Thermic Boogie Premiere “Ocean”; Fracture EP out Feb. 6

Posted in audiObelisk on January 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

thermic boogie

Barcelona-based progressive noisemakers Thermic Boogie will release their new EP, Fracture, on Feb. 6. That’s a digital arrival date, and one can’t help but wonder if part of the reason they’re putting the songs out first into the interweb-ether is because the 12″ vinyl edition is being done in partnership with no fewer than six independent record labels. Six! That’s a conglomerate! It’s hard enough to coordinate one band and one label, let alone one band and five. But hey, that’s part of the adventure, and Fracture — so titled no doubt to convey its intentions toward audience expectation — is nothing if not an adventure. Comprised of three tracks — “Coup de Grâce,” “Grey Gardens” and “Ocean” — the EP runs a blunt 18 minutes that largely takes the noise rock elements that factored into the band’s early 2016 debut album, Vastness and Matter (review here), and ups the aggression level while adding vocals to their once-instrumental arsenal.

That’s a significant change both on paper and in the reality of listening to what guitarist Albert Martínez-López and drummer Baptiste Gautier-Lorenzo bring to the material in terms of character. Handled by Gautier-Lorenzo, the vocals are shouts and occasionally harsher takes that add to the aggressive feel of the songs, and while Martínez-López still puts a bit of space in his solo late into the opener, the focus has notably shifted to a crush ‘n’ crunch mentality driven forward with marked precision. Again, this side was there when Thermic Boogie did the album, but as the sharp-edged riffing of “Grey Gardens” takes hold, the two-piece sound like Akimbo or other acolytes of US West Coast noise rock, a biting wah worked into the thrust alongside dips into extremity and ferocious percussiveness and chug. thermic boogie fracture“Ocean” follows the pattern laid out by the first two, but with more sway in the rhythm and nuance to Martínez-López‘s winding guitar, calling to mind earliest Mastodon with a punker mindset, the line between metal and rock and noise and punk blurring until it disappears or, to give another image, bring stomped into oblivion.

All the while — vocals. I won’t pretend to know what’s behind the shift in approach or whether Thermic Boogie are testing the waters for future exploration along the same lines or just trying something for a one-off release, but what they’re doing here works, and especially as the longer two tracks at 7:19 and 6:53, respectively, “Coup de Grâce” and “Ocean” demonstrate that plainly. While “Grey Gardens,” which is just over four minutes, is more intense, and that is a purpose unto itself, “Ocean” in particular shows a noteworthy move into noise as more than just an assault of volume, melody creeping into the guitar in a way that holds promise moving forward. And if Fracture does anything, it’s that. Again, it’s under 20 minutes long — shorter, indeed, than was the track “Quadratonic Magnitude” from the LP — but even more than its brevity, it’s the turn of approach that makes its run more of a sprint than a slog.

Maybe Thermic Boogie will move forward directly from here, or maybe they’ll do something completely different again the next time out. Maybe their next release will be space rock. Who knows? The important thing is Martínez-López and Gautier-Lorenzo have put themselves in a position to be more pointed in their delivery while leaving their audience guessing as to what they might do next. That’s a damn good place to be for a band, and if you’ve got any brains left unmelted after the slamming crash of “Coup de Grâce,” there’s a good chance they’ll be telling you to look forward to finding out where Thermic Boogie end up.

If nothing else, it’s easy to see why they’d want to get the release out as soon as possible. Look for the vinyl on Big Ground RecordsAloud MusicSolo Bongs RecordsWoooaaaaarghThe Brave Records and Violence in the Veins, and the digital release at the start of next month. In the meantime, I’m happy to host the premiere of “Ocean” on the player below, followed by more info about the EP.

Please enjoy:

The EP is going to be out soon on 12″ vinyl disc. There are 6 different labels cooperating for this edition:
– Big Ground Records (SP)
– Aloud Music (SP)
– Solo Bongs Records (SP)
– Woooaaaaargh (DE)
– The Brave Records (SP)
– Violence in the veins (SP)

# VINYL #
BGLP001, ALOUD027LP, SLBNGS420, WRG191, TBR30/04-18, VIO28

# CD #
BGCD004

Recorded in December 2017 in Sabadell (Barcelona)
Sound takes and mixes by Baptiste Gautier-Lorenzo
Master audio by Victor Garcia (Ultramarinos)
Photography by Domingo Escidero
Graphic designs by Albert Martinez-Lopez

Thermic Boogie is:
Albert Martinez-Lopez – Kramer guitars and throats
Baptiste Gautier-Lorenzo – Ludwig drums and throats

Thermic Boogie on Thee Facebooks

Thermic Boogie on Bandcamp

Big Ground Records webstore

Aloud Music webstore

Solo Bongs Records on Bandcamp

Wooaaargh webstore

The Brave Records webstore

Violence in the Veins on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Surya Kris Peters, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Lair of the Minotaur, Sonic Wolves, Spacelord, Nauticus, Yuxa, Forktie, Ohhms, Blue Dream

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

quarterly-review

I had a terrible thought yesterday: What if this one… went to 11? That is, what if, after 10 days of Quarterly Review ending today with a grand total of 100 records reviewed since last Monday, I did another batch of 10? Like a bonus round? Like I said, terrible thought.

Pretty sure it won’t happen. I’ve already got a review and a video premiere booked for next Monday, but I definitely had the thought. It was easy, of course, to fill out another 10 slots, and who knows, maybe this weekend for the first time ever I wind up with some extra time and energy on my hands? Could happen, right?

Again, I’m fairly certain it won’t. Let’s proceed with the assumption today’s the last day. Thank you for reading. I hope you have found something cool in all of this that has really hit home. I certainly have. We cap very much in last-but-not-least fashion, and if nothing’s resonated with you yet, don’t count yourself completely out. You might just get there after all. Thanks again.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Surya Kris Peters, Ego Therapy

Surya Kris Peters Ego Therapy

Those feeling technical will note the full title of the album is Surya Kris Peters’ Ego Therapy, but the point gets across either way. And even as Christian Peters — also guitarist/vocalist for Samsara Blues Experiment — acknowledges the inherent self-indulgence of the proverbial “solo-project” that his exploration of synth and classically progressive textures under the moniker of Surya Kris Peters has become, with Ego Therapy as his second full-length of 2018, he branches out in including drums from former Terraplane bandmate Jens Vogel. The 10-song/53-minute outing opens with its longest cut (immediate points) in the 15-minute “Angels in Bad Places,” a spaced-out and vibrant atmosphere more cohesive than psychedelia but still trippy as all hell, and moves through a bluesy key/guitar interplay in “Wizard’s Dream” following the dancey thriller soundtrack “Beyond the Sun” and into the Blade Runner-style grandeur of “Sleeping Willow” and the video game-esque “A Fading Spark” before bookending with the sci-fi “Atomic Clock” at the close. I don’t know how ultimately therapeutic Peters‘ solo offerings might be, but he only seems to grow bolder each time out, and that certainly applies here.

Surya Kris Peters on Thee Facebooks

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

 

Lewis and the Strange Magics, The Ginger Sessions

lewis and the strange magics the ginger sessions

How are you not gonna love a release that starts with a song called “Sexadelic Galactic Voyage?” Barcelona vamp rockers Lewis and the Strange Magics embrace their inner funk on the 23-minute self-released EP, The Ginger Sessions, finding the place where their uptempo ’70s fusion meets oldschool The Meters-style rhythm, digging into the repetitions of “Candied Ginger” after the aforementioned instrumental opening burst and then holding the momentum through “Her Vintage Earrings.” Some departure happens on what might be side B of the 10″, with “The Shadow of Your Smile” turning toward pastoral psychedelia, still rhythmic thanks to some prominent wood block and xylophone sounds, but much calmer despite a consistency of wah and keys. “Suzy’s Room II” follows in fuzzy fashion, bridging the earlier cologne-soaked, chest-hair-out vibes with garage buzz and a heavier low end beneath the synthesized experimentation. Mellotron shows up and continues to hold sway in closer “Witch’s Brew,” playing the band outward along with layers of drifting guitar for about two and a half minutes of bluesy serenity that feel cut short, as does the release on the whole. One hopes they don’t lose that funky edge going into their next album.

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Thee Facebooks

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Bandcamp

 

Lair of the Minotaur, Dragon Eagle of Chaos

Lair of the Minotaur Dragon Eagle of Chaos

Once upon the mid-aughts, Chicago’s Lair of the Minotaur roamed the land as the long-prophesied American answer to Entombed, as much classic, dirt-covered death metal as they were laden with heavy groove. Their tones filthy, their assault brutal all the while, war metal, ultimate destroyers. The whole nine. They released their last album, Evil Power (review here), in 2010. The two-songer Dragon Eagle of Chaos follows a 2013 single, and was released to mark the occasion of perhaps a return to some measure of greater activity. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but as both “Dragon Eagle of Chaos” and “Kunsult the Bones” affirm in about seven minutes between them, Lair of the Minotaur remain a wrecking ball made of raw meat when it comes to their sound. The madness that seemed to always underline their material at its most effective is present and accounted for in “Dragon Eagle of Chaos,” and the stripped-down production of the single actually helps its violent cause. Will they do another record? Could go either way, but if they decide to go that route, they clearly still have the evil power within.

Lair of the Minotaur website

Lair of the Minotaur on Bandcamp

 

Sonic Wolves, Sonic Wolves

sonic wolves sonic wolves

Eight tracks/34 minutes of smoothly-arranged and well-executed doom rock brought to bear with an abiding lack of pretense and a developing sense of songcraft and dynamic — there’s very little not to dig about Sonic Wolves‘ self-titled LP (on Future Noise and DHU), from the Sabbathian stretch of “Ascension” down through the bouncing low-key-psych-turns-to-full-on-wah-overdose-swirl in the penultimate “Heavy Light.” Along the way, bassist/vocalist Kayt Vigil (ex-Pentagram, etc.) — joined by guitarists Jason Nealy and Enrico “Ico” Aniasi and drummer Gianni “Vita” Vitarelli (also Ufomammut) — gallop through the traditional metal of “Red Temple” and ride a fuzzy roll in “Tide of Chaos,” leaving the uptempo shuffle of “You’ll Climb the Walls” to close out by tapping into a “Wicked World”-style vision of heavy blues that casts off many of the tropes of what’s become the subgenre in favor of a darker approach. If their self-titled is Sonic Wolves declaring who they are as a band after making their debut in 2016, the results are only encouraging.

Sonic Wolves on Thee Facebooks

DHU Records webstore

Future Noise Recordings webstore

 

Spacelord, Indecipher

Spacelord Indecipher

There is an immediate sensibility drawn from classic heavy rock to the vocals on Spacelord‘s second record, Indecipher, like Shannon Hoon fronting Led Zeppelin, maybe? Something like that, definitely drawn from a ’70s/’90s blend. Produced, mixed and mastered by guitarist Rich Root, with Chris Cappiello on bass, Kevin Flynn on drums and Ed Grabianowski on vocals, the four-piece’s sophomore LP is comprised of a neatly-constructed eight songs working around sci-fi themes on bruiser cuts like “Super Starship Adventure” and the particularly righteous “Zero Hour,” as opener and longest track (immediate points) “For the Unloved Ones” sets forth the classic vibe amid the first of the record’s impressive solos and resonant hooks. Something about it makes me want them to go completely over the top in terms of production their next time out — layers on layers on layers, etc. — but the kind of false start Grabianowski brings to the ultra-Zepped “New Machine” has a charm that I’m not sure it would be worth sacrificing.

Spacelord on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Nauticus, Disappear in Blue

Nauticus Disappear in Blue

Six years after the release of their second album, The Wait (review here), Finnish atmospheric progressive metallers Nauticus effect a return with the 78-minute Disappear in Blue, which following the relatively straightforward opening with “Magma” casts out a vast sprawl in accordance with its oceanic theme. Longer tracks like “Claimed by the Sea,” “Strange Sequences/Lost Frequencies,” “Arrival” and “Hieronymus” are complex and varied but united through a deep instrumental dynamic that’s brought to light even in the three-minute ambient post-rocker “Desolation,” which is something of an interlude between “Strange Sequences/Lost Frequencies” and the tense build of “Singularity.” Other ambient spaces “Jesus of Lübeck” and the later “Whale Bones” complement and add reach to the longer-form works, but it’s hardly as though Nauticus‘ material lacks character one way or the other. Overwhelming in its length, Disappear in Blue might take some time to wade through, but what a way to go.

Nauticus on Thee Facebooks

Nauticus on Bandcamp

 

Yuxa, Yuxa

yuxa yuxa

As the greater part of anything related to post-metal invariably does, UK outfit Yuxa have their “Stones from the Sky” moment in “Founder in Light,” the opening cut from their self-titled debut EP, that most formative of progressions making itself known in modified form to suit the double-guitar four-piece’s intent with dramatic screams and shouts cutting through an ably-conjured surge of noisy adrenaline resolving in winding chug and crash en route to “Exiled Hand,” the seven-minute cut that follows and serves as centerpiece of the three-tracker. “Founder in Light,” “Exiled Hand” and nine-minute closer “Peer” are arranged shortest to longest, and the effect is to draw the listener in such that by the time the angular, purposeful lurch of the finale begins to unfold, Yuxa‘s rhythmic hypnosis is already well complete. Still, the straightforward arrangements of guitar, bass, drums and vocals give them a rawer edge than many synth- or sample-laden post-metallic cohorts, and that suits the atmospheric sludge with which they close out, harnessing chaos without giving themselves over to it. A quick sample of a creative development getting underway, though it’s telling as well that Yuxa ends with a sudden buzz of amp noise.

Yuxa on Thee Facebooks

Yuxa on Bandcamp

 

Forktie, EP

forktie forktie

The first EP release from Forktie — who stylize their moniker and titles all-lowercase: forktie — is untitled, but contains five tracks that tap into proto-emo post-hardcore and ’90s alt rock sensibilities, finding a place between heavy rock and grunge that allows for Aarone Victorine‘s bass to lead toward the hook of centerpiece “Decomposition Book” with a smooth presence that’s well complementary the vocals from guitarist Dom Mariano, their presence low in the mix only adding to the wistful feel of “Anywhere but Here” and “September Morning,” before the shorter “Spores” lets loose some more push from drummer Corey LeBlanc and closer “Ph.D. in Nothing” reinforces the underlying melancholy beneath the thicker exterior tones. It’s a new project, but Forktie have worked their way into a niche that suits their songwriting well, and given themselves a space to grow within their sound. Members experience in bands like UXO, Test Meat and textbookcopilot will serve them in that effort.

Forktie on Thee Facebooks

Forktie on Bandcamp

 

Ohhms, Exist

ohhms exist

As a fan generally of bands opening albums with the longest song included, I can get on board with UK heavy progressive metallers Ohhms opening Exist with the 22-minute “Subjects.” Immediate points and all that. Far more consequential, however, is the substance of that launch for the four-song/43-minute Holy Roar LP, which is the band’s fourth in four years. It’s a vast, broad and complex offering unto itself, consuming side A as vocalist Paul Waller embodies various entities, “I am wolf” (preceding a Duran Duran reference, perhaps inadvertent), “I am child,” and so on. Those proclamations are just the culmination of a progression that, frankly, is an album unto itself, let alone a side, and maybe should’ve been released as such, though the absolute post-metallic crush of “Shambles,” the seething of “Calves” and the heavy post-rock reach of “Lay Down Your Firearms” need no further justification than a simple listen provides, the last of them pummeling side B to a then-sudden stop. Ohhms are no strangers to longform work, and it suits them well enough to make one wonder if they couldn’t be headed toward a single-song LP in the near future.

Ohhms on Thee Facebooks

Holy Roar Records on Bandcamp

 

Blue Dream, Volume Blue

Blue Dream Volume Blue

Chicago four-piece Blue Dream issued their first LP, Volume Won, early in 2018 and follow with Volume Blue — as opposed to “two”; could ‘Volume Tree’ be in the works? ‘Volume Free?’ — which collects nine neo-psych-mit-der-funky-grooves cuts chic enough to be urbane but fuzzed out enough to make the freakouts more than just a come on. They open peaceful enough with “Delta,” before the hook of “9,000 lb. Machine” defines the course and cuts like “Thank You for Smoking” and the almost woefully catchy “She’s Hot” expand the parameters. I’ll take the dream-tone shimmer of “Kingsbury Goldmine” any day in a kind of self-aware reflection of British folk and/or the garage rock of “Shake the Shake,” but the dense roll of “Viper Venom” that immediately follows reimagines grunge as more than just an influence from three popular bands and something that could genuinely move forward from the perspective of a new generation. Hearing Blue Dream close out with the boogie of “The Glide,” one hopes they do precisely that, though I’d by no means limit them to one avenue of expression. They’re clearly able to harness multiple vibes here.

Blue Dream on Thee Facebooks

Blue Dream on Bandcamp

 

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Fuzz Forward Post “Despairs” Video; Announce Spanish Tour Dates

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

fuzz forward

Let’s face it: just about anyone can make a music video these days. If you’ve got a phone and an Instagram filter, you’re in. Worked for Kadavar, if you’ll recall. But even taking into account the (relative) democratization of media, it’s one thing to make a music video and quite something else to make a music video and hang out with your dogs in the process. Interspersed with performance footage of Barcelona four-piece Fuzz Forward rocking out the song “Despairs” from their debut album, Out of Nowhere (review here), are clips of their dogs hanging out with them on stage, chewing on drumsticks, etc. Charm goes a long way in my book, always.

Charm, however, is hardly the only strength working in Fuzz Forwards favor on Out of Nowhere. The album was released earlier this year with the formidable backing of Red Sun Records, Discos MacarrasOdio Sonoro, and Spinda Records, and its penchant for melody and crisply-produced heavy rock came coupled with a grunge-style melody specifically attributable in the vocals of Juan to an Alice in Chains influence. My old man ears recall a time when it seemed like every rock singer was copping Layne Staley‘s bottom-of-the-mouth approach — some made good careers off doing so — but in this context and in this age where old flannels are new again, Fuzz Forward sound fresh and “Despairs” captures the fluidity of rhythm and the solidity of craft that they brought to the entirety of the record.

Also noteworthy is that the video was made in the Rocksound venue in Barcelona, a respected space the banner for which appears in any number of excellent live photos of groups touring through. The Iberian heavy rock scene has never had the kind of boom one finds in Germany or Sweden, but has always had its own spin on underground methods, and to see Fuzz Forward emerge as a next-generation take on that is all the more exciting. And it’s nice to have friends with venues that let you film videos there and bring your dogs. An all-around win.

Fuzz Forward put it in drive this Fall on a succession of shows keeping in good company all the while. Tour dates follow the clip here, as sent along the PR wire:

Fuzz Forward, “Despairs” official video

Barcelona’s grunge infected four piece FUZZ FORWARD are keeping themselves busy. They now present us their first video. Despairs is the opening track from their debut album “Out Of Nowhere” and also the first single. The band seems to like to keep all things under control. In other words, DIY philosophy. They shot, edited and directed the video, just like they did producing and mixing their record.

After the release of “Out Of Nowhere” cd (Red Sun Records) and vinyl (Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records, Red Sun Records), now the band is eager to spread some fuzz around the peninsula for the first time. So far cities confirmed are Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, Santander, Alicante, Terrassa … more to be added soon.

– DESPAIRS VIDEO –

Upcoming shows:

14 sept – Terrassa @ The Cavern (+ Tears In Rain play Mad Season’s “Above”)
28 sept – Bilbao @ tbc
29 sept – Santander @ Rock Beer The New (+ Wet Cactus)
5 octubre – Reus @ tbc
6 octubre – Alicante @ Surnia Fest ( + Rosy Finch +…)
7 octubre – Barcelona @ Rocksound (+ Sasquatch)
3 noviembre – Barcelona @ Auditori Can Batlló de Sants (+ Matote)
30 noviembre – Barcelona @ Freedonia (+ Keloidrop + Golíat)
22 diciembre – Madrid @ Wurlitzer Ballroom (+ Electric Valley + Krazark)

… more to be announced soon!

Fuzz Forward is:
Juan – Vocals
Jordi Vaquero – Bass
Marc Rockenberg – Drums
Edko Fuzz – Guitar

Fuzz Forward on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Forward on Twitter

Fuzz Forward on Instagram

Fuzz Forward on Bandcamp

Red Sun Records website

Red Sun Records on Thee Facebooks

Red Sun Records on Twitter

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Black Lotus Post New Single; Sons of Saturn Due Oct. 19

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

black lotus

Barcelona doomers Black Lotus are set to make their full-length debut Oct. 19 through Inverse Records with Sons of Saturn, an eight-track outing for which a video of the title-track is now streaming. Their sound preaches to the converted in doom pretty well and shouldn’t take experienced heads long to get on board. It’s a lyric video, and the song is upwards of eight minutes long, so if you’re getting introduced to the four-piece, as I am, it’s a significant way to accomplish that means.

The PR wire brings info about the band and the record below, and it’s pretty much business as usual — artwork, release date, band background, tracklisting, etc. — until you get to the lineup of the band itself and the unveiling of the stage name Charlie Goatskull. I’ve been at this a while and I’ve run into a lot of dudes who call themselves a lot of things, but I feel like Charlie Goatskull has to be up there. Like someone reads the social register and sees Charlie and it’s like, “Of the Barcelona Goatskulls? Very good then.” I love it.

Check it out:

black-lotus-sons-of-saturn

Heavy Doom Metal Band BLACK LOTUS to release album in October, first single out now!

Barcelona-based Heavy & Epic Doom Metal band BLACK LOTUS released a first single from the upcoming album ‘Sons of Saturn’. The album is released in October 19th 2018 by Inverse Records.

Black Lotus is founded by Hug Ballesta in 2015. After finding a proper line-up they headed into the Moontower Studio at the end of 2017. The album is recorded and mixed by Javi Félez and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, Portland, Oregon.

Hug Ballesta comments:

“We have chosen Sons of Saturn as the first single because it represents by itself the key sounds we search for as a band. We are lovers of both the classic bands and the new sounds and styles in metal: rawness, heavy-doomy-slow tempos, but at the same time catchy melodies that can equally transport the listener to apparently opposed moods. We are delighted that Inverse Records helps us spread our music… can’t wait for the feedback!”

Black Lotus’ sound is grounded in the diverse influences of the band members. Traditional Heavy Metal is the common factor and driving force of the band, but alternative sounds of the 90s, Stoner Rock, Doom Metal and post metal genres are also colours in their palette. Their compositions are embracing all those influences without limitations or dogmas. Likewise, lyrics are eminently symbolic, expressing a dystopic vision of society and their view of the world. Classic mythology, occultism, and personal experiences and visions are the sources for their compositions.

Track list:
01. Kings
02. The Sandstorm
03. The Pyre – intro.
04. Protective Fire
05. Taurobolium
06. Sons of Saturn
07. The Swamp
08. Return to Erebus – closing.

Album cover by Luca Solo Macello.

Line-up:
Charlie Gotaskull – Rhythm & Lead guitars
Cristian Vil – Bass Guitar, Vocals
Hug Ballesta – Drums, Vocals
Caio Pastore – lead & rhythm guitars (live)

https://www.facebook.com/orderoftheblacklotus
https://orderoftheblacklotus.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.instagram.com/blacklotuscultband
https://twitter.com/BandBlackLotus
https://www.facebook.com/inverserecords
https://twitter.com/inverserecords
https://www.instagram.com/inverserecords/

Black Lotus, “Sons of Saturn” official video

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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Morag Tong, Holy Mushroom, Naisian, Haunted, Pabst, L.M.I., Fuzz Forward, Onségen Ensemble, The Heavy Eyes

Posted in Reviews on July 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

I always say the same thing on the Wednesday of the Quarterly Review. Day 3. The halfway point. I say it every time. The fact is, doing these things kind of takes it out of me. All of it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy listening to all these records — well, I don’t enjoy all of them, but I’m talking more about the process — just that it’s a lot to take in and by the time I’m done each day, let alone at the end of the week, I’m fairly exhausted. So every time we hit the halfway point of a Quarterly Review, I feel somewhat compelled to note it. Cresting the hill, as it were. It’s satisfying to get to this point without my head falling off.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Khemmis, Desolation

khemmis desolation

Continuing their proclivity for one-word titles, Denver doom forerunners Khemmis take a decisive turn toward the metallic with their third album for 20 Buck Spin, the six-track/41-minute Desolation. Songs like opener “Bloodletting” and its side B counterpart “The Seer” are still tinged with doom, but the NWOBHM gallop in “Isolation” and “Maw of Time” – as well as the sheer force of the latter – is an unexpected twist. Khemmis showed classic metal elements on 2016’s was-a-very-big-deal Hunted (review here) and 2015’s debut, Absolution (review here), but it’s a question of balance, and as they’ve once again worked with producer Dave Otero, one can only read the shift as a conscious decision. The harder edge suits them – certainly suits the screams in “Maw of Time” and side A finale/album highlight “Flesh to Nothing” – and as Khemmis further refine their sound, they craft its most individualized manifestation to-date. There’s no hearing Desolation and mistaking Khemmis for another band. They’ve come into their own.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin website

 

Morag Tong, Last Knell of Om

morag tong last knell of om

A rumbling entry into London’s Heavy Generation, the four-piece Morag Tong unfold voluminous ritual on their debut full-length, Last Knell of Om. Largely slow and largely toned, the work of guitarists Alex Clarke and Lewis Crane brings the low end to the forefront along with the bass of James Atha while drummer Adam Asquith pushes the lurch forward on cuts like “New Growth” and “To Soil,” the band seemingly most comfortable when engaged in crawling tempos and weighted pummel. Asquith also adds semi-shouted vocals to the mire, which, surrounded by distortion as they are, only make the proceedings sound even more massive. There’s an ambience to “We Answer” and near-13-minute closer “Ephemera: Stare Through the Deep,” which gives the record a suitably noisy finish, but much of what Morag Tong are going for in sound depends on the effectiveness of their tonality, and they’ve got that part down on their debut. Coupled with the meditative feel in some of this material, that shows marked potential on the band’s part for future growth.

Morag Tong on Thee Facebooks

Morag Tong on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul

holy mushroom blood and soul

Working quickly to follow-up their earlier-2018 sophomore long-player, Moon (review here), Spain’s Holy Mushroom present Blood and Soul, an EP comprised of two songs recorded live in the studio. I’m not entirely sure why it’s split up at all, as the two-minute “Introito” – sure enough, a little introduction – feeds so smoothly into the 19-minute “Blood and Soul” itself, but fair enough either way as the trio shift between different instrumentation, incorporating sax, piano and organ among the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, and unfold a longform heavy psychedelic trip that not only builds on what they were doing with Moon but is every bit worthy of being released on its own. I don’t know if it was recorded at the same time as the record or later – both were done at Asturcon Studios – but it’s easy to see why the band would want to highlight “Blood and Moon.” Between the deep-running mix, the easy rhythmic flow into and out from drifting spaciousness, and the turn in the middle third toward more expansive arrangement elements, it’s an engaging motion that makes subtly difficult shifts seem utterly natural along the way. And even if you didn’t hear the latest full-length, Blood and Soul makes for a fitting introduction to who Holy Mushroom are as a band and what they can do.

Holy Mushroom on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Naisian, Rejoinder

naisian rejoinder

Sludge-infused noise rock serves as the backdrop for lyrical shenanigans on the three-song Rejoinder EP from Sheffield, UK, trio Naisian. Running just 12 minutes, it’s a quick and thickened pummel enacted by the band, who work in shades of post-metal for “90 ft. Stone,” “Mantis Rising” and “Lefole,” most especially in the middle cut, but even there, the focus in on harsh vocals and lumbering sonic heft. It’s now been seven years since the band sort-of issued their debut album, Mammalian, and six since they followed with the Monocle EP, and the time seems to have stripped down their sound to a degree. “Lefole” is the longest track on Rejoinder at 5:18 and it’s still shorter than every other song Naisian have put out to-date. Their crunch lacks nothing for impact, however, and to go with the swing of “Lefole,” everybody seems to contribute to a vocal assault that only adds to the punishing but thoughtful vibe.

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Naisian on Bandcamp

 

Haunted, Dayburner

haunted dayburner

The effects-laden vocal swirl at the outset of Haunted’s “Mourning Sun” and moments in the Italian act’s longer-form material, “Waterdawn” or “Orphic,” for example, will invariably lead some listeners to point to a Windhand influence, but the character of the band’s second album, Dayburner (on Twin Earth, DHU and Graven Earth all), follows their 2016 self-titled (review here) by holding steady to a developing identity of its own. To be sure, vocalist Christina Chimirri, guitarists Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando, bassist Frank Tudisco and drummer Dario Casabona make their way into a deep, murky swamp of modern doom in “Dayburner” (video posted here), but in the crush of their tones amid all that trance-inducing riffing, they cast themselves as an outfit seeking to express individuality within the set parameters of style. Their execution, then, is what it comes down to, and with “Orphic” (12:46) and “Vespertine” (13:19) back to back, there’s plenty of doom on the 66-minute 2LP to roll that out. And they do so in patient and successful form, with marked tonal vibrancy and a sense of controlling the storm they’re creating as they go.

Haunted on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records website

DHU Records webstore

Graven Earth Records webstore

 

Pabst, Chlorine

pabst chlorine

So, the aesthetic is different. Pabst play a blend of noise, post-punk, heavy rock and grunge, but with the ready pop influence — to wit, the outright danceability of “Shits,” reminiscent in its bounce of later Queens of the Stone Age – and persistent melodicism, there’s just a twinge of what Mars Red Sky did for heavy rolling riffs happening on Chlorine, their Crazysane Records debut. It’s in that blend of dense low-end fuzz and brighter vocal melodies, but again, Pabst, hailing from Berlin, are on their own trip. Weird but almost more enjoyable than it seems to want to be, the 12-track/35-minute outing indulges little and offers singalong-ready vibes in “Catching Feelings” and “Waterslide” while “Waiting Loop” chills out before the push of “Accelerate” and the angularity of “Cheapskate” take hold. Chrlorine careens and (blue) ribbons its way to the drive-fast-windows-open stylization of “Summer Never Came” and the finale “Under Water,” a vocal effect on the latter doing nothing to take away from its ultra-catchy hook. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a record someone with just the right kind of open mind can come to love.

Pabst on Thee Facebooks

Crazysane Records webstore

 

L.M.I., IV

lmi iv

If you’ve got a dank basement full of skinny college kids, chances are Lansdale, Pennsylvania’s L.M.I. are ready to tear their faces off. The sludge-thickened riff punkers run abut 11 minutes with their five-song release, L.M.I. IV, and that’s well enough time to get their message across. Actually, by the end of “Neck of Tension” and “Weaning Youth,” roughly four and half minutes in, the statement of intent is pretty clear. L.M.I. present furious but grooving hardcore punk more given to scathe than pummel, and their inclusions on L.M.I. IV bring that to life with due sense of controlled chaos. Centerpiece “Lurking Breath” gives way to “First to Dark” – the longest cut at a sprawling 2:55 – and they save a bit of grunge guitar scorch and lower-register growling for closer “June was a Test,” there isn’t really time in general for any redundancy to take hold. That suits the feeling of assault well, as L.M.I. get in and get out on the quick and once they’re gone, all that’s left to do is clean the blood off the walls.

L.M.I. on Thee Facebooks

L.M.I. on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere

fuzz forward out of nowhere

Released one way or another through Discos Macarras, Odio Sonoro, Spinda Records and Red Sun Records, the eight-song/43-minute debut album from Barcelona’s Fuzz Forward, Out of Nowhere, has earned acclaim from multiple corners for its interpretation of grunge-era melodies through a varied heavy rock filter. Indeed, the vocals of Juan Gil – joined in the band by guitarist Edko Fuzz, bassist Jordi Vaquero and drummer Marc Rockenberg – pull the mind directly to a young Layne Staley, and forces one to realize it’s been a while since that low-in-the-mouth approach was so ubiquitous. It works well for Gil in the laid back “Summertime Somersaults” as well as the swinging, cowbell-infused later cut “Drained,” and as the band seems to foreshadow richer atmospheric exploration on “Thorns in Tongue” and “Torches,” they nonetheless maintain a focus on songwriting that grounds the proceedings and will hopefully continue to serve as their foundation as they move forward. No argument with the plaudits they’ve thus far received. Seems doubtful they’ll be the last.

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Fuzz Forward on Bandcamp

 

Onségen Ensemble, Duel

Onsegen ensemble duel

The kind of record you’re doing yourself a favor by hearing – a visionary cast of progressive psychedelia that teems with creative energy and is an inspiration even in the listening. Frankly, the only thing I’m not sure about when it comes to Oulu, Finland, outfit Onségen Enseble’s second album, Duel, is why it isn’t being released through Svart Records. It seems like such a natural fit, with the adventurous woodwinds on opener “Think Neither Good Nor Evil,” the meditative sprawl of the title-track (video posted here), the jazz-jam in the middle of “Dogma MMXVII,” the tribalist percussion anchoring the 12-minute “Three Calls of the Emperor’s Teacher,” which surely would otherwise float away under its own antigravity power, and the free-psych build of closer “Zodiacal Lights of Onségen,” which shimmers in otherworldly fashion and improvised-sounding spark. On Svart or not, Duel is one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, and one the creativity of which puts it in a class of its own, even in the vast reaches of psychedelic rock. Whether it means to or not, it tells a story with sound, and that story should be heard.

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Onsegen Ensemble on Bandcamp

 

The Heavy Eyes, Live in Memphis

the heavy eyes live in memphis

Since so much of The Heavy Eyes’ studio presentation has consistently been about crispness of sound and structured songwriting, it’s kind of a relief to hear them knock into some feedback at the start of “Mannish Boy” at the outset of Live in Memphis (on Kozmik Artifactz). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tripp Shumake, bassist Wally Anderson and drummer Eric Garcia are still tight as hell, of course, and their material – drawn here from the band’s LPs, 2015’s He Dreams of Lions (review here), 2012’s Maera, 2011’s self-titled, as well as sundry shorter offerings – is likewise. They’ve never been an overly dangerous band, nor have they wanted to be, but the stage performance does add a bit of edge to “Iron Giants” from the debut, which is followed by singing “Happy Birthday” to a friend in the crowd. One of the most enjoyable aspects of Live in Memphis is hearing The Heavy Eyes loosen up a bit on stage, and hearing them sound like they’re having as good a time playing as the crowd is watching and hearing them do so. That sense of fun suits them well.

The Heavy Eyes on Thee Facebooks

The Heavy Eyes at Kozmik Artifactz

 

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Fuzz Forward to Release Out of Nowhere in March; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

fuzz forward

To herald the arrival of their debut album, Out of Nowhere, Barcelona-based heavy rockers Fuzz Forward are streaming the new track ‘Despairs’ as the first audio to come from the four-piece. Sure enough, it’s pretty fuzzy, but the name-your-price single has more going on than the guitar tone of Edko Fuzz in Juan Gil‘s post-Alice in Chains vocal melodies and an overarching grunge-style feel to the groove from bassist Jordi Vaquero and drummer Marc Rockenberg. Whether or not or to what degree “Despairs” might represent Out of Nowhere as a whole, I don’t really know, but the track has its house in order to be sure, and if the remainder of the LP is nearly as cohesive in its approach, it’ll be one to watch for as we move out of winter.

The PR wire brings background and streaming audio:

fuzz forward out of nowhere

FUZZ FORWARD new song Despairs!

Fuzz Forward was born as a trio in Barcelona by mid-2016 with Jordi (Boveda del Sol, Mindust) on bass and brothers Edko (El Yeti, Rags to Riches) on guitar and Marc (El Yeti, Valiumbitch) on drums. After a few months trying out singers, the band found in Juan the singer to seal a stable line-up by early 2017. Writing songs took the front seat in the band’s schedule and it was during 2017, that the eight songs that will be part of their debut album, “Out of Nowhere” (due for release next March of 2018), came to their final shape. During that stint, the band also started playing live with bands like Sasquatch, Mammoth Mammoth and Electric Monolith.

The music of Fuzz Forward has its roots in 70s hard rock, the alternative sounds of the 90s and the stoner rock of the last decades. These are the ingredients for a strange and exquisite mix with crushing riffs, dark melodies and a touch of space psychedelia.

Produced & Recorded by Fuzz Forward
Mixed & Mastered by Jordi Vaquero

Fuzz Forward is:
Juan Gil – Vocals
Jordi Vaquero – Bass
Marc Rockenberg – Drums
Edko Fuzz – Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/fuzzforward/
https://fuzzforward.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/RedSunBarcelona/

Fuzz Forward, “Despairs” from Out of Nowhere (2018)

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Quarterly Review: Godflesh, Serpents of Secrecy, Vymaanika, Zong, Vitriol, Pillars, Lamp of the Universe & Kanoi, Azonic, Thousand Vision Mist, Arcadian Child

Posted in Reviews on January 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

Today is the last day of The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review, and it’s kind of hard to believe it’s gone so fast. Before I put the Big Boot to the proceedings like Hulk Hogan getting ready to call it a day with an elbow drop at Wrestlemania — yup, just like that — I have to take a special moment to thank The Patient Mrs. for allowing me the time this week to bang out all of these reviews and get everything sorted on the back end, etc., for these posts. She, of course, as always, perpetually, has been unbelievable, and especially with The Pecan to manage, she’s earned her title more than ever. It is thoroughly, deeply, appreciated. Much love, baby. Thank you.

Okay, Big Boot time. Let’s do this thing.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Godflesh, Post Self

godflesh post self

Guitarist/vocalist/programmer Justin K. Broadrick and bassist BC Green return with Post Self, their second post-reunion full-length behind 2014’s A World Lit Only by Fire (review here) and a collection of churning electro-noise hymnals that work in a sphere that should by now be well familiar to their multi-generational fanbase. The groundbreaking industrial pioneers sound decidedly led by the guitar on the chugging “Parasite” and the airy, almost Jesu-style wash of “The Cyclic End,” but the intensity of the beat behind “No Body,” bass and noise onslaught of “Be God” and synth-driven soundscaping of “Mortality Sorrow” recall the sonic diversity that’s always been as much a part of Godflesh’s approach as their signature cyclical rhythmic style. More perhaps than ever, Broadrick and Green seem to be aware of what defines Godflesh as a band in terms of sound, and as they make the crucial move from a “reunion” band to a working one, they seem as glad as ever to push those boundaries once more.

Justin K. Broadrick on Thee Facebooks

Avalanche Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Serpents of Secrecy, Uncoiled: The Singles

serpents-of-secrecy-uncoiled-the-singles

This two-song single may end up bring the only offering Serpents of Secrecy ever make public, and it was years in coming together. In December, the Chesapeake region group with members of Foghound, Borracho and King Giant suffered the loss of bassist Jim Forrester, who was murdered in Baltimore, and while a debut long-player was in discussion, to-date the five-piece have only issued “Warbird’s Song” and “The Cheat” as Uncoiled – The Singles, and obviously now any kind of follow-up is in question. Whether it’s the raucous burl of “Warbird’s Song” or the bluesy, organ-topped fluidity of “The Cheat,” the J. Robbins-produced tracks demonstrate the potential at heart from the lineup of vocalist Mark Lorenzo – who wound up in the role after members of Alabama Thunderpussy and Mister Bones vacated – guitarists Steve Fisher and Todd Ingram, Forrester and his former Sixty Watt Shaman bandmate Chuck Dukehart III. The only question at this point is whether that potential will ever see further realization. Right on as these songs are, I’m torn on the idea, to be honest.

Serpents of Secrecy on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

 

Vymaanika, Spectroscope

vymaanika-spectroscope

Multinational space rockers Vymaanika debut with the 20-minute two-songer Spectroscope EP, comprised of its 10-minute opening title-track and the subsequent “Golden Void,” which may or may not be named in honor of the side-project of Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell. I’d believe it either way. The band comprises members from Catalan – guitarist/vocalist/synthesis Carles Esteban and bassist Andrés Paniagua, Chile in drummer/synthesist Jose Jünemann, and the US in guitarist/vocalist/synthesis Benjamin Mahoney, but they all seem to have come together to record in Barcelona, and the breadth of “Spectroscope” and serene psychedelic mantra-making of “Golden Void” benefit from that band-in-the-room vibe. Especially so the latter, which touches early on vocal harmonies over drifting guitar strum, steady synth drone and percussive pulsations before building to a more active apex in its second half. After the cacophony taking hold in the back end of “Spectroscope,” it’s a clear demarcation of a varied sonic persona, and while I don’t know how often Vymaanika will be able to get everyone together with the geographic spread, it’s easy to be glad they did it for this first EP.

Vymaanika on Thee Facebooks

Vymaanika on Bandcamp

 

Zong, Zong

zong zong

Flowing arrangements abound on Zong’s self-titled four-track debut full-length. The Brisbane, Australia-based heavy psych three-piece are well within their genre sphere, but from opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cosmic Embryo” (13:00) through “Arcane Sand” (8:10), the perhaps-Zardoz-referential “Giant Floating Head” (11:48) and closer “Return of the Alien King” (10:32), they demonstrate a natural chemistry, patience and warmth of tone that is no less comfortable in the march and lurch of its penultimate cut than in dug-in repetition-born hypnosis of the leadoff. Deceptively weighted from almost its beginning point with the low end of Michael Grinstead’s bass and the rolling drums of Henry Bennett, there’s also a balance of airiness from guitarist Adam Anderson that adds nuance when called upon to do so, though there are plenty of moments where Zong’s Zong seems perfectly content to cave-jam its far-out atmospheric fluidity. Not an ethic and not a result you’re going to hear me complain about.

Zong on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz Records webstore

Praying Mantis Records on Bandcamp

 

Vitriol, Pain Will Define Their Death

vitriol-pain-will-define-their-death

Brutal tech-death pervades Vitriol’s first EP, Pain Will Define Their Death – a three-song onslaught the violence of which is writ large over every minute of its total 12. Sharing a penchant for opening to bigger-sounding choruses like that of its opening title-cut with peak-era Hate Eternal, the pummel factor, ultra-tense push and unmitigated viciousness eschews some of the more machine-like aspects of such technically-minded fare, and while Vitriol’s overarching groove, gutturalist execution and hammer-swing breakdowns are casting out their own assault on the aforementioned opener as well as the subsequent blast-laden “Victim” and “Violence, a Worthy Truth,” they’re working in service to songcraft much more than to an indulgent showcase of prowess, and that makes all the difference in terms of the material’s ultimate impact. That impact? When was the last time you were actually kicked in the face? Nothing if not aptly named, Vitriol’s death metal seethes and rages in kind and bodes remarkably well for future manifest devastation.

Vitriol on Thee Facebooks

Vitriol on Bandcamp

 

Pillars, Pyres and Gallows

pillars-pyres-and-gallows

Hailing classic doom and darker atmospheres, French four-piece Pillars debut on Seeing Red Records via the Pyres and Gallows EP. Its four songs run a gamut of traditional grooves, but lumber with a balance between their rawness and a spirit of underlying riffy nuance that adds texture beneath the gruff, dudely vocals of frontman Klem, the tones of guitarist Djé and bassist Disaster well suited to the plodding companionship of drummer JJ on a song like the problematically-titled second cut “Dirty Whoreshippers” or the 10-minute title-track that rounds out. At 33 minutes, I’m not sure what’s stopping Pyres and Gallows from being a full-length, but if that’s a hint that Pillars have more to say going forward, then fair enough. They may be preaching to the converted in these tracks, but they’re doing so in righteous fashion and with a sense of their own identity under development. Doom on? Yeah, totally doom on. By all means. Please do.

Pillars on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

Lamp of the Universe & Kanoi, Split

lamp-of-the-universe-kanoi-split

Among the fascinating factors at work on this cross-continental Clostridium Records split release between long-running New Zealand acid folk outfit Lamp of the Universe and Austrian psychedelic fuzz purveyor Kanoi is the fact that both parties involved are solo-projects. For Lamp of the Universe’s Craig Williamson (also Arc of Ascent), he brings three tracks of his signature drenched-wet lysergism in “In the Beginning,” “The Cosmic Body Track,” “Father” and “Space Chant,” while Kanoi’s Benjamin Kantschieder revisits two cuts from 2016’s Mountains of the Sun full-length in the extended “I’m Gone (I’m Gone)” and “Mountains of the Sun” itself. The novelty of having two single parties match wits on such fluid arrangements – my head always begs for collaboration in these instances – is offset by the quality of their work itself. Neither is new to their sphere, but both seem keen to continue to experiment and explore, and it’s from that commonality that the split most benefits.

Lamp of the Universe on Bandcamp

Kanoi on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records website

 

Azonic, Prospect of the Deep Volume One

azonic-prospect-of-the-deep-volume-one

The first Azonic offering since the mid-‘90s finds Brooklyn-based experimentalist Andy Hawkins reviving the project alongside his Blind Idiot God bandmate Tim Wyskida as a melding of drone/noise and percussive ideas. Released through Hawkins’ own Indivisible Music, Prospect of the Deep Volume One – pretty ambitious to put a “volume one” in the title of your first record in 20-plus years – presents two expansive works in “Oblivion of the Deep” (18:53) and “The Argonauts Reckoning” (18:42) as well as the CD bonus track “Voices of the Drowned” (10:12) that brim with atmospheric intent and have an underlying sense of control on the part of Hawkins that speaks to some measure of steering what might in other hands simply feel like sonic chaos. You can hear it early into “The Argonauts Reckoning,” as the layered wash seems to want to fly off the rails and swell and Hawkins’ guitar simply doesn’t let it go, but it’s true elsewhere on Prospect of the Deep Volume One as well, and in listening, it’s the difference between the album being a joy in the immersion, which it is, and a self-indulgent misfire, which it very much is not.

Azonic on Thee Facebooks

Indivisible Music website

 

Thousand Vision Mist, Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow

thousand-vision-mist-journey-to-ascension-and-the-loss-of-tomorrow

Named for the lone 2002 full-length from Maryland doomers Life Beyond, in which guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon also featured, newcomer trio Thousand Vision Mist debut with the progressive-leaning edge of Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow, a 52-minute 10-tracker. Yes, Rush are a factor in terms of influence. However, propelled by the drumming of Chris Sebastian, whose frenetic snare adds a Mastodonic feel to “Headstones Throw,” the otherwise classic-vibing “Final Flight of Fall” and the later “Darklight,” among others, the cumbersomely-titled offering sets its balance between modern prog metal, doom and classic heavy rock, with bassist Tony Comulada adding vocal harmonies alongside Kenyon and providing a needed anchor to keep songs like the penultimate “Skybound and Beyond” from actually taking off and leaving their audience behind. Reportedly long in the works, Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow isn’t a minor digestion process at its busy and extended runtime, but while the recording is raw, there’s no shortage of fodder for engagement throughout its swath of choruses and head-spinning turns.

Thousand Vision Mist on Thee Facebooks

Thousand Vision Mist on Bandcamp

 

Arcadian Child, Afterglow

arcadian-child-afterglow

Though not at all without its more driving aspects, some of the most satisfying moments on Arcadian Child’s debut album, Afterglow, come from a soothing hook like that of “Rabbit Hole,” which finds the Cypriot four-piece more fully embodying a laid back desert rock atmosphere that underpins the Fatso Jetson-esque opener “She’s on My Mind” and subsequent “Little Late for Love.” As the feels-short-at-29-minutes record unfolds, “Electric Red” blends fuzz and Mediterranean rhythmic push, “Irresistible” toys with layered swirl beneath a solidly-weighted verse and chorus, “Run” makes itself a highlight around a post-Lullabies to Paralyze atmospheric lead and start-stop riff, and the title-track casts momentum in melody and groove into closer “Used,” which pays one more welcome visit to the more serene side of their personality before they’re done. It might be a sleeper, but I’d be surprised if someone didn’t pick Afterglow up for a vinyl release sooner or later; the songwriting, performance, presentation and potential for future growth are all there waiting to be found by the right ears.

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Arcadian Child on Bandcamp

 

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Telescope, Telescope: Truth and Revision

Posted in Reviews on December 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

telescope telescope

It’s a question of timing. We hear a lot about what’s commonly considered the Psychedelic Era, which ran roughly from 1966 to 1970 and could be considered the ground out of which the first movement of heavy rock was subsequently born. The succession isn’t so clean, of course. It wasn’t one right into the next. But trends came and went and different sounds were picked up at different times enough for a narrative to emerge, so that’s what it is. The Psychedelic Era.

Newcomer Barcelona duo Telescope offer a reminder with their three-song debut short release that the story is never quite that plain, and that each detail has the potential to be hiding its own devil. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists Esteban Garós and Luis Pomés — the latter also of Lewis and the Strange Magics — the two-piece have an immediately deceptive modus, rife with aesthetic specificity that seems geared toward capturing the very moment when the British Invasion and the subsequent movement of pop-rock first began to take on psychedelic overtones.

In other words: when The Beatles started smoking pot. There’s proto-lysergic elements at work in Telescope‘s three initial tracks — “With Your Truth,” “Adrift” and “Not Your Game” — but no hint of anything like a bad trip taking place and Garós and Pomés, who also self-recorded while Pomés handled mixing and mastering, never lose the sunshiny pop flair that lies beneath the resonant fuzz of their tones.

The result of this effort may only be 11 minutes long, and it may ultimately lie somewhere between a demo and an EP when it comes to the actual reality of how it will relate to their work going forward — that is, one doesn’t want to read too much into it with the project being so new — but it’s a significant stylistic achievement that nestles itself warmly into a sonic place few bands inhabit or would dare to try inhabit. Telescope do this without snark, without irony, and with a sense of character in their songcraft strikingly developed for it being their first offering.

One might give partial credit as regards that songcraft to Pomés‘ prior experience in Lewis and the Strange Magics, whose twisted take on classic garage rock isn’t entirely divorced from the semi-retroist vibes Telescope bring to proto-psych in these three cuts, but in comparing approaches, the new duo is far less theatrical, and by focusing sonically on the years closer to ’64-’66 rather than ’67-’70, they also position themselves in a fascinating niche as regards how rock and roll began to use the studio itself as an instrument.

telescope

The drums on the straight-off-Help! bouncing closer “Not Your Game” are particularly Ringo-esque and sound recorded live, but along with that and the running bass, there’s a later flourish of synth and the vocal harmonies over top there and the Mellotron that pops up in the swinging “Adrift” speak to what were the very beginnings of studio experimentation that, in just a few years’ time, would produce records like Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Are You Experienced? and The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. That sensibility begins on “With Your Truth,” which opens and is also the longest track (immediate points) at 3:55.

A gentle guitar line swirls in backed by bright-tone fuzz and sets itself to easy-dreaming a quick verse that seems to hop into the volume swell of the hook, with a strut of low end that continues the smooth and crisp groove into the next verse and chorus, after which a short solo takes hold, leading back to the chorus and toward the couple quick instrumental measures that close. It is so forward, so traditionalist in its structure and so sincere and gimmick-free in its execution that one can’t help being swept up by it, and as “Adrift” cleanly takes hold with its opening bassline and the aforementioned Mellotron, the more blown-out vocals over the laid back instrumental progression give a feeling of variety to the EP that is no less subtle than the nuance of their style, Garós and Pomés showing an early chemistry between them in terms of performance as much as writing.

And I don’t know that I ever thought I’d find myself using a phrase like “the tambourine makes it,” but as regards “Not Your Game,” it also happens to be true. It is precisely the kind of touch that lets the listener know just how schooled in what they’re doing Telescope are, which seems all the more crucial their first time out, and it’s one more nod to the pre-psych age that also allows the band to sneak in more modern elements and weirdo touches, giving them, in essence, a familiar foundation on which to build a sound of their own. That they do so with yet another hook of such quality is all the more to their credit, but in line with the cheerful and sunshiny mood of the release overall and the temporal thematic, that quality is an additional aspect tying the EP’s tracks together.

In thinking of how a debut long-player might take shape, it’s important to keep in mind just how tight records from this (that) era were. As “Not Your Game” fades out, one is reminded of strong-handed producers keeping things radio-friendly with editorial tape-cutting and so on. A question Telescope will have to answer for themselves as they move forward from this debut EP is just where they want to put themselves in that balance, and how they can still manage to bring diversity of songwriting to a release while keeping individual pieces to such brevity.

Certainly it’s been done before — that’s the whole point. I’d love to hear Garós and Pomés take on a sentimental ballad, or an unabashed love song, or even the stuff of a mega-catchy toss-off single. There’s so much potential in their debut EP that it’s difficult to imagine the various directions in which they might grow, but they’ve set the task in front of them and they push through this introductory statement in such a manner as to make one think that wherever they end up, it will be a joy to follow along. Here’s looking forward to looking back.

Telescope, Telescope (2017)

Telescope on Thee Facebooks

Telescope on Bandcamp

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