Quarterly Review: Horisont, Blackwolfgoat & Larman Clamor, Matushka, Tuna de Tierra, MAKE, SardoniS, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Moewn, El Hijo de la Aurora, Hawk vs. Dove

Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


Cruising right along with the Fall 2015 Quarterly Review. I hope you’ve been digging it so far. There’s still much more to come, and I’ve spaced things out so that it’s not like all the really killer stuff was in the first day. That’s not so much to draw people in with bigger names as to get a good mix of styles to keep me from going insane. 10 records is a lot to go through if you’re hearing the same thing all the time. Today, as with each day this week, I’m glad to be able to change things up a bit as we make our way through. Let’s get to it.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #21-30:

Horisont, Odyssey

horisont odyssey

Aside from earning immediate points by sticking the 10-minute title-track at the front of their 62-minute fourth album, Swedish mustache rockers Horisont add intrigue to Odyssey (out on Rise Above) via the acquisition of journeyman guitarist Tom Sutton (The Order of Israfel, ex-Church of Misery). Their mission? To rock ‘70s arena melodies and grandiose vibes while keeping the affair tight enough so they don’t come across as completely ridiculous in the process. They’ve had three records to get it together before this one, so that they’d succeed isn’t necessarily much of a surprise, but the album satisfies nonetheless, cuts like “Blind Leder Blind” departing the sci-fi thematics of the opener for circa-1975 vintage loyalism of a different stripe, while “Back on the Streets” is pure early Scorpions strut, the band having found their own niche within crisp execution of classic-sounding grooves that seem to have a vinyl hiss no matter their source.

Horisont on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records

Blackwolfgoat & Larman Clamor, Straphanger / Drone Monger Split

blackwolfgoat larman clamor split

I’ll make no bones whatsoever about being partial to the work of both Blackwolfgoat – the solo experimental vehicle of Boston-based guitarist Darryl Shepard – and Larman Clamor – the solo-project of Hamburg-based graphic artist Alexander von Wieding – so to find them teamed up for a split 7” on H42 Records is something of a special thrill. Shepard’s inclusion, “Straphanger,” continues to push the thread between building layers of guitar on top of each other and songwriting that the last Blackwolfgoat full-length, Drone Maintenance (review here), found him exploring, while Larman Clamor’s “Drone Monger” is an alternate version from what appeared on last year’s Beetle Crown and Steel Wand (review here) and “Fo’ What You Did” digs deep into the swampy psych-blues that von Wieding has done so well developing for the last half-decade or so in the project’s tenure. My only complaint? No collaboration between the two sides. Would love to hear what Shepard and von Wieding could do in a cross-Atlantic two-piece.

Blackwolfgoat on Thee Facebooks

Larman Clamor on Thee Facebooks

H42 Records

Matushka, II

matushka ii

II is the aptly-titled second full-length from Russian heavy psych instrumentalists Matushka, who jam kosmiche across its four component tracks and round out by diving headfirst into the acid with “Drezina,” a 20-minute pulsation from some distant dimension that gives sounds like Earthless if they made it up on the spot, peppering shred-ola leads with no shortage of effects swirl. In comparison, “As Bartenders and Bouncers Dance” feels positively plotted, but it, “The Acid Curl’s Dance” before and the especially dreamy “Meditation,” which follows, all have their spontaneous-sounding elements. For guitarist Timophey Goryashin, bassist Maxim Zhuravlev (who seems to since be out of the band) and drummer Konstantin Kotov to even sustain this kind of lysergic flow, they need to have a pretty solid chemistry underlying the material, and they do. I don’t know whether Matushka’s II will change the scope of heavy psychedelia, but they put their stamp on the established parameters here and bring an edge of individuality in moments of arrangement flourish — acoustics, synth, whatever it might be — where a lot of times that kind of thing is simply lost in favor of raw jamming.

Matushka on Thee Facebooks

Matushka on Bandcamp

Tuna de Tierra, EPisode I: Pilot

tuna de tierra episode i pilot

If a pilot is used in television to test whether or not a show works, then Tuna de Tierra’s EPisode I: Pilot, would seem to indicate similar ends. A three-song first outing from the Napoli outfit, it coats itself well in languid heavy psychedelic vibing across “Red Sun” (the opener and longest track at 8:25; immediate points), “Ash” (7:28) and the particularly dreamy “El Paso de la Tortuga,” which closes out at 4:08 and leaves the listener wanting to hear more of what Alessio de Cicco (guitar/vocals) and Luciano Mirra (bass) might be able to concoct from their desert-style influences. There’s patience to be learned in some of their progressions, and presumably at some point they’ll need to pick up a drummer to replace Jonathan Maurano, who plays here and seems to since be out of the band, but especially as their initial point of contact with planet earth, EPisode I: Pilot proves immersive and a pleasure to get lost within, and that’s enough for the moment.

Tuna de Tierra on Thee Facebooks

Tuna de Tierra on Bandcamp

MAKE, The Golden Veil

make the golden veil

Much of what one might read concerning North Carolinian trio MAKE and their second album, The Golden Veil, seems to go out of its way to point out the individual take they’re bringing to the established parameters of post-metal. I don’t want to speak for anyone else, but part of that has to be sheer critical fatigue at the thought of another act coming along having anything in common with Isis while at the same time, not wanting to rag on MAKE as though their work were without value of its own, which at this point an Isis comparison dogwhistles. MAKE’s The Golden Veil successfully plays out an atmospherically intricate, engaging linear progression across its seven tracks, from the cut-short intro “I was Sitting Quietly, Peeling back My Skin” through the atmospheric sludge tumult of “The Absurdist” and into the patient post-rock melo-drone of “In the Final Moments, Uncoiling.” Yes, parts of it are familiar. Parts of a lot of things are familiar. Some of it sounds like Isis. That’s okay.

MAKE on Thee Facebooks

MAKE on Bandcamp

SardoniS, III

sardonis iii

To an extent, the reputation of Belgium instru-crushers SardoniS precedes them, and as such I can’t help but listen to “The Coming of Khan,” which launches their third album, III (out via Consouling Sounds), and not be waiting for the explosion into tectonic riffing and massive-sounding gallop. Still the duo of drummer Jelle Stevens and guitarist Roel Paulussen, SardoniS offer up five tracks of sans-vocals, Surrounded by Thieves-style thrust, a cut like “Roaming the Valley” summarizing some of the best elements of what they’ve done across the span of splits with Eternal Elysium and Drums are for Parades, as well as their two prior full-lengths, 2012’s II and 2010’s SardoniS (review here), in its heft and its rush. A somewhat unanticipated turn arrives with 11:46 closer “Forward to the Abyss,” which though it still hits its standard marks, also boasts both lengthy atmospheric sections at the front and back and blastbeaten extremity between. Just when you think you know what to expect.

SardoniS on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds

Lewis and the Strange Magics, Velvet Skin

lewis and the strange magics velvet skin

With their debut long-player, Barcelona trio Lewis and the Strange Magics answer the promise of their 2014 Demo (review here) in setting a late-‘60s vibe to modern cultish interpretation, post-Uncle Acid and post-Ghost (particularly so on “How to be You”) but no more indebted to one or the other than to themselves, which is as it should be. Issued via Soulseller Records, Velvet Skin isn’t afraid to dive into kitsch, and that winds up being a big part of the charm of songs like “Female Vampire” and “Golden Threads,” but it’s ultimately the chemistry of the organ-inclusive trio that makes the material hold up, as well as the swaggering rhythms of “Cloudy Grey Cube” and “Nina (Velvet Skin),” which is deceptively modern in its production despite such a vintage methodology. The guitar and keys on that semi-title-track seem to speak to a classic progressive edge burgeoning within Lewis and the Strange Magics’ approach, and I very much hope that’s a path they continue to walk.

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Thee Facebooks

Soulseller Records

Moewn, Acqua Alta

moewn acqua alta

Basking in a style they call “oceanic rock,” newcomer German trio Moewn unveil their first full-length, Acqua Alta, via Pink Tank Records in swells of post-metallic undulations that wear their neo-progressive influences on their sleeve. Instrumental for the duration, the three-piece tracked the album in 2014 about a year after first getting together, but the six songs have a cohesive, thought-out feel to their peaks and valleys – “Packeis” perhaps most of all – that speaks to their purposeful overall progression. Atmospherically, it feels like Moewn are still searching for what they want to do with this sound, but they have an awful lot figured out up to this point, whether it’s the nodding wash of airy guitar and fluid heft of groove that seems to push “Dunkelmeer” along or second cut “Katamaran,” which if it weren’t for the liquefied themes of the art and their self-applied genre tag, I’d almost say sounded in its more spacious stretches like desert rock à la Yawning Man.

Moewn on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records

El Hijo de la Aurora, The Enigma of Evil

el hijo de la aurora the enigma of evil

Since their first album, 2008’s Lemuria (review here), it has been increasingly difficult to pin Peruvian outfit El Hijo de la Aurora to one style or another. Drawing from doom, heavy rock, drone and psychedelic elements, they seem to push outward cosmically into something that’s all and none of them at the same time on their third album, The Enigma of Evil (released by Minotauro Records), the core member Joaquín Cuadra enlisting the help of a host of others in executing the seven deeply varied tracks, including Indrayudh Shome of continually underrated experimentalists Queen Elephantine on the acoustic-led “The Awakening of Kosmos” and the penultimate chug-droner “The Advent of Ahriman.” Half a decade after the release of their second album, Wicca (review here), in 2010, El Hijo de la Aurora’s work continues to feel expansive and ripe for misinterpretation, finding weight in atmosphere as much as tone and breadth enough to surprise with how claustrophobic it can at times seem.

El Hijo de la Aurora’s website

Minotauro Records

Hawk vs. Dove, Divided States

hawk vs dove divided states

Dallas outfit Hawk vs. Dove recorded Divided States in the same studio as their self-titled 2013 debut (review here) and the two albums both have black and white line-drawn artwork from Larry Carey, so it seems only fitting to think of the new release as a follow-up to the first. It is fittingly expansive, culling together elements of ‘90s noise, post-grunge indie (ever wondered what Weezer would sound like heavy? Check “X”), black metal (“Burning and Crashing”), desert rock (“PGP”) and who the hell knows what else into a mesh of styles that not only holds up but feels progressed from the first time out and caps with an 11-minute title-track that does even more to draw the various styles together into a cohesive, singular whole. All told, Divided States is 38 minutes of blinding turns expertly handled and impressive scope trod over as though it ain’t no thing, just another day at the office. It’s the kind of record that’s so good at what it does that other bands should hear it and be annoyed.

Hawk vs. Dove on Thee Facebooks

Hawk vs. Dove on Bandcamp

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Larman Clamor Stream “Bleak Heart’s Night Waltz” from Beetle Crown and Steel Wand

Posted in audiObelisk on September 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

alexander von wieding

Next Monday, Sept. 29, marks the release of the fifth Larman Clamor album, Beetle Crown and Steel Wand. The one-man outfit of Hamburg-based artist Alexander von Wieding has been something of a fixture around these parts the last few years, and over that time, the project’s progression has only become more evident, von Wieding taking Larman Clamor from swampy surrealism to an intricate potion of blues, psychedelia, heavy rock and gritty Southern-style twang. It’s been a satisfying and primarily weird journey, and I doubt very much if von Wieding would have it any other way.

The last couple Larman Clamor outings have come out courtesy of Small Stone Records — von Wieding has also provided art to numerous Small Stone artists from Wo Fat to Lo-Pan and so on — but Beetle Crown and Steel Wand sidesteps the collaboration for a limited self-release, 500 CDs available direct. larman clamor beetle crown and steel wandOne doubts it’s the last the two entities will join forces, as von Wieding is reportedly already at work on the sixth Larman Clamor album, but his one-year-one-record clip has been rolling for the last three or four years at this point, and there’s no slowing down now.

What that rate has given those who’ve followed him for that stretch is basically a blow-by-blow account of the creative evolution at play, and Beetle Crown and Steel Wand is the latest step in that clearly ongoing process, branching further out from the project’s bluesed-out roots and into an earthy psychedelia that belongs solely to von Wieding. He’s still got an edge of Delta blues to the sound — as the banjo-plucking and slide guitar on “Bleak Heart’s Night Waltz” will attest — but his depth of arrangement, rhythmic stomp and melodic scope continue to flourish.

Check out “Bleak Heart’s Night Waltz” on the player below, followed by the bio I wrote for the album, and enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Tales of brown-leafed mystery. Unseen threats lurking in high weeds. Something not quite human, not quite there, out of some other place. Feet stomping on wood porches. This is all familiar terrain for Larman Clamor’s blues, but with Beetle Crown and Steel Wand, it’s just another piece in an increasingly complicated puzzle of psychedelic experimentation.

It is the fourth Larman Clamor full-length in three years, the prolific heart of multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/artist Alexander Von Wieding proving relentless in its creativity, and while Beetle Crown and Steel Wand fits in line with 2013’s Alligator Heart, 2012’s Frogs, 2011’s Altars to Turn Blood and the preceding 2011 self-titled debut EP, no question it’s also the next step in an ongoing evolution of Von Wieding’s songwriting. Each Larman Clamor outing has developed from the last, and Beetle Crown and Steel Wand is no exception. It is Von Wieding’s most rhythmic, most expansive statement to date.

One can hear it in the familiar dirt boogie of “My Lil’ Ghost,” sure – how comfortable Von Wieding sounds in this form compared to just two years ago (he’s had plenty of practice) – but where Beetle Crown and Steel Wand really distinguishes itself is in the arrangements. In short movements like “Eggs in the Sand” and “Tangerine Nightfall” and the album’s apex, “Her Majesty, the Mountain,” Von Wieding pushes Larman Clamor into psychedelic spaces more than he ever has, and particularly in the case of the latter, into heavier tonal weight than he’s ever conjured before. Larman Clamor doesn’t just sound like a solo-project here, but a full band.

At the same time, the opening title-track offers layers of percussive sway, “We Shine Alright” ticks away on pots and pans jangling chains, and “Bleak Heart’s Night Waltz” taps into forgotten woodsman tribalisms. Von Wieding takes us far away from past minimalism on “Caravan of Ghouls,” with a full, ritualized sound, and could it be that he’s presenting us with a companion for Larman in “Aurora Snarling?” It seems too early to speculate, but if Aurora is another character in Larman’s dizzying tale, she’s bound to show up again.

What’s certain is that Beetle Crown and Steel Wand is Larman Clamor’s farthest-ranging album yet. Von Wieding is still loyal to the muddy waters from which the project first emerged, but in no way is he restrained by them, and if the last couple years have proved anything, it’s that this development is only going to keep moving forward. Now that Larman Clamor is out of the swamps, it seems more and more like it can go just about anywhere.

Larman Clamor on Thee Facebooks

Larman Clamor on Bandcamp

Larman Clamor on CDBaby

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Larman Clamor Reveal Details for Beetle Crown and Steel Wand

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s always fascinating to see what Alexander von Wieding has come up with next for his one-man project, Larman Clamor, now getting ready to issue the fifth outing under the moniker, Beetle Crown and Steel Wand. The Hamburg-based artist/musician continues to work at a speedy clip, and the latest full-length and third for Small Stone will also be the follow-up to 2013’s Alligator Heart (review here). One never knows quite where von Wieding might be headed at any given moment — the last offering stripped down some of the more elaborate arrangements of 2012’s Frogs (review here), but a pleasingly strange trip into swamp blues is almost assured, and like last year, the year before, and the year before that, a welcome journey whenever undertaken.

No solid release date as yet, but if Beetle Crown and Steel Wand gets out before the end of 2014, that would give von Wieding five releases in the four years, which even for a one-man show is an impressive pace.

Here’s the album info, hoisted from the Larman Clamor Thee Facebooks page:

Friends of the Clamor, it is that time of the year again to announce a new album!

The musical journey continues with “Beetle Crown & Steel Wand”, Larman Clamor’s 5th album.

There is no fixed release date as of yet, but it will most likely be out on the mighty fine Small Stone Records this fall or near the end of 2014. Let the chips fall where they may and let the spirits speed my hands to get the artwork done.

In the meantime, here you all have a peek at the album cover and the tracklisting.

Feel free to spread the good news.

Larman Clamor – Beetle Crown & Steel Wand
1. Beetle Crown & Steel Wand
2. My Lil’ Ghost
3. Eggs In The Sand
4. Wilderness, Wilderness
5. We Shine Alright
6. Caravan Of Ghouls
7. Tangerine Nightfall
8. Alter Yer Ways
9. Bleak Heart’s Night Waltz
10. Drone Monger
11. Aurora Snarling
13. Her Majesty, The Mountain
13. She Was Born A Sorceress

Thanks for your support!


Larman Clamor, Alligator Heart (2013)

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Visual Evidence: 10 Album Covers that Kicked Ass in 2013

Posted in Visual Evidence on December 31st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

First thing, let me give the immediate and familiar disclaimer: This isn’t everything. If I wanted to call this list “The ONLY 10 Album Covers that Kicked Ass in 2013,” I would. I didn’t do that, because there were way more than 10 covers that resonated when I saw them this year. The idea here is just to check out a few artists’ work that really stuck out as memorable throughout the year and really fit with the music it was complementing and representing.

As always, you can click the images below to enlarge them for a more detailed look.

The list runs alphabetically by band. Thanks in advance for reading:

Beastwars, Blood Becomes Fire

Cover by Nick Keller. Artist website here.

Like Nick Keller‘s cover for New Zealand heavy plunderers Beastwars‘ 2011 self-titled debut (review here), the darker, moodier oil and canvas piece that became the front of Blood Becomes Fire (review here) created a sense of something truly massive and otherworldly. A huge skull with sci-fi themes and barren landscape brought to it foreboding memento mori that seemed to suggest even land can die. It was an excellent match for the brooding tension in the album itself.

Blaak Heat Shujaa,The Edge of an Era

Cover by Arrache-toi un oeil. Artist website here.

The level of detail in Arrache-toi un oeil‘s cover for Blaak Heat Shujaa‘s full-length Tee Pee Records debut, The Edge of an Era (review here), would probably be enough for it to make this list anyway, but the Belgium-based art duo seemed thematically to bring out the swirl, chaos and underlying order within the Los Angeles trio’s desert psychedelia. Blue was for the vinyl edition, brown for the CD digipak (both were revealed here), but in either format it was a reminder of how much visual art can add to a musical medium.

Black Pyramid, Adversarial

Cover by Eli Wood.

I look at the Eli Wood cover for Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial (review here) as representing the task before the band in putting out their third LP. Released by Hydro-Phonic, the album found Black Pyramid coming head to head with both their audience’s expectations of what they were in their original lineup and their own will to move past that and become something else. If there was a second panel to the cover, it would show the arrow-shot warrior standing next to the severed head of the demon he slayed. Easily one of my favorite covers of the year. The scale of it begged for a larger format even than vinyl could provide.

Ice Dragon, Born a Heavy Morning

Cover by Samantha Allen. Artist website here.

It was such a weird record, with the interludes and the bizarre twists, that Samantha Allen‘s cover piece for Ice Dragon‘s Born a Heavy Morning (review here) almost couldn’t help but encompass it. The direct, but slightly off-center stare of the owl immediately catches the eye, but we see the titular morning sunshine as well, the human hand with distinct palm lines, illuminati eye and other symbols — are the planets? Bubbles? I don’t know, but since Born a Heavy Morning was such an engrossing listening experience, to have the visual side follow suit made it all the richer.

Kings Destroy, A Time of Hunting

Cover by Aidrian O’Connor.

In Magyar mythology, the bird-god Turul is perched atop the tree of life and is a symbol of power. With its theme in geometry, Aidrian O’Connor‘s cover piece for Kings Destroy‘s A Time of Hunting — which was originally titled Turul — gave a glimpse at some of that strength, positioning the viewer as prey below a creature and sky that seem almost impossible to parse. I felt the same way the first time I put on the finished version of the Brooklyn outfit’s second offering, unspeakably complex and brazenly genre-defiant as it was.

Larman Clamor, Alligator Heart

Cover by Alexander von Wieding. Artist website here.

Alexander von Wieding deserves multiple mentions for his 2013 covers for Black Thai and Small Stone labelmates Supermachine, but he always seems to save the best for his own project, Larman Clamor. The one-man-band’s third LP, Alligator Heart (review here), was a stomper for sure, but in his visual art for it, von Wieding brilliantly encapsulated the terrestrial elements (the human and reptile) as well as the unknowable spheres (rippling water, sun-baked sky) that the songs portrayed in their swampadelic blues fashion. It was one to stare at.

Monster Magnet, Last Patrol

Cover by John Sumrow. Artist website here.

Similar I guess to the Beastwars cover in its looming feel and to the Black Pyramid for its scale, John Sumrow‘s art for Monster Magnet‘s Last Patrol (review here) mirrored the space-rocking stylistic turn the legendary New Jersey band made in their sound, taking their iconic Bullgod mascot and giving it a cosmic presence, put to scale with the rocketship on the right side. It stares out mean from the swirl and regards the ship with no less a watchful eye than Dave Wyndorf‘s lyrics seem to have on society as a whole.

Red Fang, Whales and Leeches

Cover by Orion Landau. Artist website here.

There’s a mania to Orion Landau’s cover for Red Fang‘s third album, Whales and Leeches, and while the songs that comprise the record are more clearly structured, the collage itself, the face it makes when viewed from a distance, and the (from what I’m told is brilliant) cut-out work in the physical pressing of the album, all conspired to make one of 2013’s most striking visuals. As the in-house artist for RelapseLandau is no stranger to landmark pieces, but this was a different level of accomplishment entirely.

Sandrider, Godhead

Cover by Jesse Roberts. Band Facebook here.

Fuck. Look at this fucking thing! Galaxy spiral, vagina-dentata, creepy multi-pupil eyes and a background that seems to push the eye to the middle with no hope of escape even as blues and oranges collide. Wow. Sandrider bassist Jesse Roberts (see also The Ruby Doe) artwork for Godhead (review here) is the only cover on this list done by a member of the band in question, and though I’m sure there are many awesome examples out there, I don’t know if any can top this kind of nightmarishness. Unreal. The sheer imagination of it.

Summoner, Atlantian

Cover by Alyssa Maucere. Artist website here.

When I put together a similar list last year, it had Summoner‘s first album under the moniker, Phoenix, on it, and with their second, they went more melodic, more progressive, and showed that heaviness was about atmosphere as much as tone, and that it was a thing to be moved around rather than leaned on. The Alyssa Maucere art, dark but deceptively colorful, rested comfortably alongside the songs, with a deeply personal feel and unflinchingly forward gaze, somewhat understated on the black background, but justifying the portrayal of depth.

As I said above, there’s a lot of stuff I could’ve easily included on this list, from The Flying Eyes to Sasquatch to Black Thai to Lumbar, Samsara Blues Experiment, Goatess, At Devil Dirt and others. Hopefully though, this gives a sampling of some people who are doing cool work in an under-represented aspect of underground creativity.

If I left anything out or there was a cover that really stuck with you that I didn’t mention, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

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Larman Clamor, Alligator Heart: Climbing Vines

Posted in Reviews on August 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

With his third Larman Clamor full-length in as many years, Hamburg-based singer-songwriters Alexander von Wieding continues the development of his established swampadelic blues aesthetic. Alligator Heart, which is von Wieding‘s second outing through Small Stone, is a somewhat rawer affair than last year’s Frogs (review here) or 2011’s Altars to Turn Blood (review here), but in stripping down some of the arrangements — less organ, more banjo — the multi-instrumentalist and vocalist has lost nothing of the rich mood of his prior outings, and indeed only given his songwriting and instrumental performances more space to flourish. Aiding in that as well is the fact that at over 38 minutes, Alligator Heart is the longest Larman Clamor album to date, and though the craft and construction has simplified in some ways, it’s also become more conceptually complex, as the two-part “Aether Bound I: Scorched Earth” and “Aether Bound II: Dust and Ghost” closing duo shows. Offset by catchier songs like “Banshee w’Me” and the grooving “I’m Buildin’ Ruins,” these ideas seem all the more engaging, particularly as they come accompanied by growth in von Wieding‘s vocal approach, which even on the five-minute East-meets-South stomper “She Sent Her Hounds” seems to have embraced more emotional complexity and seems to be in the process of growing beyond the guttural bluesman’s exclamations that have typified Larman Clamor‘s singing to date. As ever, the recording is overarchingly organic, giving a live-from-the-porch vibe — one can almost see the holes in the screen door — and gorgeous visuals also care of von Wieding also accompany, only adding to the completeness of the Alligator Heart package.

Because it has such a cohesive sound throughout, it’s easy to lose sight of some of the complexities in the individual pieces that occur throughout Alligator Heart, but the otherworldly feel that runs a thread (also threat) through each track has been these last several years a big part of what ties Larman Clamor‘s albums together, and the sense from the acoustic-led “Alligator Heart” on is exploratory. Von Wieding strums and feels out the parts after some subdued verses atop a rising bed of distortion, showing a bit of patience in the instrumental second half of the opener while letting “Banshee w’Me” pick up the tempo and provide the first of several landmark hooks that carve a path through the fog-coated bayouscape of Alligator Heart. The only thing missing is handclaps, but one should remember that von Wieding is working with a simpler palette this time around, so some of the flourish that prior albums may have led listeners to expect is replaced by a focus on the hooks themselves. “Banshee w’Me” is all ramble and brash groove, lead lines peppered in with tambourine meter, and leaves a lasting impression that its 1:25 runtime does little to hint at. “Perdition at Dawn” plugs in tight strumming and more blown-out singing with a strong build behind as snare hits come in to punctuate the march. Here, von Wieding sounds confident plucking acoustic notes that if they were played on a sitar you’d call them psychedelic, but it’s ultimately his vocals that carry the piece, and in that too, he’s in top form. His voice sounds less like something put on for the purpose of the tracks than something harnessed in response to a call from them. It’s a bigger difference than you might initially think.

Read more »

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15 Before ’14: Records Not to Miss Before the New Year Hits

Posted in Features on August 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

If you’re anything like me — and let’s just hope for your sake you’re not — then you’re sitting in front of your laptop staring at a calendar telling you it’s August wondering what the hell happened to June and July. Last time I turned around, it was barely summer, and now it’s starting to get cold at night.

We’re well past the halfway mark on 2013, and I know for some the year’s best picks are already set in mind, but there’s a ton of cool releases still to come before 2014 hits, and I figured now’s as good a time as any for a rundown of a few picks that seem to be sure to arrive prior to December 31. As much as anything’s ever “sure,” anyway. Subject to change, and all that.

With the gracious suggestions/assistance of those checking in on the forum (see that thread for many more picks) taken into consideration, here are 15 suggestions to be on a lookout for starting in September. Some of these I’ve heard, some I haven’t, but take it as a sampling of what I’m looking forward to, if nothing else.

And because I know nothing says “I know how to have a good time” like a list in order of release date, here goes nothing:

Vista Chino, Peace (Sept. 3)

It took me a couple listens to come around to Vista Chino‘s Peace (review here), but once I got to that point, there was no turning back. The much-anticipated Napalm Records debut from the four-piece birthed out of Kyuss Lives!, Peace ultimately moves forward as much as it looks back, and though much of the lyrics center around the lawsuit that forced Kyuss Lives! to change their name, the songs themselves do arrive at a certain place of acceptance by the end of the record, so that in the end it lives up to its title. Some won’t be able to make the leap over their expectations for what an album with Brant Bjork, John Garcia and Nick Oliveri on it should sound like, but most importantly, Vista Chino are pressing on and I hope this isn’t the last record they make together, even if Oliveri is already out of the band’s touring lineup.

Larman Clamor, Alligator Heart (Sept. 10)

The solo-outfit of graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, Larman Clamor has been pumping out quality swamp boogie for the last two years at a more than prolific clip. Last year, von Wieding made his debut on Small Stone with Frogs (review here), and while the forthcoming Alligator Heart (out through the same label) strips the approach down somewhat — as you can hear on the single “Banshee w’Me” — the murkedelic blues spirit remains supreme at the center of the project’s approach. Larman Clamor has flown relatively under the radar so far into its run, but showing a little bit of a poppier side on Alligator Heart‘s tracks might gain it some more attention. Von Wieding‘s songwriting continues to be worth the price of admission to the bizarre carnival he creates.

Windhand, Soma (Sept. 17)

Richmond-based cult sludgers Windhand made their debut on Relapse earlier this year on a split release with Cough — with whom they share a bassist and a hometown — and will follow that next month with Soma, their second LP behind their 2012 self-titled debut full-length. The band have only gotten darker and meaner since adding Cough‘s Parker Chandler on bass, and with that split heralding its coming, Soma should arrive with a fittingly devastating impact. Windhand have also put in no shortage of time on the road, and even as the new one comes out, they’ll be embroiled in a coast-to-coast US tour, so keep an eye out — and that goes for Europe too. I wouldn’t be surprised if a full tour with Inter Arma got announced around their joint Roadburn appearances next spring.

Sasquatch, IV (Sept. 24)

Sasquatch bloody Sasquatch. If you’ve got a face, these dudes’ll rock it right off. With IV (Small Stone) their first full-length since 2010’s III (review here), L.A. trio Sasquatch very casually offer a reminder that those who talk about how rock and roll needs to be “saved” don’t have a clue what’s really up, that rock and roll never went anywhere and that its awesomeness continues unabated. Need testimony? Check out the track stream for “The Message.” Classic grooves, class-y showoff solos, catchy tunes and later in the album even a foray into psychedelic jamming — let there be no doubt that Sasquatch have nailed down right where they want to be sound-wise and are ready to make the most of the good times they’re rolling out as they continue to lay their own railroad, grand and funky as it is. Soundgarden wishes they had this kind of edge.

Iron Man, South of the Earth (Sept. 30)

You’d pretty much have to be a jerk not to feel good about the fact that long-running, long-underappreciated Maryland doom stalwarts Iron Man are getting their due in the form of a Rise Above Records release for their new album, South of the Earth. I know that’s not the most impartial statement in the world, but seriously, who deserves Lee Dorrian-endorsed doom cred more than Iron Man? The names are few and far between. South of the Earth already had me on the hook for being their first full-length with frontman Dee Calhoun on board alongside guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III, bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann, but with the hopefully increased profile of issue on Rise Above, who knows what could be in store for them once it’s out?

Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Underground EP (Sept.)

Trippy Wicked caught me off guard last year with the heavier and more metal side that showed up on their Going Home long-player (review here), but this time I’m ready. I’ve readjusted my expectations for what the UK trio might unleash on the new Underground EP — set phasers to who-the-hell-knows — and after the quick mastery of the metallurgical arts they showed the last time out, I’m happy to follow wherever their creative whims might take them. I know this is a list of albums and technically an EP isn’t a full album, but screw it, I dig these guys and am fascinated enough by their progression that it’s worth including even the smaller release here. If the art for Underground (due out through Superhot Records) is anything to go by — and I don’t yet know that it is — we could be in for a pretty wild ride.

Earthless, From the Ages (Oct. 8)

San Diego instrumentalists Earthless are looking to make an epic return on From the Ages (Tee Pee Records), which is their first studio full-length in six years. Though they’ve had a steady stream of live releases, limited splits and the like, and guitarist Isaiah Mitchell released a debut album with the heavy psych outfit Golden Void last year, nothing’s quite the same as Earthless‘ righteous jams and extended progressions. Look out for the 31-minute title-track (one of four on the album; more info here) as Earthless step into the limelight and reap the momentum they’ve built through steady years of touring and critical acclaim. From the Ages might just prove one for the ages.

Monster Magnet, Last Patrol (Oct. 15)

My only question when it comes to Monster Magnet‘s second album for Napalm Records — touted by frontman Dave Wyndorf as a return to their psychedelic beginnings — is how literally we’re supposed to take the title Last Patrol and if indeed this is going to be the final go for the long-running and hugely influential New Jersey outfit. If so, they draw their circle as complete as they possibly could, and whether it’s “The Duke (of Supernature),” which has received nearly 23,000 plays since being premiered here on July 23, or the driving churn of “End of Time,” Monster Magnet tap into the spirit that propelled 1995’s Dopes to Infinity and readjust the balance of their influence in a way fans have been clamoring for for years now. The more I hear it, the more I need to hear it.

Pelican, Forever Becoming (Oct. 15)

A new Pelican album is an interesting enough proposition at this point — it’s been four years since the Chicago instrumental outfit released What We all Come to Need (review here) — but Forever Becoming (Southern Lord) has an added level of intrigue for being Pelican‘s first album without guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec. Stepping in to fill the second guitar spot is Dallas Thomas of The Swan King, and it should be interesting to hear how the band’s approach has shifted after almost half a decade and what Thomas brings to the well-established chemistry between bassist Bryan Herweg, drummer Larry Herweg and guitarist Trevor de Brauw. If the first track is anything to go by, Pelican still sounds like Pelican, and I’m not going to complain about that.

Corrections House, Last City Zero (Oct. 29)

Probably the bigger surprise would’ve been if the super-type group Corrections House didn’t make their full-length debut on Neurot, but still, word was welcome when it came down a couple weeks back that the conjoined efforts of Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Mike IX Williams (EyeHateGod), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, Minsk and the guy you want to record your album) were resulting in an actual album to follow up on their initial single and tour earlier this year. Whether the entirety of the record works in the kind of industrial, post-Godflesh noise crunch they brought to the stage on that tour (review here), we’ll just have to wait and see. But I’m damn interested to find out.

Red Fang, Whales and Leeches (Oct.)

Those who heard Red Fang‘s 2011 boot-to-the-ass second album, Murder the Mountains (review here), will probably find Whales and Leeches (named for a track off their 2008 self-titled debut) a reasonable follow-up. The Portland forerunners’ second offering through Relapse finds bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam even more front and center with clean vocals, and ultra-catchy songs like “Blood Like Cream” and “No Hope” seem to pick up right where Red Fang left off last time, offsetting Beam‘s poppier style with guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles‘ throaty grit . Watch out for much more to come on this one. Between the record itself and their formidable road ethic, you’re probably going to be hearing a lot about it.

The Melvins, Tres Cabrones (Nov. 5)

If you were to ask me how many records the Melvins have out in 2013, I’d go, “Uh… I dunno… six?” and the mere fact that that doesn’t seem like a ridiculous answer should be indicative of the frankly absurd pace at which the long-enduring Washington outfit add to their already insurmountable catalog. What makes Tres Cabrones (Ipecac) different? Reportedly, it’s a semi-reunion of the band’s 1983 lineup — as close as they were willing to get, was how Buzz Osbourne put it in the press release — that finds Dale Crover playing bass to make room for drummer Mike Dillard. The Melvins released the collection Mangled Demos from 1983 in 2005, but Tres Cabrones will be entirely new material. You never know quite where the Melvins are headed next, and if anyone could find a way to go forward even as they go backward, it’d be them.

Sandrider, Godhead (Date TBA)

So in case you couldn’t tell by the “TBA” above, this one’s a bit of wishful thinking on my part. I don’t actually know that Sandrider (members of Akimbo and The Ruby Doe) will issue a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled Good to Die Records debut (review here) before the end of 2013, but golly, I hope they do. The band said on July 11 via their Thee Facebooks that they’d finished mastering the album, titled Godhead, for a Fall release, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see once it’s pressed and ready to go. The sooner the better, since that first record was a smoker and nothing says “autumn” like some noise crunch bombast. At least that’s what I have embroidered on my doilies…

Snail, Feral (TBA)

Not sure on the release date for West Coast riffers Snail‘s fourth album and third since reactivating in 2009 with Blood, but the recording’s reportedly done, so hopefully it’s not too long before they get it out. The band recently announced the departure of guitarist Eric Clausen, so they’re down to the original trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson, and how that will affect their sound on the follow-up to last year’s metallized self-release, Terminus (review here), remains to be seen, but if there’s any chance Snail might be able to get more road time in support of Feral, whenever it arrives, than no doubt it will have been worth the tumult in the meantime. And even if not, the album’s still one to watch for.

The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum (TBA)

Another one with no exact date, but according to producer Chris Fielding, it’ll be out before 2013’s over. Either way, when it lands, Consolamentum will serve as the Candlelight Records debut. It’s their fourth outing overall, and the second to be produced by Fielding and to feature frontwoman Sharie Neyland, whose work on 2011’s In the Chapel of the Black Hand (review here) made that album one of the year’s most satisfyingly bizarre and dreary doom offerings. Along with founding guitarist Steve Mills, Neyland returns for Consolamentum and whether it hits in 2013 or 2014, look for the band to progress from the last time out. Mills (interview here) is a relentlessly forward-thinking songwriter and his penchant for creating atmospheric and crushingly dark sonic spaces is not to be underestimated.

Whew. These things always take so much longer than I think they’re going to when I start writing names on Post-It notes.

Of course, this is just a sampling of what’s to come over the next few months. Borracho‘s new one is supposed to get a vinyl release, and A Storm of Light have a new record, plus I heard rumors of new Slough Feg (they have a new single that would seem to back that up) and a much-awaited Brothers of the Sonic Cloth full-length coming before the end of the year — I also, right now, quite literally this second, just got news of a new Diesto on Eolian Empire — so please don’t assume that if it’s not here it’s never coming or whatever. There’s so much out there, I always feel like I’m leaving out something big and/or awesome.

Thanks for reading.

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Larman Clamor Post First Single from Alligator Heart

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

The Hamburg-based solo act of graphic designer Alexander von Wieding, Larman Clamor is set to release its third album, Alligator Heart, through Small Stone on Sept. 10. I was all set to post the bio I wrote for the album with the new single “Banshee w’Me,” but then realized I’d already posted it, so in the name of staving off redundancy, I’ll spare you this time around.

Alligator Heart follows last year’s Small Stone debut, Frogs (review here), and finds von Wieding with a more stripped down approach, his swamp-blues psychedelia emerging less from a kitchen-sink barrage of varying elements than from a consistent, steady run of banjo, guitar, foot-stomp percussion and his own gravely vocals. One as ever for brevity, “Banshee w’Me” is quick to make the point of a burgeoning fascination with pop hooks in Larman Clamor‘s songwriting, and in that, a fitting summary of the stylistic growth von Wieding has undertaken with this latest batch of songs.

More on the record to come, but enjoy the single until then:

Larman Clamor, “Banshee w’Me” from Alligator Heart

Larman Clamor on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records

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Here’s a Bio I Wrote for Larman Clamor, Alligator Heart; Album Coming Sept. 10

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

German purveyor of swamp-psych-blues Larman Clamor — aka Alexander von Wieding — has announced a Sept. 10 release for its fourth full-length, Alligator Heart. Like last year’s Frogs (review here), it’ll be released by Small Stone, and today the tracklisting and cover art were officially unveiled, and I was lucky enough to get an advanced listen to write the bio to go with the album.

Here’s that bio — in blue even though I wrote it — plus the cover, of course by von Wieding himself, and the tracklisting:

Larman Clamor, Alligator Heart bio

Larman Clamor is throwing a carnival. More of a street fair, really. You’ll find the sky is tinted a greenish yellow watercolor, the air is tepid and wet with humidity, bugs come in swarms, and later, a parade of children on the backs of reptiles will come out of the swamp and march down the crossroad.

Welcome to Alligator Heart.

The third Larman Clamor full-length, Alligator Heart follows on the heels of 2012’s Frogs, 2011’s Altars to Turn Blood and that same year’s debut self-titled EP. It is the most accomplished release to date from the solo-project of Alexander von Wieding – also illustrator for Karma to Burn, Wo Fat, Monster Magnet, Freedom Hawk, Infernal Overdrive and countless others – and like its predecessors, it masterfully captures a swamp-boogie atmosphere, updating blues and rock traditions with a down-home psychedelia that’s alternately creeping and malevolent and raising its hands in upbeat testimony. Based in Hamburg and begun in 2008, Larman Clamor pays a heavy debt to Delta blues (John Lee Hooker, Robert Johnson, Mississippi Fred MacDowell), but has never sounded so much like itself as on Alligator Heart.

Where Frogs reveled in its post-Tom Waits weirdness and von Wieding’s gravelly vocals, Alligator Heart strips away some of the extras to get at Larman Clamor’s muddy, folkish heart. Short ditties like “Banshee w’Me,” “Done No Good” and “I’m Buildin’ Ruins” stomp and clang as ever, but with surprisingly ripe hooks, and atmospheric pieces like “Sambucus Nigra” and the 16 Horsepower-style banjo echo of “Crow on a Wagon Wheel” show a side of Larman Clamor that’s able to make a case as much with minimalism as with an onslaught of varied elements. Rounding out with “Aether Bound I – Scorched Earth” and “Aether Bound II – Dust & Ghost,” Alligator Heart ultimately shows  von Wieding’s most accomplished songwriting to date, and that as he pushes further away from the shore to get swept up in that river’s current, the results are all the more rewarding.

Blending acoustic and electric guitar, simple drums and throaty vocals, Larman Clamor presents an alternate view of tradition and a new take on its own approach. More and more, there’s nothing else that sounds quite like it.

So while you wait on the corner of that crossroad for the parade to go by, just make sure you keep a count of all your fingers. Alligator Heart has a bite with some mean teeth.

1. Alligator Heart
2. Banshee W’Me
3. Perdition At Dawn
4. Done No Good
5. Vines Of Yggdrasil
6. Been Cookin’
7. Sambucus Nigra
8. She Sent Her Hounds
9. I’m Buildin’ Ruins
10. Crow On A Wagon Wheel
11. Aether Bound I – Scorched Earth
12. Aether Bound II – Dust & Ghost

Larman Clamor on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records

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