Friday Full-Length: Hypnos 69, The Intrigue of Perception

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 4th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

If one person reading this — just one person — who has never heard Hypnos 69 checks out this record, then I feel like I will have done a good thing today. Of course, that that person will have his or her mind and/or ass blown to smithereens by The Intrigue of Perception goes without saying. It’s Hypnos 69. The Belgian heavy proggers never ceased to amaze — until, of course, they did — and while I just as easily could’ve posted the album that followed this one, 2007’s The Eclectic Measure, with its brilliantly twisting title-track, or snuck in another posting for their to-date swansong, 2010’s Legacy (review here), but I have special attachment to this 2004 outing, as it was my first exposure to the band. It is their third album behind 2001’s Timeline Traveler (also reissued in 2006) and 2003’s Promise of a New Moon, as well as their first for Elektrohasch Schallplatten, and as we currently live in an era where heavy bands are trying to out-prog each other, it seems only fair to present a record like this one, which already dominated the sphere more than a decade ago.

To wit, the opening trio. The memorable winding lines of “The Endless Void.” The ultra-cool lounge stoner of “Good Sinner/Bad Saint” — and that hook! The build and sprawl of “Third Nature.” Oh yeah, and then they go space rock on “Twisting the Knife.” The Intrigue of Perception has more scope in its first three (four, five…) songs than most bands have in their career, and they only continue to expand the palette from there, ranging far into Floydian heavy on “Islands in the Sun,” exploring ambient spaces in “The Next Level” and meditating melodically on “A Castle in the Sky” while introducing and fleshing out the instrumental line that, for me at least, defines the record and the impulses the band would continue to follow on their subsequent offerings, somewhere between jammy heavy psych and delicately woven classic prog. Oh yeah, and then the watery electric and acoustic guitar of “Absent Friends” sets the bed for a sweet, emotionally resonant and still lush finish. Seriously, one person, and this site will have done its job for today. I can take the rest of the afternoon off.

Three was a point at which I was in touch with guitarist/vocalist Steve Houtmeyers — I think it might’ve been through MySpace — but as I recall, the conversations mostly consisted of me nerding out about his band being awesome. The band was him, drummer Dave Houtmeyers, bassist Tom Vanlaer and saxophonist Steven Marx, and they remain criminally underrated. Hard to imagine that if Hypnos 69 came back and put out a record of any strike, whether that’s the sprawl/depth of Legacy or something more kin to their early work, that they couldn’t spend the rest of their days delighting crowds of hundreds and thousands at various Euro festivals, but I’ve heard no such murmurings of a reunion or return to activity. Dave Houtmeyers and Tom Vanlaer are currently two-thirds of the Diest trio Hidden Trails, and there was some talk of Steve Houtmeyers joining Californian desert jammers Ten East with Gary Arce from Yawning Man, Scott Reeder, Greg Ginn and I think whoever else happened to be around that day, but I don’t know if anything came of it. Either way, Hypnos 69 have a Bandcamp up and do for my soul what a good night’s sleep is said to do for the human brain, so please, consider digging in heartily recommended.

If you do, I hope you enjoy.

Feels a little weird to have not closed out the week last Friday while I was out at Borderland Fuzz Fiesta 2016 in Arizona. So, uh, how was your week? Mine was… well… yeah. I don’t know, to be honest with you. Part of me feels like I haven’t yet recovered from that trip — no sleep on a redeye from Phoenix to Boston on Sunday night into Monday morning is not the way to start a productive work week — but then another part of me is like fuck that, you’re a miserable bastard anyway whether you’re tired or not, and that part of me is a total dick but he’s got a pretty valid point. Been a rough couple months. Work, personal shit. I don’t know how anything is going to shake out at this point, but I know it was really good for me to get out for a couple days, see good bands play good music, hang out with cool people and be out of my own narcissistic headspace for a minute or two. I wish it was something I could do more often. Sometimes these days just feel like I’m putting in time and I don’t even know why. Not the site, but you know, everything else. Music still sounds good. Still have my wife.

So yeah, was a bit of a comedown early this week, immediate headfirst dive into work bullshit followed by what, more. I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. I got some cool records sent to me over the last few days and that’s what I’d rather think about as this Hypnos 69 winds down. You have to redirect yourself sometimes, put your head where you want it to be.

I’m traveling for work starting on Sunday, which should be interesting. Headed down to Atlanta for something called Pittcon. I don’t know, but I’m going. The reason I say it should be interesting is because I already have a bunch of stuff slated for the week, including a Mancub video premiere on Monday, and tracks for The Golden Grass and Grifter on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively. Not sure when I’m gonna get any of that done, but I will. It’ll happen. It worked out when I was in San Francisco and I still had time to go record shopping. Atlanta will sort itself out.

Also have gotten a couple interviews in the can this week. Hope to have one posted with Jay Fortin from Scissorfight before the end of next week, so keep an eye out. Dude had some cool stuff to say about that reunion, which kicks off with a hometown show in New Hampshire later this month that I’m hoping to attend though am a little terrified at the prospect. They’ve got a weekender in July with Gozu and Backwoods Payback as well and I dropped Gozu a line this week and basically invited myself along for the trip. Only New York and Philly, but still. Sounds like fun to me.

I’ll keep you in the loop on that and everything else as we get there. Also going to have another band announced for The Obelisk All-Dayer this month, coming out from the West Coast to play. That’s all the hint you’re getting from me for now.

Thanks for reading, please have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

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The Debate Rages: What are the Best Songs of the Last Five Years?

Posted in The Debate Rages on July 10th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

what are the best songs from the last five years

Mostly around here I concentrate on albums. Best albums of the year. Best albums of the decade. Still, kind of on a whim this morning I was thinking about the shape of heavy of the last half-decade — or rather, the shapes of it.

Different scenes moving in various directions, the emergence of the Pacific Northwest as a hotbed, the growth of West Coast psych and how in-conversation that seems to be both with California’s skater past and the current European market, itself branched out between heavy psych and ’70s traditionalism, which has also begun to take root throughout the US while, at the same time, a new generation has come up to embrace full-on stoner riffing and/or desert rock ideals.

While I have my album lists going back six years to refer to, this time around, I was wondering specifically about individual songs from the same era. What are the best songs from the last five years?

It’s not always the best album that has the best single piece of work on it, so it seemed worth asking the question separately.

Me, I go in for epics: YOB‘s “Marrow” (2014), Ancestors‘ “First Light” (2012), Colour Haze‘s “Grace” (2012), Hypnos 69‘s “The Great Work” (2011), Witch Mountain‘s “Can’t Settle” (2014), Elder‘s “Lore” (2015) definitely is worth having in the conversation, Solace‘s “From Below” (2010), Grayceon‘s “We Can” (2011), and so on.

But then you have Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ “I’ll Cut You Down,” which has had a massive influence since it came out in 2011. And what about a cut like Clutch‘s “D.C. Sound Attack,” or Goatsnake‘s “Grandpa Jones,” or Graveyard‘s “Ain’t Fit to Live Here,” or Mars Red Sky‘s “Strong Reflection?” Does a track have to be long to make an impact? What if there’s a perfectly-executed two-minute verse/chorus trade? Shouldn’t that also be considered?

I guess that’s the question.

We haven’t done one of these in a while, so I’m hoping you’ll take the time to add your answers and picks for the best songs of the last five years 2010-2015 in the comments to this post. I know we’re not through 2015 yet, but we’re just trying to have some fun anyway.

Thanks to all who take the time to leave a note in the comments below.

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Friday Full-Length: Hypnos 69, Legacy

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 27th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Hypnos 69, Legacy (2010)

This is one of those albums that earned every second of its 2LP length. Brilliant front to back over the course of its seven tracks, I got to the point with Hypnos 69‘s Legacy where it wasn’t so much that I wore the record out as much as it wore me out. The Belgian heavy prog rockers conjured such textures and crafted such gorgeous spaces for their songs to happen in, I still kind of feel unworthy in listening.Elektrohaschreleased this album and I think it’s one of the best things the label ever put out — and if you know anything about this site, you know that’s saying something coming from me.

No real word on if they’re still a band. It was four years between their prior outing — 2006’s also excellent The Eclectic Measure — and Legacy, so even if they were going, it’s entirely possible they wouldn’t be making much noise. There seemed to be mumblings both ways a while back and then things got quiet. I prefer to live in a reality in which there’s a chance for a follow-up to Legacy, and if that reality doesn’t reflect the real reality, so be it. People force beliefs on themselves all the time. It’s how religion happens. Let me and my altar to “The Great Work” have our little moment.

And I said it at the time as well, but man, if Legacy is it for Hypnos 69 for real, what a note to end on. Just a dream of a record. I know capping the week with the expectation that you’re actually going to sit and listen to all 72 minutes of an album is probably a ridiculous thought, but even if you just get a taste now and check out the rest later, I hope you’ll listen, and of course, that you’ll enjoy.

Kind of a non-week, this one. Having the holiday right in the middle there more or less shot the whole thing. I’ll die happy knowing I didn’t miss Wino Wednesday though just because it also happened to be Xmas. I was down in New Jersey at that point; The Patient Mrs. and I drove down Tuesday night after having dinner with her grandmother in Connecticut and stayed there until last night, family stuff front to back over those days — hence the general lack of posts — then back up to Massachusetts last night. We rolled in just before 12:30AM. Tomorrow we’re back to Connecticut for more family whathaveyou. I shouldn’t complain. I’m happy these people want to spend time with me (mostly they want to spend time with my wife, but I can’t argue with their point — she’s the draw for sure), the road time just adds up is all.

Even though next week is New Year’s, things should be a little bit closer to normal at least in terms of posts. I’m not traveling, so there’s that. New Year’s Day I might take it easy, but otherwise there’s still stuff I want to do to wrap up the year that I didn’t get to do this week — song of the year, comeback of the year, Top 20 EPs, singles, etc. — and I’ve got an Obelisk Questionnaire waiting to go up from Acid King‘s Lori S. and that rules, so I’m looking forward to it as well. I like that feature. I hope to keep it going indefinitely. The pace will probably slow somewhat over time, but at this point I’ve got a decent backlog to get up, so we’ll do at least one a week for now.

Next week I’m either going to review the new Truckfighters or the new Alcest, or maybe both if I’m feeling fancy, and I’ve got a tape from We are Oceans to check out and some vinyl in the stack waiting for a writeup as well, so in addition to that year-end silliness, the format wars will continue unabated.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Entirely likely you don’t give a crap, but this week I finished watching the entire original series of Star Trek and there were recaps on the forum that were good fun, if you have the chance to check them out. Please also hit up the Radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

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Santa Psychedelica to Come to Germany Next Month with Hypnos 69, Sungrazer and Electric Moon

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

You know, I was listening to Hypnos 69‘s Legacy just yesterday, by coincidence, and I still feel like that record is lightyears beyond me. Maybe I wouldn’t feel that way if I was ever so fortunate as to see the band live, but that doesn’t do me much good now. As it stands, Legacy is one of probably two records (I can’t think of another, but will allow for the possibility) that I’ve reviewed since starting this site that I still feel like I’m learning more about with every listen. Simply brilliant.

And if you’re lucky enough to be in Germany for the end of 2011, you can catch those Belgian prog wonders with Dutch fuzz upstarts Sungrazer (whose Mirador is pretty high on my list for this year) and Glowsun from France, whose split with Electric Moon was recently reviewed. Brash German hardcore punkers DxBxSx will guest on the first three of the four “Santa Psychedelica” tour dates, which Sound of Liberation was kind enough to send over. Behold:

Xmas is coming soon and we have some sweets for you as well…

Hypnos 69 (BEL), Sungrazer (NL) and Glowsun (F) combining their psychedelic spirits to deliver you some outstanding After-Xmas–Shows!

Special Guest for the “Punkedelica” After Show Parties in Cologne, Munich and Dresden are DxBxSx from Berlin… well know for their wild Party Rock n Roll!

Santa Psychedelica Vol. 1
27.12 Cologne Underground w/ DxBxSx
28.12 Munich Feierwerk w/ DxBxSx
29.12 Dresden Sektor E w/ DxBxSx
30.12 Berlin Lido

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Top 20 of 2010 #3: Hypnos 69, Legacy

Posted in Features on December 27th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

I don’t want to say I was prepared to be let down by Hypnos 69‘s maybe-final LP, Legacy, when it was released earlier this year on Elektrohasch Schallplatten, but basically I was. Nothing against the Belgian classic proggers, but in my mind, an album of the same quality as 2006’s The Eclectic Measure just wasn’t a fair expectation to put on a band. I mean, The Eclectic Measure was a landmark, a thing of beauty. A once-in-a-career achievement.

Spoiler alert for anyone who doesn’t yet know: They did it. Legacy is a better album than The Eclectic Measure. It’s more developed in every way — guitarist/vocalist Steve Houtmeyers proving to be as talented a singer as he is a songwriter and a soloist — and although even as I gushed all over the record in my review, I wasn’t sure if the songs therein would prove as memorable as those from The Eclectic Measure, Legacy has proven strong in this regard as well. I’m just as likely to hum a flute part as I am to sing a lyric. The blend of elements on a track like the 18-plus-minute closer “The Great Work” is nothing short of majestic.

It’s not that they’re genre-less, or not completely aware of the context in which they’re making music. It’s simply that Hypnos 69 are in a class of their own. Legacy is a staggering collection of songs. There are days when I feel like I’m too tired to listen to it because I won’t have the energy to fully enjoy the experience, but my own worthiness aside, the growing and morphing appeal of Legacy‘s rich melodies and complex arrangements only means that the pleasure in listening is going to increase with age. One of the year’s best and then some.

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audiObelisk Transmission 009: 4 Songs, 3 Hours

Posted in Podcasts on October 4th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

aOT9

This is the mother of them all. Short of doing three songs in as many hours, which I could have done just as or even more easily, I don’t see how any audiObelisk Transmission could get heavier than this one. It’s just a little bit of an excuse on my part to have an easily accessible copy of Dopesmoker at all times, but with new music as well from Hypnos 69, a classic dirge from Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine and one of Boris‘ most avant garde moments, Transmission Zero Zero Nine is an absolute monster. I hope you dig it.

No need to hide the tracklist after a jump since it’s only four songs. Click the banner at the top of this post to get the file, or stream it on the player above. Here’s what we’ve got:

0:00:08 Sleep, “Dopesmoker” from Dopesmoker (Tee Pee, 2003)
There was no way I was going to make this podcast and not include this song. It’s the riff that launched a thousand clone bands, and Sleep‘s shining hour. Literally, an hour. Plenty of time to worship.

1:03:42 Hypnos 69, “The Great Work” from Legacy (Elektrohasch, 2010)
New music from these Belgian classic proggers. It’s the last cut on their new album, Legacy, and maybe their most aptly-titled song ever. Their sense of melody is second to none and the progressive elements in their approach have never shined brighter than they do here.

1:21:53 Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine, “He Who Accepts all That is Offered (Feel Bad Hit of the Winter)” from Rampton (Southern Lord, 2002)
The lineup of Lee Dorrian (Cathedral), Stephen O’Malley (SunnO)))/Khanate), Justin Greaves (Iron Monkey/now-Crippled Black Phoenix) and Greg Anderson (Goatsnake) only put out one album under this cumbersome moniker, taken from a song title on Earth‘s Earth 2. It’s a good thing. I don’t think the universe could handle a second without ripping in half.

1:51:35 Boris, “Flood” from Flood (MIDI Creative, 2000)
Is that guitar forward or backwards? Both? I doubt anyone really knows what Boris are getting up to for the entirety of this song, Boris included. I remember interviewing drummer Atsuo Mizuno a couple years back and he looked at me like my head was on backwards when I asked about it. See if you can figure it out.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 009 here.

0:00:08 Sleep, “Dopesmoker” from Dopesmoker (Tee Pee, 2003)

1:03:42 Hypnos 69, “The Great Work” from Legacy (Elektrohasch, 2010)

1:21:53 Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine, “He Who Accepts all That is Offered (Feel Bad Hit of the Winter)” from Rampton (Southern Lord, 2002)

1:51:35 Boris, “Flood” from Flood (MIDI Creative, 2000)

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Hypnos 69, Legacy: In the Court of the Hypnotic King

Posted in Reviews on September 7th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

If this is going to be Hypnos 69’s legacy, so be it. After the Belgian psychedelic progressives put out The Eclectic Measure in 2006, I didn’t imagine they’d be able to top it, since the album had such an individual balance of quirk and sonic familiarity, taking elements of earliest King Crimson and melding them with the more straightforward early ‘70s British rock style, but on their new offering, Legacy (Elektrohasch Schallplatten), the four-piece lean heavily on the prog end of their sound and push even further into the unhinged creative. The album is seven tracks that play out over a staggering 72 minutes and can be equally potent either in one extended sitting or over the course of a few sessions. Several of these songs, including opener “Requiem (for a Dying Creed),” are like an album in and of themselves.

What’s increasingly come to make Hypnos 69 unique sound-wise is the band’s use of jazz structures and classic prog instrumentation – King Crimson’s sax, Jethro Tull’s flute, everyone’s mellotron, etc. – but the band fuses these aspects of their sound together with a driving rock that’s grown over time to be the expansive, encompassing presentation of Legacy. The album starts and ends with tracks both over 17 minutes long (who doesn’t love a long opener?), and though we’re treated to a variety of sounds and styles in between, somehow Hypnos 69 manage to remain Hypnos 69 for the duration. The guitars of Steve Houtmeyers (also vocals and theremin) would seem to lead most when playing leads (rather than riffs), but the material on the album is just as likely to be driven by sax, organ, flute, drums or bass. Parts come introduced by one instrument then echoed on another, giving the songs a structured, cyclical feel. Even on “An Aerial Architect,” on which Houtmeyers’ guitar runs in tandem with Steven Marx’s saxophone à la “21st Century Schizoid Man” – at least for part of the track – the interplay between instruments is tastefully and intricately composed. Often Houtmeyers’ leads seem restrained, not trying to do too much, to just play the notes that need to be played rather than give some needlessly showy display of technicality. That comes up on later outings like the airy “Jerusalem” or the aptly-named 18:27 closer, “The Great Work.”

Basically, what Hypnos 69 are doing on Legacy is taking the style of play they introduced on The Eclectic Measure (you could argue their jazzier side showed up on 2004’s The Intrigue of Perception, or that it’s been there since their 2002 debut, Timeline Traveller, and you wouldn’t really be wrong, but it’s a question of focus more than mere elemental presence) and setting it to a completely different scale. Even the subdued “My Journey to the Stars” presents growth in its soft, memorable vocal melody, and though drummer Dave Houtmeyers “sits out” the acoustic-led “The Sad Destiny We Lament,” he finds other work on various percussion and glockenspiel while Marx fills out the track with overriding synth and bassist Tom Vanlaer thickens up the bottom end. The percussive Houtmeyers gets his revenge on the 10:48 “The Empty Hourglass,” which is as driven rhythmically as anything Hypnos 69 has ever done, the band stopping and turning on a dime under the six-string Houtmeyers’ lead, only to have Marx do a call-and-response on sax with the vocals during the verses. If it sounds like there’s a lot going on with the band, song and album, there is, but Hypnos 69 manage not to overwhelm even at their busiest, though I’ll say that it’s inevitably going to take a couple listens before the full breadth of Legacy reveals itself to the listener. In both creative scope and sheer length, it is a massive undertaking.

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Passing the Point with Hypnos 69

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 30th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Ever since mentioning them in the Astra review the other day, I’ve had my mind on Belgian psych trippers Hypnos 69, and specifically their last album, The Eclectic Measure. Since it’s sunny in the valley for what feels like the first time in a year (though it’s not supposed to last), I thought I’d share this live clip of “The Point of No Return” filmed live in Leuven in 2007. They’re probably my second favorite act on Elektrohasch, which is saying something. Hope you dig it.

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