Earthless Confirm US Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 22nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Dates have been floating around the social medias for the last month or so, but the PR wire has now confirmed that San Diego heavy psych forerunners Earthless will head out on a round of headlining US tour dates this December, looping across the Midwest and hitting the Eastern Seaboard in support of their earlier-2016 split with Harsh Toke (review here) on Tee Pee Records. They go heralding that release, but the truth is they could just as easily head out supporting, “duh, we’re Earthless,” and it would be reason enough to show up and watch them melt ears and the brains between them, so you know, if they’re coming near you, go to the gig.

They’ll have Philly outfit and Tee Pee labelmates Ruby the Hatchet along for the ride, which is also awesome. Info and dates:


EARTHLESS Announces U.S. Headlining Tour

Instrumental heavy rock kings EARTHLESS have announced a fall U.S. headlining tour. The San Diego band will launch the thirteen town trek on December 2 in Chicago, IL. Dates will run through December 17 in Detroit, MI. The award-winning group, currently hard at work on its fourth studio LP, continues to tour in support of its celebrated album, From the Ages. Support on the EARTHLESS tour will come from Philadelphia witch rockers Ruby the Hatchet.

EARTHLESS tour dates:
* = Ruby the Hatchet as support
December 2 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle *
December 3 St Louis, MO The Firebird*
December 4 Norman, OK OPOLIS*
December 6 Dallas, TX Club Dada*
December 7 Austin, TX Barracuda*
December 8 Houston, TX Rudyard’s Pub
December 9 Baton Rouge, LA Spanish Moon
December 10 Atlanta, GA The EARL*
December 11 Raleigh, NC Barcade
December 12 Richmond, VA Strange Matter
December 13 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
December 15 Pittsburgh, PA Club Cafe*
December 16 Cleveland, OH Grog Shop*
December 17 Detroit, MI El Club*

EARTHLESS features guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, drummer Mario Rubalcaba and bassist Mike Eginton.

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Buried Treasure at The Sound Garden in Baltimore

Posted in Buried Treasure on July 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

sound garden haul

Try to stay with me on this one. Last weekend was Maryland Doom Fest 2016. I drove down from Massachusetts last Friday to Frederick, MD, for it with The Patient Mrs., dropping her off first at family friends’ outside of Baltimore. We had her car, which, on Sunday, died in the parking spot outside the venue and had to be towed to a garage to receive a new alternator. Okay. That’s step one.

Step two: I had to get back to Massachusetts on Monday to start my new job on Tuesday. As her car would not be ready in time, The Patient Mrs. rented another vehicle and came and picked me up in Frederick and north we went. The repair would end up costing $900, but I made it to work on Tuesday and all went well, so it could’ve been much worse. The snag was that her car remained in that garage in Frederick and the rental would also need to be returned to Maryland, so looming all week was this impending journey back down I-95/I-78 to swap out cars again.

My job is in Rhode Island and gets out early on Fridays. 1PM. After swinging through Frederick to get her car and dropping off the rental, we got to where we were staying Friday night at 11PM. Between that, the fact that I’d survived my first week at a new job while still feeling positive about the experience, and the likewise impending trip back north, there was basically zero fucking chance I wasn’t going to The Sound Garden in Baltimore to do some serious-business record shopping before we hit the road.

So that was Saturday morning. My foot still screwed up, I hobbled toward the Psychedelic section (which had moved since last I was there) and started grabbing discs. Some new, some old, some in between, but The Sound Garden is arguably the best record store I’ve been to on the Eastern Seaboard — my heart will always hold a place for Vintage Vinyl in NJ, of course — so I knew I was going to find plenty.

I don’t record shop the way I used to. It used to be constant, a snag-this-snag-that process to put CDs on the shelf. I’m a little less likely to find stuff now, buy more online and direct from bands, and so on, but though I couldn’t really walk in the early part of the day, I still very much enjoyed digging through the rows to see what there was that needed to get bought. Turned out I did fine:

Maria Bamford, Ask Me About My New God!
Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
Causa Sui, Return to Sky
Comet Control, Center of the Maze
Conan, Revengeance
Death, For all the World to See
Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split
Flower Travellin’ Band, Satori
Graves at Sea, The Curse that is Graves at Sea
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Noeth ac Anoeth
The Meters, Look-Ka Py Py
Monolithe, Epsilon Aurigae
The Motherhood, I Feel so Free
The Peace, Black Power
The Pretty Things, S.F. Sorrow
Valley of the Sun, Volume Rock

Some of that was stuff I had to own on principle. How often do you run into a US-based store with El Paraiso Records distribution? Causa Sui, then, was a must. I was likewise surprised and thrilled to see Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Monolithe, so those were musts. The Death record (and documentary) was recently re-recommended to me from a trusted source, so I figured I’d grab that, and then stuff like Graves at Sea, the Earthless / Harsh Toke split, Comet Control, Valley of the Sun and Beastmaker were records I’d written about that I wanted physical copies of anyway. I’m about 80 percent sure I already have a copy of the latest Conan. but thought I’d get it while I was there, and if I wound up with a double, worse things have certainly happened.

From the aforementioned Psychedelic section, a couple treasures in Flower Travellin’ Band‘s Satori, which was also the first of the haul I put on, its hard-thudding krautrock-inspired proggy proto-metal enough to gloriously alienate a room, and The Pretty Things‘ concept album S.F. Sorrow, and The Motherhood‘s I Feel so Free — all ’70s-era outings. The Funk/Soul section yielded The Peace and The Meters, and Comedy/Spoken Word the Maria Bamford, which I picked up in no small part because her show on Netflix, Lady Dynamite, is so remarkably brilliant. If you haven’t yet watched it, do so immediately.

By the time I got through finding Monolithe, Graves at Sea and Beastmaker in the metal section to grabbing the Death record as I walked past it on my way to the register, I was feeling considerable discomfort at standing on my right foot, which was in the same supportive cast — I call it “das boot,” well aware that the actual German word means “boat” — I had on at the fest last weekend. That put something of a rush on the tail end of the shopping experience as I needed to get somewhere I could sit down, but while I probably could’ve spent a few more hours dicking around at The Sound Garden, I don’t at all feel like I missed anything except perhaps a t-shirt from the store, which I’ll grab next time, and for a trip that was made under less than ideal circumstances, I definitely felt as I walked out that I’d made the best of the time I had.

There are all kinds of record shop ratings out there, but if you happen to be in Fells Point or the greater region, The Sound Garden really is one of the best stores I’ve ever been to, and it continues to be a destination in my mind for when I’m around. It made the long drive back north that much easier to endure, which is saying something in itself.

The Sound Garden – Baltimore website

The Sound Garden on Twitter

The Sound Garden on Thee Facebooks

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Isaiah Mitchell Announces ‘Under the Influence’ Australian Tour with Seedy Jeezus

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

isaiah mitchell seedy jeezus tour banner

Guitarist Isaiah Mitchell will team up with Melbourne’s Seedy Jeezus for an Australian tour this September. In addition to playing the support slot on the run, Seedy Jeezus will also double as the backing band for Mitchell — known of course for his work in EarthlessGolden VoidHowlin’ RainBlack Elk Medicine Band and so on — as he performs what’s been dubbed an “Under the Influence” set, featuring decades-spanning covers and some original material as well. Hardly the California-based Mitchell‘s first trip to Australia — Earthless have been more than once, he’s been with Black Elk Medicine Band, etc. — but though he’s sat in with other acts before, to the best of my knowledge this will be the first time he’s toured solo with a backing band. Hard to argue with his choice of accompaniment.

If you’re in that part of the world, note the Doomsday Fest date Sept. 30 with Acid King. That’s an easy bill to get behind.

The tour announcement, courtesy of the PR wire:



Isaiah Mitchell (Earthless, Golden Void and Howlin Rain) on tour with Melbourne’s Seedy Jeezus; blazing a psychedelic trail across the east coast of Australia!

Isaiah Mitchell is known for creating and turning on crazy psychedelic jams into journeys that take you beyond the confines of a typical guitar solo. He has gained a reputation as one of the finest psych blues guitarists in the world from his work with Earthless, Golden Void and Howlin Rain. He has previously toured Australia numerous times with his band Earthless and also solo with the Black Elk Medicine Band. Isaiah Mitchell returns to Australia this September playing a string of shows on the east coast with buddies Seedy Jeezus.

Seedy Jeezus are a Melbourne power trio. The description of Pink Floyd meets Black Sabbath at a Jimi Hendrix Experience gig is a close description of Seedy Jeezus. The band is known for breaking off into jams that will extend and evolve the songs into new directions. The adage that no two gigs are the same applies when these guys are onstage. Seedy Jeezus have spent the last five years tearing up stages in Australia and Europe building a strong following both locally and internationally. Their debut album on Lay Bare Recordings ( Netherlands) quickly sold out and has recently been reissued on Kozmik Artifactz in Germany. They head back into the studio to record the follow up album in January 2017.

Sept 2016 Seedy Jeezus will be joining Isaiah Mitchell for his ‘ Under the Influence ‘ tour. This will give fans of Isaiah a chance to see him play songs that have influenced him as a musician since he first picked up a guitar at the age of 8. After performing their own set of blistering psych freakout, Seedy Jeezus will be Isaiah’s backing band as he works through songs from ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. He will play original material that has been rarely heard here in Australia on any of his previous tours. If you’re a fan of heavy guitar jams and great tunes then this is the gig you wont want to miss. All the shows will be up close and personal.

September 22 – Oct 1 2016
Sept 23 – Melbourne @ The Tote, Collingwood
Sept 24 – Wagga Wagga@ Beer Deluxe
Sept 25 – Canberra @ Phoenix Bar
Sept 26 – Brisbane @ Beetle Bar
Sept 27 – Brisbane @ Tyms ( instore)
Sept 29 – Newcastle @ Small Ballroom
Sept 30 – Sydney @ Newtown Social Club Doomsday Fest w/ Acid King
Oct 1 – Geelong @ the Barwon Club.

Tickets from and

Isaiah Mitchell, Live at Milhões de Festa, Barcelos, Portugal, July 2014

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Earthless & Harsh Toke, Acid Crusher / Mount Swan: Acidic Compounds

Posted in Reviews on May 31st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

earthless harsh toke acid crusher mount swan

Whoever first had the idea to pair up Earthless and Harsh Toke for a split full-length, he or she was correct. Hardly the deepest critical insight I’ve ever had, but there it is. The San Diego longform heavy psychedelic rockers team exceedingly well on the 12″ platter, Acid Crusher / Mount Swan, each band offering a side-consuming single track immersion with a different take on similarly-intentioned righteousness. For the heads who will get it, this review is superfluous. Not only does Acid Crusher / Mount Swan sell itself to the already-converted, but comes across more as a victory lap than a release, Earthless‘ “Acid Crusher” and Harsh Toke‘s “Mount Swan” both taking ‘er easy all over lazy-day lysergics, unleashing instrumental chemistry between them the likes of which few others could claim as their own. That’s true of both bands, by the way, and not just Earthless.

Aside from the sonic commonalities, one reason Acid Crusher / Mount Swan works so well is that it brings together that landmark three-piece — whose last album was 2013’s From the Ages (review here) but who also had a new song out earlier this year on a Scion-sponsored multi-band EP — with a younger outfit who clearly on one level or another are working under their influence and successfully bringing their own personality to their approach. There’s little question that Earthless have been a key factor in the boom of West Coast heavy psych of the last five years or so, and their presence here alongside Harsh Toke both reinforces their position at the fore of that movement and demonstrates some of the best of what’s being done with the impact they’ve had.

It’s worth acknowledging as well that Acid Crusher / Mount Swan might be a listener’s first exposure to Harsh Toke, who made their debut on Tee Pee in 2014 with the grower-listen Light up and Live, touring Europe that same year including a stop at Roadburn and going back last fall alongside labelmates Sunder, and if that’s the cast, then all the better for the impression they give. Their “Mount Swan” clocks in at just a bit under 20 minutes and offers molten psychedelic flow, some early vocals acting as the ground from which the subsequent instrumental breadth takes off. I don’t know how much of it is improvised or plotted out beforehand, outlined or meticulously written out measure by measure, but the flow they enact feeds gorgeously from the laid back motion of Earthless‘ 15-minute “Acid Crusher,” which over on side A pulls back on some of the thrust for which the band is known in favor of a key-and-percussion-laced fusion-style rollout, steady funk groove underlying the straightforward, grounding drum progression from Mario Rubalcaba.

earthless harsh toke acid crusher mount swan vinyl

The fluidity there becomes the theme that unites both tracks, and though Harsh Toke start out with a somewhat foreboding nod, after the initial verses, by the time they’re two minutes in, they set to a for-its-own-sake meandering that defines the rest of the song, starting out with a wash of feedback and noise and tripping on slow-motion cosmic swirl marked by periodic upticks in pace and an increased push of kick drum late. Would be fair enough to call it a payoff toward the end, but “Mount Swan” is less about a linear progression upward than a liquefied spreading outward, and that remains true even as the wheels start to come off near the finish and the dual guitars chug and solo around the central rhythm when the drums have faded out. The guitars fade out too, as it happens, which leads me to believe that somewhere on this planet there exists and even longer version of “Mount Swan” than that which appears here.

I started with the B-side for a reason, and that reason might be that Earthless are almost a given at this point. Rubalcaba, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (also of Golden Void) and bassist Mike Eginton, hit their 15th year together in 2016, and though they only put out albums sporadically, the mark they’ve left can be heard throughout the West Coast and beyond. With “Acid Crusher,” they make it plain that they’ve by no means finished their exploration. They waste no time getting down to the business of groove with serene key work and fuzzy tones marching in step backed by percussion, flourishes of tambourine and an underlying current of volume swells and other effects, what sound like Echoplex loops but may or may not actually be. As is their wont generally, “Acid Crusher” is entirely instrumental, but it’s more than a jam as well, setting its vibe in the first half and expanding it in the second as Mitchell takes an extended solo at the 10-minute mark and uses it to lead the band to the song’s peak, which subsides in the last minute or so — presumably by then the acid in question has been thoroughly crushed — and they return to the locked-in groove that’s been at the center all along.

In showcasing their nuance and the fact that they can basically go wherever they want and make it work, “Acid Crusher” brings forward a different side of Earthless than some of the more raucous classic-style heavy psych for which they’re known, and Harsh Toke complement that well with “Mount Swan” while also affirming that Light up and Live‘s follow-up will be one worth anticipating. As I said at the outset, there will be many listeners who take on Acid Crusher / Mount Swan for whom its quality will be an absolute given, but even for those who might approach it on less sure footing, the delivery on the part of both acts winds up being pretty inarguable. These are two of the finest in heavy psych that California has to offer. They’re doing what they do.

Earthless, “Acid Crusher”

Harsh Toke, “Mount Swan”

Earthless on Thee Facebooks

Earthless on Instagram

Harsh Toke on Thee Facebooks

Harsh Toke on Instagram

Tee Pee Records

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Friday Full-Length: Earthless, Live at Roadburn

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 13th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Earthless, Live at Roadburn (2008)

Among the hallowed ranks of performances at the Netherlands-based festival, there are few that have earned the legendary status of that which would become EarthlessLive at Roadburn. Four songs, more than 80 minutes long, it’s a mammoth, beast of an undertaking. The year was 2008. I wasn’t there to see it, much to my chagrin, but Earthless had played earlier in the weekend and were taking somebody’s place or something like that, and next thing anyone standing at the 013 knew, the San Diego trio of guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba blew everyone’s ass out of the room. The proof is in the pudding and the pudding is pressed to plastic on Live at Roadburn — the three-piece rip into “Blue,” “From the Ages,” “Godspeed” and “Sonic Prayer” with authority well beyond what they showed on the prior Sonic Prayer Jam live outing or their two studio albums at that point, 2006’s Sonic Prayer and 2007’s Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky, which, like Live at Roadburn, was released on Tee Pee Records.

Though Earthless offered a number of splits in the interim, it would be another five years before Live at Roadburn got a proper follow-up in the 2013 studio album, From the Ages (review here), which not only featured a solid half-hour’s take on the title-track, which made its first appearance here, but fostered the same kind of command. In the years since, Earthless have been at the spearhead of a West Coast heavy psychedelic movement, touring the US, Europe, Australia — I don’t know off-hand if they’ve been to South America and Japan, but let’s assume yes — as one of its most essential bands and having a hand in influencing a new generation of acts grown up in their wake. If you think that’s overstating it, go and listen to those bands. Earthless‘ amorphous-seeming compositional sprawl is writ large on the jams of others, and while they’re not the only point of reference for the West Coast’s sun-baked vision of heavy — the heavy ’70s have certainly played a part in the development thereof — they are a key factor, inarguably.

It’s been over seven years since I last saw Earthless on their own — I did catch them with Heavy Blanket in 2014 (review here) — which by any measure is too long, but though their legacy has grown in that time and no doubt their chemistry as well and their methodology has shifted to include occasional vocals from Mitchell when it suits their purposes, the core of what has made Earthless so special is still present in Live at Roadburn, and I think it still comes through even eight years after the fact how utterly incredible this show must have been to see. Imagine being blindsided by witnessing the moment of this band’s arrival. It’s enough to give you chills.

Hope you enjoy.

I kept it pretty quiet, but I’ve been on a work trip all week. If all goes well, by the time this is posted I’ll be back, safe and sound, in Connecticut with The Patient Mrs., but as fingers hit keys I’m in Atlantic City, NJ. Spent the early part of the week in North Jersey, which was good since I got to see my family on the side, but came down to AC on Wednesday and have been here since, am very much looking forward to leaving. Not really my kind of town, haven’t been here since I saw Clutch half a decade ago or whenever it was. I don’t even know and I’m too exhausted to go chase down the link, but suffice it to say it was a long time before right now. Atlantic City is still a depressing place to be.

Being here for work hasn’t helped in that regard, frankly.

I’ve been short on time, haven’t even had a second to trim down the Greenleaf interview to be transcribed. I’ll get there. I promise I will. If not this weekend — because I might seriously put my laptop down after I finish typing this and not pick it up again until Sunday when I prep stuff to go up on Monday — then definitely next week. I’m just so friggin’ tired.

Monday: A full album stream from Atala. But wait, didn’t I already review the record with a track premiere? Yuppers. They asked if I wanted to do a stream of the full LP, so I said sure. Cool album, anyway, so screw it. I have no idea what I’ll write to go with it, but I’ve got a couple days to sort that. Also look for a Kaleidobolt track premiere on Tuesday and a King Buffalo review sometime before next week is done.

And sometime next week — not even gonna say when — I’ll announce two more bands for The Obelisk All-Dayer, which is Aug. 20 at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. Get your tickets here.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’ll be in full-on recovery mode until Sunday, at which point I have to take The Patient Mrs. to the airport so she can go to London for like 10 days with students. I’d be like mad about it if I hadn’t been to Roadburn for the last eight years. Ha.

Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Earthless and Harsh Toke to Release Acid Crusher / Mount Swan Split LP in May

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Alright, Earthless. Alright, Harsh Toke. Whatever you guys want. You want to pair up for a split LP out May 27 on Tee Pee? Fine. Just take my money. It’s yours. 35 minutes of unparalleled heavy psych instrumental West Coast madness? Just take it. Take it all. Give me two copies: one to stare at and one to leave on the shelf while I stare at the other one so there can always be a copy on the shelf.

I missed Earthless on their recent East Coast run because I am, well, employed, but their last album, 2013’s From the Ages (review here), continues to resonate, and I recall vividly watching Harsh Toke jam the hell out of a late-night set at Roadburn a couple years back, so yeah, fine. Pair up. You guys win this round. And really all the rounds.

Next round’s on me.

To the PR wire:

earthless harsh toke split

EARTHLESS and HARSH TOKE to Release Split LP May 27

San Diego Heavy Psych Kings Unite for Titanic Team-Up!

Sound-sculpting San Diego heavy psych titans EARTHLESS and HARSH TOKE have joined forces to bring music fans a colossal battle of the beasts! Titled, Acid Crusher / Mount Swan, the two track, 35-minute release will see a May 27 release via Tee Pee Records.

Prepare yourself, as 20,000 volts of concentrated electricity will rip through your speakers as the rampaging, psychedelic rock ‘n’ roll flows like molten magma, destroying everything in its path! EARTHLESS brings to life the towering, 15-minute-long song “Acid Crusher”, which collides head-on with HARSH TOKE’s 20 minute creation, “Mount Swan”. Don’t miss this mind-bending, man-eating, winner-take-all mashup of two of modern psych’s most monstrous mongrels!

“Acid Crusher” will tide over EARTHLESS fans until the release of the band’s as-yet-untitled new LP, it’s first since 2013’s epic From the Ages. Fresh off of a sold out east coast headlining tour, EARTHLESS now dives back in to writing for their fourth full-length, which is expected to drop later this year. Formed in 2001 by drummer Mario Rubalcaba, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell and bassist Mike Eginton, EARTHLESS creates energetic, free-thinking instrumental music inspired by an eclectic mix of German krautrock and Japanese heavy blues rock.

“Mount Swan” represents the first new music from HARSH TOKE since the release of the acid rock band’s 2014 debut, Light Up and Live. Equal parts atmospheric and anarchic, HARSH TOKE merges raging, blind fury musicianship with unprecedented white-knuckle volume abuse.

Track listing:

1.) Acid Crusher (EARTHLESS)
2.) Mount Swan (HARSH TOKE)

Earthless, “Uluru Rock” live in Cambridge, MA, March 16, 2016

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Earthless Post New Track “End to End” from Scion AV EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 13th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


There’s like this little switch in my brain that goes off when new Earthless comes around. It’s like the okay-stop-what-you’re-doing-because-there’s-more-important-shit-happening-right-now-and-it’s-new-Earthless switch. Full groove immersion is warranted. Headphones, the whole bit. The San Diego power trio go straightforward boogie rock on “End to End,” chopping down their usual mega-instrumental modus to a crisp verse/chorus righteousness to take part in the Scion AV various artists release, The Baker Skateboards EP, which will be out at the end of this month as a free download with probably six or seven show-only vinyls pressed.

Look. It’s an event anytime Isaiah Mitchell, Mario Rubalcaba and Mike Eginton do anything. These dudes get together for a quiet lunch? It’s an event. A new song up for a free download that has Mitchell (also of Golden Void) singing on it? That definitely qualifies.

Info and audio below. You know the drill:

the baker skateboards ep



Scion has partnered with Baker Skateboards for the Scion AV Presents The Baker Skateboard EP, a free five-song release curated by the skateboarding team featuring new music from Earthless, Pell, Zig Zags, Denmark Vessey and The Goat and The Occasional Others. The EP will be available as a free download on Jan. 26.

The collection is a varied mix, featuring not only the new Earthless track (the San Diego outfit’s first new music since 2013), but New Orleans rapper Pell, Los Angeles’ Zig Zags, Detroit’s rising hip hop star Denmark Vessey, and The Goat and The Occasional Others, which includes Baker Skateboards’ founder Andrew Reynolds and veteran skateboarders Shane Heyl, Kevin Long, Beagle One-ism as well as skateboard photographer Atiba Jefferson.

The Baker skate team recently took a road trip with a Scion iA and a Scion iM as part of the Scion x Baker Skateboards project ( The journey started off at the Buttonwillow Raceway in Buttonwillow, California, where they met up with professional race car driver Ken Gushi. The crew showed what type of speed they could get on the vast expanses of asphalt, with or without an engine. Then they brought out the ramp so Baker boss Reynolds could go big over the bright yellow Scion TRD FR-S Project Car. Next they headed to San Francisco for a huge demo at the SoMa West Skate Park.

Scion AV Presents The Baker Skateboards EP track list:

1. Earthless “End To End”
2. Pell “Friday”
3. Zig Zags “Giving Up The Ghost”
4. Denmark Vessey “Wave Function”
5. The Goat and The Occasional Others “Goatshow”

Earthless, “End to End”

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Various Artists, Electric Ladyland [Redux] & The Best of James Marshall Hendrix: Scope Worthy of the Source

Posted in Reviews on August 24th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


Even before you press play on Electric Ladyland [Redux] or its companion piece, The Best of James Marshall Hendrix, it’s hard not to admire the coordinating prowess of Magnetic Eye Records in making it all happen. Most people couldn’t corral three bands to put together a single show bill, and the label’s Mike Vitali has wrangled 20 acts from the US and European heavy rock underground to pay homage to Jimi Hendrix in time for what would’ve been the supra-legendary guitarist’s 75th birthday, topped it of with artwork by David Paul Seymour, whose piece for Electric Ladyland [Redux] easily stands among the best covers of 2015, and Caitlin Hackett, whose three-eyed-bird portraiture perfectly suits Hendrix‘s groundbreaking psychedelic blues. Packaged separately on 2CD and 2LP but clearly intended as complements, both tribute collections showcase staggering ambition on the part of the label putting them together, and the fact that Electric Ladyland [Redux] and The Best of James Marshall Hendrix materialized at all is an automatic, unqualified triumph. Here are the full tracklistings:

VA, Electric Ladyland [Redux]
1. Elephant Tree, “…And the Gods Made Love” 01:44
2. Open Hand, “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)” 03:01
3. Superchief, “Crosstown Traffic” 03:32
4. All Them Witches, “Voodoo Chile” 14:59
5. Origami Horses, “Little Miss Strange” 03:52
6. The Heavy Eyes, “Long Hot Summer Night” 04:17
7. Earthless, “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)” 05:03
8. Wo Fat, “Gypsy Eyes” 04:34
9. Mos Generator, “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” 03:34
10. Gozu, “Rainy Day, Dream Away” 08:07
11. Summoner, “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” 12:56
12. Claymation, “Moon, Turn the Tides… Gently Gently Away” 01:24
13. Mothership, “Still Raining, Still Dreaming” 06:20
14. King Buffalo, “House Burning Down” 04:44
15. Tunga Moln, “All Along the Watchtower” 03:28
16. Elder, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” 07:08

VA, The Best of James Marshall Hendrix
1. Child, “In from the Storm” 04:57
2. Elephant Tree, “Manic Depression” 04:10
3. Wo Fat, “Machine Gun” 12:49
4. Stubb, “Little Wing” 04:18
5. Rosy Finch, “Foxy Lady” 05:17
6. Geezer, “Little Miss Lover” 04:50
7. Wo Fat, “Gypsy Eyes (Extended)” 07:13

As I said, staggering. Even more so in the case of Electric Ladyland [Redux], since not only do the usual comp and tribute album concerns apply of getting everything together and turning it into a cohesive listening experience, but also because in paying homage to a full-length album specifically, it’s also pivotal that Electric Ladyland [Redux] flows front to back while being comprised of 16 separate recordings taking place in 16 separate studios with 16 separate performances and treading on some of rock and roll’s most sacred, pivotal ground. Covering Hendrix? Unless you’re Stevie Ray Vaughan — and hell, even if you are — it’s a tricky proposition for one song, let alone a full record. It’s like someone asked Magnetic Eye if they wanted to go mountain biking and the label built a rocket, went to Mars, terraformed the planet and then decided to tackle Olympus Mons, on a Huffy.

va the best of james marshall hendrix

Okay, an exaggeration, but you take my meaning. And Electric Ladyand [Redux] mostly succeeds in its decidedly Herculean mission. There are one or two changes that come across choppy — an early one in the jump from the groovy vibes of Elephant Tree and Open Hand into the burlier Superchief, who give an able showing of what they do but ultimately feel out of place — but on the whole, it’s hard to argue with the results as they’re presented throughout, whether it’s King Buffalo‘s dreamy “House Burning Down” or groups making the material their own, like Wo Fat‘s “Gypsy Eyes,” Summoner‘s re-envisioned “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” and Gozu‘s adventurous “Rainy Day, Dream Away,” which leads off the second CD of the collection after Mos Generator‘s “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” finds the Washington-based act showing the roots of their own approach to landmark hooks, as do Mothership with their “Still Raining, Still Dreaming.”

Hearing Earthless with vocals is something of a surprise, and their take on “Come on (Let the Good Times Roll)” (an Earl King cover) not only is true to their Hendrix influence, but is a decided showcase of just how influential they’ve been on the West Coast underground — there are a good number of bands out there striving to sound like Earthless covering Jimi Hendrix — and having Swedish rockers Tunga Moln perform “All Along the Watchtower” in their native language puts an unexpected spin on arguably Electric Ladyland‘s most recognizable piece. All Them Witches are right in their element jamming on “Voodoo Chile,” and Elder do justice to the album’s closer in their “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” capping the tribute with one last highlight to round out the many before it.

There are several acts who reappear on The Best of James Marshall Hendrix, including Wo Fat and Elephant Tree, but as the latter only had the intro “…And the Gods Made Love” to lead off Electric Ladyland [Redux], it seems fair enough. In the case of Texas fuzz forerunners Wo Fat, I’m not at all going to fight with their extended jam on “Gypsy Eyes” as it closes out The Best of James Marshall Hendrix, and their 12:49 run through “Machine Gun” suits just as well. Leading off the companion tribute are Australian blues rockers Child, who give “In from the Storm” due soul and sway, and after Elephant Tree‘s “Manic Depression” and Wo Fat‘s “Machine Gun,” hearing Stubb take on the sweet melodies of “Little Wing” couldn’t be more perfect, especially leading into Rosy Finch‘s stomping “Foxy Lady,” which in turn gives way to Geezer‘s “Little Miss Lover,” coated in wah and right in the New York band’s wheelhouse, even as it gives way to a deconstructing long-form fadeout.

Wo Fat‘s extended “Gypsy Eyes” picks up from that silence with a bonus track-style vibe, but really, both releases feel like a bonus the whole time through. There are some variances in sound and style and some bands are more suited to the source material than others, but the effort that has been put into Electric Ladyland [Redux] and The Best of James Marshall Hendrix and the passion that bleeds from every second of each of these tracks are simply inarguable. It may be preaching to the choir to have heavy rock and psych bands covering Hendrix tracks, but the vibe throughout both of these tribute comps is much more of a genre paying homage to one of its founders who, sadly, didn’t live long enough to see the generation-spanning impact of his work realized. Equally admirable in mission and execution.

VA, Electric Ladyland [Redux] (2015)

VA, The Best of James Marshall Hendrix (2015)

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