The label compilation is kind of a lost art in this age of digital whathaveyou. Used to be imprints put together comps on the regular. Some had rough mixes, some had exclusive tracks or things that wound up getting dropped off albums, and they kind of became a place where you might find something special once and then not run into it again. Italy’s Heavy Psych Sounds, with an ever-expanding roster and an already-full slate of releases as a result, seems intent on reviving the tradition. In addition to the label, booking agency, four-way split series and now two organized festivals under its belt, last year saw the release of Heavy Psych Sounds Volume I, and it seems that, indeed, it was the beginning of a series.
Heavy Psych Sounds Volume II will feature exclusive tracks from Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie and will be released on March 24. The same day, Black Rainbows will release their “The Red Sky Above” as a digital single following-up on last year’s Stellar Prophecy (review here) and leading to speculation of a sixth long-player in the works from them.
From the PR wire:
Heavy Psych Sounds Records presents: HPS CD SAMPLER VOL II (2017)
HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS Records & Booking is stoked to announce: The HPS Records Sampler Vol 2
Europe’s ever-growing riff powerhouse HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS is set to release the second chapter of its “Heavy Psych Sounds Sampler”, featuring 15 bands of the roster among which two exclusive new songs!
This new compilation features 15 tracks taken off the label’s most recent releases (Fatso Jetson, Nick Oliveri, The Freeks…) as well as a nice preview of some upcoming gems from The Sonic Dawn, Farflung, Duel or Cachemira. As an icing on this rifftastic cake, “Heavy Psych Sounds Sampler Vol. 2” offers two exclusive new singles from the mighty Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie.
HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS VOLUME II TRACK LISTING: Black Rainbows “The Red Sky Above” (exclusive track!) Cachemira “Overpopulation” Doctor Cyclops “Lonely Devil” Duel “Witchbanger” Farflung “You Will Kill For Me” Fatso Jetson “Wire Wheels And Robots” Giöbia “This World Was Being Watched Closely” Glitter Wizard-Mycelia Killer Boogie “Eight Ball” (exclusive track!) Mothership “Crown Of Lies” Nick Oliveri “Anything And Everything” The Clamps “Must Destroy” The Golden Grass “Flashing Out Of Sight” The Freeks “Uncle Jack’s Truck” The Sonic Dawn “Summer Voyage”
Heavy Psych Sounds Sampler Vol. 2 Out March 24th on Heavy Psych Sounds
Black Rainbows, “The Red Sky Above”
Unreleased dope track for the Italian fuzzsters, 6 minutes of Doomy, Stoner, Sabbathty groove stuff, recorded specifically for the new HPS Sampler. Recorded during their last tour in a cool studio surrounded by white snow mountains in the north of Italy last January 2017. You can taste the change of direction for the band with a monolithic style, more dark, more heavy, more straight in your face!
HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS is an ever-growing European record label and booking agency specialized in stoner, hard, psychedelic, fuzzy, doomy rock and more largely, all kinds of blazing retro riffage. Since its creation in Roma in 2007, HPS has released projects for Black Rainbows, Nick Oliveri, Karma To Burn, Naam, White Hills, Farflung, Fatso Jetson, Deville, Hot Lunch, Killer Boogie, Mos Generator, Isaak, The Sonic Dawn, Mothership and many more.
The Obsessed have announced a massive round of tour dates for April and May to support their first album in more than 20 years, Sacred, which is out April 7 on Relapse Records. Direct support on the run will come from Karma to Burn (with whom The Obsessed also toured last year), and Fatso Jetson and Lo-Pan will trade off for the West Coast and East Coast portions, respectively. In addition, a record release party will be held in Philly on April 8 at Kung Fu Necktie, at which The Obsessed legendary founding guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich will perform acoustic.
By way of a spoiler, I interviewed Wino yesterday about the new album — which rules — and he’s stoked to take it on the road. More to come on that as soon as I get the conversation transcribed.
Meantime, without further ado here are the dates from the PR wire:
THE OBSESSED Announce Headlining US Tour Dates
Maryland doom legends THE OBSESSED have announced a full US tour in support of the forthcoming album Sacred. The tour commences on April 12th in Pittsburgh, PA and runs through May 20th in Baltimore, MD. Karma To Burn will provide direct support on all dates while Fatso Jetson (April 17 – May 1) and Lo-Pan (May 3 – May 20) will provide additional support on select dates. THE OBSESSED will also join Weedeater and label-mates Primitive Man on five West Coast shows during the run (April 27 – May 1). All confirmed tour dates below.
Additionally, THE OBSESSED will hold a record release show for Sacred on April 8th at Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia, PA. The band will also perform at this year’s Berserker Fest IV in Detroit, Michigan the weekend of April 14-15. Stay tuned for further tour announcements in the future!
April 7, 2017 will see the worldwide release of Sacred via Relapse Records on CD/LP/DLX. 2xLP/Digital. Physical pre-order and bundles are available via Relapse.com HERE and digital downloads can be pre-ordered by Bandcamp AT THIS LOCATION. The Deluxe 2xLP bundle includes an enamel logo pin, signed art print and two bonus tracks!
With renewed energy and purpose, THE OBSESSED sounds heavier and more relevant than ever before. On Sacred, the band doubles down on enormous, heaving riffs and pummeling low-end across 12 tracks of eternal doom. Rounded out by Wino’s lyrical honesty and iconic throaty vocals, Sacred is an album that further pushes THE OBSESSED into the annals of heavy metal history, well worth the two-plus decade wait. The band will perform once again as three piece featuring Wino, Reid Raley and Brian Costantino.
THE OBSESSED Tour Dates: Apr 08 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie *Record Release Party/Acoustic Wino Set* — All Dates Apr 12 – May 20 With Karma To Burn — Apr 12 Pittsburgh, PA Cattive Apr 14 Cleveland, OH Grog Shop Apr 15 Pontiac, MI Berserker IV (The Crofoot) & Apr 17 Indianapolis, IN 5th Quarter + Apr 18 Kansas City, MO Riot Room + Apr 19 Chicago, IL Bottom Lounge + Apr 20 St. Louis, MO Fubar + Apr 21 Rock Island, IL Rock Island Brewing Co. + Apr 23 Denver, CO Hi-Dive + Apr 24 Salt Lake City, UT Metro Music Hall + Apr 25 Boise, ID Neurolux + Apr 26 Bellingham, WA Shakedown + Apr 27 Seattle, WA Highline ** + Apr 28 Portland, OR Star Theater ** + Apr 29 Sacramento, CA Starlite ** + Apr 30 San Francisco, CA DNA Lounge ** + May 01 Los Angeles, CA Regent Theater ** + May 02 Mesa, AZ Club Red May 03 Albuquerque, NM Launchpad # May 04 Dallas, TX Three Links # May 05 Austin, TX Grizzly Hall # May 07 San Antonio, TX Korova # May 08 New Orleans, LA Siberia # May 09 Savannah, GA The Jinx # May 10 Johnson City, TN Hideaway # May 11 Atlanta, GA EARL # May 12 Miami, FL Gramps # May 13 Spartanburg, SC Ground Zero # May 14 Raleigh, NC Pour House # May 16 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie # May 17 Boston, MA ONCE Ballroom # May 18 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus # May 19 New Hanover, CT The Ballroom at Outer Space # May 20 Baltimore, MD Otto Bar #
& No Karma To Burn ** W/ Weedeater + Primitive Man + W/ Fatso Jetson # W/ Lo-Pan
Consider this your usual disclaimer that, like any of this site’s coverage of year-end whatnottery, this podcast is by no means attempting to capture all of 2016’s best tracks. It is, however, over four hours long, and frankly that seems like enough to ask. If you decide to take it on and sample what I found to be some of the best material to come down the line over the last 12 months, please know you have my thanks in advance. For what it’s worth, it was a lot of fun to put together, and that’s not always the case with these.
But about the length. I’ve done double-sized year-end specials for a while now. It’s always just seemed a fair way to go. And the last few at least have been posted the week of the Xmas holiday as well, which for me is of dual significance since it just so happens four hours is right about what it takes to drive from where I live to where my family lives, so when I look at this massive slew of 34 acts, from the riff-led righteousness of Wo Fat and Curse the Son to the crush of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and SubRosa to the psychedelic reaches of Zun and Øresund Space Collective (who probably show up in podcasts more than anyone, oddly enough), I also think of going to see my family, which has become my favorite part of the holidays.
Whatever associations you might draw with it, I very much hope you enjoy listening. Thanks for taking the time.
Track details follow:
0:00:00 Wo Fat, “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind” from Midnight Cometh
0:09:35 Greenleaf, “Howl” from Rise Above the Meadow
0:14:57 Elephant Tree, “Aphotic Blues” from Elephant Tree
0:20:49 Brant Bjork, “The Gree Heen” from Tao of the Devil
0:26:27 Sergio Ch., “El Herrero” from Aurora
0:29:44 Child, “Blue Side of the Collar” from Blueside
0:35:31 Geezer, “Bi-Polar Vortex” from Geezer
0:43:59 Zun, “Come Through the Water” from Burial Sunrise
0:49:27 Baby Woodrose, “Mind Control Machine” from Freedom
0:54:11 Curse the Son, “Hull Crush Depth” from Isolator
0:59:31 Borracho, “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away” from Atacama
1:05:50 Scissorfight, “Nature’s Cruelest Mistake” from Chaos County
1:09:19 Truckfighters, “The Contract” from V
1:16:30 Spidergawd, “El Corazon del Sol” from III
1:21:24 Fatso Jetson, “Royal Family” from Idle Hands
1:26:13 Worshipper, “Step Behind” from Shadow Hymns
1:30:57 Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” from Y Proffwyd Dwyll
1:39:42 Druglord, “Regret to Dismember” from Deepest Regrets
1:46:34 Moon Coven, “New Season” from Moon Coven
1:52:03 Gozu, “Tin Chicken” from Revival
1:59:49 Year of the Cobra, “Vision of Three” from …In the Shadows Below
2:06:53 The Munsens, “Abbey Rose” from Abbey Rose
2:14:56 Lamp of the Universe, “Mu” from Hidden Knowledge
2:21:26 1000mods, “On a Stone” from Repeated Exposure To…
2:26:45 Church of the Cosmic Skull, “Watch it Grow” from Is Satan Real?
2:30:43 Vokonis, “Acid Pilgrim” from Olde One Ascending
2:37:35 Slomatics, “Electric Breath” from Future Echo Returns
2:43:02 Droids Attack, “Sci-Fi or Die” from Sci-Fi or Die
2:47:20 King Buffalo, “Drinking from the River Rising” from Orion
2:56:51 Comet Control, “Artificial Light” from Center of the Maze
3:06:37 Øresund Space Collective, “Above the Corner” from Visions Of…
3:22:51 Naxatras, “Garden of the Senses” from II
3:33:14 SubRosa, “Black Majesty” from For this We Fought the Battle of Ages
3:48:23 Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, “Escape Through the Rift” from Tranquonauts
Posted in Features on December 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.
I say this every year: These are my picks. If you’re unfamiliar with this site, or you don’t come here that often, or if you do and just normally don’t give a crap — all of which is cool — you should know it’s all run by one person. One human being. Me. My name is JJ, and this is a list of what I think are the best albums that were released in 2016.
Since before 2016 began, I’ve kept a running list of releases. My criteria for what gets included in this list is largely unchanged — it’s a balance between what I feel are important records on the level of what they achieve, what I listened to most, what held some other personal appeal, and what I think did the best job of meeting the goals it set for itself. Pretty vague, right? That’s the idea.
The nature of worldwide heavy has become so broad that to encompass it all under some universal standard is laughable. Judging psychedelia, garage rock, heavy psych, doom, sludge and so on by the same measure makes no sense, and as genres continue to splinter and remake themselves as we’ve seen them doing all year and over the last several years, one must be malleable in one’s own taste. We’ve seen a new generation of heavy rock bands emerge in the last three-plus years. It’s been amazing, and there are a few pivotal second and third records that came out in 2016 to affirm that movement underway. Look for it to continue into 2017 and beyond.
This year more than any other seemed to want to bring the different sides together. A laudable goal. Thick riffing marked with flourish of psychedelia. Spacious doom bred against folk impulses. There’s been experimentation around melds that have led to considerable triumphs, and it just doesn’t seem to me that rigid standards can apply. It’s why I don’t grade reviews and never did.
Sound is evolving now as it always has been and as it will keep doing, but like any year, 2016 had a full share of landmarks to offer as a part of that process. As universal development hopefully remains ongoing, it’s only right that we celebrate the accomplishments helping to push it along its winding and sometimes divergent-seeming paths.
I have no doubt you know what I mean. Let’s get to the list:
Seems only fair to start with a record I couldn’t put down. Finnish trio Talmud Beach‘s second album and Svart debut, Chief, hit on just the right blend of laid back, semi-acoustic groove-blues, psychedelia and classic progressive folk rock, but with the exception of its sprawling dreamscape title-track (a welcome arrival at the finale), it also kept the songwriting simple, resulting in a natural, pastoral feel that only highlighted their melodic range in songs like “Mountain Man” and “Snow Snow Snow.” I think it flew under a lot of people’s radar, but I’ve kept going back to it over the course of the year and I see no reason to stop.
Space is still the place. I’ve already highlighted closer “Artificial Light” from Comet Control‘s sophomore LP, Center of the Maze as my favorite song of 2016, so I’ll spare you the longwinded treatise on its languid cosmic glories — this time — but consider this a reminder that that song was by no means the limit of what the eight-track release had to offer in terms of breadth. From the opening push of “Dig out Your Head” to the dream-drift of “Sick in Space,” it unfolded tonal presence and a melodic depth that engaged a gorgeous, multifaceted sonic wash as it moved onward toward that landmark conclusion.
There was not a level on which Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack didn’t make it clear they were going all-out, all-in on Sci-Fi or Die. Even the title speaks to the stakes involved. And sure enough, the trio executed their fourth album with a sense of urgency and professionalism in songcraft, production, artwork (discussed here) and nuance of presentation that managed to make even a song called “Clawhammer Suicide” a classy affair. As guitarist/vocalist Brad Van said on the hidden title-track, “Death to false stoner thrash.” Droids Attack brought that ethic and more to life across the entire record.
A winding road brought Beelzefuzz around to following up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), and as The Righteous Bloom brought guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey together with bassist Bert Hall and lead guitarist Greg Diener, it found their songwriting more expansive, more progressive and dug further into their own particular oddball sense of grandeur. I’ve said on multiple occasions that no one out there is doing what Beelzefuzz are doing and that continues to be true. Even as a first offering from a new lineup of the band, The Righteous Bloom took bold and exciting forward steps.
Down to business. Immediately. Not a moment to spare. Taking part in what can only be considered a landmark year for Ripple Music, Baltimore’s Foghound issued The World Unseen as an answer to their 2013 debut, Quick, Dirty and High (review here), and upped their game across the board. From the intensity in the hooks of “Message in the Sky” and Rockin’ and Rollin'” to the quiet interlude of “Bridge of Stonebows” and the mid-paced heavy rock nod of “Never Return,” they made a strong case for themselves among their label’s foremost acts and found individualism in the growth of their songwriting. It was a kick in the ass you weren’t going to forget.
Put out by the band digitally in Dec. 2015 and issued on vinyl in 2016, Egypt‘s second LP, Endless Flight may be somewhat debatable in terms of when it actually landed (hence “25a.,” above), but the quality of the six-tracker more than warrants inclusion anyway. Rolling dense, massively-fuzzed groove, its nine-minute opening title-track set the course for the Fargo, North Dakota, three-piece, and they only grew the heavy revelry from there, as heard on the penultimate “Black Words,” which seemed to be chewing on rocks even as it played back and forth in tempo, build and push. The converted never had it so good.
There seems to be no stopping the Chiliomodi-based 1000mods, who with their third album have stepped to the forefront of Greece’s populous and vibrant heavy rock underground. Progressed well beyond where even 2014’s impressive Vultures (review here) found them, they seemed to hit a stride with Repeated Exposure To… thanks in part to road time and the ability to bring that energy directly into songs like the eight-minute roller “Loose” and the sizable crashes of “Groundhog Day.” Momentum working in their favor could be heard front-to-back from “Above 179” to “Into the Spell,” moving them toward something ever-more crucial and marking a considerable achievement along that path. 2017 might be a good time for them to test the waters with initial US shows.
Quick turnaround from Roman heavy psych magnate Gabriele Fiori (guitar/vocals) and company, but though it hit just about 13 months after their fourth full-length, Hawkdope (review here), Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy wholly succeeded in making an impact of its own, cuts like the oozing, organ-laced “Woman” and 11-minute jam-out triumph “Golden Widow” showcasing an approach in a continuous state of refinement that seems to get rawer as it goes, shifting like a rogue planetoid toward some maddening cosmic realization. How something can seem both so frenetic and so blissful is still a mystery, and perhaps that’s part of what makes Stellar Prophecy resonate as it does, but either way, Black Rainbows brought together some of the year’s most efficient psychedelic immersion.
Borracho don’t seem to release an album until they have something to say. That was to their credit on Atacama, their third LP and label debut for Kozmik Artifactz debut. Also their second collection issued as a trio behind 2013’s Oculus (review here), it distinguished itself from its predecessor in its sense of overarching flow, shifting between the ahead-thrust of “Gold from Sand” into the 10-minute sample-laden jam “Overload” to start out with such ease that the listener had little choice but to follow along. With an expanded scope on “Drifted away from the Sun” and the lightly-strummed memento mori “Flower,” Borracho found new avenues of expression to complement their well established dense, heavy riffing, and took obvious care in crafting their most realized LP yet.
Nothing Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass does feels like happenstance, and though their classic-styled boogie is imbued with a vibrant, friendly positive energy, there’s an underlying meticulousness in their arrangements and in their songwriting that came further into focus on Coming Back Again, their sophomore release 2014’s self-titled debut (review here). A more progressive take showed itself in “Reflections” and “Down the Line,” and taken in combination with the bookends “Get it Together” and “See it Through,” the three-piece stood on ground that was even more their own than on the first record, striking a careful balance between the willful exploration of new elements and the outright need for tracks to directly engage their listeners with catchy hooks and upbeat vibes. They did it. Expect continued growth.
For something so awash in fuzz, so nodding in its rhythms, so let’s-push-the-vocals-back-under-this-huge-awesome-fucking-riff, Curse the Son‘s Isolator was also remarkably clearheaded in its purposes. With the added vocal harmonies of “Callous Unemotional Traits,” the far-off spaces of “Hull Crush Depth” and the stoner metal despair of “Aislamiento,” the Connecticut three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, capital-‘d’ Drummer Michael Petrucci and newcomer bassist Brendan Keefe drew a direct, intentional line to sometimes-grueling (hello, “Sleepwalker Wakes”) weighted tonality and found justification for their largesse in its own being. Like 2012’s Psychache (review here), I expect to be returning to Isolator over a longer term than this single year of release.
I feel like I need to explain myself here. Make no mistake, Neurosis‘ Fires Within Fires is among the year’s most accomplished offerings. There’s just about no way it wouldn’t be. So why not top 10? Top five? It’s a question of timing. With the long-running post-metal progenitors, it’s always a longer digestion period. It was about two years before 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) really sunk in, and I expect Fires Within Fires will work similarly over the greater term. Maybe a little guilt on my part for the disparity between its quality and its placement, but rest assured, Neurosis remain among the most imperative bands walking the earth, and as they took on the full brunt of 30 years of unmitigated progression through Fires Within Fires, they were no less brazen in pushing themselves creatively than they’ve ever been.
Though the narrative of Conan has remained largely unchanged since their inception — hack, slash, kill, riff — and they still bask in nigh-on-unmatched tonal slaughter, their third full-length brings a few key developments. Perhaps most notable from opener “Throne of Fire” onward is the vocal interplay between guitarist/founder Jon Davis and bassist/longtime-engineer Chris Fielding, who joined after 2014’s Blood Eagle (review here). Adding Fielding‘s deeper growls allowed Davis to subtly move into a cleaner shout, and the emergent dynamic between them made Revengeance a decidedly expanded affair compared to Conan‘s past work. Adding drummer Rich Lewis to the mix was no minor shift either, and as much as Conan had already established their sheer dominance, they also sounded refreshed and set themselves up to keep growing.
Some records just feel like gifts, and though many of its lyrical positions were cynical — “Reality,” “21st Century Slave,” “Mind Control Machine,” “Red the Sign Post,” etc. — Freedom marked the 15th anniversary of Danish garage-psych rockers Baby Woodrose with dripping lysergic aplomb, reminding some four years after their last LP, 2012’s Third Eye Surgery (review here), that bandleader Lorenzo Woodrose is unparalleled when it comes to manifesting his take on the psychedelic victories of 13th Floor Elevators and classic-era Hawkwind — firmly at home levitating on the edge of time. Its swirl and underlying foundation of songwriting, its Richie Havens cover title-track, and its sprawling interstellar “Termination” were like a welcome check-in from another dimension, and I only hope it’s not four years before Woodrose sends the next signal. Earth needs this band.
I’m not going to discount the shuffle of “Sunday Speed Demon” or sleeze of “Sunday Speed Demon,” but where Geezer‘s self-titled third full-length really showed how far the New York heavy blues-psych trio have come was in its extended midsection jams, “Sun Gods,” “Bi-Polar Vortex” and “Dust,” each of which showed a distinct approach while feeding into an engaging flow between them, offering a blend of trailmarker hooks as they drifted into realms of organic chemistry previously uncharted by the band. The slow-motion swing of “Hangnail Crisis,” raucous push of “Superjam Maximus” and concluding bounce of “Stoney Pony” brought them back down to earth to finish out with a symmetry to the album’s opening, but Geezer kept a collective hand on the controls the whole voyage and when they landed, it was an arrival indeed, and very much what their two previous records were building toward.
Beautifully experimental with its 27-minute finisher “As Sure as the Sun,” EYE‘s Vision and the Ageless Light seemed throughout its whole 46-minute run to be executing a cohesive vision in its synth-soaked progressive textures. Between the intro “Book of the Dead” and the subsequent “Kill the Slavemaster,” “Searching,” “Dweller of the Twilight Void” and the already-noted closer, each piece had something different to offer that added to the full impact of the whole, and with guitarist Jon Finely and bassist Michael Sliclen joining founding drummer/vocalist Brandon Smith and synth/Mellotron/Moog-ist Lisa Bella Donna (also vocals and acoustic guitar), EYE added to the scope of 2013’s Second Sight (review here) and found a place for themselves where prog complexity didn’t need to come at the expense of memorable songwriting and spaced-out vibes. An absolute joy, front to back.
Even Fatso Jetson themselves would probably have to admit that six years — even a six years that saw several splits, singles, etc. — was too long between albums. Fortunately, Idle Hands saw the desert rock forebears in top form as regards their quirk-fueled songwriting, angular approach to punk and inimitable groove. Following 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here) was no easy task, but with additional depth to the material from the contributions of guitarist Dino von Lalli — son of founding guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli and nephew of founding bassist Larry Lalli — guest spots from his sister Olive Lalli as well as Sean Wheeler (the latter moves second cut “Portuguese Dream” into high-echelon strangeness) and the ever-propulsive drumming of Tony Tornay, Fatso Jetson were both all over the place and right at the core of where they most ought to be sonically. At 56 minutes, it hardly seemed long enough.
Each song was like a different persona the band adopted momentarily, whether it was the Bowie-goes-proto-goth-prog of organ-ic opener “Transparent Eyeball” or the grim pastoralia of “Mirror Boy” and the condemnations/proclamations of “Drugged up on the Universe,” but wherever Hexvessel went on their third full-length and Century Media debut, When We are Death, that unifying theme went with them. Death. It was everywhere in the Finland-based genre-benders’ deeply varied approach, though its presence made their material in no way off-putting, and in the case of cuts like “Cosmic Truth” or the later “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” not even dark, and as it drew the tracks together despite working in different sounds and style, it became apparent that When We are Death worked because of a universal quality in songwriting and presentation allowing for such drastic shifts without any risk of losing the audience.
Yawning Man guitarist Gary Arce — a key figure in the development of desert rock and a player of unmatched tone, period — had quite a year, between Zun‘s Burial Sunrise, his main outfit and his collaboration with Fatso Jetson vs. HifiKlub, but it was the dreamscape drift of songs like “Come Through the Water” and “All that You Say I Am” as well as the subtle hooks of “Into the Wasteland” and “All for Nothing” that, for me, made this the highlight. Sure, bringing in vocalists Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini, Black Mare) and John Garcia (ex-Kyuss, Slo Burn, Vista Chino, etc.) and having them swap back and forth between the tracks didn’t hurt either, but the wash of ethereal presence in Arce‘s guitar was an excellent showcase for his patience and improvisational sensibilities, and the spaces Burial Sunrise covered seemed to have an infinite horizon all their own. Will hope for a follow-up, will hope Garcia and Timms return, and will hope for a duet.
One had reasonably high expectations for the debut full-length from London’s Elephant Tree after their 2014 EP Theia (review here) so deftly blended spacious, sitar-laced heavy psychedelic rock with more visceral sludge impulses — a difficult mix to pull off — but I think it would’ve been impossible to see the quality of this self-titled outing coming in any substantive way. Gone were the screams, in was a depth of tone and nigh-on-perfect tempo — see “Dawn” and “Aphotic Blues,” as well as the acoustic “Circles” between them — and where some first albums have a kind of tentative, feeling-it-out vibe, guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley (interview here), bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre took utter command of the proceedings. They won’t have the element of surprise working for them next time, but as Elephant Tree made perfectly clear in its biggest surprise of all, neither do they need it.
If you were to ask me to summarize in one word the last four-plus years of Mos Generator‘s tenure, since their reactivation with 2012’s Nomads (review here) and the subsequent lineup changes and hard-touring that followed 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), I’d say “go.” I might say it three times: Go-go-go. One of three LP-ish offerings out this year, the studio album Abyssinia embodied this ethic as it started with immediate momentum on “Strangest Times” and “You’ve Got a Right” and seemed to push itself into new ground as it went. Guitarist/vocalist/founder Tony Reed brought heavy boogie to bear at a frenetic clip, but Abyssinia offset its early mania with later progressive stylization on “There’s No Return from Nowhere,” “Time and Other Thieves” and harmonized closer “Outlander,” so that in addition to representing their furious creativity, it also brought them to places they’ve never been before in sound.
In some ways, Future Echo Returns was simply picking up where Belfast’s Slomatics left off with 2014’s Estron (review here), as heard on the riff of lead-in track “Estronomicon,” but as the third in a purported trilogy following that record and 2012’s A Hocht, it also brought the tonecrushing three-piece to Skyhammer Studio to work with producer Chris Fielding (Conan) and presented a linear storyline that, while rife with standout moments in cuts like “Electric Breath,” the ambient “Ritual Beginnings” and ultra-catchy “Supernothing,” found a genuine sense of resolution in the finale “Into the Eternal” that spoke to the scope the entire work was meant to represent — not just itself, but an entirety spanning three albums. Not a minor feat, but what also made Future Echo Returns so resonant was how well the material stood on its own, so that even without the narrative context, it was immersive, hypnotic and unbridled in its heft.
After two landmarks issued by Small Stone in 2014’s The Conjuring (review here) and 2012’s The Black Code (reviews here and here), Texas forerunners of riff Wo Fat gave a concise rundown of their appeal in the six-track Ripple debut and sixth LP overall, Midnight Cometh. Their ongoing development as found them bringing together a two-sided personality of memorable songs and open, fluid jams, and cuts like “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind,” “Of Smoke and Fog,” “Three Minutes to Midnight” and “Nightcomer” emphasized the next stage of this process, while the shuffling “Riffborn” and swaggering blues rock of “La Dilleme de Detenu” gave listeners a chance to touch ground every now and again. Over the last two-plus years, Wo Fat have become a point of influence for other, particularly American, acts — see labelmates Geezer — and Midnight Cometh assured that will be the case going forward too; a status well-earned.
Offered up this summer as a limited self-release and picked up by no less than Stickman Records (Motorpsycho, Elder), Orion might be the most molten inclusion on this list. It’s also my pick for 2016 Debut of the Year, and to hear cuts like “She Sleeps on a Vine,” “Kerosene,” the sprawling closer “Drinking from the River Rising,” or even just to take the whole record front-to-back, which was clearly how the band intended it be experienced, there’s just about no competition in that regard that stands up. The Rochester, NY, three-piece showed marked promise on their 2013 demo (review here) and 2015 split with Lé Betre (review here), but the listenability of Orion — which earned every single one of its repeat visits — made it a triumph on a different level entirely, and distinguished King Buffalo as a formidable presence in the sphere of US heavy psychedelia, fostering a sound no less soulful for its outward cosmic reach and to-be-measured-in-lightyears scale of potential.
7. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know
Released by Fat and Holy Records, Kozmik Artifactz, Import Export Music and SPV. Reviewed Sept. 7.
German outfit Wight answered significant anticipation on their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know, some four years after 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here) and undertook a significant evolution in sound. A transition from a trio to a four-piece and adding a strong current of funk to their heavy psych groove and boogie resulted in cuts like “The Muse and the Mule,” the jammed-out “Kelele” and “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” which were as danceable as they were nod-ready, and when complemented by shorter classic rockers like “Helicopter Mama” and “I Wanna Know What You Feel” (still plenty funky) and the Eastern-tinged interlude “Three Quarters,” gave Love is Not Only What You Know scope to match its ass-shaking encouragement. It was a spirit unto itself among 2016 releases, but ultimately, the key to understanding the record was right there in the title: It was all about love, and wherever Wight went in a given track, they never lost sight of that.
A decade and a half after 2001’s Revolution Rock (discussed here), Sweden’s Greenleaf most embodied that ethic with Rise Above the Meadow, their sixth long-player and Napalm Records debut. 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) represented the key step of founding guitarist Tommi Holappa (interview here) bringing vocalist Arvid Johnsson into the lineup, but Rise Above the Meadow built exponentially on what that album achieved, bolstered by work as a touring band and a revitalized songwriting process heard in “Howl,” “A Million Fireflies,” “You’re Gonna be My Ruin,” the stomping “Golden Throne” and “Tyrants Tongue,” among others. I refuse to discount the quality of Trails and Passes, 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) or 2007’s landmark Agents of Ahriman (review here), but as Greenleaf shifted toward a style more reminiscent of Holappa‘s later output with Dozer, they also seemed to stake their claim on the forefront of European heavy rock and roll, which was just waiting for them to do so.
Perhaps the most believable lyric of 2016 was the opening line of leadoff cut “The Gree Heen” from Brant Bjork‘s Tao of the Devil: “I got all that I need. I got the gree-heen.” From the prominent pot leaf on the cover to that single clause — which set the tone for that song’s mega-nod as much as everything that followed in the boogie of “Humble Pie” and “Stackt,” the so-laid-back-it’s-almost-unconscious title-track and the longer-form explorations of “Dave’s War” and the wah’ed-out “Evening Jam” — the inimitable Bjork seems to have embraced the role of stoner guru and the Godfather of Desert Rock. Tao of the Devil was his second release through Napalm behind 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), which introduced the Low Desert Punk Band, and far from hanging its hat on the man’s historical accomplishments from his days in Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Che, Vista Chino, etc., the 50-minute eight-tracker came fueled by the soul most typified in Bjork‘s solo catalog, which it’s increasingly easy to argue is his greatest contribution to the desert aesthetic. Definitely in his wheelhouse, but what a wheelhouse.
What a relief it was to have Asteroid back, and what a relief it was to have III arrive some six years after II (review here) and find the Örebro, Sweden, trio’s certified-organic chemistry undulled by that long stretch. The songs — “Pale Moon,” “Last Days,” “Til Dawn,” “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold,” “Them Calling,” “Mr. Strange” — there wasn’t a miss in the bunch, and in addition to the reignited craftsmanship, III made clear a progression as players and the intent to move forward from guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse, bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson and drummer Elvis Campbell (since replaced by Jimmi Kolscheen), so that the material didn’t just let listeners know Asteroid was a band again after having unceremoniously faded out for a half-decade, but gave a signal that perhaps they were just getting started. One can only hope that turns out to be the case, but either way, III felt like a reward dolled out to their fanbase after a long absent stretch, and one that, like II and their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) before it, will reverberate its echoes for years to come. Hands down 2016’s most welcome return.
Though it would carry the context of its scorching opener “Nature Boy” with it for the duration and, accordingly, hit with a more intense feel than its 2013 predecessor, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Gozu‘s fourth album overall and Ripple label debut was a kick in the ass on more than just that one level. It found the Boston foursome with the finally-solidified lineup of vocalist/guitarist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard, and while one could argue they still wound up under the banner of a heavy rock band, that became happenstance to the songs themselves. That is, even more than The Fury of a Patient Man or 2010’s Locust Season (review here), Gozu came across as writing not to style, but to their own impulses, as demonstrated in “Big Casino,” the echoing soul of “Tin Chicken” and shuffle-thrust of “Oldie,” and as they moved beyond their initial swath of influence into this individualized sonic persona, they reaped the benefits of the locked-in lineup and a process of craft that never sounded so purposeful. Revival was indeed typified by its vitality, but it was also the sound of a band maturing as a unit, becoming who they were meant to be, and there is almost nothing more exciting than that for a single album to represent. Plus, it had a song called “By Mennen,” and, you know, references.
2. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)
It was unreasonable to expect the third full-length from Bordeaux, France, trio Mars Red Sky to surpass 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here) and the progressive crux that album brought to the warm tones and sweet melodicism of their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) reinforced the elements that worked so well on previous outings while pushing inarguably onto what the band seemed to know was “Alien Ground” if the title of their intro was anything to go by. More over, it did so with a natural fluidity and poise that were as striking as they were encompassing in sound. Tying to earlier 2016’s Providence EP (review here) in concept and execution through that intro and the title-track following it, Apex III presented the to-date pinnacle of Mars Red Sky‘s growth in songs like “The Whinery,” “Mindreader,” the tear-inducing “Under the Hood,” the swing-happy “Friendly Fire,” the willful atmospheric crash of closer “Prodigal Sun” — each one a crucial advancing step from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau — and brilliantly fed them one into the other, so that in addition to the standout impressions of each, there developed a personality to the whole span of the album; a world of Mars Red Sky‘s own creation, where they dwelt for what seemed too short a time before returning to earth and on from here to who knows where next.
Most of all, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages was fearless. For their fourth album, Salt Lake City’s SubRosa adapted themes from 1924’s We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which laid out a futuristic dystopia wherein all identity is subsumed to the state and even love is outlawed when not properly sanctioned. This framework, obscure if influential, gave guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Vernon, violinist/vocalist Sarah Pendleton, violinist/backing vocalist Kim Pack, bassist/vocalist Levi Hanna, drummer/engineer Andy Patterson (formerly of Iota, among others), and a range of other contributors, a space in which to explore gender and LGBT issues across the six included tracks, and from the opening build and crush of the chorus to “Despair is a Siren” through the depiction of privilege in “Wound of the Warden,” the 97-second Italian-language ballad “Il Cappio” (translated: “the noose”) and into the gut-wrenching finale of “Troubled Cells,” their musical accomplishment was no less stunning than lyrics like, “Isn’t it good to be acquainted with darkness?/To caress it gently/To slit its throat,” from “Black Majesty.” Tense in its quiet stretches, harmonized vocally, given orchestral presence through its use of strings, flute, French horn, and so on, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages worked fluidly in what for most acts would be a contradictory modus of careful, meticulous arrangements and raw, emotional realism. No matter how deep it dove — and by the time identity was being erased and the state was taking control of the body on “Killing Rapture,” it was diving pretty deep — SubRosa never lost their sense of poise, so that the defiance in the last movement of “Troubled Cells” in which Heaven itself is rejected with the clearest of justifications, “Paradise is a lie if you’re not by my side,” the band seemed to stand as straight and tall as their multi-tiered righteousness would warrant. But even if one took For this We Fought the Battle of Ages with politics aside, its achievement in marrying post-metallic structures, gothic texture and progressive atmospherics was on a plane of its own making, operating under its own rules and in its own definitive space. Albums like it do not happen every year, and forward motion for genre as a whole is rarely so visible as it was in this special offering, which seems only fair to regard as a landmark for the band and anyone whose ears and hearts it touched.
The Next 20
Like any good Top 30, mine goes to 50. Here is the next batch:
31. Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors
32. Truckfighters, V
33. West, Space & Love, Vol. II
34. Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts
35. Yawning Man, Historical Graffiti
36. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
37. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
38. Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Phantomonium
39. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone
40. It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting
41. Beastwars, The Death of all Things
42. Naxatras, II
43. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
44. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
45. Wretch, Wretch
46. Colour Haze, Live Vol. I: Europa Tournee 2015
47. Zaum, Eidolon
48. Bellringer, Jettison
49. Young Hunter, Young Hunter
50. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll
From the kinetic desert artistry of Blaak Heat to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ethereal synth-laden doom, there are more than a few essentials here. I’ve never before done a year-end list that had so many releases on it, but my motivation in doing so this time around couldn’t have been simpler: They were simply too good and had too much to offer to leave out. It would’ve been an oversight to do so.
Even a Top 50 fails to grasp the full scope of what 2016 brought about musically, so here are even more, alphabetically:
Ancient Warlocks, II
Black Moon Circle, Sea of Clouds
Sergio Ch., Aurora
Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light
Øresund Space Collective, Visions Of…
-(16)-, Lifespan of a Moth
The Well, Pagan Science
Wovenhand, Star Treatment
And if that’s still not enough, here are 60-plus more names who shouldn’t be left out of the discussion, also alphabetically:
Akris, Atala, Atomikylä, Backwoods Payback, Beastmaker, BigPig, Black Cobra, Black Lung, Blood Ceremony, Blues Pills, Bright Curse, Bus, Dee Calhoun, Captain Crimson, Child, La Chinga, Church of Misery, Conclave, Cough, Devil to Pay, Domkraft, Dot Legacy, Electric Citizen, Estoner, Eternal Elysium, Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce vs. Hifiklub, Fox 45, Goatess, Goblin Cock, Graves at Sea, Heavy Temple (they’ll be back on next year’s list), High Fighter, Holy Serpent, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Inter Arma, Joy, Kaleidobolt, Khemmis, King Dead, Lord, Lord Vicar, Merchant, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Helen Money, Monkey3, Moon Coven, Mother Mooch, Necro, New Keepers of the Water Towers, T.G. Olson, Oranssi Pazuzu, Pooty Owldom, Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Samavayo, Seremonia, Skuggsjá, Sourvein, Spirit Adrift, Stone Machine Electric, Suma, Surya Kris Peters, Swans, Throttlerod, Virus, Wasted Theory, Wretch, and Zaum.
In case none of the above has made it clear, I’ll just say flat out that 2016 has been an amazing year for music, and that every time I feel like maybe underground heavy has hit a wall and there’s nowhere left for it to go, sure enough about three minutes later another record shows up that slaps me in the face with a reminder of just how wrong that notion is.
If you’re still reading — how could you be? — thank you so much for your incredible support throughout 2016 and all the years The Obelisk has been in progress. I already know that 2017 is going to bring some incredible music as well, but that’s another list for another time, so I’ll just say again how much I appreciate your being a part of this ongoing project, how much it means to me to have you here. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.
And please, if there’s anything I forgot, got wrong, misspelled, or if you just think I used the word “breadth” too many times, please let me know about it in the comments.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 19th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Limited run split with Fatso Jetson and just about anybody would be a pretty easy sell, but they do pair surprisingly well with Dutch heavy surfers del-Toros, whose inclusion, “Die Cast,” starts out with a dice roll and comes topped with samples and reverb in kind. That’s over on the B-side, where on the front end, Fatso Jetson present “Dream Homes,” the organ-laced instrumental that could also recently be found closing off their new album, Idle Hands (review here). Since both tracks are instrumental — those samples notwithstanding — the 11-minute outing feels like it’s over even quicker than that, but each band uses their time wisely in the pursuit of their own brand of heavy rock, and if nothing else, the release reminds of how close the desert and the ocean’s waves can sometimes feel.
Preorders are up now from Shattered Platter ahead of the Nov. 25 Record Store Day Black Friday release. The PR wire has the official announcement:
Fatso Jetson/del-Toros – Record Store Day
California’s own Fatso Jetson and the Netherlands’ own del-Toros are two groups separated by continents but brought together by a sonic linear correlation of Fender powered, boulder heavy tone. Shattered Platter has documented these two together as part of a limited 7″ release to be made available in time for Record Store Day – Black Friday (November 25th, 2016).
Fatso Jetson’s track recorded and mixed with Mathias Schneeberger at Donner and Blitzen Studio in Los Angeles, CA with additional recording at Electric Lalli Land Studios in San Pedro, CA. Del-Toros track recorded at Bootleg Studios with Peter Van Elderen in Eindhoven, NL. Both tracks mastered with care and precision by Peter Lyman of Infrasonic Recordings in Los Angeles, CA and with a landscape illustrative design by Jack C. Gregory.
From the burning sands of Palm Desert, CA, the desert rock pioneers Fatso Jetson took a formula of Sabbath level heaviness and hardcore punk, expanded it by infusing jazz riffs and surf reverb. Forming in the 1990’s, they have releases on iconic US labels such as SST, Man’s Ruin, Bongload Custom, Cobraside and international heavy dealers Go Down & Heavy Psych Sounds. They have toured the United States and Europe with such groups as Kyuss, Queens of the Stone Age, The Atomic Bitchwax & Yawning Man along with being invited to play domestic and international festivals such as SXSW, Stoned From The Underground, Roadburn, and Desertfest(s) throughout Europe.
From the North Holland city of Alkmaar, surf rock dealers del-Toros combine heavy rock music and surf guitar to form one massive sound. If they were around at the time, they would have been the ideal candidates to compose the soundtrack to Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill !Kill !Kill! Since forming in 2008, they have released albums on European boutique labels such as Undertow Recordings and Lighttown Fidelity; this split will be their debut for the United States area. del – Toros have toured throughout the Netherlands and into Scandinavia, performing alongside Peter Pan Speedrock, Honky and The Turbo A.C’s.
Track list: Side A: Fatso Jetson – Dream Homes Side B: del-Toros – Die Cast
[Stream Fatso Jetson’s Idle Hands by clicking play above. Album is out Friday, Oct. 7 on Heavy Psych Sounds.]
There are not many rules to which Fatso Jetson are not an exception. Think bands invariably stagnate after, say, 21 years past their debut? Nope. Think desert rock is limited in scope? Nope. Think punk can’t be soothing? Nope. The pivotal Californian outfit, who indeed formed in 1994 and issued their first album, Stinky Little Gods, the next year on Greg Ginn‘s SST Records, continue to reinvent the wheels that roll them forward. It’s been six years since Archaic Volumes (review here) classed up the joint in 2010, playing to jazz ideologies with liberal inclusion of sax, and going into their seventh full-length, Idle Hands (on Heavy Psych Sounds), they’ve made it nearly impossible to know what to expect of them through varied work over the last several years on splits with Yawning Man, Herba Mate (review here) and Farflung (review here), as well as a recent collaboration with Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce and France’s Hifiklub (review here).
One second they’re oozing out languid psychedelia, and the next they’re dug into a pocket of angular rhythmic tension. With the 11 songs/56 minutes of Idle Hands, Fatso Jetson offer a little bit of everything and plenty more besides, founding parties Mario Lalli (guitar/vocals), Larry Lalli (bass) and Tony Tornay (drums) joined for the first time on record by guitarist Dino von Lalli (also of BigPig), Mario‘s son. Also, Sean Wheeler (Throw Rag) and Olive Lalli (sister to Dino, daughter to Mario, etc.) provide guest vocals, and in addition to the Lallis and Tornay writing, producer Mathias Schneeberger at Rancho de la Luna reportedly helped solidify some of the ideas within tracks. Ultimately, it is no real wonder Idle Hands sounds as multifaceted as it does.
And yet, that’s not really anything so uncommon for Fatso Jetson. They’ve always broken those rules. Going back to Stinky Little Gods and its 1997 follow-up, Power of Three, they’ve never failed to harness underlying punk rock energy and imbue it with a wide open creative spirit, and whether it’s the starts and stops of opener “Wire Wheels and Robots” or Wheeler‘s takeoff into spoken word on the subsequent “Portuguese Dream,” that’s still very much the case.
But for the fact that they’ve been doing it for more than 20 years, one might be tempted to say it’s a miracle Idle Hands flows as smoothly as it does, but Fatso Jetson always manage to sound like they’ve blown the doors off their own wheelhouse; a band who refuse to fall into a comfort zone. A notion of dreams ties the first two songs together — the chorus begins, “Dreams of wire, wheels and robots…” — but doesn’t seem to be an overarching theme, though symmetry is found elsewhere as Wheeler appears on the second and penultimate tracks, the latter being “48 Hours,” providing a bookend that continues as instrumental closer “Dream Homes” answers the sharper edges of “Wire Wheels and Robots.”
Between the front and back, Fatso Jetson wander vast spaces as they please, dropping choice hooks in “Royal Family” and “Nervous Eater” with a calming or a more shuffling delivery depending on which second of which song you’re hearing, and stretching out over the more extended instrumentals “Seroquel” (6:33) and the later “The Vincent Letter” (6:54), the latter of which finds fluidity in thuds and interplay of lead lines that move Idle Hands into its closing duo. By then, the title-track has fed out of “Seroquel” and into the winding “Last of the Good Times” — part of the fun of the album is trying to guess who wrote what part — but no matter where Fatso Jetson go, the jaded boogie vibe of “Then and Now” or the hi-hat driven push of “Nervous Eater”‘s chorus, they never lose sight of the song, never get crossed up in a way they don’t want to be, and never fail to imbue their tracks with a spirit of performance that lives up to and expands on their storied legacy.
It’s worth emphasizing that while Idle Hands proves anything but idle, it’s not disjointed. Fatso Jetson have basked in dissonance and weirdo excursions over the years, absolutely — 1999’s Flames for All comes immediately to mind, trailed by 2001’s Toasted prior to the more mature and smoothed out Cruel and Delicious in 2002 — but while their latest work clearly has some of those same impulses at its foundation, there isn’t a moment at which it lacks cohesion or when something feels out of place. Of course, given their general breadth of songwriting and everything-fits style, it would be hard for something to be, but however this material was carved out and with whomever at the lead position at any given moment, there’s an overarching sonic personality at work that can be heard in “Portuguese Dream” as much as “Seroquel” as much as “Dream Homes” that is very, very much Fatso Jetson‘s own.
The word “inimitable” comes to mind, and maybe part of the reason they’re so ready to slip into and out of the bizarre is that Fatso Jetson have never really fit in to one idea of what rock music should be. They continue here to toy with the form, and as a summation of the last several years’ of their ongoing progression, Idle Hands delivers their peculiar charm in a batch of quality songs that underscore how special a band they always have been. Further, Idle Hands proves that aside from being one of the essential, formative acts of California’s original desert rock movement, Fatso Jetson are a band who’ve never found reason to compromise their individuality or draw back the reins on inspiration.
Their progression has never stopped and one expects that for as long as they continue to make music, they will keep moving forward on a variety of levels. An infusion of fresh blood here in Dino no doubt has a hand in some of the energy present throughout, but Fatso Jetson are and remain Fatso Jetson, and whether a given listener is a newcomer to their work or a longtime follower, the scope that they encompass is ripe for appreciation.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
The final addition to the lineup for Up in Smoke 2016, which starts this Friday at Z7 in Pratteln, Switzerland? Camping space. Namely the floor of the venue, which will be cleaned after the last band finishes each night so that fest goers can grab their sleeping bags and bed down for the night, only to find breakfast waiting when they roll back to consciousness the next morning. I’ve never slept on a venue floor before. That would be a new one. But provided they get the beer/other fluids up, which I’ve no doubt they’ll be able to do because it’s Switzerland and things like that increase the likelihood that anyone gives a shit about what they’re doing, it seems like a cool way to achieve total immersion in a festival atmosphere. I’ve never gone camping either, though, so don’t necessarily take my word as an expert or anything.
With the festival’s most massive lineup yet, Up in Smoke 2016 kicks off this Friday. A new trailer for the fest with some 1000mods in it has been posted and you can find that under the camping info and complete billing below:
SOUND OF LIBERATION and Z7 KONZERTFABRIK PRATTELN proudly present the 4th edition of UP IN SMOKE INDOOR FESTIVAL on September 30th and October 1st 2016! Musical Highlights include Electric Wizard, Yob, Truckfighters, Pentagram and many many more.
Many of you asked for the chance to sleep over in the venue, like we offered in the last editions. Here´s the procedure:
After the last band is done playing, we will go on partying with Dj music for another hour. Then afterwards, we will ask everybody to step out of the main hall for a few minutes. The floor will be cleaned and covered with a sheet so that the place gets clean for all our “in site – campers”. If you want to sleep over in the venue, you should bring your sleeping bag and camping mat. Upon your arrival on the festival site you can store your belongings in the wardrobe and get it back for the night.
In the morning, we will offer you a nice breakfast with coffee/tea, bread and breadrolls, meat and cheese and sweet stuff to get you in shape for the next festival day! The price for sleep over and breakfast is 15.- CHF per person/night. There´s no option of separate bookings like ” only sleep over and no breakfast” or “only breakfast”.
Up in Smoke 2016 Final Line Up Electric Wizard Pentagram Truckfighters YOB Elder Greenleaf Monkey 3 Cough Black Cobra 1000mods Yawning Man Fatso Jetson Dyse Wucan Desert Mountain Tribe Giobia High Fighter Mother’s Cake Ephedra
Also not to forget: No overlapping set times, sleep over/breakfast possibiity in the venue + some more specials to be announced soon to sweeten you the “TWO NOT TO BE MISSED DAYS OF VOLUME WORSHIP” !!! Grab your ticket (2-day passes) right now on our website, on www.z-7.ch and on our Facebook (tab ‘Buy Tickets’). If you prefer to buy an original, real hard-ticket, our partner Woolheads is selling them!
[Click play above to stream Double Quartet Serie Vol. 1 by Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce in full. Album is out next month on Subsound Records.]
In 1960, saxophonist and composer Ornette Coleman recorded Free Jazz with what was deemed a “double quartet,” including two trumpets, two basses, himself, a clarinet, and two drummers, each quartet playing in one channel. Roman label Subsound Records would seem to be following that blueprint with the beginning of its own Double Quartet Serie Volume 1 that pits Californian desert rock mainstays Fatso Jetson and Gary Arce of Yawning Man in right channel and Toulon, France-based experimentalists Hifiklub.
The project, the connections to jazz for which can be found through the general spirit of improvisational exploration more than swapping solos or anything like that, was recorded in Coxinhell Studio in Southern France. Fatso Jetson were working with the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli, bassist Dino von Lalli and drummer Tony Tornay on a European tour with Yawning Man, and Hifiklub — who in the past have collaborated with Mike Watt, Lee Renaldo of Sonic Youth, and Alain Johannes, who mixed and mastered this release, are comprised of bassist/vocalist Régis Laugier, guitarist Nicolas Morcillo, art-and-stuff-ist Arnaud Maguet and drummer Pascal Abbatucci Julien.
Eight dudes, in a room together, making their way through seven tracks/37:41 of improv vibing, it’s no wonder one can hear bits and pieces of conversation taking place throughout, though that might also be samples playing through the songs. With such a wide-open sonic range, it’s important to acknowledge any number of possibilities for what could be happening at any given moment.
Goes without saying that Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson + Gary Arce, as a whole, eight-piece unit, are tailor-made for headphones. Any single one of those entities would be headphone-worthy on their own, and together, their sounds coming through different channels on the vast “A la Fin Je l’Espère Calme,” that’s even more the case. The album glides through a suitably varied scope of moods, from the rolling, massive-in-the-low-end march of side A closer “Glorious Whores” — also the longest cut at 8:02 — to the noise-wash build of “Safe in Pieces,” which is almost straightforward compared to some of what’s going on.
That’s not to say there isn’t a sense of structure throughout. Beginning with “Tenderloin Vignette” (video premiere here), Double Quartet Serie Vol. 1 pairs longer tracks with shorter ones. It’s not that “Tenderloin Vignette” is a rocker and the subsequent “Un Gribouillis De La Beauté” (3:10) an interlude — both keep a consistent focus on ambience — but it seems more about different jams working in different ways depending on which element is in the lead.
“Tenderloin Vignette” follows the guitar and “Un Gribouillis De La Beauté” presents a more sparse, key-led wash that gets immediately contrasted by the double-drum solo from Tornay and Julien at the launch of “Glorious Whores,” soon enough joined by a bass tone so rumbling it’s almost funny that turns out to be a defining aspect of the song around which the guitars and drums build to a considerable plod.
There are vocals on several of the tracks, “Glorious Whores” among them, but no discernible lyrics to form a verse/chorus trade, which only underscores the dudes-in-a-room-playing-off-the-cuff spirit of the record as a whole. None of these players are strangers to improv or to collaboration, so to have them working together is still an experiment, but definitely one that benefits from their general readiness to plug in and play.
And the shorter, more atmospheric pieces — “Un Gribouillis De La Beauté,” “Black Without White,” “A la Fin Je l’Espère Calme” — do much to avoid a “sessions” kind of feel, adding range to the project overall and giving context to the post-grunge guitar work on “Safe in Pieces” or the dreamy meld in “Tenderloin Vignette.” That tradeoff becomes even more apparent on side B, with four tracks beginning with “Black Without White” leading into “Safe in Pieces” and the pair of “A la Fin Je l’Espère Calme” and “The Rocky Road to Holiness” closing out.
More conversation is had — literal and figurative — as guitars play off each other in “A la Fin Je l’Espère Calme,” but with how fluidly they do so, it would be easy to listen to a a whole record of nothing but that, particularly with the keys surrounding. To call it a jam I guess is fair enough, but it’s more of a standalone piece, and it comes apart to let the quiet start of the finale set its mood with more foreboding guitar, toms and cymbal wash, introducing chanting before the two-minute mark and dropping out circa 2:30 into its 7:29 to let the guitar introduce the figure on which “The Rocky Road to Holiness” will roll Double Quartet Serie Vol. 1 to its conclusion, both drummers working in lockstep as the bass and guitars build around them.
By the time they’re about five minutes deep, they’ve brought the wash to its head, and topping it with some “ohh”-type vocals from one side, the other, or both, it’s a cohesive way to cap the release as it winds down, underscoring the point that throughout, it’s not so much a case of Fatso Jetson and Gary Arce opposing Hifiklub as working in concert with them. I said as much with the video premiere, but really, what the eight-piece Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson + Gary Arce conjure is molten to the point of liquidity, and with how well they fit together, Double Quartet Serie Vol. 1 is able to engage front-to-back with a genuine sense of adventure and immersive depth.
Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson + Gary Arce, The Making of Double Quartet Serie Vol. 1