Roadburn 2018 Day Two: Sessions of Light

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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04.20.18 – 11:25PM CET – Friday night – Hotel Mercure Rm. 224

You know what I did this afternoon before the show started? I slept. For about an hour. It was fucking crazy. A post-‘zine, pre-Roadburn-day-two nap. I’m not sure I can convey to you the novelty of such a thing. With a 3:10PM start to the day, it never would’ve been possible before, as I’d be folding copies of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. Yesterday, today and tomorrow that task is outsourced. Sunday will be folding penance. But damn I enjoyed that nap.

I also enjoyed an inhuman(e) amount of espresso today. You might say I’m sipping one right now. By the time Motorpsycho took to the Main Stage for their two-hour early-headlining set, I’d certainly had a few, and they came in handy in keeping up with the Norwegians’ semi-psychedlic heavy progressive rock. I will not at all pretend to motorpsycho (Photo by JJ Koczan)be an expert on the band — I saw the a few years ago in Eindhoven and they were doing a concept show or something and it didn’t really hit a nerve — but what may or may not still be their latest LP, 2017’s The Tower (review here), was a thrill, so to hear cuts from that like “In Every Dream Home (There’s a Dream of Something Else)” was likewise and as they settled in for the longest haul to feature today on the Main Stage, the crowd seemed to do much the same.

For anyone in the US who might be reading this, Motorpsycho are a huge deal over here. They are legends, legitimately. They’ve been at it for nearly 30 years, and they have a discography that at this point is nigh on insurmountable to which they continuously add releases. They’re relatively obscure in America compared to some other progressive rock-type outfits, but they’re the kind of band who can get on stage, play a song called “Starhammer” from an album called Heavy Metal Fruit and have a couple thousand people absolutely wrapped around their collective finger. Their material is enticingly complex, with ebbs and flows in energy and volume, and when they want to, they can be quite heavy, but while their delivery is technically precise, they’re not overly showy, and the sense of class with which they play holds firm throughout. They, and the response they got, were both a joy to watch.

There was, however, a reason I only stayed for an hour and 45 minutes of their full two-hour set, and that was because over at Cul de Sac, Toronto’s Comet Control were on next, and I was taking zero chances when it came to the potential of missing them. I showed up too late for Insect Ark yesterday and missed my shot. Getting to see Comet Control meant showing up as Ulsect were finishing and waiting the 40comet control 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan) minutes for them to load their gear in, set up, soundcheck, etc. Time well spent as far as I’m concerned, because as I think I’ve said several times by now, there was simply no way I wasn’t going to see them.

My vigilance in doing so was rewarded with a shit-eating-grin-on-my-face life-affirming set the likes of which I’ve only ever experienced at Roadburn. I stayed down the front of the Cul de Sac and stood in front of the stage the entire time. They were my first complete set of the weekend (and only one to this point) and were so good that I wanted to sit it down and explain it to them. Or write a letter. “Dear Comet Control: You guys and gal are fucking awesome. When you played ‘Blast Magic’ I thought my heart was going to explode.” They did that track and “Dig out Your Head” from their excellent 2016 sophomore full-length, Center of the Maze (review here), and were joined on stage by Mario Rubalcaba from Earthless who took over on guitar from Chad Ross for a song — holding the instrument upside down to play left-handed — before they dug back into Ross‘ and fellow guitarist Andrew Moszynski‘s former outfit, Quest for Fire, to play “Greatest Hits by God” and “Sessions of Light,” the opening and closing cuts from 2010’s Lights from Paradise (review here; discussed here).

That. Well. That. That kind of felt like a birthday present to the universe. Quest for Fire played Roadburn in 2011 in what was then called the Bat Cave. I remember standing there in the hallway of the pre-redo 013 and watching them through the door in the smallest of the then-three rooms in the buildingcomet control (Photo by JJ Koczan). Cul de Sac isn’t the smallest venue at Roadburn 2018 — that honor goes to Hall of Fame, up by the Kopelhal and the merch area — but it was an intimate, packed show all the same, and it was the only time so far this weekend that I pulled my earplugs even part of the way out of my ears during a set to let the loudness in. Ross‘ and Moszynski‘s guitars were a wash across two channels, and even though the skin on the kick drum broke, the band made it work. They were my one “must” of the day, and completely justified my anticipation. I sincerely hope this isn’t the only time I get to see them.

When they were done, I lumbered clumsily back to the 013 proper to check out Crowbar on the Main Stage playing Odd Fellows Rest in full as part of Jacob Bannon from Converge‘s curated day. They very much sounded like Crowbar, and that’s not a complaint. The New Orleans sludge purveyors are pro-shop the whole way through and their set was likewise. It’s always interesting to see who gets into the spirit of Roadburn and who plays it like another gig. Again, nothing against Crowbar, who’ve no doubt played European fests in front of tens of thousands of people, and it being a full-album performance, it was still something special to see, founding guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein thanking the crowd profusely as well as Jacob Bannon and Walter for having them back.

I dipped out to grab a quick bite for dinner — there’s this fish in like a lemoncrowbar (Photo by JJ Koczan) cream sauce kind of thing this year in the catering room backstage; I felt like I didn’t want to stop — and made it back in time to catch Crowbar play their cover of “No Quarter” and close out their set with a couple other tunes before Windstein said they were gonna “do that gay thing everyone does” and take a picture on stage with the crowd behind them. Pulled the wind right out of my enjoyment of seeing them. Like a balloon making a fart noise as the air escapes. Bummer. You can call me PC or whatever. I don’t give a fuck. Crowbar has ruled for a long-ass time, but that shit is lame. Moving on.

The delightfully punctuated Seinäjoki, Finland, progressive psych outfit Kairon; IRSE! were wrapping up in the Green Room around the same time, so I waddled in there and caught the end of their set from the balcony. The assembled masses before them were clearly loyal to the cause and it was easy to see why. Heady stuff. They’re on Svart, which is all the endorsement they need as far as I’m concerned, and I may yet pick up their albums in the merch area, where the label has a table all set up that I’ve now visited twice, but I was really in the Green Room to catch Minami Deutsch.

My thinking was that I owed it to myself to catch at least some of the Japanese Psych Experience while I was here — set up by Walter with the minami deutsch (Photo by JJ Koczan)label Guru Guru Brain in a similar kind of thing to the San Diego Takeover, only, you know, from Japan, with acts like Kikagaku Moyo, Dhidalah and Minami Deutsch playing — and I’d heard all along that Minami Deutsch were the mellowest of the bunch. That suited me just fine. I waited for them to go on and when they did, it was easy-groove spacial drift the whole way through and it turned out to be just the vibe I was looking for. I was not the only one, as the room was loaded with people all the way out the door. How many times in my life will I get to see them? I don’t know. Maybe twice if I’m lucky. Point is they were right on and especially as a part of the J-psych theme, a band I felt extra fortunate to be able to catch.

Speaking of possibly-once-in-a-lifetime experiences, up at the Koepelhal — which is on the other side of the train tracks from the 013 in what, with the weather so nice and all the people laying in the grass outside smoking, drinking, whatever, looked like the Roadburn Annex — it was nearly time for Earthless and Damo Suzuki to fuse their mind energies for a set of what I believe was fully improvised psychedelic wandering. There was a little time, so I hobbled next door to the Hall of Fame to watch Petyr play heavy ’70s covers for a minute or two, and perused the merch again, only making myself sad in the process on any number of levels. These are interesting days. Did I mention I ate dinner?

Anyhow, when it was time for Earthless and Damo Suzuki to play their set — which, once more, is the kind of thing that may or may not ever, ever happen again — the Koepelhal was absolutely rammed with bodies looking for a bit of psychedelic communion. As it happens, damo suzuki earthless (Photo by JJ Koczan)that is precisely what they got. The mood started out quiet and built up and came down, with Suzuki on mic, someone else playing another stringed instrument, and EarthlessIsaiah Mitchell, Mike Eginton and Mario Rubalcaba not quite playing the role of the backing band, but definitely giving Suzuki respect on stage and the space to do what he does in terms of proclamations largely indecipherable but completely in the moment. The whole thing, really. Completely in the moment. That seemed to be the entire point.

And maybe it was the heat, or maybe it was the humidity, or maybe it was just me being a sucker and remembering how good they were last time I saw them here in 2013, but something drove me back toward the 013 Main Hall in order to catch the start of Godflesh performing 1994’s Selfless in its entirety. I knew I wasn’t going to see the whole thing — writing to do — but I also knew there was no way I’d be able to consider the night complete without watching them at least for a while. So I did. I peeled myself out of Koepelhal and floundered back to the 013, wheregodflesh (Photo by JJ Koczan) Justin K. Broadrick — with hair, no less — and G.C. Green went on about 10 minutes past their allotted start time and only built on the tension that late start created with their dissonant, crushing industrial aggression.

Like few bands I’ve ever seen, Godflesh seem to have the power to just reach into your lungs and squeeze them until they’re all the way empty. It’s something to behold. Selfless had them beginning to experiment with melody, but the electronic beats and the intensity were (and still are) there to be sure, and Broadrick and Green captivated a full Main Stage area, spaced out across the stage just as they were when I saw them play their 1989 debut, Streetcleaner here in 2011. That was also an adventure in sonic brutalism.

After a while, the get-to-work itch started to become unbearable and I blundered my way back through Weirdo Canyon to the hotel where so-much-and-yet-not-enough coffee awaited. It had been another excellent day — it was hard to believe it was only the second one of the fest itself — but Roadburn 2018 picks up early tomorrow with Bell Witch playing Mirror Reaper in its entirety, and well, if I’m going to have my head cleaved open with doom, the very least I can do is be well rested in advance for it.

Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump and more to come tomorrow.

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The Top 20 of 2017 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

top-20-of-2017-year-end-poll-results

Happy New Year 2018! If you’re reading this, welcome to the future. Enjoy your flying car, free healthcare, universal income, matter replicators and life on that moon colony you moved to a couple years back — New Berlin, wasn’t it? Well, either way, I’m sure it’s lovely this season.

Way back in the Dark Ages, on Dec. 1, 2017, I put up The Obelisk’s annual Year-End Poll, looking for submissions from as many people as possible with their picks for what were the year’s best albums. The response was once again staggering. Over 400 lists came in — including my own, which I submitted yesterday — for a final tally of 419, and the amount of consensus that emerged from them was no less impressive.

We’ll get there in a second. First, a reminder about the point system. As ever, a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. So it doesn’t only matter that you included a record on your list — the raw votes are also tallied — but where it was included. That only seems fair in acknowledging how passionate people were about a given release.

You know the drill by now I’m sure, but it pays to be thorough. Below you’ll find both the weighted point tally and the raw votes results, followed by some quick honorable mentions, comment, etc. After the jump, you’ll find the complete list of everyone who submitted. If you’d like to check my math on anything, feel free. I’m by no means perfect when it comes to statistics or counting or any of that stuff involving those things that aren’t letters. Whatever they’re called.

Thanks to everyone who took part this year. Here are the lists:

Top 20 of 2017 — Weighted Results

elder reflections of a floating world adrian dexter

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World (888 points)
2. Monolord, Rust (397)
3. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War (346)
4. Pallbearer, Heartless (327)
5. Colour Haze, In Her Garden (284)
6. Mastodon, Emperor of Sand (256)
7. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper (250)
8. The Obsessed, Sacred (248)
9. Sasquatch, Maneuvers (242)
10. Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard (237)
11. Kadavar, Rough Times (236)
12. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe (225)
13. Ufomammut, 8 (205)
14. DVNE, Asheran (198)
15. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child (189)
16. Woodhawk, Beyond the Sun (163)
17. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma (158)
18. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas (155)
19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable (150)
20. Motorpsycho, The Tower (149)

Honorable Mention:
Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle (144)
Radio Moscow, New Beginnings (134)
Dopelord, Children of the Haze (132)
Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spun (129)
Mutoid Man, War Moans (123)

No real surprise here, but with the fact that Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World topped 880 points and got more than twice as much as the next closest record, it’s hard to begrudge 2017 some measure of predictability. For what it’s worth, that’s an even stronger showing than their Lore LP got in 2015, and they took the lead on day one and did not relinquish it for the duration. Outside of them and Monolord, who held command of the number two spot for the entire month, there was some measure of parity, but it was clear where hearts and minds were situated in 2017, and certainly difficult to argue with the picks on the whole, regardless of where a given individual ranked one album or the other. Looking at that list of 20-plus, especially with the honorable mentions, I’d sign up for that year every time. It was a good one. Now then…

Top 20 of 2017 — Raw Votes

elder reflections of a floating world adrian dexter

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World (207 votes)
2. Monolord, Rust (110)
3. Pallbearer, Heartless (94)
4. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War (88)
5. Kadavar, Rough Times (77)
6. Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard (75)
7. Colour Haze, In Her Garden (74)
8. Mastodon, Emperor of Sand (72)
9. The Obsessed, Sacred (71)
10 Sasquatch, Maneuvers (70)
11. Ufomammut, 8 (67)
12. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper (64)
13. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child (60)
14. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe (59)
15. Woodhawk, Beyond the Sun (54)
16. DVNE, Asheran (53)
17. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable (48)
18. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas (47)
19. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings (45)
19. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma (45)
20. Dopelord, Children of the Haze (43)
20. Mothership, High Strangeness (43)

Honorable Mention:
Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle (40)
Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spun (37)
The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field (34)
Beastmaker, Inside the Skull (34)
Motorpsycho, The Tower (33)
Mutoid Man, War Moans (32)

Even less surprising given the above. 207 people of the 419 who submitted lists included Elder somewhere on theirs. It’s pretty hard to get about 50 percent of anyone to agree on anything these days, so I consider that no minor feat. Again, Reflections of a Floating World earned its place, and it was a pretty astounding achievement for the band and the genre they’re working to remake in their own image. A couple minor shifts between the raw tallies and the weighted results as there always are, but again, the underlying point here is that 2017 was a pretty killer year all the way around and across a deep variety of styles, the quality of work being put forth by veterans and newcomers alike was nothing short of excellent.

Before I turn you over to the massive swath of everybody’s lists, I just want to say thanks again to Slevin for being so instrumental in setting up the technical end of this poll. It’s amazing year after year to be able to basically at this point flip a switch and have it all set to go and there’s no way that would happen without Slevin working so hard behind the scenes to put the structure in place that holds this project, the entire site, together. Thanks dude.

And thank you for reading and contributing your favorites of 2017! This is the last of the 2017 Year-End coverage for The Obelisk. If you missed any of it, go here:

The Top 30 Albums of 2017

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

2017 Song of the Year

12 of 2017’s Best Album Covers

One more time, thank you for reading. After the jump, please find the raw lists of everyone who took the time to turn one in. Enjoy:

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Roadburn 2018 Announces Boris Playing Absolutego, Godflesh Playing Selfless, Hooded Menace Playing Fulfill the Curse, Commissioned Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising Collaboration, and Much More

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Well, here’s Roadburn 2018 wishing you happy holidays as pretty much only Roadburn can. With Boris and Stephen O’Malley playing Absolutego in full, a one-off collaboration between Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising kicking off the festival, additional whole-record performances from Godflesh and Hooded Menace, a European debut from Khemmis, plus the likes of Thou & The Body, Motorpsycho, Fuoco Fatuo, Forgotten Tomb, Wolfbrigade and of course a completely overwhelming ton of others. So yeah, happy holidays from Roadburn, I guess. Probably even happier if you already have your tickets for next April.

If you don’t, gadzooks, I hear it’s the holidays.

From the PR wire:

roadburn 2018 new flyer

Further artists confirmed for 2018 edition of Roadburn Festival; including details of specially commissioned performance

– Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu collaborate on commissioned project, Waste of Space Orchestra
– Boris join forces with Stephen O’Malley for Absolutego performance
– Jacob Bannon adds Godflesh, Motorpsycho, Thou x The Body and Forgotten Tomb to his curation
– Justin K Broadrick and Kevin Martin unite as Zonal, with Moor Mother
– Hooded Menace to play Fulfill The Curse in its entirety

COMMISSIONED PROJECT: WASTE OF SPACE ORCHESTRA

Artistic Director Walter Hoeijmakers commented:

“Roadburn has always been about bringing people together, creating a network where the line between friend, fan, performer and artist is blurred. The very foundation of Roadburn is the community that it is built upon, around, and within. Alongside this, Roadburn has always sought to push the boundaries of creativity and expression.

These two defining facets of Roadburn have been brought together for a brand new project – or rather, two brand new projects – for 2018. For the first time, we have commissioned a two groups of entirely separate musicians to create music to be performed specifically at Roadburn. Today we’re thrilled to announce the first of those groups of musicians.”

Familiar to most Roadburners, Dark Buddha Rising and Oranssi Pazuzu are combining their forces to write and perform a new concept piece especially for Roadburn 2018. The collaboration will be titled the Waste of Space Orchestra.

The performance will include ten musicians onstage plus an original video accompaniment, designed to tell a parallel story with the music. The ten-part, one hour piece is a dive into the consciousnesses of three beings – all of whom are on a search for deeper truths in comprehending reality.

The Waste of Space Orchestra performance will open the main stage on the first day of Roadburn 2018 – Thursday, April 19.

BORIS AND STEPHEN O’MALLEY PERFORMING ABSOLUTEGO

It was Absolutego that kickstarted everything for Boris in 1996 and put that strange little band from Tokyo named after a Melvins song on the map. If you further exercise your memory, you will surely recall that Absolutego was – above everything – a drone album, one single track that took the listener on a strange, intense and very dark trip.

We’ve invited Boris to come and perform that whole Absolutego giant of sound, and they said yes. Joining them for this exclusive, one off performance is none other than Stephen O’Malley.

Boris with Stephen O’Malley will play Absolutego on Saturday, April 21 at the 013 venue, Tilburg, The Netherlands.

JACOB BANNON’S CURATION

MOTORPSYCHO

“When discussing with Walter potential artists that fit the experimental spirit of Roadburn Festival, we both landed on the idea of Motorpsycho. I was first exposed to the band through their Demon Box album and have attempted to follow their unique twists and turns since. Their output is legendary and their need for experimentation has been inspiring to follow over the years. It is a true honor to help bring this diverse voice to the Roadburn audience.”

– Jacob Bannon.

GODFLESH

As part of Jacob Bannon’s curation, Godflesh will perform their groundbreaking album Selfless at Roadburn Festival 2018.

“I first experienced Godflesh when I picked up the Grindcrusher compilation from Earache Records as a teenager. The otherworldly power of Streetcleaner effected me in a way that I still find hard to describe. Since then I have been an avid follower of all music that Justin creates. Though I celebrate the expansive Broadrick catalog as a whole, it is his forays into melody under the Godflesh name I really connect with. Selfless as is an album that has everything for me. Punishing heaviness, incredible hooks, and limitless emotional depth. It is a true honor that they have agreed to play this album in its entirety at Roadburn 2018.”

– Jacob Bannon.

CURATION: THOU X THE BODY

“Since their inception I’ve been following Thou. Their restlessness and drive for experimentation has been inspiring to follow. The same goes for The Body. They’ve been such an incredible band to watch evolve from release to release. When they joined together on their Released From Love and You Whom I Have Always Hated collaborations I was floored. Together, they amplify the best parts of each band’s individual output. Making some of the heaviest and most intense music of the last few years. This collaboration is a must listen and perfect fit for Roadburn Festival.”

– Jacob Bannon

CURATION: FORGOTTEN TOMB

“I was first exposed to Forgotten Tomb through their incredible Springtime Depression album. To me, Herr Morbid’s vision was immediately appealing. Carrying a relatable sadness and inescapable darkness unequaled by other artists of the time. Since then I’ve been following his growth as an artist and the evolution of the band. I feel that artistically Forgotten Tomb are a perfect fit for the core Roadburn audience. They are a musical black hole that claims everything around it. I can’t wait to experience their set at Roadburn Festival 2018.”

– Jacob Bannon

ZONAL WITH MOOR MOTHER

Justin K. Broadrick is such an integral part of the Roadburn backbone by now that he needs little introduction. When it was announced that Justin and Kevin Martin, aka The Bug – who already made himself part of Roadburn with a staggering show alongside Dylan Carlson of Earth this year – would reunite under the name Zonal (a spiritual continuation from their iconic Techno Animal duo) it registered on our always-on radar. They will be joined by Camae Ayewa, the musician, activist and poet from Philadelphia who also goes by the name Moor Mother.

HOODED MENACE

Since their earliest rumblings, Finnish cult doomsters Hooded Menace have held an astonishingly high profile in the underground realms. Their uniquely energetic take on the classic hybrid of doom and death metal has been invigorating audience since the release of their 2008 classic, Fulfill the Curse. We’re thrilled to announce that the band will perform this classic album in full at Roadburn 2018.

ALSO CONFIRMED

Classic heavy doom from Khemmis

Move or be moved by Wolfbrigade 

Tribulation’s Jonathan Hultén will haunt Het Patronaat

Worship will perform Last Tape Before Doomsday in its entirety

Get sucked into a cold, dark void by Fuoco Fatuo 

Welcome the wild and unrestrained spirit of Alda

Zuriaake will be the first Chinese band to perform at Roadburn Festival.

Some nightmares take us towards Vampillia

VMO will prove they are more than “just” a side project

Head out on an exhilarating ride with Watter

Allow yourself to shape shift with Hail Spirit Noir

Watch Kairon; Irse! defy time and space

Dive headfirst into Hortes dreamy slumber

Old Tower make their live debut at Roadburn 2018.

TICKET ONSALE INFORMATION
Roadburn 2018 tickets are on sale now. 3 and 4 day tickets are currently available, with day tickets going on sale at a later date.

4-day-tickets €198,40 (including €3,40 service fees)
3-day-tickets €175,40 (including €3,40 service fees)

Camping tickets are also available to purchase, with additional options (such as Festipis and camper vans) also possible. This year the urban campsite will be in a new location – but still within walking distance to the 013 venue – providing a comfortable and affordable option for Roadburn attendees.

Click here for more information on tickets and the campsite

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http://www.instagram.com/roadburnfest
http://www.roadburn.com

Roadburn 2018 Fourth Announcement Video

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Review & Track Premiere: Motorpsycho, The Tower

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

motorpsycho the tower

[Click play above to stream ‘A.S.F.E.’ from Motorpsycho’s The Tower. Album is out Sept. 8 via Stickman Records and Rune Grammofon.]

Maybe remaining Motorpsycho founders Bent Sæther and Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan feel they have something to prove with their latest long-player, The Tower. For what it’s worth, they’re probably mistaken about that. The Trondheim natives are already in Norway’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and since first getting together in 1989, they’ve become a crucial influence in progressive, heavy and psychedelic rock across Scandinavia and greater Europe. They’ve scored plays, collaborated with orchestras, written commissioned works and been heralded by audiences and critics alike. Though they’re viciously under-known in the US, they’ve released upwards of 20 LPs, plus other singles and short releases, at a blazingly prolific rate, and constantly offered their listeners sonic development while retaining an identity that is unmistakably their own. Books have been written about them. Films made. To put it another way, they’re a big frickin’ deal, and they have been for quite some time.

In 2016, Sæther (who handles lead vocals, bass, guitar, keys and drums and also played in Spidergawd for their first three records) and Ryan (guitar, vocals, keys, bass and various other strings) said goodbye to longtime drummer Kenneth Kapstad (also and still of Spidergawd) following the particularly proggy Here be Monsters full-length, and with The Tower (released by Rune Grammofon in Norway and Stickman Records for the rest of Europe), they’ve redirected their efforts toward sounding fully reenergized. No doubt the acquisition of drummer Tomas Järmyr has something to do with that — the infusion of fresh blood seems to have brought a restorative effect even to the pacing of serene, drumless moments like the harmonies of the Mellotron-laced “Stardust” — but however it got there, The Tower comes across as a burst of creativity from Motorpsycho, continuing the progressive, forward march of Here be Monsters while also landing with a considerably heavier tonal impact on songs like the opening salvo of the title-track and “Bartok of the Universe,” as well as “In Every Dream Home (There’s a Dream of Something Else),” and the closing pair of “The Cuckoo” and “Ship of Fools.”

Now, it can be a fine line, because The Tower still shares plenty of the post-Greg Lake-era King Crimsoned progadelic pastoralism of its predecessor, but to put it in terms of that band, it’s like the difference between “The Court of the Crimson King” and “21st Century Schizoid Man,” where Here be Monsters is the former and The Tower is the latter. Still in the same vein, but by seamlessly integrating Järmyr into the trio, Motorpsycho can remain as intricate in their composition and arrangements as they were with Kapstad behind the kit, while offering more thrust behind The Tower in cuts like “A.S.F.E.” (an acronym for “a song for everyone”), which seems to imagine what would happen if “Weird Al” Yankovic decided to go space rock — hint: it would be awesome — and the subsequent “Intrepid Explorer,” which builds in a patient swell of melody to one of the album’s most satisfying payoffs before receding into the folkish “Stardust.” Of course, Motorpsycho are still very much Motorpsycho, but as they have all along, during Kapstad‘s 10-plus years with the band and before that as well, they’re making efforts to reshape that definition for themselves and their followers.

motorpsycho

Does it work? Yes, it does. The Tower is a significant climb, and well past the standards of manageability with its 10-track and nearly 85-minute runtime. But the final three tracks, the dreamy-into-percussive “A Pacific Sonata” and the aforementioned “The Cuckoo” and “Ship of Fools” consume more than 37 minutes of that on their own, and a clear 2LP structure to the placement of the songs — with “The Tower,” “Bartok of the Universe” and “A.S.F.E.” as side A, “Intrepid Explorer,” “Stardust” and “In Every Dream Home (There’s a Dream of Something Else)” as side B, the mood-setting psych-folk of “The Maypole” moving into “A Pacific Sonata” for side C and “The Cuckoo” and “Ship of Fools” as a final immersion on side D — makes it that much easier for the listener to put their trust in Sæther, Ryan and Järmyr for the duration. A clear shift in purpose between the first and second platters, from the harder prog of the earlier cuts to the peaceful vibes of “The Maypole” and “Pacific Sonata” — prefaced somewhat by “Stardust” — and the okay-now-it’s-time-to-get-swallowed-in-this closing statement of “The Cuckoo” and “Ship of Fools” (despite the memorable hook of the latter), only reinforces the message to those who’d engage with the material:

Relax. You’re in the hands of professionals.

Maybe it is that overarching sense of command that lets Motorpsycho not only introduce Järmyr without missing a beat (pun totally intended; why even ask?), but do so with a consuming double-LP nearly twice as long as its predecessor and arriving just a year later. If that’s the case, then Ryan and Sæther‘s many years working together are a context from which The Tower can’t and shouldn’t be divorced, but if they’re motivated by a need to reinforce their own will to keep going despite the lineup change or if they’ve simply hit a creative burst, the results are a triumph in these songs. Whether it’s in the longer-form explorations of “A Pacific Sonata” and “Ship of Fools” — the keys alone of which make it a highlight, let alone all the torrential churn surrounding at its apex — the quirky craftsmanship of “Bartok of the Universe” and “A.S.F.E.,” the brief acoustic excursions of “Stardust” and “The Maypole” or the arc-defining prog of the title-track, “Intrepid Explorer,” “In Every Dream Home (There’s a Dream of Something Else)” and “The Cuckoo,” there isn’t a moment that doesn’t earn its place, and as few 2LPs can, The Tower brings forth coherent realization without giving up on the varied nature of its delivery.

That is to say, Motorpsycho chart a difficult course for themselves and then navigate it with enviable ease. Longtime listeners would expect no less of them, but The Tower remains a marked achievement in a discography crowded with them, and if it’s signaling the start of a new era for the band, one can only look forward to the growth Motorpsycho will continue to foster as they inch closer to 30 years on from their beginning. They sound, and are, vital.

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2012 Adventure, Pt. 14: Beyond Figure Out

Posted in Features on April 11th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

04/11/12 — 22.41 — Wednesday — Hotel in Eindhoven

As a means of giving my wanderings some direction, I tried and failed twice this early afternoon to find the correct route to Memory Music here in Eindhoven. That whole no cellphone thing biting me in the ass really for the first time this whole trip. Embarrassed for myself to myself,  I stopped in at a sushi joint in the marketplace area and got a few rolls to drown my sorrows in. Crab and corn, tuna salad. Stuff you can’t get at home. Some gyoza, which were exceptionally good.

My lunch suitably devoured, I fired up the laptop to one more time give a shot at finding this record store, when, in a moment of distracted email checking, I saw a comment from a lovely couple named Chris and Maggie, whom I’d met at Desertfest and seen again at the show last night — it was Chris who told me Gentlemans Pistols were the best band in Britain — asking me if I’d made my way yet to Bullit Records Well, I hadn’t, but upon looking it up and finding out that it was closer than Memory Music and that I knew exactly where it was because of my wanderings looking for the other shop, I was back on my way in no time.

Right on my way to finding the store with no trouble whatsoever after about a five minute walk listening to Queens of the Stone Age (having gotten an itch to do so at The Rambler), I ran into said couple, who were just on their way out and full of praise for the goodies Bullit contained. They made it easy to get my hopes up, and sure enough, I did manage to find a few decent records. Actually, strike that. I found a ton of really good records, and if I was buying vinyl, I’d have been up a creek, but a lot of it was stuff I already owned or could otherwise get back in the US for far less than 18 Euro.

Still, I grabbed the Skraeckoedlan album that was reviewed a while back, a Space Probe Taurus self-titled on Buzzville, a 1996 UK reissue of Hawkwind‘s self-titled, an album called Soulful Man by young German four-piece Cliffsight (there was a sticker on it that cited Colour Haze, so I figured I’d take a chance and it’s not too bad as of the 10-minute opener) and the original issue of 35007‘s Especially for You, which I mark as the find of the day, definitely. Killer to get that CD in this place, 35007 having been so pivotal to the Dutch scene. 1994 that disc is from. Almost 20 years old.

Great find, great recommendation, and as I spoke to the dude behind the counter at Bullit — who was very kind as everyone I’ve encountered here as been and even gave me a tote bag that I will take home for The Patient Mrs., who enjoys a good tote — about Roadburn, Desertfest and whatnot (I guess he pegged me from my picks) it occurred to me just how much more present heavy rock is here than back home. Bullit was not a big store, and it was mostly metal and rock, but even so, you’d be hard pressed to find a shop like that open in the US that’s even heard of a band like Backwoods Payback, let alone one that has not one, but two of their CDs just sitting on the rack. I guess it’s getting better than it was a few years ago — thinking of places like Armageddon Shop in Providence/Boston, Rock ‘n’ Roll Graveyard in Maryland, to a certain extent Amoeba in California (though any of those three stores is much bigger) — but still, it seems more integrated here as something that’s just a given. At home, if I can go somewhere and find Goatsnake in a CD store, that’s an event. I suppose it depends on where you shop, too.

There ain’t shit for rock and roll in Jersey, is the problem. And New York’s a hipster-filled pain in the balls.

Keeping in line with my emergent tendency to heed comments on this website on issues like train connections, record stores, etc., when I found out noodly, crescendo-happy Norwegian prog rockers Motorpsycho were playing in town and that the venue was, you guessed it, a five-minute hike from the hotel here, I immediately considered going as an option for how to spend my evening. Yeah, I know I was going to relax tonight ahead of Roadburn starting up tomorrow, but seriously, what the hell. What was I going to do, sit here and watch tv on my computer for eight hours until I finally fell asleep later than I wanted to because I was all pissed at myself for not leaving the room and fidgety because I hadn’t moved in all that time? Better to just take the walk. I knew I wasn’t drinking, and I didn’t feel like getting dinner, so fuck it. I’ll go stand in a place for a while. Couldn’t hurt.

It was a little after 20.00 when I walked in. I left both my camera and the iContraption at the hotel because I knew I didn’t want to task myself with reviewing the show and I knew that, if I had either, I wouldn’t be able to resist. Sure enough, I walked in, they came on stage at exactly the same time I got there, and I immediately regretted not bringing some picture-taking apparatus with me. For the best, though. The room at the Effenaar was packed out and people were nodding along. I wouldn’t have wanted to push my way through. The light show made me dizzy, which is something that’s never happened before. The program I was given at the door — because, yes, I was given a program at the door — billed it as “Motorpsycho and Ståle Storløkkken perform The Death Defying Unicorn.”

Turns out The Death Defying Unicorn is their new double-CD, their 14th album, and they were set to play it front to back. “Ambitious” would be one way of putting it. “Noodly” would be another. But the crowd ate it up. I guess you don’t normally attend that kind of thing unless you’re a fan, and if you’re into prog like that, you’ve already got a pretty high tolerance level for self-indulgence — seriously, the program has little bios for each band member like they’re doing a play — for me, I liked the part that was slow and heavy and some of the droney stuff, but the “let’s play scales while the drummer tries his hardest not to keep time” thing, yeah, you can keep that. They did it well and the audience loved it, but it just wasn’t my thing. After about 20 minutes in, I got antsy and wanted to go see something else, which I’m taking as a sign I’m ready for Roadburn to kick off. I remembered seeing Motorpsycho there briefly in 2009 and their not really doing it for me. At least I’m consistent.

However, I’ll say it was probably still a better option than sitting here in the hotel and stewing on not having gone, restlessly waiting for the baseball game to come on so I can stream it online and trying repeatedly and to no avail to call The Patient Mrs. on Skype (not that I can’t use Skype, she just doesn’t pick up her phone). Star Trek and Game of Thrones will still be there when I get back home. Eindhoven will not. I didn’t really dig what Motorpsycho and Ståle Storløkkken were doing, but hell, at least I went and found that out for myself. For a five-minute walk and a few Euros, I could’ve done a lot worse than I did.

Checkout of this hotel is at noon tomorrow, but I might try to get out a little earlier and catch the train to Tilburg, check in at the Mercure and give myself a little time to get settled before doors open at the 013 and Het Patronaat. We’ll see how that goes, but I’m looking forward to it either way. By now, I know what to expect, and the next four days are going to be absolutely insane, but this will be my fourth Roadburn and I’m absolutely stoked to be heading into it. If you’re going, hope to see you there.

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