Carpet, Elysian Pleasures: Spielt mit den Atomen

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

You could teach a college class on the influences under which Carpet work. Sounding here like John Lennon fronting Adrian Belew-era King Crimson and there meandering into Floydian ambience offset by fuzzy heavy rock guitar work, the German progressive heavy rock foursome’s Elektrohasch-released sophomore outing, Elysian Pleasures, is rigorously plotted and technically accomplished. Like its cover, it is a collage, ably skirting the line of giving itself over to instrumental explorations, but never quite losing focus entirely on songwriting. This works markedly to the favor of tracks like “Elysian Pleasures,” “In Tides,” “Serpentine” and “For the Love of Bokeh,” though with richly varied parts throughout, each of the eight cuts seems to find its standout moment one way or another in the album’s total 49 minutes. The Augsburg/Munich outfit — Maximilian Stephan (guitar, vocals, clarinet, Mellotron, minimoog), Jakob Mader (drums, xylophone, glockenspiel, marimba, percussion), Sigmund Perner (Rhodes, grand piano, organ, accordion, Mellotron) and Hubert Steiner (bass) — split the songs into two sides even on the CD version of the album, and in line with the vinyl available in yellow or black with a poster and “Elysian Pleasures Textbook” lyric sheet, the individual pieces that make up the record work well with that construction, despite a linear flow that surfaces over the course of the CD taken as a whole. Such winds up being inevitable, since if the listener is going to be sucked into Carpet‘s world at all, it’s going to happen at the start, and with the variety of instrumentation the band utilize at any given moment, they establish a wide base early on, requiring the listener to keep a likewise open mind. The xylophone, in other words, appears with no delay. It practically opens the record, as a matter of fact, with Mader and Stephan announcing the arrival of Elysian Pleasures as a telling bit of fanfare plays out in the first 30 seconds. Like the best traditional prog, Carpet are patient and require a patient audience, but they do well in establishing a balance between what’s satisfying for them to play and still accessible for someone hearing it, which isn’t something that can be said across the board of the genre.

The King Crimson elements strike quickly, a bed of subtle noodling on guitar backing Stephan‘s echoing vocals as “Elysian Pleasures” begins to unfold. Ambient, jazzy and richly textured, the opener is a decent but not all-telling lead-in for the Carpet debut that shares its name, sounding modern in its production and classic in its ideology while a heavier tension lurks just below the surface later into the track as Mader rides his crash cymbal while Perner plays out the central melody on keys. It is busy from the word go and remains busy even in its quiet stretches. A subdued finish for “Elysian Pleasures” lulls the listener into a false sense of security as “Nearly Four” snare-pops its way in with a fuzzy guitar-led strut and vocals buried beneath the progression, all instruments headed in the same place anchored by Steiner for a section of insistent and showy crashes. Of course, they take the initial idea and run with it like gleeful children — half of the appeal of progressive rock is imagining how much fun the person playing it is having — but return to the main riff near the halfway mark, realizing perhaps that not every song needs to be an indulgence. Stephan is no less an able vocalist than he is a guitarist, his voice smooth and engaging before he and Perner trade solos, his own leading to a stop that once again brings back the main figure before organ closes out the proceedings and “Man Changing the Atoms” revives the Belewery, Mader taking the fore for a time to lead an instrumental section of jazz complemented by trumpet (credited to Andreas Unterreiner) in one of Elysian Pleasures‘ jazziest and most singularly enjoyable stretches. It seems to just happen — one minute Carpet are headed one way, then they turn, decide they like this better and that’s all there is to it. It’s a flagrant — almost arrogant — casting off of structure, and it could easily fall flat, but it doesn’t, and they smoothly work “Man Changing the Atoms” to an excitingly heavy build, saxophone (courtesy of Jan Kiesewetter) joining the fracas as it peaks with crashes, and just when the verse seems most like a thing of the past, vocals arrive again and renew the initial spirit of the track. Did that just happen? But for some resonant Mellotron and bass tension, it’s hard to be sure. Past six minutes in, they pick up again and end “Man Changing the Atoms” big, so it’s fitting the modus so far that “In Tides” should start quiet. And it does.

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Been Obscene Post Tour Trailer for US Dates

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Seems like rock and roll’s gone a little trailer-crazy of late — everything that’s happening in two weeks has to have a trailer — but I’m happy to post the trailer for Been Obscene‘s dates in Texas and the East and West Coasts for two reasons. First, it’s their first time through the States, I dig the band, and I’m psyched to get to see them without having to show my passport and be questioned by airport security. Second, it gives me an excuse to include the poster above for the four-show East Coast run, on which they’ll be joined by Borracho and Supervoid, which, as you can see, is frickin’ awesome.

By way of a plug, Clamfight are also playing that Kung Fu Necktie show, so debauchery shall ensue. Complete dates for the tour follow below. Hopefully you’ll be able to catch one of the shows too. Here’s the trailer:

Been Obscene, US Tour March 2013 Trailer

Been Obscene US Tour March 2013
Mar 16 Fort Worth, TX The Grotto
Mar 17 El Paso, TX Black Market
Mar 18 Tucson, AZ Tucson Live Music Space
Mar 19 Oceanside, CA Royal Dive
Mar 20 Fresno, CA Fulton 55
Mar 21 Chico, CA Cafe Coda
Mar 22 Eugene, OR Sam Bonds
Mar 23 Seattle, WA El Corazon
Mar 28 Washington, D.C. Velvet Lounge
Mar 29 Pittsburgh, PA Howlers Coyote Cafe
Mar 30 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie

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Been Obscene Touring the US with Ape Machine, Borracho and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Yeah, I’m sorry, but there’s nothing about Been Obscene coming to the States that I don’t think is frickin’ awesome. Maybe the fact that they’re not doing two months’ worth of shows, but even that’s understandable since they’re coming a long way to get here and, well, you can travel a bit too to see them. It won’t kill you. For example, I’ll be making my way south to Philly to catch them on the last night of their tour with BorrachoSupervoid and a little band you may have heard me mention once or twice called Clamfight.

I’ve no doubt that will be amazing, and as Been Obscene will be joined on the West Coast by recent Ripple Music acquisitions Ape Machine, it looks like they’re in good company all around. All the better. Would be nice to have this kind of thing happen more often.

The Salzburg four-piece sent over the following update:


Austria’s alternative psychedelic rockers playing US tour in March.

For their first time BEEN OBSCENE are hitting US stages in a two weeks long tour, starting in Fort Worth, Texas going all the way up the west coast to Seattle, then head over to the east coast and play three more shows in Washington D.C., Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

“Even though we don’t really have a clue what to expect, we are already crazy excited about this. We can’t wait to hit the stages with such great bands as Ape Machine, who accompany us the whole west coast part and Borracho, who tour the east coast with us.” says Rob, drummer of the band.

To promote the tour the young Austrians just presented their new live video of Demons, perhaps the song they are most known for, which was shot and recorded live at the X-MAS Ride concert at Feierwerk Munich.

They are also already confirmed for this year’s Stoned From The Underground festival, the Swanflight in Schwandorf (GER) in March, right the night before they start their US tour as well as the Lake On Fire Festival in Waldhausen (AT) in August.

More BEEN OBSCENE infos on their dedicated FACEBOOK page.

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audiObelisk: The Machine & Sungrazer Premiere Tracks from New Split LP

Posted in audiObelisk on January 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Been waiting for this one. Back in September, Dutch fuzzers The Machine and Sungrazer announced they were teaming up for a split LP and a tour that, in keeping with the former act’s apparent Lebowski fetish, they decided to call “Strikes and Gutters.” As The Machine seemed to come the most into their own yet on their 2012 album, Calmer than You Are (also a Lebowski reference; review here) and as I’d heard Sungrazer play some new material earlier in the year at Desertfest London, I knew good things were in store, and indeed, the split does not disappoint.

Comprised of six tracks (three each) totaling over 47 minutes, The Machine and Sungrazer‘s joint effort was recorded by The Machine guitarist/vocalist David Eering, who makes a good argument here for becoming the in-house engineer at Elektrohasch. Each band gets three tracks, and both use their time to craft a huge wall of fuzz, jamming out open, glorious heavy psychedelia, organic and rich. The Machine begin with “Awe,” a massive riff put to good use as the base from which the band wanders and then fluidly returns, Eering‘s guitar sounding an alert while drummer Davy Boogaard and bassist Hans van Heemst lock in a firm groove beneath. Watch out for the slowdown.

On the other side, Sungrazer affect desert rocking warmth on “Yo la Tengo” that comes across like Yawning Man doing a take on The Beatles‘ “Sun King.” Dreamy, psychedelic and honing a wide expanse, the cut departs from some of the thickness of its compatriots “Dopo” and “Flow through a Good Story” to underscore Sander Haagmans‘ soothing multi-layer vocal with a slowly unfolding surf tone, the bassist incorporating fills that wind up leading the song as much as Rutger Smeets‘ airy guitar even as they ground it, drummer Hans Mulders moving from lighthearted rim clicks to driving crash rhythms — and back — with ease.

With permission from the bands, it’s my extreme pleasure today to be able to premiere “Awe” and “Yo La Tengo” for streaming. The split LP between The Machine and Sungrazer is due out on Feb. 14, the same day their Strikes and Gutters tour begins at the 013 in Tilburg, the Netherlands. Please find the songs on the player below, and enjoy:

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

Sungrazer and The Machine are set to begin the Strikes and Gutters tour Feb. 14 and will release their split that day as well. More info at their Thee Facebookses:

The Machine on Thee Facebooks

Sungrazer on Thee Facebooks

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Album of the Summer of the Week: Colour Haze, Colour Haze

Posted in Features on August 21st, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I said a few weeks back that Berlin heavy psych masters Colour Haze would get their turn as the Album of the Summer of the Week… so uh… I guess I was right. So there. I’ll take that cookie whenever you’ve got it ready to go.

To be fair, they’re a pretty obvious pick. If there’s any reason I held off for so long in choosing them, it’s because I kept arguing back and forth about which album to choose. Just about everything they’ve done since 2001 has something working in its  favor, whether it’s the two-disc extendedness of 2003’s Los Sounds de Krauts making it perfect for languishing on a long afternoon sitting in the backyard, or the peaceful warmth of 2006’s Tempel, or the wide-open jammy flow of 2008’s All. In the end though, I went with Colour Haze‘s 2004 self-titled, because it seems to encapsulate all these things about the others.

It’s probably not the trio’s best album — that’s a designation that seems to change with whatever I’ve got on at the time — but Colour Haze‘s Colour Haze has classic prog interplay in “Did êl It,” plenty of subtle Hendrixian build in “Love” and a tonal warmth that no matter how many bands in the European scene try to match, no one seems quite able to do it. You could teach a semester on Stefan Koglek‘s guitar tone, but Colour Haze is just as much about drummer Manfred Merwald and bassist Philipp Rasthofer, and the self-titled was the moment when the three of them really nailed down the chemistry that they’ve been working so diligently to perfect ever since.

And as to the atmosphere of the album itself, even if it’s winter when you put on the beginning of “Peace, Brothers & Sisters!” it’ll be summer by the time you’re through the track’s 22 minutes. The real magic comes from the fact that you could say the same thing about the track before it, the 3:45 acoustic cut “Solitude.” Right on.

We’ll have just one more Album of the Summer of the Week to get it in before Labor Day, but in the meantime, here’s the aforementioned “Peace, Brothers & Sisters!” to get you dancing and get your yayas out before Colour Haze‘s three-hour gig next month in London, should you be fortunate enough to go. Please enjoy:

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Album of the Summer of the Week: Sungrazer, Mirador

Posted in Features on July 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Mirador is an easy candidate for a summer album. Sungrazer‘s fuzz is so warm, and the vibe of their second album (released on Elektrohasch last year; review here) is so mellow even in its heaviest parts, that the overall affect is languid almost to the point of sunshiny sleepiness. A song like the 13-minute “Behind” is as fitting for a July day as an ice water. Like I say, this one’s an easy candidate, and I guess you could say the same for a lot of post-Colour Haze (their time will come in this feature) European heavy psych — thinking of groups like The Machine or maybe even My Sleeping Karma — but Mirador‘s balance between nodding riffs and exploratory jams is my pick for the best yet to come out of that scene.

And in terms of placing the album, I’ve found that it not only works so well in the summer, sitting outside in the yard, enjoying the good company of The Patient Mrs. and a few delectable fermented beverages, etc., but in addition to that, Mirador is an especially good listen in the morning. I’ve constructed a long theory as to why this is so, including placement of the sun and the alignment of Earth along its axis — sometime I’ll show you the Powerpoint presentation I made; it’s got 36 cards! — but basically what it comes down to is Rutger Smeets‘ guitar tone and the ping in the ride cymbal of Hans Mulders sounds like the start of the day, and Sander Haagmans‘ Rickenbacker (previously lauded here) is the afternoon to come.

Sungrazer reportedly have a new album in the works, and they’ve been playing new material live for the last couple months at least, so it’ll be interesting to hear how they follow up and expand on Mirador‘s encompassing psychedelia when the time comes for the next release. One to look forward to. That said, though it’s only been out for a year, I’ve no doubt the trio’s sophomore outing will be a staple of many summers to come. It’s an album worth waking up for.

Here’s “Behind” to get your day started, whatever time it might be where you are:

Bless their industrious hearts, Sungrazer are currently on tour in Europe. Keep up with them and their many doings at their official website.

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The Machine, Calmer than You Are: Finding Their Element

Posted in Reviews on April 19th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Continuing Elektrohasch Schallplatten’s streak of supporting high-grade next gen fuzz and heavy psych, Dutch trio The Machine’s fourth album, Calmer than You Are points its Lebowski-referential finger right in your face and challenges you to prove the title wrong. Good luck. Led by guitarist/vocalist David Eering and filled and thickened by the rhythm section of bassist Hans van Heemst and drummer Davy Boogaard, the band has grown more over the course of the five years they’ve been together than the four records they’ve put out in that time can tell. Calmer than You Are is comprised of seven varied tracks for a total of a bit under 46 minutes of jam-based songwriting, very much driven by Eering’s fuzz and wah. He is a stellar lead player and constructs engaging grooves in his riffs, and as eight-minute opener “Moonward” shifts from its subdued, sitar-infused opening to the more raucous final third (there’s a clear divide at 5:39, you’ll pardon me if I don’t give the actual percentage of the song that makes up), it’s clear The Machine are ready to join the ranks of Sungrazer at the fore of their country’s fuzz rock scene. Indeed, Calmer than You Are shows the two bands have a lot in common stylistically and atmospherically, though The Machine’s production is a bit rawer and the songs as a whole less directly reliant on echo to sustain their tones. Not that The Machine are lacking for echo or reverb – Eering’s vocals on “Scooch” alone fill any quota that might crop up – but especially for Boogaard’s drums, the overall sound of Calmer than You Are is somewhat more stripped down than was Sungrazer’s Mirador, whatever else the two records might share between them or however well they might complement each other.

The Machine’s third album and Elektrohasch debut, Drie (review here), was nearly 80 minutes long, so it’s worth noting that they’ve significantly cut the sheer amount of material that makes up Calmer than You Are, and predictably, that works somewhat to the benefit of the individual tracks. Both “Scooch” and the more blatantly stoner rock start-stop riffing of “Grain,” which follows, are clearly jam-based, but The Machine have gone so far as to distill the jams down into discernible structures. There’s still room for Eering to rip into soulful solos for a few bars, and other tracks take that further, but “Grain” in particular proves excellently that The Machine have more to them than just tonal warmth and a propensity for grooving. It’s the work of burgeoning songwriters beginning to come of age as a band. On “Scooch,” it’s van Heemst’s bass that most shines, but whoever’s in the lead of the trio – Boogaard does his time out front of the mix as well – they’re showing a sense of diversity in their approach and not so much bending their sound to make and album as bending an album to fit their sound. The eight-minute “DOG,” which rounds out side A of Calmer than You Are is a standout and one of the best songs of the bunch. Akin in its beginning rhythm to Sungrazer’s “Common Believer,” it soon pushes into the LP’s most memorable hook and fullest-sounding chorus. Eering shows how far he’s come as a vocalist since the band’s 2007 debut, Shadow of the Machine, found them getting their bearings very much in a fashion after Colour Haze, and a lengthy instrumental jam in the midsection bridges a gap between the verse/chorus tradeoffs and what The Machine has previously shown of themselves on their prior efforts. Grandiose heaviness ensues and with great skill, Eering and company bring the chorus around once more before giving in to a minute-plus of warm feedback and noise to fade out to wind noise to close the first half of the album.

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Ararat, II: The Doom of the Resistance

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

In the two-plus years since Los Natas guitarist/vocalist Sergio Chotsourian made his debut with Ararat, a lot has changed. Long story short, Ararat has become a band and Los Natas – for all intents and purposes – has stopped being one. While the self-titled Ararat debut (review here), which was released in the US by MeteorCity and in Chotsourian’s native Argentina on Oui Oui Records, was essentially a solo-project on which Sergio was joined by a few friends and his brother, pianist Santiago Chotsourian, and which sought to bridge the musical gaps between Middle Eastern and Latin American cultural and musical influences, Ararat II, or simply II, follows a much more rounded course. Both Chotsourian brothers return, with Sergio once more handling guitar, bass, vocals and piano while Santiago also contributes piano, and Alfredo Felitte of Banda de la Muerte has taken over on drums for material that’s more aligned to fuzzy groove than any specific cultural modus – though those elements certainly show up as well. II, however, is less outwardly experimental than was its foot-getting predecessor, with Chotsourian’s bass (he plays bass live, while Tito Fargo of Sumo handles slide guitar and noise) taking much of the fore instrumentally on heavier songs like the lumbering “Lobos de Guerra y Cazadores de Elefantes” or the psychedelically ranging low-end bliss of “Caballos.” It’s still pretty clear Sergio is driving these songs, and II, released by Elektrohasch on CD and LP, has its commitment to variety in common with the 2009 self-titled that came before it, but where that album drew a direct line to – and in fact shared a few tracks with – Los Natas’ excellent Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (review here), the second Ararat outing feels more bent on standing on its own than being allied to any of Chotsourian’s past work.

It’s a darker atmosphere overall than was the first album, doomier in more than just Chotsourian’s bass tone, but if the sophomore Ararat proves anything, it’s that the personality of the band is still developing. Each side of II centers itself around an extended, highly atmospheric and massively heavy single track. Side A seems bent on serving the will of “Caballos” (16:20) and Side B counters with “La Ira del Dragon (Uno)” (15:48). Not that the material surrounding doesn’t have substance – the album opens with perhaps its most experimental moment in “El Carro”’s blend of acoustics, electrics and what sounds like flute – but those two songs are impossible to ignore as the focal points or landmarks around which the rest of the album’s total seven tracks are working. “Atenas” and the closing “Tres de Mayo” are piano-led pieces of significant length – 6:34 and 4:49, respectively – and atmosphere, and even the shortest cut, the acoustic CD-centerpiece “El Inmigrante,” is granted weight through Chotsourian’s echoing vocals and bluesy lead. The real anomaly of the bunch, then, is “Lobos de Guerra y Cazadores de Elefantes,” which, though far from being a misstep of any kind with its start-stop bass riff, huge-sounding tone, undeniable groove and Felitte’s locked in cymbal work, doesn’t fit the pattern. It’s somewhat faster than “Caballos” preceding, and more straightforward where “Caballos” patiently unfolds its build and makes sure its synth ambience matches the nod-worthy doomed lurching, but to pick one over the other is hard and, honestly, not worth the effort without a gun to the head. And if its inclusion on II makes the album that much more complex and harder to classify or dissect, well, that also makes it more fascinating to listen.

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