Prolific and perennially underappreciated desert rockers Dali’s Llama will have a new EP out on April 29. Dubbed The Blossom, it follows behind last year’s Dying in the Sun (review here) and a long string of offerings that, at this point, goes back nearly a quarter-century around the work of guitarist/vocalist Zach Huskey and bassist Erica Huskey. The band have been ones for pretense, and their sound, while varied from release to release, seems to be resting on its core of warm-sunned heavy blues rock in the track “Longtime Woman,” for which you can see the video premiering below. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they went out to the desert to make it.
For my money — and mind you, it’s not like Dali’s Llama are charging per view on “Longtime Woman” or anything — the most telling moment of the entire clip is at the very end. The dreadlocked desert hippie lady has disappeared, and the band has stopped playing. No more shenanigans. The song is over. The final shot of the clip is Zach and Erica, taking a nap on a blanket laying on the ground. That, my friends, would seem to be what it’s all about — in terms of this song, the band as a whole and, you know, life. Who could ask for anything more than that out of existence?
I’m going to look forward to hearing the rest of The Blossom as I always do to hearing from Dali’s Llama. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you check out Joerg Steineck‘s Lo Sound Desert documentary (review here), in which they feature considerably. I’ve said in the past that they deserve to have their own doc telling their story, and maybe they’ll get there, but in the meantime, Lo Sound Desert gives a good overview. For sure it’s worth digging into when you’re done with the premiere of “Longtime Woman” below.
One more time, Dali’s Llama release The Blossom on April 29.
Dali’s Llama, “Longtime Woman” official video
Video for “Longtime Woman”, a new song off of our forthcoming release “The Blossom EP”. Filmed out in a remote part of our desert. Twenty-four years and still DIY. Hope you dig it!
Posted in On Wax on December 20th, 2013 by JJ Koczan
How do you effectively summarize a prolific 20-year career on one two-sided LP? The correct answer is you don’t, and Palm Springs, California, desert rockers Dali’s Llama obviously get that idea. The band’s new collection, Twenty Years Underground — released as ever by their own Dali’s Llama Records in limited numbers — doesn’t quite aim to cull everything since their beginnings, and instead provides a sampling of their wares since 2007’s Sweet Sludge. Hardly sounds like the same kind of scope until you realize that Dali’s Llama have issued five albums in that time, and that in just eight songs, Twenty Years Underground does manage to cover Sweet Sludge and the Zach and Erica Huskey-led outfit’s subsequent outings, 2008’s Full on Dunes(review here), 2009’s Raw is Real(review here), 2010’s Howl Do You Do?(review here) and late-2012’s Autumn Woods(review here), the latter two of which purposefully looked beyond desert rock and into other areas of exploration, be it horror punk on the former or darker, more brooding sounds on the latter.
Early Dali’s Llama material from their first five albums remains somewhat obscure, and as Zach explains in the liner notes, to include any of that stuff would’ve involved remastering from the original analog tapes — doubtless an expense on time and money that a band looking to celebrate didn’t need to take on — but since it’s all self-released, it’s all also still in print, and whether it’s 1993’s Pre Post Nowor 2006’s Chordata, which marked a return from a long hiatus, CDs are accessible through their own Dali’s Llama Records. As Dali’s Llama have proven over the years to be unflinching when it comes to doing things on their own terms, that that would continue with Twenty Years Undergroundis no big surprise, and while it would be interesting to have them go back and revisit some of the earlier stuff, maybe for Twenty Years Underground Vol. 2, it seems more fitting to approach this LP collection — their first vinyl — in a “what you see is what you get” mindset. That’s been my experience with the band since I first heard them, and it’s a standard to which their songwriting lives up.
Side A is particularly interesting here for the fact that it’s Dali’s Llama at their most desert rock. I’ve said on multiple occasions and I’ll reiterate that the simple fact of Dali’s Llama‘s relative obscurity in the heavy rock underground and their persistence in a DIY ethic only makes them more admirable — they do what they do regardless of who’s listening, in other words — and with cuts from Sweet Sludgeand Full on Dunes, they are clearly in their element. “Desert Dogs” boasts a guest appearance from an immediately-recognizable Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson, and Throw Rag singer Sean Wheeler contributes to the ultra-memorable “King Platypus” to close out the first half, so the band’s place in the lineage of the desert from which they come is established one way or another. For what it’s worth, the seven-plus-minute opener “Creosote” from Sweet Sludgegives an unrepentantly riffy opening to Twenty Years Undergroundchock full of their signature grit and even-more-signature lack of pretense, so that lineage wasn’t lacking for establishment in the first place. But it’s always better to be sure.
There’s no new material on Twenty Years Underground, which as prolific as the band has been since 2007 is something of a surprise, but again, space is a factor. The title-track to Autumn Woods tops nine minutes with its low rumble and moody sensibility, so their most recent work is well represented and “Creosote” is answered in kind, “Autumn Woods” closing out side B in fine company with the faster “Bad Dreams” from the same album and the motor-riffing of “Raw is Real.” “She’s My Halloween” is something of a departure on Twenty Years Undergroundas Howl Do You Do?was for the band in general, ultimately a playful collection nodding at goth rock in the name of a good time, but the Huskeys chose the right song to represent that offering, with its organ scratch and memorable guitar progression bordering on classic psychedelic rock, and if you’re encountering Twenty Years Underground in the first place, chances are it’s not going to be your first exposure to Dali’s Llama — or if it is, that you’ll be open so such things in the context of a compilation, which sets a different expectation for flow and songs feeding into each other than a regular LP might.
Players joining Zach (guitar/vocals) and Erica (bass/backing vocals) vary, and over the course of Twenty Years Underground, Dali’s Llama trades out drummers twice and adds and then replaces a second guitarist, but the vibe is consistent across the board. If you know Dali’s Llama, then you know you’re getting straight-ahead songwriting with few frills, but between the guest spots, lineup variations and “She’s My Halloween,” you could hardly say the collection suffers from redundancy. The story of Dali’s Llama to this point has been one of a group — really a couple, but a couple bringing others with them for the ride — sticking to their passion in the face of whatever might befall them, and truly pursuing music for the sheer sake of loving it. In addition to liner notes from Zach and info about who plays on what, the sleeve that houses the 12″ platter features a collage that — if it doesn’t go back the full 20 years — certainly goes back a healthy portion of it, and the thread of the band’s drive is made even more plain. Regardless of trend, regardless of who’s come up and made it big, regardless of who’s sold what to what tv show, Dali’s Llama simply are and will continue to be. Zach says it himself, “It’s not over yet man!” Right on.
Dali’s Llama continue to inspire. If you want a lesson in what underground rock is all about, look no further.
Dali’s Llama, “Samurai Eyes” Live at Cobraside Distribution, Dec. 14, 2013
12:31AM – Their budget is by no means the highest, and at one point, the video seems to just cut to a shot of a dude rubbing his sword in the woods — why does everything sound like euphemism to me lately? — but frankly, it’s precisely acts like Dali’s Llama who I find most inspiring. The Palm Springs outfit led by Zach (guitar/vocals) and Erica (bass) Huskey have been at it for 20 years, have shown no sign of slowing down, and continue on with what drives them regardless of trend, promotion or anything else. They play out in the desert, but don’t really tour, and they release albums on the regular of quality tracks put to tape on their own terms and released through their own label. We should all be so independently motivated.
And by we, I mean me. Because you’re independently motivated, out there, making things happen. Me, well — to me, my laptop — like Silver Surfer and his board, long ago, Galactus decreed that I’d be tethered to this thing and that’s kind of how it’s worked out ever since. I doubt Joe Satriani will write a record about it, but having occasion to run into an act like Dali’s Llama every now and again, who so much epitomize the ideal of creating and following your own path, it makes me want to follow my own. I’m not just blowing smoke up the band’s ass either — no reason to, really — I think that in the whole time I’ve been running this site they’re one of the most admirable acts I’ve been fortunate enough to come across. Further, their last record, Autumn Woods (review here), was the most realized yet of the ones I’ve heard in their 11-strong discography.
It’s short, but the track “Bad Dreams” comes from that record, and you’ll find the video for it below. Enjoy:
Posted in Reviews on December 11th, 2012 by JJ Koczan
Undervalued stalwarts Dali’s Llama are the kind of band that 15 years from now someone’s going to make a documentary about. And rightly so. The largely-unpromoted desert rocking Palm Springs, California, foursome will celebrate two full decades of existence in 2013, and they hit that anniversary behind the release of their beefy 10th (or possibly 11th) album, Autumn Woods. As always, they’ve issued the disc via their own Dali’s Llama Records, and where their prior outing, 2010’s Howl Do You Do? (review here), saw them step outside of their long-since established desert blues rock aesthetic, and frontman Zach Huskey (vocals/guitar) veered even further away from Dali’s Llama in 2011 with the heavy rocking side-project Ogressa’s Warts and All debut (review here), Autumn Woods makes for an excellent homecoming while still providing a twist on the more trademark desert-isms of records like 2009’s Raw is Real (review here) or the prior Full on Dunes (review here). As one might be able to glean from looking at bassist Erica Huskey in the photo on the album’s cover – clad in a cape and peeking out from behind a tree to look at the sky while drummer Craig Brown, her guitarist/vocalist/husband Zach, and guitarist Joe Wangler stand out front – not to mention the title itself, Autumn Woods is less about desert sands than it is darker atmospheres derived from classic metal. Dali’s Llama aren’t about to start writing about castles, steeds or epic battles, but filtering thicker distortion and more metallic atmospheres through their inherent desertitude (*copyright The Obelisk 2012), the Huskeys, Wangler and Brown both return to their musical roots and stem from them in a new and exciting way. A production job from none other than Scott Reeder presents Dali’s Llama with suitable tonal thickness on cuts like “The Gods” or the 9:36 centerpiece title-track, but still leaves the band room to move in terms of tempo, as they do on the punkier opener “Bad Dreams” or later “P.O.A.,” which starts off with a near-thrash intensity before cutting the pace for a more grooving second half… of its total 1:26.
That’s one thing that’s always been true of Dali’s Llama since I first encountered them: they are remarkably efficient. Like Howl Do You Do? was with its focus on classic horror punk and alternate reality early ‘60s surf, Autumn Woods sounds like an album approached with a specific sonic concept in mind, i.e. someone in the band saying, “Let’s make a record that sounds like this.” And they do. Top to bottom, Autumn Woods retains Dali’s Llama’s characteristic lack of pretense even as it’s based entirely on one – namely, that they’re a metal band. Of course, they’re not a metal band, and through Zach lets out a scream before the apex of penultimate track “O.K. Freak Out,” at their core, they’re still playing heavy desert rock and they retain the penchant for wah, for rolling groove and for classic rock structures led by riffs. No complaints at that. Catchy highlights “Goatface,” “Nostalgia” – on which cleaner vocals top a more open verse before the chorus takes flight – and the later Sabbathian “The Gods” provide landmarks around the title-track, and each song presents a personality of its own despite sharing the elements of chugging guitar, straightforward vibes and variations on Zach’s punker-bluesman’s snarl. The lead lines in “Blowholes and Fur” seem to nod at Deep Purple’s “Woman from Tokyo,” but even this Dali’s Llama work quickly to make their own, and while it’s a strong and distinguishable instrumental hook, the context they give it makes all the difference, accompanying a meaty chug made even thicker by Erica’s concurrent low end work. Even on “Autumn Woods,” I wouldn’t call them showy, but the extended cut (the next closest is “O.K. Freak Out” at 5:22, though “The Gods,” which follows, also hits 5:19) does give them room to range as far as they’d like, which structurally is something of a departure, despite Zach’s croon tying the early verses to the rest of the album and indeed to Dali’s Llama’s already formidable discography. The chief difference seems to be a sense of patience that a lot of the songs – derived from grown-up punk as so much heavy rock is; ask Fatso Jetson if you don’t believe me – eschew. Very subtly, the four-piece move into a darker soft of jam from the initial verses, letting a slower jam take hold amid Danzig-style atmospherics and a gradual push.
Posted in Reviews on October 26th, 2011 by JJ Koczan
“Fuck your drama/I’m too old/To give a damn.” The lines, taken from “Mange,” the second track of Ogressa’s debut, Warts and All, more or less sum of the entirety of the album’s approach. The Californian desert rock four-piece is centered around the collaboration between Dali’s Llama mastermind Zach Huskey and Whores of Tijuana’s Trent Ramseyer, who share vocal duties while Huskey also handles guitar and is the primary songwriter and Ramseyer engineered the recording. Released on Dali’s Llama Records and bolstered by the rhythm section of drummer Ian Dye and bassist Mike Jacobson –Scott Reeder also makes several appearances on bass – Ogressa’s heavy rock shares Dali’s Llama’s bullshit-free ethic as much as possible, offering crunching riffs, belted vocals and heady grooves that ask next to no indulgences. Warts and All keeps a semi-thematic edge tied to the excellent comic art of Sean “Skillit” McEleny (also Admiral Browning, etc.), with cuts like the sound-effects interlude “She Awakens” and “Lady Ogress” playing directly to the band’s moniker in a way more lighthearted than the “concept-album” tag might indicate. And for what it’s worth, Warts and All isn’t a concept album, unless you’re looking at it on a stylistic level and the concept in question is burly riff rock. Even that Ogressa veer from, however, with the jazzy take on The Mutants’ “The Boss” (Joe Dillon of Dali’s Llama guests on guitar) and the acoustic-led highlight “Sonoran Debris” offering variety in the record’s midsection.
In that way, it’s easy and perhaps best to think of Warts and All in thirds. The album divides almost evenly along those lines – the middle is made an extra minute longer with the inclusion of “She Awakens”; 17 as opposed to the first and last thirds, which are three cuts totaling just over 16 each – and Ogressa opens strongly with the catchy “Give Me Some Space,” “Mange” and “Rational Man,” the last of which marks the first appearance from Reeder. Huskey’s writing style is straightforward as ever, and where Dali’s Llama took a different (and charming) look at horror rock kitsch on Howl Do You Do? last year, Ogressa keep to thicker guitars that match well with Ramseyer’s throaty-but-still-clean vocals. That said, flourishes of acoustic flamenco on “Give Me Some Space” are an unexpected treat and a step away from the bluesy shuffle of much of the material on Warts and All, but still fluid within the song and subtly telegraphing some of the variety to come. “Mange” is shorter than the opener (which is the longest song on the album; immediate points) and can afford to be more straight-ahead in its approach on the strength of the chorus noted above, which is backed by a descending riff from Huskey and solid drums and backing vocals in the bridge from Dye. The progression of that chorus riff – almost a simpler take on Kyuss’ “Thumb” in a different key – makes “Rational Man” seem upbeat by comparison. The change from Jacobson to Reeder on bass is noticeable, but not so much as to upset the overall flow of the album, and of course the former Kyuss and The Obsessed four-stringer is well at home in anything closely related to the desert, Ogressa included. His lines mostly stick with the rhythm guitar line (Dillon also guests here, to further thicken the proceedings), but the end of “Rational Man” is one of Warts and All’s finest grooves.
Posted in Reviews on August 27th, 2010 by JJ Koczan
Right from the opening track, “Flustrated,” it’s clear Dali’s Llama are having fun with their latest offering, Howl Do You Do? (released through their own Dali’s Llama Records). Maybe after eight records of straight up desert rock, the Zach Huskey-led Palm Springs, California,outfit decided it was time to try something else – and who could blame them for that? They’ve been kicking out fuzzy jams with such regularity that the routine was bound to wear them down, so a turn to garage rock and horror punk is probably just what the band needed to shake things up. A lot of their bluesy core is still in tact, but if all you know of Dali’s Llama is what they’ve done the last several years – records like Sweet Sludge, Full on Dunes and Raw is Real – Howl Do You Do? is bound to be something of a surprise.
The organ features heavily on songs like “She’s My Halloween” and “Flash Flood, Flash Flood,” played by Mikael Jacobson, who joins Zach, bassist Erica Huskey, guitarist Joe Dillon and drummer Craig Brown (all of whom also contribute backing vocals), but I tend to return more to the piano-laced sounds of the title track, which has a more blues-driven feel to it than the camp spookiness of the horror punk material. Just a personal preference. Huskey’s songwriting, probably the central driving force within Dali’s Llama, is strong as ever, though it should be noted the structures of the songs haven’t really changed so much from the band’s last couple full-lengths, just the genre play. It’s like Dali’s Llama have put on a costume – a Halloween costume, appropriately enough. Underneath, they’re still who they are, but they’re playing the part of a garage horror punk band for an album. Howl Do You Do? was probably a lot of fun to make.
Posted in Reviews on November 24th, 2009 by JJ Koczan
Fact: You don?t release eight records independently on your own label if you don?t believe in what you?re doing. Palm Springs, California, real-deal desert rockers Dali?s Llama have done just that, with Raw is Real serving as the latest in a long line and taking a somewhat darker approach than other recent offerings. The album continues Dali?s Llama?s production relationship with Scott Reeder (The Obsessed, Kyuss), who helmed last year?s Full on Dunes and 2007?s Sweet Sludge, and the two entities seem more in step than ever before.
Prior to issuing the album, Dali?s Llama guitarist/vocalist Zach Huskey posited that it was their heaviest yet and (as noted above) darker as well. While I only have the last couple to compare it to, Raw is Real definitely lives up to its name, more ideologically than sonically — it sounds clean but there is a cynical bite to the lyrics of songs like ?Theocracy? and the punkish ?Grump? that, political or not, adds thematic heft to the proceedings and stands the album out among its predecessors. Dali?s Llama aren?t the first to politicize stoner music to the extent they do so, but within the context of their work and in particular this record, there is a refreshing amount of honesty and forthrightness coming out in these songs. Hey, raw is real, right?
Regarding Reeder?s production, there are moments on Raw is Real that feel flat and moments that positively sizzle. When the guitar solo kicks in on ?Hell No,? for example, it?s as though the album has come to life. Likewise, the opening riffs of later cuts ?Syphilization? (love the count in with the snare — very death metal) and ?Blackout? are prime grooves, highlighted with Huskey and Joe Dillon?s guitars up in the mix, whereas even on the opening title vibe is there but not as palpable. It works for the more mellow, sweet tones of ?Always? (a mid-album favorite), but the ending movement in ?Eve?s Navel? is begging to stand out more than it does. This is a minor, easy-to-get-used-to gripe, but worthy of note, nonetheless.