Six Dumb Questions with Black Space Riders

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on February 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

black space riders

At this point I’ve heaped praise on Black Space Riders‘ new album, Amoretum Vol. 1, in any number of contexts. There was the initial release announcement (posted here), the video posted for “Another Sort of Homecoming” (posted here), the review and track premiere for “Lovely Lovelie” (review here) that went up last month, then another video, this one for the electro-jazz hypnosis of “Movements” (posted here), and even a couple weeks ago a vinyl giveaway set up through the band themselves (posted here).

And you know what? If Black Space Riders had another video tomorrow, or a tour announcement, or whatever, I’d post that shit too. The underlying point of all of it is that I believe — particularly for those who can approach it with an open mind — Amoretum Vol. 1 genuinely has something special to offer. I’ll spare you further laudits and no rehash flowery descriptions of the progressive bent that unites the sonically varied material in its expressive purposes and instead just say that I hope the Amoretum series does indeed continue and that if you haven’t yet, you invest a little time and mental energy into getting to know the album, because it is absolutely worth the effort of the real engagement it demands.

As to the actual talking, this time around I’ll leave it to guitarist/vocalist/organist/programmer JE — joined in the band by the silhouettes above of vocalist Seb, drummer/percussionist C.RIP, guitarist SLI, bassist SAQ and (more recent) bassist MEI — as he explains the motivations behind where Black Space Riders go thematically and sound-wise this time around, their new deal with Ripple Music that will result in wider US distribution of their material, being driven by the music first, letting love rule, and much, much more. He’s obviously someone who cares very deeply about what he does, and I think that comes through here as much as in the songwriting of Black Space Riders as a group.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

Black Space Riders Amoretum Vol 1

Six Dumb Questions with JE of Black Space Riders

How did the Amoretum idea come about? What was it you were looking to say about the world after Refugeeum? Give me some background on the perspective from which you approached the concept coming into this album.

For us the idea behind Refugeeum was very earthly, very concrete, we felt being between anger and hopelessness, coping with the current events that we were facing in 2014/2015, when we were writing the album. We needed to do that back then, because we felt deeply touched by all the pain and suffering, we had to “leave the orbit” and make a statement.

After releasing the album it was very clear that we didn’t want to repeat that in any way but if you take a look around two years later and notice: “hey, the world didn’t really has become a better place since then …. is it really getting worse??,” you can’t just turn around and move on.

We really wanted to reintroduce some additional joyful, less grave and less serious colours into our music and our lyrics. We wanted to write songs and lyrics to dance to and to smile to ….e.g. I always wanted to write about “love” in a non-embarrassing way. And on the other hand there still was the awareness that we all are moving faster and faster towards really dark times.

In the end we opened ourselves to all these positive and negative feelings and started writing about the confrontation and disunity of fear/anger/hate vs. love/empathy/joy. And once there was this picture of a “sheltered garden of love and blossoming,” threatened by all the darkness around, leading us to create a new word for this imaginary place: Amoretum, consisting of “Arboretum” and “Amor.”

Which came first, the idea for what Amoretum would be or the songs? How does the Black Space Riders songwriting process work for you at this point? Do you compose around a specific idea or improvise and see what fleshes out? How much does everyone in the band contribute?

We are musicians and not poets. The music always comes first. The vocals in our idea of making music are additional instruments and timbres. And when we are writing lyrics it’s sometimes more important how these words sound as a part of the music than the exact meaning of the sentences. We want to create something like a holistic picture, consisting of songwriting, sound, attitude, song titles, lyrics and artwork that may trigger the listener‘s association, that can turn on something like an “inner movie” in the listener’s head. And the music is always the starting point.

After recording the songs for Refugeeum and the Beyond Refugeeum EP we returned to our headquarters — our rehearsal room — and just jammed, recorded, created new music without any pressure, without any idea what will be, without any masterplan.

Our way of composing has developed over the years. For the first albums we were often working on and arranging song ideas that I had designed and drafted before.

Now most of the songs result from jamming and letting flow. But of course there is always a starting point: most times a guitar riff, sometimes a drum pattern or a sequencer pattern or a piano melody. Then usually our drummer C.RIP is stepping in as second and is pushing the idea into a rhythmical direction. First everybody is really listening and is then joining at that point, when he feels, he has an idea what he could contribute and what is missing. In the end every member is contributing.

We record everything in the rehearsal room. We had recorded more than 10 hours of new music only six months after Refugeeum. Our drummer C.RIP is listening and sorting out the ideas and then we continue working on the best ideas and spent a lot of attention in arranging the songs. When we enter the studio we have finished songs with finished arrangements.

Tell me about recording Amoretum. How long were you in the studio? What was the time like when you were there? You’ve been through recording sessions many times over at this point. Do you know what you want in terms of sound when you go in?

This time we recorded all together 22 tracks, almost two hours of music, which took us about two weeks. One to two days are for soundchecking (a good and natural drum sound takes time and as we use a lot of different guitar amps, cabinets and setups in the different songs, we carefully work on these sounds as well). Then about five or six days for live-recordings. This was more than for the previous records but it was so much music with so many details this time. We record all basic tracks live and “oldschool,” in one room: drums, bass and guitars. Good friends locked in one room, that’s good for the feeling, the atmosphere and the sound as well. After that we recorded vocals, additional guitar effects and overdubs (e.g. some keyboards or guitar solos) in another five to six days.

We are working with ROLE in his Tonmeisterei in Oldenburg. (Role Wiegner, http://www.die-tonmeisterei.de/). Back in 2009, I had proposed his studio to the other members for the first album, because I liked some of his recordings, his sound and his philosophy. Since that time we are working with him. He has become a good friend and a kind of additional band member. We know each other very well.

We recorded in three sessions spread over about five weeks. When we are in the studio we are working highly concentrated from 11AM-11PM. It‘s an atmosphere of creativity, friendship, concentration, work, fun and a lot of discussion. After 11PM, we are leaving the studio to find a place which is still serving some food and some drinks. Then sleep in the studio, having breakfast together, working on some lyrics (some of them were written and finished during the recording time) or checking the guitar setup.

Our common idea of how we want to sound and how we can get there with recording and microphone technique is growing and developing from album to album. For the first album we wanted a warm fat analogue transparent classic sound — the contradiction to “modern.” My reference album was Paranoid by Black Sabbath then. So I listened with ROLE and the band members to this album in order to understand what made its production so special. We then also listened to other reference albums such as Tres Hombres (ZZ Top) and By a Thread (Gov’t Mule). That was our first album and the starting point. From then on we never used other external reference albums again to find our way, but we started discussing after we had an idea of how the material on the new album would be, what we wanted to change for the next album. We always first discuss it in the band and then I am visiting ROLE in Oldenburg, play the rehearsal recordings to him and tell him about our sound vision. Then we discuss several ways to get there with different concepts.

For Amoretum we wanted to keep our fat, analogue “soundcore” but add a touch of hi-fi (not too much?!). We wanted more openness, a “bigger” sound: more cymbals, more “room,” like rays of light in the darkness.

Is there a set idea in your mind for what makes Black Space Riders’ style its own? How do you feel about the way the band has progressed since the self-titled? How much of that progression happens on purpose?

We don’t have a masterplan. Neither for our musical “career,” nor for progression or development. We have the privilege to be totally independent so we can do whatever we want. We all have a lot of different musical influences, experiences and favourites, from metal, hardcore, punk, wave, pop, indie to electronic music, trip-hop, funk, jazz, folk and reggae.

From album to album we allowed more influences to enter but still we sound like ourselves. That is something I am really proud of. We can add electronics, funky elements, a dub-reggae feeling and new wave and the result is still Black Space Riders. I believe that is because we have a special signature way we sound, a very groovy rhythmic approach compared to a lot of other rock bands and a special liking for melancholic yearning moods, melodies and atmospheric sound textures.

The progression is just happening. We allow more and more and we like it. And as I said above as our music is increasingly coming from playing together and letting flow. It just happens.

When might we see Amoretum Vol. 2 arrive? Is the next installment written? Recorded? How might it differ from Vol. 1, and are there any lessons you’ve learned from making the first part you’ll bring to the second?

Vol. 2 is written, recorded, mastered and ready to embrace the world a bit later this year. And let me just say you don‘t have to wait until the end of 2018.

We focused on 22 tracks before entering the studio and recorded and produced all of them. And somehow we loved each single track, there were no b-sides in our opinion. The dilemma was: what to do with so much music?

We really thought about releasing a triple-vinyl album like Joe‘s Garage (Frank Zappa) or Sandinista! (The Clash) back then. But who has the time, passion, attention span and is willing and able to listen to almost two hours of music in one piece?

And we want people to listen to the whole album and not only to selected tracks. For us making an album is so much more than to string together a couple of recorded tracks. We want to take people on a trip over the entire record. It should feel like an inspiring, adventurous journey. Creating a permanent flow, a kind of symmetry and a special logic is important for us and this requires the best possible sequence of the songs.

This is a huge challenge if you want to do it for 22 tracks. There are so many options. In the end we decided to split Amoretum into two parts: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2.

In my opinion Vol. 1 is very compact, diverting, almost accessible; eight tracks in 45 minutes. For a band that is used to release albums with a running time between 60 and 80 minutes, that’s very (cough) “short.”

Vol. 2 has a somehow different character. We are talking about 14 tracks and a running time of a little less than 70 minutes. Very diverse tracks concerning mood, sound, atmosphere style and tempo. Compared to Vol. 1, it’s like a wild hunt.

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

No masterplan! Let’s see what is going to happen. Good news for North America: our new collaboration with the California-based label Ripple Music will make this album (and hopefully our back catalogue as well) so much easier available for our friends and fans overseas. What else? My pathetic conclusion: we believe that in the end you can’t fight hate with hate. Let us overcome the fear and embrace the world with empathy. Let love rule!

Black Space Riders, “Movements” official video

Black Space Riders webstore

Black Space Riders on Thee Facebooks

Black Space Riders on Twitter

Black Space Riders on Bandcamp

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GIVEAWAY: Win Black Space Riders’ Amoretum Vol. 1 on Vinyl

Posted in Features on January 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

black space riders amoretum vol 1 vinyl 1

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

This week marks the arrival of the new full-length from progressive metallers Black Space Riders. Given the title Amoretum Vol. 1 (review here) and set for issue through Cargo Records in the band’s native Germany, MVD in the US and various other parties in different regions around Europe and beyond, it’s an adventurous listen that, like much of the group’s work to-date, remains underappreciated for its stylistic reach and accomplished level of songwriting.

Well, I can’t make everyone everywhere listen to everything I think is cool. What I can do, however, is make sure the platter gets into someone’s hands who’s willing to give it a shot. Maybe you’re a Black Space Riders fan. Maybe you’re a free vinyl fan. Either way, I can think of no reason why you wouldn’t enter this giveaway and take your chances at winning a copy of Amoretum Vol. 1, which gracefully brings together heavy rock, prog, metal and a slew of other forward thinking impulses to take an honest and engaging look at the world in which we live. Quality record. You could own it.

I’m gonna keep this post short because I’d rather have you enter the contest than read my blathering. Three quick things: Thanks to the band for offering up the platter to some lucky winner from somewhere around the world, and thanks to you in advance for taking part in the giveaway. Also, as always please keep in mind that I have no interest in storing email addresses, selling info or anything like that. I’m neither organized enough nor devious enough for that shit. I’m just a dude who likes to talk about music and hook people up with free platters when I can.

So yeah, have at it. If you win, I’ll drop you a line a week from today or thereabouts. In the meantime, you can hear some of the record on the Bandcamp player below and chase down more info at the links that follow. Dig in.

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

Black Space Riders, Amoretum Vol. 1

Black Space Riders webstore

Black Space Riders on Thee Facebooks

Black Space Riders on Twitter

Black Space Riders on Bandcamp

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Black Space Riders Post “Movements” Video; Amoretum Vol. 1 out Next Week

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

black space riders

If you happened to catch the last Black Space Riders video and you happen to catch this one, well, you’ll probably note that the two have about nothing in common. Ha. I bet you thought I was gonna tie it all together like there’s some overarching narrative or something like that. No dice! Take that, expectation!

Actually, if you want to think about it on another level, there is an overarching narrative between the clip previously posted for “Another Sort of Homecoming,”and it speaks in my mind not just to the appeal of Black Space Riders‘ current album — the forthcoming Amoretum Vol. 1 (review here), which, as the headline says above, is out next week — but also the appeal of the band as a whole: you just don’t ever really know where they’re going to go next.

To wit, “Another Sort of Homecoming,” the video, was based around an old sci-fi cartoon culled from the vast reaches of the public domain. “Movements?” Well, it’s nature footage, man’s interaction with the world around him, alternately patient and manic in its presentation — every bit a different vibe. And you know what? It’s perfect for the two songs. “Another Sort of Homecoming” is an uptempo dancer clocking in under four minutes, while “Movements” turns from its initial post-rock drift to build to furious intensity of chugging before finally evening out atop some still-pretty-frenetic percussive work. Time: eight minutes. The two songs — which on the record are separated only by the catchy push of “Soul Shelter (Inside of Me)” — would seem to have little to do with each other.

But that’s the point. It’s the scope of the thing, and that’s the story they’re telling about Amoretum Vol. 1 and Black Space Riders as a whole. I know this isn’t the highest-profile release that’s coming out this year, but I really think this band has something to offer, so I’m just going to keep writing about them as much as possible. Look for a vinyl giveaway and an interview with the band in the weeks to come.

Enjoy the clip for “Movements” in the meantime, followed by more from the PR wire:

Black Space Riders, “Movements” official video

Amoretum Vol. 1 will be released on January 26. The single can be purchased and the album pre-ordered on all digital platforms, including Bandcamp, as well as at the band shop: www.blackspaceriders.com/shop

Distribution partners:
Germany/Austria/Switzerland: Cargo Records
USA/ Canada: MVD Entertainment
UK: PHD (plastichead distribution)
BeNeLux: Suburban records
Scandinavia: Border Music
Italy: Goodfellas

BLACK SPACE RIDERS are:
JE: Lead Vocals, Guitars, Organ, Piano, Electronics
SEB: Lead vocals, Keyboards, Electronics
C.RIP: Drums, Percussion, Didgeridoo
SLI: Guitars
SAQ: Bass Guitar
MEI: Bass Guitar

Black Space Riders webstore

Black Space Riders on Thee Facebooks

Black Space Riders on Twitter

Black Space Riders on Bandcamp

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Långfinger Announce Fall 2017 European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

langfinger (Photo by Bengt Persson)

Swedish classic-style heavy rockers Långfinger have announced a new round of European touring for this September and October. The Gothenburg three-piece will head out for a run through Germany, Belgium, and the Czech Republic beginning Sept. 28 as they continue to support their 2016 offering, Crossyears (review here), released by Small Stone in the US in conjunction with Cargo Records in Europe.

Though they’re still young, Långfinger are fast becoming veterans of Europe’s heavy rock underground. With Crossyears as their third album behind 2010’s Skygrounds and 2012’s Slow Rivers, the band have more and more refined their sense of songcraft to make their tracks organic, memorable and engaging in their blend of ’70s roots and modern impulses. Earlier this year, they hit the road alongside labelmates Captain Crimson to represent two of Sweden’s strongest upstart presences in next-generation riffage.

Dates for the upcoming autumnal run and more info follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:

langfinger tour poster

Långfinger Autumn Tour
28/9 Kiel (DE) – Schaubude
29/9 Oldenburg (DE) – MTS LP’s & CD’s
30/9 La Louviere (BE) – La Taverne du Theatre
1/10 Rodewisch (DE) – Ars Vitae
2/10 Prague (CZ) – Fatal Club
3/10 Pod?brady (CZ) – Boss Bar
4/10 Kolin (CZ) – Bar Pod Hodinama
6/10 Weimar (DE) – Kasseturm
7/10 Lubbeneu (DE) – Kulturhof

Poster design by: Thomas V. Jäger from Monolord.

Långfinger, from the fertile rock ‘n’ roll city of Gothenburg, are masters of the art. They’ve been playing together since they were in their early teens, and their third album, called ‘Crossyears’, is both the thrilling culmination of their collective endeavour, and a rumination on it – on how Time has shaped them and brought them to this point. Within its hard-hitting grooves, the interlocking of Långfinger’s three disparate characters – Kalle, the unflappable, precision axeman; Jesper, the athletic sticksman battering out physical revenge on his kit; and Victor, the intense, exploratory spirit, bridging thundering bass and howling exorcism – is a magical proposition.

Långfinger:
Kalle Lilja – Guitars & backing vocals
Victor Crusner – Bass, keys & lead vocals
Jesper Pihl – Drums & backing vocals

https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/crossyears
https://www.facebook.com/Langfingerofficial/
http://langfinger.net/

Långfinger, Crossyears (2016)

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Black Space Riders to Hit Studio in July for 2018 Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

On a general level, I’m a sucker for productivity and for thoughtful songwriting, and German outfit Black Space Riders have always offered both. The days since the 2016 release of their most recent EP, Beyond Refugeeum (discussed here), would seem to have been particularly fruitful, as the band reports via the PR wire below that they now have too much material written to fit even on a double album. That seems like it should be plenty, and the six-piece apparently agrees. They’ll hit the studio in July to begin laying down new tracks.

I’m also a proponent of making a strong single LP as opposed to a double LP in almost every situation — the theory being that if you truly love, love, love the songs you’re leaving off your record, the ones you’ve left on must be even better — so I’ll be interested for sure to see what Black Space Riders end up with from these sessions. A 2018 release is being eyed, so we’ve got a while before we find out, but here’s the latest update from the band:

BLACK-SPACE-RIDERS

BLACK SPACE RIDERS Entering the Studio this Summer

German Riffonauts BLACK SPACE RIDERS will enter the studio in mid-July to record new material. The thematic journey and musical cycle that covered the internationally acclaimed last album Refugeeum and the subsequent Beyond Refugeeum EP has been completed.

Singer / guitarist JE comments: “We have written a lot of interesting and new songs, too much material to fit on a classic double album. These are tracks that are flirting with different musical styles; we’re looking outside the box. We will start recording in July and then we’ll see what we’re going to do with this giant pile of music. In the beginning of 2018 there will definitely be a new release from us. Watch out!”

Refugeeum and Beyond Refugeeum are available on CD, vinyl and digital formats. Visit http://www.blackspaceriders.com/shop to place your order.

BLACK SPACE RIDERS are:
JE: Lead Vocals, Guitars, Organ, Beats
SEB: Lead vocals
C.RIP: Drums, Percussion
SLI: Guitars
SAQ: Bass Guitar
HEVO: Additional Bass Guitar

http://www.blackspaceriders.com/shop
https://www.facebook.com/BlackSpaceRiders
https://www.youtube.com/user/blackspaceriders
http://blackspaceriders.bandcamp.com/

Black Space Riders, “Starglue Sniffer” official video

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Black Space Riders Post “Starglue Sniffer” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 11th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

black space riders (Photo by Hanno H Endres)

With last year’s Refugeeum (review here), German outfit Black Space Riders made what was easily their most progressive statement to-date. How better to follow-up on such a thing than to present yet another stylistic turn. I’m not sure “Starglue Sniffer” speaks for the whole of the forthcoming Beyond Refugeeum EP — out May 13 via Cargo Records, among others — and in fact I’d be more surprised if it did than it didn’t, since when it comes to encompassing a range of styles, Black Space Riders have grown into an act able to fluidly swap one genre for another in the span of a song.

Perhaps “Starglue Sniffer” is intended to serve as an example of that, though whether or not that was the intent, it does. It finds Black Space Riders, led as ever by guitarist/vocalist/organist/programmer Jochen Engelking, taking a dancier approach to their rhythms. The track is upbeat and should sit well on Beyond Refugeeum next two a couple outside-the-box remixes intended to push the band’s aesthetic breadth even further. They’ve always had something of a keyboard element, some electronics here and there, but with legit beats at its core and its unmitigated catchiness, “Starglue Sniffer” toys with pop ideologies in a way that few bands would dare and even fewer could pull off so well.

Always something intriguing from these guys. Will look forward to digging into the rest of the EP and seeing just where they’re headed as they continue to push “beyond.”

Video features animation by Lenia Friedrich. Enjoy:

Black Space Riders, “Starglue Sniffer” official video

German Riffonauts BLACK SPACE RIDERS have released a video for “Starglue Sniffer,” a song from forthcoming EP Beyond Refugeeum. View it at this location.

Nine months after the release of Refugeeum, the internationally acclaimed fourth album by BLACK SPACE RIDERS, comes a reprise: the Beyond Refugeeum EP! The EP will be released May 13 via BSR/Cargo.

Vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist JE discussed the idea behind the EP: “We had deliberately kept back four songs, all original recordings, from the Refugeeum sessions in order to release them separately from the album because – as the cover artwork already may suggest – the material is different to the songs on Refugeeum. It’s unlike what you might expect from this band. But you can still tell that it comes logically and quite unmistakably from the BLACK SPACE RIDERS. The songs are exalted, sometimes overwrought, vivid, and yet accessible. Much has happened in Europe and in the world since these songs were written at the end of 2014 and recorded in early 2015, but they seem to be even more contemporary and necessary than ever.”

The EP is rounded off with two bonus tracks: “VRTX RMX” (a remix of “Vortex Sun”) is atmospheric electric drone, and “Gravity” is the electro club remix of the band’s 2014 hit “Give Gravitation to the People” that may and certainly will destroy or inspire one or another traditional rocker.

BLACK SPACE RIDERS are:
JE: Lead Vocals, Guitars, Organ, Beats
SEB: Lead vocals
C.RIP: Drums, Percussion
SLI: Guitars
SAQ: Bass Guitar
HEVO: Additional Bass Guitar

Black Space Riders webstore

Black Space Riders on Thee Facebooks

Black Space Riders on Bandcamp

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In the Round: Reviews of Buddha Sentenza, Chrome, Hercyn, The Warlocks and The White Kites

Posted in Reviews on February 4th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Second week in a row I’m trying this, since the universe didn’t seem to collapse on itself after the first one — unless you count how bad I fucked up lineups; they’re fixed now. Once again we cover some pretty wide ground geographically and stylistically (also alphabetically!), so let’s get to it:

Buddha Sentenza, South Western Lower Valley Rock

Released last year as their debut on World in Sound Records, the 14-track full-length South Western Lower Valley Rock is Buddha Sentenza‘s follow-up to 2009’s exploratory Mode 0909 (review here). The 46-minute outing from the German instrumental fivesome pairs longer pieces like the classic rocking “Arrested Development” (5:04) and prog-jamming “The Monkey Stealing the Peaches” (2:49) off of brief transitional interludes taking their name from letters in the Greek alphabet. I’m not sure what “A-B-G-D-E-Z-I” is meant to indicate — the tracks being “Alpha,” “Beta,” “Gamma” and so on — but they pair remarkably well with the other pieces, and the emergent feel is not unlike that of My Sleeping Karma‘s 2012 outing, Soma, methodologically as well as aesthetically. Perhaps the highlight of South Western Lower Valley Rock is its longest component, “Debris Moon,” which in just under nine minutes weaves nighttime atmospherics and heavy psych ambience into what’s still a subdued track, never quite paying off the tension it creates until the subsequent “Epsilon” shifts into the aforementioned “The Monkey Stealing the Peaches,” giving even more of a clue that Buddha Sentenza are working in a whole-album mindset, rather than thinking of South Western Lower Valley Rock in terms of its individual tracks. The album makes sense on this level, and on CD presents an immersive, linear listening experience that casts a deceptively wide stylistic berth between keyboard-infused krautrock worship, heavy rock and psychedelia, offering fluid motion from in less skilled hands could easily come across as disjointed elements. They make that My Sleeping Karma comparison almost too easy, but the interludes are ultimately essential in creating the flow, as the ease of movement between the desert crunch of “Tzameti,” “Eta” and Eastern-vibing closer “Psychonaut” underscores. Some of Buddha Sentenza‘s best moments are in playing styles off each other.

Buddha Sentenza on Thee Facebooks

World in Sound Records

Chrome, Half Machine from the Sun: The Lost Tracks from ’79-’80

While the liner notes tell of their having been designated “too accessible” at the time, the 18 songs on Chrome‘s Half Machine from the Sun are still plenty weird. As the title indicates, the release is a compilation of yet-unissued cuts from 1979-1980, the era of Half Machine Lip Moves and Red Exposure for Chrome‘s key collaboration between guitarist/vocalist Helios Creed and drummer/vocalist Damon Edge and arguably the point at which that incarnation of the band’s far-out blend of proto-punk, New Wave, psychedelic rock and experimental pop was at its most potent. Sure enough, Half Machine from the Sun crisscrosses genres on an almost per-track basis, be it the weirdo electro stomp of “Looking for Your Door,” the space rock noise wash of “Morrison” or “Sub Machine,” which turns an almost manic drum beat into the foundation of an otherworldly guitar and vocal exploration. They can and will go anywhere, as “Charlie’s Little Problem” and the creeper keyboards of “Ghost” showcase, but if there’s anything tying Half Machine from the Sun (which is out through King of Spades Records following a successful crowdfunding campaign to have it pressed to CD) together, it’s the fact that nothing is tying it together. Tape loops, analog synth, bizarre vocals, structure out the window — and yes, this is still the “accessible” side of Chrome — these songs nonetheless leave any number of memorable impressions, even if that impression winds up in an overarching sense of “God damn this band was weird.” Gloriously so. Chrome, under the direction of Helios Creed, have reportedly been at work on new material, so maybe all the better to give fans advance notice via this collection, which provides 73 minutes of alternate universe brainfodder to sate the curious and the passionate alike. A fan piece, but a welcome one.

Chrome on Thee Facebooks

Helios Creed on Thee Facebooks

Hercyn, Magda

The self-released debut EP from New Jersey-based progressive black metallers Hercyn, Magda, arrives in a full jewel case — the pressing is limited to 100 copies — wrapped in twine. I guess that’s meant to take the place of shrinkwrap, and in that, it’s certainly a more natural-feeling option. Magda‘s namesake track is a 24-minute blend of Euro-doom melancholy, blackened gurgles, grand riffing and ambient weight from the Jersey City trio of guitarist Michael DiCiania, guitarist/vocalist Ernest Wawiorko and bassist Tony Stanziano. About the only thing holding back the EP’s organic vibe is the fact that the drums are programmed, which gives the complex, ambitious “Magda” a mechanical base for what’s otherwise a relatively human sound; the guitars are buzzsaw sharp, but not necessarily without tonal warmth, and particularly in blastbeaten stretches, one almost wants something less precise to go along with the rawness in those guitars, as well as in the bass and Wawiorko‘s vocals. Nonetheless, as lead and rhythm layers intertwine past “Magda”‘s midpoint, there’s beauty in the dismal and a sense of the potential in Hercyn to fluidly cross genre boundaries even more than they already are. That lead is well plotted and sustained, and tempo and chug vary as the song reaches and moves beyond its apex in the second half, with the band offering a bit of Enslaved and Woods of Ypres influence in the interplay of keys and strings. I don’t know if they’ll try to find an actual drummer — for a first release, Magda hardly seems half-assed in its presentation, so maybe this is it; I hear industrial is on its way back — but Hercyn have started with a work of striking intricacy, and prove wholly comfortable in the longer form. An impressive and hopefully portentous debut.

Hercyn on Thee Facebooks

Hercyn on Bandcamp

The Warlocks, Skull Worship

Acid fuzz like a field you could lay down and lose an afternoon in is the contraband trafficked by L.A. freakouts The Warlocks, whose amorphous sonic ooze is every bit in mirror to their lineup, which has seen no fewer than 20 cats come and go and stick around over the course of the last decade and a half. With guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist/bassist Bobby Hecksher as the core around which the eight tracks of the 40-minute Skull Worship swirl, the oft-shoegazing psychedelia isn’t given to complete chaos, but man, The Warlocks go way, way out and don’t seem overly concerned with how they’re getting back. Joining Hecksher for the adventure are guitarist JC Rees, guitarist Earl V. Miller, bassist Chris DiPino and drummer George Serrano, as well as Tanya Hayden, who stops by to add some cello to “Silver and Plastic,” which sounds like what I always secretly hoped Radiohead would deliver instead of the pretentious mopey schlock they put out until they decided they were too smart for albums or whatever. The Warlocks, who had a couple records out on Tee Pee before jumping to Zap Banana/Cargo Records for Skull Worship, at times call to mind the very, very British moments of Crippled Black Phoenix, but then the psychedelic wash of “Chameleon” or “It’s a Hard Fall” takes hold and the whole vibe is groovier, thicker, more multi-colored molasses, whatever other attitude it might convey. The album hits its stride just when you think it might start to drag, and the closing “Eyes Jam” sounds like its backwards cymbals, feedback and drones could just go on into perpetuity, like if the record never returned and the loop kept repeating. Some heady moments, but should be right on the level for those properly tuned in.

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Zap Banana Records

The White Kites, Missing

Immediately and throughout much of the duration of Polish psychedelic pop rockers The White Kites‘ debut LP, Missing (out on Deep Field Records), the vibe is Beatles. Lots and lots of Beatles, from the Sgt. Pepper-style organ circus swirl of opener “Arrival” on through the McCartney piano bounce of the penultimate “The Missing.” It is a 50-minute album, and much of the lighthearted atmosphere it creates stems from its modern interpretation of the legendary Liverpudlians in their psych era. Hard to rag on a band for digging The Beatles — it’s like yelling at a fish for breathing underwater. And as a seven-piece that includes flute, recorders, keyboards, citole, a variety of percussion, clarinet, ukulele and so on, The White Kites aren’t lacking for sonic diversity — vocalist Sean Palmer has quite a task in tying the album together — but as intricate and progressive as Missing gets, it’s still taking the Lennon/McCartney byway to get there. The corresponding songwriting team for The White Kites seems to be Palmer and bassist/keyboardist Jakub Lenarczyk (presented as Lenarczyk/Palmer), and they’re more than capable in their charge, but hints of early Pink Floyd and King Crimson seem to be waiting to emerge from “Turtle’s Back” and “Beyond the Furthest Star,” like they’re trying to get out and be more prominent in the band’s sound but are overpowered by the traceable poppiness. That doesn’t stop Missing from being enjoyable — unless you’ve never liked The Beatles, maybe — or “Beyond the Furthest Star” from being the highlight, it just means that The White Kites have room to shift the sonic balance should they choose to do so their next time around. Until then, impeccable production and imaginative arrangements throughout give an impression of a band just beginning their discovery.

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