The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

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Review & Full Album Stream: Geezer, Psychoriffadelia

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

geezer psychoriffadelia

[Click play above to stream Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia in its entirety. It’s out June 9 via Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records.]

There are multiple angles of approach one might take when it comes to Geezer‘s fourth long-player, Psychoriffadelia. Like the title itself, the tracks are a mash of the different ideas the New York-based band have been advancing since their beginnings, working in a scope of heavy psychedelic jamming, classic heavy rock, heavy blues and often more than a touch of stoner sleaze. No, it’s not a coincidence that I used the word “heavy” three separate times in that last sentence. That’s been a running theme for Geezer‘s work all along, from their 2013 debut, Electrically Recorded Handmade Heavy Blues through the EP-turned-full-length Gage (review here) and most realized on last year’s self-titled third outing (review here), and Psychoriffadelia finds them more than happy to pick up the thread and run with it for the course of its five tracks and 39 minutes, delivered through Kozmik Artifactz in Europe and STB Records in North America.

One finds, however, that the most defining aspect of Psychoriffadelia might just be transience. There is evidence of growth even from where the self-titled had them to be heard in the overall balance between jammy flow and songcraft — Geezer have taken the lessons of Texas’ Wo Fat (who in 2009 put out an album called Psychedelonaut and might be this generation’s masters of the form in the US) and incorporated them into their Northeastern grit — and their sound is ever more identifiable as their own with guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington coming across as more comfortable in tackling vocal melodies on a cut like “Red Hook,” but with the bulk of the material recorded live in the studio — Redbird Studio in NYC — in a single day, the natural vibe that persists as a result, and the inextricable link between Psychoriffadelia‘s release and Geezer‘s first-ever European tour, set for this summer, it’s a fleeting sensibility that most emerges from this material. The fruit of a moment that, no matter what Geezer do from this point on in their tenure, won’t come again.

Add to that the lineup factor. Harrington and bassist Richie Touseull work here with Charles Ruggiero, who steps in to take the place of founding drummer Chris TurcoRuggiero is an ex-bandmate of Harrington‘s in woefully-monikered hard rockers Slunt, so it’s no surprise to find there’s chemistry there based on their past experience playing together, but though he’ll play on the tour as well, Ruggiero is still officially filling in for Turco. So even in their makeup in terms of who’s playing, Geezer seem to be captured here in a state of flux. All the better to get that cover of Nazareth‘s “Hair of the Dog” to tape while the getting’s good. That cowbell-infused, attitude-laden classic serves as Geezer‘s launch for Psychoriffadelia, and Harrington‘s gravely voice does well in taking on its mega-hook, “Now you’re messing with the son of a bitch,” delivering the line with a swagger that goes on to inform the rest of side A in “Stressknots” and the 10-minute “Psychoriffadelia” itself. The former is a chugging enterprise of marked heft and fuzz but a creeping melodic verse, building in energy as it shifts toward its chorus, Geezer working effectively in their more straightforward songcraft modus on what’s the shortest inclusion here, original or otherwise, at 4:40.

An open, bluesy bridge just past the three-minute mark leads back to the charge of the hook and they finish with a section of crackling noise and sparse guitar ambience, leading into the start of the title-track, which buzzes to life over the course of its first 30 seconds before a subdued guitar establishes the defining line for the jam that unfolds. It is especially telling that “Psychoriffadelia” is instrumental in its entirety, as it sends a clear signal of the shift in approach that it marks moving into the rest of the album that bears its name, which, though built to be split over two sides, nonetheless has a linear flow from the title-track into “Red Hook” and 13-minute closer “Dirty Penny.” Transitions are smooth throughout, but the manner in which the cuts in Psychoriffadelia‘s back half feed off each other and the more languid vibe feels like a definite departure from the more raucous “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots” — though the finale certainly makes an impression with its hook and strikes a balance between the “psycho,” the “riffa” and the “delia” — and it’s the title-track that serves as the beginning point of that.

geezer photo jj koczan

Even in this linearity, one finds that theme of transience playing out. The turn from “Psychoriffadelia” to the six-minute “Red Hook” is accomplished with a seeming nod to Monster Magnet-style fluidity, and though moodier in its affect, the latter cut is unquestionably the highlight of the album. It’s the most patient and psychedelic unfurling Geezer have executed to-date, and while in the past, a serene beginning like that of “Red Hook” might’ve led to a burst-out of bluesy, boozy heavy riffing — nothing wrong with that — this time, Harrington, Touseull and Ruggiero keep the vibe quiet, thoughtful and emotionally resonant in its melody, adding a new level of depth to their approach not found on the self-titled or any of their releases preceding. In the quick turnaround from their last offering, “Red Hook” is the clearest example on Psychoriffadelia of Geezer‘s continued creative growth. It’s not the only one, but it’s the clearest, and particularly after the immersion of the centerpiece title-track, its arrival feels like it’s being given a distinguished position in the course of the album. That is to say, they know it’s something special, which it is.

After its watery psych strum enters its long fadeout, the low hum that starts “Dirty Penny” takes hold and Harrington‘s voice echoes out the line, “Your pretty face is going to hell,” from deep in the mix, foreshadowing the standout line of the chorus that will serve as Geezer‘s final hook for Psychoriffadelia. Though more grounded than “Red Hook” and more structured feeling than the title-track, “Dirty Penny” still carries a drowsy spirit in its early going, picking up after the three-minute mark with more of a push en route to a quick guitar solo and final runthrough of the sleazy chorus — I’m sure there’s a story to it, but yeah: sleaze — and another, more extended and multi-layered stretch of impressive fretwork that serves as the beginning point for the jam that will consume the rest of the track, beginning in earnest at around six minutes in and expanding outward from there. Funky at the eight-minute mark, explosive by 9:30 and drifting into its compressed slide-and-strum just after 11 minutes in, the ending of “Dirty Penny” feels somewhat pieced together, but that’s also the point, and in that, it reinforces the stylistic patchwork that makes up the record’s title and overarching execution alike.

Geezer have always had an element of self-awareness to their approach, so that they would on Psychoriffadelia as well is nothing new, but what’s important to take from the release is that it shows even in a hurried mindset — putting this version of the band and these freshly-composed songs to tape before the opportunity passed — the band are able to conjure a sense of sonic progression. That’s pivotal, of course, but for most listeners it will be secondary to the quality of the material itself (and probably rightly so), but fortunately for the trio and their audience alike, that also holds up here. Psychoriffadelia finds Geezer mature in their style and firm in the knowledge of who they are and what they want to be as a group, building gracefully on their past aesthetic accomplishments while maintaining the roll, nod, blues and edge that has served them so well thus far. With the palpable development they’ve undertaken and the results that has yielded, Geezer have never sounded so ready for export.

Geezer on Thee Facebooks

Geezer on Bandcamp

Kozmik Artifactz website

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Kozmik Artifactz on Twitter

STB Records on Bandcamp

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Geezer to Release Psychoriffadelia June 9; European Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

geezer

Hey, if you’re gonna go, make an occasion of it. We’ve known for some time that New York heavy psych blues rockers Geezer were headed to Europe in 2017. They were announced in December for the lineup of Freak Valley 2017, and just a couple days after that, confirmed the appearance would coincide with a first tour on European shores.

So what’s new? What’s new is the fact that Geezer will go not only supporting their righteous 2016 self-titled full-length (review here), but a new, fourth LP as well — dubbed Psychoriffadelia and due out June 9 through Kozmik Artifactz in Europe and STB Records in the US with preorders set to start as soon as this post is live. So… now.

Comprised of five tracks that run a 39-minute gamut from the scummer boogie bliss of Nazareth‘s “Hair of the Dog” — “Now you’re messin’ with a son of a bitch,” and all — to the vulnerable blues of “Red Hook,” the sleaze of “Dirty Penny” and the megajams that ensue there and in the 10-minute title-track, Psychoriffadelia is the result of Geezer firing at max volume on all cylinders, expanding on the self-titled while reinforcing that album’s accomplishments with a brazen next step forward. Don’t be fooled by the quick turnaround — there’s growth here. Not that I’ve heard it yet or anything. Ahem.

Psychoriffadelia also finds Geezer working as the three-piece of founding guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Charles Ruggiero, the latter a former bandmate of Harrington‘s in hard rockers Slunt and stepping in for Chris Turco, who handled drums on the last album as well as the 2014 LP, Gage (review here), and their 2013 debut, Electrically Recorded Handmade Heavy Blues. Ruggiero will take part in the European tour as well, which is booked through Total Volume Agency and Snuff Lane in the UK, and the band have set up a crowdfunding campaign to help with the inevitable expenses of making the trip. Rewards include an exclusive die-hard edition of the LP.

Info on that, the release announcement for Psychoriffadelia, and of course the tour dates all follow here, courtesy of the band:

geezer psychoriffadelia

GEEZER – Psychoriffadelia

The power of the riff. The allure of the psychedelic. The intensity of the electricity. These are the things that bring us together, these are the things that create Psychoriffadelia.

Recorded mostly live at Redbird Studio on 9/10/16 in New York City, the songs of Psychoriffadelia came together over the course of that summer. It had been months since we turned in the masters for our self titled album, yet still a few months until the album was released. We had been playing shows with Charles Ruggiero on drums while Chris Turco was on a work related hiatus. During that time, riffs arose, jams happened and songs were created. We wanted to capture that moment, no matter how fleeting.

We are proud to announce that Psychoriffadelia will be released on vinyl and CD through Kozmik Artifactz Records on June 9th! For those of you in the US, STB Records will have vinyl for sale through their webstore as well. Digital versions of the album will be available through the band’s Bandcamp page.

Here are the vinyl specs:
Release date: June 9, 2017
Pre-Order: April 27, 2017
180g high quality vinyl with gatefold
100x black
200x yellow
200x red/black marbled

Geezer, Psychoriffadelia tracklisting:
1. Hair of the Dog (4:48)
2. Stressknots (4:40)
3. Psychoriffadelia (10:16)
4. Red Hook (6:02)
5. Dirty Penny (13:23)

Artwork and Design by Kim Zangrando

A special “Die Hard Edition” of the album will be released through Geezer’s European Tour crowd funding campaign. This will include a screen printed jacket with alternate artwork, multi-colored vinyl and more! (see below for more info)

Live Album Official Release

In addition, Geezer’s live album, A Flagrant Disregard For Happiness is being released on June 9th, also through STB Records and Kozmik Artifactz Records. Originally released as an add on to the Die Hard version of the self-titled album, it is now being released on it’s own on beautiful 180g gold vinyl, limited to 150 units total!

The album contains one 30 minute instrumental (mostly improvised) track, A Flagrant Disregard For Happiness, which was performed at BSP in Kingston NY on April 1, 2016 as part of the ongoing Hudson Valley Psych Fest Series.

A video of this performance can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSs0deYCU98

European Tour

To celebrate the release of Psychoriffadelia, Geezer is going to Europe! With the help of Total Volume Booking, Geezer will be doing a 3 week tour that includes our first appearance at Freak Valley Festival! Some dates are still being confirmed but here is the latest:

geezer tour poster.13 June Paris, France / Le Gibus Live
15 June Mannheim, Germany / KURZBAR
16 June Netphen, Germany / FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL
17 June Lille, France / Le Biplan
18 June Brussels, Belgium / Centre Culturel Garcia Lorca
19 June Ghent, Belgium / Kinky Star
20 June Strasbourg, France / Elastic Bar
21 June Lyon, France / La fête de la musique – Bar des Capucins
22 June Olten, Switzerland / Coq D’Or
23 June Clermont Ferrand, France / Raymond Bar
24 June Montaigu, France / Le Zinor
27 June Exeter, UK / Phoenix
28 June London, UK / The Dev
29 June Coventry, UK / The Arches
30 June Bristol, UK / The Old England
1 July TBC – UK

Indiegogo Crowdfunding Campaign
As mentioned above, Geezer will be doing a crowdfunding campaign through Indiegogo to help offset some of the expenses of the trip. Exclusive perks will include a “Die Hard” Edition of Psychoriffadelia. This edition will include a screen printed jacket with alternate artwork and multi-colored vinyl. Other perks include tour posters and shirts designed by Jo Riou, CD and digital versions of the new album, never before available embroidered patches and other exclusive perks. The campaign is already up and will run until Friday, May 26th.

We need your help to make this tour a reality. Any and all contributions are greatly appreciated!

Contribute to the Indiegogo campaign here: https://igg.me/at/xxo6XcM2mD4/x/16460786

Geezer is:
Pat Harrington – Guitar, Vocals
Richie Touseull – Bass
Charles Ruggiero – Drums

https://igg.me/at/xxo6XcM2mD4/x/16460786
https://www.facebook.com/geezerNY/
http://geezertown.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/totalvolumebackline/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kozmikartifactz/
https://twitter.com/kozmikartifactz
https://stbrecords.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/STB-Records/471228012921184
http://www.stbrecords.bigcartel.com/

Geezer, Geezer (2016)

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