Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us: Ghosts and Smoke

Posted in Reviews on May 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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If Sun Blood StoriesIt Runs Around the Room with Us doesn’t demand a headphone listen, that’s only because it’s too classy, too subtle and too busy doing its own work to go around making demands in the first place. It is the third full-length from the Boise, Idaho-based Sun Blood Stories, following behind 2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here) and their 2013 debut, The Electric Years, and its weighted high-desert shoegaze moodiness works in part to codify the experimentalism that has thus far been at root in the band’s sound. Emphasis on “in part,” because Sun Blood Stories still offer plenty of fare throughout these nine tracks/46 minutes, but where Twilight Midnight Morning nearly split itself in half between drone-outs and more traditional song structures, It Runs Around the Room with Us — a title that would seem to speak to the energy of its own creation — effectively bridges the gap between those two sides.

This lets the three-piece of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) gracefully unfold songs like opener “End of the Day” — on which the first singing heard comes courtesy of a guest appearance from Aubrey Pollard, presumably Amber‘s daughter — with ultra-immersive atmospherics before moving into the bluesier and more solidified “Step Softly Ghost” and “The Great Destroyer,” the spaciousness in the howling guitar of which does nothing to undercut the memorable nature of its hook. Whether they’re creating a wash of pastoral melancholy in the later ramble of the eight-minute “Time Like Smoke” or underscoring the minimalist outward impression of “Eclipse Theme” with layers of guitar, theremin and keyboard swirl, leading to the weirdo start of “Come Like Rain” with fading loops of guest whistler Brent Joel saying “K. Cool. Now I know,” across the whole span of It Runs Around the Room with UsSun Blood Stories offer some of the richest, most textured American psychedelia one is likely to encounter in 2017. In its progression from where they were two years ago, organic flow between tracks and in the raw performances of KirbyPollard and Fust, it is nothing less than breathtaking.

And while the aforementioned opening salvo of the dreamily wistful “End of the Day,” the building languid shuffle-into-nod of “Step Softly Ghost” and the rolling heavy psych of “The Great Destroyer” isn’t to be discounted in how pivotal it is to setting the tone for It Runs Around the Room with Us as a whole, it’s also only one stage of the album’s breadth, which continues to widen as it moves into “Eclipse Theme,” “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke.” Pollard and Kirby intertwine vocals on “Eclipse Theme” over cymbal washes, while “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke,” the two longest inclusions at seven and eight minutes, respectively, act as a kind of conjoined centerpiece, the former no less righteous and pristine in its initial key-led drift than it is later in Pollard‘s “Come back/(Baby) Come back,” lyrical pleas as the build pays off, while the latter brings more of the ambient experimentalist side of the band into focus amid obscure chants, guitar soundscaping and an emergent grounded instrumental progression surrounded various drones, executed patiently and to hypnotic and fluid effect.

Sun Blood Stories, in this middle third of It Runs Around the Room with Us, dig further into what one might consider the core of the album, and push it about as far out as it will go between “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” — even the two titles seem intended as complementary — but it’s worth noting that as they move through this vast landscape of their own construction, they never completely let go of the listener’s hand. That is, they never stop guiding the way through the fog. Even in “Time Like Smoke,” which is plenty foggy, Kirby‘s guitar provides something for the band’s audience to grasp onto as they seem to float along the track’s course, slowly unfolding but otherwise easy to get lost within. This speaks to the development of Sun Blood Stories as songwriters, but even more, it highlights the special balance they bring to It Runs Around the Room with Us and the lucidity at work beneath all of their ethereal crafting. When they seem to ooze outward in all directions, that’s still a direction.

sun blood stories

Soon enough, the last two minutes of the album will undo all of the serenity that KirbyPollard and Fust have honed all this time, as the caustic closer “Burn” sets itself toward willful, screamed abrasion from Pollard, discordant crashing instrumentation behind and a vicious extremity meant to surprise as much as it does in a statement as political as it is musical. Before they get there, however, “Echoer Approach” and “Nothing Sacred Will Hold” ease the way out of the middle third of the tracklist and back toward the balance of pieces like “Step Softly Ghost,” an atmosphere playing between solid and liquid states of matter. Led by dual layers of guitar, one drifting, one sliding, “Echoer Approach” is held together by the fluidity in Fust‘s drums, which offer jazzy snare play without veering into anything overly showy or self-indulgent. It’s an easy transition from there into “Nothing Sacred Will Hold,” a late-arriving highlight with Pollard at the fore vocally in airy soulfulness over a winding figure of guitar and keys, Fust building his way back in at around a minute and a half into the proceedings to mark the start of the heavier build which will noise itself out before settling on a weighted riff in its last minute and riding it to the finish at 5:00 flat and the immediate, threatening start of “Burn.”

That Sun Blood Stories would, after creating such a sense of warmth throughout It Runs Around the Room with Us, unleash something so violent at the end of the album is not an accident. It’s a forceful contrast, and the fact that “Burn” itself is nigh-on-unlistenable is the very reason for its being. Written reportedly as a reaction to the proliferation of the Confederate flag as a ‘historical symbol’ of anything more than white supremacy, the social charge echoes “Misery is Nebulous” from the previous album, but “Burn” is so clear in its one-word delivery and so unmistakable in its motive that it almost becomes the necessary culmination of everything before it. They’ve created and cultivated this ground across In Runs Around the Room with Us, brought the listener into this space with them, and at the finish, the only thing left to do is torch the place. So be it.

An apparently digital-only bonus track, “The Enemy,” attempts to undo some of the edge of “Burn,” with in-studio laughter, group-sung folkishness and a jovial air around the repeated lines, “We are the enemy/We are the enemy/Oh shit,” which gradually become, “Ben‘s a sea anenome,” and so on, but the damage is largely done and even the return of Sun Blood Stories‘ experimentalist droning doesn’t undercut the paranoia of the realization at play. Perhaps the sociopolitical context of “Burn” simply bleeds into “The Enemy,” but there’s something foreboding about the six-minute epilogue even though they’re clearly having fun with it that nonetheless darkens the outwardly shimmering atmosphere. Someone gets on mic to say, “If Ben were given an enema, he could be buried in a matchbox,” Pollard seems to provide half an answer, and the album ends.

The journey Sun Blood Stories undertake with It Runs Around the Room with Us — which seems so much more vast than a single room, so much broader than one might expect from a group working as a trio — does not cease to brim with creativity. In the sonic details of “End of the Day,” “Come Like Rain,” and even “Burn,” one finds a rare depth of approach and a level of engagement with and from the material in question that is boldly progressive without being overly cerebral and never loses its melodic crux until it makes a sacrifice of it at the finale. By the time it gets to that point, though, the impression honed across the previous eight tracks remains resonant, and among the scorched remains they leave behind, one thankfully does not find their own accomplishment.

Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us (2017)

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Uzala Announce Breakup

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

UZALA

Sad news out of Boise, Idaho, in that atmospheric doomers Uzala seem to have broken up. The announcement came via a brief Facebook post from guitarist Chad Remains that went like this:

R.I.P. UZALA
2009-2017
Our sincere thanks to everyone who supported us along the way. We love you all.

What he or the trio — which at last check was Darcy Nutt on guitar/vocals, Remains and drummer Chuck Watkins — has not said is why. Uzala had been relatively quiet since the release of their early 2016 Live at Roadburn MMXV (review here) CD/LP through Burning World Records, and it now looks like that will serve as the band’s final recorded statement.

Their two prior full-length albums, Tales of Blood and Fire and Uzala (track premiere here), were issued in 2013 and 2011, respectively. Both earned the band significant acclaim, and especially the latter found them coming into an atmospheric individualism bolstered by the melodic range in Nutt’s voice and the tonal onslaught from Remains. These elements, set to the steady foundation from Watkins’ drumming, the low rumble of then-bassist Nick Phit (see also: Graves at Sea), and a recording job by Tad Doyle, positioned Uzala for remarkable forward momentum.

They toured the US alongside Mike Scheidt of YOB in 2013 (review here) before following up with the aforementioned trip to Europe for Roadburn (review here), where they were nothing short of spellbinding. Having been fortunate enough to stand in front of the Green Room stage and see that set in its entirety (as well as take the pictures on the cover of the subsequent live outing), it seemed Uzala were living up to and through the potential their work had shown up to that point, and whatever was going to come next from them would not be something to miss.

Whether or not they’ll ultimately make some statement, and whether or not the breakup sticks — I don’t want to speculate at reasons without anything concrete to go on, so I won’t — their output stands in testament to what they had to offer, and while they appeared to be on the cusp of reaching a new aesthetic level, the accomplishments under their collective belt remain substantial enough to resonate for years to come.

You hate to see good bands go, but Uzala never operated under any terms but their own, so there it is. Respect and best wishes to them.

Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire (2013)

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Steve Von Till’s Harvestman to Release Music for Megaliths May 19

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

It’s been seven years since last we heard from Harvestman, the could-go-anywhere, tripped-out experimentalist alter-ego of Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till. That outing was a Hawkwind tribute three-way split with U.S. Christmas and Minsk (review here), and the project’s last proper album was In a Dark Tongue (review here), which preceded in 2009. Of course, Von Till has been plenty busy in the interim, with two Neurosis albums in 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) and last year’s Fires Within Fires (review here) — and perhaps even more crucially, that band’s return to prominence as a touring act — as well as his 2015 solo outing, A Life unto Itself (review here), but that’s all the more reason to think he wouldn’t be reviving Harvestman at all if there wasn’t something he specifically wanted to say with it as his vehicle.

One more reason to look forward to Music for Megaliths, the new Harvestman full-length, which is due out May 19 on Neurot Recordings. Self-recorded and mixed with a guest appearance by Neurosis drummer Jason Roeder (also of Sleep), it may be a long while coming, but I’ve no doubt the album’s resonance will be something taking place far outside of time.

The PR wire brings the available details:

steve-von-till-photo-niela-von-till

HARVESTMAN: Neurosis Frontman Steve Von Till’s Exploratory Project Returns With Music For Megaliths

Neurot Recordings presents the fourth full-length recorded document from HARVESTMAN – one of Neurosis vocalist/guitarist Steve Von Till’s solo ventures – with the impending release of Music For Megaliths.

As with prior HARVESTMAN and other solo releases by Steve Von Till, Music For Megaliths sees the artist handling a wide array of instruments and approaches, including vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, bass, synthesizers, hurdy gurdy, effects, and more, fully performed, recorded, and mixed at his own The Crow’s Nest studio in Northern Idaho. Neurosis’ Jason Roeder also provides drums to the album’s fifth track, “Levitation.” The seven sonically and mentally expansive tracks were mastered by James Plotkin, and the album completed with artwork by Thomas Hooper.

Confirming the album for release on May 19th, Neurot has unveiled the artwork, track listing, and more for the exploratory new album, with audio samples and more to be released in the coming weeks.

Music For Megaliths Track Listing:
1. The Forest Is Our Temple
2. Oak Drone
3. Ring Of Sentinels
4. Cromlech
5. Levitation
6. Sundown
7. White Horse

“Ruins, monuments, and ancient sites of worship are multi-sensory experiences – at once residues of the sacred, the parchment on which the passage of time has been inscribed and templates for imaginative reconstruction, spaces in which to invest and immerse, to trade your bearings for an inexhaustible state of transition.

Over the course of three albums, Steve Von Till has, under the guise of HARVESTMAN, provided the sonic analogue, casting his net for what might have been and yet still be. Both a personal meditation and a tuning fork for the most ancient and enduring of resonances, his latest album, Music For Megaliths, further expands his journeys along the sonic ley lines that run between folk, drone, psychedelia, the “kosmische” outposts of krautrock and noise: not as an act of eclecticism, but of divination, giving voice to an underlying continuity that binds them all.

Recorded over a period of several years in the dawn hours of creation, Music For Megaliths is an aggregation of moments and recordings that have allowed themselves to spell out a greater whole. Utilizing repetition, manipulation, and modulation, it’s a hallowed frequency dial that ranges across the pulse-regulated drone of “The Forest Is Our Temple,” revving up like a generator powered by arcane currents, the blissful gaze of “Ring Of Sentinels,” “Sundown”‘s ominous waves of interference and “White Horse”‘s rite of dissolution and regeneration, nomadic and devout. Music For Megaliths is a crossing over, whose multiple routes are testament to a singular and sensuously dilated vision.” – words by Jonathan Selzer, 2017

https://www.facebook.com/heathenpsych
https://harvestman.bandcamp.com
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http://www.neurosis.com
http://www.neurotrecordings.com
http://www.facebook.com/neurotrecordings
https://neurotrecordings.bandcamp.com
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neurotrecordings.merchtable.com/artists/harvestman

Harvestman, In a Dark Tongue (2009)

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Sun Blood Stories Post “The Great Destroyer” Video; Reveal It Runs Around the Room with Us Cover Art

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

sun blood stories

Boise, Idaho, psychedelic experimentalists Sun Blood Stories recently succeeded crowdfunding a vinyl release for their upcoming album, It Runs Around the Room with Us, raising over $1,300 in about eight hours. In the interest of full disclosure, I also contributed to it. Having previously heard the track “The Great Destroyer,” for which you can see their brand new video below, I knew it was a cause worth supporting, never mind the ongoing thrills their 2015 outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), has on offer. Like I said, they met their goal handily, and decided to donate the overflow to the Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund. Causes worth supporting all around, then.

To my chagrin, I haven’t heard the entirety of It Runs Around the Room with Us as yet, but as a first public taste, the band offered up the visceral “Burn,” expressing in suitably caustic measure a political disaffection and feelings of rage, helplessness and despair that, to say the least, arrived suited to the season. “The Great Destroyer” follows the rolling psych-rock pattern of some of the more hook-based material from Twilight Midnight Morning but still boasts an open feel marked out by spacious tones, a patient-but-forward rhythm from the now-trio, and the dual vocals of Ben Kirby and Amber Pollard, joined in the three-piece this time around by Jon Fust on drums and keys.

Might be needless to say, but I’ve become a genuine fan of this band, so as I hear more about a solid release date for It Runs Around the Room with Us, I’ll do my best to keep you posted. In the interim, you can check out the construction-paper animation for “The Great Destroyer” by Jason Sievers below and get a feel for why I’m so much looking forward to the record’s arrival in 2017.

Some comment from Kirby on the song and their update re: crowdfunding follow the clip below, along with copious linkage.

Enjoy:

Sun Blood Stories, “The Great Destroyer” official video

Ben Kirby on “The Great Destroyer”:

“The great destroyer is time. And no matter how fast you run or how high you jump, no one escapes it. A lot has changed since the election except for this: death is inevitable either way. You know, ‘time is a prison that holds us all,’ and all that bullshit.”

We want to keep this short and to the point. We’ve got a new album coming out in Spring 2017, It Runs Around the Room with Us, and we want to release it on vinyl. The bare minimum cost for that format is around $1600. We’re not into exploiting our friends and family so we’re asking y’all to donate as much as you’d like to help us a reach a portion of the funds we need. If we can raise $1,000 to $1,200 for wax, we’ll cover the rest.

UPDATE: Going forward, backers will be gratuitously gifted the merchandise that correlates with their contribution amount but we will be re-routing contributed money to the Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund. We get vinyl, you get vinyl, and we all get to support the water protectors. This what we call a classic win-win-win scenario. THANK YOU!

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Friday Full-Length: Steve Von Till, If I Should Fall to the Field

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

Steve Von Till, If I Should Fall to the Field (2002)

As we eagerly anticipate the arrival of Neurosis‘ new album, Fires Within Fires, later this month, it seems worthwhile to go back 14 years and revisit one of the best and most underrated Neurot releases. Steve Von Till‘s If I Should Fall to the Field was his second solo outing behind 2000’s As the Crow Flies, and found the Neurosis guitarist/vocalist boldly and honestly exploring textures within and without of what might commonly be thought of — particularly at the time — as his main outfit’s reach. With its roots in neofolk, dark country and experimental singer-songwriterism, If I Should Fall to the Field‘s tracks retained a sense of depth in no small part thanks to Von Till‘s gravely vocals and the varied, sometimes sparse arrangements that surrounded them. A song like “To the Field” definitely showed some of the sway one finds in Neurosis in its second half, but from the quiet “Breathe” onward, Von Till is by no means beholden to those ideas, and when the album does feature drums or electric guitars, it’s more of an accent role, as on the Germanic-themed “The Wild Hunt,” a cornerstone example of the intensity Von Till is able to bring to bear even in this relatively subdued context. From the minimalist take on the traditional “My Work is Done” to the brighter flourish in the guitar of “Hallowed Ground” — met head-on by a particularly grim chorus — and down through “Dawn” and the cover of Neil Young‘s “Am I Born to Die,” there isn’t a letup in mood, and so while not at all abrasive, If I Should Fall to the Field should still rightly be considered a challenging listen, but what Von Till channels in these songs is something really special, and I can’t think of another way to put it beyond that.

The year before, Neurosis had released A Sun that Never Sets, which while less a defining moment for the band itself after pivotal stylistic accomplishments in 1996’s Through Silver in Blood and 1999’s Times of Grace, was nonetheless a solidification of their processes and became the record that launched a thousand post-metal ships. Scott Kelly, also guitar/vocals for Neurosis, put out his solo debut, Spirit Bound Flesh, also in 2001, so this was a particularly vibrant creative period for the band, and it would lead to Neurosis‘ 2003 collaboration with former Swans vocalist Jarboe and their 2004 album, The Eye of Every Storm, which to my ears remains one of its kind within their catalog for its patience and atmospheric breadth. Their subsequent offerings, 2007’s Given to the Rising and 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here), would continue to expand outward even as they reignited a more furious churn. Likewise, Von Till‘s solo follow-ups, 2008’s A Grave is a Grim Horse and last year’s A Life unto Itself (review here), as well as his work with the dark, space-infused Harvestman project, seemed to build on a foundation that If I Should Fall to the Field dug by hand.

I don’t mind telling you this record and I have been through some shit together. It has yet to let me down on any level, and it is a work to which I continue to feel a strong emotional connection — to the point that I’ll rarely put it on these days for the vivid and sometimes exhausting feelings it stirs. Nonetheless, I’m happy to have put it on today as I continue to prepare the ground (and by “the ground” I mean “my skull”) for the arrival of Fires Within Fires on Sept. 23, and of course I hope you enjoy as well.

 

Heck of a week, Brownie. I told off two out of the three medical professionals I saw this week, ho-hummed my way through some of the slowest-moving work days since I took my new job and committed myself to driving to New Jersey this weekend to see family, which, since there’s the extra day with the Labor Day holiday, should actually be something of a pleasure to do in not-rushed fashion. Doesn’t make the traffic less draining, but at least I don’t have to hurry to get back in it and head north to go to work on Monday.

I’ve also got posts slated through Tuesday already, so look out for stuff like an Asteroid interview, an Akris video premiere, a review of the new Yawning Man, a new Kadavar video, a stream of the full Thermic Boogie record, which is being reissued, and a stream and review for the Hifiklub vs. Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce collaboration who had a video premiere earlier today. Kind of a quick follow-up on that, but whatever. It’s gonna be awesome.

Also, really starting to wonder if anything’s going to beat the SubRosa for album of the year. We’ve got a few good months ahead — Sept. 30 is the craziest release day I can remember — but yeah, that record is fucking fantastic. If I can find time this week, I’ll post their set from Psycho Las Vegas as well. I feel like it’s the kind of thing that should be shown in schools.

Today kind of wound up being a day where I never even checked in mentally to check out. Exhausted, mentally, physically, emotionally, etc. Just exhausted. Got home from work a bit ago and though I was going to head south immediately, I decided I didn’t have it in me. I’ll be curled up on the couch watching tv for the rest of the day/night. Cook something stupid for dinner. Don’t even care.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Back here next week for much more, and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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The Western Mystics Stream The Last Western in Full

Posted in audiObelisk on April 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the western mystics

On my first listen through of The Western Mystics‘ new live release, The Last Western (Live at Treefort 2016), all I had to go by was the waveform. I didn’t know the names of the songs they played, or where one started and one stopped, and while I’ve since been able to garner that information, I think the other way has a certain appeal as well. Not knowing where one piece ends and the next begins, The Last Western flows as a single entirety, and I’ve no doubt that’s exactly how it was presented at Treefort Music Fest 2016 last month in the band’s native Boise, Idaho, lush and psychedelic in some places, showcasing encouraging depth of ambience in quiet stretches with vocals as much as keys and/or baritone guitars, and taking off on flights of classically-styled progressive rock. In short, this is a band capturing the process of finding their sound on stage, live, as it happened.

That’s a pretty bold move for a group who, to-date, hasn’t yet released a studio outing of any form, but neither is it The Western Mystics‘ first time putting out a “bootleg” where a demo might otherwise appear. Then working as the trio of drummer/vocalist Brent Joel and baritone guitarists Travis X. Abbott (rhythm) and Nik Kososik (lead; also of Sun Blood Stories), the western mystics live at treefort 2016they made their debut last fall with Once upon a Time in the Cosmos (discussed here), establishing a space-and-Western thematic blend that continues however many months later into the Treefort performance, which also introduces keyboardist/vocalist Riley Anne Johnson. Her work here is not to be understated in refining the textures of this material. The richness keys bring alongside the depth of tone from Abbott and Kososik is evident throughout, whether that’s organ keeping up with the guitars in “Running from the Living,” the opening movement, or Rhodes-style note droplets bolstering the drones of the penultimate “Sea that has Become Known.”

At this point, I could tell you where exactly where each track starts and ends between “Running from the Living” and “Running from the Dying,” which closes with an apex of Magma-style progressive bounce, but I honestly think you’re better off like I was, making your way through the entirety of The Last Western (Live at Treefort 2016) without knowing and then hitting up The Western Mystics‘ Bandcamp to find the runtimes and how it all divides up as the band work their way closer to where they want to be sound-wise and stylistically through this material. It’s only been a few months since Once upon a Time in the Cosmos (on which “Running from the Living” also appeared), and that leads one to hope it won’t be much longer before a studio recording of one sort or another surfaces from The Western Mystics, who even on stage show themselves as being able to pull elements from various genres — prog rock, heavy psych, post-rock, drone, etc. — in order to service an individualized intent. I look forward, in other words, to nerding out over their debut. Whenever it might arrive.

Stream The Last Western (Live at Treefort 2016in full below. You’ll find more info on the release beneath the player.

Please enjoy:

The Western Mystics on The Last Western:

As far as our plans go, we are constantly writing new material, especially due to our newest member, Riley Johnson, on the keys. We are going to play some out of town dates in Washington and Oregon this summer with other Treefort Alumni and hope to keep pushing out new material.

We as a band are definitely fans of improvisation and writing on the fly so we can guarantee our next batch of songs won’t be anything like the previous.

Recorded Live at Neurolux for Treefort Music Fest V on 03/23/2016

1. Running from the Living
2. See You In Space
3. The Scary Can Be A Psyche Place
4. Intramolecular Summit
5. Sea That Has Become Known
6. Running from the Dying

All songs written by Brent Joel, Riley Anne Johnson, Nik Kososik & Travis X. Abbott

Brent Joel – Drums, Vocals
Riley Anne Johnson – Keys, Vocals
Nik Kososik – Lead Baritone
Travis X. Abbott – Rhythm Baritone

Live mix by Eric Penney & Lawrence Van Bishop at Neurolux. Mastered by Travis X. Abbott. Special thanks to: Tyler Walker (lights & visual effects). Photo credit: Cameron Andreas.

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Quarterly Review: Sunn O))), Swallow the Sun, Beesus, Giöbia, Decasia, Sonic Mass, Wolvserpent, Delouners, Dead East Garden, Pearl Handled Revolver

Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review spring 2016

The Wednesday of a Quarterly Review is always special to me. In the six, maybe seven, times I’ve done this now, Wednesday has always been the marker of turning to the second half of the week. Hump Day in a bizarre context. That said, I feel good about how it’s gone so far and I feel very good about the stuff that’s being written about in more than just that getting-it-out-of-the-way spirit. Still, we start today with something that should’ve been reviewed months ago, and I’ll admit to being glad to have such a formidable weight off my chest.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Sunn O))), Kannon

sunn kannon

Sunn O))) are without question among the most integral bands of their generation. I don’t feel like it’s going even remotely out on a limb to say that. With the three-song full-length, Kannon (on Southern Lord), they go back to exploring the waveforms and ritualistic atmospheres that helped their influence spread in the first place, after several years of collaborating with others like Scott Walker and Ulver. Kannon is the first Sunn O)))-proper LP since 2009’s orchestral Monoliths and Dimensions (review here), and while I understand any and everything I might have to say about it is barely a drop in the bucket compared to the from-all-sides laudits founding guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson have received, its three parts nonetheless demonstrate the fact that with Sunn O))), there is never any backward looking, and that even as they strip away elements that made Monoliths and Dimensions as expansive as it was in favor of the claustrophobic rumble and chants of “Kannon 3,” they move relentlessly forward. They remain necessary.

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Swallow the Sun, Songs from the North I, II & III

swallow the sun songs from the north i ii iii

Hey, I like Swallow the Sun. I’ve dug the Finnish outfit since their debut, The Morning Never Came, but I gotta say, maybe a triple album, which Songs from the North I, II and III is, is a bit much? The concept is awesome – one record of light/dark, one record of light, one record of dark – but in practice it’s about a 160 minutes long and a considerable investment to ask of their audience. When it comes to repeat listens, I can’t help but continually go to Songs from the North III, the most extreme installment, which still has plenty of spacious guitar melodies to go with its death-doom emotional and tonal crush, and while I’m not sure that Swallow the Sun would’ve been doing themselves any favors if they spaced out three separate releases rather than bundling them together as they have, it’ll be years before a release of this scope can be properly digested, if it can at all, and for a band whose work is as complex and often lush as Swallow the Sun’s, one wants to absorb it in a way that such a massive offering doesn’t allow.

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Beesus, The Rise of Beesus

beesus the rise of beesus

Italy’s heavy rock boom continues with the debut album from Roman riffers Beesus. The four-piece nod at desert grunge with “6 Ft. Under Box” and roll out thick, loosely-psychedelic vibes on the opening title-track, but The Rise of Beesus primarily tells its story in its plays of density and spaciousness – see “Waltzer” and the later “Sonic Doom/Stoner Youth” – and one is reminded a bit of Snail circa Blood in that, but a sense of variety brings moments like the quiet opening stretch of “Kusa” and the bass-led thrust of “Mata la Verguenza,” making The Rise of Beesus not as easy to predict as it might first appear. When it does indulge its heft, as on “Beesus in Dope,” it satisfies, but while consistent, it is by no means unipolar. It seems to set Beesus up for future expansion on any number of lines, but as their first outing, it also has a noteworthy sense of itself, carving out an identity from diversity of songcraft and an abidingly chaotic vibe.

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Giöbia, Magnifier

giobia magnifier

Fall 2015’s Magnifier (on Sulatron Records) is the fourth LP from Italian psych/space rockers Giöbia, who launch with the ominous cosmic thrust of “This World was Being Watched Closely” and make their grandest statement on side B with the 15-minute lysergic noise excursion of “Sun Spectre.” There and elsewhere in “The Pond,” “The Stain” and the closing “The Magnifier,” Giöbia pursue shroomy sonic enlightenment through soaking reverb and wah, Moog, synth, bouzouki and so on – a somewhat kitchen sink approach resulting in a joyous front-to-back wash of spirited energy and engaging depth. The follow-up to 2013’s Introducing Night Sound (review here), Magnifier finds synth-laden prog swing in “Lentamenta la Luce Svanirà” and pushes air with the low end of its finale title-cut, a right-on dripper that’s round enough to make the world seem square by comparison. The place Giöbia inhabit between psychedelia and space rock is fast becoming a planet all their own, and for ambassadorship of their sound, Magnifier thrills.

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Sulatron Records

 

Decasia, Decasia

decasia decasia title=

Recorded by the band in 2014 and issued in 2015 as their debut EP, Decasia’s Decasia flows more like a long-player, with five cuts that unfold from the tanpura and didgeridoo immersion of opener “Halo,” but I won’t argue. While rawer than what one might commonly expect out of European heavy psychedelia, the French trio nonetheless cull aspects of that sound into their own, so that centerpiece “Blue Love” is right at home with its Hendrixian guitar swing, and closer “Dive” feels within rights to demonstrate a touch of Colour Haze in its initial rhythm, though on the whole Decasia are less laid back and more grunge-informed, resulting in an intriguing blend that, from the burst at the open of “Sherpa” through the crashing finish of “Dive,” shows them as a group able to play to either side at will. They’ve already followed up with the jam “Moodoo Majja,” but I wouldn’t speculate which side will win out as they continue to develop, if indeed any single one does.

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Sonic Mass, You People Never Learn

sonic mass you people never learn

The second long-player from London sludgers Sonic Mass, You People Never Learn… would seem immediately to be positioning itself as punishment. Fair enough – there’s certainly some abrasive aspect to its overriding rawness and liberal feedback – but the huge groove that pays off the build in the second half of “Butcher of Brogdael” is more righteous inclusion than it is masochistic, and even faster, shorter cuts like the blown-out punk of “Biker Satania” or “Toga”’s unhinged dual-guitar thrust feels more about a raucous vibe than putting someone off. In the title-track, they move from a wash of distortion into some caustic feedback by the end, but by then the context of You People Never Learn… is such that the nodding push of eight-minute closer “Quadranoid” is more a celebration than a beating, even if it does round out with two minutes of amp crackle, effects and feedback. If it was coming from a stage, you’d raise a pint to it.

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Wolvserpent, Aporia:Kala:Ananta

wolvserpent aporia kala ananta

Longform material is nothing new for Boise, Idaho-based duo Wolvserpent. Both of their two full-lengths to-date, 2010’s Blood Seed and 2013’s Perigaea Antahkarana, have found the ritual drone-doomers working in extended contexts. However, the newly-issued Aporia:Kala:Ananta EP (on Relapse) pushes that line even further. It is a single-song work running 40 minutes of spacious, sometimes grueling, thrillingly challenging heft, marked by a cinematic sense of drama in its use of violin, blackened extremity and striking depth. Drummer/violinist Brittany McConnell and guitarist/vocalist Blake Green aren’t so much taking any huge stylistic leaps from what they’ve done before, but the scope of “Aporia:Kala:Ananta,” as well as the overarching flow of the piece, its patient execution, and the masterful hand with which they guide it, cannot be called anything but progression. The only question I have is why they’re not calling it an album. Considering both its runtime and its breadth, to consider it anything less feels like selling it short.

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Relapse Records

 

Delouners, Family

delouners family

Swapping back and forth between Spanish and English lyrics adds variety to Family, the 13-song/45-minute debut long-player from Uruguayan foursome Delouners, but they weren’t short on it anyway. Spacious, echoing guitars and a languid psychedelia-gone-heavy-blues carry across laid back blowout rolls like “Low” and the more uptempo “Secreto,” and all the more in the side A-ending “Mistery Caravan,” the lazy, hazy, take-it-way-down groove feels derived from an All Them Witches influence. There are more garage rock moments, as on the title-track, the earlier “Los Dormidos,” “Alain Delon” and closer “Mirtha Legrand,” and the shoegazing tropicality of “Sea/Side” furthers an individualized sensibility overall, but that naturalist spirit never departs completely. So be it. Delouners drench this central inspiration in their own sonic persona, and so come off influenced rather than derivative, setting themselves up to branch out their progression as they see fit on whatever they might do next.

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Dead East Garden, Dead East Garden

dead east garden dead east garden

There are five songs on the self-titled debut EP from Cleveland, Ohio’s Dead East Garden and three of them could be said to have something to do with cars – “Starting Line,” “El Camino Rock” and “Straight Burning Road.” That’s not a judgment, just a statement of fact. From the post-Pepper Keenan chug of opener “The Lurker,” one kind of knows what’s coming from the workingman’s heavy rockers, but “Mother’s Disease” fleshes out a less dudely aggro spirit with a more patient initial roll and satisfying lead work from guitarist Ryan Scheel. The beer-soaked vibes resume as “Straight Burning Road” comes on to close, vocalist Pat Homolish layering spoken and belted-out hooks as bassist John Roach (since out of the band) and drummer R.J. Drenski hold down one more straightforward groove, and Dead East Garden reinforce the plainspoken intent on display across the short release, as light on pretense as it is heavy on testosterone.

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Pearl Handled Revolver, If the Devil Cast His Net

pearl handled revolver if the devil cast his net

As with their 2013 sophomore outing, This Mountain Waits (review here), the third album from UK heavy blues/classic rockers Pearl Handled Revolver, titled If the Devil Cast His Net, uses synth, Mellotron, electric piano and organ to explore a wide variety of moods, from the soft-guitar blues of “Someone Like You” to the rambling “Absinthe in Adelaide.” All throughout, the band reaffirm their mastery of these styles as they go, be it the boogie shuffle of “Loverman” or the side A closing title-track, which sets forth one of the record’s most engaging bass grooves under gravelly verse before moving into an extended instrumental jam, no less poised than anything preceding or following. That plotted feel is at the core of Pearl Handled Revolver’s approach – nothing is here by accident – and it makes their songcraft all the more inarguable, taking in a post-The Doors bounce on closer “Into the Blue” as they mirror the end of the album’s first half for another striking finish.

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Sun Blood Stories Post “Witch Wind” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 26th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

sun blood stories (photo by Jaclyn Hutchens)

Nope, it hasn’t been all that long since the last Sun Blood Stories video — only about a month — but whatever. They keep making ’em and I’ll keep posting ’em. Interesting too how utterly different “Witch Wind,” which you can see below, is from the preceding clip for “Misery is Nebulous.” That was a seven-minute journey through human tragedy, ecological and geopolitical, while “Witch Wind” is dancing silhouettes. Yup. From visuals that make you feel sad to be alive to dancing. That pretty much sums up the scope of the Boise outfit’s 2015 long-player, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), which I put on the other day simply because — and this is 100 percent true — I missed it. True story.

As it happens, “Witch Wind” was an easy favorite from that record, the call and response in the hook from Ben Kirby and Amber Pollard making it an immediate standout. Catchy in itself, it also speaks to the fluidity that KirbyPollardNik Kososik and Jon Fust are able to conjure from the ether throughout while also evidently dwelling in that ether, getting more tripped out as the three-stage progression of the record unfolds. The band released a follow-up in the even-more-experimental Samhain Variations (review here) last Halloween, but they’re reportedly also debuting a new offering live next month at Treefort Music Fest in their hometown. I don’t know if that’s recorded yet or not, but I’ll take new Sun Blood Stories as good news one way or another.

More on that as I hear it. Until then, here’s the “Witch Wind” video and appropriate credits.

Enjoy:

Sun Blood Stories, “Witch Wind” official video

Witch Wind is the 4th track from Twilight Midnight Morning, released June 23, 2015 by Sun Blood Stories

Danced by PROJECT FLUX at MING STUDIOS in Boise, Idaho

Ben Kirby: Guitar, Vocals,
Amber Pollard: Slide Guitar, Vocals, Effects Pedals
Judah Claffey: Viola
Nik Kososik: Bass
Jon Fust: Drums
Dale Hiscock: Mixing

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Sun Blood Stories website

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