Posted in Whathaveyou on November 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Columbus, Ohio, heavy rockers Lo-Pan have just announced a new limited EP, In Tensions, to be released in January via Aqualamb Records. These were the songs recorded during the relatively short but distinguished tenure of guitarist Adrian Lee Zambrano with the four-piece, during which they went to Europe for the first time and toured the US at a greater scale than they ever had before. The band, who were also recently announced as taking part in Maryland Doom Fest 2017 (info here), recruited new guitarist Chris Thompson back in July in time to head out on a summer tour with The Atomic Bitchwax and Dirty Streets, and since it’s Lo-Pan, one can only assume a bevvy of road activity is in the works for 2017, though I’ve yet to hear/see concrete details in that regard. Rest assured, they’ll be out there.
I was hoping these tracks would be released, and Aqualamb‘s method of limited-art-book/digital pressings seems like a cool way to do something special for them, kind of celebrating the one-off that they are while still acknowledging this as a crucial time for the band moving forward from their fourth full-length, Colossus (review here), which came out in 2014 on Small Stone. Looking forward to hearing the songs, and as soon as humanly possible, I’m going to make a beeline right for “Pathfinder,” because you bet your ass I know what’s good for me.
Just off the PR wire:
LO-PAN: Limited-Edition In Tensions EP Due January 13th, 2017 On Aqualamb Records; Video Teaser Posted
LO-PAN’s fifth release, In Tensions, is a new five-song EP that sees the seasoned Columbus, Ohio unit continuing their blistering trajectory, building on the infectious, riff-filled grooves of their 2014 full-length, Colossus.
Their first release on Brooklyn’s Aqualamb Records (Husbandry, Black Black Black, Godmaker et al), In Tensions also marks the next stage in the band’s ever-evolving direction – anchored by the lead single “Go West,” an optimistic, sun-kissed, open highway anthem. Regarding the song, singer Jeff Martin elaborates, “It’s about setting out to accomplish a goal and then having that goal change along the way. And ultimately realizing the new goal was better than what you wanted in the first place.” A perfect rallying cry for action in uncertain times, Martin continues, “it’s also about getting out and doing something…. So keep moving forward. Keeping progressing. Keep evolving.”
LO-PAN has indeed been moving forward, both figuratively and literally. In Tensions is equal parts modern sludge metal and ’90s-influenced alt rock – synthesized to perfection. Jeff Martin has never sounded more soulful, confident, and passionate on record. The riffs courtesy of the now former guitarist Adrian Lee Zambrano compliment the tribal influenced drums of Jesse Bartz and grounding bass lines of Skot Thompson, pummeling the listener on each repeated listen.
Recorded in Columbus, Ohio by Joe Viers, with mixings duties split between Jonathan Nunez (Torche, Shitstorm) and Ryan Haft (Wrong, Capsule) in Miami, and mastered in Chicago by Carl Saff (Big Business, Helms Alee, Russian Circles), In Tensions is a sonic masterpiece created across multiple time zones – the fruit of relationships forged through the band’s unending dedication to the life of touring road dogs.
The band also hit a major touring milestone in 2016, having logged over 250,000 miles on their original van since 2005 – crossing the country countless times over on headlining tours and supporting the likes of Torche, High On Fire, Weedeater, KENmode, Whores, Fu Manchu, Atomic Bitchwax, Black Cobra, and Bongzilla. Not surprisingly, they’ve become one of the most ferocious live acts in American heavy rock as a result.
And with In Tensions, they show no sign of slowing down. A full US tour in support of In Tensions is expected this Winter along with a European tour in the Spring of 2017.
LO-PAN’s In Tensions will be released on 10-inch vinyl limited to 500 copies and accompanied by a one-hundred-page book featuring artwork by Chris Smith of Grey Aria Design as well LO-PAN tour diaries, flyers, and a complete collection lyrics from LO-PAN’s previous releases: Sasquanaut, Salvador, and Colossus. Preorders are currently available at THIS LOCATION.
In Tensions Track Listing: 1. Go West 2. Sink Or Swim 3. Long Live The King 4. Alexis 5. Pathfinder
Inspired by the lack of album art in the age of invisible music, Brooklyn-based record label Aqualamb publishes one-hundred+ page printed books of artwork and writings as physical accompaniments to its releases. Essentially, each album’s art and liner notes (traditionally confined to an LP gatefold, a CD booklet, or the screen of some music-playing device) are reconfigured into an expanded book form. Each book also includes a download code for the music.
LO-PAN is: Jeff Martin – vocals Skot Thompson – bass Jesse Bartz – drums Chris Thompson – guitar Additional Musician: Adrian Lee Zambrano – guitars on In Tensions
Posted in Reviews on November 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s a line to follow, something like a trail EYE leave for their listeners to lead them into their third album, Vision and the Ageless Light. It would be cruel on their part to offer no guidance whatsoever for their debut offering through The Laser’s Edge, which basks in space ritualizing in an increasingly immersive pattern from three-minute opener “Book of the Dead” through the 27-minute, multi-tiered finale “As Sure as the Sun.” All flows as one piece, at least where they want it to, and all comes across in a gorgeous wash of synth, guitar, and vocal harmonies, building on what EYE accomplished with their last outing, 2013’s Second Sight (review here) and their 2011 debut, Center of the Sun (review here and here), while finding new avenues of texture, atmosphere, and dynamic throughout.
The band has been through some key changes in the last three years, bringing in guitarist Jon Finely and bassist Michael Sliclen alongside founders Brandon Smith (drums and vocals) and synth/Mellotron/Moog expert Lisa Bella Donna (also vocals and acoustic guitar), but the core of their sound in heavy progressive rock remains well intact and undiminished, and if anything, the patience they show early on in the record, the boldness of their craft on “As Sure as the Sun” and the overarching flow across Vision and the Ageless Light in its entirety make it plain that not only have EYE not lost a step since Second Sight, they’ve only continued to grow and move forward in their creative breadth — which should be the ultimate endgame of anything bearing a “prog” label of any kind.
I’m not sure it needs to be said, but EYE earn theirs outright, and Vision and the Ageless Light is a cosmic adventure that moves inward and outward in kind and for all its indulgence — nature of the beast for a release of this kind — it never leaves those making the journey with it alone on the path it lays out. Nor, like its full-length predecessors or other offerings like the Wooden Nickels single (review here) or the Live at Relay tape (review here) in 2013, does it shy away from beauty. To wit, the synth/acoustic mindmeld of the penultimate “Dweller of the Twilight Void,” which one invariably has to hear as the closer for side A of Vision and the Ageless Light given the breadth that unfolds thereafter.
With the introductory “Book of the Dead,” the spacial Hawkwindian shuffle of “Kill the Slavemaster,” and the sleeker thrust of “Searching” before it, “Dweller of the Twilight Void” offers a surprising turn toward serenity, offering highlight vocal harmonies and a patience that “Book of the Dead” hints at in its relatively brief 3:35 unfolding and agenda-setting blend of Mellotron and synth, but gives way to the initial roll of “Kill the Slavemaster” before it can fully develop as an entity of its own. The smoothness of that transition is not to be understated, however. Side A of Vision and the Ageless Light functions no less as a single work than does “As Sure as the Sun” as it pushes the limits of side B (if it doesn’t actually surpass them — can a 27:11 track fit on a vinyl side?), despite the shifts in vibe and purpose throughout. “Kill the Slavemaster” plays organ and guitar leads off each other to exciting effect in its midsection after establishing its hook early, then moves into bass and key-led jazz as the foundation for its turn back to where it started, some backwards guitar tossed in for good measure along the way.
It hits into a quick finish at 6:05 with not one of its component seconds wasted and the momentum continues into “Searching”‘s more low-end-minded vibing. There’s just about no way it’s not plotted, but after “Searching” departs its verses and instrumental all-push chorus, it does seem to take a jammier approach than “Kill the Slavemaster” before it, as the drums crash out cymbals to clear the way for a guitar-driven boogie at about 3:20 and the four-piece spend the remaining two minutes living up to the title — i.e. searching — until a sudden appearance of synth swirl signals the arrival of “Dweller of the Twilight Void.”
From there, EYE only continue to go further and further out. The opening lines, “Pay no mind to what you see/You were not born for the grave,” ooze with headphone-worthy melody over acoustic strum and various kosmiche psychedelics, and though I can’t help but be reminded of lost Belgian troupe Hypnos 69, in reality it’s probably more a common latent Pink Floyd/King Crimson influence than anything so direct.
Wherever it comes from, EYE make it their own here with no need to repent in the process because there’s no doubt of the traditions to which they’re playing. After three minutes in, Bella Donna‘s keys come to the fore in a mini-freakout, and while the guitar line holds underneath, and it’s strum and underlying Mellotron that actually finish the song, it’s clear they’re not coming back from that voyage. So ends side A, and on side B, “As Sure as the Sun” begins with its title lyric, again, gorgeously harmonized, near-Beatlesian, before a Mellotron progression is established and the full scope of layers begins — but only begins — to show itself. Acoustic guitar, electric guitar, more devices than I can name come into play before EYE are two minutes deep into “As Sure as the Sun,” and the song has barely started.
Drums don’t even show up until after the next movement, more cinematic, dramatic, a drone emerging that leads to a faded-in winding guitar figure that Smith joins at 5:20, not crashing in in grandiose style, but showing up right when he’s needed all the same with hit and rolling toms and immediately backing a shredding guitar solo that gives way to Mellotron wash before a snare roll turns back to that winding figure — different now, with more keys — and a more peaceful section that marks a reintroduction of more commanding vocals, more declarative in the classically progressive sense of intonation, and over the next few minutes, EYE rock out, fall into a singularity of synth and rock out again, finding shuffle in all that mystery circa 14 minutes in as swirling vocals underscore the idea that all this — all of it — is a ritual at work.
They build toward a solo with crashes and turns, then return to the serenity of the quiet verse, now more tense with the shifted context and a build in Smith‘s ride cymbal and Bella Donna‘s Mellotron/synth and the vocals. Rather than explode, at 20 minutes, the tempo cuts and EYE go even more pastoral, setting the stage for what will be Vision and the Ageless Light‘s last movement and, more immediately, another guitar solo. Thicker tones arrive before the 22-minute mark, and they continue to build melody around them while maintaining a measured tempo for the time being, and though they build with black-queen-chants-the-funeral-march fluidity circa 25 minutes in, they never let themselves fully go into chaos even in the closing minutes of “As Sure as the Sun.”
It’s an active finish — they’re not still by any means — but the sense of control that EYE have displayed all throughout the record and that steady, guiding hand never seem to lose their place. That would seem to be the clearest signal of all throughout Vision and the Ageless Light of EYE‘s utter mastery of their form, but that’s not necessarily meant to take away from the impact the songwriting across their third long-player has either. In a still-manageable five tracks/46 minutes, their craft brings them to places they’ve never been before and finds them not only covering this new sonic ground but establishing their claim on it, and once more, inviting those listening to be a part of that happening. It is not an invitation that should be in any way refused.
That warmth you feel on the horizon is the Nov. 18 release date of EYE‘s Vision and the Ageless Light drawing closer. Don’t worry, it’ll get here soon enough. The Ohio space-prog masters make their debut on The Laser’s Edge with their third full-length, which proffers tumult and serenity in kind and brings to bear a richly textured and expansive vibe that only seems to keep moving outward until, finally, it decides it doesn’t want to bother coming back. And why should it? It’s been a long three years since EYE offered up their sophomore record, Second Sight (review here), and I’d say we’re all due a voyage through the three-dimensional soundscapes that seem to flow so naturally from them.
Oh yeah, and hey, they’re playing with Hawkwind twice this week. No big deal, though frankly they probably should be playing asHawkwind and not just in a supporting role. Somehow I doubt EYE are inclined to complain. I’m going to have a review of the album up sometime between now and when it’s out, so I don’t really want to dive too deep into its structure or whatnot, but as they’ve got a new, kind of atmospherically-minded video for the track “Dweller of the Twilight Void,” it seemed only reasonable for me to post that in the interim, both because it gives me an excuse to talk about Vision and the Ageless Light more, which is fun, and because it serves as a preview to the album for anyone who had the misfortune of not seeing them dig into new material earlier this summer at the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer in Brooklyn, where they absolutely shined in the most heartening manner possible.
Not that I’m an impartial observer or anything, but yeah. Food for the soul.
Check out “Dweller of the Twilight Void” below, followed by more info from the PR wire.
EYE, “Dweller of the Twilight Void” official video
Written and performed by EYE Recorded & Mixed by Lisa Bella Donna Film & Video production: Bubba Ayoub
With their Vision And The Ageless Light LP approaching release through Laser’s Edge later this month, Ohio-based psychedelic/prog quartet EYE has just debuted a video for “Dweller Of The Twilight Void.”
The serene but intense kaleidoscope of sound EYE produces on Vision And The Ageless Light is expressed perfectly within the track, “Dweller Of The Twilight Void,” as displayed in the new video for the track, which was created by Bubba Ayoub.
The band offers, “‘Dweller Of The Twilight Void’ was the final song to be written and recorded for Vision And Ageless Light…We met at our dimly lit studio one evening and performed over the already tracked acoustic guitar and constantly drifting Mellotron. Brandon and I sang together as I played the Moog straight through to the end. Jon rolling through it with us on second acoustic, and Michael putting it all together on upright bass. It was fun and fulfilling to capture that moment which we feel is the epicenter of the record in such a gliding session. Some songs don’t come so easily. There were definitely lots of laughter, smiles, and smoke rings swirling with the frequency and spirit of this song that night…”
EYE’s Vision And Ageless Light was recorded in parts at Relay Recording with Jon Fintel, and at the band’s Lisa Bella Donna’s own Backroads Recording Studio, after which it was mastered by Phil Demetro from Lacquer Channel Mastering in Toronto, and completed with artwork by Anthony Yankovic, as with the band’s three prior albums.
Laser’s Edge will issue Vision And The Ageless Light on CD, LP, and digital formats on November 18th, 2016; preorders for the CD are live HERE and the LP HERE.
EYE Live: 11/11/2016 The Union – Athens, OH w/ Hawkwind 11/13/2016 The Grog Shop – Cleveland, OH w/ Hawkwind 12/16/2016 Thursdays – Akron, OH w/ Nights 12/17/2016 Happy Dog – Cleveland, OH
EYE is: Brandon Smith: Vocals Lisa Bella Donna: Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Mellotron, MiniMoog & ARP 2600 Synthesizers Jon Finely: Acoustic Guitar Michael Sliclen: Upright Bass
Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ll admit I’m a little surprised at the shape this Quarterly Review has taken. As I begin to look back on the year in terms of what records have been talked about over the span, I find it’s been particularly geared toward debut albums, both in and out of wrap-ups like this one. There’s less of that this time around, but what’s happened is some stuff that doesn’t fall into that category — releases like the first two here, for example — are getting covered here to allow space for the others. Let’s face it, nobody gives a shit what I have to say about Russian Circles anyhow, so whatever, but I’m happy to have this as a vehicle for discussing records I still think are worth discussing — the first two releases here, again for example — rather than letting them fall through the cracks with the glut of new bands coming along. Of course things evolve as you go on, but I wish I’d figured it out sooner. Let’s dive in.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Russian Circles, Guidance
From the warm wash of guitar that begins “Asa” onward, and no matter how weighted, percussive and/or chug-fueled Russian Circles get from there, the Chicago trio seem to be offering solace on their latest outing, Guidance. Recorded by Kurt Ballou and released through Sargent House, the seven-track offering crosses heavy post-rock soundscapes given marked thickness and distinct intensity on “Vorel,” but the record as a whole never quite loses the serenity in “Asa” or the later “Overboard,” crushing as the subsequent “Calla” gets, and though the spaces they cast in closer “Lisboa” are wide and intimidating, their control of them is utterly complete. Six albums in, Russian Circles are simply masters of what they do. There’s really no other way to put it. They remain forward thinking in terms of investigating new ideas in their sound, but their core approach is set in the fluidity of these songs and they revise their aesthetic with a similar, natural patience to that with which they execute their material.
Following their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here) – which, presumably met with some pronunciation trouble outside the band’s native Sweden – Salem’s Pot return with Pronounce This!, further refining their blend of psychedelic swirl, odd vibes and garage doom riffing. They remain heavily indoctrinated into the post-Uncle Acid school of buzz and groove, and aren’t afraid to scum it up on “Tranny Takes a Trip” or the slower-shifting first half of “Coal Mind,” but the second portion of that song and “So Gone, so Dead” take a more classically progressive bent that is both refreshing and a significant expansion on what Salem’s Pot have accomplished thus far into their tenure. Still weird, and one doubts that’ll change anytime soon – nor does it need to – but as Pronounce This! plays out, Salem’s Pot demonstrate an open-mindedness that seems to have been underlying their work all along and bring it forward in engaging fashion.
International House of Mancakes – yup – is the follow-up to Bridesmaid’s 2013 long-player, Breakfast at Riffany’s, and like that album, it finds the Columbus, Ohio, instrumentalists with a penchant for inserting dudes’ names into well-known titles – see “Hungry Like Nick Wolf” and “Ronnin’ with the Devil” – but it also expands the lineup to the two-bass/two-drum four-piece of Scott Hyatt and Bob Brinkman (both bass) and Cory Barnt and Boehm (both drums). Topped off with KISS-meets-Village People art from W. Ralph Walters, there are shortages neither of snark nor low end, but buried underneath is a progressive songwriting sensibility that doesn’t come across as overly metal on cuts like “Ricky Thump” and doesn’t sacrifice impact or heft for the sake of self-indulgence. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in “It’s Alectric (Boogie Woogie Woogie),” International House of Mancakes unfolds a heavy rock push that, while obviously driven in part by its sense of humor, earns serious consideration in these tracks for those willing to actually listen.
Too thick in its tones to be a completely vintage-style work, the sleazy vibes of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s Keep it Greasy! (on Rise Above) are otherwise loyal to circa-1971 boogie and attitude, and whether it’s the rewind moment on opener “U Got Wot I Need” or proto-metallic bass thrust of the “Hawkline Monster” or the brash post-Lemmy push of “Tired ‘n’ Wired,” the album is a celebration of a moment when rock isn’t about being any of those things or anything else, but about having a good time, letting off some steam from a shit job or whatever it is, and trying your damnedest to get laid. Radio samples throughout tie the songs together, but even that carries an analog feel – because radio – and the good Admiral are clearly well versed in the fine art of kicking ass. Familiar in all the right ways with more than enough personality to make that just another part of the charm.
The invitation to completely immerse comes quickly on the 13-minute “Delusion Sound,” which opens Landing’s Third Sight (on El Paraiso), and from there, the Connecticut four-piece sway along a beautiful and melodic drift, easing their way along a full-sounding progression filled out with airy guitar and backing drones, moved forward patiently by its drum march and topped with echoed half-whispers. It’s a flat-out gorgeous initial impression to make, and the instrumental “Third Site” and “Facing South” follow it with a tinge of the experimentalism for which Landing are more known, the former led by guitar and the latter led by cinematic keyboard. To bookend, the 14-minute “Morning Sun” builds as it progresses and draws the various sides together while creating a rising soundscape of its own, every bit earning its name as the vocals emerge in the second half, part of a created wash that is nothing short of beautiful. One could say the same of Third Sight as a whole.
While they’ve spent the last few years kicking around the deeper recesses of Brooklyn’s heavy underground, Reign of Zaius mark their debut release with the 26-minute Planet Of… EP, bringing together seven tracks that show what their time and buildup of material has wrought. Opener “Hate Parade” reminds of earliest Kings Destroy, but on the whole, Reign of Zaius are rawer and more metal at their core, the five-piece delving into shuffle on “Out of Get Mine” and showing an affinity for classic horror in both “They Live” – which starts with a sample of Roddy Piper being all out of bubblegum – and “Farewell to Arms,” previously issued as a single in homage to Evil Dead. The charm of a “Dueling Banjos” reference at the start of “Deliver Me” leads to one of the catchier hooks on Planet Of…, and the shorter “Power Hitter” closes with a bass-heavy paean to smoking out that digs into punkish summation of where Reign of Zaius are coming from generally as they continue to be a band up for having a good time without taking themselves too seriously.
Kind of a mystery just where the time goes on Sydney rockers Transcendent Sea’s self-released 50-minute first album, Ballads of Drowning Men. Sure, straightforward cuts like “Over Easy” and “Mind Queen” are easily enough accounted for with their post-Orange Goblin burl and boozy, guttural delivery from vocalist Sean Bowden, but as the four-piece of Bowden, guitarist Mathew J. Allen, bassist Andrew Auglys and drummer Mark Mills get into the more extended “Throw Me a Line,” “Blood of a Lion” and closer “Way of the Wolf” – all over 10 minutes each – their moves become harder to track. They keep the hooks and the verses, but it’s not like they’re just tacking jams onto otherwise structured tracks, and even when “Way of the Wolf” goes wandering, Bowden keeps it grounded, and that effect is prevalent throughout in balancing Ballads of Drowning Men as a whole. It takes a few listens to get a handle on where Transcendent Sea are coming from in that regard, but their debut proves worth at least that minimal effort.
Brothers Rael and Ryan Andrews, both formerly of Lansing, Michigan, art rockers BerT, revive their heavy punk duo Red Teeth with the four-song Light Bender 7” on GTG Records. Both contribute vocals, and Ryan handles guitar and bass, while Rael is on drums and synth through the quick run of “Light Bender, Sound Bender,” “Tas Pappas,” “134mps” and “Elephant Graveyard,” the longest of which is the opener (immediate points) at 4:49. By the time they get down to “Elephant Graveyard,” one can hear some of the Melvinsian twist and crunch that often surfaced in BerT, but whether it’s the ‘90s-alt-vibes-meet-drum-madness of “134mps” or the almost rockabilly riffing of “Tas Pappas,” Red Teeth – whose last release was eight years ago – have no trouble establishing personality in these songs. Approach with an open mind and the weirdness that persists will be more satisfying, as each track seems to have a context entirely of its own.
One can hear the kind of spacious darkness and through-the-skin cold of New England winters in this new split EP from Connecticut crushers Sea of Bones and grinding New Hampshire compatriots Ramlord from Broken Limbs Recordings. What the two share most of all is an atmosphere of existential destitution, but there’s an underlying sense of the extreme that also ties together Sea of Bones’ “Hopelessness and Decay” (10:36) and Ramlord’s “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)” (10:10), the latter of which continues a series Ramlord started back in 2012 on a split with Cara Neir. Both acts are very much in their element in their brutality. For Sea of Bones, this is the second release they’ve had out this year behind the improvised and digital-only “Silent Transmissions” 27-minute single, which of course was anything but, and for Ramlord, it’s their first split in two years, but finds their gritty, filthy sound well intact from where they last left it. Nothing to complain about here, unless peace of mind is your thing, because you certainly won’t find any of that.
Philadelphia-based five-piece Holy Smoke formed in the early hours of 2015, and the exclamatory Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo! three-track EP is their debut release. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in “Rinse and Repeat,” it finds them blending psychedelic and heavy rock elements and conjuring marked fluidity between them. As the title indicates, it’s a demo, and what one hears throughout is the first material Holy Smoke thought enough of to put to tape, but on “Rinse and Repeat” and the subsequent “Blue Dreams” and “The Firm,” they bring the two sides together well in a way it’s easy to hope they continue to do as they move onto whatever comes next, pulling off “The Firm” particularly with marked swing and a sense of confidence that undercuts the notion of their being their first time out. They have growing to do, and by no means would I consider them established in style, but there’s a spark in the songs that could absolutely catch fire.
Posted in Reviews on September 2nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Nothing’s been announced as yet, but don’t be surprised when the news comes out that this or that label has snagged Pale Grey Lore for a pressing of their self-titled debut. The band has hinted at a vinyl issue in 2017 for the as-of-now-self-released offering, and with the level of songcraft they show throughout, the sheer efficiency of the material, it just seems like too prime an opportunity to pass up putting on a platter.
Comprised of brothers Michael (guitar/vocals) and Adam Miller (drums) and bassist Donovan Johnson, the trio got their start in 2014 and so it seems fair to consider them a relatively new project, having played locally around Ohio, but with the nine tracks/32 minutes of Pale Grey Lore, they dive headfirst into influences classic and modern and come out of the process with a crisp execution and an identity of their own. That would be enough to have it make sense for someone to pick them up — bands have been signed for far less — but the hooks and the performances only let them shine all the more.
Stylistically cohesive across the front-to-back span, the album shies away neither from classic psych-pop, as highlight centerpiece “She Radiates” shows with its theremin and trippy soloing, nor from the modern cult stoner crunch of “Black Sun Rise.” Songs run in the three-to-four-minute range exclusively, and though moods vary, among the factors most tying the record together one cut to the next is the mindful structuring that seems to be the root of their approach. They sound like a band with a whiteboard in the rehearsal space, but at the same time have more to offer in melody and groove than just being able to put together a verse and chorus in a way that makes sense.
To wit, the swath they cut through modern heavy rock is pretty deep. One can hear ’90s vibes in the poppy “Life in the Hive” and the later “Woe Betide Us,” Michael seeming to move into and out of a British accent with ease, but opener “The Conjuration” rolls out a groove that finds common argument with Elephant Tree‘s recent self-titled debut, and the key infusion in the penultimate “Tell the Masters” and riff of closer “Grave Future” add a cultish feel that seems to speak to life after Uncle Acid.
There are sonic differences, but I’d also say that what Pale Grey Lore are doing with reimagining post-grunge ’90s alt-rock isn’t all that dissimilar in process to what Demon Lung do to classic doom — a refresh of an established sound that seeks to put its own stamp on familiar themes. Quality of songwriting might be a factor in that comparison as well, even though, again, each group is on its own wavelength. Still, these impressions persist and Pale Grey Lore‘s debut makes an impressive melting pot for them.
Not at all haphazard and less exploratory feeling than debuts often are, it carries a sense of confidence in what it wants to do and that it can make those ideas a reality — so of course it does. Even in darker moments like “Black Sun Rise” or “Woe Betide Us,” Pale Grey Lore don’t position themselves at such remove from the shimmer at the end of “Spiders” or “She Radiates” as to make their transitions jarring, and if anything, the album is done before the formula has a chance to really sink in.
Brevity can be a decisive advantage. I’m not sure Pale Grey Lore would work in the same way if it was 45-50 minutes long, and I’m not sure sacrificing the neatly-presented semi-psychedelic push of “Ruins” would be worth having the band flesh out the songs further or extended them somehow simply for the sake of doing so.
The ’90s revivalist psych-rock of “She Radiates,” for example, comes across so fluidly with its languid, echoing vocals, bouncing chorus riff and ’60s-worship solo that to mess with it would seem cruel. This material has obviously been worked on, hammered out, maybe even whittled down to get to the point it’s at, and Pale Grey Lore may decide as they move forward that they want a looser approach to songwriting, that they’re more suited to jamming out or something like that, but what they’ve done with their first album is show that the three of them — the two Millers and Johnson, together — can work as a single unit toward expressing musical ideas through craft.
They’ve shown that it’s not about who’s in the band, or any particular player necessarily — though Michael has several shining moments of tone and vocals — but about the songs they’ve come up with and executed as a group. That doesn’t always happen, but it’s a palpable sensibility throughout Pale Grey Lore, no matter how the vibe might change between “Woe Betide Us” and “Grave Future,” that brings the material together and helps create the linear front-to-back flow which, as in the best of cases, only makes individual tracks feel stronger as it goes.
Participating in The Blackout Cookout has become something of a tradition for Lo-Pan. I don’t know if they play every year at the Kent, Ohio-based fest put together by Kenny Royer, also of The Ravenna Arsenal, but they’ve done it multiple times over and have always spoken highly of the experience. This year was The Blackout Cookout 7, and Lo-Pan, from Columbus, OH, headlined — topping a bill that also included Sofa King Killer, The Ravenna Arsenal, Bridesmaid, Horseburner and others. It looked like a pretty good show. It always does.
There’s some added intrigue to seeing live footage of Lo-Pan from The Blackout Cookout 7 in that, held on Aug. 13, it was also their first show with guitarist Chris Thompson, who joined the band last month. They’ve since embarked on a tour alongside The Atomic Bitchwax and Dirty Streets, put together by Tone Deaf, that will lead them to Psycho Las Vegas this weekend, where they join the lineup of everyone and their mother at the Hard RockHotel and Casino. Not a minor introduction for a new member of the group. Probably closer to trial by fire, particularly when you factor in the desert heat.
But Thompson, who’s joined in Lo-Pan by bassist Scott Thompson (no relation), drummer Jesse Bartz and vocalist Jeff Martin, has clearly held his own so far, as you can see in the clip below for “Pathfinder.” The footage comes courtesy of Pittsburgh native and all-around top-notch individual Randy Blood, and if you’ve seen Lo-Pan in the last year, you probably recall the song. Last time I was fortunate enough to have the pleasure was in March and though it was my first time seeing or hearing “Pathfinder,” the immediate impression from it was that it’s one of the best things Lo-Pan has ever written, and I think that holds up here as well.
And it looks like Thompson is gonna be just fine on guitar, in case you were worried.
Enjoy the “Pathfinder” clip below, followed by Lo-Pan‘s remaining live dates:
Lo-Pan, “Pathfinder” live at The Blackout Cookout 7, Aug. 13, 2016
Lo-Pan with The Atomic Bitchwax & Dirty Streets: 8/24/2016 Grizzly Hall – Austin, TX 8/25/2016 Rail Club – Ft. Worth, TX 8/26/2016 Ned’s Bar – Albuquerque, NM 8/27/2016 Flycatcher – Tucson, AZ 8/28/2016 Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas, NV @ Psycho Las Vegas
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Just over a month after announcing the addition of guitarist Chris Thompson to their lineup in place of Adrian Zambrano, Ohio heavy rockers Lo-Pan will head out on an inaugural tour with the new lineup. I’ve already seen video of them performing at this year’s Blackout Cookout in Kent, OH, where they’re a regular fixture, and the feel was right on. I’d expect them to get even tighter by the time this run is over, and a particularly noteworthy stop-off at Psycho Las Vegas should make for a pretty solid first-tour highlight for Thompson. “Welcome aboard, by the way, we’re playing with Alice Cooper this weekend.” Not too shabby.
Lo-Pan will be out with The Atomic Bitchwax and Dirty Streets. I told you I’d post these dates again:
LO-PAN: Ohio Riff Wielders To Kick Off Tour With The Atomic Bitchwax This Week; Band To Appear At Psycho Las Vegas
Ohio riff wielders LO-PAN will take to the streets again for a short run of live dates later this week supporting The Atomic Bitchwax on a portion of their tour through August 27th. Additional support will be provided by Dirty Streets. Set to commence this Friday, August 19th in Charlotte, North Carolina, LO-PAN’s latest trek includes a performance at Psycho Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino alongside the likes of Alice Cooper, Blue Öyster Cult, Electric Wizard, Sleep and many others. It also marks the four-piece’s first tour with new guitarist Chris Thompson.
Comments drummer Jesse Bartz, “The train don’t stop! New guitarist Chris Thompson has us practicing some older stuff too. We will be playing a wide variety of material from our previous recordings as well as some new material. Really stoked to be able to tour with The Atomic Bitchwax and Dirty Streets. Both are top notch not to be missed rock bands. We cannot wait to see some of our favorite bands of all time at Psycho Vegas!”
LO-PAN w/ The Atomic Bitchwax, Dirty Streets: 8/19/2016 The Milestone – Charlotte, NC 8/20/2016 The Tavern – Hattiesburg, MS 8/21/2016 Siberia – New Orleans, LA 8/22/2016 Limelight – San Antonio, TX 8/23/2016 White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX 8/24/2016 Grizzly Hall – Austin, TX 8/25/2016 Rail Club – Ft. Worth, TX 8/26/2016 Ned’s Bar – Albuquerque, NM 8/27/2016 Flycatcher – Tucson, AZ 8/28/2016 Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – Las Vegas, NV @ Psycho Vegas
LO-PAN continues to tour in support of their critically lauded Colossus full-length, released via Small Stone. Produced and engineered by Andrew Schneider (Unsane, Rosetta, East Of The Wall et al) at his own Translator Audio in Brooklyn, New York and named for an ancient statue of the Greek titan-god of the sun, Helios, the record continues to raise the eyebrows of fans and media globally.
My understanding is that the release date for EYE‘s long-awaited third album — actually not that long, it just feels that way — has been pushed back to November. When it arrives, Vision and Ageless Light will be the Ohio space-psych rockers’ first outing for new label home The Laser’s Edge, following 2013’s Second Sight (review here) and their 2011 debut, Center of the Sun (discussed here and here).
The trailer premiered below marks the first audio to be made public from Vision and Ageless Light, as well as the debut of the cover art, and it comes so far ahead of the release date in honor of the band’s appearance at The Obelisk All-Dayer, THIS SATURDAY, Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. Five days from now. If you’re not excited for it yet, I double-dog-dare you to click play below and not buy a ticket immediately to witness this Moog-y majesty in person.
EYE were the final band to be added to the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer, and what they bring to the lineup is something distinct from every other group involved. Their lush, melodically rich progressive psychedelia is utterly spaced in its atmosphere, but still maintains an emotional crux, as the swirling synth and guitar, vocal harmonies and contemplative rhythms display across their first two albums leading up to this one. If I wanted to, I don’t think I could be more thrilled to have EYE as a part of this show, and the fact that they come on the eve of issuing their new album with the prospect of playing new material only enhances that enthusiasm.
Joining EYE at The Obelisk All-Dayer are Mars Red Sky, Death Alley, Snail, Kings Destroy, Funeral Horse, King Buffalo and Heavy Temple, as well as DJs Adzo and Walter Roadburn, who’ll handle aftershow duties. It’s going to be incredible. Don’t miss it.