Buried Treasure: Ice Dragon, Elder and a Tale of Three Tapes

Posted in Buried Treasure, Duuude, Tapes! on August 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

The sun-drenched wonder you see in the photo above is the shelf unit at my office (I work here). Top to bottom, it’s got a turntable that needs a new belt, a Mini-Disc player (I used to use them for interviews and just kind of happened into the thing; it’s there now because I think it’s neat), dual cassette deck, 5-CD changer and receiver. The speakers on either side are Infinity studio monitors acquired at a discount for review, and there’s a subwoofer below that’s not pictured. I don’t always use it, because frankly my computer has some decent speakers as well and so I don’t really need it all the time, but sometimes, when I’m working late and no one else is around, there’s nothing else quite like it.

Of the components, the cassette deck is the newest. I hooked it up just this afternoon after finding it the other day laying around the house. I asked The Patient Mrs. what was up with it and she said it was part of the stereo she had as a kid (we’ve been together long enough that I already knew that), and as it was currently not in use, I immediately raised an eyebrow at the possibility.

That was a few days ago, and it wasn’t until today that I finally brought the thing to work and plugged it in. Thinking I was all smart, I grabbed what I thought were some spare A/V cables to go with but turned out to be the camera connector. Fortunately, also at the office, I found these laying around:

Monster Cables! That’s right. Today, I hooked up a cassette player with Monster Cables. A format that’s only “come back” as much as it has over the last couple years because it sounds crappy — hooked up like it’s part of an overpriced home theater. Hey, I roll with what I can find that I don’t have to pay for.

The impetus for this whole thing was the recent purchase of three tapes from Acid Punx Records. I’ve bought tapes here and there for a while now — I have a cassette player in my car and have considered it a point of pride for the seven years I’ve had it — but these were different. Mostly those tapes cost about 50 cents. These tapes cost $10 each.

Yes. I spent $30 on tapes. $35, actually, when you add shipping. I’d been turned onto Boston doomers Ice Dragon‘s newest album, Dream Dragon, in a thread on the forum, and I really dug it. In an all-too-familiar mix of impulse and strategy, I thought as I investigated various purchase options that I’d better pick up some older stuff that was available in limited runs before I missed out. The psychedelically cinematic Dream Dragon — which came out last month and is a pay-what-you-want download at Ice Dragon’s Bandcamp page — doesn’t seem to have a physical pressing yet anyway, so from Acid Punx, I got their 2007 self-titled and 2011′s The Sorrowful Sun instead.

Both tapes are first pressings, limited to 100 copies (the self-titled is a reissue) and pretty clearly homemade — all of which I like about them. While I was putting them in my virtual shopping cart, I stumbled on an Elder tape also for sale called Demos & Live (2007-2010) and couldn’t resist. The result:

It was actually pretty nerve-racking waiting for them to come in the mail. Not that Acid Punx took an exceedingly long time to send them or anything, but I’ll admit to feeling a little silly having shelled out $35 for three tapes. If I was at the grocery store, I’d be staring at the “Unit Price” sticker and punching myself in the head. Nonetheless, when they finally came, I heaved a sigh of relief and immediately put the Elder on in the car.

With the anticipation of seeing them over Labor Day weekend at SHoD in Connecticut mounting and that recent stream of their Armageddon Records vinyl, Spires Burn/Release, I’ve been on something of a kick. Of the tape, I’ll say that Elder were a much, much different band in 2007 than they are half a decade later. Guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo lets loose some pretty vicious sludgy screams, and especially on tape, it sounds like the material was recorded right on a room mic in the rehearsal space.

There are three demo tracks — “1162,” “Red Sunrise” and “Black Midnight” — and two live cuts — “Gemini” recorded at SHoD in 2009 and “Riddle of Steel” from Valley Homegrown TV in 2010.  As you might expect, the newest is the cleanest-sounding of the bunch, but overall, it’s a pretty concise look at how far the three-piece has come in their time together. Whatever faux-authenticity might come from listening to a bona fide demo tape in this day and age, Demos & Live (2007-2010) is legitimately a cool release, and I was glad to have picked it up.

I’ve got more digging into the two Ice Dragon tapes (both of which are also streaming on their Bandcamp) — and wanting to do that was a big part of why I finally caved and brought the tape player into the office — but on a cursory listen, they sound righteous in their lo-fi classicism, The Sorrowful Sun being more melodically developed than its self-titled predecessor. Both feel caked in blown-out-cone distortion and are pretty well suited to the format. I was glad to get them out of the car so they wouldn’t get any further warped by the heat. From what I’ve heard so far, they’re plenty warped on their own.

And while I get to know them better, I’ve got the joy of staring at the spines on my desk:

Even for $35, I could do much worse than that. Just for kicks, here’s the stream of Ice Dragon‘s Dream Dragon, which inspired all this silliness:

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audiObelisk EXCLUSIVE: Stream Elder’s Spires Burn/Release 12″ in its Entirety

Posted in audiObelisk on July 19th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Fresh off a three-week tour that ended in Providence, Rhode Island, on July 6, ever-progressing Massachusetts trio Elder — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — have already released the follow-up to the sophomore outing they were out supporting. A limited 12″ vinyl (450 copies), Spires Burn/Release builds on the heavy psych intricacies of Dead Roots Stirring while keeping the crucial heaviness that has run a thread through Elder‘s work since their 2008 self-titled MeteorCity debut.

Spires Burn/Release is the first vinyl to be issued on the new label imprint of Armageddon Shop, which has physical stores in Boston and Providence (I’ve been there a couple times). The move into releasing music aligns Armageddon with the original label tradition — the first record labels were stores that wanted to sell music from artists around them; this is how the distribution model as we know it came about — and as Elder follow a similar aesthetic imprint of looking back for inspiration in their forward thinking, it’s all the more fitting that the two should join forces on this 12″. And at a full 22 minutes with a song per side, it’s not exactly a quiet entry into the market.

Both tracks on the offering, “Spires Burn” and “Release” have a clear path set out, but like with Dead Roots Stirring, Elder do well to obscure their linear structures with flourishes of elements from modern heavy psychedelia. Very quickly, the trio is becoming something that no other American band can quite claim to be, and as acoustics blend into the finishing moments of “Release,” the will for exploration and sonic expansion — not necessarily a surprise at this point in their career, especially after the last album — is nonetheless plain to hear. If they were to embark on a new era of krautrock-fueled progressive heaviness without losing sight of the groove at the base of their rhythms, well, I think that would be just fine.

Today I have the extreme pleasure of hosting Spires Burn/Release in its entirety for an exclusive stream. You’ll find both tracks on the player below, followed by some info on how to obtain the vinyl from Armageddon Shop even if you’re not in the Northeast and a few thoughts from DiSalvo on how it all came out. As always, I hope you enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Spires Burn/Release is, in my opinion, one step closer to our own sound we’ve been cultivating since Dead Roots Stirring. It’s both more “traditionally” heavy at parts and more experimental in ways, incorporating our personal influences of everything from krautrock to doom. Lyrically, the songs take a turn for the darker from DRS as well, and I think the variety of moods conveyed in the songs makes this our most dynamic release to date. — Nick DiSalvo

Elder‘s Spires Burn/Release is available now from Armageddon Shop at their online store. The striking cover art (click image above to enlarge) is by Fred Struckholz. Thanks to the band and label for letting me stream the songs.

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