Ten East Announce Skyline Pressure Due Oct. 14; Preorders and Track Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 13th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Hard to mess with this one. Born out of a kind of screwy Yawning Man live set in 2014 where members of Automatic Sam wound up sitting in with Gary Arce and Bill Stinson, Ten East‘s first album in eight years, Skyline Pressure, will be out Oct. 14 on Small Stone. The project has always had a revolving-door lineup, and what bassist Erik Harbers and guitarist Pieter Holkenborg bring to it is well worth capturing in a studio setting. You kind of need the context to really understand how it all came about, though. Fortunately, the PR wire is happy to provide precisely that, in the form of a bio I wrote for the album.

Ten East also have opening track “Daisy Cutter” streaming in its 13-minute entirety, which you can find below, and I think you’ll agree it gives a substantial glimpse at what the record is going for. Preorders are up now.

Dig it:

ten-east-skyline-pressure

TEN EAST: Experimental/Jam Rock Project Featuring Members Of Yawning Man And Automatic Sam To Release Skyline Pressure Via Small Stone; New Track Posted

Look, sometimes these things just happen. Desert legends and Dutch heavy rockers sometimes get together on stage and it turns out better than anyone could’ve possibly imagined. It was exacly that when guitarist/desert rock progenitor Gary Arce and drummer Bill Stinson of Yawning Man wound up playing with bassist Erik Harbers and guitarist Pieter Holkenborg of Automatic Sam at the Mañana Mañana Fest (which Harbers and Holkenborg also organize) in the Netherlands in 2014. You can see videos of it on YouTube.

Although the impromptu foursome had never played together before, the chemistry was there. The fluidity was there. As they jammed in and around Yawning Man songs, it was clear the union had a breadth that was only beginning to be explored. Two years later, Arce, Stinson, Harbers, and Holkenborg have come together again, this time as a new incarnation of Arce’s TEN EAST project. They proudly present their album, Skyline Pressure, through Small Stone as the next stage of their collaboration.

TEN EAST was last heard from in with 2008’s The Robot’s Guide To Freedom, which was their second offering behind 2006’s Extraterrestrial Highway. Between the two records, Arce’s co-conspirators have included the likes of Bryan Giles (Red Fang), Scott Reeder (Kyuss, Fireball Ministry), Mario Lalli (Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson), Greg Ginn (Black Flag), and Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Fu Manchu). Harbers and Holkenborg earn their place in this illustrious company across the entire span of Skyline Pressure, from the sandy reaches of “Planet Blues” to the peaceful roll of the title-track, to the subdued sprawl of the fourteen-minute “Sonars And Myths.”

The album was recorded by Harper Hug at Thunder Underground and also features guitarist Nico Morcillo of French experimentalists Hifiklub on select tracks (“Planet Blues,” “Tangled Forest,” “Stalactite Dip”), but for anyone familiar with Arce’s pioneering work in Yawning Man, his mark on Skyline Pressure is unmistakable. The stuff of tonal archetype. And while it started out as one of those things that just happened, the album has captured that spirit of improvisation and natural chemistry that emanated from the stage at Mañana Mañana Fest, and brought it to a lasting document that’s all the more special for the spontaneity that lies at its heart.

Skyline Pressure will see release via Small Stone on October 14th, 2016 on CD, digital and limited edition vinyl. For preorders and to sample opening track “Daisy Cutter” point your browser to THIS LOCATION.

Skyline Pressure Track Listing:
1. Daisy Cutter
2. Eye Soar
3. Historical Graffiti
4. Planet Blues
5. Skyline Pressure
6. Sonars And Myths
7. Stalactite Dip
8. Tangled Forest

TEN EAST is an experimental/jam rock project based in the Palm Desert and Los Angeles area of the United States. The musicians involved share a common respect for improvised jamming mixed with years of playing and listening to all types of rock, psychedelic, Latin, jazz, blues, surf, and punk music. The end result is an intense, cohesive wall of sound of heavy, dark, instrumental blues, with psychedelic and surf overtones.

The name “Ten East” comes from the highway which leads from the heart of Los Angeles towards the desert cities. The music is an expression of feelings that overcome oneself as they travel the two hours’ time down the length of highway, leaving behind the bustling metropolis and suburban sprawl in the wake of the mesa, mountains, and distant windmills.

Ten East is:
Gary Arce: guitars
Pieter Holkenborg: guitars
Erik Harbers: bass
Bill Stinson: drums
Nico Morcillo: guitars

https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/skyline-pressure
https://www.facebook.com/teneast
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords

Ten East, “Daisy Cutter”

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Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce, Double Quartet Serie Vol. 1

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 9th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

hifiklub-vs-fatso-jetson-gary-arce-double-quartet-serie-vol-1-700

[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.

fatso-jetson-hifiklub

“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

Hifiklub on Thee Facebooks

Fatso Jetson on Thee Facebooks

Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks

Subsound Records on Bandcamp

Subsound Records on Thee Facebooks

Subsound Records website

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Video Premiere: Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce Debut Collaboration with Hifiklub

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 2nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

fatso jetson hifiklub

The official name of the project — Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson & Gary ArceDouble Quartet Serie Volume 1 — is kind of complicated, but what it works out to is gorgeous psychedelic spaces crafted with a spirit of resonant improvisation. Indeed, the parties involved in the seven-track Subsound Records release are collaboration-prone French experimentalists Hifiklub (they’ve also worked with Alain Johannes and have a new record out with Jad Fair and kptmichigan), as well as Fatso Jetson — who at the time of the recording were touring as the trio of Mario LalliDino von Lalli and Tony Tornay — and Yawning Man guitarist Gary Arce, with whom they were on the road. Two quartets. Hence “double.”

Subsound will have the full-length out next month, and I haven’t yet heard the whole thing, but listening to the two tracks included in the video below, “Tenderloin Vignette” and “Glorious Whores,” my only quibble is with the “vs.” part of the collaboration’s moniker. There’s very little working against each other going on here, if any. Granted it might be awkward to go with Hifiklub & Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce, but that’s really kind of how it works out. Each party makes clear contributions, but I wouldn’t say there’s any antagonism on a sonic level to be found — only fluid, desert-infused psychedelic jamming, oddly choral vocalizations, and a bendy-string intro that soon gives way to two cuts anchored by warm and consuming bass tone over which guitars shine out in engaging progressions. I get the use of “vs.” as a stylistic choice in naming the project, but it’s worth making clear that nobody in Hifiklub or Fatso Jetson seem like enemies by the time the songs are done.

Rather, the vibe that pervades is delightfully let’s-go-into-the-studio-and-see-what-happens. The underlying motion of “Tenderloin Vignette” and the bass push that starts “Glorious Whores” seem to have been thought out beforehand, but there’s a lot here that sounds off the cuff, a real “sessions”-kind of release. You get members of one band or the other screwing around between the tracks and all, and it makes the whole thing seem even more natural, not that it was hurting in that regard.

The video, directed by Laetitia Bica, captures Mont Faron, in Hifiklub‘s native Toulon. Some of the portion in the second half going backwards gave me kind of a queasy feeling, so if you’re affected by that kind of thing, keep an eye out, but even if you put it on and click to another window, I think you’ll agree it’s well worth your time to listen.

More to come on this release next week. Please enjoy:

Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce, “Tenderloin Vignette”/”Glorious Whores” official video

Subsound Records is happy to announce the ‘2 Tracks video’ (track 1 and 3) from the upcoming album “Double Quartet Serie” Vol.1 HIFIKLUB Vs FATSO JATSON w/ GARY ARCE, directed by the artist Laetitia Bica.

It’s a portrait of the montain in Toulon, Le mont Faron, France.

The release will be out via Subsound Records in October and distributed worldwide.

Tracklist :
1. Tenderloin Vignette
2. Un Gribouillis De La Beautè
3. Glorious Whores
4. Black Without White
5. Safe In Pieces
6. À La Fin Je L’Espère Calme
7. The Rocky Road To Holiness

Double Quartet Serie Volume 1
Hifiklub vs Fatso Jetson + Gary Arce
2016, Subsound Records

Two tracks:
1. Tenderloin Vignette
2. Glorious Whores — starts at 6.49

Music by Pascal Abbatucci Julien, Régis Laugier & Nico Morcillo
Arranged with Gary Arce, Ahmad Compaoré, Mario Lalli, Arnaud Maguet, Tony Tornay & Dino Von Lalli

Quartet 1, left channel — Hifiklub
Ahmad Compaoré – drums
Régis Laugier –bass & vocals
Arnaud Maguet – effects
Nico Morcillo – guitar

Quartet 2, right channel — Fatso Jetson + Gary Arce
Gary Arce – guitar
Mario Lalli – bass & vocals
Tony Tornay – drums
Dino Von Lalli – guitar

Subsound Records website

Hifiklub website

Fatso Jetson website

Laetitia Bica website

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Zun Releasing Burial Sunrise March 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

zun

If the thought of John Garcia (KyussUnidaVista Chino, etc.) and Sera Timms (Ides of GeminiBlack Math HorsemanBlack Mare) singing over watery guitar lines from Gary Arce (Yawning ManTen EastDark Tooth Encounter) doesn’t pique your interest, well, I guess you’ve never heard of desert rock before. First teased back in 2013 with a sans-fanfare posted track as a collaboration between Arce and TimmsZun will in fact feature Timms and Garcia trading off in the lead-vocal role throughout the project’s debut full-length, Burial Sunrise, a record whose and sun-soaked pastures are more expansive than one could fairly ask.

Harper Hug of the studio Thunder Underground (Vista ChinoNick Oliveri, etc.) sits in on drums/synth along with Bill Stinson (Yawning Man), Mario Lalli (Fatso JetsonYawning Man) plays bass, and Robby Krieger (The Doors) guests for an electric sitar part. The results are goddamn beautiful and will be released by Small Stone Records on March 25, 2016.

Here’s a bio I wrote for the album, some other relevant particulars, and the track “Nothing Farther,” to prepare your brain:

zun burial sunrise

Arce remains a genuinely underappreciated craftsman in heavy rock and roll. As the six-stringer for Yawning Man going back three decades, he’s one of the principal architects of the sound born in California’s sands and known commonly as desert rock. His contributions have been pivotal in the creation of a style no less American than Delta Blues and no less imitated worldwide, and with Zun’s Burial Sunrise, he not only reaffirms the breadth and vitality that has made his work so essential, but builds on it in expansive and vibrant ways.

The core trio of Zun is Arce and vocalists Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini, Black Mare) and John Garcia (Kyuss, Vista Chino, Slo Burn, etc.). Arce plays bass and lap steel on Burial Sunrise as well, and he and Garcia and Timms are joined by drummers Bill Stinson (Chuck Dukowski, Yawning Man) and Harper Hug – the latter of whom also recorded the album at Thunder Underground Studios in Palm Springs, CA. Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson, Yawning Man) also contributes bass on a track, adding to the fluid, jammy feel that pervades the vast soundscapes conjured.

Timms and Garcia divide lead-singer duties among Burial Sunrise’s six cuts, with Garcia lending his signature croon to “All that You Say I Am,” the brooding “All for Nothing,” and the drifting desert ode “Nothing Farther,” while Timms brings her ethereal, otherworldly presence to “Solar Days,” “Come through the Water” and “Into the Wasteland,” the last of which might just be the album’s signature piece, seeming to mirror the wide-ranging, sandy thematic of “Nothing Farther” in bringing the desert – a place too often wrongly thought of as dead – to life in vivid colors and warm tonality, but pushing even further into an uncharted reach.

Known for forming and contributing to projects like Ten East (with Brant Bjork), Dark Tooth Encounter (with Lalli, Stinson and Scott Reeder), The Sort of Quartet, Yawning Sons (with Sons of Alpha Centauri), and more, Arce brings a style that is inseparable from desert rock. For the partnerships he’s made in Zun and for the scope of the album, its laid-back feel and pervasive exploratory sensibility, Burial Sunrise might just prove to be a landmark in his discography as well as the beginning of a new era of his work, continuing to reshape the genre he helped create in the first place in a manner that, like the sands themselves, seems to remain separate from time despite the chaos all around.

1) NOTHING FARTHER
2) INTO THE WASTELAND
3) ALL FOR NOTHING
4) COME THROUGH THE WATER
5) ALL THAT YOU SAY I AM
6) SOLAR INCANTATION

Zun are:
Gary Arce: Guitars, Bass, Lapsteel
John Garcia: Vocals
Sera Timms: Vocals
Mario Lalli: Bass
Robby Krieger: Electric Sitar
Bill Stinson: Drums
Harper Hug: Drums/ Synths

Recorded & Mixed By Harper Hug @ Thunder-Underground, Palm Springs, CA. Mastered by Chris Goosman @ Baseline Audio Labs, Ann Arbor, MI. Artwork By Christina Bishop.

https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/burial-sunrise
https://www.facebook.com/yawningmanofficial/

Zun, “Nothing Farther” from Burial Sunrise

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Buried Treasure: Big Scenic Nowhere, Big Scenic Nowhere

Posted in Buried Treasure on January 22nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

big-scenic-nowhere-cd-and-liner

The history behind Big Scenic Nowhere is nearly as complex as the desert ecosystem that gave birth to the project in the first place, and before I get into it, I want to send a personal thanks to Nick Hannon, bassist of the UK’s Sons of Alpha Centauri, who was kind enough to send me their demo. Hannon, who of course also plays in the just-reviewed Yawning Sons alongside Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce, and has appeared on split releases between Arce‘s WaterWays, Sons of Alpha Centauri and Australia’s Hotel Wrecking City Traders (who also had a collaboration with Arce out), as well as Yawning Sons and WaterWays, in different big-scenic-nowhere-cd-sleevepermutations of players working together and collaborating. Arce, whose guitar tone is one of the founding tenets of desert rock, is generally at the center, and that proves to be the case in Big Scenic Nowhere as well.

It seems unfair to call Big Scenic Nowhere a short-lived project considering that it involves Arce and bassist Mario Lalli, who’ve played together for over 25 years in Yawning Man, as well as drummer Tony Tornay, who doubles in Lalli‘s “other band,” Fatso Jetson, and could be heard last year propelling the formidable Napalm Records debut from Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk BandBlack Power Flower (review here). But while these three know and have worked together for a long time one way or another, as Big Scenic Nowhere, their tenure was brief. The band was born out WaterWays, which featured vocalist Abby Travis in addition to ArceLalli and Tornay, when the recordings for their debut album got tied up in legal issues. Big Scenic Nowhere went back into the studio, re-recorded the tracks instrumentally, and set about releasing tbig scenic nowhere liner 1hem on their own, posting them on YouTube, etc.

That was circa 2008/2009. In 2010, most of the WaterWays songs would surface on the aforementioned splits with Yawning Sons and with Sons of Alpha Centauri and Hotel Wrecking City Traders, so that material is out there. It exists. In the wake of that, Big Scenic Nowhere were just about done. Yawning Man, with Arce and Lalli, put out Nomadic Pursuits (review here) and Fatso Jetson, with Lalli (on guitar/vocals) and Tornay, put out Archaic Volumes (review here). That’s half a decade ago now, and the Big Scenic Nowhere CD was included as a bonus for anyone who purchased the splits. So far as I know, that and at shows were the only ways it ever officially came out, despite the fact that the original recordings of most of these songs, with Travis, have been released on those two split offerings.

Like I said, it’s a complex history.

But the end result is that Big Scenic Nowhere have wound up as this kind of hidden secret of Californian desert rock.big scenic nowhere liner 2 The CD — you might note the shadow of the famous “Welcome to Sky Valley” sign on the dry cracked earth on the disc itself– contains all the dynamic turns one might expect from a Lalli/Tornay rhythm section and the signature bliss of Arce‘s guitar, and in addition to the six prior-recorded songs that would be later released by WaterWays, there are also the original “Bows and Arrows,” a cover of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and a live set from the Date Shed in Indio, CA, broken down into two separate jams and presented complete with a spoken introduction. All told, it’s a 57-minute collection that, particularly for fans of Yawning Man is probably worth being easier to track down than it is. Big Scenic Nowhere wound up in a strange position once the WaterWays stuff came out, but even instrumental, songs like “Waterways,” “Queen of the Passout Riders” and “Three Rivers” retain a memorable feel. Liner notes from Arce that explain the whole situation are included, so you can work your way through to how the tracks got to be what they are. Even out of context, however, they leave an impression, whether you heard the WaterWays splits or not.

Big Scenic Nowhere, “Memorial Patterns”

Big Scenic Nowhere on Thee Facebooks

Gary Arce’s Soundcloud page

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On the Radar: Zun

Posted in On the Radar on February 25th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

If my details are foggy, you’ll have to forgive me as I’ve only known this band existed for a couple hours. Zun is a new trio from the Californian desert that features Sera Timms (Black Math Horseman/Ides of Gemini/Black Mare) on vocals, Gary Arce (Yawning Man, etc.) on guitar and bass, and Bill Stinson (Yawning Man) on drums. Not to be confused with the Zune, which was Microsoft’s mismarketed attempt at competing with the iPod, Zun have just released the first audio from the collaboration, the sweetly toned and dreamy “Come through the Water.”

The track was recorded by Harper Hug at Thunder Underground, and if the statement put out through Yawning Man‘s Thee Facebooks page — which also updates on some new stuff from that band, including a split with fellow desert types Fatso Jetson — is anything to go by, it’s the first of several installments to come:

Behold, we have GREAT news! Songs from an upcoming 7″ split with FATSO JETSON and ZUN are hot off the mixing board, and will be available soon! ZUN is Gary Arce’s latest endeavor, and it features the revered Sera Beth Timms (Black Math Horseman), whose intense and haunting vocals meld alongside Gary’s signature guitar and lapsteel tones- and bass lines. The one and only thunderous Bill Stinson is on Drums.

Thanks to Harper Hug who engineered this project, which was recorded at Thunder Underground (http://thunder-underground.com/). Artwork by Christina Bishop.

AND if that isn’t exciting enough, get ready for ANOTHER killer release to come…another split EP with songs from your favorite Desert Rock Godfathers Fatso Jetson AND Yawning Man! More news about that to come. For now, stay tuned to hear sounds from ZUN. We will be sharing that within the next few days. Cheers, and thanks for your continued support!

Being a dork for Arce‘s inimitable guitar tone, it means something when I say that in Timms, Arce has a suitable complement. To wit, on “Come through the Water,” how both vocals and guitar are enhanced as they rise together just before the two-minute mark. The track, as does much of Arce‘s work, has a predilection toward wandering, echoing, and sliding into a wash of heavy psychedelic melody, but Timms also grounds the song with verse lines as Stinson provides the direction on the drums. I was not yet through the full five and a half minutes of the song before I decided I liked it a lot.

I’d love to hear and hope to hear how Zun might develop these ideas and change things up over the course of a full-length, but that’s probably a long ways off. Until then, the desert expanse portrayed in “Come through the Water” offers plenty to dig into, as you can hear on the stream below, hoisted from Soundcloud:

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WaterWays, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Hotel Wrecking City Traders Split LP: An Intercontinental Tapestry of Tone

Posted in Reviews on October 8th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

A three-way split released in gorgeous 180 gram LP (limited to 500), with each of its participants represented in a different primary color – red for Californian desert rockers WaterWays, blue for UK prog instrumentalists Sons of Alpha Centauri and yellow for Australian brotherly noise rock duo Hotel Wrecking City Traders – the latest Bro Fidelity Records is every bit as intricate and lush in its psychedelia as its Alexander von Wieding artwork. The three bands display distinct personalities between them and as WaterWays come first with side A all to themselves and twice as much material as either Sons of Alpha Centauri or Hotel Wrecking City Traders, they’re obviously meant as a focal point. No wonder, given the band’s lineup. WaterWays boasts in its ranks guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man, bassist/vocalist Mario Lalli and drummer Tony Tornay (both of Fatso Jetson) and vocalist Abby Travis, who in the past has collaborated with the likes of Masters of Reality and Eagles of Death Metal, so if they come first of the three acts represented here, at least they earned it via pedigree. It’s also not the first time Hotel Wrecking City Traders – who also run Bro Fidelity Records – have sought to highlight Gary Arce’s work. The band collaborated with Arce on a 2011 collaborative 12” (review here). And as WaterWays’ first release was a late-2010 split with Yawning Sons, which is Arce’s pan-oceanic collaboration with Sons of Alpha Centauri, he would seem to be the figure tying everything together on this split, particularly as his influence has bled into the work of Ben and Toby Matthews of Hotel Wrecking City Traders on their contribution here, the 9:37 closer “Pulmo Victus.” Before them, on side B, Sons of Alpha Centauri dig deep into their archives to unearth the 8:48 track “27,” from an early recording session, and of course on side A, WaterWays take their time unfolding four songs of textured dune-minded psych, Lalli and Tornay’s well-honed chemistry underscoring Arce’s expansive tone and Travis’ sweetly melodic vocals.

Travis is joined vocally — presumably by Lalli — by low-register rhythmic singing on opener “Piece of You,” playing up a progressive feel early into the split. “Piece of You,” “Queen,” “The Blacksmith” and “WaterWays” are all relatively short, none touching five minutes, and they play out with more structure to them than one is necessarily used to in the often jam-minded context of Arce’s work. The guitarist in no small part defines any band he touches. His tone is inimitable and unmistakable, and for the most part, though it’s not what Yawning Man usually traffics in, he does well with the material, which still feels and sounds open despite having set verses and choruses. He’s hardly caged here – there’s still plenty of room in these songs for him to wander as he will, and even Yawning Man’s freest material doesn’t linger time-wise – but it’s Travis’ vocals that wind up characterizing much of what separates WaterWays from the slew of other Arce projects. She’s got just enough quirk in her voice to make “Piece of You” stand alongside the Palm Desert tradition of weird explorations while still injecting a soulful breathiness into “Queen,” somewhat ironically jarring the listener back to the sandy ground with the punctuated line, “You’re fucking high.” “Queen” has a Western march in its snare from Tornay and Lalli has no problem keeping up and setting the melody on bass while Arce emits echoes of what seems like an eternal lead. It would be the highlight of WaterWays’ section of the split but for “The Blacksmith,” which has “hey-ya, hey-ya” backing vocals behind Travis reminiscent of but not caricaturing Native American chants and the band’s most engaging chorus here. By contrast, the eponymous “WaterWays” offers “lalala”s and an introductory progression that reminds strikingly of Geto Boys’ “Damn it Feels Good to be a Gangsta,” which left an impression as a featured track in the movie Office Space. Sonic coincidence most likely, and the song moves away to a drum-led section with Tornay setting the course on his toms, but the vocals here seem like an afterthought added once the instrumental progression was set, and the repeated line, “Go the waterways,” falls short of the lullaby it seems to be reaching to be, its pacing just a little too quick to soothe in its four-minute course. Crash cymbals toward the end and layered vocals don’t exactly help in that regard either, though the song remains undeniably infectious.

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Yawning Man Interview: Gary Arce Updates on Progress of New Double Album, Gravity is Good for You, Lineup Changes, the State of the Desert, and More

Posted in Features on September 20th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Talk about unappreciated. Not even under-appreciated — which a lot of bands are — but almost completely passed over in the discussion. Yawning Man never had the PR campaign to prove it, but they formed in 1986 and were part of the very beginning of what we now know as desert rock. Led by guitarist Gary Arce, the band wouldn’t release a studio album until 19 years later, when the full-length Rock Formations and the EP Pot Head surfaced, but by then their desert-party jams were long since legendary, and their praises sung by everyone from Fatso Jetson, whose Mario Lalli has been a member of Yawning Man from the beginning, to Kyuss, who famously cited their influence and covered the song “Catamaran” on their final album in 1995.

Over the course of their 26 years, Arce has remained the constant figure behind the band. His signature tone — derived from surf, but thicker and more expansive — leads Yawning Man‘s sprawling instrumental works, and in his time doing so, he’s incorporated a host of luminaries from the California desert. Lalli, of course, has been present for the most part and still plays a large role in the band, but also the likes of Bill Stinson — who’s also worked with Chuck Dukowski (Black Flag) and has been a part of Arce‘s Dark Tooth Encounter and Ten East side-projects — Alfredo Hernandez (Kyuss), Mario‘s cousin and Fatso Jetson bandmate Larry Lalli and Billy Cordell (Unida, Kyuss Lives!) have been through the ranks, and Arce seems to relish the possibilities each new player brings.

In 2010, Yawning Man released their most solidified album to date in the form of Nomadic Pursuits (review here) on Cobraside Distribution. Then the trio of Arce, Lalli and Hernandez, the band seemed poised to collect the respect long overdue to them. Songs both resided in the realm of a “desert rock” sound and provided a reminder that it was Yawning Man who helped shape those ideas in the first place, and the album as a whole had a flow that was remarkably consistent and evocative (a recent summer revisit found it no less so) while also boasting an organic, spontaneously jammed style. The band toured Europe to support it sans Lalli (he tells the story here), and actually had some momentum working in their favor if they could make the best of it quickly.

It’s a quick interview and details are vague at best, so I’ll keep it brief, but the upshot is it didn’t pan out. Hernandez is out of the band, Lalli‘s aboard part-time. Arce, however, is almost defiant in his push to make Yawning Man work. With Cordell and drummers Stinson and Greg Saenz (The Dwarves), it’s the guitarist’s intent that the next Yawning Man release will be a double album, titled Gravity is Good for You after the Raymond Pettibon artwork they’ve secured for the cover (included below; click to enlarge), and featuring half with Lalli and half with Cordell. A pretty wild idea, but it wouldn’t be the band’s first in that regard — I think probably the first was, “I’m going to plug into this echo and see what happens” — and if anyone could pull it off and make it work, it’s Arce. The rest of us will just have to wait and keep our fingers crossed.

Please find the complete email Q&A with Gary Arce after the jump, and please enjoy.

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