Various Artists, The Sun, the Moon, the Mountain: Of Ancients and Futures

Posted in Reviews on September 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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One should note immediately that the subtitle of The Sun, the Moon, the Mountain is ‘A Passage Through Greek Psychedelia.’ A passage. Not the passage. Because while the six-track debut offering from Archaeopia Records covers plenty of ground across its intricate, varied and obviously-curated 35 minutes — perfect for a limited LP made even earthier and more naturalistic via woodcut-screened cover art and hand-designed calligraphy — there’s just about no way it could be comprehensive at this point in drawing together all sides of Greece’s underground. The scope has simply gotten too big. Certainly to fit on one LP. You might get a sampling across three 12″ platters, but by then the cost is prohibitive and you too easily run the risk of losing listeners’ attentions somewhere along the “journey.”

No. Archaeopia head Theo Prasidis plays it smart with his assemblage here, bringing together seven acts diverse in sound to represent multiple sides of a Greek scene that’s undergone a massive boom in the last five to 10 years with acts like Planet of Zeus and 1000mods spearheading a presence becoming even more known across the wider sphere of Europe. As a movement, it’s still a nascent scene when one compares it to the decades-since established heavy rock output of countries like Sweden or Germany, but in taking influence from these places and bands, the acts represented in The Sun, the Moon, the Mountain bring something of their own — something definitively Greek — to the mix as well, and as that continues to be refined and defined in the years to come, it will no doubt be the foundation of an influence spreading within and without the country’s borders alike. As a document of that process’ beginnings, this passage through Greek psychedelia couldn’t be more welcome.

For convenience’s sake, the roster of bands and tracklisting:

SIDE A THE SUN, THE MOON
1. Tau & Villagers of Ioannina City, Wakey Wakey
2. The Road Miles, 600 Miles
3. Cyanna Mercury, The Flood
4. Sleepin’ Pillow, Amplifier in My Heart

SIDE B THE MOUNTAIN
5. Green Yeti, Monkey Riders
6. Craang, When in Ruins

Part of the challenge The Sun, the Moon, the Mountain puts to its audience is in helping figure out just what that “something definitively Greek” actually is. This may be a question never answered. Why is grunge grunge? What makes Southern heavy Southern? Where does one style end and another begin? Ultimately this kind of question is academic in its nature — it’s entirely possible to make your way through the songs here, not care at all and still have a perfectly good time — but as the leadoff cut “Wakey Wakey” by a collaboration between Tau (who are actually based in Berlin) and Villagers of Ioannina City delves into a ritualized Americana lyrical thematic and sets its foundation in strummed post-Monster Magnet laid back fuzz jangle, the message is clear: buckle up. “Wakey Wakey,” with mantra-esque vocals and an overriding moodiness marked by flourish of slide guitar deeper in the headphone-worthy mix, sets a distinctive tone, but it’s one of only multiple directions in which the release will decide to go.

the sun the moon the mountain woodcut

The Road Miles make a more classic impression with spacey organ and a fervent heavy push on their “600 Miles,” and Cyanna Mercury‘s “The Flood” seems to Europeanize All Them Witches-style heavy rock blues, their own keys a predominant factor but not overwhelming the strength of their chorus, which retains a link to Greek folk in its scale work and later jabbing starts and stops, reminding the listener that right across the border lies Turkey and the gateway to the Middle East. As side A rounds out with the sleek, electronic-beat-inclusive “Amplifier in My Heart” by Sleepin’ Pillow, an already expansive breadth pushes even further outward. A quiet and hypnotic verse rises to a volume swell of guitar for the chorus and rolls out an immersive groove thereafter, tying together with the somewhat darker ambience of “Wakey Wakey” earlier, but in a much different sonic context. And while the aural surroundings could hardly be more modern, somehow it feels appropriate that Sleepin’ Pillow should cap the first half of The Sun, the Moon, the Mountain with talk of an “ancient fire,” since that seems in part to be what’s driving the offering as a whole.

And that spirit — of offering, of passage — is one that only continues as side B pushes into the longer-form work of Green Yeti and Craang. Both acts are upstarts in the Greek scene, but both have already made a mark as well, and their respective inclusions, “Monkey Riders” and “When in Ruins,” are the two longest tracks at 8:21 and 7:56. Sure enough, the flow that results between them is all the more complementary for that, hitting a level of immersion even beyond side A between Green Yeti‘s rolling, feedbacking central riff on “Monkey Riders” and the galloping payoff that ends and Craang‘s patient but still deeply weighted heavy psych execution that caps with a prog-rock dreamscape of keys and fading, drifting guitar. There’s no mystery in the intention on the part of Archaeopia to take the audience to the edge of space and then give that last little shove, but as that scenario plays out, it seems even more crucial for the listener to realize the cultural interplay at work as well and the various traditions being engaged and built upon, by Craang and indeed by all their counterparts included here.

One might rightly accuse Archaeopia of aiming high with its first release. Indeed, little says scope like The Sun, the Moon, the Mountain — short of “the ocean,” you might as well have called the compilation “Light, Dark and Everything” — but what’s happening in these six pieces is not only a showcase of some of the sonic persona of Greece’s underground, but a representation of the forces modern and otherwise that have taken root and helped shape that persona in the first place. For many who engage it, that will of course be a secondary concern to just checking out a new track from Cyanna Mercury, or from Craang, or hearing what Tau & Villagers of Ioannina City bring to light in working together, and that’s fine too, but there’s an underlying message being conveyed, and in the end, it’s less about saying “these are the Greek bands you need to know” than “this is why you should know Greek bands.”

That works out to be a huge difference in the listening experience. I don’t know whether The Sun, the Moon, the Mountain is the beginning of a series or not from Archaeopia — that’s an awful lot to ask of a new label, and no doubt Prasidis wants to get down to the business of releasing proper albums, etc. — but it could be, and even if it’s only a fleeting, one-time passage, it serves notice of the arrival of yet another player of note in the Greek heavy underground in its conceptual purpose and the sheer class of taste behind its selections. “Wakey Wakey” indeed. Nicely done.

Archaeopia Records on Bandcamp

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Archaeopia Records Announces The Sun, The Moon, The Mountain Compilation; Cyanna Mercury Track Premieres

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Click play at the bottom of this post to stream the premiere of a new Cyanna Mercury track featured on the upcoming compilation The Sun, the Moon, the Mountain from Archaeopia Records. The song is titled ‘The Flood’ and it’s one of five to be featured on the vinyl release, which is appropriately subtitled as ‘A Passage Through Greek Psychedelia,’ and which also features works by Tau in collaboration with Villagers of Ionnina City, The Road Miles, Craang, Green Yeti and Sleepin Pillow. Six bands on five tracks for a 36-minute deluxe LP that’s rich in vibe throughout and brimming with homage to Greece’s history in heavy, in mythology, and more.

At the same time, if you needed further evidence of the heavy psych and heavy rock explosion happening in Greece right now, at this very moment, look no further. Archaeopia isn’t just highlighting random bands — these acts have been selected and curated for an offering that flows from front to back across its two sides — and not only are they relevant to the past, but to the future of the Greek scene as well. As the label’s slogan goes: “Where Cosmic Beats Vibrate the Deathless Soil.” Clearly we’re looking to cross a span of time here.

That admirable mission bears some righteous fruit on the LP, about which you can read more below ahead of preorders going live in the coming weeks for the Fall release. I’ll have a review up as well soon, so keep an eye out, and the meantime, enjoy the track premiere:

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The Sun. The Moon. The Mountain. Three fundamental elements of the Greek psyche. From the Homeric hymns of the fiery-stallion-riding sun-god Helios and his ethereal sister Selene, goddess of the moon, to the myriad myths and legends surrounding the highlands and the consecration of Mount Olympus as the dwelling of the gods, these inextricable components of the Greek landscape, brimming with rich symbolism and religious gravitas, have dominated indigenous lore, mythology, literature, poetry and music for millennia.

In modern-day Greece, one of the music genres that largely incorporated with such symbols and concepts of old -either lyrically or musically- is undoubtedly psychedelic rock. The pioneering work of Socrates Drank The Conium and Aphrodite’s Child in the seventies, established the connection between Greek psychedelic music and religious/folkloric themes. Vangelis’ epically toned solo career focused on mythical ideas, while psych bards Purple Overdose delved deeper into the magical mysticism of antiquity.

Today we’re amidst a full-on psychedelic rock revival. New bands emerge consecutively, recalling old motifs on one hand, contributing essentially to the genre with new ideas on the other, whereas occult and spiritual notions are commonplace. With this release we want to honour the ever-growing Greek psychedelic rock scene that stands strong in the current global renaissance of the genre.

Juxtaposing our title to the collection of songs featured on this vinyl, the following concept might arise: The sun represents psychedelic rock in its most lurid expression, a euphoric desert plain walkabout towards a bacchic celebration of light. The moon takes us on a slow-burning trip into the night, with the melancholic exaltation of glazed psychedelia. The mountain is manifested by a massive wall of sound, evoking visions of dark rites and primordial cults. Each featured band mirrors a singular element,
steering into a substantial whole.

The Sun. The Moon. The Mountain. As influential and imposing and radiant as ever. Enjoy!

Tracklisting:
SIDE A THE SUN, THE MOON
TAU & VILLAGERS OF IOANNINA CITY, WAKEY WAKEY
THE ROAD MILES, 600 MILES
CYANNA MERCURY, THE FLOOD
SLEEPIN PILLOW, AMPLIFIER IN MY HEART

SIDE B THE MOUNTAIN
GREEN YETI, MONKEY RIDERS
CRAANG, WHEN IN RUINS

All tracks are original recordings, except “600 Miles” by The Road Miles, featured in the album “Ballads for the Wasteland” and “Amplifier In My Heart” by Sleepin Pillow, featured in the album “Apples On An Orange Tree”, both newly remastered and presented in vinyl format for the first time.

Artwork by Fotis Varthis. Woodcut engraved, inked and printed by hand on Rosaspina Fabriano 180gr paper by the artist. Watch the entire procedure here: youtu.be/w5QI9L36ICE

www.behance.net/FotisVarthis
cargocollective.com/FotisVarthis

Assembled by Theo Prasidis
Post-mastered by George Nikoglou

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Craang, To the Estimated Size of the Universe: Looking Outward

Posted in Reviews on October 17th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

craang to the estimated size of the universe

Greek heavy psych trio Craang seem to tip their hat to improvisation early into their four-track debut full-length, To the Estimated Size of the Universe (to be released on vinyl early next year by Pink Tank Records), when six minutes into opener “Slo Forward Jam,” the song seems to come to an end with a wash of cymbals. There are still two more minutes to go, and the deceptively thick guitar tone soon kicks back in and continues to carry a progression out, but there still seems to be something off the cuff, even if some moments are clearly planned or if the Thessaloniki three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Manos, bassist Theano and drummer Nick are working from a basic schematic or a loosely-plotted course. Perhaps it’s part of the nature of the material itself and the fact that it was recorded live that it would seem so. The opener is, but not all four of the extended tracks — “Slo Forward Jam” (8:08), “Butterfly” (9:19), “Magnolia” (9:53) and “The Meteorian” (15:48) — are instrumental, but the focus is quickly put on the jam, and even as keys enter on “Butterfly,” the prevailing impression is still of looser-knit heavy psychedelia, a laid back groove pervading and holding firm throughout, even as heavy as the guitars and bass can get. And they do get fairly heavy, crunchier in their tone than one might expect, and even if where they go stylistically holds to some manner of restraint — that is, even as “The Meteorian” reaches its apex, Craang never thrash out — To the Estimated Size of the Universe showcases a burgeoning dynamic and progressive feel rife with subtle builds, effects-laden spaciousness and groove in steady supply.

Aside from that balance between improvisational and composed movements, the opener being the most leaned toward the former — working considerably in the album’s favor is Craang‘s patient sensibility. By the end of its nine minutes, “Butterfly” has pulled off a remarkable build, but the band’s roll is patient enough that it’s easy to get lost in and be carried along with it. On first listen, the arrival of Manos‘ vocals is surprising, since after “Slo Forward Jam,” it seems just as likely the entire album will go without, but more striking is the subtle way late in the track the guitar and keys push “Butterfly” toward and through its payoff, the final minute slowing to an absolute crawl in a rumbling and, finally, droning finish, luring an audience further from consciousness only to smack it in the head with the thick and immediate intro of “Magnolia,” which were it not for the more dynamic approach of the closer, would be the highlight of the record. It’s prime, fuzzed-out Euro-style heavy psych, feeding in its languid chug on a Colour Haze-via-Elder sensibility of how the genre is accomplished, and more than “Butterfly,” it does push and pull, the initial thrust giving way momentarily to an airier section of lead guitar and open vibe. The tradeoff is effective and shows Craang have more in their structural arsenal than a straight-upward build, the song seeming to come to a head after six minutes in only to space out on sustained guitar feedback, and an air-moving bassline that subtly sets the bed for a finishing jam. In both its ain’t-over-yet methodology and instrumental approach, “Magnolia” recalls “Slo Forward Jam,” but what they do with that changes, and the layered guitar work at the end of “Magnolia” makes a strong argument for the band’s potential future stylistic evolution.

craang

Still, it’s hard to overlook a 15-minute heavy psych excursion like “The Meteorian,” which finds a steady foundation in Theano‘s bass as it begins to unfold in languid fashion, the guitar slowly coming to life alongside the low end and a quiet but tense drum progression from Nick. Here too Craang‘s patience shows itself, but the pace increases just before three minutes in and what becomes the bed for the verse starts to take shape. Vocals are far back, almost consumed by the tones surrounding, and a space-rock push emerges in the bass and drums as the guitars once again give way to keys — if they even are keys and not guitar effects; nobody is credited with keyboards (the digipak, the liner for which is printed backwards, is cagey in giving any lineup information) and Craang‘s live setup doesn’t seem to have any, but it’s a distinct sound separate from the guitar fuzz, so if it was overdubbed later or whatever, I don’t know — and more airy guitar. This would seem to be the final build, but it peaks about halfway through the song with a riff that reminds directly of Elder‘s “Dead Roots Stirring” and shifts into a lull before picking up again with the push that gradually devolves into the finish of the album, some ambient vocals — or guitar, or keys — holding out over a final round of hits as “The Meteorian” crashes to its end. For its broader range, the closer makes for the highlight, but really it’s across the full span of To the Estimated Size of the Universe that Craang show their ambition and their allegiance to the tenets of heavy psychedelia, their desire to find a place within the genre. That progress is underway on this debut, peppered and given breadth by hints of sonic expansion to come.

Craang, To the Estimated Size of the Universe (2014/2015)

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Pink Tank Records

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audiObelisk Transmission 040

Posted in Podcasts on September 26th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

This one’s beamed in from a universe of all good times. I don’t want to walk around tooting my own horn like I actually did anything, but you’ll pardon me if I say that once you get on board here, you might not want to jump back off. The flow is up and down, alternately drawn out and rushing, and right up to the last song which is a bit of a return to earth, the second hour is the most spaced out it’s ever been around these parts. I’m way into it. I hope you’re way into it.

Like last time, I tried to get a mix of excellent stuff upcoming with other recent items you might’ve missed. One of these days I’m gonna do another one of these where I talk, but this is straight-up track into track the whole way through and I think it moves really well that way. Please feel free to grab a download or hit the stream and dig in and enjoy.

First Hour:
The Melvins, “Sesame Street Meat” from Hold it In (2014)
Fever Dog, “One Thousand Centuries” from Second Wind (2014)
Lo-Pan, “Eastern Seas” from Colossus (2014)
Witchrider, “Black” from Unmountable Stairs (2014)
Alunah, “Awakening the Forest” from Awakening the Forest (2014)
Craang, “Magnolia” from To the Estimated Size of the Universe (2014)
Slow Season, “Shake” from Mountains (2014)
Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, “Guillotine” from The Shining One (2014)
The Proselyte, “Irish Goodbye” from Our Vessel’s in Need (2014)
Flood, “Lake Nyos” from Oak (2014)
Lord, “Golgotha” from Alive in Golgotha (2014)

Second Hour:
My Brother the Wind, “Garden of Delights” from Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One (2014)
Spidergawd, “Empty Rooms” from Spidergawd (2014)
The Myrrors, “Whirling Mountain Blues” from Solar Collector (2014)
Witch Mountain, “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour the Hymn)” from Mobile of Angels (2014)

Total running time: 1:54:28

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 040

 

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Craang to Release To the Estimated Size of the Universe on Vinyl

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 12th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

craang

Thick groove, big riffs, full sound and long-form songs — there’s a lot to like about Craang‘s 2014 outing, To the Estimated Size the Universe, four cohesive, righteously jammed slabs of heavy psychedelic rock. The Thessaloniki, Greece, trio self-released the album as their debut earlier this Spring in a vinyl-textured CD digipak edition — one of those discs with the grooves on top — and word has come down the PR wire that German imprint Pink Tank Records has picked up the band for a vinyl edition due in the first going of 2015.

Seems like a good call, honestly. One can hear influences from Colour Haze to Elder in what Craang do on the CD’s four tracks, and while they might have to do some editing to get “Magnolia” (9:36) and “The Meteorian” (15:22) to fit on the same side of an LP platter, the album as a whole is begging for the treatment, be it the band’s own rich tones or the intricately detailed Theano Giannezi cover art. Presumably the deal with Pink Tank extends to Craang‘s next offering as well, or at least includes some provision accounting for it one way or another, since these guys seem to be one to watch going forward.

Don’t forget the details:

craang to the estimated size of the universe

Greek Stoner Rock Trio Craang Signs with Pink Tank Records

Greek psychedelic/stoner rockers CRAANG have just signed a record deal with German-based Pink Tank Records, who will release the band’s debut album “To The Estimated Size Of The Universe” on vinyl in early 2015.

Based in Thessaloniki, in Greece, fuzzy psychedelic rock trio CRAANG have released one of the best spacey-psychedelic rock releases you’ll hear this year, offering an enthralling brew of fuzzy stoner rock laced with healthy dose of 70’s psychedelic rock.

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Craang
Bandcamp: http://craang.bandcamp.com
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/craang

Craang, To the Estimated Size of the Universe (2014)

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