Child, Blueside: Kindness and Cruelty

Posted in Reviews on December 2nd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

child-blueside

A sophomore outing poses a significant challenge to Melbourne-based heavy blues rockers Child perhaps more than it does to some other bands. Their self-titled debut, self-released in 2014 and snagged by Kozmik Artifactz for a CD/LP release a year later, had an advantage in the element of surprise. Call it the “where’d these guys come from?” factor. That album took Child to Europe and announced their arrival beyond Australia’s borders. More over, it set a high standard of naturalistic groove and jammy vibes for its follow-up to meet. Blueside, Child‘s second offering through Kozmik Artifactz, can’t necessarily rely on that same ability to blindside. While it will no doubt be some listeners’ first exposure to the band, you only get one full-length debut.

The good news is it doesn’t need novelty. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Mathias Northway, bassist Danny Smith and drummer Michael Lowe don’t fix what wasn’t broken last time out, and there’s a lot in common between their two to-date offerings in style and substance. Both records have five tracks, both carry a feel of having been recorded at least mostly live, both play to heavy rock traditionalism and blue-eyed soul, both carry striking cover art by Nick Keller — who’s also known for his work with New Zealand’s Beastwars and whose emphasis on blues with Blueside is hard to miss — and both succeed in casting a memorable impression without necessarily leaning on their choruses to a point of sounding contrived.

The latter is especially true of Blueside, and indeed one of the crucial factors arguing toward Child‘s overall progression across the album’s 39-minute span is the balance they strike between open-sounding jams and the underlying purpose that drives them forward. That’s not to say opener “Nailed to the Ceiling,” “It’s Cruel to be Kind,” “Blue Side of the Collar,” “Dirty Woman” or the 11-minute finale “The Man” aren’t catchy in a get-stuck-in-your-head kind of way, just that what’s likely to get stuck in your head could just as much be a section of bluesy noodling from Northway on guitar as a soulfully-delivered hook, and that rather than one standout part or line or chorus, Blueside feels more determined to deliver a full-album flow and experience. Child take great steps to hone an organic, classic, but still crisp sound.

At the beginning of “Dirty Woman,” for example, we hear an engineer, presumably Dav Byrne, who recorded, mixed and mastered, calling out the beginning of the take, followed by what sounds like a radio signal being picked up by one of the amplifiers. As Child dig into a gorgeous psych-blues jam, that interference seems to pop up again later in “The Man.” Likewise, before “It’s Cruel to be Kind” starts, we hear Lowe play a measure on drums (the room mics sound great) and Northway gives an “okay” that he’s ready to begin the song. What these details do is emphasize the point that Child are basically inviting their listeners into the session itself, as it’s happening.

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It’s not that they’re working toward being raw — “It’s Cruel to be Kind” and “Dirty Woman” feature a righteous backing vocal guest performance from Harmony Byrne, while both “Dirty Woman” and “Nailed to the Ceiling” bring in Joe Cope to add organ to the proceedings — but in their way, the songs push at the core of an ideal of capturing the spirit of a performance without sacrificing the in-the-moment spontaneity that can come when players lock in on stage. They’re not the first to do it, but from Buffalo and earliest AC/DC to today’s vibrant and varied Melbourne heavy underground, Child are the beneficiaries of the lessons a rich rock history can teach, and no doubt Blueside will help them further cast their own place in it after grabbing so much attention their first time out.

One more thing Blueside has in common with its predecessor is that the deeper it goes, the further out it goes. After a relatively straightforward roll in its first half, “Dirty Woman” breaks in the middle into a hard-fuzz jam, bolstered by organ and backing vocals, that sets the stage for Northway — who shines across the album in standout, emerging-frontman fashion — to loose a final solo before backwards guitar and amp noise finish out the song. That sets up the extended finale “The Man,” which takes its time in a satisfyingly classic way, starting almost before the listener realizes it with its tinge of Hendrixian blues, blown-out vocals (doubled in places) and steady but patient build. No rush.

Only after they pass the seven-minute mark do Child really dig into the full-boar tones of Blueside at its heaviest, so that “The Man” — a kind of lyrical answer to the earlier “Blue Side of the Collar” — gracefully makes its way to the album’s apex as it pushes toward its long fade, one last emphasis placed on the dynamic in development between NorthwaySmith and Lowe, whose chemistry already is not to be understated. If Blueside is an indication of how Child will continue to grow as a band, settle in, because much like their sound itself, it seems like they’ve got more of a focus on exploring earthy vibes than willing themselves into forced-sounding leaps and bounds.

I can’t argue with the approach — it couldn’t be more fitting, actually — or with the results that come through in these five songs, and not to be discounted in Child‘s appeal is their lack of pretense and posturing. For a band who draw so much on the blues, it would be easy to get sidetracked into genre tropes and to lose individual identity for the sake of executing a cookie-cutter sonic idea. Child avoid this with a fluidity that is their own and so come out of their second offering with even more momentum than they went into it. An important step, and one they inarguably take in a commanding forward direction.

Child, Blueside (2016)

Child on Thee Facebooks

Child on Bandcamp

Child at Kozmik Artifactz

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Buried Feather to Release Mind of the Swarm Feb. 10 on Kozmik Artifactz

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 25th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

buried-feather

Squares take heed! Melbourne psych rockers Buried Feather leave no edges un-rounded on their second album, Mind of the Swarm! Announced today and set for release via respected purveyor Kozmik Artifactz and Cobra Snake Necktie Records on Feb. 10, 2017, the follow-up to the trio’s 2013 self-titled debut is a get-lost-in-it wash of post-gaze heavy wash, gorgeously laden in effects, upbeat when it needs to be — looking at you, “Sunshine” — and immersive in the extreme. Shades of Dead Meadow‘s tonal depth will be recognizable to those who’ve spent time inhabiting that particular semi-garage, but with the electronics of “Screen Dreamer” and “Endless C” and the early dreamscaping of lead-single “Dust” and the subsequent “The Stranger,” Buried Feather do plenty to make their influences their own as well.

More to come as we get closer to the release, I hope. Until then, you can stream “Dust” below, and I would suggest that you do, perhaps while perusing the following info from the PR wire:

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Buried Feather announce new album “Mind of the Swarm”

With a sound built on fuzzy drone and swirling keyboards, Buried Feather’s live shows have built a loyal following, drawing regular comparisons to Dead Meadow and Spacemen 3. Their 2013 debut album was a woozy, atmospheric affair that was well loved on community radio right around Australia. The band toured regularly behind the record, including shows with NYC’s Endless Boogie and San Diego psych-metal titans Earthless.

Buried Feather are set to release their second full-length, Mind of the Swarm, out this February through Melbourne indie label Cobra Snake Necktie Records as well as the German stoner-rock imprint Kozmik Artifactz. Recorded by Paul Maybury (King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard) and mixed by Nick Franklin (The Grates, Deep Sea Arcade), the new record is a more dynamic realisation of the band’s hypnotic sound. First single “Dust” finds them solidly in kosmische territory, with a head-rush of phased guitars swirling around a locked groove. The record throws up some interesting surprises, with druggy rave-ups and dark, synth-driven slow jams sitting alongside the fuzzy rock tunes.

Mind of the Swarm will be available digitally on 10 February 2017 and on limited 180gm vinyl through Cobra Snake Necktie Records (Australia) and Kozmik Artifactz (Europe).

https://www.facebook.com/buriedfeathermusic/
http://twitter.com/BURIEDFEATHER
http://buriedfeather.bandcamp.com/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
http://cobrasnakenecktierecords.com/

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Child to Release Blueside Dec. 2; “Blueside of the Collar” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

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Melbourne heavy blues three-piece Child left little doubt to their boogie allegiance with their 2014 self-titled debut. So much so that respected German purveyor Kozmik Artifactz picked up the record for release early last year. Tracked live in its entirety and showcasing due vibrancy as a result, the follow-up is called Blueside, and it arrives via the same label on Dec. 2. You probably caught wind of the first record, because you’re hip like that, and I’d have sworn I reviewed it at some point but can’t find the link — hey, I’m human; sometimes a cool album falls through the cracks — but Blueside rolls out five new languid, jammy rockers marked out by the vocal performance of guitarist Mathias Northway and the rhythmic fluidity of bassist Danny Smith and drummer Michael Lowe in a manner no less grand than the Nick Keller (see also: Beastwars) cover art would suggest.

Shit is right on, is my point, and whether they’ve gone a-wonderin’ in a song like “It’s Cruel to be Kind” or the 11-minute closer “The Man” or get down on more straightforward vibes with centerpiece “Blue Side of the Collar” — for which you can see a newly-posted video at the bottom of this post — the flow holds up front to back for the 39-minute span. I’ll have a review up in the weeks to come, but preorders are up now through Kozmik Artifactz, and the short version is you might want to get on that.

Dig:

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CHILD ‘Blueside’ LP/CD out December 2nd

CHILD is a trio of jam-obsessed first-class musicians, who met in 2012 in the rock underground of Melbourne. Between the three working class Australians Mathias (guitar/vocals), Michael (drums) and Jayden (bass), who can best be described as a blues fanatic with liquid steel as blood, grew as strong a musical band as a group of Musicians can only cultivate and nurture themselves by the unabated urge for intense jam.

It quickly became clear that songs here would not be created simply as architectural objects on the drawing board, but as a result of a deep dialogue between three conspiratorial individuals who have given their instruments speech.

From this dialogue, the self-titled debut resulted in the winter of 2014, which, in addition to the CD, also received a top-notch vinyl copy of the well-known cult label Kozmik Artifactz. On the bandcamp page of the band, this blues-doom hammer has since then entered the hearts of the buyers, which is evidenced by a steadily growing number of supporter reviews.

The enthusiasm for CHILD became so international in a short time that the band escaped the red continent in 2014 and 2015 and also crashed European clubs and festivals with their brutal sound. In these few but very busy years, CHILD have already contested 145 shows, among others. Also a tour of Indonesia. There they appeared in some places as the first internationally active band at all, which led to partly adventurous events.

In April 2017 it will be time again, and this time especially the German-speaking area will pay a lot of attention.

The “Blueside”

In the spring of 2016 CHILD’s dialogue was resumed, but with a new bassist, Danny Smith, also recruited from the circle of friends.

On the self-imposed goal of the band, nothing had changed: the magical intensity of the CHILD-Liveshows was to be transferred intimally and unbuilt to the new recordings, and a sluggish, sonorous power that made the good old Doom Metal pale was a perfect protoplasm, which Mathias was able to inoculate many very lively blues cells with his singing and guitar playing after black swamp blues…

The two-month recording process, a liverecording with just enough space for bluestypic improvisations, resulted in a refreshing contrast to the currently booming heavy blues rock, because, irrishingly, “Blueside” creates a very primordial blues full of expressive power even more strongly in the foreground and still to speak also of true doomfans, which the underlying cause of all instruments plays directly into the entrails.
Available as CD & limited vinyl

VINYL FACTZ
– Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl at Pallas/Germany
– limited 180g vinyl
– 166x marbled (exclusive mailorder edition)
– blue & black editions
– 300gsm gatefold cover
– special vinyl mastering

TRACKS
1. Nailed to the Ceiling
2. It’s Cruel to be Kind
3. Blue Side of the Collar
4. Dirty Woman
5. The Man

Child is:
Mathias Northway – Guitars, Vocals
Michael Lowe – Drums, Percussion
Danny Smith – Bass Guitar

Recorded live at Iridium Audio and TVOG by Dav Byrne
Mixed and mastered by Dav Byrne
Produced by CHILD and Dav Byrne
All songs written by CHILD

Original oil painting by Nick Keller
Photography by Stephen Boxshall

Backing vocals by Harmony Byrne and Neil Wilkinson
Organs by Joe Cope
Layout by James Tom

https://www.facebook.com/childtheband/
https://childtheband.bandcamp.com/
https://www.instagram.com/childtheband
http://www.childtheband.com/
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/index.php?k=986
https://www.facebook.com/kozmikartifactz/

Child, “Blueside of the Collar” official video

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Seedy Jeezus to Record New Album in January with Tony Reed Producing

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 8th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

I guess my only question as regards a new Seedy Jeezus album is when the hell they had time to write it. The Melbourne three-piece have hardly stopped since their self-titled debut came out last year, offering up singles, a 12″ EP, a live record and a newly-issued collaboration with EarthlessIsaiah Mitchell (review here), for whose Australian tour they also served as backing band in addition to traveling to Europe to tour on their own, so, what? Not big on sleep, I guess? Maybe they can catch a nap before tracking on what’s been tentatively dubbed Seedy Jeezus II begins in January, but somehow it seems doubtful.

Once again the trio will bring Mos Generator guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed to Australia to handle production duties. Reed worked with the band on the first full-length and has done various mixing and mastering for their subsequent releases along the way.

The band sent the following down the PR wire:

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Seedy Jeezus announce recording of the follow up to the debut Seedy Jeezus album will happen in January 2017. Tony Reed (Mos Generator) again will be the man behind the dials capturing Seedy Jeezus.

Since the debut album was released in 2015 Seedy Jeezus have released two 7″ singles, a single-sided etched 12″, a LIVE album from their performance at Freak Valley 2015, and collaborative full-length album ‘Tranquonauts’ with Isaiah Mitchell (Earthless), and had the debut release reissued on Kozmik Artifactz in Germany.

“Seedy Jeezus are absolutely stoked to have Tony Reed on board for the recording of the second album,” said guitarist/vocalist Lex Waterreus. “Tony has great ears which you need when recording, a wealth of experience and an approach that suits us as a band. Tony gets exactly where we are coming from with our music and knows how to translate that to vinyl.”

The current working title for the album is Seedy Jeezus II, but that will no doubt change once the album is finished.

The album will be out mid 2017. Stay tuned!!

http://www.seedyjeezus.com
https://www.facebook.com/seedyjeezuspage/

Seedy Jeezus, “Chasing the Dragon’s Tail” Live at Freak Valley 2015

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Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts: Gleam in the Rift

Posted in Reviews on November 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

seedy-jeezus-with-isaiah-mitchell-tranquonauts

Plucked from out of the cosmic ether and joining forces for Tranquonauts — maybe the name of the band, definitely the name of the album, possibly also the name of the sleepiest ’80s Saturday morning cartoon ever ported from Japan in order to sell action figures — the pairing of Melbourne heavy psych rockers Seedy Jeezus and Isaiah Mitchell isn’t overbearingly obvious. It’s not like the Earthless/Golden Void guitarist and the Aussie trio of guitarist/noisemaker/graphic artist Lex Waterreus, bassist Paul Crick and drummer Mark Sibson hang out on weekends, what with living on different continents at all.

Together with keyboardist Matt Murphy, the collaborative unit Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell execute two 20-minute instrumental vinyl sides, flowing and jammy-feeling, with a story told in seven words across the two titles “The Vanishing Earth” and “Escape Through the Rift.” Hard to be more concise than that, and for two tracks — which check in at 19:57 (opening with the longest song; immediate points) and 19:17, respectively — given to such open-feeling flow and which show no concern with getting anywhere other than as far out as they can go, presumably through that rift, that efficiency speaks to some underlying purpose.

When the release of Tranquonauts through Blown Music and Lay Bare Recordings was announced here, the B-side had a different title, “King of the Lepers,” so it’s not as if these things have been thrown together haphazardly, and the same goes for the sonic makeup of the tracks themselves. While the prevailing vibe drips from being so coated in lysergic ooze, there always remains a sense of intention behind the interstellar exploration in these pieces.

That’s impressive on its own, but becomes even more so when one factors in that Tranquonauts was recorded on two separate continents as well, with Waterreus, Crick, Sibson and Murphy working in Melbourne and Mitchell in California. The two groups have some history together, having shared a stage at Freak Valley in Germany on separate Earthless and Seedy Jeezus European tours and met there, but for not having actually gotten in a room to play, “The Vanishing Earth” and “Escape Through the Rift” are remarkably cohesive, with Murphy‘s keys adding Woo-esque flourish beneath washes of lead guitar early in the opener, bass and drums ensuring the structural integrity of the material remains intact even as it seems most likely to come flying apart later on.

Sibson and Crick turn in showcase performances on both “The Vanishing Earth” and “Escape Through the Rift,” the latter of which begins with a description of a peyote trip sampled by Waterreus. Not so much for the flash in their playing, but for the class of it, how they balance pushing the jams forward with giving the guitars room to ride out the extended solos as the keys bring an added sense of dynamics and melody.

seedy-jeezus-with-isaiah-mitchell-tranquonauts-back-cover

Likewise, the mix — Waterreus edited, Jason Fuller mixed and mastered — is gorgeous. “The Vanishing Earth” consumes with its depth, emphasizing the hypnotic repetitions at play, but it never gets boring or seems to lose its direction. The guitars step back late in the opener to some degree, and keys and effects come forward in a building wash that seems to signal the approaching end, and they ultimately finish quietly, setting up the drift to come on side B as the patient beginning of “Escape Through the Rift” gets underway following and coinciding with the aforementioned sample.

Here again, Murphy‘s keys shine, but the jazzy bass and guitar interplay accompanying isn’t to be undervalued. As one might expect, the two inclusions on Tranquonauts flow together pretty well — there’s no way they couldn’t given their makeup, frankly, unless the record was a complete failure — but there are distinctions in personality between them nonetheless. The opener takes a more active approach, has more push, particularly in its second half, while the closer holds to its subdued swirl into its organ-laced midsection and beyond, feeling even more psychedelic for it.

Granted, as they move through minute 14 and beyond, the freakout emerges until finally layers of what sounds like jet engines overhead bring the song to its conclusion, but even that is a gradual process — you’ll note a kick in the pace of Sibson‘s drums at 15:39 — and in the context of the prior jam, it feels like a natural progression from one to the other. Guitars and keys get fairly maddened by the end of “Escape Through the Rift,” but one assumes our heroes the Tranquonauts make it just in the nick of time and live to battle the forces of, what, squares?, for another day on some other planet, as amp noise rounds out the ending of the LP bearing the same name.

From Waterreus‘ holy-crap-inducing gatefold artwork, to the deluxe edition of the LP including a heavy rock-themed board game, to of course the songs that comprise it, Tranquonauts is a record that’s so clearly driven by the love of its creation that, if one can get down at all on the most basic level, it’s hard not to be won over by it. Will this be the first and only adventure of Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell under the Tranquonauts banner? Seedy Jeezus served as the backing band for Mitchell‘s recent solo tour of Australia, so it would seem the plot only continues to thicken. If this is a one-off, though, it’s one bound to be treasured by those fortunate enough to snag it while the snagging’s good.

Tranquonauts, “The Vanishing Earth Pt. III

Seedy Jeezus website

Seedy Jeezus on Thee Facebooks

Isaiah Mitchell on Thee Facebooks

Isaiah Mitchell website

Earthless on Thee Facebooks

Seedy Jeezus webstore

Burning World Records webstore

Blown Music on Thee Facebooks

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Mammoth Mammoth Premiere “Sick (of Being Sick)” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

mammoth-mammoth

Everyone’s favorite Australian fuel-injected suicide machine — aka Melbourne’s Mammoth Mammoth — are back, and after riffing on The Decline of Western Civilzation Part II: The Metal Years in one video (premiered here) and heading out to the middle of nowhere for a bit of drunken wallowing in another (premiered here), they’re ready to unveil the next one in their series of videos taken from their 2015 album, IV: Hammered Again, released by Napalm Records. Enter “Sick (of Being Sick).”

Following the other two, each of which has its own distinct vibe (if you don’t believe me, click the links above and check them out; Soundcloud streams fade, but YouTube clips are forever), “Sick (of Being Sick)” affirms two crucial things about Mammoth Mammoth that we learned once more on IV: Hammered Again. First, they can make a hook out of just about anything. Second, they’re an absolute riot on stage. The footage for “Sick (of Being Sick)” comes from shows on their latest trip to Europe and the UK earlier this year, and from tearing it up on stage to dancing in the crowd, Mammoth Mammoth make it perfectly clear that a choice rock show is being delivered front to back. Hard to argue, so I won’t try.

Happy as always to host a premiere from these cats, who break their collective ass on the road and are happy to kick everyone else’s in so doing. More info on the gigs and album follows the clip below, courtesy of the PR wire.

Enjoy:

Mammoth Mammoth, “Sick (of Being Sick)” official video

Filmed at shows in Paris, Leipzig and London on MAMMOTH MAMMOTH’s Mammoth Bloody Mammoth tour in February 2016. Sick of Being Sick is from the album “Volume 4 – Hammered Again” and is available at https://shop.napalmrecords.com/mammothmammoth.

Dirty Heavy Rock from Down Under!

A naked, pot-smoking beauty on the cover and song titles like ‘Hammered again’ or ‘High as a kite’ – Mammoth Mammoth definitely won`t turn a good party down! The scruffy Australians deliver the soundtrack mixing dirty hard rock with a healthy dose of stoner: Volume IV – Hammered Again comes roaring down the highway with lotsa fuzz, a raw production and pure force! That`s why this four-piece is called Mammoth Mammoth – one mammoth ain’t enough for this massive orgy…

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Mammoth Mammoth website

Mammoth Mammoth on Twitter

Mammoth Mammoth at Napalm Records

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The Ruiner Self-Titled Debut Due Sept. 26

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

the-ruiner

Preorders are up now for the self-titled debut from Melbourne sludge rockers The Ruiner, which comes out Sept. 26 on Desert Highways. The band have a couple tracks streaming on their Bandcamp from prior digital singles, and as it seems like both those cuts will be featured on the album as well with their aggressive take underscoring the band’s more extreme origins and early-Crowbar-style push, I’m not sure if they’re re-recorded or from the original sessions in 2013, but either way, there’s a whole bunch of others that have never with them because, you know, that’s how it works with albums and whatnot.

The PR wire had this to say about it:

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THE RUINER Self-Titled Debut Album OUT MONDAY SEPTEMBER 26

Established in 2013, The Ruiner were originally brought together to play a one-off show as a tribute to legendary death / grind / stoner band Christbait (1989-1996). They appeared under the moniker Dirtypunkmutha, the name of Christbait’s 1996 release. Somehow, amid much arm-twisting and promises of fame and fortune, two of Christbait’s original members decided to get the project off the ground as a proper band.

Featuring Craig Westwood (guitar – Christbait, Dern Rutlidge, Budd), Jason Vassallo (vocals – Christbait, Dread), Jason PC (bass – Blood Duster, Dern Rutlidge, Birdcage) and brothers Adam Stokes (guitar – Legends Of Motorsport, Pillow) and Ben Stokes (drums – Pillow, Tailbone, Piggy). The Ruiner blends heavy and dark doom riffs with hard stoner grooves; they’re a cross between Isis, Goatsnake and the band you always wanted to join, super heavy while not being afraid of a song.

The Ruiner’s intensity and strength live didn’t take long for them to impress. Having all played together in their numerous projects, The Ruiner boys know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and fit together well. They’ve released two digital singles to date with their debut album set for release Monday 26 Sept 2016 through Desert Highways, with tracks being recorded between Goatsound by Jason PC (Witchskull, Watchtower, Broozer, I Exist) and Toyland by Adam Calaitzis (Blood Duster, Damaged, Dern Rutlidge), with mixing duties between Jason PC and Billy Anderson (Melvins, Sick Of It All, High On Fire, Cathedral, Sleep).

The Ruiner:
Jason V- Vocals
Craig Westwood- Guitar
Jason PC- Bass
Adam Stokes- Guitar
Ben Stokes- Drums

https://www.facebook.com/theruinerband
https://theruiner.bandcamp.com/
http://deserthighways.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertHighwaysMusic
https://deserthighways.bandcamp.com/album/the-ruiner

The Ruiner, The Ruiner sample tracks

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Ahkmed, The Inland Sea: Bliss and Water

Posted in Reviews on September 16th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

ahkmed-the-inland-sea

Marked out by their tonal warmth and immersive progressions, the long-form fluidity of Melbourne trio Ahkmed makes a welcome return with The Inland Sea, the band’s first full-length since 2009’s Distance (review here). That outing was also released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten — which, if you know the label run by Stefan Koglek of Colour Haze, should be about as far as you need to read in this review to let you know you should get on board.

After seven years, there have been some notable shifts in Ahkmed‘s sound, veering away from post-rock more pure heavy psych jamming, here presented in raw, mostly-instrumental form across five extended tracks — “Kaleidoscope” (10:44), “The Inland Sea” (12:53), “Last Hour of Light” (20:09), “Pattern of Atolls” (11:54) and “The Empty Quarter” (15:31) — totaling a satisfyingly symmetrical 1:11:11 runtime.

Not a minor investment in terms of the front-to-back listen, but the dreamtones and spaciousness of the title-track, the graceful manner in which the songs unfold and the varied atmospheres between them assure that the journey remains engaging for the duration, drummer John-Paul Caligiuri adding vocals over the slow wash of “The Inland Sea” (though that might be a sample; it’s kind of obscure in the mix) and the subsequent centerpiece after the hypnotic opening of “Kaleidoscope” to bring a definitively human presence to the material just when it seems to be pushing out further and further.

Also the introduction of new bassist Finn Rockwell, who comes aboard to replace Dan McNamara, alongside Caligiuri and guitarist Carlo IacovinoThe Inland Sea casts out cosmic with a natural chemistry and patient execution, indulging itself as a release like this invariably must, but not doing so in an offputting or pretentious fashion.

That can be a hard line to walk, but Ahkmed make it work in the best way possible — by simply doing it. From the fuzzy guitar line that starts “Kaleidoscope” onward, the three-piece ease their way into progressive spacedelia with an underlying command that speaks to the years they’ve been at it, Caligiuri and Iacovino having started the band circa 1998.

As they approach 20 years in and mark their resurgence from a dormant period, The Inland Sea lacks nothing for vitality, though admittedly they’re not exactly shooting for uptempo party rock. That’s not to say their delivery isn’t energetic or they don’t sound like they’re making the music they want to be making — quite the opposite, actually — just that the trance that takes hold about halfway through “Kaleidoscope” and continues into “The Inland Sea” would seem to be closer to the endgame goal the album is pushing toward.

ahkmed

It’s about the texture and spirit that emerges from the material; something to get lost in. They build “Kaleidoscope” to a formidable apex and end it with a fading wash to let the title cut take hold with two builds of its own, patiently marched forward by cymbal washes as the guitar spaces out, the song almost dividing in half for when one part ends and the next one starts.

By its finish, it too gets to significant proportion, but the difference in ambience is noteworthy, and another balance Ahkmed strike subtly throughout The Inland Sea as “Last Hour of Light” — an obvious focal point, for even more than its sheer length — arrives with about two minutes of introduction from the guitar before the vocals and quiet drums join in. At this point, the ethereal mood is fully constructed, but Caligiuri does have a grounding effect when he starts with the first verse, something to give a sense of place to what can seem to be so willfully formless.

At first, it seems like “Pattern of Atolls” might be trying to bridge the the two sides between Ahkmed‘s post-rock and more heavy psych liquefaction, but it winds up pushing further, thickening its tones in the second half and pushing into territory more outwardly heavy than anything The Inland Sea has yet offered. Caligiuri returns on vocals earlier in the track but recedes into the molten flow that seems to rise up after his lines are done, and it’s Rockwell whose low end seems to signify the heft to come, fuzzed-out as it is.

They start to dive into a payoff but hold back, saving it for the end of the song, which feels about right once they hit the nine-minute mark and crash into a blown-out final three minutes that cap with bass-noise swirling directly into the guitar intro of “The Empty Quarter” — the most purposeful transition they’ve yet made and one that ties the final two tracks together in a way that brings to mind a linearity that The Inland Sea invariably wouldn’t have as a 2LP, on which “The Empty Quarter” and “Pattern of Atolls” would each likely occupy a side.

Maybe that’s Ahkmed acknowledging the digital/vinyl companionship, the sort of symbiotic the most and least physical formats have developed over the years since Distance, or maybe it’s just the way the songs flowed the best. I wouldn’t hazard a guess. Either way, the closer follows a similar pattern of a guitar intro leading to a verse that shifts into a jam quiet, louder, quiet again, noisy for a bit, then at last arriving at the groove that will carry it out.

To listen to The Inland Sea by this time and look for intricacies almost feels like missing the point, which is clearly to let the album wash over you and move you from one end of its span to the other. Nonetheless, “The Empty Quarter” and the four cuts before it do offer a depth of experience for those willing to dig in — headphones recommended — and the spaces they evoke seem vast enough to hold a presence until next time. Hopefully that’s not another seven years.

Ahkmed, The Inland Sea (2016)

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Ahkmed on Bandcamp

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