Yawning Man European Tour Starts this Weekend

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all on board with desert rock legends Yawning Man going over to Europe for a round of dates. Would I rather they were playing the East Coast or, say, my back yard for myself, The Patient Mrs. and a handful of close friends? Yes. But failing that, a European tour’s as good as anything (except maybe a new album) in that at least they’re getting out. The only crucial bit of information missing is who’s in the band at this point.

Of course Gary Arce is on guitar. It’s his band. And it seems reasonable to expect Mario Lalli (see also: Fatso Jetson) will be on bass, but I’m not sure if Alfredo Hernandez (see also: Kyuss) is still with Yawning Man, and even if he is, people kind of come and go depending on who Arce is jamming with at the time, so there’s no real guarantee he’ll be along for the trip. I guess either way it’s worth showing up — hell, if it was Arce and his pedalboard alone, it’d be worth showing up — but I’d be more interested to know if Hernandez is going because that might give some tip on where the trio are at with making their next record, about which it’s been a while since we’ve had an update.

Maybe if you’re in Europe and you go to one of these shows, you can ask Gary yourself what’s up on that front:

YAWNING MAN SUNSET SUMMER TOUR

Yawning Man will be bringing our unique, surreal sounds to Holland, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland August/early September. Our shows are limited this time around, so please, pack your friends up in your vehicle and make a road trip to come see us. We look forward to seeing you all!

29.08.14 Deventer, NETHERLANDS ~ DE HIP
30.08.14 Hummelo, NETHERLANDS ~ Mañana Mañana Festival
01.09.14 Vienna, AUSTRIA ~ THE ARENA
02.09.14 Berlin, Germany ~ Wild At Heart
03.09.14 Dresden, GERMANY ~ Ostpol
04.09.14 Jena, GERMANY ~ KULTURBAHNHOF
05.09.14 Frankfurt, GERMANY ~ DAS BETT Sky High Festival
06.09.14 Zurich, SWITZERLAND ~ Kinski Klub

Please contact the venues for ticket prices, times, etc.

https://www.facebook.com/yawningmanofficial/
https://www.facebook.com/events/288401634678604/

Yawning Man, “Dark Meet” from Split with Fatso Jetson (2013)

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Friday Full-Length: Yawning Man, Vista Point

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Yawning Man, Vista Point (2007)

I’m not one for mindless patriotism. I have reasons I’m glad I was born an American and reasons I’m not. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge today is July 4, the day my country celebrates Independence Day. It’s a day off work for the three or four of us left who still have jobs. As that’s not me, it seemed the least I could do to spend the afternoon typing. Not that I’d know what else to do with my time anyway. It’s raining here as an alleged hurricane makes its way somewhere along the Eastern Seaboard, so the traditional barbecue is out, and if I’m wasting electricity by running the air conditioning for the better part of the afternoon, well, that feels pretty American.

Still, I wanted to find something that represents something I can be proud for my country having produced, and Yawning Man came to mind pretty quickly. Their only real competition was Funkadelic, and I did the self-titled last year, so Vista Point it is. Classic desert rock sound, made in America. It’s everywhere now, of course, but when Yawning Man started in the ’80s, with Gary Arce, Mario Lalli, Larry Lalli and Alfredo Hernandez, that wasn’t the case, and their surf-rock-without-the-water would become the foundation for an international movement the influence of which is still only expanding. Released in 2007, Vista Point – which it bothers me more than a little that I don’t own on CD — culled together Yawning Man‘s two official studio outings up to that point, 2005’s Rock Formations long-player and the Pot Head EP (have those), into one hour-plus of reverbed trippery, the dynamic between ArceMario Lalli (Larry had long since left, though he remains in Fatso Jetson to this day with Mario) and Hernandez dripping across every dreamy movement in the songs. In true desert rock fashion, Yawning Man were about two decades late in getting recognized for the influence they had and the excellence they proffered — as much as they have to this point, anyhow — but they continue to bring something distinct to what they do that no one else has been able to capture. Oh yeah, and Kyuss covered them one time.

Enjoy Vista Point, in the spirit of the holiday and with the hopes of Yawning Man‘s next record turning up sooner rather than later.

Well, thus ends the first of my four weeks without The Patient Mrs. while she’s in Greece. It went pretty quickly, to be honest. After the move last weekend, there was a ton of cleaning to do at the new condo — home ownership! mortgage debt! the American dream! — and lots to unpack, scrub down, set up, etc., and that consumed a large portion of my week, the first couple days in an A/C-less swelter and the last couple in relaxed comfort. We’ve spoken just about every day, including today, but I’ve nonetheless developed five rules for myself to live by while she’s not around. Even wrote them on the markerboard:

If you can’t read my handwriting, which isn’t great, they are as follows:

1. No more than one (1) full day can be spent in bed, and not in the first ten (10) days.

2. No Anathema or Alice in ChainsSap.

3. Eat a vegetable at least four days a week. Potatoes don’t count.

4. No more than one full day can be spent in the house. Opening the door for the dog is not “going out.”

5. No “Ain’t No Sunshine” either.

I’m happy to say I’ve lived up to each of these at least so far — though I saw a link to Alternative 4 on Thee Facebooks last night and had to stop myself. We’ll see what the next couple of weeks bring. It’s pretty funny to be reminded every now and then of my own complete lack of independence, though. Hilarious to be so utterly inept at what to most people are daily tasks and to go entire days (though not two in a row!) where most of my conversation happens between myself and the dog. Indeed. Quite a week it’s been. Did I mention I’ve started watching Star Trek again from the beginning of the series?

Next week, the Conan interview goes up. This will happen come hell or high water. It’s been a while at this point since we spoke (it was the week of Hellfest), so yeah, it’s time. Also reviews of Wasted Theory and John Garcia‘s solo record.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend, and I hope it already began and involves friends and good food and all that wonderful stuff. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Bilis Sicario, II

Posted in Radio on February 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

When I started out to add Bilis Sicario to The Obelisk Radio, I was going with their EP, Encuentro de Sutilezas, on Torcaza Records. Then I found that a follow-up single, dubbed II, had been released by the Baja California mostly-instrumental outfit, and though I’m not entirely sure when either of them came out (they don’t seem to be recent, showing a 2012 release date, but some of their reviews are newer) and can’t find a lineup for the band other than the curiously-named Iván Glez. Glez who carries his own punctuation amid a repeated last name and is responsible for recording, mixing and mastering the single, I figured probably better to play it safe with the newer-seeming release. Whether or not Bilis Sicario is a one-man project from Glez or not, I don’t know — their email referred to “our debut demo” — but it’s a full-band sound anyway across the pair of cuts included on II, guitars layering in post-rock ambience to match step with crunching desert riffs. Both “En Vano” and “Argos” owe some of their approach to Queens of the Stone Age‘s early going, and while Bilis Sicario are instrumental, there’s a haunting human touch to each track that comes through in atmospherics more individualized than one might initially think.

Starting out noisy, “En Vano” gradually unfurls an upbeat, jumpy-style riff that’s the root of the QOTSA comparison, while thick bass rumbles underneath à la some lost jam from the 1998 self-titled. There arrive what sound an awful lot like ambient vocals if they’re not, but the crux of the track is the riff work, and though it feels short at just over three minutes, the riff is enough to carry the song, a steady kick drum giving the full tones a sense of march as the final slower progression plays out to an end of sustained amp noise. With “Argos,” which tops seven minutes, obviously Bilis Sicario have more room to jam out, and advantage is taken. Quirky effects swirl around likewise bizarro riff turns as a sample from the 1967 Mexican film Santo el Enmascarado de Plata vs. la Invasión de los Marcianos, in which a masked wrestler is forced to do battle with invaders from Mars. That bit of brilliance taken into account, the song furthers the atmospherics of “En Vano” with patient guitar in a spacious background of effects, returning samples providing a verse for the guitars to play off, until just before the four-minute mark, Bilis Sicario introduce a fuller riff that serves as the basis for the remainder of the song as it’s built around and developed.

What’s most surprising about “Argos” as it works its way out is how big it sounds. In its layers of guitar and bass, yes, but even more in the drums, the song takes on an awful lot of room before its long fadeout ensues. Listening back, Encuentro de Sutilezas put to use some similar methods across its own four tracks, but I figured since both were available as a free download from Torcaza Records, the single would make a good place to start for anyone looking to get introduced. You can hear it now as part of the 24/7 stream on The Obelisk Radio, and grab some files via the Bandcamp player and links below.

Bilis Sicario, II

Bilis Sicario on Thee Facebooks

Torcaza Records on Bandcamp

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Fever Dog Release New Single for Free Download

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 9th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

A little while back, I wrote up the killer Lady Snowblood single from young-gun California desert rockers Fever Dog. The jammers returned on July 4 with a new two-song single called The Great Tree, and like last time out, they’ve made it available as a free download through their Bandcamp page, taking rootsy Hendrix fuzz and giving it a modern desert swagger that, given that these dudes are really just getting going, is fluid beyond what you might usually expect.

The songs — “The Great Tree” and an accompanying extended take on “Nobody” from their 2012 debut full-length, Volume One – blend space rock grooving, classic tones and the band’s come-by-honestly desert rock lineage to excellent effect. As a title-track, “The Great Tree” positively smokes, led by the guitar of Danny Graham but with the rhythm section of bassist Nathan Wood and drummer Joshua Adams losing no step in following his riffs and hair-covered leads. “Nobody (Acid Version)” picks up from six-string meandering to Radio Moscow-style blues, but bent through a prism of psychedelic color, Graham‘s vocals filling out echoing spaces while the drums span channels and Wood holds the piece together in steady, flowing fashion. Most importantly, both build and solidify the ideas Fever Dog presented on Lady Snowblood, which considering that was released about four months ago is indeed an encouraging sign.

Fever Dog have pressed up a scant 50 copies of The Great Tree that they’ll have with them to give away at shows. No word what format they’ll be  on — I’d suspect CD or tape, but you never know — but with the free download, you get to pick your own poison as regards format, so I’d suggest you go ahead and get to it.

Have fun:

Fever Dog, “The Great Tree” (2013)

Fever Dog on Bandcamp

Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks

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Vista Chino Album Title, Artwork Unveiled

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Well, if Vista Chino (the former Kyuss Lives!) are going for a desert vibe in their artwork, it’s easy enough to imagine the cover of their forthcoming full-length debut, Peace, painted on the side of a chipped-away wall, so yeah, I guess they got there. The band are playing Metallica‘s Orion Festival this weekend in Detroit, and have announced some European dates, but the title and the art are the big news for the day, and presumably there’s more news to come before the release on Napalm Records.

So says the PR wire:

VISTA CHINO Announce Album Title, Unveil Artwork

First North American Performance This Weekend at “Orion Festival”

VISTA CHINO the band formed by John Garcia and Brant Bjork (formerly of Kyuss) have finished work on their new album. Today the band has unveiled the album title as well as the cover art for the record. The album is titled Peace and the artwork for the album was created by the renowned California art collective – The Date Farmers.

Drummer Brant Bjork commented about working with The Date Farmers:

“The Date Farmers are native to the desert where we are from. It is an honor to work together with such prolific artists!”

VISTA CHINO’s first North American performance will take place this Sunday June 9th at the “Orion Festival” in Detroit, MI curated by Metallica. VISTA CHINO will appear on the “Frantic Stage”. A full North American tour will be announced shortly

Recently the band debuted the “Dargona, Dragona” on their Facebook Page. When visiting the page, clicking the “like” button will enable the audio.

Rising from the desert sands that birthed Kyuss Lives, VISTA CHINO’s sound is instantly familiar. With the trademark soulful vocals of John Garcia, the songwriting and production of Brant Bjork (drums) and the fuzz-laden riffage of imported guitarist Bruno Fevery, VISTA CHINO’s debut is one of the year’s most anticipated heavy rock albums. A new band born of a storied past, right now it’s about these players playing these songs.

VISTA CHINO Live:
6/9: Detroit, MI @ Orion Festival
7/25: Tienen, Belgium @ Suikerrock
7/26: Feldkirch, Austria @ Poolbar Festival
7/29: Vienna, Austria @ Rock Im Wald Festival
7/31: Pinarella di Cervia, Italy @ Arena
8/3: Lierpop, Holland @ Rock Planet
8/7: Munich, Germany @ Backstage (Free & Easy Festival)
8/8: Geneva, Switzerland @ Usine
8/9: Puttlingen, Germany @ Rocco del Schlako
8/10: Eschwege, Germany @ Open Flair Festival

For More Info Visit:
https://www.facebook.com/VistaChinoMusic
http://www.vistachinomusic.com
http://www.napalmrecords.com

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Masters of Reality Announce European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 4th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Just one New York show? Maybe on the return trip? Hell, I don’t even care if it’s New York. I’ll drive to wherever on the East Coast. Unfortunately for me, nothing of the sort has been announced, and Chris Goss (interview here) and the rather considerable Masters of Reality lineup he’s put together around himself and long-tenured drummer John Leamy — including Mathias Schneeberger and Dave Catching — will be heading straight to Europe later this week and by all revealed accounts straight back to the desert from whence they came when they’re done.

The tour includes stops at Download and Sweden Rock and other fests and dates with Queens of the Stone Age, which is a bill I’d like to see anywhere, let alone Paris.

This from the PR wire:

Chris Goss’ Masters of Reality Announce European Tour

Including Dates with Queens of the Stone Age 

Masters Of Reality will embark on a European Summer Tour starting June 8. The trek will include stops at the Sweden Rock Festival, Download Festival and dates with Queens Of The Stone Age. Frontman Chris Goss was most recently a featured musician in Dave Grohl‘s all-star lineup band for his historic Sound City 2013 tour which had a set list including some of Grohl’s favorite Masters Of Reality songs. The band is currently at work on their as yet untitled new studio album.

Originally signed by Rick Rubin to Def Jam in 1988, Masters Of Reality have toured the world releasing nine critically acclaimed albums, five of them released on Mascot Records. Goss is regarded by many to be the godfather of the California desert rock scene and is a well respected producer known for seminal albums by Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age, as well as other acts such as Soul Wax, UNKLE, The Cult, and The Duke Spirit. 2013 started off quite abuzz for Goss, being featured in three current documentaries including the award winning Ginger Baker documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, the soon to be released Soul Wax documentary, and Dave Grohl’s Sound City.

Goss will be joined on the Masters Of Reality tour by longtime collaborator and drummer John Leamy (Surgery, Dr Mars). The live band also includes David Catching (Eagles Of Death Metal, Queens Of The Stone Age, Earthlings?) on guitar, Mathias Schneeberger (Gutter Twins, Twilight Singers, Earthlings?) on keys, and Paul Powell on bass.

Masters Of Reality Tour Dates
06/08/13 Sweden – Sweden Rock Festival
06/09/13 Denmark – Copenhagen – Pumpehuset (w/ SAFI)
06/11/13 Germany – Cologne – Luxor (w/ SAFI)
06/12/13 Holland – Amsterdam – Bitterzoet
06/14/13 Holland – Pinkpop Festival
06/16/13 UK – Download Festival
06/17/13 UK – Glasgow – Cathouse (w/ The Mighty Stef and SAFI)
06/18/13 UK – London – Islington Academy (w/ The Mighty Stef and SAFI)
06/19/13 France – Paris – Trianon (w/ Queens Of The Stone Age)
06/21/13 Germany – Southside Festival
06/22/13 Germany – Berlin – Citadel (w/ Queens Of The Stone Age)
06/23/13 Germany – Hurricane Festival
06/25/13 Switzerland – Dudingen – Bad Bonn (w/ The Shit and SAFI)
06/26/13 Switzerland – Zurich – Komplex Klub (w/ The Shit and SAFI)
06/28/13 Belgium – Leffinge – De Zwerver (w/ SAFI)
06/29/13 Luxembourg – Rock-a-Field Festival
07/01/13 Germany – Munich – Strom (w/ SAFI)
07/02/13 Austria – Vienna – Stadthalle (w/ Queens Of The Stone Age)

http://www.mastersofreality.com
https://www.facebook.com/mastersofreality

Masters of Reality, “Always” video by John Leamy

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Frydee Scott Reeder

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

So I’m watching this Scott Reeder video for the song “Thanks,” when all of a sudden, he’s rocking out on the roof of a trailer, and I think to myself, gee, I wonder if that’s the same trailer where Goatsnake took those press shots for Trampled Under Hoof when he was in the band. The pictures of Pete Stahl and Greg Anderson and Reeder, some are with goats, but some they’re just sitting on lawn furniture outside of a trailer, and yeah, I think it is the same spot. Check it out:

If you go to 1:46 in the video, you can see those wicker chairs from the picture above and that swing, and the angle is different, but that stuff is pretty distinct. To answer your next question, yes, this is what I do on a Friday night. Sorry ladies, I’m taken.

Even putting aside the continuity of outdoor furniture, I dig the song. “Thanks” is apparently an outtake from Reeder‘s lone solo effort to date, TunnelVision Brilliance. The album came out in 2006, and was cool if a little disjointed — as you’d have to expect it to be with songs written over the course of a decade and a half. I had hoped Reeder would follow it up with a new collection, but nothing’s surfaced since, though he’s made a stamp as producer for Dali’s Llama, Blaak Heat Shujaa, Black Math Horseman and Whores of Tijuana, among others, leaving a mark on desert heavy one way or another.

Long week, but god damn it, it felt good to finally get that Arthur Seay interview posted, and everyone was awesome about the whole four-years thing, and that was hugely appreciated on my end. Next week I’ve got a Q&A with Low Man slated to go up, and reviews of GurT, Arbouretum, Propane Propane and others, so there’s plenty worth staying tuned for, even if my brain is too tired to remember the rest of it. Which apparently it is. You’re just gonna have to trust me on this one.

Sunday, The Patient Mrs. and I are driving back north to Massachusetts to take another look at one of the houses we saw the day after that Gozu show last weekend. There are a mountain’s worth of steps between this and making an offer, having the offer accepted, closing, moving, etc., but it’s exciting to even have this stuff in motion. I’ve wanted to move for a while, even if it means I’ll need to pack up all my CDs.

Plenty of time before I get there, and in the meantime, I’m gonna go crash out as I think I exhausted the last bit of mental energy making that connection between the Reeder video and the Goatsnake pic. If you’re around, there’s good stuff doing on the forum that’s worth checking out, and not for nothing, but I was listening to The Obelisk Radio last night and I heard Truckfighters into EyeHateGod into Orange Goblin and today I heard Steve Von Till‘s “Hallowed Ground” right into The Awesome Machine‘s “Scars.” It was fucking awesome. If you’ve been digging that, or anything else around here, thanks. Really. Thank you.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. As always, I’ll see you back here Monday for more fuzz worship and run-on indulgences.

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Dali’s Llama, Autumn Woods: Tree in Your Forest

Posted in Reviews on December 11th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

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.

Read more »

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WaterWays, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Hotel Wrecking City Traders Split LP: An Intercontinental Tapestry of Tone

Posted in Reviews on October 8th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

A three-way split released in gorgeous 180 gram LP (limited to 500), with each of its participants represented in a different primary color – red for Californian desert rockers WaterWays, blue for UK prog instrumentalists Sons of Alpha Centauri and yellow for Australian brotherly noise rock duo Hotel Wrecking City Traders – the latest Bro Fidelity Records is every bit as intricate and lush in its psychedelia as its Alexander von Wieding artwork. The three bands display distinct personalities between them and as WaterWays come first with side A all to themselves and twice as much material as either Sons of Alpha Centauri or Hotel Wrecking City Traders, they’re obviously meant as a focal point. No wonder, given the band’s lineup. WaterWays boasts in its ranks guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man, bassist/vocalist Mario Lalli and drummer Tony Tornay (both of Fatso Jetson) and vocalist Abby Travis, who in the past has collaborated with the likes of Masters of Reality and Eagles of Death Metal, so if they come first of the three acts represented here, at least they earned it via pedigree. It’s also not the first time Hotel Wrecking City Traders – who also run Bro Fidelity Records – have sought to highlight Gary Arce’s work. The band collaborated with Arce on a 2011 collaborative 12” (review here). And as WaterWays’ first release was a late-2010 split with Yawning Sons, which is Arce’s pan-oceanic collaboration with Sons of Alpha Centauri, he would seem to be the figure tying everything together on this split, particularly as his influence has bled into the work of Ben and Toby Matthews of Hotel Wrecking City Traders on their contribution here, the 9:37 closer “Pulmo Victus.” Before them, on side B, Sons of Alpha Centauri dig deep into their archives to unearth the 8:48 track “27,” from an early recording session, and of course on side A, WaterWays take their time unfolding four songs of textured dune-minded psych, Lalli and Tornay’s well-honed chemistry underscoring Arce’s expansive tone and Travis’ sweetly melodic vocals.

Travis is joined vocally — presumably by Lalli — by low-register rhythmic singing on opener “Piece of You,” playing up a progressive feel early into the split. “Piece of You,” “Queen,” “The Blacksmith” and “WaterWays” are all relatively short, none touching five minutes, and they play out with more structure to them than one is necessarily used to in the often jam-minded context of Arce’s work. The guitarist in no small part defines any band he touches. His tone is inimitable and unmistakable, and for the most part, though it’s not what Yawning Man usually traffics in, he does well with the material, which still feels and sounds open despite having set verses and choruses. He’s hardly caged here – there’s still plenty of room in these songs for him to wander as he will, and even Yawning Man’s freest material doesn’t linger time-wise – but it’s Travis’ vocals that wind up characterizing much of what separates WaterWays from the slew of other Arce projects. She’s got just enough quirk in her voice to make “Piece of You” stand alongside the Palm Desert tradition of weird explorations while still injecting a soulful breathiness into “Queen,” somewhat ironically jarring the listener back to the sandy ground with the punctuated line, “You’re fucking high.” “Queen” has a Western march in its snare from Tornay and Lalli has no problem keeping up and setting the melody on bass while Arce emits echoes of what seems like an eternal lead. It would be the highlight of WaterWays’ section of the split but for “The Blacksmith,” which has “hey-ya, hey-ya” backing vocals behind Travis reminiscent of but not caricaturing Native American chants and the band’s most engaging chorus here. By contrast, the eponymous “WaterWays” offers “lalala”s and an introductory progression that reminds strikingly of Geto Boys’ “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta,” which left an impression as a featured track in the movie Office Space. Sonic coincidence most likely, and the song moves away to a drum-led section with Tornay setting the course on his toms, but the vocals here seem like an afterthought added once the instrumental progression was set, and the repeated line, “Go the waterways,” falls short of the lullaby it seems to be reaching to be, its pacing just a little too quick to soothe in its four-minute course. Crash cymbals toward the end and layered vocals don’t exactly help in that regard either, though the song remains undeniably infectious.

Read more »

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Ivy Garden of the Desert, Blood is Love: Midnight at the Oasis

Posted in Reviews on September 4th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

At six tracks/33 minutes, Blood is Love has all the flow between its songs that one could ask of a full-length, but it is nonetheless the darker second in a trilogy of EPs from Italian stoner rockers Ivy Garden of the Desert. That they’re heavily indebted to the Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age/Desert Sessions sphere of heavy shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise – they had much the same influence on the prior Docile EP (review here), also released by Nasoni, and they do have “desert” in their name – but the Montebelluna three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Diego, bassist Paolo and drummer Andrea set their own mood within that scope, not really veering too far from what one might expect, but keeping a humble kind of individuality in the tracks. That proves increasingly true the closer they get to the finale, “Glicine,” but even with the more active beginning that “Viscera” – would it be too much to call it “gutsy?” – provides, they remain melodically aware. In that, Blood is Love is consistent with Docile, though the latest is perhaps even more cohesive in terms of style. There’s an element of the brooding in Diego’s singing, his accent adding to it as the lyrics are in English, and that fits the laid-back grooving in the riffs as well, though the separation in the mix between guitar, bass and drums is prevalent, and though the EP ends with a sample of a tape spinning out, it sounds much more like a digital recording. Whether it is or not, I don’t know – information is sparse – but that’s how it sounds to my ears, anyway, with a decent amount of compression on Andrea’s kit and the guitars and bass alike. The mix was my chief issue last time around, with Diego’s vocals high and cutting through, and to an extent that remains true with Blood is Love, but the instruments stand up to the singing, whether it’s the Songs for the Deaf-style speed riffing of the opener or the punchy bass of “A Golden Rod for This Virgin,” the second track which seems to have long ago passed the “Welcome to Sky Valley” highway sign.

Without lyrics or some general statement of intent beyond the basic knowledge that Ivy Garden of the Desert are working on a trilogy of which Blood is Love is the middle, more aggressive piece, it’s hard to say what exactly it is tying the releases together beyond the basic aesthetic and desert atmosphere, but if that’s it, at least there’s plenty to work with. They’re obviously aware of the genre they’re working in, and where much of the European heavy psych and stoner scene seems to be pushing toward tonally warm jamming, Ivy Garden of the Desert never feel out of control in these tracks, even as the cyclical tom work and start-stop riffing of “A Golden Rod for this Virgin” gives way to its building second half. There’s an open feeling in the tonality, but the songs remain structured, even if it’s just one part into the next. It flows. The songs within themselves flow and the tracks each into the other, though again, if they were written to purposefully serve some overarching whole, I don’t know. It does make the EP an easier listen that it otherwise might be, though. The instrumental “Weasel in Poultry Skin” continues the desert-minded push of the first two cuts, working in some vague Helmet influence both in its intro and later start-stop moments while also avoiding any vocal mix issues, but even here, Blood is Love offers little clue as to what it’s about. They remain aligned to genre, but push the line somewhat with “Ghost Station,” furthering the start-stop guitar that’s been present all along to the absolute fore, both Andrea and Paolo joining Diego in mutes and thuds. The song introduces itself with a jangly guitar, and that comes in again at the end with a more active bassline, but the crux of it is a series of single hits that don’t seem to develop a dynamic build, staying on a kind of repetitive plateau that, coupled with Diego’s moody, bottom-of-the-mouth vocals, begins quickly to smack of nü-metal. One might also point to that as a post-Helmet facet of the band’s sound, but it’s the melody that makes the difference. It sounded like nü-metal when Page Hamilton started singing too.

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Album of the Summer of the Week: Yawning Man, Nomadic Pursuits

Posted in Features on August 15th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

This one is, I admit, a personal pick. The past six weeks of Album of the Summer of the Week choices have all had various appeals, but Yawning Man‘s 2010 outing, Nomadic Pursuits — even for just being two years old — has as much personal association as any album I own.

I only wrote about it a little bit at the time, but from July-August, 2010, The Patient Mrs. and I rented a cabin in Belmont, Vermont, for the whole month. I was only vaguely employed at the time, and she had the summer off from teaching, so we put what little money we had into it and made it work. Nomadic Pursuits was one of the albums I brought with me to review (and I did; review here) while we were up there.

The thing about it is, that month in Vermont was almost everything I’ve ever wanted my life to be. I woke up every day at 10AM, rolled over in bed, picked up my laptop, and wrote. I wrote stories, I wrote essays, reviews, whatever. All of it. I just wrote. I wrote, and wrote and wrote, and writing is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. Well, that and travel, but even the traveling is part of the writing.

But that’s what life was in Vermont. I wrote, and The Patient Mrs. did her work, and we read, and we hung out with the little dog Dio, and when we were done for the day, we’d eat some local cheddar at the small kitchen table and watch the sunset over the lake down the way or knock off down the side of the mountain and hit up the Irish pub to watch the baseball game. By the end of the month, they knew our names, we’d been there so often. It was damn near perfect, living that pipedream and forgetting by the end of it how much it actually cost to make that happen, how unfeasible an existence that was. It was so hot up there, this and Quest for Fire‘s Lights from Paradise were all I had to keep cool.

Every time I hear Nomadic Pursuits – which was crafted by Yawning Man to represent an almost-opposite landscape of the Californian desert, not the forests of New England — I go back there, riding up those empty roads in the middle of the night after some show I drove down to New York to see, or sitting on the patio at night with the bug zapper going. Honestly, it’s a record I can barely listen to at this point, in light of all the stupid decisions I’ve made since then — things like going back to work full-time, and, well, staying back at work full-time, cutting myself off from writing almost completely in ways that aren’t either this or corporately-mandated shilling — but putting it on today to write up this post, it’s a sweet bit of escapism I’m enjoying. We were back by this point in August, anyway.

I’m still holding out hope that Gary Arce‘s new Yawning Man lineup will have an album out before the end of this year, but in the meantime, here’s the opener that more or less defines the course of this whole record:

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Bootleg Theater and the Velvet Eyes in Mexico

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 3rd, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

As I said yesterday, Diane Kamikaze‘s DJ set at the Iron Man show has me on a big kick for the first, self-titled Queens of the Stone Age album. I was initially just going to post the studio version of “Mexicola,” maybe with some homemade picture slideshow or whatever I could find, but then I came across this excellent live version filmed for the From the Basement tv show in the UK last year. Killer stuff. In case you’re wondering who’s in the band, other than Josh Homme, it’s Joey Castillo, Troy Van Leeuwen, Michael Shuman and Dean Fertita. Enjoy.

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In Defense of Hermano

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 5th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Among the league of Kyuss offspring (Queens of the Stone Age, Brant Bjork‘s solo stuff, Mondo Generator, Slo Burn, Unida, and so on), John Garcia‘s work with Hermano usually gets the shaft in terms of appreciation. We all know it’s not ever going to be Kyuss again until Josh Homme decides it is, and I think since Hermano are playing desert rock, they’re too often saddled with unrealistic expectations. Is it really fair to say to someone, “Hey buddy, write ‘Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop’ or you suck?” I humbly submit it is not.

True, Hermano‘s second record, 2005’s Dare I Say, which was released on MeteorCity, was mediocre at best with some successes and some flops, song-wise, but anyone who overlooked the nigh-spiritual desert introspection of 2007’s …Into the Exam Room simply missed out. “Kentucky,” “Hard Working Wall,” “Our Desert Home,” and others not only showed the songwriting capability of the band – because Hermano is a band and not just the John Garcia Show — but a growth and maturation of the desert rock style that many acts choose to ignore. 1995 was almost 15 years ago. Get over it already (this from the guy who’s trying to convince his wife to plan a trip to The Netherlands to see Goatsnake at Roadburn 2010).

Give Hermano another shot. Here’s a live video for “Exam Room” from Paris in 2007. Pretty much the whole …Into the Exam Room record is on the YouzTubes, so it’s not like you need to shell out cash or anything to hear it.

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A Masters of Reality Review More Than a Year in the Making

Posted in Reviews on October 23rd, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Pine!Chris Goss has been operating under the Masters of Reality banner for more than 20 years now, the band making its debut with 1988?s Rick Rubin-produced self-titled (aka The Blue Garden). Since then, Goss has proved the only mainstay, though for the last decade, drummer John Leamy has served as his creative partner in the band and there have been plenty of guests along the way, from Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri on 2001?s Deep in the Hole to David Catching and Brendan McNichol (both contributors to Queens of the Stone Age and other Palm Desert acts) on Masters of Reality?s latest, Pine/Cross Dover.

To say the album is long-awaited is an understatement. For more than a year, periodic release dates have come and gone with still no word as to when the record would actually be out. Goss, who initially pushed back the release because he wanted to keep writing, kept mostly silent throughout, leading to speculation as to the label situation with Brownhouse and Mascot Records. The upside is that although it?s only currently available in the US as an import, it?s still available. It?s been five years since Give Us Barabbas came out. A follow-up was long overdue.

And to that end, Pine/Cross Dover is an immediate success. Though opener ?King Richard TLH? doesn?t have the same striking sensation of ?The Ballad of Jody Fosty,? it also hasn?t had half a decade of me nerding out over it. Yet. One of the MySpace preview tracks for the album ? and for good reason ? it?s your quintessential latter day Masters of Reality track, with a lively rock progression and multiply tracked Goss vocals in the chorus. Of the two pieces of the album, divided in the track listing, liner notes and artwork as the separate entities Pine and Cross Dover, Pine strikes as the more straightforward. Even the darker, lonelier ?Absinthe, Jim and Me? is less druggy than the material on 1999?s Welcome to the Western Lodge, with a churning verse and distorted cabaret chorus. Likewise, ?Worm in the Silk? rests its head in a rich groove and hypnotic desert psychedelia.

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Masters of Reality Make My Day, August

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 1st, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

I literally dreamt last night that I got to see Masters of Reality. And what do I wake up to find on Blabbermouth but this press release which, semi-disappointingly, I wasn’t cool enough to get on the PR wire, containing an August 24 release date for the long awaited Pine/Cross Dover. From what I read below, it sounds like it’s going to be awesome. Oh, and in case you don’t make it all the way to the end (because it’s a long one), the new track “King Richard LTH” has been posted on the band’s MySpace page. I just listened to it. It’s very good.

Here’s the release:

PineMasters of Reality will release its long-awaited sixth studio album, Pine/Cross Dover, on August 24 via Brownhouse/Mascot Records.

Pine/Cross Dover was recorded at the Hacienda in North Hollywood, California and features guest appearances by Eagles of Death Metal bassist Brian “Big Hands” O’Connor and guitarist Dave Catching, as well as former Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Brendon McNichol, among others.

Masters of Reality leader Chris Goss stated about Pine/Cross Dover, “I did a rock ‘n’ roll record this time — I was able to exorcise a lot of different styles of music that are really important in my life. And not just Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Beatles, or Black Sabbath. It’s a lot of everything on this record. But proud to say, not one acoustic guitar — it’s all electric and very rhythm-oriented.”

The album’s origins can be pinpointed to a simple question. “It was in 2008 that Ed van Zijl, who is the head of [Mascot Records], wrote and said, ‘Do you feel like doing another record?’ So after a long period of recording it finally is done and I’m proud of it.”

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