Posted in Whathaveyou on December 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Prior to checking out for the holidays, Desertfest London 2015 has decided to give its public something to chew on over the next couple weeks. Six bands have joined the lineup for the UK festival. American acts Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band and Acid King, Italy’s Ufomammut, Iceland’s The Vintage Caravan, Sweden’s Galvano and Australia’s Don Fernando broaden an already international assemblage to be headlined by Sleep and Red Fang, and featuring Floor, My SleepingKarma, Black Pyramid, Lo-Panand an impressive host of others listed below.
A lot of festival news around here lately, I know — and more still to come. It’s the season for it. As we move into the New Year and these lineups start to really solidify, it seems like the culture for heavy rock fests just keeps growing. Certainly it’s Desertfest‘s biggest year yet.
Here’s their latest announcement:
Brant Bjork, Ufomammut, Acid King, The Vintage Caravan, Galvano and Don Fernando to play DESERTFEST LONDON in 2015
On the eve of Christmas holidays, the DESERTFEST LONDON promoters wanted to leave you with a sweet stoner rock taste, by adding a new batch of high-end outfits to the 2015 edition of the festival. Desert rock standard-bearer BRANT BJORK will take the stage this April along with Italy’s heaviest trio UFOMAMMUT, the legendary ACID KING, Iceland’s cosmos travellers THE VINTAGE CARAVAN, Swedish sludge mongers GALVANO and Australia’s DON FERNANDO.
Bands already confirmed are:
SLEEP RED FANG BRANT BJORK’S LOW DESERT PUNK ORANGE GOBLIN FLOOR MINSK UFOMAMMUT ACID KING KARMA TO BURN THE VINTAGE CARAVAN MY SLEEPING KARMA BLACK PYRAMID NOOTHGRUSH LO-PAN THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX BLACK COBRA DOPETHRONE DESERT STORM THE WOUNDED KINGS DON FERNANDO GALVANO AGRIMONIA AMULET WALK THROUGH FIRE
DESERTFEST LONDON 24-26th April 2015 in Camden Town Koko Electric Ballroom The Underworld The Black Heart
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Damn near impossible to argue with the Desertfest Berlin 2015 lineup at this point. We’ve hit the stage in band-adds where you just have to toss up your hands and be like, “Well, okay, whoever they bring in at this point, it’s gonna be good.” With Red Fang and Orange Goblin among the headliners, plus Acid King — who’ll have a new album out by then — and My Sleeping Karma and Black Pyramid and Lo-Pan and The Atomic Bitchwax and so many others, it’s basically a heavy rocker’s dreamteam of European and American acts coming together. What’s not to like, except maybe the cost of airfare and a hotel in Berlin?
The latest to join the bunch? None other than the godfather of desert groove himself, Brant Bjork. He’ll be taking his Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band on the road again in support of 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), which is out now on Napalm.
Announcement follows, courtesy of Desertfest Berlin 2015:
We are thrilled to tell you that MR. Brant Bjork and his LOW DESERT PUNKS are confirmed to headline friday night at DesertFest Berlin 2015! The band had put on such mindblowing shows during their last tour, that there was no question: we really wanted them and we are sure that you do too!
So come on you “freaks of nature” join BRANT BJORK AND THE LOW DESERT PUNK BAND in Berlin and “Let the truth be known…”
Grab your HARD-TICKET + T-SHIRT while you still can onwww.desertfest.de/tickets! Only 100 left, and this offer lasts until December 18th only. You can also get a PRINT-AT-HOME TICKET on the same page if you prefere.
DESERTFEST BERLIN #4 – APRIL 23th, 24th, 25th 2015 ASTRA KULTURHAUS / F-HAIN/X-BERG BERLIN (GER)
Red Fang + Orange Goblin + Brant Bjork & The Low Desert Punk Band + Acid King + My Sleeping Karma + Black Pyramid + Karma To Burn + Brutus + Dopethrone + The Atomic Bitchwax + Lo-Pan + The Picturebooks + Dirty Fences + Mountain Witch + Mother Engine + many many more acts:)
Yeah, I know I’ve written about this record a lot over the years. Some albums you just keep going back to, and for me, Brant Bjork‘s 1999 solo debut, Jalamanta, is one of those. Released by Man’s Ruin Records, it was the first time the then-Fu Manchu drummer had stepped out to do something on his own, and the vibe he captured on these tracks continues to resonate, songs like “Automatic Fantastic,” “Defender of the Oleander,” “Too Many Chiefs… Not Enough Indians” and of course “Low Desert Punk” becoming staple examples of what desert rock has become, but the way Bjork builds off those sounds, the low-end funk of “Cobra Jab,” the primo rock of “Toot” (on which Mario Lalli makes a guest appearance), and so on, it makes the listening experience that much richer in taking the album on front-to-back. The Man’s Ruin bio for it called it, “12 tracks of ghetto vibe wonder,” which is fair enough, but it’s the individual mash of influences and Bjork‘s willingness to account for them all while making them his own that results in both the vibe and the wonder, ghetto or not.
Jalamanta has been reissued a couple times through Bjork‘s own Duna Records imprint since the dissolution of Man’s Ruin, and rightfully so. It remains a vital piece of his discography, and the one-man jams he sets up on songs like “Sun Brother” and “Let’s Get Chinese Eyes” go far in setting the course for what his songwriting produces to this day. When it originally came out, in Oct. 1999, Bjork was already several years removed from his tenure in Kyuss, though he’d also appeared alongside former Kyuss guitarist Josh Homme on Desert Sessions Vol. 5 and 6, also released by Man’s Ruin. FuManchu, whose ranks he’d joined prior to 1997’s The Action is Go,were just months away from putting out King of the Road, and in 2000, Bjork would unite with Alfredo Hernandez, who replaced him in Kyuss and had just finished playing with Queens of the Stone Age, and Unida‘s Dave Dinsmore in the short-lived trio Ché, whose only album, Sounds of Liberation, presaged some of what Bjork‘s songwriting would manifest with some of his backing bands, be it The Bros. on 2007’s Somera Sól or the currently-active Low Desert Punk Band, whose Black Power Flower (review here) was released this year on Napalm Records and in whose lineup Bjork has reunited with Dave Dinsmore.
For me, Jalamanta has always been a summer album, but I hope you’ll indulge the bit of climatic wishful thinking on my part, and please enjoy.
Quick week, or maybe I’m just still recovering from Thanksgiving last week/weekend. Either way, we’re starting to wind down the year, so in addition to the usual bout of reviews and such — I think I’m going to go see Kind in Allston next week, and I’ll be at at least one of the two YOB shows in Brooklyn next weekend, if not both — I’ll be starting wrapup coverage, lists and such. Putting up the Readers Poll on Monday was just the start, and huge thanks to everyone who’s submitted a list so far for that, but starting next week we’ll dig deeper into what will probably still just be a fraction of how much I’d actually like to do. I also need to get my own top albums of the year together, which I’ve been putting off though I think I have the top five in place and proper order.
I teased a year-end podcast as well, and I’ll have that coming soon too, though it would have to be 10 hours long to cover all the excellent stuff that came out this year — and I promise you I’m not going to do a 10-hour podcast. I’ll whittle it down as best as I can, and even if it’s not next week, it’ll be up sometime soon. Obviously before the New Year, and likely before Xmas as well.
This week, I not only flaked on posting the Alunah interview, because I suck, but reviewing the Wounded Giant/Goya split as well. I’ll attempt to correct, but the stacks of CDs people have sent in sitting on my desk is starting to weigh pretty heavy on my soul as we get down to the wire on 2014, so other stuff might have to take a backseat for a bit. I’d love to find some way to do a roundup and give some cursory glance at records, but I’m not sure what that looks like or how it would come together in a way that doesn’t destroy all of my available time. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to make function, and I’ve tried. I still try from time to time. Not enough hours in the day for all the rock and roll, and though I work against it, I continue to need at least a little sleep each night.
First World problems, I guess, and there’s been plenty lately to remind me of just how privileged an existence I lead, despite all my miserable-bastard mopery. I hope wherever you’re at, you can feel safe.
Be well, have a great weekend and please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Reviews on November 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
To call Black Power Flower a Brant Bjork solo release would be a misnomer. Undoubtedly he’s the principal songwriter, as each of the album’s 10 tracks bear his penchant for smooth, laid back desert groove, funky turns and ’70s slang — to wit, “That’s a Fact, Jack,” “Hustler’s Blues,” “Buddha Time (Everything Fine)” — but the presence of the other players in the Low Desert Punk Band, of guitarist Bubba DuPree (ex-Void), bassist Dave Dinsmore (formerly of Bjork‘s Ché project) and knocks-it-right-out-of-the-park drummer Tony Tornay (Fatso Jetson), and the energy infused into the recording itself gives the record a full band feel worthy of consideration as more than the work of one artist. Add to that the jammy sensibility in a cut like closer “Where You from Man” and it becomes clear there’s more than one player at the heart of the group, however much it may be Bjork calling the shots. The former Kyuss and Fu Manchu drummer’s last solo outing was 2010’s Gods and Goddesses (review here), and though he initially signed to Napalm Records late in that same year, it’s not until now that this follow-up outing is surfacing, Bjork having spent the last several years taking part in the semi-reunion of Kyuss in Kyuss Lives! and Vista Chino, whose 2013 debut, Peace (review here), was also released through the label. As vocalist John Garcia put that project on hiatus to focus on his own solo work, so too did Bjork pick back up with his own new band, though between recording at Thunder Underground and the winding guitar lines of “Soldier of Love,” there definitely feels like there’s continuity between Vista Chino‘s Peace and Black Power Floweras well.
Whatever end of the desert they might come from, the band’s punk roots come through solidly across the album, beginning with the upbeat shuffle of opener “Controllers Destroyed” and the following “We Don’t Serve Their Kind,” which commence a catchy side A on Black Power Flower that keeps momentum driving forward despite fluctuations in pace. The actual opening riff is slow enough to give a surprisingly doomed feel, but driven by Tornay‘s toms and Dinsmore‘s bass, the Low Desert Punk Band soon kick into gear and Bjork arrives for an initial couple lines of vocals sounding very much in command of the proceedings. His singing style, immediately recognizable, has been a major factor in all of his releases, solo or with past backing groups like The Operators or The Bros., and it is on Black Power Flower as well, a semi-spoken delivery finding melody in layers and sitting so well on top of fuzzed-out grooves in later cuts like “Ain’t No Runnin'” or the quiet first half of the penultimate “Hustler’s Blues,” which boasts one of the collection’s most memorable lyrics in the line, “How do you say no to the woman that makes you tea?” Before they get there, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band continue the initial push on “Stokely up Now,” the catchiest hook with a call and response chorus and a title likely namedropping ’60s Black Power activist Stokely Carmichael, though I haven’t seen a lyric sheet to be sure. It would fit with the name of the album itself, and though words are sparse, “Where You from Man” seems to be addressing issues of race as well in its way, echoing cop-impression voices asking, “Hey man, where you from?” etc. “Buddha Time (Everything Fine)” and “Soldier of Love” fit together well after the surge of “Stokely up Now,” both having some of that Vista Chino spirit at their core — Bjork was, of course, a major songwriting contributor to that band and may be again if they decide to do another LP — and the latter seems to set up a conversation about gender taken up on side B with “Hustler’s Blues” with the lyrics “See, these chicks have a way of running this beautiful universe,” followed by something about if you don’t believe it, hold the purse. Not exactly hard-hitting analysis, but it’s catchy.
Bass starts “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” to open Black Power Flower‘s second half, a somewhat moodier presence in the low-end fuzz and rougher shout from Bjork himself, but the tension built opens up just past the halfway point and the vocals smooth out to match, a satisfying nod emerging momentarily before shifting back into the verse, which closes out and gives way to the wah-soaked funk of “That’s a Fact, Jack,” one of the clearest two-guitar grooves on offer. A rolling riff is established after dual noodling, and the vocals skate easily over the wah, coming in layers for the initial chorus part, which does right to hold back on the title line until the second round through, making the song a standout less driving than “We Don’t Serve Their Kind” or “Controllers Destroyed” but still righteously fuzzed. “Hustler’s Blues” and the jammier “Where You from Man,” the latter also the longest inclusion at 8:13, make a departure of a closing duo, but aren’t out of place with the atmosphere of Black Power Flower overall, “Hustler’s Blues” taking off right around 2:45 for an instrumental second half topped by exploratory leads, heavy and immersive and “Where You from Man” feeling its way through its progression, the vocals seemingly added after the fact or maybe just tossed in off-the-cuff, a subtle nod around four minutes in to the central riff of Kyuss‘ “Green Machine” not lost in the mix but well placed to blend with its surroundings. They end with a noisy wash of a finish on perhaps their most full-band note, showing the chemistry at work in Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band as a unit of players who’ve known each other for years despite this being their first album together under this moniker. With all the flux surrounding Vista Chino and Bjork, Garcia and Nick Oliveri having released solo/semi-solo records in 2014, I wouldn’t dare to predict what might follow Black Power Flower or in what incarnation we might next year from Brant Bjork, but 10 records on from his solo debut in 1999’s Jalamanta, there’s little question he remains the godfather of desert groove and that no one else does it quite like him. He’s in good company here.
Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower Preview
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
I didn’t realize, but it’s been over a year now since I started putting together podcasts regularly again. Almost 14 months, actually. Goes quick. I’m still having a good time doing them though. It’s become kind of a late-night ritual for me, assembling the audio and putting the tracklisting together and uploading everything the night before it goes live. It’s heading toward one in the morning as I type this. Long since asleep, The Patient Mrs.calls it “JJ time.” Fair enough.
A few twists and turns in this one, so watch out. I was all getting on some rocking vibes with Brant Bjork and that He Whose Ox is Gored, but after The Golden Grass things took a pretty wild turn. You may not have heard Atomikylä yet, but it’s players from Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu, so it gets pretty bleak pretty quick. From there, it’s just further into doom with Moss, Apostle of Solitude and The Sabbathian before Godflesh – as only they can — provide a slap back to reality. The second hour, as habit dictates, is a full-on freakout. That Olson/Shively/Barry track is members of Across Tundras and the album was just released, so if you get the chance to check it out, I’d say go for it. In the meantime, enjoy:
Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk, “Stokely up Now” from Black Power Flower (2014)
He Whose Ox is Gored, “Buried Twice” from Rumors 7” (2014)
Weed is Weed, “Eat Cookies” from Blunt Force Trauma (2014)
The Golden Grass, “The Robin Song” from Realisations (2014)
Atomikylä, “Ihmiskallo” from Erkale (2014)
Moss, “Carmilla (Marcilla)” from Carmilla (2014)
Apostle of Solitude, “Luna” from Of Woe and Wounds (2014)
The Sabbathian, “Nightshade Eternal” from Ritual Rites (2014)
Godflesh, “Life Giver Life Taker” from A World Lit Only by Fire (2014)
Lords of Beacon House, “Cool Water Blues” from Lords of Beacon House (2014)
Geezer, “Tales of Murder and Unkindness” from Gage (2014)
Olson/Shively/Barry, “Jagged Cliffs” from Tierra del Fuego Blues (2014)
Dead Sea Apes, “Threads” from High Evolutionary (2014)
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, “Psychopomp” from Psychopomp (2014)
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Don’t get me wrong, it’s very cool that Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk are going to Europe to tour and playing Up in Smoke and Desertfest Belgium and so on, and it’s very cool that they’re going out starting next week on the West Coast with Bl’ast, C.O.C. and Lord Dying, but we already knew that stuff — even if I hadn’t seen a complete list of the Euro dates as yet — and what’s even better this time around is that the next Brant Bjork album has been slated for a Fall release through Napalm. I’d been trying not to get my hopes up too much.
And along comes the PR wire with reason to do precisely that. You may recall last week some live video of the new song “Requiem” went up. Below the news, you’ll find another quality clip of a track called “We Don’t Serve Their Kind” from the recent Australian tour that’s worth checking out:
BRANT BJORK and The Low Desert Punk Band to Hit the Road With COC and B’last
Solo Album Set For Release This Fall on Napalm Records
BRANT BJORK and The Low Desert Punk Band will be hitting the road later this month alongside COC and B’LAST. The dates begin August 21st in Salt Lake Utah and are set to run through September 1st in Vancouver, BC. A European tour is scheduled for October. All dates can be found below.
It was recently announced that BRANT BJORK signed with Napalm Records and is currently working on a new album due out this fall. BB will be playing songs from the upcoming record and some “Low Desert Punk” classics.
BRANT BJORK commented on the tour:
“I am super stoked and honored to be part of this legendary line up with COC and B’last! Not only will we be rocking but it is always great to tour with friends.”
Known for his work as a founding member of Kyuss and more recently for his work with John Garcia in VISTA CHINO, BRANT BJORK has had quite an eventful career as a founder of record labels (El Camino and Duna Records) and world-renowned producer. In addition to founding the record labels, playing, touring and recording, BRANT also works as a producer and has worked with many amazing artists throughout the years including teaming up with LAB (featuring ex Bl’ast members), Fatso Jetson, Fu Manchu and re-uniting with Nick Oliveri in Mondo Generator.
More info regarding the new album coming this fall on Napalm Records will be revealed soon.
BRANT BJORK and The Low Desert Punk Band 8/21: Salt Lake City, UT @ In The Venue 8/22: Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall 8/23: Albuquerque, NM @ Sister 8/24: Mesa, AZ @ Club Red 8/26: San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick 8/27: Los Angeles, CA @ The Roxy 8/28: San Francisco, CA @ DNA 8/29: Santa Cruz CA @ Catalyst
European Tour: 10/2: Vienna, Austria @ Arena 10/3: Milan, Italy @ Bloom 10/4: Pratteln, Switzerland @ Z7 (Up in Smoke Festival) 10/6: Stuttgart, Germany @ Universum 10/7: Paris, France @ Glazart 10/8: Amsterdam, Holland @ Melkweg 10/10: Cologne, Germany @ Underground 10/11: Berlin, Germany @ C-Club 10/12: Antwerp, Belgium @ Trix (Desertfest) 10/13: Hamburg, Germany @ Logo 10/15: Copenhagen, Denmark @ Loppen 10/16: Stockholm, Sweden @ Debaser Strand 10/17: Oslo, Norway @ John Dee 10/19: Leeds, United Kingdom @ Belgrave 10/20: Bristol, United Kingdom @ Exchange 10/21: Southampton, United Kingdom @ Joiners 10/22: London, United Kingdom @ Garage
Two weeks from today, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk set off on a West Coast US tour alongside Corrosion of Conformity, Bl’ast and Lord Dying. Earlier this summer, the four-piece outfit — Bjork himself on vocals/guitar, drummer Tony Tornay, guitarist Bubba DuPree and bassist Dave Dinsmore – took flight on an inaugural run through Australia and New Zealand that reportedly followed completion of a new album set to serve as Brant Bjork‘s long-awaited debut on Napalm Records. It’s also his first solo-ish offering since 2010’s Gods and Goddesses(review here) and the first record he’ll have out since reuniting with vocalist John Garcia in the Kyuss-offshoot Vista Chino, who released one of 2013’s best full-lengths in the form of Peace(review here), also on Napalm.
Those familiar with his 10-album solo stint between 1999’s classic Jalamantaand Gods and Goddessesalready know that Bjork (interviews here and here and Questionnaire here) is a purveyor of some of the finest sandy soul known to man. Instrumental to the coalescing of heavy rock in the ’90s as part of Kyuss and Fu Manchu, in the aughts, he dug into an inimitable style of groove that became as distinct as anything he did with either of those bands or any of his other numerous collaborations along the way — lest we forget Ché or his time with Nick Oliveri in Mondo Generator.
A four-year break between outings is the longest Bjork has had since he started putting out solo records (and yes, that counts the …and the Operators and the …and the Bros. iterations), but as is inevitable in the age of the digitally instantaneous, some new material has started to leak out from the Aussie gigs. Not much is out there that I’ve seen. A quality clip of a Star Wars-referencing track called “We Don’t Serve Their Kind” is on Vimeo, and that’s worth a look since it’s pretty close-up and you can really see the band nailing it, but the vocals are low. This version of “Requiem” is kind of far back, but the sound is clear enough to give an idea of what they’re up to — you’ll note the low-end shaking the camera — and for fans of Brant Bjork, there’s an awful lot to like.
Dates for the aforementioned West Coast tour follow the video (recorded by YouTuber “Dav Ozz”), and the band will also head to Europe this fall for gigs at Up in Smoke and Desertfest Belgium, among others. Please enjoy:
Brant Bjork, “Requiem” Live in Geelong, Australia, May 30, 2014
Corrosion of Conformity, Bl’ast, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk, and Lord Dying tour dates: 8/20/2014 The Hop – Spokane, WA 8/21/2014 In The Venue – Salt Lake City, UT 8/22/2014 Summit Music Hall – Denver, CO 8/23/2014 Sister – Albuquerque, NM 8/24/2014 Club Red – Mesa, AZ 8/26/2014 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA 8/27/2014 The Roxy – Los Angeles, CA 8/28/2014 DNA – San Francisco, CA 8/29/2014 Catalyst – Santa Cruz CA 8/30/2014 Dante’s – Portland, OR 8/31/2014 El Corazon – Seattle, WA 9/01/2014 The Rickshaw Theater – Vancouver, BC
Posted in Features on July 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Before I even start, let’s get one thing out of the way. I want a new Sleep album too. My not including them on this list isn’t due to the fact that I don’t think a new Sleep album is a good idea, but just because I haven’t seen anything about it being recorded or released in the next five-plus months. If it hits on Jan. 1, 2015, I’ll be the happiest Baby New Year you ever saw, but that’s a different list altogether.
Ditto that Om and High on Fire. The latter were writing as of May, and I know Om did some recording way back in January, but I’ve yet to see solid word of new records at all, let alone before the end of the year. Either or both or all three may happen, but until I see some hint of it, all I can go on is the info I can find.
Seriously though, how badass would it be if all three put out albums before the New Year? That excitement is kind of what this list is about. Some of these records I’ve heard, but most I haven’t, so it’s just basic speculation about what I think could be some of the best releases in the next couple months. You’ll note that while there are plenty of dates TBA, nothing listed arrives in November, so as 2014 winds down, there’s bound to be even more quality stuff than appears here.
In fact, I struggled to take things out to get it down to 30. And it still goes to 31! I figured no one would mind. They’re numbered, but the list is in alphabetical order.
If I left something out you’re dying to hear, please let me know in the comments.
Thanks in advance for reading:
1. Alunah, TBA (Sept.)
Birmingham’s Alunah, like several others below, are a holdover from the Most Anticipated Albums list back at the start of the year. The difference between now and then is that, while its title still hasn’t been revealed so far as I know, their Napalm Records debut has been recorded, mixed and mastered, the latter by Tony Reed, the former by Greg Chandler of Esoteric, and given a September release date. Two years after Alunah made riffy doom sound easy on their sophomore outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I look forward to hearing how they’ve grown and shifted in their approach to warm-sounding tones and memorable hooks. They’ve set a pretty high standard for themselves. Alunah on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
2. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds (Oct.)
These guys. I don’t mind telling you it was a thrill when Indianapolis doomers Apostle of Solitude were announced as having signed to Cruz del Sur to release their third album, Of Woe and Wounds, this fall. Their second outing, 2010’s Last Sunrise (review here), didn’t get the attention it deserved, but the handful of songs they’ve made public since have shown much promise, and as the first Apostle of Solitude full-length to feature guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay) in harmony with guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown — the band is completed by bassist Dan Davidson and drummer Corey Webb — this is definitely going to make for a doomly autumn. Apostle of Solitude on Thee Facebooks, Cruz del Sur Music.
3. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance (Aug. 26)
Recorded late last year at Amps vs. Ohms in Boston, the third album from Maple Forum alum Blackwolfgoat — the prog-drone alter ego of guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, Roadsaw, etc.) — is the project’s most expansive outing yet, and it seems Shepard is moving more in a song-based direction, rather than some of the building loops of the past two offerings. Of course, there will be plenty of those as well, but watch out for some acoustic guitar, and deep-in-the-mix vocals, as they could easily hint of things to come. Or Darryl could turn it on its head and do a calypso record. Either way, I’m on board with no pretense of impartiality. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp, Small Stone’s Bandcamp.
4. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (Aug. 5)
The much-heralded Swedish/French/American psych-blues conglomeration Blues Pills will make their self-titled debut (short review here) next month, and while it’s probably going to be a bigger deal in Europe than in the States — at least until Nuclear Blast brings them over here for a tour, then the country is going to go apeshit for them — the songwriting and soulful execution of their tracks justifies the hype. There’s a bit of retro posturing to what they do, some Graveyard shuffle (it feels inevitable at this point with a ’70s-influenced band), but the grooves are easy to dig into and the potential is basically limitless for where they want to go. It’s scary to keep in mind, but this is just the beginning. Blues Pills on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.
5. Bongripper, Miserable (July 7)
You may notice something strange about the date above for a list of upcoming albums in that July 7 was yesterday. Well, Chicago’s Bongripper posted their new three-track full-length monster Miserable on their Bandcamp for stream and download ahead of the vinyl’s arrival, and it was just too righteous to leave out. Those seeking landmark riffing need look no further than the 19-minute centerpiece “Descent,” which meters out stomp enough that future “scientists” will study its footprint, and closer “Into Ruin” (28:25) is guaranteed to be the heaviest half-hour you’ll spend today. Miserable feels like a no-brainer, but maybe that’s just because Bongripper have such a propensity for pounding skulls into mush. Bongripper on Thee Facebooks, Miserable on Bandcamp.
6. Botanist, VI: Flora (Aug. 11)
I feel like I missed a couple numbers from San Francisco-based environmentalist black metal unit Botanist along the way, but they’ll nonetheless issue VI: Flora on The Flenser next month, furthering their marriage of destruction and beauty and insistent percussive expression. The spaces Botanist — a one-man project from Robert Martinelli — create feel ritualistic without the dramatic posturing that pervades much of the genre, and sound, somewhere between raging and mournful, is hypnotic. Whatever your expectation might be, Martinelli seems pleased to use it to their advantage, and ultimately, defy it. Post-human, hammered dulcimer-laden black metal. It would be harder for Botanist to not be unique. Botanist on Thee Facebooks, The Flenser.
7. Brant Bjork, TBA (TBA)
When Brant Bjork‘s next album might show up, I don’t know. I know he’s signed to Napalm, and I know the photo above was snapped as he finished some vocals before going on tour with his Low Desert Punk band that includes guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, but whether or not the album they made is the funk-inspired Jakoozi that’s been in the offing for a while, or another collection of songs, and if Napalm will get it out before the end of the year remain a mystery. I do find it interesting that for his first “solo” outing post-Vista Chino (that band being on hiatus), Bjork has assembled a new band to work with rather than record multiple instruments himself, but no matter who’s involved, when it’s Brant Bjork writing the songs, it’s gonna be high rock from the low desert. Can’t wait to dig into whatever comes. Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
8. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (Sept.)
The headline for Earth‘s new album is it’s the one where they experimented with vocalists. And hey, if you’re going to toy around with the idea, you might as well get Mark Lanegan involved. The former Screaming Trees frontman is one of several singers appearing on Primitive and Deadly, due in September on Southern Lord, and it would appear that Earth‘s sound — always evolving, always somehow changing — is about to take another considerable turn. Fortunately, the Seattle band, led by guitarist Dylan Carlson and now approaching their 25th year, have long since proven worthy of trusting with their own direction. Earth will never be huge, by the simple nature of what they do, but their influence resounds and the quality of their output is unmatched. Earth on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.
9. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (Sept.)
“Wake up baby/It’s time to die.” So goes the title-track hook of Electric Wizard‘s new album and Spinefarm Records debut, Time to Die. As ever, it’s simple, hateful, drenched-in-fuzz misanthropy, and Electric Wizard revel in it accordingly. Their witchcult continues to grow in their native UK and abroad, and while their last two records have divided some listeners, they’ve invariably gained more ground than they’ve lost. A legal dispute with Rise Above finds them on the new label, and if there’s even the slightest chance that change will bring them to the US for a tour, I’ll take it. Expect 66 minutes of glorious filth. Electric Wizard on Thee Facebooks, Spinefarm Records.
10. Fever Dog, Second Wind (TBA)
Palm Desert youngsters Fever Dog have been kicking around the last few years finding their sound in varying elements of heavy rock and psychedelic experimentation. Most recently, they impressed with the single “Iroquois” (review here) taken from their new album Second Wind, and in looking forward to the full-length, I’m eager to learn how their style has solidified and what sort of vibes they conjure over its course. They’ve shown plenty of propensity for jamming in their prior work, so hopefully there’s a bit of that on hand as well. I’ve said before they’re a trio of marked potential, and nothing I’ve yet heard has dissuaded me from that impression. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, Fever Dog on Bandcamp.
11. Goat, Commune (Sept. 23)
Somehow, a band from Sweden who dress up in tribal costumes (problematic) and play Afrobeat psychedelia became a very, very big deal. I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to, and I won’t try, but I know that when Sub Pop releases Goat‘s second album, Commune, it’s going to be to a flurry of hype and heaps of critical fawning. It would be tempting to call Goat a novelty act, but their 2012 debut, World Music (discussed here), showcased a legitimately creative musical approach to go with the visual aspects of their presentation, and I find the fact that I have no idea what to expect from Commune to be refreshing. Goat on Thee Facebooks, Sub Pop Records.
12. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren (Aug. 11)
UK heavy rockers Grifter will make a welcome resurgence on Ripple Music with The Return of the Bearded Brethren, an album that builds on the straightforward, catchy sounds of their 2011 self-titled label debut (review here) and takes their infectiousness to new places lyrically, such as exploring issues of aging via an ode to Princess Leia from Star Wars. That particular brand of humor and is writ large on Grifter‘s second Ripple outing, and the trio set to work refining their take without losing the engaging feel of their self-titled. It feels like a long three years since that record hit, and I’ll be glad to have a follow-up in-hand. Grifter on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
13. Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz, New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future (TBA)
Unclear at this point whether Boston outfits Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz collaborated on New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future, or if it’s a split. Either way, the prolific acts make a sound pairing. Both are vehemently creative and exploratory, psychedelic and progressive each in their way, and if what’s presumably a single finds them working together, all the better, but even if not, new material from either is nothing to balk at, particularly when topped off by such gorgeous artwork. Neither act is ever long from putting something out, so to have them come together one way or another makes a weird brand of sense, which I’m relatively sure the songs will as well. Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks, Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks.
14. Ides of Gemini, Old World New Wave (Sept. 16)
Ides of Gemini‘s 2012 Neurot Recordings debut, Constantinople (discussed here), established the three-piece as freely inhabiting either side of the imaginary line between ambience and heaviness, J. Bennett and Kelly Johnston providing sometimes minimal, sometimes consuming foundations for vocalist Sera Timms (ex-Black Math Horseman, also Black Mare) to cast ethereal melodies. What Old World New Wave will hold sound-wise, I don’t yet know, but Ides of Gemini‘s otherworldly resonance and ultra-patient approach makes it well worth finding out. Ides of Gemini on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
15. John Gallow, Violet Dreams (Aug. 4)
Frontman of Blizaro and Orodruin guitarist John James Gallo adds a ‘w’ to his last name and steps out solo on the I, Voidhanger Records release, Violet Dreams, the title hinting at some of his on-his-sleeve affinity for Italian psych-doom master Paul Chain and Swedish legends Candlemass. Gallo‘s work in Blizaro has a tendency to lean toward the progressive and cinematic, but as John Gallow, the focus is more on classic doom riffing and darkened metallurgy. As one would expect, he’s well in his element on the hour-long album, and I hope he decides to call the next one Ancient Theatre. Also note the incredible artwork of Costin Chioreanu. John Gallo on Thee Facebooks, I, Voidhanger Records.
16. John Garcia, John Garcia (Aug. 5)
A long-discussed solo debut for the former Kyuss frontman following a stint alongside Brant Bjork in Vista Chino, John Garcia‘s John Garcia (review here) finds the singer right in his comfort zone, topping desert rock riffs with his trademark guttural vocals. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’d trade a second Vista Chino outing for it if given the choice — that band seemed to be on course for a sound of its own, separate from Kyuss‘ legacy, and that struck me as worth pursuing — but these songs have a similar enough production style that it’s easy to think of the one as an offshoot of the other, and of course Garcia calls his shots well throughout. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
17. King Buffalo, TBA (TBA)
Including King Buffalo here was pretty speculative on my part, but I dig the Rochester, NY, outfit and didn’t want to leave the prospect of their STB Records debut long-player out. It probably won’t land until 2015 — the future! — but their demo (review here) still gets regular plays around these parts, and I’m very much looking forward to catching them with similarly-minded Nashville blues rockers All Them Witches when they tour together next month. Whatever King Buffalo‘s recording/release plans might be, they’re definitely one to keep an eye on in the back half of this year. King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
18. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy (TBA)
Love these guys, love this band. I make no bones about it. Their third record, self-titled and produced as the last two were by Sanford Parker, is as close as they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound, and while they’ve yet to nail down an exact release date, they have a couple very cool tours in the works for this fall, including dates next month with Eric Wagner‘s Blackfinger, that will make a fitting lead-in to their best outing yet. I’ve heard this and had the chance to see some of the material live, and they’ve outdone themselves again, which, considering the esteem in which I continue to hold their 2013 sophomore full-length, A Time of Hunting, is really saying something. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.
19. The Kings of Frog Island, V (Fall)
Easily one of the LPs I’m most eager to hear over the next few months, and specifically on vinyl. The Kings of Frog Island have shown themselves to be so dedicated to the format that their early-2013 album, IV (review here), was presented as two bundled sides even digitally. They recently gave a taste of what their fifth album will in-part hold via a video for “Sunburn” and I’m told more jamminess ensues elsewhere to complement that track’s easygoing flow and platter-ready hook. All the better. The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks, The Kings of Frog Island on YouTube.
20. Lonely Kamel, Shit City (Sept. 9)
I’d be lying if I said part of my immediate interest in Oslo heavy rockers Lonely Kamel‘s fourth record wasn’t due to the cheeky title, but it’s been three years since the Napalm Records four-piece released their last album, Dust (track stream here), and as they’ve put in plenty of road-time, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to go into this time around with elevated anticipation. I’m not sure you could get away with calling an album Shit City unless you meant business. Got my fingers crossed that’s precisely the case with Lonely Kamel. Lonely Kamel on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
21. Lo-Pan, Colossus (Oct. 7)
Fucking a. Doing the research for this list was the first I’d seen the Jason Alexander Byers cover art for Lo-Pan‘s fourth album, Colossus, or its Oct. 7 Small Stone release date. I haven’t heard the tracks yet — they recorded in Brooklyn back in March, and while I got 2012’s Salvador (review here) pretty early, the Columbus four-piece seem to be keeping a tighter lid on the follow-up — and I can’t help but feel like that’s my loss. Judging by what I’ve heard of the material live, Lo-Pan have dug further into their individual brand of riff-led soulful heavy, and I’ve got a high wager that a few months from now, Lo-Pan‘s latest will make an appearance on another list. More to come. Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
22. Novembers Doom, Bled White (July 15)
One of doom’s most fascinating and largely ignored progressions is that of Chicago melancholists Novembers Doom, who, when they started out 25 years ago, did so largely as a death metal band, and then moved on to pioneer an American interpretation of what’s commonly thought of as European doom, until, over their last several records, as they’ve started to move back to a more extreme, double-kick-drummed style. Bled White, on The End Records, continues along this path, but especially in the cleaner vocals of frontman Paul Kuhr there remain shades of the morose emotionality that typified what’s now become their mid-period doom idolatry. Unheralded, Novembers Doom keep exploring deeper, darker terrain. Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks, The End Records.
23. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (Aug. 19)
Foundations of Burden is unquestionably among the second half of 2014’s most anticipated albums. Arkansas-based doom four-piece Pallbearer will mark its release with extensive European and North American tours, and where their 2012 Profound Lore debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), came out and caught listeners off-guard with its unabashed emotional core, their sophomore outing finds them positioned at the forefront of American doom. Already the hype machine is rolling out the red carpet for the Billy Anderson-produced Foundations of Burden, but no one can say these guys haven’t put their work in, and the record is indeed one to look forward to. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
24. The Skull, TBA (TBA)
For The Skull to put out an album of original material is a unique challenge. Their earlier-2014 first single (stream/review here) found them standing up to it on the new song “Sometime Yesterday Mourning,” but at least half the point of the band since its inception has been to pay homage to legendary doomers Trouble, from whence vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson come. For their Tee Pee Records debut full-length — yet untitled and hopefully out before 2015 — it’ll be most interesting to see how guitarists Matt Goldsborough (ex-Pentagram) and Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn) rise to the occasion of building off some of doom metal’s most celebrated tones. Fingers crossed on this one. The Skull on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
25. Snail, Feral (TBA)
Nothing has been formally announced yet, but on Small Stone Records‘ website, they list Snail‘s Feral among their upcoming releases. It would make a suitable pairing, the West Coast riffers having previously worked with MeteorCity on their 2009 post-reunion outing, Blood (review here), prior to independently releasing 2012’s Terminus (review here), and Small Stone seems like a good home for their fourth overall record and return to form as a trio, which was their original incarnation before their original dissolution circa 1994. How they expand on the heavier crunch of Terminus remains even more a point of fascination, and surely their cult following will be glad to find out. I know I will. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
26. Steak, Slab City (Sept. 9)
After two strong EPs in 2012’s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013’s best-title-ever-boasting Corned Beef Colossus (review here), it’s time for London stoner rockers Steak to step up their game for their Napalm Records debut full-length. The four-piece headed to the Californian desert to record Slab City, and so it’s fair to think some of that atmosphere may have worked its way into the material. Would be an awfully long way to go, otherwise. In either case, Steak have showcased considerable songwriting chops already, now it’s just a matter of sustaining it for a full album’s runtime and keeping enough variety in their approach. I have no doubt they’re ready for this next step. Steak on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
27. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean (TBA)
It is with simple, unabashed warm feelings that I look forward to hearing Cry of the Ocean, the second long-player and Ripple Music debut from UK riffers Stubb. They’ve traded out drummers since 2012’s self-titled (review here), bringing aboard Tom Fyfe with guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, but I’m excited to hear what changes and shifts in sound Cry of the Ocean might have in store to match its provocative title. Goes without saying the photo above isn’t the final artwork, but instead Tony Reed‘s mastering sheet from back in May when he worked on the tracks. No solid release date yet, but hopefully soon. Stubb on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
28. Torche, TBA (TBA)
Torche‘s new album and Relapse Records debut was originally slated for the end of the summer. Given that no official word has come out about a title or anything like that and the members of the band have been busy with other projects, it seems unlikely as of now that they’ll hit that target, but after something of a break so frontman Steve Brooks could focus on the resurgent trio Floor, Torche are in fact getting going again, beginning with their first tour of Australia this fall. Maybe their LP will be out by the time they go and maybe it won’t, but word on the street is that whenever the thing arrives, it’s gonna be heavy, which I have no problem believing. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
29. The Well, Monomyth (Late Summer)
I’ve been waiting since the March announcement that Austin trio The Well signed with RidingEasy Records for further word of their debut full-length, Monomyth (pretty sure that’s not the cover above), but thus far to no avail. Their 2012 single, Seven (review here), was a repeat-listen thriller, and anticipation abounds for what sort of psychedelic garage riffing they’ll conjure up for the album itself. It’s been a couple months at this point, and maybe it’ll be 2015 before Monomyth gets out, but screw it, a boy can hope. The Well on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
30. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels (Sept.)
Please note: The original cover art with this post was not final and has been replaced with the above band photo.
Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain have spent much of the two years following their 2012 third LP, Cauldron of the Wild (review here) on tour in the US and abroad, playing fests, headlining, supporting, but generally putting in a lot of time. As such, Mobile of Angels, which will be out on Svart in Europe and Profound Lore in North America, comes as the end product of a considerable touring cycle. Has all that gigging worn Witch Mountain into the ground, or will they rise above it with metal-loving doom-blues supremacy? They’ve got a vinyl-ready 38 minutes on tap for September and if they’ve ever been in a position to make their case, it’s now. Watch out for the killer sway in “Can’t Settle,” the title of which seems a fitting theme for the band. Witch Mountain on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
31. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (Sept. 2)
Yet again — as was the case back in January — alphabetical order forces me to end with YOB, whose seventh full-length and Neurot debut might just be my most anticipated of all on this list. The recently-unveiled Orion Landau cover speaks to a brooding sentiment, and from the one time I was fortunate enough to hear it to-date, the four-track album from the Eugene, Oregon, natives corresponds to its visual side in being a more aggressive push than was 2012’s Atma (review here), but also more exploratory and contemplative in its approach. Now statesmen in American doom and the forebears of a cosmic-minded sound, YOB stand ready to showcase a creative progression that has yet to find its end point. YOB on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
Other Notable Mentions
Just a couple of these I’d be remiss if I didn’t note. Some were carried over from earlier this year, others just come up along the way. Not sure on all the release dates, but these are worth keeping an ear out for:
Acid King — Were listed in January, but their record has a Feb. 2015 release date.
Bright Curse — Second album recorded at Skyhammer Studios.
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth — My understanding is the album is done and they’re waiting to secure a label. Seems like a good occasion for Southern Lord to step forward, if not Profound Lore or Neurot.
Eggnogg — Not sure if it’s their full-length, You’re all Invited, or something else that’s coming, but whatever. More stoner-funk riffing needs to be had.
40 Watt Sun — There was some word of this early in the year, but nothing since.
Godflesh — Their first in 15 years, A World Lit Only by Fire, will be out Oct. 7. A fuckup not including them on the list proper.
It’s Not Night: It’s Space — Eagerly awaiting the Small Stone debut from this instrumental outfit, but it might be next year.
Karma to Burn — New album, Arch Stanton, out in August. I emailed for a review promo and never heard back. Always a great feeling.
Larman Clamor — Solo-project from Alexander von Wieding has a new one in the can, but I’m not sure on the release schedule.
Lowrider — They’re working on it, but don’t hold your breath to have it out by December.
The Machine — Kind of a slow year for Elektrohasch, but the new one from these Dutch fuzzers would be a nice way end up.
Nachtmystium — Century Media releases their final album, The World We Left Behind, on Aug. 5.
Orange Goblin — Seriously debated putting them on the list, since I know they’ve recorded, but they seem to be promoting a recent reissue of 2007’s Healing through Fire and their upcoming European tour with Saint Vitus rather than their new album, so unless news comes out about it like this week from Candlelight, I wouldn’t expect it until early in 2015.
Pink Floyd – Believe it when I see it, but I honestly couldn’t care less either way if I tried.
Ruby the Hatchet — Their full-length Tee Pee debut is due sometime in the next couple months.
Sun Voyager — Upstate NY youngsters had hinted at new recordings.
Again, if I forgot anything — and I’m sure I did — please let me know in the comments.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Joining the esteemed ranks of Greenleaf (who were also just announced so they’re not on the poster yet), Naam, Kadavar and the almighty Dozer, Brant Bjork has been added to the lineup for the second installment of the Up in Smoke indoor festival this October in Switzerland. The fest is presented by Sound of Liberation, and is set to take place Oct. 3 and 4 in Switzerland, which puts it the weekend before Desertfest in Belgium. The more the merrier. I can think of few things cooler than two fests on consecutive weekends.
Brant Bjork will play Up in Smoke with his new band, Low Desert Punk. Not sure if that’s the name they’re using — it’s billed as Brant Bjork presents “Low Desert Punk,” so if it’s that or Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk or Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punks, or some other variation, remains to be seen — but with Fatso Jetson‘s Tony Tornay on drums, Dave Dinsmore from Bl’ast on bass and Bubba Dupree (Void) on guitar alongside Bjork himself, they can call it whatever the hell they want and I won’t complain.
That same lineup heads to Australia this weekend for a run of dates that carries them into June. Info on that is on their Thee Facebooks, info on the Up in Smoke gig follows:
Up In Smoke Festival – October 3rd & 4th 2014
Hailing from Palm Desert where all the movement started, we are extremely pleased to welcome the desert rock icon BRANT BJORK, presenting LOW DESERT PUNK!
His influence within the stoner rock community dates back to his time as drummer for the legendary Kyuss, through his stint with fuzz-kings Fu Manchu. With his new outfit featuring Dave Dinsmore on bass (Che, Bl’ast), Bubba Dupree on guitar (Void, Hater) and Tony Tornay on drums (Fatso Jetson, Chuck Dukowski), BRANT BJORK will deliver a near-lethal dose of classic rock and heavy punk to UP IN SMOKE FESTIVAL on OCTOBER 4th 2014!
It grooves. It flows. It’s psychedelic. It’s tough. BRANT BJORK and his live band are guerrilla rock revolutionaries… taking back the rock and letting it roll. Don’t miss your chance at an audience with the legend this fall!
We are proud to present the second edition of our UP IN SMOKE INDOOR FEST!
As last year, it will set up in PRATTELN (Basel area) in one of the very best Swiss venue : Z7 KONZERTFABRIK! After the huge success of the festival last year, we took the decision to do a 2-day event in 2014 featuring around 20 bands on 2 stages with special light shows, after-show DJs, and art exhibition. On OCTOBER 3rd & 4th, Z7 will definitely be the place to be!
You’ll find below in this newsletter the first 7 bands already confirmed, including this afternoon’s announcement as special preview for you guys. Hope you’ll dig it!
TICKETS for UP IN SMOKE FEST #2 can be ordered onwww.z-7.chand soon via Ticketmaster. Check-out our Facebook page for constant updates.
I bought this album from the Duna Records website when it came out in 2004. I remember it because I had dug Brant Bjork and the Operatorsand Keep Your Cooland waited for Local Angelto come out, and when it did, and it showed up in its glossy digipak, I don’t think I completely got the vibe at first, but I knew I liked it, a lot, and it’s been a record I’ve gone back to periodically ever since. The digipak is still in pretty good shape too.
Brant Bjork would shortly go on to form Brant Bjork and the Bros. and release the double-album Saved by Magic, and his next solo outing was the acoustic Tres Diasin 2007, but until that came out with its sometimes-I-sit-in-a-field-with-a-guitar vibe, Local Angelwas the most peaceful, intimate vibe Brant Bjork had put on a full-length, and it was a record that showed that you could take a desert groove to places that most people probably wouldn’t think of as heavy and make it work. Or that Brant Bjork could do it, anyway. I haven’t heard too many others try and put the same kind of soul influence into what they were doing and make it work as well as the folk of “Beautiful Powers,” the classic rock of “The Feelin'” or the laid back psychedelic funk of “Hippie.” From “Chico” to “Spanish Tiles” and the covers of “Hey Joe” and The Ramones‘ “I Want You Around,” Local Angel was a spirit thateven Brant Bjork never really went back to. It stands alone in his catalog and outside of it.
Part of that is the simple method of double-tracking the vocals over acoustic guitar, the in-and-out of the drums, and particularly compared to later work like 2007’s Somera Sól and 2010’s Gods and Goddesses — his most recent solo outing — much more of an individual feel as opposed to a band presence. So cool. So smooth.
Hope you dig it.
Tonight The Patient Mrs. and I went down to New Bedford, about an hour away, to see William Shatner‘s one-man show. Ever since I finished watching the original Star Trek series, we’ve been on a pretty big kick, making our way through the first seven movies and starting in on The Next Generation and the animated series as well as some of Shatner‘s Trek-centric documentaries like The Captains. All that stuff is on Netflix so it’s pretty accessible, and there’s a lot of it. Shatner’s World, though, which is the name of the one-man show, was awesome. I laughed, I held back tears as he played a clip of an introduction he recorded for the last flight of the space shuttle Discovery, I laughed more when he talked about recording an album with Ben Folds. It was very, very cool, and though it’s a balmy 9 degrees out, well worth leaving the house. I may or may not review it on Monday. I paid for the tickets and got shot down for a photo pass, so I hardly feel obligated, but it might be fun anyway.
This week I reviewed five albums. Last Friday, I laid out the next five reviews I wanted to do — Weedpecker, Colour Haze, Conan, Mammatus and Papir, in that order — and this week I fucking did it. I can’t remember the last time I reviewed five albums in the same week. It’s been at least a year. It felt good, even if it didn’t leave me much time for anything else. Next week I want to try something different. I’ve got a little stack of stuff that’s been around for a while and I’d like to try putting together a roundup that’s somewhere between the Reviewsplosion-style 100-word stuff I’ve done a couple times and the 1,000-ish words (I’ve actually been trying to cut that down too) that a lot of records seem to get around here. Seems like an interesting challenge to try to say everything I want to say about an album in 300 words, still try to convey some of what I perceive of the spirit of the thing in that limited space. Trying to hone a more efficient approach, in other words. I’m still going to do larger-form reviews as well, but maybe once I week or once every couple weeks I squeeze in a roundup of stuff I might not otherwise have room for and at the same time force myself a little bit out of my run-on-sentence comfort zone. I’ll give it a shot this week and see how it goes, and look out for a Green Dragon tape review, a review of the live Leaf Hound record that Ripple put out, the new The Wounded Kings and other stuff as well.
Wherever you are tonight, I hope it’s more than 9 degrees and that you’re grooving out easy on the Brant Bjork and there’s no drama where you don’t want it and that all is cool. We’re coming to the end of January, so I’m thinking about the anniversary of this site, and it’s a big one. I don’t have anything really on tap to celebrate — as I see it, the way you celebrate working on something is by working on it — but we’ll mark the occasion this week anyway, though I think posts might be light on Friday otherwise. We’ll see how it goes.
Have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.
Brant Bjork is the godfather of desert rock. As drummer and co-songwriter in Kyuss, he anchored some of the thickest and most influential grooves the world has ever known. Landmark albums like 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun and 1994’s Welcome to Sky Valley are not only genre staples, but have become the measure by which the bulk of the desert-influenced heavy is measured. Ceaselessly creative, Bjork joined Fu Manchu, whose 1994 debut he co-produced, for their The Action is Go, Eatin’ Dust, King of the Road and California Crossing albums between 1997 and 2001, also putting out the cult hit Sounds of Liberationwith the short-lived Ché trio in 2000 and in that same period embarking on a solo career that to-date has resulted in 10 albums, 1999’s debut, Jalamanta, setting the course with what would become a signature blend of funk, soul, punk and heavy rock.
Bjork joined former Kyuss bandmates John Garcia and Nick Oliveri in Kyuss Lives! in late 2010, and after a lawsuit and name change (more on that in this interview), Vista Chino emerged to release one of 2013’s best albums in the form of Peace (review here) on Napalm Records, the touring cycle for which will take the lineup of Bjork, Garcia, guitarist Bruno Fevery and bassist Mike Dean (also of C.O.C.) to Australia’s Big Day Out this month. A funk-influenced instrumental solo album, Jakoozi, was also mixed last summer and is expected for a 2014 release.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Brant Bjork
How did you come to do what you do?
I was born with a genuine love of music. Growing up, discovering The Ramones and punk rock in general, gave me the courage to try playing music myself. It turned out I had some natural talent as well as a strong conviction to continue doing the thing I love most.
Describe your first musical memory.
When I was a little kid, I had this Fisher Price record player that my mom gave me, along with a stack of 45s. One day I went through the stack and picked one because of the attractive orange and yellow label. It was the Capitol Records label and it was a Beatles 45. It had “Help” on side 1 and “I’m Down” on the B-side. I put it on and John Lennon began to scream “help!” at me through the tiny little speaker. It scared the shit out of me. I didn’t know music could, would or even should sound like that.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
September 18, 1987. It was the first real concert outside of the desert I ever saw. The Ramones, in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Palladium, I was 14 years old. It was also Dee Dee Ramone’s birthday that night and to make things super rad, my first son, Swan, was born on September 18, 2010!
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
I always had a firm belief that The Stooges, the MC5 and The Ramones were the most radical bands of their time and they were releasing the best and most influential records of their time as well. This belief was tested after I bought and listened to the release of Death’s record, For the Whole World to See… a record that was recorded in 1974 but shelved until its release in 2009. This record is so good; I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s almost hard to imagine what might have happened to rock and roll music, or even music in general had this record came out and the band had evolved. Unbelievable.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
For me, there is no destination for an artist. I would define artistic progression as a journey of experiencing your life as one of creativity. If you’re a genuine artist I think it simply leads to more art.
How do you define success?
To me, success is the result of looking at your current life situation and not having to wonder how the hell you got there.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
While on tour last month, I battled some boredom by watching the Star Wars sequel, Attack of the Clones. Holy moly. Super bummer. George Lucas should be ashamed of himself. And I thought Return of the Jedi was bad.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
Even though I’m a musician and music is a part of my daily life, I find myself spending a lot of my time thinking about stories. About five years ago I started studying and practicing screenplay writing. I write a lot when I’m on tour… so much time on planes and buses, etc. I have a dream of creating and finishing a rad screenplay and having it picked up for a feature movie. I wouldn’t mind directing the movie as well but you know…. one dream at a time.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
A night without the kids and a nice romantic dinner with my wife at our favorite Italian restaurant in Santa Monica.
Posted in Features on September 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m going to go on a limb here and say that while it wasn’t their first choice and something that was brought about through a lawsuit from former bandmates, the name change that turned Kyuss Lives! into Vista Chino was a good thing. My reasoning is simple. Kyuss is a set entity. It’s in stone. It’s done. It’s been done for over 15 years now. There’s a legacy born out of the California desert that’s influenced thousands upon thousands of bands, and without Kyuss, that just doesn’t happen. They were an integral part of setting forth a movement in heavy rock that continues to this day.
The difference is they were and Vista Chino are. Even if vocalist John Garcia, bassist Nick Oliveri, guitarist Bruno Fevery and drummer Brant Bjork — who toured and wrote songs together as KyussLives! – had been able to continue using that or just the straight-up Kyuss name, they’d be setting themselves up to fail, because even if original guitarist Josh Homme – who along with former bassist Scott Reeder brought the lawsuit that was settled with the moniker switch– had returned to the fold and they’d worked with the same lineup that resulted in 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun, it never would’ve been the same. It may have been conflict that birthed it, but with the Napalm Records release this week of Peace (review here) as the first Vista Chino studio album, Garcia, Bjork and Fevery (Oliveri having left after recording his bass parts) are moving forward in a way Kyuss wouldn’t have been able to do.
It’s a question of freedom, ultimately, and where any output under the Kyuss banner would’ve resulted in an endless stream of comparisons set to the impossible standard of a decade and a half of lionization, Vista Chino are free to progress, both on a career level and creatively. Peacefinds Bjork taking lead vocals on “Planets 1 & 2,” something that never happened in Kyuss (though certainly it’s happened plenty since), and works off a different, new instrumental chemistry and playing style from Fevery. The record isn’t about capturing something that used to exist and doesn’t anymore, and at its heart, that’s why it succeeds. I’m not sure Peacewould’ve worked as a Kyuss album, but for Vista Chino, it stands not only as an excellent debut but a potential-filled sign of things to come. It makes the listener look forward to what could be and not back to what was.
So while it may have been plenty ugly getting to this point and of course no one knows what days ahead might bring, Peace establishes Vista Chino as a band with both a past and a future. In the interview that follows here, Brant Bjork discusses some of those prospects, particularly as relates to bringing in bassist Mike Dean from C.O.C. to fill the position vacated by Oliveri and held for a brief stretch by Billy Cordell, and also creating music for the first time alongside Fevery, the legal tribulations that made Vista Chino who they are, his relationship to Vista Chino as opposed to Kyuss, when he knew that Kyuss Lives! would result in new material, the group’s plans after the US tour they’ll soon start and much more. As he spoke, I could hear a desert wind come through the line in the background.
Posted in Reviews on July 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Vista Chino has been a curious proposition from the start. As far as reunions go, I think even the members of Vista Chino would have to admit the circumstances that have led to their studio full-length debut, Peace(Napalm Records) have been convoluted and probably far less than ideal. What began as a Kyuss revitalization in the form of the John Garcia-fronted Garcia Plays Kyuss at the 2010 Roadburn festival and gradually morphed into tours with former Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri (also Queens of the Stone Age, Mondo Generator) and drummer Brant Bjork (also Brant Bjorkand the Bros., Che) with guitarist Bruno Fevery under the moniker Kyuss Lives!, Vista Chino wound up becoming Vista Chino as a result of a lawsuit that had former Kyuss guitarist Joshua Homme (who went on to bone fide rock stardom in Queens of the Stone Age) and bassist Scott Reeder as its plaintiffs. In this context, it’s just as easy to read the album title Peaceas a desperate plea as a relieved exhale. Perhaps it’s both. Whatever the case, this multi-tiered clusterfuck born out of the original reunion spearheaded by Garcia, initially on his own with members of European acts (including the Belgian-born Fevery), has led to new band Vista Chino – Garcia, Fevery, Oliveri (who plays on the album but has been replaced live by C.O.C. bassist Mike Dean) and Bjork — making their first record as the inheritors of the Kyuss legacy, which presented in the massive influence of the three studio albums after their 1991 Wretchdebut — Blues for the Red Sun(1992), Welcome to Sky Valley(officially a self-titled; 1994), and the ominously-titled …And the Circus Leaves Town(1995) — is indisputably the largest in the genre of desert rock. This is no small challenge, but whatever else Peaceis able to accomplish over the course of its 49 minutes and 10 tracks split just about evenly time-wise to allow for vinyl sides, it maintains an element of consciousness throughout of the context in which it arrives. Then it sidesteps it and rocks out with abandon.
However a Kyuss reunion might’ve played out in a perfect world, Vista Chino, who recorded Peaceat Thunder Underground in Palm Springs, handled the task before them the only way they could; they wrote a collection of honest songs that didn’t outwardly try to recapture what Kyuss was in its heyday, but invariably showed flashes of that owing to the involvement of Bjork, Garcia and Oliveri and the effect that being in Kyuss has had on their lives, better and worse. Perhaps most pivotal to the album’s ultimate success, nobody throughout Vista Chino‘s debut is doing an impression either of Homme‘s tone or his songwriting methodology. If anything, the name change brought on by legal mandate has allowed the group to begin the establishment of a new musical identity, and though Fevery‘s tone is rife with desert-styled fuzz, his manner of play particularly in the leads here and his handling of the riffs throughout is his own. Maybe that new identity wasn’t what Vista Chino were looking to do when they started out as Kyuss Lives!, but it’s where they ended up all the same. The closest Vista Chino comes to directly referencing Kyuss on Peace is probably in the central riff of “Planets 1 & 2,” which seems to be nodding at “Green Machine” from Blues for the Red Sun — but even there,the band finds personality of its own as Bjork steps in to share vocal duties with Garcia, something that, though he contributed to the songwriting all along while he was in Kyuss (he left prior to the last album), he never did before. Likewise, songs like “As You Wish” and the sweetly open-spaced “Barcelonian” showcase a laid back heft that, though Kyuss touched on at times and one could easily argue had a hand in pioneering, is more mature in its presentation and sense of purpose than the members of Vista Chino could’ve been at a younger age. The inevitable tradeoff is that it’s not new anymore and that Vista Chino inherently cannot instantly show up and invent desert rock the way Kyuss is often credited with doing (of course the reality is more complex than the narrative; see also “Black Sabbath invented heavy metal”). It’s already been done.
How do you, in putting tracks together, ignore that and proceed to make a record? I don’t know. And I don’t know what the division of songwriting labor on Peacewas between Bjork, Garcia, Fevery and Oliveri, how much of the album was written separately as opposed to together in a rehearsal space or in the studio, but at some point, these players stopped looking back at what Kyuss was able to spearhead and started looking forward at what Vista Chino might be able to do to make a mark on the form. That could be something as simple as the jam from which the shuffle of the later “Dark and Lovely” resulted, maybe. What matters is, it happened, and however a given listener might feel about the circumstances by which Vista Chino became Vista Chino, it’s to the ultimate benefit of Peacethat they did. To call these Kyuss songs would be to set a standard in the mind of anyone hearing them with a clue as to who Kyuss was that they invariably couldn’t meet. Peaceprobably wouldn’t work as a fifth Kyuss outing. As the first Vista Chino, it not only affirms the relevance in the craft and performance of the band, but it gives them a starting point from which they can expand on subsequent outings should they choose to do so, free of the restraints that an idea of “what Kyuss should sound like” might otherwise place on them. Had Garcia, Fevery, Oliveri and Bjork started out under the new name, it wouldn’t even be a matter of discussion. It’s fascinating to think of that as the feedback intro “Good Morning Wasteland” gives way to the driving “Dargona Dragona,” which is Peace‘s first impression on the listener. An album that only gets stronger and more complex as it plays out, “Dargona Dragona” provides Peacea mostly straightforward beginning, Fevery, Oliveri and Bjork starting out instrumentally before Garcia joins on vocals. When he does, his voice is more blown-out sounding than anywhere else on the record, presented with a kind of compression that cuts through the otherwise natural-sounding tones for the “ooh-ahh” chorus and seems high in the mix as a result. Though on the subsequent “Sweet Remain,” he pushes his range to what seems like as high and as guttural as it will go, on “Dargona Dragona,” the vocals are almost abrasive, even as the swirl and richness of fuzz the rest of the band creates is just beginning to establish itself.
That can, for the first several listens, be off-putting — or at very least, off-throwing; which may well have been Vista Chino‘s intent — but it’s easy enough to get used to, and both the verses and chorus are memorable enough that the quality of track outshines any puzzling aspects of its presentation. The aforementioned “Sweet Remain” follows with Bjork setting the beat on drums as Fevery joins with a layered riff and winding lead while Oliveri rumbles with characteristic and creative fills underneath and Garcia recounts through the chorus lyrics what reads like a direct reference to the band’s legal struggles — “And they lost their souls/When they lost their way/Yeah, we fight to the bone/But the spirit remains” (or thereabouts). After work in Slo Burn, Unida, Hermano and guest spots on countless other bands’ albums across the world, John Garcia sounds perhaps most at home in these songs as he has since Kyuss‘ initial run (though I’ll gladly champion his performances in the other acts noted as well). On “Sweet Remain,” he bleeds, and after a bouncing, gleefully insistent instrumental stretch, returns to ask, “And I wonder/Who’s fooling who/And I wonder/Who’s fooling you.” If nothing else, we glean that the sundry dramas surrounding the band are present on the minds of Vista Chino, and it was arguably much the same on Queens of the Stone Age‘s …Like Clockwork(review here) when it was released earlier this year. So be it. Following, “As You Wish” sticks to a similar lyrical thematic — the opening lines “Rise from ash/The phoenix comes” — but resides in a less hurried instrumental sphere, the bass prominent amid buzzsaw guitar and Bjork‘s drumming, which is subtly creative and periodically the glue holding the jams of Peacetogether. On a general level, “As You Wish” is more indicative of the spirit of Peaceoverall, laid back, heavy, ultra-grooved and jammed-feeling but given to moments of propulsive riffing, topped with Garcia’s inimitable vocals. Most immediate, it makes a fitting lead-in for “Planets 1 & 2,” which not only is one of the most enjoyable tracks on Peacebut also, for Bjork taking the fore vocally, one of the stretches in which Vista Chino most carves out its own personality, separate from the legacy of Kyuss.
When Sabbiacame out in 2006, I was interested. I remember seeing it was around, and knowing that Brant Bjork was somehow involved, and that the desert, the fuzz, etc., but I never picked it up. You know how it goes. Some things just get by you, and when it comes to music DVDs, they’re cute once or twice, then you never watch them again. They sit on the shelf and collect dust. Brant Bjork‘s music is so visually associated in my mind with a specific imagery, I guess I wasn’t in a hurry to have something come along and screw that up.
Fair enough. Sabbiacame and went, and it wasn’t until this past weekend that I finally stumbled on a copy, on sale for a whopping three dollars, and felt inclined to pick it up. Actually, I felt excited to pick it up, since it’s harder to get nowadays than when it was first released. I paid three dollars cash money and when I finally put in the disc, I quickly saw that Sabbia– which was directed by Kate McCabe and features Bjork both performing and wandering around a convenience store to pick up some beers — was more than just a standard music DVD. It’s more like a love-letter to desert weirdness brought to life as the music and the visuals feed into each other’s ideas.
There’s no narrative to speak of, though a thread runs throughout of a hottie making her way across the sands in slow motion, but through a series of vignettes based around songs — sections titled “Future Freak,” “Cobra Jab,” “Cool Abdul,” “Joint Ritual,” and so on — McCabe takes the viewer through a range of experiences, usually drenched in sunlight, and it’s everything from skateboarding to snow on cacti to dark-room dancing, trees, open skies, music, people, buildings, sunglasses, freaks, drugs, stars at night. It’s not about Bjork specifically, though he’s in a lot of it, but it’s a project where the editing is almost as much of a character as anyone appearing. Some voiceover, but no real dialogue to speak of. And scenery. Scenery for what feels like forever.
Obviously that’s the idea. And with grainy footage, quirky flourishes and a landscape to work with that’s as unmistakable as the grooves it has birthed, Sabbiaruns 80 minutes of tripped-out pastoralia. It wanders in parts — again, that’s the idea — but it’s easy to get lost in its admiration and idolization of the desert, especially if you’re somebody who appreciates that place and the various freaks who’ve emerged from it over the course of the last two decades with a brand of rock and roll that nobody outside has been able to capture in quite the same way. The collaboration between McCabe and Bjork is almost even-sided, but unquestionably one is made fuller by the work of the other.
Being on the other side of the country and given to a certain brand of escapism, I can very easily see paying many return visits to Sabbia, though I’ll say already I’ve gotten my three dollars’ worth out of it and then some. Of course, the whole movie is up on YouTube at this point, so I’ve included it below if you’d like to check it out, with fervent recommendation for tracking down a physical copy so you can get the liner notes from the director and the composer on how their working together came about and what their mission was with the project, etc. It’s about as fitting a representation of the desert as one could ask for:
A couple weeks ago, I asked the question above: “What are the 10 greatest stoner rock records?” It was kind of just something I was throwing out there to see what came back. Nothing scientific, pretty vague on what “stoner rock” actually meant as a genre designation. Basically just trying to get a spur-of-the-moment response, like an inkblot test for riffs. First thing that comes to mind.
The response was awesome, so before anything else, thank you to everyone who contributed a list to the original post. I was taken aback by the number of replies that came in — a total 73 comments — and the resultant breadth of records named reads like a wishlist of the damned. Some people were pretty orthodox in their definition of the genre, and some more open in the bands they included, but working from everyone’s lists, I tallied up the votes, and while I don’t necessarily agree with all the choices personally (I added my own list as a comment to the initial post, so I won’t bother reprinting it), it was a blast to see what emerged on top. The people have spoken.
I tried to be as fair as I could in the tallying. There were some comments left that were individual songs and not albums, and those I didn’t count, but everything else went in, even if it was only mentioned once, and when someone said, for example, “Melvins – all,” I actually added a tally to everything by the Melvins that everyone else had said. Again, it’s not really a scientific thing polling demographic data, but it was a lot of fun.
Okay, here’s the list:
The Top 10 Greatest Stoner Rock Records Poll Results:
1. Kyuss, Welcome to Sky Valley (41 votes)
2. Sleep, Sleep’s Holy Mountain (27 votes)
3. Black Sabbath, Master of Reality (19 votes)
4. Kyuss,Blues for the Red Sun (18 votes)
5. Monster Magnet,Spine of God (15 votes)
5. Sleep,Dopesmoker(15 votes)
7. Electric Wizard, Dopethrone(14 votes)
7. Fu Manchu, In Search Of… (14 votes)
9. Queens of the Stone Age, Queens of the Stone Age (12 votes)
10. Fu Manchu, The Action is Go (10 votes)
As you can see, some real classics in there, and Welcome to Sky Valleywas far and away the winner, picked by 41 out of the 73 people (myself included), with Sleep and Black Sabbath behind. There were two ties at numbers five and seven, but beyond that, it’s a pretty clear picture of where people are at with their favorites.
What about everything else? Well, it was all counted. I broke all the entries down by number of votes and listed them by artist with albums in chronological order.