The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Colour Haze Update In Her Garden Vinyl Progress; Confirm Live Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I know a few people were holding off on digging into the latest outing from Colour Haze until vinyl could be had, and hey, I get it. That’s not really my mindset — give it to me as soon as possible; unmastered? rough mix? still being recorded? can I sit in the control room? — but if you want your dinner cooked a certain way, sometimes it takes longer to have the meal. Accordingly, if you want vinyl these days, that has its own wait time. If you can resist just hitting up YouTube in the interim, you’re a stronger person than I am, but generally speaking, give me a CD and I’m a happy boy.

Nonetheless, Colour Haze guitarist/vocalist and Elektrohasch Schallplatten label honcho Stefan Koglek sent out the update below concerning the vinyl release for In Her Garden (review here), and it seemed only fair to post it, both for those holdouts who haven’t picked up the album yet in any form and those who might be inclined, say, to get it in multiple editions, multiple formats. I keep waiting for my Colour Haze cassette reissues. And I suspect I’ll keep waiting. Like, forever.

Colour Haze were on the road in March alongside My Sleeping Karma for a tour The Obelisk had the extreme pleasure of co-presenting. They’ve confirmed festival dates for the next couple months including SonicBlast Moledo in Portugal, Desertfest Athens and Keep it Low, where they’ll headline as hometown heroes in Munich, because right on.

Info follows courtesy of the PR wire:

colour haze

An update to: Elektrohasch 011 Colour Haze – In Her Garden DLP

The delivery from the factory is scheduled on June 27th now. All orders will be shipped until the first week of July. Thank you all for your patience and trust!

Colour Haze tour dates

apart of the Rotormania next week following shows are confirmed in 2017 so far:

30.6. – IT – Somenfest , 25050 Ome (Brescia)
08.7. – AT – Salzburg, Rockhouse Dome of Rock Festival
23.7. – GER – Riegsee, Raut Oak Fest
13.8. – POR – Moledo, Sonic Blast Moledo
07.10. – GR – Athens, Desertfest
20.10. – GER – München, Keep it Low

http://colourhaze.de/
www.elektrohasch.de

Colour Haze, “Skydancer”

Tags: , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Ulver, Forming the Void, Hidden Trails, Svvamp, Black Mirrors, Endless Floods, Tarpit Boogie, Horseburner, Vermilion Whiskey, Hex Inverter

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Feeling groovy heading into Day Two of the Spring 2017 Quarterly Review, and I hope you are as well. Today we dig into a pretty wide variety of whatnots, so make sure you’ve got your head with you as we go, because there are some twists and turns along the way. I mean it. Of all five days in this round, this one might be the most wild, so keep your wits intact. I’m doing my best to do the same, of course, but make no promises in that regard.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Ulver, The Assassination of Julius Caesar

ulver-the-assassination-of-julius-caesar

Norwegian post-everything specialists Ulver have reportedly called The Assassination of Julius Caesar (on House of Mythology) “their pop album,” and while the Nik Turner-inclusive freakout in second cut “Rolling Stone” (that may or may not be him on closer “Comign Home” as well) doesn’t quite fit that mold, the beats underscoring the earlier portion of that track, opener “Nemoralia” and the melodrama of “Southern Gothic” certainly qualify. Frontman/conceptual mastermind Kristoffer Rygg’s voice is oddly suited to this form – he carries emotionally weighted hooks like a melancholy George Michael on the electronically pulsating “Transverberation” and, like most works of pop, shows an obsession with the ephemeral in a slew of cultural references in “1969,” which in no way is likely to be mistaken for the Stooges song of the same name. While “So Falls the World” proves ridiculously catchy, “Coming Home” is about as close as Ulver actually come here to modern pop progression, and the Badalamenti-style low-end and key flourish in “1969” is a smooth touch, much of what’s happening in these eight tracks is still probably too complex to qualify as pop, but The Assassination of Julius Caesar is further proof that Ulver’s scope only grows more boundless as the years pass. The only limits they ever seem to know are the ones they leave behind.

Ulver on Twitter

House of Mythology website

 

Forming the Void, Relic

forming-the-void-relic

Last year, Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void had the element of surprise working to their advantage when it came to the surprising progressive edge of their debut album, Skyward (review here). Now signed to Argonauta, the eight-song/55-minute follow-up, Relic, doesn’t need it. It finds Forming the Void once again working proggy nuance into big-riffed, spaciously vocalized fare on early cuts “After Earth” and “Endless Road,” but as the massive hook of “Biolazar” demonstrates, the process by which guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd meld their influences has become more cohesive and more their own. Accordingly, I’m not sure they need the 11-minute closing take on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” since by then the point is made in the lumber/plunder of “Plumes” and in the more tripped-out “Unto the Smoke” just before, but as indulgences go, it’s a relatively easy one to make. They’re still growing, but doing so quickly, and already they’ve begun to find a niche for themselves between styles that one hopes they’ll continue to explore.

Forming the Void on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Hidden Trails, Instant Momentary Bliss

hidden-trails-instant-momentary-bliss

Though it keeps a wash of melodic keys in the background and its approach is resolutely laid back on the whole, “Beautiful Void” is nonetheless a major factor in the overall impression of Hidden Trails’ self-titled debut (on Elektrohasch), as its indie vibe and departure from the psychedelic prog of the first two cuts, “Lancelot” and “Mutations,” marks a major distinguishing factor between this outfit and Hypnos 69, in which the rhythm section of the Belgian trio played previously. “Ricky” goes on to meld acoustic singer-songwriterism and drones together, and “Hands Unfold” has a kind of jazzy bounce, the bassline of Dave Houtmeyers and drumming of Tom Vanlaer providing upbeat groove under Jo Neyskens’ bright guitar lead, but the anticipation of heavy psych/prog never quite leaves after the opening, and that doesn’t seem to be what the band wants to deliver. The sweetly harmonized acid folk of “Leaving Like That” is on a different wavelength, and likewise the alt-rock vibes of “Space Shuffle” and “Come and Play” and the grunge-chilled-out closer “Denser Diamond.” If there’s an issue with Hidden Trails, it’s one of the expectations I’m bringing to it as a listener and a fan of Houtmeyers’ and Vanlaer’s past work, but clearly it’s going to take me a little longer to get over the loss of their prior outfit. Maybe I’m just not ready to move on.

Hidden Trails on Thee Facebooks

Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

 

Svvamp, Svvamp

svvamp-svvamp

Naturalist vibes pervade immediately from this late-2016 self-titled Svvamp debut (on RidingEasy Records) in the bassline to “Serpent in the Sky,” and in some of the post-Blue Cheer heavy blues sensibility, the Swedish trio bring to mind some of what made early Dirty Streets so glorious. Part of the appeal of Svvamp’s Svvamp, however, is that among the lessons it’s learned from heavy ‘70s rock and from Kadavar‘s own self-titled is to keep it simple. “Fresh Cream” is a resonant blues jam… that lasts two and a half minutes. The bouncing, turning “Oh Girl?” Three. Even the longest of its cuts, the slide-infused “Time,” the subdued roller “Big Rest” and the Marshall Tucker-esque finale “Down by the River,” are under five. This allows the three-piece of Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren to build significant momentum over the course of their 35-minute run, casting aside pretense in favor of aesthetic cohesion and an organic sensibility all the more impressive for it being their first record. Sweden has not lacked for boogie rock, but even the most relatively raucous moments here, as in the winding “Blue in the Face,” don’t seem overly concerned with what anyone else is up to, and that bodes remarkably well for Svvamp’s future output.

Svvamp on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Black Mirrors, Funky Queen

black-mirrors-funky-queen

There are few songs ever written that require whoever’s playing them to “bring it” more than MC5’s “Kick out the Jams.” True, it’s been covered many, many times over, but few have done it well. Belgium’s Black Mirrors signal riotous intent by including it as one of the four tracks of their Napalm Records debut EP, Funky Queen, along with the originals “Funky Queen,” “The Mess” and “Canard Vengeur Masqué,” and amid the post-Blues Pills stomp of “The Mess,” the mega-hook of the opening title-track and the more spacious five-plus-minute closer, which works elements of heavy psych into its bluesy push late to welcome effect, “Kick out the Jams” indeed brings a moment of relative cacophony, even if there’s no actual threat of the band losing control behind the powerful vocals of Marcella di Troia. As a first showing, Funky Queen would seem to be a harbinger, but it’s also a purposeful and somewhat calculated sampling of Black Mirrors’ wares, and I wouldn’t expect it to be long before an album follows behind expanding on the ideas presented in these tracks.

Black Mirrors on Thee Facebooks

Black Mirrors at Napalm Records

 

Endless Floods, II

endless-floods-ii

No doubt that for some who’d take it on, any words beyond “members of Monarch!” will be superfluous, but Bordeaux three-piece Endless Floods, who do indeed feature bassist/vocalist Stéphane Miollan and drummer Benjamin Sablon from that band, as well as guitarist Simon Bedy, have more to offer than pedigree on their three-song sophomore full-length, II (on Dry Cough vinyl and Breathe Plastic cassette). To wit, 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Impasse” rumbles out raw but spacious sludge that, though without keys or a glut of effects, and marked by the buried-deep screaming of Miollan, holds a potent sense of atmosphere so that the two-minute interlude “Passage” doesn’t seem out of place leading into the 19-minute lumber of “Procession,” which breaks shortly before its halfway point to bass-led minimalism in setting up the final build of the record. Slow churning intensity and longform sludge working coherently alongside ambient sensibilities and some genuinely disturbing noise? Yeah, that’ll do nicely. Thanks.

Endless Floods on Thee Facebooks

Dry Cough Records on Bandcamp

Breathe Plastic Records on Bandcamp

 

Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam

tarpit-boogie-couldnt-handle-the-heavy-jam

Boasting four eight-plus-minute instrumentals, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam finds New Jersey trio Tarpit Boogie rife with classic style heavy rock chemistry, bassist John Eager running fills around the dense-toned riffing from guitarist George Pierro as drummer Chris Hawkins propels a surprising thrust on opener “FFF Heavy Jam.” I’ve been a fan of Pierro and Eager’s since we were bandmates a decade ago, so to hear them unfold “Chewbacca Jacket” from its tense opening to its righteously crashing finale is definitely welcome, but the 37-minute offering finds its true reasoning in the swing and shuffle of the eponymous “Tarpit Boogie,” which digs into the very challenge posed by the title – whether or not anyone taking on the album can handle its balance of sonic impact and exploratory feel – inclusive, in this case, of a drum solo that sets a foundation for a moment of Cactus-style rush ahead of a return to the song’s central progression to conclude. They round out with “1992 (Thank You Very Little),” Chevy Chase sample and all, bringing more crashing nod to a massive slowdown that makes it feel like the entire back half of the cut is one big rock finish. And so it is. A well-kept secret of Garden State heavy.

Tarpit Boogie on Thee Facebooks

Tarpit Boogie on Bandcamp

 

Horseburner, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil

horseburner-dead-seeds-barren-soil

The self-released Dead Seeds, Barren Soil is Horseburner’s second full-length, and it arrived in 2016 from the four-piece some seven years after their 2009 debut, Dirt City. They’ve had a few shorter outings in between, demos and 2013’s Strange Giant EP, but the West Virginia four-piece of Adam Nohe, Chad Ridgway, Jack Thomas and Zach Kaufman seem to be shooting for a definitive statement of intent in the blend of heavy rock and modern, Baroness-style prog that emerges on opener “David” and finds its way into the galloping “Into Black Resolution,” the multi-tiered vocals of “A Newfound Purity” and even the more straight-ahead thrust of “The Soil’s Prayer.” Marked out by the quality of its guitar work and its clearly-plotted course, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil caps with “Eleleth,” which at just under eight minutes draws the heft and the complexity together for a gargantuan finish that does justice to the ground Horseburner just flattened as they left it behind.

Horseburner on Thee Facebooks

Horseburner on Bandcamp

 

Vermilion Whiskey, Spirit of Tradition

vermilion-whiskey-spirit-of-tradition

Lafayette, Louisiana, five-piece Vermilion Whiskey telegraph participation in the New Wave of Dude Rock to the point of addressing their audience as “boy” in second cut “The Past is Dead,” and from the cartoon cleavage on the cover to the lack of irony between naming the record Spirit of Tradition and putting a song called “The Past is Dead” on it, they sell that well. The Kent Stump-mixed/Tony Reed-mastered six-tracker is the band’s second behind 2013’s 10 South, and basks in dudely, dudely dudeliness; Southern metal born more out of the Nola style than what, say, Wasted Theory are getting up to these days, but that would still fit on a bill with that Delaware outfit. If you think you’re dude enough for a song like “One Night,” hell, maybe you are. Saddle up. Listening to that and the chunky-style riff of closer “Loaded Up,” I feel like I might need hormone therapy to hit that level of may-yun, but yeah. Coherent, well written, tightly performed and heavy. Vermilion Whiskey might as well be hand-issuing dudes invitations to come drink with them, but they make a solid case for doing so.

Vermilion Whiskey on Thee Facebooks

Vermilion Whiskey on Bandcamp

 

Hex Inverter, Revision

hex-inverter-revision

If the cover art and a song title like “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts” weren’t enough of a tip-off, there’s a strong undercurrent of the unsettled to Hex Inverter’s second long-player, Revision. The Pennsylvania-based experimentalists utilize a heaping dose of drones to fill out arrangements of keys, guitar and noise that would otherwise be pretty minimal, and vocals come and go in pro- and depressive fashion. Texture proves the key as they embark on the linear centerpiece “Something Else,” with a first verse arriving over a sweetened bassline after four minutes into the total 9:58, and the wash of noise in “Daphne” obscures an avant neo-jazz groove late, so while opener “Cannibal Eyes” basks in foreboding ambience prior to an emotionally-driven and explosive crunch-beat payoff, one never quite knows what to expect next on Revision. That, of course, is essential to the appeal. They find an edge of rock in the aforementioned “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts,” but as the loops and synth angularity of closer “Fled (Deadverse Mix)” make plain, their intentions speak to something wider than even an umbrella genre.

Hex Inverter on Thee Facebooks

Hex Inverter on Bandcamp

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review & Track Premiere: Colour Haze, In Her Garden

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

colour haze in her garden

[Click play above to stream ‘Labyrinthe’ from Colour Haze’s new album, In Her Garden. CD is out this month with vinyl to follow in May, both via Elektrohasch.]

In part, it’s a question of scale. The 12th studio album from Munich-based trio Colour Haze, titled In Her Garden and featuring an array of tracks named for plant-life including “Black Lilly,” “Magnolia,” “Arbores,” “Lotus,” “Lavatera,” and so on, lands less than three full years after its predecessor, 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) — they also had the live album, Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 (review here), out in 2016 — but in its sound and scope, it might have more in common in terms of presentation with the record before that, 2012’s She Said (review here). Like that offering, In Her Garden is a sprawling, 2LP affair — its 72 minutes fit on one CD, however, which She Said didn’t — rife with progressive forward steps on the part of the self-recording three-piece guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald, who work with Jan Faszbender on modular synth, Rhodes, Hammond and, on the 63-second interlude “sdg I” and the nine-minute “Labyrinthe,” an arrangement of bass-clarinet, trombone and tuba.

Horns and wind at this point aren’t anything new for Colour Haze, and the inclusion of a string quartet arranged by Mathis Nitschke on “Lotus” will be familiar to anyone who encountered “Grace” from She Said or the closing title cut from To the Highest Gods We Know, but even in how these elements are integrated, In Her Garden demonstrates continued growth on the part of Colour Haze who, 22 years on from making their debut with 1995’s Chopping Machine (discussed here), absolutely refuse to stagnate on any creative level. To be clear, In Her Garden is the most progressive Colour Haze offering to-date, and whether that’s heard in the unabashedly joyous bounce of “Lotus,” blending acoustics and electrics along with the aforementioned strings, or the earlier fuzz immersion of “Lavatera,” or the noodling in “Magnolia” that later receives an echo backed by dream-toned Rhodes in “sdg II,” it is true of the complete front-to-back experience of the 13-track entirety.

Another factor drawing comparison between In Her Garden and She Said over To the Highest Gods We Know is the basic length. The 2012 album was a massive 81 minutes long — as noted, too much for a single CD — where its follow-up was just 40. With that came more stripped-down ideas built off what She Said accomplished before it, and likewise, In Her Garden continues the movement forward from To the Highest Gods We Know. Its LPs divide into an even 36 minutes each, and each component LP into roughly even sides of about 18 minutes apiece. Only side A has four tracks, the rest have three, and each side begins with an intro/interlude of its own. In the case of side A, that’s the semi-title-track “Into Her Garden,” but the rest are given the lowercase initials “sdg” and offered as “sdg I,” a minute of horn warmup and clarinet melody, the 1:49 “sdg II,” which as noted brings back the standout progression of “Magnolia,” and finally the 1:55 “sdg III” an acoustic/sitar (the latter performed by Mario Oberpucher) run that one only wishes went on longer as it leads the way into the closing duo of “Skydancer” and “Skydance.”

These short pieces do much to enhance the atmosphere and structure of In Her Garden as a whole, whether it’s providing a sneaky foreshadow of things to come or reinforcement tying together what’s already happened, but from Faszbender‘s organ work on “Lavatera” to Koglek‘s shimmering guitar lead “Arbores” to the additional percussion contributed by Robert Schoosleitner, formerly of Elektrohasch jammers Been Obscene, the album brims with a diversity befitting its garden theme — a variety of different species that, when arranged as impeccably as they are, create something that gives a sense of wholeness and a sense of beauty that, individually, each species could not. Moving between more traditional structures early in “Black Lilly,” “Magnolia” and “Arbores” into more jam-based ideas like 11-minute side B/LP1 closer “Islands,” which follows the swirling “Lavatera” and holds back its vocals until nearly eight minutes in, Colour Haze enact a fluidity often imitated but still distinctly their own, and while each song seems to be precisely placed just where it needs to be to maximize symmetry, instrumental or vocalized, to put on In Her Garden and listen front-to-back on CD or digital, the flow between tracks is practically seamless.

colour haze in her garden booklet

Granted, it shouldn’t be especially surprising that a group more than two decades into their career knows how to make songs work well next to each other, and it’s true that some of the aspects of In Her Garden show themselves to be signature Colour Haze, whether it’s the riff that appears in the apex of “Skydance” as the album moves toward its conclusion, the unmatched class and instrumental chemistry between KoglekMerwald and Rasthofer or the live feel between the three of them that underscores even the broadest of arrangements, on side C’s horn-laden “Labyrinthe” or the subsequent, string-infused “Lotus.” None of this is to In Her Garden‘s detriment. Rather, even as the second LP takes its cue from “Islands” and moves away somewhat — “Lotus” aside — from the garden theme and plant-based titles, it’s the core strength of Colour Haze‘s style giving them the foundation on which to build their arrangements.

The pair of “Labyrinthe” and “Lotus” most outwardly emphasize this, but it’s true to varying degrees of “Lavatera” and “Islands,” of “Black Lilly,” “Magnolia” and “Arbores,” and of “Skydancer” and “Skydance” as well — the whole record does it, and then finds further enrichment through the intro to each LP side. One can listen to the Rhodes on “sdg II,” or hear the patient drawl of horns in “Labyrinthe” or the swing in “Black Lilly” and point to individual achievements that demonstrate Colour Haze‘s relentless, continual evolution of ideas, but with In Her Garden the more appropriate way to look at it is with the resounding affect of the entirety. It’s not just about one song. It’s about the conversation of songs, and how they interact with each other. “Lotus,” which wants only for the inclusion of a full nine-part harmony chorus in its finish, nonetheless provides a wonderful crescendo in its bouncing apex, but it’s not just for itself — it’s for “Labyrinthe” before it and the closing duo still to come. Each cut feels an effect from its surroundings, and the whole experience of In Her Garden becomes a world that lets the listener come inside and wander as they will, or just sit quietly and let these special moments wash over.

I feign no objectivity when it comes to this band or their output. I am a fan and when I put on In Her Garden to bask in the winding rhythm of “Magnolia,” the keys on “Skydancer” or the glorious pull of “Lotus,” I hear them with a fan’s ears and experience a fan’s joy in returning to them. That said, In Her Garden only provides further argument for why that’s the case in its concept and its memorable songcraft, and shows clearly why a generation of heavy psych rockers has worked so hard to capture a fraction of what makes the work of KoglekRasthofer and Merwald so continually and enduringly special. We’re now 13 years on from their self-titled LP (discussed here) and 11 from its 2006 follow-up, Tempel (discussed here), which in many ways have become defining outings for Colour Haze, but time has done nothing to dull either their aesthetic luster nor the will that drives them to create.

One can trace a line from earlier works like 1999’s Periscope, 2000’s CO2, 2001’s Ewige Blumenkraft (reissue review here) and 2003’s Los Sounds de Krauts — their first double-album — on through Colour Haze, Tempel, 2008’s All and into their latter-day works and find no point at which they did not push themselves to find new avenues to explore as players and writers. When one considers this body of work — the whole garden — Colour Haze become all the more a singular entity in Europe’s heavy underground as well as a defining presence within it, but even taken out of its context, In Her Garden not only stands up to the legacy behind it, but feels like just as much an invitation to those who’ve never heard the trio as it is the latest welcome return for longtime followers. Its warmth of tone, overall scope, melodic depth and thoughtful ambition ensure it is entirely Colour Haze‘s own and that its resonance will hold for years to come even as it stands tall and graceful among the best full-lengths of 2017. Recommended.

Colour Haze website

Colour Haze on Thee Facebooks

Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

Colour Haze at Sound of Liberation

Tags: , , , , ,

Carpet Taking Preorders for Secret Box

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

carpet

Word has been floating around for a couple years of a next full-length outing from engaging German psych-proggers Carpet. The album, which has been revealed as being called Secret Box, will be out this Spring on Elektrohasch Schallplatten, the Colour Haze-owned imprint that also stood behind Carpet‘s 2013 outing, Elysian Pleasures (review here), and has newly reissued that offering on CD and a limited yellow vinyl, which of course is already gone. Preorders are up for Secret Box now, for CD, LP and limited blue LP, and frankly, it doesn’t like an unreasonable option. I bet it looks pretty sweet in blue with the cover’s color scheme matching and all.

Carpet, who also released the Riot Kiss 7″ (review here) in 2015, have some tour dates lined up for April and as Elektrohasch states in the newsletter snippet below, the CD will be available by then and the vinyl might as well. Good to know it’ll show up one way or the other, and since I don’t happen to have the fortune of being in Cottbus, Heidelberg, Karlsruhe, etc., when Carpet roll through, I’ll just be keeping my eyes open for more about the record, for which you can see the artwork and more information below.

Goes like this:

carpet secret box

Carpet – Secret Box CD / LP

After their great debut, imho one of the very best Progressive and Psychedelic Rock records of the recent years, now an as fantastic 2nd album!

Carpet also tour Germany with their new album:

Do 13.04. Kreuzlingen – Horst Klub
Fr 14.04. Luzern – Treibhaus
Mi 19.04. Münster – Sputnik Café
Do 20.04. Cottbus – Zum faulen August
Fr 21.04. Halle – Hühnermanhatten
Sa 22.04. Heidelberg – Leitstelle im Dezernat 16
Mo 15.05. München – Glockenbachwerkstatt
Sa 30.09. Karlsruhe – KOHI

The CD will be delivered in March, the LP (there is also a limited edition with blue vinyl) might be available on time for the tour as well. You can already order them at www.elektrohasch.de

https://www.facebook.com/carpetband
http://carpet.bandcamp.com/
http://carpetband.com/
http://elektrohasch.de/

Carpet, Riot Kiss (2015)

Tags: , , , , ,

Colour Haze Set March and May Release Dates for In Her Garden

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze have reportedly given their new album, In Her Garden, May 17 vinyl release date. They’re set to tour next month with My Sleeping Karma on a run presented by, among others, this site, and will reportedly have CDs on hand for that run. Cover art for the impending 2LP release, which of course will be out on their own Elektrohasch Schallplatten has surfaced, along with some minor particulars from a release page at Clear Spot Distribution, linked below. Thanks to Noel Oxford for bringing the art to my attention.

Colour Haze‘s last studio album, To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), was released late in 2014 and represented something of a stripping down of the processes and grandeur shown on 2012’s She Said (review here), which like In Her Garden, was a double-record. Whether or not that portends anything in terms of the sonic direction of the new material, I wouldn’t guess. Colour Haze have never failed to move forward stylistically from one release to the next, so just about the only safe bet to make is that whatever they wind up doing across the 75-minute release, it’ll be their own.

Info is pretty minimal at this point, but here’s what I’ve been able to find so far, as well as those tour dates again in case you want to book tickets, flights, and so on:

colour haze in her garden

COLOUR HAZE – IN HER GARDEN (2LP)

Label: ELEKTROHASCH
Release date: 15/05/2017

The 2017 full-length by the German psych heads offers approximately 75 minutes of out-there rock sounds. This DOUBLE-LP on 180-gram vinyl is presented in a gatefold sleeve.

colour haze my sleeping karma tourColoured Karma Tour 2017: My Sleeping Karma + Colour Haze
16.03. Cologne, Live Music Hall
17.03. UK – London, The Garage
18.03. BEL – Leuven, Het Depot
19.03. NL – Nijmegen, Doornroosje
20.03. F- Paris, Divan Du Monde
21.03. CH – Pratteln, Z7
22.03. Munich, Feierwerk
23.03. Saarbrücken, Garage
24.03. Darmstadt, Centralstation
25.03. Hamburg, Markthalle
26.03. Berlin, Astra
27.03. Hannover, Faust
28.03. Leipzig, Werk 2
29.03. Nürnberg, Hirsch
30.03. A- Vienna, Arena
31.03. A – Graz, PPC
01.04. Stuttgart, JH Hallschlag

http://colourhaze.de/
http://elektrohasch.de/
http://www.clear-spot.nl/item/443580/colour_haze_in_her_garden.html

Colour Haze, “To the Highest Gods We Know”

Tags: , , , , ,

Colour Haze & My Sleeping Karma Announce Co-Headlining Tour Supporting New Albums

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 23rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

colour haze

my sleeping karma

It’s the match of your tonal dreams. Colour Haze and My Sleeping Karma co-headlining a tour in March, both supporting early 2017 releases. In the case of Colour Haze, it’s a new studio record currently in the process of being mixed for issue on Elektrohasch, first on CD in Feb., then LP after. For My Sleeping Karma, it’s the previously-announced Mela Ananda – Live offering, which Napalm Records will have out Feb. 24. With the shows presented by Sound of Liberation, they’re calling the run the ‘Coloured Karma Tour,’ and it begins March 16 in Cologne and runs through April 1 in Stuttgart.

Aside from bringing the incredible thought of seeing these two bands sharing a stage, this is also the first news I’ve seen of a new Colour Haze album, and that’s some of the best news one can hope to get on any given day. I’ll hope to have more on that as we get closer, and more on the My Sleeping Karma live record as well, which is their first — and as someone who’s never had the pleasure of watching them play, I’m interested to hear how their ultra-smooth tones resonate — but in the meantime, here’s the announcement as put out by My Sleeping Karma on the social medias for your perusal/jealousy:

my sleeping karma colour haze tour dates

Hey Friends, some good news right before X-mas. In March 2017 we are going on a Double Headliner Tour with our friends in Colour Haze. Both bands will play full shows and present their new releases. We are sorry that we can’t cover all parts of Europe, it’s just impossible timewise. Hope to see you all for a “Mela Ananda” in March.

If you like, please spread the word by sharing this post. Thank you all!!!

Coloured Karma Tour 2017: My Sleeping Karma + Colour Haze
( Ticketlinks and FB Events will be posted soon)

16.03. Cologne, Live Music Hall
17.03. UK – London, The Garage
18.03. BEL – Leuven, Het Depot
19.03. NL – Nijmegen, Doornroosje
20.03. F- Paris, Divan Du Monde
21.03. CH – Pratteln, Z7
22.03. Munich, Feierwerk
23.03. Saarbrücken, Garage
24.03. Darmstadt, Centralstation
25.03. Hamburg, Markthalle
26.03. Berlin, Astra
27.03. Hannover, Faust
28.03. Leipzig, Werk 2
29.03. Nürnberg, Hirsch
30.03. A- Vienna, Arena
31.03. A – Graz, PPC
01.04. Stuttgart, JH Hallschlag

https://www.facebook.com/MySleepingKarma/
napalmrecords.com
http://colourhaze.de/
http://elektrohasch.de/

Colour Haze, Live at Duna Jam 2016

My Sleeping Karma, Live in Paris 2016

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday Full-Length: Colour Haze, Tempel

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 11th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Colour Haze, Tempel (2006)

Wherever you might lie on the political spectrum, it seemed important to me to close out this week with something radiating love, and in the decade since it came out I’ve yet to put on Colour Haze‘s Tempel and hear or feel anything else from it.

One doesn’t generally think of a band’s eighth album as being a particularly landmark moment in their progression. By the time most acts get that far — and make no mistake, most acts don’t — they’ve probably settled into their sound or at least solidified their processes to a point where they’re kind of on autopilot, even if that autopilot involves a natural growth pattern. For Colour Haze, it was different. The Berlin trio’s seventh outing, their 2004 self-titled (discussed here) had served as a stunning follow-up to the preceding 2001 double-album, Los Sounds de Krauts, and thrust the band to the fore of what seems in hindsight to have been a nascent movement of heavy psychedelia they’d spearhead both aesthetically and through the contributions of guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek‘s label, Elektrohasch Schallplatten. The challenge before them was how to answer the warmth and the expanse of the self-titled without repeating themselves, losing the ultra-organic sensibility that made that outing such a joy, or sacrifice songcraft in the process. No small task.

I remember getting Tempel as a fan of the band, putting it on, hearing “Fire” for the first time and immediately knowing they’d done it. From the gentle opening of the winding “Aquamaria” (also the longest track on the album; immediate points) down through later liquefication of “Ozean” and the harmonized finale “Stratofarm,” Tempel presented a vision of psychedelic heft that seemed to need neither but fed off both. The chemistry between Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald was all it needed to convey this — underscoring the point of just how special a group Colour Haze had become. To listen to “Mind” or “Gold and Silver” or the memorable instrumental title-track, they bring forth a varied approach that ties together with fluidity that few beyond Colour Haze can claim to have matched in the years since, classic in style but perhaps even more so now sounding fresh and like something that was genuinely new. One could hear shades of their earlier and more strictly desert rocking work in the later thrust of “Gold and Silver” and the subsequent shuffle of “Earth,” which follows, reminding of records like 1999’s Periscope, 2000’s CO2 or 2001’s Ewige Blumenkraft, but even these are met with shimmering organ and/or a depth of tone that were a definitive forward step even from where Colour Haze were two years earlier.

A couple weeks ago, I was having an email back and forth with someone whose opinion I greatly respect, and the conversation turned to Colour Haze. My thoughts were simple: People still don’t know how incredible this band is. I genuinely feel that way. As much as KoglekRasthofer and Merwald have helped to influence a generation of European heavy psych, played a large role in establishing what those words mean when placed in succession, they’re still somehow underrated. Their progression would continue from Tempel on through 2008’s spectacular All, 2012’s much-delayed but glorious 2LP She Said (review here), and late-2014’s surprise outing, To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the touring for which also resulted in earlier-2016’s  Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 (review here). I haven’t heard from them in a bit, but I wouldn’t be the least surprised if they had new stuff in the works for next year or 2018 as well. They never seem to stop, which of course is another part of the appeal. One hopes that if they keep going perpetually, they’ll finally get the recognition they deserve.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Hug someone you love. Pet your dog or your cat. Write something on the internet. Smoke what you smoke. Drink what you drink. Eat what you eat. Do whatever you have to do to get by. I don’t really want to say much about politics in this space. Somehow I’ve become increasingly wary of doing so over the last couple years. When I was at The Aquarian I wrote a political column every week, often little more than a 700-800 word rant about something pissing me off. I was younger, and drunk. Apart from these posts, which have become half-personal update, half-music (not that music’s not personal), I don’t do that here, or really on Thee Facebooks either.

What I will note is that this election affected me on a personal and emotional level in a way no presidential contest has done in my 35 years. The anxiety beforehand — for months beforehand — and the shock and sadness at the result have been much, much deeper than I expected them to be. I’m actually a pretty political guy, comparatively. I keep up on issues, news of the day, who’s doing what and so on to the best of my ability. This isn’t the first time I’ve ever paid attention. But yeah, it’s been like nothing I’ve ever felt before, even during the Bush/Cheney years. Of course, as a straight white male, it ain’t like the Supreme Court’s coming to take away my rights or like my healthcare is less secure — though state funding for public higher ed., in which The Patient Mrs. works and from which our insurance comes, is more of a question in an arena of increased privatization and budget slashing — but there are people I love whose lives will change directly for the worse because of what happened in my country on Tuesday night. I have a niece whom I worship and adore who will enter her formative years under a president who has openly bragged about sexually assaulting women, and yes, that hurts. It should hurt.

That’s all I’ll say about it. For now. If shit goes full-on 2006-levels-of-despair, I may need to establish some kind of rant space around here just so I don’t lose my fucking mind. We’ll see.

Here’s what’s in the notes for next week. Subject to change:

Mon. – Full album stream/review of the new Borracho.
Tue. – Season of Arrows track premiere.
Wed. – Ice Dragon‘s new single reviewed.
Thu. – EYE‘s new album reviewed day before release.
Fri. – Full album stream/review of The Munsens.

That’s where we’re at for now. I have a couple fest writeups to work on as well, so will be busy over the weekend one way or another. But I’ve also got my best friend up from NJ for the next couple days, and I got my Playstation 4 Pro yesterday and a demo of Final Fantasy XV that I’m looking forward to digging into further, and The Patient Mrs. is very likely buying a new car today to replace the one that died en route to The Obelisk All-Dayer in August, so yeah, there’s kind of a lot going on. My sister also had a special birthday yesterday, which I’ll note because I love her deeply and was sorry to not be there for it. She’s also in Jersey, along with the rest of my family.

You should also know that revisiting Tempel has been inspiration enough to re-load the complete Colour Haze catalog into my iTunes — it’s been there previously but was removed; software stuff; long story — so I expect that will be a good portion of the weekend’s fare as well, which can only be to the benefit of the next few days.

I hope whatever you’re up to you have a great time and that you stay safe.

Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

Tags: , , , , ,