I’m perfectly willing to go on-record and tell you that summer is far from my favorite season of the year, and as the news comes out that July 2015 was the hottest month the planet has experienced since they started keeping track, and as it’s humid enough out today for me to feel like I could swim to my busted-ass-AC-having car, I believe it. Here on the East Coast of the US, the perma-haze has settled in, and it we’re at that stage of summer where it feels like it’s never going to end and the world is just trying to cook us off its surface. You want pleasant? Wait until spring or fall. The only thing that awaits you outside today is sun-baked death. I mean that.
Still, just because that happens to be my experience and my opinion does not at all make it universal. In listening to Causa Sui‘s Summer Sessions series, I can only marvel at what must have been a very, very good season in their eyes. Released in three volumes on Elektrohasch Schallplatten as separate limited LPs between 2008 and 2009 and subsequently collected as Summer Sessions Vol. 1-3 on CD and vinyl, Summer Sessions remains a consuming meisterwerk precisely because it manages to capture the warmth and dreamy sensibility so often associated with the hot months of the year, the Danish four-piece of Jakob Skøtt, Jonas Munk, Rasmus Rasmussen and Jess Kahr finding a balance between classic progressive and heavy psychedelic rocks that not only showcased the live chemistry they were (and still are) able to bring to the studio, but pushed far beyond what they’d been able to accomplish on their self-titled 2005 debut (on Nasoni) or its 2007 follow-up, Free Ride. I won’t take anything away from either of those — except perhaps to say the first album has proven a pain in the ass to find on CD; when something on Nasoni is gone, it’s really gone — but clearly the scope on Summer Sessions Vol. 1-3 is in a different league entirely. Two hours of rich, explorational jamming, lush and vibrant. It’s a pretty high standard to meet.
And I think Causa Sui took some pretty significant lessons from Summer Sessions in their recording process for their 2013 full-length, Euporie Tide, upon which much due praise has been heaped. They’re currently working on their next outing that will probably be out early next year, and as they get farther away from Summer Sessions, it should be interesting to hear what they come up with and how they move forward past Euporie Tide, but whatever that album holds, the ultra-immersive sun-shining brilliance of Summer Sessions continues to stand on its own. It’s almost enough to make one tolerate the heat.
I put word out yesterday on Thee Facebooks and didn’t post anything here mostly because I wanted to sort of make it a soft announcement rather than a big thing, but I’ll be hosting an all-dayer next August at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. The date is Aug. 20, 2016. It’s a Saturday. My plan is to have bands start around 2 or 3PM, go until a bit before midnight and then basically just make it a party. I have a headliner confirmed about whom I’m very stoked and several others locked in and am looking into other acts. Seven bands total. Several people have reached out from around the world to say they’re interested in coming, and that support means very, very much to me. Would be awesome to sell the place out.
Anyway, actual, official-type announcements will start after the New Year, so keep an eye out. I’m stoked though.
My brain must be absolutely fried, because I don’t even know how fried my brain is. I took the day off from work — which is, apparently, a thing one can do? — to take The Patient Mrs. for an endoscopy as her bizarre food-allergy saga continues, and I had some stuff going on this morning as well, including an interview with Dave Wyndorf of Monster Magnet about their new release. Look at me, doing interviews. It’s been a while.
That’ll be posted sometime in the next week or two, and next week I’ve also got reviews of the new Pentagram and Thera Roya releases slated, a full-album stream for Carousel‘s new one on Wednesday, a track stream on Tuesday for a band called Mountain Movers from Connecticut and another one maybe Thursday that I shouldn’t really talk about yet. Might do a podcast for Monday as well, since we’re about due. Depends on time, which as always, is short. I’m back and forth between Connecticut and New Hampshire for the next two days — because, you know, self-cruelty — and so by the time Monday gets around that 90 minutes to work in the morning should seem like a break.
Please have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.
[NOTE: Press play above to hear the stream of Shiggajon’s Sela. Thanks to El Paraiso for letting me host the premiere.]
Danish collective Shiggajon issue a disclaimer as regards their sound, and it goes like this: “Shiggajon is not freejazz.” Fair enough. The truth of what they “are,” at least on their newest offering, Sela — also their first to be issued through Causa Sui‘s label, El Paraiso Records — is both more complicated and less off-putting. Jazz is part of it, freedom is part of it, but there’s also psychedelic exploration, jamming, experimental rock, ambient texturing and a deep-rooted improvisational sensibility that, in large part, defines the two included tracks, “Mæander” and “Sela,” each of which boasts sprawl enough to consume a vinyl side. Another part of what Shiggajon “are,” however, is amorphous.
Based around the duo of saxophonist Nikolai Brix Vartenberg and Mikkel Reher-Langberg, who on Sela handles drums, percussion and clarinet, the band has a revolving-door contributorship as well as a massively prolific level of output, including studio and live records, one-off CD-Rs and so on. Being hard to define is part of the trip. For “Mæander” (18:14) and “Sela” (18:29), they’re joined by violinist and double-bassist Emil Rothenborg, drummer Martin Aagaard Jensen, drummer, percussionist ang guitarist Mikkel Elzer and vocalist and silver flutist Sarah Lorraine Hepburn, who also donates electronics and tingshaws, the latter of which sets a major tone of pastoralism in the developmental stages of “Mæander,” along with Rothenborg‘s violin and various jingling bells.
Far back percussion — congas, maybe — gives a somewhat ritualized feel, and Hepburn‘s sans-lyrics vocal textures come presaged by an uptick in those bells, so there’s a plan at work on “Mæander,” though far more satisfying is the process of letting Shiggajon, whoever, wherever, whenever, whatever they are, construct the flow of the track and be carried along its multifaceted currents. Natural vibing is pervasive and proceeds gloriously, without interruption, to spread out over side A’s 18-minute course, cymbals keeping rhythm not in straightforward rock progressions but in timed ceremonial march.
As the strings and the percussion continue to build intensity to and through the 12-minute mark, one is reminded of some of Swans‘ mounting-chaos experimentalism, but Shiggajon are ultimately on a much more peaceful trip, and rather than come to a head and explode with aggression, “Mæander” finds a distinctly meditative feel in its repetitions, elements moving in and out around a central angularity that has an underlying melody but isn’t shy about defying it either. When Hepburn returns in the second half of the track, it’s clear just how ceremonial “Mæander” has become and how much of a march has emerged. Seemingly perpetual, it ends on a long fade, the bells cutting through on the way out, only to have the title-track fade in quietly around turns of violin, more bells and a subtly grounding drum beat. More experimental-sounding on its face — that is, with a less prominent initial foundation — “Sela” itself is also a more linear build, flowing smoothly toward an apex and then making its way out again peacefully.
More than its predecessor, “Sela” comes together as a wash of tone and cymbals. There’s a drone-style feel to some of its early going, but it’s more active than it at first seems, and like “Mæander,” it’s best experienced as a sort of passive participant, which is to say, if you’re going to go with it, go with it. By the time they’re 10 minutes in and the guitars begin to hint at post-rock echoes amid a peaceful din that’s just as real as it is oxymoronic, you’re either going to be lost or completely on board for wherever Shiggajon go next. That destination? A somewhat more rhythmically insistent apex — the flute comes into play — that’s gorgeously layered into a consuming, almost overwhelming push.
I couldn’t point to an exact second where they hit it, but the crescendo is over shortly past the 15-minute mark — the cymbals drop out — and from there, Shiggajon set about deconstructing “Sela”‘s various elements, the flute staying so long, then withering into the background drone, then rising again. It’s an ending that fits with the odd but always flowing spiritualism preceding, but one gets the feeling coming out the other side that Shiggajon probably didn’t stop to look back at the ending, by which I mean a band like this — as much as they are a band — is almost always looking forward at what’s next rather than what they’ve done before, constantly striving toward the next step in their ongoing progression. While Sela unquestionably captures a moment in their existence worth seeking out, for Shiggajon, it’s likely to be one more chapter in a longer story rather than any kind of stopping point. As one can hear on both sides of the platter, there’s no shortage of movement within.
Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The final day of the Quarterly Review is upon us. It has been one hell of a week, I don’t mind saying, but good and productive overall, if in a kind of cruel way. I hope that you’ve been able to find something in sifting through all these releases that you really dig. I have, for whatever that’s worth. Before we dig into the last batch, I just want to thank you for checking in and reading this week. If you’ve seen all five of these or if this is the first bunch you’ve come across, that you’re here at all is appreciated immensely.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Lucifer, Lucifer I
Vocalist Johanna Sadonis, who burst into the international underground consciousness last year with The Oath, resurfaces following that band’s quick dissolution alongside former Cathedral guitarist and riffer-of-legend Gary “Gaz” Jennings in Lucifer, whose Lucifer I eight-song debut LP is released on Rise Above Records. Joined by bassist Dino Gollnick and drummer Andrew Prestidge, Sadonis and Jennings wind through varied but thoroughly doomed atmospheres across songs like opener “Abracadabra” – the outright silliness of the “magic word” kind of undercutting the cultish impression for which Lucifer are shooting – or early highlights “Purple Pyramid” and “Izrael.” A strong side A rounding out with “Sabbath,” Lucifer I can feel somewhat frontloaded, but on repeat listens, the layered chorus of “White Mountain,” “Morning Star”’s late-arriving chug, the classically echoing “Total Eclipse” and the atmospheric finish of “A Grave for Each One of Us” hold their own. After a strong showing from Lucifer’s debut single, the album doesn’t seem like it will do anything to stop the band’s already-in-progress ascent. Their real test will be in the live arena, but they sustain a thematic ambience across Lucifer I’s 44 minutes, and stand ready to follow Rise Above labelmates Ghost and Uncle Acid toward the forefront of modern doom.
Drone-prone Philadelphia post-metallers Rosetta return with Quintessential Ephemera, the follow-up to 2013’s The Anaesthete and their fifth LP overall, which resounds in its ambience as a reinforcement of how little the band – now a five-piece with the inclusion of guitarist Eric Jernigan – need any hype or genre-push to sustain them. Through a titled intro, “After the Funeral,” through seven untitled tracks of varying oppressiveness and rounding out with the unabashedly pretty instrumental “Nothing in the Guise of Something,” they continue to plug away at their heady approach, relentless in their progression and answering the darker turns of their prior outing with a shift toward a more colorful atmosphere. At 52 minutes, Quintessential Ephemera isn’t a slight undertaking, but if you were expecting one you probably haven’t been paying attention to the last decade of Rosetta’s output. As ever, they are cerebral and contemplative while staying loyal to the need for an emotional crux behind what they do, and the album is both dutiful and forward-looking.
Pressed up by Brutal Panda Records for Stateside issue following a 2014 release in Europe on Svart, Death by Burning is the debut full-length from sans-bass Hamburg duo Mantar – vocalist/guitarist Hanno, drummer/vocalist Erinc – and as much as it pummels and writhes across its thrash-prone 10 tracks, opener “Spit” setting a tone for the delivery throughout, there are flourishes of both character and groove to go with all the bludgeoning throughout standout cuts like “Cult Witness,” “The Huntsmen,” the explosive “White Nights,” “The Stoning” and the more lumbering instrumental closer “March of the Crows,” the two-piece seamlessly drawing together elements of doom, thrash and blackened rock and roll into a seething, tense concoction that’s tonally weighted enough to make one’s ears think they’re hearing bass strings alongside the guitar, but still overarchingly raw in a manner denoting some punk influence. Bonus points for the Tom G. Warrior-style “ough!” grunts that make their way into “The Stoning” and the rolling nod of “Astral Kannibal.” Nasty as hell, but more subtle than one might expect.
Though it seems King Giant’s fate to be persistently underrated, the Virginian dual-guitar five-piece offer their most stylistically complex material to date on their third full-length, Black Ocean Waves (released on The Path Less Traveled Records and Graveyard Hill), recorded by J. Robbins (Clutch, Murder by Death, etc.) as the follow-up to 2012’s Dismal Hollow (streamed here). Still commanded by the vocal presence of frontman Dave Hammerly, the album also finds moments of flourish in the guitars of David Kowalski and Todd “T.I.” Ingram on opener “Mal de Mer,” the leads on “Requiem for a Drunkard” or the intro to extended finishing move “There Were Bells,” bassist Floyd Lee Walters III and drummer Keith Brooks holding down solid rhythms beneath the steady chug of “The One that God Forgot to Save” and “Blood of the Lamb.” Side A closer “Red Skies” might be where it all ties together most, but the full course of Black Ocean Waves’ eight tracks provides a satisfying reminder of the strength in King Giant’s craftsmanship.
The 14 single-word-title tracks of Si Ombrellone’s Horns on the Same Goat were originally recorded in 2006, but for a 2015 release, Connecticut-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret, King of Salem) took them back into his own UP Recording Studio for touch-ups and remastering. The endeavor is a solo outing for Tuozzoli, styled in a kind of post-grunge rock with Frank Picarazzi playing drums to give a full-band feel, and finds catchy, poppy songwriting coming forward in the layered vocals of “Innocence,” while later, “Forgiveness” and “Darkness” offset each other more in theme than sound, as “Love” and “Hate” had done earlier, the album sticking to its straightforward structures through to six-minute closer “Undone,” which boasts a more atmospheric take. It’s an ambitious project to collect 14 sometimes disparate emotional themes onto a single outing, never mind to do it (mostly) alone – one might write an entire record about “Trust,” say, or “Rage,” which opens – but Tuozzoli matches his craftsmanship with a sincerity that carries through each of these tracks.
Boasting a close relationship to Duster69 and Mother Misery and featuring in their ranks Daredevil Records owner Jochen Böllath, who plays guitar, German heavy rockers Grand Massive revel in commercial-grade Euro-style tonal heft bordering on metallic aggression. 2 is their aptly-titled second EP (on Daredevil) and it finds Böllath, lead guitarist Peter Wisenbacher, vocalist Alex Andronikos, bassist Toby Brandl and drummer Holger Stich running through six crisply-executed tracks of catchy, fist-pumping riffy drive, slowing a bit for the creepy ambience of the interlude “Woods” or the more lurching tension of “I am Atlas,” but most at home in the push of “Backseat Devil” and closer “My Own Sickness,” a mid-paced groove adding to the festival-ready weight Grand Massive conjure. Word is they’re already at work on a follow-up. Fair enough, but 2 has plenty to offer in the meantime in its tight presentation and darker vibes, Grand Massive having been through a wringer of lineup changes and emerged with their songwriting well intact.
Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Live from Roadburn 2014
If you guessed “spacey as hell” as regards this meeting between NorCal psych explorers Carlton Melton and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Danish jammers Øresund Space Collective, go ahead and give yourself the prize. Limited to 300 copies worldwide courtesy of Lay Bare Recordings and Space Rock Productions, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space’s Live from Roadburn 2014 is a consuming, near-100-minute unfolding, Heller joining Carlton Melton on stage for four of the total seven inclusions, adding his synthesized swirl to the swirling wash, already by then 26 minutes deep after the opening “Country Ways > Spiderwebs” establishes a heady sprawl that only continues to spread farther and farther as pieces unfold, making “Out to Sea” seem an even more appropriate title. It will simply be too much for some, but as somebody who stood and heard the sounds oozing from the stage at Cul de Sac in Tilburg, the Netherlands, as part of the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner event, I can say it was a special trip to behold. It remains so here.
According to El Paraiso Records, Sela was held up as so many releases have been owing to plant production having been overwhelmed by Record Store Day and will be out circa August. Fair enough. Consider this advance warning of Danish improve collective Shiggajon’s first outing for the Causa Sui-helmed imprint, then, and don’t be intimidated as we get closer to the release and people start talking about things like “free jazz” and dropping references to this or that Coltrane. The real deal with Shiggajon – central figures Mikkel Reher-Lanberg (percussion, drums, clarinet) and Nikolai Brix Vartenberg (sax) here joined by Emil Rothenborg (violin, double bass), Martin Aagaard Jensen (drums), Mikkel Elzer (drums, percussion, guitar), Sarah Lorraine Hepburn (vocals, flute, electronics, tingshaws) – is immersive and tipped over into music as the ritual itself. One might take on the two 18-minute halves of Sela with a similarly open mind as when approaching Montibus Communitas and be thrilled at the places the album carries you. I hope to have more to come, but again, heads up – this one is something special.
“The Spell” proves right away that Alps-based heavy rockers Mount Hush (I love that they don’t specify a country) have the post-Queens of the Stone Age fuzz-thrust down pat on their debut EP Low and Behold, but the band also bring an element of heavy psychedelia to their guitar work and the vocals – forward in the mix – have a bluesier but not caricature-dudely edge, so even as they bounce through the “Come on pretty baby” hook of “The Spell,” they’re crafting their own sound. The subsequent “King Beyond” showcases how to have a Graveyard influence without simply pretending to sound like Graveyard, even going so far as to repurpose a classic rock reference – “Strange Days” by The Doors – in its pursuit, and the seven-minute “The Day She Stole the Sun” stretches out for a more psychedelic build. Most exciting of all on a conceptual level is closer “Levitations.” Drumless, it sets ethereal vocals and samples over a tonal swirl and airy, quieter strumming. Hardly adrenaline-soaked and not intended to be, but it shows Mount Hush have a genuine will to experiment, and it’s one I hope they continue to develop.
Joined for the first time by drummer Bas Snabilie (apparently since replaced by Aletta Verwoerd) Amsterdam heavy art rockers Labasheeda mark four full-length releases with Changing Lights on Presto Chango, the violin/viola of vocalist/guitarist Saskia van der Giessen and guitar/bass/keyboard of Arne Wolfswinkel carrying across an open but humble atmosphere, touching here on Sonic Youth’s dare-to-have-a-verse moments in “My Instincts” and pushing into more blown-out jarring with the slide-happy “Tightrope.” They bring indie edge to a cover of The Who’s “Circles,” and round out with a closing duo of the album’s only two tracks over five minutes, “Cold Water” and “Into the Wide,” van der Giessen’s croon carrying a sweetness into the second half of the former as the latter finishes Changing Lights with a rolling contrast of distortion and strings as engrossing as it is strange. Labasheeda will go right over a lot of heads, but approached with an open mind it can just as easily prove a treasure for its blatant refusal to be pinned to one style or another.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m hardly what one would consider a purist as regards black metal, but am I wrong in assuming at this point that anything goes in the formerly-strict subgenre? Melodic vocals, keyboards, ladies, dudes who look like catalog models, doom riffs, whatever? I’m sure there are some corpsepaint bros in spiked armbands who are really pissed off about that shit, but does it matter? Did it ever? Do these questions even matter? Are we still talking?
Point is, expect much hullabaloo around the release of Myrkur‘s debut full-length, M, when it’s released in August — one can almost hear the critical pandering now, like a rumble in the distance or a mounting salival tsunami — but nothing I’ve heard from Myrkur, which is pretty much her self-titled debut EP, issued last year by Relapse, argues against the validity of the hype. If the purists are pissed, let them gouge their ears with their spiked armbands or novelty swords or whatever armaments they might have in hand.
The PR brings copious information, but even if you don’t feel like getting knowledge about Kristoffer Rygg producing or other whathaveyou, the stream of new song “Hævnen” might prove worth a spin. Have at you:
MYRKUR Announces New Album, M Out August 21st on Relapse Records
Produced By Kristoffer Rygg of Ulver, Teloch of Mayhem on Guitars, Øyvind Myrvoll of Nidingr & Dodheimsgard on Drums
On the heels of MYRKUR’s universally praised debut EP, comes M, the Danish black metal phenom’s highly anticipated first full-length album. Recorded in various locations of Oslo, Norway (including renowned artist Emanuel Vigeland’s Museum) with co-producer Garm – the mastermind behind black metal legends Ulver – M finds MYRKUR achieving the grandiose heights that everyone hoped she would climb to. The melodies are lush and the brutality devastating. M is a highly developed metal masterpiece that blends second-wave black metal, Nordic folk music, classical instrumentation and haunting choirs. Rounded out on record by members of Mayhem, Dodheimsgard & Nidingr plus a guest appearance from Christopher Amott of Arch Enemy, MYRKUR has quickly established herself as one of the best and most intriguing acts in metal today.
M will see its worldwide release August 21st via Relapse alongside her first ever live performance, headlining the black stage at Denmark’s Roskilde Festival with Deafheaven and Tombs. Numerous other festival appearances around Europe are planned throughout the year. Physical and digtal pre-orders are now available and include a special deluxe LP package containing an exclusive bonus track of the “Skadi” demo.
MYRKUR on the concepts of M: “The album is a story where the songs are connected. It is Nordic folk music, black metal, classical choirs and more. It feels like a soundtrack to some sort of Norse mythology horror movie with blastbeats. I wrote it about many things, as a goddess who wants revenge and to kill off people in my life, perhaps also a side of myself. I feel a strong sense of being divided into two, not one whole. a side of light and a side of shadows battle within me. And sometimes a disassociation to reality. A disconnect to the normal world and to what I am. This album tells my story and the transformation to one is complete in my mind.”
Producer Kristoffer Rygg aka Garm of ULVER on M: “In a – for me – short, but efficient time I feel that we managed to sew together a production that will be instantly recognizable in the plethora of “history conscious” metal music, with it’s stylistic wavering between classical, folk, rock (shoegaze) and (black) metal traditions. At the same time “M” also sounds strangely contemporary to me. It goes in circles, I guess. Soundwise it’s all out classic analogue stuff. No triggered drums, brick walling or all on grid here. It’s a really natural sound harkening back to the days of old. That’s the feel (or soul) we were after and I think we captured it. It’s no secret that Amalie loves Bergtatt (our first album), and there’s even a song on the album to prove it! I’m not really a type to gush, but Myrkur is a multi-talent and she knows it. Fortunately for me we really hit it off and were on the same page from the get-go… I think our time of meeting was really auspicious as I’ve been working a bit with Ulver’s old metal back catalogue recently and with that stuff fresh in mind the feeling came natural and was a total trip for me, to summon that epic, sylvan Scandinavian sound, as it were. I am really proud to be involved, to help her make her vision come to life, and also to have her carry the torch, so to speak. I think it’s a killer album and I’m anxious to see what people think.”
MYRKUR Live Dates: July 4: Roskilde Festival – Roskilde, Denmark August 22: Midgardsblot Metalfestiva – Borre, Norway
MYRKUR M Relapse Records August 21, 2015 1 – Skøgen Skulle Dø 2 – Hævnen 3 – Onde Børn 4 – Vølvens Spådom 5 – Jeg er Guden, I er Tjenerne 6 – Nordlys 7 – Mordet 8 – Byssan Lull 9 – Dybt i Skoven 10 -Skadi 11 – Norn
Pressed to golden cassette with an eight-panel j-card in an edition of 150 copies by Caligari Records, the eight-track debut long-player from ’70s-styled Copenhagen five-piece Demon Head, titled Ride the Wilderness, seems way more concerned with going back to the source material than taking inspiration from modern practitioners. By which I mean it’s more Pentagram than Witchcraft. That distinction would probably seem minute to some ears, but it makes a difference in the listening experience on Ride the Wilderness — which in addition to the Caligari tape has been released on tape in the EU by Smokedd Productions, on CD via This Charming Man and Wolfbiker Records and on vinyl through This Charming Man — as it did on Demon Head‘s two 2014 releases, Demo 2014 (review here) and the Demon Head b/w Winterland (review here). Three songs from that demo are repurposed here, one of them being “Demon Head,” and “Winterland” appears on the album as well, so those who’ve caught onto the band’s energetic take on classic-style proto-metal will no doubt find some of the material familiar, catchy as those songs are, but all seem to have been re-recorded, and for what it’s worth, one of the 46-minute offering’s greatest strengths is its front to back flow, which even split into two sides with a pause between side one and two, as on the tape, rests easy on a bed of rolling grooves, ’70s swing, natural tonality and resonant hooks.
“Undertaker,” “Winterland” and “Ride the Wilderness” all appear on side one, with the newcomer “Revelations of April” before the title-track. As it opened the demo, “Undertaker” is no less an introduction here to the point of view conjured by the band — vocalist Marcus Ferreira Larsen, lead/slide guitarist Thor Nielsen, rhythm guitarist/keyboardist Birk Nielsen, bassist Mikkel Fuglsang and drummer Jeppe Wittus — with a proclamation-prone Larsen donning the titular role and informing the listener, “I’ve been waiting for you and I’ve been dying to meet you,” in the first of several landmark hooks the record provides. His presence is considerable as a frontman even on the recording, but he’s well met throughout Ride the Wilderness by the swinging groove of Wittus‘ drumming and the alternating between more uptempo boogie and morose, semi-theatrical doom. Much to their credit, at no point to Demon Head sound like they’re not having a good time, and that only adds to the vital spirit of their delivery. Part of that could be youth, but whatever it is, it makes “Winterland” all the more infectious and pushes the roll of “Revelations of April” outward with a sense of something spontaneous en route to the tempo shifts, righteous delivery of the title line and later layered solos of “Ride the Wilderness” that are on their way to calling Graveyard to mind but seem consistently to be on a darker stylistic trip.
That holds true for side two of the tape as well, which is perhaps less immediate than the bash-you-over-the-head choruses of “Undertaker” or “Winterland,” but ultimately the more satisfying of Ride the Wilderness‘ two halves, with three newer cuts where side one had three older ones. “Book of Changes” leads off, followed by the reappearing “Demon Head,” “The Greatest Lie” and the closer and longest cut at 7:20, “Worthless.” No question “Demon Head” is an anchor for the 24-minute side two, but it’s far from the only highlight, with a shuffle emerging on “Book of Changes” from a kind of drawling progression to build to the inevitable slowdown, Larsen calling out the wickedness of man over a quick wash of noise before a return to the winding central figure, and “The Greatest Lie” being the most impressive accomplishment Demon Head present on their debut, an under-five-minute roll that plays to cult cliché brazenly without it mattering and outdoes even the chorus of “Demon Head” before it — no easy feat — with a two-layer hook that comes coupled with Ride the Wilderness‘ best nod and shifts into quirked-up horror thematics in its last minute-plus before making way for the more spacious, slow-crawling “Worthelss,” which keeps to its lumbering pace until there are about two minutes left, then kicks into higher gear to give Ride the Wilderness the raucous finish it deserves, Nielsen topping off with yet another impressive solo as the track fades out to the eventual click back to side one.
It should say something that no fewer than four labels picked up Ride the Wilderness for a release — if nothing else, they come well endorsed — but the strength of the album isn’t in who’s standing behind the songs so much as in the songs themselves. Demon Head make a formidable opening statement with Ride the Wilderness, and with the development they already show between redone cuts like “Undertaker” and “Ride the Wilderness” and newer ones like “Worthless” and “The Greatest Lie,” it will be even more intriguing to find out where they end up their next time out. Planet earth is not short on ’70s stylization whether it’s from Europe or the States, but when Demon Head tell you to Ride the Wilderness, it’s an easy invitation to accept.
Hard to mess with Spirit Caravan in the year 2000. They were, by the time they hit Stengade in Copenhagen, Denmark, for the show from which this week’s Wino Wednesday clip comes, already past their landmark 1999 debut, Jug Fulla Sun, and moving toward their second outing, Elusive Truth, which would see release in 2001 on Tolotta Records as their final full-length prior to their disbanding in 2002. A short run, but one the repercussions of which continue to be felt today, and not just because the band — or two-thirds of the original lineup, anyway, with Scott “Wino” Weinrich and Dave Sherman joined by drummer Henry Vasquez in place of Gary Isom after an unceremonious falling out — but also because of the influence they had on the Maryland/D.C. heavy rock scene around them and the wider riff-loving sphere. The climate for heavy rock was different at that point, but even then, these dudes were prone to killing it.
We see that readily in the video below, in which, playing in front of their own banner, the trio of Wino, Sherman and Isom belt out what would become the title-track of Elusive Truth as well as “Powertime” from Jug Fulla Sun, with Wino plugging the new record before the former and Sherman shouting out the latter to oldschool metalheads, into Slayer, Venom, Mercyful Fate, and so on. I guess the song has some of that vibe, but with its lyrical theme of freedom and perseverance, it’s hardly as dark as anything Venom might put out there. Maybe Sherman was just feeling the elder metal and wanted to call it out. No further explanation would be required if that was the case.
Either way, the video captures Spirit Caravan (né Shine) at the arguable height of their run, and for that I’m happy to have it to check out. As always, I hope you enjoy:
Spirit Caravan, “Elusive Truth” and “Powertime” live in Copenhagen, Denmark, Nov. 22, 2000
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Danish five-piece Demon Head issued one of my favorite short releases last year in their Demo 2014 tape (review here), and then followed that up quickly with a 7″ called Demon Head b/w Winterland (review here) that also showcased much promise, so their debut full-length has been one to look forward to. Titled Ride the Wilderness and repurposing three songs from the demo which also appeared on the single, Demon Head‘s debut has all the languid analog roll one could ask, but brings a youthful energy to the tenets of post-Witchcraft retroism that carries well across the songs, a nascent melodic sensibility in progress amid the organic tones and swinging grooves. It’s an easy one to dig, as the first track made public, “Book of Changes,” attests below.
Announcement of the album’s arrival through no fewer than three labels — This Charming Man on LP, Caligari Records on tape (also a local tape release through Smokedd Productions), and Wolfbiker on CD — follows, dutifully transcribed from the PR wire:
Friends and strangers!
Hear the thunder on the horizon? The time is coming..
It is with great pleasure that we can tell you all that May will see the release of our first full-length album, RIDE THE WILDERNESS.
It will be no less than eight songs of wild rock that we summoned and trapped in a tape machine last year for the untamed and unchained!
Recorded at The Chaos Island and Mastered by Tiger Bartelt of Kadavar, we’re dying for you to hear it..
LP on This Charming Man-Records, CD on Wolfbiker records as well as cassette tapes by Caligari Records overseas and local Smokedd Productions… Lightning strikes!!
DEMON HEAD’s debut album will finally see the light of night in May… We’ve been dying for you all to hear these hard rocking songs and sinister tales from nightmarish corners of our minds!
On a lost road between Heavy Rock highways and the Doom abyss, these eight tunes have been crafted with dedication to the old rock music traditions, for those that are born to be wild. Following the Winterland 7″ (Levitation Records) and a sold-out demo tape, we have recorded RIDE THE WILDERNESS in our own studio, capturing and manipulating this wicked devil child of our on gritty tape machine and haunted sound equipment from days bygone. Inspired by the likes of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy and The Doors, this is a soundtrack for days of thunder & lightning.
RELEASE PARTIES May 20 – Grand, Malmö May 21 – TBA, Germany May 22 – Loppen, Copenhagen May 23 – Hässelholm, Sweden
Posted in Whathaveyou on April 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The catalog of Danish collective Shiggajon is about as amorphous as both the band’s lineup and their improvisational methodology, full of independent live releases with varying participants, splits, limited tapes and CDRs dating back to 2006 or thereabouts. They’ve had numerous full-lengths already, but no doubt signing to El Paraiso Records for the impending June release of Sela will be a landmark for the outfit. The album is available now for preorder on LP and is comprised of two extended tracks of improv-worship, the feel duly psychedelic, but not geared toward any particular idea of what that might mean.
You can get a feel for yourself with the sample of the immersive title-track below. It’s only five minutes of an 18-minute track, but I think you’ll be able to get a feel for what Shiggajon are getting up to, and hopefully agree it’s worth pursuing.
500 copies of the album will be pressed. Info follows from the PR wire:
Shiggajon Sela LP
Shiggajon is a Danish collective based around musicians Mikkel Reher-Lanberg and Nikolai Brix Vartenberg. Much like the music itself the collective is in constant flux, sometimes performing in the form of a small ensemble, other times appearing on stage with as many as 15 persons, depending on the situation.
It’s tempting to categorize Shiggajon as a spiritual jazz ensemble, since their music is able to induce a heightened, spiritual euphoria much similar to that of Pharoah Sanders, Don Cherry or Alice Coltrane. But any narrow definition of their sound would be misleading. While there’s an element of ritualism present, there’s also a post-modern tendency to absorb everything from sufi music to krautrock and contemporary electronic drone. Heavily modulated guitar pedals and processed vocals accompany layers of flutes, strings, bells and percussion as the most natural thing in the world.
It’s the kind of music that demands openness and surrender. Every time the ensemble performs improvisation is fundamental – it’s a journey into the unknown. As in John Coltrane’s later works, Shiggajon establishes a unity between spirituality and improvisation – they embrace the paradox of seeking elevation and existential affirmation through sounds that occasionally verges on chaos and dread. These two long, multi-layered, cacophonous pieces occasionally come off as slightly abrasive and dissonant, but ultimately the music is a process resulting in joyful catharsis and healing.
Emil Rothenborg, violin and double bass. Martin Aagaard Jensen, drum-kit. Mikkel Elzer, drums, percussion, and electric guitar. Mikkel Reher-Langberg, drums, percussion, and clarinet. Nikolai Brix Vartenberg, saxophone. Sarah Lorraine Hepburn, vocals, silver flute, electronics and tingshaws