Who the hell’s gonna have a problem taking a couple minutes out of their day to watch Brant Bjork roll around the desert in a primo boogie van with a soundtrack featuring a choice cut from his latest album? Obviously not me. “Luvin'” is the second video to come from Tao of the Devil (review here), which is out now on Napalm Records, behind one for “Stackt” (posted here), and it works on much the same theme vis a vis Bjork being in the desert, going to a bar with a shorty-shorts ladyfriend and ensuing whatnot. In this case, said ladyfriend swipes his van and the relationship would seem to come to an unceremonious conclusion — perhaps in part because of her propensity for littering that beautiful landscape with his maps — but Bjork gets his in the end, reclaiming the van and driving off into the sunset.
All told, it’s a cool track and a good bit of fun and I don’t think it aspires to be anything more than that or necessarily needs to. As much as Bjork has become an ambassador and figurehead for California’s desert rock legacy over the last several years — and even more since hooking up with Napalm before issuing Black Power Flower (review here) in 2014 — he’s maintained a level of cool to his persona that I think extends both to the music he makes and the visuals that come with it. Shit, at this point, you don’t need me to tell you to check out Tao of the Devil. If you haven’t already done so, that’s probably a conscious decision on your part and almost certainly your loss. Imagine being 17 years out from your first solo record and coming around with some of your best work yet. Really. Take a second and think about that. However you feel about the style or whatever, the dude is doing something special.
That’s my spiel. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band head back to Europe next month, hooking up with Italy’s Black Rainbows (ambassadors in their own right) for a couple weeks of touring. You’ll find those dates listed under the video below.
Brant Bjork, “Luvin'” official video
The wait is finally over, as BRANT BJORK has released his brand new masterpiece! Tao Of The Devil is more focused than its predecessor Black Power Flower and boasts a more song-oriented and groovy stoner sound, with a healthy dose of 70s style greatness.
Low Desert Punk Brant Bjork, king of the sweetest flow and forever kissed by the burning sun of Southern Cali will be hitting the road all over Europe quite soon. Find all dates listed below:
BRANT BJORK European tour: 03.11.16 DE – Osnabrück / Bastard Club 04.11.16 NL – Deventer / Burger Weeshuis 05.11.16 DE – Erfurt / Stadtgarten 06.11.16 BE – Hasselt / Mod 07.11.16 UK – London / Garage 08.11.16 FR – Paris / Divan Du Monde 09.11.16 DE – Wiesbaden / Schlachthof 10.11.16 DE – München / Backstage 11.11.16 AT – Graz / PPC 12.11.16 GR – Athen / An Club 14.11.16 AT – Wien / Arena 15.11.16 CH – Zürich / Rote Fabrik 16.11.16 DE – Karlsruhe / Substage 17.11.16 DE – Köln / Live Music Hall 18.11.16 DE – Dresden / Beatpol 19.11.16 DE – Berlin / Columbia Theater 20.11.16 DE – Hamburg / Logo
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
There hasn’t yet been a physical pressing of Sleep‘s 2014 single, The Clarity (review here), that hasn’t sold completely through, and I wouldn’t expect any different from this forthcoming Feb. 2017 Southern Lord edition either. Guitarist Matt Pike (do I really need to say he’s also in High on Fire?) has said publicly that Sleep will record a new album next year as well, so whether this is a precursor to that, I don’t know, but given that it was five years between their first getting back together in 2009 and putting out The Clarity, it seems fair to think they’ll take their time with a what would be their first full-length since the now-legendary Dopesmoker, released some 15 years ago. Maybe 2018?
I don’t know. Sometimes my suppositions on that kind of thing are way off — certainly not like I saw The Clarity coming at the time — so don’t by any means take my baseless speculation as any kind of authority. Bottom line is that whenever it shows up, if it does, a new Sleep will be welcome, at least around these parts. If it’s another pressing of The Clarity in the interim, so be it.
From the PR wire:
SLEEP’s “The Clarity” 12″ To Receive Official Pressing Via Southern Lord
Southern Lord Recordings is pleased to announce the impending re-release of SLEEP’s “The Clarity.” The special 12″ contains the first new song from the band in nearly two decades.
Initially released digitally as part of the Adult Swim Singles Program in 2014, SLEEP’s “The Clarity” is the first new track the band released since their critically-adored, 1998-released Dopesmoker album. Afterward, the band issued a very limited run of the song on vinyl which was sold exclusively at their live shows and the band’s online store. Having been out-of-print in physical format since, Southern Lord will now re-release the mammoth track for official distribution.
Recorded by Neurosis’ Noah Landis and mastered by John Golden, the near ten-minute-long “The Clarity” has been re-cut by Adam Gonsalves at Telegraph Mastering for this new pressing, which will see release on 180-gram 12″ vinyl pressed at RTI. The B-side of the platter features a special etching of the artwork by David V. D’Andrea (Samaritan Press), and will be housed in a heavyweight picture disc-style sleeve, silkscreened with the SLEEP logo.
The Clarity will see re-release in February 2017, with preorder info and more to follow shortly. Find other SLEEP titles and merch in the meantime RIGHT HERE.
Remaining one of the most widely-respected and influential acts in the stoner/doom metal universe, SLEEP’s popularity has grown tremendously since their reformation in 2009. The reborn lineup, reuniting bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (OM) and guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike (High Oh Fire), and including drummer Jason Roeder (Neurosis), SLEEP continues to do what they have always done; largely and without pause, make music in tune with the ages.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Well, we still don’t have a full tracklisting, artwork, or a solid release date, but more details have come through about the rare tracks comp, Salt the Dead: The Rare and Unreleased, that is serving as the marker for Hour of 13‘s reactivation, first announced here. The forthcoming comp on Shadow Kingdom will be the band’s first outing since 2012’s 333 (discussed here) and in detailing the origins of some of the tracks included, the label paints an image covering the band’s entire (initial run), and then goes as far as to confirm a new album in the works for 2017. My understanding is there are some contingencies to align before founding multi-instrumentalist Chad Davis and company hit the studio — for example, who “company” is — but however and whenever they get there, it seems inevitable if Hour of 13 is truly going to be a band again that a next record would happen at some juncture. Now the question is, will they tour?
Looking forward to this one, which will reportedly be out before the end of this year. Shadow Kingdom forwarded this along the PR wire:
HOUR OF 13 rejoin forces with Shadow Kingdom!
SHADOW KINGDOM RECORDS is proud to present a long-overdue demos & rarities collection from thee immortal HOUR OF 13, appropriately titled Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased. Across this massive collection, one will find HOUR OF 13’s very first steps into doom metal godhood, alongside alternate recordings of fan favorites.
Listening to Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased, it becomes quickly apparent that something truly special was being birthed upon the band’s first recorded notes. The first half of this collection – or sides A and B of the double-vinyl edition – comprise demos recorded in 2007. The first three songs were the very first written by HOUR OF 13 in November 2006 and then recorded not long after; the next five songs were recorded nearly a year later. Together, these eight songs would form the foundation of the band’s now-classic debut album, released by SHADOW KINGDOM as Hour of 13. Although recognizably HOUR OF 13, these early demo versions of the debut album’s songs have slightly different arrangements while others have slightly different vocals, but every single bit of the band’s trademark atmosphere is plentiful and poignant. Verily, this is the sound of lingering incense and burning blood.
During the second half of Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased, we find a number of alternate recordings, some with special circumstances surrounding them. On side C is an alternate full-band recording of “Call To Satan,” recorded at the HOUR OF 13 rehearsal spot, alongside an alternate version of “The Rites of Samhain” with fully correct lyric placement and vocals by main man Chad Davis. But most poignantly is the song “Upon Black Wings We Die,” written and recorded within a matter of a few hours upon hearing the news of the passing of Jason McCash from The Gates Of Slumber. On side D are the complete Candlemass Eve Recordings, the second rehearsal with Beaten Back to Pure’s Ben Hogg on vocals: all recorded in a single session on a Zoom H2 microphone in the room, captured here with a newfound energy and stirring vocal performance. Feel the ancient atmosphere of early metal rehearsal rooms of yesteryear here!
As founder Chad Davis states in the liner notes to Salt The Dead: The Rare And Unreleased, “This album documents the times and tribulations that had shrouded HOUR OF 13, the early days of rejuvenation along with the dark days of contemplation, and serve as a testament of an entity capable of withstanding any obstacle in its path.” So far, the definitive HOUR OF 13 collection – and the cultest. Praise Him and enter the abyss!
More news regarding the track listing and album cover will be revealed soon!
HOUR OF 13 are currently working on a new album for 2017! More news will follow soon about that as well.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 19th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Limited run split with Fatso Jetson and just about anybody would be a pretty easy sell, but they do pair surprisingly well with Dutch heavy surfers del-Toros, whose inclusion, “Die Cast,” starts out with a dice roll and comes topped with samples and reverb in kind. That’s over on the B-side, where on the front end, Fatso Jetson present “Dream Homes,” the organ-laced instrumental that could also recently be found closing off their new album, Idle Hands (review here). Since both tracks are instrumental — those samples notwithstanding — the 11-minute outing feels like it’s over even quicker than that, but each band uses their time wisely in the pursuit of their own brand of heavy rock, and if nothing else, the release reminds of how close the desert and the ocean’s waves can sometimes feel.
Preorders are up now from Shattered Platter ahead of the Nov. 25 Record Store Day Black Friday release. The PR wire has the official announcement:
Fatso Jetson/del-Toros – Record Store Day
California’s own Fatso Jetson and the Netherlands’ own del-Toros are two groups separated by continents but brought together by a sonic linear correlation of Fender powered, boulder heavy tone. Shattered Platter has documented these two together as part of a limited 7″ release to be made available in time for Record Store Day – Black Friday (November 25th, 2016).
Fatso Jetson’s track recorded and mixed with Mathias Schneeberger at Donner and Blitzen Studio in Los Angeles, CA with additional recording at Electric Lalli Land Studios in San Pedro, CA. Del-Toros track recorded at Bootleg Studios with Peter Van Elderen in Eindhoven, NL. Both tracks mastered with care and precision by Peter Lyman of Infrasonic Recordings in Los Angeles, CA and with a landscape illustrative design by Jack C. Gregory.
From the burning sands of Palm Desert, CA, the desert rock pioneers Fatso Jetson took a formula of Sabbath level heaviness and hardcore punk, expanded it by infusing jazz riffs and surf reverb. Forming in the 1990’s, they have releases on iconic US labels such as SST, Man’s Ruin, Bongload Custom, Cobraside and international heavy dealers Go Down & Heavy Psych Sounds. They have toured the United States and Europe with such groups as Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, The Atomic Bitchwax & Yawning Man along with being invited to play domestic and international festivals such as SXSW, Stoned From The Underground, Roadburn, and Desertfest(s) throughout Europe.
From the North Holland city of Alkmaar, surf rock dealers del-Toros combine heavy rock music and surf guitar to form one massive sound. If they were around at the time, they would have been the ideal candidates to compose the soundtrack to Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill !Kill !Kill! Since forming in 2008, they have released albums on European boutique labels such as Undertow Recordings and Lighttown Fidelity; this split will be their debut for the United States area. del – Toros have toured throughout the Netherlands and into Scandinavia, performing alongside Peter Pan Speedrock, Honky and The Turbo A.C’s.
Track list: Side A: Fatso Jetson – Dream Homes Side B: del-Toros – Die Cast
Posted in Reviews on October 13th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you want to check Lo Sound Desert‘s credentials as a labor of love, look no further than the fact that it exists. Directed and produced by Berlin-based filmmaker Jörg Steineck, it is the result of a full decade’s labors and not one, but two crowdfunding campaigns, and through a wide swath of interviews, archival footage, old photos and stories, it undertakes an ambitious exploration of what it is about the area outside of Los Angeles that led to the birth of desert rock.
Steineck, who splits the film into two smaller chapters — titled “Backyard Rebellion” and “The Outskirts of Town” — should be remembered from his work on the 2011 documentary Fuzzomentary: A Film About a Band Called Truckfighters (review here). He speaks with figures and figureheads out of the scene that sprang up from punk teens in the 1980s and paints a general portrait of what we now call desert rock as the result of some of the same impulses that gave birth elsewhere to grunge and alt rock, or for that matter to punk itself: bored kids with energy to spend, looking to spend it.
Appropriately, the first voice we hear is Brant Bjork. The former Kyuss and Fu Manchu drummer and head of his own Low Desert Punk Band sets us underway with a discussion of the landscape, but it’s not long before Lo Sound Desert digs its heels into the music itself, which becomes the clear center of attention throughout. Along the way, we hear extensively from the likes of Throw Rag‘s Sean Wheeler, guitarist/vocalist Mike Moracha and bassist/vocalist Nick Nava of Hornss, who trace their roots back to desert outfit Solarfeast, Zach Huskey and Joe Dillon of Dali’s Llama, Scott Reeder (we even get to see his chihuahua, Scooter, in a couple shots), Nick Oliveri, Mario Lalli — who, it seems to be unanimously agreed, started the whole thing — as well as members of acts like Unsound, Nebula, You Know Who, House of Broken Promises, Slo Burn, Half Astro, and so on.
There are a few conspicuous absences — Yawning Man is discussed but Gary Arce never appears, and neither John Garcia nor Chris Goss are there to participate in the discussion of Kyuss — but an interview with Josh Homme (footage from which also appeared in the Fuzzomentary) produces some choice one-liners, and by no means is Lo Sound Desert light when it comes to story.
Rather, it seems the central challenge of the film, perhaps apart from making it actually happen, is that it’s trying to encompass 30 years of rock and roll history into one 90-minute spread. Many of these players could fill that time just with their own story. Certainly Lalli, whose time as a club owner, show-organizer and restaurateur in addition to playing with Across the River, Fatso Jetson, the Sort of Quartet and Yawning Man, is touched upon, but could fill out a feature-length documentary by himself.
And Homme, Bjork, Huskey, Reeder are also fodder for further exploration. Hell, you could do 120 minutes on Kyuss getting signed to Elektra — something touched on, somewhat humorously — and still have enough left over for bonus footage, though for what it’s worth, Lo Sound Desert offers plenty of that as well; about an hour front-to-back divided into smaller clips.
So one imagines that Steineck‘s principal task as sorting all those stories of playing in garages, working shitty jobs — Moracha and Nava win in that regard; I won’t spoil it — finding spaces out in the desert beyond the reach of law enforcement, opening and closing clubs and the rest into a cohesive, linear story. He gives the film the full title, Lo Sound Desert: Two Chapters on Rock Music by Jörg Steineck. Yes, it could easily be eight chapters, or 10, but Steineck‘s success in bringing form to the amorphous life experiences of these players and characters is undeniable.
After an initial inhale giving background on the setting around Palm Springs, Palm Desert and the small towns surrounding, he moves quickly through the evolution of sound that took place through the ’80s and ’90s and which continues today both in the output of desert-based bands and heavy rockers worldwide taking influence from them. The stories told entertain, the music is brash and rough and formative and suitably romantic for that, and while the audience to which Steineck is speaking is expected to have some knowledge of the genre, he does well to balance broad overview and deep-dive personal narrative in such a way as to provide an engaging experience for newcomers as well as longtime converts.
Some interviews lean more toward performance than others, and sometimes it feels like there’s simply too much tale to tell, but through clever editing and interludes, Steineck provides a steady hand to guide the viewer through this barrage of tales of playing out in the middle of nowhere, underage drinking and partying, skateboarding and trying to define what happened in the desert that made desert rock different from grunge or anything else happening at the time.
Several of the answers to that question are practical. Desert rockers tuned lower, allowing for a meatier sound than the post-punk that emerged in the same era elsewhere, but it’s Lalli who ultimately nails the core difference in a bonus feature discussion of what is stoner rock when he says it’s about the jam. Principally, we find out that the freedom provided to these bands via the landscape, via playing outside — the second chapter here centers largely on generator parties and their effect on emerging acts like Kyuss and Fatso Jetson, Yawning Man, etc. — and via an utter lack of expectation on the part of their audience allowed for a freeform approach to essentially recast punk rock in their own image.
That era may have been short-lived, just a couple years, but its effects are broad reaching, as an included family tree of bands in the DVD liner and as the interviews included show. While Steineck joins Huskey and Wheeler and Reeder in looking around at what the desert was and the creative community that flourished there seemingly unaware of the odds it was working against, he also brings a look at the continued vitality of the scene in footage captured from the 2011 Desert Moon Ranch fest, at which Wheeler, Waxy, Fatso Jetson, You Know Who, Hornss, House of Broken Promises, Dali’s Llama and more played.
Though the conversation inevitably doesn’t go as in-depth as that of the history behind these acts and their influence/influences, it does give an opportunity to glimpse modern desert rock as a mature, varied sound that has continued to thrive across a span of years that has seen competing styles like grunge rise perhaps to greater heights of commercial success, but likewise dissipate wholesale. Like the land itself, desert rock has worked on a longer timeline. So be it.
Later on, nods to Homme‘s work as ambassador for the scene and sound in Queens of the Stone Age is acknowledged, and we get to see footage of Fatso Jetson in Germany at Stoned from the Underground, while backstage, guitarist Dino von Lalli (also of BigPig; son to Mario) discusses the rise of a new generation of rockers out in the vast nowhere, working out the same energy as their forebears, perhaps more extreme in style but recognizable in their restlessness for sure. That conversation leaves room for the summary of what “desert rock,” as an idea, ultimately means.
Opinions, as one might expect, vary — but as Lo Sound Desert has made plain by then, that variety is half the point. As much as heavy rock and roll worldwide has taken on genre characteristics over particularly the last two decades in the wake of Kyuss‘ relatively widespread influence, the roots from which this particular branch of it grew seem only to have benefited from the huge sky and open land surrounding.
I don’t know if it’s fair to expect more chapters in Steineck‘s narrative, since Lo Sound Desert itself was such an undertaking. There’s room certainly to ask about what could’ve been in a post-grunge commercial movement for desert rock, which some might argue was attempted and ultimately floundered outside perhaps of Queens of the Stone Age, but among shorter clips of driving through canyons, band rehearsals, technical issues at the Desert Moon Ranch fest, etc., the bonus features also include a fascinating and much needed reflection on what is “stoner rock” and what the difference between that and desert rock might be.
This question, which plainly irks Nebula even in the asking, is core to the feature and if Steineck were ever to engage the larger issue of how the sound translated from the Californian desert into the worldwide underground phenomenon it has become, would be all the more necessary, but even as it’s presented here, it’s one more insight that allows these players a voice they’ve long since deserved to discuss their work and the context of the history it has made and is still making.
In its pace, balance, editing and the clear passion as its driving force, Lo Sound Desert holds a mirror up to one of rock’s most crucial movements of the last 30 years and allows it to speak for itself at last, unfiltered and as raw as a speaker cone with sand blown in it. It should be considered essential viewing, whatever one thinks they already know of its story.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Anytime you’re ready to get weird, Jason Simon is already there. To the best of my knowledge, Familiar Haunts is the Dead Meadow frontman’s first solo album since his 2010 eponymous debut came out on Tee Pee, and even as he jumps styles from psych-outlaw to fuzzy drift, it might be even harder to keep up with all the labels involved putting the new one out. I count four between Tekeli-Li, Cardinal Fuzz, Burger Records and Blind Blind Tiger, but there might be one or two more in there — I wouldn’t make a promise either way. Understandable to get a bunch of support behind it, both because of Simon‘s pedigree and the swagger of the 11-minute “Wheels Will Spin,” which seems to sum up the mindset of the whole release while also spacing out in a satisfyingly meandering jam.
Admittedly, I’m a little behind on the release, so you can stream the album in full on the player below and hear “Wheels Will Spin” and the rest of it for yourself before you dive into picking a label and/or format for your purchase. Info from the PR wire:
Familiar Haunts by Jason Simon
Jason Simon, best known for his work as the guitarist and singer for the seminal heavy psych band Dead Meadow, releases his new solo record Familiar Haunts on Cardinal Fuzz / Tekeli-Li Records. Cassettes available from Blind Blind Tiger and Burger records. For Familiar Haunts Jason takes his love of the haunting Appalachian banjo playing of Dock Boggs and old time Americano Folk music to create a heady mix where wheezing organs come up against Maestro like drum machines and delivers on the weirdness inherent in old folk/country and blues tunes.
All the various strains of Cosmic Psychedelia that run through the grooves here you can find as you dip into the opening cut “The People Dance, The People Sing” as a twanging droning raga like guitar eventually slides into wild tangles of heavy swirling clouds of psych bliss. Tracks drift from the heady to the etheral to churning and heavy deserty dirges as Jason Simon emerges from the eerie haze.
Tracklisting: 1. The People Dance, The People Sing 04:28 2. Without Reason or Right 03:54 video 3. Now I’m Telling You 03:44 4. Pretty Polly 03:24 5. Seven Sisters of Sleep 04:11 6. Hills of Mexico 06:05 7. Wheels Will Spin 10:59 8. I Found the Thread 03:36
Jason Simon : guitar and vox Scott Seltzer : Bass Jon Randono : organ, synth, electric balama James Acton : percussion
Posted in Reviews on October 7th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Last day. As ever, I am mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted by this process, but as ever, it’s been worth it. Today I do myself a couple favors in packing out with more familiar acts, but whatever, it’s all stuff I should be covering anyway, so if the order bothers you, go write your own 50 reviews in a week and we can talk about it. Yeah, that’s right. That’s what I said. Today we start with Swans. Everything’s a confrontation.
Once again, I hope you’ve found something somewhere along this bizarre, careening path of music that has resonated with you, something that will stick with you. That’s why we’re here. You and me. If you have, I’d love to know about it. Until then, one more time here we go.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Swans, The Glowing Man
Oh fucking please. You want me to try to summarize The Glowing Man – the culmination and finale of an era of Swans that Michael Gira began now more than half a decade ago – in a single review? Even putting aside the fact that the record two hours long, the notion is ridiculous. If there ever was a chart, the scope here is well off it. The material unfolds and churns and is primal and lush at once on “Cloud of Forgetting,” genuinely chaotic on the 28-minute title-track, and it ends with a drone lullaby, but seriously, what the fuck? Some shit is just beyond, and if you don’t know that applies to Swans by now, it’s your own fault. You want a review? Fine. I listened to the whole thing. It ate my fucking soul, chewed it with all-canine teeth and then spit it out saying “thanks for the clarity” and left me dazed, bloodied and humbled. There’s your fucking review. Thanks for reading.
Oslo trio Virus have long since established that they’re a band working on their own wavelength. Memento Collider (on Karisma Records) is the jazzy post-black metallers’ first album in five years and brings together adventurous rhythms, poetic declarations, dissonant basslines and – in the case of “Rogue Fossil,” the occasional hook – in ways that are unique unto Virus. Look at this site and see how often I use the word “unique.” It doesn’t happen. Virus, however, are one of a kind. Memento Collider makes for a challenging listen front to back on its six-track/45-minute run, but it refuses to dumb itself down or dull its progressive edge, bookending its longest (that’s opener “Afield” at 10:41; immediate points) two tracks around jagged explorations of sound like “Steamer” and “Gravity Seeker,” which engage and intrigue in kind after the melodic push of “Dripping into Orbit” and leading into “Phantom Oil Slick,” a righteous affirmation of the angular thrust at the core of Virus’ approach.
In 2010, Moscow troupe The Re-Stoned issued their first EP, Return to the Reptiles, and being obviously concerned with evolution, they’ve now gone back and revisited that debut release with Reptiles Return, a reworking of the four studio tracks that made up the initial version – “Return,” “Run,” “The Mountain Giant” and “Sleeping World.” The opener is a straight re-recording, as is one other, where another is remixed and the other two remastered, and Reptiles Return – which is presented on limited vinyl through Clostridium Records and a CD box set with bonus tracks via Rushus Records – pairs them with more psychedelic-minded soundscape pieces like “Winter Witchcraft,” “Walnut Talks,” the proggy “Flying Clouds” and sweetly acoustic “Roots Patter,” that showcase where founding multi-instrumentalist Ilya Lipkin is taking the band going forward. The result is a satisfying side A/B split on the vinyl that delights in heavy riffing for its own sake in the first half and expands the scope in the second, which should delight newcomers as well as those who’ve followed The Re-Stoned along this evolutionary process.
It may well be the fate of San Francisco’s hard-touring, ass-kicking, genre-refusing duo Castle to be terminally underappreciated, but that has yet to stop them from proliferating their righteous blend of thrash, doom and classic, fistpump-worthy metal. Their latest outing, Welcome to the Graveyard, arrives via respected purveyor Ván Records, and entices in atmosphere and execution, cohesively built tracks like “Hammer and the Cross” and the penultimate “Down in the Cauldron Bog” finding a balance of personality and delivery that the band has long since honed on stage. The Dio-esque barnburner riff of “Flash of the Pentagram” makes that cut a highlight, but as they roll out the cultish vibes of “Natural Parallel” to close, there doesn’t seem to be much on the spectrum of heavy metal that doesn’t fit into Castle’s wheelhouse. For some bands, there’s just no justice. Four records deep, Castle have yet to get their due, and Welcome to the Graveyard is further proof of why they deserve it.
One can hear a new wave of modern doom taking shape in Chained to Oblivion, the Prosthetic Records debut from Arizona one-man outfit Spirit Adrift. The work of Nate Garrett alone in the studio, the full-length offers five mostly-extended tracks as a 48-minute 2LP of soaring, emotional and psychedelic doom à la Pallbearer, but given even further breadth through progressively atmospheric passages and a marked flow in its transitions. To call it personal seems superfluous – it’s a one-man band, of course it’s personal – but Garrett (also formerly of metallers Take Over and Destroy) brings a palpable sense of performance to the songwriting, and by the time he gets to the 11-minutes-apiece finale duo of the title-track and “Hum of Our Existence,” it’s easy to forget you’re not actually listening to a full band, not the least because of the vocal harmonies. Calling Chained to Oblivion a promising first outing would be underselling it – this is a project with serious potential.
Unpredictable from the start of opener “Flesh ‘n’ Steel,” Once upon the Wings is a first-time multinational collaborative effort from Robbi Robb of California’s 3rd Ear Experience and Paul Pott of Germany’s The Space Invaders. Its five tracks/42 minutes arrive through no less than Nasoni Records, and provide a curious and exploratory blend of the organic and the inorganic in sound, as one finds the 11-minute “Grass” no less defined by its percussion solo, guitar line and ‘60s-style vocal than the electronic drums that underscore the layered wash of noise in its midsection. Further definition hits with the 16-minute centerpiece “Prophecy #1,” which works in a space-rocking vein, but the shorter closing duo of the catchy “Looney Toon” and darkly progressive “Space Ear” show a creative bent that clearly refuses to be tamed. Robb & Pott, as a project, demonstrates remarkable potential throughout this debut, as they seem to have set no limits for where they want their sound to go and they seem to have the command to take it there.
Most of the tracks on Brooklyn progressive noise rockers Family’s second album and Prosthetic Records debut, Future History, come paired with interludes. That cuts some of the growling intensity of winding pieces like “Funtime for Bigboy” and “Floodgates,” and emphasizes the generally experimental spirit of the record as a whole, broadening the scope in sound and theme. I’m somewhat torn as to how much this actually works to the 51:50 outing’s benefit, as shorter pieces like “Prison Hymn” and “Transmission,” while adding dynamic to the sound and narrative drama, also cut the immediacy in impact of “The Trial” or closer “Bone on Bone,” but it’s entirely possible that without them Future History would be an overwhelming tumult of raw prog metal. And while the play back and forth can feel cumbersome when one considers how effectively “Night Vision” bridges the gap between sides, I’m not sure that’s not what Family were going for in the first place. It’s not supposed to be an easy record, and it isn’t one.
France’s Les Discrets haven’t had a studio offering since 2012’s Ariettes Oubliées (review here), and while they released Live at Roadburn (review here) last year documenting their 2013 set at that festival, there’s little there that might presage the stylistic turn the Fursy Teyssier-led outfit takes on their new EP, Virée Nocturne (on Prophecy Productions). With four tracks – two new, complete recordings, one demo and the last a remix of the opener by Dälek and Deadverse – Les Discrets attempt to find a stylistic middle ground between post-rock and trip-hop, and for the most part, they get there. “Virée Nocturne” itself leads off and can be jarring on first listen, but successfully blends the lush melodicism for which the band is known with electronic-driven beats, and both “Capricorni. Virginis. Corvi” and even the demo “Le Reproche” continue to build on this bold shift. The finale remix adds over two minutes to “Virée Nocturne,” but uses that time to make it even more spacious and all the more immersive. For anyone who thought they might’ve had Les Discrets figured out, the surprise factor here should be palpable.
Presented across four tracks beginning with the 12-minute and longest-of-the-bunch (immediate points) “The Corpse of Dr. Funkenstein” (double points for the reference), II, the aptly-titled second album from Liquido di Morte expands the progressive atmospherics of the Italian four-piece’s 2014 self-titled debut (review here) without losing sight of the performance and spirit of exploration that helped bring it to life. Isaak’s Giacomo H. Boeddu guests on brooding vocals and whispers for “The Saddest of Songs I’ll Sing for You,” which swells in seething intensity as it moves forward, while “Rodents on the Uphill” casts a vision of post-space rock and closer “Schwartz Pit” rounds out with crash and wash that seems only to draw out how different the two halves of II actually are. Not a complaint. Liquido di Morte make their way across this vast span with marked fluidity, and if they prove anything throughout, it’s that they’re able to keep their command wherever they feel like using it to go.
Canberra, Australia, trio Witchskull initially released their debut full-length, The Vast Electric Dark, last year, and caught the attention of the cross-coastal US partnership between Ripple Music and STB Records, who now align for a reissue of the eight-tracker. Why is quickly apparent. In addition to having earned a fervent response, The Vast Electric Dark basks in quality songcraft and doomly, heavy vibes, keeping a consistent pace while rolling through the semi-metallic push of “Raise the Dead” or the later rumble/shred of “Cassandra’s Curse.” All the while, guitarist/vocalist Marcus De Pasquale provides a steady presence at the fore alongside bassist Tony McMahon and drummer Joel Green, and what’s ultimately still a straightforward rocker of an album finds a niche for itself between varies underground styles of heavy. Between the balance they strike across their 37 minutes and the energy that courses through their songs, Witchskull’s The Vast Electric Dark proves easily worth the look it’s getting.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Desert psych explorers 3rd Ear Experience are gearing up to release their fourth full-length, Stones of a Feather, on CD and LP. The former is out Nov. 21 and the latter sometime in early 2017 via Space Rock Productions, which is the label helmed by none other than Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective — his support is no minor endorsement for anything tripped out to receive — and the band is reportedly going to make a return trip to Europe presumably to coincide with that release. Not sure if the CD has the same imprint putting it out as the vinyl, but 3rd Ear Experience like to leave a lot of things open to interpretation, so it seems only fitting they would here as well. Expect jams. Plenty of them.
More info via the PR wire:
3rd Ear Experience announces the release of their new album STONES OF A FEATHER
The CD will be available through 15,000 record stores worldwide and on Itunes, Amazon and CDBaby.
The vinyl will be released throughout Europe and the UK through Space Rock Productions early 2017.
On their new album STONES OF A FEATHER 3rd Ear Experience have taken full advantage of the musical possibilities unique to space rock. It is clear that their environment, the Mojave desert, with its wide open spaces, big skies and rugged landscapes, have helped them to blossom a modern desert music, rich in the complex overtones of 60’s psychedelic rock.
STONES OF A FEATHER, 3rd Ear Experiences 4th album, is a curious mixture of the old and the new; reaching back into the reckless abandonment of Cream live circa: 1967 to Ornette Coleman’s free jazz, diving down into the deep well of Krautrock to soaring on fuzzy Sabbath like riffs of contemporary stoner rock. Yet no generalization is ultimately true of 3rd Ear Experience.
The music was derived from spontaneous ideas that came up during live jams on their 2015 tour of Europe and from free form jamming at the FurstWurld Gallery of Music and Performing Arts where the band records.
The album guests 18 local desert musicians considered by many to be the cream of the desert crop! Dug Pinnick of Kings X fame, returns once again to add his heavy bottom growl to the brew. Please browse the blog for interesting stories on each of these musicians and how they came to be part of this album. Blog: http://www.robbirobb.com/blog/?p=181
Produced by Robbi Robb Mastered by Mark Fuller Cover pic by Andy Woods Sound of Liberation have begun booking dates for a 3rd Ear Experience tour for 2017.