VINYL WEEK: The Kings of Frog Island, V

Posted in On Wax on September 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Cool record. I'm not sure if they ever pressed IV, but they sure as hell pressed V. Always good to hear from these guys. If I still had a label going, or more appropriately if I ever really had one, like with backing and more than one person involved, I'd want to work with them.

There’s little I’m inclined to argue with less than a new The Kings of Frog Island record. Their 2013 outing, IV (review here), began a new era for the amorphous UK band, self-releasing LPs after a three-album stint on Elektrohasch, and they follow that LP quickly with the heady two-sides of V, which furthers their blend of classic psych, garage rock and heavy/desert rock impulses. I don’t think it really matters who shows up on a given day for the studio, just so long as they can jam, and unquestionably benefits from that mentality, and this time around, steady partakers Mark Buteaux (vocals/guitar), Roger “Dodge” Watson (drums) and Gavin Searle are joined by Gavin Wright and Tony Heslop, who came aboard last time out, and Lee Madel-Toner, with Scarlett Searle guesting. Change and fluidity have been running themes for The Kings of Frog Island since their 2005 self-titled debut, and is no exception.

Like IV, there’s no number anywhere on the 12″ sleeve that would tip you off if you didn’t already know it was the fifth album, but even side-by-side with its predecessor, shows off a heady growth in sound and confidence from last year’s offering, Buteaux comfortable topping side A’s tripped-out closer “Raised in a Lion’s Den” with a single line of vocals (“I was born in a desert, raised in a lion’s den”) to add mystique to an already molten atmosphere. In particular, the blend of ambience the kings of frog island v coverand more grounded songwriting — something The Kings of Frog Island have never lacked — is readily on display throughout the new LP, an early highlight arriving with the psychedelic desertisms of “Sunburn,” the opener that billows out of the introductory “Tangerine.” For the first half, divisions between songs are otherwise pretty clear. “Tangerine” hypnotizes early and gives way directly to “Sunburn,” but that song, “Temporal Riff,” which follows, “Born on the Fourth” and “Raised in a Lion’s Den” have definitive starts and finishes, which by the time side B rounds out won’t be the case. “Temporal Riff” is another early high point, departing from “Sunburn”‘s distortion waves and into ’60s-style acoustic psych pop that subtly builds around a wash of cymbals that continues a theme from last time out of patient, impeccably captured drumming from Watson, fluid in the speakers and in the ears and a key element in the band’s approach. The song itself isn’t limited to that or to a jam — it has one of the album’s best hooks, right up there with “Sunburn” — but it makes the transition easier into the classic garage rock swagger of “Born on the Fourth,” a quicker jaunt distinguished by call and response vocals and the lyric “Put your hand in the palm of mine,” which mirrors the rhythmic insistence well.

“Raised in a Lion’s Den” is likewise well placed at the end of side A, since it foreshadows some of what side B gets up to with its lull-your-consciousness rollout and sense of lysergic space rock meandering. “Novocaine” is earthbound compared to some of what follows, with a lightly Beatles-style verse-into-chorus transition, but still plenty groovy, starting out soft and getting into volume-swell guitar antics and subdued airiness before the more purely desert-tinged “Five O Grind” reminds of the expanses a Kyuss influence can cover when put to best use. The swirl and heavier vibe is immediate, echoing vocals deep under the riff, the title repeated as the lyrical center of the song, the fuzz consuming. It’s the most forceful of the riffers on V, but not out of place either with “Novocaine” before it or “Destroy all Monsters” after, which references Godzilla in its title and is pretty clearly named for its largesse of riff, similarly to how “Temporal Riff” may have been titled for its backward-in-time vibing. “Five O Grind” is the last bit of earthly grooving The Kings of Frog Island do here, if you can call it that, since even when their material is structured it’s blissed out, and the last three cuts, “Destroy all Monsters,” “Make it Last”  and “On” bleed together to finish the album in flowing fashion, the clear ending of “Five O Grind” with its lead guitar, buried vocals and steady nod giving way to the stomp of “Destroy all Monsters” — how else would one do that but with giant lizard feet and maybe a bit of laser breath? — which flows nebulously into “Make it Last” and “On.” Where the point of separationthe kings of frog island v back cover is between the last three tracks, I don’t know exactly, but “Destroy all Monsters” seems to separate after several turns of standalone drone riffing into feedback from which a more fuzzed riff emerges (the drums rejoin), and if you told me that was the switch into “Make it Last,” I’d believe you.

From there, one might point out any number of points at which “On” takes hold to round out V, but in doing so I think a crucial intent of the album would be sacrificed. As with IV, it’s pretty clear that a big part of The Kings of Frog Island‘s intent in only releasing an LP edition of is that the record should be experienced as a whole, in one complete sitting split only between sides A and B. Ultimately, where “Make it Last” becomes “On” doesn’t matter. It’s the fades in and out, the feedback, drum-propelled, the steady bassline and the ground the material covers that’s all the more important than if the quick stop is where one ends and another begins. Either way, is finished with its fading, synth-topped jam, a foundational guitar, bass, drum rhythm topped by a wash that continues even as ambient vocals make a surprise return as if to remind that there are still humans somewhere behind all this liquefied noise. Tambourine punctuates for a while and what must be “On” devolves into one last hypnotic wash of psychedelic melody, organ sounds being the last element present before the needle returns. I’ve been a nerd for The Kings of Frog Island since their 2008 fuzz-landmark, II, and in the years since, they’ve showed an unrelenting pursuit of expanded-mind exploration. What’s perhaps most encouraging about is how amiable a companion it is for IV while maintaining a personality of its own. Clearly grown out of the preceding full-length, seems to establish the band’s progression as one set to continue with no end in sight. Again, you won’t hear me argue.

The Kings of Frog Island, “Sunburn” official video

The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks

V on CDBaby

Tags: , , , , ,

Colour Haze, Cherry Choke, Stubb and More to Play ThElectriCool Festival

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

COLOUR HAZE

Hard to mess with a party when Colour Haze is showing up. The German heavy psych progenitors will headline the inaugural ThElectriCool festival in Leicester, UK, topping a bill that includes the garage whims of Cherry ChokeStubb‘s fuzz riffery and check-ins from The Exploding Sound MachineThe Kumari and The Junipers. No doubt it’ll be a groovy happening, but adding to the friendly vibes is that the fest is also telling you where and when you might find the afterparty. They might be selling vintage pants, but it’s not like they’re keeping secrets, and I respect that.

No doubt said postshow will consist of any number of smashed denizens ranting and raving about how badass Colour Haze just were — at least that’s been my experience after watching them play — as well as the rest of the night, which seems to push into early psych, mid-’60s-stylizations, psych-folk, shoegaze, and of course Stubb‘s motor-heavy riffing. Cool blend. Wish I could be there to see it.

PR wire had this to say:

thelectricool

ThElectriCool – Festival of Psychedelic Rock will be held at 02 Academy Scholar Bar, Leicester, UK, October 11th 2014. Organised by promoters ‘The Hidden Museum’ ThElectriCool has brought together the cream of current psychedelic/acid rock and pop groups, including Colour Haze, Cherry Choke, The Kumari, Stubb, The Exploding Sound Machine and The Junipers.

The festival also offers a chance to buy vintage clothing, records and custom art under the glow of a psychedelic light show whilst listening to the sounds of DJ Baron Saturday or one of the great live acts. The University of Leicester campus venue opens its doors at 3pm. First live act 3.20pm. Curfew 10.30pm. Then it’s just a 5 minute taxi drive or a 20 minute walk to the aftershow party at Firebug, Millstone Lane, Leicester. Hosted by Biff bang Pow! playing 60’s garage and psych sounds. This will run from 11pm till 3am. Free Entry with ThElectriCool wrist band.

COLOUR HAZE are a German psychedelic/stoner rock group of gigantic proportions. Formed in Munich by Stefan Koglek, they are the leading lights of the European stoner rock scene. The groups tours have included headline slots at rock festivals ranging from the U.S. festival Emissions from the Monolith right through to Germany’s Berg Hertzberg festival. Colour Haze have recorded a live set for the legendary TV show Rockpalast, alongside their 10 studio albums. Tune in, hold on and freek out!
W: colourhaze.de

CHERRY CHOKE fronted by singer/guitarist Mathew Bethancourt (ex Kings of Frog Island and Josiah) are one of the UK’s finest acid rock power trios. Their second album ‘A Night In The Arms of Venus’ and their high energy European tours have firmly placed the band at the forefront of a new contemporary psych rock scene. Live, this band lay down some heavy acid rock grooves.
W: facebook.com/cherrychoke

THE KUMARI are for anyone into groups like The See See or The Black Angels. They evoke an era where punk and paisley were synonymous with full on, ringing mid-60s sounds and cool background chorus harmonies. Neo garage psych pop for the paisley generation.
W: facebook.com/THEKUMARI

STUBB build on the solid foundations laid down by the pioneers of the late 60s and early 70s such as Mountain, Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath. This power trio journey on through psychedelic live jams and stoned riffs. Sounds like Hendrix playing at Altamont. Heavy Psych!
W: facebook.com/Stubbrock

THE EXPLODING SOUND MACHINE just wanna blow ya mind with their hammond driven interstellar psychedlic wall of cosmic sound. This group would have been right at home in Londons UFO club in the late 60’s, but we get to enjoy the acidic excursions and garage psych explosions in the here and now.
W: facebook.com/TheExplodingSoundMachine

THE JUNIPERS are one of the UK’s finest psychedelic pop acts. Their debut album Cut Your Key (2008) gained airplay on BBC Radio from dj’s, Bob Harris, Steve Lamacq, Mark Radcliffe and Janice Long among others. The band played two live sessions for Marc Riley on BBC 6 Music, supported Kasabian and played festivals such as The Big Chill, Summer Sundae, Moseley Folk Festival and many more. The Junipers second album Paint the Ground was released to rave reviews in February 2012. This pop psych outfit are not to be missed.
W: facebook.com/The-Junipers/7935208180

Further information:
Facebook.com/ThElectriCool
https://www.facebook.com/events/1519786661576208/
Tickets: ticketweb.co.uk

The Exploding Sound Machine, “Higher Power”

Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Kings of Frog Island Get Some Rays in “Sunburn” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

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 IV was 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, IV knew 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 V as well. The new song retains the ultra-blissed out feel of IV to 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 V on 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 V and 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

The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks

The Kings of Frog Island on SoundCloud

Tags: , , , , ,

The Kings of Frog Island Interview with Mark Buteux: Fear of an Amphibious Planet

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 IV is 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 IV marks 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 Tony Heslop, 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 IV and the already-in-the-works V together, 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 IV and the intent and concepts at work behind that album, while also giving a hint at what V might 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.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , ,

The Kings of Frog Island, IV: Living Long

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.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , ,

On the Radar: Mage

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 Sands is 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.

Mage have made the record available in its entirety on their Bandcamp. The band is on Thee Facebooks here, and the album can be purchased through Witch Hunter Records as well. Because we live in a bright an wondrous future, here’s the full stream:

Tags: , , , , ,

The Kings of Frog Island Have a New Album and a New Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 9th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

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.

Tags: , , ,

Cherry Choke, A Night in the Arms of Venus: Mercury and Other Revived Arcane Treatments

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.

Read more »

Tags: , , ,