The amorphous (and amphibious!) UK collective The Kings of Frog Island have new vinyl impending. A little more than a year after the self-release of their fourth album, IV (review here), the Kings will follow it up with V, their second long-player since parting ways with Elektrohasch, who released their first three records. I haven’t had the pleasure yet, but the band have unveiled a video for the song “Sunburn” from the new one, and it certainly sounds like things are right on track and that all is as it should be on Frog Island.
One of the most surprising aspects of IVwas just how jammed out it felt. The Kings of Frog Island, recording in their own Amphibious Sound Studios II, stretched beyond the garage styling of their third outing, the nighttime desert-isms of their second and the territory-scoping fuzz of their debut to toy with a whole host of new vibes. Made for vinyl and broken into two extended sides even digitally, IVknew what it wanted in terms of aesthetic and got there boldly, but it was clear The Kings of Frog Island were trying new sounds and reaching out into different spheres on purpose.
Part of that is lineup, the notable absence of Josiah‘s Mat Bethancourt, etc., but there’s a creative push at the heart of The Kings of Frog Island that remains consistent no matter who’s involved, and going by “Sunburn,” that remains true on Vas well. The new song retains the ultra-blissed out feel of IVto some degree, but to compare it to “Long Live the King” (video here), which was the public introduction to that album, its structure is much more straightforward and traditional, less jam-intensive. I don’t know at this point whether that will be the case for Von the whole — and, frankly, I can’t imagine The Kings of Frog Island would stick to just one approach the whole time anyway — but the catchy dreaminess of “Sunburn” makes an interesting first look at Vand shows the group’s progression is as alive as ever.
The video for “Sunburn” was made by Bulletree Films in Brazil. Enjoy:
The Kings of Frog Island, “Sunburn” official video
Posted in Features on March 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
A digitally-released full-length with its individual songs wrangled into two extended vinyl-side tracks, The Kings of Frog Island IVis an anomaly before you even press (or click) play. The Leicester outfit have proved as amorphous as they are amphibious over the course of their prior three self-titled albums, but IVmarks a couple big changes for the psychedelic rockers. Primarily, it’s their first outing without the input of guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt, who split following the 2010 release of III(review here), and it’s also their first full-length to arrive without an Elektrohasch Schallplatten logo stamped on back.
But if these real-world changes have had any effect on the molecular creative doings in Amphibia, the Kings‘ ethic shows little shift for it. As they did on their 2005 self-titled and 2008 let-me-almost-go-five-minutes-without-telling-you-how-awesome-this-record-is follow-up, II, The Kings of Frog Island casually, naturally, blend desert rock organics with deep-running space tonality. The tracks on IV– there are 10 of them and it’s fun to suss out which starts when — vary in mood and tempo, but a strong thread courses throughout of inner-peace fuzz, and where III showed a rawer, garage rocking side of the band, IV(review here) reacts to unite this with prior accomplishments, resulting in a new and potent blend.
Much about the band — now comprised of guitarist/vocalist Mark Buteux, drummer Roger “Dodge” Watson, Gavin Searle, Gavin Wright and TonyHeslop, as well as other guests– remains obscure, and by all appearances, that’s on purpose. They don’t like having their picture taken and though Buteux talks about the processes involved in putting IVand the already-in-the-works Vtogether, who’s actually doing what and when is a mysteryThe Kings of Frog Islandseem to enjoy perpetuating. With good reason. Not only is a layer of murk fitting for their swampy thematic, but for an album where they’re asking (telling, really) their listeners to take in on as a whole instead of each track as an individual piece, a bit of meta-vagueness seems only appropriate.
Still, Buteux – Watson may have had a hand in here as well — remains forthcoming as regards the making of IVand the intent and concepts at work behind that album, while also giving a hint at what Vmight bring upon its arrival, which could be as soon as later this year. You’ll find the complete Q&A after the jump. Please enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on February 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The aptly-titled fourth album by amorphous UK outfit The Kings of Frog Island marks a number of changes for the band. Foremost, IV is their first full-length without the contributions of guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt of Josiah/Cherry Choke, and second, it’s their first album to be released not on Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Recorded at their own Amphibia Sound Studios II in Leicester over the course of the last couple years and released digitally to iTunes with a vinyl issue dependent on money raised through mp3 sales, the collection is also host to a few stylistic shifts in the band as well. Returning figures Mark Buteaux (vocals/guitar), Roger “Dodge” Watson (drums) and Gavin Searle are joined by Gavin Wright, Tony Heslop and a handful of guests – Ally Buteaux, Ian Piggin and Jim Robinson – and where their prior album, 2010’s III (review here), departed from the fuzz-soaked brilliance that arrived with 2008’s II (some of the finest British fuzz in the last 30 years, by my estimate), in favor of a more garage rock-sounding production – perhaps in part as a result of Bethancourt’s wandering interests; at least it’s easy to read it that way – IV makes an attempt to marry the varying sides of The Kings of Frog Island that have shown up over the course of the prior here albums and encapsulate the diversity of sound and mastery of flow that exist simultaneously in their work. To help accomplish this and aid in that flow, the 10 tracks of the 40-minute IV are presented as two evenly-divided vinyl sides (digitally, it’s two large files). Each clocks in at 20:19, with side A offering six individual cuts joined together as diverse jams and side B even more easy-flowing with four blissfully psychedelic pieces. Because it’s The Kings of Frog Island’s intention that IV should be taken as a whole, or at very least in halves, they’ve given a tracklisting so that each song can be identified, but for example, where “The Night Juno Died” ends and where “Weaving Shadows” begins at the start of side B is more or less up for grabs. I have it as where the drums kick in three minutes into the side, but really, you’re not supposed to know, and that winds up being part of the fun of the album.
I say “part,” because the bulk of IV’s appeal is the music itself. The Kings of Frog Island begin with a chime and a buzzsaw fuzz progression in “The Tenth Stone,” launching into one of the more driving stretches of the first side and the album as a whole, relying on an insistent rhythm and catchy chorus that does little to represent the full breadth of The Kings of Frog Island on their fourth studio outing, but engages nonetheless on an introductory level, vocals compressed, echoing and atmospheric as complemented by Ally Buteaux. The production on the whole doesn’t seem to be as loud as III, but the band works within their range to express a dynamic sensibility, moving from “The Tenth Stone” after about four and a half minutes in to “The King is Dead” with one of several transitional cymbal washes, keeping a quicker pace and desert-rocking chug to the guitar for (what seems like; again, all these separations are based on assumptions from listening) a brief instrumental that winds up in a synth line transitioning to “Witches Warning,” the first real showing on the record of the subdued side to The Kings of Frog Island’s sound. Soft, cooing vocals fade up while analog hiss, a quiet guitar line, snare vibes and bass carry a serenity that seems far removed from either “The King is Dead” or the opener yet still have come naturally from them. A spoken sample from Macbeth begins the transition to the more forward fuzz of “Volonte,” which features another choice chorus – perhaps the most memorable of IV – and a bassline pushing forward an instrumental swell that leads to a rich, fuzzy payoff. At 12:45, they move into the quieter “In the Watcher’s Blood,” which is kept in motion by the hi-hat and sampled birdsong, a wash of sunshine psychedelia in the guitar remaining peaceful despite, and side A wraps with “Shadowlands,” which is moodier in a classic and thoroughly British tradition, not nearly as directed toward upbeat fuzz rock as “Volonte” or “The Tenth Stone,” but emotionally affecting on a different level from everything else they here present, with contemplative plucked strings (ukulele maybe?) meeting a flange of electric guitar and accenting drum thud while the verse carries through to the more densely-layered chorus, another cymbal wash leading the way out of side A.
Posted in On the Radar on November 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Five dudes with burl enough for seven, UK-based riffloaders Mage make their full-length debut with Black Sands, a record that serves as their diploma earned by graduating from the Down/Orange Goblin school of dudely thrust. Tones are thick, songs are straightforward, drinks are drunk, heads are smashed and tasty basslines abound across the 10-track outing, which is strong in presence and large in sound. They seem to know they’re not fucking with the formula, but they also seem to know which parts of it they want to make their own.
Elements of thrash and show up in “Degenerate” and opener “Cosmic Cruiser X” and the later “Surfing Temporal Tides” speak at least to a lyrical affinity for that which rocks and is stoner, but the mood remains relatively consistent throughout the album, which is a well-written collection of songs obviously geared toward a live setting, where they can be consumed with both proper volume and inebriation. Mage — good luck finding them on the Googles — got together late in 2010 and released a self-titled EP in Spring 2011, so Black Sandsis the result of some relatively quick work, but there’s a sense of songwriting experience at work and so ideas are stated clearly and with suitable force.
Vocalist Tom fits the tracks well with a semi-melodic gruffness, matching the two guitars of Woody and Ben while Mark drops low end righteousness and Andy keeps the groove steady on drums, shifting with seeming ease on quick tempo changes like those of “Drowning Doom.” Closer “Hulk Out” is faster in its intro and effective in its starts and stops, but undone by what feels like a hackneyed lyrical reference and lines like, “You’ve never seen anger like this before,” though that kind of chest-beating is nothing new for the genre and at 2:45, it’s also the shortest track on the album — over before you can look up “hulking out” on the Urban Dictionary.
Here’s a phrase you won’t hear me use often: “Kyuss-worthy fuzz.” It’s that level of tonal gorgeousness that bleeds through in the work of Leicester, UK, outfit The Kings of Frog Island. Their second album, 2008′s aptly-titled II, is for my money one of the best desert rock albums ever to come from a place with no sand (though perhaps there is sand on Frog Island — I really should finish that geological survey), and though they veered more toward the garage rock end of things with the 2010 follow-up, III (review here), their latest work finds them at their most spaced-out yet, at least as far as the new video below for the song “Long Live the King” goes.
The reason I say that is because no single track ever really represents the whole album when it comes to The Kings of Frog Island — there’s something to be said for switching it up — but since the band was awesome enough to post on the forum the news of their forthcoming new album, Volume IV, and the departure of guitarist Mat Bethancourt, also of Cherry Choke and possibly still Dexter Jones Circus Orchestra, I’d be remiss if I didn’t bask in the warmth of “Long Live the King”‘s fuzzy sprawl.
And yeah, a lot of it’s about that tone, but the vocals here also rule (reminding me of Lamp of the Universe) and this band does more with a single cymbal wash than most do with an Orange full stack, so dig the tune and their words below:
After Mat Bethancourt left to concentrate on Cherry Choke, the rest of the band retreated back into their natural habitat: the studio.
After 2 years locked in Amphibia, the new album is now in the can. No release details as yet, expect a digital release first with a vinyl issue to follow.
Posted in Reviews on January 4th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
The full title of Cherry Choke’s second album is A Night in the Arms of Venus Leads to a Lifetime on Mercury, and it’s a saying taken from the fact that mercury used to be used as a treatment for syphilis. Venus, then, is a prostitute giving you the disease. The vaguely evocative sexuality and antiqueness of the line perfectly suits the sophomore outing from the British threesome, who made their debut on Elektrohasch Schallplatten with a self-titled in 2009 (review here). A Night in the Arms of Venus, for short, collects nine vinyl-minded retro rockers the swing of which will be welcome to anyone on Graveyard’s trail, but Cherry Choke are rawer, more garage-sounding, injecting a Stooges wiriness into heavy blues grooves and ‘60s proto-psych pop. Fronted by guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (of Josiah, The Kings of Frog Island and Dexter Jones Circus Orchestra), they are a classically-directed power trio and the songs follow purposefully simple structures, Dan Lockton’s drums coming on with a casual uptempo swagger and open feel that reminds some of Blue Cheer’s early bombast, but on the whole, these songs are more melodically aware than were the San Franciscan progenitors of the genre. Bethancourt made his bones as a fuzz rocker in Josiah, but if that’s to be the object of search here, it’s found more on Gregg Hunt’s bass, which pushes the uptempo “Winchester Geese” over the line of psych rock and heavy psych rock. The guitars are cleaner in a classic combo-amp fashion and well-suited to the mod vibe of the tracks.
And the songs, for their part, are built on catchy choruses and steady execution. They feel natural and retro but not posturing or chic for the sake of being chic. A Night in the Arms of Venus varies in mood and tempo but keeps a consistent aesthetic nonetheless, even as the later “Silver Crossed My Mind” veers into backwards guitar and mellotron psychedelia, departing from the straightforward 45rpm-single-ready songwriting of “The Day She Came to Play” or the Hunt-penned “Blue Mass,” which directly precedes following side B opener and album highlight “Evol,” on which Bethancourt layers acoustic and electric guitar to ecstatic effect. It is the guitarist’s construction acumen all over A Night in the Arms of Venus, but Hunt and Lockton make for more than an enriching presence in the rhythm section, fueling a freakout of their own to contrast Bethancourt’s calmer approach on “I Need Not Know Redemption” or playing off the Who-style grandiosity of opener “Crying out Loud” with solo-worthy runs and fills later in the song. Hunt’s contributions make some of these cuts stand out, and that’s as much the case with “Crying out Loud” as it is with the more extended closer “Splinters,” which tops seven minutes and finds Bethancourt answering back with a bit of fuzzy warmth of his own while Lockton foreshadows the jam to come as he keeps time on his toms amid sub-swirl channel-pans in the guitar leads and a forward focus that seems impossible given the seemingly unhinged aesthetic in which Cherry Choke are working.