Posted in Whathaveyou on February 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
The Psycho Las Vegas lineup wasn’t exactly lacking in ‘holy shit’-factor before, but, uh… holy shit. The poster below is so god damned packed it’s got me wondering if they’re going to sneak in an extra day to fit it all. Well, I guess they are if you count the pre-party — a fest unto itself with the additions of Ruby the Hatchet, Sasquatch, Conan, Yawning Man and Great Electric Quest — but to see acts like Earthless, Corrosion of Conformity, Diamondhead, Laura Pleasants of Kylesa, Mothership, Saturndust, Heavy Temple, Toke and so many others added to the bill for the fest proper, it borders on the overwhelming. Sons of Otis? Year of the Cobra? Eternal Tapestry? I take back that part about “borders on.” Shit’s giving me the vapors.
Blah blah blah tickets, blah blah blah on sale, blah blah blah how much you don’t need me to tell you this is probably the best heavy lineup the US has ever seen. Also Ace Frehley will be there.
Full lineup follows:
Psycho Las Vegas 2017
-CONFIRMED LINEUP- KING DIAMOND (USA 2017 Exclusive) THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE ACE FREHLEY GOJIRA SWANS NEUROSIS MAGMA SLEEP MELVINS CARCASS MURDER CITY DEVILS CORROSION OF CONFORMITY SLO BURN DIAMONDHEAD CIRITH UNGOL ABBATH CHELSEA WOLFE CULT OF LUNA WITH JULIE CHRISTMAS WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM MULATU ASATKE PSYCHIC TV EARTHLESS SUMAC MANILLA ROAD CELESTE WINDHAND PELICAN BLOOD CEREMONY CODE ORANGE WEEDEATER MINSK COUGH VHOL ZEAL & ARDOR OATHBREAKER MYRKUR BUZZOV-EN THE SKULL INTER ARMA SLOMATICS GOST YOUNG AND IN THE WAY GATECREEPER MOTHERSHIP CULT LEADER LAURA PLEASANTS & SPECIAL GUESTS MOUTH OF THE ARCHITECT SONS OF OTIS SNAIL MORNE DOMKRAFT KHEMMIS ETERNAL TAPESTRY JEX THOTH FISTER NORTH WIZARD RIFLE USNEA ROYAL THUNDER YOUNGBLOOD SUPERCULT TOKE SATURNDUST HEAVY TEMPLE SUMMONER BLACK ANVIL FLOORIAN HOLLOW LEG YEAR OF THE COBRA MERLIN ELEPHANT TREE CLOUD CATCHER
PSYCHO PRE-PARTY: PENTAGRAM CONAN YAWNING MAN SASQUATCH MUSTARD GAS & ROSES GRAF ORLOCK RUBY THE HATCHET URCHIN GREAT ELECTRIC QUEST
Psycho Las Vegas 2017 is set for Aug. 18-20 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV. Tickets are available athttps://www.vivapsycho.com
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
I don’t know how else to say it other than to say that the lineup for Desert Generator 2017 is fucking sick. The Pioneertown, CA-based fest made its debut last year with none other than Brant Bjork at the organizational helm, and the return installment builds on the first one unquestionably, importing Italian heavy psych forerunners Black Rainbows to play the fest proper at Pappy & Harriet’s and partnering with esteemed Euro booker Sound of Liberation on a pre-party the night before out in the desert with Yawning Man, Fu Manchu and Brant Bjork doing a set with Sean Wheeler. Like I said, it’s fucking sick.
Really, the only two words you’d need to sell the thing are “Earthless headline,” but the that’s just the start of what’s going on here. Orchid and The Shrine will be an absolute party, and the vibe Desert Generator 2017 is shooting for is so apparent I can feel it even from being situated on the other side of the continent. I wish to hell I could be there for this one, because it looks like it’s going to be something special.
Check it out:
DESERT GENERATOR 2017
A heavy, psychedelic, rock & roll happening.
Rolling Heavy Magazine; Allnight, Allnight; and Brant Bjork present:
DESERT GENERATOR and THE ROLLING HEAVY VAN SHOW Saturday, April 8th, 2017 Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Saloon, The Pioneertown Corrals
Custom vans, killer bands, hanging and camping out all weekend with new and old buddies, cheersing and generally getting rad in the Southern California desert. Concert Tickets are on sale. If you were there in 2016, you know you gotta be there. If you missed it, well, you know you can’t make that mistake again. We are so stoked about this band lineup!
EARTHLESS BRANT BJORK ORCHID THE SHRINE BLACK RAINBOWS
— Yeah, buddy, that’s right. Let that soak in for a minute, then read on…
!!! SOMETHING EXTRA RAD AND NEW FOR 2017 !!!
>>> \\\\ * STONED & DUSTED * //// <<< Presented by Sound of Liberation Friday April 7th, 2017
A concert that can happen only with these desert rock legends and only in this desert. We’re throwing a generator party in the middle of nowhere and you’re invited. The location sits on nearly 700 acres of undisturbed desert. No telephone poles, no roads, no people, nothing but rocks and rockers, stones and stoners.
Mario Lalli is bringing the gas-powered electricity and his band Yawning Man are bringing the loudest amps they can find. Brant Bjork is swooping up the Low Desert Punks in his badass Dodge Challenger and special guest Sean Wheeler is riding in on the hood. Fu Manchu finally found the party they were in search of this whole time! And you can find it too if you have a ticket. Meet the bands, break bread, and see them rock out in this super secret desert location.
FU MANCHU BRANT BJORK w/ SPECIAL GUEST SEAN WHEELER YAWNING MAN
* Hang with the bands before the show * Enjoy Hot Tacos & Cold Drinks * VERY LIMITED number of tickets * Super rad desert location * Loud as fuck
Posted in Features on December 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.
Yeah, I know I said as much when the Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016 went up, but I take it back: this is the hardest list to put together. And to be honest, there’s a part of me that’s hesitant even to post it because I know as soon as I do someone’s going to be like, “No way you dick your entire existence is shit because you forgot Release X,” and very likely they’ll be right. Up to the very moment this post is going live, I’ve been making changes, and I expect I’ll continue to do so for a while after it’s out there.
So what’s a “short release?” That’s another issue. Pretty much anything that’s not an album. Singles, digital or physical, as well as EPs, splits, demos, and so on. The category becomes nebulous, but my general rule is if it’s not a full-length, it qualifies as a short release. Sounds simple until you get into things like, “Here’s a track I threw up on Bandcamp,” and “This only came out as a bonus included as a separate LP with the deluxe edition of our album.” I’m telling you, I’ve had a difficult time.
Maybe that’s just me trying to protect myself from impending wrath. This year’s Top 30 albums list provoked some vehement — and, if I may, prickishly-worded — responses, so I might be a bit gunshy here, but on the other hand, I think these outings are worth highlighting, so we’re going forward anyway. If you have something to add, please use the comments below, but remember we’re all friends here and there’s a human being on the other end reading what’s posted. Thanks in advance for that.
And since this is the last list of The Obelisk’s Best-of-2016 coverage, I’ll say thanks for reading as well. More to come in the New Year, of course.
Here we go:
The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016
1. Scissorfight, Chaos County EP
2. Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split
3. Mars Red Sky, Providence EP
4. Mos Generator, The Firmament
5. Soldati, Soldati
6. Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze EP
7. Wren, Host EP
8. Goya, The Enemy EP
9. The Sweet Heat, Demo
10. River Cult, Demo
11. Stinkeye, Llantera Demos
12. Megaritual, Eclipse EP
13. Ragged Barracudas / Pushy, Split
14. Mindkult, Witchs’ Oath EP
15. Iron Jawed Guru, Mata Hari EP
16. Brume, Donkey
17. Bison Machine / Wild Savages / SLO, Sweet Leaves Vol. 1 Split
18. BoneHawk / Kingnomad, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Three Split
19. Wicked Gypsy, EP
20. Love Gang, Love Gang EP
An expansive category as ever. In addition to what’s above, the following stood out and no doubt more will be added over the course of the next few days. If you feel something is missing, please let me know.
Cambrian Explosion, The Moon EP
Candlemass, Death Thy Lover EP
Cultist, Cultist EP
Danava, At Midnight You Die 7″
Dos Malés, Dos Malés EP
Druglord, Deepest Regrets EP
Fu Manchu, Slow Ride 7″
Geezer, A Flagrant Disregard for Happiness 12″
Gorilla vs. Grifter, Split
Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!
Karma to Burn, Mountain Czar
LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place EP
Pallbearer, Fear and Fury
Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…
Sea of Bones / Ramlord, Split
Shallows, The Moon Rises
The Skull, EP
Snowy Dunes, “Atlantis Part I” digital single
Sun Voyager / The Mad Doctors, Split
Valborg, Werwolf 7″
Was it just the raw joy of having Scissorfight back? No, but that was for sure part of it. It was also the brazenness with which the New Hampshire outfit let go of their past, particularly frontman Christopher “Ironlung” Shurtleff, and moved forward unwilling to compromise what they wanted to do that made their Chaos County so respectable in my eyes. Having always flourished in the form, they delivered an EP of classic Scissorfight tunes and issued a stiff middle finger to anyone who would dare call them otherwise. They couldn’t have been more themselves no matter who was in the band.
At the same time, it was a hard choice between that and the Earthless / Harsh Toke split for the top spot. I mean, seriously. It’s Earthless — who at this point are the godfathers of West Coast jamadelica — and Harsh Toke, who are among the style’s most engaging upstart purveyors, each stretching out over a huge and encompassing single track. I couldn’t stop listening to that one if I wanted to, and as the year went on, I found I never wanted to.
I was glad when Mars Red Sky included the title-track of the Providence EP as a bonus cut on their subsequent album, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul), both because it tied the two releases together even further and because it gave me another opportunity to hear it every time I listened to the record. Their short releases have always shown significant character apart from their full-lengths, and this was no exception. I still tear up when I hear “Sapphire Vessel.”
To bounce around a bit: Had to get Mos Generator on the list for the progressive expansion of the live-recorded The Firmament. Stickman was right to put that out on vinyl. Both Monolord and Goya provided quick outings of huge riffs to sate their respective and growing followings, while Megaritual’s Eclipse basked in drone serenity and the debut release from Sergio Ch.’s Soldati provided hard-driving heavy rock with the particular nuance for which the former Los Natas frontman is known. It’s the highest among a slew of first/early outings — see also The Sweet Heat, Wren (Host was their second EP), River Cult’s demo, Stinkeye, Mindkult, Iron Jawed Guru, Brume, Wicked Gypsy and Love Gang.
Ultimately, there were fewer splits on the list this year than last year, but I’ll credit that to happenstance more than any emergent bias against the form or lack of quality in terms of what actually came out. The BoneHawk and Kingnomad release, the Ragged Barracudas and Pushy split, and that heavy rocking onslaught from Bison Machine and company were all certainly welcome by me, and I’ll mention Gorilla vs. Grifter there too again, just because it was awesome.
One more time, thank you for reading, and if you have something to add, please do so in the comments below. Your civility in that regard is appreciated.
This is the last of my lists for 2016, but the Readers Poll results are out Jan. 1 and the New Year hits next week and that brings a whole new round of looking-forward coverage, so stay tuned.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan
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.
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.
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 Earthless, Golden Void, Howlin’ Rain, Black 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:
Blown Music and Tone Deaf present ISAIAH MITCHELL / SEEDY JEEZUS AUSTRALIAN TOUR SEPT 2016
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.
ISAIAH MITCHELL /SEEDY JEEZUS TOUR DATES 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.
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.
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.
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 Earthless‘ Live 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.