Posted in Whathaveyou on October 9th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Just days after returning from a month-long European tour, Brooklyn four-piece Naam have effectively announced they’re calling it quits. The heavy psych/space rock forerunners have left the door open — or maybe that’s just wishful thinking — to regrouping at some point, but their headlining slot at the previously-announced Sludgefeastnext month will serve as their final live appearance. No word as yet on whether the members of the band, guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lee Lugar, bassist John Preston Bundy, drummer Eli Pizzuto and keyboardist John Weingarten, will pursue other projects. I guess it’s early for that kind of thing.
Naam made their debut in 2009 with the Kingdom EP (review here), which sounds raw now compared to what the band would become over the course of their tenure but is nonetheless a landmark in the development of Brooklyn’s heavy scene. Signing to Tee Pee Records, Naam released their self-titled debut full-length later that year (discussed here) and through years of work on the road, positioned themselves both among the label’s best acts and among Brooklyn’s most quality exports.
They’d go on to put out a 7″ of Nirvana covers, another EP in 2012’s The Ballad of the Starchild (review here) and a follow-up full-length in last year’s Vow (review here), which affirmed their status at the fore of American heavy space rock, the addition of Weingarten‘s keys not only distinguishing Vow from its predecessor, but becoming a crucial element in the band’s sound. More touring ensued — I think the best show I ever saw them play was at Desertfest London in 2013 — and Naam pushed their sound even further into cosmic manipulations earlier this year on a split with The Flying Eyes, Black Rainbows and White Hills (review here). At the time, that seemed to herald continued growth and a new experimental bent in their approach that one hoped would continue on their next album.
Whether or not Naam regroup at some point, their legacy is set in their two albums and slew of other releases — they have a physical pressing of their Live in Berlin EP coming next year — but also in the grind they did on the road, touring for a month at a clip either in Europe or the US, pushing themselves to and apparently past the brink in an effort to get their music to as many people as possible. Their greatest statement was always made on stage, and as much as it’s a bummer to think they won’t have another studio outing anytime soon, the thought of not seeing them live again is even more of a downer. Brooklyn’s brand of heavy would not be what it is today without Naam‘s example to follow.
They announced the end thusly:
We regret to inform you all that we have decided to take a very long hiatus and will not be performing or writing for many years and possibly ever again. We love all of you and greatly appreciate all of the support and good times you have given us over the years.
We will be playing our final show on November 15th in Brooklyn, New York at Sludgefeast with our buddys White Hills. We suggest buying your tickets now at the link below. We plan on going out with a bang.
Thanks again for everything and we will see you around. Peace.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
A local fest, with local headliners, but because it’s in Brooklyn, that also means those headliners are world class acts who’ve been around the globe and then some. Naam and While Hills will take the stage at The Paper Box on Nov. 15 to cap a fest that’s been dubbed Sludgefeast. It’s not all Brooklyn bands — the geographical radius seems to have been about two hours north or south with acts from New Paltz, New Haven and Philly — but it’s a strong showing of what Brooklyn heavy has to offer anyway, even apart from the headliners, with Blackout, Eidetic Seeing and Mountain God featured, among others. I don’t know the venue, or at least I don’t think I do (I saw Wolves in the Throne Room one year on my birthday in Brooklyn in a place I might describe as a paper box, but to be honest with you, I don’t remember much else about it), but a good time is a good time and Sludgefeast for sure looks like one of those.
The PR wire has lineup and other info for the calendar marking:
The Bent Unit and Some Pig Present: SLUDGEFEAST
A day of heavy music in Brooklyn, NY
Saturday, November 15
The Paper Box: 17 Meadow St, Brooklyn NY 11206
Brooklyn-based music review blog The Bent Unit and booking agency Some Pig Presents are proud to announce the first annual one-day heavy music festival SLUDGEFEAST. SLUDGEFEAST was conceived as a way to celebrate the best in metal, sludge, doom, psych rock and more from Brooklyn and beyond. In a city where indie, electronic, and revivalist genres dominate the airwaves, SLUDGEFEAST looks to give heavy music its rightful claim, especially as metal and its subgenres see a renaissance of sorts in other parts of the country.
Headlining the inaugural SLUDGEFEAST are Brooklyn’s own NAAM and White Hills. Both are torch-bearers of New York’s heavy scene, and no strangers to the international touring circuit. Since 2009 NAAM has been putting their unique brand of pummeling psychedelia to wax courtesy of Tee Pee records, and are currently awaiting release of their third full length. SLUDGEFEAST will see them newly returned from a 6-week European tour, including appearances at the Berlin Swamp Fest and Valada Reverence Festival. White Hills, described by NPR as a “relentlessly heavy psych-rock band with scorching wah-wah and fantastic outfits,” will hold the festival’s penultimate time slot, and is internationally reputed as a forerunner of modern, heavy space-rock.
Filling out the bill will be Brooklyn-based bands including noise/sludge outfit No Way, self-proclaimed “cave” rockers Blackout, psych-drone shamans Eidetic Seeing, doom titans Mountain God, sludge punkers Wonderbreed, and hardcore/metal masters Blackest. Joining us from the vast outside are Chimpgrinder (Philadelphia, blues/doom), It’s Not Night: It’s Space (New Paltz, space/drone), Grizzlor (New Haven, sludge/noise).
SLUDGEFEAST 2014 is more than a concert: it’s an unholy celebration of the dark, the heavy, the infernal. It’s the dawn of a new reign of heavy music in Brooklyn…
Posted in Radio on August 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to check out the daily playlist feature that Slevin recently added to the Obelisk Radio updates page, but god damn, it’s frickin’ awesome. I get so stoked out on the stuff that’s played. Even when I don’t hear it — because I listen often but not 24 hours a day — it’s cool just to go through the day and see what’s played. Sometimes it’s like, “Oh yeah, I haven’t heard that in a long time!” and I’ll put a record on, and sometimes it’s a reminder of how badass a band was who aren’t doing much anymore. Earlier this afternoon I heard Swarm of the Lotus for the first time in a couple years and my head damn near exploded. Really wish that band had done a third album.
Anyhoo, if you get to check it out, I think it’s been a great addition to what The Obelisk Radio is, and of course huge thanks as always to Slevin for putting in the time and effort on this site’s behalf. It wouldn’t be here without him, so if you’re in North Jersey and you see him at the bar, please say thanks. A killer batch of stuff joined the playlist today, so let’s get to it.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for Aug. 8, 2014:
Naam, Live in Berlin
As Brooklyn heavy psych forerunners Naam get ready to head out on another European tour in September (dates here), they present Live in Berlin, a free-download three-track EP recorded earlier this year (or late last year) at White Trash Fast Food. It’s a brief glimpse at what they can do on stage, but gorgeously assembled all the same, with the wash of fuzzy guitar and organ/synth crafting one the East Coast’s most potent space rock sounds on the near-11-minute “Starchild,” the semi-title-track from 2012’s The Ballad of the StarchildEP (track stream here) and the two cuts from 2013’s Vow(review here) that follow, “On the Hour” and “Beyond.” Their style refined with years of road work and their performances no less dynamic on stage than in the studio, Live in Berlinis a no-brainer to grab while the grabbing’s good, particularly at the asking price, and Naam continue to deliver quality, vital psychedelia the influence others are only beginning to feel. Even in the shorter “On the Hour,” with its quicker rush and catchy vocal interplay, there’s room enough to prove immersive, which only shows how on fire this band is at the moment. Vowwas their best work to date, Live in Berlin, if short,is a fair complement and a suitable holdover to whatever they might have coming next. Naam on Thee Facebooks, Live in Berlin on Bandcamp.
T.G. Olson, The Rough Embrace
Though the forms he’s working with for his solo material are familiar — Americana, folk and rambling acoustic country blues — Tanner Olson is so unrelentingly forward-moving as a songwriter that his output almost can’t help but be original. As the frontman for Across Tundras, he adds sonic weight to the equation, but performing under the moniker T.G. Olson, he captures a more intimate spirit. Nonetheless, The Rough Embrace, his latest outing, has plenty of lush moments, and even the wide open spaces of “Providence Gone Again” seem to be full of melody and subtly rich arrangements, a layer of slide guitar doing a lot of work in fleshing out the central guitar line. As Olson performed, recorded, mixed and released the album himself — Across Tundras bandmate Mikey Allred mastered; vinyl is reportedly forthcoming on their Electric Relics Records imprint — it’s fair to give him credit for these embellishments as well, and The Rough Embraceultimately lives up much more to the latter part of its title than the former. Like everything else he puts out on the Across Tundras Bandcamp, Olson has made The Rough Embraceavailable as a name-your-price download, making it that much easier to get lost in the album’s wistful jangle and melancholy croon. Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Unconscious Collective, Pleistocene Moon
Noise rock and jazz have made strange enough bedfellows over the years, usually resulting in spastic, somewhat indulgent progressive stew, rawly presented. On their sophomore outing, the Tofu Carnage Records 2LP PleistoceneMoon, Dallas trio Unconscious Collective don’t so much try to impress with how many time signatures they can work into any given three-minute stretch as they do stretch out over long-form works — turning on a dime and plenty jagged, to be sure — but that put as much focus on atmosphere as on their bursts and fits. Pleistocene Moonis a whopping 78 minutes long, and in it the oft-costumed three-piece cast a wide stylistic net, but there’s also a natural sensibility in the room that comes through via spacious-sounding drums, and a live feel that permeates pieces like “Tribe Apini,” which feels if not made up on the spot then certainly performed that way, and the later “Methane Rising,” which brings in horns for an avant freakout of grand proportion that transitions into minimal droning in a fluid roll that continues onto side D with “The Transformation of Matter,” whose propulsive grooving and overarching foreboding feel reminds of a sans-vocal Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, which, if you have any idea who that is, should be enough of an endorsement to pique your interest. Unconscious Collective on Thee Facebooks, Tofu Carnage Records.
The Glorious Rebellion, I 7″
Taking elements from ’90s noise rock — most particularly Helmet‘s dissonant riffing — and merging with the burl of modern American heavy rock, Orlando, Florida’s The Glorious Rebellion debut with a two-song single on Magnetic Eye Records featuring the tracks “My Resume is a Suicide Note” and “Thanks to AA, I’m the DD.” Both songs offer lumbering riffs of considerable weight, and the latter proves even more aggro than the former, starting off with a spitting recitation of a verse over the bassline while the guitar and drums wait to kick in with the initial chorus. Glorious though the rebellion may be, it’s even more pissed off. The band keep to straightforward structures, prove capable of writing solid hooks and have a professional production, though there seems to be some play at a commercial appeal on the single, and I’m not sure how well that will serve them in these radio-less days of genre specialization. Still, it’s a significant push they showcase in about seven minutes’ time, and they’ve obviously got a handle on what they want to do as a band. For their first outing, there’s a lot that can be read into just two cuts. The Glorious Rebellion on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Toke, High Friends in Low Places
Toke hail from Wilmington, North Carolina, and specialize in riffy bruiser sludge, heavy on swing and heavy on riffs, topped with vicious screams in the vein of Bongzilla or, more closely, earlier Sourvein. This is the kind of band that gets compared to Eyehategod all the time, though there’s actually not that much in common. Their two-track outing, High Friends in Low Places, is their second demo following another earlier this year, and both “Into the Light” and “Great Awakening” tap straightforward riff-led pummel and throat-searing, weedian aggression. It isn’t exactly unique, but sometimes nothing will do but a good kick in the ass, and Toke seem glad to provide. With clean but not polished production and enough nod for a release twice as long, High Friends in Low Placesmeets the standard it sets for itself, and if Toke grow into an outfit more individualized or keep their approach strict to the tenets of Southern sludge, they seem to have gotten that part of the equation down early. Toke on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
You know how this goes by now. Of course this isn’t everything that joined the playlist this week, and unlike last time, I even managed to update the list before I put the post together saying I had updated the list. Progress! To see all of today’s adds, check out the playlist and updates page.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Brooklyn cosmic rock originals Naam are headed back to Europe next month. They made two trips over last year in support of their 2013 sophomore Tee Pee Records full-length, Vow (review here), and will bring with them a new free live EP, Live in Berlin, that was presumably recorded on one or the other of those runs. Between that EP, Vow‘s continued resonance in the consciousness of their audience and their participation in Heavy Psych Sounds‘ four-way split with Black Rainbows, The Flying Eyes and fellow New Yorkers White Hills, they’ve got plenty of cause to spend some time abroad, and from this tour it looks like they’ll be making the most of it.
Of particular note are appearances at this year’s Reverence, Blizzard Mountain and Up in Smoke festivals. As we begin to move out of summer and into the fall, the common perception is that festival season is over, but it’ll be October as Naam close out this run — though they warn that this is an “initial” batch of dates, which could just as easily mean more will be added — at Up in Smoke in Pratteln, Switzerland, so clearly summer-only rules no longer apply. I’m a little surprised the four-piece aren’t sticking around another week to play Desertfest Belgium after doing London (review here) and Berlin in 2013, but if there are more dates to come, I wouldn’t rule anything out entirely just yet.
It’s past time to start thinking of Naam as one of the US’ finest heavy psych exports, and great to see them getting out again:
Naam European Tour 2014
02.09 Berlin 8MM (DJ Set) 05.09 Oslo Psych Fest 06.09 Naumburg Sallepartie 07.09 Kassel Secret Show 08.09 Munich Feierwerk 09.09 Karlsruhe Alte Hackeri 10.09 Dresden Ost Pol 11.09 Lisbon Reverence Warm Up 12.09 Valada Reverence Festival 14.09 London The 100 Club 17.09 Mannheim 7 ER Club 18.09 Jena Kulturbanhof 19.09 Berlin Swamp Fest 20.09 Rotterdam Baroeg Open Air 23.09 Copenhagen Loppen 26.09 Helsinki Bar Loose 27.09 Oulu Nuclear Night Club 30.09 Hamburg Hafenklang 02.10 Chambery Blizzard Mountain Festival 03.10 Weil der Stadt Kloster 04.10 Pratteln Up in Smoke Festival
Posted in Reviews on June 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The four bands included, tripped out as they are, can hardly account for the amount of space traversed. Italy’s Black Rainbows, led by guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori — whose own contributions to European psychedelia include running the label issuing this release, Heavy Psych Sounds and assembling this year’s inaugural Totem Psych Fest, taking place this summer outside of Rome (more info here) — unite with Brooklyn heavy space rockers and past tourmates Naam, well-kept New York secret outfit White Hills and bluesy Baltimore explorers The Flying Eyes for a 2LP gatefold four-way split featuring a side from each. All four groups work regularly in pretty extended forms, so you basically get a song or two from each, but still, the fact that they all got together and combined their efforts for this release makes it something special, the limited numbers of the vinyl and various colors (as well as a CD version) having been pressed in time for this year’s Desertfest, at which Black Rainbows also appeared. Everyone involved shares an obvious affinity for heavy psychedelic rock, but as one would hope for a release of this nature, there are also four distinct takes presented across the split — the official title of which is Heavy Psych Sounds 4-Way Split Vol. I– and each band takes advantage of an opportunity to bliss out in their own way, beginning with Naam – who’ve spent significant time on tour in Europe both before and after issuing their latest album, 2013’s Vow(review here) — on their two tracks, “Skyscraper (Ambient Mix)” and “Thickening Web,” which are included as side 1A leading off the 51-minute double-LP.
Its title is a dead giveaway, but “Skyscraper (Ambient Mix)” is a reworking of Vowhighlight “Skyscraper,” and what was a landmark on the ultra-spacey sophomore full-length from the Brooklyn four-piece arises on the Heavy Psych Sounds split as a stripped-down wash of effects, elements dropping in and out over the course of its seven-plus minutes, guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lee Lugar‘s voice barely distinct for the reverb it carries, a slow, mellow progression playing out behind given further depth between the high and low end thanks to a swirl of effects. “Skyscraper” proper was not short on ambience, between the guitar, John Weingarten‘s keys, John Preston Bundy‘s bass and Eli Pizzuto‘s percussive roll, but “Skyscraper (Ambient Mix)” — on which engineer/mixer Jeff Berner has added some instrumentation as well — feels thoroughly reworked and comes across experimental enough to make the original seem straightforward in comparison. With a fuller-sounding instrumental stretch to over eight minutes, “Thickening Web” furthers the atmosphere of the opener while building on it, Weingarten coming to the fore in a dreamy midsection as the bass, guitar and drums fade out and back in around his keys. There’s a build at work and constant movement, but Naam still evoke a laid back feel, which is all the more fitting leading into White Hills‘ experimental 11-minute “They’ve Got Blood… Like You’ve Got Blood,” presented here as an alternate version to what appeared as the title-track of the 2005 self-released full-length, They’ve Got Blood Like We’ve Got Blood. As much as they’re clearly separate entities with their own sonic aims, a linear flow is present as well, and White Hills further Naam‘s sprawling ambience and percussive undertones with engrossing space-drones and an ending movement with lo-fi techno beats and organ leadout. You’ve got four psych bands all contributing to the release. It was bound to get weird at some point.
The 2009 self-titled debut from Brooklyn heavy psych forerunners Naam is an album that’s only grown in my esteem since its release, now five years ago, on Tee Pee Records. I think at the time my head was still trying to wrap around the preceding Kingdom EP, so when the full-length came out with the sprawling, 16-minute “Kingdom” as the title-track, it was almost too easy for me to take it as an extension of Naam‘s first offering, rather than the standalone beast that it is. At least that’s how I see it now. Looking back on the interview I did with drummer Eli Pizzuto around when it came out, I seemed pretty into it. Half a decade can do funny things to your brain.
Point is that for as brilliantly open and far out as the entire hour-long stretch of the album is, there’s no part of it that’s to be overlooked. It was last July that I most recently had the occasion to catch them live, which frankly is longer than I’d prefer — Massachusetts has a lot of rock and roll but not much of it could be called psychedelic — and Naam have grown beyond where they were with the self-titled even before you get to factors like the full-time addition of John Weingarten on keys, but that doesn’t at all diminish the appeal of this record for me, the bombastic space rock moments or the quiet stretch of “Tidal Barrens.” There’s so much here that I still feel like I’m digging into something new when I put it on.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
I went and saw Negative Reaction tonight in Allston. Speaking of “been too long.” Ken-E Bones and company were in top form and got a great response from the crowd. Might be Tuesday before I get a review up, depending on holiday plans and whatnot for Memorial Day, but either way I got one or two pics at O’Brien’s to go with, so I’ll roll with that. Basically though it was just awesome to see them and to talk with Bones because, again, it had been a long time.
Also on Tuesday, look out for a full stream of the new Serpentine Path album. It’s out Tuesday, so we’re doing it up for the release date. I’m also interviewing John Garcia on Tuesday, and his solo album isn’t out for a while yet, but would be good to get that posted sooner rather than later. Wednesday I’m premiering a new Mars Red Sky video as well, so much goodness to come. At some point in there I’m also going to squeeze a Radio Moscow album review, and maybe one for that new Eyehategod too if I have time. That too depends on the holiday.
If you’re celebrating Memorial Day, I hope you have a good and not overly jingoistic one. Please have fun and be safe and I’ll see you back here either Monday or Tuesday for more of the ol’ clacky-clacky on the keyboard.
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
On May 5, with presentation earlier at the London and Berlin Desertfests, Italian imprint Heavy Psych Sounds will release a four-way split featuring some of heavy psych’s finest purveyors. Teaming up Naam and White Hills from Brooklyn and New York, Rome’s Black Rainbows and Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes, the double-LP is set to arrive in three separate vinyl editions as well as on CD, with preorders coming at the beginning of next month.
What’s truly terrifying isn’t this culling of impressive names establishing a wide variety within an aesthetic sphere — though certainly that’s something noteworthy as well — but as the video teaser below hints, this is the Heavy Psych Sounds 4-Way Split Vol. 1, as in, the first of more to come. Gabriele Fiori, who runs the label and serves as guitarist/vocalist in Black Rainbows, is no stranger to supporting underground heavy and obviously has his ear to the ground in both the European and American psych scenes, but to think this might become a series puts it in a different category altogether. I’d be eager to find out what the plan ultimately is.
I’ll hope to have more to come on this one closer to the release, but as a notice to keep your eyes peeled for the preorder link, which can’t be far off, and to give a first taste with the promo clip, I humbly offer the below preliminaries courtesy of the PR wire:
Heavy Psych Sounds records
hps016 //::// Naam / White Hills / Black Rainbows / The Flying Eyes – Split album
released in double gatefold 12″ – 70 Ultra LTD edition in golden – 350 LTd edition in white splatter purple – solid red and digipack
the release will be presented at Desert Fest (Berlin and London) – April 25/26/27 2014
pre-sale starts end of march
available from 05/05/2014 in the best record shops and mailorders
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
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
Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
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.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
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
Posted in Reviews on May 31st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
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.”
The photo above is of my wristband for this year’s Desertfest. You’ll note it’s not attached to my wrist. I got back just a little bit ago from the Electric Ballroom and had meant to ask at the front desk of the hotel for them to cut it off with scissors, since it’s pretty sturdy material — it’s had to be to last these several days — but forgot on my way up and wound up just pulling it off around my hand. I feel like I should have it framed.
Late nights beget later nights, so I’m not gonna waste time here. Day three was no less righteous than one would have to expect after the first two. Here’s how it went down for me:
The other day I received a vehement recommendation to check out Throne, to which I responded, “Yeah, I’m pretty sure they played last year and were cool.” Turns out they did play Desertfest 2012, at The Underworld, but this year the trio moved over to The Black Heart, which was where my day began with their unpretentious Sleep riffing and nodding rhythms. They still didn’t have an album for sale downstairs that I could find, but The Black Heart was, as it has been this whole weekend, packed out. On my way through, I watched a couple seconds through the doorway in the spirit of Roadburn and found myself still persuaded by their languid pacing and largely-unfrilled stonery. I had finished my cup of coffee about two minutes before they started playing, so it was a cool way to wake up.
Meanwhile, at The Underworld, Brighton/Manchester-based Blackstorm were dishing out a pounding the likes of which I’d not yet seen here. They were a band about whom I knew next to nothing, but their double-guitar uptempo crushcore was a longer way away from what Throne were doing at The Black Heart than the street that divided the two acts physically. I arrived part of the way through their set, which the five-piece delivered in lively fashion, with lots of movement, a swinging mic stand and big, chunky riffs set to breakdown beats. “Then You’ll Drown” was a burly basher, and I caught “Run with the Wolves” from their late-2012 EP, The Darkness is Getting Closer, which was distinguished by the dual vocals of guitarist Neil Kingsbury and frontman Karl Middleton. They were tight and had it together on stage, though my head was already preparing itself for the cleaving it would no doubt receive from who followed them.
Suddenly I had to wonder why I bothered bringing earplugs in the first place. British trio Conan weren’t through the second verse of “Hawk as Weapon” from last year’s low-end raging Monnos(review here) before I felt like they’d melted in my ear canal. Guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil just released their set from last year’s Roadburn as the new Mount WrathCD and vinyl, and while that’s definitely a satisfying listen, I was glad to see them in-person again, because no matter how loud you turn up a record, I don’t know if there’s any way to do justice to what Conan are live. Beastly heavy. Heavy to whatever degree hyperbole you might want to put to it, and while that heaviness and Davis and Coumbe‘s tones are still the star of the show, the three-piece also have grown as a stage act since I last had the good fortune to see them. Coumbe‘s low growls and Davis‘ shouting worked especially well together, and in addition to “Hawk as Weapon,” “Battle in the Swamp” and “Grim Tormentor” from Monnos, Conan also played two new songs, “Foehammer” and “Gravity Chasm,” which continued the warmongering gallop of the earlier album tracks that set up an excruciatingly slow finale, all the while keeping their fury front and center and proving there’s more to their heaviness than what comes through their amps.The other day, when I got stopped by that customs agent, he accused me of trying to illegally emigrate to the UK. I’m still not planning on it, but Conan make a solid argument in favor of doing so.
Kudos to whoever handled scheduling the bands’ timeslots for putting Conan and Toner Low right next to each other. I’d never seen the Dutch three-piece before — they’re now in their 15th year and have just released their third album — but they actually share a lot in common with Conan in terms of their general ethic. They are unreasonably loud, unremittingly heavy in tone and seem like they’re ready to follow a riff anywhere it might lead them. The difference is aggression. Where Conan are all beheadings and mayhem, Toner Low are purely stoned. Toner Low played in the dark but for a psychedelic lightshow setup they placed in front of their drummer and a sheet with projected falling pot leaves on the guitarist/vocalist, but yeah, they’re about as stoner as stoner gets, working in elements of more primal drone here and there, but keeping a solid foundation of riffs at hand at almost all times. They brought their own rigs, which made sense for the bassist since her gear was different from what seemed to be on hand, but the guitar — which seemed to be actually coated in resin from the look of it — ran through an Orange half-stack and amp they brought, and there’s been so much Orange around Desertfest I can practically taste it. I can’t argue with their having done it, though, since Toner Low sounded unbelievably good. I bought their new record and am looking forward to checking it out.
Naam beckoned. I won’t lie, there was a part of me that was like, “Why the hell would you go to London and see a band you can see in New York?” The other part of me was all, “No way dude, this is gonna be awesome. Naam have a new record coming out,” and that part of me won. Once a trio, now a foursome and tonight playing as a five-piece with the addition of a second guitar — not that they were lacking texture before, but more never hurts – Naam‘s universe seems to be in permanent expansion, both in terms of their lineup and their sound. Tonight was the best I’ve seen them play, and I’ve seen them play a few really killer shows. The integration of John Weingarten‘s keys along with Ryan Lugar‘s guitar/vocals, John Bundy‘s bass/vocals and Eli Pizzuto‘s drums is complete, and to show that, “Starchild” from last year’s The Ballad of the StarchildEP was the highlight of their whole set, though “Beyond” from their forthcoming sophomore full-length, Vow, came pretty close. They’ve nearly perfected a balance between stoner riffing and Hawkwindian space rush, and not surprisingly, their heavy psych went over huge at the Electric Ballroom. Naam are just starting a two-month European and UK tour that will have them in this part of the world for a while — perhaps it’s telling of their relative receptions that they’ll be in Europe when Vow releases — so I imagine they’ll only further solidify, but already they played a headliner’s set, closing as always with “Kingdom” from the EP of the same name (it also appeared on their 2009 debut LP), the layers of which shimmered with psychedelic vibes prior to a full-on freakout at the end of pushed-over drums and guitar destruction. Awesome.
Here’s a direct quote from my notes on Truckfigters‘ set: “Everyone in the world who’s never seen Truckfighters live is a jive sucker and that’s that.” More or less, that covers my feelings on the matter. The Örebro trio — Ozo on vocals/bass, Dango on guitar and now Poncho on drums — are easily the most energetic and engaging fuzz rock acts I’ve ever seen, and before they were through perpetual opener “Desert Cruiser,” both Ozo and Dango had gone past the monitors at the front of the stage to be closer to the crowd, who were singing along loud enough to be heard over the instruments. But Truckfighters – who are fresh off a tour with Norwegian blackened punkers Kvelertak and shortly headed to Australia and New Zealand for a run of shows — aren’t just getting their cardio in, they’re also nailing the material and delivering it with a genuine sense of spontaneity and the impression that anything can happen at any given moment, such as Ozo jumping into the crowd during closer “In Search of The” or the band launching into “Chameleon” after someone in the crowd requested it, jamming on “Desert Cruiser” or unveiling two new songs, the first which fit (“fett?”) well with the bounce of “Monte Gargano,” which came later, and the second which had a fuller, fuzzier shuffle in the beginning and wound up thicker but still moving, with a quick bass and drum break to set up a return to what seemed on first impression to be a solid hook. “Majestic” was welcome, and from their audience interaction to the tightness of their performance — at one point Dango fell on stage after jumping off the drum riser and didn’t even stop playing as he got up — there are few records supposedly coming out before the end of this year that I’m looking forward to as much as the new Truckfighters.
An hour hardly seemed like enough time for a proper Colour Haze set. Back in September 2012, the ultra-influential Munich heavy psych trio rolled through London and did a full three hours, complete with guest appearances, keys, and so on. Still, I’ll take what I can get, and when it came to “Transformation” from She Said (review here) — my album of the year last year — I still heard the horn parts in my head even though no one was playing them live, so I’m not about to bitch that the experience was somehow lacking. It wasn’t. Colour Haze were a complete 180 in terms of presence from Truckfighters, mostly subdued, no jumping, no running around, plenty of grooving, but less about getting the heart rate up than giving the audience something to shut its eyes and get lost in. As guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philip Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald jammed past “Moon” from 2008’s Alland into “Love” from their ’04 self-titled, they were so locked into what they were doing that the real miracle of it seemed to be they didn’t lose the crowd in the slightest. An extended take only gave everyone watching more to dig on, so that by the time “Peace, Brothers and Sisters” and “Tempel” came around, the Electric Ballroom was suitably hypnotized. Seriously, I just wanted to give them money. Like, “Here, Colour Haze, I have 50 Euro left over from last weekend. Please take it.” I’ve seen them before — their set at Emissions from the Monolith in 2006 changed my life (ask me about it sometime), and at one or two Roadburn fests along the way — but even though this felt like a sampling, it was ultra-satisfying to watch these godfathers of the modern European scene do what quite simply nobody does better. As I already knew I wouldn’t be staying for the entire Pentagram set, Colour Haze were sort of my closeout for Desertfest, and I couldn’t have asked for a warmer farewell than that. They were masterful.
I got a press release earlier this week that oft-imitated doom pioneers Pentagram had a new guitarist in the form of Philly-based Matt Goldborough, but that the lineup was otherwise the same as when Victor Griffin was still slinging axe, with Sean Saley on drums and Greg Turley on bass with frontman/defining presence Bobby Liebling on vocals. Of course, lineup changes are nothing new for Liebling‘s band — their legacy is as much about tumult as it is about the riff to “Forever My Queen” — but Griffin‘s presence brought a certain legitimacy to Pentagram‘s recent run and their 2011 Last Rites comeback album (review here), and his departure, whatever the circumstances may have been, changes the context of the band, Griffin – who also played today with his new outfit In~Graved – being one of very few others who’ve done time in Pentagram who can lay reasonable claim to the material. He may well have come out to guest on guitar (I recall seeing the band in 2009 when he wasn’t with them and that happened), but if he did, I wasn’t there to see it. I stayed for about four songs and then had to split to come back to the hotel, write and pack for my flight out tomorrow. For the portion I did catch, however — “Day of Reckoning,” “Forever My Queen,” “Treat Me Right” and “Livin’ in a Ram’s Head” — Pentagram were tight and Liebling was Liebling. There are few things as much fun to watch in a concert setting as Bobby Liebling flipping out to a guitar solo. Like he hasn’t been staring at them for 40 years now. Awesome. Turley and Saley have the material on lockdown, and as the new guy, Goldborough more than held his own on guitar, a younger presence giving some freshness to what might just as easily have come across stale otherwise. I’ve seen worse from Pentagram, and though one can dream of this or that reunion lineup, the simple fact that they exist and persist is to be… respected? Maybe. Probably. Definitely gazed at in astonishment. And so they were.
I have work to do. As in, for my job. And so I know that Desertfest, as blissful as it has been, must be over. My plan is to write up some concluding thoughts for this whole trip tomorrow on the plane, and I’ll include a thanks list with that, but before I switch off to picture-sorting mode, I just want to say it’s been an absolute pleasure and an honor to be back here in Camden this weekend, to see the bands I’ve been lucky enough to be here to see and to meet the people I’ve been lucky enough to meet. This place is awesome (but for the weather), the music is great and I feel like even more than last year, Desertfest is developing a genuine vibe all its own. I was beat today, t-i-r-e-d, but at the same time, I knew I wanted to take as much of the proceedings in as possible, because when I’m back home slogging away in the office, I’m going to miss it.
More to come tomorrow, and more pics after the jump. Thanks as always for reading.
…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:
Posted in audiObelisk on May 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
A 26-minute journey into the recesses of psychedelic groove and mystifying ambience, The Ballad of the Starchild is Naam‘s first release since their 2009 self-titled laid bare their mind-expanding course and began what shows itself here to be an ongoing process of growth and exploration. The five individual cuts that comprise the EP flow together remarkably, and with the apparently full-time inclusion of organist John Weingarten, the trio-turned-four-piece are hitting what sounds like a creative stride, proffering patient, engaging psych rock that’s neither ever fully still nor rushing where and when it doesn’t want to be.
With the 10-minute “Starchild” as the focal point, Naam remind of their past extended works while also moving beyond them in the songwriting. Each track on The Ballad of the Starchild serves a purpose to the overall whole and stands on its own, guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lee Lugar hypnotizing both in tone and his oozing lyrical delivery, bassist/vocalist John Preston Bundy beginning to make his presence more known in the latter regard, and drummer Eli Pizzuto going from complete absence to blastbeats in a staggering show of range that never feels unnatural or forced, providing the foundation from which the melodies of Bundy, Lugar and Weingarten embark on their space-bound launch.
The interplay of keys and guitar is especially central to the track “Lands Unknown,” which also boasts The Ballad of the Starchild‘s most insistent groove, and while it’s unclear whether Naam will follow this release with another full-length or perhaps use it as a starting point for a series of EPs all based around the characters of KISS (which could be, you know, awesome), the variety and balance they bring to their execution here is an excellent show of the growth they’ve undertaken since the full-length. I think it might be Bundy‘s lead vocal during the verse as well, unless Lugar is just shifting his approach some. Either way, you’ll find “Lands Unknown” on the player below, followed by some PR wire-type release info. Please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Celebrated Brooklyn psychedelic rock band Naam will release an EP of brand new material titled The Ballad of the Starchild on May 8 via Tee Pee Records. Recorded in BKLYN’s Galuminum Foil Studios and mastered at NYC’s world famous Masterdisk (MilesDavis, Nirvana, etc.), The Ballad of the Starchild showcases Naam’s most forward-thinking material to date and is the follow up to the group’s 2009 full-length, Naam.
Posted in Reviews on January 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
There was a moment, as I made my way around the block of North 6th St. in Brooklyn last Friday night, that I thought I’d never be able to find parking, and that I would just spend the rest of my days driving in that circle, like something out of The Twilight Zone. Maybe it would be some bitterly ironic punishment for having one time inadvertently dicked someone out of a spot, masterminded by that person secretly like Saw. I don’t know. Either way, I was sure I’d never get to the Music Hall of Williamsburgin time to see Monster Magnet, Naam or Quest for Fire, let alone LadyKiller, who were opening the show.
Turns out the opener was the only act I actually missed. I wound up finding a spot right outside the Academy Records Annex and rushed down the block to the venue with just enough time to spare to get my ticket and head in for the start of Quest for Fire. I felt like I lucked out. The room wasn’t too full as they got going, and as they opened with “Greatest Hits by God” from 2010’s Lights From Paradise (review here), it seemed like the universe was suddenly in the business of doing me personal favors. Amazing how fickle luck can feel.
I remembered standing outside the Bat Cave at Roadburn while Quest for Fire played, getting up on the bench along the wall opposite the open door of the room and trying at least to soak in some of their set and being tragically unsuccessful. To see them now, especially alongside labelmates Naam, was enough for me to make the difference between catching Monster Magnet in Brooklyn or going one night later to see them at the Starland Ballroom on a bill populated by pay-to-play openers. Seems like an easy call, but when you factor rolling into Williamsburg on a Friday night, you gotta really like Quest for Fire to make that weigh out.
Playing on Naam‘s equipment, the Toronto psych rockers justified the trip — both mine and theirs. Their songs were heavier in person, and rawer without the layering that comes through so lush on Lights From Paradise and its 2009 self-titled predecessor. Part of that is probably due to the fact they were down a guitar. Chad Ross, who also handles vocals, was playing bass, but even with just Andrew Moszynski‘s guitar, their psychedelia was subdued and moody where it wanted to be and never out of control when heavy, and drummer Mike Maxymuik gave each piece a dynamic pulse.
When they finished, I went out front to look for their merch, hoping to find a copy of Worldwide Skyline from Ross‘ solo-project, Nordic Nomadic, or maybe some other goodies, but no such luck. Monster Magnet had a tour-exclusive EP called Dopes for $15 that I’m still not quite sure why I didn’t buy, and neither Quest for Fire or Naam had anything for sale. Oh well. I didn’t get a shirt either. Or beer. All things considered, it was a pretty austere night. A $4 bottle of water and gas on the way home. Go figure.
Having seen them twice at Santos Party House in Manhattan last year (here and here), I knew enough to be sure Naam would do well in the role of the hometown heroes, and joined by the keys that seem to be more and more a regular fixture, they did just that. I had been hoping for some new material and it came in the form of “Starchild,” the title-track of their next EP, reportedly due in May. I’d heard the song live before, but it’s grown some in the months since, both in jammed-out presence and actual length. Naam have done a fair amount of touring at this point (most recently in Europe with Black Rainbows), and it showed in their performance.
They didn’t play many songs for time constraints, but guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lugar seemed more at ease on stage and bassist Ryan Preston Bundy‘s vocals were both better mixed and more confident than any other time I’ve been fortunate enough to see the band play. If they’re the hometown heavy psych heroes, it’s because of the wandering they’ve done in the past.
And maybe it’s just because with the Monster Magnet kit backlined behind him he was pushed further toward the front of the stage, or maybe it was following Maxymuik, but drummer Eli Pizzuto seemed to be especially crisp in his performance. Through the newer stuff and Naam‘s standard closer, “Kingdom,” from the EP of the same name, his fills served more than basic percussive function, and his focus was intense to the point of intimidation. While Lugar had his sway to the riffs and Bundy was ready at a moment’s notice to tilt his head back and hoist his beard aloft like an offering to the gods of facial hair who’ve blessed him with it, Pizzuto a little bit looked like he wanted to kick someone’s ass, and the variation in stage presences among the four players on stage only enriched the experience of their set.
It was almost like two shows rolled into one, though. You had Naam and Quest for Fire on one side, and then Monster Magnet coming from somewhere else completely. Sure, this was the tour where they were performing 1995’s Dopes to Infinity in its entirety, and you won’t hear me deny that record is a classic of American heavy psych rock, but where Naam and Quest for Fire both feel like they’re just getting to that point in their careers, that they’re really getting a handle on their aesthetic and the creativity they can bring to the form, Monster Magnet have long since moved onto something different, sound-wise, so for them to revisit it in Brooklyn was, in light of everything they’ve done since on their subsequent and more straightforward hard rock records, a bit incongruous.
For example, after Naam was done, the mood in the room changed. It was packed by then — a diverse crowd of fans young and old, some hard rockers and some heavy rockers — and as Monster Magnet‘s crew set up and checked the gear, it was like the air got colder, more clinical. It’s been a long time now since Monster Magnet decided they were a professional band, and the thing about Dopes to Infinity and their material preceding it is that they weren’t really professional albums, so as the crew taped down setlists all over the stage on all four sides, taped down wires so they wouldn’t get tangled, shifted monitor positions and warmed up the amps for guitarists Garrett Sweeny (of Riotgod) and Phil Caivano and bassist Jim Baglino (also Riotgod), I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if Monster Magnet just came out and played?
I realize that at this stage in the band’s career, that’s an unreasonable expectation. It’s not what they’re about. They’re about a more commercial brand of hard rock — one with a bent in the songwriting that appreciates the structures of late ’60s and early ’70s classics and with no shortage of personality thanks to the lyrics and vocals of band founder and principal songwriter Dave Wyndorf — but still a huge step away sonically from the band’s beginnings. Once they got going following a long stretch of house lights down, no one on stage and sitar drones coming through the P.A., watching Monster Magnet in 2012 play Dopes to Infinity was like seeing a completely different band.
Because it was a different band. Their last connection to that era, apart from Wyndorf himself, was lead guitarist Ed Mundell, who left following the release of 2010’s Mastermind (review here). Rounded out by drummer Bob Pantella (also Riotgod and The Atomic Bitchwax), the latest Monster Magnet lineup around Wyndorf is built to rock the way new Monster Magnet rocks — and they’re good at it, but it’s enough of a difference from what they did on Dopes to Infinity to be notable and definitely affected their interpretations of the material on stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
One can’t really fault them for it, since they’re different musicians with different modes of playing than those that originally appeared on the album, and I won’t deny that Monster Magnet rocked the Dopes stuff hard, playing it out of the original order to better account for it being a live show and saving “Negasonic Teenage Warhead” for the encore. “Look to Your Orb for the Warning,” the title-track, “Dead Christmas” and “All Friends and Kingdom Come” were highlights as they are on the record, but the apex of the show came with “Third Alternative.” Wyndorf, ever one for killer stage banter, prefaced it by saying, “As this thing goes on, it gets darker — kinda like life, huh?” but then laughed it off and said, “But we won’t talk about that.” Why not? For a song that says, “I’ll stuff myself in a pit of darkness and slam till I can’t see home,” it’s not like there’s any beating around the bush going on. Own it.
That was the darkest part of their show, and among the most honest. Wyndorf nailed the delivery of the vocals — he called the song a “21st Century blues,” which was a little ironic since it came out in ’95 — and then left the stage as the band transitioned into the instrumental “Theme From ‘Masterburner'” before regular-set closer “King of Mars.” The crowd was in their pocket the whole time, and didn’t thin out at all when they finished “King of Mars” and went backstage, where they stayed long enough for me to get distracted and let my mind wander. It was late by most show standards these days, getting on 1AM, but there was no way I was missing the encore.
My perpetual hope is that at some point I’ll see them do “Spine of God” and have my consciousness fractured by it, spending the rest of my days in blissful, devastated catatonia. The reality — no doubt in part due to the circumstances of the band I described above — would no doubt be different, but if reason had anything to do with it, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. Nonetheless, no such luck on the encore. They did “Negasonic Teenage Warhead,” a welcomed plodding rendition of Mastermind opener “Hallucination Bomb,” “Powertrip” and, naturally, “Space Lord,” their biggest hit and most unavoidable single. Even if they didn’t want to play it, they couldn’t not.
Wyndorf himself acknowledged this, giving the most concise summation I’ve ever heard of a band’s view on their own material. As Sweeny and Caivano began the riff to “Space Lord,” he said, “Obvious? Yes. Necessary? Yes!” He was right. For whatever reason, Monster Magnet had to do “Space Lord,” and everyone knew it was coming, and everyone dug the hell out of it. I spent all of the subsequent Saturday with the chorus ringing in my ears — it’s simply undeniable.
So too is Monster Magnet‘s legacy. They may have departed sonically the field in which their influence is most felt, namely heavy psych and stoner rock, but their stage presence in the current incarnation is remarkable, and the players with whom Wyndorf has surrounded himself are masters at what they do — Caivano and Sweeny on guitar, Baglino like some kind of born rock and roll salesman on bass and Pantella on drums. I left the show and went back to my car outside the Academy Annex, stared down the block at the luxury riverfront condos that stood where once there had been vacant lots and run-down warehouses, and had to recognize for a moment that nothing is static, nothing stays undeveloped and that to ask the present to be the past is foolish. Dopes to Infinity had its day, Monster Magnet were as faithful to it as they wanted to be 17 years later. You either enjoy it for what it was or sulk, and sulking seemed to me a waste of time.
Extra pics after the jump, and thanks for reading.