Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Don’t get me wrong, it’s very cool that inner-peace-bringing French heavy psych rockers Mars Red Sky are heading out on another European tour starting this month and have already booked a slot at next year’s Hellfest. That’s awesome. I’m stoked that a lot of people will get to see them and I hope the shows are packed. What I’d really like to see, however, is an update about the recording of their second full-length album, which took place early in October at Thunder Underground in California, following a handful of shows in South America. How was the studio? Is it finished? How do the mixes sound? Is it mastered yet? Can I hear it? Can I hear it now? How about now?
The last three questions I consider the most pressing.
I guess it’s not mixed yet, so okay, it’s awesome that the trio are hitting the road again this winter and spending the cold months on tour. Here are the dates and the gorgeous Johan Jaccob tour poster, courtesy of the PR wire:
MARS RED SKY European winter tour to kick off on November 20th.
French stoner rock trio MARS RED SKY just announced the tour dates for their European winter tour across eleven countries.
On November 20th, fuzzed-out psychedelic Frenchies will embark on a two weeks tour across Northern Europe, after what they’ll soon hit the studios for the mixing of their new full-length record (recorded in Brasil earlier this year). Early 2014 will see the band head South for a few dates in Spain and Greece. More dates coming soon, stay tuned!
MARS RED SKY on tour 2013 11/20 LIEGE (B) La Zone 11/21 BRUSSEL (B) Salle Rogier + Naam 11/22 ERFURT (D) Stadtgarten + Monkey 3 11/23 BERLIN (D) White Trash + Monkey 3 11/24 WARSAW (Pl) Harenda Club 11/25 RIGA (LVA) Nabaklab 11/26 TALLIN (EST) Snakehouse 11/27 JYVÄSKYLÄ (Fin) Lutakko 11/28 HELSINKI (Fin) Bar Loose 11/29 TURKU (Fin) Klubi Ilta puoli 11/30 MARIEHAMN (Fin) Dino’s Bar 12/01 VÄXJO (SWE) Cafe Deluxe 12/02 KOPENHAGEN (Dk) Dødsmaskinen 12/03 BREMEN (D) Römer TBC 12/04 REIMS (Fr) L’Appart Café 12/05 BREST (Fr) La Carène
2014 01/23 DONOSTIA / SAN SEBASTIAN (Sp) Mogambo 01/24 BARCELONA (Sp) Rocksound 01/25 ZARAGOZA (Sp) Pub Eccos 01/26 MADRID (Sp) Wurlitzer Balroom 02/14 ATHENS (Gr) 02/15 LARISSA (Gr) 02/16 THESSALONIKI (Gr) 06/20 HELLFEST OPEN AIR (Fr)
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I take no small amount of comfort in knowing that some of Winter 2014′s darkest, coldest hours will have Alcest‘s sweet melodies to provide warmth. Recently off a co-headlining US tour with Anathema, the French post-black metal forerunners will issue their fourth album, Shelter, through Prophecy Productions, with distribution through Dismanic/eOne, on Jan. 21. The album will be the follow-up to 2012′s Les Voyages de l’Âme (review here), which boasted some of Alcest‘s most gorgeous and complex material yet. As the band apparently traveled to Iceland to record Shelter, some interesting changes may be in store. I look forward to finding out how they manifest.
The PR wire sends word:
French dream-pop exemplars ALCEST issuing 4th release in U.S.
Shelter is the fourth release from latterday French Dream-pop exemplars Alcest. The album is the result of a long journey into vast new creative terrain . Mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Neige and drummer Winterhalter pile up the thick, layered cloud banks of multiple guitars and of classic Shoegazery and blend it with the sweet melodicism of pioneering post-punk Brits like the Cocteau Twins, as well as epic, soundtrack-like melodies and prog-leaning song structures. Shelter is being released by Prophecy Productions, distributed by Dismanic/eOne January 21, 2014.
Shelter features guest appearances from Slowdive’s Neil Halstead (lead vocals on “Away”), Billie Lindahl from Sweden’s Promise And The Monster’s and Amiina’s strings sections. The album was recorded at Sundlaugin Studio, Iceland, with Sigur Rós producer Birgir Jón Birgisson.
The title of the album, “Shelter,” describes its concept. These songs are about shelter as a safe place that allows everybody to escape reality for an instant, to reunite with what we really are, deep down. Neige’s own escape was to the sea, and all the songs here were inspired by and dedicated to it.
Alcest was founded in the year 2000, and via with releases such as Le Secret(2005) and Souvenirs d’un autre monde (2007) virtually created the post Black Metal Shoegaze/Black Metal “Blackgaze“ genre. Over the years, Alcest helped make this style surprisingly popular around the world and continue to be its foremost proponents. Since 2010, Alcest have toured Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. In 2012, they released Les Voyages De L’Ame which saw remarkable worldwide sales, landed them on magazine covers and BBC sessions.
As they’ve evolved, Alcest have left behind most of their Metal influences and with the help of Sigur Rós producer Birgir Jón Birgisson have wrought a markedly light and ethereal sound on Shelter.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Considering Steak had the whole video for the song “Glanhammar” chock full of footage of them snowboarding, presumably they’ll do alright in the Alps next month when they shoot down from their London homebase to headline the Blizzard Mountain’s fest, keeping good company with Samsara Blues Experiment. The still-recent Napalm Records signees have an impressive handful of dates lined up for the coming winter months, including Spain with Monster Magnet and London with Dozer and Lowrider. So what you’ve got is a band newly signed to an ever-growing roster of quality bands doing shows in the French Alps, two of Spain’s major cities, and in their hometown alongside two of the most killer heavy rock acts ever to come out of Sweden. Just taking a shot in the dark here, but I’m guessing it’s a good time to be in Steak.
The PR wire tells us why:
UK’s breakthrough stoner act STEAK to headline Blizzard Mountain’s Fest in France
On November 28th, London based stoner rockers STEAK will fly to Grenoble (French Alpes) to headline the first edition of rock festival Blizzard Mountain’s Fest.
After winning over the demanding crowds of Desertfest London, Up In Smoke Festival (Switzerland) and French X-Games 2013, the four Londoners are back in the Alpes to deliver their energetic fuzz rock and shake the masses, for the first edition of rock event Blizzard Mountain’s Fest that will take place at l’Ampérage (Grenoble, Fr) on November 28th.
After putting out their much celebrated first EP “Disastronaught” in 2012, our four underground heroes did it again this spring, by releasing a second EP deliciously entitled “Corned Beef Colossus” (recorded and produced by Truckfighters at Bombshelter studio in Sweden). 2013 has seen the band skyrocketed on the stages of renowned music events alongside Pentagram, Colour Haze, Unida, Kadavar, and more. STEAK have now joined first-class European music label Napalm Records, and are about to enter the studio to record their first full-length record, due early 2014.
Fresh off a quick tour that included a stop at the Up in Smoke fest in Switzerland on Oct. 5, French trio Glowsun have unveiled a new video for the song “Lost Soul.” Taken from their Napalm Records debut, 2012′s Eternal Season, the track also appeared on their 2011 split with German megajammers Electric Moon (review here) and is a tonally rich, warm trip through much of what’s most enjoyable about modern European heavy psych, capturing both a free-flowing aural spirit and a precise sense of build throughout its relatively-brief under-five-minute course. The three-piece of Johan Jaccob (guitar), Ronan Chiron (bass) and Fabrice Cornille (drums), work quickly to affect a hypnotic groove without pretense, and once set on their path, they don’t waver.
Spiritually, it’s a jam, but “Lost Soul” doesn’t at all feel like it’s somewhere it doesn’t want to be. Glowsun have a few more tour dates lined up for this fall, including one at the Blue Moon fest in Germany with Monkey3, Intronaut and Grandloom, among others. Dig it:
Oct 20: Mondo Bizarro Rennes France Oct 21: Glazart Paris France Nov 29: Blue Moon Fest Cottbus Germany
Maybe you get to see them and maybe you don’t. Either way, you can still get a feel for what Eternal Season — which is currently in good company on my, “Why haven’t I bought this yet?” list of CDs — is about with the clip for “Lost Soul,” which doesn’t actually feature the band, but taps into some Cold War-era imagery of Chernobyl nuclear fallout and devastation thereof all the same, kind of like it’s the epilogue to everyone else’s video that shows the test footage of the Manhattan Project. Sound-wise, Glowsun operate in a similar heavy psych sphere as their Napalm labelmates My Sleeping Karma, with just an overwhelming touch of fuzz that pervaded the first Sungrazer album. As you can hear below, it’s not a combination to be ignored.
A lot of songs are memorable in the sense of making you go, “Oh yeah, that one.” Far fewer are haunting. It’s much rarer to have a track dig into you and implant itself in something primal in your emotions. When it comes to the early-2012 Heavy Kingdom (review here) collaborative album from Scott “Wino” Weinrich and German singer-songwriter Conny Ochs, there were a couple genuinely haunting songs. “Dark Ravine” comes to mind, as do “Somewhere Nowhere” and “Traces of Blood,” the Ochs-led melody of which might be the record’s most affecting.
I suppose you could argue in favor of others in that regard, but for the product of a duo, “Traces of Blood” offered perhaps the loneliest moment on Heavy Kingdom. No doubt a big part of that stems from Ochs taking the fore on vocals while Wino hangs back, but other cuts like “Labour of Love” and the semi-plugged “Vultures by the Vines” had arrangements that seemed almost bombastic in comparison. “Traces of Blood” was quiet, fragile, and the darkest moment the twosome would provide until side B’s “Here Comes the Siren.” As we see in the clip below taken from the Wino & Conny Ochs European tour in support of the album, while Ochs is handling the guitar progression and the vocals, Wino adds atmospheric depth via the e-bow, vibrating strings giving off a subtle hum throughout that’s almost like synth but immediately familiar all the same.
Rumor came through a while back of a second Weinrich/Ochs album in the works. Wino‘s schedule for much of 2013 having been tied up in reunion appearances with The Obsessed and ongoing Saint Vitus touring (I’m certainly not about to complain about either), I don’t know when they might get to putting material together for a follow-up to Heavy Kingdom, but hopefully sooner or later it happens. Particularly as a follow-up to Wino‘s solo acoustic debut, Adrift (review here), it expanded Wino‘s breadth as a performer and though he’s had a longer career, he seemed to revel in learning from Ochs as much as writing songs with him. I’d enjoy a chance to find out where their collaboration might go from there.
Posted in Radio on September 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Anyone can make a demo, and I think at this point most people have. Hailing from Pamiers in Southern France, the classic heavy rocking four-piece DoctoR DooM emerge from what I can only assume is some sort of secret Reed-Richards-hating lair with their first DoomO, which — you guessed it — is a demo of doom. Three songs, a bit over 17 riff-led minutes that’s solid if bolstered by its familiarity, and an unpretentious approach to what at this point has become a genuine retro-minded subgenre of heavy rock. For their part, though DoctoR DooM dabble in Graveyard-isms on the closing and fittingly-enough titled “Stuck in the Past,” but come off at very least showing the intent of forming their own sound, and ambitious as it is in its name, I wouldn’t ask much more of DoomOthan that.
Rising from silence with feedback to establish natural low-end fuzz at its beginning, opener “The Sun” starts out foreboding with a sample about dying with a sword in hand from 1999′s The 13th Warrior, but winds up much friendlier than the start portends, with a riff that gives friendly jabs reminiscent of any number of heavy ’70s pushers and the smooth vocals of guitarist JL Pasquet, joined in the four-piece by guitarist J Delattre, bassist S Boutin Blomfield and drummer M Marcq. The swagger is readily on display, and Blomfield adds keys to the second half of the song, giving some complexity before a brief progressive run emerges before the ending chorus. Keys are more constant in the longer “Relax You’re Dead” — which clocks in at 7:16 where the opener and “Stuck in the Past” each hover on either side of five minutes — albeit low in the mix, and a bluesier vibe pervades with a more memorable hook in the chorus and a series of hits and stops that gives way to ballsy dual-leads from Delattre and Pasquet. It’s not anything that’s never been done before, but it makes even more sense with the instrumental jam that caps — led into by a couple guttural “ooh”s and a channel-panning far-back scream — fading to acoustic guitar at the end after more solo/organ antics.
If “Relax You’re Dead” is DoctoR DooM at their most engaging, and I’d argue it is right up to the Eagles tonality of the unplugged section, then “Stuck in the Past” is them at their most stylistically cohesive. Pasquet pushes himself more vocally, and they hint at development of an effective mid-paced swing and match it with an even more blues-infused lead than that of the track preceding — the keys not quiet matching the energy level of the guitar but coming along for the ride anyway — leaving a positive impression for what they might do moving ahead of this batch of songs. I’m not sure how the DoomOartwork, which shows vinyl covers for Graveyard and Coven and a novelty bottle of TruBlood poured into a Duvel glass — perhaps the band’s statement of how seriously cult rock should be taken? — plays into the release overall, but the four-piece has plenty of time to figure out that kind of thing and the rest of it.
For now, their DoomOshows DoctoR DooM as having some potential to grow into their own, and I’m glad to add it to The Obelisk Radio. You can hear it now as part of the regular, streaming-all-the-damn-time playlist, and snag a free download from the Bandcamp player below:
Don’t get me wrong, I’d be pretty happy to see Mars Red Sky anywhere. London, Tilburg, maybe somewhere on their recently-announced West Coast stint following the recording of their second album in the Californian desert, or maybe in the back yard. I’m not picky. Wherever. But to see them in their native Bordeaux, with fellow French fuzz countrymen Glowsun sounds particularly awesome. The band in conjunction with a slew of others are presenting a series of shows over the next couple months called “Make it Sabbathy” — sound advice — and they’ve just revealed a trailer for the first installment, which indeed finds them paired with Glowsun – VvvV will also be on the bill — whose song “Dragon Witch” provides the score for the teaser below, which also features a dancing lady and the square carting her around. Certainly a more apt visual metaphor for stoner rock vs. society than I could ever put together. Good fun.
Also a good reminder to revisit that Glowsun album, which I didn’t give its due attention owing to that whole I-hate-digital-promos thing. They’re my square in the driver’s seat.
Here’s the trailer and show info, should you be lucky enough to be in Bordeaux anytime over the next few months:
Make it Sabbathy! #1 teaser
MRS Red Sound is proud to present the first monthly heavy and psychedelic shows in Bordeaux, France : MAKE IT SABBATHY ! On September 18th, French stoner references MARS RED SKY and GLOWSUN will be the first guests of this fuzzy rendez-vous, along with local progressive krautrock sensation VvvV.
We concocted some wild asphalt-burning teaser on this occasion, so it would be much appreciated if you could share this on your website ! For the love of heavy riffs and stoned atmospheres…
? MAKE IT SABBATHY shows ? September 18 – Mars Red Sky + Glowsun + VvvV October 8 – Dead Meadow + Black Jaguar’s Revenge November 18 – Samsara Blues Experiment + Dätcha Mandala
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Bordeaux fuzz rockers Mars Red Sky have a busy few months coming up. Next week, the trio will do a few shows in their native France, including sharing the stage in Paris with Dead Meadow, before flying to South America to play five shows in Argentina and Brazil. After that, Mars Red Sky will head north, to the Californian desert, where they’ll spend a week putting their second full-length to tape at Thunder Underground in Palm Springs — where the likes of Vista Chino, Brant Bjork, Nick Oliveri, Dwarves, Waxy and others have recorded — also playing a show at The Hood in Palm Desert in the meantime.
That would probably be enough for exhaustion, but while they’re on the West Coast anyway, Mars Red Sky will embark on their second tour of the region after playing SXSW in Austin, Texas, last year and doing a string of gigs afterwards (The Patient Mrs. saw them in Portland). They’ll be joined by Ancient Warlocks for those shows, which are dubbed the “For the Record” tour, and because hey, why not?, Mars Red Sky have also lined up some shows in Finland, Germany, Belgium and France for November and December. Like I say, a busy few months.
Makes sense that the three-piece would head to the desert to record, though. Their self-titled debut (review here), which was one of the best albums released that year, was put to tape in Spain in a similar landscape, and even their earlier-2013 Be My GuideEP (review here) honed in on similar atmospheres and laid back heaviness. Though I’d disappointed to have these guys in the country and not get to see them play (maybe a Boston show to break up the flight back to Europe?), I’ll look forward very much to hearing how the second album comes out when it’s finished.
Here are the tour dates:
Very happy to announce “FOR THE RECORD” Tour & Recording Project for the 2nd Album !
September : 09.18 BORDEAUX (F) “Make it Sabbathy #1!” 09.20 POITIERS (F) Le Plan B 09.21 ANGERS (F) Psych-Fest – Lévitation 09.22 PARIS (F) Le Point FMR with Dead Meadow 09.24 BUENOS AIRES (Ar) Uniclub 09.25 PORTO ALEGRE (Br) Black Bull Pub 09.27 SAO PAULO (Br) Club Inferno 09.28 RIO DE JANEIRO (Br) Mofo (Lapa) 09.29 BELO HORIZONTE (Br) Matriz
October : 10.01 to 10.08 Recording @ Thunder Underground Studio (Palm Spring, CA) 10.04 PALM DESERT, CA The Hood 10.09 SAN DIEGO, CA The Saloon in Encinitas*** 10.10 LOS ANGELES, CA 5 Star Club*** 10.11 SAN FRANCISCO, CA TBA*** 10.12 PORTLAND, OR Ash St.*** 10.13 SEATTLE, WA Shop Suey***
November : 11.20 LIEGE (B) La Zone 11.21 BRUSSEL (B) with Naam 11.23 BERLIN (D) White Trash with Monkey Three 11.27 JYVÄSKYLÄ (Fin) – Lutakko 11.28 HELSINKI (Fin) Bar Loose 11.29 TURKU (Fin) Klubi – Ilta puoli
December: 12.05 BREST (F) La Carène
*** = shows with Ancient Warlocks from Seattle. More shows to be announced soon….
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I know that given the atmospheric nature of both these bands, an Anathema and Alcest co-headlining tour isn’t the kind of thing one would usually go “Fuck yes!” about, but still: Fuck yes! No word on whose brilliant idea it was to team up the French and British outfits for a run of US and Canadian shows, but to whoever, well played. Alcest were killer at Roadburn this year and even in the we’re-a-happy-prog-band mode Anathema showed off on last year’s Weather Systems LP (review here), they’ll make a good fit, and with Aaron Turner‘s Mamiffer opening, it’s going to be a gloriously gloomy night.
This September and October, PROPHECY PRODUCTIONS artists ALCEST will take a break from work on their upcoming fourth album to embark on a co-headlining tour across the United States and Canada with masters of atmospheric rock Anathema. Founding ALCEST visionary Neige had the following to say about the upcoming tour: “We feel honored to tour with Anathema and [openers] Mamiffer. For years, Anathema have been making this unique mix of prog and emotional rock. Mamiffer is the post-rock/experimental band of Faith Coloccia and Aaron Turner, talented Isis founding member and founder of Hydra Head Records. Sounds like a diverse and attractive billing! And this will also be the opportunity for us to play a few songs from our next album. See you in a few months!”
The confirmed dates + venues are as follows: 9/12 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts 9/13 – Springfield, VA @ Empire 9/14 – New York, NY @ Gramercy Theater 9/15 – Boston, MA @ Middle East 9/16 – Montreal, QC @ Foufounes Electriques 9/18 – Toronto, ON @ Opera House 9/19 – Flint, MI @ The Machine Shop 9/20 – Cleveland, OH @ Peabody’s 9/21 – Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s 9/22 – Minneapolis, MN @ Mill City Nights 9/24 – Denver, CO @ Summit City Music Hall 9/25 – Salt Lake City, UT @ In The Venue 9/26 – Boise, ID @ Knitting Factory 9/27 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven 9/28 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theater 9/29 – Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater 10/1 – Oakland, CA @ Oakland Opera House 10/3 – Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theater 10/4 – San Diego, CA @ The Casbah 10/5 – Tempe, AZ @ The Marquee Theater
Posted in audiObelisk on May 31st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Today marks the release of Idolize, the sophomore full-length from French noisemakers Sofy Major. The album is out on Solar Flare Records in Europe and No List Records in the US, and it finds the Clermont-Ferrand three-piece beating out a stirring blend of crunchy noise rock and heavier fuzz riffing, somewhere between Kyuss Big Muff fuzz (see “Comment”) and modern Unsane‘s sense of churning chaos, with — and why not? — a touch of Melvins tossed in for good measure on the jagged, frenetically-drummed “Coffee Hammam” and some melodies peaking through in the punkish back half of “Bbbbreak,” the swaying verses of “UMPKK Pt. 2″ and the lead guitar finale of closer “Golden Curtain.” Comprised of bassist/vocalist Mathieu Moulin, drummer/backing vocalist Mathieu Desternes and guitarist Sébastien Fournet, the band is more ambitious even than it might first appear in listening to the album’s 11 tracks.
For example, after having the venerable Andrew Schneider mix their 2010 debut, Permission to Engage, the trio decided it was worth their time and effort to travel from France to Brooklyn and actually record Idolize with Schneider at his Translator Audio studio. A tour was booked for afterwards and the trek was made. Only snag was that Sofy Major came through New York the same time as Hurricane Sandy, which unfortunately claimed Translator Audio as one of its victims, and with little warning, Fournet, Moulin and Desternes had to find a new place to record, and quickly.
Who should step up but Dave Curran of Unsane and Pigs. Curran not only gave Sofy Major a spot to record, but even donated guest vocals to “Steven the Slow,” one of the highlights of the tracklist. But while Curran may be the hero of Idolize, he’s hardly the star of the show, and in their moments of manic assault — the beginning of “Golden Curtain” comes to mind — Sofy Major hit like a stripped-down, ultra-immediate High on Fire, talking heavy elements from a variety of spheres, thrash, stoner, hardcore, and effectively turning them into something of their own.
Check out Idolize in its entirety (even including the Euro and US bonus tracks) on the player below and feed your need for information with the fruits of the PR wire that follow:
Sofy Major, Idolize (2013)
Out of the bowels of the post-industrial badlands of Clermont-Ferrand, France comes SOFY MAJOR, a metallic noiserock trio highly motivated in intoxicating the listener with their energetic and off-kilter attack, than kick your liver in while your hangover is at its worst.
With barely-harnessed off-kilter riffery and white-knuckled percussion, the members of SOFY MAJOR have battered audiences since their 2007 manifestation, having released their debut album Permission To Engage in the fall of 2010. The band has shared the stage with Jello Biafra & The Guantanamo School of Medicine, Baroness, Electric Wizard, Boris, Shrinebuilder, These Arms Are Snakes, Kylesa and countless others. In the past two years alone the band racked up over one hundred fifty gigs in twenty countries across two continents, all part of the diabolical construction of their sophomore LP, Idolize.
In the Autumn of 2012 SOFY MAJOR transports to the Northeastern North American quadrant, bent on hammering out their new opus at renowned Brooklyn-based studio Translator Audio with producer Andrew Schneider (Unsane, Keelhaul, Cave In, etc.) as well as to embark on their first US tour. As luck would have it, they arrived in town at the same time Hurricane Sandy moved in. The loss is 100% — the entire studio flooded beyond repair, and all equipment in the studio including the band’s gear left swimming. The trio bummed around the borough for a few days, hooking up with cohort and labelmate Dave Curran (Unsane, Pigs), who helped set up the sessions they crossed the globe to carry out. The band eventually recorded with Schneider at Brooklyn-based Seaside Lounge and Spaceman Sound studios, and had it mastered by Carl Saff at Saff Mastering, the band then immediately taking to the road on a delayed but steadfast American tour.
Like a demented mesh of the Melvins slamming into High On Fire with undeniable noise/metal influences instigated by the likes of Unsane, Quicksand and Deadguy, Idolize encapsulates SOFY MAJOR’s intoxicating concoction of sludge riffage, stale beer, shattered dreams and perseverance. The album is set for worldwide release on May 31st via Solar Flare Records in Europe (Pigs, American Heritage) and No List Records in North America (Ken Mode, The Great Sabatini), the album to be delivered as a limited vinyl boxset, (three 12” LPs in three colors), digipack CD, cassette and digital download.
Posted in Reviews on May 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Somewhat contrary to the monstrous and somehow still nipple-inclusive design of the album’s cover, the self-titled debut from London-based trio Bright Curse is a thoroughly human and natural-sounding affair. The three-piece, who arrived in London by way of France, offer four extended tracks and an intro that run a heavy psych gamut from the sweet jamming of Colour Haze all the way to the open-spaced vibing of earliest Witchcraft, and while the stylistic shifts they make are interesting enough, what works best about the album is the smoothness with which the lineup of Romain (guitar/vocals), Sammy (bass) and Zach (drums) transition between stretches of bare sonic minimalism to effective fuzzy propulsion, making the most of tradeoffs between loud and quiet in a manner usually reserved for post-metallers while still keeping a focus on the heavy and grooving straightforward aspects of their songwriting. Following opener “A Sonic Wave,” which sure enough is a minute-plus of a single undulating riff, “The Hermit” sets a structural pattern that “Unknown Mistress,” “What’s Beyond the Sun” and closer “Mind Traveller” will all follow to one degree or another that departs from verse/chorus interplay to an instrument-driven build that gives each track both its length and its sense of dynamic apex. What keeps Bright Curse‘s Bright Cursefrom sounding redundant as a result of this structural similarity is the stylistic shifts between the songs, so that though patterns may repeat, the context for those patterns comes across as fluid and malleable, and the band, which recorded the songs at Rock of London Studio with JB Pilon, who’s since taken over bass duties in place of Sammy.
The element of contrasting loud and quiet stretches is immediate almost from the start, as “A Sonic Wave” gives over its established rolling groove to the subdued low-end beginnings of “The Hermit,” which Sammy opens in ambient rumbles while Romain adds punctuation on the guitar for the first minute until the vocals kick in and the stage is set for Zach‘s entry a short while later and a push not far off from some of what Elder has managed to hone commences, though it moves more into a modern European heavy psych jam, Romain taking a rising solo that the bass follows as Zach holds the flow together. There’s only really been one verse so far, but the song has come a long way, and the instrumental build winds up providing the crux of the motion as it continues to play out, rising to full-toned heights before locking into a sizable riffy groove before the five-minute mark and from there crashing into the from-the-ground-up build that will comprise its last couple minutes, Romain repeating the takeaway line “In my head…” that also appeared earlier in the song as the first lines as setup for another run through the verse and the heavier part of the song. “Unknown Mistress” works in more of a shuffling vein with an effective chorus and delivery from Romain of the title line and a more immediate groove. Here too, Bright Curse take their time in letting the track unfold, but the clearer divisions between verse and chorus — though less ambitious stylistically — suit them well and showcase a knack for the straightforward as well as the less predictable that adds depth to the album. Around the halfway point of the song’s 7:27, they break into a still-moving just jazzier atmospheric stretch that carries past the six-minute mark before a Tool-style return finds Zach adding palpable stomp. They pick up the pace to end somewhat raucous, but a final nod to the chorus gives a last-second sense of symmetry to the whole affair, which never came off as that out of control to start with.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
French fuzz rockers Mars Red Sky will start a five-day run of gigs tonight in Dijon with White Fence before meeting up with Glowsun for a couple nights and playing on the 30th with Dinosaur Jr., which sounds like a cool way to spend an evening in Bordeaux should you happen to be out that way. This run kicks off the trio’s summer of shows in support of the new Be My GuideEP (review here), the rest of the dates for which you can find below, joined by the excellent news that Mars Red Sky will be recording a new full-length in the coming months and that they’re hoping to return to the US for a few West Coast dates later this fall, as well as hit South America for the first time.
As I don’t live in any of those places (perhaps most regrettably Bordeaux), the new record is what has my interest piqued, but take a look at the update the band sent down the PR wire and see where you’re at:
MARS RED SKY – News
Please find some infos about MRS !
- Next Shows : 05.22 DIJON (21) Le Deep Inside with White Fence 05.23 STUTTGART (D) Keller Club with Glowsun 05.24 ST GALLEN (CH) Rümpelturm with Glowsun 05.25 GRIES AM BRENNER (A) Floiten Jam with Glowsun 05.26 GRENOBLE (38) Drak-Art 05.30 BORDEAUX (33) Le Krakatoa with Dinosaur Jr 07.07 AUBANGE (Bel) Festival Wave 07.18 LILLE (59) La Péniche 07.20 WARSAW (PL) Day of Ceremony Festival 08.02 OR 03 STAMSRIED (D) Void Fest 08.10 GEEL (Bel) Yellowstock Festival 08.23 SANTA MARIA DEL PARAMO (SP) Taberna Belfast 08.24 MOLEDO (Pt) Sonic Blast
Posted in Reviews on May 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Some harsher vocals from guitarist Jeff Maurer add a darker, metallic edge to the proceedings, but at its heart, French trio Surtr‘s second album, Pulvis et Umbra, is traditional doom all the way. Whether you run it back to Saint Vitus and The Obsessed or Count Raven and Reverend Bizarre, it rounds out to the same downward spiral of riffs and misery. That seems just fine by the Lorraine outfit, who release the album on Altsphere Production as the follow-up to 2011′s World of Doom debut, as the material shows no real ambition to transcend beyond the occasional flash of early Viking metal (read: Bathory) influence on a song like “Three Winters of War” in its reaching past genre, and the band are decently suited to their style. Production throughout is clear but largely flat and shifts in tempo offer little change from the mood, which is as dreary as one might expect across the seven-track/42-minute full-length, and while perhaps unremarkable in offering a groundbreaking take on doom, Pulvis et Umbra — the title translating from the Latin to “Ashes and Dust” — stands as an able execution of genre and a cohesive release nonetheless. It ain’t gonna change the world, but as doom for doomers, one could probably find bands with much less to offer than Surtr, depending on how deep into the mire one wanted to look.
The album begins with “Rise Again,” organ holding a melody line under Maurer‘s guitar, Julien Kuhn‘s bass and Régis Beck‘s drums initially but seeming to fade away once the slow crawl of the track’s central progression is introduced. Straightforward through and through, Maurer has a traditional metal inflection to his cleaner singing that’s instantly familiar as “Rise Again” plays out, Kuhn offering a few engaging fills in the open spaces left by the guitar. Gradually, they solidify to a forward thrust, but it’s not until the final minute that they really pick up the pace and Maurer reveals a screaming approach that’s soon layered with growls underneath to varying success, capping with barks of “Rise! Rise!” to act as an apex before the Viking-style drum thud of “Three Winters of War” sets the tone for the riff before dropping out to make way for it. This time it’s the verse that’s more active and the chorus that slows down. Fine. Maurer‘s voice reminds a bit of Slough Feg‘s latter day incantations, but without the Celt-folk idiosyncrasies, keeping the melody in line with Kuhn‘s able basslines, which actually wind up providing most of the character the band shows throughout. That’s not to take anything away from Beck or Maurer‘s performances, they’re just more straightforward, and even when “Three Winters of War” shifts into its Cathedral-style ending progression, there’s no sense of flourish to be found from either of them.
Quite possibly my favorite part about doing Wino Wednesday each week — apart from all the money and ladies I get from it — is that it’s never too long before something new comes along. To wit, Saint Vitus are currently on a European run alongside Mos Generator – let’s not forget it was Mos guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed who produced Vitus‘ 2012 triumph, Lillie: F-65– and video has started to surface from the shows. This is invariably a good thing, however blown out that video might sometimes sound.
Before starting off “The Bleeding Ground” from Lillie: F-65(review here) — this version recorded March 9 in Paris at La Maroquinerie — guitarist Dave Chandler gets on mic (as he often does between songs) to inform the crowd that, “This is a true story, about a bitch named Katrina.” As we discussed when I interviewed him last year for the record, Chandler has been living in New Orleans since a couple months before Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005, and while the mere mention of the name at this point serves as a reminder to American ears, I’m not sure it would have the same effect on a Parisian audience.
Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, because once Vitus start into “The Bleeding Ground,” the song absolutely crushes. Vitus have a new official-bootleg-type live album out vinyl-only called Marbles in the Moshpit that I should probably pick up, of a show recorded in 1984 with the original lineup. As you can see in the clip below, even 29 years later, the band still kills it with the new material. Awesome to think of them at this point as having made the transition past the “reunion band” thing and just putting in the work of a touring act. Any way you take it, they’re one of the best doom bands in the world.
Enjoy and have a great Wino Wednesday:
Saint Vitus, “The Bleeding Ground” Live in Paris, March 9, 2013
Posted in Reviews on March 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Mars Red Sky showed with last year’s split/collaboration EP with French countrymen Year of No Light that although their prior self-titled debut was typified by sweet melodies, memorable progressions, and a dense low end presented with a warm, laid back feel, that was by no means the extent of the trio’s breadth. That album (review here) was among 2011’s most pleasant surprises, and even though the aforementioned Green Rune White Totem split (more on it here) inevitably expanded the band’s reach, that expansion never seemed to come at the sacrifice of the elements that gave the full-length its lasting appeal. Admittedly, it’s a record I still put on, so when it comes to Mars Red Sky’s proper follow-up, the new Be My Guide EP, I’m glad to find the case is much the same as with the split – there’s growth evident, but neither have they abandoned what worked so well about their first outing. The EP, released vinyl-only as the first catalog number for the band’s own Mars Red Sound imprint, is four tracks of gorgeous, fuzzed-out heavy psychedelia that clock in just under 27 minutes.
The LP is presented with due symmetry, each of the two sides featuring two tracks, the first a new cut with the lineup of Julien Pras (guitar/vocals), Jimmy Kinast (bass) and Matgaz (drums) and the second a departure from the form and process. On side A, that comes in the shape of the seven-minute “Seen a Ghost,” which was recorded with previous drummer Benoît Busser in a separate session from the other three cuts on Be My Guide, and closing out side B, it’s “Stranger” a cover of 17 Hippies‘ “Ton Étrangère” with lyrics translated into English. Both “Seen a Ghost” — which it doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume was put to tape earlier than the other three, since it was obviously done before Busser was no longer in the band — and “Stranger” mark a musical shift, not so much away from the bliss-through-simplicity fuzzy bounce of “Be My Guide” or the wah swirl that takes hold in side B opener “Clean White Hands,” but definitely moving with those pieces to someplace they haven’t gone before.
That’s not to say “Be My Guide” and “Clean White Hands” don’t also show growth in Mars Red Sky‘s songwriting methods or the general atmosphere those methods create. Far from it. In “Be My Guide,” a quick drum fill opens to immediate mid-paced fuzz engagement, thickening and moving smoothly into a verse the cadence of which proves no less a hook than the fluid chorus. Thick, wah’ed out and topped by Pras‘ ambience-ready vocals, the simple lines, “Amber, anger, be my guide,” leave a lasting impression even as the tone behind them comes forward thicker and slower leading to a resuming of pace in an instrumental break with a wah solo from Pras backed by the rolling groove fostered by Kinast and Matgaz. The latter, as the newest member of the band, seems to have had no trouble fitting in, if “Be My Guide” is anything to judge by, and similar to their carry-you-with-it flow between “Strong Reflection” and “Curse” leading off the self-titled, the opening title-track of Be My Guidemakes an inviting impression that’s hard to ignore and all but impossible to refuse.
It’s worth noting though that Be My Guideisn’t a full-length, despite its everybody-come-along tendencies, and that the goals it’s working toward are different. You could probably listen to “Be My Guide,” the song, right into “Seen a Ghost” without thinking twice about it, but once the full stomp of the second track takes hold after the circular groove of the introduction, it’s apparent that the band aren’t just nestling themselves into a formula. Pras echoes deep in the mix behind his guitar and Kinast‘s bass, but after about a minute and a half, they jump into a sudden start-stop cadence that meets with overlaying psychedelic layers of vocals, the stark rhythmic chug of the verse standing in striking contrast to the fullness of “Be My Guide” before it and “Clean White Hands” to follow on the EP’s second side. What the songs have in common — and why it still works — is tone and groove, so that when “Seen a Ghost” moves into its dreamy midsection, although more than just the drummer has changed, the track never stops making sense.
Once again the verse picks up, and Mars Red Sky seem to enjoy toying with the stomp and meeting that with a likewise shift in lyrical approach, filling the space that the music occupies elsewhere with words. Where a verse to the opener looked like “See her/In a field of plaster/Early morning ride,” in “Seen a Ghost,” one hears, “Attack my brain, release my mind/Enhance the screaming of bleeding heart/For everyone to hear wherever they are.” Longer and more compact lines, still sweetly-delivered, mean more prominent vocals. The instruments still find room to breathe, however, in the post-verse break. With no chorus to speak of — those starts and stops are plenty catchy — it’s that instrumental psych part offering the answer back to the rhythmic march, and it’s longer the second time around, leading to a final reprise of the verse in the last minute that satisfies all the more for how Kinast reintroduces the progression and Pras’ layered singing.
Starting side B, “Clean White Hands” comes on with a bluesier riff and more open progression in its riff, backing off some of the insistence of “Seen a Ghost” and building a wash of gorgeous lead guitar tone over an initial bassline not wholly dissimilar from “Way to Rome” from the self-titled. Not arguing with it. Matgaz meets the languid groove head on, and punctuates a quieter verse with hard-hit snare while Pras‘ vocals echo behind, keeping a consistent beat as Pras and Kinast click on a fuller sound for the chorus. Here, Mars Red Sky seem wholly in their element, and “Clean White Hands,” which is longer than “Be My Guide” by nearly two full minutes, has room for jammier instrumental exploration that the trio puts to good use, Pras‘ guitar ringing out ethereal lines as Kinast and Matgaz hold down the beat before quieting even further for return to the verse in the second half that makes the chorus seem all the louder by comparison. Its appeal isn’t as immediate as “Be My Guide,” but “Clean White Hands” proves to be no dip in quality and it’s a prime example of the band developing their songwriting style for its balance of familiar structures and weighted grooves with a feeling of purposeful meandering.
“Ton Étrangère” opened the Berlin collective 17 Hippies‘ 2011 album, Phantom Songs, though with considerably fewer hippies on board, Mars Red Sky give it a considerable rearrangement. Not only more viscous, thicker and slower, than the original, “Stranger” as it appears on Be My Guidealso translates the lyrics to English from French and takes the prior folkish sensibilities, banjo, zither, etc., to someplace far more vague. The rumble below Pras‘ vocals and the lullaby guitar line that marks the verse’s sway are darker in their mood and the chorus “Let me be your stranger/From the heart to the page” has a kind of unsettling feel at the ultra-sleepy pace. A wah solo leads to a quieter verse with less low end similar to post-break “Clean White Hands,” but the context is different, even if the methods are similar. They end big, but still solemn — a wash of wah metered out with bass and drum culmination — Kinast keeping the line consistent while Matgaz signals the final movement and Pras seems to bask in the glow his guitar has created.
If “Seen a Ghost” and “Stranger” are testing the waters for an expansion of Mars Red Sky‘s sound, then I’d call them successful, each for its own reasons. Where “Be My Guide” and “Clean White Hands” affirm the modus the trio established on their debut and assure that a creative evolution of that is underway as well, “Seen a Ghost” and “Stranger” speak to a bolder will on the part of the band to foray to unknown grounds. Even if “Seen a Ghost” is older, it’s where and how the track is presented that allows it to demonstrate these properties, and with “Stranger,” Mars Red Sky show that on an atmospheric level they’re not limited to open desert vibing. Because they manage to strike this balance in under half an hour and because they maintain the sun-baked warmth of tone, Be My Guideis a fitting response to the establishing facets of Mars Red Sky‘s previous full-length (have I mentioned it yet?) and I find after repeat listening that I’m all the more hopeful for how these experiments and developments might play out over the course of their next LP.