Friday Full-Length: Colour Haze, Colour Haze

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Colour Haze, Colour Haze (2004)

My understanding is that the version of Colour Haze‘s 2004 self-titled seventh full-length album is the 2007 reissue. I figured any Colour Haze‘s Colour Haze was the right choice. The difference is that the original CD edition was about 55 minutes long. Too much for a single LP, obviously, so the CD closer, “Flowers” is gone, as is “Mountain,” from side A. I’ll miss the latter more than the former, but as the album that’s come in a big way to define Colour Haze‘s sound as one of the most distinct in the European underground over the 10 years since its release, this clip — which was also the best quality available — wasn’t a loss either way. I don’t have this on vinyl. Maybe I should. I’d be lying if I said putting it on full-screen and watching the record spin with the cover propped up behind wasn’t a good sell.

It’s hard to pick a winner between Colour Haze and its 2006 follow-up, Tempel, also released through Elektrohasch. Usually I’ll abdicate the responsibility. I’ll say that I remember when I got the CD of the self-titled and put it on, it was one of those moments where you can feel your blood get warmer. Particularly for arriving so soon after 2003′s Los Sounds de Krauts, it was a different vibe than that 2CD, fuzzier, more assured, jammier. Again, I don’t really have a favorite from Colour Haze, but this one is as  essential as any you might want to put next to it. One interesting thing the vinyl seems to do is keep “Peace, Brothers and Sisters!” intact, timing-wise. A 22-minute B-side is nothing to scoff at, and every nuance leading to it is a joy. For “Love” alone, it’s one of the best heavy psych records ever made.

Enjoy.

Tonight is the Small Stone Records showcase at the Middle East in Boston, and I’ll be hitting that up. I didn’t anticipate having the energy to close out the week afterwards, so it seemed prudent to do so beforehand. Monday I’ll have a review of that showcase and a full-stream of the new Causa Sui live album, Live at Freak Valley, with an accompanying review. Probably not the smartest thing I ever did to book both of those on the same day, but hell, not like I have a job, right? If I spend my afternoon furiously typing alternate descriptors for “heavy,” well at least I wasn’t in bed with my head buried under pillows dwelling on what a spectacular failure my decade in the music industry was. Gotta stay busy!

Also next week, look for a full-album stream from Hotel Wrecking City Traders, whose new one is killer. I’m in the process of working out a premiere for Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus too, because I think that’s worth hearing for people who may not be familiar with the band — I also didn’t really appreciate what they were doing until I heard it for myself and sat with it a while — but I’m not sure if it’ll be next week or sometime thereafter. I’ll figure it out one way or another.

You might notice an awful lot of Kyuss and Black Sabbath (also Colour Haze, and Grails and a bunch of Small Stone stuff) on the radio stream. It’s the backup server. The main server was at my now-former office in Jersey, and this week I asked Slevin to run by and pick it up, which he was kind enough to do. It’s being brought north by my family, who are coming up tomorrow for a visit (“uh, hey guys, can you bring this computer and also a bunch of food?” — classy), and I’ll hope to have it running at some point over the weekend. Until then, Kyuss and Sabbath hardly seems like a downer.

Have a great and safe couple of days and I’ll catch you back here Monday for more wild adventures. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

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Colour Haze, Ewige Blumenkraft: A More than Slight Return

Posted in Reviews on January 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Because it’s the issue at hand and the record which German heavy psych innovators Colour Haze have chosen to focus on at the moment by reissuing it through guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek‘s Elektrohasch Schallplatten on CD and limited 2LP, the temptation is strong to read 2002′s Ewige Blumenkraft as a major turning point for the band or a stylistic landmark in their development. In truth, that turn came two album’s prior with their third outing, 1999′s Periscope, which departed from the brooding noise rock of their 1995 Chopping Machine debut (discussed here) and the Tool-influenced prog metal of the subsequent self-release, Seven (the Great White Whale of my CD collection; someday I’ll own a copy and gaze upon it with pride for the remainder of my days), in favor of the tonally rich desert atmosphere they’ve spent the last 15 years developing and making their own, serving as a chief influence for European heavy psychedelia and underground heavy rock along the way. If nothing else, Ewige Blumenkraft, taken in the context of its original 2002 release on Monster Zero Records, showcases just how pivotal Colour Haze have been to the last decade-plus in the European scene. It’s a cliche to say about a reissue, but if this CD came in the mail as a brand new release today, I might say it was influenced by Colour Haze, but there’s no way in hell I’d call it dated.

So why reissue Ewige Blumenkraft? Colour Haze have never seemed the type to feed their egos — I won’t argue against a penchant for musical self-indulgence; they’re jammers at heart and even this earlier work is 74 minutes long, so that kind of thing is inevitable if justified by the material itself — so it hardly seems like a, “Check us out, we were here first” kind of situation. More likely it’s just that Ewige Blumenkraft has been out of print for some time, which, speaking as a fan of the band, is enough excuse for me. In the 12 years since it first surfaced, a new generation of heavy rockers has come of age and for them, the chance to revisit an album like this on vinyl would be like discovering the language from which your own was derived. By 2002, Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald had solidified as a formidable, dynamic trio with their own sonic character, not quite as exploratory as they’d become starting with 2003′s Los Sounds de Krauts and moving up through 2004′s Colour Haze and 2006′s Tempel en route to the mature, masterful approach they’d show on their most recent outings, 2008′s All and 2012′s She Said (review here), but not far off. In the charming stoner straightforwardness of “Freakshow,” they set a lighthearted tone for Ewige Blumenkraft and the roots of nearly everything they’d accomplish in the 10 years that followed can be heard throughout the rest of the 10 tracks included here.

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You’ll be Missed: Sungrazer

Posted in Features on December 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

For a while there, it was looking like Sungrazer were the future of fuzz. No shit. After I heard their Mirador album in 2011 (review here), I was all set and in fact did on several occasions count them as one of the brightest hopes in the European heavy psych scene, all the more so as they were brought forth with the endorsement of Elektrohasch Schallplatten, the imprint founded by Stefan Koglak of Colour Haze. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets, bassist/vocalist Sander Haagmans and drummer Hans Mulders released a split earlier in 2013 with like-minded Dutch trio The Machine (review here) to mark their “Strikes and Gutters” tour together, and then Sungrazer were supposed to play Duna Jam, and Smeets quit. That’s how it went. Here’s his post from Thee Facebooks on June 4:

Dear all,
After having played many years with Sungrazer with great joy I have come to the conclusion that there’s no more future in this band for me. That’s why I quit Sungrazer and so, unfortunately, I can’t come to DunaJam. I’m sorry about this and I want to thank you for the great moments we shared.
Peace,
Rutger

In the months that have followed, there hasn’t been much more said about it than that. Nothing, actually. It’s hard enough to replace any member of a trio without creating an entirely new group dynamic, so I guess Haagmans and Mulders decided without Smeets that was it. It was one of 2013′s biggest bummer breakups, and more so since after their future-classic 2010 self-titled debut (review here), Mirador had expanded their sound into even jammier, more naturalistic vibing, so that cuts like “Mirador” and “Sea” and “Behind” seemed to emerge from a glorious overarching wash of tonal warmth. The self-titled had that as well, and “Zero Zero,” “Common Believer,” “If,” “Somo” and “Mountain Dusk” were even more distinct on their own, so that as much as the record worked as a whole, individual songs flourished as well.

I was fortunate enough to see them twice, first at Roadburn 2011 and then again at London Desertfest 2012, and they’d only gotten better as a unit. It’s always strange to write about a band who’ve decided to hang it up, first because you never know if they’ll get back together, and second because no band breakup has ever proven to be the end of the world, but Sungrazer had a special sound that was increasingly their own, their songs had a character that was their own, and of all the heavy psych to come out of the European heavy underground over the last half-decade or so, theirs showed a quick mastery of creating a peaceful feel with heavy tones. Particularly after the split with The Machine, which brought forth three new tracks in “Dopo,” “Yo La Tengo” and the wonderfully atmospheric “Flow through a Good Story,” my hopes had been high for their third album. Everything seemed to be on track.

That was the real kicker of it — the surprise factor. Some breakups stick, some don’t. I’d hope Sungrazer‘s falls into the latter category, but it’s not something I’ll attempt to predict either way. Late in 2012, Haagmans released an EP under the moniker The Whims of the Great Magnet, and a full lineup of the band with him on guitar and vocals made its live debut on Dec. 19, 2013, in Maastricht. Smeets seems to be playing with the new outfit Cigale (though they haven’t posted an official lineup or band pics as of now), who just released their first audio teaser, and I’m not sure if Mulders has a new project going or has joined another band or what, but it’s hard to imagine a psychedelic drummer of his caliber won’t resurface somewhere down the line if he hasn’t.

And since the best case scenario for any disbanding is output from players’ new projects, at least there’s that to take comfort in, though Sungrazer left a considerable void when their wall of fuzz fell.

Sungrazer, “If” official video

Sungrazer on Thee Facebooks

The Whims of the Great Magnet on Thee Facebooks

Cigale on Thee Facebooks

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Friday Full-Length: Hypnos 69, Legacy

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Hypnos 69, Legacy (2010)

This is one of those albums that earned every second of its 2LP length. Brilliant front to back over the course of its seven tracks, I got to the point with Hypnos 69‘s Legacy where it wasn’t so much that I wore the record out as much as it wore me out. The Belgian heavy prog rockers conjured such textures and crafted such gorgeous spaces for their songs to happen in, I still kind of feel unworthy in listening.Elektrohaschreleased this album and I think it’s one of the best things the label ever put out — and if you know anything about this site, you know that’s saying something coming from me.

No real word on if they’re still a band. It was four years between their prior outing — 2006′s also excellent The Eclectic Measure – and Legacy, so even if they were going, it’s entirely possible they wouldn’t be making much noise. There seemed to be mumblings both ways a while back and then things got quiet. I prefer to live in a reality in which there’s a chance for a follow-up to Legacy, and if that reality doesn’t reflect the real reality, so be it. People force beliefs on themselves all the time. It’s how religion happens. Let me and my altar to “The Great Work” have our little moment.

And I said it at the time as well, but man, if Legacy is it for Hypnos 69 for real, what a note to end on. Just a dream of a record. I know capping the week with the expectation that you’re actually going to sit and listen to all 72 minutes of an album is probably a ridiculous thought, but even if you just get a taste now and check out the rest later, I hope you’ll listen, and of course, that you’ll enjoy.

Kind of a non-week, this one. Having the holiday right in the middle there more or less shot the whole thing. I’ll die happy knowing I didn’t miss Wino Wednesday though just because it also happened to be Xmas. I was down in New Jersey at that point; The Patient Mrs. and I drove down Tuesday night after having dinner with her grandmother in Connecticut and stayed there until last night, family stuff front to back over those days — hence the general lack of posts — then back up to Massachusetts last night. We rolled in just before 12:30AM. Tomorrow we’re back to Connecticut for more family whathaveyou. I shouldn’t complain. I’m happy these people want to spend time with me (mostly they want to spend time with my wife, but I can’t argue with their point — she’s the draw for sure), the road time just adds up is all.

Even though next week is New Year’s, things should be a little bit closer to normal at least in terms of posts. I’m not traveling, so there’s that. New Year’s Day I might take it easy, but otherwise there’s still stuff I want to do to wrap up the year that I didn’t get to do this week — song of the year, comeback of the year, Top 20 EPs, singles, etc. — and I’ve got an Obelisk Questionnaire waiting to go up from Acid King‘s Lori S. and that rules, so I’m looking forward to it as well. I like that feature. I hope to keep it going indefinitely. The pace will probably slow somewhat over time, but at this point I’ve got a decent backlog to get up, so we’ll do at least one a week for now.

Next week I’m either going to review the new Truckfighters or the new Alcest, or maybe both if I’m feeling fancy, and I’ve got a tape from We are Oceans to check out and some vinyl in the stack waiting for a writeup as well, so in addition to that year-end silliness, the format wars will continue unabated.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Entirely likely you don’t give a crap, but this week I finished watching the entire original series of Star Trek and there were recaps on the forum that were good fun, if you have the chance to check them out. Please also hit up the Radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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Colour Haze Albums to be Reissued; Touring with My Sleeping Karma

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I always like posting news about Colour Haze, both because it means the band are active and working and because it gives me an excuse to also include a track by them. As you can see by the live version of “Grace” from Germany last year, I’m only too happy to take advantage. For what it’s worth, the accompanying update from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek which came courtesy of the latest Elektrohasch Schallplatten newsletter is pretty noteworthy, especially for anyone who’s missed out of their albums Los Sounds de Krauts, Periscope, C02 and Ewige Blumenkraft, since they’re all being reissued through Elektrohasch on CD and vinyl.

To celebrate the 10th birthday of the label, a slew of other records will also come out again that are detailed below, and Colour Haze also start a tour with My Sleeping Karma next week and have some fest dates lined up for the fall, including the golly-I-wish-I-could-see-that Keep it Low fest.

Check it out:

News from Elektrohasch:

Colour Haze

We are working on the rereleases of our old and mostly long time unavailable albums. I started remixing Los Sounds De Krauts and I`m surprised myself how much the soundquality of the old digital recordings can be improved by mixing on our fine analogue gear. I`m working steadily song by song but it will take some time until everything is finished.

Next week we`ll remaster Ewigen Blumenkraft – unfortunately we don`t have the multitrack recordings of this one anymore. It will be released pretty soon though in autumn. For CO2 and Periscope we have to check the available data to see if a remix or only a remaster is possible. All records will be released on CD and vinyl. We`ll adjust the artwork so the original precious collector items won`t loose value.

There won`t be any limited editions!

I also intend to release an album with Duna Jam live recordings and a collection of songs which have been unreleased or only on special formats or compilations. So in the next months step by step a lot of new old records by Colour Haze will be released.

But at first we are on tour with My Sleeping Karma:
27.09. – D -Karlsruhe, Substage
28.09. – B – Leuven, Het Depot
29.09. – F – Paris, Divan Du Monde
30.09. – F – Nantes , Le Ferrallieur
01.10. – F – Toulouse, La Dynamo
02.10. – ES – Madrid, Caracol
03.10. – ES – Barcelona, Razzmatazz 3
04.10.- F – Lyon, Clacson
05.10. – CH – Pratteln, Up In Smoke Festival + Monkey3, Radio Moscow, Truckfighters a.o.
19.10. – D -München, Feierwerk, Keep It Low Festival + Rotor, Been Obscene, The Machine, My Sleeping Karma, Cherry Choke, Ufomammut, Truckfighters a.o.
22.11. – D -Aschaffenburg, Colosaal, 16. Eclipsed Festival + Baby Woodrose

www.colourhaze.de

10-Years-Elektrohasch

For the 10th anniversary of Elektrohasch I intend several rereleases on vinyl. As with the old Colour Haze material it`s not so easy sometimes to get the old masters and artwork data. From October the following sold out LPs will be reprinted:

EH 115-2 – Hypnos 69 – The Eclectic Measure LP (single sleeve, no FOC)
EH 122-2 – Causa Sui – Free Ride (without the 7” of the limited issues)
EH 139 – Causa Sui – Summer Sessions 3LP
EH 147 – The Machine – Drie DLP
EH 151 – Cherry Choke – A Night In The Arms Of Venus LP
EH 152 – Rotor – Festsaal Kreuzberg LP

Additionally the first and second LP by Rotor will be rereleased in a DLP set.

Several Elektrohasch artists are preparing new albums – more later….

Colour Haze, “Grace” Live in Cologne 2012

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All Them Witches Release Free Cover of “Born under a Bad Sign”

Posted in audiObelisk on September 4th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

There’s a lot to like about All Them Witches‘ new cover of Albert King‘s “Born under a Bad Sign.” Here’s just a sampling of what I’ve come up with so far:

1. No pretense.

Take a listen to the vocals. Nobody’s trying to sound like Buddy Guy. Hell, even Cream‘s version of the song was more of a put-on. All Them Witches take a popular, well-known track — Albert King‘s version was first in 1967, but it’s been covered by everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Blue Cheer to Homer Simpson – and put a heavy psych jam spin on it to make it their own. It’s not trying to be something it isn’t, and it feels all the more authentic in what it winds up being.

2. Tripped out drums.

It’s nice to be reminded every now and again that percussion can be psychedelic as well. Drummer Robby Staebler‘s kit is pretty deep in the mix, but it’s always present in the echo of the song, the cymbals adding sweet wash to the slow shuffle that runs throughout.

3. Tone.

Positively drenched, this one is. The leads that pepper both the early verses and the instrumental jam that plays out afterwards are soaked in echo, giving the track a sense of space that works exceedingly well with the languid groove. All Them Witches seem to have pared down their lineup some since Elektrohasch issued their Our Mother Electricity full-length (review here) earlier this year, but at least on “Born under a Bad Sign,” that seems to just make guitarist Ben McLeod and bassist Michael Parks, Jr.‘s work stand out all the more.

4. It’s free.

Self-explanatory, right? We live in an age of immediate gratification and free distribution. It’s killed my career and so, so many others, but at least we can get some good music out of it.

5. It means progress.

And progress not only in terms of the band’s creativity — which, let’s be fair, it’s kind of hard to judge with a cover song — but progress as well on the recording of the follow-up to Our Mother Electricity. Not sure when that will surface, but if the “Born under a Bad Sign” single is a means to keeping the momentum going as the band finalizes their next record, I’m more than happy to take the bait.

Enjoy and download All Them Witches‘ “Born under a Bad Sign” on the player below, hoisted from their Bandcamp:

All Them Witches, “Born under a Bad Sign” (2013)

All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks

All Them Witches on Bandcamp

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Been Obscene Give New Album Teaser with Live Clip for “Pilot the Pirates”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I was fortunate enough to catch Been Obscene – guitarist/vocalist Thomas Nachtigal, guitarist Peter Kreyci, bassist Philipp Zezula and drummer Robert Schoosleitner – performing “Pilot the Pirates” earlier this year in Philly (though I had the title wrong in that review). What I had to say about it then was, “‘Pilot the Pirates’ was less outwardly jammy, featuring some solid backing arrangements from Zezula on vocals, but still had room for a bit of meandering amid a straightforward Queens of the Stone Age start-stop given vitality and fitting attitude from Kreyci rocking out with Schoosleitner.”

Watching the professionally-shot live video for the song, a studio version of which is set to appear on Been Obscene‘s next studio album — due out early 2014 — my impression is much the same, but on repeat viewings, it’s pretty clear what I missed appreciating was where the song really takes off after its halfway point. In the clip below, it’s signaled by a change in the lighting and quicker camera changes, so maybe that makes it more obvious, but either way, the track is a winner and the video makes me look forward even more to hearing the studio version when the time comes. So I guess it’s a winner twice.

As previously reported, Been Obscene are part of the ultra-righteous lineup playing this year’s Stoned from the Underground fest in Germany (info here). That and other live dates follow below:

Been Obscene, “Pilot the Pirates” official live video

Jul 13 Erfurt [DE] Stoned From The Underground
Jul 19 Golling [AT] On The Rocks
Jul 26 Feldkirch [AT] Poolbar
Aug 10 Waldhausen [AT] Lake On Fire
Aug 17 Plaidt [DE] Pellenzer

Keep up with updates from Been Obscene at their Thee Facebooks.

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Sgt. Sunshine, III: Back to the Sands

Posted in Reviews on May 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s been a decade since Swedish rockers Sgt. Sunshine released their self-titled debut, an album that 10 years later still rings in the ears of those who were fortunate enough to hear it. In 2007, the follow-up, Black Hole, came out on Elektrohasch, and with a crunchier sound didn’t have quite the same spark as its predecessor, despite also being well received at the time. The band’s third album, aptly titled III (also released by Elektrohasch), immediate carves out a potent blend of desert groove and heavy psych jamming, the Malmö three-piece tapping into an earlier-Queens of the Stone Age via Colour Haze sound as natural as it is fuzzy, the guitars of Eduardo Fernandez leading the way for the rhythm section of bassist Pär Hallgren and drummer Christian “Kricke” Lundberg to flesh out and fill out the sound as cuts like “When I Was a Dog” nestles into funky vibing and the later “Holy Mother” digs deep into a warm, open jamming midsection. Fernandez and Hallgren share vocal duties, but it’s the songs themselves that are at the forefront of Sgt. Sunshine’s approach, with memorable hooks spread throughout and a fluid, unpretentious sensibility that leads one track into the next without any sense of progressive posturing or showiness. Opener “Zoetrope” starts with a drum beat from Lundberg strongly reminiscent of “You Think I ain’t Worth a Dollar but I Feel Like a Millionaire” from QOTSA’s Songs for the Deaf, but the “ooh”ing chorus soon unveils a more distinctly European take on the desert ideal, reminding of some of what Austrian rockers Been Obscene have been able to bring to the table melody-wise, without being fully adherent to their take either. It’s a solid opener and for Sgt. Sunshine’s first album in six years, they make their intent clear in the thick, warm tones of Fernandez’s guitar and Hallgren’s bass and the on-a-dime changes that play out smoothly across the 3:39, setting a tone for what’s to come throughout the album that follows in a natural feel and engaging sense of craft, “Zoetrope” returning to its verse/chorus interplay after a midsection jam.

From there, III embarks on a variety of riffy progressions but stays consistent in terms of atmosphere and desert rockery. Lundberg’s snare punctuates each cycle on “Caress the Tense Blue” as the guitar and bass work in tandem to threaten to swallow the vocals whole – they don’t, but Fernandez takes an effective transitional solo between verses to echo the melody – and though it’s the longest song on the album at 6:59, its structure prevents it from becoming overly repetitive. A split almost exactly in the middle introduces the fuzz line that will serve as the central figure for the second half, vocals soon topping double-time hi-hat drums that open to a slower section of psychedelic moodiness, a sluggish groove that carries the song to its finish and is soon counteracted by “Golden Dawn”’s immediate, no-frills rush. The effect putting the relatively straightforward “Zoetrope” and “Caress the Tense Blue” next to each other has is one of giving the listener a sense of not knowing what to expect – throwing the audience off without losing their attention – so that as “Golden Dawn” returns to a more basic verse and chorus-based mindset with an instrumental break similar to that of “Zoetrope,” the feeling isn’t that Sgt. Sunshine are repeating themselves, but rather that they’ve shown they can go wherever they like and where they’d like to go for the moment is there. It doesn’t last, of course, as the mostly-instrumental “Marrow Soup” lands with a dense thud of jam-based heavy psych riffing. The parts have been worked out – it doesn’t sound like the trio are making it up on the spot, that is – but there’s a sense of spontaneity about “Marrow Soup” anyway, even as Fernandez, Hallgren and Lundberg bring the build up, put it down again, bring it up again and ride the part to its end, giving way to “When I Was a Dog” and its funk-directed course. So far, III has started with a  shorter track and then answered with a longer one, but that doesn’t continue through the second half of the tracklist, as the lasting hook of “When I Was a Dog” leads to a stretch of longer material that fills most of side B save for the epilogue closer, “Levin.”

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The Machine & Sungrazer, Split CD: Flowing through Slipface

Posted in Reviews on April 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

The Machine and Sungrazer have a lot in common. Both are three-piece bands. Both hail from the Netherlands. Both are signed to Elekrohasch, and both specialize in a densely-fuzzed kind of heavy psych, born out of a healthy affection for Fu Manchu-via-Colour Haze tube-bursting idolatry. They share parts but not the whole of an aesthetic in this, and both represent a jam-minded outgrowth of the European underground, even as they continue to craft memorable songs in balance with an open feel. For The Machine, who come from Rotterdam, their 2012 full-length, Calmer than You Are (review here), unveiled a distinct progression in their sound, taking the vibes of their three prior offerings and solidifying them into something more completely the band’s own, moving past some of the Colour Haze-ing and into a guitar-led groovefest, varying in its drive but never without movement. Released a few months earlier, Sungrazer‘s 2011 sophomore outing, Mirador (review here), was as brilliant as it was dreamy. A follow-up to their also-stellar self-titled debut, it build on the ultra-warm tonality of the first album and pushed further into a sunny, jammed laconic semi-consciousness, keeping a sense of exploration in songs that even through that remained catchy and engaging, not at all indulgent sounding where they shouldn’t have been. It’s not necessarily surprising that the two acts would team up for a tour, which they did earlier this year, calling it “Strikes and Gutters” in keeping with The Machine‘s fetish for The Big Lebowski, but that the up-and-comers would unite for a split release to mark the occasion was something of a bonus. Issued by Elektrohasch, The Machine and Sungrazer‘s The Machine & Sungrazer split arrives both as vinyl and CD with three tracks from each act that showcase both what they share in terms of approach and some of the key differences between, totaling a comfortable 47-minute long-player rife with some of the best next-gen heavy psych Europe has to offer.

Guitarist/vocalist David Eering of The Machine recorded both bands at his Studio De Zolder, so there’s a consistency of sound between the two that most splits don’t have, allowing for a complete flow across the tracks even as the CD changes between The Machine and Sungrazer at the halfway point. Both bands open big, with The Machine taking the kind of riff that High on Fire seemed to use to construct the entirety of The Art of Self Defense and riding it for more than 10 minutes of chugging splendor. Following a sample of the moon landing (“The Eagle has landed”), Eering begins the track on guitar to announce said riff and is soon joined by a booming bass glissando from Hans van Heemst and drum crash from Davy Boogaard – the course is immediately set. Some riffs are enough to carry a song, and presented as hugely as this one is, it pretty much does, Eering topping with some echoing vocals and a numerical chorus line “10-56-69” reminiscent of “5 & 4” from Calmer than You Are without being redundant of it. An extended fuzzy solo break provides some change as Boogaard’s steady snare holds the piece together, and when they return to the central riff, it sounds even bigger than before, devolving into noise and feedback to close out the last minute-plus. This leads to the surprising rush of the 2:31 “Not Only,” which showcases a punkish side that does most of the work in distinguishing The Machine from their psychedelic peers. A strong hook pokes through on the quick as the song races past in two verses and choruses, a solo and a heads-down pummeling outro, and the trio find some contextual middle ground between the two atmospheres on the ensuing “Slipface,” dialing back on the pace but keeping the extended form of the opener and the chorus-minded vibe of the second cut. A solid stoner rocker, it reinforces the analog-type warmth in Eering’s recording and opens to a jammier feel as feedback is underscored by van Heemst’s bass and Boogaard’s drums, setting up a wah-heavy solo that moves into an instrumental jam that persists for the duration of the song, abandoning the structure in favor of psychedelic exploration, but hinting at it enough instrumentally to give a sense that The Machine haven’t lost sight of their departure point. They end quietly with a sweet drone and some effects noise, making way for the big drum crash that opens Sungrazer’s “Dopo.”

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All Them Witches, Our Mother Electricity: Shoot Your Guns as Loud as You Can

Posted in Reviews on February 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

All Them Witches earn immediate distinction for being the first American band signed to German heavy psych purveyors Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Endorsement from the label of Colour Haze guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, which has released albums from My Sleeping Karma, Sungrazer, Rotor, Been Obscene and The Machine – essentially casting the blueprint by which a goodly portion of the up and coming European scene is built – goes a long way in my book, and the feat is even more impressive when one considers that the Nashville four-piece’s debut full-length, Our Mother Electricity (produced by the band with Andy Putnam), sounds so distinctly American. They’re not the first to use the wordplay, but in calling their approach “psychedelta rock,” neither are All Them Witches inaccurate. Swampy blues is definitely a major element in what they do, but along with that and the heavy psych aspect to their sound, there’s also a dynamic sense of Americana in the songwriting, taking hold either in the twang of centerpiece “Elk Blood Heart” or the countrified moaning and Skynyrd solo bursting out of closer “Right Hand.” Our Mother Electricity was originally released by the band last summer, and along with the bonus cut, the Elektrohasch version also boasts new artwork courtesy of Mat Bethancourt (Cherry Choke, ex-Josiah) and a new mastering job. Among the album’s central appeals is the fact that it never actually seems at rest, and through the 45-minute duration, All Them Witches show little interest in telegraphing their next move. To wit, the shift from eight-and-a-half-minute jam “Until it Unwinds” – the title perhaps referencing the tape on which the song was recorded – moving into the quiet, desert-hued soul of “Easy.” It’s just one of several complicated transitions All Them Witches pull off with what can only be called swagger, guitarist Ben McLeod and bassist Michael Parks trading vocal lines and frequently layering one voice on the other. On the album, the band is completed by drummer Robby Staebler and keyboardist Allan Van Cleave (Jason Staebler has since joined, presumably on second guitar), and in the natural, unfolding process of these tracks, no single contribution to the whole is inconsiderable. Vocals start opener “Heavy Like a Witch” sounding almost like a harmonica, and with a fuzzy guitar, the song is gradually introduced as a fitting opener for Our Mother Electricity in balancing heaviness and a rural sensibility.

As for comparison points, one can find pieces from Our Mother Electricity in the work of bands like Pennsylvania’s Pearls and Brass, who also proffer a sonic allegiance to blues rock, or in the heavy Southern prog builds that North Carolina’s Caltrop sometimes enact, but All Them Witches aren’t directly relatable to either of those acts, offsetting these with backwoods stomp and concurrent noisy crunch. Following an organ solo over chugging riffage, “Heavy Like a Witch” gives way to the more memorable “The Urn,” a standout of the album that stops around the line in its chorus, “I’ll put your ashes in an urn.” This and the following “Bloodhounds” are the shortest tracks on the album at around 3:30, but both still have time to develop a progression of their own, the former delving into slide guitar grooving à la Clutch’s blues fetishizing – the lyrics more assuring that threatening as the line noted above might suggest – and the latter driven forward by Staebler’s snare and a funky guitar wail quick to solo and answer its own leads with start-stop verse grooving. The riff is simple and effective, and Parks fills out the low end excellently, foreshadowing the distorted shouts that arise to announce the fuller apex of the track, also topped by a guitar solo. In the last 15 or so seconds of the song, they bring back the start-stop groove of the verse and it’s as swift and righteous as turn as I’ve heard yet this year – more so as it leads to the moodier “Guns,” which is pushed along at a deceptively quick pace by a quieter low end line and subdued initial vocal. For the second verse, whispers join the central line reminding of some of Queens of the Stone Age’s vocal arrangements, but there’s a build at work too as the lead guitar line feeds back over the blues jamming midpoint and the vocals take a more active approach. The established rolling groove ends and “Guns” caps with a faster stoner riff from McLeod that the drums make individual, and “Elk Blood Heart” takes hold to begin its own build – the best of the album – from the boldest of starting points: bare silence.

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Visual Evidence: The Machine & Sungrazer Unveil Cover for Split Release

Posted in Visual Evidence on January 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Dutch heavy psych outfits The Machine and Sungrazer just a couple minutes ago unveiled the cover art for their upcoming split release to coincide with their “Strikes and Gutters” tour. Of course, it’s a little late to include it in the Albums to Watch for in 2013 list, but I’m still really looking forward to this one. Art is by Maarten Donders and it’s pretty manic. Check it out:

For more on the “Strikes and Gutters” tour, check out The Machine on Thee Facebooks or Sungrazer on Thee Facebooks.

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Monday Morning Full Show: Ararat Live at Niceto Club, Buenos Aires, 2012

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 17th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Of all the ways to possibly start off this week, somehow a full set makes the most sense, and the way this this pro-shot 49-minute Ararat gig from earlier this year lurches to life only reminds me of the slow ascent into consciousness I made not so terribly long ago, pulled ahead as I tried to resist by the digitized chime of the alarm clock. They do four songs in their allotted time: “Caballos,” “Lobos de Guerra y Cazadores de Elefantes,” “La Ira del Dragon (Parte 1),” and the new cut “Nicotina y Destruccion” that will presumably be out on their third album next year.

Actually, if you want to dig into that song further — and why not? — there’s a demo the band posted on Sergio Chotsourian‘s often and quietly updated Soundcloud page:

One more thing to look forward to in 2013. At some point I’ll get a list of those up before the New Year. I’ve got my notes in progress right here on my desk next to my Top 20 of 2012 list, which currently has 26 acts on it. I’ll work on whittling that down and hope to post it sometime before this week is out. I’m thinking tomorrow, but don’t want to lock myself into anything since time’s short these days however quiet things are supposed to be in the music industry around the holidays. Doom never sleeps.

In the meantime, I’ve got a new column from Chris “Woody” MacDermott that will be posted shortly, and a review of the Serpent Throne, EYE and Randall of Nazareth gig I saw Friday night in Philly. If you’ve sent me an email in the last week or so, I apologize for the delay in getting back. And that’s not just “hey here’s my Bandcamp it took me 30 seconds to write this email now go spend seven hours reviewing it”-type emails either. It’s friends. I hope to catch up on that today as well and spend some time preparing for an interview tomorrow with guitarist Arthur Seay of Unida/House of Broken Promises about what’s going on with his bands, Unida headlining both Desertfests, and so on. Dude seems to pretty much have life figured out. Maybe I’ll ask him what that feels like.

Oh, the drama.

If you’ve been keeping up with The Obelisk Radio, then you probably already saw that in the last week or so, another 200-plus albums have gone up. There’s some genuine classics in there, from C.O.C. to Earthride to Neurosis, and I’ve tried to mix in some new bands and obscure stuff as well to keep in the original K666 spirit. I hope you’ve had the chance to listen and if you have, hope you’ve dug it. Like everything else around here, that’s a work in progress, but it’s getting there.

Time to buckle down and start the week. Whatever you’ve got on your to-do list, I hope you complete it quickly and can move about as you will for the remainder of the day, and while doing so, I hope you’ll keep things in mind like the forum and the radio station as effective and enjoyable ways to pass the time. For the time being, I’m gonna finish out watching this Ararat set, grab a second cup of coffee and see if I can’t trick my brain into starting up. Here we go.

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The Machine and Sungrazer Announce “Strikes & Gutters” Tour Dates; Split Album Due Early Next Year

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 23rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

As was announced here way back in September, up and coming Dutch fuzzers Sungrazer and The Machine have teamed up for a split recorded by The Machine guitarist/vocalist David Eering. That’ll be out on Elektrohasch early next year, and to coincide, the two bands have announced a round of tour dates that starts in Tilburg on Valentine’s Day.

Continuing The Machine‘s apparent love for all things Lebowski — the trio released their fourth album, Calmer than You Are (review here) earlier this year — they’ll be calling the tour “Strikes and Gutters.” Let’s hope they can find an In & Out Burger somewhere along the way.

Here’s the info:

Sungrazer & The Machine will release a split album and go on tour in early 2013! Here are the first dates of the Strikes & Gutters Tour. Expect more info and dates asap.

The Machine & Sungrazer will at least play the following dates:

14.02.13 TILBURG,NL O13
15.02.13 BRUSSELS, B MAGASIN 4
16.02.13 LONDON, UK BORDERLINE
17.02.13 PARIS, F LES COMBUSTIBLES
19.02.13 MADRID, SP LA BOITE
20.02.13 LEON,SP EL GRAN CAFE
21.02.13 OPORTO,POR ARMAZEM DO CHA
22.02.13 OURENSE,SP SALA BERLIN
23.02.13 SAN SEBASTIAN,SP BUKOWSKI
28.02.13 SALZBURG,A ROCKHOUSE
01.03.13 LINZ, A KAPU

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Colour Haze Update on Progress for She Said LP

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Colour Haze guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek sends over the latest word on the 2LP release of the band’s latest album, She Said (review here). Also noting upcoming releases on his label, Elektrohasch, from All Them Witches, Sgt. Sunshine and the previously reported Sungrazer and The Machine split, Koglek details the process of getting the vinyl together and plugs the tour dates for Elektrohasch upstarts, Been Obscene, whose tour trailer can be found below.

The CD version of She Said is available now, and the vinyl… well, it’s coming:

Just a short note: due to the apparently great vinyl-revival, producing an LP seems to take endless time at the moment. We finished a new special-vinyl-master in the beginning of November. While usually it took only a couple of days to receive the testpressing from a master, at the moment this takes 3 weeks. The testpressings are scheduled to leave the factory by the end of next week (of course I`m getting on everybody’s nerves to hurry up). As soon as I heard them I`ll send out a new newsletter. In case of approval I`ll finally have a fixed delivery date for the DLPs and it will be possible then to (pre)order them at www.elektrohasch.de. Please do not send any preorder-requests via email. I can`t make it to take care of that. The issue is high enough and the unlimited version as well is already ordered at the pressing factory.

We are working on new releases by All Them Witches, Sgt. Sunshine, Sungrazer and The Machine – more about in the newsletter.

Been Obscene are on tour at the moment – go and see and hear them!
Nov 15 | San Sebastian (SPA) | Le Bukowski
Nov 16 | Clermont-Ferrand (FRA) | Le Baraka
Nov 17 | Mulhouse (FRA) | TBA
Nov 18 | Paris (FRA) – Les Combustibles
Nov 24 | Fürstenfeldbruck (GER) – Schlachthof
Dec 07 | Wien (AUT) – Arena

Been Obscene Tour Trailer

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The Kings of Frog Island Have a New Album and a New Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Here’s a phrase you won’t hear me use often: “Kyuss-worthy fuzz.” It’s that level of tonal gorgeousness that bleeds through in the work of Leicester, UK, outfit The Kings of Frog Island. Their second album, 2008′s aptly-titled II, is for my money one of the best desert rock albums ever to come from a place with no sand (though perhaps there is sand on Frog Island — I really should finish that geological survey), and though they veered more toward the garage rock end of things with the 2010 follow-up, III (review here), their latest work finds them at their most spaced-out yet, at least as far as the new video below for the song “Long Live the King” goes.

The reason I say that is because no single track ever really represents the whole album when it comes to The Kings of Frog Island — there’s something to be said for switching it up — but since the band was awesome enough to post on the forum the news of their forthcoming new album, Volume IV, and the departure of guitarist Mat Bethancourt, also of Cherry Choke and possibly still Dexter Jones Circus Orchestra, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bask in the warmth of “Long Live the King”‘s fuzzy sprawl.

And yeah, a lot of it’s about that tone, but the vocals here also rule (reminding me of Lamp of the Universe) and this band does more with a single cymbal wash than most do with an Orange full stack, so dig the tune and their words below:

After Mat Bethancourt left to concentrate on Cherry Choke, the rest of the band retreated back into their natural habitat: the studio.

After 2 years locked in Amphibia, the new album is now in the can. No release details as yet, expect a digital release first with a vinyl issue to follow.

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