Former Deamon’s Child Members Resurface in MIGHT

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 22nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

True to their word, two of the three now-former members of German noise rockers Deamon’s Child, who announced their breakup just last week, have now made their new project known to the public. Ana Muhi and Sven “Missu” Missullis will share vocal duties in the new band, MIGHT, who would seem to prefer their moniker in all-caps and would seem as well to be taking on a more atmospheric kind of sound than that of Deamon’s Child. Working as a duo with Missullis pulling double-duty on drums and guitar for the time being — shows will be tricky, but I suppose not impossible — and Muhi on bass, the two players are giving a quick glimpse of what MIGHT may be about in a video teaser of some apparently-already-recorded material.

And I know it’s already recorded, because it exists. Fancy that.

No doubt some of the punkier aspects of Deamon’s Child will bleed into MIGHT as well, but even from the brief look and listen they give in the clip at the bottom of this post, it’s understandable why they might see fit to embark on MIGHT as an outfit distinct from their former band together — shifting from a trio to duo of course is also part of that. I don’t know what MIGHT‘s plans are going forward, or just what kind of release the teaser might be teasing, but there’s a definite sense of aesthetic at work here and if you happen to have a space 30 seconds in your busy day, it’s a fair enough way to be introduced.

So say hello:

might

Hello, we are MIGHT

Only a few days after they quitted their old band, Deamon’s Child, Ana Muhi and Sven Missullis founded a new band, called MIGHT.

Like in Deamon’s Child, Muhi will sing and play the bass. Missullis will play guitar, but also the drums and will also sing on a few songs.

There is already a short teaser online where you can hear some first tunes.

And there is also a Facebook page where you can check out what is coming next.

Might is:
Ana Muhi – Vocals, Bass
Sven Missullis – Vocals, Guitar, Drums

https://www.facebook.com/might.earth
http://www.might.earth/
https://might.bandcamp.com/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGXk7S2uISmKLIi8PCXHHPw

Might teaser

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Desertfest Berlin 2020: Lowrider, Puta Volcano, Big Business & Temple Fang Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

desertfest berlin 2020 banner

Five new names out of the Desertfest Berlin 2020 camp, and they’re good ‘uns at that. Seeing Lowrider get tapped for a return to the Desertfest stage makes sense, since it’s kind of where the reunion really kicked off, and Big Business always seem to make themselves welcome wherever they end up, so right on there too.

Those two and MaidaVale will be shared with Berlin’s sister festival in London, which nine years later remains an amazing cooperation between the two events, but I’m also stoked to see Greek rockers Puta Volcano getting the nod here, as their new album most definitely earns it. And likewise, having been fortunate enough to catch Temple Fang live in addition to appreciating their lineage through Mühr and Death Alley, it’s only good news as far as I’m concerned they’re starting to get out of their home turf. I’m dying for that band to put out a record.

So not that you or anyone asked, but it’s a thumbs up from me on this one, I guess. Again, no one asked. I know this.

From the PR wire:

desertfest berlin 2020 poster

DESERTFEST BERLIN CONFIRMS BIG BUSINESS, LOWRIDER, MAIDAVALE, TEMPLE FANG & PUTA VOLCANO FOR 2020!

Kicking off into the new year in glorious style, DESERTFEST BERLIN has announced 5 new names for their 2020- edition, taking place between May 1st – 3rd at the Arena Berlin. The leading cult, fuzz and all that is heavy sounds festival will be celebrating their 9th year with high class acts such as the already announced WITCHCRAFT, MASTERS OF REALITY, BRANT BJORK, AMENRA, 1000MODS, ORANGE GOBLIN, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, THE VINTAGE CARAVAN aside many more, and has just confirmed to welcome BIG BUSINESS, LOWRIDER, MAIDAVALE, TEMPLE FANG as well as PUTA VOLCANO to their eclectic line-up in May 2020.

There’s plenty of volume and feelings for party screaming, solo screaming, or just getting through what you’re going through. Desertfest means business, so they will bring you Big Business! The two-piece rock band from Los Angeles, CA, is known for their bombastic and frantic low end attack, marked by a signature vocal delivery. The creative duo, longtime friends and touring mates of The Melvins, began in Seattle, WA in 2003, and released 6 full length albums to date. Their latest output, The Beast You Are, was released in the Spring of 2019, and what a beast of a record it is! Big Business are currently writing new music, touring the world, and will be coming for YOU at Desertfest Berlin 2020!

This year will also see the long awaited return of Sweden’s Lowrider! Blues Funeral Recordings releases the searing new album “Refractions” in February 2020 – the band’s first in 20 years!

Lowrider’s debut EP and seminal album “Ode to Io” were foundational slabs at the dawn of stoner rock, which grew into a worldwide phenomenon with Lowrider clearly established as one of its trailblazers. Their new record will explode with all the churning fuzz and expansive riff-heaviness for which the band is known and loved for, shot through with a re-energized purpose and maturity. The grooves swing, the bottom end rumbles, and the melodies growl and soar, delivering at long last on Lowrider’s longing-to-be-fulfilled promise. Finally, the undisputed kings of the Swedish fuzz rock scene are back to deliver on their undeniably deserve mythic status, live at Desertfest Berlin 2020!

As one of the most prominent acts in the new generation of psych music, Swedish four piece MaidaVale create a reckless and experimental rock that keeps diverging from what’s expected. After first emerging on the live rock scene in 2014, followed by two highly acclaimed albums, MaidaVale currently belong to one of the most promising new bands of the scene. The band is exstensively touring Europe, and known for their musicality and the electric connection between both musicians and audience, their reputation has grown with each show. MaidaVale are showcasing their experimental and dynamic sound in a very special way, that confirmed their place in the psych rock scene. Aside mesmerizing festival appearances at such as Freak Valley or Duna Jam, Desertfest Berlin is psyched to welcome them again!

Rising from the ashes of Death Alley, bassist Dennis Duijnhouwer and guitarist Jevin de Groot put together their new band, Temple Fang, with guitarist Ivy van der Veer and drummer Jasper van den Broeke, combining the wild rock-abandon of their former outfit but with deeper, more cosmic leanings. Rock n’ Roll as a means to attaining spiritual freedom, but one is sure, this will be a wild ride!

Amidst the continuous and enjoyable struggle the survivor of an indie rock n’ roll band has become, Puta Volcano are building up their legacy and fanbase, one gig, one album, one song at the time. Being a significant cog in the acknowledged machine that Greek heavy rock is, they keep pushing forward what was set in motion back in 2012, when their debut EP was released.

2017 was the year that Puta Volcano planted their feet firmly to the ground and today, the band has a new album titled ‘Amma’ ready, a ton of confident excitement for it and a series of plans to back it up among which a 25-dates European tour mapped out, which will include Desertfest Berlin in May 2020!

DESERTFEST BERLIN is known for the best band line- ups of the entire heavy psych underground as well as its unique atmosphere and surroundings visited by desert rock fans from all over the globe, directly located at the riverside in the heart of Berlin, the Arena. After last year’s changes of a new sound system, the ‘Black Box’, that got high praise from both guests and critics alike finding themselves back at an intimate, high-energy underground club show, the festival will provide many more specials, space, and again a chill- party – AND live zone on the popular Hoppetosse boat! Don’t miss the fuzz and haze rock party of the year, at the capitol of the almighty riffs: The 9th edition of DESERTFEST BERLIN 2020, presented by Greyzone Concerts and cult live institution Sound of Liberation, who will be celebrating their 15th anniversary at the same year, is ready to take over Berlin this May!

https://www.facebook.com/events/520164272080736/
www.desertfest.de
www.facebook.com/DesertfestBerlin
www.instagram.com/desertfest_berlin

Puta Volcano, “Primitive Data”

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Keep it Low 2020 First Announcement: The Vintage Caravan, Domkraft, Willow Child & The Heavy Eyes

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

keep it low 2020 banner

With early-bird tickets already sold through and regular ol’ two-day tickets on their way out, it’s never too early for the Munich-based Keep it Low Festival to start announcing acts, and the first bunch arrives in a batch of four with The Vintage Caravan, Domkraft, Willow Child and The Heavy Eyes taking part. One assumes that, barring some tradition-defying circumstance, Colour Haze will be confirmed as well sooner or later, but for now it’s these four and that’s a pretty awesome start.

In addition to of course being most righteous fodder for daydreams — Keep it Low has always been a particularly enticing prospect to me, and that’s true of Keep it Low 2020 as well, but I’ve never been able to make the trip — the slow building of festival lineups over the span of months help indicate who’ll be on the road where and when. Seems likely, for example, that The Heavy Eyes will be touring Europe around this appearance, and they might even make other fest appearances at well, whether it’s at the also-Sound of Liberation-presented Up in Smoke in Switzerland, or Desertfest Belgium or anywhere else. These things will all come together over the course of this year as they do, and I always look forward to seeing how it all plays out, who’s doing a one-off and who’s going to be on a weeks-long stretch, etc. I’m a nerd for that kind of stuff, if it wasn’t obvious.

And I think it probably was.

Here’s the announcement, short and sweet, per the social medias:

Keepers,

we wish you all the best for 2020! Today we can finally present you the first bands for Keep It Low Festival 2020:

The Vintage Caravan (Rock, Blues Rock | Iceland)
Domkraft (Psychedelic, Stoner, Doom | Sweden)
The Heavy Eyes (Fuzz Rock, Blues Rock, Stoner Rock | USA)
Willow Child (Retro Rock | Germany)

We’re very happy to welcome these four great acts to our line-up!
The 2-day tickets are already selling very good – so make sure to grab your ticket soon!

Tickets available here:

https://www.sol-tickets.com/produkte/51-tickets-keep-it-low-festival-2020-feierwerk-area-muenchen-am-09-10-2020

https://woolheads.com/product/keep-it-low-festivalticket-weekend-2020

https://www.eventim.de/artist/keep-it-low-festival/

https://www.facebook.com/events/975025036197960/
https://www.facebook.com/keepitlowfestival/
https://www.keepitlow.de/
https://www.soundofliberation.com/

Domkraft, “The Watchers” official video

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Deamon’s Child Announce Breakup & Hint at Future Project

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

After three albums and a live record and demo and whatnot, German progressive noise rocking three-piece Deamon’s Child have announced they’re calling it a day. Their explanation of it via thee social medias — which you can read below — doesn’t get into to specific circumstances, but I think it emphasizes one way or another that the core of what Deamon’s Child were was in the emotional bond between the members, bassist/vocalist Ana Muhi, guitarist Sven Missullis and drummer Tim Mohr, and without that, there isn’t a band, so, in essence, there isn’t a band. It’s a more open and honest way of acknowledging the depths of relationships that form between band members — anyone who tells you it isn’t like being married probably isn’t married — than saying “this isn’t fun anymore,” which is what you sometimes get. Respect to Deamon’s Child either way for hanging it up rather than pressing on because they feel obligated.

Muhi and Missullis will reportedly start a new project together sometime in the near future. Like, maybe later this week. Hey, waste no time. I’m not saying I’ve heard anything or anything like that or know the name of the new band or there’s a teaser coming soon or who said “teaser?” or anything like that, but just keep your eyes peeled.

Here’s what they had to say:

deamons child

Deamon’s Child quit

Dear friends,

It’s hard for us to find the right words for a sad message.

The three of us decided to finish this project and go new paths.

Deamon’s child dissolves.

It feels unreal and surprising on the one hand, because we’ve just been working on new songs with passion. On the other hand, it feels consistent and authentic, because we have also realized that we want to give each other the space and take each other that we need.

We have the urge to develop, but in some points different needs. In our opinion, a compromise is not the right way here, because it would destroy what we stood and stand for. The three of us distinguishes a certain uncompromising in musical terms, whose consequence we hereby bear. Life has enough necessities, but a band is not necessary. A band should be free.

Deamon’s child came and raged with a loud bang, was allowed to grow with us and become what it is. The time has come to let go.

We will keep this band and the time we were able to experience together with you as unique in memory.

Let’s stay authentic and wild in deamon’s world. Let’s make them a better place.
Let’s stay loud and human.
Let’s be louder than hatred and stupidity of human enemies.
Let’s express together – everyone in their own way, but clearly.
Let’s stop the destruction of our livelihoods and humane values.

Deamon’s child will live on in us and naively believe in the power of the adult man. It believes to be able to take over the direction for a good life.

You hear from us.

It’s brewing, it’s trapping.

Deamon’s child will be in a better world, but we still have a lot to do here.
First we lick the wounds and then we licked blood what wants to let out.

It’s wild raw, it’s unleashed, it’s in progress.

We thank you for having accompanied us on our way.

In Respect.
In Love.
Goodbye.

Deamon’s child

Deamon’s Child were:
Ana Muhi – Bass & Gesang
Sven Missullis – Gitarre
Tim Mohr – Schlagzeug

https://www.facebook.com/deamonshome/
https://deamonschild.bandcamp.com/
http://www.deamonshome.de/

Deamon’s Child, Angstparade (2018)

Deamon’s Child, Live im Lux (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Sunn O))), Crypt Sermon, The Neptune Power Federation, Chron Goblin, Ethereal Riffian, Parasol Caravan, Golden Core, Black Smoke Omega, Liquid Orbit, Sun Below

Posted in Reviews on January 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Hey all, we made it to the final day of the Winter 2020 Quarterly Review, so congrats to ‘us’ and by us I mean myself and anyone still reading, which is probably about two or three people. On my end today is completely manic in terms of real-life, offline logistics — much to do — but no way I’m letting one last batch of 10 reviews fall by the wayside, so rest assured, by the time this goes live, it’ll be complete, even though I’ve had to swap things out as some stuff has been locked into other coverage since I first slated it. Plenty around waiting to be written up. Perpetually, it would seem.

But before we dive in, thank you for reading if you’ve caught any part of this QR. I hope your 2020 is off to an excellent start and that finding new music to love is as much a part of your next 12 months as it can possibly be.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sunn O))), Pyroclasts

sunn o pyroclasts

The narrative — because of course there’s a narrative; blessings and peace upon it — is that drone-metal progenitors Sunn O))), while in the studio recording earlier-2019’s Life Metal (review here) with Steve Albini, began each day doing a 12-minute improvised modal drone working in a different scale. They used a stopwatch to keep time. Thus the four tracks of Pyroclasts were born. They all hover around 11 minutes after editing, which settles neatly onto two vinyl sides, and it’s the rawer vision of Sunn O))), with just Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley‘s guitars, rather than some of the more elaborate arrangements which they’ve been known to undertake. That they’d put out two studio records in the same year is striking considering it had been four years since 2015’s Kannon (review here), but I think the truth of the matter is they had these tapes and decided they were worth preserving with a popular release. I wouldn’t say they were wrong, and the immersion here is a good reminder of the core appeal of Sunn O)))‘s conjured depths.

Sunn O))) on Bandcamp

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Crypt Sermon, The Ruins of Fading Light

Crypt Sermon The Ruins of Fading Light

Traditional doom rarely sounds as vital as it does in the hands of Crypt Sermon. The Philly five-piece return with The Ruins of Fading Light on Dark Descent Records as an awaited follow-up to 2015’s Out of the Garden (review here) and thereby bring forth classic metal with all the urgency of thrash and the poise of the NWOBHM. Frontman Brooks Wilson — also responsible for the album art — is in command here and with the firm backing of bassist Frank Chin and drummer Enrique Sagarnaga, guitarists Steve Jannson and James Lipczynski offer sharpened-axe riffs and solo scorch offset by passages of keyboard for an all the more epic vibe. The rolling “Christ is Dead” is pure Candlemass, but the galloping “The Snake Handler” might be the highlight of the 10-track/55-minute run, though that’s not to take away either from the Dehumanizer chug of “Key of Solomon” or the melodic reach of the closing title-track either. Take your pick, really. It’s all metal as fuck and glorious for that. If they don’t sell denim jackets, they should.

Crypt Sermon on Thee Facebooks

Dark Descent Records on Bandcamp

 

The Neptune Power Federation, Memoirs of a Rat Queen

the neptune power federation memoirs of a rat queen

“Can you dig what the Imperial Priestess is laying down?” is the central question of Memoirs of a Rat Queen, the first album from Sydney, Australia’s The Neptune Power Federation to be released through Cruz Del Sur Music, and it arrives over an ELO “Don’t Bring Me Down”-style arena rock beat on leadoff “Can You Dig?” as an intro to the rest of the LP. Strange, epic, progressive, traditional, heavy and cascading rock and roll follows, as intricate as it is immediately catchy, and whether it’s “Watch Our Masters Bleed” or “I’ll Make a Man out of You,” the Imperial Priestess Screaming Loz Sutch and company make it easy to answer in the affirmative. Arrangements are willfully over the top as “Bound for Hell” and “The Reaper Comes for Thee” engage a heavy rocker take on heavy metal’s legacy, maddened laughter and all in the latter track, which closes, and the affect on the listener is nothing less than an absolute blast — a reminder of the empowering sound of early metal on a disaffected generation in the late ’70s and early ’80s and how that same fist-pump-against-the-world has become timeless. No doubt the costumes and all that make The Neptune Power Federation striking live, but as Memoirs of a Rat Queen readily steps forward to prove, the songs are there as well.

The Neptune Power Federation on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music on Bandcamp

 

Chron Goblin, Here Before

chron goblin here before

Have Chron Goblin been here before? The title of their album speaks to a kind of creepy deja vu feeling, and that’s emblematic of the Canadian band’s move away from the party rock of their past offerings, their last LP having been Backwater (review here) 2015. Fortunately, while they seek out some new aesthetic ground, the 11 tracks of Here Before do maintain Chron Goblin‘s penchant for straight-ahead songcraft and unpretentious execution — and frankly, that wasn’t at all broken. Neither, perhaps was the let’s-get-drunk-and-bounce-around spirit of their prior work, but they sound more mature in a song like the six-minute “Ghost” and “Slipping Under” (premiered here) successfully melds the shift in presentation with the energy of their prior output. Maybe it’s still a party but we watch horror movies? I don’t know. They’ve still got “Giving in to Fun” early in the tracklisting — worth noting it follows the swaying “Oblivion” — so maybe I’m misreading the whole thing, or maybe it’s more complex than being entirely one thing or the other might allow for. Perish the thought. Either way, can’t mess with the songs.

Chron Goblin on Thee Facebooks

Chron Goblin on Bandcamp

 

Ethereal Riffian, Legends

ethereal riffian legends

Ukrainian heavy rockers Ethereal Riffian make a pointed sonic shift with their Legends album (on Robustfellow), keeping some of the grunge spirit in their melodies as the eight-minute “Moonflower” and closer “Ethereal Path” show, but in songs like “Unconquerable” and the early salvo of “Born Again,” “Dreamgazer” and “Legends” and even the second half of “Kosmic” and “Pain to Wisdom,” they let loose from some of the more meditative aspects of their past work with a fiery drive and a theme of enlightenment through political and social change. A kind of great awakening of the self. There’s still plenty of “ethereal” to go with all that “riffian” in the intro “Sage’s Alchemy,” or the first half of “Kosmic” or the CD bonus “Yeti’s Hide,” but no question the balance has tipped toward the straightforward, and the idea seems to be that the electrified feel is as much a part of the message as the message itself. The only trouble is that since putting Legends out, Ethereal Riffian called it quits to refocus their energies elsewhere in the universe. Are they really done? I’m skeptical, but if so, then at least they went out trying new things, which always seemed to be a specialty, and on a note of directly positive attitude.

Ethereal Riffian on Thee Facebooks

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

 

Parasol Caravan, Nemesis

parasol caravan nemesis

A second long-player behind 2015’s Para Solem, the eight-song/35-minute Nemesis is not only made for vinyl, but it’s made for rockers. Specifically, heavy rockers. And it’s heavy rock, for heavy rockers. Based in Linz, Austria, the double-guitar four-piece Parasol Caravan have their sound and style on lockdown, and their work, while not really keeping any secrets in terms of where it’s coming from in its ’70s-via-’90s modern take, is brought to bear with a clarity that seems particularly derived from the European heavy rock tradition. Para Solem was longer and somewhat fuzzier in tone, but the stripped down approach of the title-track at the outset and its side B counterpart, “Serpent of Time” still unfold to a swath of ground covered, whether it’s in the subdued instrumental “Acceptance” or “Transition,” which follows the driving “Blackstar” and closes the LP with a bit of a progressive metal edge. Even that has its hook, though, and that’s ultimately the point.

Parasol Caravan on Thee Facebooks

Parasol Caravan on Bandcamp

 

Golden Core, Fimbultýr

golden core fimbultyr

The title Fimbultýr translates to “mighty god” and is listed among the alternative names of Odin, which would seem to be who Oslo’s Golden Core have in mind in the leadoff title-track of their second album. Issued through Fysisk Format, it is not necessarily what one thinks of as “Viking metal” in the post-Amon Amarth or post-Enslaved context, but instead, the eight-song collection unfolds a biting modern sludge taking an edge of the earlier Mastodon lumber and bringing it to harshly-vocalized rollout. The 11-minute “Runatal” and only-seconds-shorter “Buslubben” are respective vocal points around which sides A and B of the release center, and each finds a way to give like emphasis to atmosphere and extremity, to stretch as well as pummel, and much to Golden Core‘s credit, they seem not only aware of the changes they’re presenting in their material, but in control of how and when they’re executed. The resulting linear flow of Fimbultýr, given the shifts within, isn’t to be understated as a victory on the part of the band.

Golden Core on Thee Facebooks

Fysisk Format on Bandcamp

 

Black Smoke Omega, Harbinger

Black Smoke Omega Harbinger

Harbinger may well be just that — a sign of things to come. The debut offering from Black Smoke Omega wraps progressive death-doom and gothic piano-led atmospherics around a thematic drawing from science-fiction, and while I’m not certain of the narrative being told by the Dortmund, Germany-based band, their method for telling it is fascinating. It’s not entirely seamless in its shifts, and it doesn’t seem like the band — seemingly spearheaded by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Jack Nier, though Ashley James (The Antiquity) plays guitar on “A Man without a Heart” and Michael Tjanaka brings synth/piano to “Kainé” — want it to be, but there’s no denying that by the time “Falling Awake” seems to provide some melodic resolution to the often-slow-motion tumult prior, it’s doing so by bringing the different sides together. It’s a significant journey from the raw, barking shouts on “The Black Scrawl” and the lurching-into-chug-into-lurch of “The Man without a Heart” to get there, however. But this, too, seems to be on purpose. How it all might shake out feels like a question for the next release, but Black Smoke Omega seem poised here to leave heads spinning.

Black Smoke Omega on Thee Facebooks

Black Smoke Omega on Bandcamp

 

Liquid Orbit, Game of Promises

Liquid Orbit Game of Promises

While on the surface, Liquid Orbit might be on familiar enough ground with Game of Promises for anyone who has encountered the swath of up-and-comers working in the wake of Blues Pills, the Bremen, Germany, five-piece distinguish themselves through not just the keyboard work of Anders alongside Andree‘s guitar, Ralf‘s bass, Steve‘s drums and Sylvia‘s vocals, but also the shifts between funk, boogie, and edges of doom that play out in songs like “Shared Pain” and “Please Let Her Go,” as well as the title-track, which starts side B of the Nasoni Records-issued vinyl with a highlight guitar solo and an insistent snare tap beneath that works to bring movement to what’s still one of Game of Promises‘ shorter tracks at six and a half minutes, as opposed to the earlier eight-minute-toppers on side A or the psych-prog finale “Verlorene Karawane,” which translates in English to “lost caravan” and indeed basks in some Mideastern vibe and backward-effects vocal swirl. Bottom line, if you go into it thinking you know everything you’re getting, you’re probably selling it short.

Liquid Orbit on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Sun Below, Black Volume III

Sun Below Black Volume III

As the title hints, the name-your-price Black Volume III is the third EP release from Toronto’s Sun Below. All three have been issued over roughly a year’s span, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jason Craig, drummer/backing vocalist Will Adams, bassist/backing vocalist Garrison Thordarson — who as far as I’m concerned wins this entire Quarterly Review when it comes to names; that’s an awesome name — and two have featured covers. On their debut, they took on “Dragonaut” by Sleep, and on Black Volume III, in following up the 12-minute nod-roller “Solar Burnout,” they thicken and further stonerize the catchy jaunt that is “Wires” by Red Fang. They’ve got, in other words, good taste. Black Volume III opens with “Green Visions” and thereby takes some righteous fart-fuzz for a walk both that and “Solar Burnout” show plenty of resi(n)dual Sleep influence, but honestly, it’s a self-releasing band with three dudes who sound like they’re having a really good time figuring out where they want to be in terms of sound after about a year from their first release, and if you ask anything else of Black Volume III than what it gives, you’re obviously lacking in context. Which is to say you’re fucking up. Don’t fuck up. Dig riffs instead.

Sun Below on Thee Facebooks

Sun Below on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Dommengang, Ice Dragon, Saint Karloff, Witch Trail, Love Gang, Firebreather, Karkara, Circle of Sighs, Floral Fauna, Vvlva

Posted in Reviews on January 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

We begin Day Two of the Winter 2020 Quarterly Review. Snow on the ground fell overnight and the day ahead looks as busy as ever. There’s barely time to stop for sips of coffee between records, but some allowances must be made. It’s Tuesday after all. There’s still a lot of week left. And if we can’t be kind to ourselves in the post-holiday comedown of wintry gray, when can we?

So yes, pause, sip — glug, more likely — then proceed.

I don’t usually play favorites with these things, but I think today’s might have worked out to be my favorite batch of the bunch. As always, I hope you find something that speaks to you.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Dommengang, No Keys

dommengang no keys

Driving heavy psych and rock meet with spacious Americana and a suburbanite dreaminess in Dommengang‘s No Keys, the now-L.A. trio’s follow-up to 2018’s Love Jail (review here). It is a melting pot of sound, with emphasis on melting, but vocal harmonies and consistently righteous basslines like that in “Stir the Sea” act to tie the nine component tracks together, making Dommengang‘s various washes of tone ultimately the creation of a welcoming space. Early cut “Earth Blues” follows opener “Sunny Day Flooding” with a mindful far-outbound resonance, and the later “Arcularius – Burke” finds itself in a linear building pattern ahead of “Jerusalem Cricket,” which reimagines ’70s country rock as something less about nostalgia than forward possibility. Having come far on their apparently keyboard-less journey, from the breadth-casting verses of “Stir the Sea” to the doomy interlude “Blues Rot,” they end with “Happy Death (Her Blues II)” which sure as hell sounds like it has some organ on it. Either way, whether they live up to the standard of the title or not is secondary to the album’s actual achievements, which are significant, and distinguish Dommengang from would-be peers in atmosphere, craft and melody.

Dommengang on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records on Bandcamp

 

Ice Dragon, Passage of Mind

ice dragon passage of mind

Though they don’t do it nearly as often as they did between 2012 and 2015, every now and then Boston’s Ice Dragon manage to sneak out a new release. Over the last few years, that’s been a succession of singles, but Passage of Mind is their first LP since 2015’s A Beacon on the Barrow (review here), and though they’ll always in some part be thought of as a doom band, the unassuming organic psychedelia of “Don’t Know Much but the Road” reminds more of Chris Goss‘ work with Masters of Reality in its acoustic/fuzz blend and melody. The experimentalism-prone outfit have been down this avenue before as well, and it suits them, even as members have moved on to other projects (Brass Hearse among them), with the seven-minute “One of These Days” basing itself around willfully simplistic-sounding intertwining lines of higher and lower fuzz. There are moments of serenity, like closer “Dream About You” and “Sun in My Eyes,” but “The Sound the Rain Makes” is more of a blowout, and even the darker vibe of “Delirium’s Tears” holds hits melody as top priority. Hey guess what? Here’s an Ice Dragon album that deserves more attention than it’s gotten. I think it’s the 12th one.

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Saint Karloff, Interstellar Voodoo

Saint Karloff Interstellar Voodoo

Oslo’s Saint Karloff squash the high standard they set for themselves on their 2018 debut, All Heed the Black God (review here), with the 41-minute single-song long-player Interstellar Voodoo, basking in bluesy Sabbathian grandeur and keeping a spirit of progressive adventuring beneath without giving over entirely to self-indulgent impulses any more than one could as they careen from one movement to the next in the multi-stage work. With vinyl through Majestic Mountain Records, tape on Stoner Witch Records and CD through Ozium Records, they’re nothing if not well represented, and rightly so, as they veer in and out of psychedelic terrain in exciting and periodically elephantine fashion, still making room for classic Scandi-folk boogie on side A before the second half of the track stomps all over everything that’s come before it en route to its own organ-laced jammy meandering, Iommi shuffle and circa-’74 howl. As a new generation of doom rock begins to take shape, Saint Karloff position themselves well as earlier pursuers of an individualist spirit while still drawing of course on classic sources of inspiration. The first record was encouraging. The second is more so. The third will be the real tell of who they are as a band.

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Majestic Mountain Records webstore

 

Witch Trail, The Sun Has Left the Hill

witch trail the sun has left the hill

The jangling guitar strum in centerpiece “Lucid” on Witch Trail‘s The Sun Has Left the Hill (Consouling Sounds) has the indelible mark of classic rock and roll freedom to it. One wonders if Pete Townshend would recognize it, or if it’s too far blasted into oblivion by the Belgian trio’s aesthetic treatment across The Sun Has Left the Hill‘s convention-challenging 29-minute span, comprising seven tracks that bring together a heavy alternative rock and post-black metal vision marked by spacious echoes and cavern screams that are likewise tortured and self-assured. That is to say, there’s no mistaking the intent here. In the early intensity of “Watcher” or the shimmering and more patiently unfolding “Silent Running,” the Ghent three-piece mark out their stylistic terrain between bursts of noisy chaotic wash and clearheaded execution. The six-minute “Afloat” hisses like a lost demo that would’ve rewritten genre history some 25 years ago, and even in closer “Residue,” one can’t help but feel like Witch Trail are indeed looking to leave some lasting effect behind them with such forward-thinking craft. Sure to be a shock for those who take it on with no idea of what to expect.

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Consouling Sounds website

 

Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game

love gang dead mans game

Shortly before Love Gang are halfway through the opening title-track of their debut album, Dead Man’s Game, just when you think you might have their blend of organ-laced Radio Moscow and Motörhead figured out, that’s when Leo Muñoz breaks out the flute and the whole thing takes a turn for the unexpected. Surprises abound from the Denver foursome of Muñoz (who also handles organ and sax), guitarist/vocalist Kam Wentworth, bassist Grady O’Donnell and drummer Shaun Goodwin, who find room for psychedelic airiness amidst the gallop of “Addiction,” which doesn’t seem coincidentally paired with “Break Free,” though the two don’t run together. Love Gang‘s 2016 self-titled EP (review here) had a cleaner production and less aggro throb, and there’s some of that on Dead Man’s Game in the peaceful melody of “Interlude,” but even seven-minute closer “Endless Road” makes a point of finishing at a rush, and that’s ultimately what defines the album. No complaints. Love Gang wield momentum as another element of inventive arrangement on this encouraging first long-player.

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Firebreather, Under a Blood Moon

firebreather under a blood moon

‘Tis the stuff of battle axes and severed limbs, but it’s worth noting that three of the six inclusions on Firebreather‘s second LP and first for RidingEasy Records, Under a Blood Moon, have some reference to fire in their title. The follow-up to their brazen 2017 self-titled debut (review here) starts with its longest track (immediate points) in the nine-minute “Dancing Flames,” then follows immediately with “Our Souls, They Burn” and launches side B with the eponymous “Firebreather,” as the Gothenburg trio of Mattias Nööjd, Kyle Pitcher and Axel Wittbeck launch their riffy, destructive assault with urgency that earns all that scarred land left in its wake. The High on Fire comparison remains inevitable, perhaps most of all on “Firebreather” itself, but Firebreather have grown thicker in tone, meaner in approach and do nothing to shy away from the largesse that such a sound might let them convey, as “Our Souls, They Burn” and in the volume surges of closer “The Siren.” Under a Blood Moon is a definite forward step from the first LP, showing an evolving sound and burgeoning individuality that one hopes Firebreather continue to hunt down with such vigilance.

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RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

 

Karkara, Crystal Gazer

karkara crystal gazer

Presented through Stolen Body Records, the debut long-player from French trio Karkara purports to be “Oriental psych rock,” which accounts for an Eastern influence in the overall sound of its seven-track/41-minute run, but there are perhaps some geographical questions to be undertaken there, as “Camel Rider” and others show a distinctive Mideastern flair. Whatever works, I guess. At its core, Crystal Gazer is a work of psychedelic space rock, brought to bear with a duly open sensibility by guitarist/vocalist Karim Rihani (also didgeridoo), bassist Hugo Olive and drummer/vocalist Maxime Marouani as seemingly the beginning stages of a broader sonic adventure. That is to say, the stylistic aspects at play here — and they are very much “at play” — feel purposefully used, but like the foundation of what will be future growth on the part of Karkara as a unit. Will they progress along a more patient and meditative path, as “The Way” hints in some of its early roll, or will the frenetic winding of closer “Jedid” set their course for subsequent freakouts? I don’t know, but Karkara strike as a band who won’t see any point to standing still creatively any more than they do to doing so rhythmically.

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Stolen Body Records website

 

Circle of Sighs, Desolate

circle of sighs desolate

Information is limited on Circle of Sighs, and by that I primarily mean I don’t have any. They list their point of origin as Los Angeles, so there’s that, but as to the whos and whats, wheres and so on, it’s a mystery. Something tells me that suits the band, whose four-track debut EP, Desolate, gracefully executes a blend of melodic downerism with more extreme elements at play, melodic vocal arrangements offset by screams in the closing title-track after the prior rolling groove of “Burden of the Flesh” offered a progressive and synth-laden take on Pallbearer-style emotive doom. Acoustics, keyboard, and a clear use of multiple singers give Circle of Sighs‘ first outing a kitchen-sink feel, but one can only admire them for trying something new at their (presumed) outset, and the catchy chug of “Hold Me, Lucifer” speaks to more complex aesthetic origins than the simplistic subject matter might lead one to believe. The outlier is the penultimate nine-minute cut “Kukeri,” which broods across its first three minutes in a manner that would make Patrick Walker proud before unfolding the breadth of its lumber and arrangement, harmonies and screams and the first real showcase of more extreme impulses taking hold in its second half — plus strings, maybe — which “Desolate” itself will build upon after a bookending acoustic close. There’s some sorting out to do in terms of sound, but already they show a readiness to push in their own direction, and that’s more than it would seem reasonable to ask.

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Floral Fauna, Pink and Blue

floral fauna pink and blue

Way out west, Chris Allison of the band Lord Loud is taking on psychedelic shimmer under the ostensible solo moniker of Floral Fauna, but the situation of the project’s 11-tracker debut LP, Pink and Blue is more complicated in personnel and style than that, melding fuzzy presence, classic ’60s surf-tone, rampant hooky melody and ready-to-go-anywhere-as-long-as-it-works pop experimentalism together in a steaming lysergic cauldron of neo-yourface-ism that’s ether blissed enough to tie funk and ancient R&B to cosmic flow together in a manner that feels like an utter tossoff, like, hey, yeah man, this kind of thing just happens all the time here. You know, no big deal on this wavelength. Mellow dreams in “Great White Silence,” a spacey ramble in “Velvet and Jade” and the echoing leadwork of “Red Anxiety” continue the color theme from the opening title-track, and the record caps with “Herds of Jellyfish,” which at last brings forward the vocal harmony that the whole album seems to have been begging for. Cool debut? Shit, man. It’s 36 minutes of straight-up psych joy just waiting to bring you on board. Legal psilocybin now.

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King Volume Records on Bandcamp

 

Vvlva, Silhouettes

vvlva silhouettes

There are a couple things you can figure on in this wacky universe, and one of them is that German imprint World in Sound knows what it’s doing when it picks up a classic heavy rock band. Silhouettes is the second long-player the label has released from woefully-monikered Aschaffenburg-based four-piece Vvlva, and indeed in the upfront boogie of “Cosmic Pilgrim” or the more progressive unfolding of pieces like “Tales Told by a Gray Man,” the centerpiece “Gomorrah,” or the longer “Night by Night/The Choir” and “Dance of the Heathens,” which seem to bring the two sides together, there’s enough vintage influence to make the case once again. Like the more forward thinking of their contemporaries, Vvlva have brought this modus into the present when it comes to production value and clarity, and rather than sound like it’s 1973, they would seem to be making 1973 sound like them. Whether one dives in for the early hooks in “Cosmic Pilgrim” or “What Do I Stand For?” or the fuzzy interplay between the solo and organ in the maddeningly bouncing “Hobos,” there’s plenty in Silhouettes to demonstrate the vitality and continued evolution of the style.

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World in Sound website

 

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Quarterly Review: Mos Generator, Psychic Lemon, Planet of Zeus, Brass Hearse, Mother Turtle, The Legendary Flower Punk, Slow, OKO, Vug, Ultracombo

Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’d like to hope y’all know the drill by now. It’s the Quarterly Review. We do it (roughly) every quarter. The idea is 10 reviews per day for a Monday to Friday span, running 50 total. I sometimes do more. Sometimes not. Kind of depends on the barrage and how poorly I’ve been doing in general with keeping up on stuff. This time is ‘just’ 50, so there you go. You’ll see some bigger names this week and some stuff that’s come my way of late that I’ve been digging and wanting to check out. It’s a lot of rock, which I like, and a few things I’m writing about basically as a favor to myself because, you know, self-care and all that.

But staring down the barrel of 50 reviews over the next few days has me as apprehensive and how-the-hell-is-this-gonna-happen as ever, so I think I’ll just get to it and jump in. No time to waste.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Mos Generator, Exiles

mos generator exiles

Worth it just for the Sabbath cover? Most definitely. As Mos Generator take on “Air Dance” from Never Say Die as part of the Glory or Death Records LP compilation release, Exiles, they blend the proggy swagger of later-’70s Iommi leads with the baseline acoustic guitar fluidity that makes those final Ozzy-era records so appealing in hindsight. It’s just one of the six reasons to take on Exiles however. The A side comprises three outtakes from 2018’s Shadowlands (review here), and guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed‘s Big Scenic Nowhere bandmate Bob Balch sits in on “Battah,” while a duly manic reworking of Van Halen‘s “Light up the Sky,” the Black Sabbath track and a live version of Rush‘s “Anthem” from 2016 make up side B. It’s a quick listen and it’s Mos Generator. It may be a stopgap on the way to whatever they’re doing next, but if you think about it, so is everything, and that’s no reason not to jump in either for the covers or the originals, both of which are up to the band’s own high standard of output.

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Glory or Death Records on Bandcamp

 

Psychic Lemon, Freak Mammal

psychic lemon freak mammal

The distorted wails of Andy Briston‘s guitar echo out of Freak Mammal — the five-track/46-minute third LP from London’s Psychic Lemon — like a clarion to the lysergic converted. A call to prayer for those worshiping the nebulous void, not so much kept to earth by Andy Hibberd‘s bass and Martin Law‘s drums as given a solidified course toward the infinite far out. Of course centerpiece “Afrotropic Bomb” digs into some Ethiopian groove — that particular shuffling mania — and I won’t take away from the lower buzz of “Free Electron Collective” or the tense hi-hat cutting through all that tonal wash or the ultra-spaced blowout that caps six-minute finale “White Light,” but give me the self-aware mellower jaunt that is the 13-minute second track “Seeds of Tranquility” any day, following opener “Dark Matter” as it does with what would be a blissful drift but for the exciting rhythmic work taking place beneath the peaceful guitar, and the later synthesized voices providing a choral melody that seems all the more playfully grandiose, befitting the notion of Freak Mammal as a ceremony or at very least some kind of lost ritual. Someday they’ll dig up the right pyramid and call the aliens back. Until then, Psychic Lemon let us imagine what might happen after they return.

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Drone Rock Records website

 

Planet of Zeus, Faith in Physics

PLANET OF ZEUS FAITH IN PHYSICS

There’s a context of social commentary to Planet of ZeusFaith in Physics that makes one wonder if perhaps the title doesn’t refer to gravity in terms of what-goes-up-must-come-down as it might apply to class hierarchy. The mighty, ready to fall, and so on. Songs like the post-Clutch fuzz roller “Man vs. God” and “Revolution Cookbook” (video premiere here) would seem to support that idea, but one way or the other, as the later “Let Them Burn” digs into a hook that reminds of Killing Joke and the dense bass of eight-minute closer “King of the Circus” provides due atmospheric madness for our times, there’s a sense of grander statement happening across the album. The Athens-based outfit make a centerpiece of the starts and stops in “All These Happy People” and remind that whatever the message, the medium remains top quality heavy rock and roll songcraft, which is something they’ve become all the more reliable to deliver. The more pointed perspective than they showed on 2016’s Loyal to the Pack suits them, but it’s the nuance of electronics and arrangements of vocals and guitar on cuts like “The Great Liar” that carry them through here. If you believe in gravity, Planet of Zeus have plenty on offer.

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Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Brass Hearse, Oneiric Afterlife

brass hearse oneiric afterlife

Experimentalist keyboard-laced psychedelic goth your thing? Well, of course it is. You’re in luck then as Brass Hearse — an offshoot of once madly prolific Boston outfit Ice Dragon — unveil three new songs (plus an intro) with the Oneiric Afterlife and in 10 minutes work to unravel about 30 years of genre convention while still tying their material to memorable hooks. “Bleed Neon,” “Indigo Dust” and “Only Forever” seem simple on the surface, and none of them touch four minutes long, let alone “A Gesture to Make a Stop,” the 26-second introduction, but their refusal of stylistic constraint is as palpable as it is admirable, with a blend of folk guitar and dark-dance-party keys and percussive insistence on “Bleed Neon” and a ’60s Halloweeny rock organ line in “Only Forever” that’s complemented by low-end fuzz and a chorus that would rightly embarrass Ghost if they heard it. In comparison, “Indigo Dust” is serene in its presentation, but even there is a depth of arrangement of keys, guitar, bass and drums, and the skill tying it all together as a cohesive sound is not to be understated. A quick listen with a lot to unpack, it’s not going to be everyone’s thing, but those who get it will be hit hard and rightly so.

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Mother Turtle, Three Sides to Every Story

mother turtle three sides to every story

The first of three tracks on Greek progwinders Mother Turtle‘s fourth LP, Three Sides to Every Story, “Zigu Zigu,” would seem to cap with a message of congratulations: “You’ve listened to three musicians indulging themselves with some kind of weird instrumental music.” It then goes on to question its own instrumentalism, because it has the words presently being spoken, continuing in this manner until a long fadeout of guitar leads to the funky start of the 15-minute-long “Notwatch.” Good fun, in other words. Mother Turtle maybe aren’t so weird as they think they are, but they are duly adventurous and obviously joyful in their undertaking, bringing chants in over drifting guitar and synth swirl in “Notwatch” before building to a crescendo of rock guitar and organ, ultimately dominated by a solo as it would almost have to be, before intertwining piano lines in 16:46 closer “A Christmas Postcard from Kim” lead to further shenanigans, vocal experimentation, plays on metal, holiday shimmer, and a fade into the close. At 38 minutes, Three Sides to Every Story doesn’t at all overstay its welcome, but neither is it an exercise looking for audience engagement in the traditional sense. Rather, it resonates its glee through its offbeat sensibility and thus works on its own level to craft a hook. One can’t help but smile while listening to the fun being had.

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Sound Effect Records website

 

The Legendary Flower Punk, Wabi Wu

The Legendary Flower Punk Wabi Wu

It is something to consider, perhaps as you dive into the nine-minute “Prince Mojito” on The Legendary Flower Punk‘s Wabi Wu, that the band started as a psych-folk solo-project. Currently working as a core trio plus a range of guests, the Russian troupe make their debut on Tonzonen with the brazenly prog seven-tracker, totaling just a 44-minute run but with a range that would seem to be much broader. Alternately jazzy and synth-laden, technically intricate but never overly showy, pieces like the bass-led “Azulejo” and the penultimate “Trance Fusion På Ryska” present a meeting of the minds with founding guitarist Kamille Sharapodinov at the center of most compositions, he and bassist Mike Lopakov and drummer Nick Kunavin digging into nothing’s-off-limits textures from fusion onward through New Wave and dub. The abiding rule followed seems to be whatever moves the band about a given track is what they roll with, and though The Legendary Flower Punk has evolved well beyond its origins, there’s still a bit of flower and still a bit of punk amid all the legends being made. Good luck keeping up with it.

The Legendary Flower Punk on Bandcamp

Tonzonen Records website

 

Slow, VI – Dantalion

Slow VI Dantalion

With the follow-up to 2018’s V – Oceans (review here), Belgian duo Slow rattle off another 78 minutes of utterly consuming, crushing, atmospheric and melancholic funeral doom like it’s absolutely nothing. Well, not like it’s nothing — more like it’s a weight on their very soul — but even so. Issued through Aural Music, VI – Dantlion brings the two-piece of guitarist/vocalist/drummer Déhà and bassist/lyricist Lore B. once again into the grueling, megalithic churn of self-inflicted riff-punishment that’s so encompassing, so dark, so deep and so dramatic it almost can’t help but also be beautiful. To wit, second track “Lueur” is a 17-minute downward journey into ambient brutalism, yet as it moves toward the midsection one can still hear melodic elements of keyboard and orchestral sounds peaking through. There is letup in the lush finale “Elégie,” but to get there, you have to make your way through “Incendiaire,” which is possibly the most extreme movement of the seven inclusions. Though frankly, after a while, you’re buried so far down by Slow‘s glorious miseries that it’s hard to tell. The world needs this band. They are what humanity would sound like if it was ever honest with itself.

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Aural Music on Bandcamp

 

OKO, Haze

oko haze

Adelaide, Australia, newcomers OKO present their debut EP in the form of Haze, a 14:44 single-song outing that sees the instrumental three-piece of guitarist Nick Nancarrow, bassist Tyson Ruch and drummer Ash Matthews tap into organic heavy psych vibes while working cross-planet with Justin Pizzoferrato (known for his work with Elder, among others) on the mix and master. The resulting one-tracker has a clarity in its drum sound and clean feel that one suspects might speak of more progressive intentions on the part of OKO in the longer term, but as they are here they have a sense of tonal warmth that serves them well across the unpretentious span of “Haze” itself, the winding riff inevitably bringing to mind some of Colour Haze‘s jammier work but still managing to find its own direction. I hear no reason OKO can’t do the same, regardless of the influences they’re working under in terms of sound. Further, the longform modus suits them, and while future work will inherently develop some variety in general approach, the natural exploration they undertake on this first outing easily holds attention for its span and is fluid enough that, had they wanted, they could have pushed it further.

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OKO website

 

Vug, Onyx

vug onyx

Vug are not the first European heavy rock band to blend vintage methods with modern production. They’re not the first band to take classic swagger and drum urgency and meld it with a pervasive sense of vocal soul. I’m not sure I’d tell them that though, because frankly, they’re doing pretty well with it. At its strongest, their Tonzonen-released sophomore outing, Onyx, recalls Thin Lizzy via, yes, Graveyard, but there’s enough clarity of intention behind the work to make it plain they know where they’re coming from. Such was the case as well with their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and though they’ve had some lineup turnover since that first offering, the self-produced four-piece bring a character to their material on songs like “Tired Of” and the penultimate boogier “Inferno” before closing with the acoustic “Todbringer” — a mirror of side A’s “On My Own” — that they carry the classic-style 39-minute long-player off without a hitch, seeming to prep the heavy ’10s for a journey into a new decade.

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Noisolution webstore

 

Ultracombo, Season 1

Ultracombo Season 1

As the title hints, the Season 1 EP is the debut from Italy’s Ultracombo, and with it, the five-piece of vocalist Alessio Guarda, guitarists Alberto Biasin and Giordano Tasson, bassist Giordano Pajarin and drummer Flavio Gola work quickly to build the forward momentum that brings them front-to-back through the 23-minute five-track release. “Flusso” and opener “The King” feel particularly drawn from an earlier Truckfighters influence, but Guarda‘s vocals are a distinguishing factor amidst all that ensuing fuzz and straight-ahead drive, and in “Sparatutto” and the closer “Il Momento in Cui Non Penso,” they seem to strip their approach to its most basic aspects and bring together the tonal thickness and melodicism that’s been at root in their sound overall. The subtlety, such as it is, is to be found in their songwriting, which results in tracks that transcend language barriers through sheer catchiness. That bodes better for them on subsequent outings better than a wall o’ fuzz ever could, though of course that doesn’t hurt them either, especially their first time out.

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Zone Six, Kozmik Koon: What’s in a Name?

Posted in Reviews on January 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Zone Six Kozmik Koon

To immediately address the giant psychedelic-neon-rainbow-swirl-pattern elephant in the room: the title of the latest Zone Six LP is, yes, Kozmik Koon. In addition to apparently being Persian for “ass” — thank you, internet — the fact that the word “koon” and more commonly the iteration thereof spelled with a ‘c’ is a racist slur in the US makes it something of an eye-catcher in far from the best way. I’ve been hesitant to review the album because, well, it’s called Kozmik Koon. I’ll come right out and say I don’t think Zone Six are trying to be racists or discriminatory in any way. I haven’t met guitarist Rainer Neeff (also The Pancakes), but I’ve been in touch with drummer/synthesist/keyboardist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (also of Electric Moon, Krautzone, etc., and the head of Sulatron Records) he and bassist/synthesist/sometimes-vocalist/noisemaker “Komet Lulu” Neudeck (also of Electric Moon and Krautzone) are hippies. Jammers. I’m going to go out on a limb and give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t know other countries’ slurs and that the title Kozmik Koon, as they have said, derives from the fact that where they live has a lot of raccoons. Combine that with homage to Kozmik Ken who runs Kozfest, and boom, Kozmik Koon. The initial optic? Not great. But with even a modicum of digging, it’s readily explained by the band where they’re coming from, and sometimes across different languages misunderstandings happen. I’ve always wondered how to say “ass” in Persian.

With cover art by Ulla Papel, who also did the cover for Electric Moon‘s 2012 outing, Doomsday Machine (review here), and who’s also Lulu‘s father, Kozmik Koon is the second Zone Six studio LP since the band made a return after 11 years with 2015’s Love Monster (review here). They’ve had a few live outings, including 2017’s Forever Hugo (review here) and Live Spring 2017 (review here), as well as a 2018 split with New Zealand’s Arc of Ascent (review here), but a studio album from Zone Six doesn’t happen every day, and indeed, Kozmik Koon collects five tracks comprised of recordings produced and mixed by Schmidt from a period between 2015 and 2018, resulting in a 44-minute long-player that’s distinguished particularly for its emotional resonance despite being almost if not entirely instrumental — that is, if there’s voice here, it’s atmospheric singing mixed into the slow-churning space-rock fray, rather than clear lyrics in verses. Nonetheless, across the two longer-form openers “Maschinenseele” (12:53) and “Kozmik Koon” (10:58) and the closer “Song for Richie” (13:52) — which opens with a sample of Timothy Leary’s “turn on, tune in, drop out” speech and is dedicated to a friend of the band who passed away — as well as the two shorter pieces that separate that initial salvo from the finale, “Raum” and “Still,” both of which hover around three and a half minutes, Zone Six harness a progressive sense not only of composition in Neeff‘s guitar work but in the lush melodies in electric piano, synth, Mellotron, and so on, that surround.

zone six

There are moments that feel referential in the keyboard line in the later reaches of the title-track and in the soaring guitar of “Song for Richie,” but Zone Six‘s primary impact is hypnotic and their modus cleverly avoids some of jam-based heavy psychedelia’s most prevalent traps in terms of structure. First and foremost, it doesn’t get stuck in a linear build. NeeffNeudeck and Schmidt bring together plenty of dynamic throughout, from the explorations of “Maschinenseele” to the drone-minded centerpiece “Raum,” but it’s not just about starting quiet and getting louder as they go. Rather, the longer pieces that comprise the bulk of the record each seem to find their own way through shifts of volume and meter, and the feeling is organic as they move toward and into more active and more ambient sections. It is less pointedly improv-sounding than what Schmidt and Neudeck do with Electric Moon, but the depth of the mix is such that a feeling of spontaneity persists just the same, with the drums as a careful anchor punctuating the drift of “Maschinenseele” and the uptempo space rock in the first half of the title-cut, which hits with enough of an underlying Hawkwindian spirit to remind of some of The Heads‘ outbound scorch. These are not vibes easily tamed, and Zone Six are only so interested in taming them in the first place, but the album is, again, not without purpose, and its emotional expression, particularly in the quiet “Still” and “Song for Richie,” comes across in palpable fashion even without the direct aid of lyrics.

“Still” has a bouncing keyboard line that’s still somehow wistful and calls to mind a more patient take on ’70s prog, but devolves into effects ahead of drifting into silence before “Song for Richie” starts with a volume swell of guitar drone, and very much turns out to be a piece led by Neeff‘s soloing. There’s little doubt that “Song for Richie,” as well as “Kozmik Koon” and the opener before it are based on jams, and “Still” and “Raum” have an in-studio-experimentalist vibe as well, but they have been fleshed out with effects and synth and keys, and thereby carry more of a worked-on feel rather than the straight-ahead rawness that sometimes persists in the style (nothing against it), adding to the underlying feeling of intent. Though mastered by Eroc, perhaps the real credit should go to Schmidt on establishing the mix of all the elements at play. A vast sonic breadth is laid out across “Maschinenseele” and only continues to spread wider as the LP plays out, and even as “Song for Richie” pushes through its apex at around 10 minutes in, there is as much depth to factor in as there is sheer energy of performance. It is that much more, then, for the listener to dive into, and whether one chooses to lose one’s head in its trance-inducing, let-me-lead-you-from-this-place-to-another-place psychedelic meander, or to peel through the layers of nuance and drone and “which manner of synthesizer just made that noise again?,” Kozmik Koon delivers the kind of engagement one could only expect from masters of the form, and with a history stretching back some 23 years, Zone Six are most certainly that. What’s in a name? Plenty. But there’s even more when one actually listens.

Zone Six, Kozmik Koon (2019)

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