Posted in Whathaveyou on April 4th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Weirder-than-thou Toronto foursome Godstopper are heading south starting April 19 and bringing the new LP pressing of their album What Matterswith them. This is invariably good news for any jaded “I’ve fucking heard everything in the world there’s no way your band can impress me” types, since as it happens, these guys and gal specialize in catching you off guard, managing to do so even after you’ve heard the record. Which you might want to do. On the player below. Which I took from their Bandcamp. Which is here.
I typed these dates out all by myself and still put them in blue:
We are heading to the US in a little over 2 weeks. We will have the new album available on LP. Please spread the word.
04.19 The Shop Pittsburgh, PA 04.20 Perve Center Baltimore, MD 04.21 The Taphouse Norfolk, VA 04.22 The Blue Nile Harrisonburg, VA 04.23 JR’s Bar Philadelphia, PA 04.24 The Acheron Brooklyn, NY 04.25 Ralph’s Diner Worcester, MA 04.26 Dusk Providence, RI 04.27 Centre de Diffusion Artfocus Sherbrooke, QC
Calgary chug-riffing four-piece Chron Goblin released their full-length debut, One Million from the Top, in Fall 2011, but just yesterday they premiered the new video for the song “Bring Your Idols” from the record. That and some of their mid-’90s C.O.C.-type guitar work might for sure make them stoner rock, but there’s something more metal underlying the proceedings in “Bring Your Idols,” and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that at some point vocalist Josh Sandulak was a screamer. Sandulak‘s production company, Pretty Dead, handled the filming and editing for the clip, which you’ll find right below this very sentence:
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Put this one in your “Oh, What Could’ve Been” file. According to a post on their Thee Facebooks page, Toronto-based psychedelic dreamers Quest for Fire have decided to abandon the search. We told them that it’s winter and all our caveman asses will freeze if they don’t keep going, but then they reminded us that it’s the future and to go adjust the thermostat. Still a bummer.
If you never heard it, Quest for Fire‘s last album, 2010′s Lights from Paradise(review here), was frickin’ brilliant, all hazed out and shoegazing but thick in the low end and memorably hypnotic. It’s a shame they won’t get to follow it up, though I suppose if Chad Ross decides to dedicate more of his time to his Nordic Nomadic side-project — he released Worldwide Skylinein 2011 (review here) — that’s not exactly a tragic fate either.
Whatever happens, Quest for Fire was a good band and too bad they didn’t get to do more in their time. Please find the announcement in full below, its lack of capitalization maintained for posterity:
after 6 amazing years we have officially decided to call it quits. sorry to all the kind folks out there that were expecting a new record in 2013…. but we promise you, a few new bands are already in the works. good things on the horizon!
lots of great tours, good friends (old and new), good jams, heavy parties, and long roads, will be filed away, forever foggy and shining in our collective memories.
thanks for the love! QFF.
our last show will be at the horseshoe tavern in toronto, on february 15, 2013. some special guests will be announced shortly.
Why tapes? They’re cheap, for one. And they’re analog. And they’re awkward. The flat platter of an LP has grace to it, and a CD too, on a smaller scale. A tape is clunky and weird and boxy and as ill-fitting as your 15-year-old self and did I mention cheap? The first albums I ever bought were on tape, and in a way, I feel as in-between generations as a tape must, having been sandwiched in format succession by records and compact discs.
Plus, with some (as with records), you don’t even know where one song is supposed to end and another to begin. So yeah, tapes. And if you’ve ever read anything Chris “Woody” MacDermott has written for this site, or had any interaction with him of any kind, the name “Duuude, Tapes!” for this new feature should make perfect sense.
We start with a couple sent over by Prairie Fire Tapes, an imprint based in Winnipeg that specializes in obscure-type limited whathaveyou from a variety of styles. The sister label to Dub Ditch Picnic, they recently shot over two tapes for me to check out. Oak‘s Silent Spring, which is released on the label, and the 2012 self-titled debut from local sludge devils, Scab Smoker.
Scab Smoker, Scab Smoker
It’s a rough, blown-out, cave-echoing morass of noisy sludge. At times, Scab Smoker‘s Scab Smoker rages with punk animosity — a glued-on and peeling label on the plain cassette itself only enhances that atmosphere — and then the Winnipeg-local three-piece slam on the breaks and effect a huge, fucked-up lurch. The six-song outing — it moves quickly and I’d call it an EP — was self-produced and self-released, and here and there are moments of discernible bass, drums and guitar, particularly in their more Sabbathian moments, and maybe even some burgeoning melodies, but for the most part it’s a rough, demo-sounding barrage of noise, buzzsaw guitar, heavy-reverb vocals and compressed-cymbal lumber. I dig it, but it’s not an easy listen. Still, the sense of worship runs strong throughout and the tones are flat-out mean. “Death by Natural Causes” and “Call of the First Aethyr” make for a sound closing duo, and I’d wager their attack is no less deranged-sounding in a moldy basement than it is coming through the speakers of my tape player. They’re all but absent on the interwebs — no word on whether that’s ideology or they just haven’t gotten around to it — but there’s an old Scab Smoker MySpace page with a demo of “Black Queen” you can check out.
Oak, Silent Spring
An official Prarie Fire release with a pro-printed liner and the label logo screened onto the orange translucent tape itself, Oak‘s Silent Springharkens to ethereal Sleep worship in its rhythms and vocals and finds the Swedish four-piece with a well-conceived execution of post-stoner ideologies. The riffs that begin opener “The Obligation to Endure” are thick and seem set to climb a holy mountain, but Oak are also relatively quick to play off those ideas by shifting into meandering post-rock jams, making Silent Springatmospheric in its less brash moments and enhancing the overall listen. The sound is clear and not blown-out, but still rough enough to give the six-track full-length a natural vibe to go with its strong track-to-track flow, and while its groove isn’t built solely on massiveness of tone, Silent Springsatisfies on that level as well, thick reverberations sustaining from hard-hit guitars even as post-metallic flourishes of effects play out alongside. “Tribal”-type percussion feels overly familiar, and they take their time getting where they’re headed, but Oak do a lot to distinguish themselves throughout these tracks, and their efforts aren’t wasted. Hit them up on Thee Facebooks or the Prairie Fire Tapes website for more info, or listen to the 13-minute “The Obligation to Endure” at the Oak Bandcamp.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 15th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
We begin this week with the disturbing noise-based avant sludge of Toronto’s Godstopper. What Matters, their new album, was released Sept. 25, and it follows last year’s Empty Crawlspacetape (streaming here) and a couple of disturbing videos (see here and here) that mirrored the underlying core of violence that seems never to be distant in the double-guitar four-piece’s approach. That threatening sensibility comes paired with a more melodic vocal style on What Matters, giving songs like “Right up to Heaven” or the later culmination of “Clean House” another level on which to strike, while surprises like the post-punk of the penultimate “Lyman” or nigh-unbearable tonal weight of “Blame Them” show the diversity in Godstopper‘s still burgeoning approach.
It’s a lot to take in from song to song, and by no means easy listening, but worth the effort ultimately. As always, I hope you enjoy it, and for more Godstopper, check out their Bandcamp or Tumblr.
Kind of a wild weekend, otherwise I probably would’ve posted this on Friday as per usual. Got sufficiently loaded on Friday and Saturday and then spent the better part of yesterday in the hospital waiting room while The Patient Mrs.‘ brother had surgery on his leg following — what else? — a chainsaw mishap. He’s alright, recovering, still has all his limbs, etc., but it put an unanticipated stress on the day as that kind of thing will and set me back a ways in terms of the work I wanted to do in advance of this week.
Nonetheless, I plan on having interviews posted this week with Steve Von Till of Neurosis and with Brooklyn-based noise rockers Family. I’ll be reviewing albums from Velvet Elvis (that’ll be today, hopefully) and Altar of Oblivion, and I’ll have a report on the new Clutch record and a live review from the Heavy Planet CMJ showcase with Eggnogg and Borracho, among others. Looking forward to that one a lot.
Maybe a random thought, but is it just me or is Bandcamp taking over the universe for music? Don’t get me wrong, it’s a decent quality stream in an easy interface — I dig it as much as I’ve ever dug listening to music that way (not saying much, I guess) — but it just seems like all of a sudden, everything new is on there and that the post-MySpace “well what now?” question that Facebook never quite stepped up to answer seems to have settled. I don’t know how much they take in sales, but I guess underground bands could do worse. It’ll do till the next thing gets here, anyhow.
Hope you had a great and chainsaw-accident-free weekend. I’m gonna check back in momentarily with some news about new releases from Black Shape of Nexus and Don Juan Matus, so stay tuned for that, and there’s a lot to come this week as per usual and some, like Godstopper, pretty unusual. It’ll be good fun either way.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 17th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Nothing like getting off on the right foot. Not having had the chance to close out last week properly as I otherwise might have done, I thought we’d start this week angry. Montreal sludge trio Dopethrone released their third album, III, last month, and it’s a low-bullshit/high-aggression exercise in riff worship, topped by Bongzilla-style gurgling that nonetheless finds a few moments of respite from the onslaught, such as the well-placed solo at the end of centerpiece cut, “Storm Reefer.” Vince (guitar/vocals), Vyk (bass) and Borman (drums) leave little to the imagination in terms of what they’re going for stylistically, but a job well done is a job well done, and they deliver some seriously abrasive shit in some seriously heavy tones. I’ve yet to think of an argument against it.
This week: Stuff? Yes. I’ve got stuff. Stuff like an interview with Gary Arce from Yawning Man that I’m just waiting to get back, and stuff like reviews of Second Grave, Colour Haze, and a bunch more. We’re due for another reviewsplosion, I think, so I’m gonna try to get on that and see if I can’t make it happen before the tide of download promos and “check out this link”-emails takes me out to sea. Also new audio from The Fërtility Cült that’ll go up today and a bunch of other stuff I can’t remember because it’s Monday morning. I knew there was a reason I did these things on Friday.
Anyway, hope you had a solid weekend. Mine was killer, and I say that with no sense of sarcasm or irony. Fucking great time hanging out with good people, drinking good beer and listening to a solid 13 hours of Clutch. If I’d managed to sleep at all last night, I’m sure we’d have started this week off with something much more peaceful, but so it goes. Hope you dig the sludgy destruction above, hope you have a great week, and hope you check in throughout, here or on the forum, you know, just kind of clicking refresh for new updates or posts. That’s what I do anyway, but I’m really into this stuff. You know how it is.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s okay though, because what they lack in love, Canadian road dogs Bison B.C. more than make up for in a nine-minute song that sets Napalm Death extremity off Mastodonic riffing. At that point, to ask for love too just seems greedy. Some bands just gotta have it all, I guess.
Lovelessness, recorded with the venerable Sanford Parker, will be released on Oct. 22. Henceforth treads the PR wire:
BISON B.C. to Release New Album Lovelessness October 22nd on Metal Blade Records Tracklisting and Album Artwork Revealed
Vancouver metallers BISON B.C. have completed work on their new album Lovelessness. The album, which is the band’s third release on Metal Blade Records, will be available on October 22nd. Today BISON B.C. have revealed the album artwork, tracklisting and released the first single from Lovelessness.
The band worked with acclaimed producer Sanford Parker at Soma and Electrical Audio Studios in Chicago on Lovelessness. Parker is best known for his work with bands such as Yob, Pelican, Rwake, Yakuza, Nachtmystium, Zoroaster, Unearthly Trance, and more. Needless to say, Parker is more than qualified to put-to-tape the raw, furious energy that is BISON B.C. Lovelessness Tracklisting: 1. An Old Friend 2. Anxiety Puke / Lovelessness 3. Last and First Things 4. Blood Music 5. Clozapine Dream 6. Finally Asleep
BISON B.C. got their start in Vancouver, BC and describe themselves as “Canadian dirtbags” in addition to being veterans of Vancouver’s deep thrash and indie scenes. Known for their aggressive and intense live shows, the band has built a strong following and has toured with bands including Baroness, Priestess and Genghis Tron to name a few. With their new effort Lovelessness, BISON B.C. will surely cement themselves as one of Canada’s finest metal exports.
Posted in Reviews on July 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The thing about listening to Sons of Otis is that, if you’ve ever heard them before, you probably know what’s coming. The Toronto tone merchants have trafficked in densely crushing psychedelia since before the release of their first album, Spacejumbofudge, in 1996, and despite lineup tumult, extended breaks between records, and one retirement from live performances, Sons of Otis have remained largely loyal to their aesthetic over the course of their six full-lengths, the latest of which is the aptly-titled Seismic, on Small Stone. If there’s a more fitting descriptor of guitarist/vocalist Ken Baluke’s fuzz, it would almost certainly have to involve the cosmos – “space-tectonic,” perhaps, but that’s not quite as catchy an album name. In any case, the sound of the 51-minute/seven-track outing makes a fitting inspiration for the title Seismic, and while, again, that’s nothing new for Sons of Otis, they do seem to have coalesced and refined their sound somewhat, even from 2009’s Exiled (review here). Exiled had a lot in common with the sprawling, lurching riffage that songs like “Alone” and “PK” present on Seismic, but there’s a more prevalent blues edge in Sons of Otis circa 2012 that comes across in the first two tracks here, “Far from Fine” and “Lessons,” which both follow a smoked-out course of dirt-covered regret and self-loathing. “Far from Fine” launches with a buildup of amp noise and the exasperated lines “Here I go again/Nothing’s gonna change,” in Baluke’s familiar echoing gurgle, while “Lessons” finds him repeatedly asking, “When will I learn?” over a descending bassline from Frank Sargeant.
That addled sensibility isn’t necessarily new ground for Sons of Otis – one recalls songs like “Losin’ It” from 2001’s Songs for Worship or “Nothing” from 1999’s Templeball – but what the band does better on Seismic is balance that head-down sorrowfulness with hazy jamming and weighted psychedelics. Also the shortest apart from the Mountain cover “Never in My Life” on the album’s second half, “Far from Fine” and “Lessons” are the two shortest and more straightforward songs on Seismic, and they’re well placed at the front. By the time the noise-infused eight minutes of “Alone” kick in – drummer Ryan Aubin thundering the song’s beginning with what I can only assume are toms wide enough to drive a truck through – it marks a change of mood almost in spite of itself, and “Alone” follows suit. It’s slower than “Far from Fine” and more droning on its riff. There’s still a stoned sense of hopelessness to it, as there is to everything Sons of Otis puts out, but where Exiled was murky as regards its purposes, Seismic seems to be more – dare I say it? – clearheaded about what it wants to accomplish. I don’t think it would be fair to paint the picture of Baluke, Sargeant and Aubin as being suddenly mature as artists – Sons of Otis have never seemed particularly unclear about what they want to be sound-wise, but their presentation of the album is nowhere near as mud-soaked as their rumble seems to be. The first two tracks cross that line that Bongzilla did on Amerijuanican between riffy sludge and abrasive blues, and “Alone” follows with noisy psychedelic expansion of those ideas, culminating in a cymbal wash and amp freakout that serves as a firm reminder that it’s more than a little bit about pain.
“Guilt” is a minute shorter than “Alone,” but no less lysergic, creeping along its low-end dominance. To go by titles only, “Far from Fine,” “Lessons,” “Alone,” and “Guilt” might be enough to make one think Seismic follows a messy divorce (from what I hear, they’re all messy, but we say it anyway), but that’s pure conjecture. In any case, the downer spirit is maintained, and with “Guilt,” Sons of Otis force the realization of just how long they’ve been at this and how many have followed since trying to capture a similar tonal feel. Templeball was out by the time Ufomammut released their first record, and Sons of Otis have managed to develop their sound without letting go of their creative impetus. “Guilt,” as the end of the first half of the album, presents a wash of Echoplex swirl toward its finish, but though its guitar and bass tones are always central, it’s Aubin who really delivers the standout performance. Like everything else on Seismic, he sounds huge and in headphones, utterly encompassing, which is rare for drums. But even they seem to be tuned down, and each resultant thud is, well, I think you can guess the word to use.
Some might recall the name Nick Sewell from the more garage-hued rock outfit The Illuminati, who released two albums through Century Media offshoot before they and the label both disbanded. If you don’t recall Sewell from that group or those albums, though, it’s probably alright (though they decent), because as the bassist/vocalist has reemerged in the also-Toronto-based Biblical, the context probably wouldn’t do you much good anyhow. A double-guitar, sometimes-organ-infused four-piece, Biblical seem to be on a completely different wavelength.
Or if not completely different, certainly different enough. Biblical‘s swagger is definitely their own. The foursome of Sewell, guitarist/vocalist Matt Mclaren, guitarist/organist Andrew Scott and drummer Jay Anderson got together in 2010 and last year self-released their debut EP, a four-track self-titled 10″ vinyl that’s as stylish as it is brash, given some sense of foreboding by Scott‘s organ playing and rife with blues-revival furor. Like you took your favorite retro rock band and threw them in an echo chamber in places, and in other spots purposefully calling out The Bad Seeds as an influence to anyone who’ll be willing to listen. Biblical is faster, and a song like “Under Duress” way ballsier, but I get it.
Where things really open up, though is with the finale “Oubliette,” where the guitars start to get all proggy and the melody lines feel cleaner. The organ makes a big difference on “Oubliette,” as it does throughout the EP, but the more relaxed guitar really ups the level of ambience, however re-grounded the song becomes in the chorus, Sewell‘s shouts topping jagged finesse with what sounds an awful lot like ease, especially following the Misfits-meets-Graveyard chicanery of the shorter “Eyes of Lies,” which preceded. It’s a cool release that’s farther away from stoner rock than garage, but still has a couple heavy underpinnings. As it’s 18 minutes long and as Biblical (whose website is here) are streaming it on their Bandcamp page, I figured no harm in posting it in case anyone else wanted to check it out too. Here goes:
Posted in Reviews on March 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Nebulous as it is, the blend of influences at work on Vancouver sludge metallers Mendozza’s 2012 self-released, self-titled album still pales in comparison to the band’s backstory when it comes to a sense of mystery. Sure, elements show up in the tracks that take the Melvins-style drive the band showed on their 2007 White Rhino outing (reissued in 2009; review here) and make them way the hell spacious, feeding echoes in from who knows where amid Celtic Frost cavern yells emanated by way of mid-paced High on Fire belch, but most of that is easy to peg. On the other hand, Mendozza’s two earliest albums, 2005’s HMCS Uganda and 2006’s Illuminarius were well received enough to get the band included on the soundtrack to the second Underworld movie, but after White Rhino hit in ’07, they dropped their successive-year release pattern and waited three before putting out the ultra-scuffed Billy Anderson-produced Cobra Noche in 2010. Most startling of all, however, is that Mendozza, which was mixed by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, etc.), seems to be going for an entirely different sludged-out feel, and where “Testament of Hate” from that album was so head-down mechanized-sounding it bordered on Ministry, in comparison, the songs this time around are slower, riffier and more esoteric, unspeakably loud but still deep in the mix, so that however much metallic chugging it has in its verse, “Ayahuasca” opens up to a genuine stoner rock riff in its chorus, satisfying even as it confuses.
Couple that with the noms de guerre the trio has adopted for themselves – Deuce on vocals/guitar, The Judge on bass and Master Beater (get it?) on drums – and the plot thickens further, almost fattened to the point of the lumbering groove that commences Mendozza’s Mendozza with “Ligature.” Deuce starts Melvins-style on the vocals, but soon shows diversity of approach with screams, playing the one off the other smoothly for the remainder of the song and even managing to work some melody in the guitar as Master Beater’s cymbals flesh out the mix. “Ayahuasca” is faster, but however much Mendozza change up the tempo, they never seem to lose their crushing sensibility – and for that, although it’s not nearly as dirty-sounding, Mendozza is a heavier record than was Cobra Noche, its nearest comparison point. To wit, “Spirit Horse” couples post-Neurosis churn as interpreted by Mastodon with a Zoroaster-style wash, sounding not so much like any of those three bands particularly as a result, but delightfully massive all the same. The main riff in “Spirit Horse” is more angular than, say, the intro of “Ayahuasca,” but that only winds up adding to its effectiveness as it’s remade into a building stoner jam in the song’s second half. As the second longest cut at 8:43 behind closer “Wishful Drinking”’s 8:57, “Spirit Horse” is also one of the most immersive tracks on Mendozza, with Master Beater keeping time on her ride cymbal and punctuating riff cycles with crashes while The Judge pockets the low end and Deuce rips what feels like an endlessly fading solo. When in doubt, go heavy. Mendozza don’t sound like they’re in doubt here, but they went heavy anyway.
Godstopper‘s particular (and peculiar) take on aural malevolence continues to fascinate. Their last video, for the song “Clean House” from their Empty Crawlspace EP, partnered them with director Justin Oakey — you may recall the Hexvessel clip he also directed, and he’s done numerous others that you can find through his Vimeo profile. For their new single, “Everybody Writes Good Songs,” the band has once again tapped Oakey to direct a visual interpretation. The finished product is every bit as unsettling as the music:
If the Nation of Doom (as opposed to the Legion of Doom) were to have a national anthem, there’s no question it would be Saint Vitus‘ “Born too Late.” The title-track of the first album of the band’s Wino-fronted incarnation, “Born too Late” sums up the doomer mentality as concisely and as clearly as possible: “I’ll never be like you/And I don’t want to be like you.” Can’t get any less ambiguous than that.
Canadian outfit Sons of Otis are among the most stoned of the stonerly, and they have been since their Spacejumbofudge debut in 1996. They meld a range of spaced-out effects, monstrous fuzz and doomed-out plodding to craft a dankness worthy of Bongzilla without the abrasion. Vocals come gurgled in from infinite echoes believed to have their origins in guitarist Ken Baluke, and when they covered “Born too Late” for their Man’s Ruin Records debut sophomore outing, Temple Ball, in 1999, they followed through on the song’s bullshit-free ethic by naming the track simply “Vitus.”
The idea is beautiful, but they might as well have called it “Life,” since “Born too Late” is nothing if not biographical. I know this is the first Wino Wednesday clip that doesn’t actually feature Scott “Wino” Weinrich at all, either in the main lineup or in a guest spot, but in their own, fully-baked way, Sons of Otis nail “Born too Late” on “Vitus,” and it shows that more than a decade after the fact, the “They don’t know the things I know” ethic had already proved as timeless as it seems today.
Enjoy Sons of Otis‘ “Vitus,” and happy Wino Wednesday:
Posted in audiObelisk on December 4th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been a while, but the latest in the series of 2011 Roadburn audio streams comes from Toronto retro occultists Blood Ceremony, the flute-ifiied proto-metal of whom came to fruition earlier this year on their second album, Living with the Ancients. This stream was recorded live at Roadburn at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Here’s the link to listen:
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 26th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Boozy Toronto wah snailers Electric Magma have announced that their new, Scott Reeder-mixed album will be released on vinyl in the early part of next year. No new music from Canadian Samurai II yet, but if their SHoD performance this past August was anything to go by, fuzz can be expected to abound.
Here’s the latest, direct from the band:
ElectricMagma celebrates 10th anniversary with first vinyl release; Scott Reeder to mix. A limited edition initial pressing will feature the artwork of legendary fantasy artist Ken Kelley (Kiss’ Destroyer and Love Gun album covers).
An anomaly in its own genre, Electric Magma has been sludging it out in the underground trenches for over ten years. Founding members Tim Reesor (guitars) and Tryg Smith (bass) along with new recruit Mario Lunardo (drums) are poised to unleash Canadian Samurai II in early 2012. This monumental release needed a monumental mind behind the board, and thus, Scott Reeder has been tapped to mix the album in Jan. 2012 at the Sanctuary in California.
Special guest, Justin Wagonner of Mr. Plow provides vocals on the title track.
Canadian Samurai II, the follow-up to Mudshovel (2009), is a continuation of the organic riff machine that is Electric Magma. It’s a natural progression of a band that has defined their own instrumental niche within the riff rock genre. The band is also proud of the term that is often coined when describing their music: Beer Rock. Plain and simple.
Mario Lunardo makes his recording debut with Electric Magma on Canadian Samurai II, and he has brought a whole new dynamic to the sound with his explosive drum style.
Posted in Reviews on October 20th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Stepping somewhat outside his role as the frontman and guitarist for Toronto psychedelic pasture-izers Quest for Fire, Chad Ross is the sole figure behind the unsurprisingly more minimal Nordic Nomadic. He released a self-titled album under the moniker after starting the project in 2007 and makes his debut on Tee Pee (also Quest for Fire’s label, by odd coincidence) with Worldwide Skyline – an album whose title speaks to its breadth. Fans of the bedroom neo-folk of Comets on Fire guitarist Ben Chasny’s ongoing Six Organs of Admittance will recognize and delight in at least some of what Ross has on offer with these nine songs, the drone and subtle interweaving of electric and acoustic guitars and still somewhat lush feel undercutting the notion of Nordic Nomadic as a “solo project.” It is that, though, on the most superficial level; Ross is the only one in the band and is responsible for all the material. Anyone who was touched by Ross’ gentle melodicism on either Quest for Fire’s 2009 self-titled or last year’s Lights From Paradise will find spiritual companion in his work here, as the vocals are brought even more to the forefront by the inherent lack of other layers surrounding. Nordic Nomadic, for its relative want of personnel, does still sound lush, and could just as easily be branded psych as folk. As such, no reason to limit it to one or the other: Psychedelic folk.
There’s a self-consciousness at play on Worldwide Skyline, or at very least some self-awareness in how it’s structured. Ross opens the album with its title-track, which in turn is introduced by large swinging gates of distorted guitar that seem to open to the field of the acoustic song itself. It’s hard to imagine the grandeur of the electrified opening wasn’t intentional on Ross’ part. To his credit as a songwriter, he blends the acoustic and electric guitars gorgeously throughout, playing them off each other in well-constructed, well-mixed layers beginning right with “Worldwide Skyline.” His vocals follow a similar course, somehow managing to sound lush and humble at the same time on the shorter, more solo-feeling “The Future’s Fear” (2:30). Like most of the work here, it’s not upbeat or hooky enough to really qualify as “catchy,” but the standout quality (and surprising diversity) of the songwriting makes some of these tracks genuinely memorable. That might be true of “Worldwide Skyline” more than “The Future’s Fear,” but the finger-plucked strings of Ross’ acoustic toll like bells and excellently transition back into the droning electrics of “Growin’ Horns,” which highlights the major ambient crux of Worldwide Skyline with an atmosphere that’s open to interpretation either as bright, sunny and sepia or lonely. The wistful melody in the vocals comes through strikingly in the verse, but the soft inclusion of synth and the memento mori of effected electric guitar does well to add an element of darkness. It’s a sunset over some landscape that never existed, and Ross takes time with “Growin’ Horns” that he didn’t on “The Future’s Fear” to revel in the instrumentation.
“Bite to Chew” opens with the line “I read the news today,” which inevitably sets off the Beatles alarm (Quest for Fire showed some Beatles influence in the guitar work late on Lights From Paradise as well), but the song is altogether more psychedelically lush and less poppy than “A Day in the Life” or anything else from that era of the band’s discography. Interestingly, the song forms a sort of linear progression to Worldwide Skyline of longer tracks that begins with the opener and ends with later album highlight, “Listen to the Leaves.” The three are Ross’ only cuts over five minutes in length, and each sets a kind of landmark for the rest of the songs to hinge themselves upon; it’s easy to listen to the songs surrounding in the context of their position relative to the longer songs, in other words. The runtime disparity isn’t so huge – apart from “The Future’s Fear,” everything is within the three-to-five-minute range – but Ross fleshes the longer material out more (maybe this is obvious, since he’s taking extra time to do it, but the arrangements seem more complex as well) and really hones in on a creative vibe with these three tracks in a way that the rest of Worldwide Skyline seems to complement. And if that’s true, then the two-song to three-song ratio between “Worldwide Skyline” and “Bite to Chew” and “Bite to Chew” and “Listen to the Leaves” speaks to Ross’ expectation of the listener being that much more engaged in the album by the time it shifts through its sweetly bluesy “Summer Friends” centerpiece. That turns out to be precisely the case.