Quarterly Review: Torche, Spillage, Pharlee, Dali’s Llama, Speedealer, Mt. Echo, Monocluster, Picaporters, Beaten by Hippies, Luna Sol

Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

We meet again. The Summer 2019 Quarterly Review. It’s four in the morning and I’m getting ready to start the day. I haven’t even managed to pour myself coffee yet, which even as I type it out feels like a crime against humanity, such as it is. I’ll get there though.

Wednesday in the Quarterly Review marks the halfway point of the week, and as we’ll hit 30 reviews at the end, it’s half of the total 60 as well, so yeah. Feeling alright so far. As always, good music helps. I’ve added a couple things for consideration to my ongoing best-of-the-year list for December, so that’s something. And I think I’ll probably be doing so again today, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Torche, Admission

torche admission

15 years later and Torche‘s sound is still expanding. To that point, it’s never sounded quite as expansive as it does on Admission, their fifth album and second for Relapse behind 2015’s Restarter (review here). There are still plenty of straight-ahead heavy riffs on cuts like “Reminder” or “Slide” or the bomb-tone-laden “Infierno,” but in the title-track, in “Times Missing,” the closer “Changes Come,” “Slide” and even the 1:30-long “What Was,” there’s a sense of spaciousness and float to the guitars to contrast all that crunch, and it effectively takes the place of some of the manic feel of their earlier work. It’s consistent with the brightness of their melodies in songs like “Extremes of Consciousness” and the early pusher “Submission,” and it adds to their style rather than takes away, building on the mid-paced feel of the last album in such a way as to demonstrate the band’s continued growth long after they’d be well within their rights to rest on their laurels. Sharp, consistent in its level of songwriting, mature and engaging across its 36-minute entirety, Admission is everything one might ask of Torche‘s fifth album.

Torche on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Spillage, Blood of Angels

spillage blood of angels

If you, like me, believe doom to be the guardian style of classic heavy metal — you could also argue power metal there, but that’s why it’s an argument — Chicago’s Spillage might be the band to help make your case. With their own Ronnie James Dio in Elvin Rodriguez (not a comparison I make lightly) and a connection to the Trouble family tree via founding guitarist Tony Spillman, who also played in Earthen Grave, the band unfurl trad-metal poise throughout their 53-minute second album, Blood of Angels, hitting touchstones like Sabbath, Priest, and indeed Trouble on a chugger like “Free Man,” a liberal dose of organ on “Rough Grooved Surface” adding to the classic feel — Rainbow, maybe? — and even the grandiose ballad “Voice of Reason” that appears before the closing Sabbath cover “Dirty Women” staying loyal to the cause. I can’t and won’t fault them for that, as in both their originals and in the cover, their hearts are obviously in it all the way and the sound is right on, the sleek swing in the second half of “Evil Doers” punctuated by squealing guitar just as it should be. Mark it a win for the forces of metal, maybe less so for the angels.

Spillage on Thee Facebooks

Qumran Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Pharlee, Pharlee

pharlee pharlee

San Diego strikes again with Pharlee‘s self-titled debut on Tee Pee Records, a 29-minute boogie rock shove that’s marked out by the significant pipes of Macarena Rivera up front, the shuffling snare work of Zach Oakley (also guitar in JOY and Volcano) and the organ work of Garret Lekas throughout, winding around and accentuating the riffs of Justin “Figgy” Figueroa and the air-push bass of Dylan Donovan. It’s a proven formula by now, but Pharlee‘s Pharlee is like the band who comes on stage in the middle of the festival and surprises everyone and reminds them why they’re there in the first place. The energy of “Darkest Hour” is infectious, and the bluesier take on Freddie King‘s “Going Down” highlights a stoner shred in Figueroa‘s guitar that fits superbly ahead of the fuzz freakout, all-go closer “Sunward,” and whatever stylistic elements (and personnel, for that matter) might be consistent with their hometown’s well-populated underground, Pharlee take that radness and make it their own.

Pharlee on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records website

 

Dali’s Llama, Mercury Sea

dalis llama mercury sea

Long-running desert rockers Dali’s Llama return with Mercury Sea, their first release since 2017’s The Blossom EP (review here) and their first full-length since 2016’s Dying in the Sun (review here), sounding reinvigorated in rockers like opener “Weary” and the subsequent grunge-vibing “Choking on the Same,” “When Ember Laughs” and the garage-style “She’s Not Here.” Persistently underappreciated, their albums always have a distinct feel, and Mercury Sea is no different, finding a place for itself between the laid-back desert blues and punkier fare on a cut like “Someday, Someday,” even delving into psychedelic folk for a while in the 6:54 longest track “Goblin Fruit,” and a bit of lead guitar scorch bringing it all together on closer “All My Fault,” highlighting the theme of love that’s been playing out all the while. The sincerity behind that and everything Dali’s Llama does is palpable as ever in these 11 tracks, an more than 25 years on from their inception, they continue to deliver memorable songs in wholly unpretentious fashion. That’s just what they do.

Dali’s Llama on Thee Facebooks

Dali’s Llama on Bandcamp

 

Speedealer, Blue Days Black Nights

speedealer blue days black nights

Speedealer ride again! And just about at top speed, too. The Dallas, Texas, outfit were last heard from circa 2003, and their turnabout is marked with the self-release of Blue Days Black Nights, a fury-driven 10-tracker that takes the best of their heavy-rock-via-punk delivery and beefs up tones to suit another decade and a half’s worth of hard living and accumulated disaffection. The Dallas four-piece blaze through songs like “Never Knew,” the hardcore-punk “Losing My Shit,” the more metallic “Nothing Left to Say,” and the careening aggro-swagger of “Rheumatism,” but there’s still some variety to be had throughout, as highlight “Sold Out,” “War Nicht Genung” and “Shut Up” find the band no less effective working at a somewhat scaled-back pace. However fast they’re going, though the attitude remains much the same, and it’s “fuck you fuck this” fuckall all the way. Those familiar with their past work would expect no less, and time has clearly not repaired the chip on Speedealer‘s shoulder. Their anger is our gain.

Speedealer on Thee Facebooks

Speedealer webstore

 

Mt. Echo, Cirrus

mt echo cirrus

Based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, the instrumentalist four-piece Mt. Echo present a somewhat noisier take on Russian Circles-style heavy post-rock with their nine-song/46-minute debut, Cirrus. Not at all shy about incorporating a noise rock riff or a more weighted groove, the dual-guitar outfit nonetheless spend significant time patiently engaged in the work of atmosphere-building, so that their material develops a genuine ebb and flow as songs tie one into the next to give the entire affair a whole-album feel. It is their first outing, but all the more striking for that in terms of how much of a grip they seem to have on their approach and what they want to be doing in a song like “Lighthouse at the End of Time” with airy lead and chugging rhythm guitars intertwining and meeting head-on for post-YOB crashes and an eventual turn into a harder-pushing progression. Ambience comes (mostly) to the fore in the seven-minute “Monsters and the Men Who Made Them,” but wherever they go on Cirrus, Mt. Echo bring that atmospheric density along with them. The proverbial ‘band to watch.’

Mt. Echo on Thee Facebooks

Mt. Echo on Bandcamp

 

Monocluster, Ocean

Monocluster Ocean

Over the course of five longform tracks on Ocean, Germany’s Monocluster build fluidly on the accomplishments of their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), greatly expanding on the heft and general reach of their sound while, as opener “Ocean in Our Bones” demonstrates, still holding onto the ability to affect a killer hook when they need one. Ocean is not a minor undertaking at 56 minutes, but it dedicates its time to constructing a world in cuts like “Leviathan” and “A Place Beyond,” the giant wall of fuzzed low end becoming the backdrop for the three-part story being told that ends with the 11:43 “Home” standing alone, as graceful and progressive as it is brash and noisy — a mirror in that regard to the nine-minute centerpiece “Guns and Greed” and a fitting summation of Ocean‘s course. They keep this up for very long and people are going to start to notice. The album is a marked step forward from where Monocluster were a few years ago, and sets up the expectation of continued growth their next time out while keeping a focus on the essential elements of songwriting as well. If we’re looking for highlights, I’d pick “Leviathan,” but honestly, it’s anyone’s game.

Monocluster on Thee Facebooks

Monocluster on Bandcamp

 

Picaporters, XXIII

picaporters xxiii

The third full-length from Argentine trio Picaporters marks another level of achievement for them as a band. XXIII arrives three years after El Horror Oculto (review here) and is unquestionably their broadest-cast spectrum to-date. The album comes bookended by eight-minute opener “La Soga de los Muertos” and “M.I.,” an 18-minute finale jam that would give a Deep Purple live record reason to blush. Soulful guitar stretches out over a vast rhythmic landscape, and all this after “Jinetes del Universo” motorpunks out and “Vencida” pulls together Floydian melo-prog, “Numero 5” precedes the closer with acoustic interplay and the early “Despertar” offers a little bit of everything and a lot of what-the-hell-just-happened. These guys started out on solid footing with their 2013 debut, Elefantes (review here), but neither that nor El Horror Oculto really hinted at the scope they’d make sound so natural throughout XXIII, which is the kind of record that leaves you no choice but to call it progressive.

Picaporters on Thee Facebooks

Picaporters on Bandcamp

 

Beaten by Hippies, Beaten by Hippies

beaten by hippies beaten by hippies

As their moniker hints, there’s some edge of danger to Belgium’s Beaten by Hippies‘ self-titled debut (on Polderrecords), but the album ultimately resolves itself more toward songwriting and hooks in the spirit of a meaner-sounding Queens of the Stone Age in songs like “Space Tail” and “More is More,” finding common ground with the energy of Truckfighters though never quite delving so far into fuzzy tones. That’s not at all to the band’s detriment — rather, it helps the four-piece begin to cast their identity as they do in this material, whether that’s happening in the volatile sudden volume trades in “Dust” or the mission statement “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which feels geared a bit to the anthemic but would probably work just as well in whatever pub they happen to be terrorizing on a given evening. Their delivery skirts the line between heavy and hard rock as only that vaguely commercially viable European-style can, but the songs are right there waiting to take the stage at whatever festival is this weekend and blow the roof — or the sky, I guess, if it’s outdoors — off the place.

Beaten by Hippies on Thee Facebooks

Polderrecords website

 

Luna Sol, Below the Deep

luna sol below the deep

Guitarist/vocalist Dave Angstrom may be best known in heavy rock circles for his work alongside John Garcia in Hermano, but in leading the four-piece Luna Sol through their 12-song/50-minute sophomore outing, Below the Deep (on Slush Fund Recordings), he proves a capable frontman as well as songwriter. Sharing vocal duties with bassist Shannon Fahnestock while David Burke handles guitar and Justin Baier drums, Angstrom is a steady presence at the fore through the well-constructed ’90s-flavored heavy rock of “Below the Deep” and “Along the Road” early, the later “Garden of the Gods” playing toward a more complex arrangement after the strutting “The Dying Conglomerate” paints a suitably grim State of the Union and ahead of the fuzz-rich ending in “Home,” which keeps its melodic purpose even as it crashes out to its languid finish. Whether it’s the charged “Man’s Worth Killin'” or the winding fuzz of “Mammoth Cave,” one can definitely hear some Hermano at work, but Luna Sol distinguish themselves just the same.

Luna Sol on Thee Facebooks

Slush Fund Recordings webstore

 

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Mouth Premiere “Coffee” from Past Present Future

Posted in audiObelisk on May 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

MOUTH

Space freaks and prog heads, unite! Or, if not, at least chill out for a bit. This summer, Tonzonen will present Mouth‘s Past Present Future collection as a four-track 10″ EP, which in its digital form sets about compiling work that spans some 18 years of material — appropriately enough, the oldest track is the grunge-riffed closer “Youth,” from 2001 — for a 34-minute span that is, as one might expect, kind of all over the place. It’s a document of how far Mouth have come and, indeed, where they might be headed, as the 2018 track “Steamship Shambles” proves to be some of the band’s most experimentalist prog-jazz fusion to date while still managing as well to be drenched in melody. The live-sounding weird-out “Chase ’72” brings nine minutes of jammy exploration, and a new mix of “Into the Light” from 2017’s Vortex (review here) highlights the whirling synthesizer later in the track. From the opening organ line of “Coffee” onward, it’s an offering full of twists and turns that by its very nature is more EP than album, despite what might otherwise be a full-length runtime, jumping between different recording sessions and, occasionally, styles as it does.

The Cologne, Germany-based proggers have settled over time on a decidedly traditionalist approach, taking influence from the more winding aspects of heavy ’70s keyboard-infused adventurers, but Past Present Future unveils some of the roots of where that mouth past present futurecomes from, with “Coffee,” “Stillsad” and “Youth” adding complexity to the tale in shorter execution and more straightforward verse/chorus structuring. Especially considering those songs are the better part of 20 years old — “Stillsad” is from 2002 — they hold up remarkably well, though in the case of “Coffee,” it’s past and present coming together as guitarist/vocalist Christian Koller went back into the original recording and added keys. Mouth of course dealt with the passing of bassist Gerald Kirsch last year, and Koller and drummer Nick Mavridis have come back together with Thomas Johnen handling low end to begin playing shows in August around the time of Past Present Future‘s release, so it’s entirely possible the compilation is a way for the band to reconcile with their own history and begin to move forward from the tragedy of that loss — the potential “future” portion of the title.

Whatever the case, whether it’s the brief excursion of the almost-a-capella “March of the Cyclopes (A Capella Mix)” or the kitchen-sink, everything-is-music vibe that runs through “Steamship Shambles” — a 17-minute version of which is available in the digital edition — Mouth make their progressivism clear in these tracks even from their relatively rudimentary beginnings. There’s no question they’ve developed as a group over time, but in both “past” and “present,” and likely in “future” as well, their commitment to thoughtful songwriting and pushing themselves forward creatively is right there in the material waiting to be heard.

So hear it. Ahead of Past Present Future‘s slated August release on Tonzonen, I’m happy to host the premiere of “Coffee,” which again is a standout on the EP for its direct blend of old and new recordings. Koller gives some comment about the track below, and if you’d like to read more, the complete liner notes for the outing are posted here.

Please enjoy:

Mouth, “Coffee” official track premiere

Christian Koller on “Coffee”:

Well, I think that I can’t really add something new to the liner notes except that the song was a tiny bit influenced by System of Down’s “Chop Suey!” Haha… The song structure is very similar considering the pop bridge. New Metal was the thing in early 2002 and I hated it but I loved the structure of that song so I borrowed it. Just a youthful folly.

“Coffee” was actually covered by another band from Hagen (Nick’s hometown) back in the days. I saw the band performing it once. That was quite nice. I felt really honored.

MOUTH – Past-Present-Future
(Tonzonen 2019)
1. Coffee (2002/2018)
2. Chase‘72 (2017)
3. Into the Light (alternate mix)
4. Steamship Shambles (2018)
5. March of the Cyclopes (a cappella mix)
6. Stillsad (2002)
7. Youth (2001)

The Tonzonen EP version is going to be a vinyl only release but we will also purchase a digital version via Bandcamp.

The vinyl version consists of tracks 1-4. Furthermore the vinyl version of “Steamship Shambles” is edited to 6:11 minutes. [The digital version] is the super extended version.

Tracks 5-7 are only digital bonus tracks.

Mouth is:
Nick Mavridis: Drums
Thomas Johnen: Bass
Christian Koller: Guitar / Keyboards / Vocals

Mouth on Thee Facebooks

Mouth on Bandcamp

Mouth on Soundcloud

Tonzonen Records on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records on Instagram

Tonzonen Records website

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Mouth to Release Past Present Future in August; Playing Krach am Bach

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

German semi-retro progressive rockers Mouth will in August release a new collection titled Past Present Future that, indeed, collects material new and old spanning an 18-year history of the band. Issuing through Tonzonen, the arrival of Past Present Future coincides with the band making their return to the stage at this year’s Krach am Bach festival — playing alongside Kadavar, Spidergawd, Naxatras, Atavismo and others — that will be their first live show since the passing of their bassist Gerald Kirsch and recently-announced regrouping with Thomas Johnen handling low end. Mouth‘s last release was a limited Alterna Sounds Festival live record (discussed here) that captured their final show with Kirsch in the band.

The new vinyl with digital bonus tracks would seem to be a way to reckon with what the band’s been through in terms of personal trauma while express their continued desire to move forward creatively. In addition to the basic release info, Mouth also sent the liner notes for Past Present Future that you can see below.

Enjoy:

mouth past present future

MOUTH – PAST PRESENT FUTURE 10″

The Tonzonen EP version is going to be a vinyl only release but we will also purchase a digital version via Bandcamp.

The vinyl version consists of tracks 1-4. Furthermore the vinyl version of “Steamship Shambles” is edited to 6:11 minutes. [The digital version] is the super extended version.

Tracks 5-7 are only digital bonus tracks.

MOUTH – Past-Present-Future
(Tonzonen 2019)
1. Coffee (2002/2018)
2. Chase‘72 (2017)
3. Into the Light (alternate mix)
4. Steamship Shambles (2018)
5. March of the Cyclopes (a cappella mix)
6. Stillsad (2002)
7. Youth (2001)

Liner notes:

Side A
Coffee* 3:56
As if Led Zeppelin recorded a jingle together with The Move and John Barry for a Starbucks advertisement in 1972.

The Song was originally recorded in spring 2002. It’s a little tongue-in-cheek thing. I used drink a lot of coffee in those while I was learning for my university exams. In a way its my personal drug song. Last year after Gerald’s death I was browsing some of our very old recordings and I found this lovely peace of rock. Anyway, I played around the recording and added some classical MOUTH keys to it. Finally it sounded like a typical 2018 MOUTH song.

Chase’72** 8:58
This is an impromptu live studio jam from 2017 which sounds a bit like movie score from the early seventies, maybe Dirty Harry.

Side B
Into The Light*** 7:05
This is my original mix which was finally dropped by our late producer and label boss Guido Lucas. For me this is the real version. I’m not a big fan of the album version because the song doesn’t really kick the way it was supposed to be but I think that this version is close to perfection.

Steamship Shambles**** 6:11
This almost experimental peace is based on a basic studio recording from January 2018 and a homerecording demo from 2011. Nick is responsible for all the instruments, (kitchen-) sounds, mixing and editing, except hammond, lead guitar & mellotron. It’s a bit like a Ummagamma studio experiment.

Bonus tracks:
March of the Cyclopes
It’s an a cappella mix minus the basic tracks. I like it because you can actually hear what the choir is singing. Haha.

Stillsad
This is a very early example of a typical MOUTH song in those days. It could have been the B-Side to „Coffee“. This is a studio recording from early 2002. We were able to use a very nice studio for free between 23:00-6:00. I think we nailed it in one night session.

Youth
This song was one of our early anthems (together with „coffee“) and our show closer. It was one of our first songs and a very good example of our „boogie van hippie music“. We recorded this one together with another song at the Blubox in autumn 2001. It was also originally produced by the late Guido Lucas.

*2002/2018 (koller)
revised version
bass: jan wendler
**2017 (kirch/koller/mavridis)
studio jam
***2012 (koller)
alternative mix
****2018 (mavridis)

Mouth is:
Nick Mavridis: Drums
Thomas Johnen: Bass
Christian Koller: Guitar / Keyboards / Vocals

https://www.facebook.com/mouthsound/
https://mouthprog.bandcamp.com/
http://www.soundcloud.com/mouthprog
https://www.facebook.com/Tonzonen/
https://www.instagram.com/tonzonenrecords/
https://www.tonzonen.de

Mouth, Floating (2018)

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Mouth Release Limited Alterna Sounds Festival Live Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I’ve always been a sucker for a good bootleg. I’m not saying record labels don’t deserve their cut and bands don’t deserve their cut, but come on, there’s something about an unofficial release that makes it all the more like a piece of buried treasure. I used to buy bootleg CDs at a shop in Morristown, NJ, and it was upstairs above a nail salon or something like that, and you’d walk in and it was like entering a secret world full of weird Italian misprints, old illicit vinyl and so on. Just amazing. Everything kind of went to hell when CDRs and printed-at-home artwork came along in the late-’90s, but a professional bootleg? It rarely gets better than that.

Mouth don a bootleg aesthetic with their Alterna Sounds Festival live recording, captured earlier this year with a TASCAM on stage and presented in warts-and-all fashion with stage feedback and audience whistles and the rest of it. The live album obviously isn’t an actual bootleg, since it’s the band itself putting it out and not, you know, a criminal, but the vibe is there just the same as the band works through tracks dating all the way back to their 2009 debut, Rhizome. Alterna Sounds Festival comes down from their Bandcamp page on Little Xmas — same day your tree is supposed to come down — so if you get the chance, you might as well grab a download while the getting’s good. I don’t think the cops will come after you for that.

Here’s the info:

mouth alterna sounds festival

MOUTH – ALTERNA SOUNDS FESTIVAL

*live bootleg*
*for free*
*only online until January 6 2019*

mouth – live @ alterna sounds festival 2018
Tracklisting:
1. Sunrise
2. Stampede
3. Vortex
4. Witch’s Vice
5. Parade
6. On the Boat
7. Master Volume’s Voice
8. Into the Light
9. Peng*

Recorded live @ Sputnik Café Münster 3/24/2018. Recorded live on stage with a TASCAM DR-5, positioned on the guitar amp.

Mouth is:
Nick Mavridis: Drums
Gerald Kirsch: Bass
Christian Koller: Guitar / Keyboards / Vocals

https://www.facebook.com/mouthsound/
https://mouthprog.bandcamp.com/
http://www.soundcloud.com/mouthprog

Mouth, Alterna Sounds Festival (2018)

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Review & Track Premiere: Plainride, Life on Ares

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

plainride life on ares

[Click play above to listen to ‘El Coyote’ from Plainride’s Life on Ares. Album is out Sept. 21 on Ripple Music.]

One doesn’t want to generalize — exceptions to rules and whatnot — but basically, if you’ve got a record with a song called “Battletoads” on it, that’s probably something I want to hear. The 8-bit NES reference is but one manifestation of German heavy rockers Plainride‘s affinity for ’90s-era vibing. Their second album, Life on Ares, arrives some three years after their debut, Return of the Jackalope (review here), the Cologne four-piece effectively press (and hold) the reset button on their approach to recording, keeping a more studio-minded feel rather than tracking live and so on. That can be heard in the massive roll that ensues in “El Coyote” after the intro “A Fiery Demise (Prologue)” and the turn to jazzy jabs that follows from there. On every level, the 10-track/43-minute Life on Ares is a more detailed, more nuanced outing, and as it will no doubt be many listeners’ first time hearing the band as it’s also their debut on Ripple Music (which also reissued Return of the Jackalope last year), the first impression it makes is one of hard-hitting pro-sounding heavy rock and roll.

The deep-toned fuzz and gruff vocals of Max Rebel are out in front of songs like the aforementioned “Battletoads” and the penultimate “Thunder and Awe” in such a fashion as to remind of Ripple veterans Gozu and all the more so with the rhythmic propulsion in Rebel and Fabe “van Fuzz” Klein‘s riffing, the bass of Leo “Lionhatch” Beringer and new drummer Flo “The Brave” Schlenker, while the mellow and bluesy “Blood on the Crown” recalls quiet Clutch moments like “The Regulator” with its soft guitar shimmer and washes of cymbal. Context goes a long way, though, in seeing Plainride begin to distinguish themselves from their influences — the once-unbridled raucousness of Truckfighters is a factor as well, as it was their last time out — and Plainride set themselves apart via barnburners like “Seven of Spades” with a gallop à la a catchier High on Fire if not Motörhead directly, and the apparent side B opener “Wormhole Society,” with its howling solo in the second half.

Life on Ares has two songs that top seven minutes, “El Coyote” (7:05) and “Bite Back” (7:04), and both feature on side A. Along with the introduction titled “A Fiery Demise” and the quick-running “Seven of Spades” and “Battletoads” also included, the five-song first half of the album develops a varied personality that becomes crucial to its effectiveness overall. Their seeming ability to change it up is evident through the shift from one song to the next, and in the case of “El Coyote” and “Bite Back” specifically, from one part to the next, but as “Bite Back” shows perhaps most of all, Plainride are dutiful and mindful of keeping a flow to the progression of their material. Neither track sounds artificially extended in a let’s-write-a-long-song kind of way. That may well have been the intent, but even if so, the resulting feel is no less natural than anything else they conjure throughout.

plainride

And the placement of “Battletoads” between the longer pieces is important in acting as a preview for side B’s dug-in feel, some more straightforward rockers, but still high-energy and well composed. As they move from one song to the next, Plainride seem to shoulder-check the listener off-balance, but never actually hard enough to knock them down, i.e., take them out of the overarching fluidity of one song into the next. It’s a bumpy ride, but it’s supposed to be a bumpy ride, and the band’s pursuit of riffly glories leads them to exciting and upbeat crafting and deft turns like those in “Bite Back” as it moves to its wah-laced apex solo in its final minute, scorching its way to a cold finish ahead of the start of “Wormhole Society” and the album’s remaining back end, which one might be tempted to see as where the foursome really get down to business if they hadn’t already worked so hard to establish so much in terms of sound, impact, professionalism and character, not to mention theme or imagery, yet another layer of detail to be found is right in the name of the record, which is subtitled Life on Ares: Thrilling Tales from a Strange Planet.

I’ll give you “thrilling” fair enough. The second part — the bit about “strange planet” — may or may not be accurate. That is, I’m not sure if Ares even has a Texas that would suit “Texas Labyrinth,” the tense verses of which open to a winding melodic hook. It’s possible Ares — named for the Greek god of war; the Roman equivalent is Mars — is intended to be an alternate name for Earth, which most definitely does have a Texas, and that the Strange Planet in question is in fact this one. The alternate-earth theory holds water,  but it’s still somewhat unclear. It matters less as “Texas Labyrinth” drops to quiet guitar resonance and a transitional drone to the start of “Blood on the Crown,” which begins with spacious plucked notes before unfolding a build that remains understated and blues-based, but is weighted in its groove just the same, lead guitar and keys showing up later on in order to push it over the top. It works, is the bottom line. They roll on toward and through “Thunder and Awe” toward the comfortably-paced closer “Anaximander (And the Riddle of Origin),” Rebel holding out a gravely shout just past the 90-second mark while the band rises to meet him en route to a midsection setting up the instrumental finish, an effects-soaked lead giving way to a surprising touch of psychedelia before the thrust resumes to end out.

They’re obviously having a good time, and the songs show diligent efforts to convey that, but Plainride are also just as obviously interested in developing their style. There’s nary a cryptozoological aspect to be found on Life on Ares, and while it would’ve been entirely possible for them to bring back the jackalope that seemed so destined to become their mascot, the decision not to feels very much like a conscious choice. So be it. Three years ago, they were a different band — in the case of who’s drumming, literally so — and instead of focusing on the past, they’re very clearly looking ahead to what this lineup can accomplish, and they see to it their listener does the same. There was potential in the debut, and there’s potential writ large throughout Life on Ares as well, and Plainride seem to be gearing up to realize that with energy and volume levels high.

Plainride on Instagram

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Plainride on Spotify

Plainride on Bandcamp

Plainride website

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Ripple Music on Twitter

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Plainride Set Sept. 21 Release for Life on Ares

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

plainride

And so the band who just a few years ago told us all about the bears upon Mt. Rushmore have come back, this time with tales from a strange planet. Cologne-based four-piece Plainride are set to follow-up their 2015 debut album, Return of the Jackalope (review here), with a new collection titled Life on Ares on Ripple Music. The announcement comes just a week before they take stage at one of the universe’s biggest festivals, Wacken Open Air, and though no audio from the sophomore outing has been unveiled as yet, I can’t help but note a decided turn toward the serious in the names of the tracks included. Well, maybe aside from “Battletoads” anyway, but kudos to the band on what I’ll just assume is a NES reference. Battletoads were basically Ninja Turtles by any other name, but that game still kicked ass.

By the way, if you ever want to talk about ancient videogames, hit me up.

To the matter at hand: Cheers to Plainride on the upcoming fest slot(s) and the impending record. I look forward to hearing where they’ve taken the uptempo push of the first offering with the new one, the art and details of which you can see below, courtesy of the PR wire.

They look like this:

plainride life on ares

PLAINRIDE ARE BACK!

Cologne-based Stoner Rockers will be releasing their new album “Life On Ares” through Californian label Ripple Music on September 21st.

Ladies, Gentlemen, Jackalopes, and Space Rangers!

We’re psyched to announce that PLAINRIDE’s new album Life On Ares is coming to you via Ripple Music and will hit planet Earth on September 21st!

It was recorded at Hydra Lab studios in the heart of Cologne, mixed and mastered by interdimensional sound engineer Alberto De Icaza (Clutch, Crobot), and embellished with the galactic art of Milan-based space-prodigy SoloMacello!

PLAINRIDE on Tour:
August 4 – W:O:A 2018 – Wacken
August 12 – Trafostation 61 Festival – Frechen
October 5 – Tsunami Club – Cologne

Tracklist Life On Ares:
1. A Fiery Demise (Prologue)
2. El Coyote
3. Battletoads
4. Seven Of Spades
5. Bite Back
6. Wormhole Society
7. Texas Labyrinth
8. Blood On The Crown
9. Thunder & Awe
10. Anaximander (And The Riddle Of Origin)

instagram.com/plainride
facebook.com/PLAINRIDE.Official
open.spotify.com/artist/2NDj8i2isAwlLIRGlNWsCh
https://plainride.bandcamp.com/
plainri.de
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://twitter.com/RippleMusic
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Plainride, Return of the Jackalope (2015)

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Review & Full Album Stream: Mouth, Floating

Posted in Reviews on March 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mouth floating

[Click play above to stream Floating by Mouth in its entirety. Album is out March 23 on Tonzonen Records and available to preorder here.]

Looking at the cover art, would it be a shock to learn that Mouth‘s third album and Tonzonen Records debut, Floating, is both colorful and self-aware? Hopefully not. The Cologne, Germany-based progressive rock trio — Chris Koller on vocals, guitars, keys and production, Gerald Kirsch on bass, Nick Mavridis on dums and more keys — have put together Floating on a quick turnaround from their 2017 sophomore outing, Vortex (review here), and with the soft release of Live ’71 (review here) between the two studio outings, it seems the three-piece have committed themselves at least for the time being to a prolific rate of output.

Nothing to complain about there. It’s always more difficult to chart a band’s growth with a short time split from one record to the next, but Mouth have made that process relatively simple by pushing their sound backward in time. One imagines that if utterly manageable eight-song/34-minute Floating were to receive a companion live offering like Vortex before it, it might be Live ’69 instead of Live ’71, and sound-wise that’s a marked difference. Where the prior album was lush in its melodies, patient and ready at a moment’s notice to veer into post-King Crimson serenities — nothing against that whatsoever — Floating is by and large more psychedelically influenced; proto-progressive instead of classically progressive. And even though it picks up right where Vortex left off, with the intro “Floating (Reprise)” reviving — or, you know, reprising — the capstone of the album prior, which was the 16-minute, sitar-laced “Epilogue,” it’s telling that here it features for less than three minutes before Mouth move onto the even-less patient “Madbeth.”

An outlier for sure, “Madbeth” almost reminds of something ’90s weirdos Ween would come up with, but even in that it remains decidedly progressive in its catchy, bizarre shuffle and sneering vocals. The subsequent organ-say-hello-to-wah drifter “Homagotago” — a Can reference? — comes across like an exploratory jam led by its layered in guitar solo, but clearly there’s a trajectory being followed. The mix of Floating‘s longest track (at nine minutes) is given depth through the organ and other backing synth, and bass and drums seem to hold together a progression that otherwise would simply melt into lysergic goo.

Already in the first three tracks, Mouth have given three distinctly different vibes, but fortunately for anyone who might take the heady but not unwelcoming album on, their command over their sound is steady no matter where they head. Completely instrumental, “Homagotago” is given a bit of funk bounce as it crossed its midpoint, but it doesn’t last, and instead the three-piece push through something of an understated crescendo and finish with the keys and synth sort of drifting off into the unknown. What I’ll assume is the side A closer, “Reversed” is more grounded in a proto-prog hook with layers of swirl backing its vibe-heavy naturalism and blend of acoustic and electric guitars, keys melded in with a tambourine and subtle, relaxed boogie. There’s something garage-style about Floating‘s affect overall, but it’s hard to pinpoint that in moments perhaps outside the pre-punk rhythm-making of “Madbeth” or perhaps “Distance” still to come, but it might just be in the record’s more concise presentation.

mouth

Granted, not everything on Vortex was 16 minutes long, but even as side B starts out with the instrumental “Sunrise,” its five-minute stretch seems to be efficiently-enough constructed to make its atmospheric statement without delving overly into self-indulgence or leaving the listener behind on its molten psychedelic journey into far-out far out reaches. Again, Koller‘s guitar is the leading element, but Mavridis‘ drums — dry in their production in a classic heavy rock fashion — are no less essential than the organ that fleshes out the overarching sense of melody. Side B moves from “Sunrise” to closer “Sunset,” and in between, the shorter “Distance” (3:05) and “O.T.B. Field” (2:55) work respectively to add to the scope of Floating overall and revive its sense of movement ahead of “Sunset,” which follows.

“Distance” is of particular note, as it essentially breaks in hal just before about 90 seconds in, leaving its verse/chorus approach behind in favor of peaceful drone and acoustic interplay that’s drifting and immersive in kind until it cuts short into the boogie of “O.T.B. Field,” which like “Madbeth” before it feels wilful in its weirdness and more geared toward catchiness than some of the other material surrounding — “Distance” before it and “Sunset” after, for example. The finale of Floating begins, suitably enough, with organ and guitar in back and forth conversation, and is soon enough backed by a funky drum beat similar to but perhaps not exactly the same as that which featured on “Sunrise.” At just under five minutes long, it builds in tempo and volume over its constant organ line until it just kind of comes apart and the drums announce its finish, cutting everything off cold.

The bookends on side B give Floating‘s second half the impression of being an album unto itself — as though the entire album were a 2LP condensed into a single platter — but if one is listening in a linear format (CD, digital), there’s no lack of flow from front to back. As it turns out, Floating was put together over the course of three years of recording between 2012 and 2015, so it’s hard to say what it stands for in terms of the overarching growth of the band, but Mouth have used these manifestations of disparate songwriting impulses to conjure a sense of wholeness and realization that makes Floating work well as a singular entity.

Does that mean they’ll have another record out in 2019? I have no idea whatsoever, but if they’re as committed to momentum as they seem to be — which is particularly fascinating given that they were founded in 2000, didn’t release their first album until 2009 and didn’t follow that up until last year — then anything’s possible and they make it fun to imagine where they might take their sound next, forward or backward in time, or perhaps out of it entirely.

Mouth on Thee Facebooks

Mouth on Bandcamp

Mouth on Soundcloud

Tonzonen Records on Thee Facebooks

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Tonzonen Records website

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Mouth to Release Floating March 23

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mouth

Despite its funky start-stop verse riff and unabashed hook, the new streaming track from German trio Mouth remains decidedly progressive. “Madbeth” features on the Cologne outfit’s forthcoming third album and debut on Tonzonen RecordsFloating, which is set to release on March 23 as the follow-up to the band’s 2017 sophomore outing, Vortex (review here). In the interim — not that it’s much of an interim, particularly in comparison to the eight years between their ’09 debut, Rhizome, and the second record — Mouth also issued the sort-of-self-bootleg Live ’71 (review here), which captured their classic sound in raw form.

Hard not to dig this artwork and I’m not saying I’ve heard it yet or anything, but it’s just has hard not to dig the record itself. March 23 is the release date. I’ll hope to have more on it before then.

To the PR wire:

mouth floating

MOUTH are back with new album “Floating”

Release date: 23/03/2018

After Rhizome (2009, BluNoise Records) and Vortex (2017, BluNoise Records) the trio Mouth releases their new album titled Floating in early March via Tonzonen Records!

Floating sounds very different to the previous album Vortex. It’s a bit like the “downside up” or the sarcastic happy contrast to the vortex world.

Mouth were formed in Cologne, Germany in 2000 as a trio, comprised of Christian Koller (vocals, guitars, occasional keyboards), Gerald Kirsch (bass) and Nick Mavridis (drums, backing vocals, keyboards). Indeed, their style is often cited as a mixture of ‘retro prog’, Krautrock, hard rock, psyche and glam rock – all together it fuses into a unique spleen often underlined with dystopian themes.

After Rhizome (2009, BluNoise Records) and Vortex (2017, BluNoise Records) the trio releases their new album Floating on Tonzonen Records. Floating sounds very different to the previous album Vortex. It?s a bit like the “downside up” or the sarcastic happy contrast to the vortex world.

Floating (reprise) is the opening track and it was also the hidden track on Vortex. It perfectly fits as a bridge to connect both albums. Also the themes are still connected to the loose vortex narrative. Madbeth and Reversed are ironic songs about mad leaders. Distance was basically intended to open the Vortex album and O.T.B.Field is also referring to March Of The Clopes and Into The Light from the Vortex album. The instrumentals (Homagotago / Sunrise / Sunset) are basically Krautrock inspired jams picking up the spirit of the old days.

Tracklist
1. Floating (Reprise)
2. Madbeth
3. Homagotago
4. Reversed
5. Sunrise
6. Distance
7. O.T.B. Field
8. Sunset

https://www.facebook.com/mouthsound/
https://mouthprog.bandcamp.com/
http://www.soundcloud.com/mouthprog
https://www.facebook.com/Tonzonen/
https://www.instagram.com/tonzonenrecords/
https://www.tonzonen.de

Mouth, “Madbeth”

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