Posted in Whathaveyou on October 1st, 2013 by JJ Koczan
Brooklyn space/psych rockers Naam are once again taking to European shores in support of their (inter)stellar 2013 album, Vow (review here). The hard-working four-piece already put in considerable road time in Europe this spring, and that run was followed by a complete six-week coast-to-coast slog through the US — they killed in Manhattan on the opening night — that ended in mid-August. Doubtless a little time out of the van has done them some good, but as excellent as the swirl they enacted at the start of the last tour was, I wouldn’t want to miss them for a much-needed injection of warmth this winter.
More dates are reportedly coming, but here’s what’s been announced so far — note the Winter Void fest in Germany (they’ll play with Camera and Fire Walk with Me, among others presumably to be announced) and dates alongside Mars Red Sky and Monkey3. It certainly looks like plenty and I’m sure will become even more considerable as the dates fill in.
NAAM European Winter Tour 2013
November 21 – December 20
More dates to be announced soon!
21.11 – BEL – Brussels – Salle Rogier w/ Mars Red Sky 23.11 – NL – Nijmegan- Merleyn 24.11 – GER – Wiesbaden – Schachthof w/ Monkey 3 25.11 – GER – Hamburg – Markthalle w/ Monkey 3 26.11 – GER – Cologne – Underground w/ Monkey 3 27.11 – GER – Wurzburg – Cairo 28.11 – GER – Berlin – Jaegerklause 29.11 – GER – Regensburg – Winter Void Festival 01.12 – GER – Munich – Orange House 02.12 – AUS – Vienna – Arena 03.12 – CH – Zurich – Mascotte 05.12 – ITA – Roma – Sinister Noise 06.12 – ITA – Bolonzo – Festival 07.12 – ITA – Vincenza – TBA 08.12 – CH – Lucerne – Sedel 09.12 – GER – Stuttgart – TBA 13.12 – GRC – Athens – Six D.O.G.S. 14.12 – GRC – Larissa – Stage Club
Did you ever say something and then realize just how true it actually is? I felt that way a couple weeks ago when I posted the slew of dates for Naam‘s US tour and realized just how excellent a band I think the Brooklyn-based foursome have become and how much I thought their recent European stint would only increase that. The image of the psychedelic righteousness they brought to Desertfest in London fresh in my head as they played material from this year’s Vow (review here), I made my way into Manhattan to see them start the aforementioned US run at the Studio room at Webster Hall, with support from Brooklyn’s Blackout and the perennially adventurous Kayo Dot.
Just over two years ago, I was at the Studio to see Ghost and Sabbath Assembly (review here), and my principal memory of the room was that it was unbelievably, inhumanely hot. One of the hottest shows I’ve ever endured, hands down. And since this past weekend was likewise brutal, I expected to sweat some upon my arrival, but was pleased to find both parking right across the street from the door down into the basement of Webster Hall proper and that once I got inside, the A/C had been turned on. Kayo Dot had already begun their set by the time I got there, but I saw a decent portion of it, a bearded Toby Driver calling out changes to his bandmates across a slew of keyboards, guitars, and eventually, horns.
I deduced it had been probably seven years since the last time I caught a Kayo Dot set — I remember it was The Saint in Asbury Park and everybody beat on a 55-gallon drum — but the group’s underlying methodology remained consistent in a kind of kitchen-sink wash of post-rock/metal noise complemented and contrasted by ambient stretches, vocals peppered here and there but far less consideration paid to audience than to the experiments of the songs themselves. I can dig that. I don’t need a band to dumb down its material for the sake of accessibility if that’s how they think of traditional songwriting, and whether or not that’s at the root of Kayo Dot‘s approach, they come off very self-aware in terms of celebrating their non-traditional aspects, and though they at one point toward the end kicked into an extreme wash of blastbeats and aggressive riffing, they seemed just as glad to dabble in minimalist droning earlier on.
Blackout were much fresher on my mind, having seen them at the St. Vitus bar opening for Kings Destroy and Acid King in February. I was into them then and pleased to find at Webster Hall that the enjoyment wasn’t a fluke. The trio have their heads dug deep into riffy stoner traditionalism, guitarist/vocalist Christian Gordy running Laney tones through an Orange half-stack while bassist Justin Sherrell (also of Bezoar; hey, where’s that new record?) backed him on vocals and matched wits with Taryn Waldman‘s headbanging crash. A few of their cuts I remembered from the last time around, perhaps most notably the stops and starts of the more extended “Seven,” which they recently included on their first demo/sampler, We are Here. While their sound isn’t quite so massive live as it is on that release, they had plenty of volume working in their favor anyway, and though during Kayo Dot‘s quiet stretches it was easy to hear the crowd chatter, Blackout left little space for such things between air-pushing riffs and bombastic plod.
The short version is they’re on their way to being a really good band. Already, they give a more than solid showing of both personality and quality of material on stage, and the songs, while upfront in terms of their structures, are lacking nothing in overall heavy appeal. I had thought it was curious they’d be playing second and Kayo Dot — who’ve been around for a decade and have five records out — would be in the opening slot, but all around, it seemed to be Naam‘s party, and Blackout did well as the centerpiece of the three acts. They quickly won over a boozy crowd, and by the time they were done they seemed to be fully entranced in their own sound, locked into a groove classically stoner metal but fast becoming their own. It was as exciting a lead-in as Naam could have wanted.
About that: I alluded to it just now, but it’s worth reiterating that the mood at the show was less that of a regular gig and more akin to a release party. Of course, Vowcame out at the beginning of June, but Naam fresh off one tour and starting another, this was kind of their going-away. They seemed to know a lot of people in the crowd and the crowd in turn seemed well familiar with them. Spirits were universally high and even before Naam took the stage, the positive vibes were palpable. Even when Drunk Dude™ dumped his beer on my feetandthrew his hand in my face to flip off my camera en route to the even-more-inexplicable dickery of space rock moshing, there wasn’t much that was going to bring me down.
Here as at Desertfest, Naam played as a five-piece, with the additional guitars of Jeff Berner alongside those of Ryan Hamilton, who has eased his way into becoming a frontman-type presence for the band while also giving bassist/vocalist John Preston Bundy space on stage to take the fore. I wondered if maybe the band’s stylistic growth since acquiring John Weingarten for keys and backing vocals a few years back couldn’t have accounted for some of that ease, but once they started, it didn’t matter. With a focus rightfully placed on their newest material, they were as I’d hoped they’d be — ridiculously tight, markedly fluid and performing at a level that was only hinted at years ago when they started out as a trio proffering the KingdomEP.
Highlights included the swarthy “Midnight Glow” and ethereal “Skyscraper” from Vow, and a joyously jammed version of “The Starchild” from 2012’s The Ballad of the StarchildEP (track streamed here) that Hamilton ended with a satisfied “the Starchild!” reminiscent of that time Beastie Boys were on Futurama and any number of other lounge-type pretensions. He was goofing around, of course, but it was indicative of the jovial feel of the show, drummer Eli Pizzuto keeping his aviators on for the duration while driving cuts like “Pardoned Pleasure” and stepping back for the spacier sections of “Beyond,” the grand finale of the newest album. Weingarten took a brief but well-earned solo, and when all five of them were working toward the same sonic destination — i.e. the culmination of that song — I was thankful for the attentiveness of the person working the Studio sound for how excellently balanced Naam sounded, Hamilton‘s vocals coming through those of Berner, Bundy and Weingarten but not so much as to dominate, the resulting stew only furthering the psychedelic churn playing out instrumentally, grounded but not undercut by Pizzuto‘s steady fills.
I was really glad I had taken my own advice and made the drive into the city. As ever, Naam closed out with “Kingdom,” but I was glad when they came back out and delivered the “one more song” the crowd was shouting for. By that time, whatever dance party was taking place upstairs at Webster Hall was well underway. In quiet sections and between songs, you could hear the thumping of electronic bass — 1, 2, 3, 4, all muffled thuds — and people trickled into and out of the Studio room here and there, one guy making the unfortunate mistake of grabbing a girl only to find himself pressed against the merch table as she rightly punched him in his asshole face, another couple comprised of a girl in her early 20s and her boyfriend roughly twice her age making out to the strains of Naam‘s encore, “Icy Row” from their 2009 self-titled debut, before meeting the limits of their (or at very least, her) attention span and going back upstairs. “Icy Row” hit a huge, swirling apex that left none wanting.
Outside, there had been no real break in the heat, but a line of people were making their way upstairs, ropes leading the way and perhaps providing some leverage to those already stumbling. No judgment to pass — I’m too old and too tired to dislike somebody for their taste in music; nine times out of 10 there are better reasons — but I was glad to be coming up from downstairs and only too happy to cut through the line on my way back across the street to the absurdly good parking spot, which I gave up reluctantly to head out of the city and off to some victorious late-night empanadas.
It was almost two months ago now, but Naam‘s performance at Desertfest in London still stands out to me as a highlight of that weekend. That wasn’t the first exposure I had to their new album, Vow (review here), but I definitely felt like I got a new level of appreciation for the space rock push of that material by seeing it live, and it’s made the record that much more of a joy to live with since.
That being the case, as I post this press release of newly-announced North American Naam dates, please consider it coming with my recommendation to check out the band live should you get the chance. I feel like they’re a better band than people know at this point, and since they just got back from doing two months in Europe, I can only imagine they’re even tighter than they were when I saw them. Really. If you get to go, you should go.
Here’s the info and dates:
NAAM ANNOUNCE US TOUR IN SUPPORT OF NEW LP, “VOW”
NAAM has announced US touring in support of the newly released Vow LP via Tee Pee Records.
Naam’s Vow, opens yet another chapter for this Brooklyn-based heavy psych band, breaking new ground both sonically and progressively. Dark melodic tones, vocal harmonies, and heavy synthesizer presence accompany the listener in the shift towards Naam’s astral plane. As deep, doom-ridden tones and tribal drums accompany the acid-casualty grooves and freakouts of Naam past, Naam future presents not only a more progressive and developed concept through music, but also through the concept of spirituality.
The band just finished up a long tour throughout Europe and are set to bring songs from their heavy and heady masterpiece to US crowds.
Naam on tour! Jul. 06 New York, NY – Studio at Webster Hall Jul. 07 Montreal, QC – iL Motore Jul. 09 Toronto, ON – Wreck Room Jul. 10 Rochester, NY – Bug Jar Jul. 11 Cleveland, OH – Beachland Ballroom Jul. 12 Columbus, OH – Double Happiness Jul. 13 Grand Rapids, MI – Pyramid Scheme Jul. 14 Chicago, IL – Reggie’s Jul. 15 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Jul. 16 Iowa City, IA – Gabe’s Oasis Jul. 18 Winnipeg, MN – Windsor Hotel Jul. 20 Edmonton, ON Pawn Shop (w/ Weedeater) Jul. 21 Calgary, AB – Palomino Jul. 23 Vancouver, BC – Astoria Jul. 24 Seattle, WA – Highline Jul. 26 Portland, OR – The Know Jul. 31 San Diego, CA – Soda Bar Aug. 01 Tempe, AZ – Rocky Point Cantina Aug. 05 Lawrence, KS – Czar Bar Aug. 06 Oklahoma, City OK – Conservatory Aug. 07 Dallas, TX – Club Dada Aug. 11 Atlanta, GA – The Earl Aug. 18 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus Bar
Four years between albums seems like a long time. But in the span since Naam released their self-titled debut LP on Tee Pee Records in 2009, the Brooklyn-based outfit have issued a 7″ of Nirvana covers, two reissues of their debut Kingdom EP (review here) — the latest of which is a vinyl out through Italy’s Heavy Psych Sounds earlier this year — and 2012’s The Ballad of the Starchild EP (track stream here), which introduced keyboardist/organist John Weingarten, who’d already been playing with Naam live for some time by then and since has been made the permanent fourth member of the band alongside guitarist/vocalist Ryan Hamilton, bassist/vocalist John Preston Bundy and drummer Eli Pizzuto. Naam did all this, plus toured in the US and Europe, so when it comes to a question of whether or not there was a delay in crafting Vow, their new sophomore full-length, the more appropriate line of query seems to be if they weren’t so busy they just forgot to make it. Either way, the highly-varied 12-track collection shows a considerable amount of growth from the heavy psych of the self-titled, and with Weingarten on board, Naam have nearly perfected a slowed-down version of Hawkwind‘s space rush that at some of its most satisfying moments nestles into thick rolling grooves and still presents a feel open enough so that neither periodic ambient freakouts like “In and Thru” nor the moody shoegazing of “Skyscraper” are out of place alongside the swaggering rhythm of “Midnight Glow” or “Pardoned Pleasure” and the rousing culmination the penultimate “Beyond” provides.
In its totality, Vow is a flowing conceptual work best taken on as a whole, stylistically ambitious but without the so-often-corresponding pretense, and at a vinyl-ready 37 minutes, it’s best taken as a whole. Naam recorded with Jeff Berner at Galuminum Foil, who also handled The Ballad of the Starchild and the Nirvana covers single 7″, and the pairing suits them well, since for all of the effects and organ swirling around the songs, Hamilton‘s vocals and the backing support that Bundy and Weingarten supply sound natural and are well balanced within the multi-tiered mix. Songs vary in approach on an almost per-track basis, and while those who caught wind of Kingdom or Naam might think of cuts like “Vow,” “Of the Hour,” “Midnight Glow” and “Beyond” as anchors, anyone who caught wind of The Ballad of the Starchild is better prepared for the atmospherics, context and diversity the other songs on Vow provide, be it the space-country rambling of “Laid to Rest” or the sweetly echoing keys of closer “Adagio,” which is just one of several instances throughout on which Weingarten is put in the role of driving the material. That was the case with “Exit Theme,” which rounded out The Ballad of the Starchild in (very) similar fashion, but here, the synth and organ plays a central part in Naam attaining the textures even of a guitar-driven cut like “Vow,” Hamilton, Bundy and Pizzuto following the forward motion of the progression while Weingarten gives the song its swirl without distraction from the rhythmic push, striking a hard balance in a manner that sounds so natural it’s almost obvious.
Of course, Naam‘s penchant for effects and pedal work hasn’t changed, and that only adds to the fluidity as “Vow” leads the way out of the synth-heavy opener “A Call” and into the transitional drum echoes of “In and Thru,” which in turn moves back to the molten space rock of “Pardoned Pleasure,” Weingarten adding a late ’60s organ sound to the song’s already memorable verse descent and chorus while Hamilton‘s vocals come to the fore atop airy guitar, solid bass and impressive tom runs from Pizzuto. There’s a lot going on, and some of the vocal patterning seems rushed, but they cool down in the midsection before another freakout ensues, subsides and the acoustic/synth exploration “Laid to Rest” offers a brief 1:49 glimpse at alternate-reality Americana. That may be where side A of the vinyl ends — it would make sense with the swell of synth tying everything together and the organ that starts up the intro-sounding “Brightest Sight” at the start of side B, but I don’t actually know — but the tracklisting actually splits in half following the relatively raucous “Of the Hour,” which picks up from its quiet, flowing intro to a formidable stomp, moody vocals from Hamilton and Vow‘s richest groove and most memorable hook, Bundy backing Hamilton in the chorus, which has a cadence that in its last two lines that keeps reminding me of Talking Heads, though that’s almost certainly not its intent. Howls and shouts pervade the next verse before the chorus interrupts and Pizzuto adds momentum to the kick drum in the second half of the song to fill out an already righteous progression as an instrumental outro leads the way toward the quiet contemplations of “Skyscrapper.”
…And they do it in grand style, with a short teaser clip of spaced-out sonics set to a red-skied open field. The Brooklyn-based psychonauts have never exactly wanted for atmosphere, but if you had the chance to hear last year’s The Ballad of the Starchild EP, then you know that much weirdness is afoot and that it’s working for them. Very much looking forward to hearing what Naam get down to on Vow when the album drops on June 4. I have the feeling they could surprise a lot of people.
Here’s the teaser, with assurances of more to come: