Helen Money to Release Become Zero Sept. 16

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

helen money

Look, I’m not even gonna wax critical on this one, just read everything about the new Helen Money record, Become Zero, below and then preorder it. Couldn’t be simpler. The album is out on Sept. 16 through Thrill Jockey and follows 2013’s Arriving Angels (review here) and a 2015 collaboration with Jarboe. This Spring, Alison Chesley, the sole inhabitant of the band Helen Money, toured alongside French progressive rock legends Magma, and like them, she speaks a language entirely her own. Damn. I said I wasn’t gonna wax critical.

Save me, PR wire!

helen money become zero

LP version pressed on virgin vinyl and packaged with artworked inner sleeve and free download coupon. CD version in 4 panel mini-LP style gatefold package.

Limited quantity pressed on opaque yellow gold color vinyl

Helen Money’s Become Zero continues cellist Alison Chesley’s exploration of emotive and intense music. Written after the death of both of her parents, Become Zero amplifies Chesley’s musical ferocity with palpable sadness and striking beauty. Using her extensively manipulated cello, Chesley joins forces once more with drummer Jason Roeder (Sleep, Neurosis), Rachel Grimes (Rachel’s) and collaborator and co-producer Will Thomas (who provides sound effects and samples) on an album that is incredibly personal and visceral.

Through her music, Chesley takes us on a journey as she grapples with the concepts and the emotions of life’s end: loss, isolation, sorrow, peace and resolution. “Vanished Star” imagines a place where this life and what lies beyond it intersect in an eerie waltz between the piano and cello. “Facing the Sun,” takes its title from the loosely-translated name of the Tataviam Indians, who lived in the San Fernando Valley where Chesley grew up. “It also refers to my father who loved the Valley and loved sitting outside and feeling the sun on his skin,” Chesley says. “Radiate” begins in a place of struggle and hardship which is eventually transcended. The song starts with a dissonant, distorted chord on the cello and builds to a place where it fights with itself before finally falling apart. “To end the piece I wanted it to sound like it was dissolving into space – another reference to my father, who worked on the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs,” says Chesley. “Will and I even managed to replicate the sound of a satellite pinging at the end. The ending feels very peaceful to me. Resolved.”

On “Blood and Bone,” Chesley brought in pianist Rachel Grimes. While “Blood and Bone” is acoustic, don’t assume that it’s a gentler piece. “One of the things I struggle with as a composer is writing for my cello without any effects, especially music that is as powerful as my amplified pieces,” Chesley says. She had been practicing the 5th cello suite by JS Bach, a “very dark piece,” as she wrote Become Zero. In this suite, Bach has the cellist tune the top string down a whole step, and the music itself is very dissonant and powerful. Chesley wanted to incorporate the piano which adds a nice depth and percussiveness to the texture. So she opened the piece with those very stark chords and brought the cello in, letting it gradually take over.

Much of Become Zero was recorded at Thomas’ Los Angeles studio. Additional recording was done at Grimes’ studio outside of Louisville, Kentucky, and at East/West Studios in Hollywood. While Chesley had previously exclusively recorded analog to tape with Steve Albini, she went in a new direction for her Thrill Jockey debut. “I wanted to explore the freedom provided by digital recording,” Alison explains. “there is simply more flexibility with regards to multi-tracking…such as interfacing with electronic sounds, supplementing tracks with MIDI sounds, and ease of movement between the analog and digital domain. Become Zero’s songs called for a much wider palate of sounds.” Roeder’s drums were recorded separately at East/West Studios on a vintage Neve console. Chesley’s expanded approach to recording results in a beautiful mix of acoustic and processed sounds, a perfect fit for an album that is at once highly visceral and delicately ethereal.

Helen Money is equally at home in the New Music realm as she is in the New Metal realm. Chesley has toured extensively with an incredible array of musicians, including Shellac, Neurosis, Sleep, Russian Circles, Magma, Agalloch, Earth, and Nina Nastasia. Both Portishead and Shellac selected her for their respective All Tomorrow’s Parties festivals. Helen Money toured with Bob Mould in 2015, including a performance on the Late Show with David Letterman. Her history of collaborations with Chicago improvisers is extensive.

Chesley currently resides in Los Angeles and will be participating in a monthlong residency at the venue Complex throughout August 2016. Helen Money is actively touring throughout Europe and the United States. She will be touring again extensively in the fall and throughout 2017.

Tracklisting:
1 Every Confidence
2 Become Zero
3 Radiate
4 Blood and Bone
5 Vanished Star
6 Machine
7 Leviathan
8 Facing the Sun

http://www.thrilljockey.com/products/become-zero
http://helenmoney.com/
https://www.facebook.com/helenmoneyband/
https://twitter.com/Helen_Money

Helen Money, Live at the Regent Theater, March 16, 2016

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Farflung, 5: Boiled by the 27th Sun (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

farflung-5

[Farflung release their new album, 5, via Heavy Psych Sounds this weekend at Freak Valley 2016. Click play above to stream it in full.]

They’ve hardly been inactive in the interim, but 5 marks the first studio LP from Los Angeles space rockers Farflung in eight years. Released by Heavy Psych Sounds, it follows 2008’s A Wound in Eternity (on MeteorCity) as well as splits with White Hills, Black Rainbows and Fatso Jetson (review here), among others, and finds the long-running outfit past the 20-year mark since their debut, 25,000 Feet Per Second, came out in 1995. Through the bulk of that two decades, Farflung have coursed through the cosmos thoroughly underappreciated for their efforts — similar to split-mates White Hills, who started later, they seem to have found more of a foothold in Europe than in the US.

But 5 brings renewed vitality in its nine miniaturized interstellar voyages/43 minutes, all songs but the opening three under five minutes long but with a significant breadth all the same, dripping in effects and spaced far enough out that the scale of “far out” only seems to begin to cover it. Some vibe can only be measured in parsecs, and with the band comprised of Tommy Grenas, Michael Esther, Paul Hischier, Abby Travis and Chris Nakata with guest appearances from Hawkwind‘s Nik Turner, David Catching and Gene Troutmann (both affiliated with Queens of the Stone Age and Eagles of Death Metal), Farflung‘s vibe pushes outward from the moment of its inception until it closes with the almost tribal krautrock thrust of “The Retreat,” as progressive as it is lysergic.

Naturally, they are right at home in this expanding sphere. “Hive” opens 5 — which by the way is upwards of Farflung‘s eighth album — and is the longest cut on it at 6:53 (immediate points), acting as intro for itself and the record as a whole with its emergent swirl in the first minute that soon launches into kosmiche boogie instrumental save for some buried vocalizations. The push is everything. They’re not quite aping Hawkwind at the outset, but the thrust of the first half is clearly-enough working to break through the atmosphere, which “Hive” seems to do and float for a while in its second half before resuming its outward crunch. Effects start “Proterozoic” as well, but a more forward structure takes hold, with lyrics delivered in echoing deadpan over double snare taps for a garage rock feel that takes off its in chorus.

farflung

That hook turns out to be one of the strongest on 5 and is followed by a long stretch of hypnotic, resonantly psychedelic drone and effects near the finish, which sets up the more earthbound riff opening “044MPZ,” with a kind of New Wave synth line underscoring its verse and a sense of space in the chorus behind interweaving echoes. Synth and Echoplex add fluidity to a languid solo, and though it seems like Farflung have hit the point of no return from whence the only thing to do is continue to jam, they turn back to the chorus before shifting into less-plugged acid fervor. “044MPZ” is the crucial third in the aforementioned longer-tracks opening trio, and what follows from there on “27th Sun” and side B read like reports checking in from the various worlds Farflung have visited along their way to wherever it is they might end up by the album’s end.

“Lupine,” the centerpiece, calls back to “044MPZ” in its tone, but with a change in vocals (is that Turner?) that marks it out immediately ahead of the shorter “Being Boiled,” which has a more brooding take. Waves of guitar and repetitive robotic chants position “We Are” as something of a landmark, but at that point it’s really more about the wash in its entirety than any single element — all these layers drawing together to create something immersive and entrancing. Slower and more centered around low end, “Dismal Jimmy” is nonetheless among the trippier offerings on 5, and almost enough to make one wish Farflung hit the brakes more often, but while the penultimate inclusion, it also stands as reinforcement of the fact that as far as the band has to that point journeyed, they’ve still got the warp drive geared toward who the hell knows.

And if you’re looking for that answer in “The Retreat,” good luck. Resolution comes in cinematic percussive drama backed by the ever-present swirl, and is less about making the album preceding more accessible than showing that Farflung could probably keep it as well as all of the ideas presented before it going into perpetuity. In that way, 5 feels somewhat pared down, like these tracks were carved from longer jams during the songwriting and shaped into what they are with effects and layers of keys and synth and so on, but that shouldn’t be taken as an indication that there’s anything happening here other than exploration, since that very much remains at the heart of what Farflung have accomplished on this welcome return.

Farflung on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds

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BigPig Release Debut Single “C-“; Grande Puerco Due Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

bigpig

Los Angeles duo BigPig are gearing up to issue their first full-length, Grande Puerco, on June 20. When out, it will be digitally self-released, and to herald its arrival the band has posted the track “C-” as their debut single. So far as I know, this is the first studio recording from the two-piece, which features guitarist/vocalist Dino Von Lalli, also of Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man, alongside drummer/backing vocalist Benny Macias, so it’s also the first chance to get a glimpse some next-generation of desert rock that comes through in strikingly raw and punkish but still heavy form.

The announcement of the single’s release, the lyrics to the song and other recording info — in good hands doing your first recording with Toshi Kasai — and of course the track itself, follow here, as hoisted from BigPig‘s Bandcamp, where it’s a name-your-price download:

bigpig c

(BIG)PIG’S DEBUT SINGLE TRACK OFF OF DEBUT ALBUM “GRANDE PUERCO” WHICH WILL BE OUT DIGITALLY JUNE 20TH!

“C-” lyrics:
On a road straight to hell paved with good intentions, Oh well
Sick and tired of your lies, Sick and tired sympathize, Oh well
You and me are meant to be your 3/4ths demon with a side of
cheese, Everybody loves you and I wont and I wont and I wont
You and me are meant to be your 3/4ths demon with a side of
cheese, Everybody loves you
Everybody love me again, Everybody love me oh yeah
Ooh baby love me twice, ooh baby fuckin love me thrice
You and me are meant to be your 3/4ths demon with a side of
cheese, Everybody loves you and I wont and I wont and I wont
You and me are meant to be your 3/4ths demon with a side of
cheese, Everybody loves you

Benny Macias- Drums, Backing Vocals
Dino Von Lalli- Guitar, Lead Vocals

Recorded & Produced by Toshi Kasai at Sound Of Sirens Studios. Overdubs Recorded by Adam Harding at Buttery Jack Studios. Mixed and Mastered by Mathias Schneeberger at Donner & Blitzen Studios. Album Art by CorpseTits.

http://bigpigband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pigstakeflight
https://www.instagram.com/realbigpigs/
https://twitter.com/realbigpigs

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Big Business Announce New Album Command Your Weather Due July 8

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

big business

Big news from Big Business. The L.A.-based outfit have stripped back to the original duo of drummer/vocalist Coady Willis and bassist/vocalist Jared Warren and will release their new album, Command Your Weather, on July 8 through Joyful Noise Recordings. You might recall Big Business‘ last long-player, 2013’s Battlefields Forever, had them working with guitarist/vocalist Scott Martin, and they also released a digital single called True Gold last March, both songs from which — “Blacker Holes” and “Diagnostic Front” — will be featured on Command Your Weather.

In addition to those, Big Business are also streaming the new single “Father’s Day” in advance of the new album’s release. Oh, and there’s also the matter of a long, long list of tour dates in the LP announcement below. Big Business as usual in that department:

big business command your weather

Big Business Announces New LP Command Your Weather, Out 7/8 via Joyful Noise & Gold Metal Records

Big Business has announced the release of its fifth studio album, Command Your Weather, due out July 8th as a co-release between Joyful Noise Recordings and the band’s own Gold Metal Records. It’s currently available for pre-order on all formats, including gold colored vinyl and a limited VIP edition on clear & gold vinyl.

Command Your Weather sees Big Business return to its original two-man lineup of Jared Warren on bass & Coady Willis on drums (both are current members of the Melvins, and Willis is an original member of The Murder City Devils and plays in the all-drumming project Hew Time with Dale Crover and Joe Plummer.) They describe the upcoming release as “an album about the struggle for dominance of will over the power and unpredictability of nature…or just a really great rock record.”

BIG BUSINESS
COMMAND YOUR WEATHER
1. Last Legs
2. Regulars
3. Father’s Day
4. Blacker Holes
5. Popular Demand
6. Own Throats
7. Send Help
8. Diagnostic Front
9. Horses

Big Business will tour in support of their new album this summer — see below for upcoming dates.

Big Business Summer Tour 2016
June 18 – Joshua Tree- Yucca Man Shakedown
June 20 – Las Vegas – Backstage Bar & Billiards
June 21 – Salt Lake City – Urban Lounge
June 22 – Boise – Neurolux
June 24 – Bellingham, WA – The Shakedown
June 25 – Portland, OR – B Side Anniversary
June 26 – Seattle, WA – The Crocodile
June 28 -Billings, MT- Pub Station
June 30 – Fargo, ND – The Aquarium
July 1 – Minneapolis, MN – The Triple Rock (D4th of July weekend)
July 2 – Chicago, IL – Beat Kitchen
July 3 – Ferndale, MI – The Loving Touch
July 4 – Toronto, ON – Velvet Underground
July 5 – Rochester, NY – The Bug Jar
July 6 – Brooklyn, NY – St. Vitus
July 7 – New York, NY – Mercury Lounge
July 8 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
July 9 – Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
July 10 – Pittsburgh, PA – Club Cafe
July 12 – Nashville, TN – The Basement East
July 13 – Atlanta, GA – Aisle 5
July 14 – Birmingham, AL – Saturn
July 15 – Gainesville, FL – High Dive
July 16 – Tallahassee, FL – Sidebar Theater
July 17 – New Orleans, LA – Gasa Gasa
July 19 – San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger
July 20 – Austin, TX – Barracuda
July 21 – Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey
July 23 – El Paso, TX – Lowbrow Palace
July 24 – Phoenix, AZ – The Rebel Lounge
July 25 – San Diego, CA – Casbah
July 28 – Santa Barbara, CA – Velvet Jones
July 29 – Los Angeles – Bootleg Theater – Bar Stage
July 30 – San Francisco, CA – Bottom of the Hill

http://www.joyfulnoiserecordings.com/products/big-business-command-your-weather
https://www.facebook.com/bigbigbiz/
https://twitter.com/bigbigbiz
http://bigbigbusiness.bandcamp.com/
http://bigbigbusiness.com/

Big Business, “Father’s Day”

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Ancestors Reissue Neptune with Fire on New Label Dune Altar

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

ancestors (Photo by Darrel D'Itri)

I don’t know how many tapes are left, but Los Angeles progressive heavy rockers Ancestors have reissued their riffy 2008 debut, Neptune with Fire, via their newly unveiled imprint Dune Altar, and if you haven’t heard that record (it was also their demo), it basically presaged all the Sleep-style stoner epicness that has become so de rigueur the last couple years by at least half a decade. Comprised of two extended tracks and originally issued through Tee Pee Records, it legitimately brought something new to ‘heavy’ that had been, at that point, lacking.

Dune Altar will reportedly serve as a releasing base for Ancestors‘ past work, as well as solo offerings and other projects. The band’s last album, 2012’s In Dreams and Time (review here), had a scope that few records I’ve heard since came close to matching, and from what I hear there’s new stuff in the works as well that will hopefully be out (or at least in my inbox) sooner rather than later. Across all their offerings to-date, Ancestors have never lost their drive to keep growing and adding something new to the mix. In Dreams and Time wound up a long ways away from where Neptune with Fire started out, but it’s been the force of the creativity behind it that has ultimately united everything Ancestors have done up to now.

If you’re wondering, I went for the bundle with the tape, the t-shirt and the split 7″ with Graveyard. Couldn’t resist. Also didn’t want to:

ancestors-neptune-with-fire

ANCESTORS – NEPTUNE WITH FIRE CASSETTE

Cassette reissue release with bonus track

Limited to 150

‘Neptune With Fire’ was the 2008 debut release from Los Angeles-based band Ancestors.

‘Neptune With Fire’ is a concept album that tells of the metaphorical trials of Orcus and Neptune, respectively, and their cosmic, psychological journey through war, celebration, remorse and revelation. The character of Neptune was written as an immortal personification of the mortal man, and for the band, his plight was conceived of as a way of realizing their own epistemological struggles.

Since the release of this now out-of-print album, Ancestors has continued to create new and innovative music. But it all starts here.

https://www.facebook.com/ancestorsband/
http://ancestorsmusic.com/
https://www.facebook.com/dunealtar/
http://dunealtar.bigcartel.com/products

Ancestors, Neptune with Fire (2008)

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Ides of Gemini Announce New Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 22nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

The news that Ides of Gemini has a new rhythm section is doubly interesting since it means vocalist Sera Timms (also Zun, Black Mare, ex-Black Math Horseman) will no longer be playing bass, as she did on their 2014 sophomore outing, Old World New Wave (review here) and its 2012 predecessor, Constantinople, both of which were released by Neurot. Timms and fellow founder J. Bennett (guitar) have hooked up with bassist Adam Murray and drummer Scott Batiste for the new lineup, the latter splitting his time with Saviours, with whom Ides of Gemini will be playing this month as they get the new band settled in.

They’re at Stumpfest this weekend in Portland and Psycho Las Vegas in August, as the PR wire affirms:

ides of gemini (Photo by David Lee Dailey)

IDES OF GEMINI Announces New Lineup + Band To Kick Off Short Run Of Live Dates This Weekend

Following a short slumber, IDES OF GEMINI are back and ready to bring their otherworldly odes to the stage once again on a weekend run of live performances this weekend. The short trek includes an appearance at Stump Fest in Portland, Oregon and will showcase not only some brand new psalms but also an updated lineup featuring drummer Scott Batiste of Saviours and bassist Adam Murray of Deth Crux alongside veteran IDES man, guitarist J. Bennett, and vocalist Sera Timms.

“These gentlemen are top-notch players and wicked handsome to boot,” issues Bennett of the new cast. “We’ll be breaking in the new lineup with a handful of West Coast shows with Saviours this month, during which we’ll be debuting some new songs.”

Additionally, the band will make an appearance at Psycho Vegas this August in Las Vegas, Nevada with more live rituals to be announced in the not so distant future. Stand by.

IDES OF GEMINI:
4/22/2016 The Chapel – San Francisco, CA
4/23/2016 Stump Fest – Portland, OR
4/24/2016 Starlite Lounge – Sacramento, CA
8/26-28/2016 Psycho Vegas – Las Vegas, NV

IDES OF GEMINI released their critically-hailed, Chris Rakestraw (Danzig)-produced Old World New Wave full-length in 2014 via Neurot Recordings as well as a special, limited Carthage/Strange Fruit seven-inch via Magic Bullet last year.

http://www.idesofgemini.blogspot.com
http://www.facebook.com/IdesofgeminI
http://www.idesofgemini.bandcamp.com
http://www.neurotrecordings.com
http://www.facebook.com/neurotrecordings
http://www.magicbulletrecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/magicbulletrecords

Ides of Gemini, Old World New Wave (2014)

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Sidewave Stream “Honest to God” from Glass Giant

Posted in audiObelisk on April 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

sidewave

Sidewave‘s Glass Giant will be the first vinyl release from newly-minted French label Left Front Door Records. The imprint was founded using money from an indemnity from France’s government after the attack at Le Bataclan concert hall in Paris last November, paid out to founder Arthur Dénouveaux, who was fortunate enough to have escaped the shooting and the bomb blasts. Wanting to do something that supported his love of music with the money, Dénouveaux started the label and hooked up with the California-based heavy alt rockers, who first issued Glass Giant last Fall as their debut full-length. The 180g vinyl, which includes a download, also comes with a download for a 10-track B-sides offering.

Bottom line is don’t call it a premiere, but I’m glad nonetheless to feature “Honest to God” from Glass Giant. It’s the centerpiece of the album’s nine tracks and offers particular crunch in relation to the bulk of its surroundings, though as you can hear a clear sense of atmosphere is maintained through the Jesu-style sidewave glass giantsoftened churn. A strong undercurrent of Failure runs throughout songs like “Moonshine” and the especially airy “Supersonic,” but there’s a post-rock sense of patience across the record as well, the Los Angeles four-piece of vocalist/guitarist Phil Golyshko, guitarist Bill Collins, drummer Brandon Dickert and bassist Matt Russell bringing open-feeling textures to traditional structures and working in varying degrees of heft along the way.

Most of Glass Giant finds Sidewave exploring a line between emotionalism and psychedelia, but there is something grounding the release as well, and I think it’s the songwriting. All songs but the shorter opener “Grounded” and the longer closing duo of “Hearts” and “This is Who You Are” run in the four-minute range — and the others aren’t far off — but more than that, there’s an ambient consistency that ties the material together so that as Sidewave lean in one direction or another, their songs stay true to the overarching flow of the whole work. A few catchy hooks along the way certainly don’t hurt either, as “Honest to God” also shows.

You’ll find that track streaming below, followed by some more info off the PR wire. If you caught wind of it around its release in October, or if this is your first time checking it out, I hope you enjoy:

The band recently released their debut album mixed by Aaron Harris (Palms, ISIS) and is now ready to release it in vinyl format.

The songs from the album started as a collection of demos written by songwriter, singer, and guitarist, Phil Golyshko. These demos were dubbed the “Big Time Demos” and once shared online, opened the door to a new chapter in the early life of Sidewave.

It was these demos that allowed Phil to reconnect with his cohorts from Chicago – now Southern California residents – drummer Brandon Dickert and guitarist Bill Collins. Within weeks, the group had found bassist and composer Matt Russell to round out the low end and provide “more bass”.

The band has already shared the stage with great rock acts such as The Life and Times, Black Map and Æges. With a new album on the market and a live show that just keeps getting bigger and better, 2016 promises to be even more exciting for fans of epic live rock music.

Sidewave on Thee Facebooks

Sidewave on Bandcamp

Sidewave webshop

Left Front Door Records

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Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors: Molten Realization

Posted in Reviews on April 7th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

blaak heat shifting mirrors

Even unto their moniker, Blaak Heat remain somewhat amorphous. The band that got their start as Blaak Heat Shujaa with a 2010 self-titled debut (review here) in Paris and linked up with Tee Pee Records after moving to New York en route to eventually settling in Los Angeles for the release of the 2012 The Storm Generation EP (review here) and subsequent 2013 sophomore full-length, The Edge of an Era (review here), continues to change in approach and to progress on their third outing, Shifting Mirrors, issued through Tee Pee and Svart Records. In some ways, the 10-track/44-minute album is a direct follow-up to what Blaak Heat, as they’re now properly known, accomplished on prior outings in blending desert tonality and heavy psychedelic rock with Middle Eastern scales and folk influence, but particularly in playing up the latter and in working with producer Matt Hyde (SlayerMonster Magnet), the trio of guitarist/vocalist Thomas Bellier, new bassist Henry Evans (ex-Spindrift) and drummer Mike Amster have pushed well beyond even the grander scope of The Edge of an Era in their latest offering’s complexity and rhythmic insistence.

While cuts on Shifting Mirrors like “The Peace Within” and “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim” make sense in the context of the last album and the one before it with Bellier‘s songcraft at the fore, the flow that Blaak Heat create and the clarity of their purpose in doing so are emblematic of a maturity in their processes that, by its very nature, couldn’t have been on the prior releases. In many ways, it’s appropriate that they’d finish this album with a song called “Danse Nomade” (I’m going to assume no translation necessary), since even though it’s instrumental, it tells the band’s story: Always moving, always changing.

One of the things that makes Shifting Mirrors exciting is that the listener can’t quite be sure where Blaak Heat are headed next, but there are consistencies from their past work. Their focus remains instrumental. They start with “Anatolia” and through “Ballad of Zeta Brown,” “Mola Mamad Djan,” the aforementioned “Danse Nomade” and the shorter interludes “Taqsim” and “Tamazgha,” nearly half of the album’s runtime is dedicated to instrumental tracks, and that’s to say nothing of the extended passages in “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim” and “The Peace Within,” but where and when vocals do arrive, they do show progression. Part of that may be due to working with Hyde, but Bellier‘s vocals even on “Sword of Hakim,” which chugs into high gear immediately and only grows more insistent as it moves through its four minutes, are compressed, laden with effects and have clearly been carefully treated.

blaak heat (photo by Andrew Baxter)

This avoids some of the Om-style patterning of Blaak Heat‘s past work, and helps further distinguish the bass and percussion-led “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim,” its blend of desert psych and Middle Eastern rhythms and vibes playing out with a sense of motion that Bellier directs in a way that emphasizes the growth of his control over putting these parts together to create a fluid whole from them. In addition, Amster‘s drumming throughout is no less creatively broad, and though sometimes tasked with holding together an exploration of guitar, bass and/or keys, Shifting Mirrors is equally rhythmically than melodically expressive. That’s true from the turns of “Anatolia” onward, but especially so in “The Approach to Al-Mu-tasim” and “Ballad of Zeta Brown,” which follows the spacious string interlude “Taqsim” and wraps the first half of the album with a wordless thrust that highlights Blaak Heat‘s ability to play up one side or another within the context of their sound — in this case, leaning more toward classic psychedelia.

They continue that molten methodology — shifting, if you’d like — through side B. Though less frenetic than “Sword of Hakim,” “Black Hawk” features a relatively straightforward heavy psych take, and hits its stride with a gallop beneath a dual-layered lead from Bellier that hits into a nodding bridge groove; something more grounded than Blaak Heat will very often allow in their material. Fuller fuzz rounds out as well, and lest the listener get worried they’re settling on more of a rock feel, the repurposed Afghan folk song “Mola Mamad Djan” moves more back toward traditionalism even if it is a fuzzed out guitar playing those scales. Percussion, bass, keys, drums and guitar, and other elements come together for a final apex that speaks more to a rock mindset, but clearly the the band are indulging other influences, even if working them into their own context. There are debates to be had about cultural appropriation, the history of European and American colonialism in the Middle East, and so on, but Blaak Heat‘s material, whether it’s “Mola Mamad Djan” or the 2:41 thudding/lead interlude “Tamazgha” that follows, is less about exoticizing an “other” outside of Western rock tradition than about bringing different sides together.

By way of an example, with underlying organ and fleet twists of groove, “The Peace Within” drives toward a penultimate start-stop apex that’s basically the peak of the album, and it does so with a mixture of elements from both sides, letting the real serenity come with “Danse Nomade” as Evans‘ bass holds sway and the guitar and keys push outward in desert style backed by bells and drums as they make their way toward a last, open-feeling solo and final crashes, organ scratch and shaker rounding out. One can’t help but wonder if Shifting Mirrors, as a title, is referring to the idea of a changing picture of the self — that is, the self as something unrecognizable over time. If so, it is fitting with the stylistic nuance Blaak Heat make their own throughout, since it’s something that half a decade ago would’ve been unfathomable to come from them. Among the greatest appeals of their work to-date, though, has always been that they come across as being completely unwilling to settle in terms of their progression. As such, I wouldn’t be surprised if their next outing takes yet another step forward from here, since they don’t seem to know how to move any other way, despite their songs’ head-spinning twists and turns.

Blaak Heat on Thee Facebooks

Blaak Heat website

Blaak Heat at Svart Records

Tee Pee Records webstore

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