Review & Full Album Premiere: Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Passage to Agartha

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Hotel-Wrecking-City-Traders-Passage-to-Agartha

[Click play above to stream Hotel Wrecking City Traders’ Passage to Agartha in its entirety. Album is out Sept. 25 through Cardinal Fuzz, Evil Hoodoo and Bro Fidelity Records.]

It might not always seem like it, but there’s a delicate balance at play at any given moment for Hotel Wrecking City Traders. Yes, the Melbourne duo proffer just under 90 minutes of new material on the six tracks of their fourth album Passage to Agartha — released through Bro Fidelity, Cardinal Fuzz and Evil Hoodoo — but on an aesthetic level, the two-piece of brothers Ben and Toby Matthews (drums and guitar, respectively) tread a line between crunch-tone noise derived from a punk influence and an expansive take on space rock and heavy psychedelia that they’ve developed over the course of their decade together in the band. Each of their releases has been a step forward in a process of refining and individualizing this approach, and Passage to Agartha follows suit in expanding the mindset of early-2016’s Phantamonium (review here) and adding for the first time overdubs of synth and bass to the live-recorded, mostly-improvised root tracks of guitar and drums.

Thus, on opener “Quasar” (11:04) and the subsequent “Kanged Cortex” (11:55), Hotel Wrecking City Traders not only immediately cast their listener into this ocean of intensity and flow, but they do so with their core energy intact and with new elements put to use in making them fuller in their arrangements — they recently added Josh Beagley (also of Melbourne’s Spider Goat Canyon) to the lineup to handle bass parts live — even as the beginning stretches of “Chasing the Tendrils” (17:00) course through proggy nuance that offerings like Phantamonium, 2014’s Ikiryo (review here), their 2012 splits with Sons of Alpha Centauri and WaterWays (review here) and Spider Goat Canyon, 2011’s collaboration with Gary Arce of Yawning Man (review here), the 2010 single, Somer/Wantok (review here), and their 2008 debut, Black Yolk, have been building toward in one way or another.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s taken Hotel Wrecking City Traders 10 years to “arrive” as they shift into cymbal wash and amp noise passing the midpoint of “Chasing the Tendrils” and come off the harder-thrusting reaches of “Kanged Cortex” with a fluid motion building on some of the more post-rock airiness of the earlier going, just that Passage to Agartha finds them at the to-date pinnacle of their stylistic development. And while it’s easy to be consumed by the length of the thing — I started off talking about balance for a release that’s nearly an hour and a half long; worth noting that the closer “Oroshi” (22:57) is listed as a CD/digital-only bonus track — it’s the progressive will that becomes so palpable throughout these extended cuts that is even more striking. One can still hear the underlying turns of Black Yolk in their sound, in the angularity of some of Toby‘s guitar parts or the shifts in Ben‘s rhythm, the forward push of his playing, but with a number of experimentalist releases behind them at this point, Hotel Wrecking City Traders have never sounded freer than they do in these explorations.

hotel wrecking city traders

The way they move through the crashing, keyboard-laden ending of “Chasing the Tendrils” and into the more serene launch of “Passage to Agartha” (14:43) — arguably the record’s most purely psychedelic cut and a telling moment as the title-track with its siren-esque background synth and hypno-repetitive guitar lines — is their own, and it’s the result of an organic growth captured on Hotel Wrecking City Traders releases long or short. As they make this particular “Passage,” amassing volume and patience of roll as they go en route to midsection churn and an eventual wash that seems to swallow the song entirely before cutting out circa the 12:30 mark to let Toby‘s guitar and synth drift to the finish, it only seems right to think of Passage to Agartha as another landmark in their ongoing creative journey, part of a timeline and a larger process rather than a stopping point in itself.

At least that’s the hope, because while Hotel Wrecking City Traders remain considerably undervalued even in the crowded sphere of the underground in their hometown, their work has proven vital time and again, as it does here. “Ohms of the Cavern Current” (11:40) closes the album proper with a focus on more rumbling low end and a somewhat more plodding march than that of the title-track before it, rounding out by settling into a crash-propelled last push that cuts out to fade on a repeating guitar line. When it comes to it, “Oroshi” is an album unto itself, or an EP perhaps, but either way a definite standalone focal point correctly positioned here as a bonus track. It shares its overarching hypnosis with the preceding material, but centers around a single background drone for its 22-plus minutes and so clearly has its own experimentalist intentions as well, drifting as it does over a fullness of wash that comes to life and shifts toward one last run of intense prog noodling before cymbal washes take hold at about 19 minutes in to signal the end stage of what’s ostensibly a captured-live piece created as it happened.

Toby and Ben, as brothers and as bandmates, have so clearly developed a musical language between them that Passage to Agartha almost seems to communicate in patterns beyond the construction of its riffs and various (and varied) parts, but it doesn’t at all fail to engage its audience either through the subtlety of its reach or the balance of influences it sets in motion across such a formidable span. Even for a group so much on their own wavelength, the sense of achievement Hotel Wrecking City Traders bring to their craft is easy to perceive, and as Passage to Agartha finds them at a new stage of maturity, the patience they demonstrate when they choose to in “Quasar,” or the title-track, or “Oroshi,” is yet another tool to be put to use alongside the fervency that can be so propulsive elsewhere. One never likes to speculate what the future might bring especially for a band so prone to outside collaborations and one-offs, etc., but as they move forward in a three-piece incarnation with Beagley on bass, it seems all the more like Hotel Wrecking City Traders are still just beginning to discover where their passage is taking them. All the better.

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The Cosmic Dead and Mugstar Split 12″ Coming Next Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 5th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

the cosmic dead

With a cover that pays unabashed homage to Sonic Youth‘s Goo, psychedelic outfits The Cosmic Dead and Mugstar have teamed up to release a new split 12″ through Evil Hoodoo Records. Presumably, within a week of it coming out nobody’s parents will be harmed, but I’d expect effects-laden jams to ensue anyway on “Breathing Mirror” and “Fukahyoocastulah,” and if it’s going to be one or the other, I’ll take that. The Cosmic Dead, ever busy, ever prolific, will head out on a quick five-date tour mostly in the UK but also with a stop in Paris to support the release, and Mugstar will accompany on the first two shows.

The band sent an update down the PR wire with details:

the cosmic dead and mugstar split lp

Cosmic Dead – 12″ Split LP w/ Mugstar + December tour.

Evil Hoodoo are putting out a split 12″ record featuring our Liverpudlian pals Mugstar, on Side A, and ourselves on Side B. It’s out next week (December 8th), and we’ll be going off on a small tour on December 11th to promote its release, two dates of which Mugstar shall be joining us for.

Details –

SIDE A –
Mugstar – ‘Breathing Mirror’ (18.41)
Recorded by Brett St. Clair, Berlin.
Mixed by Neil Murphy, October 2013.

SIDE B –
The Cosmic Dead – ‘Fukahyoocastulah’ (25.51)
Recorded by Luigi Pasquini, Lochalsh, Sept 2013.
Mixed by Omar & The Cosmic Dead, October 2013.

Released by Evil Hoodoo Records, December 2014

So, to support the release of our new split “12 LP with our pals MUGSTAR, we’re heading out on a small jaunt in December. Unfortunately, Mugstar can only join us for 2 of the dates, but we’ve got lots of other exciting stuff lined up, like a show in Paris with Clinic and much more in the UK, ave a look see –

THE COSMIC DEAD December mini tour –
11.12 – (UK) Manchester – Soup Kitchen – w/ Mugstar
12.12 – (UK) London – Total Refreshment Centre – w/ Mugstar
13.12 – (FR) Paris – La Maroquinerie – w/ Clinic
14.12 – (UK) Brighton – The Joker – w/ TBC
15.12 – (UK) Bristol – Cube Cinema – w/ Anta & MXLX
16.12 – (UK) Preston – The Mad Ferret – w/ Super Fire Pony & Girl Sweat
27.12 – (UK) Glasgow – Bar Bloc – w/ Apostille

www.facebook.com/evilhoodoo.sheffield
www.mugstar.com
www.thecosmicdead.com

The Cosmic Dead, “Jazz is Rubbish” live at Supernormal Festival 2014

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