Kanaan, Odense Sessions: Consecutive Seconds

Posted in Reviews on February 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

kanaan odense sessions

On the Danish island of Funen, westward across the Storebæltsbroen from (old) Zealand and Amager, where Copenhagen is located, is the city of Odense. The city is home to, among other things, the studio of Jonas Munk, who is best known for his guitar and production work as a part of Danish psych-desert-jazz pastoralists Causa Sui, as well as his solo work and efforts as a part behind the scenes of El Paraiso Records. The label released the debut album from Oslo, Norway’s Kanaan, Windborne, in 2018, and for the follow-up, Munk not only helmed the recording in Odense, but sat in on guitar on each of the LP’s four tracks, adding to the semi-improvised fluidity of guitarist Ask Vatn Strøm, bassist Eskild Myrvoll and drummer Ingvald André Vassbø and further fleshing out the 46-minute instrumentalist set that speaks less immediately to the nuance and bop of jazz than to the atmospheric reach of psychedelia, and while particularly the 14-minute capper “Urgent Excursions to the Tundrasphere” has underlying motion in its steady punctuation of snare and the entire album prior wants little for movement, the overarching vibe of Odense Sessions is much more about casting a laid back, serene immersion for the listener.

I’m not sure it’s fair to call Odense Sessions hypnotic, since Kanaan and Munk aren’t exactly working toward simply inducing a trance either on their audience or entirely on themselves, but the nature of its flow and the ease-into-groove it hones ahead of its last freakout is such that, should one want to put it on and simply check out mentally for three quarters of an hour, it’s certainly possible to do so. At the same time, the longform liquefaction of “Seemingly Changeless Stars” (11:51) at the outset brings a gorgeous sense of drift to the album’s beginning that is nothing if not worth conscious attention. The trio-plus-one build into a procession that very much works in that vein, with one guitar following the bass and drums while the other peppers with ambience and weaves around the central rhythm being crafted. By the time they’re five minutes in, Vassbø‘s drums have grown louder and the guitars more prevalent — bass is steady, an anchor, present, not staid; could be louder in the mix but I almost always say that about everything — and the smoothness of the build is more apparent, even as it continues to mount.

Payoff arrives circa 10 minutes in with the inclusion of what sounds like Mellotron but might just be synth, but it’s important to note that the peaceful feel with which the song started remains, even as the wash is at its most fervent in “Seemingly Changeless Stars” before it drops back to standalone guitar and the drums begin the 8:11 “Of Raging Billows Breaking on the Ground” (there’s that bass). The later moments of Windborne dug into riffier fare, so it’s not out of character for Odense Sessions to do so either on its only track under 11 and a half minutes long, but the side A closer soon enough transitions into its own outward exploratory motion and the question becomes whether or not Kanaan are going to shift back to that central riff they introduced earlier. They don’t make the listener wait to find out, as at about five and a half minutes in, the figure returns as the bed beneath an overarching drift of lead guitar — one presumes that’s Munk while Strøm is holding down the rhythm, but it could just as easily be the opposite — and takes hold again of the proceedings in a triumphant return during the final minute in a skillfully executed blend of improvisation and structure. It is pulled off righteously and ends the first half of Odense Sessions on a high note.

kanaan (Photo by Jenny Berger Myhre)

Side B is the longer of the two on the LP, but that seems unlikely to cause complaints as “Vacant Spaces” (11:39) and the already-noted “Urgent Excursions to the Tundrasphere” begin to unfold, the former starting off in mirror fashion to “Seemingly Changeless Stars” with a quiet stretch of interweaving guitar lines and a could-listen-to-it-all-day peacefulness of mood that is genuinely affecting. Myrvoll and Vassbø pull together a subdued swing behind the two guitars that is not to be understated for how effective it is in carrying the proceedings forward and engaging the listener in the spirit of the song. Four minutes pass like it’s nothing, then five, and as they move toward six, the linear build becomes more apparent, and though it’s a bittersweet to let go of the stillness and the meditative moment at the beginning of “Vacant Spaces,” the track moves through a slowly rolling motion that is still kind of an understated crescendo, worthy of its beginning and not at all overdone, but definitely a journey from one end to the other. One might say the same of the closer, or the album as a whole, and not be at all incorrect.

It would seem to be the aforementioned snare that earns the word “urgent” in the title of “Urgent Excursions to the Tundrasphere,” while the “excursion” in question is obviously the all-go-all-gone sensibility of the improvisational undertaking and the “Tundrasphere” perhaps an acknowledgement of Kanaan‘s northern origins and the nonetheless spaced-out spirit they case. A central difference between Odense Sessions and Windborne is in the simple rawness of the tones on the earlier release. The guitar, even when not casting thicker riffing, could have a bite to it that Odense Sessions trades out in favor of the warmth that, even as the finale shifts to its most active riffing and soloing, is maintained. Loud or quiet, it’s not a challenge to hear the fruit borne of the collaboration between Vassbø, Strøm, Myrvoll and Munk, and as “Urgent Excursions to the Tundrasphere” hits its peak with its howls of synth and guitar and tom fills, it’s worth noting that Kanaan once more bring it back to ground to close out not on a raucous note, but a peaceful one, spending the last three minutes of the song in a sunshiny soundscape that, while still perhaps reeling from the tension prior, is purposefully removed from it.

That ending is fairly earned and wholly satisfying, and one only hopes that whatever Kanaan do next — whether it’s in collaboration with Munk, anyone else, or on their own — they take the experience of Odense Sessions and learn from it as they move forward. Given the inclusion of a fourth personage here, it’s hard to relate the LP directly to Windborne in terms of an overall progression of the band, but even the fact of their willingness to explore beyond their own bounds speaks to their open creative spirit, and that can only continue to serve them well. It definitely does in these tracks.

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Monarch Announce First-Ever European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

monarch

San Diego classic heavy rock pastoralists Monarch were already announced as taking part in Desertfest London and Esbjerg Fuzztival, so a tour was suspected, but it’s nice to have confirmation that, indeed, that’s the plan. The five-piece will go abroad for the first time while supporting their second album, Beyond the Blue Sky (review here), which came out last August on El Paraiso Records. The final date of the run is the aforementioned Esbjerg Fuzztival in Denmark, where they’ll join fellow San Diegans Sacri Monti as well as El Paraiso label heads Causa Sui on the bill, rounding out the tour on what would seem to be a planned high note. It’s a month-long stretch, so as an initial incursion abroad it’s not unambitious, but I have a hard time imagining they won’t find welcome in all corners.

Tour is presented by Ya Ya Yeah Booking and El Paraiso. Here’s the band’s announcement:

MONARCH TOUR

Very excited to announce our maiden voyage across the pond this upcoming spring! More dates TBA. Thanks to Ya Ya Yeah and El Paraiso Records for helping us make this happen! See you soon Europe…

09 APR FR Le Havre Mc Daid’s
10 APR FR Clermont-Ferrand Raymond Bar
11 APR BE Liege Insert Name Festival #6
12 APR DE Kusel Willkommen im Dschungel
14 APR DE Aachen The Wild Rover Irish Pub
15 APR PL Poznan Klub u Bazyla
16 APR PL Gdansk GAK Plama
17 APR DE Berlin Zukunft am Ostkreuz HEADZ UP
18 APR PL Cracow Warsztat
19 APR PL Warsaw Potok : Drugi Dom Ludzi Rocka
21 APR DE Dresden Chemiefabrik
24 APR IT Sezzadio Cascina Bellaria Music Club
25 APR IT Pescara Tube Cult Fest
26 APR IT Treviso Krach Club
28 APR FR Troyes The Message
29 APR FR Nantes La Scène Michelet
02 MAY NL Zwolle Eureka Zwolle
03 MAY UK London Desertfest London
04 MAY UK Bournemouth Anvil Rockbar Bournemouth
05 MAY FR Rouen Le 3 Pièces Muzik’Club
06 MAY FR Dijon MondoFuzz
07 MAY FR Paris La Pointe Lafayette
09 MAY DK Esbjerg Esbjerg Fuzztival

Monarch is:
Dominic Denholm – Guitar/Vocals
Thomas Dibenedetto – Guitar
James Upton – Guitar
Matt Weiss – Bass
Andrew Ware – Drums

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Monarch Premiere “Counterpart” Video; Beyond the Blue Sky out Aug. 9

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monarch

The kind of sunshine that the rest of the world imagines only exists in Southern California plays a significant role in the listening experience of Monarch‘s second album, Beyond the Blue Sky. The title, of course, isn’t about the sun, but about the entirety of space, and the idea of leaving the planet’s atmosphere behind to launch into the void beyond. Fair enough for the cosmic impulses the classically progressive San Diego five-piece weave into the seven tracks/38 minutes of the El Paraiso Records LP, but they remain grounded with a natural sense of songwriting beneath the wash of effects, lush echoes, sax, synth and so on, as songs like opener “Hanging by a Thread” sneak their way into the frontal cortex and set up shop there via guitar-in-triplicate and groove to match, the band pushing aside some of the boogie for which their home-burg is known in favor of these interplanetary ambitions. Oh, it suits them just fine, whether in the ol’ roll ‘n’ nod of the aforementioned leadoff or the sax-laden fluidity of “Divided Path,” which follows.

“Hanging by a Thread” is both the opener and the longest song on Beyond the Blue Sky at 7:06 (immediate points), and “Divided Path,” “Pangea” and the centerpiece title-track follow in descending order (quadruple points?), so monarch beyond the blue skythe intent on Monarch‘s part toward listener-immersion is pretty well telegraphed, but as ever for the best of psychedelic rock, the point of the voyage is the going, and they go pretty far out. With the vocals of guitarist Dominic Denholm cutting through the wash of tone and fuzz on “Divided Path,” calling to mind Greg Lake-era King Crimson on the jazzy “Pangea” and the flow conjured all around by fellow guitarists Thomas Dibenedetto (also Sacri Monti) and James Upton, bassist Matt Weiss and Andrew Ware, unafraid to tap into country sweetness on “Beyond the Blue Sky” itself at the outset of a three-parter with the synthy “Phenomena” and the shimmering psych of “Counterpart” rounding out, with watery closer “Felo de Se” still to arrive, there’s no question they reach the level of engagement they seem to be shooting for at the launch, pulling their audience with them as they make every effort to live up to the title and, seemingly, getting there as well. Like its predecessor, Two Isles (review here), Beyond the Blue Sky has more than a few moments of outright gorgeousness, but it’s the way it all complements each other that makes it so essential.

Which it is. Even among the crowded ranks of San Diego, Monarch stand themselves out through the progressive modus of their approach, and while they share an affinity for classic stylizations with a good number of their peers, their take on it is decidedly their own and shines through performance and songwriting alike.

You can check out the premiere of a tripped-out video for “Counterpart” below, made by Ricky Macaw, who pretty much nailed it. Beyond the Blue Sky is out Aug. 9.

Enjoy:

Monarch, “Counterpart” official video premiere

There’s something refreshing about Monarch’s take on psychedelic rock: they aren’t afraid to weave allman brothers-esque dual guitar lines with synthesizers and saxophone. They can be heavy, but there’s an unmistakable panoramic quality to their compositions too, reflecting the rich and diverse environment they’ve grown up in, with dazzling pacific coastlines, mountains and desert highways.

Compared to their debut album, ”Two Isles” from 2016, Beyond The Blue Sky is a more complex record. The three year journey has led the band through several separate recording sessions and ended up going all-analog at Audio Design studios. It’s an album that’s meticulously crafted and with sights set on new musical territory. Their songwriting has matured and each track feels like a mini-epic, travelling unexpected routes before reaching their sonic destination. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the album’s centerpiece, the three-part Beyond The Blue Sky/Phenomena/Counterpart, where Monarch manages to fuse all their influences into one mammoth composition. It’s an album to drive off into a careless summer sunset and beyond.

Monarch is:
Dominic Denholm – Guitar/Vocals
Thomas Dibenedetto – Guitar
James Upton – Guitar
Matt Weiss – Bass
Andrew Ware – Drums

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Jonas Munk & Nicklas Sørensen to Release Always Already Here in August

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Alright, now you listen to me because I’m probably only going to say this seven or eight more times. You set some silly little alert on your phone or you sign up for an email list from El Paraiso Records or you do whatever you have to do, and when Jonas Munk & Nicklas Sørensen‘ debut collaborative album, Always Already Here, is back in for preorder, you get that order in and you make that happen, because it’s the only way they’re going to keep doing records together and FOR THE SAKE OF ALL HUMANITY, that is a thing we very much want. Munk, of course of Danish heavy prog-psych instrumentalists Causa Sui, and Sørensen, of countrymen expansive jammers Papir, have both done solo outings through El Paraiso in the past, and that’s super, but if you’re curious why I might be approaching this topic with such a measure of urgency, listen to the track “Shift” below. True, it’s only one song, and I’m sure it doesn’t necessarily speak to the character of the entire album, but god damn it, this is the kind of shit that when the aliens come to destroy our species because we wasted the planet, we’ll be able to point to and say, “Yeah, but some of us made this stuff,” and maybe, just maybe, get away unvaporized.

Release date is Aug. 16.

Make it so:

jonas munk nicklas sorensen always already here

Jonas Munk & Nicklas Sørensen: Always Already Here

We’re proud to announce this collaborative effort from Jonas Munk (Causa Sui) and Nicklas Sørensen (Papir), out August 16th! Read more and swim away in the 10 minute opening track here.

Jonas Munk and Nicklas Sørensen team up for a genre-defying record that explores American minimalism, psychedelia, and electronic music – both vintage and contemporary. On a foundation of interlocking guitar and synthesizer patterns, the duo constructs lengthy pieces that are experimental yet welcoming in nature, precisely executed yet with room for soaring improvisation.

Always Already Here pays homage to the masters of classical minimalism (Steve Reich, Terry Riley) and the pioneers of electronic music and kosmische (Brian Eno, Manuel Göttsching), still it doesn’t sound derivative or retrospective. The type of hypnotic bliss Munk and Sørensen strive for is distinctly timeless.

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Quarterly Review: Earthless, Satan’s Satyrs, Mantar, Child, T.G. Olson, Canyon, Circle of the Sun, Mythic Sunship, Svarta Stugan, Bast

Posted in Reviews on December 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

There isn’t enough coffee in the universe, but I’ve got mine and I’m ready to burn the living crap out of my tongue if that’s what it takes to get through. We’ve arrived at Day 4 of the Quarterly Review, and though we’re less than halfway to the 100-album goal set by some maniac sitting at his kitchen table with a now-burnt tongue, there’s been an awful lot of good stuff so far. More even than I thought going into it, and I slate this stuff.

That said, today’s list is pretty killer. A lot of these bands will be more familiar than maybe has been the case or will be on some of the other days of this Quarterly Review. It just kind of worked out that way as I was putting it together. But hey, a few bigger bands here, a few “debut EP” demos there. It’s all good fun.

So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Earthless, From the West

earthless from the west

Bonus points to whatever clever cat correctly decided that Earthless‘ 2018 studio album, Black Heaven (review here), needed a companion live record. With artwork mimicking a Led Zeppelin bootleg of the same name, From the West arrives through Silver Current and Nuclear Blast capturing the most powerful of power trios earlier this year in San Francisco, and it’s like the fire emoji came to life. With Mike Eginton‘s bass as the anchor and Mario Rubalcaba‘s drums as the driving force, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell starts ripping holes in the fabric of spacetime with “Black Heaven” and doesn’t stop until 64 minutes later as “Acid Crusher” dissolves into noise. Of course “Gifted by the Wind” from the latest LP is a highlight, and suitably enough, they cover Zeppelin‘s “Communication Breakdown,” but I’m not sure anything tops the extended take on “Uluru Rock” from 2013’s From the Ages (review here) — and yes, I mean that. Of course they pair it with the 1:48 surge of “Volt Rush,” because they’re Earthless, and brilliant is what they do. Every set they play should be recorded for posterity.

Earthless website

Silver Current Records on Bandcamp

Earthless at Nuclear Blast webstore

 

Satan’s Satyrs, The Lucky Ones

satans satyrs the lucky ones

Encased in cover art that begs the Spinal Tap question, “what’s wrong with being sexy?” and the response that Fran Drescher gave it, Virginia classic heavy rockers Satan’s Satyrs return with their fourth full-length, The Lucky Ones (on RidingEasy and Bad Omen), which also marks their first record as a four-piece with guitarist Nate Towle (Wicked Inquisition) joining the returning lineup of bassist/vocalist Clayton Burgess, guitarist Jared Nettnin and drummer Stephen Fairfield, who, between the fact that Burgess founded the band and played in Electric Wizard, and all the lead guitar antics from Nettnin and Towle, might be the unsung hero of the band. His performance is not lost in the recording by Windhand‘s Garrett Morris or Burgess‘ own hefty mix, and as one would expect, Satan’s Satyrs continue to deliver deceptively refined ’70s-heavy vibes caked in cult biker horror aesthetics. Some songs hit more than others, but Satan’s Satyrs‘ dust-kicking approach continues to win converts.

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Bad Omen Records on Bandcamp

 

Mantar, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze

mantar the modern art of setting ablaze

One generally thinks of Hamburg duo Mantar as having all the subtlety of a bone saw caught on video, and yet, in listening to “Seek + Forget” from their third album, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze (on Nuclear Blast), there are some elements that seem to be reaching out on the part of the band. Guitarist Hanno‘s vocals are more enunciated and discernible, there is a short break from the all-out blackened-sludge-punk assault that’s been their trade since their start in 2012, and “Obey the Obscene” even has an organ. Still, the bulk of the 12-track/48-minute follow-up to 2016’s Ode to the Flame (review here) is given to extremity of purpose and execution, and in pieces like the churning “Anti Eternia” and the particularly-punked “Teeth of the Sea,” they work to refine their always-present threat of violence. Closer “The Funeral” brings back some of the quiet moodiness of intro “The Knowing” and underscores the point of sonic expansion. I hope next time they use a string section.

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Child, I

child i

It took me a few minutes to get to the heart of what my problem with Child‘s I EP is. Really, I was sitting and listening to “Age Has Left Me Behind” — the first of the three included tracks on the 20-ish-minute 12″ — and I had to ask myself, “Why is this annoying me?” The answer? Because it’s not an album. That’s it. It’s not enough. Kudos to the Melbourne, Australia, heavy blues trio on having that be the biggest concern with their latest release — it follows 2016’s righteously-grooved Blueside (review here) — and kudos to them as well for their cover of Spirit‘s “The Other Song,” but of course it’s the 10-minute jam “Going Down Swinging” on side B that’s the immersive highlight of I, as Child‘s balance of softshoe-boogie and expansive mellow-psych is second to none in their subgenre. It’s not an album, and that’s kind of sad, but as a tide-ya-over until the next long-player arrives, I still does the trick nice and easy. And not to get greedy, but I’d take a II (or would it be You?) whenever they get around to it.

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Kozmik Artifactz website

 

T.G. Olson, Wasatch Valley Lady & The Man from Table Mountain

tg olson wasatch valley lady and the man from table mountain

Across Tundras frontman T.G. Olson, who by now has well lapped that band’s output with his solo catalog, would seem to have sat down with his guitar sometime in the last week and put two songs to tape. The resulting 10-minute offering is Wasatch Valley Lady & The Man from Table Mountain, its component title-tracks stripping down some of the more elaborate arrangements he’s explored of late — his latest full-length, Riding Roughshod (review pending; it’s hard to keep up), came out in October — to expose the barebones construction at root in his Rocky Mountain country folk style. “Wasatch Valley Lady” and “The Man from Table Mountain” make an engaging couple, and while Olson has a host of videos on YouTube that are similarly just him and his acoustic, something about the audio-only recordings feel like a voice out of time reaching for human connection. The first seems to have a natural fade, and the second a more prominent rhythm showcased in harder strum, but both are sweet melodies evocative as ever of open landscapes and wistful experience.

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Canyon, Mk II

canyon mk ii

The Deep Purple-referential Mk II title of Canyon‘s second EP, also the follow-up to their 2017 debut LP, Radiant Light, refers to the lineup change that’s seen Dean Welsh move to drums so that he and guitarist Peter Stanko can welcome bassist/vocalist Fred Frederick to the fold. The three included songs, the hooky “Mine Your Heart,” expansively fuzzed “Morphine Dreams” and bouncing “Roam” make a hell of a first offering from the reconstituted trio, who capture classic heavy naturalism in a chemistry between players that’s mirrored in the songwriting itself. Canyon‘s 2016 self-titled debut EP (review here) held marked promise, and even after the full-length, that promise would seem to be coming to fruition here. Their tones and craft are both right on, and there’s still some gelling to do between the three of them, but they leave no doubt with Mk II that this incarnation of Canyon can get there. And, if they keep up like this, get there quickly.

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Circle of the Sun, Jams of Inner Perception

Circle of the Sun Jams of Inner Perception

One man jams! Psych-jam seekers will recognize Daniel Sax as the drummer for Berlin-based trio Cosmic Fall. Circle of the Sun is a solo-project from Sax and Jams of Inner Perception collects six tracks for 39 minutes of adventuring on his own. Sax sets his own backbeat and layers bass and “effectsbass” for a full-lineup feel amid the instrumental creations, and those looking to be hypnotized by the space-rocking jams will be. Flat out. Sax is no stranger to jamming, and as one soaks in “Jamming in Paradise” or its nine-minute predecessor “Liquid Sand,” there’s little mistaking his intention. Curious timing that Circle of the Sun would take shape following a lineup change in Cosmic Fall — perhaps it was put together in the interim? — but whether Jams of Inner Perception is a one-off of the beginning of a new avenue for Sax, its turn to blues noodling on “Desert Sun,” thick-toned “Moongroove” and fuzzy roll on “Acid Dream” demonstrate there are plenty of outer realms still to explore.

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Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

Mythic Sunship Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

The simplest way to put it is that Mythic Sunship‘s Another Shape of Psychedelic Music lives up to the lofty ambitions of its title. The Danish band is comprised of guitarists Kasper Stougaard Andersen and Emil Thorenfeldt, bassist Rasmus ‘Cleaver’ Christensen, drummer Frederik Denning and saxophonist Søren Skov, and with Causa Sui‘s Jonas Munk — who also produced the album — sitting in on the extended “Backyard Voodoo” (17:41) and “Out There” (13:53) as well as overseeing the release through El Paraiso, the band indeed makes there way into the far out reaches where jazz and psychedelia meet. It’s not about pretentiously saying they’re doing something that’s never been done. You’ll note it’s “another shape” and not a “new shape” or the “shape to come.” But immersion happens quickly on opener “Resolution” (14:23), and even quicker cuts like “Last Exit,” “Way Ahead” and “Elevation” carry the compelling spirit of forward-thinking creativity through their dynamic course, and if Mythic Sunship aren’t the shape of psychedelic music to come, it’s in no small part because there are so few out there who could hope to match what they do.

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El Paraiso Records website

 

Svarta Stugan, Islands / Öar

svarta stugan islands oar

Islands / Öar — the second word being the Swedish translation of the first — is the 40-minute debut full-length from Gothenburg atmospheric heavy post-rock instrumentalists Svarta Stugan, who demonstrate in influence from Hex-era Earth on the opener “Islands III” but go on in subsequent tracks to pull together a sound distinct in its cinematic feel and moody execution. Five out of the seven component tracks are “Islands” pieces, which are presented out of order with “Islands IV” missing and “Islands Unknown” perhaps in its place, and the respective side A/B finales “Inner Space” and “Prospects Quatsi” standing apart. Both bring to bear a style ultimately consistent with the melancholy so rife throughout Islands / Öar as a whole, but they’re obviously intended as outliers, and so they seem to be. The LP release follows a couple shorter outings, issued over the past six-plus years, and it’s clear from the depths and range on display here in the build-to-crescendo of “Inner Space” alone that Svarta Stugan haven’t misspent their time in their progression to this point.

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Bast, Nanoångström

bast nanoangstrom

Largesse of scope and largesse of tone work in tandem on Bast‘s Nanoångström full-length on Black Bow, as they bring together aspects of post-metallic churn and more extreme metal methods to hone a style highly individualized, highly weighted and as much cosmic as it is crushing. Through six tracks and 57 minutes, the London trio (plus two guest spots from Chris Naughton of Winterfylleth) careen and crash and set an atmosphere of chaos without actually being chaotic, their progressive craft working to tie the songs together into a larger impression of the work as a consuming entirety. It’s the kind of record you pick up and still hear new things in by the time they put out their next one. Production from Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio only helps creates the heights and depths of their dynamic, and whether they’re rolling out the severity of closer “The Ghosts Which Haunt the Space Between the Stars” or laying out the soundscape of “The Beckoning Void,” Bast shape the tenets of genre to suit their needs rather than try to work within the barriers of any particular style. Nanoångström is all the more complex and satisfying for their efforts in that regard.

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Causa Sui, Free Ride: Enduring Vibe

Posted in Reviews on November 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

causa sui free ride

If you only know Causa Sui through their latter day work in their Summer Sessions series (review herediscussed here), or on their 2016 and 2017 studio albums bringing together heavy psychedelic exploration with progressive krautrock/jazz fusion, Return to Sky (review here) and Vibraciones Doradas (review here), a revisit to 2007’s Free Ride is going to highlight just how different a band they’ve become in the ensuing 11 years. Out of print in its original edition as their first outing for Elektrohasch Schallplatten following their 2005 self-titled debut on Nasoni (some day that CD will be mine), Free Ride is given a new art treatment in 2018 to bring its original cover in line with the aesthetics of their imprint El Paraiso Records and is presented as a 71-minute 2LP remastered by the band’s own Jonas Munk that includes a side D comprised entirely of a 19-minute rendition of the song “El Paraiso” for which the label is named, recorded live at Roadburn 2007.

The inclusion of that signature piece has been listed as the definitive version, though it’s also appeared on the band’s live outings, 2014’s Live at Freak Valley (review here) and 2017’s Live in Copenhagen (review here), so indeed it’s a staple of their performances. And it’s not a minor inclusion here, even next to Free Ride closer “Newborn Road,” which consumes side C and is 15 minutes long, but it doesn’t necessarily define the vibe of the album itself. That work is done more by the way the album unfolds with the increasing immersion of its side A, with the acoustics of the opening title-track leading to the spacier push of “Lotus” and the fuzzy-crunch into spacious, Made in Japan-style buildup of “White Sun.” That song is a riot and has been for 11 years, but again, for those who’ve taken on Causa Sui really at any point since the release of 2013’s Euporie Tide (discussed here), Free Ride is going to be a surprise in its rock-based sound and even more for the inclusion of vocals.

Understand, it’s not a completely different sonic context, and with cuts like “White Sun,” side B leadoff “Passing Breeze” and “Newborn Road” ranging upwards and north of 10 minutes apiece — not to mention “El Paraiso” as a bonus track pushing the outing to eight songs in 71 minutes — the adventurousness of sound for which Causa Sui have become known is still visible in hindsight in this material. Even “Free Ride” and the easy-flowing “Flowers of Eventide” that caps side B with its acoustic guitars, flutes and tambourine speak to the open vibe with which the Copenhagen-based outfit were working at the time, but the presence of Kasper Markus on vocals as frontman along with Munk (who also recorded, mixed and mastered the album originally) on guitar, organ, electrics and vocals, bassist Jess Kahr, drummer/percussionist/cover artist Jakob Skøtt puts Free Ride roundly in the territory of heavy psychedelia. The classic boogie on “Lotus,” the atmospheric organ work on “White Sun,” the sweeping fuzz, drift and final culmination of “Newborn Road” all seem to commune with a heavy ’70s mindset, but at the same time it’s impossible to ignore the influence of what was then Europe’s burgeoning heavy psych scene, and I don’t think we’re meant to.

causa sui free ride lp

In the guitar tones, in Markus‘ vocal approach and in the propensity for fluid, well-directed jamming, Free Ride has always been a smooth fit in the Elektrohasch canon of the time, along with records by Colour Haze, Josiah and even The Kings of Frog Island, which isn’t to mention others like Sgt. Sunshine or fellow Danish groups Gas Giant and the more garage-minded Baby Woodrose. What distinguished Causa Sui then still distinguishes them now: their instrumental chemistry. Listening to the winding blast of fuzz in “El Paraiso” or the sheer forward movement of “Lotus” earlier in the record, the foundation of what the band has become in the years since is right there in the work of Kahr, Skøtt and Munk. They’d go on to develop it in various directions, of course, but there’s no taking away from the prowess or how well they work together on Free Ride, the live-sounding production of which is organic enough to transition easily into “El Paraiso” such that it feels more like the closing of a set than the end of an album.

And of course, underscoring the instrumentality of a reissue from a band who’d go on to work instrumentally is a good deal of historical lensing, but that’s not to take away from what Markus does on vocals either. He’s a significant contributor to the heavy psych feel of these tracks, whether it’s the echo stretching out to lead into the midsection jam of “White Sun” or his standing out front of the charge of the raucous fuzzer “Top of the Hill,” providing a human anchor to the frenetic momentum built as the track shifts into its second-half nod-out. Markus had appeared on the self-titled as well, and at the time it wasn’t known this would be his final studio offering with them so this isn’t like a guest dropping by the studio and, “Oh hey, while I’m here I’ll be the frontman.” He was a member of this band, and especially in that light, including the “El Paraiso” recording from Roadburn seems prudent, since it so excellently captures this form of Causa Sui on stage, which is clearly how they were meant to be experienced given the live feel of the recording itself.

But if Free Ride is arguing in favor of its listeners showing up to a Causa Sui gig, one can only count that point as having been made in the years since, given their position at the forefront of Europe’s heavy psychedelic underground, their fostering of acts through El Paraiso RecordsMunk and Skøtt‘s solo work, etc. They are, in fact, relentlessly creative, and what this reissue does — aside from the simple fact of making the album available again; which is enough reason on its own for it to exist — is capture that creativity as it was just beginning to bloom. A year later, they’d start their Summer Sessions series and continue it through 2008-2009, and from there expand their sound immensely as their interests led them along various other directions for the Pewt’r SessionsEuporie Tide and their work since. What Free Ride does, though, is present one of the two examples of the foundation from whence that expansion grew, and whether being viewed as a document of modern heavy psych in the making or just as a killer heavy rock record with immersive jams, natural tones and a soulful vocal and instrumental execution, there’s no question it stands up to the 11 years since it first arrived.

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Mythic Sunship Announce 2LP Another Shape of Psychedelic Music Due Oct. 5

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mythic sunship

Unlikely that the Ornette Coleman reference in the use of the word ‘shape’ in the title Another Shape of Psychedelic Music is a coincidence. Given Copenhagen four-piece Mythic Sunship‘s jazz-psych proclivities, The Shape of Jazz to Come is probably right on the record shelf next to Coltrane‘s A Love Supreme and assorted concurrent outings from Miles DavisSun Ra and others. Fair enough. Throw in some classic exploratory instrumentalist psychedelia from the likes of Causa Sui — whose Jonas Munk produced the six-tracker and appears on two of its cuts, in addition to releasing it through Causa Sui‘s respected imprint, El Paraiso Records — and you get a beginning understanding of the blend of soaring sax and airy guitar that permeates, flowing easy in some places and off at a sprint in others but always immersive for the 67-minute duration. As the direct follow-up to earlier-2018’s Upheaval (review here) and 2017’s Land Between Rivers (review here), the album does indeed offer another shape, and that shape seems to change throughout according to the band’s will.

I’ll hope to have more to come on this one, but it’s out Oct. 5 on El Paraiso, as the PR wire affirms:

Mythic Sunship Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

Mythic Sunship to Release New LP, ‘Another Shape of Psychedelic Music’, October 5

Explorative Copenhagen Quartet Delivers Deep Dive Into Incendiary Cosmic Rock with Blazing New Double Album

Danish progressive space rock band Mythic Sunship will release its new LP, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music, on October 5 via El Paraiso Records. The fearless group creates epic music — cataclysmic and complex — that pulls from ‘60’s blues-rock, jazz-rock fusion and the golden era of ’70’s prog rock, bursting with improvisation and an avant-garde spirit. A six track double LP, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music, follows Mythic Sunship’s Upheaval, a critically lauded LP released earlier this year.

With a band name mingled from album titles by John Coltrane and Sun Ra one might expect Mythic Sunship to be a jazz band. However, this is not quite the case, although the quartet shares a similar sense of exploration and general untamedness with that of the two masters of cosmic jazz.

Spiritually, Mythic Sunship seems connected to present day So Cal psych-rock. Frederik Denning’s ferocious drum pounding and Rasmus ‘Cleaver’ Christensen’s thick, Geezer Butler-esque basslines add fuel to an endless pyre of blazed-out, dual lead guitars that Kasper Stougaard Andersen and Emil Thorenfeldt play with extraordinary dexterity, and intensity, dished out with the revolutionary fervor of the MC5. Think Earthless rip-roaring at Mach 10 over a live performance of Miles Davis’ landmark ‘Bitches Brew’. This stuff is wild.

Recorded in the winter of 2017 with producer / musician Jonas Munk (Causa Sui, Ulrich Schnauss), Another Shape of Psychedelic Music sees Mythic Sunship continue to build its mesmeric framework with the addition of saxophonist Søren Skov, a Coltrane-like player whose leads snake through the group’s gargantuan grooves and add an unquantifiable surrealism to its sound. The band’s instinctual talents unfurl across passages of light and dark, fast and furious before each composition sluices into an incredible roar of war machine-like power, cacophony and heavy metal ambient insanity. It’s like Blue Cheer attempting New Age music, and how cool of an idea is that?

Mythic Sunship creates music that dances with a level of forward-thinking freshness so immediate that it reminds us that the best music, —like the best theater, the best art—always does something you don’t expect, in a way that you don’t expect. It doesn’t have to be radical, it doesn’t have to be a wholly new invention, but is has to surprise you in some way.

Prepare to be surprised.

Track listing:

1.) Resolution
2.) Backyard Ritual (feat. Jonas Munk)
3.) Last Exit
4.) Way Ahead
5.) Out There (feat. Jonas Munk)
6.) Elevation

Mythic Sunship features Kasper Stougaard Andersen (guitar), Emil Thorenfeldt (guitar), Rasmus ‘Cleaver’ Christensen (bass), Frederik Denning (drums), with Søren Skov (saxophone) and Jonas Munk.

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Quarterly Review: All Them Witches, Anthroprophh, Orphan Gears, The Watchers, Grajo, Mythic Sunship, Empress, Monads, Nest, Redneck Spaceship

Posted in Reviews on April 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Well, we’ve reached the end of the week if not the end of the Quarterly Review itself. That’s right: after hemming and hawing all week and going back and forth in my silly little brain, I’ve decided to extend this edition to a sixth day, which will be Monday. That means 60 reviews in six days, not 50 in five. Honestly, I could probably keep going for three or four more beyond that if I had the time or inclination, and I may get there someday, but I’m definitely not there now.

But hey, there have been a couple comments left along the way, so thanks for that. I appreciate you taking the time to read if you have. Here’s the last for the week and we’ll pick back up on Monday.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

All Them Witches, Lost and Found EP

all them witches lost and found ep

If Nashville four-piece All Them Witches put together the free-download Lost and Found EP simply as a means of getting their take on the folk song “Hares on the Mountain” out there, it was worth it. In the hands of vocalist/bassist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Rhodes specialist/violinist Allan Van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler, the traditional tune becomes a wide open dronescape, bristling and vague like memory itself. It’s beautiful and a little confusing in just the right way, and it comes accompanied on the short release by the Fleetwood Mac cover “Before the Beginning,” an even-more-subdued take on “Call Me Star” from 2015’s New West Records debut, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here), and a dub redux of “Open Passageways” – called, of course, “Dub Passageways” – from the same album. Might be a stopgap between full-lengths, but still, at 18 minutes, it’d make a more than worthy 10” release if they were looking for something new for the merch table.

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Anthroprophh, Omegaville

anthroprophh omegaville

Next time you feel like, “Hey man, I’m so freaked out and weird and wow man whatever blah blah,” just take a second to remember you live in a dimension where dudes from The Heads have side-projects. Paul Allen and Anthroprophh – his trio with Gareth Turner and Jesse Webb, otherwise known as the duo Big Naturals – are a freaked out freakout’s freakout. The stuff of psychedelic mania. And that’s only on the first disc of the 2CD Omegavlle (Rocket Recordings). By the time they get around to the three-song second disc and dig into extended trips like “Omegaille/THOTHB” (14:48) and the subsequent finale, “Journey out of Omegaville and into the…” (20:57), they’re so far gone into noise and captured, manipulated audio that who the hell knows where we’ve ended up? At 88 minutes, the limits of manageability are long left behind, but to get some of the Velvet Underground-in-space vibes of “Maschine” in trade for undertaking the undertaking it’s well worth letting go of the rigidity of things like time, place, etc.

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Rocket Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Orphan Gears, Rat Race

orphan gears rat race

I’m pretty sure Orphan Gears used the Super Mario Bros. font for their logo on the cover of their latest EP, Rat Race, and for that, they should be saluted. The gritty-riffing semi-punker London four-piece offer five tracks and 20 minutes of workaday, boozy grooves, blowing off steam after putting in a shift at this or that crappy job. They are null as regards pretense, and ask little more of their audience than perhaps a beer from the stage or whatever else might be on the menu that night. They share initials, but unlike much of the London underground, they share little ultimately with Orange Goblin in terms of style, despite the shuffle of “Tough Luck, BJ” or the harmonica at the end of “Bitch-Slapped Blues,” and by the time they get to the classic strut of the title-track, they seem to be dug into AC/DC-style groove in the verse while blending in modern heavy rock impulses around it. They clearly save their best for last.

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Orphan Gears on Bandcamp

 

The Watchers, Black Abyss

the watchers black abyss

An immediately cogent, professional debut full-length is about what you’d expect from The Watchers, the San Francisco four-piece with members of SpiralArms, Orchid and Black Gates in their ranks, particularly after their prior EP, Sabbath Highway (review here), but that doesn’t stop the songwriting from impressing across the eight-song long-player, Black Abyss (on Ripple Music). The band’s presentation is crisp and pro-shop all the way through, from the soloing on “Oklahoma Black Magic” to the keyboard-laced TonyMartin-era-Sabbathism-meets-tambourine of “Suffer Fool” later on, and with the opening salvo of the title-track and “Alien Lust” right behind it, The Watchers set a quick expectation for hooks and a high standard of delivery that, thankfully, they show no hesitation in living up to for the duration, the chug-and-roll finale “Seven Tenets” satisfies in mood and efficiency, departing into airy guitar meditation and making its way back for a suitably rocking sendoff. Dudes know what they’re doing, where they’re headed and how they want to get there. All the listener needs to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

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Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Grajo, Slowgod II

grajo slowgod ii

A sequel to their 2015 full-length, Slowgod II (on Underground Legends Records, Spinda Records and DHU Records), sees Córdoba-based four-piece Grajo dug into a deep-toned psychedelic doom. There are flashes of Eastern influence on “Malmuerta,” with frontwoman Liz crooning over the minor-key guitar noodling of Josef, the forward motion in Félix’s drums and the heft of Pistolo’s bass. That dynamic works across Slowgod II, from opener and longest track (immediate points) “Altares” through its closing eight-minute counterpart “Malstrom,” which moves from early crunch through spacious volume swells in its middle only to regain composure and offer a heavy post-rock payoff that, somehow, still isn’t that atmospherically removed from the swinging “Horror and Pleasure” right before it or the similarly speedier “Queen Cobra” that follows “Altares” at the outset. Definitely one for the converted, Grajo deliver tones thick enough to stand on and engaging melodicism without falling into any real traps of sonic redundancy, varying their pace effectively and conjuring consuming plod on “ER” while still holding to that notion of breadth that seems to unite all their material here.

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DHU Records webstore

 

Mythic Sunship, Upheaval

mythic sunship upheaval

It just so happens this is exactly what the fuck I’m talking about. After releasing their Land Between Rivers (review here) LP through El Paraiso Records last year, the Copenhagen four-piece of Emil Thorenfeldt, Frederik Denning, Kasper Andersen and Rasmus “Cleaver” Christensen, collectively known as Mythic Sunship, return with four more slabs of exploratory bliss on Upheaval. Either completely or partially improvised, “Tectonic Beach” (12:42), “Aether Flux” (10:55), “Cosmic Rupture” (6:44) and “Into Oblivion” (13:56) flow together like the work of masters, and with shades of patient space rock at their core, the tracks are infused with life even beyond the spontaneity of their creation. Heavy jams. Heavy, spacy jams. Molten. Swirling. Badass. Even the shorter and more forward “Cosmic Rupture” is headed out of the atmosphere, and when they come around to the noisy payoff deep in “Into Oblivion,” it’s abundantly clear they’re not joking around when it comes to the title. You can get onboard with Mythic Sunship, or you can miss out. Bands like this separate the hip from the squares.

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El Paraiso Records webstore

 

Empress, Reminiscence

Empress reminiscence

Those who miss the days when Mastodon or Baroness howled their shouts into a landscape of crunching tonal largesse might do well to dig into what Vancouver, British Columbia’s Empress have to offer on their late-2017 debut EP, Reminiscence. The 27-minute five-tracker isn’t without its sense of melody – there’s plenty of room in eight-minute second cut “Immer” – but guitarist/vocalist Peter Sacco, bassist Brenden Gunn and drummer Chris Doyle make their primary impression via the impact of their material, and as they swap back and forth between shorter tracks and longer ones, a sense of structural playfulness results that moves through the bass openings of “Baptizer” (2:50) and “They Speak Like Trees” (9:27) into the ambient guitar finisher “Dawn,” and the feeling is that, like their stylistic forebears in at the time what was thought of as a new take on sludge metal, Empress will only grow more progressive as they move forward from this first outing. One hopes they hold firm to the tectonic weight they present here that so many others seem to have given up along the way.

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Empress on Bandcamp

 

Monads, IVIIV

monads iviiv

Released some six years after Monads’ 2011 debut, Intellectus Iudicat Veritatem, the Aesthetic Death Records-issued IVIIV was, according to the Belgian five-piece’s own accounting, in the works for most of that time in one way or another. One might say, therefore, that its creation does justice to the glacial pace of some of its slowest moments, the crawling death-doom extremity of pieces like “To a Bloodstained Shore,” or the lurch before the gallop takes hold in “Your Wounds Were My Temple.” At four songs and 50 minutes, IVIIV is indicative enough of the style, but Monads legitimately showcase a persona of their own in and out of those genre confines, the melancholic atmosphere and expanded arrangement elements (piano, etc.) of 15-minute closer “The Despair of an Aeon” creatively used if familiar, and the smoothness of the transitions in opener “Leviathan as My Lament” setting a tone of scope as well as downward emotional trajectory. Not sure I’d count on a quick turnaround for a follow-up, but if half a decade from now a new Monads record surfaces, it’ll be worth keeping an eye out for.

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Aestehetic Death Records website

 

Nest, Metempsychosis

nest metempsychosis

Rolling from its untitled intro through its untitled outro through a barrage of charred-black, bludgeoning sludge extremity, the debut album from Lexington, Kentucky’s Nest, Metempsychosis (on Sludgelord Records), refers in its title to a transmigration of the soul, an inheritance almost as much as reincarnation. The band may be talking about themselves or they may be working on a theme throughout the record’s seven proper tracks, I don’t know, but if the idea is destruction and rebirth, they certainly sound more interested in the former. Songs like “Heretic” seethe and scour, while the lumbering and spacious closer “Life’s Grief,” capping with abrasive noise, would seem to be a mission statement in itself. Individual pieces like “Jewel of Iniquity” and the preceding atmosphere-into-mega-crush “Diving into the Entrails of Sheep” – of course the centerpiece of the tracklisting – are shorter unto themselves, but like everything else that surrounds, they feed into an overarching ambience of disgust and chaos.

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Redneck Spaceship, Grand Marshal Ape

redneck spaceship grand marshall ape

There are some issues as regards the balance of the mix pushing the vocals forward ahead of the guitar to work out, but Moscow’s Redneck Spaceship impress all the same with the intent and execution of their late-2017 self-released debut, Grand Marshal Ape. In riffs and songcraft, their influences stem from the classic days of stoner rock, but from opener “The Sands of Dakar” and the later “That Sounds Nuts,” one gets a vibe of underlying punk influence, while the twang in harmonized highlight “On the Roadside” and slide guitar of “Maverick” lends a Southern, bluesy swing that the penultimate “Enchained” answers back later ahead of the sample-laden psychedelic jam-out closer, “Antariksh,” which strikes as a far cry from the ultra-straightforward presentation earlier on “Empty Pockets,” but speaks to an immediate scope in Redneck Spaceship’s sound. One hopes they continue to meld elements as they progress beyond Grand Marshal Ape and bridge the gap between one side of their moniker and the other.

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