Black Math Horseman, Wyllt (2009)
In the eight years since its release, something of a cult loyalism has built up around the full-length debut from Los Angeles’ Black Math Horseman. Rightly so. Issued in April 2009 by Tee Pee Records, the 38-minute Wyllt (discussed here) is a rare kind of outing that seemed to at once demand full headphone immersion and a volume level in defiance of any and all medical recommendation. Resting ultimately between ambient, My Bloody Valentine via Isis post-metal and desert-psychedelic ritualizing, it was a work of such purpose and detail that if you center its six titles, they form a pyramid. To wit:
A Barren Cause
Origin of Savagery
Torment of the Metals
Bird of all Faiths/Bell from Madrone
Note “Tyrant” at the top. This nuance of presentation — could be happenstance, but seems unlikely that it was, frankly — came alongside a sound that was at once in-genre and out of it, unremittingly the band’s own on a level generally unthinkable for a debut and distinguished at the outset by the vocals of bassist Sera Timms, who seems to arrive here with her echoing ethereality completely realized and ready to carry the melodies of “Tyrant,” the build of “A Barren Cause,” and the later spaciousness of “Torment of the Metals.” Perhaps even more than it was heavy — though it was, make no mistake — Wyllt was ahead of its time in the vastness of its soundscapes. This facet of the band’s songwriting, along with a production job by Scott Reeder (The Obsessed, Kyuss, etc.), gave Timms, guitarists Ian Barry and Bryan Tulao and drummer Sasha Popovic room to conjure tension-building minimalism into a churn that even these years later remains overwhelming in moments like when the seething comes to the fore “Bird of all Faiths/Bell from Madrone” propelled by Popovic‘s drums before once again receding behind sparse guitar and vague, ambient vocalizations, or when the chugging payoff of “Deerslayer” takes hold with its overarching nod and sway from the prior Red Sparowes-style exploration.
Wyllt is also a record that has benefited greatly from the context of the years since. When first released, it was a definite outlier for Tee Pee Records — also planet earth — and while it would be Black Math Horseman‘s only full-length before they disbanded, the work Timms has gone on to do in Ides of Gemini, her Black Mare solo-outfit and in guest spots for the likes of Mustard, Gas & Roses, Tombs and Zun — the desert ambient project of Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce on which Timms split lead-singer duties with John Garcia — have given a different light to just how much of an accomplishment these songs were in setting all of that in motion on an aesthetic level. True, neither Ides of Gemini nor Black Mare nor Zun are looking to cover the same ground as was Black Math Horseman — they’re individual bands with their own players and styles — but Timms‘ vocals are a defining element for all as they were on Wyllt, and understanding that is naturally something that has become easier as her discography has grown. That’s not to say there hasn’t been any development or progression on her part, as Zun‘s 2016 outing, Burial Sunrise (review here), and her work on Ides of Gemini‘s forthcoming Women LP immediately demonstrate otherwise, just that on a basic level of methodology, Wyllt can be seen as a direct precursor to what she’s done since.
And of course, the record’s not just about the singer. To hear the guitars of Barry and Tulao weaving around each other in the midsection of “Origin of Savagery” backed by Popovic‘s creative timekeeping and the out and out crushing riff that emerges to cap “Torment of the Metals,” one can’t help but wonder just what it was that went wrong in this band when they seemed to be so cohesive and aligned in their sonic intentions. As noted, Wyllt was the only thing Black Math Horseman released in their time together. It wouldn’t be long before the first Ides of Gemini EP surfaced, but as much as it was a standout at the time, and ahead of its time, Wyllt remains distinct in the resonant, affecting impression it leaves, in its fluid definition of heft, in its open sensibilities and in the unfulfilled potential it continues to represent for the band. Oh, what might have been.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
I have spent much of the last three days quietly begging for this week to end. This morning I was up at 3AM in anticipation of precisely that happening. I probably could’ve gone back to sleep, but screw it. Coffee to be had, records to write about, etc. Hell, I’ve even got the World Baseball Classic streaming on my phone on mute on the table nearby my laptop as I sit on the couch and type this before work. China vs. Japan. Seems like a game that could have significant diplomatic repercussions for the Pacific Rim. Better to watch history unfold.
As of this sentence, Japan’s up 1-0, if you’re wondering. It’s early yet.
In a couple minutes, I’ll get up and pour myself my next coffee and enjoy that, and then in about an hour I’ll drive through the falling snow to get to work. We’re supposed to get a few inches here in Southern Massachusetts. More Tuesday, they’re saying. I don’t care. I just want to get to the office so I can start the day as a necessary step toward ending it, toward ending this week. I’m fucking done. Have been done since Monday.
Some cool stuff on the horizon that I don’t quite think I can talk about yet but will announce soon. Vague enough? Yeah, sorry about that. I’ll clarify when I can, but keep an eye out. By way of a hint, it involves travel.
And as a reminder, the next Quarterly Review starts on March 27. I’m locking in the last of the reviews now, probably over the course of this coming week, then I start grabbing artwork, links and setting up the back end. Shit takes a long time, but as ever, I’ll get it done. So far looking like 50 reviews. Last one, if you’ll recall, was 60. Doing regular rounds of Radio Adds has taken away some of the need for that, thankfully.
Speaking of the Radio, I checked in yesterday with Slevin and he’s working on getting the full drive back up and running. I don’t know what happened to the operating system on the Raspberry Pi we use to host the drive with all the songs, but whatever it was apparently really did a number. Then, of course, I screwed up reinstalling the OS and had to start the whole process over, so the delay’s pretty much completely my fault. We’ll get there. New stuff has been added to the backup drive in the meantime, not that there was anything necessarily wrong with it all being Om, Sabbath and Candlemass. Nice to get some recent albums in there though, Kandodo McBain, All Them Witches and so on.
Fingers crossed that will be back online over the weekend, and as I’ve now acquired the aforementioned next cup of coffee — complete with the scoop of cinnamon protein powder that lets it serve as my breakfast — let’s run down the rest of what’s in store for next week. From the notes, subject to change:
Mon.: Radio Adds and a video premiere from Samavayo.
Tue.: Green Meteor review and track premiere, new Atavismo video.
Wed.: Devil’s Witches review and album stream, new Sergio Ch. video.
Thu.: Review of Death Alley’s live record, video premiere from Wight.
Fri.: Samsara Blues Experiment review and track premiere.
There’s more, of course, but that’s what I’m basing the week around, anyhow. In the meantime, you’ll pardon me if I consider a quiet weekend with The Patient Mrs. and the Little Dog Dio to be particularly well earned. I’ve got work to do in getting stuff ready for Monday, chasing down copy for the Roadburn ‘zine, the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, and writing a bio for Melbourne cosmic sludgers Merchant, but that’s the kind of busy I enjoy being and at least it’s a couple days I don’t have to drive to Pawtucket.
I hope that whatever you’re up to, you have a great and safe time. Have fun, relax or don’t depending on what you’re looking for, and be sure to check back in on Monday because there’s a lot of awesome stuff to come.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.
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