The Obelisk Presents: The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014

Posted in Features on December 26th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Dudley-Street,-Seven-Dials.-Gustave-Doré-(1832-83) top 10

Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll. That’s still going on. Please feel free to submit your list.

Making and releasing a first full-length album is a special moment in the life of any band, and that’s why I wanted to single out some of the best debuts of the year. I’ve never done this before, and so maybe with a top 10 I’m testing the waters a bit, but it seemed a worthwhile project anyway. It was a long (inner) debate about whether or not to include EPs and singles here too, but in the end, it just seemed to work better with albums.

Not to take anything away from shorter releases, but putting out a debut EP is much different than a debut LP. First of all, a debut LP can come after several EPs or singles or demos or whatever and still be considered first. What a first album says to the listener is, “Okay, we’ve come this far and we’re ready to take this step.” Some bands, once they start putting out albums, never go back to EPs. Others who’ve been around for 30 years still release demos every now and then, but even so, a group only ever gets one crack at their first album, and it can be one of the most important things we ever do.

Compared to how many come out any given month, year, century, etc., very few debut long-players ever wind up being classics, and who knows what the future might hold for any of these acts on this list, but that not knowing and that excitement are part of the fun.

Let’s get to it:

the-well-samsara

The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014

1. The Well, Samsara
2. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass
3. Spidergawd, Spidergawd
4. Atavismo, Desintegración
5. Blues Pills, Blues Pills
6. Steak, Slab City
7. Comet Control, Comet Control
8. Elephant Tree, Theia
9. Black Moon Circle, Black Moon Circle
10. Temple of Void, Of Terror and the Supernatural

A couple honorable mentions. First to Valley of the Sun‘s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk, which I still didn’t know what to do with the release date for. Officially 2014, but kinda released in 2013 too. I was back and forth on it. Also Wasted Theory‘s burly debut, Monolord‘s Empress Rising, Child‘s Child, the Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart sprawling one-song LP from Sylvaine.

Some notes: Actual time spent listening played a big role in the structuring of this list. More so than the Top 30 of 2014, I would say. The Well‘s Samsara and the self-titled debut from The Golden Grass featured pretty high on that list as well, and that’s because both of them were records that I continually went back to and found satisfying after they came out. In both bands I think there’s significant stylistic potential, but more importantly, they both came out of the gate with their mission solidified and ready to roll.

With Spidergawd‘s Spidergawd, the progressive take on classic heavy rock boogie was blinding, but righteous. Their second album is due early next year on Stickman and I’ll have more on it to come in the weeks ahead. Atavismo‘s Desintegración hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Just four songs, but the atmosphere was gorgeous enough that after listening I went back and asked the band if I could host a stream in hopes that more people would hear it. Fortunately for anyone who listened, they were kind enough to comply.

On sheer impact alone, I think Blues Pills‘ Blues Pills warrants inclusion on this list, but in my own listening, I put on the top four so much more often that I couldn’t really justify placing it any higher. But in terms of a first album coming out and really propelling a band to the next level, I think for a lot of people it’s probably the debut of the year. Fair enough. Steak‘s Slab City found the London four-piece physically and stylistically right in the heart of the California desert and their passion for that place and its sound came across heartfelt on the recording, which only heightened the appeal.

And while I’m still sorry to see Quest for Fire go, the debut from offshoot Comet Control helped ease that sorrow neatly with a blend of driving heavier space rock and psychedelic vibing. Cool album, bodes well. You could say the same for Elephant Tree‘s Theia, I suppose. Their take on psychedelia melded with screamy sludge successfully where I think a lot of bands would’ve fallen flat trying the same thing, and that’s definitely something noteworthy in an initial offering, particularly one not preceded by an EP or other kind of release.

To round things out, two very different records. Black Moon Circle‘s self-titled took a popular stylistic course — melding heavy rock and psychedelic jamming — and showed the trio beginning to make it their own. That’s something I hope will continue on their second outing, which, like that of Spidergawd, is coming on quick early in 2015. And finally, Temple of Void‘s extreme, deathly take on doom courted genres smoothly and delivered its punishment with efficiency while holding together a coherent atmosphere of darkness and aggression. It was a sadistic joy to behold.

If you missed it, there were a couple debuts included on the Top 20 Short Releases of 2014 list as well — Gold & SilverWrenDeath Alley, and so on — so if you’re looking for more of that kind of thing, you don’t have to look too far. I hope if there was a debut album this year that particularly caught your attention, you’ll let me know in the comments.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Black Moon Circle, Black Moon Circle: Space Disposition

Posted in Reviews on May 28th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

The self-titled debut from Norwegian trio Black Moon Circle makes little effort to mask its intent. It is a space rock record, built around three heavy jams split effectively onto two vinyl sides, and for all its sense of exploration, improvisation and general farouttery, there’s an encouraging lack of pretense. Based in Trondheim, which on the average December day will see roughly five hours of sunshine — in June, that goes to over 20 hours per day — the core three-piece of vocalist/bassist Øyvin Engan, guitarist/vocalist Vemund Engan and drummer Per Andreas Gulbrandsen teamed up with none other than Øresund Space Collective swirlmaster and friend of the site Scott “Dr. Space” Heller for the recording of Black Moon Circle, and Heller‘s noisemaking and matter/energy disruptors contribute much to the open feel and heavy psych feel of the release. He’s proved ready to jam under most circumstances — this year’s Roadburn had him paired with Carlton Melton and Øresund Space Collective have a collaboration forthcoming with Damo Suzuki of Can — so that he’d be malleable to Black Moon Circle‘s “Enigmatic SuperBandit” is relatively expected, though how well the fit works winds up a pleasant surprise, as Black Moon Circle retain some of the roots of structured songwriting amid their propensity for jamming out into the stellar reaches across “Plains” (8:22), “American Eagle” (5:28) and the side-B-consuming “Enigmatic SuperBandit” (14:24). Their debut feels quick at a little over 28 minutes, but it is an engaging single-LP nonetheless that is able to pull together a cohesive vibe with apparent ease in that time. You won’t hear me complain.

And of course, calling in Dr. Space to add nebulas of effects to the songs isn’t going to hurt either, but Black Moon Circle distinguish themselves even apart from that partnership, with a languid rolling groove on “Plains” that sets up the flow to play out over the subsequent two pieces. Each song has plenty of room to jam, and the Engans and Gulbrandsen use that time well, but both “Plains” and “American Eagle” — presumably not named after the clothing company, though one never knows — make an impression with their verses and choruses as well, a laid back sense of structure emerging that moves well into and through wah-soaked spaces. It’s telling when they bring back the chorus of “Plains” after an extended guitar solo to finish out the song with a proper bookend, showing commitment to songwriting as well as to instrumental exploration, and that balance serves Black Moon Circle over the course of “American Eagle” and even “Enigmatic SuperBandit” as well. It’s a mood and dreamy feel not so unlike what New York heavy psych jammers Sun Voyager have concocted in their early going, and some post-shoegaze vocal similarity can be heard too, but that seems most likely to be a case of shared root influences and sonic coincidence, and one can just as likely hear some early 2000s Swedish heavy rock — Dozer, Lowrider — at work underneath “American Eagle” as anything more recent. Either way, Black Moon Circle do well taking these elements and beginning to carve out their own feel from them, “American Eagle” breaking cleanly at about 3:30 in to shift into a bluesy, open-sounding build of a solo before also returning to its central hook, no less encompassing than that of the opener.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , ,

audiObelisk Transmission 035

Posted in Podcasts on February 21st, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

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

I like making these podcasts because I never really know where they’re going to end up once I get started. One song leads to the next leads to the next, and before you know it, you’re all spaced out on how cool some brand new acoustic At Devil Dirt sounds coming out of the brutal dead-sludge of Coltsblood, or deep into the ultra vibes of a second hour loaded with interstellar meanderings. Some of these go brutal. This one just went far out.

That At Devil Dirt EP was just released yesterday, so if you don’t recognize the title, that’s probably why. A lot of this stuff is pretty recent, and while some of the songs you might’ve seen around, whether it was the Conan song they did the video for or the Druglord track that was streamed here with the full album, still other cuts, like the Trilogy, Black Moon Circle and Mope are new to these parts. As ever, I think it winds up with a decent blend and I hope you agree.

First Hour:
Ogre, “Nine Princes in Amber” from The Last Neanderthal (2014)
Sun Shepherd, “Awaiting the Firepit” from Procession of Trampling Hoof (2014)
Trilogy, “Invade and Occupy” from Burned Alive (2013)
Young Hunter, “Welcome to Nothing” from Split with Ohioan (2014)
Sergio Ch., “La Familia y las Guerras” from 1974 (2013)
Hull, “Legend of the Swamp Goat” from Legend of the Swamp Goat 7” (2014)
Conan, “Foehammer” from Blood Eagle (2014)
Druglord, “Feast on the Eye” from Enter Venus (2014)
Coltsblood, “Beneath Black Skies” from Into the Unfathomable Abyss (2014)

Second Hour:
At Devil Dirt, “Mirame” from Dinner is Ready (2014)
Black Moon Circle, “Enigmatic SuperBandit” from Black Moon Circle (2014)
Eidetic Seeing, “A Snake Whose Years are Long” from Against Nature (2014)
Goya, “Death’s Approaching Lullaby” from 777 (2013)
Mope, “La Caduta” from Mope (2014)
Mike Scheidt, “Rake” from Songs of Townes Van Zandt Vol. II (2014)

Total running time: 1:56:49

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 035

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,