Quarterly Review: Total Fucking Destruction, Humulus, The River, Phantom Hound, Chang, The Dhaze, Lost Psychonaut, Liquido di Morte, Black Burned Blimp, Crimson Oak

Posted in Reviews on March 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’ve got a fresh cup of coffee and 50 records that need to be reviewed, so it must be time for… constant distractions! Oh, no, wait, sorry. It must be time for the Quarterly Review. Yeah, there it is. I know there’s a global-pandemic-sized elephant in the room as a backdrop for the Spring 2020 Quarterly Review, but it seems to me that’s all the more reason to proceed as much as possible. Not to feign normality like people aren’t suffering physically, emotionally, and/or financially, but to give those for whom music is a comfort an opportunity to find more of that comfort and, frankly, to do the same for myself. I’ve said many times I need this more than you do, and I do.

So, you know the drill. 10 records a day, Monday to Friday through this week, 50 when we’re done. As Christopher Pike says, let’s hit it.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Total Fucking Destruction, …To Be Alive at the End of the World

Total Fucking Destruction To Be Alive at the End of the World

The long-running experimentalist grind trio Total Fucking Destruction remain a sonic presence unto themselves. Their strikingly apropos fifth LP, …To Be Alive at the End of the World, begins with the five-minute psychedelic wash of its unrepentantly pretty, somewhat mournful title-track and ends with a performance-art take on “The Star Spangled Banner” that shifts into eight or so minutes of drone and minimalist noise before reemerging in manipulated form, vocalist/drummer Richard Hoak (also the odd bit of flute and ocarina), bassist/vocalist Ryan Moll and guitarist Pingdum filling the between space with the blasts and jangles of “A Demonstration of Power,” the maddening twists of “Attack of the Supervirus 1138” and other mini-bursts of unbridled aggression like “Stone Bomb,” “Doctor Butcher” and the outright conceptual genius of “Yelling at Velcro,” which, indeed, is just 20 or so seconds of yelling ahead of the arrival of the closer. In an alternate future, Total Fucking Destruction‘s work will be added to the Library of Congress. In this future, we’re boned.

Total Fucking Destruction on Thee Facebooks

Translation Loss Records store

 

Humulus, The Deep

humulus the deep

For the six-song/51-minute The Deep, Italian three-piece Humulus somewhat depart the beer-rocking ways of 2017’s second LP, Reverently Heading into Nowhere (review here). Sure, the riff of “Gone Again” is pure Kyuss idolatry (not a complaint), and “Devil’s Peak (We Eventually Eluded Death)” brims with drunkard’s swagger, but factor in the wonderfully executed linear build that takes place across the eight-minute “Hajra,” the mellow emotionalism of the penultimate acoustic track “Lunar Queen,” and the two extended psychedelic bookends in opener “Into the Heart of the Volcano Sun” (14:48) and closer “Sanctuary III – The Deep” (14:59), and the narrative becomes decidedly more complex than just “they drink and play riffs.” These elements have been in Humulus‘ sound all along, but it’s plain to hear the band have actively worked to push themselves forward in scope, and the range suits them, the closer particularly filled with a theatricality that would seem to speak to further storytelling to come on subsequent releases. So be it. They called the album The Deep and have dived in accordingly.

Humulus on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

The River, Vessels into White Tides

The River Vessels into White Tides

An atmosphere of melancholy is quickly established on The River‘s third LP, Vessels into White Tides (on Nine Records), and for being the London four-piece’s first album 10 years, it takes place in a sense of unrushed melody, the band rolling out a morose feel born of but not directly aping the likes of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost as the vocals of guitarist Jenny Newton (also strings, percussion) — joined in the band by guitarist Christian Leitch, bassist Stephen Morrissey and drummer Jason Ludwig — make their presence felt soon in opener “Vessels,” which unfolds gracefully with a crash and rumble fading into the beginning of the subsequent “Into White” (15:01) with the four-minute string-laced “Open” and the 9:44 shifting-into-intensity “Passing” preceding closer “Tides,” which is duly rolling in its progression and offers a sweet bit of release, if wistful, from some of the more grueling moments before it, capping not with a distorted blowout, but with layers of strings reinforcing the folkish underpinning that’s been there all along, in even the most tonally or emotionally weighted stretches.

The River on Thee Facebooks

Nine Records store

 

Phantom Hound, Mountain Pass

Phantom Hound Mountain Pass

Mountain Pass, which begins with “The Northern Face,” ends with “The Southern Face” and along the way treks through its on-theme title-track and the speedier “You Don’t Know Death,” catchy “Thunder I Am” and fairly-enough bluesy “Devil Blues,” has its foundations in oldschool metal and punk, but is a decidedly rock-based offering. It’s the debut from Oakland’s Phantom Hound, and its eight component tracks make no attempt to mask their origins or coat their material in unnecessary pretense — they are what they are; the album is what it is. The three-piece dip into acoustics on the instrumental “Grace of an Angel,” which shifts with a cymbal wash into the lead guitar at the outset of the eight-minute title-track — the stomp of which is perhaps more evocative of the mountain than the passing, but still works — but even this isn’t so far removed from the straightforward purposes of “Irons in the Fire,” which stakes its claim to dead-ahead metal and rock, barely stopping along the way to ask what else you could possibly need.

Phantom Hound on Thee Facebooks

Phantom Hound on Bandcamp

 

Chang, Superlocomotodrive

chang superlocomotodrive

Munich-based trio Chang, with clear, modern production behind them, present their debut EP release with the 29-minute Superlocomotodrive, and though it’s short, one is left wondering what else they might need to consider it an album. What’s missing? You’ve got the let’s-jam-outta-here in the six-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Mescalin,” and plenty of gruff riffing to back that up in “Old Rusty Car” and the later title-track, with a bit of Oliveri-era Queens of the Stone Age edge in the latter to boot, plus some psychedelic lead work in “Sterne,” some particularly German quirk in “Bottle Beach” and a massive buildup in tension in the finale “Bombs Whisper” that seems to arrive at its moment of payoff only to instead cut to silence and purposefully leave the listener hanging — an especially bold move for a first release. Yeah, it’s under half an hour long, but so what? The heavy rock terrain Chang are working in is familiar enough — right down to the less-than-P.C. lyrics of “Old Rusty Car” — but there’s no sense that Superlocomotodrive wants to be something it isn’t. It’s heavy rock celebrating heavy rock.

Chang on Thee Facebooks

Chang on Bandcamp

 

The Dhaze, Deaf Dumb Blind

the dhaze deaf dumb blind

Though the grunge influence in the vocals of guitarist Simone Pennucci speak to more of a hard-rocking kind of sound, the basis of The Dhaze‘s sprawl across their ambitious 53-minute Sound Effect Records debut album, Deaf Dumb Blind, is more in line with progressive metal and heavy psychedelia. Bassist Vincenzo La Tegola backs Pennucci on vocals and locks in fluid mid-tempo grooves with drummer Lorenzo Manna, and makes a highlight of the low end in “Death Walks with Me” ahead of the titular trilogy, presented in the order of “Deaf,” “Blind” and “Dumb,” which flow together as one piece thanks in no small part to the synth work added by La Tegola and Pennucci together. Obviously comfortable in longer-form stretches like “Death Walks with Me” or the earlier “Neurosis,” both of which top nine minutes, the Napoli trio bring a fervent sense of variety to their work while leaving themselves open to future growth in terms of sound and playing with the balance between elements they establish here.

The Dhaze on Thee Facebooks

Sound Effect Records store

 

Lost Psychonaut, Lost Psychonaut

Lost Psychonaut Lost Psychonaut

Hailing — because metal bands hail, to be sure — from the Pittsburgh area, newcomers Lost Psychonaut boast in their ranks two former members of sludgers Vulture in guitarist/vocalist Justin Erb and bassist
Garrett Twardesky, who, together with drummer Tristan Triggs, run through a debut LP made up of five tracks that skirt the line between groove metal and heavy rock, tapping-like-flowing-kegs influences from the likes of ’90s-era C.O.C. and others such burl-laced groovers. Tales of day-to-day struggles make a fitting enough backdrop to the riff-led proceedings, which commence with the prior-issued single “My Time” and roll-groove their way into a duo of longer cuts at the end in “Restitution Day” (8:46) and “On a Down” (7:44). Frankly, any mention of the word “Down” at all in a song that feels so outwardly “buried in smoke” can hardly be coincidental, but that nod is well earned. With a couple years behind them, they know what they’re going for in this initial batch of songs, and the clearheaded nature of their approach only gives their songwriting more of a sense of command. There’s growth to be undertaken, but nothing to say they can’t get there.

Lost Psychonaut on Thee Facebooks

Lost Psychonaut on Bandcamp

 

Liquido di Morte, IIII

liquido di morte iiii

I suppose you could, if so inclined, live up to Liquido di Morte‘s slogan, “We play music to take drugs to,” but you’d be shorting yourself on the experience of a lucid listen to their third long-player IIII. Issued in limited handmade packaging by the band, the Milan instrumentalists offer a stylistic take across the late-2019 five-tracker that stands somewhere between heavy post-rock and post-metal, but in that incorporates no shortage of thoughtful psychedelic meditations and even some kraut and space rock vibes. The primary impact is atmospheric, but there’s diversity in their approach such that the centerpiece “Tramonto Nucleare” begins cosmic, or maybe cataclysmic, and ends with an almost serene roll into the floating guitar at the outset of the subsequent “Rebus (6,5),” which is the longest inclusion at 13:40 and an encompassing, hypnotic srpawl that, whether you take drugs or not, seems destined to commune with expanded or expanding minds. The front-to-back journey ends with “The Fattening,” a cinematic run of synth after which a slaughter feels almost inevitable, even if it arrives as silence.

Liquido di Morte on Thee Facebooks

Liquido di Morte on Bandcamp

 

Black Burned Blimp, Crash Overdrive

Black Burned Blimp Crash Overdrive

Bonus points to Netherlands four-piece Black Burned Blimp for including song titles like “What Doesn’t Kill You, Makes You Weirder” and “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” and, at the start of “Desert Wizard,” the sample from Trailer Park Boys wherein Mr. Lahey declares, “I am the liquor” on their debut LP, Crash Overdrive. Native to a heavy rock legacy that includes acts like 13eaver, 35007, Astrosoniq and Celestial Season, among many others, the band hint toward melodic complexity while remaining focused on raw energy in their songwriting, such that even the drumless, harmonized and minute-long “Flock” seems to seethe with unstated tension for “Robo Erectus,” which follows, to pay off. It does, though perhaps with less of a tempo kick than one might expect — certainly less than the careening “The Good, the Bad and the Fucking Horrific” a few tracks later — but somehow, no matter what speed they’re actually playing, Black Burned Blimp seem to make it sound fast. Vitality will do that.

Black Burned Blimp on Thee Facebooks

Black Burned Blimp on Bandcamp

 

Crimson Oak, Crimson Oak

crimson oak crimson oak

Though their arrival comes amid a German heavy rock underground that’s nothing if not well populated, Fulda-based five-piece Crimson Oak present with their self-titled debut long-player a stylistic take that’s both modern and genuine sounding, finding solid ground in well-crafted songs drawing more from ’90s-era heavy and punk in “Danger Time,” which follows the contemplative “Of My Youth,” the bulk of what surrounds expressing a similar level of self-awareness, up to and including the nine-minute side B opener “Brother of Sleep,” which sets psychedelic guitar against some of the album’s biggest riffs (and melodies). There’s middle ground to be had in cuts like “Displace” and “Sunset Embrace” still to come and “Fulda Gap” earlier, but Crimson Oak seem to touch that middle ground mostly en route to whichever end of the spectrum next piques their interest. At seven songs and 42 minutes, it’s not an insubstantial LP, but they hold their own with confidence and a poise that speaks to the fact that some of this material showed up on prior EPs. That experience with it shows but does not hold the band or songs back.

Crimson Oak on Thee Facebooks

Crimson Oak on Bandcamp

 

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Lee Van Cleef to Reissue Holy Smoke Nov. 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

300 copies is not a lot of copies, especially for a record that got the kind of response of Lee Van Cleef‘s Holy Smoke (review here), and with the band having a couple festival dates and other shows lined up following the Nov. 1 release through Vincebus Eruptum Recordings, I’d be surprised if there are many left by the end of the year. Originally issued in late-2016 through White Dwarf Records, the offering was rife with tonal warmth and drift, consciousness underlying an exploratory vibe that proved hypnotic over the span in only the most welcome of ways. It was a record to melt your brain to, in other words, and it thrived in that. Along with its standout cover art, it set up Lee Van Cleef as a band to watch in Europe’s psych underground, and though they haven’t had a proper follow-up as yet, giving the first offering another look hardly seems unreasonable. Especially as it gives me an excuse to put the record on again.

Which is really what it’s all about, when it comes right to it.

Info from the PR wire:

lee van cleef holy smoke reissue

LEE VAN CLEEF “Holy Smoke”

After the first edition on White Dwarf Records (soon SOLD-OUT!), the first album by Italian heavy-psych band LEE VAN CLEEF is now again available on a new ultra-limited edition of 300 copies on red vinyl.

Issue date: 1st of November 2019

Limited edition vinyl (VELP027): 300 copies on red vinyl

Track-list:
A1 – Heckle Yuppies
A2 – Banshee
B1 – Hell Malo
B2 – Mah?na
B3 – Towelie

The project LEE VAN CLEEF was born as a joke at the end of 2015 and is the result of long jam sessions between Marco Adamo, guitarist (La polvere di Bodélé), Guido Minervini, drum (Efesto, Lamarck) and Pietro La Tegola, bass (Whiskeycold Winter). Influenced by bands like Earthless, Black Bombaim, Harsh Toke (to name a few) The first work “Holy Smoke” was recorded mixed and mastered in the Godfather studio of Naples.

Lee Van Cleef live:
NOV 8 HEADZ UP FEST 2019 Zukunft am Ostkreuz Berlin, Germany
NOV 13 The Black Sheep Montpellier, France
NOV 14 La Cave à Rock Toulouse, France
NOV 16 Which Mountain? Samhain Trial Festival JH SOJO Kessel, Belgium

Lee Van Cleef is:
Marco Adamo (Guitar)
Pietro Trinità La Tegola (Bass)
Guido Minervini (Drums)

https://www.facebook.com/leevancleefjams
https://leevancleefjams.bandcamp.com/
https://vincebuseruptum.bigcartel.com/
http://www.vincebuseruptum.it/

Lee Van Cleef, Holy Smoke (2016)

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Lee Van Cleef Announce Tour Dates; Split with Acid Mothers Temple out Oct. 31

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

A few good shows coming up for Napoli heavy psychedelic jammers Lee Van Cleef. In their hometown on Oct. 9, they’ll be a part of an all-killer bill with NagaMessa and Dopethrone, and after that, they’ll hit the road to Germany to meet up with Child en route to Paris with Stone from the Sky and Fatima before they end out in Belgium with Naxatras. Given the busy festival season, there are no shortage of tours happening in Europe next month, and that seems to work only to Lee Van Cleef‘s benefit as they make ready to release their Psychedelic Battles Vol. 5 split with Acid Mothers Temple and the Melting Paraiso UFO on Oct. 31. That’ll be out through Vincebus Eruptum, which seems to have put its titular ‘zine to rest and started a new mag called Acid Beans, which is a righteous name for really anything.

That split is streaming in full at the bottom of this post, and you’ll find the dates here, courtesy of the PR wire:

lee van cleef

LEE VAN CLEEF LIVE IN EUROPE 2018

Supporting the “Psychedelic Battles” album with Acid Mothers Temple.

Napoli, ITA October the 9th // First Floor with Dopethrone, Messa, Naga.
Napoli, ITA October the 14th // Kestè
Fribourg, GE October the 16th // White Rabbit club with CHILD
Paris, FR October the 19th // Olympic Cafe with Fatima and Stone from the sky
Ninove, BE October the 20th // Gonzo
Leuven, BE October the 21th // Sojo with Naxatras

The project LEE VAN CLEEF was born as a joke at the end of 2015 and is the result of long jam sessions between Marco Adamo, guitarist (La polvere di Bodélé), Guido Minervini, drum (Efesto, Lamarck) and Pietro La Tegola, bass (Whiskeycold Winter). Influenced by bands like Earthless, Black Bombaim, Harsh Toke (to name a few) The first work “Holy Smoke” was recorded mixed and mastered in the Godfather studio of Naples.

Lee Van Cleef is:
Marco Adamo (Guitar)
Pietro Trinità La Tegola (Bass)
Guido Minervini (Drums)

https://www.facebook.com/leevancleefjams
https://leevancleefjams.bandcamp.com/
https://vincebuseruptum.bigcartel.com/
http://www.vincebuseruptum.it/

Acid Mothers Temple & Lee Van Cleef, Psychedelic Battles Vol. 5 (2018)

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Lee Van Cleef Announce Spring Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

It’s been suspiciously long since we heard from Naples-based heavy jam trio Lee Van Cleef, and by that I still only mean a matter of months. The three-piece issued their latest single, Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy (discussed here), in April 2017, played the Red Smoke Festival in Poland in July, and haven’t really been heard from since.

Why’s that uncommon?

Well, a lot of the time with improv-based or jam-style bands, it seems like every time they have a practice session they put out a new album from it. I wonder if Lee Van Cleef’s process isn’t a little different somehow, if there isn’t more writing involved at the foundations of their parts. Certainly their 2016 debut full-length, Holy Smoke (review here), which came out on White Dwarf Records vinyl, could be said to have an undercurrent of direction, rather than just being a work of 100 percent meandering jams. Maybe it’s a more involved process of carving pieces out as they go.

Last summer when I had the Q&A with the band linked above — also here — they said they’d begun work on their next record. Now, that could mean anything from finished songs to half-shaped riffs, but work had begun. One assumes by the time they hit the road in April to head through Austria, Germany and Poland, they’ll be testing out new material on the stage, because from what I hear, the plan is to hit the studio upon their return from the tour to track the awaited next album. Just going by what I’m told on that one.

Not sure on a release plan or anything like that, but one assumes we’ll get there. Till then, here’s the latest from the band:

lee van cleef

All right folks, just announce few gigs for this spring! Spring Bufu Tour is coming:

\\ 17.04 Salzburg
\\ 19.04 Munich
\\ 20.04 Jena
\\ 21.04 Berlin
\\ 22.04 Wroclaw
\\ 12.05 Cadeo

Lee Van Cleef is:
Marco Adamo (Guitar)
Pietro Trinità La Tegola (Bass)
Guido Minervini (Drums)

https://www.facebook.com/leevancleefjams
https://leevancleefjams.bandcamp.com/
www.whitedwarfrock.com/
https://whitedwarf3.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/White-Dwarf-200914153278149/

Lee Van Cleef, “Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy”

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The Bad Light & Tuna de Tierra Release The Bad Tuna Split

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

There are few things I love more unabashedly, unashamedly and unironically in the realm of music than a cleverly named split release. Really. I’m not being sarcastic or trying to make a joke. You got two bands sharing a release and you’ve come up with a wordplay name for it? Chances are I’m at very least going to be on board on a linguistic level. What makes The Bad Tuna — the new and cleverly-titled Phonosphera Records split from Santa Cruz, California’s The Bad Light and Naples, Italy’s Tuna de Tierra — even better in my book is the groove quotient. Between the rolling blues fuzz of the former and the desert-worshiping vibes of the latter, that quotient is mighty indeed, and perhaps best summed up by The Bad Light themselves with the name of their second track. Appropriate nomenclature all the way around.

I’ll admit this is my first exposure to The Bad Light, who apparently have a new full-length — their second — currently in the works, but if the Tuna de Tierra cuts seem familiar, they were previously issued as 2015’s self-released EPisode I: Pilot (review here) debut EP. Time has not dulled their luster.

Release info and audio follows. Even if all you do is stream the thing, it’s well worth your time to do so:

the bad light tuna de tierra the bad tuna split

THE BAD LIGHT / TUNA DE TIERRA – THE BAD TUNA

This is the first edition of the SPLIT SERIES by Phonosphera Records, soon more to come!

Boiled down to the basic ingredients of drums, guitar and vocals The Bad Light plays their own brand of blues driven stoner sludge, the songs feel equally at home played through a resonator guitar as they do through a thick wall of fuzz.

Sounds from the desert, wide landscape full of sand at the sunset, intolerable warm atmospheres, lysergic imagination nurturing air. The Tuna de Tierra leaves for a trip with neither destination nor end, but just the purpose to move endlessly.

Tracklisting:
1. The Bad Light – Palo Santo 01:21
2. The Bad Light – Goodshit 04:49
3. The Bad Light – The Feels 05:11
4. The Bad Light – Love Letter 05:31
5. Tuna de Tierra – Red Sun 08:28
6. Tuna de Tierra – Ash 07:24
7. Tuna de Tierra – El Paso de la Tortuga 04:07

The Bad Light is:
Dana Shepard-Drums
Celeste Deruisa-Vocals
Edu Cerro-Guitar/Vocals

Recorded at The Compound in Felton CA, November 2017
Engineer-Joe Clement

Tuna de Tierra is:
Alessio De Cicco: guitar, vocals
Luciano Mirra: bass guitar
Jonathan Maurano: drums

Produced by Tuna de Tierra
Recorded and mixed at Trail Music Lab, Napoli (by Fabrizio Piccolo)
Vinyl master by Roy Bortoluzzi at xxx Studio (Rome, IT)

https://www.facebook.com/The-Bad-Light-164874116909229/
https://thebadlight.bandcamp.com/
http://thebadlight.com/

https://www.facebook.com/tunadetierra/
https://tunadetierra.bandcamp.com/
http://www.tunadetierra.com/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/117631158247162/
https://phonosphera.bandcamp.com/album/the-bad-light-tuna-de-tierra-the-bad-tuna-vinyl-split
http://www.phonosphera.com/?product=the-bad-light-tuna-de-tierra-the-bad-tuna

The Bad Light & Tuna de Tierra, The Bad Tuna (2018)

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Review & Track Premiere: Tuna de Tierra, Tuna de Tierra

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

TUNA DE TIERRA SELF TITLED

[Click play above to stream ‘Morning Demon’ from Tuna de Tierra’s self-titled album, out Sept. 22 on Argonauta Records and available now to preorder.]

A booming Italian heavy rock underground marks yet another win in the self-titled debut from Napoli rockers Tuna de Tierra. Signed to Argonauta Records following a formative but engaging first short offering in 2015’s self-released EPisode I: Pilot (review here), the heavy psych-infused trio of guitarist/vocalist Alessio de Cicco, bassist Luciano Mirra and Marco Mancaniello (who came aboard in place of Jonathan Maurano warm their skin in sun-baked desert influences across the offering’s seven-track/47-minute run, finding a natural-sounding position between jamming and structuring and shifting fluidly between one or the other. Songs like “Morning Demon” seem to speak directly to the heavy rock tonal traditionalism born in the wake of Sweden’s Lowrider, but the later drift of “Raise of the Lights” brings to mind a dreamier take on the psych-blues proffered by All Them Witches, particularly with Mirra‘s bouncing bassline and the handclap-laden semi-interlude “Long Sabbath’s Day” preceding.

Broken into two sides with an intro for each, Tuna de Tierra‘s Tuna de Tierra gracefully builds on what the EP accomplished in setting forth on an aesthetic path, but perhaps most satisfies in the level of growth and expansion throughout its tracks. That is, they sound like a band who really learned from the experience of making their first release and set about writing an even richer and more complex set of songs from which to craft a full-length album. The progression doesn’t sound forced, either, and through extended jams like the jangly 10-minute “Out of Time” and nine-minute “Laguna” — which close side A and B, respectively — Tuna de Tierra immerse the listener in a pretense-free depth of vibe that continues to expand as the album plays out.

That linear flow — and I use “linear” pretty loosely for something that seems to delight so much in the occasional bit of jazzy, post-Causa Sui meandering — is the key element of Tuna de Tierra‘s presentation. Effective dips and swells of volume, particularly when they kick into fuller fuzz, as in the Kyuss-referential burst at the beginning of the second half of “Laguna” or the slower-grunge march that emerges in “Raise of the Lights” or even in the manner in which “Morning Demon” seems to cast out its sunrise — or perhaps welcome its demon — circa the 3:30 mark, give the listener a sense of dynamic and of the chemistry taking shape within their sound, and the drums do well to hold together these free-flowing changes, allowing exploratory moments their breadth but keeping the listener grounded in the experience even by something so simple as a tap on the ping ride amid a running bassline and airy guitar after that thrust in “Morning Demon.”

An undertone of progressive sensibility is foreshadowed in the 2:46 intro “Slow Burn,” but subtly, and the primary, first impression the long-player makes is in the guitar fuzz and the ease with which Tuna de Tierra seem to unfurl their first rollout and lead directly into the rest of what follows. Nonetheless, that progressive flourish is essential and comes through again and again in the low end and in some of de Cicco‘s more post-rocking stretches of guitar, or vocally in the penultimate “Mountain,” which finds him matching notes with the noodling bassline over tense tom work, speaking on some level perhaps to Lateralus-era Tool. Of critical importance is the way in which Tuna de Tierra meld these aspects together so that, while “Long Sabbath’s Day” marks a turning point in its position as the centerpiece track leading to the bluesier, proggier, jammier second half of the record, it’s not like it’s coming out of nowhere in doing so. There’s no interruption to the overarching smoothness occurring song-to-song.

tuna de tierra

And if there were, frankly, the album would fall flat in its mission. That it doesn’t signals an underlying consciousness on the part of the band, and one can’t help but wonder how Tuna de Tierra was composed, as a concept/thematic record or simply as a collection of songs that happened to fit together in this way, but in any case, as the “Long Sabbath’s Day” sets up the bluesy liquefaction of “Raise of the Lights,” the hardest turn Tuna de Tierra will make is pulled off with seeming ease. And once they’re there, de CiccoMirra and Mancaniello likewise have no apparent trouble in establishing themselves within the patient and spacious context that defines side B. Vocals don’t delay in arriving in “Raise of the Lights,” which owes some of its beginning tone to “Out of Time” before it — less directly fuzzed until the swaggering lead hits, but still laid back to the extreme — but the mood is casual all the same thanks to the light swing of the rhythm. Once again, a thrust of more driving riffery hits in the midsection, but though its arrival is willfully sudden, the transition back out to the track’s more serene ending portion, while nothing more then a clicking-off of a pedal, benefits from the hypnosis cast prior.

Same could be said as “Mountain” picks up from the solo-topped march-out in that final section, and though its atmosphere is slightly more brooding, the build that seems to be underway after the first minute actually restrains itself and Tuna de Tierra successfully avoid redundancy, instead allowing for a more organic exploration of the meditative feel “Mountain” elicits. One might be tempted to call it minimal, especially as the guitar gently fades to bring in the soundscaping launch of “Laguna,” but there’s actually a good deal of movement taking place. All the better, since “Laguna” follows suit, finding itself working in three stages as it gradually heads toward the payoff for the full-length as a whole. Following an initial uptick in pace and volume after 4:20 in that leads to a righteously winding solo and some particularly fuzzed bass, a stop just before the six-minute mark and a quick roll from the toms announces the push that will cap Tuna de Tierra, already noted for its Kyuss-ism.

As with the rest of its surroundings however, it’s worth emphasizing about that last segment that Tuna de Tierra do remarkably well in recontextualizing their influences, making the style their own, and that as they may be playing off the past, they’re doing so in the direction of their own future. Like the EP before it, this self-titled demonstrates marked potential in setting the band apart from the increasingly crowded sphere of the Italian underground, but more importantly, it does this by virtue of the organic presentation of the band itself, rather than some hey-look-at-us attention grab playing toward a flawed notion of uniqueness. In further casting Tuna de Tierra‘s stylistic vision and giving hints at where their ongoing development might take them, Tuna de Tierra proves to be one of 2017’s strongest debut full-lengths, and its effectiveness as such only seems to grow on repeat listens.

Tuna de Tierra on Thee Facebooks

Tuna de Tierra on Bandcamp

Tuna de Tierra on Argonauta Records

Argonauta Records on Thee Facebooks

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Six Dumb Questions with Lee Van Cleef

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on June 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

lee van cleef

There’s not much mystery behind what makes a group like Lee Van Cleef work. The Italian instrumentalists debuted in 2016 with Holy Smoke (review here), releasing the album digitally at first and then on vinyl through Berlin’s White Dwarf Records, and the appeal came through loud and clear in the distorted fuzz of Marco Adamo‘s guitar, the warmth in Pietro Trinità La Tegola‘s bass and the rolling grooves propelled by Guido Minervini‘s drums. Without any of these, songs like the 13-minute “Banshee” or opener “Heckle Yuppies” wouldn’t have worked. Simple answer? Chemistry. It’s what makes the whole thing go.

Seems obvious, right?

Well, obvious it might be, but it’s also much easier said than done. At a time when Europe is awash in instrumental (or mostly instrumental) jam-based heavy psychedelic rock, for a three-piece like Lee Van Cleef to come along and manage to distinguish themselves from the pack on their first full-length is not insignificant. From the patient rollout in the aforementioned leadoff through the airy lead work that tops closer “Towelie” and the nod-ready Spring 2017 follow-up digital single Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy (discussed here), on which watery wah borders on delivering a vocal line here and there, Lee Van Cleef emerge with a sense of spaciousness and a tonality of their own. They’ve only been around since 2015. Some bands barely pick up their instruments in their first two years of existence. Lee Van Cleef would seem to have clearly defined their aesthetic approach and already set about pushing it forward.

In light of that progression underway, it’s a great time to check in with Adamo and get a sense of the band’s origins, where they’re coming from, what was “the joke” that reportedly got them together, and what they have in store for the rest of 2017 and beyond. Before we get to the Q&A, let me just say I extra appreciate the guitarist taking the time for the interview considering the language barrier to do it in English. I know there’s no way my ignorant ass would fare nearly so well in Italian, so I am grateful for the effort.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with Lee Van Cleef

You’ve said that Lee Van Cleef formed as a joke. Can you let us in on what initially got you together in 2015? What was the joke, and at what point did you realize you had something in the jams that was really worth pursuing on a more serious level?

Maybe more than a joke it’s been something unpretentious and unplanned. We all had other projects at the time and Lee Van Cleef was born to experiment and basically have fun doing what we liked the most. I called Guido and Pietro and even if I knew they both were guitarists, I also knew they could play drum and bass. In a city like ours it’s hard to think about a project like this and hope to receive any kind of feedback. I’m not saying there’s no people who listen to this kind of music, but clubs they don’t really give much space to this music. It’s not that cool to play 10-minute jams with neverending guitar solos and just a few major chords!

But we didn’t really care and we did it. For us, mainly. We underestimated the web power, but when we realized we had something that was working we recorded it at the best we could and we put it on Bandcamp. After a while, Olaf [Angermund] from White Dwarf got in touch with us after having listened to us at the radio. The rest is history (laughs). The most important thing is that we’re still doing all of this for us and even if we had a lot of positive feedbacks, and we are really grateful to those who spent some of their time to listen to us.

Tell me about putting together the Holy Smoke album. What was the recording like? How long were you in the studio for it and how many of the songs were born from those early jams from when the band was starting out?

We recorded the tracks in a studio here in Naples called Godfather. We locked ourselves up for two days and we recorded everything live… as if it was a live session. When Olaf got in touch with us, proposed us to release vinyls as soon as possible, but at the time we only had three tracks, but after a few months we composed “Hell Malo,” “Heckle Yuppies” and “Towelie.” So than we went to the studio to record Holy Smoke. Everything was fast cause as I said everything was live. Two days to record and three/four days for mixing.

How did you get hooked up with White Dwarf Records for the vinyl release of Holy Smoke? What did it mean to you to get your first record put out as an LP?

For us it was totally unexpected as I said. We will always be grateful to White Dwarf to bet on us because it would have never happened here in Italy. For Italian labels it would have been too risky. Olaf just texted us on Facebook. Thank you dude.

You released the “Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy” single earlier this Spring. What’s wrong with old hippies? And more importantly, will this track feature on the next Lee Van Cleef album?

Ahahahahahah I was expecting it. Actually we have nothing against old hippies. My dad was an old hippie. It’s more a joke. A provocation. A way to detach from a deeply-rooted tradition, from some attitudes. Here in Naples, at least, old hippies are that radical chic dudes who live in million euros houses. They send their children to private schools and lock them up at home because in the street there are evil people. Are those who ask you to turn down the volume if you are listening Jimi Hendrix. It’s just a provocation. I don’t think we’re going to kill anybody. Anyway, probably we could record another version in the next album, as we did with “Banshee” and “Mahana”…we don’t know yet…

Have you started work on a second record? Any idea how the material might develop going forward from the debut, and is there anything specific you want to build on or change coming off of Holy Smoke? Where is Lee Van Cleef headed sound-wise?

We’re working on new tracks, we are also preparing a Creedence cover (spoiler) and thinking about doing some experiments, like using more voice, or some synth… We will see

Will you do any touring this year? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

We’ll be at Red Smoke Festival in July; we’re working also for other dates. Certainly we’ll be touring in Germany, France and maybe Spain on next Autumn. We’d like to play more here in Italy and we hope to do that. I don’t deny that is pretty hard because this kind of music is not too much listened, at least in some part of the country. By the way we have no booking right now. We try to do all this shit alone and this make the work more difficult… If you add to this that we are incredibly lazy, it is a mortal mix! Probably we’ll release some other track suddenly, as we love to do.

Lee Van Cleef, “Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy”

Lee Van Cleef on Thee Facebooks

Lee Van Cleef on Bandcamp

White Dwarf Records on Thee Facebooks

White Dwarf Records on Bandcamp

White Dwarf Records website

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Big Kizz, Mt. Mountain, Mage, Hypertonus, Lee Van Cleef

Posted in Radio on May 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio cavum

We’re only slightly overdue for a batch of adds to The Obelisk Radio. I need to start setting a reminder or something. By the time this post goes up, my hope is that we’ll actually be off the backup server and back on the full or at least mostly-full playlist. It’s been a long road, as the terrible opening theme to Star Trek: Enterprise once said, but I think Slevin has it ready to roll, and there’s still some rebuilding to do, but I think it can be an ongoing thing working on the new hard drive. We’ve worn the crap out of that backup playlist. It would be nice to not have to use it for a while. Fingers crossed, anyhow.

Whichever server these files wind up on, they’ll be joining some playlist as soon as humanly possible. Let’s do the rundown in the meantime.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for May 22, 2017:

Big Kizz, Eye on You

big kizz eye on you

Some who take on the debut single from Swedish trio Big Kizz will find the band reminiscent of some of the rawer moments of long-running Danish garage-psych rockers Baby Woodrose, but for many, an additional draw to the three-track/eight-minute offering (delivered via Tee Pee Records) will be the lineup, which features bassist John Hoyles (Spiders, ex-Witchcraft), guitarist/vocalist Pontus Westerman (also of Lady Banana), and perhaps most notably, drummer Axel Sjöberg in his first recorded appearance after splitting with Graveyard. Turns out he’s still a fantastic drummer. His play in leadoff cut “Eye on You” and the push he brings to “Baby Boy” and the closing Roky Erickson cover “White Faces” will surely lead some to relate Big Kizz to Sjöberg‘s former outfit, if only in their earliest going (which was also on Tee Pee, remember), but the truth is the trio show themselves to be on a different trip throughout Eye on You, as they bring the aforementioned garage stylization forward amid classic boogie and, particularly in “Baby Boy,” nod toward mid-’60s psychedelia in a quick but fluid bridge. The Roky Erickson cover could hardly be more fitting, handclaps and all, but it’s the sense of movement in the two originals that shows the most potential here as Big Kizz seem to set their eyes on establishing their dynamic and building from there. Will be interested to hear what they do with the context of a full-length and if some of the psych in “Eye on You” and “Baby Boy” is relegated to flourish or if it comes to the fore as they develop, but they’re off to a rousing start.

Big Kizz on Thee Facebooks

Big Kizz at Tee Pee Records

 

Mt. Mountain Dust

mt. mountain dust

Devotees and pilgrims of longform psychedelia will no doubt and should rejoice at Dust (on Cardinal Fuzz), the maybe-second long-player from Perth, Australia, five-piece Mt. Mountain, which from its 17-minute titular opener and longest track (immediate points) unfolds a ritual of superior immersion and conscious trance inducement. Over the course of four songs/37 minutes total, Mt. Mountain unfold a sprawl reportedly intended to capture the atmosphere of the Australian Outback — and maybe they get there, I don’t know; I’ve never been — but either way, the balance of repetition and depth in “Floating Eyes” and the shimmer of the nine-minute “Kokoti” speak to a varied ecosystem that, indeed, one might get lost in, never to return. Mellotron, organ, djembe and percussion play a central role in the overarching sense of mind-expansion along with the guitar, bass, vocals, drums, etc., but it’s the combination of elements, the variety between tracks — they’re jam-based, but distinct songs, to be sure — that really stands Dust apart from much of drift-minded modern heavy psych. One advises patience with the drones of the opener and the cautious first steps that the fading in percussion seems to be taking, as the rewards are considerable when it comes to the front-to-back experience Mt. Mountain offer, which is stark, striking, marked by underlying threat and casts a feeling of the infinite that no doubt was the very intent behind its making.

Mt. Mountain on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

 

Mage, Green

mage green

Self-released in a six-panel digipak with decidedly grim artwork courtesy of Dominic SohorGreen is the third full-length from Leicestershire, UK, heavy rockers Mage. Last heard from with 2014’s Last Orders (review here), they retain the blend of heavy rock groove and metallic aggression that’s become their signature sound, and continue the march forward in finding a space between post-Down/Orange Goblin dude-rockery and doomlier fare. Vocalist Tom blends harsh growls and a cleaner approach on opener “Nowhere to Nothing” and the later “Primitive Drive” while mostly avoiding sounding like Phil Anselmo, and as guitarist Woody, bassist Mark and drummer Andy dig into the slower roll of “Eclipse King,” Mage seem to hit the mark they’re shooting for in terms of style and songcraft. The centerpiece title-track has a little more head-bob to its central progression — and then there’s that wah; always fun — but they’re right to mess around with the proportion of stylistic elements throughout to add variety, and the 10-minute closer “Vultures Mass” does well in taking the punch of “Nowhere to Nothing” and “Heroic Elegy” at the album’s start and pushing it outward into a satisfying apex. Straightforward in its intent, given a sense of mass via a recording job at Skyhammer Studios and executed with a clean conscience, Green is the work of a band who know what they want from their sound and know how to make it happen, which, thankfully, they do in these tracks.

Mage on Thee Facebooks

Mage on Bandcamp

 

Hypertonus, Tidal Wave

hypertonus tidal wave

Tidal Wave is the self-issued debut full-length from German instrumentalist three-piece Hypertonus, and it lands some six years after the band first got together, preceded by a semi-eponymous 2013 EP, HPRTNS. If the more-than-half-a-decade stretch seems like a while for a group to get to their first long-player, it might be, but one suspects the Bremen-based troupe comprised of guitarist Patrick Büch, bassist Arne Staats and drummer Hannes Christen spent a significant amount of that time in the jam room developing their sound, because what they cast over this nine-track/45-minute outing is a keen progressivism and chemistry that feels not at all happenstance. With shifts into and out of technically-minded parts that seem to be driven by Staats‘ bass, Hypertonus reportedly tracked Tidal Wave live, and I have no reason not to believe it, particularly given the eight-minute closer “Phantasmagoria (Improvisation Jam),” which departs from the quick psych-meditation of “Aeropause” and the almost jazzy rhythms and post-rock guitar of “Expect the Sky Below” to bring the band’s style even more to life for the listener to take on. It’s a heady release, and some of the changes come across as willfully choppy — playing with expectation in a “now we’re over here!” kind of way — but there’s a marked sense of accomplishment throughout that’s nothing if not well earned.

Hypertonus on Thee Facebooks

Hypertonus on Bandcamp

 

Lee Van Cleef, Holy Smoke

lee van cleef holy smoke

Pressed to gorgeous-sounding vinyl by White Dwarf Records last November, the five-track instrumental Holy Smoke is the debut LP from Naples, Italy, jammers Lee Van Cleef, and aside from its righteously striking cover art, one finds primary impressions in the gotta-hear-it bass tone of Pietro Trinità La Tegola, the molten lysergism in Marco Adamo‘s guitar and the grounding-but-not-too-grounding effectiveness of drummer Guido Minervini in anchoring a jam like the 13-minute “Banshee,” which takes the best lessons of groups like Germany’s Electric Moon and Portugal’s Black Bombaim and brings them to methodical, engagingly rumbling fruition. Nod persists through the more uptempo, Tee Pee Records-style centerpiece “Hell Malo,” but the three-piece seem even more comfortable dug into the post-Sleep riffing of the subsequent “Mah?na,” finishing that track with a standout wash of a guitar lead ahead of the brighter-feeling closer “Towelie,” which underscores an otherworldly vibe that turns out to have been in Holy Smoke all along. Lee Van Cleef have already followed Holy Smoke up with a single titled “Everyone Should Kill an Old Hippy” (discussed here) — it’s worth noting that this album starts with “Heckle Yuppies,” so they’re not fans of them either — and one can’t imagine it will be long before they answer back with another full-length offering. The question is how they’ll ultimately distinguish themselves from the crowded European jam-based heavy psych underground, but there’s nothing in these tracks to give the impression they can’t or won’t do so as they continue to grow.

Lee Van Cleef on Thee Facebooks

White Dwarf Records on Thee Facebooks

 

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