Quarterly Review: Harvestman, Beastmaker, Endless Boogie, Troubled Horse, Come to Grief, Holy Rivals, Mountain God, Dr. Space, Dirty Grave, Summoned by Giants

Posted in Reviews on July 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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Bonus round! I don’t know if you’re stoked on having a sixth Quarterly Review day, but I sure am. Basically this is me doing myself favors. In terms of what’s being covered and how I’m covering it, today might be the high point for me personally of the entire Summer 2017 Quarterly Review. Some of this stuff I’m more behind on than others, but it’s all releases that I’ve wanted desperately to write about that I haven’t been able to make happen so far and I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to be able to do so at last. It’s a load off my mind in the best way possible, and as this is the final day of the Quarterly Review, before I dig in I’ll just say one more time thank you for reading and I hope you found something in the past week that really speaks to you, because that’s what makes it all worthwhile in the first place. One more go.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Harvestman, Music for Megaliths

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A new Harvestman album, like a harvest itself, is an occasion. Distinct entirely from the solo output released by Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till under his own name, Harvestman’s guitar-led experimentalism and ritualized psychedelia don’t happen every day – the last album was 2009’s In a Dark Tongue (review here) – and with the resonance of “Oak Drone” and the layered, drummed and vocalized textures of “Levitation,” the new collection, Music for Megaliths (on Neurot, of course), lives up to the project’s high standards of the unexpected. Pulsations beneath opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Forest is Our Temple” offer some initial threat, but the electronic beat behind the howling notes of “Ring of Sentinels” and the Vangelis-esque centerpiece “Cromlech” find more soothing ground, and though “Sundown” seems to be speaking to Neurosis “Bleeding the Pigs” from 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) in its atmosphere, the spoken word that tops closer “White Horse” provides a last-minute human connection before all is brought to a quick fadeout. If you told me Music for Megaliths was assembled over a period of years, I’d believe you given its breadth, but whether it was or not, Harvestman’s latest should provide a worthy feast for a long time to come.

Harvestman on Thee Facebooks

Neurot Recordings webstore

 

Beastmaker, Inside the Skull

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Los Angeles three-piece Beastmaker continue their ascent with their second album for Rise Above Records, the unflinchingly cohesive Inside the Skull. Like its predecessor, 2016’s Lusus Naturae (review here), the quick-turnaround sophomore outing executes a modern garage doom aesthetic and unfuckwithably tight songwriting, this time bringing 10 new tracks that reimagine classic vibes – witness the Witchcraft “No Angel or Demon”-style riff of opener “Evil One” (video posted here) – and touch on some of the same ground pioneered by Uncle Acid without actually sounding like that UK band or sounding like anyone for that matter so much as themselves. They make darkened highlights of “Now Howls the Beast,” “Of Gods Creation,” the crashing “Psychic Visions,” closer “Sick Sick Demon” and the preceding “Night Bird,” which offers some welcome departure into drift prior to the solo in its final minute – all impeccably crisp in structure despite a dirt-caked production – but resonant, memorable hooks abound, and the trio affirm the potential their debut showed and offer a quick step forward that one can only imagine will find them turning more heads toward their growing cult following. They’re still growing, but Inside the Skull is confirmation Beastmaker on a path to becoming something really special.

Beastmaker on Thee Facebooks

Beastmaker at Rise Above Records

 

Endless Boogie, Vibe Killer

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One can’t help but think there’s a bit of tongue-in-cheekery at play in the inaccuracy of Endless Boogie titling their latest album Vibe Killer. The seven-track/51-minute No Quarter release follows 2013’s Long Island (review here) and is, of course, doing everything but killing the vibe, as the New York-based outfit proffer their nestled-in raw songs crafted out of and on top of improvised jams, the semi-spoken gutturalisms of guitarist Paul “Top Dollar” Major a defining element from the laid back opening title-track onward. Moody rock classicism persists through “High Drag, Hard Doin’” and the more active “Back in ’74,” but the true peak of Vibe Killer comes in the 11-minute “Jefferson Country,” which unfolds hypnotic drone experimentation that’s as willfully ungraceful as it winds up being flowing. Bottom line: dudes know what’s up. Endless Boogie’s languid roll is second to nobody and Vibe Killer is a vision of cool jazz reinvented to feel as much at home in rock clubs of the basement and of the chic see-and-be-seen variety. Very New York, in that, but not at all given to elitism. Everyone’s invited to dig, and dig they should.

Endless Boogie on Thee Facebooks

No Quarter Records webstore

 

Troubled Horse, Revolution on Repeat

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There were a few minutes there where one probably wouldn’t have been wrong to wonder if Örebro, Sweden’s Troubled Horse would have a follow-up at all to back 2012’s Step Inside (review here), but with Revolution on Repeat (out via Rise Above), the four-piece led by dynamic vocalist Martin Heppich prove among the most vital of the many heavy rock acts to emerge from their hometown, known for the likes of Witchcraft, Graveyard, Truckfighters and countless others. Heppich, lead guitarist Mikael Linder (also bass on the recording), guitarist Tom and drummer Jonas start with the boogie-fied opening salvo “Hurricane” (video premiere here) and “The Filthy Ones,” and run madcap through the memorable hooks of “Which Way to the Mob” and “Peasants” en route to the mid-paced “The Haunted” and into a second half marked by the semi-balladry of “Desperation” and “My Shit’s Fucked Up.” Soon, the standout chorus of “Track 7” (yup, that’s the title) and the penultimate funk of “Let Bastards Know” lead to a nine-minute epic finish in “Bleeding” – and all the while Troubled Horse hold firm to groove, momentum, poise, crisp production and songwriting as they tie varied landmarks together with an overarching sense of motion, Heppich’s charismatic soulfulness and deceptively subtle flourishes of arrangement to make an absolutely welcome return.

Troubled Horse on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

 

Come to Grief, The Worst of Times

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Sometimes you just have to toss up your hands and say, “Well, that’s some of the nastiest shit I’ve ever heard.” To step back and consider them at some distance, Come to Grief aren’t near the most abrasive band on the planet, but when you’re actually listening to their debut EP, The Worst of Times, that’s much harder to believe. Launching with “Killed by Life,” the four-tracker finds the Boston outfit led by former Grief guitarist Terry Savastano – here joined by drummer Chuck Conlon, bassist Justin Christian and vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Hebert – plodding out scream-topped filth that’s actually fuller-sounding than anything Grief did back in their day and all the more devastating for its thickness. The seven-minute “No Savior” is excruciating, and though shorter, “Futility of Humanity” and even the slightly-faster closer “Junklove” bring no letup whatsoever from the onslaught. Think accessible, then go the complete other way, then bludgeon yourself. It’s kind of like that. Absolute brutality delivered by expert and unkind hands.

Come to Grief on Thee Facebooks

Come to Grief on Bandcamp

 

Holy Rivals, Holy Rivals

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The question of whether noise rock and sludge can coexist is largely one of tempo and tone, and recently-signed-to-BlackseedRecords Pittsburgh trio Holy Rivals’ self-titled debut answers in forceful fashion. Amid more aggro punch of opener “Locked Inn” comes the crust-laden grunge of “Voices,” and whether they’re rolling out the more spacious “Sleep” or sprinting through the post-Bleach raw punkery of “Dead Ender” on their way to the more ambient and patient seven-minute finale “Into Dust,” guitarist/vocalist Jason Orr (also T-Tops), bassist Aaron Orr (whose tone features well on the closer) and drummer Matt Langille – whose adaptability is essential to the Helmet-style starts and stops of “Loathe” that emerge from the preceding roll of “Sleep” – Holy Rivals put a superficial harshness to use as a cover for what’s actually a diverse songwriting process. They’ll reportedly have a new record out in Fall 2017, so this 2016 self-release may soon be in hindsight, but in setting the foundation for growth, it offers exciting prospects caked in an abidingly raw presentation.

Holy Rivals on Thee Facebooks

Holy Rivals on Bandcamp

 

Mountain God, Bread Solstice

mountain god bread solstice

Around what would seem to be the core duo of guitarist/vocalist Ben Ianuzzi and bassist/keyboardist Nikhil Kamineni, Brooklyn psychedelic post-sludgers Mountain God have undergone numerous lineup shifts en route to and through the release of their debut album, Bread Solstice (on Artificial Head Records). To wit, drummer/vocalist Ryan Smith (also Thera Roya), who appears on the dark, unrelenting and abyss-crafting 40-minute six-tracker, has already been replaced by Gabriel Cruz, and there have been other changes in vocalist, keyboardist and drummer positions even since they offered their 2015 EP, Forest of the Lost (review here) to set the stage for this deeply-atmospheric, it’s-acid-rock-but-with-sulfuric-acid first long-player. In light of that tumult and the overarching commitment to abrasive noise Mountain God make in pieces like the 11-minute “Nazca Lines,” “Junglenaut” or even the brooding tension of airy instrumental “Unknown Ascent,” it’s all the more impressive that Bread Solstice is as cohesive in its cerebral horror as it is, constructing a harsh and churning vision of doom as something worthy of post-apocalyptic revelry. Far from easy listening, but of marked purpose. They should play exclusively in art galleries, no matter who winds up in the band.

Mountain God on Thee Facebooks

Artificial Head Records on Bandcamp

 

Dr. Space, Dr. Space’s Alien Planet Trip Vol. 1

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Perhaps best known for his work in spearheading the improvisational Denmark-based Øresund Space Collective, modular synth wizard Scott “Dr. Space” Heller weirds out across four cuts on the solo release Dr. Space’s Alien Planet Trip Vol. 1, which both underscores in its scope how essential he is to the aforementioned outfit and oozes beyond that group’s parameters into electronic beatmaking and waves of synthesizer drone. Pulling influence from classic progadelia, Heller unfurls longform tripping on 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “5 Dimensions of the Universe” and veers into and out of somewhat abrasive swirl on “Rising Sun on Mars” before landing in the more steady atmosphere of “In Search of Life on Io” and launching once more outward with the five-minute finale “Alien Improv 2.” Just how many alien planet trips the good doctor will be undertaking remains as yet a mystery, but the breadth of this first one makes it plain to the listener that Heller’s sonic universe is wide open and, seemingly, ever-expanding.

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

Space Rock Productions website

 

Dirty Grave, So Fall and Crawl Away

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Brazilian doomers Dirty Grave issue the three-song single/EP So Fall and Crawl Away (bonus points for the Alice in Chains reference) ahead of making their full-length debut reportedly any minute now with an album called Evil Desire. Comprised of two studio tracks in the eight-minute “The Black Cloud Comes” and the four-minute Howlin’ Wolf cover “Evil (Is Going On)” and with the live cut “Unholy Son – Live” as a kind of bonus track, it’s a sampling behind two similar short releases, 2014’s Vol. II and 2013’s Dirty Grave (which featured a studio version of “Unholy Son”), that sleeks through eerie doom loosely tinged with psychedelia and smoked-out vibing. “Evil (Is Going On)” is more uptempo, perhaps unsurprisingly, but is giving a likewise treatment all the same, its final solo shredding into oblivion with stoned abandon. “Unholy Son – Live” is rawer but still carries through its melody in the vocals amid a prevalent crash, and if it’s a portend of things to come on Evil Desire, then So Fall and Crawl Away serves as a warning worth heeding.

Dirty Grave on Thee Facebooks

Dirty Grave on Bandcamp

 

Summoned by Giants, Stone Wind

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If you have a convenient narrative for what West Coast heavy rock has become over the last decade, Summoned by Giants’ debut album, Stone Wind, is probably too aggressive on the whole to fit it neatly. Their cleaner parts, the rolling second cut “Diamond Head” and samples throughout have aspects of that post-Red Fang party vibe, but to listen to the rawness of the bass tone that starts “Return” or closer “I Hate it When You Breathe,” or even the slurring “come at me, bro”-style rant sampled at the seven-track/27-minute album’s launch, a will toward violence is never far off. Couple that with the thickened noise punk of “Saturn” and the Weedeater sludge of the penultimate “Dying Wish,” and Summoned by Giants – guitarist/vocalist Sean Delaney, guitarist Jordan Sattelmair, bassist/vocalist Patrick Moening and drummer Mel Burris – seem more interested in doling out punishment than kicking back, making a silly video and having a good time. Well, maybe they’re having a good time, but they’re doing so while kicking your ass.

Summoned by Giants on Thee Facebooks

Summoned by Giants on Bandcamp

 

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Desertfest Athens 2016 Lineup Complete

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

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With the final addition of Cough, the lineup for Desertfest Athens 2016 is complete. The fest is set for Oct. 7 and 8 — less than a month from now — and Cough join the bill as they’ll be on tour at the time with Elder (dates here) supporting their new album, Still They Pray (review here), which was released by Relapse.

The roster of bands they join, including Red Fang and Greek forerunners 1000mods, whose new song “The Son” you can hear below (more to come on that album), is ridiculously strong, and seems to draw from the history of Desertfest itself in various ways, Steak representing London’s incarnation, Colour Haze that of Berlin (though they’re from Munich), and really any number of these acts the Belgian edition. It’s a great mix that does well to represent its home country as well in Automaton (who’ll be joined by Dr. Space himself), Sadhus, and the aforementioned 1000mods.

Looks like a great show, and particularly as it’s the first one, I wish them all the best of luck with it.

Final announcement and lineup follow:

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Doom/Sludge masters COUGH joining the bill for Desertfest Athens 2016 1st edition!

This is the full line up for the 1st ever Desertfest Athens!

Red Fang
1000mods
Pentagram
Torche
Colour Haze
Truckfighters
My Sleeping Karma
Karma to Burn
Elder
Cough
Black Rainbows
House of Broken Promises
Steak
Beggars
Sadhus
Black Hat Bones
Automaton with Dr. Space
We Own the Sky

Enjoy desert army!

After London, Berlin and Antwerp, the Desertfest franchise is keeping up its conquest of Europe by launching the very first Greek edition of the famous stoner, doom and psych festival. DESERTFEST ATHENS will take place over the second weekend of October, as a sister event of the autumnal Belgium edition.

Over the years, DESERTFEST has become one of the most popular events in Europe for everything heavy, stoner, doom and psyche. “Made by fans for the fans”, the festival gathers thousands of people from across the globe each year by hosting the finest headliners, while also constantly stretching the limits of its own niche with dozens of quality live acts throughout a weekend. Nurturing a friendly atmosphere since the very beginning, DESERTFEST is a urban festival that has won the loyalty of heavy music lovers, so expect your Greek holiday to be a unique and memorable music and human experience!

https://www.viva.gr/tickets/music/iera-odos/desertfest-athens/
www.detoxevents.gr
https://www.facebook.com/Desertfest-Athens-189161564797514/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1530177053945310/

1000mods, “The Son”

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Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space Live from Roadburn Festival 2014 Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 11th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

It was a spacey happening, rest assured, when Carlton Melton, stepping out from their San Francisco home, hit Roadburn 2014 and paired up with none other than Øresund Space Collective figurehead and roving jammer Scott “Dr. Space” Heller. Each of the two parties is plenty freaked out on its own, but the combination worked to push even deeper into the cosmos, their mission of exploration made bolder by the alliance between them.

Like just about everything that happens within the bounds of RoadburnCarlton Melton Meets Dr. Space — the best ’50s sci-fi flick that never got made — was captured in its 90-minute entirety, and will be out through Lay Bare Recordings and Burning World soon. Not sure on the exact release date, but how do you pinpoint the birth of a galaxy anyway? It’ll be along sooner or later, and it’s available to preorder now. Set it and forget it.

To my knowledge, this was the only time these two have collaborated and I haven’t heard about any further action to come, so it’s kind of a special one-time deal that, as someone who stood in the back of the Cul de Sac and felt the wash surround me from all sides, is worth digging into. The preorder announcement follows:

carlton melton meets dr. space live from roadburn festival 2014

Hear! hear! Lay Bare Recordings proclaims:

Pre-order: Carlton Melton meets Dr. Space, live from Roadburn 2014.

Pass the word!!!

http://burningworldrecords.com/…/carlton-melton-meets-dr-sp…

Carlton Melton is a psychedelic rock band from San Francisco who have been blazing their own trail of psychedelic rock and far out drone sounds for the past many years. This was the bands 2nd appearance at Roadburn and a special meeting with Dr. Space from the Øresund Space Collective was arranged at the Cul De Sac in Tilburg on Sunday April 13th. The band debuted 4 new songs never performed live before with or without Dr. Space (tracks 2-5). The full 90min spaced out set was mixed by Dr Space with assistance from Johan Dahlström. Enjoy the trip..

http://carltonmeltonmusic.com
https://oresundspacecollective.bandcamp.com/
http://laybarerecordings.com

Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Live from Roadburn Festival 2014

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Black Moon Circle, Black Moon Circle: Space Disposition

Posted in Reviews on May 28th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

The self-titled debut from Norwegian trio Black Moon Circle makes little effort to mask its intent. It is a space rock record, built around three heavy jams split effectively onto two vinyl sides, and for all its sense of exploration, improvisation and general farouttery, there’s an encouraging lack of pretense. Based in Trondheim, which on the average December day will see roughly five hours of sunshine — in June, that goes to over 20 hours per day — the core three-piece of vocalist/bassist Øyvin Engan, guitarist/vocalist Vemund Engan and drummer Per Andreas Gulbrandsen teamed up with none other than Øresund Space Collective swirlmaster and friend of the site Scott “Dr. Space” Heller for the recording of Black Moon Circle, and Heller‘s noisemaking and matter/energy disruptors contribute much to the open feel and heavy psych feel of the release. He’s proved ready to jam under most circumstances — this year’s Roadburn had him paired with Carlton Melton and Øresund Space Collective have a collaboration forthcoming with Damo Suzuki of Can — so that he’d be malleable to Black Moon Circle‘s “Enigmatic SuperBandit” is relatively expected, though how well the fit works winds up a pleasant surprise, as Black Moon Circle retain some of the roots of structured songwriting amid their propensity for jamming out into the stellar reaches across “Plains” (8:22), “American Eagle” (5:28) and the side-B-consuming “Enigmatic SuperBandit” (14:24). Their debut feels quick at a little over 28 minutes, but it is an engaging single-LP nonetheless that is able to pull together a cohesive vibe with apparent ease in that time. You won’t hear me complain.

And of course, calling in Dr. Space to add nebulas of effects to the songs isn’t going to hurt either, but Black Moon Circle distinguish themselves even apart from that partnership, with a languid rolling groove on “Plains” that sets up the flow to play out over the subsequent two pieces. Each song has plenty of room to jam, and the Engans and Gulbrandsen use that time well, but both “Plains” and “American Eagle” — presumably not named after the clothing company, though one never knows — make an impression with their verses and choruses as well, a laid back sense of structure emerging that moves well into and through wah-soaked spaces. It’s telling when they bring back the chorus of “Plains” after an extended guitar solo to finish out the song with a proper bookend, showing commitment to songwriting as well as to instrumental exploration, and that balance serves Black Moon Circle over the course of “American Eagle” and even “Enigmatic SuperBandit” as well. It’s a mood and dreamy feel not so unlike what New York heavy psych jammers Sun Voyager have concocted in their early going, and some post-shoegaze vocal similarity can be heard too, but that seems most likely to be a case of shared root influences and sonic coincidence, and one can just as likely hear some early 2000s Swedish heavy rock — Dozer, Lowrider — at work underneath “American Eagle” as anything more recent. Either way, Black Moon Circle do well taking these elements and beginning to carve out their own feel from them, “American Eagle” breaking cleanly at about 3:30 in to shift into a bluesy, open-sounding build of a solo before also returning to its central hook, no less encompassing than that of the opener.

Read more »

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Carlton Melton to Jam with Dr. Space at Roadburn 2014

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 18th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Am I crazy, or does “Carlton Melton meets Dr. Space” not sound like an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 waiting to happen? Well, that show’s been off the air for 15 years, so while it might have a ring of black and white Cold War-era sci-fi to it, the truth is bound to be much more colorful as Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Danish jammers Øresund Space Collective (also sometimes an Obelisk contributor) sits in with Northern Cali psych merchants Carlton Melton for a special set at the Cul de Sac in Tilburg for Roadburn 2014. Somewhat curious that it’s billed as part of Roadburn itself and not the Afterburner, but either way, it’s sure to be a trip when the two sides combine.

Check out the announcement below from the Roadburn site, through which tickets for the Afterburner are still available, and a track from Carlton Melton‘s 2013 full-length, Always Even, in case you’d like to imagine it even more spaced out:

In order to provide the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner fans with a unique psychedelic experience, different from the band’s main set on Saturday (April 12th), San Francisco’s Carlton Melton will team up for a unique space adventure with Dr. Space (Oresund Space Collective, Gas Giant) on Sunday, April 13th at Cul de Sac in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Dr. Space has previously guested with Dragontears at Roadburn in the Midi Theatre and recently with White Hills in Sweden and Denmark. Expect a slowly building ambient space out leading into massive Hawkwind style heavy space rock jam at the end.

Roadburn Festival 2014 will run for four days from Thursday, April 10th to Sunday, April 13th 2014 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.

Tickets for the traditional Afterburner event on Sunday, April 13th at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands are still available. Get in on the action HERE!

http://www.roadburn.com/roadburn-2014/
http://www.carltonmeltonmusic.com/

Carlton Melton, “The Splurge” from Always Even (2013)

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Altered States, with Dr. Space

Posted in Columns on November 29th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

In his latest column for The Obelisk, Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Danish psych jammers Øresund Space Collective takes us through a gem of obscure Japanese psychedelic heaviness, the 1987 debut LP No More Pain, by Tokyo trio Doom. Please enjoy:

Doom, No More Pain (Explosion Records EXP-HM283Q24)

DOOM were an amazing Japanese three-piece band that made some pioneering records in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. They were led by fretless bass player Koh Moroto, who sadly passed away in 1999. No More Pain was released only in Japan and came in April 1987. I received a copy on a promo tape earlier in the year and then the real vinyl copy arrived in April. I ran my own heavy metal fanzine called Metal Madness from 1984-1988 and followed the Japanese scene closely due to a good Japanese friend.

Anyway, I was totally blown away by this record and still am today. The band had previously released a 7” also on Explosion Records in 1986. This record starts off with the very intense, “Death to Wimp!” It has a slow looping Japanese drone, drum intro as the sound gets louder and louder and faster and faster then, bang – it just hits you full-force (especially if you have it cranked up loud!). Takashi Fujita was the brilliant riff master and psychedelic guitar solo deliverer and also the vocalist. The riff is heavy metal, thrash but then Takashi plays these really intense solos like in the slow part of this opening track which then suddenly switches after the slow section into Slayer-like thrash metal. Very intense stuff.

The record production is also really excellent and powerful. “Body No Body” starts with some really intense bass before the main section takes off at a fast pace. It is really the bass and intense time changes that drive this track. The solo section takes you to some otherworldly dimension as the sound floats over the top of the clear and intense bass lines. This was clearly way ahead of its time and some of the first what I would call psychedelic experimental metal. The spacey section in this track is just so cool. They had dynamics.

“I ‘m Your Junky Doll” is probably my favourite track on this record as it has this hypnotic rhythm and just cool strangeness to it and a killer guitar riff. Wow, what a powerful number. “Cry of You No Long Life” ends side A. The riff is very influenced by the fast songs of Slayer and Metallica of this era but has a really complex rhythm, amazing bass and dynamics. Again, Takashi plays some really psychedelic shredding and crazy guitar. You have to remember these guys were a three-piece and did not have two guitars so Koh, his bass playing is so powerful, they could just drive the tracks without the rhythm guitar when Takashi was soloing.

Flip the record over and you have the title-track, “No More Pain.” It starts slowly and quiet with a solo melodic guitar line, some ideas and things you hear on the first Dark Buddha Rising LP appear (I wonder if they ever heard this record) and the bassline comes in alone and then the band takes off with a massive intensity, but only briefly before a super-cool beautiful guitar section and an almost whispered vocal is mixed to a quite psychedelic effect.

Again, amazing dynamics. And the midsection is totally psyched-out with crazy guitar and voice and other effects, getting really intense before the beautiful parts return and repeat several times. “Iron Card” is a fast one with more cool bass and the band is tuned in a different way on this track, giving it a different sound. It is a bit like Motörhead almost at times. “Kick it Out” has a heavy riff and changing rhythm like Metallica, but they do it in their own way, and “Til Death” is a super-fast thrash number. Takashi returns with that really cool psychedelic guitar soloing sound that just lifts the solo out of the sound somehow.

This might not be for everyone but it was the first metal that I heard that I considered psychedelic. Two years ago, Victor in Japan rereleased four of the band’s CDs from the Killing Fields EP (1988) to Human Noise (1991). This record has still never been re-released. The CD is available in Japan with the first EP on it as well.

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Remembering Ralph A. Rjeily, by Scott “Dr. Space” Heller

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 13th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Word came down last week of the passing of Ralph A. Rjeily, a respected audio engineer and contributor to the formative years of modern European heavy psychedelic, particularly in Copenhagen. Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective, whose Altered States column premiered a couple weeks back, sent the following remembrance. The Obelisk sends condolences to Rjeily‘s family and friends.

Ralph A. Rjeily Jan. 22, 1971 – Aug. 9, 2012

Ralph A. Rjeily died of testicular cancer on August 9, 2012. He was a good friend and a prominent person in the Copenhagen underground music scene. Ralph was a father to two children and a husband, who had a very understanding and cool wife, who supported his true dedication to the Danish music scene. Ralph was a concert promoter with 3rd Tsunami and managed and did live sound with On Trial when I first met him in the late ‘90s. In 1999, together with Hobbiten (On Trial), Ralph and Lars Lundholm (Runs the Black Tornado studio where On Trial, Gas Giant, Øresund Space Collective, Baby Woodrose, Dragontears and many other bands have recorded) formed Burnt Hippie Recordings, where we released On Trial, Dark Sun, Gas Giant, WE, Korai Öröm and a compilation CD for a space rock festival that never happened. This is when I really got to know Ralph. Below I will recall a few great times we had.

I still remember well when I travelled down with Spids Nøgenhat to the really fun Swamp Room Happening in Hannover in 2000. It was a great lineup, with the Bevis Frond, Mandragora Lightshow Society, Spids Nøgenhat (the only concert they ever played outside of Denmark), Lucky Bishops, Noetics and a few other cool bands. After Ralph had done his job of doing sound he could have a good time like the rest of us. We all had a great time and someone gave Ralph some mushrooms and he and some others disappeared. We ended up having to go back to the place to crash and when we came back the next morning Ralph was nicely sleeping on the lawn in front of the club. Nick Hasselby took a picture of us all standing around him before we woke him up. Ralph was always a great guy to hang out with and have a good time.

Ralph produced the Gas Giant Pleasant Journey in Heavy Tunes (will be reviewed in detail soon on this blog for the Altered States column) session in 2000. I was working with the band at this time but not yet playing with them, while Ralph was setting up their gigs, doing their live sound and working in the studio with them so I spent a lot of time with Ralph.  Some of my best memories of Ralph and Gas Giant were when we all went on tour in October 2002 with Gas Giant and Colour Haze for 5 gigs in 7 days. We started off at the Sojo in Leuven, Belgium and off to the Bern-kastel Kues for a great two days including an amazing party with Mama Cool. It was a mix of good and bad times though as Ralph came along agreeing to be paid based on how many people showed up and the turnout was pretty poor for most of these gigs so for several he got no money at all. Things really hit the fan when we got to Nurnburg and after the soundcheck, people were a bit tired and hungry, and Stefan (guitarist in Gas Giant) accidently knocked the entire container with our pasta dinner in it on the floor. Ralph was so pissed off and stormed out of the venue. Most of us had got our food. We went to a bar and had a beer and then went looking for Ralph. He was sitting in McDonalds not looking happy and we were all looking in through the side window at him and he did not see us. Later he came back did the great sound and saw an amazing Gas Giant show with some killer long jams and later a jam with Colour Haze as well. These were fantastic concerts and great times with both bands just really having a great time and jamming a lot. It showed another side of Ralph but he was truly dedicated to the tour, despite coming home with little money.

 

 

Ralph eventually left 3rd Tsumani and for a while was an independent booker before joining Anders and Gearbox Agency the last many years. He also was part of the Route66 vinyl-only store in Copenhagen after the original owner sold the place. For many years he was the only person bringing stoner and psychedelic rock to Copenhagen from the late ‘90s up until the present. He was truly dedicated and really got so many cool bands here that would probably never have played in Denmark. He managed to get Nebula, Atomic Bitchwax, and all of these bands on their first tours of Europe. When he was on tour with On Trial or Baby Woodrose, he would always try to record the shows and give me the mini-discs so that I could do the transfers of the shows to CD. I was able to archive a lot of great shows this way.

Later, Ralph would begin working a lot more in the studio and less on the live sound scene and he did live sound for nearly every On Trial, Baby Woodrose, Dragontears, Aron and related band concert up until the last few years when he became ill. In the last six months I had four or five 45 min or longer talks with Ralph about what he was going through and he was always so positive even though it was a difficult struggle and he really suffered during these chemotherapy sessions. Ralph, earlier this year he told me that if this last one did not work, he would not do anymore but try to enjoy the rest of his time with his family.

Ralph was a dedicated person and someone I really respected. Please put on one of the many records that he mixed, engineered and worked on. This list at Discogs is nowhere near complete though as Ralph worked with many artists in Denmark, Sweden and the USA.  Please celebrate what he gave us all… Peace Ralph… you were a good friend.

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Altered States with Dr. Space

Posted in Columns on July 24th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

The doctor is in. For his debut column for The Obelisk, Scott Heller — aka Dr. Space of Copenhagen space rock improvisors Øresund Space Collective — embarks on a cosmos-bound trip with a glance at UK trio Dead Flowers‘ third and final album — appropriately-enough titled Altered State Circus. As you’ll see, he likes it spacey. Please enjoy:

Altered States with Dr. Space

Hello everyone. I hope you are all doing well this summer. Thanks to JJ, I will begin to write a monthly column about classic psychedelic rock music. I have been writing about music since 1984, when I wrote a heavy metal fanzine called Metal Madness (Albuquerque, New Mexico). One of the contributors to the fanzine from Chicago started getting me into Hawkwind and through my tape trading with Chuck Wax in Michigan, I became fully immersed in the UK psychedelic rock scene that flourished in the ‘80s producing many cool space and psychedelic rock bands like Omnia Opera, Ozric Tentacles, Mandragora, Ship of Fools, Sundial, Strobe, Magic Mushroom Band, Poisoned Electrick Head, the Bevis Frond and Dead Flowers, just to mention a few.

The one record from this time period that really blew my mind was Altered State Circus from Dead Flowers. This would sadly be the Newcastle band’s best but also last record ever. It was released on Delerium Records in 1994 on both vinyl and CD (DELEC LP/CD022). It also had an amazing album cover, which fit perfectly with the vibe of the music. The band’s previous two records were more raw acid rock excursions, while Altered State Circus was more spaced out, psychedelic and fully engaging.

The LP opens with “The Elephant’s Eye was Eerie.” Cool title. It starts with some spacey synths and the delay guitar kicks in with a cool lead line and the Steve Hillage/Ozric Tentalces-like main riff. The drummer appears quite loud at first and then the groovy bassline starts. The vocals are whispered as the head mix really builds with more synthesizers layered in and spacing around. The title-track, “Altered States Circus” is next. It starts with a really cool guitar that starts in the right channel and then both channels and then the bass kicks in. A bit heavier guitar riff but then it gets a bit spaceier and they repeat this sequence until the guitar break, which they have a nice delay on, then the riff becomes much harder around three minutes, as the track builds up. You can hear on the YouTube video below, where someone has added a film clip from 1928 and made this the soundtrack.

“Warmth Within (Chemical Binoculars)” is another 10-minute piece that starts a bit like the opening track, but the vocals are sung, not whispered. A melodic thread runs through as the spacey wind synths cruise from speaker to speaker, a lead synth line entering a bit later but the main drive remaining the spacey push of the guitar line and steady bass and drum groove. At about 6 minutes, the pace really picks up as the guitar becomes moves further out and the synths become more complex and integrated. “Slouch Factor” has a really cool wah guitar with a really stoned laid backed groove and vibe throughout. The vocal is also really stoned and calm. Steev Swayambhunath plays some really great guitar as well as the spacey synth of Chris Barnett — really floating and psychedelic. “Full Fist” is the shortest song and a heavier guitar riff and angrier vocal are a perfect follow-up to the calm, spaced-out cut before.

It gets really spaced out at the end. “Free the Weed” is eight minutes, starts with a spacey synth mixed quite loud and the delay guitars a bit further back. The vocals go back to a more laid back style, and this track really builds up over time. The lyrics are really excellent as well and not just about marijuana but broader freedom. “Vodophone in Oz” is a 12-minute, really spaced out track, with some hand drums and samples as it slowly builds up the groove. It has hardly any guitar, but is a really trippy electronic track by the end, showing a bit of the direction, Steev would take his music after Dead Flowers with 3000003. Almost like early trance techno without the thump! If you are fan of Ozric Tenacles, Steve Hillage, Mandragora and other head music, give this a chance.

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