The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Singles, EPs, Splits and Demos of 2014

Posted in Features on December 23rd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

top-20-short-releases-of-2014-Samuel-Palmer-1805-1881-Morning-of-Life-1861

Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll. That’s still going on. Please feel free to submit your list.

I did this last year mostly as a result of not having somewhere to put Elder‘s Spires Burn/Release EP in 2012, but it went pretty well, so I thought we’d do another round for 2014. The 2013 list covered demos, singles, EPs and splits — basically everything that’s not a full-length album — and the same rules apply here. It’s a pretty basic idea, but it makes sense to me to consider short releases apart from full-lengths because very often they’re trying to accomplish different things.

For example, if an album is trying to tell a story or describe a central theme, either blatantly in its lyrics or atmospherically through the music itself, a demo might just be the work of a band trying to feel their way into their sound. It doesn’t strike me as fair to judge the two on the same standard. Likewise, if a band releases a single, should that really be judged alongside an hour-long release? Granted, some bands’ singles actually are an hour long, but that’s another category entirely. “The ‘Dopesmoker’ Awards” will be handed out at another date.

No, not really. At least not this year.

If you didn’t see the full-albums Top 30 of 2014, please feel free to check it out and think of this and the year-end podcast as companion pieces, albeit both a little more casual. Let’s get to it:

sleepsingle

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2014

1. Sleep, The Clarity
2. Fatso Jetson/Herba Mate, Early Shapes
3. All Them Witches, Effervescent
4. Cortez/Borracho, Split 7″
5. Naam/White Hills/Black Rainbows/The Flying Eyes, 4-Way Split
6. Heavy Temple, Heavy Temple
7. Death Alley, Over Under/Dead Man’s Bones 7”
8. Geezer, Live! Full Tilt Boogie
9. The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues, The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues
10. Demon Head, Demo 2014
11. Gold & Silver, Azurite and Malachite
12. The Proselyte, Our Vessel’s in Need
13. Hull, Legend of the Swamp Goat
14. Lamp of the Universe/Krautzone, Split
15. The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic, Through the Dark Matter
16. The Heavy Co., Uno Dose
17. Wren, Wren
18. He Whose Ox is Gored, Rumors 7”
19. Lewis and the Strange Magics, Demo
20. Godhunter/Secrets of the Sky, Gh/0st:s
21. Lord, Alive in Golgotha

Some honorable mentions to the Young Hunter/Ohioan split tape (the Young Hunter portion of which was included last year, otherwise it would probably be number two on this list), Inter Arma‘s The Cavern 40-minute single-song EP/LP, Harvest Bell‘s debut EP, Goya and Wounded Giant‘s split, Fuzz Evil and Chiefs‘ split, Cruthu‘s demo, Disenchanter‘s second EP, the White Dynomite/Hey Zeus split 7″, Humo del Cairo‘s EP, The Golden Grass‘ Realisations EP, Dune‘s ProgenitorGodflesh‘s comeback EP, and Blackwitch Pudding‘s reinterpretations/covers EP, Covered in Pudding.

A couple notes: The Sleep single was a given. I don’t think anything could’ve topped it one way or another, even if I hadn’t listened to it 100 times since its release in July as part of the Adult Swim Singles Series. In any case, there was no debate about where to place it. You might notice on the other end the list goes to 21. I thought that being the element of chaos suited Lord well, and since I’m not entirely sure their Alive in Golgotha EP has been officially released, they warranted inclusion just in case.

One thing that struck me in putting this list together was the amount of splits included. You’ll notice Fatso Jetson and Herba Mate‘s Early Shapes right in behind Sleep. That one was an utter joy, as far as I’m concerned, and made me wish both of them would get on putting out full-lengths as soon as possible. Not far behind is Cortez and Borracho‘s split single, which had killer tracks from both bands, and the Naam/White Hills/Black Rainbows/The Flying Eyes split from Heavy Psych Sounds that, even with four bands involved, managed to keep a flowing atmosphere front to back, which was impressive enough in and of itself, never mind the individual contributions of those four acts, which were also top quality. The Krautzone/Lamp of the Universe split also provided a considerable psych blissout, and Godhunter‘s split/collaboration with Secrets of the Sky earned extra points for its adventurous spirit and the payoff its risk-taking brought to bear.

Like their Lightning at the Door LP, All Them Witches‘ Effervescent 25-minute jam figured heavily in my 2014 listening habits, as did Heavy Temple‘s self-titled debut EP. Dutch garage/heavy punkers Death Alley earned spins with their debut 7″, a lack of pretense in melding proto-thrash and heavy rock impulses allowing them to quickly find a niche that one hopes they continue to develop. Their debut single, along with Demon Head‘s Demo 2014 (and, indeed, that band’s follow-up single) and the Lewis and the Strange Magics demo were an allay to concerns retro-minded rock might be stagnating.

Geezer featured on the Short Releases list last year as well. I wasn’t sure what to do with their Gage 12″, since it was released in 2013 as an EP and 2014 as an LP, but either way, their Live! Full Tilt Boogie tape effortlessly recalled classic blues rock performances and demonstrated the fluid chemistry at work in the New York trio, I hope it’s not the last live release they do. Along similar bluesy lines, The Heavy Co.‘s Uno Dose found the Hoosier three-piece dipping into heavy jams more than their last full-length, and if that’s the direction they’re headed, you won’t hear me argue. Hailing from Sweden and arriving as an offshoot of Asteroid, the single-song EP from The Sun, the Moon and the Witch’s Blues had more than a touch of heavy blues to it too, and made me look forward to that project’s development from here on out.

There’s little I’m going to complain about less than hearing Ed Mundell bust out Miles Davis-inspired solos, so yeah, The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic‘s Through the Dark Matter EP gets a nod. Impressive guitar work ran a current through Boston duo Gold & Silver‘s debut EP, Azurite and Malachite, but the proggy feel was what ultimately sold me on the two extended instrumentals included there, whereas with fellow Beantowners The Proselyte, it was the catchy songwriting and variety they showed in just four tracks. The He Whose Ox is Gored 7″ was likewise modern and satisfyingly weighted, though obviously shorter, and last but not at all least, the progressive sludge of Wren‘s self-titled EP seemed to fly under a lot of people’s radar but was a markedly individual take on a well established form that portended of good things to come.

As with everything, I’m sure there’s something in this mix that I forgot. If you’ve got a call you want to make on something, please let loose in the comments. Thanks for reading.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On the Radar: Lewis and the Strange Magics, Demo

Posted in On the Radar on August 13th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Spanish cult rockers Lewis and the Strange Magics have worked fast. In late June, the Barcelona garage doomers released their debut demo, aptly-titled Demo, with an initial three songs available digitally for those who might have the inclination to check them out. Less than two months later, the band — whose lineup remains a mystery and of whom no photos have surfaced — signed a deal with Soulseller Records to release their first album, on which they’ve already begun work. The Demo itself moves with similar efficiency. Barely 90 seconds have passed into opener “How to be You” before Satan is invoked in a catchy chorus reminiscent of Ghost for its harmonies and The Devil’s Blood for its psychedelic swirl, but rougher in its production than either. Both of those bands owed a considerable debt to ’70s cultistry, and Lewis and the Strange Magics do likewise — see CovenSalem MassBlack Widow, etc. — but a sense of theatricality comes through the subsequent “Cloudy Grey Cube” (also featured in July’s podcast), and it’s more in line with classic Alice Cooper Band than anything so specifically devilish.

There also seems to be a different vocalist on the second of Demo‘s three cuts from that on “How to be You” — the opener also being the longest inclusion; immediate points — but I could be way off on that, and I suppose the nebulous unknown is part of what makes Lewis and the Strange Magics an engaging listen. So far as I know, they’ve done no shows, and while the elephant in the room stylistically here is unquestionably Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, who rode similar garage mystique all the way to an opening slot for Black Sabbath and an impending major market US tour, Lewis and the Strange Magics aren’t so singular in their influence as the construction of their moniker might have you believe. Tonally, Lewis and company delve into vintage-isms, and there are at least two guitars on “Cloudy Grey Cube,” though that could just as easily be tape layering in the solo section before a return to the classic stoner swing of the verse riff that finishes out.

“Golden Threads” rounds out in spooky proto-metal form, a late ’60s Halloween psychedelia persisting in echoing soul vocals and a jangly but threatening intro/chorus riff, a dead giveaway of some underlying metallic influence. The closer opens up to a doomly groove, but never loses its swing, and deftly returns to its verse and instrumental chorus to close the quick 15-minute romp with a hint at darker explorations to come. Whoever they are, Lewis and the Strange Magics have arrived with a strong sense of what they’re looking to accomplish aesthetically, and while I wouldn’t be surprised to find their Soulseller debut a more complex, individualized effort than Demo, the three tracks included here make it easy to understand what all the hubbub is about, trading as they do in a fresh sound and giving another spin on what’s quickly becoming an established subgenre in its own right with garage-influenced doom rock. One way or another, expect to hear more about Lewis and the Strange Magics as they approach their debut proper, since buzz of this sort rarely disappears overnight.

Lewis and the Strange Magics, Demo (2014)

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Thee Facebooks

Lewis and the Strange Magics on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,

audiObelisk Transmission 038

Posted in Podcasts on July 30th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

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

As I’ve tried not to do since I started making podcasts again, I kept away from a consistent theme this time around, but I wanted to at least get a blend of bands you’ve probably heard and bands maybe you haven’t. Of course the new Sleep was a given, and new cuts from Electric Wizard and Karma to Burn felt like they needed to be there as well, so they are. But there are a few corresponding inclusions of stuff I’ve been digging that I haven’t had the chance to write about yet — looking at you, USA out of Vietnam, Lewis and the Strange Magics and Deamon’s Child — and while I’ve no doubt you’re already down with those and the rest of what’s included here because you’re on it like that, putting them in here seemed a good way to feature them for anyone not yet exposed who might be interested in checking them out.

If that’s you, please enjoy. The second hour, as usual, is consumed by longer songs, but there are a few in the first hour as well (that Electric Wizard track is over 10 minutes, and the Sleep is close to it), but of the podcasts I’ve put together in the last few months, this one easily flows the best. It was pretty late as I was putting it together last night, so I had the headphones on and was working totally without distraction. I know it’s an unrealistic expectation to think anyone will be able to listen in that manner, but if you get the chance or if you don’t, I hope you have a good time.

First Hour:
Sleep, “The Clarity” from Adult Swim Singles Series (2014)
Electric Wizard, “I am Nothing” from Time to Die (2014)
Lewis and the Strange Magics, “Cloudy Grey Cube” from Demo (2014)
USA Out of Vietnam, “You are a Comet, You are on Fire” from Crashing Diseases and Incurable Airplanes (2014)
Serpent Venom, “Lord of Life” from Of Things Seen and Unseen (2014)
Deamon’s Child, “Lutscher!” from Deamon’s Child (2014)
Rabbits, “Reek and Ye Shall Find” from Untoward (2014)
Karma to Burn, “Fifty Seven” from Arch Stanton (2014)
The Heavy Co., “One Big Drag” from Uno Dose (2014)

Second Hour:
Wolf Blood, “Dancing on Your Grave” from Wolf Blood (2014)
Frown, “Harpocrates Unborn” from The Greatest Gift to Give (2014)
Merlin, “Lucifer’s Revenge” from Christ Killer (2014)
Causa Sui, “Incipiency Suite” from Pewt’r Sessions 3 (2014)

Total running time: 1:57:27

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 038

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,