Quarterly Review: Ulver, Forming the Void, Hidden Trails, Svvamp, Black Mirrors, Endless Floods, Tarpit Boogie, Horseburner, Vermilion Whiskey, Hex Inverter

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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Feeling groovy heading into Day Two of the Spring 2017 Quarterly Review, and I hope you are as well. Today we dig into a pretty wide variety of whatnots, so make sure you’ve got your head with you as we go, because there are some twists and turns along the way. I mean it. Of all five days in this round, this one might be the most wild, so keep your wits intact. I’m doing my best to do the same, of course, but make no promises in that regard.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Ulver, The Assassination of Julius Caesar

ulver-the-assassination-of-julius-caesar

Norwegian post-everything specialists Ulver have reportedly called The Assassination of Julius Caesar (on House of Mythology) “their pop album,” and while the Nik Turner-inclusive freakout in second cut “Rolling Stone” (that may or may not be him on closer “Comign Home” as well) doesn’t quite fit that mold, the beats underscoring the earlier portion of that track, opener “Nemoralia” and the melodrama of “Southern Gothic” certainly qualify. Frontman/conceptual mastermind Kristoffer Rygg’s voice is oddly suited to this form – he carries emotionally weighted hooks like a melancholy George Michael on the electronically pulsating “Transverberation” and, like most works of pop, shows an obsession with the ephemeral in a slew of cultural references in “1969,” which in no way is likely to be mistaken for the Stooges song of the same name. While “So Falls the World” proves ridiculously catchy, “Coming Home” is about as close as Ulver actually come here to modern pop progression, and the Badalamenti-style low-end and key flourish in “1969” is a smooth touch, much of what’s happening in these eight tracks is still probably too complex to qualify as pop, but The Assassination of Julius Caesar is further proof that Ulver’s scope only grows more boundless as the years pass. The only limits they ever seem to know are the ones they leave behind.

Ulver on Twitter

House of Mythology website

 

Forming the Void, Relic

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Last year, Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void had the element of surprise working to their advantage when it came to the surprising progressive edge of their debut album, Skyward (review here). Now signed to Argonauta, the eight-song/55-minute follow-up, Relic, doesn’t need it. It finds Forming the Void once again working proggy nuance into big-riffed, spaciously vocalized fare on early cuts “After Earth” and “Endless Road,” but as the massive hook of “Biolazar” demonstrates, the process by which guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd meld their influences has become more cohesive and more their own. Accordingly, I’m not sure they need the 11-minute closing take on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” since by then the point is made in the lumber/plunder of “Plumes” and in the more tripped-out “Unto the Smoke” just before, but as indulgences go, it’s a relatively easy one to make. They’re still growing, but doing so quickly, and already they’ve begun to find a niche for themselves between styles that one hopes they’ll continue to explore.

Forming the Void on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Hidden Trails, Instant Momentary Bliss

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Though it keeps a wash of melodic keys in the background and its approach is resolutely laid back on the whole, “Beautiful Void” is nonetheless a major factor in the overall impression of Hidden Trails’ self-titled debut (on Elektrohasch), as its indie vibe and departure from the psychedelic prog of the first two cuts, “Lancelot” and “Mutations,” marks a major distinguishing factor between this outfit and Hypnos 69, in which the rhythm section of the Belgian trio played previously. “Ricky” goes on to meld acoustic singer-songwriterism and drones together, and “Hands Unfold” has a kind of jazzy bounce, the bassline of Dave Houtmeyers and drumming of Tom Vanlaer providing upbeat groove under Jo Neyskens’ bright guitar lead, but the anticipation of heavy psych/prog never quite leaves after the opening, and that doesn’t seem to be what the band wants to deliver. The sweetly harmonized acid folk of “Leaving Like That” is on a different wavelength, and likewise the alt-rock vibes of “Space Shuffle” and “Come and Play” and the grunge-chilled-out closer “Denser Diamond.” If there’s an issue with Hidden Trails, it’s one of the expectations I’m bringing to it as a listener and a fan of Houtmeyers’ and Vanlaer’s past work, but clearly it’s going to take me a little longer to get over the loss of their prior outfit. Maybe I’m just not ready to move on.

Hidden Trails on Thee Facebooks

Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

 

Svvamp, Svvamp

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Naturalist vibes pervade immediately from this late-2016 self-titled Svvamp debut (on RidingEasy Records) in the bassline to “Serpent in the Sky,” and in some of the post-Blue Cheer heavy blues sensibility, the Swedish trio bring to mind some of what made early Dirty Streets so glorious. Part of the appeal of Svvamp’s Svvamp, however, is that among the lessons it’s learned from heavy ‘70s rock and from Kadavar‘s own self-titled is to keep it simple. “Fresh Cream” is a resonant blues jam… that lasts two and a half minutes. The bouncing, turning “Oh Girl?” Three. Even the longest of its cuts, the slide-infused “Time,” the subdued roller “Big Rest” and the Marshall Tucker-esque finale “Down by the River,” are under five. This allows the three-piece of Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren to build significant momentum over the course of their 35-minute run, casting aside pretense in favor of aesthetic cohesion and an organic sensibility all the more impressive for it being their first record. Sweden has not lacked for boogie rock, but even the most relatively raucous moments here, as in the winding “Blue in the Face,” don’t seem overly concerned with what anyone else is up to, and that bodes remarkably well for Svvamp’s future output.

Svvamp on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Black Mirrors, Funky Queen

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There are few songs ever written that require whoever’s playing them to “bring it” more than MC5’s “Kick out the Jams.” True, it’s been covered many, many times over, but few have done it well. Belgium’s Black Mirrors signal riotous intent by including it as one of the four tracks of their Napalm Records debut EP, Funky Queen, along with the originals “Funky Queen,” “The Mess” and “Canard Vengeur Masqué,” and amid the post-Blues Pills stomp of “The Mess,” the mega-hook of the opening title-track and the more spacious five-plus-minute closer, which works elements of heavy psych into its bluesy push late to welcome effect, “Kick out the Jams” indeed brings a moment of relative cacophony, even if there’s no actual threat of the band losing control behind the powerful vocals of Marcella di Troia. As a first showing, Funky Queen would seem to be a harbinger, but it’s also a purposeful and somewhat calculated sampling of Black Mirrors’ wares, and I wouldn’t expect it to be long before an album follows behind expanding on the ideas presented in these tracks.

Black Mirrors on Thee Facebooks

Black Mirrors at Napalm Records

 

Endless Floods, II

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No doubt that for some who’d take it on, any words beyond “members of Monarch!” will be superfluous, but Bordeaux three-piece Endless Floods, who do indeed feature bassist/vocalist Stéphane Miollan and drummer Benjamin Sablon from that band, as well as guitarist Simon Bedy, have more to offer than pedigree on their three-song sophomore full-length, II (on Dry Cough vinyl and Breathe Plastic cassette). To wit, 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Impasse” rumbles out raw but spacious sludge that, though without keys or a glut of effects, and marked by the buried-deep screaming of Miollan, holds a potent sense of atmosphere so that the two-minute interlude “Passage” doesn’t seem out of place leading into the 19-minute lumber of “Procession,” which breaks shortly before its halfway point to bass-led minimalism in setting up the final build of the record. Slow churning intensity and longform sludge working coherently alongside ambient sensibilities and some genuinely disturbing noise? Yeah, that’ll do nicely. Thanks.

Endless Floods on Thee Facebooks

Dry Cough Records on Bandcamp

Breathe Plastic Records on Bandcamp

 

Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam

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Boasting four eight-plus-minute instrumentals, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam finds New Jersey trio Tarpit Boogie rife with classic style heavy rock chemistry, bassist John Eager running fills around the dense-toned riffing from guitarist George Pierro as drummer Chris Hawkins propels a surprising thrust on opener “FFF Heavy Jam.” I’ve been a fan of Pierro and Eager’s since we were bandmates a decade ago, so to hear them unfold “Chewbacca Jacket” from its tense opening to its righteously crashing finale is definitely welcome, but the 37-minute offering finds its true reasoning in the swing and shuffle of the eponymous “Tarpit Boogie,” which digs into the very challenge posed by the title – whether or not anyone taking on the album can handle its balance of sonic impact and exploratory feel – inclusive, in this case, of a drum solo that sets a foundation for a moment of Cactus-style rush ahead of a return to the song’s central progression to conclude. They round out with “1992 (Thank You Very Little),” Chevy Chase sample and all, bringing more crashing nod to a massive slowdown that makes it feel like the entire back half of the cut is one big rock finish. And so it is. A well-kept secret of Garden State heavy.

Tarpit Boogie on Thee Facebooks

Tarpit Boogie on Bandcamp

 

Horseburner, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil

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The self-released Dead Seeds, Barren Soil is Horseburner’s second full-length, and it arrived in 2016 from the four-piece some seven years after their 2009 debut, Dirt City. They’ve had a few shorter outings in between, demos and 2013’s Strange Giant EP, but the West Virginia four-piece of Adam Nohe, Chad Ridgway, Jack Thomas and Zach Kaufman seem to be shooting for a definitive statement of intent in the blend of heavy rock and modern, Baroness-style prog that emerges on opener “David” and finds its way into the galloping “Into Black Resolution,” the multi-tiered vocals of “A Newfound Purity” and even the more straight-ahead thrust of “The Soil’s Prayer.” Marked out by the quality of its guitar work and its clearly-plotted course, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil caps with “Eleleth,” which at just under eight minutes draws the heft and the complexity together for a gargantuan finish that does justice to the ground Horseburner just flattened as they left it behind.

Horseburner on Thee Facebooks

Horseburner on Bandcamp

 

Vermilion Whiskey, Spirit of Tradition

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Lafayette, Louisiana, five-piece Vermilion Whiskey telegraph participation in the New Wave of Dude Rock to the point of addressing their audience as “boy” in second cut “The Past is Dead,” and from the cartoon cleavage on the cover to the lack of irony between naming the record Spirit of Tradition and putting a song called “The Past is Dead” on it, they sell that well. The Kent Stump-mixed/Tony Reed-mastered six-tracker is the band’s second behind 2013’s 10 South, and basks in dudely, dudely dudeliness; Southern metal born more out of the Nola style than what, say, Wasted Theory are getting up to these days, but that would still fit on a bill with that Delaware outfit. If you think you’re dude enough for a song like “One Night,” hell, maybe you are. Saddle up. Listening to that and the chunky-style riff of closer “Loaded Up,” I feel like I might need hormone therapy to hit that level of may-yun, but yeah. Coherent, well written, tightly performed and heavy. Vermilion Whiskey might as well be hand-issuing dudes invitations to come drink with them, but they make a solid case for doing so.

Vermilion Whiskey on Thee Facebooks

Vermilion Whiskey on Bandcamp

 

Hex Inverter, Revision

hex-inverter-revision

If the cover art and a song title like “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts” weren’t enough of a tip-off, there’s a strong undercurrent of the unsettled to Hex Inverter’s second long-player, Revision. The Pennsylvania-based experimentalists utilize a heaping dose of drones to fill out arrangements of keys, guitar and noise that would otherwise be pretty minimal, and vocals come and go in pro- and depressive fashion. Texture proves the key as they embark on the linear centerpiece “Something Else,” with a first verse arriving over a sweetened bassline after four minutes into the total 9:58, and the wash of noise in “Daphne” obscures an avant neo-jazz groove late, so while opener “Cannibal Eyes” basks in foreboding ambience prior to an emotionally-driven and explosive crunch-beat payoff, one never quite knows what to expect next on Revision. That, of course, is essential to the appeal. They find an edge of rock in the aforementioned “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts,” but as the loops and synth angularity of closer “Fled (Deadverse Mix)” make plain, their intentions speak to something wider than even an umbrella genre.

Hex Inverter on Thee Facebooks

Hex Inverter on Bandcamp

 

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Endless Floods New Album II Due Jan. 6

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 23rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Preorders start Dec. 5 for the second album from Bordeaux-based doomers Endless Floods. Aptly titled II, the record itself will arrive right after the New Year as a follow-up to the band’s 2015 self-titled debut and a split with the Netherlands’ Uur and finds issue on vinyl through Dry Cough Records and the band’s own Fvtvrecordings, as well as cassette via Breathe Plastic Records. You don’t need me to tell you this, but Dry Cough and Breathe Plastic are two labels who’ve done an excellent job keeping their ears to the ground over the last several years for all things sludgy and extreme, so while there hasn’t been any audio come to the surface from II yet, it might be one to watch out for as we plunge deeper into winter’s biting harshness.

I’ll turn it over to the PR wire for particulars:

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French craftsmen of despair ENDLESS FLOODS to release their doom-laden new LP “II” this January 6th.

France’s cathartic doom specialists ENDLESS FLOODS announce the release of their second full-length “II” this January 6th. A realm of darkness awaits.

Following on from their self-titled debut and split EP with Dutch doomsters Uur, ENDLESS FLOODS’ new album “II” will be released this January 6th, 2017 on vinyl format via Dry Cough Records and Fvtvrecordings, and on cassette tape via Breathe Plastic Records.

On this new offering, the French trio digs deeper within the realm of bleakness they established on their debut “Endless Floods”, making the listener enter a trance-like contemplation through the 20+ minute-long monoliths “Impasse” and “Procession”. In the same vein as their previous works, ENDLESS FLOODS blend their doom and sludge origins with noisier tones and crisper drone-sounding parts, following their path in a never-ending land of heavy. Straight from the limbo, crushing, boundary-free doom.

ENDLESS FLOODS – New album “II”
Out January 6th on Dry Cough Records / Breathe Plastic Records
Vinyl pre-orders from December 5th

The Bordelais trio released their self-titled debut in 2015, which was reissued on cassette tape via Breathe Plastic Records in February 2016. The band subsequently released a split EP with Dutch doomers UUR this May, which artwork was designed by Derek Setzer. The prolific ENDLESS FLOODS have already announced the release of their sophomore full-length “II” this January 6th, 2017 on vinyl via Dry Cough Records and the band’s label Fvtvrecordings, as well as on cassette tape via Breathe Plastic Records.

https://www.facebook.com/endlessfloods/
https://endlessfloods.bandcamp.com/
https://soundcloud.com/endlessfloods
http://www.drycoughrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/breatheplastic/

Endless Floods, Endless Floods (2015)

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Renate/Cordate, Growth: New Conjuring

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 21st, 2014 by JJ Koczan

renate cordate growth

Finnish four-piece Renate/Cordate (also stylized lowercase as renate/cordate) were last heard from with their early 2013 self-titled debut full-length (review here), which was a solidly constructed and smooth sounding execution of heavy psychedelia. Reminiscent at times of My Sleeping Karma‘s ultra-fluid push, it showed the then-instrumental outfit had room to grow but already a decent idea of what they were going for tonally and in terms of process. A good start, in other words. Twenty-one months later, they return with Growth, which the respected purveyor Breathe Plastic Records will release on tape in December, their sophomore outing comprised of four mostly extended tracks that come from a different enough stylistic base that I had to double-check and make sure I was listening to the same band the first time I put it on. With only one of the four cuts under 10 minutes long, Renate/Cordate have blown out their expansion to a cosmic degree, churning opener “Evolve, Submit” around Ufomammut-style repetition and following a psychedelic doom path of deep-echoing vocals around what seems a chaos swirl of massive tonality, hypnotic and deep. Working with Niko Lehdontie of countrymen psychedelonauts and Svart Records inductees Domovoyd to add extra effects to the wash, Renate/Cordate — the same lineup as last time of guitarists Ville and Samuli (the latter also vocals), bassist Aki and drummer Antti-Pekka — present such a stylistic turn that I’m tempted to think of Growth as a debut and of the self-titled as a demo for how much more solidified and clear-headed in their purpose the band seems to be. At very least, you could say the album is aptly-named.

And if the shift in sound is jarring, it’s bound to be less so for anyone who didn’t hear Renate/Cordate‘s debut and for whom Growth marks their first exposure to their work. It is an expansive 43 minutes, still perhaps vinyl-ready, though they’d more likely get rid of third track “Laudanum” and dedicate the whole of side B to the 17-minute closer “Mother” for ease of time. Side A, then, would be the back-to-back 10-minute post-doom wallops of “Evolve, Submit” and “Humankind (Not My Kind),” which quickly announce the band’s new direction in their sprawl and atmospheric take. The record is a big jump from where they were last year, and clearly a purposeful one, but not all of the elements from Renate/Cordate, the album, are gone. One can still hear the airy ringing of Russian Circles-style post-rock guitar presiding over the mix as the opener rolls past its third minute and into the first of Growth‘s encompassing space-doom nods. Heavy crashing leads to a quiet break of minimalist guitar — one of their most Ufomammut moments — and “Evolve, Submit” explodes again into cascades of echoing riffs that set a lot of the atmospheric course for what follows, rounding out with a long fade of feedback into dreamy synth that pushes forward into the quiet guitar opening of “Humankind (Not My Kind),” which is more about the tradeoffs than was “Evolve, Submit,” but no less ably conceived. An extended subdued intro builds for the first three and a half minutes before pushing into its first heavier section. The lull has the effect of drawing a listener further in, and should Renate/Cordate continue in this direction — after the difference between their first two albums, I wouldn’t speculate as to where they might go on a third — I wouldn’t be surprised to find them toying more with that feeling of stillness and the juxtaposition against pummeling riffs, but even here, they’re able to transition easily from light to heavy and heavy to light, as they do on “Humankind (Not My Kind),” taking the song all the way down to silence before rebuilding their way to the tone-wash apex that ends out.

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The shorter “Laudanum” follows and is more immediate in its riffing though ultimately just as spacious as the rest of what surrounds, even finding room in its six minutes for a jammy midsection break that boasts some especially satisfying guitar work holding the tension until the heavier tones reemerge and thrust into a louder and louder burst of noise. If there are vocals — and there might well be — they are buried deep enough in the mix that they’re indistinguishable from a sample. All you get is a vague human presence, and it works to the song’s advantage, cutting out right before the thrust of the final echoing solo, deconstructed along with everything else to bring about the 16:53 concluding statement, “Mother.” Begun on a foundation of bass and drums backed by swirl and ambient noise, “Mother” unfurls essentially as a combination of everything else Renate/Cordate do on the album structurally, bridging the gap between a loud/quiet interplay and an extended linear build by simply doing both. Before its first four minutes are through, it has built up and peaked and moved to an ethereal, almost jazzy peacefulness, but the crushing reignites several minutes later, only to once again fall back past seven minutes in. This is the key transition, since the band uses this stillness as the starting point for the trip to to Growth‘s last crescendo. The turn happens right around the 12:30 mark, but by then, it’s less about payoff than just going where the band takes you, and that winds up being Renate/Cordate‘s greatest success with their second album. They’ve accomplished this change in style, which is all well and good, but they’ve managed to hold onto the immersive nature of what they did on their self-titled as well, and that only makes the ending of “Mother” more consuming and thus more satisfying. Yes, it’s wildly heavy, and yes, it’s a suitable ending, but what leaves an even more resonant impression is the ability of the band to retain their control over their sound even at its most unbridled. If they do wind up staying on this path, or if they don’t, that can only serve them well as they continue to progress.

[PLEASE NOTE: I’ve been given permission by Renate/Cordate to host a full stream of Growth for your listening pleasure. I hope you’ll give it a shot on the player below and enjoy.]

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

Renate/Cordate on Thee Facebooks

Renate/Cordate on Bandcamp

Breathe Plastic Records

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Electric Citizen Debut EP Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 4th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Due out for release next month, the self-titled debut EP from Ohio five-piece Electric Citizen is certain to make an impression with its strong traditional folk melodies and underlying ’70s rock crunch, taking cultish cues from European acts like The Devil’s Blood and Mansion, but stripping away the religious iconography to leave behind an earthy psychedelic swirl. The retro-style production, especially one so ably done, is a rarity among American acts, who usually bring such influences to bear with a modern feel, but Electric Citizen sound like old pros on their first outing, which can be preordered now on vinyl through The Crossing and on tape through Breathe Plastic.

For ease of linkery, here are both:

Tape preorder: http://breatheplastic.bandcamp.com/album/electric-citizen-ep

Vinyl preorder: http://thecrossingzine.com/store/vinyl/electric-citizen/

Breathe Plastic announced today that their tapes will ship next month. You’ll find that pressing info included below from the PR wire, along with the Bandcamp stream of the four-track release, to get acquainted. Dig:

Electric Citizen pre-orders up!

Breathe Plastic release number 10 is Electric Citizen.

Their debut EP is now available to pre-order on cassette. Witchy 70s metal from Cincinnati, Ohio. A hauntingly beautiful combination of West Coast psych and dark, medieval folk that the summer of ’68 longed for.

Released as an edition of 100, orange shelled, cassettes it comes with a free Electric Citizen button!

Pre-order it here: breatheplastic.bandcamp.com/album/electric-citizen-ep

For Fans Of: Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, Budgie, Blood Ceremony, Kadavar, Purson

Note: This is a pre-order and won’t ship until early December!

Electric Citizen, Electric Citizen (2013)

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Nonsun, Sun Blind Me

Posted in Radio on August 21st, 2013 by JJ Koczan

The crux of Nonsun‘s Sun Blind Me is set early on, as the Ukrainian duo of Goatooth (vocals/guitar/bass) and Alpha (drums) unfold the first of their latest release’s four massive tracks with an ultra-patient, ultra-dark droning atmosphere. That song, “Rain Have Mercy,” is the longest at 11:57 (immediate points), but consistent in its sprawl and intent with the rest of Sun Blind Me, having been extended from a prior version included on the Lviv twosome’s last outing, 2012’s Good Old Evil, which was dubbed an EP though it ranged close to 50 minutes. Sun Blind Me follows this ethic as well, and between “Rain Have Mercy” and the subsequent “Forgotten is What Never Was” (11:22) is comprised half of older material and half of newer — the latter two cuts, “Alphomega (Part I: Sunlit Darkness)” and “Alphomega (Part II: Upward Blindness)” taking the drone and the darkly metallic plod that offsets it to even more inhuman-sounding aesthetic cohesion.

Nearly everything I’ve seen from Nonsun in terms of press quotes marks them out as a sludge band, and indeed they do themselves as well, but I disagree, at least if you’re looking at sludge in the sense of acts like EyeHateGod or Iron Monkey. Where chaos is part of the appeal in the work of those outfits, Nonsun come across as much more complex, the “Alphomega” two-parter taking its time even more than the first two songs on Sun Blind Me in moving between a mounting static noise of the first part to the emergence of an overlaying guitar part over the more minimalist second. At first, it seemed strange to me that Nonsun would open with older songs before moving into newer ones, but with the last half of Sun Blind Me being instrumental and even more broiled in its droning morass, it ultimately makes sense. That’s not to say “Rain Have Mercy” or “Forgotten is What Never Was” are particularly accessible, but at least there are vocals, and it shows that whatever Goatooth and Alpha might bring to their newest outing, they’re not willing yet to give up completely the methodologies they proffered on their debut.

As for those, I’d mark them more in league with a droned-out take on Euro-doom than sludge, though that influence may well be at work as well. There’s a sense of a plan at work throughout Sun Blind Me, though, and that remains so even as “Alphomega (Part II: Upward Blindess)” moves into the Earth-style sparseness of its second half, sounding mechanical while even for being plenty brutal in their own right, “Rain Have Mercy” and “Forgotten is What Never Was” eventually come around to the human element of vocals, growled and lurching though those vocals may be. Whatever sphere they’re working in and however drone-heavy that sphere might wind up being, Nonsun present a caustic but hypnotic take on tonal weight and a vague industrial influence without coming off as trying to reside in one genre or another. Their sound is clearly still in development, as indicated by the progress in approach from the first offering to the next, but they seem to be heading in a fascinating direction and I’ll look forward to finding out where it might go from here when and if they embark on an official full-length debut or subsequent EP or single.

Listen to Sun Blind Me as part of the playlist in regular rotation on The Obelisk Radio now. Already distributed digitally by Drowning, Nonsun will issue a tape of Sun Blind Me through Breathe Plastic that’s due out soon. You can also listen to it on the Bandcamp player below:

Nonsun, Sun Blind Me (2013)

Nonsun on Thee Facebooks

Breathe Plastic

Drowning

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Duuude, Tapes! Black Mare, Field of the Host

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on July 23rd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Those familiar with the ambience-prone style of vocalist Sera Timms through her contributions to outfits Black Math Horseman — their 2009 offering, Wyllt, still holds up — or Ides of Gemini, who made their first appearance with last year’s Constantinople (track stream here), will be fairly well prepared for the kind of atmospheres she brings to her first solo outing under the moniker Black Mare. The album, Field of the Host, is comprised of seven tracks, and found release this past Spring on limited vinyl through The Crossing and on tape through Breathe Plastic Records.

I opted for the latter. A couple weeks ago, seeing that Field of the Host was dangerously close to selling out on tape, I decided it was time to get one before it was too late. No regrets. Though it showed up with the case cracked — thank you, postal service — the package turned out to be of exceptional quality, with the liner printed on photo paper with lyrics inventively laid out on the inside two panels and the fold of the case, all designed by Timms herself. As I understand it, the vinyl came with a collection of her photos as well, but though there’s no room for such things with cassettes, Field of the Host brings an individual sensibility all the same to a format usually thought of as wholly lacking one — runes on the tape and a smoky dark plastic mirroring the sound of the full-length itself even as the stark font gives an impression of some of the songs’ minimalism.

There is plenty of that to be found in these cuts, I guess, but I have a hard time of thinking of Field of the Host as being bare in any way, mostly because of the echoing effects Timms incorporates for her vocals and the guitars, bass and drums — she plays all the instruments but for some extra guitar on “Fighting Birds” and “Ashlar” credited to Bryan Tulao — and the effectiveness of the atmospheres created. Stretches vary on either side of a loud/soft dynamic, “Saturn’s Grave” ending side one with what’s a cacophony as compared to the quiet moment of the penultimate “Isa” on side two, but in whatever context she’s working, Timms brings a consistently exploratory mood to the material, layering in sonically rich reverb and echo. Drums are present, but deep in the mix. Bass you almost don’t realize is there until it swallows you whole. Guitars rise out of the same fog in post-rock splendor — too clearheaded to be psychedelic, but as otherworldly as you please — and even with the side-change break between “Saturn’s Grave” and “Ashlar,” the dense hypnotism in Field of the Host is maintained front to back.

Principally, the music is evocative. It engages via atmosphere rather than hooks, and Timms creates a sense of wash from the first plucked notes of “Blind One” introducing the ghostly swirl that runs a thread throughout the album as a whole, bringing to mind any number of landscapes, most of them covered in a morning mist. Nothing throughout the tape sounds egregiously repetitive — that is, more repetitive than it’s meant to sound — but I can’t help but wonder what Timms would sound like with her voice not drenched in effects as it is here how songs like “Tearer” or the sweetly concluding “Cybele” might be shifted or the overall dynamic of Field of the Host might be different if that wash became, like the swells and recessions of volume, another element for Timms to manipulate along the way.

That’s not a complaint with the aesthetic of Field of the Host — more like a point of potential growth for Timms‘ next outing as Black Mare, which I hope is not long in arriving. Though her work in Ides of Gemini and Black Math Horseman has defined her career at this point, it could just be Black Mare that winds up as the truest expression of Timms as an artist and the vehicle through which she continues to refine her unflinchingly creative approach.

In the meantime, I’m really glad I bought this tape.

Black Mare, Field of the Host (2013)

Black Mare on Thee Facebooks

Breathe Plastic Records

The Crossing

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