The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Singles, EPs, Splits and Demos of 2015

Posted in Features on December 29th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top 20 short releases of 2015

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

What’s a short release? Anything that’s not a full-length. I’ve done this list in the past and given a small list — The Top 20 EPs, Splits, Demos and Singles, or whatever — but “Short Releases” seemed more concise, and believe it or not, that’s something I shoot for.

Essentially, what we’re taking a look at here is everything else a band might put out in a given year. No question that albums are where the greatest impact is made over the longer term, but from landmark 7″s to EPs that provide crucial experiments or serve notice of bands solidifying their sound or marking pivotal first impressions, the shorter offerings have tremendous value, and it’s worth considering them on their own merit, rather than in comparison to LPs directly.

I know for a fact that there are releases I’ve missed here. Particularly among the Bandcamp-only demos, there’s just so much out there that for any one person to keep up with all of it is even more impossible than it’s ever been before. Before you berate me immediately with, “Hey you forgot X Band!” and start throwing tomatoes at your computer or mobile device screen, please keep in mind The Obelisk is run by a single individual and there are only so many hours in the day. As always, I do the best I can.

Here we go:

foehammer foehammer

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2015

1. Foehammer, Foehammer EP
2. Mos Generator & Stubb, The Theory of Light and Matter Split
3. Sun Voyager, Lazy Daze EP
4. All Them Witches, A Sweet Release
5. Geezer & Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 Split
6. Fatso Jetson & Farflung, Split
7. Eggnogg & Borracho, Sludgy Erna Bastard Split 7″
8. Shroud Eater, Face the Master EP
9. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some EP
10. Stars that Move, Demo Songs
11. Wight, Helicopter Mama 7″
12. Thera Roya, Unraveling EP
13. Shatner, EP
14. Cities of Mars, Cyclopean Ritual EP
15. Pyramidal & Domo, Jams from the Sun Split
16. Sandrider & Kinski, Split
17. Mount Hush, Low and Behold! EP
18. Godhunter & Amigo the Devil, The Outer Dark Split
19. Groan, Highrospliffics EP
20. Rozamov & Deathkings, Split

Honorable Mention

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Notes

It’s something of a break in routine for me to put any kind of debut in a top spot (other, of course, than on the list of debuts), but Foehammer simply would not be denied. The Virginia trio’s three-song EP release on Grimoire Records (LP on Australopithecus Records), it was a self-titled that seemed to be telling you the name of the band twice as if in a warning against forgetting it. And that warning was one to heed. Foehammer‘s first outing brought the Doom Capitol region to new heights of extremity, and while at over half-an-hour long it could’ve just as easily have been called a full-length, part of the overarching threat is what the band will bring to bear when they actually get around to their first LP.

A good number of splits included here, with Mos Generator and Stubb‘s The Theory of Light and Matter (HeviSike Records), Geezer and Borracho‘s The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 (launching a series for Ripple Music), Fatso Jetson and Farflung‘s joint release (on Heavy Psych Sounds) and Eggnogg and Borracho‘s Sludgy Erna Bastard (on Palaver Records) all cracking the top 10. No coincidence that Washington D.C. heavy riffers Borracho show up twice in that mix. As Pyramidal and Domo‘s blissful Jams from the Sun, Sandrider and Kinski‘s one-two, Godhunter and Amigo the Devil‘s Battleground Records collaboration and Rozamov and Deathkings‘ joint single feature between #11-20, a total of eight out of the full included 20 releases here are splits. Last year it was only five.

Whether that means the form is growing in an attempt to capture fickle social-media-age attention spans while cutting individual vinyl pressing costs, I couldn’t say — likely a combination of the two and more besides — but it’s noteworthy that a split is more than just a toss-off, between-albums castaway at this point, something for songs to later be included on rare-tracks comps. One could easily say the same of EPs as a whole. To that end, Sun Voyager‘s Lazy Daze was a brutal tease for the NY psychgaze outfit’s first album, hopefully out in 2016. And while All Them WitchesA Sweet Release was over 50 minutes long — longer, actually, than their Dying Surfer Meets His Maker LP, which was also issued this year — they considered it an EP/live collection, and that indeed proved how it worked best, immersive though its stretch remained.

Shroud Eater and Bedroom Rehab Corporation both turned in impressive outings that showed marked progression from their last time out, while Shatner‘s first batch of tracks tipped off a songwriting process well-honed and Stars that Move, Cities of Mars, Thera Roya and Mount Hush — I’d put Mount Desert in this category as well — had compelling outings that, like Foehammer at the top, showed much potential at work in formative sounds. Not to be forgotten, Wight‘s Helicopter Mama 7″ gave listeners a heads up on the funkified stylistic turn their upcoming full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know, will take even further, and UK stoner miscreants Groan proved once and for all that, along with logic and reason, a constantly changing lineup can’t hold back their good times.

Like I said — like I always say — if I left something out, let me know about it in the comments. Really let me have it. Call me a jerk. It’s cool. I can take it.

Please note: I can, in no way, take it.

Still, if I left something/someone out, I hope you’ll let me know. And please don’t forget that if you haven’t yet, you can still contribute your list of 2015 favorites to the year-end poll until Dec. 31. EPs, LPs, whatever, however many, it doesn’t matter. All entries are welcome there.

Thanks for reading.

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Geezer & Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One: Whistlers and Prophets

Posted in Reviews on December 15th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

borracho geezer second coming of heavy chapter one

One might quibble with the title. I’m not sure the current crop of bands having made the rounds for the last half-decade or thereabouts constitute The Second Coming of Heavy, as the name of Ripple Music‘s recently undertaken series of limited vinyl splits scouring the underground would posit. If you consider ’70s heavy rock of the psychedelic and post-psychedelic era, and the ’90s boom in stoner, desert, doom and other forms of heavy, I’d say we’re at least in the third coming, if not the third-point-five behind the underappreciated pre-social media acts of the ’00s, though I’ll readily admit that sounds less Biblical, would suck for marketing, and is a nerd’s gripe. Second it is.

Released in July, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One pairs New York heavy psych blues rockers Geezer and Washington D.C. riff rollers Borracho on either side of a limited-to-300-copies-and-gone 12″ with cover art from Ghosttown Graphic Art — future installments will reportedly link together to form a 10-part masterwork by Ghosttown‘s Joseph Rudell and Carrie Olaje — that, in addition to representing the beginning of a considerable project on the part of Ripple gives a handy update of where both Geezer and Borracho are at coming off of successful prior outings. The NY and D.C. trios offer up four and three tracks, respectively, that find each band delving further into its particular take on the titular heavy, whether that’s Geezer‘s Pat Harrington breaking out his slide on the swaying jam “Meth Neck” or Borracho refining their workingman’s fuzz on “Shark Tank.”

In addition to falling mostly under the same stylistic umbrella — at least as far as generic descriptive phrases like “heavy bands” go — most of what Geezer and Borracho have in common is position. Geezer‘s second full-length, 2014’s Gage (review here), pushed them well beyond their Electrically Recorded Handmade Heavy Blues debut, despite arriving just a year later, and likewise, Borracho‘s impressive 2013 outing, Oculus (review here), was their second and marked even more of a shift for the band as they moved from a four-piece to their current incarnation as a trio.

Both groups have put out teasers since — Geezer‘s Live! Full Tilt Boogie tape (review here) in 2014 and “Long Dull Knife” single in 2015; Borracho‘s splits with Cortez (review here) in 2014 and Eggnogg (review here) in 2015 — but The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One marks the most substantial studio offering from them since their last LPs, and accordingly, both show marked progression from where they were last time out. Geezer take oldschool command of their side immediately with “Tonight,” a written-for-the-stage salvo that not only ambitiously calls out dancing ladies but teases further, “You never know who you’re gonna meet at a rock show.” True enough. Harrington as a vocalist makes a signature of his whiskey-throated blueser scratch, but “Tonight” isn’t without an underlying melody, even though it’s when he, bassist Freddy Villano (since replaced by Richie Touseull) and drummer Chris Turco lock in a quick jam in the bridge, hypnotic despite being a brief trip outward before returning to the next chorus to finish on the line, “We’re gonna have a good time tonight.”

geezer
borracho

It’s a sentiment that the languid churn of eight-minute side A closer “So Tired” soon enough echoes: “Hey now, won’t you come home with me?/We’ll have a get-down, yeah/We’ll have a good time.” If a “good time” is what Geezer are chasing, their portion of the split makes a solid case for their having found it. “The Whistler” rumbles and slides and grooves with a smoothness that does nothing to undercut its raw edge, and the aforementioned “Meth Neck” puts them right in what has become their element as Harrington (successfully) pushes his limits vocally and they finish laughing en route to the spaceout-worthy “So Tired,” which sets a high standard for tone for Borracho‘s three side B inclusions, “Fight the Prophets,” “Superego” and the already noted “Shark Tank.” Fortunately, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Steve Fisher, bassist Tim Martin and drummer Mario Trubiano are well up to that task.

The first thing you hear on “Fight the Prophets?” Cowbell. It should be taken as a sign of how little interest Borracho ultimately have in not getting right to the point. At seven, seven and six minutes, their songs are by and large longer than Geezer‘s (“So Tired” notwithstanding), but while repetition remains a focus in Borracho‘s sound, it’s not as if their tracks are spending all that time going nowhere. They don’t have the same interest in psychedelic flavoring, but between the bounce in the memorable chorus of “Fight the Prophets” to the ethereal leads overlaid on the beginning of “Shark Tank,” there’s a firm sense of atmosphere, even if their approach overall is grounded in heavy rock traditionalism.

Its hook makes “Fight the Prophets” a standout of the three Borracho inclusions, but the insistent rhythm, Martin‘s push of bass on “Superego” is not to be overlooked. As Trubiano tosses off fills to mark out the transitions in nod and Fisher covers new ground vocally in moving slightly from bottom-of-the-mouth Hetfieldery to a bolder and more individualized shout, the low end holds together a midsection of layered soloing and shoulders the heft that follows fluidly so that as they get back to the central boogie to round out, the moves preceding not only make sense but are natural and skillfully turned. Borracho have been and may always be heavy rock for heavy rockers, but they’ve continued to grow as songwriters and expand their palette, and “Shark Tank” offers final proof of that, its extended, damn-near-prog intro giving way to a punkish riotousness that sees Fisher summing up the attitude of the song as a whole when he says, “I had enough of this shit, so I’m movin’ on” in a snarl of due defiance as the last line.

That transition from the intro to the verse/chorus is key, since it’s in bringing two generally-opposing styles together that “Shark Tank”‘s ultimate success lies, and the fact that they do it without blinking lets the listener understand how far Borracho have really come in the last couple years. More even than a basic underlying tonal weight, it’s that sense of progress that positions Geezer and Borracho so well as complements on The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One, and wherever Ripple‘s series winds up taking them sound-wise, if it keeps its eyes and ears geared toward not just celebrating heavy rock, but celebrating those acts committed to moving the style forward and bringing something new to it — Chapter Two has been announced with Supervoid and Red Desert taking part — then it can’t be anything but a success in the end. Its first installment certainly is, however one might be inclined to argue numbers.

Geezer and Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One (2015)

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Borracho on Thee Facebooks

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Borracho and Geezer Post Songs from The Second Coming of Heavy Split LP

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 23rd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

borracho
geezer

The seeds for what has become the first installment of a Ripple Music series of splits titled The Second Coming of Heavy would seem to lie in the label’s 2011 release Heavy Ripples (review here). While not nearly as ambitious in its title, that offering was a double 7″ that featured four bands — Stone Axe, Grifter, Mighty High and Sun Gods in Exile — who were intended to represent Ripple‘s view of the future of heavy rock, or at very least some underground bands who deserved the exposure that teaming up might bring them. As an opening chapter, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter One – The Risen has a loftier feel in terms of its aspirations but also takes a different, more pragmatic approach. It’s a 12″ instead of a double-7″, and it halves the number of acts involved perhaps in an effort to make the idea more sustainable, bringing together Washington D.C. riff-riders Borracho and New York heavy blues specialists Geezer.

Pressed in three separate editions of 100 copies each and set to release Saturday morning, the question as regards The Second Coming of Heavy isn’t whether or not the copies will go, but how fast. Borracho and Geezer are both fairly proven entities when it comes to moving units — the former having had vinyl for both of their full-lengths to date and the latter having seen their Gage LP gone more or less before the news was out about its release. I haven’t yet seen a full tracklisting made public for the 12″, and they also seem to be keeping the back cover a secret, but both bands have posted tracks in advance of the official arrival date, Borracho unveiling “Fight the Prophets” and Geezer getting loose with “Tonight.”

geezer borracho the second coming of heavyFor Borracho, the D.C. three-piece released a split earlier this year with Brooklyn stompers Eggnogg (review here), but “Fight the Prophets” finds them swinging a little looser, a little more boldly than they were on their last full-length, 2013’s Oculus (review here), which was the first to feature guitarist Steve Fisher on vocals. Here, he’s all over the swinging groove from bassist Tim Martin and drummer Mario Trubiano, and they sound more comfortable in their sound than they have yet. The mix sounds similar to “King’s Disease” from the aforementioned Eggnogg split, so I’d wonder if “Fight the Prophets” isn’t from the same session, but either way, their next LP has been one to look out for, and their work at least on this track doesn’t lessen that impression in the slightest.

To contrast, Geezer‘s first audio to be made public is something of a shift from the rolling grooves and blues-inflected vibes one has come to expect. A turn toward the upbeat makes “Tonight” a particularly driving offering, marked out with let’s-get-this-show-started energy from the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Chris Turco. The trio toured their way into the Midwest this spring — you might recall they issued the single “Long Dull Knife” to mark the occasion — but “Tonight” is as propulsive as I’ve yet heard them get, and the song succeeds because it also manages to hold onto that classic heavy rock/blues feel, resulting in shuffle just begging for crowd participation. One hopes they have occasion to get it soon.

Again, the 12″ is out this Saturday on Ripple. More info and the preorder link follow the songs, both of which are below.

Enjoy:

Borracho, “Fight the Prophets”

Geezer, “Tonight”

Nearly a year in the making, Ripple Music is thrilled to finally unleash the first chapter in the ongoing, limited-edition split 12″ series, The Second Coming of Heavy. Featuring gorgeous art (OBI Cover shown above) by Ghosttown Graphic Art, The Second Coming will feature the best, underground, up-and-coming heavy bands on the planet, with Chapter One featuring stoner blues rockers Geezer, and heavy fuzz monsters, Borracho. Each chapter will come in three editions, shown below, strictly limited to a maximum of 100 each, with no repress. Expect a new chapter to drop about every 3-4 months!

The OBI Edition features a killer, individually number, wraparound OBI strip designed by Ghosttown Graphics. The front is shown above, wait until you see the back! Vinyl is two-tone translucent green and black splatter. Limited to 100 pieces.

Sale starts Saturday July 25th, at 9 am Eastern Standard time, exclusively at www.ripple-music.com

Borracho on Thee Facebooks

Geezer on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music

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