Desertfest London 2019 Confirms Om, Wovenhand, Stoned Jesus, Great Electric Quest, Elephant Tree, Messa, High Fighter and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

desertfest london 2019 square poster

A monstrous announcement from Desertfest London 2019 finds the festival, as it has over the last several years, with a far reach in geography and style alike. Acts like Great Electric Quest, High Reeper, Salem’s Bend, The Devil and the Almighty Blues, High Fighter, and Messa represent a flood of up and coming underground heavy from the US and Europe — I’d count hometown heroes Elephant Tree and Greece’s Naxatras at the forefront of that surge — while Om, Wovenhand, Mondo Generator, Stoned Jesus, Sabbath AssemblyJaye JayleHHY and the Macumbas and Wiegedood are of course no minor shakes in terms of draw or aesthetic swath.

Desertfest‘s first announcement, which came through in September with Earthless, All Them Witches, Kadavar and Colour Haze, among others, was enticing enough. This one does nothing but make one want to book travel and lodging.

The PR wire has the details:

desertfest london 2019 old empire stage

Drone doom pioneers OM confirmed as first headliner + 15 more acts added to the DESERTFEST LONDON 2019 lineup!

After warming you up with our first announcement in September, it’s time to break out the big guns. Today we’re adding 16 killer bands to Desertfest, including the lineup for 2019’s Old Empire stage, which, after years of bringing some of the heaviest sounds all weekend, will this year takeover as our Friday main stage. We couldn’t be happier with their first pick, Desertfest 2019’s opening headliners, the incomparable, spiritual force of stoner drone that is Om.

Formed in 2003 as one great band drifted off for a decade, Om – then consisting of the two-part assault of Sleep’s Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius – brought with them an extension of the hypnotic heavy first hinted at on Sleep’s Jerusalem/Dopesmoker. Achieving more with just vocals, bass and drums than most can dream of with a packed out stage, the opening one-two punch of Variations on a Theme and Conference of the Birds serves as a revelation to many; stripped-back power that cleans the cobwebs from your brain with reverberating blasts of droned-down stoner-doom.

By 2007’s Pilgrimage – the last full-length to feature Hakius on drums – Om had begun to lean more and more heavily into spiritual themes and Eastern tones, bringing about a new definition of what exactly heavy is; because let’s be clear, Om are heaviness incarnate, just not in the traditional sense. Through God is Good and their latest LP, Advaitic Songs – their first as a trio and surely one of the finest put to record this decade – Om continued down a path of hazed out perfection. It’s a testament to the importance of the band that, even as Sleep woke up, Om persist, ready to send you into a trance at the pluck of a bass. Be sure to catch Om when they headline the Old Empire stage – and Desertfest at large – on Friday 3rd May.

Joining them on the Old Empire stage, and continuing Old Empire’s tradition of showcasing heaviness from unexpected places, are Wovenhand. Labelled many things over the near two decades they’ve been kicking around, from alternative country, to neofolk, to Southern-gothic, Wovenhand are simply low and slow, oozing with an atmosphere of gloom. Music torn from the heart and soul of David Eugene Edwards (ex-16 Horsepower), Wovenhand are a deeply personal experience that you won’t want to miss.

But that’s not all for the Old Empire stage, who offer up three more treats for Desertfest 2019; firstly, a slice of black metal in the shape of Wiegedood, whose Die doden hebben het goed trilogy serves as a granite slab of brutality. Featuring members of post-black metal heroes Oathbreaker, as well as being part of the illustrious Church of Ra collective – a handful of acts tethered by a DIY ethic – Wiegedood will bring heaviness as we traditionally know it to the stage.

The jazz-inspired, ominous soundscapes of HHY & the Macumbas bring an exploration of the apocalypse to proceedings. Showcasing why they’re one of the most inimitable acts in the Portuguese, or perhaps even European underground scene, HHY are ordered chaos, wielding a twin attack of percussion and horns, tied together with a thin spine of drone.

Rounding off this year’s Old Empire stage come the desolate, minimalist sonic mantras of Louisville’s Jaye Jayle. Revelling in the simplicity of a “Less is more” philosophy, Jaye Jayle build tension with their barely crawling musical progressions and stitch it all together with the gruff, semi-spoken vocals of Evan Patterson.

Yet again, the Old Empire stage looks set to be one of the most exciting places to be over the whole of the Desertfest weekend, bringing both the darkness and the light; but that’s not all to expect over the May Bank Holiday weekend in Camden.

Elsewhere over the weekend, we’re excited to be welcoming Ukraine’s Stoned Jesus to Desertfest London. The stoner blues trio, who released their 4th full-length Pilgrims in September, possess a tone all of their own. Offering up one of the scene’s most beloved albums in 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar, Stoned Jesus remain a treat to catch live; as do punk infused stoner rockers Mondo Generator. Headed up by legend of the underground, Nick Oliveri, Mondo Generator are, like any of Oliveri’s myriad projects, an undeniably raucous experience live.

Next up, a double bill of some of Europe’s finest heavy psych; Part of the modern Greek wave of stoner and psych, without ever disappearing into the crowd, Naxatras are unashamed worshippers of the 70s riff. That said, they bring plenty of their own flavour to the mix. Whilst Oslo’s The Devil and the Almighty Blues live up to their name, bringing a devilishly groovy stomp and infusing it with their almost nonchalant, relaxed tones, fast becoming one of the most exciting bands in all of heavy psych.

There’s doom aplenty as ever at Desertfest, with all angles covered; the occult is worshipped with Sabbath Assembly and Messa’s take on the science of slow, whilst Elephant Tree will continue to show why they’re one of the UK’s finest acts with their uncompromising push outwards to the outer limits of doom.

A double dose of 70’s worship comes in the form of the strutting duo of Great Electric Quest and Salem’s Bend, with today’s announcement rounded off by two chances to get high; High Fighter are set to surround us with a densely packed smog of doom and High Reeper filtering the riffs of classic heavy metal through the So-Cal skater scene.

With dozens more bands still to be announced, including our Saturday and Sunday headliners, Desertfest 2019 is shaping up to be another hit of the best stoner, doom, sludge and psych on the planet. Don’t miss the annual celebration of the underground in Camden next May Bank Holiday weekend. Book your tickets today.

http://www.desertfest.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_london/
https://twitter.com/DesertFest

Wovenhand, Live at Fire in the Mountains, Jackson, WY, June 30, 2018

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Elephant Tree to Enter Studio Jan. 5

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Once upon a whenever it was, a certain Elephant Tree bassist/vocalist — one Peter Holland — bestowed on my unworthy head what I think is one of the highest compliments an Englishman can give an American when he said, “You understand our humour.” And yes, he pronounced the ‘u.’ I therefore feel justified at the chuckle I got in reading the line in their gonna-make-a-new-album announcement below that notes it’ll be “that same old Elephant Tree magic but this time imagine it different.” And oh, by the way, they’re a four-piece now. Good fun.

Actually, they’ve been playing as a four-piece here and there for a while now, and they recorded their 2014 first EP, Theia (review here) as one before paring down to a trio for 2016’s triumphant self-titled debut full-length (review here), but I guess bringing John Slattery into the studio makes that more or less official. Riley MacIntyre, who was the fourth on that EP and worked on the LP alongside the aforementioned Holland, guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley and drummer Sam Hart, will once again be at the helm as producer. If it ain’t broke.

And indeed, it ain’t. After the self-titled, an initial US incursion at Psycho Las Vegas in 2017, slated involvement in the forthcoming Planet of Doom animated film project, and multiple European tours including an extensive one this Fall with Mothership and Stoned Jesus, it seems to me momentum is well on Elephant Tree‘s side heading into their second record, and while I rarely say this kind of thing, in light of the fact that they’re looking for a new label, I fail to see what would stop someone like Napalm Records from picking them up. Releasing through Magnetic Eye again would be great, but if they’re looking for a new outlet, fine. They’ve proven themselves on stage and in the studio. Their social media and promotional presence is dead-on. They tour hard, and they’ve found a sound that is distinct in its personality and execution while remaining rooted in automatically familiar song structures and genre tropes bent to their will. They’re poised in the next couple years to stand as forerunners of the next generation of London’s heavy scene. What more would a record label want in a prospective band?

My A&R musings aside, it’s safe to say Elephant Tree‘s sophomore outing is high on my list of most anticipated records for 2019. From the couple songs I was fortunate enough to see live in October at Høstsabbat (review here), only more so.

They play their last live show of the year this weekend in Manchester. Info on that and their recording announcement follow:

elephant tree studio

AN IRISHMAN, A CANADIAN AND THREE ENGLISHMEN WALK INTO A STUDIO….

SHOCK HORROR; ELEPHANT TREE MEMBERS TO SPEND MORE TIME INDOORS!

That’s right. It’s finally time for us to announce that we have finally committed to ink our intention to enter the studio once again.

Starting 5th of January we will be headed back into the dark depths of the studio to work on our as-yet-unnamed album. With practices in full swing, and songs coming together like a quality macaroni cheese pie, there will soon be a thunderous call from over the horizon. We are still looking for an avenue of release as of yet and haven’t confirmed anything on that front (despite what the rumour mill may churn out…) and can’t offer up any scope of a release date yet, but we are open to all offers!

Returning to produce melody out of madness, Riley MacIntyre is back in the saddle. Not satisfied with having only two nationalities, John Slattery will be tackling Synths and extra guitar duties, as the latest addition to the line-up. Expect more of that same old Elephant Tree magic but this time imagine it different…

We’ll be posting regular updates from writing all the way through to mastering so keep an eye out for any official news here, more of which to follow tomorrow…!

Elephant Tree live:
Nov. 25 Sophie Lancaster Festival Manchester UK
https://www.facebook.com/events/986976281494183/

https://www.facebook.com/elephanttreeband
https://twitter.com/ElephantTreee
http://instagram.com/elephant_tree_band
https://elephanttree.band

Elephant Tree, “Dawn” live at Blue Moon Festival, Nov. 2017

Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (2016)

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Live Review: Høstsabbat 2018 Night Two in Oslo, Norway, 10.06.18

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

hostsabbat 2018 poster

I knew this was going to be a quick trip, but now that I’m sitting on the other end of Høstsabbat 2018 it feels even quicker than it did on paper. Today was — church pun totally intended — little short of immaculate. It picked up from the energy and personality of yesterday’s show and directed the personalities of each stage in a different way. Upstairs on the altar, it was rock and psych for most of the night, while downstairs in the Crypt, it dug deep into post-metal. Then, for the final two acts, they pulled a total swap. Just when you think you’ve caught the pattern: no dice.

Slept hard after posting that last review and stopped at the organic market on my way back to the Kulturkirken Jakob and picked up a little natural-rubber frog for The Pecan back home, then hit the venue to check in. I should note: Coffee was had. In bulk. I didn’t count cups, but I wouldn’t have been able to keep track anyhow. I know I put down two or three before Taiga Woods were finished opening the day in the basement, and I stopped in for more several times along the way after that. Big quality of life improvement.

I’m not sure how else to say it — today was a special day. I am not young, and I have been to many shows in my time. That’s not bragging; I’ve by no means seen the most shows. But I’ve seen a few. And a day like this doesn’t come along all that often. I know already I’ll be looking back on my time here fondly. I haven’t even left the hotel to go to the airport yet, and frankly I’m already feeling nostalgic.

Thank you for reading. This is how it went:

hostsabbat art

Taiga Woods

Taiga Woods (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Rockin’ start to the proceedings. Oslo’s own Taiga Woods tapped into a traditional style of desert heavy, showing shades of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age early on, but working their way toward their own identity in style and presence. Most of what they played came from their 2017 self-titled debut, though it’s worth noting that it would seem guitarist/vocalist Erik Skundberg has undergone a total revamp of the band in the 13 months since that LP was released, bringing on board drummer Jonatan Eikum as well as guitarist Jøran Normann, who played upstairs yesterday as a member of Lonely Kamel, and bassist Ole Ulvik Rokseth, who opened the Crypt yesterday as part of SÂVER. Familiar faces or no, that’s not a minor change when it’s three-fourths of the lineup. But as refreshing as it was to see an act get down to the ’90s roots of modern-style heavy rock, they lacked nothing for chemistry between them, and the new song “Step Up” fit well ahead the catchy “Slow Burning” as they made their way toward finishing with “The Great Machine.” I didn’t see CDs for sale, which only says to me they’re ready for someone to step up and put that record out either before or in conjunction with a new one to come.

Elephant Tree

Elephant Tree (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Maybe once — maybe — at a festival like this, I’ll see something that makes me pull the plugs out of my ears. Elephant Tree were that band at Høstsabbat. Kind of hard not to feel like the universe was doing me favors, lining up them, Asteroid and Electric Moon one into the next on the upstairs stage. The London three-piece were freshly arrived off a tour with Mothership and Stoned Jesus, and they sounded like it. I was lucky enough to see them in their hometown this past May (review here), and of course the context was different them play on an actual church altar in a room with a ceiling at least three stories high, but even so, they were locked in like a band who’ve been touring, and while they were joking around and guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland were ragging on drummer Sam Hart for forgetting to get a beer before they took stage — someone brought him one — they were utterly locked in through “Dawn,” “Surma” and “Aphotic Blues” from their 2016 self-titled debut (review here). The harmonies between Townley and Holland were dead on, and they only showed progression in that regard with two new songs that carried the tentative titles “Wasted” and “Bella” before they closed out with a slowed-down cover of Black Sabbath‘s “Paranoid.” Because of the tempo, I actually thought they might dip into the Type O Negative version, but they ultimately stayed loyal at least in structure to the original. To call them a highlight of the trip would be underselling it viciously. A blast all the way through. They played Psycho Las Vegas last year, but I hope their next album brings them to the US for a full tour. They sounded ready and well up to the task.

Dwaal

Dwaal (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I knew nothing about Dwaal going into their set, and sometimes I like that. Also based in Oslo, they packed their five-piece lineup into the basement stage such that bassist Stian spent a decent portion of the set playing at least half behind a concrete support pillar. Metal. Actually, post-metal, and sludge, and doom, but fittingly atmospheric for an evening that would be headlined by Amenra. Their debut EP, Darben, came out last year comprised of two extended cuts — I’d call it a full-length since it topped 30 minutes, but why argue? — and they’ve reportedly got an album in the works, and while I don’t know if the bulk of what they played was new or older, their aggression and their level of crushing riffing were obviously a far cry from both Elephant Tree and Taiga Woods, but they marked the beginning point of a second thread running throughout the evening, which comprised more ambient and aggro post-whatnottery in contrast to the more rock-minded or psychedelic fare. Either way, the room knew them more than I did and they had heads banging and nodding in front of the “stage” — that’s not to say “the spot on the floor where the rug was” — and on the side as well, which was closed yesterday and opened today presumably to accommodate a broader flux of attendees. It was full for Dwaal, and reasonably so.

Asteroid

Asteroid (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Such boogie. Such warmth. I mean, come on. All other things in the universe being equal — especially money — the chance to see Asteroid alone would’ve justified this trip. I made my way up early to the Chapel stage, to make sure I got a spot up front to see them, and was rewarded with a set that gracefully spanned all three of their albums to-date and found them jamming out psychedelic heavy blues with a naturalism that was present not only in the individual tones and voices of guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse and bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson, or the swing and shuffle in Jimmi Kohlscheen‘s drumming, but in the sonic conversation between the the three of them. That might be the most classic aspect of the Örebro trio’s sound, and it’s something that comes across on their records as well — their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here), 2010’s II (review here) and 2016’s return from hiatus, III (review here) — but of course, to see it in the moment as it’s happening, to see them make the easy shift between “Garden” and “Disappear” or to have them turn to the riffy “Speaking to the Sea” from the first album ahead of “Mr. Strange” from the latest one, it was all the more powerful of an impression made. I hear tell there’s new material in the works; songs coming together for the next record and plans to tour ahead of hitting the studio. As Asteroid have been off and on the better part of the last five years, it only bodes well to know they’re thinking ahead for good things to come. They only make the world a better place for existing, and the more they do that, the merrier.

The Moth Gatherer

The Moth Gatherer (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Back downstairs for more post-metallic volume assault. Sweden’s The Moth Gatherer in some ways picked up where Dwaal left off, but traded in some of the rawness of their Crypt-stage predecessors for an even-more atmospheric take. They had an EP out last year called The Comfortable Low, but their latest full-length was 2015’s The Earth is the Sky (review here), and their more post-rock-based style sat well with the crowd downstairs that was packed to capacity with a line outside waiting to get in as other people made their way out. A very thoughtful, progressive sound nonetheless had its share of claustrophobia, which was all the more fitting given the basement where they played, and watching them, it was evident just how righteously Høstsabbat had managed to capture not just a “club show” experience with its smaller stage, but more like a house show. To low light and periodically bludgeoning intensity, The Moth Gatherer filled that Crypt with sound as much as people, and they were a band I’d probably never have the chance to see anywhere else, so I felt all the more fortunate for the chance to do so here, in that small room where the walls seemed so ready to cave in at a moment’s notice. The thread that started with Dwaal and continued with The Moth Gatherer would pick up again with Amenra at the end, but there was still more rock to be had first.

Electric Moon

Electric Moon (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Before the German instrumentalist space/psych jammers got started, they shared a hug on the side of the stage, and then guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt got on mic and wished everyone a pleasant flight. With the core trio of the band made all the more lush owing to guest synth from Burt Rocket (SEID) at the center of the stage, that trip took off quickly and didn’t bother to look back at ground below. Schmidt and bassist/sometimes-vocalist “Komet Lulu” Neudeck were rejoined by original drummer Pablo Carneval about a year ago, and their adventures only seemed to take them farther and farther out as their set went on, washes of guitar and synth floating up to the high ceiling while the bass and drums held together a fluidity of groove that showed the band for the masters of the form — such as it is a “form” with a sound so utterly molten — that they are. I’ve been lucky enough to catch them at Roadburn in years past (review here) and with their members in various projects, as the band’s pedigree runs through acts like Zone Six and WeltraumstaunenKrautzone, etc., but to see Electric Moon on stage is something unto itself. They’re never overly showy in terms of thrashing about or anything, but the experience of their sonic exploration comes through vividly as they play, and that suits the laid back feel of the resultant material itself perfectly. They did not in any way fail to invite the audience along on what indeed turned out to be a pleasurable, radiant-in-the-sense-of-light journey.

Brutus

Brutus (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I did not see nearly enough of Brutus. They were killer, and they were killing, and I did not see nearly enough of them doing it. To be fair to myself, I’d probably say the same if I’d managed to watch their full set, but the Norwegian traditionalist heavy rockers headlined in the Crypt, and they had the basement of Kulturkirken Jakob so jammed with bodies that for the first time in the whole weekend, I felt the press of the crowd almost knock me over up front. And even if I do at some point in my life get to see Brutus again, chances are, it won’t be in the kind of situation where I’m in danger of tripping over the stage monitors on the floor because of the push of people behind me, so I relished the opportunity while I could. And Brutus — clearly hometown heroes of boozy riff-purveyance — were a thrill to behold in that headlining spot. They could’ve played upstairs easily, I’m sure, but despite their sonic discrepancy with The Moth Gatherer and Dwall directly before, they made that basement into a party all the way, and while I knew that in just a little while, Amenra were going to close out the festival on a much darker note, the chance to see Brutus play, and to play in a place that small, wasn’t to be overlooked. I didn’t see enough of it, but I’m grateful for what I did catch, because that’s not an opportunity that will come along often, if it ever does again at all.

Amenra

Amenra (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The Belgian post-metal kingpins have toured the US more than a couple of times at this point, I believe most recently as support for the wallop duo of Neurosis and Converge — their also on the former’s label, Neurot Recordings — but I’m still not sure America really appreciates just how huge Amenra are in Europe. They’re gods here. I knew that from seeing them at Roadburn in 2016, but the intervening years have only seen them all the more don a headliner role. They would seem to have taken the post-metal crown that once belonged to Cult of Luna, and while I’ll admit I could in no way match my fellow fest-goers’ sense of worship when it came time for them to go on, there’s absolutely nothing one can take away either from their intensity or their obvious dedication to how they present themselves. I don’t know if it would be possible to find a more fitting locale for Amenra to play than in a church with cathedral ceilings of height enough for their projections to be shown massively to the assembled congregation, but even if you discount all of that, and ignore the we-play-in-the-dark-until-the-strobes-hit lighting and the fact that frontman Colin H. van Eeckhout doesn’t face the audience until the last song, if then, they’re still a formidable presence live, and there would’ve been nowhere else to put them on the Høstsabbat bill if they weren’t at the top of it. I’m not 100 percent sure I’m ready to call myself a full-on convert to the “church of ra,” as they put it, but I definitely didn’t have any trouble seeing the appeal of their dogma. And I reserve the right to become a total fanboy at some later date.

I left out of Kulturkirken Jakob into the chilly Oslo air without my hoodie on. Just wanted to feel that cold as it was rather than shy away from it. Something about the sensory experience on my bare neck and forearms seemed like a good idea at the time. It’s coming up on three in the morning CET and my flight is at nine-something, so I won’t get to see a lot of the city on this trip. Maybe that was my way of taking as much of it in as I could.

When I got back around the block to the Anker Hotel, I messaged Johannes from Asteroid. We had talked earlier in the day about doing an interview for “The Obelisk Show” on Gimme Radio, and it didn’t happen at the venue, but I thought if they were around the hotel maybe it could work. Was worth a shot, anyhow. Robin was asleep, but I chatted in the hotel bar with Johannes and Jimmi, and that was a blast. I spoke with Elephant Tree earlier in the day as well, and with Ole Helstad and Jens Storaker, who run the fest, so I think I’ll probably just dedicate a whole episode to having been here. I think I have a few weeks before I get there, but I’ll keep you posted.

I haven’t sorted any pics yet from tonight, so need to do that, but I’m not sleepy yet, so hopefully my brain won’t come crashing down before I have to leave for the airport. Help me, last tiny drops of adrenaline.

My eyelids are getting heavy just thinking about it.

I can’t possibly thank you enough for reading if you have.

Thank you.

Thank you so much to Jens and to Ole for having me back here. Thank you to The Patient Mrs. and to Cate Wright for taking on my Pecan duties in my absence. Thank you to my mother and my sister for their undying support. My only hope is they know how grateful I am for it. Thanks to Falk-Hagen Bernshausen for always being so great to run into at fests, to Andrea who I met here, to Kai, who is an institution unto himself, to Pete, Jack and Sam from Elephant Tree, to Robin, Johannes and Jimmi from Asteroid, to Sula Bassana, Martin from Domkraft, Jens Heide, Lex and everyone else I spoke to over the last two days who said hi. It’s hugely appreciated and humbling. People say nice things. It feels good. Thank you.

Alright. On to photos, and then to shower, and then to airport. I doubt I’ll have it in me to post again before I’m back home, and don’t look for much on Monday, but really, one more time, thank you. So much. I don’t even get it, how lucky I am. My soul feels restored for having been here.

Thank you for that.

Pics after the jump.

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Live Review: Elephant Tree, Morag Tong and Wychhound in London, UK, 05.16.18

Posted in Reviews on May 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Elephant Tree (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The kind of evening to vibrate the plugs in your ears. I’m loath to do this, but there’s a lot of context to this one that needs quick covering, so here are a few bullet points so we’re all on the same page:

  • I’m in London with my wife who is a college professor leading a study abroad trip for students. The baby and I got to tag along. Good deal.
  • While in Canterbury, the house where we were staying was burgled overnight. Among the stolen: My laptop, my camera, my glorious cosmic backpack. Sucked. Years of writing and music, gone. No backups (I know, I know…). Patient Mrs., Pecan and self fine though, so could’ve been worse.
  • One of my wife’s students very generously let me borrow her camera and take it to The Black Heart in Camden Town to shoot Morag Tong‘s release show with Elephant Tree and Wychhound on the bill.
  • I took my first Uber to get there. You don’t actually need to know that, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless.

I met guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley and drummer Sam Hart from Elephant Tree outside The Black Heart before I even got through the door and was warmly greeted. All the more appreciated after a long day. A week after Desertfest London, I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of crowd — people could be fired up just as easily as burnt out — but it was for sure the former inside; already packed and the show, which would happen upstairs in the venue itself as opposed to the downstairs bar, hadn’t even started.

It had been half a decade since the last time I was fortunate enough to be in The Black Heart. The upstairs bar had moved from the back to the side of the venue, but beyond that, not much had changed. Downstairs was much the same as I remembered, with the big bar in the center and tables and enclaves off to the sides, a place one could both get rowdy or have a quiet conversation. Outside, people smoked like fiends. Inside, I found Elephant Tree bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, also formerly of Stubb and Trippy Wicked, old friend Chris West of an ever-increasing number of bands, among them the newly formed Glanville, whose EPK was on my stolen laptop, and met a woman Jack introduced as Sister Rainbow, who had the hair to match and for whom this would mark her 36th Elephant Tree show. Being my first, I told her she had me beat by a wide margin.

Soon enough after, things got started upstairs with Wychhound on first. The Londoners have been around a few years, and have a new EP out called Earth Orbiter following up their 2015 self-titled, which they tracked as a five-piece with vocals. Instrumental now, they made good use of the dynamic between Roberto Pini and Miles McDonald on guitar in setting the foundation for their sound, which was someplace between Kyuss-style desert worship and the heavier explorations of Pelican with shades of Russian Circles-esque post-heavy in some of its more daring moments. Bassist Neil Neighbour and drummer Sid Naghdi provided a foundation of weighted groove and allowed the guitars space to wander when they were so inclined, and some of the most effective moments came in combining forward drive with that emergent sense of space.

Even in this age of immediate access, sometimes it’s nice to go in blind — plus I, admittedly, had a pretty busy day — so I hadn’t gotten to check Wychhound out before, but their atmospherics on a piece like “Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL-9)” were readily apparent and still left room for rawer, head-down riffing in the material surrounding. It was enough to make me visit their Bandcamp and snag a download, which I guess was the idea in the first place. Some growing to do, perhaps, as they continue to come into their own sound, but they were a right on way to start the night and full enough in tone that, yes, I had to keep adjusting my right earplug because the low end was making it vibrate.

Speaking of tone, fucking Elephant Tree. Their self-titled debut (review here) on Magnetic Eye was easily one of the best records of 2016, and especially after missing them last year at Psycho Las Vegas, as soon as I found out they were playing while I’d be in town, I knew I had to see them. The three-piece did not disappoint, and that wasn’t a surprise. That is, I knew they’d be good. I’d seen videos and was of course familiar with the album and all that. I knew they’d be good. What I didn’t expect was that they’d be so much fun.

Peter Holland is at very least two things, and I say them both with utter affection and zero sarcasm. He is among the most charming drunks I’ve ever encountered, and he is insanely talented. At this point I’ve seen him play in three different bands and he’s never failed to make a mark in each of them in terms of sound. His voice is immediately recognizable, his smile infectious and his style of play was as perfect a match for Townley‘s guitar on stage as it had been on the record. Also, he broke a string before they went on. They still started more or less on time, laughing and making fun of each other in the process. Then, in the first song, Hart‘s drum stool busted. Hardly missed a beat, kept playing, and fixed it before they started the next cut. Later on, one of Townley‘s pedals got stuck on and he couldn’t turn it off, making a kind of wash of low end psychedelic waves out of a verse riff in the process. No fucking complaints there.

The point is there was no stopping Elephant Tree from rolling out their massive nod. And when I say massive, I don’t just mean it sounded big, but it sounded like it had a physical presence. Tone you could chew like gum. Between the laid back groove and the laid back vibe and the lady in the crowd making seal noises — no, it wasn’t Sister Rainbow; she was down the front rocking out as only someone on their 36th show with a band could hope to do — it was impossible not to have a good time, so I put my borrowed camera down and did exactly that for a little bit. Just let it go and enjoyed myself, and whether it was the evening’s highlight “Aphotic Blues” or the album closer “Surma” or “Dawn” — which was precisely as built for a sing-along as it seems, with Townley and Holland sharing vocals — I had no regrets. Townley brought a frontman presence to the guitar/vocal spot and though there were times when the bass threatened to swallow everything in its path, his solos cut through and gave the whole thing an entirely new sense of space. What a blast.

By way of plainly stating the obvious, they were my highlight, but Morag Tong were still to go, playing cuts from their Last Knell of Om debut full-length, which is officially out tomorrow, May 18. I’d been lucky enough to hear the album prior to seeing them — it, too, was on the desktop of my stolen laptop, and I believe slated for the next Quarterly Review, though of course I can’t be sure of that because my notes… well, you get the idea — and knew a bit of what was coming. They started out with guitarists Alex Clarke and Lewis Crane both on e-bow guitar (dueling e-bows!) and would go on to play the complete album, swapping the order to finish with “To Soil” and letting drummer Adam Asquith initially bide his time before unleashing his growling vocal between “Transmission” and “New Growth.” Equal parts psychedelic and doom, they were clearly proud of the work they’d done — and rightly so — and hypnotic in their presentation enough even on stage to give a sense of the underlying element of drone on the record.

Back into the (new) notes they go for the next Quarterly Review. Swapping out the saturated red light for a cooler-toned blue, they were a fitting end to a day that had started as a huge bummer some 17 hours earlier and had a massive turnaround in spirit and mood — more on that later. As they lurched out their meditative immersion, I made my way back downstairs to say a few quick goodnights and Uber myself back to Maida Vale, having had a night so satisfying that I almost forgot about the events of the morning prior. A night of volume and heart in kind, and the kind of night that I was so glad to be a part of that I’m still wearing The Black Heart‘s paper wristband on my right arm. And I hate those damn things.

Thanks for reading.

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Stoned Jesus, Mothership & Elephant Tree Announce September Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Holy rat farts that’s a good tour. You’ve got Stoned Jesus, fresh off a year celebrating their 2012 sophomore album Seven Thunders Roar and itching to promote their new album, teaming up with Texas’ Mothership, who by then should be road-testing new material for their next record, and Elephant Tree, who’ll have a new album in the hopper if not already out by the time the tour starts. Three absolutely killer bands, all fired up and ready to bring their best to the assembled masses. It’s an easy one to get excited about, you know, if you like things that are awesome.

The run is presented by Sound of Liberation, who in addition to umpteen festivals throughout the Spring and Fall seasons, specialize in precisely this kind of righteousness. Still, I didn’t see this one coming.

It was announced thusly:

stoned jesus mothership elephant tree tour

We are thrilled to unveil today the dates for an incredible 3-band package taking over European clubs in September!

Featuring the Ukrainian much-loved trio Stoned Jesus (working on a new album to be released by Napalm Records in September), along with Texas live-beasts Mothership (who will promote their last-year highly-acclaimed album “High Strangeness”) and Uk-based doom-explorers Elephant Tree (also sharping up some new tunes for an upcoming album), we believe this bill has the potential to rock your nights!

This will happen from September 13th to 29th in the best European dens. Get in touch with your local rock dealer to get your ticket quick!

13.09.18 | DE | Wiesbaden | Schlachthof
14.09.18 | DE | Stuttgart | JH Hallschlag
15.09.18 | CH | Pratteln | Z7 (Up In Smoke Warm-Up)
16.09.18 | CH | TBA
17.09.18 | DE | Munich | Feierwerk
18.09.18 | AT | Graz | PPC
19.09.18 | AT | Vienna | Arena
20.09.18 | DE | Leipzig | Werk 2
21.09.18 | DE | Berlin | Bi Nuu
22.09.18 | NL | Nijmegen | Doornroosje
23.09.18 | NL | Amsterdam | Melkweg
24.09.18 | DE | Cologne | Helios 37
25.09.18 | DE | Bielefeld | Forum
26.09.18 | DE | Brussels | Magasin 4
27.09.18 | FR | Paris | Petit Bain
28.09.18 | UK | London | The Garage
29.09.18 | UK | Sheffield | Doom vs Stoner Fest*
(* Stoned Jesus & Elephant Tree only)

www.soundofliberation.com
https://www.facebook.com/Soundofliberation/
https://twitter.com/sol_ug

Stoned Jesus, “I’m the Mountain” live in 2017

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Keep it Low 2017: Colour Haze, Belzebong, The Necromancers and A Great River in the Sky Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

keep it low 2017 banner

I was kind of wondering if the Munich-based Keep it Low festival would add Colour Haze for Keep it Low 2017. The long-running German heavy psych progenitors have played multiple editions of the event and have kind of become a staple of the lineup, so to see them added as they support their new album, In Her Garden (review here), is definitely cool. Joining them in this round of adds are BelzebongThe Necromancers and A Great River in the Sky, and on a bill with Saint VitusBrant BjorkRadio MoscowMars Red SkyConanUfomammutStoned JesusMonolordMos Generator and so on — the list is fucking wild — they only make it stronger and richer.

Of all the Fall fests in Europe — there are many and I won’t take away from what any of them are doing — Keep it Low has been the one I’ve most wanted to see over the past few years. It’s grown into what really seems like a unique vibe between its stages, skatepark, biergarten, and so on, and though they’re promising heavier acts this year and delivering that already with the likes of Ufomammut and Vitus and Conan, etc. — see also Belzebong here — there’s still plenty of heavy psych and rock and roll to be had, and that blend, as we all know, is what it’s all about. Anyway, it looks awesome. It won’t be this year, but I’ll get there one of these days.

It’s presented, of course, by Sound of Liberation, who updated the lineup thusly:

keep-it-low-2017-new-poster

Keepers,
Today we have 4 new band announcements for Keep It Low Festival 2017! We’re happy to present you:

Colour Haze
BelzebonG
The Necromancers
A Great River In The Sky

It has become a kind of tradition that mighty Colour Haze headline Keep It Low’s Friday, so never change a winning team!

Get your 3-day tickets here: http://bit.ly/2lr4hzH and….keep it low!

Line Up:
BRANT BJORK (with Special Guest Sean Wheeler) | SAINT VITUS | RADIO MOSCOW | MARS RED SKY | UFOMAMMUT | STONED JESUS | CONAN | MONOLORD | NAXATRAS | HOUSE OF BROKEN PROMISES | BEASTMAKER | MOS GENERATOR | USNEA | ELEPHANT TREE | KALEIDOBOLT | MOUNT HUSH | GODSGROUND
+ many more TBA

Limited 3-day tickets available!

October 20 | 21 | 22 2017
Feierwerk München

After an amazing and once again sold out edition in 2016 you can expect 3 days, 27-30 bands, amazing people and good vibes at Keep It Low 2017! For the very first time we will have the “Doom-Frühschoppen” with some HEAVY bands on the last day of the Festival.

https://www.facebook.com/events/201489380309269/
https://www.facebook.com/keepitlowfestival/

Colour Haze, In Her Garden (2017)

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Desertfest Belgium 2017: Graveyard, White Hills, Elephant Tree, OHHMS, Minami Deutsch and Kaleidobolt Join Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

As predicted at the outset, the poster showcasing the lineup for Desertfest Belgium 2017 has become very, very crowded. I don’t think they’re done, either. Where will the next batch of bands squeeze, what with the sizable logo addition of Graveyard here along with OhhmsElephant TreeWhite Hills and so on? I don’t know. It’s a problem for a graphic designer to tackle that’s well beyond my depth, to be sure. But they’ll sort it out. They always do.

The Fall festival season — there are many, you know the names and don’t need me to recount — by now rivals Spring. It might even surpass it in terms of the sheer one-into-the-next-into-the-next-into-the-next style proceedings from country to country, weekend to weekend. It’s astounding how strong and sustaining the European underground has become over the last several years. Desertfest, the growth of the brand in general and in its autumnal incarnations in Antwerp and Athens, has been a big part of that, and accordingly, Desertfest Belgium 2017 stands among the best lineups one is likely to find on the continent this Fall.

To wit:

desertfest-belgium-2017-poster-graveyard

GRAVEYARD PLAYS DF ANTWERP 2017 – White Hills, Elephant Tree & more announced

So here it is – Karma strikes, part two!

Last year we were gutted when GRAVEYARD decided to call it quits, moments before their appearance at Desertfest Antwerp. Fortunately, their breakup turned out to be short-lived, and the band announced their return with a new drummer in January 2017. So naturally, we had to put ’em in a headliner spot again to make it up to you guys!

We’re also very glad to announce the appearance of WHITE HILLS, possibly the coolest band in the universe. With OHHMS and ELEPHANT TREE, we present you with two of the hottest bands from the UK heavy scene at the moment. Going worldwide, let’s throw in Oriental Krautrock with MINAMI DEUTSCH from Tokyo, and the psychedelic jazz-prog of KALEIDOBOLT from Helsinki.

From where we’re sitting, Desertfest Antwerp is starting to look pretty good… and we’re still not done!

GRAVEYARD

After the breakup of 2016, Graveyard did what every great classic rock band should do: take some time off to recollect the good spirit, and then come back with a mighty vengeance. And so here they are: the Swedish rock giant is back in the saddle with a new drummer, and ready to kick ass in 2017! We can only imagine what awesomeness they’ll bring to make it up to the DF crowd…

WHITE HILLS

White Hills are proponents of psychedelia as transformation. The music made by Dave W. and Ego Sensation is risky and cutting edge, rooted in dystopian futurism and hyper-conscious of our constant desire for a new and better drug. On their new album ‘Stop Mute Defeat’, White Hills has flipped the script with an industrially-charged record that pulsates unlike anything you’ve heard of them before.

OHHMS

OHHMS (written “((OHHMS))”) are a Canterburian metal band who are quickly becoming the buzz of the UK doom scene. They’ve established a reputation of playing extremely loud, delivering long and complex tracks at a deafening volume. Their first album release ‘The Fool’ is earning accolades across the scene, winning over crowd and critics alike.

ELEPHANT TREE

Another big promise from the UK, Elephant Tree came out with one of the best damn albums from 2016. Combining clear vocal harmonies with insanely heavy riffs, and switching it up with sudden mood shifts and slow-burning grooves, their debut album is truly something special that you should seek out immediately. Word from Desertfest London & Berlin is they easily hold their ground on the stage.

MINAMI DEUTSCH

Minami Deutsch is a Krautrock band from Tokyo. Starting off playing live music on the city streets, they got picked up for a spot at the Tokyo Psych Fest. In September 2015, they released their first record through the English cult label Cardinal Fuzz Records, as well as Japanese psych label Guruguru Brain. Expect motorik kraut grooves with a distinct Oriental flavour!

KALEIDOBOLT

Kaleidobolt is a power trio from Helsinki, blending loud guitars with furious jazz moves. Their music is a dizzying maelstrom of progressive song structures, crushing riffs and loose psychedelic soundscapes, delivered with joy and ferociousness. Working since 2014, they’ve released two albums to much acclaim, and toured with the likes of Radio Moscow and Samsara Blues Experiment.

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/264364590656095/
https://twitter.com/DesertfestBE

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Keep it Low 2017: Saint Vitus, Brant Bjork, Radio Moscow, Ufomammut, Naxatras, Mos Generator and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

keep-it-low-2017-generic-banner

Well, the bill for Keep it Low 2017 is packed. It would be packed if it was just Brant Bjork and Saint Vitus and Ufomammut in the lineup, but of course it goes well beyond that, with the likes of Radio Moscow, Naxatras, House of Broken Promises, Conan, Monolord, Mos Generator, Elephant Tree, Mars Red Sky and everyone else you can see below. If you can take a look at this roster of bands and not immediately start daydreaming about making the trip to the fifth installment of the Munich, Germany-based festival, you’re a better person than I am. Or you’re dead. One or the other, I guess.

One suspects that, as with last year, the Fall European fest season will have some overlap. You’ll note Beastmaker here as well as on Up in Smoke. Ditto that VitusBrant BjorkUfomammutRadio MoscowUsnea and Kaleidobolt. Aside from the hand of Sound of Liberation in putting these events together, weekend fests make great anchors for touring groups. Club shows all week, fests every weekend? I can’t imagine a touring act wouldn’t sign up for that, so yeah, probably some more familiar names will be making their way out between these, the Desertfests in Antwerp and Athens, and whatever else might come along. Keep an eye out.

From Keep it Low‘s social medias:

keep-it-low-2017-poster

KEEP IT LOW FESTIVAL 2017

Line Up:
BRANT BJORK (with Special Guest Sean Wheeler) | SAINT VITUS | RADIO MOSCOW | MARS RED SKY | UFOMAMMUT | STONED JESUS | CONAN | MONOLORD | NAXATRAS | HOUSE OF BROKEN PROMISES | BEASTMAKER | MOS GENERATOR | USNEA | ELEPHANT TREE | KALEIDOBOLT | MOUNT HUSH | GODSGROUND
+ many more TBA

Limited 3-day tickets available!

October 20 | 21 | 22 2017
Feierwerk München

After an amazing and once again sold out edition in 2016 you can expect 3 days, 27-30 bands, amazing people and good vibes at Keep It Low 2017! For the very first time we will have the “Doom-Frühschoppen” with some HEAVY bands on the last day of the Festival.

HEAVY!

3-day tickets are selling fast so don’t wait too long and get it here:
http://bit.ly/2lr4hzH

https://www.facebook.com/events/201489380309269/
https://www.facebook.com/keepitlowfestival/

Ufomammut, “Warsheep” official video

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