Last Licks 2014: Seven that Spells, Elliott’s Keep, The Lone Crows, Krautzone, L’Ira del Baccano, Lae, Atomikylä, Deaf Proof, Jastreb and Arctic Sleep

Posted in Reviews on January 1st, 2015 by JJ Koczan

I thought last night about changing the name of this feature to “First Licks 2015,” but on further reflection, that’s just too much licking. It’s bad enough as it is. All the same, Happy New Year to you and yours, wherever you and they may be. I hope in 2015, your reviews pile never gets so backed up that you think about doing something so absolutely insane as tackling them all at once to wipe the slate clean. Then again, being completely inundated with music has its upsides. The music, for one.

We press on today with the fourth installment in the “Last Licks 2014” series. These are reviews 31-40. I passed the halfway point yesterday with barely so much as an inward breath to appreciate the moment, and I can only hope the pile of discs before me goes so smoothly. I’ll let you know when I get there. Until then, no need to dally, let’s get underway with the first reviews of 2015.

Thanks for reading:

Seven that Spells, The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock: Io

seven that spells the death and resurrection of krautrock io

Reportedly second in a series of three albums from Croatian heavy psych rockers Seven that Spells, The Death and Resurrection of Krautrock: Io follows a first installment subtitled Aum released in 2011 and brings forth heady, mostly instrumental progressions of extended runtimes and a satisfying blend of weighted tones and stylistic clarity. The three-piece who released their first album in 2003 alternate between three shorter pieces and two longer ones across the 47-minute Sulatron Records outing’s five tracks, and while I’m not entirely sure what is the narrative that’s taking place across them, there’s definitely a plotted course and concept at work behind the material – it does not come across as haphazard in any way. When they arrive, vocals do so as chants coinciding with sweeping passages, as on “Burning Blood,” the culmination of which is worthy of being the apex of a trilogy in progress. Io takes the off-the-cuff authenticity in heavy psych and gives it direction and purpose beyond simply being. No small feat, no small results.

Seven that Spells on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records

Elliott’s Keep, Nascentes Morimur

elliott's keep nascentes morimur

Some metal isn’t doom, some doom isn’t metal, but Texas trio Elliott’s Keep play doom metal, and make no mistake. Their third long-player, Nascentes Morimur, comes after 2008’s In Medias Res (review here) and 2010’s Sine Qua Non (review here), and like them, it was produced and mixed by J.T. Longoria, so that their darkened, metallic chugging is presented with a crisp bite. The three-piece of Kenneth Greene (bass/vocals), Jonathan Bates (guitar) and Joel Bates (drums) toy with the balance between death and doom effectively across Nascentes Morimur’s nine tracks, making highlights of early moments like the double-kick-laden “Now Taken” and the chorus of the proceeding “Days of Hell.” Later cuts like “Tale of Grief” and “Omen” follow suit, with Jonathan riffing out classic metal vibes while Greene switches between clean singing and a rasping, almost black metal in places, scream. Their command never wavers, though, and while there have never been many frills about their approach, Elliott’s Keep have come to offer a fist-pumpingly heavy, sharp-edged push.

Elliott’s Keep on Thee Facebooks

Elliott’s Keep on Bandcamp

The Lone Crows, Dark Clouds

the lone crows dark clouds

Bluesy Minneapolis double-guitar four-piece The Lone Crows show an affinity for classic rock stylization on their World in Sound second full-length, Dark Clouds. Produced modern, with lead guitar front and center, there’s more rock to Dark Clouds than heavy rock, but the vocal style of guitarist Tim Barbeau – joined in the band by guitarist Julian Manzara, bassist Andy Battcher and drummer Joe Goff – has some ‘90s inflection to it, and every now and then they get into a bit of bounce, as on the title-track and “The Dragon.” The penultimate “Midnight Show” would seem like the peak of the album, and sure enough it has one of its best hooks, but the recording doesn’t allow for the same push one imagines the material would carry live, and the quiet ending of “On that Day” feels flat compared to some of The Lone Crows’ bluesy peers. I chalk it up to the difference between blues rock and heavy rock and my own expectations, rather than some fault in the band.

The Lone Crows on Thee Facebooks

World in Sound

Krautzone, Kosmiche Rituale

krautzone kosmiche rituale

I’m not sure if it would be appropriate to call Krautzone an offshoot of Zone Six, of which all four members – guitarist Rainer Neeff, synth-providers Modulfix and Sula Bassana, and percussionist Komet Lulu (the latter two also of Electric Moon) – take part, plus bassist Onkel Kaktus, but either way, the sound is nebulous, brilliantly textured for a meditative, slow-motion churn, and utterly engrossing. Their Sulatron debut, Kosmiche Rituale, is comprised of three lengthy explorations, tones washing in and out of each, smoothly offset by Neeff’s flight-taken guitar, minimal but earthy percussion and an improvised sensibility. “Liebe” (12:46) and “Kosmiche Rituale” (9:09) comprise side A and “Only Fools Rush In” (20:41) consumes side B entirely, a wash of synth and cymbals announcing its arrival as it sets about unfolding its long course, every bit living up to the album’s title in the process. Krautzone also released a split with Lamp of the Universe in 2014 (review here), but on their own, they shine with the chance to really stretch out.

Krautzone on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records

L’Ira del Baccano, Terra 42

l'ira del baccano terra 42

Italian instrumentalists L’Ira del Baccano make their full-length debut with the lushly conceived Terra 42, a six-track, 57-minute outing that works in three overarching “phases.” The first of them includes tracks one through three and is dubbed “The Infinite Improbability Drive,” and it makes up more than half the album’s runtime, the first, 13-minute part standing alone while the two subsequent nine-minute stretches feed one directly into the next in a psychedelic wash of open guitar building to a raucous heavy rock finish. Phase II, “Sussurri… Nel Bosco di Diana” is the next two cuts, and moves smoothly from a Yawning Man-style jam to more riff-based thickness. The longest individual part, Phase III, is the 14-minute “Volcano X13,” track six, on which the band move fluidly through their heavy psych and rock impulses, synth and guitar intertwining well as L’Ira del Baccano affirm their more-than-burgeoning stylistic breadth. It’s an interesting, somewhat familiar blend, but they put it to good use on Terra 42 and engage with the spaciousness created.

L’Ira del Baccano on Thee Facebooks

Subsound Records

Lae, Break the Clasp

lae break the clasp

Reactivated Montreal noisemakers Lae enlisted the help of their producer, Today is the Day’s Steve Austin, in handling lead vocals for their debut, Break the Clasp, which is a move fitting for their anti-genre approach to noise, drone, doom, post-everything, and so on. A Battleground Records/The Compound release, Break the Clasp reworks unheard material from Lae’s original run in the mid-‘90s – an album that never came out, essentially – but the vitality in the 13 tracks (yes, even the crushingly slow ones) is fresh to the point of its newness, and even the parts meant to be abrasive, opener “Sexy Sadie” or pieces of “17 Queen,” for example, hold onto a wonderful depth the mix and a feeling of texture that feeds Break the Clasp’s otherworldly spirit and brings you along its path of consuming strangeness. Austin is a presence, but by no means the star, and the whole band Lae shines across Break the Clasp’s fascinating span. A debut no one knew they were awaiting, but they were.

Lae on Thee Facebooks

Earsplit Distro

Atomikylä, Erkale

atomikyla erkale

Psychedelia implying such a colorful sound, and black metal implying essentially the absence of that color, the two have rarely been paired well, but Finnish four-piece Atomikylä display a resounding space on their five-song debut full-length, Erkale (released by Future Lunch), and they’re not through the 13-minute opener, “Aluaineet,” before I think they might have mastered the balance between effects wash, unmitigated thrust and far-back screaming that most others have left too far to one side or the other. The four-piece with a lineup half from Oranssi Pazuzu and half from Dark Buddha Rising don’t stay in one place stylistically – the title-track has an almost krautrock feel, while the subsequent “Ihmiskallo” is more resolved to doom – but they keep a consistency of blinding bleakness to Erkale that results in a decidedly individualized feel throughout the 48 minutes. Droning and jazzy guitar experimentalism prevails in “Who Goes There,” and 10-minute closer “Musta Kulta” both broadens the atmosphere and underscores Atomikylä’s vicious stylistic triumph, capping Erkale with a mash of squibblies and screams, effects and distortion that’s so filthy it can’t help but be beautiful.

Atomikylä on Thee Facebooks

Future Lunch

Deaf Proof, Death Sounds Angry

deaf proof death sounds angry

Freiburg, Germany, trio Deaf Proof – guitarist/vocalist J. Fredo, bassist JP and drummer Pedro – released their first demo in 2013, but the three-song/34-minute EP (it’s more like an album, but I won’t argue) Death Sounds Angry is a decidedly more assured, professional affair. The vibe is loose and, in the reaches of 18-minute middle cut “Origin of Pain,” jammy, but the three-piece still seem to have some idea of where they want their material to go, even as they feel their way toward those ends. A Colour Haze influence? Maybe, but less than one might think given the current climate of European heavy psych. JP’s bass has a tendency toward darker undertones, and when they hit the payoffs for “Death Sounds Angry and Hungry for More,” “Origin of Pain” and “The Sense,” they reveal themselves to be in search of something heavier and less peaceful. J. Fredo’s vocals are a little forward in the mix, but Death Sounds Angry still offers plenty to chew on for the converted.

Deaf Proof on Thee Facebooks

Deaf Proof on Bandcamp

Jastreb, Mother Europe

jastreb mother europe

Progressive, mostly instrumental and hypnotic, Zagreb, Croatia, trio Jastreb released their self-titled debut as a single 36-minute song in 2012, and the follow-up, Mother Europe (on HauRucK), is no less ambitious. Vocals appear here and there, both from the core three-piece and a guest spot, but the heart of what Jastreb do is rooted in their ability to craft movements that pull listeners in without falling into lulls of unconsciousness – to wit, the repetitions of “The Black Mountain” seem still but are constantly building and moving forward – as well as in arrangement flourishes like synth, Hammond, sitar and violin among the shades of post-metal in “Haemmer” or the bleary, drone-backed opener “North,” which comes companioned by the subtle churn of “South” to end the album. Not necessarily psychedelic in a loose or jammy sense, but immersive, and purposeful in its variety; the sitar and guest vocals on “The Silver Spire” arrive just at the moment when one thinks they might have heard it all. Could say the same of the record itself, I suppose.

Jastreb on Thee Facebooks

Jastreb’s BigCartel store

HauRucK

Arctic Sleep, Passage of Gaia

arctic sleep passage of gaia

Passage of Gaia is the sixth album from progressive melo-doomers Arctic Sleep. A four-piece from Milwaukee including bassist/drummer/cellist/vocalist Keith D, guitarist Mike Gussis and vocalist Emily Jancetic (John Gleisner plays drums live), one is reminded both of the Floydian consciousness of mid-period Anathema (my go-to comparison point for this kind of stuff, admittedly) and the drama in Katatonia and some of Novembers Doom’s clean sections, but ultimately, Arctic Sleep emerge from the eight-track/54-minute DIY long-player with their own personality, measured out in the careful vocal collaboration between Keith D and Jancetic, songs like “Terra Vindicta,” “Green Dragon” and “Passage of Gaia,” and the varied structures between the more rocking “Terra Vindicta” and the build of “Solar Lament.” Through it all, nothing’s out of balance, and Arctic Sleep execute Passage of Gaia with the poise demanded by the style and the fact that it’s their sixth album, accomplishment suiting them as well as the melancholy of closer “Destroy the Urn,” which almost loses its restraint at the end. Almost.

Arctic Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Arctic Sleep at CDBaby

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Lae Confirm Break the Clasp for Nov. 25 Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 8th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

lae

One can hear the tension underlying the airiness of the material already in the album trailer for Lae‘s Break the Clasp, which has been confirmed for a Nov. 25 CD/digital release through The Compound/Battleground Records. The Montreal act have a story as strange and individualized as their sound, what with forming in the ’90s, going inactive, hiring Today is the Day‘s Steve Austin to produce their debut after getting back together in 2013 and having him wind up performing lead vocals on the whole thing, but particularly considering the years since the songs were initially conceived, they seem to lack nothing for urgency. I’ll be interested to hear how the full-length congeals, but I guess that’s the point of the trailer in the first place.

Find that and more on Break the Clasp below, courtesy of the PR wire:

lae break the clasp

LAE: Montreal Act Confirms Details Of Debut Album Set For Release Via The Compound/Battleground; Trailer And More Posted

The final details are being aligned for Break The Clasp, the otherworldly debut album from Montreal-based psychedelic post-rock artisans, LAE, to finally see its release this Autumn, as the eclectic outfit undergoes an absolute rebirth.

Performing as LAE-TSEU, their initial moniker, the outfit initially impacted the Quebec art and post-hardcore/emo/indie circuits in the apocalypse-ready Y2K era of the mid 1990s, having set out to distance themselves from the established conventions of rock music as well as the trappings of the various alternative subgenres. However, after carving an excellent name for themselves regionally, and as they prepared to record their debut album, the band dissolved, with several members’ lifestyles beginning to rot away at the rest of the band, professionally and personally.

In mid-2013, having restructured the lineup and dropping half of their previous band name, LAE emerged from the unfortunate ashes of what transpired two decades ago, completely re-envisioning the songs with new life knowledge and a ravenous hunger to make them better than ever. To capture this soundtrack, bassist, Ronald Jean-Gilles, drummer Serge Nakauchi Pelletier, and guitarists Stephane Desgroseilliers and Marc Lucas Ablasou contracted Steve Austin (Today Is The Day), flying him and an arsenal of gear from his Austin Enterprises from Maine to record in Ablasou’s wood shop/warehouse. Here, the five musicians utilized acoustic and electric guitars, trumpet, saws, multiple electric organs and pianos and more to capture their long-awaited full-length, Break The Clasp in full analog on vintage gear. However, as Austin became immersed in the recordings, eventually his producer duties shifted to more instinctive musician sense, and in the end, Austin ended up performing lead vocals to the entire album in addition to other musical contributions.

After being mastered at Austin Enterprises back in Maine, and being fitted with imaginative cover art crafted by the band’s longtime cohort Sonny Kay (The VSS, Gold Standard Laboratories label), LAE’s Break The Clasp will finally see its birth this Autumn. Encompassing nearly fifty-three minutes of unclassifiable, unearthly, heartbreaking psychedelic audio artistry, while fans of Three Mile Pilot, Swans, Sonic Youth, Unwound, Slint, Shellac and more will be instantly hooked by these tales of love, devotion and loss, Break The Clasp is an incredible experience, the record unfathomably original and unlike anything accessible on this planet.

Issues LAE in a collective statement on their album finally coming to fruition: “This project really started from Marc’s brains. This accumulation of song ideas and sounds just needed to come out and somehow be archived once and for all. That was the ultimate goal. To do so, Marc basically recruited the only three people that can actually understand him musically, no joke. We then had a band, one reminiscent of the one we were all part of at some point in the ’90s. Adding Steve Austin to the mix was quite the experiment. Luckily for us, the timing couldn’t have been better as Steve got involved with this project in ways we never would’ve expected. Not only has he become the lead singer, but more importantly a very good friend. This album was recorded over a week during the summer of 2013; heck, the drums were recorded over the course of a day and half! With all its imperfections and whatnot, we are very pleased and humbled to team up with the good people at The Compound and Battleground Records for the release of Break The Clasp, our first album.”

Break The Clasp will be issued through a collaborative release between DIY labels The Compound and Battleground Records. The digital download and 6-panel digipak will be available on November 25th, 2014, and a massive 180-gram double LP in February 2015 as the band begins touring throughout North America. Preorders, singles from the album and more will be made available in the coming days.

Break The Clasp Track Listing:
1. Sexy Sadie
2. Break the Clasp
3. To Give You The Stars Above
4. Broken Knee
5. Reunion
6. New Moon
7. Sister
8. Spare Me Logic
9. Let Me Die In The Memory of Her Arms
10. Geisha
11. 17 Queen
12. Cold Dark Drive
13. Space Travel

http://laetseu.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/LAE-Band/614579391922975
http://www.thecompoundrecs.com
https://thecompound.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/thecompoundrecs
http://www.earsplitdistro.com
https://www.facebook.com/battlegroundrecords

Lae, Break the Clasp album trailer

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Lae to Release Break the Clasp Debut LP

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 22nd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

So you’ve got Lae, a post-punk/post-rock troupe from Montreal who were onto some cool stuff in their time in the ’90s — when they were called Lae-Tseu — but who never put an album out at the time. They get back together to record, and tap avant noise rock genius Steve Austin of Today is the Day to engineer, and then Austin winds up fronting the band as well. I fail to see how that’s not the absolute best-case scenario for all parties involved.

The resulting long-player — Lae‘s first, remember — will be out in the coming months on Battleground Records/The Compound. It seems like the material that comprises the album is stuff that the band had written during their first run, so it should be interesting to hear how it sounds both with a modern production and with Austin at the helm, whose work is both beyond time and utterly his own.

To the PR wire!

LAE: Debut LP By Montreal Psychedelic Post-Rock Act To See Release Via The Compound/Battleground

Bringing a decade-and-a-half of silence to an end, Montreal-based quartet, LAE, is eager to release the band’s official debut full-length release, and the entire reincarnation of the band.

Performing under their original moniker, LAE-TSEU, the band evolved out of the mid-’90s post-rock/post-hardcore scene, seeking to distance themselves from the established conventions of rock music as well as the trappings of the various alternative subgenres. Not without irony, trace elements of many of those persist in their sound, itself a peculiarly familiar presence, as varied as it is satisfying. Nods to the likes of Three Mile Pilot, Swans, Sonic Youth, Unwound and Slint will surely not go unnoticed, but LAE’s total is far greater than the sum of its influences. Scathing, desperate and heartbreaking vocal sentiments set against richly layered backdrops, amplified and acoustic, melodic and deafening.

After earning a solid regional fanbase and foundation, the band was dissolved in 2001, without having released an official album. Their regional peer acts would go on to receive massive attention just after LAE’s premature and unexpected demise, and it would seem that the band had missed the boat completely as these other hometown acts entered the international spotlight. Yet, perhaps there is more than one boat…

Having reformed with a diehard goal of finally bringing their unfortunately unsung anthems to fruition with more passion and dedication than ever before, LAE excitedly returns to active duty with their impending debut full-length LP coming together for release in late 2014. In mid-2013, LAE’s current lineup — bassist, Ronald Jean-Gilles, drummer Serge Nakauchi Pelletier, and guitarists Stephane Desgroseilliers and Marc Lucas Ablasou — set out to record their debut LP, Break The Clasp, bringing their anthems from two decades ago to new life, completely re-envisioned with incredible musicianship and finesse. To capture these anthems with the appropriately beautiful yet tortured tones, the band sanctioned the talents of producer Steve Austin of Today Is The Day, flying him along with some major pieces of recording equipment from his Austin Enterprises out to Montreal for the recording sessions. Yet, once the recording sessions were underway,Austin instantly became intertwined in the recording process full-on, in the end supplying lead vocals to the entire Break The Clasp LP. An incredible array of musical experimentation seamlessly coalescing into a more than fifty-minute-long, mesmerizingly psychedelic yet anguished style of post-rock, LAE’s mammoth sound is unlike anything else one can imagine; incredibly beautiful yet inescapably depressing.

Late this year, Break The Clasp will finally see its long-awaited dawn through a collaborative release between DIY labels The Compound and Battleground Records, on all digital formats as well as deluxe digitpak CD and deluxe 2xLP formats. The otherworldly cover art crafted by LAE’s longtime cohort Sonny Kay is viewable HERE.

Stay tuned for the official street date as well as samples of the album and more to be released in the coming weeks. LAE will also take to the highways of North America in support of Break The Clasp before the end of the year as well.

http://laetseu.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/LAE-Band/614579391922975
http://www.thecompoundrecs.com
http://www.facebook.com/thecompoundrecs
http://www.earsplitdistro.com
https://www.facebook.com/battlegroundrecords

Lae-Tseu, “A Chair in Hawaii”

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