)he band were much more fluid. They jammed out with the best of anything I’ve seen at Roadburn 2016, and I’ve seen a few jams. Guitarist Ron van Herpen had guested the other night with Death Alley, but really stood out during “As Soon as They Got Airborne,” an extended take that was only part of the larger highlight that was the set as a whole. “You Lose” from Son of A.P. Lady was another standout, that album having just received a limited vinyl reissue that’s caught my eye in the merch area downstairs at the Patronaat. May or may not get to pick its deluxeness up to take home, but Astrosoniq made an easy case with what I’ll hope is a return to activity that results — eventually; doesn’t have to be this week; next week is fine — in a new full-length. Their native Oss is about 35 minutes from Tilburg by car, just on the other side of den Bosch, and they got the hometown greeting from a strong Dutch contingent represented in the crowd. I knew they would be a hard act to follow.

I watched a bit of Tau Cross — with Away from Voivod on drums and Rob Miller from Amebix on vocals — on the Main Stage before heading over to Het Patronaat to catch the start of Beastmaker, as Lee Dorrian‘s curation was continuing over there. I miss-timed it and didn’t actually get to see them apart from their soundcheck, blowing my chance at Carousel in Extase at the same time, and routed back to the 013 proper to watch Converge do their special ‘Blood Moon’ set comprised of their slower and more experimental material. After their Jane Doe set the other night, which I caught the tail end of, the vibe was almost completely different. Yeah, Jacob Bannon still writhed and paced back and forth and whatnot, but there were more clean vocals — giving Stephen Brodsky (Cave In) another chance to shine, which he did — and they brought out Steve Von Till of Neurosis and Chelsea Wolfe to add their voices to the mix, and Ben Chisholm fleshed out textures on keys, resulting in a rich sound that pushed away from hard/metalcore in favor of something less stylistically hinged. Even for being selections from past records, ‘Blood Moon’ set its own context, and even in the parts that converge 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)didn’t feature Von Till, one could hear a strong sense of influence from Neurosis in what they were doing.

At that point, I decided to do something I hadn’t done since I got to Tilburg: I stopped and had a meal. I left Massachusetts on Tuesday evening. Today was Saturday. Since then, I hadn’t had time to actually sit down to a dinner, lunch, breakfast, anything. I bumped into Weirdo Canyon Dispatch photog extraordinaire Paul Verhagen and we grabbed a bite, with Exile on Mainstream‘s Andreas Kohl joining later, before Amenra went on the Main Stage. I had mixed veggies — broccoli, brussels sprouts, string beans, some other green thing chopped up — a boneless chicken thigh, a spicy chicken wing and a considerable amount of green salad, dry. It might as well have been birthday cake.

Amenra are something of a fixture around Roadburn. The Belgian atmospheric sludgers played in 2007, they played when Neurosis curated in 2009, they played in 2013 and they’ll play again at the Afterburner. That’s nothing to complain about, I’m just noting it because perhaps it was part of what drove them to do something different this time around, performing mostly acoustic with seven players seated arranged in a circle on the stage to stark lighting and deeply melancholic reinterpretations of their songs. Of course, they also have a new LP out, Alive, on Consouling Sounds working in similar forms — it features a faithful cover of Tool‘s “Parabol,” which they also played — but even in this different incarnation, it was plain to hear the impact of Neurosis on their methods and of Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till‘s solo works on their dark-folk and minimalist (if you can call something with seven people on stage minimalist) brooding.

Vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout said from the stage they were nervous amenra 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)and doing their best, possibly after someone shouted “Slayer!” in the crowd. If they were uncomfortable, it was hard to tell from the harmonies. When they were done, they left one at a time until only a single guitarist remained, his back to the crowd. Then he got up and walked away and the part he was playing kept going. It was a loop, obviously — that’s not exactly a magic trick at this point — but it made for a striking visual all the same and said something about the resonance of their material, being brought down on a slow fade as the crowd erupted again. There would be a 40-minute break before Neurosis came on, which, to be completely honest, felt like an eternity.

From Brothers of the Sonic Cloth onward, everything on the Main Stage at Roadburn 2016 today was building toward the Neurosis 30th anniversary set. From Tad Doyle‘s grunge roots to Tau Cross‘ own in crust and progressive thrash, to Converge and Amenra having both — in very different ways, granted — found inspiration in their work, Neurosis was at the core of what the whole day was about, and the push forward was leading inextricably to their set as the culmination. Not to say it was seven-plus hours of setup and nothing more, just that the clearly purposeful flow of the day was designed with its direction in mind. It was not an accident.

neurosis 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)They opened with “Lost” from 1993’s Enemy of the Sun, and among the you-were-never-gonna-see-Neurosis-play-this highlights were “Pain of Mind” and “Self-Taught Infection” from 1988’s Pain of Mind debut, “To What End?” from 1990’s The Word as Law, a cover of Joy Division‘s “Day of the Lords,” and, gloriously, “Takeahnase” from 1992’s Souls at Zero, arguably the point at which they really started to branch beyond their beginnings in crust and hardcore punk and move into the various forms of aggression that they continue to develop now — the easy word for it is post-metal, but it’s post-metal because Neurosis made it that way. With more recent inclusions like “At the Well” from 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) and “Water is Not Enough” from 2007’s Given to the Rising, along with “Times of Grace” from the 1999 album of the same name, “Left to Wander” from 2004’s The Eye of Every Storm, as well as the closing pair of “Through Silver in Blood,” from the 1996 LP of the same name, and “Stones from the Sky” from 2001’s A Sun that Never Sets.

Between all of that and “An Offering” from the Sovereign EP, there was not one record in their discography unrepresented. That made the event even more special — they’ll follow-up with a second installment for the Afterburner tomorrow — but the truth of the matter is that anytime Neurosis shows up, it’s special. I know they’ve done more touring in the last year than in the decade prior, but still, I don’t think there’s a band on the planet that captures the same measure of intensity, of raw passion, of volume-assault-as-spiritual-refuge that Neurosis does, and whether it’s Noah Landis using the entire universe for source material for samples and manipulated transitional drones for between songs, Steve Von Till and Scott Kelly complementing each other on guitar and vocals as one might expect for two guys who’ve been fronting a band together for 30 years, Dave Edwardson‘s continued ferocity on bass or Jason Roeder‘s cyclical drum patterning, everything they do is a lesson in the ethic of putting creativity first. They have a new record coming out at some point. I don’t know what it sounds like or what it’s called, but I feel comfortable in the knowledge that neurosis 2 (Photo by JJ Koczan)it will step forward from where they were with Honor Found in Decay, because they’re Neurosis, and that means no compromising.

I kind of lost my shit during that especially blistering rendition of “Takeahnase,” and I expect tomorrow and Monday I’ll be good and sore. Who cares? Not me. I’m back at it in the morning for the last issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch and more bands for the Afterburner, which basically is just another day of Roadburn at this point. Fine by me. It’s gone quickly in 2016 — how do you pack a year’s worth of living into four days? — so I’ll take everything I can get.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Roadburn 2016: Hexvessel, Astrosoniq, Skepticism, Gentlemans Pistols, The Poisoned Glass, Klone, Yodok III and Nibiru Added to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 18th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

roadburn-2016-poster

I know that Hexvessel‘s return to Roadburn and Skepticism playing a fan-picked set of favorites from out of their groundbreaking catalog are probably more likely to grab the headlines, and I get it. I saw Hexvessel there in 2012 and it’s still a pleasant memory, and the thought of hearing Skepticism play something from Stormcrowfleet is enough to get the doomer in me to lift his depressive head from where it’s resting on his arms. That said, what’s really kicked my ass in this latest batch of announcements from Roadburn 2016, the much-venerable fest geared up for next April in its ritual home of Tilburg, the Netherlands, is the thought of seeing wildly underrated, largely inactive and unflinchingly badass rockers Astrosoniq play a set.

It’s been a hot minute since the last time I wrote about the band, and even longer since their latest album, Quadrant (review here), was released in 2009, but even more than half a decade later I can still hear “Downfall Lover” and “As Soon as They Got Airborne” ringing in my head, and I made my way back through their catalog after that album — with some thoroughly appreciated help from the band — and interviewed drummer Marcel van de Vondervoort, also known for helming the audio recordings from each Roadburn, and have considered myself a fan ever since. And it’s even more of a killer prospect since Roadburn‘s artistic directer, Walter, will provide live visuals while they play. Anyone who watched The Heads this year on the Main Stage of the 013 and was hypnotized by the oozing colors and ’70s hotties knows that’s a special treat and not something that happens for just anybody.

So yeah, fucking Astrosoniq. Way down at the bottom of the post is the YouTube clip with Quadrant in its entirety if you’ve never had the chance to check it out. Consider it a win that they’re even playing again, whether or not you get to see it:

Roadburn-2016-Astrosoniq

SKEPTICISM

Finnish funeral doom pioneers SKEPTICISM have been long over due for a Roadburn appearance, so we’re excited to announce that the band will not only play on Saturday, April 16, along with Neurosis and Amenra, but that they will play a fan-favorite set exclusively for the festival to celebrate their oeuvre.

Over the next few weeks we will keep you informed about how to vote for your picks; whether it’s tracks from Stormcrowfleet – a genuine underground classic and the band’s innovative funeral doom touchstone; the stunning Alloy; or SKEPTICISM’s latest album, the much lauded, Ordeal. You can take your pick from their entire back catalogue.

To find out more about Skepticism at Roadburn, click HERE.

HEXVESSEL

Enigmatic “spirit-trafficking” Finnish forest-psych weirdos HEXVESSEL will play the main stage at Roadburn Festival 2016 on Thursday 14 April. They will be performing material from their forthcoming, folk-tinged, acid-rock opus, alongside selections from their last three seminal releases.

HEXVESSEL’s main man Mat McNerney comments: “We are so honoured to have been invited to play the main stage at 013 on Thursday at Roadburn 2016. We couldn’t think of a more fitting place to debut the new material from our forthcoming album. Releasing our third album just before our third visit to Roadburn feels like a cosmic sign, it was meant to be!”

Renowned Romanian artist, Costin Chioreanu, will be providing bespoke visuals to accompany HEXVESSEL’s Roadburn set.

To find out more about Hexvessel at Roadburn, click HERE.

GENTLEMANS PISTOLS

GENTLEMAN’S PISTOLS bring with them the promise of a good old fashioned Yorkshire knees up; a party long into the night, with the drink free-flowing and the riffs a-plenty. The raucous four piece have been packing out sweaty venues around Europe for years now, honing their rock’n’roll swagger into a not-to-be-missed, electrifying performance. We’re thrilled to have the retro-infused four piece bring their melodic grooves to Roadburn, on Sunday April 17. Gentlemen, hustlers – and everybody in between – are more than welcome.

To find out more about Gentleman’s Pistols at Roadburn, click HERE.

THE POISONED GLASS

Four-string subsonic drone wizard G Stuart Dahlquist and black-lunged banshee Edgy 59 surely need no introduction at this point – need we mention Burning Witch, Sunn O))) and Asva? – so you can imagine exactly how excited we were to discover that the gruesome twosome were once more working on music together under the name THE POISONED GLASS. With a debut album out via Ritual Productions in early 2016, we’re already looking forward to drinking deep from THE POISONED GLASS at Roadburn 2016 on Thursday, April 14.

To find out more about The Poisoned Glass at Roadburn, click HERE.

ASTROSONIQ

Cleverly named the “Wizards of Oss” after their hometown, ASTROSONIQ have the musical prowess to blend genres and easily transcend any given sound, as captured on their four stunning and much-lauded albums.

It was heartbreaking to witness ASTROSONIQ’s inactivity over the past few years, but being able to announce the band’s return to Roadburn 2016 for a very rare performance on Saturday, April 16, is more than we could ever hope to do. The fact that the band will plunge deep into full blown space-rock territory is beyond our comprehension.

To find out more about Astrosoniq at Roadburn, click HERE.

KLONE

In keeping with the tradition of treading a fine line between progressive rock and (post-)metal, we’re excited to announce that French quintet metallers KLONE will be playing on Sunday, April 17. The band’s latest, seventh, full-length albumHere Comes The Sun, the follow up, to 2012’s Dreamer’s Hideaway, heads in a more progressive direction – KLONE excels at pairing prog-rock with atmospheric metal and bringing in a delicate ambience to create an ethereal yet visceral sound.

The band’s rich, passionate and accessible tapestry is brilliantly executed, and those who enjoyed Opeth and Anathema at previous editions of Roadburn, will be sure to find a new favorite band in Klone.

To find out more about Klone at Roadburn, click HERE.

YODOK III

Primarily a study in avant-garde, YODOK III, comprised of guitarist Dirk Serries, drummer Tomas Järmyr and Kristoffer Lo (tuba), is bridging genres like ambient, free jazz, drone, shoegaze, post-rock, and even classical into a mind bending tapestry. YODOK III is certainly from the jazz school of thought, but jazz this is not! We can’t wait for the band to discard all musical boundaries at Roadburn 2016.

To find out more about Yodok III at Roadburn, click HERE.

NIBIRU

Transformative, terrifying and a journey to the most unstable shores of consciousness, Turin, Italy’s NIBIRU are the sonic equivalent of the sense-overload torture scene in A Clockwork Orange, only meted out to your third eye. “Harmony, sacrifice, fury, passion. Music is our life expression. Playing at Roadburn will give us an incomparable emotive force. It’s a truly honour to be part of a huge and intense event like this”, declares NIBIRU frontman Ardath.

To find out more about Nibiru at Roadburn, click HERE.

FURTHER TICKETING INFORMATION
In addition to the information sent out last week regarding the Roadburn 2016 ticket on sale date – October 2 for those who missed it – we have some additional information for people who wish to buy their tickets in person. Sounds in Tilburg will be open for you to purchase tickets in person from 18.30 – 20.30, and showing your Roadburn ticket at the door will get you entry to two Roadburn-approved gigs in the city that evening. Click HERE for all the details.

Roadburn Festival takes place at the 013 venue, Tilburg, The Netherlands, between 14 – 17 April 2016. The line up this year includes Neurosis (30th anniversary), Paradise Lost (performing Gothic in full), curation by Lee Dorrian, Amenra, The Skull, La Muerte, Of The Wand And The Moon, and Green Carnation.

Roadburn Festival takes place at the 013 venue, Tilburg, The Netherlands, between 14 – 17 April 2016.

Tickets for the festival will be on sale from October 2 2015

http://www.roadburn.com/
https://www.facebook.com/roadburnfestival
https://twitter.com/roadburnfest

Astrosoniq, Quadrant (2009)

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Recommended Buried Treasure Pt. 6-IV: Astrosoniq, Speeder People

Posted in Buried Treasure on February 4th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

It’s somehow fitting to end this Buried Treasure series on Dutch rockers Astrosoniq‘s discography with the album that was recommended in the first place. Not just because I’m a jackass who bought Soundgrenade when it should have been Speeder People and now I’m trying to make it seem like it’s all worked out anyway — because I know I most definitely am that jackass — but also for Speeder People‘s direct continuity with the latest Astrosoniq full-length, Quadrant (review here), which initially inspired me to check out the band’s other releases.

But although I’d say it’s worked out pretty well in the end, it was definitely a long road to get here. From Soundgrenade, back to the 2000 Son of A.P. Lady debut, jumping ahead to 2005’s Made in Oss, and interviewing drummer Marcel van de Vondervoort last month, it’s been an awful lot of Astrosoniq around these parts. The funny thing about it: the more I listen, the less I feel like I know. Don’t get me wrong, after listening to the entire full-length catalog multiple times over, I’d call myself familiar with the band’s work for sure, and a fan, but there’s still a lot to learn here.

Speeder People genre hops with unsettling ease. From the dark lounge and female guest vocals of “Lonely Woman” toward the 70-minute release’s midsection to the sci-fi samples spread throughout, the spaced-out feel of “Orbital Relay,” the swing in “Lipstick Traces,” the goofball country guitar of “Hot Chick” (which, unlike the preceding “Rocket Science,” isn’t actually about a hot chick), and the speed-metal-into-funk and winding tones of closer “Quadrant EL 6500/It’s Monster Surfin’ Time” that show up on Quadrant opener “Faustian Bargain,” there is at least one fuckload — maybe two fuckloads — of ideas to digest on Speeder People. I’ll definitely pass the recommendation on that came to me from reader Mathieu gave to me, but man, if you’re going to tackle this album, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

Three track titles end in exclamation points — “Cold Hearted Guys, Like Us, Like it Loud!” “Godeater!” and “Red ‘Uns Go Fasta!” — which only adds to the charm, and in comparing Speeder People to the rest of the Astrosoniq catalog, I’d say it solidifies some of the weirdo elements of Made in Oss and sets up the refinement process that pays off on Quadrant, at once fitting well between the two and having no shortage of appeal on its own. The samples sprinkled throughout, varied as they are, do a lot to tie the songs together, though to be perfectly honest, by now I don’t blink twice when one track has a different sound than the next. That’s just what Astrosoniq does, and they’re ridiculously good at it.

And that, I suppose, is what I’ve learned more than anything else while exploring their catalog. Rampant experimentation? A seemingly endless creative drive offset by thick heavy rock grooves? Well, that’s just Astrosoniq being Astrosoniq. They did it on the first album, and they’ve only gotten better at it since. If you’re looking for a place to start, I’d say go with Quadrant, the latest album, and work your way back. Wherever you pick up the thread, though, what you should understand is that the brilliant turns you’re hearing didn’t happen overnight. They’ve been there all along. Keep that in mind and your adventure can only get better.

[Special thanks to Astrosoniq manager Bidi for sending me Speeder People. It was the perfect way to end this series.]

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Recommended Buried Treasure Pt. 6-III: The Continuing Journey Through Astrosoniq’s Catalog

Posted in Buried Treasure on January 21st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

I have to admit, I’ve screwed this one all up. What I should have done that first drunken night when I was placing my order was go back to the original recommendation in the comments of my Astrosoniq, Quadrant, review and started working my way back from 2006’s Speeder People. At least that way, my understanding of the band’s progression would make some temporal sense. As it is, I’ve started with the latest album, then heard the second, then the first, and now the third — 2005’s Made in Oss.

The learning process seems endless, though, because even though by now I’ve interviewed drummer Marcel Van de Vondervoort about the growth over the band over the course of their 12 years together, I’m still just now finding out that Made in Oss, which has a total five tracks, isn’t an EP at all as I first thought when I bought it and a requisite couple other goodies off Amazon, but instead a 46-minute full-length album. Boy, is my face dumb.

Not only that, but it’s just about the most experimental release I’ve heard from Astrosoniq yet. Some familiar elements are there: the samples (the Wonder Woman ones spread over the last couple tracks are second in my heart only to “Hey, wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?” from Dumb and Dumber, which starts “Soul Searcher”), the riffy rock, the gruff, post-Garcia vocals. But the bluesy guitar work that makes up most of 11-minute closer “The Secret of the Magic Tiara” — also listed on the album as “The Magic of the Secret Tiara” — was a complete surprise, and an overwhelmingly pleasant one.

And as it was the final track, it was also nowhere near the first part of Made in Oss to catch me off guard. Right from the start of “Black Chasm,” Astrosoniq‘s goal seemed to be to defy the formula they’d established on their previous two albums, 2002’s Soundgrenade and 2000’s Son of A.P. Lady. It’s a fascinating turn, because now that I’ve heard this, I’d say Quadrant — discovering the stylistic origins of which has been the impetus for this whole exploration — has more in common with the first two records than it does with Made in Oss.

What does this mean? Well, it means I’m all the more nerdily excited about getting my grubby mitts on 2006’s Speeder People, for one thing. It also means that, as we round out this Recommended Buried Treasure series in the next and final installment, there are still questions unanswered about the direction Astrosoniq have taken over the course of their career! That’s fucking awesome. Perhaps geeky glee isn’t the easiest of emotions to carry across in type (though blogging seems to have been built specifically for that purpose, so maybe it’s just me), but I couldn’t be more stoked to dig into Speeder People and finally get to the root of why it was the album recommended in the first place.

To be concluded…

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Astrosoniq Interview with Marcel Van de Vondervoort: Airborne Through the Quadrant of Expanded Definition

Posted in Features on January 12th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

The fourth album from Dutch rock masters Astrosoniq, Quadrant, hit me like a face-bound roundhouse. The Wizards of Oss treat common notions of genre like water treats a screen, passing through and back on different sides of different lines, showing individual personality in their music like few active bands the world over in either the heavy rock underground or any other style. They are — and I don’t use this word lightly — unique.

As it was my first experience with the band, listening to Quadrant inspired me to traipse my way through the Astrosoniq back catalog for a still-in-progress series of Buried Treasure posts (here and here). So far what I’ve learned in so doing is that the willingness to toy with stylistic conventionalism Astrosoniq display on their latest album is hardly new to the band; they’ve been doing it since their Son of A.P. Lady debut in 2000.

All the more reason, then, to want to talk to drummer and founding member Marcel Van de Vondervoort, who not only contributes electronics (and drums, obviously) to Quadrant, but also produced and mixed the album in his own Torture Garden Studio. In the email interview that follows, he sheds light on Astrosoniq‘s processes, his own in writing and in the studio, the neurological condition that’s forced him to relearn how to drum using just his hands, and just how he managed to get something coherent out of the track “Zero,” on which Astrosoniq is joined by the entire band Zeus, one act in the left channel, one in the right.

You’ll find the complete Q&A after the jump. Please enjoy.

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Recommended Buried Treasure Pt. 6-II: Making My Way Through Astrosoniq’s Catalog

Posted in Buried Treasure on January 4th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

My buying power took a hit over the holidays (that’ll happen), but I did manage to put in an order for recommended Dutch rockers Astrosoniq‘s first full-length before the New Year hit. I’ve decided to make it a Buried Treasure series as I work my way through their releases — you can find their newest album, Quadrant, reviewed here and a post about 2002’s Soundgrenade here — since the one record that actually got recommended to me was 2006’s Speeder People and I haven’t gotten there yet. Kind of taking the scenic route.

I found Son of A.P. Lady — released on Freebird Records in 2000 — after an exhausting search. The usual haunts were a no-dice; All That is Heavy, eBay and Amazon, Gemm, Alone Records, Kozmik Artifactz and a few others all coming up empty. I finally found it on the Amazon UK site for about $20 from a user named USAcid King. It was about $20 with shipping and the exchange rate, but made all the more worth it by the foil gatefold digipak the CD comes in. Not to mention no one else in the world seemed to have it, so my options were limited.

Son of A.P. Lady confirms what I found out listening to Soundgrenade, namely that the genre-defying quirkiness of Quadrant wasn’t just a fluke or sudden shift in sound. That adventurous spirit was nascent in the band on Soundgrenade, and this being an even earlier record, it definitely is here too, but with the outright funk of “Earthquake,” the reveling doom of “Afterlife Rulers” and the buzzsaw stoner groove of “Doomrider,” there’s no question it’s been in Astrosoniq from the start. More than ever, I feel like I’m late to the party.

They’ve made Son of A.P. Lady available for free download on their website, so I guess on some level my buying it was pointless, but screw it, the artwork is awesome and the album rules. Hooked in the gruff vocals and nod-worthy riff of “You Loose,” I can’t say I wasted my money, and with 2004’s Made in Oss and Speeder People still to go, I feel like I’ve got a better understanding of how Astrosoniq grew into their asskickery.

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