Duuude, Tapes! Blut, Drop Out and Kill

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on February 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s a bleak psychedelic dronefest and nobody’s invited when you press play on Blut‘s Drop Out and Kill tape. The UK duo of N.B. and S.M. have released pretty much everything they’ve done on cassette, and listening to the Major Destroyer Records release of this album, which was originally reviewed  on CD, I can hear why. The band’s unremittingly extreme tin-can gnarl comes across even nastier through the analog compression, finding the Dorset-based outfit even more straddling the line between blackened lo-fi and stone-drone sludge, like Electric Wizard‘s misanthropy played at half speed somewhere down the block. Sometimes all you get it low-end rumble and malevolent echoing.

On headphones, with the volume up, the effect is even more grating. Blut‘s underlying drum groove is there — straightforward and slow — somehow managing to cut through a mountain of tonal lurch on opener “Aeon Long Death/Alcoholic on Cloven Hoof,” their anti-you-and-everything-else stance apparent from the very first second of the song. I said when I reviewed the CD that the band were probably unfit for just about any human ears, and I stand by that, since they push extreme sludge to what I consider new heights of fuckall. Whether or not one puts on Blut as the soundtrack to their sunny-day barbecue is irrelevant — they’re genuinely pushing the boundaries of what’s come before them and I consider Drop Out and Kill laudable just for that. That Blut have developed a clear sense of purpose over the last couple of years and releases like Grief and Incurable Pain (review here) and Ritual and Ceremony (review here) and turned spite into aesthetic is where I think they have most succeeded. The farther out they go, the less listenable they get, the better they become. They’re getting closer to (at least what I see as) their goals for the band.

If I’m overthinking it, well, I’m supposed to overthink it. Still, the foreboding drone of “Murder Hallucination” and “Skulls.Coffins.Nails” isn’t happening in a vacuum, and as much as Blut are casting off elements of traditional songwriting — verses, choruses, etc. — they are working in an established sonic sphere of extreme drone doom. Noise aficionados would probably hear Drop Out and Kill and call it straightforward because it has guitar and bass, but when I put on this tape, I hear the roots laid down by SunnO))) and Sleep’s Dopesmoker taken to vicious, dark, new places. That Blut include a side-two cover of Boston outfit Nightstick‘s “Ultimatum” — they call it “Ultimatum (Yog-Sothoth)” — only demonstrates their awareness of their own lineage. It also evens up the sides and gives Drop Out and Kill even more horrifying audio, but yeah, the other thing too.

Fact is, whatever level you want to approach them at, Blut aren’t about to make it easy for you. What they’re going to do — on tape or any other format — is crash and drone and scream and emit some of the most fucked up noise I’ve ever heard. That’s their thing, and whether you hear it on CD or on cassette, if you consider yourself a fan of the sonically abrasive, you should probably hear it. Tapes have the advantage of being cheaper and sounding fucked up. That suits Blut well.

Blut’s Blogspot

Major Destroyer Records

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Locrian Get to Work on Next Record

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 10th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Well yeah, sure. You don’t get to 20 albums in seven years without working at a pretty solid pace, so I guess it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Chicago/Baltimore drone and noise specialists Locrian are quick to follow-up their The Clearing/The Final Epoch CD with a new album. A double album, at that. No substitute for being prolific.

So I guess maybe the headline above is kind of generic — any given week, the headline “Locrian Get to Work on Next Record” could probably apply, but there’s some pretty cool stuff going on with this yet-untitled release, as you can see in the PR wire info below:

LOCRIAN Begin Recording New Album

Esoteric, experimental artisan’s LOCRIAN have entered the studio to begin recording their Relapse Records full-length debut.  The as-of-yet-titled album is being recorded by Greg Norman (PELICAN, RUSSIAN CIRCLES, SERENA MANEESH) at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio Studios in Chicago, IL.  The album will then be mastered by Jason Ward at Chicago Mastering Service.

A two-part concept album inspired by the band’s love for prog-rock progenitors Genesis, Yes & King Crimson, this is sure to be the group’s most ambitious recordings to date. Multi-instrumentalist Andre Foisy commented on the new material:

“This is our most concise album yet. Our statements developed quickly compared to many of our other releases. We’re all really into prog rock and we made this a concept album in musical and lyrical themes.

Musically, side A ends in a trilogy of songs and side B ends in a quadrilogy. Each of these two tracks mirror each other in places. In addition to some musical themes that pop up in different places in the album, there are also some musical themes that harken back to our older catalog.”

Tentative track titles include “A Visitation From the Wrath of Heaven”, “Exiting the Hall of Vapor and Light” and “Panorama of Mirror”.  A spring 2013 release via Relapse is expected with more details to be announced shortly.

LOCRIAN, located in Chicago, IL and Baltimore, MD, has released over 20 recordings on an eclectic array of labels in their relatively short but prolific career, including a recent reissue of The Clearing / The Final Epoch and an upcoming reissue of New Dominions, a split with label-mates HORSEBACK. The Clearing / The Final Epoch can be found streaming at this location:

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UK Special — On the Radar: Sunwølf

Posted in On the Radar on September 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Ambient duo Sunwølf make it pretty easy to immerse yourself in their debut release, Beyond the Sun (Ark Noise). The album, which hits 26 minutes but is full-length enough at that time, will see a physical release in November but is available digitally now, through Bandcamp and the like as is the way of things these days. Drummer/organist Dominic Deane and guitarist/sampler Matt Carrington hit on a balance not unlike that of Panopticon-era Isis, finding a space to dwell between drone-minded stillness and forceful post-metallic psychedelia.

The six-track outing opens quietly enough with the fade-in feedback of “Genesis” (as appropriate a beginning as any), and gradually reveals its instrumental sprawl in a slow-boiling progression that continues for the song’s six minutes. By my count, it’s the longest of Beyond the Sun (points), but it hardly tells the whole story of what Sunwølf are setting out to accomplish musically. Particularly by veering to and away from Deane‘s drums, the two-piece add a sense of variety to their purposeful lack of movement, so that although “Solar” refuses to pay off its own build, some satisfaction comes as the thicker guitar and insistent percussion of “Morose Land” feeds into an overall heavier vibe. That sensibility continues through Beyond the Sun‘s title-track, though that cut is slower, and soon enough, Sunwølf have momentum on their side as they continue through the rest of their debut.

Production is clear and crisp — they recorded with Ross Halden (Wild Beasts) and had Mell Dettmer (SunnO))), Earth, etc.) master — but as the guitar and cymbal washes of “Inertia” live up to the track’s name, it”s clear Sunwølf aren’t interested in sticking solely to one aspect of ambient heaviness or another. Carrington samples a playground late into the track and “Inertia” winds up evocative as it moves directly into the swell of “Time Stands Still” — take them from their names alone and understand that Beyond the Sun is not an album about movement — which incorporates acoustic guitar over a bed of organ hum, culminating in a feedback outro that offers transition into closer “Home.”

Perhaps its Sunwølf‘s most complex track, perhaps not — depends on the process of crafting the prior drones — but the layering of guitars over each other makes for the most evocative melody here on offer, wistful in a still-ethereal vaguery, sad and hard to pin down. Like most of Beyond the Sun, however, it’s a blip, there and gone, faded out almost as it just seems to have set the foundation for a genuine development. Maybe Sunwølf aren’t interested in that kind of thing, but if they are, they have the groundwork set on a track like “Home,” which just as easily could turn into a nine-minute post-metal build but ultimately remains humble in its scope.

Sunwølf are a relatively new band, and Beyond the Sun is their first release, but as it makes for a solid late-night listen, I thought I’d post the tracks here for your perusal. If interested, you can check them out live Oct. 13 in Leeds (poster above), or find out more about them at their Tumblr, buy Beyond the Sun at their BigCartel store, or just check it out on their Bandcamp, from which the following stream is hoisted:

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SunnO))) Very Kindly Don’t Mention How Bummed They Were I Missed Their Philly Show

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 14th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

I know it’s eating them up inside, but being professionals above all else, drone gods SunnO))) very kindly don’t mention the fact that I didn’t see them on this most recent tour with Pelican and Eagle Twin and how disappointed they must have been when I didn’t make it to the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia in time. Carry on, guys. That’s all you can do. And yes, I got your flowers.

Instead, Greg Anderson, speaking on behalf of himself and Stephen O’Malley, focuses on the positive, writing through his tears that this was their best tour yet. But read between the lines and what he’s really saying is, “It would have been the best tour yet, if only H.P. Taskmaster had come to the Philly show.” I know, Greg. And I’m sorry. We’ll get ‘em next time, right?

See how sad they are? It's my fault.Here’s the tour wrap and some nifty vinyl news courtesy of the PR wire:

“Last week SunnO))) triumphantly completed its first ever comprehensive US tour by demolishing the Mercy Lounge in Nashville, Tennessee. Of particular note was the show?at the Masonic Temple in Brooklyn where we played with our brothers in Eagle Twin, Pelican and Earth. This show was sold out (1200 folks) making it the biggest SunnO))) show ever in the USA!?Fortunately the majority of these shows were properly documented and written about by several publications both physical and online. Thanks from the bottom of our hearts for your support.”

SunnO))) are also proud to announce that the mega-deluxe, 180-gram?vinyl version of the latest?album, Monoliths & Dimensions is now available!?SunnO))), Stephen O’Malley and Southern Lord have all gone to great lengths to make sure that the vinyl version of the album is of the utmost quality in both audio and packaging presentation. This is truly how we wish this album to be heard, seen and felt. The album?s jacket is a heavy-weight cardboard “tip-on” style that contains two printed inner-sleeves and a fold out “poster” with the lyrics and album credits. This jacket is then encased by a printed velum dust jacket that resembles a dust jacket you would find on a hardcover book. Order at: http://www.southernlord.com/store.php.

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RECOVERED: Getting Down with Some New Earth

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 19th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Because it?s gorgeous out, and because it?s Friday, and because I?ve got an interview in 15 minutes (you?ll find out with whom on Monday), and then after that I need to make my way down to Red Bank in summer Friday evening Parkway traffic, I?m thinking throwing up the review I?d been hoping to might not be in the cards immediately. Maybe later on. In the meantime, here?s a video of drone lords Earth playing a new song in Germany. It?s pretty pastoral sounding, which is a good thing for them.

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SunnO))) Set to Work Eating the Universe on Monoliths and Dimensions

Posted in Reviews on May 28th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

This also looks way cooler in person.Normally They should do a show here and release it on DVD. (Photo by Gisele Vienne)I don’t buy into the whole vinyl-sounds-better thing. I agree there’s something to the experience of purchasing a record and certainly the artwork is bigger, but in terms of the actual sound, while I’ll grant that analog and digital sound different, since most turntables run through a digital amplifier before they reach the speakers anyway and even if not, the disparity is negligible, usually I chalk it up to marketing bullshit or a reactionary hipster trend flying in the face of the rise of digital media. Take that, Apple.

That said, there’s a feeling of self-infliction you get when putting the needle to any of the four sides of the 2LP version of SunnO)))‘s Monoliths and Dimensions (as ever, on Southern Lord) that I genuinely don’t believe would carry over with a CD, mp3 or whatever other format you choose. Aside from each of the four tracks demanding you to make sure you’re on the right speed (it goes 33, 45, 45, 33rpm) — if nothing else a clever way to make sure the listener is paying attention to what they’re hearing — the ritualistic feeling of quietly changing sides after each song makes you feel more of a part of it, like you’re in your very own grimmrobe, or at very least in a room filled with smoke-machine fog.

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Late Night Review: Aun, Motorsleep

Posted in Reviews on March 11th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Looks like a normal guy to me.It’s well past two in the morning. This afternoon I had three false starts for reviews that I just couldn’t get moving no matter how many times I wrote a crappy opening paragraph. It happens. Sometimes you have to put it away and go have a glass of orange juice. When I got around to checking out Aun‘s Motorsleep (Alien8 Recordings), it became clear it was music for the quiet hours.

So here I am, enveloped in it again. My eyes are doing that fast blinking thing that you never think looks like you’re falling asleep until you see it happening to someone else, but the drone this one-man band emits is encompassing and chilling and hearing it is like chewing gum to keep yourself awake while you drive. I don’t even know what that means.

Aun is the solo project of Martin Dumais, who is from Montr?al, Quebec. For phonetics’ sake, pronounce that “kay-beck.” It sounds better.

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Monoliths and Dimensions: A Brutal First Exposure to SunnO)))’s New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 26th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Robes and amps.When I pulled up to the driveway of the house way back up on the top of the hill, none of the lights were on. I got out of my car and before I could press the button on the remote to lock it, I was hit with the chloroform and out in a matter of seconds. The last thing I remember before waking up was the feeling of the February air coming through that cloth as I sucked in the chilled chemicals.

It was a punch to the back of my already aching head that brought consciousness with it, though I might as well have still been out, for all the light there was to see. None, in other words. The room was pitch black and I could feel the zip line tight around my wrists and ankles before I even tried to move them. Ball gag in my mouth. I tried to scoot my chair in one direction or another, forward, wherever that was, and met with another fist, this one from the side, at my jaw. No one spoke. I started to cry.

Then I heard it.

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Gnaw by Night

Posted in Reviews on February 14th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Consider it gnawed.It’s 1:52 in the morning as I start this. I thought after listening to it this afternoon the best time to review Gnaw‘s This Face (Conspiracy) would be late at night, when everyone else had long since gone to bed and the light coming out of? the three windows in this room was the only light in the whole valley as far as I could see. The headphones were on, but I took them off because this album is too horrifying to listen to with your back to the door.

They’ve done a good job of letting their potential audience know about their pedigree, and with vocalist Alan Dubin a veteran of minimalist doom oracles Khanate and Jamie Sykes boasting time drumming for Burning Witch Better make that hand a fist if you want to keep it.(the two bands having in common guitarist Stephen O’Malley, also of SunnO)))) they have something decent to brag about. Dubin‘s rasp takes center stage here — I like to imagine him hiding around a corner on Washington St. in Hoboken, biting fingers off yuppies as they walk by — and the ugliness behind is busy enough to catch fans of his former (maybe? Who the hell knows what’s up with Khanate.) band off guard. For the first 10 seconds, I had to make sure I didn’t slip in the new Napalm Death record by mistake.

Gnaw should have called themselves Gnash, because where I think of gnawing as a gradually painful process, as in a wolf gnawing its leg off to get out of a trap, a gnash happens quickly, and Gnaw waste no time in inflicting themselves upon the ear. They slice and rip and dig out a hole in the psyche, offering malevolent electronica sweeps and bleeps and soundscapes of dim growing dimmer light. I’m starting to fall asleep and all my dreams are red.

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SunnO))) to Rise Again: New Album Details Revealed

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 13th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Anybody seen Max Von Sydow around here?Looks like it’s time to get the robes out. The following came in on the wire just a bit ago and is some killer news for drone heads out there:

SunnO))) is proud to present their seventh studio album, after 10 years of existence, Monoliths and Dimensions. The album showcases the core guitar duo — Stephen O?Malley and Greg Anderson –? incorporating influences from a plethora of guest musicians, bringing the SunnO))) sound to epic new levels. The band also collaborated with composer Eyvind Kang (notable for his work with John Zorn, Marc Ribot, Bill Frisell, etc.) on various acoustic ensembles, in addition to the Helios-fueled electric guitars and basses. Key players on the album include Australian guitar genius Oren Ambarchi, enigmatic Hungarian vocalist Attila Csihar (Mayhem, Tormentor, etc.) and slow music godfather Dylan Carlson (Earth), as well as Julian Priester (worked with Sun Ra in the 50s, John? Coltrane?s African Brass, and Herbie Hancock?s Sextet) and new-music horn player Stuart Dempster. There?s also an upright bass trio, French & English horns, harp & flute duo, piano, brass,? reed & strings ensembles, and a Viennese woman?s choir led by Persian vocal savant Jessika Kenney.

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Experimenting with Sons of Otis’ “Exiled”

Posted in Reviews on February 6th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

If you stare at this logo long enough, you'll get high. I swear.Toronto‘s most righteously stoned doomers Sons of Otis are back with six more droned-out, smoke-filled anthems of echoplexed dissatisfaction. Exiled is the band’s fifth album — second for Small Stone after both Man’s Ruin and The Music Cartel collapsed following Otis releases (they’re just that heavy) — and after reading Arzgarth‘s review on Stonerrock.com the other day, I figured I’d chime in with one of my own. You know, just to make the world complete.

By way of preface, I have a great respect for Arz and his status in the stoner scene is unquestionable. He does very, very good work with unwavering dedication. Exiled he categorized as starting off strong but ultimately losing his interest as the band drifted “off into their own realm (or even further into it).” All well and good — and nine-minute dronefest “Tales of Otis” certainly is a mountain to climb — but I think there’s more at hand here than just the album getting boring as it plods onward. Read more »

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Tecumseh: Avalanches, Inundations and a Whole Lot of Drone

Posted in Reviews on February 6th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

Drone out or go home

One assumes Portland?s Tecumseh were thinking of their sound when they titled the record Avalanche and Inundation. Taken on that level, it?s about as fair an assessment as you?re going to get of what happens when you put the damn thing on; riff after churning riff gurgling up from the slowly boiling minimalist morass, igniting torturous drones and ringed out notes held so long the feedback literally screams.

SunnO))) is a lazy man?s comparison point, so we?ll go with that. Read more »

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