Isis Call it Quits; Announce New EP and Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 19th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

There are numerous reactions I could have to the following announcement that Isis has broken up. Here is a sampler:

There’s the snide: “That’s about five years too late.”

There’s the sad: “Well that’s a bummer, they did some great work (and they did).”

The realistic: “See you in three years, guys.”

The observant: “Funny how they say they want the music to do the talking in the middle of one of the biggest paragraphs I’ve ever seen.”

The critical: “They must have gotten tired of always being second fiddle to Neurosis.”

And the fanboy: “Oh nooooooooooes!!!!111!!!!!1!!”

However you feel about them, there’s no denying that a couple Isis albums have had a huge influence on the metal that’s come since, and on that level, it’s too bad to hear they won’t be making music together anymore. On the other hand, this is by no means the saddest news I’ve heard this week, so perhaps I’m just taking it with levity because everything’s relative. Whatever the case, here’s the statement from the band via the PR wire:

ISIS has reached an end. It’s hard to try to say it in any delicate way, and it is a truth that is best spoken plainly. This end isn’t something that occurred overnight and it hasn’t been brought about by a single cataclysmic fracture in the band. Simply put, ISIS has done everything we wanted to do, said everything we wanted to say. In the interest of preserving the love we have of this band, for each other, for the music made and for all the people who have continually supported us, it is time to bring it to a close. We’ve seen too many bands push past the point of a dignified death and we all promised one another early on in the life of the band that we would do our best to ensure ISIS would never fall victim to that syndrome. We’ve had a much longer run than we ever expected we would and accomplished a great deal more than we ever imagined possible. We never set any specific goals when the band was founded other than to make the music we wanted to hear and to play (and to stay true to that ideal), so everything else that has come along the long and winding path has been an absolute gift. As with any momentous life-changing decision (which this certainly is for the five of us), we feel a very dynamic range of emotions about this and cannot express all of it within the space of a few sentences, and perhaps it’s best to do what we’ve always done and let our music speak for us. It is and has been the truest expression of who we are as a collective and in some ways who we are as individuals for the 13 years in which we’ve been together. The last and perhaps most important thing we might say in relation to all this is how grateful we are for the people that have supported us over the years. It is a lengthy list that would include those who put out our records, those that played on them and put them to tape, the many bands with whom we shared the stage, all of our family, friends and companions who supported us in our individual lives and thus made it possible for us to continue on in the band, and most importantly those who truly listened to our music whether in recorded form or by coming to out to our shows (or both). It is quite true that we would never have done what we have without those people, that is many of you who are reading this. Our words can never fully express what we feel, but we hope that our music and the efforts made to bring it into being can serve as a more proper expression of gratitude for this life and for everyone in it. Thank you.

In more immediate and practical terms the tour we are about to embark upon is indeed our last. We are hoping that these final live rituals can help us bring a close to the life of this band in a celebratory and reverent way, and also provide us with a chance to say goodbye to many of those that have supported us over the years. While there is a measure of sadness that comes with the passing of this band, we hope that the final days can be joyous ones during which any and all that wish to come and join us will do so. It seems fitting that the last show of the tour and of our active existence will take place in Montreal, the site of the very first ISIS show in 1997 (though that was an unintentional move when booking the show initially). After the tour we also plan to follow through with other projects set in motion some time ago — pursuing the completion of a final EP, compiling live audio and visual material for future releases, and generally doing whatever we can to make our music available for as long as there are people who wish to hear it.

Thanks again to any and all,

ISIS, May 18 2010

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Torche Got Robbed by Assholes

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

I know I’m taking a pretty strong stand here, and that my opinion might be controversial, but I have to say it: I am AGAINST robbing bands on tour. I don’t think it’s right, and I don’t think it’s the way nature intends mankind to behave.

There, I said it. I feel better. Really.

In all seriousness, you’ve got to be one serious fuckhead to rob a band on tour. Especially a band like Torche. I mean, go ahead, steal Saliva‘s shit. They didn’t pay for it, half those cabinets are empty, and they suck anyway. But to rob Torche while they’re sleeping after a show? That’s a special brand of asshole.

Here’s a note from the band via the PR wire:

After our Chicago show at the Congress Theater on May 14 between 1:30AM and 4:00AM our van was broken into while parked in front of Goethe Elementary and a bunch of equipment was stolen. Items taken include music equipment, personal items/luggage, band/personal checkbook, cameras, laptop, and passports.

The following items were taken:
* Custom Electrical Guitar Company bass w/hardcase #220
* First Act custom bass w/hardcase serial number # JN-0901002
* Black Gibson Custom Les Paul w/SKB hardcase
(has chip on the top L side of headstock, visible neck repair on top side of the neck,
may have missing paint opposite vol and tone knobs if sticker was removed).
* Custom woodfinish guitar w/hardcase
* Acoustic 370 Bass Head
* 2 x SKB PS25 pedal boards
* 2 x Boss tuning pedals
* MXR Phase 90
* Boss DD5 pedal
* Boss guitar EQ pedal
* Custom 3 way amp selector (metallic blue)
* Fulltone OCD pedal
* Aguilar Tone Hammer pedal
* Boss Bass EQ pedal
* Shure Beta 57
* Misc Mogami, Monster, and George L’s cable
* Suitcase style 7 space guitar stand
* Black iPod Touch
* Black Compaq Presario laptop
* Nikon Blue Coolpix camera
* Sony CyberShot camera
* Garmin 205W GPS
* Black Luggage containing: tubes, guitar strings, instrument cables, speaker cables, tuning pegs, surge protectors.

If you know anyone in the Chicago area we’d appreciate any help in spreading the word.


Since the band had their passports stolen and are unable to join Coheed and Cambria and Circa Survive in Canada, Torche have assembled some last-minute house shows until they’re able to meet back up with the tour. Please go out and support the band, and if you’re feeling extra generous, you can make a donation here.

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Torche Continue Their Never-Ending Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 23rd, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Yeah, sure, Torche have just launched on a month-long US tour — nothing really new there — and I guess Hydra Head is going to issue the split they did with Boris, but the below info from the PR wire (oh, PR wire, how I missed you) also subtly drops the news that the band just finished a new recording. Doesn’t say of what sort, EP, LP or other, but whatever Torche has got that’s new is fine by me. Check it out:

Kicking off this week, Miami‘s Torche will head out on a month-long US tour supporting Coheed and Cambria and Circa Survive. The tour will span both coasts, travel throughout the Midwest, and head to select cities in the Great White North.

In addition, Torche and Hydra Head have announced the band’s new split release with Boris, Chapter Ahead Being Fake, which will see the light of day on June 29th on 10″ vinyl.

And since teasing is our sort of our thing, the band just finished self-recording their next batch of hits for release late August 2010… but we’ll tell you more about that later…

Torche live w/ Coheed and Cambria and Circa Survive:
04/22/10 Charlotte, NC. @ The Fillmore Charlotte

04/23/10 Atlanta, GA. @ Tabernacle

04/24/10 Lake Buena Vista, FL. @ House of Blues (Orlando)
04/25/10 Lauderdale, FL. @ Revolution

04/27/10 Houston, TX. @ Warehouse Live

04/28/10 Austin, TX. @ Stubb’s BBQ
04/29/10 Dallas, TX. @ Palladium Ballroom
04/30/10 Tulsa, OK. @ Cain’s Ballroom
05/01/10 Oklahoma City, OK @ Diamond Ballroom

05/03/10 Tempe, AZ. @ Marquee Theatre

05/04/10 Pomona, CA. @ The Fox Theatre
05/05/10 San Francisco, CA. @ The Warfield

05/07/10 Portland, OR. @ Roseland Theater

05/08/10 Seattle, WA. @ Showbox SoDo
05/10/10 Murray, UT. @ Murray Theater
05/11/10 Denver, CO. @ Ogden Theatre
05/13/10 Minneapolis, MN. @ First Avenue
05/14/10 Chicago, IL. @ Congress Theatre
05/15/10 Royal Oak, MI. @ Royal Oak Music Theatre
05/17/10 Boston, MA. @ House of Blues
05/18/10 Montreal, QC. @ Metropolis
05/19/10 Toronto, ON. @ The Sound Academy
05/22/10 Philadelphia, PA. @ The Electric Factory
05/26/10 New York, NY. @ Rumsey Playfield
05/27/10 Washington, DC. @ 9:30 Club
05/28/10 Washington, DC. @ 9:30 Club
07/31/10 Chicago, IL. @ Subterranean * no Coheed or Circa Survive

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Kayo Dot Let the Horns Do the Howling

Posted in Reviews on April 13th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Sometimes it feels as though words like “experimental” were invented solely for critics to hide behind and explain away any bouts of unconventional creativity they may come across. “What do you mean this doesn’t have a chorus???” etc. Then sometimes you run into a collective like New York’s Kayo Dot, whose leader Toby Driver seems to have, by means of his output with the band, inserted himself into a lineage of avant-garde musicians that can be traced back over the last half-century to artists like John Coltrane and Peter Brötzmann all the way down to John Zorn and King Crimson’s proggy ramblings.

The latter is brought specifically to mind with Driver’s Adrian Belew-style vocal on “Calonyction Girl,” the opening track of Kayo Dot’s fourth studio album, Coyote (Hydra Head). Driver also handles bass duties throughout, but he’s by no means the whole show on the album. With both alto and tenor sax – courtesy of Daniel Means and Terran Olson, respectively – Tim Byrnes’ trumpet, David Bodie’s sundry percussives and the contributions of longtime member Mia Matsumiya on violin and guitar, Kayo Dot is as much a band on Coyote as it ever was. Each member has a specific role to play in the ultimately surprising and oddly engaging outcome.

Disjointed instrumentation is toyed with toward the latter moments of “Whisper Ineffable,” particularly between Byrnes on trumpet and Driver on bass, but there are also subtle injections of noise and drums throughout that confirm once again that nothing is ever simple with Kayo Dot. I’m not at all convinced Coyote has a straightforward moment, “Abyss Hinge 1: Sleeping Birds Sighing in Roscolux” being not much more than a 3:46 lead in for the 13:40 of “Abyss Hinge 2: The Shrinking Armature,” although the latter does see the horn section meet up, however briefly, for some memorable note runs, and that’s at very least planned out beforehand, Matsumiya’s violin and the drums playing out a patterned rhythm behind while the rumble of Driver’s bass provides a foundation.

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No, Kayo Dot’s New Album isn’t Out Yet; Yes, They are Announcing Their Next EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 22nd, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Hydra Head artsy rockers/metallers/experimentalists/thinky-thinky-doers Kayo Dot have yet to issue their new full-length, Coyote, which is due out, appropriately, on April 20. Nonetheless, the troupe, led by frontman Toby Driver, have embarked on their next offering already, dubbed Stained Glass. Some people just like to work. The PR wire has more:

Kayo Dot has entered the studio to begin recording their new EP, Stained Glass. The EP will consist of one, long composition of the same title, featuring the lineup of Coyote plus vibraphonist Russell Greenberg (Hi-Red Center, Yarn/Wire, Hunter/Gatherer). Kayo Dot will once again be recording with Jim Fogarty at Zing Studios in Westfield, MA — the man and studio behind Kayo Dot‘s Choirs of the Eye, Dowsing Anemone With Copper Tongue, Toby Driver‘s In The L..L..Library Loft, and maudlin of the Well’s Bath, Leaving Your Body Map, and Part the Second.

Additional recording will take place in various locations around the globe on portable four-track cassette and antique 1/4″ one-track reel-to-reel. The end result will be a dualistic rapport between Fogarty‘s super-clean, crystalline production and the intimate atmosphere of 2AM bedroom whispers. Stained Glass will be released by Hydra Head later in 2010.

Kayo Dot, “Whisper Ineffable” from Coyote:
Whisper Ineffable

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Harvey Milk Make a Small Turn

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 3rd, 2010 by JJ Koczan

My, the children do love that Harvey Milk. The children in tight flannel shirts, anyway. But if you read the following PR wire release carefully, you’ll see that the band — or at least their label, the ever-suave Hydra Head — is well aware of their hipster appeal. You can tell with the “slumming it” line, which from where I sit is a direct shot to the center of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and any dig on those kids is fine by me. I’m getting sidetracked. Harvey Milk have a new record coming out, and it’s called A Small Turn of Human Kindness. Here’s the info:

A Small Turn of Human Kindness is as dense and as heavy temperamentally as it is musically. The seven songs so subtly bleed together that the listener has no choice but to view the entire album as a linear orchestration with a singular ebb and flow…. a rising and falling action, refined to hell and back. And so, all of these things lead me to believe that any and all true Harvey Milk fans will eventually argue this record as the band’s finest work. Or at least the vinyl version will become the quintessential mantle-piece for a generation of suburban children slumming it in the inner city… you know who you are!

1. *
2. I Just Want to Go Home
3. I Am Sick of All This Too
4. I Know This is No Place For You
5. I Alone Got Up and Left
6. I Know This is All My Fault
7. I Did Not Call Out

Harvey Milk Live:
3/5 Pittsburgh, PA @ Rex Theatre w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3/6 Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3/7 Baltimore, MD @ Otto Bar w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3/8 New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3/9 Boston, MA @ Middle East Downstairs w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3/10 Montreal, QC @ Il Motore w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3/11 Toronto, ON @ Wreck Room w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3/12 Hamtramck, MI @ Small’s w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
3/13 Chicago, IL @ Subterranean w/ Coalesce, Atlas Moth
5/27 Nashville, TN @ Rockettown w/ Converge, Lewd Acts, Black Breath
5/28 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade w/ Converge, Lewd Acts, Black Breath

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Kayo Dot Create Another Subgenre, Again

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Say what you will about experimentalists Kayo Dot, their music is always two things: atmospheric and interesting. I don’t even think I heard 2008’s Blue Lambency Downward, but the band are back now with a new one called Coyote through Hydra Head, and it just might be time for me to catch up. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Toby Driver is also curating the month of February at NYC performance space The Stone, and the band will be doing a bunch of shows there with a bunch of varying lineups. More specific info on that is here. Here’s the PR wire goods on the album, which is due out April 6:

Coyote, Kayo Dot‘s fourth studio album, is a single, narrative-driven, long-form composition written with story and text provided by a close, terminally-ill friend of the band, Yuko Sueta, in the final stage of her life. Coyote was once again engineered by Randall Dunn (SunnO))), Earth, Six Organs of Admittance) in Seattle, Washington, forging a new genre of “goth fusion” which combines elements of early Cure, Faith and the Muse, and Bauhaus with Herbie Hancock‘s psychedelic album, Sextant, and Scott Walker‘s recent album, The Drift. The lyrics and story were constructed with deliberate melodrama to pay homage as well to the intended gothic vibe, expressing the protagonist’s loneliness and longing to be in a better place, and her journey through her own personal looking-glass through a hallucinatory world of fear and wonder.

The musical objective this time around was to create a piece of music that uses the sonic aesthetic of this specific era of gothic art-rock integrated with a more modern-classical approach to form and architecture. To achieve this, Kayo Dot has put together a new instrumentation, which features trumpet (provided by former Candiria trumpet player Tim Byrnes) and alto saxophone at the lead, backed up by violin, keyboards, piano, organ, bass guitar, percussion, and a pronounced lack of guitar across the album. This album also marks the return of former Kayo Dot member, Terran Olson, whose contributions were heard on the band’s 2003 debut, Choirs of the Eye, as well as with Kayo Dot‘s alter-ego, Maudlin of the Well. The music is also more rhythmically-driven than any previous Kayo Dot work, and being a performance-oriented composition, it was recorded mostly live (similar to 2006’s Dowsing Anemone with Copper Tongue). Coyote also brings back some of the aggression absent from 2008’s Blue Lambency Downward.

Tracklist for Coyote:
I. Calonyction Girl
II. Whisper Ineffable
III. Abyss Hinge 1: Sleeping Birds Sighing in Roscolux
IV. Abyss Hinge 2: The Shrinking Armature
V. Cartogram out of Phase

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The Macabre Essence of Bergraven

Posted in Reviews on December 8th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Dude, did you see this plaque on the wall? Yeah, we should totally make it the album cover.I?m a big fan of words that mean other things when you say them. For example, how ?experimental one-man black metal? means ?self-indulgent.? In the case of Bergraven, an experimental one-man black metal outfit from Sweden, whose third full-length comes via Hydra Head, it certainly rings true. Till Makabert V?sen (which according to the big truck in the computer translates to To the Macabre Essence) has a many tempo switches, jazzy interludes, heavy/soft transitions, and yes, even some black metal. It?s not necessarily enough to make me care, but there?s a whole league of people out there who eat this kind of thing up. So be it.

If BergravenP?r Gustafsson on vocals, bass and guitar joined on Till Makabert V?sen by studio drummer Perra Karlsson — does anything, it?s create a mood. The album is unremittingly dark and progressive, coming across like a textbook on inaccessibility. A track like ?Asketens Enda Prydnad? might be a highlight, with Gustafsson?s tortured growls over complex bass runs and sporadic guitar accents leading into heavier, Enslaved-style passages, but a lot of the material surrounding comes on in a wash, so it?s difficult to even appreciate the success of Bergraven?s execution. Goes without saying this is on purpose. There?s to be no celebration here.

Fine. I don?t think it?s out of line to call Bergraven hipster black metal. If nothing else, the Hydra Head connection ingratiates the band to an alternately elitist would-be intellectualism that has persisted in the heavy underground over the course of this past decade. And while I think Drudkh pulls off many of the same turns as Gustafsson with an even more accomplished cohesiveness, there?s no argument that, for what it is, Till Makabert V?sen is bound to please (or not, depending on their level of tr00ness) fans of the style. You don?t need a review to tell you that.

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