Friday Full-Length: Colour Haze, Colour Haze

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Colour Haze, Colour Haze (2004)

My understanding is that the version of Colour Haze‘s 2004 self-titled seventh full-length album is the 2007 reissue. I figured any Colour Haze‘s Colour Haze was the right choice. The difference is that the original CD edition was about 55 minutes long. Too much for a single LP, obviously, so the CD closer, “Flowers” is gone, as is “Mountain,” from side A. I’ll miss the latter more than the former, but as the album that’s come in a big way to define Colour Haze‘s sound as one of the most distinct in the European underground over the 10 years since its release, this clip — which was also the best quality available — wasn’t a loss either way. I don’t have this on vinyl. Maybe I should. I’d be lying if I said putting it on full-screen and watching the record spin with the cover propped up behind wasn’t a good sell.

It’s hard to pick a winner between Colour Haze and its 2006 follow-up, Tempel, also released through Elektrohasch. Usually I’ll abdicate the responsibility. I’ll say that I remember when I got the CD of the self-titled and put it on, it was one of those moments where you can feel your blood get warmer. Particularly for arriving so soon after 2003′s Los Sounds de Krauts, it was a different vibe than that 2CD, fuzzier, more assured, jammier. Again, I don’t really have a favorite from Colour Haze, but this one is as  essential as any you might want to put next to it. One interesting thing the vinyl seems to do is keep “Peace, Brothers and Sisters!” intact, timing-wise. A 22-minute B-side is nothing to scoff at, and every nuance leading to it is a joy. For “Love” alone, it’s one of the best heavy psych records ever made.

Enjoy.

Tonight is the Small Stone Records showcase at the Middle East in Boston, and I’ll be hitting that up. I didn’t anticipate having the energy to close out the week afterwards, so it seemed prudent to do so beforehand. Monday I’ll have a review of that showcase and a full-stream of the new Causa Sui live album, Live at Freak Valley, with an accompanying review. Probably not the smartest thing I ever did to book both of those on the same day, but hell, not like I have a job, right? If I spend my afternoon furiously typing alternate descriptors for “heavy,” well at least I wasn’t in bed with my head buried under pillows dwelling on what a spectacular failure my decade in the music industry was. Gotta stay busy!

Also next week, look for a full-album stream from Hotel Wrecking City Traders, whose new one is killer. I’m in the process of working out a premiere for Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus too, because I think that’s worth hearing for people who may not be familiar with the band — I also didn’t really appreciate what they were doing until I heard it for myself and sat with it a while — but I’m not sure if it’ll be next week or sometime thereafter. I’ll figure it out one way or another.

You might notice an awful lot of Kyuss and Black Sabbath (also Colour Haze, and Grails and a bunch of Small Stone stuff) on the radio stream. It’s the backup server. The main server was at my now-former office in Jersey, and this week I asked Slevin to run by and pick it up, which he was kind enough to do. It’s being brought north by my family, who are coming up tomorrow for a visit (“uh, hey guys, can you bring this computer and also a bunch of food?” — classy), and I’ll hope to have it running at some point over the weekend. Until then, Kyuss and Sabbath hardly seems like a downer.

Have a great and safe couple of days and I’ll catch you back here Monday for more wild adventures. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Colour Haze, Ewige Blumenkraft: A More than Slight Return

Posted in Reviews on January 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Because it’s the issue at hand and the record which German heavy psych innovators Colour Haze have chosen to focus on at the moment by reissuing it through guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek‘s Elektrohasch Schallplatten on CD and limited 2LP, the temptation is strong to read 2002′s Ewige Blumenkraft as a major turning point for the band or a stylistic landmark in their development. In truth, that turn came two album’s prior with their third outing, 1999′s Periscope, which departed from the brooding noise rock of their 1995 Chopping Machine debut (discussed here) and the Tool-influenced prog metal of the subsequent self-release, Seven (the Great White Whale of my CD collection; someday I’ll own a copy and gaze upon it with pride for the remainder of my days), in favor of the tonally rich desert atmosphere they’ve spent the last 15 years developing and making their own, serving as a chief influence for European heavy psychedelia and underground heavy rock along the way. If nothing else, Ewige Blumenkraft, taken in the context of its original 2002 release on Monster Zero Records, showcases just how pivotal Colour Haze have been to the last decade-plus in the European scene. It’s a cliche to say about a reissue, but if this CD came in the mail as a brand new release today, I might say it was influenced by Colour Haze, but there’s no way in hell I’d call it dated.

So why reissue Ewige Blumenkraft? Colour Haze have never seemed the type to feed their egos — I won’t argue against a penchant for musical self-indulgence; they’re jammers at heart and even this earlier work is 74 minutes long, so that kind of thing is inevitable if justified by the material itself — so it hardly seems like a, “Check us out, we were here first” kind of situation. More likely it’s just that Ewige Blumenkraft has been out of print for some time, which, speaking as a fan of the band, is enough excuse for me. In the 12 years since it first surfaced, a new generation of heavy rockers has come of age and for them, the chance to revisit an album like this on vinyl would be like discovering the language from which your own was derived. By 2002, Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald had solidified as a formidable, dynamic trio with their own sonic character, not quite as exploratory as they’d become starting with 2003′s Los Sounds de Krauts and moving up through 2004′s Colour Haze and 2006′s Tempel en route to the mature, masterful approach they’d show on their most recent outings, 2008′s All and 2012′s She Said (review here), but not far off. In the charming stoner straightforwardness of “Freakshow,” they set a lighthearted tone for Ewige Blumenkraft and the roots of nearly everything they’d accomplish in the 10 years that followed can be heard throughout the rest of the 10 tracks included here.

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Colour Haze Albums to be Reissued; Touring with My Sleeping Karma

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I always like posting news about Colour Haze, both because it means the band are active and working and because it gives me an excuse to also include a track by them. As you can see by the live version of “Grace” from Germany last year, I’m only too happy to take advantage. For what it’s worth, the accompanying update from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek which came courtesy of the latest Elektrohasch Schallplatten newsletter is pretty noteworthy, especially for anyone who’s missed out of their albums Los Sounds de Krauts, Periscope, C02 and Ewige Blumenkraft, since they’re all being reissued through Elektrohasch on CD and vinyl.

To celebrate the 10th birthday of the label, a slew of other records will also come out again that are detailed below, and Colour Haze also start a tour with My Sleeping Karma next week and have some fest dates lined up for the fall, including the golly-I-wish-I-could-see-that Keep it Low fest.

Check it out:

News from Elektrohasch:

Colour Haze

We are working on the rereleases of our old and mostly long time unavailable albums. I started remixing Los Sounds De Krauts and I`m surprised myself how much the soundquality of the old digital recordings can be improved by mixing on our fine analogue gear. I`m working steadily song by song but it will take some time until everything is finished.

Next week we`ll remaster Ewigen Blumenkraft – unfortunately we don`t have the multitrack recordings of this one anymore. It will be released pretty soon though in autumn. For CO2 and Periscope we have to check the available data to see if a remix or only a remaster is possible. All records will be released on CD and vinyl. We`ll adjust the artwork so the original precious collector items won`t loose value.

There won`t be any limited editions!

I also intend to release an album with Duna Jam live recordings and a collection of songs which have been unreleased or only on special formats or compilations. So in the next months step by step a lot of new old records by Colour Haze will be released.

But at first we are on tour with My Sleeping Karma:
27.09. – D -Karlsruhe, Substage
28.09. – B – Leuven, Het Depot
29.09. – F – Paris, Divan Du Monde
30.09. – F – Nantes , Le Ferrallieur
01.10. – F – Toulouse, La Dynamo
02.10. – ES – Madrid, Caracol
03.10. – ES – Barcelona, Razzmatazz 3
04.10.- F – Lyon, Clacson
05.10. – CH – Pratteln, Up In Smoke Festival + Monkey3, Radio Moscow, Truckfighters a.o.
19.10. – D -München, Feierwerk, Keep It Low Festival + Rotor, Been Obscene, The Machine, My Sleeping Karma, Cherry Choke, Ufomammut, Truckfighters a.o.
22.11. – D -Aschaffenburg, Colosaal, 16. Eclipsed Festival + Baby Woodrose

www.colourhaze.de

10-Years-Elektrohasch

For the 10th anniversary of Elektrohasch I intend several rereleases on vinyl. As with the old Colour Haze material it`s not so easy sometimes to get the old masters and artwork data. From October the following sold out LPs will be reprinted:

EH 115-2 – Hypnos 69 – The Eclectic Measure LP (single sleeve, no FOC)
EH 122-2 – Causa Sui – Free Ride (without the 7” of the limited issues)
EH 139 – Causa Sui – Summer Sessions 3LP
EH 147 – The Machine – Drie DLP
EH 151 – Cherry Choke – A Night In The Arms Of Venus LP
EH 152 – Rotor – Festsaal Kreuzberg LP

Additionally the first and second LP by Rotor will be rereleased in a DLP set.

Several Elektrohasch artists are preparing new albums – more later….

Colour Haze, “Grace” Live in Cologne 2012

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Carpet, Elysian Pleasures: Spielt mit den Atomen

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

You could teach a college class on the influences under which Carpet work. Sounding here like John Lennon fronting Adrian Belew-era King Crimson and there meandering into Floydian ambience offset by fuzzy heavy rock guitar work, the German progressive heavy rock foursome’s Elektrohasch-released sophomore outing, Elysian Pleasures, is rigorously plotted and technically accomplished. Like its cover, it is a collage, ably skirting the line of giving itself over to instrumental explorations, but never quite losing focus entirely on songwriting. This works markedly to the favor of tracks like “Elysian Pleasures,” “In Tides,” “Serpentine” and “For the Love of Bokeh,” though with richly varied parts throughout, each of the eight cuts seems to find its standout moment one way or another in the album’s total 49 minutes. The Augsburg/Munich outfit — Maximilian Stephan (guitar, vocals, clarinet, Mellotron, minimoog), Jakob Mader (drums, xylophone, glockenspiel, marimba, percussion), Sigmund Perner (Rhodes, grand piano, organ, accordion, Mellotron) and Hubert Steiner (bass) — split the songs into two sides even on the CD version of the album, and in line with the vinyl available in yellow or black with a poster and “Elysian Pleasures Textbook” lyric sheet, the individual pieces that make up the record work well with that construction, despite a linear flow that surfaces over the course of the CD taken as a whole. Such winds up being inevitable, since if the listener is going to be sucked into Carpet‘s world at all, it’s going to happen at the start, and with the variety of instrumentation the band utilize at any given moment, they establish a wide base early on, requiring the listener to keep a likewise open mind. The xylophone, in other words, appears with no delay. It practically opens the record, as a matter of fact, with Mader and Stephan announcing the arrival of Elysian Pleasures as a telling bit of fanfare plays out in the first 30 seconds. Like the best traditional prog, Carpet are patient and require a patient audience, but they do well in establishing a balance between what’s satisfying for them to play and still accessible for someone hearing it, which isn’t something that can be said across the board of the genre.

The King Crimson elements strike quickly, a bed of subtle noodling on guitar backing Stephan‘s echoing vocals as “Elysian Pleasures” begins to unfold. Ambient, jazzy and richly textured, the opener is a decent but not all-telling lead-in for the Carpet debut that shares its name, sounding modern in its production and classic in its ideology while a heavier tension lurks just below the surface later into the track as Mader rides his crash cymbal while Perner plays out the central melody on keys. It is busy from the word go and remains busy even in its quiet stretches. A subdued finish for “Elysian Pleasures” lulls the listener into a false sense of security as “Nearly Four” snare-pops its way in with a fuzzy guitar-led strut and vocals buried beneath the progression, all instruments headed in the same place anchored by Steiner for a section of insistent and showy crashes. Of course, they take the initial idea and run with it like gleeful children — half of the appeal of progressive rock is imagining how much fun the person playing it is having — but return to the main riff near the halfway mark, realizing perhaps that not every song needs to be an indulgence. Stephan is no less an able vocalist than he is a guitarist, his voice smooth and engaging before he and Perner trade solos, his own leading to a stop that once again brings back the main figure before organ closes out the proceedings and “Man Changing the Atoms” revives the Belewery, Mader taking the fore for a time to lead an instrumental section of jazz complemented by trumpet (credited to Andreas Unterreiner) in one of Elysian Pleasures‘ jazziest and most singularly enjoyable stretches. It seems to just happen — one minute Carpet are headed one way, then they turn, decide they like this better and that’s all there is to it. It’s a flagrant — almost arrogant — casting off of structure, and it could easily fall flat, but it doesn’t, and they smoothly work “Man Changing the Atoms” to an excitingly heavy build, saxophone (courtesy of Jan Kiesewetter) joining the fracas as it peaks with crashes, and just when the verse seems most like a thing of the past, vocals arrive again and renew the initial spirit of the track. Did that just happen? But for some resonant Mellotron and bass tension, it’s hard to be sure. Past six minutes in, they pick up again and end “Man Changing the Atoms” big, so it’s fitting the modus so far that “In Tides” should start quiet. And it does.

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Colour Haze Update on Progress for She Said LP

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 14th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Colour Haze guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek sends over the latest word on the 2LP release of the band’s latest album, She Said (review here). Also noting upcoming releases on his label, Elektrohasch, from All Them Witches, Sgt. Sunshine and the previously reported Sungrazer and The Machine split, Koglek details the process of getting the vinyl together and plugs the tour dates for Elektrohasch upstarts, Been Obscene, whose tour trailer can be found below.

The CD version of She Said is available now, and the vinyl… well, it’s coming:

Just a short note: due to the apparently great vinyl-revival, producing an LP seems to take endless time at the moment. We finished a new special-vinyl-master in the beginning of November. While usually it took only a couple of days to receive the testpressing from a master, at the moment this takes 3 weeks. The testpressings are scheduled to leave the factory by the end of next week (of course I`m getting on everybody’s nerves to hurry up). As soon as I heard them I`ll send out a new newsletter. In case of approval I`ll finally have a fixed delivery date for the DLPs and it will be possible then to (pre)order them at www.elektrohasch.de. Please do not send any preorder-requests via email. I can`t make it to take care of that. The issue is high enough and the unlimited version as well is already ordered at the pressing factory.

We are working on new releases by All Them Witches, Sgt. Sunshine, Sungrazer and The Machine – more about in the newsletter.

Been Obscene are on tour at the moment – go and see and hear them!
Nov 15 | San Sebastian (SPA) | Le Bukowski
Nov 16 | Clermont-Ferrand (FRA) | Le Baraka
Nov 17 | Mulhouse (FRA) | TBA
Nov 18 | Paris (FRA) – Les Combustibles
Nov 24 | Fürstenfeldbruck (GER) – Schlachthof
Dec 07 | Wien (AUT) – Arena

Been Obscene Tour Trailer

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Colour Haze Interview with Stefan Koglek: “Obstacles are Just Obstacles”

Posted in Features on October 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s not the longest an album has ever taken to come out. She Said — the 10th studio album by Munich-based heavy psych progenitors Colour Haze — closes the four-year gap since the previous record, All, was released. But isn’t Chinese Democracy, or Smile, by The Beach Boys, which finally came to light 37 years after it was first conceived. But it’s the longest stretch Colour Haze have ever had, and as guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek recounts in astounding detail below, the trio hit delay after delay in every step of the process, from the beginning stages of setting up a studio in their rehearsal space to record in to the mastering for the vinyl even now that the CD has been released.

Fortunate that they stuck it out, however. She Said (review here) is easily one of the best albums of the year, the double-CD accounting for Colour Haze‘s past even as it boldly pushes their sound to new places with the inclusion of elements like horns, strings, sampled beaches, etc. The chemistry between Koglek — who also runs the label Elektrohasch Schallplatten and so is in charge of not just making the record, but also releasing it — bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald has never been so potent or prevalent in their songs, as tracks like “Breath” and even the shorter “Slowdown” and “This” demonstrate. As Colour Haze‘s sound has developed to become focused on improvisation, the band itself has risen to the task of becoming ever more cohesive as a unit. She Said stands in a string of releases successful in this regard — you could go back to 2003′s Los Sounds de Krauts, but certainly the 2004 self-titled, 2006′s Tempel and 2008′s All captured the live dynamic between the players — but it stands alone in its creative drive and level of performance.

Further, the album proves Colour Haze‘s dedication to their form (not that it was necessarily in doubt — as I said, this is their 10th full-length, and one doesn’t get to that point without some purposefulness — but still). Koglek‘s tale of the troubles the band hit is long and complex — like a Colour Haze song, it also grooves — but what comes through at the end is that he and the rest of the band weren’t willing to compromise their vision of what they wanted the album to be. Four years and about 200,000 Euros later, She Said is the end result of a one-of-a-kind stubbornness. They could easily have gone to a studio, put the tracks to tape, mixed it down and been done. But they didn’t, and She Said is the fruit of those efforts. Constructed in the truest sense of the word.

I could go on, but the review was long enough — though I should mention that even in listening to She Said this morning while editing this interview, I heard sounds I hadn’t picked up on before; early humming at the start of the opening title-track — and while I could continue to ramble at length about the breadth She Said makes its own, you’re better off just hearing the story from Koglek himself (yes, he knows just how beautiful “Grace” is). This is easily the longest interview I’ve ever posted on this site, and I want to personally thank Koglek for his dedication not just to his music, but to telling his story as well. It is much appreciated.

Colour Haze are currently on the She Said XXL tour, which is discussed in the interview as well. Remaining dates are listed here.

You’ll find the complete 8,200-word Q&A after the jump with pictures from the studio (click any to enlarge). Please enjoy.

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Colour Haze’s She Said Tour Starts Tomorrow

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Of all the bands in the world, I think I’d probably have a really easy time sitting through three hours of a Colour Haze set. This weekend, the band will kick off their XXL tour in support of their much-anticipated new album, She Said (review here), bringing Elektrohasch labelmates Saturnia along for the ride.

Because I’ve seen people asking, I’ll mention as well that She Said has been released on CD. You currently order a copy on the label’s website now, and as I said in the review, I’d definitely recommend doing so.

Here are the dates:

COLOUR HAZE LIVE

+support: Saturnia

27.09.2012 GER Rüsselsheim, Das Rind
28.09.2012 UK London, The Garage
29.09.2012 F Paris, Nouveau Casino
30.09.2012 BEL Antwerp, Trix
01.10.2012 GER Köln, Live Music Hall
02.10.2012 GER Karlsruhe,  Substage  * without Saturnia *
03.10.2012 CH Bern, ISC * without Saturnia *
04.10.2012 CH Genf , L´ Usine
05.10.2012 A Salzburg, Rockhouse
06.10.2012 A Linz, Stadtwekstatt
07.10.2012 A Vienna, Arena
08.10.2012 GER Jena, F Haus
09.10.2012 GER Bremen, Schlachthof
10.10.2012 GER Berlin, Lido
11.10.2012 POL Warsaw, Progresja
12.10.2012 GER Dresden, Scheune
13.10.2012 GER München, Feierwerk
http://www.colourhaze.de

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audiObelisk: Colour Haze Premiere “Breath” to Herald the Arrival of She Said

Posted in audiObelisk on September 12th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

It was almost a full year ago that Colour Haze‘s track “Transformation” was hosted for streaming as a way of reminding the Munich trio’s fans that they were still working hard on their long-awaited 10th album, She Said, and at that point, the record was already long past due. She Said has been met with snags every step of the way, from recording, to re-recording, to production — even to the point that last week, guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek sent out an update that there was a problem in the vinyl manufacturing.

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will stay these couriers from delivering their trademark and boomingly influential heavy psychedelia. Make no mistake — She Said exists, and it’s on its way. The CD version is due from the plant before the end of this week and my understanding is it will be available any day now for purchase at long, long last. It’s been four years since Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald released All — double their longest prior stretch between studio albums — and it should say something about the quality of their output that the clamor for new material has only grown in that time.

The good news is that She Said is of a scale to stand up to the delay. An 81-minute 2CD, it’s the first Colour Haze studio offering to comprise more than one disc since 2003′s Los Sounds de Krauts, and the tones are no less warm for the frustration that must have been so present in their creation. As you’ll hear when Rasthofer‘s bass starts the 12-minute disc-two opener, “Breath,” Colour Haze‘s sound is more expansive than ever, bringing in guest vocals alongside Koglek‘s and embarking on an inimitable psychedelic pastoral. As “Breath” also captures the band’s jamming sensibilities and the all-important dynamic between Koglek, Rasthofer and Merwald, it seemed too perfect a summation of She Said to not highlight.

Thanks to Koglek and Elektrohasch for the permission to host the song for streaming. Colour Haze will embark on the European “XXL Tour” following the CD release, playing three-hour sets with guest musicians, special lighting and more.

Info and dates for that follow “Breath,” which you’ll find on the player below. Please enjoy:

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

Colour Haze XXL Tour with Saturnia supporting:

27.09  Rüsselsheim Das Rind GER
28.09  London Garage UK
29.09  Paris Nouveau Casino FR
30.09  Antwerp Trix BEL
01.10  Köln Live Music Hall GER
02.10  Karlsruhe Substage GER
03.10  Bern ISC CH
04.10  Geneva L’usine CH
05.10  Salzburg Rockhouse A
06.10  Linz Stadtwerkstatt A
07.10  Wien Arena A
08.10  Jena F Haus GER
09.10  Bremen Schlachthof GER
10.10  Berlin Lido GER
11.10  Warsaw Progresja POL
12.10  Dresden Scheune GER
13.10  München Feierwerk GER

For news and updates, visit Colour Haze‘s recently redone website here.

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audiObelisk EXCLUSIVE: Colour Haze Premiere Track From New Album

Posted in audiObelisk on October 3rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Given the fact that German heavy psych progenitors Colour Haze had to go back into the studio and completely remake their album following technical difficulties, the noise you hear at the beginning of the track “Transformation” from their long-awaited new album She Said could be construed as static — a joke playing off the perils that beset them as they were recording. In fact, it’s beach ambience recorded at the semi-official festival Duna Jam in Sardinia. Much more pleasant.

Several live clips of “Transformation” have made the rounds, but cool as they were in racheting up excitement for She Said, which follows the brilliantly jamming 2008 album All, they quality wasn’t good enough to really capture the spirit of the song. The tom runs of drummer Manfred Merwald toward the end, the oft-imitated warm fuzz of bassist Philipp Rasthoffer and the subtle nods guitarist Stefan Koglek (who also handles vocals for Colour Haze, though there are none here) makes at Natas‘ “Alberto Migre” backed by Christian Hawellek‘s Fender Rhodes keys in an a brief still moment past the 10-minute mark all speak to the trio’s ongoing development, ever-present chemistry and enduring influence over both the European and the worldwide underground.

Enough of my yak. Special thanks to Koglek for letting me host “Transformation,” which you’ll find on the player below. Please enjoy:

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

Did you hear those horns? I debated even mentioning them for ruining the surprise, but if you’re not there yet keep your ears open for when they kick in. I won’t even say when. It’s an absolute triumph, and just one of the several ways in which Colour Haze are stepping out of themselves on She Said. They keep the brass limited to “Transformation” — arrangement by Martin Homey and Georg Weisbrodt — but according to Koglek, other tracks will feature Latin percussion, a string quartet, etc. If those experiments work as well as the horns do here, we could see the ushering in of a whole new era of Colour Haze.

This mix isn’t final, but Colour Haze‘s ninth full-length, She Said, is due Nov. 2011 on Koglek‘s own Elektrohasch Shallplatten. More to come.

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The Dawn Band, Agents of Sentimentality: Out into the Water

Posted in Reviews on August 8th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

On first listen, German outfit The Dawn Band seems a strange fit for Elektohasch Schallplatten, which over the last couple years has geared itself toward fostering the European heavy psych scene in the wake of Colour Haze’s impact thereon. The Munich duo’s debut, Agents of Sentimentality, touches on that style with some sporadically fuzzed guitar and riffy focus, but no more than it touches on classic prog, power pop or European club music. Along with the hardcore punk of DxBxSx, it represents the label stepping away from its usual fare, but it makes more sense when one discovers that Daniel Zerndl — who here handles guitar, drums, vocals and synth alongside Martin Treppesch’s guitar, bass and synth and a host of guest contributions – plays or played drums in Hainloose, whose last album, Burden State, was released via Elektrohasch in 2006. Hainloose guitarist/vocalist Haris Turkanovic, Colour Haze guitarist/vocalist (and Elektrohasch founder) Stefan Koglek and Canadian singer-songwriter Annick Michel also show up throughout Agents of Sentimentality, resulting in a widely-varied sound that’s nonetheless presented with some idea of flow.

The album is bookended by “Love is a Burglar” and the surprisingly heavier revisit “Love is a Burglar (Reprise),” and if one takes the two in a row, it’s possible to get some sense of the scope of Agents of Sentimentality. Zerndl and Treppesch play off a vast array of influences, and their arrangements are well captured in the recording by Tom Höfer, as the album immediately sets about playing its sundry styles off a base of heavy prog. There are several strong displays of songwriting – the Weezer-esque alt rock “City Lights (Shine On)” and acoustic “Boat Across the Ocean,” led by Michel’s vocals, come to mind as immediate examples – but The Dawn Band feel geared more toward instrumental exploration than working strictly within verse/chorus/verse confines. Their sound isn’t experimental in the sense of weirdness for its own sake, but one does get the sense in listening that Zerndl and Treppesch (who are joined by drummer Jan van Meerendonk in the live incarnation of the band) are pushing themselves in terms of the direction these songs are moving.

They give flashes of riff-led heaviness early on with the end of “City Lights (Shine On),” but the shorter “Lost Soul at the Night Club” comes out of somewhere else completely, sounding like an effort to organically recreate sounds one might usually hear in an electronica dance track in the earlier part of the song before Zerndl calls out the fuzz, morphing it into the kind of freakout that’s usually the highlight of a Porcupine Tree record. It’s a lot of ground to cover in 2:44, but with the eight and a half minute instrumental sprawl of “Surfing the Big Wave” following, there’s plenty of time to digest. “Surfing the Big Wave” comes on in three subtitled movements – “Bursting at the Seams,” “Out into the Water” and “The Struggle (with the Wind Against Your Face and Salt in the Eye)” – and follows an appropriate and increasingly driving course befitting those movements, though where exactly the divide between one and the next is, I couldn’t say.

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New Colour Haze Album Delayed Indefinitely; Title Revealed

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 27th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Well, the follow-up to Colour Haze‘s brilliant All is called She Said, but as guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek explains in the latest newsletter for his label, Elektrohasch Schallplatten, no one quite knows when the hell it will be out. The difficulties, as it goes, are technical, and it’s a definite bummer, but better that they hold it back than release something they’re not 100 percent behind.

Here’s the latest from Koglek via the PR wire:

Since June 2010 we are working on our new album. Due to several private and artistic reasons, we needed to build up our own analogue studio for this, which we did since March 2010 with great effort. Temporally and financially we went far over the actual maximum of our possibilities, totally nuts – but the world already suffers enough from reasonable economic decisions ; ) – We think that with this creatively and artistically we made a great step onwards and recorded our best, most sophisticated and most psychedelic album so far.

Unfortunately on the one hand we also had a cascade of bad luck with the gear, so all the time (expensive…) technical problems had to be solved. Furthermore because of a nearly unbelievable chain of acoustical problems on the recording side – a seemingly okay sounding room which caused some problems in the background and a basically correct but in combination difficult mic-ing – and nobody heard it all the time, several studied audio-technicians had the stuff on their ears over the course of months – all our well played and in the single signals beautifully recorded music resisted every attempt to mix it down properly yet – I invested five weeks of 11-14 hours behind the console so far – well with high-end gear you can also cause high-end problems ; ) … In the last days we analyzed the material digitally and found a few things which might work and haven’t been tried yet.

We gave everything – and everybody who knows us knows that we always try to give our very best – and with our attitude of unconditional giving we achieved so much over the years, not only for ourselves… but at the moment we came to a dead end with the new album.

Therefore we delay the release to an uncertain point later on this timeline ; ) – we won’t give up for sure – but we have to work it out now calmly, without time pressure and with deliberation…

In the meantime, you lucky European types can catch Colour Haze on the Up in Smoke tour. More info on that here.

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What to Look Forward to in 2011, Pt. 2: Rampant Speculation

Posted in Features on January 18th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Please don’t think I’m breaking any news here one way or the other about any of these releases. This post is basically just me talking about albums I’d like to see this year. Some have been formally announced, some just alluded to, but if these and the records listed yesterday were all that 2011 had in store, we’d probably still come out of it on the winning side.

Once again, the headline says “Rampant Speculation” and that’s what this is. Maybe in reading it, you’ll agree with something, maybe you’ll disagree. Either way, any comments are appreciated as always.

Let’s have some fun:

YOB: Sad as it is that Oregon doom forerunners YOB had to cancel their appearance at Roadburn and European tour, one can only hope their follow-up to 2009′s blistering The Great Cessation comes out that much sooner as a result. It will be interested to hear where the band goes stylistically. Guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt had plenty to be pissed about going into the YOB reunion, following all that Middian/Midian legal nonsense, but now that that’s through with, will he bring the same kind of vitriol to bare in the songwriting? Hopefully it’s not too long before we find out.

Colour Haze: They’re one of the classiest bands on the planet, and their last album, All, was hands-down my favorite record of 2008. They’ve released the Burg Herzberg two-disc live recording since then, but it’s time for new album, and according to the last Elektrohasch Schallplatten, it’s not far off. All had a more live, more organic feel than anything Colour Haze ever did before — the snare drum’s reacting to the bass and guitar rumble like a nod to everyone listening that it was done with everyone in the same room — and I’m looking forward to hearing how they try to top it.

Clutch: 2010 saw numerous reissues and the usual insane amount of touring, but in 2011, it’s time to see where the next stage in Clutch‘s ongoing development is leading. Maybe they’ll continue the blues-laden path they’ve taken on their last couple records, or maybe they’ll decide it’s time to confuse the hell out of everyone and do something completely different. Aside from being an astounding live act, Clutch are a fantastic group of songwriters, and it’ll be exciting to get to know a new batch of tunes both live and on disc.

Elder: Their self-titled was some seriously riffy business, and I haven’t heard the follow-up yet, but all accounts from those who have say it’s a more ethereal, more open and stonery sound these young Massachusetts rockers have taken on, and that’s just fine by me. MeteorCity is supposed to have the release out later this year, and I have the feeling that when ti finally hits, it’s going to catch a lot of people off guard, in a good way. Hard not to expect big things for a band like Elder, who have so much potential.

Dixie Witch: When it’ll be out, I have no idea, but Dixie Witch‘s fourth full-length will be the band’s first without guitarist Clayton Mills. His tone and natural bluesy shred was a huge part of what made Dixie Witch‘s prior offerings so killer, and by the time the album gets out, it’s likely to have been five full years since they released the excellent Smoke and Mirrors. This one’s long overdue.

Argus: True, I said I’d only list five bands, and these Pennsylvanian metallers make it six, but I’m genuinely curious to hear what they come up with for their Cruz Del Sur label debut. I dug heavily on the trad doom of their Shadow Kingdom Records self-titled debut, and vocalist Butch Ballch (formerly of Penance) never fails to deliver, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye out.

There’s other stuff too: Olde Growth, Hour of 13, Wo Fat, Graveyard and a slew of albums that may or may not happen in time for December to roll around. Again, this is just the stuff I want to hear, so if you’ve got anything on your mind or something I should look out for, leave a comment. There’s nothing better than being exposed to new music.

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Where to Start: Colour Haze

Posted in Where to Start on August 26th, 2010 by H.P. Taskmaster

I think when the smoke clears over the next decade or so, we’re going to see a lot of bands come down the line who cite Colour Haze as an influence. The German heavy psych trio have left an indelible mark on underground rock over the course of their 15-plus years together, and though they’ve all but disavowed their earliest works — albums like 1995′s Chopping Machine, 1998′s Seven and the 2000′s CO2 are all out of print and quite rare (though 1999′s Periscope was reissued on guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek‘s Elektrohasch Schallplatten imprint in 2003) — their latter-day material has made for incredible depth of listening and the strength of their playing continues to reach new heights.

So where to start? First, let it be said that the entire available discography is exceptional. 2008′s All was my favorite album of that year, and 2003′s Los Sounds de Krauts is nothing short of miraculous. You might think it strange then that I’m going with 2006′s Tempel as my pick for newcomers.

It’s a question of exclusion. On 2001′s Ewige Blumekraft, Koglek, bassist Philip Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald were still getting a feel for their sound. Los Sounds de Krauts, as I’ve said, is great, but it’s a double-CD, and might be too much to handle in terms of giving new listeners a full appreciation of what the band can do. Tempel‘s predecessor, the 2004 self-titled, is close, but the tracks aren’t as memorable.

And as for All, the only reason I didn’t pick that is because the album is better experienced if you’re already familiar with what the band has done before. It might be the best Colour Haze record to date (and I do include last year’s Burg Herzberg Live release in that), but you won’t know that unless you hear the others first — and especially hearing Tempel first, then going to All, I think that’s the best way to grasp how special Colour Haze really is. You get to hear the chemistry between Rasthofer, Merwald and Koglek and come to understand it’s really not all about the riffs, but about each instrument and how they play off each other. Perhaps even more important then where you get started is that you get started. Here’s Tempel opener “Aquamaria” to speed your way. Enjoy.

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