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)

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye on Thee Facebooks

Magnetic Eye website

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Earthless and Elder Announce Australian Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

File this one under “Damn Those are Gonna be Some Good Shows” as Earthless and Elder pair up to tour Australia beginning Oct. 22. It’s a quick run, but an utterly badass pairing of bands, that, if I happened to be on the other side of the planet, I’d be sure to hit up. This will be Elder‘s first time down there — you might recall a couple years back they were all set to go with YOB (who will be there next month as well) but it didn’t pan out — while I’m pretty sure Earthless have made the trip before. Either way, there’s just nothing about those two getting together that doesn’t flat out rule.

News came down off the PR wire a couple minutes ago:




LIFE IS NOISE is proud to announce the heavy-psych double-bill of the year, as Elder and Earthless tour Australia this October.

Earthless want you to know how it feels to touch the sky. With smoldering guitar riffs that stretch from here to infinity, the San Diego trio are at once cosmic and timeless, rooted in a profound respect for the Zeppelin/Sabbathian tradition yet with eyes firmly cast forward. Never mind the retro rock revivalists or the ’70s throwbacks – Earthless aren’t nostalgists; they’re sonic luminaries dragging psychadelia by the wah pedal into the 21st century and beyond.

Isaiah Mitchell is the kind of guitar prodigy that comes along only once in a generation. Underpinned by the military precision of Mario Rubalcaba’s drumming and Mike Eginton’s fundamental grooves, Mitchell’s chaotic fretwork is as unpredictable as it is ambitious.

Elder are a sleeper cell of colossal talent. Never has three-piece so seamlessly merged the atmosphere of doom with the depth of stoner rock and the vitality of psychedelic rock. Their latest album, Lore, is a quiet masterpiece – a blizzard of riffs that shine with melody, dynamism and songwriting sophistication well beyond the young band’s years.

Few bands have the gall to cover Jimi Hendrix, and even fewer can do it well, but Elder did just that in June when they released a rip-roaring cover of Voodoo Child (Slight Return) for the Hendrix tribute Electric Ladyland Redux. Nick DeSalvo’s guitar sounds on the brink of bursting into flames as he blazes through solo after solo.

Elder’s sonic mastery extends beyond the studio – the trio’s live documents and show-stealing sets at Roadburn and Psycho California are a testament to Elder’s limitless potential.

Elder and Earthless have never shared a stage before. There’s no telling what havoc these two riff lords will wreak. Don’t miss the psych trip of the year. Witness these two blow minds on the following dates:

Perth – The Rosemount Hotel – October 22,
Melbourne –The Corner – October 23, 2015
Sydney – Newtown Social – October 24, 2015
Brisbane – Crowbar – October 26, 2015

Tickets on sale now through, Oztix and venue outlets.

Earthless, “Violence of the Red Sea”

Elder, Lore (2015)

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Magnetic Eye Records Makes Electric Ladyland [Redux] Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

va electric ladyland redux

If, say, you’ve spent the better part of the day today figuring out why there’s water coming from the kitchen ceiling and chasing down busted baseboard leaks owed to poor insulation, you might take great comfort in knowing that Planet Earth is just a little bit closer to the arrival of Electric Ladyland [Redux], the compilation revisiting some of Jimi Hendrix‘s most essential material, as well as its companion, The Best of James Marshall Hendrix. The David Paul Seymour gatefold cover — click above to enlarge it — has been unveiled and is flat-out beautiful, and the tracklisting is iron-clad both in terms of who’s involved and which songs they’re taking on. It may not dehumidify the guest room, but god damned if it won’t at least make the place sound better.

Magnetic Eye Records, whose ambition in this undertaking isn’t to be discounted in the slightest, sent an update down about some presales they were doing through Bandcamp, where previously Electric Ladyland [Redux] was only available to those who contributed to a Kickstarter, but even more than that, I’m just happy to have another chance to stare in awe at the tracklisting of the 2LP, which I think you’ll agree is a stunner.

Behold the latest:

va best of james marshall hendrix

Project Update #41: Electric Ladyland [Redux] by Magnetic Eye Records

Just a quick update for February, we have a lot of tracks that have been submitted for both Electric Ladyland [Redux] and the stretch goal bonus LP ‘The Best of James Marshall Hendrix’. What a treat this project and these records are turning out to be. We have received nearly 1/2 all the tracks for Electric Ladyland [Redux] and nearly all the tracks for the Best of record.

All I can say is I am being blown away right now by All Them Witches version of Voodoo Chile. DAMN! Happy Valentine’s Day all you heartless bastards. You probably really, really need to pre-order Electric Ladyland [Redux] for you and/or your sweetie. This double gatefold tribute of Jimi’s masterpiece includes tracks from Open Hand, Elephant Tree, Summoner, Earthless, Superchief, Mothership, GOZU, Elder, The Budos Band, Claymation, Origami Horses (filling these dudes in for the The Phuss – sorry Phuss fans, they’ve bowed off the LP), King Buffalo, Mos Generator, TUNGA MOLN, Wo Fat.

The Electric Ladyland [Redux] 2XLP features art from our man David Paul Seymour. About 1/2 thru the final 100 copies we have for pre-order from Magnetic Eye Records. Get your copy at

Electric Ladyland [Redux] Classic Black Double Gatefold 180g 12″ 2xLP

Side 1
1. Elephant Tree – And The Gods Made Love
2. Open Hand – Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)
3. Superchief – Crosstown Traffic
4. All Them Witches – Voodoo Chile

Side 2
5. Origami Horses – Little Miss Strange
6. The Budos Band – Long Hot Summer Night
7. Earthless – Come On (Let The Good Times Roll)
8. Wo Fat – Gypsy Eyes
9. Mos Generator – Burning Of The Midnight Lamp

Side 3
10. Gozu – Rainy Day, Dream Away
11. Summoner – 1983… (A Merman I Should Turn To Be)
12. Claymation – Moon, Turn The Tides… Gently, Gently Away

Side 4
13. Mothership – Still Raining, Still Dreaming
14. King Buffalo – House Burning Down
15. Tunga Moln – All Along The Watchtower
16. Elder – Voodoo Child (Slight Return)

All Them Witches, “Voodoo Chile” Live in Seattle, WA

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Sleep, Pentagram and Cult of Luna to Headline Psycho California 2015

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 15th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

True to their word, it’s Jan. 15 and Psycho California 2015 has announced the headliners for what looks like the best American festival lineup I’ve seen since the days of Emissions from the Monolith. That’s not to take away from the hard work anyone else is doing, but just look at the list of bands. It’s unreal. You’d want to be everywhere at the same time to see all of it. Absolutely wild.

Sleep and Pentagram were pretty clear choices to headline. Not only for being legends in the heavy underground, but for also being just about two of the only bands left. Sweden’s Cult of Luna were something of a surprise, but for a festival already showing a European reach in bringing aboard the likes of Samsara Blues Experiment and Stoned Jesus, they make sense. Hell of a bill. Kudos to anyone who actually gets to go to the thing.

Announcement follows, courtesy of the PR wire:





Psycho California, the west coast’s first annual metal festival and a must see for fans of doom, heavy psych and sludge, has announced the headliners for this year’s event: Cult of Luna (May 15), Sleep (May 16) and Pentagram, who will perform First Daze Here in its entirety (May 17).

“2015 is going to be a slow year for Cult of Luna. However as much as we are musicians we are also fans,” said Cult of Luna’s Johannes Persson. “Evaluating if the offer to play Psycho California was worth dusting off our instruments was not hard after looking on the line-up. Being on the same bill as Pentagram, Sleep and a festival packed with the best bands around is a privilege in itself and we’ll try to live up to that honor.”

The lineup for Psycho California is: Sleep, Pentagram, Cult of Luna, Kylesa, OM, Earth, Russian Circles, Bedemon, Conan, Wrench, Eyehategod, Indian, Earthless, Pallbearer, Stoned Jesus, Old Man Gloom, Cave In, Acid Witch, Truckfighters, Tombs, Bang, Electric Citizen, Coffinworm, SubRosa, Eagle Twin, Mammatus, True Widow, Anciients, Bellwitch, Dead Meadow, Lord Dying, Death By Stereo, Radio Moscow, Ancient Altar, Samsara Blues Experiment, Atriarch, Elder, Mothership, The Well, Deathkings, Wo Fat, Rozamov, Destroyer of Light, Highlands, Bloodmoon, Slow Season, Goatsnake, Crypt Trip, Wrench, Lords of Beacon House, Tumbleweed Dealer, Sinister Haze, Blackout, Red Wizard, Banquet and Loom.

Festival interludes will be provided by Housecore Records’ artist Author & Punisher and vinyl DJ set from Bob Lugowe (Relapse Records) and Sean Pellet (Last Daze Here).

Previously announced early bird tickets sold out immediately. Tickets for the festival are on-sale this morning with both a 3-day pass ($149.50) and a 3-day VIP pass available ($256.66)

VIP packages include a 3-day festival pass, a signed screen print concert poster by David D’Andrea, express entry via artist check-in booth, access to artist VIP lounge, a limited edition Thief X Obey festival tee, a Psycho record bag and patch as well as access to a complimentary craft tequila bar, premium microbrews and artisan snacks.

Sleep, “The Clarity/Dragonaut” Live in Chicago, Aug. 28, 2014

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Psycho California 2015 Announces Initial Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The list of bands, quite frankly, is astonishing, but even more astonishing is the fact that  Thief Presents‘ Psycho California 2015 (formerly Psycho de Mayo) hasn’t announced its headliners yet, because these sure as shit look like headliners to me.

A three-day festival set to take place at The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA, Psycho California will feature the following acts:

psycho california

Here’s that list again: Kylesa, Om, Earth, Russian Circles, Orange Goblin, Bedemon, Conan, Indian, Pallbearer, Cave In, Old Man Gloom, Tombs, Earthless, Truckfighters, Bang, Eyehategod, Crowbar, SubRosa, Lord Dying, Acid Witch, Electric Citizen, Coffinworm, Eagle Twin, Stoned Jesus, Mammatus, True Widow, Bell Witch, Death by Stereo, Radio Moscow, Samsara Blues Experiment, Anciients, Elder, Mothership, Ancient Altar, The Well, Deathkings, Wo Fat, Rozamov, Destroyer of Light, Highlands, Bloodmoon, Slow Season, Crypt Trip, Lords of Beacon House, Tumbleweed Dealer, Sinister Haze, Blackout, Red Wizard, Banquet, Loom.

Plus interludes by Author and Punisher.

God damn.

Not only does it cover both coasts, huge bands, legends and up and comers, but the reach is international. Take special note of Conan, since their appearance means that Maryland Deathfest won’t be their only US date, and also Samsara Blues Experiment and Stoned Jesus — two killer European bands that you don’t even go after unless you know what the fuck you’re doing. That also hugely extends the possibilities for headlining acts. It’s an assemblage that’s beyond impressive, and if you haven’t already looked up flights to Southern California, I don’t know what to tell you. As I write this it’s after one in the morning on Sunday night, and you know I wouldn’t be doing that if my mind wasn’t leaking out of my ears at the thought of experiencing this thing.

Stay tuned for more to come, since as the poster says, headliners will be announced on Jan. 15. I’ll be looking forward to finding out who else is in store.

Psycho California on Thee Facebooks

Thief Presents on Twitter

Thief Presents on Thee Facebooks

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Earthless Added to Freak Valley 2015

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster


San Diego instrumental trio Earthless have been announced as the latest addition to Freak Valley 2015. The heavy psych rockers also recently gave notice they’ll be touring Japan in January alongside Eternal Elysium, and no doubt their stop at Freak Valley will come complemented by other European dates as well as they continue to support 2013’s excellent From the Ages (review here), which was released on Tee Pee Records.

Freak Valley 2015 is set for June 4, 5 and 6 in Netphen, Germany, and in joining the lineup, Earthless move into position among other headliners like Goatsnake and Crippled Black Phoenix. It’s a fitting place for the three-piece of guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (also Golden Void), bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba (also OFF!), whose influence has had a significant impact the last several years on San Diego’s burgeoning heavy psych scene, bands like Joy and Psicomagia, among others in and beyond the city limits, taking cues from their dynamic righteousness and classic-style chemistry.

Announcement follows, courtesy of Freak Valley:

earthless freak valley 2015

Listen Freaks!!!

EARTHLESS will bring their Cosmic Jams from San Diego to the holy fields of Freak Valley !!

Formed in 2001, Earthless prides itself on creating energetic, utterly unique and free thinking instrumental music inspired by an eclectic mix of German krautrock and Japanese heavy blues-rock. The Californian trio has dedicated itself to mastery of the mind-bending jam session, evoking the spirits of Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath in equal measure. Named after a song title from vintage New York garage-psych band The Druids of Stonehenge, EARTHLESS’ sound has been called “A sonic kaleidoscope of lava and lightning”, earning it the title of “California’s loudest band”. The group delivers “one of the best live shows in all of modern, heavy rock,” leading to one reviewer stating that the band’s “epic shredding harkens back to the days were psychedelic rock had balls the size of grapefruits and wasn’t afraid to take its listeners on a ride for which they may never return.”

Each member of EARTHLESS has done time in many other bands. Drummer (and former pro skater) Mario Rubalcaba currently plays in the hardcore punk band OFF! and has also occupied the drum throne in Rocket From The Crypt and Hot Snakes amongst many others. Bassist Mike Eginton played with Electric Nazarene and guitarist Isaiah Mitchell was most recently in Howlin’ Rain, has played with Nebula and Drunk Horse and also heads up the Bay Area band Golden Void. In the end, EARTHLESS is the musical rock that grounds the three musicians and now, after more than half a decade since the release of their last studio LP, EARTHLESS has returned and is out to prove — through sheer rock power — why they are considered the cream of the modern day heavy psych scene.

FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL – 4th-5th-6th June 2015

FVF tickets are selling like Blues Pills vinyls already – get yours in time – the first 3 editions have been sold out early!!
We are selling tix to all parts of this planet!!

Tickets: | Only 66€ for 3 days incl. Camping!!

Hardtickets now @ our onlineshop:

Also: | Kozmik Artifactz

FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL: No Fillers – Just Killers

Goatsnake – Earthless – Crippled Black Phoenix – The Vintage Caravan – Electric Moon – Gas Giant – Monkey3 – Danava – Egypt – Siena Root – Bröselmaschine – Sigiryia – Kamchatka – Purson – Dead Man – Mountain Witch – Tuber – Valley of the Sun – Tombstones – more tba soon!!

Earthless, From the Ages (2013)

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Magnetic Eye Records Extends Pressing for Electric Ladyland Redux Jimi Hendrix Tribute

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

jimi hendrix project

Some of today’s finest heavy bands covering some of the best rock and roll ever crafted, the Electric Ladyland [Redux] tribute to Jimi Hendrix from Magnetic Eye Records was going to be a hard one to beat from the start, but at this point what started out as a Kickstarter presale with a $5,000 goal has surpassed five times that. As of this post, it’s over $26,000. Today, Nov. 17, was to be the end of the presale. 500 copies sold, a bonus Best of Jimi Hendrix covers LP (the cover below) included as a thanks to those who contributed enough to get it, done and done. Well, the announcement just came through to the backers that Magnetic Eye is continuing the push.

The new goal? $30,000. That ups the pressing from 500 copies to 1,000. Less than $4,000 to go, and given the scale of the project at this point, that seems infinitely doable. Kudos to the label on coordinating such a powerful assemblage. It’s rare to see the heavy rock scene so universally agree on anything, but I’ve yet to hear any dissent when it comes to this, and the amount of money put in speaks for itself.

Here’s the announcement and the tracklisting for who’s covering what:

best of hendrix lp cover

Electric Ladyland [Redux] by Magnetic Eye Records: Smashed Right Thru SOLD OUT Status! 2nd Stretch Goal, $30,000.00!

Being that we are smashing thru 500 backers and a pressing of 500 LPs we are deciding to put the pedal to the metal and go for 1,000. There will only be a 1 and only first pressing of Electric Ladyland [Redux] so the time to act is now. Tell your friends, your neighbors, etc…. EARTHLESS, ALL THEM WITCHES, THE BUDOS BAND, SUMMONER, ELDER, OPEN HAND, KING BUFFALO, TUNGA MOLN, CLAYMATION, ELEPHANT TREE, GOZU, MOTHERSHIP, WO FAT, MOS GENERATOR, SUPERCHIEF, THE PHUSS covering Electric Ladyland in full with cover art by David Paul Seymour, COME ON!

And if that is not enough, a ‘Best Of’ including Child, Ironweed, Geezer, Stubb, Rosy Finch, Elephant Tree, etc! with cover art by Caitlin Hackett. Out of control. So we made a final stretch goal. Here is the info:

FINAL STRETCH GOAL: $30,000.00 = 1,000 Electric Ladyland [Redux] LPs Pressed

Clearly, we are thrilled with the support and interest this project and these releases are receiving. We are creating a $30,000.00 stretch goal to allow us to increase the amount of records pressed 1,000 to accommodate additional backers. We planned to hit $25K and press 500 copies, as we pass 500 backers we will continue to adjust our plan based on the number of backers and amount pledged. We are already so humbled and grateful. Thank you!

the Electric Ladyland [REDUX] track list:
Elephant Tree “…And the Gods Made Love”
Open Hand “Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland)”
Superchief “Crosstown Traffic”
All Them Witches “Voodoo Child”
The Phuss “Little Miss Strange”
The Budos Band “Long Hot Summer Night”
Earthless “Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)
Wo Fat “Gypsy Eyes”
Mos Generator “Burning of the Midnight Lamp”
Gozu “Rainy Day, Dream Away”
Summoner “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)
Claymation “Moon, Turn the Tides… Gently Gently Away”
Mothership “Still Raining, Still Dreaming”
King Buffalo “House Burning Down”
Tunga Moln “All Along the Watchtower”
Elder “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”

Jimi Hendrix, “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”

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Live Review: Sleep and Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket in Boston, 08.24.14

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

Sleep. (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I parked behind what used to be Boston’s legendary punk venue The Rat and made my way over a bridge across the Masspike, which cuts right through the city, and down a street behind Fenway Park to the House of Blues. It was Sunday night. The evening prior, I’d been in Pennsylvania watching All Them Witches, King Buffalo and King Dead (review here) win hearts and minds at The Living Room in Stroudsburg. I was beat from the drive, but this was Sleep, and some things you just don’t miss when you’re lucky enough to get the chance to see them.

Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket (Photo by JJ Koczan)House of Blues. Big. Corporate, but clearly run by professionals. Mezzanine tickets cost more, I think. The privilege of standing further away at a premium. Uh huh. I walked in and over to the crowded merch area — even Sleep‘s t-shirts seemed to cause a mosh pit to break out — and found Arik Roper selling vinyl, pillowcases, posters, etc. He seemed to be busy all night, and for good reason. Sleep‘s new single, “The Clarity” (review here), had just gotten a 12″ release, and legitimately it was sweet looking. Then, poof, it was gone.

Run down though I was — and, if I’m honest, still am — I’d have had a hard time pretending not to be excited for this show. Anytime Sleep comes around, it’s a special occasion, something to be celebrated, and the support slot being filled by a one-off Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket jam only added to the appeal, the influential San Diego trio — it seems fair to think of them at this point as a nexus for the current crop of heavy psych bands coming out of that area — teaming up with J. Mascis (Heavy Blanket, Witch, Dinosaur Jr.) for what if I’m not mistaken was the first time since their performance at Roadburn 2012 (Sleep also played that year), a staggering landmark of jammed heavy recently issued as the Earthless Meets Heavy BlanketIn a Dutch Haze vinyl and CD (review here). As far as nights go, I knew this was going to be a good one.

There was no grand introduction as Earthless — guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (also Golden Void), bassist Mike Egington and drummer Mario Rubalcaba — took the stage, no “Guess who this is!” posturing. They rolled in, turned on their amps, Rubalcaba took his seat behind the drums, in front of the riser that Sleep‘s Jason Roeder would soon occupy, and slammed into 45 minutes of straight jamming. The interplay between Mitchell and Mascis, who shared a side of the stage, was unbelievable, and as Egington and Rubalcaba locked a foundation down early, the guitarists set about tripping out solos and effects washes and riffs that would carry through for the entirety of the cosmic exploration. Whatever you might’ve called the piece — “In a Fenway Haze?”Sleep (Photo by JJ Koczan) — it moved up and down and sideways, was molten in its changes and overwhelming in its sprawl.

The thing to do was to lose yourself in it. That’s harder in a live space — at least sober — than when listening to a record, but if anyone was ever going to take you on a ride, it was these cats. And they did. Even the big rock finish of the set was about five minutes long, everything huge, swirling and terrifying in both cohesion and scale. I dug it, I dug it, I dug it, and I’m willing to bet six new bands formed in the crowd while Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket played. All the better. Sleep would be on a different rip when they came out, but were no less glorious, the kings of stoner riffing riding high both on the new single and on the promise of an inaugural Australian tour to come, and a couple more shows on this run as well. Bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also Om), guitarist Matt Pike (also High on Fire) and Roeder (also Neurosis) came out after a short break, and it was plain from the start of opener “Sonic Titan” that everyone was having a really good time on stage.

I think back to the first time I saw Sleep, four years ago in Brooklyn. They killed. God damn were they loud. But watching them play, you could see the differences in how they handled themselves on stage. Cisneros came across like he might’ve with Om, a very contemplative, subdued presence. Pike, in contrast, was battle-axe brazen, everything one might expect from watching a High on Fire gig. As the two founding members of the band with Roeder between them, the split in personality was evident, right there to be seen. At House of Blues, it was just the opposite. Not only in how Cisneros and Pike interacted, but in their individual presences and in how solid the three-piece was with RoederSleep weren’t so much a reunion act whose members went on to find success in other bands. That disparity was nonexistent. They were a vital trio, reveling in their classic material — Sleep’s Holy Mountain featured heavily with “From Beyond” and “Holy Mountain” early and “Aquarian” and “Dragonaut” after delving into “Dopesmoker” — but more than ever that I’ve seen them, very obviously ready to move forward as well.

Perhaps that was most evident in Cisneros‘ performance. He toyed with the rhythm of his vocal delivery for “Dopesmoker” and elsewhere — the clarion lines “Drop out of life with bong in hand/Follow Sleep (Photo by JJ Koczan)the smoke toward the riff-filled land” marked by a sustained, almost growling “drop” — and when the stoner caravan of “From Beyond” arrived, it did so with delighted emphasis on “stoner.” Predictably, at some point late in the set, someone tossed a joint on stage, and Pike, who had an electric cigarette on standby, gave it over to Cisneros, who lit up and earned a round of applause for it. He was far from the only one in the room.

“Dragonaut” got the biggest response of the night, which one would expect, but for me, seeing them play “The Clarity” complete with the sampled, compressed intro of its central riff, was a particular highlight, and the appeal of watching Sleep perform their first new recorded material in over a decade’s time wasn’t lost on the crowd either. They closed out with a wash of noise and riffs in “Antarcticans Thawed” and “Cultivator,” as if to further emphasize the vitality and relevance of their project and its ongoing nature. By then, House of Blues was a place of worship, and anywhere Sleep wanted to go, the place was ready to follow. Their utter command of their sound, the joy and chemistry they conveyed in delivering it, and the sheer volume with which they did were remarkable. Even before they were done I found myself asking what could’ve been better, any sense of impartiality I might posture having been reduced to a pummeled mush of fanboy glee.

Feedback carried over after they were done, but those who hadn’t left still showed appreciation after the amps were turned off — pretty sure that was Stoneburner‘s Damon Kelly I saw tech’ing, and if so, I wonder if he was in charge of the endearingly fake setlist at the front of the stage with some choice Montrose song titles like “Rock the Nation” and “Clown Woman” — and there was a short cry for one more song before the house lights came up. Soon enough, it was time to mill out and back across that highway-spanning bridge to the car, the bounce of “Dragonaut” still holding sway on my consciousness, though, admittedly, that seems to be a permanent condition.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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