When an artist takes on a stage-name, the proper format is to write it in quotes, like a nickname, but somehow whenever I end up putting together a piece about the work of founding Electric Moon guitarist, synthesist, sitarist, producer, label honcho, etc., Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, I always feel like I’ve got it backwards. Like it’s Dave Schmidt that should be in quotes and Sula is the true identity beneath. Ditto that for bassist/vocalist/graphic designer “Komet Lulu” Neudeck. A big part of the reason why is the continued stamp Sula, Lulu and drummer Marcus Schnitzler have left on heavy psychedelia over the course of this decade.
With a slew of live offerings, a strong improvisational foundation in the tenets of krautrock, classic prog and of course all things kosmiche, the German three-piece long ago set the controls for the heart of creation itself. Their works are often raw glimpses at their own making — the songs captured as they happened, unfolding as organically as possible to rich and singularly immersive effect. After years outside the studio, Electric Moon have newly released the four-track album, Stardust Rituals (review here), through Schmidt‘s Sulatron Records imprint, and for being six years after 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here), the arrival could hardly be more welcome.
Whether it’s the dug-in sitar-laced 22 minutes of vibe they decided to call “(You Will) Live Forever Now” or more song-based pieces “Stardust (The Picture)” and opener “The Loop,” Electric Moon gracefully subvert listener expectation and adjust the balance between improv and structure, and to call the resulting liquidity of Stardust Rituals one of 2017’s best in heavy psych is probably underselling the actual quality of the work itself. Even putting aside the fact that a studio outing from Electric Moon doesn’t happen every day, month, or year, Stardust Rituals gives its audience a solar system to inhabit and worlds or swirl to explore, and if it needs to carry over for a while as the band once more hits stages around Germany and greater Europe, recording and releasing sets as they go (never something to complain about), it should have no trouble doing so.
Sula and Lulu were both kind enough to take some time out to talk about the record and Electric Moon‘s methods in general, and you’ll find the results of that Q&A below.
Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:
Six Dumb Questions with Electric Moon
Tell me about how Electric Moon has grown since you started the project. So much of what you do is based on the chemistry between the three of you. How has that developed over time?
Lulu: When we founded the band with the drummer Pablo Carneval, we found out that we had to do nothing else than just start to play and we became one… Over the years, it changed a bit into more frame-based improvisations to get a picture. If you’re on tour, it’s important NOT to fuck up cause 100 percent free improvising night after night can kill creativity and you’re empty then. But we still do it, of course.
Over the years, we had many different drummers so there were also different influences.
But we always try to keep our thing: LET IT FLOW and feel the love. If we feel the love, the music floats automatically!
Sula: In the very first recording sessions we did everything alone, I mean Lulu and me. But then Pablo joined us and we knew we are able make this on stage! That was a great feeling!
What made you decide to go for a more song-based approach on Stardust Rituals? Each track still goes pretty far out, but tell me about incorporating more vocals in the studio. How did these tracks come together to be what they are?
Lulu: First I must say, we did what we’ve always been doing: keeping our studio albums more “song-based” than our live albums cause we have the possibility to do overdubs and recreate stuff, etc.
Sula and me also have so many ideas for songs so we can put them into the music in the studio! “The Loop” for example, was Dave‘s idea on the organ and he showed Marcus and me what he thought and told us what he thinks we should play, and then we did. It took not much time and we got it. It was a lot of fun playing this, by the way!
Also it’s much fun creating vocals for the music while listening to it. The music just tells you what is good for “her”… That’s a loop, haha, but really! I’m spacing out every time I think about these things… So I’m sorry for my weird sentences! Hahaha.
The second thing is, that our live albums are the essence when we three play together. The last records we’ve put out were live albums and we just needed a new impulse, again. So we’re happy that we got the impressions for Stardust Rituals to get it ready. Sometimes it’s hard ’cause the ideas wouldn’t find the way to your soul. But most of the time it’s pure magic.
For me, overdubbing is like talking to myself and, of course, the band. It’s very intimate! Having an idea, sitting down, listening to the song, being alone in the studio, feeling the energy of the music and then do the overdub. It’s really magic. I love doing my overdubs being on my own and it’s also always big excitement when the others listen to them the first time… Do they like what you did or don’t they? It’s big fun to make music with yourself, by the way.
Sula: The first basic recording was in 2014, and was untouched till we started overdubbing. Three of the track’s basics were within three days before we went to the Freak Valley Festival for a gig. That was in early summer 2015. In 2016, we slowly started cutting/arranging the recordings and doing the overdubs. Finally the mastering was done (by Eroc) in early 2017.
Is there something specific about the spirit of jamming that speaks to you with Electric Moon as opposed to other bands you’ve been involved in? Can you hear a part as the foundation of an Electric Moon jam as opposed to, say, something that would become a Sula Bassana piece?
Lulu: No, that never happened yet! It’s more like you hear the Sula Bassana soul in Electric Moon when he did most of the instruments, for example, cause he would influence the song then!
The specific in Electric Moon from the beginning is: Becoming one, let it flow, let the music lead your hands playing your instrument!
Sula: The spirit in the improvisations in the other bands is slightly different, because everyone brings his soul, mood, feelings in. For example, Rainer [Neeff, of Zone Six]’s way of playing guitar is different than mine. So the whole thing has a different energy. The music in Krautzone has a completely different feel and intention as the Electric Moon music. And as Lulu already told, I would never take a Electric Moon recording for a Sula song. Maybe one day I use a lick I played in an Electric Moon concert for a Sula song. But I would do new recordings, with everything played by myself, which will lead to a totally different result.
Lulu: I guess this sometimes happens “by accident” that you play the same lick twice!
Sula: Exactly what I mean!
Where does the title Stardust Rituals come from, and what does it mean for you?
Lulu: I had this idea when I was thinking and feeling a lot about life and death and space!!!
I was reading loads of space magazines and books and thought a lot about the fact that we all are made of stars! Everything and every creature, every plant and every ANYTHING is made of stardust! Our whole planet earth is made of the sun powder… That is so great, it feels so familiar and it’s so soothing when you are sad, for example…
Imagine – nothing and nobody could ever get lost – even if we die! ‘Cause we’d still be stardust in some way… And where should we disappear to? We’re all in space and will be… It feels so true to me.
So the title and also the vocal themes for the album were born. Stardust Rituals is like a complete reflection about this all. The music was talking to me…
And when Sula did the Mellotron in the last track, the complete thing was changing so much – it was so stunning – suddenly the whole piece turned into something different, more intense and beautiful so it made me cry… And then I wrote the vocals and it became the track “(You Will) Live Forever Now.”
Has releasing your own work through Sulatron changed your perspective on writing or recording at all? If so, how? If not, why not?
Sula: No. We always did everything by ourselves and the labels, who released our non-Sulatron-stuff, never told how to do it. They always accepted our music and artwork. So we can say we always produced our music the way we want it! Which is great!
Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
Sula: We have a lot plans for recordings, releases and so on. Also we could talk about the horrible situation on this planet. But that would take hours… and I hope everyone who is interested in our music is some kind of same-minded, trying to be a good person, without being aggressive or a racist, being without hate, and full of love and positive vibrations. Mankind needs love, peace and freedom. That’s it!
Lulu: And if there are any racists listening to our music we hope they can feel love and forget the racism…
Also – remember: We’re all made of the sun….. We’re one indeed! Physically! We’re all in the same space(ship)! LOVE! Man, I sound like a hippie, hahaha, but my heart feels it like this!
The discography of German heavy psych trio Electric Moon is a confusing thing, filled with atemporal reissues of limited prior works, live albums that could easily be studio affairs, varying editions, and so on, mostly if not completely all released through founding guitarist, synthesist, electric sitarist, keyboardist, general-swirlmaker and recording engineer Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt‘s own Sulatron Records label. Accordingly, I could be way off in saying so, but I believe Stardust Rituals may be the first proper Electric Moon studio full-length since 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here).
Is that possible? I don’t know anymore. They count it as their fifth album either way, and it follows behind several of the aforementioned reissues — including one in 2016 for The Doomsday Machine — and a bevvy of live offerings like last year’s Live 2015 – Zeiss Planetarium Bochum (review here), 2015’s Theory of Mind (review here), 2014’s Mind Explosion (review here), 2013’s Live 2012 1 & 2 (review here), etc. If indeed it has been six years since the last time they tracked a full-length not onstage somewhere in Europe, one could hardly accuse them of being lazy with that time, however languid and flowing their sound might be and certainly is on Stardust Rituals.
The album presents three extended cuts and one shorter piece very much built outward from the core of jamming between Schmidt, bassist “Komet Lulu”Neudeck and drummer Marcus Schnitzler that has to-date been at heart in their approach, live or otherwise. Over the past five-plus years, their material has driven toward an at-times raw glimpse of their creative processes, with as little filtering of the view as possible, and while the movements that comprise Stardust Rituals‘ 45-minute stretch come across as more song-minded, they also maintain that acid-drenched sensibility of exploration, emerging all the more spacious and triumphant for it.
And really, with material so clearly geared toward vibrancy in the first place, the line between what’s live and what isn’t would seem to be pretty fluid in the first place. True, Stardust Rituals doesn’t have breaks for applause, but even as Komet Lulu‘s vocals roll out echo-and-swirl-buried verses as part of the overarching drift of second track “Stardust (The Picture),” an obscure but definitively human presence, the feeling is one of spontaneous kosmiche combustion — nebular gases swirling into a cohesive stellar motion, rotational gravity taking hold to bring the listener into the song’s orbit.
Also it’s spaced out. “Stardust (The Picture)” is a centerpiece for the molten flow set up over the course of Electric Moon‘s first three tracks, which most likely comprise side A of the vinyl. They begin with the dug-in space rock progression of “The Loop,” which is arguably the most “song-ish” of the album as a whole, with a synth figure at its center and a forward rhythmic push made subtle through the classy, jazzy intertwining of Schnitzler‘s drumming and Schmidt‘s guitar lead circa three minutes in.
It’s in “The Loop” that Electric Moon will almost shock those who’ve followed them the last several years, because even before they turn to the Hawkwindian thrust at the beginning of the eight-minute track’s second half, they very purposefully establish a course distinct from the live offerings that have led up to Stardust Rituals, and that impression continues into the rolling low end that begins “Stardust (The Picture)” — an early instrumental version of which, titled just “The Picture,” appeared on both Theory of Mind and Mind Explosion.
Its inclusion here, and in this more complete, vocalized form, still far-reaching and adventurous but with a firmer intent behind it, speaks to the amorphous nature of Electric Moon‘s work as a whole and the meta-level on which their fluidity operates. It’s not just about being open in terms of willing to jam out for 20 minutes at a clip. It’s about being willing even to change the definition of a song itself from what it was to what they want/need it to be to best suit a purpose. They break their own rules once again with the sitarized “Astral Hitch Hike,” departing the structured consciousness of the longer opening duo in favor of 4:40 of instrumental psych-prog vibing — just in case you might think it safe to know what to expect.
Sitar continues to meander, wrapping itself around an initial bassline, at the launch of closer “(You Will) Live Forever Now.” The finale, at 22 minutes, is just about as long as the first three pieces on Stardust Rituals put together, and it seems clearly meant to consume all of side B on its own. It definitely is consuming, or at very least immersive — a subdued flow is underway almost immediately but brimming with patience, flourish of synth adding to a rich atmosphere that provides a stage for when the vocals arrive after we’ve waded about four minutes deep. It’s a dream. All of it. The tone, the drift, the vagueness of the voice. But Electric Moon thrive in that dream, and though it’s by no means in any rush to get anywhere, there is a build happening and it is linear. Layers are added to the whole one at a time, the guitars making a noteworthy arrival near six minutes, and Lulu and Schnitzler provide an absolute solid foundation on which this liquefied push takes place.
There’s a sense of pickup and tonal thickening about three minutes later just before the vocals return — in layers — and a fuller fuzz soon grabs hold and moves “(You Will) Live Forever Now” into its next phase, noisier and denser but still remarkably vast and open feeling. They’re not yet halfway through, but this movement will get them there and come to a head just before the solo that starts at about 13:30 and runs until it comes apart at about the 15-minute mark — drums and bass holding steady as the guitar quietly rights itself. That process sets up the last verse (or verses, because who knows where one ends and another begins) and the shift into the closer’s apex for Stardust Rituals as a whole, which starts in earnest with the arrival of Mellotron at 18:49 and continues to develop until the fadeout that begins in the last minute leaves only the keys and residual echoing swirl behind.
Electric Moon may be in large part defined as a unit by what they accomplish live, and that feeds even into Stardust Rituals as well, since much of what has become these songs has its foundation in that raw creative process noted earlier, but if their return to studio work demonstrates anything, it’s that their sound has little interest in limits of any sort, be it those of listener expectation, or of genre convention, or whatever else. The prevailing warmth they exude throughout these four tracks is as unmistakably their own as any of their live improvisational work has been, and in reminding their audience of that, they’ve only made themselves a richer sonic experience for those fortunate enough to take them on. Whether one puts it on and gets lost in its outward gone-ness or stays with its twists and turns every step of the way, the path through the solar system that Stardust Rituals blazes is nothing less than a joy to follow.
I would expect nothing less from Stardust Rituals than the title suggests. It’s been I don’t even know how long since the last proper studio offering from German jammers Electric Moon, whose psychedelic explorations show up much more often in the form of live records, but on April 7, they’ll return with this four-track full-length, apparently exploring themes of mortality, space, and the intertwining of these various dimensions in which we exist.
They’ve got opening track “The Loop” streaming now ahead of the release, and aside from their signature psych-wash, the song surprises in its structured feel. In the announcement below, they hint that the rest of the record might follow a similar path — using the basic jams as a foundation for building a song, rather than just seeking to represent the raw process of creation on their own — and I’m excited to hear how that balance shakes out across Stardust Rituals as a whole. Can’t get here fast enough, quite frankly.
Of course, it will be out on Sulatron Records, as the PR wire informs:
Finally it’s happening, and the long awaited 5th studio release of Electric Moon appears to see the light!
4 tracks, which pack a punch and which went a long way to become what they are now. The oldest tune „Stardust (The Picture)“ was already recorded in 2014 and was released as instrumental version on 2 live albums so far. But it got refined with overdubs like vocals and stuff, like all the other tracks, too. This is one of the things which make the difference between live albums and studio albums, by the way; like also, that improvisation and songwriting get mixed-up!
“Stardust Rituals“ is painting a journey through the inner cosmos and wants to deliver the insight, that no-one and nothing gets ever lost, because space is like a jar which keeps us all, in which form ever… We’re all made of stardust so nothing can happen in the end…
Trippy like always, Electric Moon will carry you off on a trip to the deepest depths of the outermost innermost, cause in every one of us is a cosmos and we all are together on this common journey, in the same (space-)ship…
Recorded, mixed and produced by Sula Bassana (Dave Schmidt) and mastered by Eroc!
The beautiful round Cover-Painting was painted by Eriko of Mont Doom Design in Italy and Lulu Artwork! just brought it to shape for the final design and layout.
CD comes in jewel case, LP in fold-out cover with triple-marbled (blue-black-white) 180 grams quality vinyl (made in Germany), limited to 1000 pcs!
Electric Moon is: Komet Lulu: Bass, Vocals, Effects Marcus Schnitzler: Drums Sula Bassana: Guitar, E-Sitar, Organ, Mellotron, E-Piano, Effects
Tracklist: The Loop (08:06) Stardust (The Picture) (10:14) Astral Hitch Hike (04:41) (You Will) Live Forever Now (22:41)
Posted in Features on January 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Looks like it’s going to be another busy 12 months ahead. It’s been a busy better-part-of-a-month already, so that stands to reason, but you should know that of the several years now that I’ve done these ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ posts, this is the biggest one yet, with over 150 upcoming releases that — one hopes — will be out between today and the end of 2017.
Actually, at last count, the list tops 180. Do I really expect you to listen to all of them? Nope. Will I? Well, it would be nice. But what I’ve done is gone through and highlighted 35 picks and then built lists off that in order of likelihood of arrival. You’ll note the categories are ‘Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates,’ ‘Definitely Could Happen’ and ‘Would be Awfully Nice.’
Beyond that last one, anything else just seems like speculation — one might as well go “new Sabbath this year!” with zero info backing it up. The idea here is that no matter where a given band is placed, there has been some talk of a new release. In some cases, it’s been years, but I think they’re still worth keeping in mind.
Another caveat: You can expect additions to this list over the next week — probably album titles, band names people (fingers crossed) suggest in the comments, and so on — so it will grow. It always does. The idea is to build as complete a document as possible, not to get it all nailed down immediately, so please, if you have something to contribute and you’re able to do so in a non-prickish, “You didn’t include Band X and therefore don’t deserve to breathe the same air as me,” kind of way, please contribute.
Other than that, I think it’s pretty straightforward what’s going on here and I’ll explain the category parameters as we go, so by all means, let’s jump in.
— Tomorrow’s Dream 2017 —
1. Abrahma, TBA
Late last year, Paris heavy progressives Abrahma announced a new lineup and third full-length in progress. No reason to think it won’t come to fruition, and a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here) is an easy pick to look forward to. Even with the shift in personnel, it seems likely the band will continue their creative development, driven as they are by founding guitarist Seb Bismuth.
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
If 2017 ended today, Sleeping Through the War would be my Album of the Year. Of course, there’s a lot of year to go, but for now, Nashville’s All Them Witches have set the standard with their second album for New West Records behind 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here) and fourth overall outing. They’ve got videos up so far for “3-5-7” (posted here) and “Bruce Lee” (posted here). Both are most definitely worth your time. Out Feb. 24. Full review should be later this week.
3. Alunah, Solennial
Seems like UK forest riffers Alunah are on this list every year. Wishful thinking on my part. Nonetheless, their fourth LP and Svart Records debut, Solennial, is out March 17, and if the tease they gave already with the clip for “Fire of Thornborough Henge” (posted here) is anything to go from, its Chris Fielding-produced expanses might just be Alunah‘s most immersive yet.
4. Arbouretum, TBA
I asked the Baltimore folk fuzzers a while back on Thee Facebooks if they had a new record coming in 2017 and they said yes, so that’s what I’m going on here. The last Arbouretum album was 2013’s Coming out of the Fog (review here), and even with frontman Dave Heumann‘s 2015 solo outing, Here in the Deep (review here), factored in, you’d have to say they’re due. Keep an eye on Thrill Jockey for word and I’ll do the same.
5. Atavismo, Inerte
This is another one that already has a spot reserved for it on my Best-of-2017 year-end list. Spanish heavy psych rockers Atavismo up the progressive bliss level with their second full-length, Inerte, without losing the depth of style that made 2014’s Desintegración (review here) so utterly glorious. It probably won’t have the biggest marketing budget of 2017, but if you let Atavismo fly under your radar, you are 100 percent missing out on something special.
6. Bison Machine, TBA
In addition to the video for new track “Cloak and Bones” that premiered here, when Michigan raucousness-purveyors Bison Machine put out the dates for their fall 2016 tour, they included further hints of new material in progress. As much as I dug their earlier-2016 split with SLO and Wild Savages (review here) and 2015’s Hoarfrost (review here), that’s more than enough for me to include them on this list. Killer next-gen heavy rock.
7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, TBA
News of a follow-up to Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s 2015 Neurot Recordings self-titled debut (review here) came through in October, and it remains some of the best news I’ve heard about 2017 doings. Took them a while to get the first record out, so we’ll see what happens, but it kind of feels like looking forward to a comet about to smash into the planet and cause a mass extinction, and by that I mean awesome. Can’t get here soon enough.
8. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kosmic Dust
Okay, so maybe I jumped the gun and did a super-early review of Denver trio Cloud Catcher‘s second long-player and Totem Cat Records debut, Trails of Kosmic Dust, but hell, no regrets. Some albums require an early-warning system. Their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), was a gem as well, but this is a band in the process of upping their game on every level, and the songwriting and momentum they hone isn’t to be missed.
9. Colour Haze, TBA
I’ve gotten some details on the upcoming full-length from Colour Haze. They do not include a title, artwork, audio, song titles or general direction. Less details, I guess, than word that the CD version of this answer to 2015’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) is set to come out next month, as ever, on Elektrohasch. That puts it out in time for Colour Haze‘s upcoming tour with My Sleeping Karma (announced here). Fingers crossed it happens. Colour Haze are perpetual top-albums candidates in my book.
10. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA
Signed to Nuclear Blast after being rejoined by guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, North Carolina’s C.O.C. have been in the studio since last year. The lineup of Keenan, bassist/vocalist Mike Dean and guitarist Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin on drums is the stuff of legend and last worked together on 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer, so no question this reunion makes for one of 2017’s most anticipated heavy rock records. They nailed the nostalgia factor on tour. Can they now add to their legacy?
11. Elder, TBA
I was incredibly fortunate about a month ago to visit progressive heavy rockers Elder at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA, during the recording process for their upcoming fourth album. I heard a couple of the tracks, and of course it was all raw form, but the movement forward from 2015’s Lore (review here) was palpable. That LP (on Stickman) brought them to a wider audience, and I expect no less from this one as well, since the farther out Elder go sound-wise, the deeper the level of connection with their listeners they seem to engage.
12. Electric Wizard, TBA
Could happen, could not happen. That’s how it goes. Announced for last Halloween. That date came and went. Word of trouble building their own studio surfaced somewhere along the line. That was the last I heard. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up tomorrow, if it showed up in 2018, or if the band broke up and never put it out. They’re Electric Wizard. Anything’s possible.
13. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
Out Jan. 28 on Napalm, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here) is the first-ever acoustic album from former Kyuss frontman John Garcia, also of Unida, the reunited Slo Burn, Hermano, Vista Chino, Zun, etc. — basically the voice of desert rock. He does a couple Kyuss classics for good measure, but shines as well on the new/original tracks, and while it’s a piece for fans more than newcomers — that is, it helps if you know the original version of “Green Machine” — his presence remains as powerful as ever despite this new context.
14. Goya, Harvester of Bongloads
Riffs, dude. Goya seem to have them to spare. The Arizona-based wizard doomers have set a pretty prolific clip for themselves at this point, with at least two short releases out in 2016, one a 7″ of Nirvana covers (review here), and the The Enemy EP (review here). Set for a March 3 release through their own Opoponax Records imprint, Harvester of Bongloads continues the march into the abyss that 2015’s Obelisk (review here) and 2013’s 777 set in motion, finding the band coming more into their own as well. Creative growth — and bongloads! The best of both worlds.
15. Ides of Gemini, TBA
Ides of Gemini are set to record their yet-untitled third album with Sanford Parker early this year, and it will also mark their debut on Rise Above Records upon its release. They’ve also got a new lineup around vocalist Sera Timms and guitarist J. Bennett, so as they look to move forward from 2014’s Old World New Wave (review here), one can’t help but wonder what to expect, but to be honest, not knowing is part of the appeal, especially from a band who so readily specialize in the ethereal.
16. Kind, TBA
Three-fourths of Kind feature elsewhere on this list. Bassist Tom Corino plays in Rozamov. Drummer Matt Couto is in Elder. Vocalist Craig Riggs is in Roadsaw. And for what it’s worth, guitarist Darryl Shepherd has a new band coming together called Test Meat. How likely does that make Kind to release a second LP in 2017? I don’t know, but their 2015 Ripple Music debut, Rocket Science (review here), deserves a follow-up, and I know they’ve demoed some new songs. If it happens, great. If it’s 2018, at least these dudes will be plenty busy besides.
17. Lo-Pan, In Tensions
Yes, Lo-Pan‘s In Tensions (review here) has already been released — CD/LP with an artbook on Aqualamb. It’s out. Limited numbers. You can get it now. Why include it on a list of most anticipated releases? Because that’s how strongly I feel about your need to hear it. The fruit of a shortlived lineup with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, it distinguishes itself from everything they’ve done before in style while still keeping to the core righteousness that one hopes the Ohio outfit will continue to carry forward. It’s more than a stopgap between albums. Listen to it.
18. The Midnight Ghost Train, TBA
It seems to have been a rough ride for hard-boogie specialists The Midnight Ghost Train since their 2015 Napalm debut and third album overall, Cold was the Ground (review here). They’ve never taken it easy on the road or in terms of physicality on stage, and between injuries and who knows what else, their intensity at this point veers toward the directly confrontational. Nonetheless, they’ve been writing for album number four, may or may not have started the recording process, and I expect that confrontationalism to suit them well in their new material.
19. Monster Magnet, TBA
I have it on decent authority that NJ heavy psych innovators Monster Magnet were in the studio this past autumn. I’ve seen no concrete word of a new album in progress from Dave Wyndorf and company, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect to until it was time to start hyping the release, but after their two redux releases, 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here) and 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here), their range feels broader than ever and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.
20. Mothership, High Strangeness
A pivotal moment for Mothership arrives with High Strangeness, and the heavy-touring, heavy-riffing Texas power trio seem to know it. Their third record on Ripple Music pushes into new avenues of expression and keeps the energy of 2014’s Mothership II (review here) and 2012’s Mothership (review here), but thus far into their career, it’s been about their potential and what they might accomplish going forward. 2017 might be the year for Mothership to declare a definitive place in the sphere of American heavy rock.
21. The Obsessed, Sacred
On Halloween 2016, founding The Obsessed guitarist/vocalist and doom icon Scott “Wino” Weinrich announced a new lineup for the band, with his former The Hidden Hand bandmate Bruce Falkinburg on bass/vocals, Sara Seraphim on guitar and Brian Costantino continuing on drums. A genuine surprise. Their first album since 1994, Sacred (due on Relapse) was tracked as the trio of Weinrich, Costantino and bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman, but clearly they’ve moved into a new era already. Wouldn’t even guess what the future holds, but hopefully Sacred still comes out.
22. Orange Goblin, TBA
When it was announced that London’s Orange Goblin were picked up by Spinefarm as part of that label’s acquisition of Candlelight Records last Spring, the subheadline from the PR wire was “Working on Ninth Studio Album.” I haven’t heard much since then, but even as 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here) pushed them deeper into metallic territory than ever before, their songs retained the character that’s made the band the institution they are. Always look forward to new Orange Goblin.
23. Pallbearer, Heartless
Doomers, this is your whole year right here. I haven’t heard Pallbearer‘s third album, Heartless (out March 24 on Profound Lore), but I have to think even those who haven’t yet been won over by the Arkansas four-piece’s emotive, deep-running style have to be curious about what they’ve come up with this time around. I know I am. These guys have been making a mark on the genre since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), and there’s little doubt Heartless will continue that thread upon its arrival.
24. Radio Moscow, TBA
Fact: Radio Moscow stand among the best classic heavy rock live acts in the US. They’re the kind of band you can watch upwards of 15 gigs in a row — I’ve done it — and find them putting on a better show night after night, in defiance of science, logic and sobriety. Word of their signing to Century Media came just this past week and brought with it confirmation of a follow-up to 2014’s stellar Magical Dirt (review here), and for me to say hell yes, I’m absolutely on board, seems like the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. Can’t wait.
25. Roadsaw, TBA
Nearly six full years later, it’s only fair to call Boston scene godfathers Roadsaw due for a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled (review here). Granted, members have been busy in Kind, White Dynomite, and other projects, but still. Their upcoming outing finds them on Ripple Music after years under the banner of Small Stone Records, and though I haven’t seen a solid release date yet, my understanding is they hit Mad Oak Studio in Allston, MA, this past fall to track it, so seems likely for sooner or later. Sooner, preferably.
26. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
Speaking of albums by Boston bands a while in the making, This Mortal Road (out March 3 on Battleground Records and Dullest Records) is the debut full-length from Boston atmospheric extremists Rozamov. Haven’t heard it yet, but I got a taste of some of the material when I visited the band at New Alliance Audio in Aug. 2015, and the bleak expanses of what I heard seem primed to turn heads. I’m a fan of these guys, but in addition, they’ve found a niche for themselves sound-wise and I’m curious to hear how they bring it to fruition.
27. Samsara Blues Experiment, TBA
It’s been a pleasure over the last couple months to watch a resurgence of Berlin heavy psych trio Samsara Blues Experiment take shape, first with the announcement of a fourth album in October, then with subsequent confirmations for Desertfest, Riff Ritual in Barcelona, and a South American tour. Reportedly due in Spring, which fits with the timing on shows, etc., the record will follow 2013’s righteous Waiting for the Flood (review here) and as much as I’m looking forward to hearing it, I’m kind of just glad to have these guys back.
28. Seedy Jeezus, TBA
Work finished earlier this month on Melbourne trio Seedy Jeezus‘ second full-length. As with their 2015 self-titled debut, the band brought Tony Reed of Mos Generator to Australia to produce, and after their blissed-out 2016 collaboration with Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts (review here), it’s hard not to wonder what experimentalist tendencies might show in the trio’s style this time out, and likewise difficult not to anticipate what guitarist Lex “Mr. Frumpy” Wattereus comes up with for the cover art.
29. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun
Not to spoil the surprise, but Feb. 1 I’ll host a track premiere from Florida’s Shroud Eater that finds them working in a different context from everything we’ve heard from them to this point in their rightly-celebrated tenure. They also recently had a split out with Dead Hand, and their second long-player, Strike the Sun, will be their debut through STB Records. It’s been since 2011’s ThunderNoise (review here) that we last got a Shroud Eater album, so you bet your ass I’m dying to know what the last six years have wrought.
30. Sleep, TBA
If Sleep were any other band, they’d probably be in the “Would be Awfully Nice” category. But they’re Sleep, so even the thought of a new record is enough to put them here. The lords of all things coated in THC are reissuing their 2014 single, The Clarity (review here), on Southern Lord next month, but rumors have been swirling about a proper album, which of course would be their first since the now-legendary Dopesmoker. If it happens, it’ll automatically be a heavy underground landmark for 2017, but it’s one I’m going to have in my ears before I really believe it.
31. Stoned Jesus, TBA
Even as they tour playing their second album, 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), to mark its fifth anniversary and continued impact, Ukrainian trio Stoned Jesus are forging ahead with a fourth record behind 2015’s The Harvest (review here). The capital-‘q’ Question is whether or not looking back at Seven Thunders Roar and engaging that big-riffing side of their sound will have an impact on the new material, and if so, how it will meld with the push of The Harvest. Won’t speculate, but look forward to finding out.
32. Stubb, TBA
Since reveling in the soul of 2015’s Cry of the Ocean (review here) on Ripple, London trio Stubb have swapped out bassists, and they were in Skyhammer Studio this month recording a single that may be an extended psychedelic jam. I’ll take that happily, but I’m even more intrigued at the prospect of a third LP and what guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist/vocalist Tom Hobson and drummer Tom Fyfe might have in store as the band moves forward on multiple levels. Might be 2017, might not.
33. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
It Runs around the Room with Us seems to find peace in its resonant experimentalist drones, loops, open, subdued spaces, but there’s always some underlying sense of foreboding to its drift, as if Boise’s Sun Blood Stories could anticipate the moment before it happened. Toward the end of the follow-up to 2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), they execute the 90-second assault “Burn” and turn serenity to ash. Look for it in April and look for it again on my best of 2017 list in December.
34. Ufomammut, TBA
Any new offering from the Italian cosmic doom magnates is worth looking forward to, and while Ufomammut have left the 15-year mark behind, they’ve never stopped progressing in style and form. To wit, 2015’s Ecate (review here) was a stunner after 2012’s two-part LP, Oro (review here and review here), tightening the approach but assuring the vibe was no less expansive than ever. They started recording last summer, finished mixing in November, so I’m hoping for word of a release date soon.
35. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
Born out of Creedsmen Arise, whose 2015 demo, Temple (review here), offered formative thrills, Swedish trio Vokonis debuted with last year’s Olde One Ascending (review here) and proved there’s still life in post-Sleep riffing when it’s wielded properly. They signed to Ripple in November and confirmed the title of their sophomore effort as The Sunken Djinn, as well as a reissue for the first album, which will probably arrive first. I don’t know how that will affect the timing on this one, but keep an eye out anyway.
Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates
Obviously some of these are more likely than others. Some have solidified, announced release dates — Dopelord‘s out this month, Demon Head‘s out in April, etc. — and others come from social media posts of bands in studios and hints at upcoming releases and so on. A big tell is whether or not a band has an album title with their listing, but even some of those without have their new albums done, like Atala and Royal Thunder, so it’s not necessarily absolute.
Either way, while I’m spending your money, you might want to look into:
36. Against the Grain
39. Attalla, Glacial Rule
40. Ayahuasca Dark Trip, II
42. Beaten Back to Pure
45. Buried Feather, Mind of the Swarm
46. The Clamps
47. Cold Stares
48. Coltsblood, Ascending into the Shimmering Darkness
49. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
51. Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity
52. The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms
53. Dead Witches, Dead Witches
55. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
56. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
57. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
58. Devil Electric
59. Doctor Cyclops, Local Dogs
60. Dool, Here Now There Then
61. Dopelord, Children of the Haze
62. Doublestone, Devil’s Own/Djævlens Egn
63. Dread Sovereign, For Doom the Bell Tolls
64. Drive by Wire
65. Elbrus, Elbrus
66. Electric Age
67. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
68. Endless Floods, II
69. Five Horse Johnson
70. Forming the Void, Relic
71. Funeral Horse
73. Green Desert Water
75. Grifter / Suns of Thunder, Split
76. Hair of the Dog, This World Turns
77. Heavy Temple, Chassit
78. Here Lies Man, Here Lies Man
79. Hollow Leg, Murder EP
80. Holy Mount, The Drought
81. Hooded Menace
82. Horisont, About Time
83. Hymn, Perish
84. Lecherous Gaze
85. Magnet, Feel Your Fire
87. Merlin, The Wizard
89. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
90. Mirror Queen
91. Moonbow, War Bear
92. Mos Generator
93. The Moth
95. Mouth, Vortex
96. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
99. PH, Eternal Hayden
100. Psychedelic Witchcraft, Magick Rites and Spells
101. Royal Thunder
102. Saturn, Beyond Spectra
103. Season of Arrows, Give it to the Mountain
104. Siena Root
105. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
106. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
108. The Sonic Dawn, Into the Long Night
110. Spidergawd, IV
112. Stinking Lizaveta, Journey to the Underworld
113. Sula Bassana, Organ Accumulator
115. Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager
116. Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell EP
117. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
119. Troubled Horse, Revelation on Repeat
120. VA, Brown Acid The Third Trip
122. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
Definitely Could Happen
Maybe a recording process is upcoming (Gozu, Cities of Mars, YOB), or a band is looking for a label (The Flying Eyes), or they’ve said new stuff is in the works but the circumstances of an actual release aren’t known (Arc of Ascent, Dead Meadow, High on Fire), or I’ve just seen rumors of their hitting the studio (Freedom Hawk, La Chinga, Ruby the Hatchet). We’ve entered the realm of the entirely possible but not 100 percent.
So, you know, life.
123. The Age of Truth
124. Ape Machine
125. Arc of Ascent
126. At Devil Dirt
131. La Chinga
132. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters
133. Cities of Mars
134. Crypt Sermon
135. Dead Meadow
136. Death Alley (Studio LP)
137. Dee Calhoun
138. Destroyer of Light
140. Devil Worshipper
144. Electric Moon
145. Elephant Tree
147. The Flying Eyes
148. Freedom Hawk
150. The Great Electric Quest
151. Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
152. High on Fire
154. Insect Ark
155. In the Company of Serpents
156. Iron Monkey
157. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus
158. The Judge
159. Killer Boogie
160. King Dead
161. The Kings of Frog Island
162. Lords of Beacon House, Recreational Sorcery
164. Mondo Drag
166. Mountain God
167. The Munsens
169. Never Got Caught
175. Purple Hill Witch
176. Ruby the Hatchet
178. Satan’s Satyrs
179. Serpents of Secrecy
181. Shooting Guns
182. Sleepy Sun
183. Slow Season
184. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
185. Spectral Haze
186. The Sweet Heat
187. Switchblade Jesus
191. Zone Six
Would be Awfully Nice
This last category is basically as close as I’m willing to come to rampant speculation. Endless Boogie have hinted at new material, and Queens of the Stone Age have talked about hitting the studio for the last two years. There were rumors about Om, and though Kings Destroy just put out an EP, they have new songs as well, though I doubt we’ll hear them before the end of 2017. I’ll admit that Across Tundras, Fever Dog, Lord Fowl, Lowrider and Hour of 13 are just wishful thinking on my part. A boy can hope:
192. Across Tundras
194. Elephant Tree
195. Endless Boogie
196. Fever Dog
197. Fu Manchu
198. Halfway to Gone
199. Hour of 13
201. Kings Destroy
202. Lord Fowl
204. Masters of Reality
207. Queens of the Stone Age
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Whatever this year brings, I hope it’s been great so far for you and I hope it continues to be so as we proceed inexorably to 2018 and all the also-futuristic-sounding numbers thereafter. At least we know we’ll have plenty of good music to keep us company on that voyage.
As always, comments section is open if there’s anything I’ve left out. I’m happy to add, adjust, etc., as need be, so really, have at it, and thanks in advance.
Posted in Reviews on August 10th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
There are a few things to know about Electric Moon‘s new live album, Live 2015 – Zeiss Planetarium Bochum, released digitally on their own Sulatron Records. First, it has six songs. Second, all but two of those six are over 24 minutes long. Not a one of them is under 15 minutes long. Do the math and that adds up to a runtime of 2:24:28. That’s a hell of a show, and largely unmanageable for any kind of physical release, but it works for the expansive, exploratory, and largely improvised far-ranging space-psych that the German trio proffer. The liquefied jams of Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, bassist/sometimes vocalist Komet Lulu and drummer Marcus Schnitzler have always kind of existed outside of time anyway, so somehow this long-form excursion suits them as they conjure headphone-worthy immersion in richly-effected guitar and synth swirl, deep and warm bass tones and percussive drive capable of holding it all together.
Accompanying the album is a note from the band informing listeners that Schmidt had some technical difficulties during the gig, which does indeed seem to have been held at a planetarium (where they’ll play again in Nov. 2016), and that when it was done both his guitar amp and his Korg Polysix synthesizer — not a minor factor in their sound — were broken. They out-rocked their gear, in other words. Proceeds from sales go toward repairs. Sure enough, there are some clicks and pops audible in the guitar after 24:43 opener “Star Factory” recedes and elsewhere as well, but the overarching impression on Live 2015 – Zeiss Planetarium Bochum is so much more about the krautrock trance the band elicits that it’s easy to pass over those other noises without even realizing they’re there.
Likewise, one might snap back to consciousness 10 minutes deep into “The Last Words of Mr. P.” (28:21) and wonder how the three-piece got from the subdued synth interplay to just a thickened push of a crescendo. They did so gradually, of course, Same way they always do it, but what stands Live 2015 – Zeiss Planetarium Bochum apart from other live outings the band has done like their Live 2012 One and Two (review here), and certainly from their studio work to-date is the scope of the work itself. Not just that it’s longer, but what that extra space in time allows Sula, Lulu and Marcus to do in terms of making the vibe come to life across such a massive span.
Each of these jams would eat a side of vinyl whole, if not more than that, but as “The Last Words of Mr. P.” gives way to the particularly space-rocking “Air to Space” (the shortest inclusion at 15:47) and the bass-led experimentalist build of “Radio Contact was Lost” (19:38), they bring quality no less than quantity, the band having long since established a crucial chemistry between them that continues to shine and grow with each subsequent release. That’s audible as Lulu and Marcus hold together the spacey thrust on “Radio Contact was Lost” and Schmidt sets about creating a wash of swirl that seems to grow more intense with each rhythmic cycle, propelled by the drums with the bassline holding steady but increasing its tension as well. At about 14:30, they hit the peak and ride it until just after the 15-minute mark, but even there, Lulu keeps that bassline going, so when they pick it back up, the song remains fluid, the vibe tripped-out, the mood engaging.
Electric Moon aren’t a new band at this point, so that they should be able to bring this level of mastery to the form of heavy psychedelic jamming maybe isn’t such a surprise, but the scale at which they do it on Live 2015 – Zeiss Planetarium Bochum is a statement unto itself. The album ends as it began: with two massive slabs of jammy adventuring. Both “Close Encounter of the 4th Kind” (26:29) — which might just be the highlight of the release, though I won’t take away from the appeal of “Air to Space” — and closer “Sunburst Odyssey” (29:29) have their own development cycle. The former moves through a quiet synthy opening smoothly into guitar-led build, peaks and falls back before finding a sort of middle ground, where Schmidt‘s airy dreamscape guitar feels particularly resonant, while the latter, perhaps unsurprisingly, has a bit of everything. It starts off with quiet hum, then throws in some synth.
It moves through krautrock jamming, deep-space atmospherics, emphasizes the balance of high and low end in what Electric Moon do in its second half and ultimately asks nothing more of the listener than perhaps a bit of mind expansion in the process of letting go and following the band along their extended but still welcoming path. Ever prolific in the tradition of their style, Electric Moon have a new studio album in the works and as “Sunburst Odyssey” meanders its way toward its finish in some world other than this one, I can’t help but wonder how much of the synth integration that typifies Live 2015 – Zeiss Planetarium Bochum will show up there as well. We’ll find out in time, of course, but if anything’s for sure it’s that more than half a decade on from their first offering, Electric Moon keep growing and changing, and here they admirably maintain a cohesive atmosphere across what to many acts would be an utterly impossible stretch. Hard to imagine anyone leaving this show dissatisfied.
Electric Moon, Live 2015 – Zeiss Planetarium Bochum (2016)
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan
You know how I know Doomed Gatherings III has its shit together? Yeah, they’ve got Elder, Crowbar, Trouble, Monolord, Egypt, Ramesses, Mantar and so on confirmed to play over the course of the three-night event in Paris this May, and that’s super. Not arguing against any of that. But how you really know is that not only are Toner Low playing the thing, but they’re playing a set all three nights. That’s right: a Toner Low residency. I don’t know about you, but from where I sit there’s nothing about that concept that isn’t badass.
Details and ticket links follow for the big to-do, for which there are reportedly more band announcements to come. Makes sense, as May’s still a ways off. The following came down the PR wire:
Crowbar, Ramesses, Trouble and more confirmed to play third DOOMED GATHERINGS festival in Paris!
The third edition of France’s only doom, sludge and filth-oriented festival DOOMED GATHERINGS is taking up residence again at Glazart venue in Paris, for three days of crushing, highly grooving and undoubtedly smoke-filled performances. The lineup is now almost complete with a total of twenty-one bands, among which Crowbar, Ramesses, Trouble, Monolord and Elder. Let there be doom.
DOOMED GATHERINGS III May 14-16th at Glazart – Paris, France 3-day pass (55€) and day tickets (25€) on sale HERE
The current lineup is as follows, with two more bands remaining to be announced. Hotel deals will come up soon along with next announcement.
DAY 1 ? Saturday 14th May ? Ramesses (UK) ? Toner Low (NL) ? Mantar ? Egypt (USA) ? Demonic Death Judge (FIN) ? The Lumberjack Feedback (FR) ? NNRA ? Bathsheba (BE)
DAY 2 ? Sunday 15h May ? Crowbar (USA) ? Trouble (USA) ? Toner Low (NL) ? Samothrace (USA) ? Hang The Bastard (UK) ? Throw Me in the Crater (NL) + 2 more bands TBA
DAY 3 ? Monday 16h May ? Elder (USA) ? Monolord (SWE) ? Toner Low (NL) ? Electric Moon (DE) ? Chaos E.T. Sexual (FR) ? DDENT (FR) ? Carousel (USA)
Doomed Gatherings is the first festival in France for everything doom, sludge, filthy and psyched out. Taking place for the third year at Glazart in the 19th district of Paris, the festival is powered by national heavy promoters Stoned Gatherings and assembles a fine selection of international headliners and breakthrough acts, for the sheer love of Heavy.
Glazart is an indoor/outdoor club located in the north-east of Paris, near reknown architectural unit of La Villette, a venue that is easily reachable from the underground and tramway lines.
? Getting to Glazart ? 7-15 avenue de La Porte de la Villette, 75019 Paris ? Metro 7 (Porte de la Villette station) or Tram 3b (Porte de la Villette station)
Listening to Theory of Mind, I’m not sure German trio Electric Moon ever need to set foot in a studio again. One imagines that at some point they will, but the vibrancy and the fullness of tone they’re able to capture from the stage — added to the fact that their extended, flowing, sprawling jams are instrumental and at least in part improvised — makes the idea of them stepping in to record to a board, without an audience there, seem incorrect on some fundamental level. On stage is where they should be, where pieces like those included on Theory of Mind should come from. They are, in other words, in their element.
The raw chemistry that has grown up over the last several years (and really before that, in different bands) between guitarist/synthesist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, bassist/sometimes vocalist/cover artist Komet Lulu and drummer Marcus Schnitzler is readily on display in the four cuts of this Sulatron Records CD/2LP, arranged one per side in the order of “Hypnotika” (16:04), “Theory of Mind” (19:05), “The Picture” (14:32) and “Aerosoul” (14:28), the trance coming on early in “Hypnotika” as it unfolds gradually over its first three minutes and twisting here and there, getting heavy at the end of the title-track and finding “The Picture” as perhaps the most riff-based jam Electric Moon have proffered in their time together, before “Aerosoul” ups the swirl and wah quotient to finish the show with a full on crest-and-recede process, Lulu underscoring a wash of guitar and crashing drums that lead to a last-minute swirlout.
An assembled audience — there is one — is pretty low in the mix, and were it not for the eruptions that occur as each piece draws to its conclusion and periodically within the jams as well, Theory of Mind would be an easy sell as a studio LP. Recorded to give a full tonal breadth, one can hear the separation between the guitar and bass, but not in the choppy soundboard manner that might result on a bootleg. Of course, Electric Moon have put out enough live albums at this point to know how it’s done, so maybe it’s not a surprise that “Hypnotika”‘s initial build-up would sound so completely fluid as it deftly shifts via Schnitzler‘s drumming into its next movement of heavier Krautrock stylizations, but that doesn’t make the release any less enjoyable.
Rather, knowing that Schmidt, Lulu and Schnitzler are going to provide their trademark exploratory sense in just about everything they do only enhances the appeal of their prolific output. It’s not quite like watching them play in-person, but it’s the next best thing, and the chance to hear the 19-minute breadth of “Theory of Mind” itself is something special, the song moving from another taking-its-time beginning into wah and bass bliss over liquefied cymbal work before emerging with a classic howl of a solo and evolving naturally into a heavier and heavier push, Lulu‘s bassline hypnotic all the while beneath, the track dynamically rising, falling, rising again momentarily and then pulling itself downward to make room for “The Picture,” its Sleepy initial progression striking in how firmly preconceived it seems to be. Possible that Sula or Lulu thought of that riff off the cuff, but it sounds like one from home brought to the stage for show-and-tell, and they put it to excellent use over the course of “The Picture”‘s 14-minute roll.
All the better to have “The Picture” directly in front of “Aerosoul,” then, because while the closer does have a build playing out over its own 14 minutes, it’s the most improvised-sounding of the four tracks on Theory of Mind. Now, it’s entirely possible that “Aerosoul” was thought out beforehand and “The Picture” made up on the spot — I’m only going by how I hear it — but what’s more important than when or how Electric Moon came up with this stuff is the fact that, even as they seem to be constantly pushing into new cosmic terrain, they’re also branching out into different modes of exploration, taking varied paths to accomplish the work of raw creativity.
By the time its crescendo takes hold circa eight minutes in, “Aerosul” has stretched itself out over a vast expanse of heavy psychedelia, and it only becomes more hypnotic as it pushes that groove forward and moves deeper into who the hell knows where Electric Moon are ultimately headed. Their jams have grown more and more engaging as their time has gone on, and with Lulu and Sula Bassana now also taking part in Krautzone and the reunited Zone Six, it seems like the scope has widened and will keep widening. Not something to complain about, because it seems like no matter where Electric Moon might go with their sound, they always keep the core mission of exploration central to what they do. As a live record like Theory of Mind proves, their approach is among the most vital of heavy psychedelic outfits active today, and one hopes it continues to develop as organically as it has to this point.
Morale is good as I stare down day three of this Quarterly Review. I’m encouraged by the good response the two-so-far posts have gotten and hope if you’ve had the chance to check out any of this stuff you’ve been able to find something you’re into. Or if not, I hope the next three days can rectify that situation. There are 30 records still to go. Bound to be something in there for everyone, myself included.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors
Royal Thunder’s second full-length for Relapse, Crooked Doors, is bound to surprise some listeners. A three-piece when they issued CVI through the label in 2012, the Savannah, Georgia, outfit arrives at Crooked Doors as a foursome with the addition of guitarist Will Fiore of Zoroaster, and embarks on a considerable shift in approach. Slickly, almost commercially produced, the album brisks past some riffy elements in songs like opener “Time Machine,” also the longest cut at 7:20 (immediate points), and “The Line” toward an aesthetic reinterpreting ‘80s pop-metal melodramas through a vaguely heavy rock filter. Between Fiore and might-spit-beer-on-you guitarist Josh Weaver, one might expect more tonal heft than Crooked Doors offers overall, but the album instead leans heavily on bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz to carry the emotional crux of the material (though Evan Diprima’s drums still hit with some impact as well). Parsonz’s voice proves up to the task — in pop-singer form, she carries the record — and is bolstered through layering, but by the time Crooked Doors’ hour runtime ends up at the lounge-blues and piano stylizations of “The Bear I” and “The Bear II,” it feels cumbersome and like the point has already been made.
A sophomore EP from this London five-piece following their impressive 2013 self-titled (review here), Luia doesn’t top half an hour, but its five included tracks show marked progression in pushing Strauss away from the Kyuss-isms that in large part defined their prior work. Opener “Mud at You” is immediately more aggressive, and though “Humanphobic (to Mary Shelley)” (note: anthropophobia), slows the pace and opens wide in its middle third, vocalist Stef shouts to remind of the core intensity in the songwriting. That takes a back seat as centerpiece “For all the Wrong Reasons” moves toward an apex of a cleaner-sung chorus, but the riffs of guitarists Charles and Bano, and the groove from bassist Bill and drummer Doc, remain heavy enough that the point isn’t lost. The eight-minute “Eclipse” has it all – doomed chug, screams, singing, crash, tempo changes, nod and so on – but the funky jam that starts closer “2015” shows Strauss are willing to have some fun with their heaviness as well. All the better. Time for a full-length.
Comparisons to Witch Mountain are inevitable for Minneapolis four-piece Kult of the Wizard, whose vocalist, Mahle Roth, carries a bluesy inflection not dissimilar from Uta Plotkin on the five-song EP, The White Wizard. Self-released, it’s the band’s first work with Roth as frontwoman, guitarist Aaron Hodgson, bassist Ryan Janssen and drummer Travis Nordahl having released two prior outings – The Red Wizard (2013) and The Blue Wizard (2014) – instrumentally, and the difference is palpable. Roth adds a commanding presence to the rolling leadoff track “Tusk of the Mammoth,” showcases a noteworthy range on “Black Moon” and steps back only for an eerie wash of noise and samples on centerpiece “Plasma Pool,” but the finest performance on all fronts is closer “Devil Delight,” which meters out stomp and echo at its peak to concoct an otherworldly churn of psychedelic cult doom, Roth once again steering the progression with a sure hand. One does not expect The White Wizard to be the last we hear from Kult of the Wizard. Hell, they haven’t even done all the primary colors yet.
With 350 copies pressed by H42 Records in no fewer than five different color variations and at least that many versions of the cover art, Ein Herz Voller Soul, the latest 7” single from horn-laden German rockers Coogans Bluff hits with a fair amount of circumstance. It is, nonetheless, two songs and a quick listen. Its A-side is “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” a German-language retelling of “Heart Full of Soul” from the band’s 2014 full-length, Gettin’ Dizzy, and the B-side is “She Gave Her Life for a Man,” a classic rocker given middle-era Beatlesian flair by Stefan Meinking’s trombone, which feels fitting after the garage style of “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” though both cuts retain an element of the progressive in their approach, the band – Meinking, guitarist Willi Paschen, bassist/vocalist Clemens Marasus, drummer Charlie Paschen and saxophonist Max Thum – not afraid to branch wherever the song might take them, to a call and response hook or harder drum stomp. A stopgap, maybe, but Coogans Bluff have a tendency to engage and here they do so in hardly any time at all.
Papir Meets Electric Moon, The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014
Members of German psych-jam godsends Electric Moon and Copenhagen progressive explorers Papir took the stage at Roadburn 2014 in the Netherlands as a follow-up to their 2013 outing, The Papermoon Sessions (review here). I don’t think they’d played live together before and I’m pretty sure they haven’t since (though don’t quote me on that), but in any case, the billing Papir Meets Electric Moon isn’t something that happens every day, and the two north-of-20-minutes pieces conjured up for inclusion on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 only emphasize how special the collaboration actually is, washes of synth and effects layered over gloriously krautrocking rhythms, swiftly turning one minute and peaceful the next, but never disjointed, never losing the sense of flow. Each track — the second one is shorter at 22:15 — has its own movement, but the thing to do is put on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 and just let it go and go along with it. For a group that came together in the wake of a tragedy — the untimely passing of Danish promoter Ralph Rjeily — Papermoon proves yet again that beauty can spring even in dark times. I hope they do another record.
Seems unlikely a band is going to dive into songs like “Hippies are Dead,” “Whore Island (Jim Loves His Wife” or “King Mullet Destroyer” and not have a sense of humor, let alone call themselves We are Warwick Davis – please note: the actor is nowhere to be seen – so yeah, the Illinois double-guitar five-piece get up to some chicanery on their Storming the Castle full-length. Lots of chicanery, as it happens. Vocalist Joe Duffy is blown out over the punkish progressions of “Audio Visual” but reminds more of Jello Biafra on “Mind Enemy Mine,” which launches the album following a voicemail intro about blowing people off the stage. Former Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain mastered the album, and it was apparently a couple years in the self-recording process. It’s accordingly raw, and at 57 minutes, I doubt the band could be accused of understating their argument. Out of balance here and there to the point of abrasion, but ultimately harmless.
Rongeur, The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos
With members of folk metallers Trollfest, off-kilter hardcore punkers Ampmandens Døtre and atmospheric post-metallers Sju in tow, it may or may not be fair to call Rongeur a side-project, but they sure as hell are varied in their influences. The Oslo trio of drummer/vocalist Jostein, guitarist/vocalist Ken-Robert and bassist/vocalist Dag Ole (who belong respectively to the bands above) arrange their two-to-date demos with the newer tracks first on The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos, on Disiplin Media, so that the listener encountering them for the first time hears where the trio are as of 2014, then goes back to their first explorations, from 2013. Raw noise ensues, a post-hardcore vibe delivered with shouts and sludgy heft, but the older tracks offer a fuller distortion that they seem to have stripped down before getting around to songs like “Traitors” or the barebones-aggro “Jon Hogg.” One wonders where they might go from here, which is probably the whole point of the release.
Heavy rock and death metal rarely tread the same ground without being immediately cast to one side or another. Gothenburg’s Crowlegion seem determined to stake a claim to both sides, and the 24-minute The First Offering EP, issued on CD by Grave Goods Productions, makes good on that attempt. The seven tracks are short – only two top four minutes – but stylistically ambitious, guitarist/vocalist Linus Pilebrand seeming to be the driving force behind the project’s blend of rolling riffs and guttural growls. He’s since replaced the rhythm section, having played bass on this recording in addition to guitar, with Jonas Jörgensen also on guitar and Sarah Tefke drumming, and four of the seven cuts also feature guest vocals, most of them working in extreme styles as well. I’m not sure if The First Offering is the release that finally crosses that long bridge between aesthetics, but Crowlegion position themselves well with these tracks to continue to make the journey. Nod or headbang. Your choice.
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, Intensity Ghost
Less about the sonic heft of any given moment than the overarching freedom of exploration throughout its five instrumental tracks, Intensity Ghost is the first studio offering from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band (released on No Quarter), and it’s fucking brilliant. The Philly-based five-piece got together in 2013 but play like they’ve been sharing stages for a decade, whether it’s the smoothness with which they ride the bassline and current of synth in “Yellow Square” or closer “Paris Song”’s subtle move from minimalism into contemplative psychedelia. Dreamy centerpiece “I Ain’t Waiting” is the shortest of the bunch at 5:16, and opener “The Ballad of Freer Hollow” the longest and jammiest at 11:25 (immediate points), but wherever these guys – Forsyth on guitar, plus guitarist Paul Sukeena, bassist Peter Kerlin, drummer Steven Urgo and synth/organist Shawn Edward Hansen – seem to go, they get there with an engrossing fluidity that’s nothing short of masterful. A joy, front to back.
Eldorado’s Babylonia Haze, at 10 tracks and 55 minutes, is not an insignificant undertaking. The Spanish four-piece brazenly take on classic rock hooks topped with organ-and-guitar fluidity and the soar-ready singing of Jesus Trujillo, joined in the band by guitarist Andres Duende, bassist Cesar Sanchez and drummer Christian Giardino (since replaced by Javier Planelles). A progressive clarity marks out acoustic-led cuts like “Breathe the Night” and the later “Resurrection Song,” the arrangements natural and purposeful in kind, and longer inclusions like “Flowers of Envy” (8:02) and “Karma Generator” (11:35) have breadth enough to sustain their runtimes while keeping a structured feel, the latter providing plotted movements toward the apex of the album before “Moon Girl” offers a lesser build of its own as afterthought, reimagining prog-fueled heavy rock as the fodder of a pop wistfulness. Accomplished and precise, it’ll be too clean for some ears, while others will no doubt wonder how its brilliance can be ignored.