Posted in Whathaveyou on March 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Netherlands-based heavy psych rockers No Man’s Valley have signed on with Nasoni Records for the Summer 2016 release of their debut album, Time Travel. A first glimpse of what’s on offer with the record is available now in a new teaser clip posted below, and in its quick 40 seconds you’ll find modern heavy blues à la The Flying Eyes and poised space prog in the Floydian tradition, all of which dogwhistles a psychedelic breadth to follow-up on the Horst-based five-piece’s prior EPs, 2012’s Mirror Image and 2014’s And Four Other Songs EPs and that same year’s The Wolves are Coming two-songer.
I know I’ve said this before, but there are few labels who carry the same kind of weight for me in terms of taste as does Nasoni. Generally speaking, a Nasoni Records logo is about all the endorsement I need to make me want to hear a given album, so when it comes to No Man’s Valley getting that endorsement, it’s even more impressive considering it’s their first album. Looking forward to it.
The official announcement, live dates and the aforementioned teaser follow here:
Dutch Psychedelic organ-infused waveblues band No Man’s Valley signs with Nasoni Records!
We are proud to announce that we will release our debut album Time Travel through Berlin-based cult label Nasoni Records. We will do a limited edition (300x) vinyl album on clear vinyl. The record will be released in summer, an exact date is yet to be determined. So say tuned! In the meanwhile, consider yourself teased and if you feel like seeing us live, here are our upcoming dates:
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Danish heavy psych trio The Sonic Dawn are the latest addition to the formidable lineup of Freak Valley 2016. The German fest is set for May 26-28 and features Graveyard, Dead Meadow and Spidergawd, among many others, and The Sonic Dawn join the bill supporting last year’s engaging debut album, Perception (review here), which was released by Nasoni. That in itself should be enough of an endorsement for you to check it out if you haven’t, the long-running imprint’s taste is second to none the world over and they’ve been doing it long enough at this point to have seen the trend come, go and come again, but for whatever it’s worth I’ll add too that the record was dead on in its vibe and held much promise for where The Sonic Dawn might head long-term.
In the shorter-term, they’re heading to Germany. As announced by the fest:
We are thrilled to announce that danish psychedelic rockers THE SONIC DAWN will play Freak Valley Festival 2016!!
The Sonic Dawn (formerly known as “The Mind Flowers”) has recently established a name for themselves in the psychedelic underground. Known for their energetic live performances and distinctive sound, The Sonic Dawn incorporates elements from the psychedelic music of the late 60s with their own atmospheric vibes.
A mix between a ’68 biker movie soundtrack and that summer of love vibe in a dreamy psychedelic soundscape. That’s just about how The Sonic Dawn’s music feels. October 2015 saw the world-wide release of the debut album ‘Perception’ on Nasoni Records, an audiophile psych/stoner label based in Berlin.
As an album Perception is a call for running wild and living free. It seeks to make you stop and appreciate the beautiful things in life, and break loose from all chains that prevent you from doing so.
A wise woman once said, “if I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution”. Fortunately there is plenty of dancing, lust and love in The Sonic Dawn’s universe… Take the ride?
FVF 2016 is SOLD OUT!! Freak Valley Festival: No Fillers – Just Killers Line-up 2016: GRAVEYARD [SW] – Vintage Rock DEAD MEADOW [US] – Psychedelic Stonerrock SPIDERGAWD [NO] – Post-Boogie WHITE HILLS [US] – Fuzzed Out Motorik Psychedelic BABY WOODROSE [DK]- Psychedelic Garagerock LONELY KAMEL [NO]- Heavy Blues, Hardrock & Stoner ROTOR [D] – Instrumental StonerRock/Psychedelic MONOLORD [SW] – Doom/Sludge MANTAR [D] – Death Metal Doom Punk TOUNDRA [SP] – Postrock FARFLUNG [US] – Spacerock for 21st Century Heads BLACK RAINBOWS [IT] – Heavy Psych THE GOLDEN GRASS [US]- Heavy/Funk//Psych/Freakbeat SPIDERS [SW] – Hard/Glam Rock SONS OF HUNS [US] – Heavy Riffin Rock LÉ BETRE [SW] – Bluesy Hardrock THE SONIC DAWN [DK] – Psychedelic Rock …more tba very soon
Posted in Reviews on January 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Pushing through the first batch of reviews and into the second. Always seems easier on the downhill somehow, but if the worst thing that ever happens is I have to put on 10 records a day, you aren’t likely to hear me complain. Today we get deeper into the round, and that while I’ll note that the context for today’s first review has changed decidedly for the unfortunate since it was slated for inclusion in this roundup, I’m trying still to take it on its own level, which is what any record deserves, regardless of its circumstances. No sense in delaying. Let’s go.
Quarterly review #11-20:
Motörhead, Bad Magic
The four ‘X’es on the cover of Motörhead’s 23rd album, Bad Magic (on UDR Music) are placed there each to represent a decade of the band’s existence, and while the context of the 13-track/42-minute offering will be forever changed due to the recent passing of iconic frontman/bassist Ian “Lemmy” Kilmister and because the remaining members – guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee – have said it will be their final new studio release, it goes to show that one of metal and punk’s most landmark acts came in raging and went out raging. To wit, barnburners like “Thunder and Lightning” and “Teach Them How to Bleed” are quintessential Motörhead, and the propulsive “Shoot out All of Your Lights” is a blueprint for both their righteousness and relentlessness. A closing Rolling Stones cover of “Sympathy for the Devil” borders on poignant in hindsight, but on cuts like “Evil Eye,” “Electricity” and “Tell Me Who to Kill,” Bad Magic is basically Motörhead being Motörhead, which was of course what they did best.
Topped off with some of the least-pleasant cover art one might (n)ever ask to see, the Aeon Cult EP is the third from German progressive sludge outfit Owl in two years’ time after two initial full-lengths. It comprises three songs that span genres from the slow-motion lurch of “The Abyss” to deathly intricacy – preceded by a groove that doesn’t so much roll as slam – on “Ravage” to an atmospheric extremity of purpose on “Mollusk Prince,” and is over in a whopping eight and a half minutes. Seriously, that’s it. At the center of the tempest are multi-instrumentalis/vocalist Christian Kolf, also of Valborg, and drummer Patrick Schroeder, formerly of Valborg, who elicit inhuman heft and bleakness across a relatively brief but nonetheless challenging span, and who seem to revel in the melted-plastic consistency of the sounds they create. Creative rhythms and ambience-enhancing keyboard work give Aeon Cult a futuristic edge, and if this is the world into which we’re headed, we should all be terrified.
The self-titled debut from Vancouver trio Waingro (review here) was a half-hour affair brimming with intensity and forward motion, and while the band’s second outing, Mt. Hood, follows suit tonally and in its neo-progressive thrust, the 11-track outing also provides a richer all-around experience and shows marked growth on the part of the band. “Desert Son” opens the album with an expansive solo section and intricate vocal layering to go with its metallic crunch, and while Waingro keep a short, efficient songwriting process at their core, that track and the slower, seven-minute “Mt. Hood” show their process has become more malleable as well. Likewise, while the methods don’t ultimately change much, shorter instrumental pieces like “Raleigh” on the first half of the album and the rolling “Frontera” on the second add variety of structure and make Mt. Hood as a whole feel more widespread, which, of course, it is. Waingro still have plenty of intensity on offer throughout, but their sophomore LP proves there’s more to them than unipolar drive.
A self-titled debut full-length that breaks down into two subsections – the first is tracks one through five and is titled Emerald Mass and the second is tracks six through 12 and is titled The Quétu – clearly the intentions behind Frank Sabbath’s opening statement are complex. All well and good, but more importantly, the work of the Parisian trio of guitarist/vocalist Jude Mas, bassist Guillaume Jankowski and bassist Baptiste Reig is cohesive across the record’s 12-track span, and those two parts not only meld the songs that make them up together fluidly, but work set one into the next to bring a full-album flow to the proceedings, spanning classic progressive (the kind that’s not afraid to let the guitars get jazzy) rock and psychedelic mind-meld into a sometimes-strange, sometimes-in-Spanish brew of potent lysergics. The three-piece set a vast range from “Waves in Your Brain” onward and wind up delivering the “Fucking Moral,” which seems to be “Never be afraid of who you are/Never be ashamed of what you are.” Clearly, while their moniker might be playing off acts who came before, Frank Sabbath are not afraid to stand on their own sonically.
Sweet soul and classic psychedelic methods pervade The Sonic Dawn’s Perception (on respected purveyor Nasoni Records) debut album, and the Copenhagen trio of guitarist/vocalist Emil Bureau, bassist Neil Bird and drummer Jonas Waaben find an easy, spacious flow through songs that, despite being relatively straightforward, retain an expansive feel. Shades of Jimi Hendrix and The Doors make themselves felt early on, but Bureau’s voice shifts smoothly into and out of falsetto and the tonally The Sonic Dawn seem immediately in search of their own identity. The effects-soaked finish of “All the Ghosts I Know” and the apex of “Wild at Heart” would seem to indicate success in that process, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they push the psychedelic impulses of “Watching Dust Fall” even further their next time out, and if they can do so while holding onto the accessible foundation of Perception, all the better. An impressive debut from a three-piece who do right in making a show of their potential.
Ancient of Days follows two impressive EPs from Swedish tonal constructionists Spelljammer (on RidingEasy), and is the trio’s full-length debut, a pretense-less 39-minute offering that basks in post-Sleep riff idolatry while leaving room in a cut like the 12-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Meadow” for nodding atmospherics as well. “Meadow” and the 11-minute closer “Borlung” sandwich the rest of Ancient of Days, which moves between the acoustic minimalism of the quick “Laelia” to the already-gone centerpiece “From Slumber,” which rises gradually, swells in its midsection, and recedes again – beautifully – and the eight-minute groove-roller “The Pathfiner,” which would be the apex of the record if not for the crashing finale of “Borlung,” which churns and plods and caps the record – how else? – with a swirl into empty space. Following a cult response to 2012’s Vol. II EP, that Spelljammer would deliver big on their debut album isn’t necessarily a surprise, but it remains striking just how easy it is to get lost in the morass of riffs and outward vibes they present in these five cuts. Should’ve been on my Best Debuts of 2015 list.
This doomy twofer from Hydro-Phonic Records plants a veritable garden of unearthly delights in bringing together Brazilian doom outfits Witching Altar and Necro and highlighting the similarities and the differences between them. Pressed to CD late in 2015 with vinyl impending, it offers four cuts from Witching Altar, whose take on doom is ultra-traditional to the point of working in a Sabbathian “All right now!” for “She Rides the Seventh Beast,” and three from Necro (shortened from Necronomicon), a yet-unheralded trio of ‘70s progressive traditionalists who offer up the new single “Contact” and two tracks revisited from their two to-date full-lengths. Both prove immersive in their own right, Witching Altar setting a course for weird quickly on “The Monolith” which some theremin that reappears later, and Necro vibing out on the warm bassline of “Holy Planet Yamoth,” but each has their own ideas about what makes classic doom so classic, and the arguments on both sides are persuasive.
One never knows quite what to expect from Texas two-piece Stone Machine Electric, and that seems to be precisely how the duo of guitarist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer/thereminist Mark Kitchens like it. The Amazing Terroris something of a stopgap EP, released on CDR by the band as a follow-up to late-2014’s Garage Tape (review here) and a lead-in for their next full-length, reportedly recorded last month with Wo Fat’s Kent Stump at the helm. Taken from the Garage Tape sessions, The Amazing Terror makes a standout of its languid, jammy title-track and surrounds it by three more instances of the band’s exploratory ideology, delving into the quietly cosmic on “Before the Dream” and feeding a cyclical delay expanse on closer “Passage of Fire,” a likely companion-piece to the opening “Becoming Fire,” which may or may not play thematically into where Stone Machine Electric are headed with their next record. As always with these guys, I wouldn’t dare place a bet either way and look like a fool on the other side.
Chicago post-sludgers Pale Horseman featured a remix by Justin K. Broadrick (Godflesh/Jesu), originally on their 2013 self-titled debut, on their second outing, 2014’s Mourn the Black Lotus (review here), and their third full-length, Bless the Destroyer, boasts a mixing job by Noah Landis of Neurosis. All three records were also recorded by Bongripper guitarist Dennis Pleckham, so it seems fair to say that Pale Horseman know who they want to work with and why. The results on Bless the Destroyer speak for themselves. With the 15-minute penultimate cut “Bastard Child” as an obvious focal point, the four-piece give a clear sense of progression in terms of their patience and overall range. The earlier “Caverns of the Templar” still boasts plenty of post-Godflesh chugging intensity – elements of death metal, see also centerpiece “Pineal Awakening” – but closer “Olduvai Gorge” sleeks along with a poise that even in 2013 Pale Horseman would’ve driven into the ground on their way to doing the same to everything else in their path. Their growth has made their approach more individual, and it suits them well.
A self-titled four-track debut EP from Argentina heavy rockers Yo, Moreno finds the band coming out swinging. The San Miguel de Tucumán-based four-piece of vocalist Marcos Martín, guitarist Lucas Bejar, bassist Noel Bejar and drummer Omar Bejar elicit a surprisingly aggro mood on “A Lot of Pot,” the opener, but groove remains paramount, and fuzz abounds. “Noelazarte” is more adventurous all around, an early build setting a tone with prevalent bass before Martín comes in after the halfway mark. Since “Para Noico” returns to the angrier spirit of “A Lot of Pot” and closer “3,000” heads outward on an instrumental exploration that blends grounded, weighted tones with spacier impulses, it seems easy to think that someone, somewhere would pick Yo, Moreno up for a 10” release. Especially as their first offering, it skillfully blends doomier atmospheres with fuzz-heavy nods, and stakes its claim in a niche that’s never completely one side or the other. Even formative as it is, it’s an intriguing blend.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Eerie psychedelic strangeness pervades the work to-date of Lima, Peru, upstarts The Dead-End Alley Band — who released their debut album, Whispers of the Night (review here), and followed it up with Odd Stories last year, both on ultra-mega-respected purveyor Nasoni Records — and one assumes they’ll carry those late-’60s vibes with them when they cross the Atlantic next month to tour Europe for the first time. I don’t know what the baggage rates are for such things — that might get classified under “personal item?” — but The Dead-End Alley Band have worked quickly to create a niche for themselves within heavy psych flow, and even post-Halloween, autumn seems like a perfect time for them to make the trip, which will round out with an appearance at Yellowstock in Belgium on Nov. 28.
Info below, as seen on the interweb:
THE DEAD-END ALLEY BAND : Soaked In The Cold (European Tour 2015)
This fall, you will not escape from the nightmare.
After three years of activity and two albums released on vinyl, CD and tape, finally, we are proud to announce that we’re coming to Europe this November!
BIO: The Dead-End Alley Band is a psychedelic, blues and vintage rock band from Lima, Peru, formed by Javier Kou Mansilla and Sebastian Sanchez-Botta, with the ambition to create (or re-create) music based on the psychedelic scents from the sixties and seventies.
‘Odd Stories’ (2014) is the second studio album of Peruvian psychedelic rock band The Dead-End Alley Band. It was recorded and produced in Lima, Peru, by Javier Kou, Sebastian Sanchez-Botta and Chino Burga. Edited, manufactured and released on vinyl in Europe by Nasoni Records (Germany) and on CD and tape in Peru by Tóxiko Records and Inti Records (Peru).
Posted in Reviews on October 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
We’re in the thick of it now. It’s hard sometimes putting these things together to remember that each band has worked incredibly hard to put out an album. I’ve been through that process (once), and so I know it can be harrowing at times between acts going back and forth about recording, what’s included, how to release, when, and so on. There’s a lot to cover this week — and we’re not out of the woods yet — but I hope that, just because each review is short, you don’t take that as a sign I don’t have the utmost respect for the effort that has gone into making each of these releases. It can be a tremendous pain in the ass, but of course it’s worth it when you get to the end product. We continue.
Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #31-40:
We Lost the Sea, Departure Songs
To be blunt, We Lost the Sea’s Departure Songs is the kind of album that immediately makes me want to own everything the band has done, in hard copy, for posterity. The Sydney outfit’s third full-length finds its crux in its two-part closing duo of “Challenger Part 1 – Flight” and “Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song,” enacting a lush instrumental interpretation of the Space Shuttle Challenger flight and disaster that took place nearly 30 years ago in Jan. 1986. In its progression, patience, flow and discernable narrative thread it is nothing short of brilliant, a lush and sad beauty that serves as a genuinely affecting reminder of the hope for a better future that died with that shuttle’s civilian crew and the era of aspiration that tragedy brought to a close. I think the closing sample is the only time I’ve ever heard Ronald Reagan speak in my adult life and felt something other than anger, and that’s a testament to the ground Departure Songs covers – on the preceding three cuts as well as the final two – and the masterful execution on the part of We Lost the Sea.
There does not yet exist a name for what Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising bring to bear on the two side-consuming tracks of their Neurot Recordings debut and sixth album overall, Inversum. Self-recorded and presented following some shifts in lineup, the album swells to a massive head of bleak, noise-infused psychedelia, fully ritualized and self-aware but still vibrant as it makes its way further and further down into itself. It is bright black, based so much around contrasting ideas of form and tonality that to listen to it, one almost doesn’t believe that the band are accomplishing what they are on an aesthetic level, but the weight, chants, screams, cavernous feel and nod that “Eso” (24:05) and “Exo” (23:52) enact is ultimately real no matter how nightmarish and otherworldly the impression might be. A work that sounds as likely to digest as be digested, it constructs a temple of its own sound and then burns that temple and everything around it in a glorious final push into charred chaos.
Few endorsements carry as much weight for me as that of Germany’s Nasoni Records, so when I see that venerable imprint is on board for the release of Red Mountains’ first album, Down with the Sun, expectations immediately rise. The Norwegian four-piece don’t disappoint, calling forth a heavy psychedelia weighted enough to be immersive without really falling into the trap of sounding too post-Colour Haze or Causa Sui, finding a balance right away on opener “Six Hands” between open-vibe and structured songcraft. They toy with one side or the other, getting crunchy on “Rodents” and tripping out into ambient echoing on the penultimate “Silver Grey Sky,” but that only makes the debut seem all the more promising. Particularly satisfying is the scope between “Sun” and “Sleepy Desert Blues,” which is enough to make the listener think that grunge and desert rock happened in the same place. An engaging and already-on-the-right-track start from a band who sound like they’re only going to continue to grow.
It’s improper to think of Germany’s Black Space Riders as entirely psychedelic if only because that somehow implies a lack of clearheaded consciousness in their work, which as their fourth album, Refugeeum, demonstrates, is the very core tying all the expanses they cover together. As Europe comes to grip with its most dire refugee crisis since World War II, Black Space Riders take their thematic movement from such terrestrial issues (a first for them) and it makes a song like 11-minute centerpiece “Run to the Plains” all the more resonant. Of course, the big-chug groove of “Born a Lion (Homeless)” and the cosmic thrust of the penultimate “Walking Shades” still have a psychedelic resonance, but the balance between the earthly and the otherworldly do well to highlight the progressivism that’s been at work in the band’s sound all along. A considerable undertaking at 61 minutes, Refugeeum is an important step in an ongoing development that has just made another unexpected and welcome turn.
And so, with their third and final outing, III, Portland, Oregon, trio Lamprey reserve their strongest point for their closing argument. The two-bass trio of bassist/vocalist Blaine Burnham (now drumming in Mane of the Cur), bassist Justin Brown (now bass-ing in Witch Mountain) and drummer Spencer Norman recorded the conclusive six-tracker with Adam Pike at Toadhouse (Red Fang, Mammoth Salmon, etc.) and even the slower shifts of “Harpies” and the decidedly Conan-esque “Lament of the Deathworm” breeze right by. Like their two prior releases, 2012’S The Burden of Beasts (review here) and 2011’s Ancient Secrets (review here), III is a showcase of songcraft as much as tone, and it seems to presage its own vinyl reissue, each of the two halves starting with a shorter piece, the opener “Iron Awake” a notably vicious stomp that sets a destructive vibe that the rumble and weirdo keys and leads that finish out “Gaea” seem to be answering, a quick fade bringing an end to an underrated act. They’ll be missed.
If newcomer bruisers Godsleep seem to share some commonality of method with fellow Athenians 1000mods, it’s worth noting that on their debut, Thousand Sons of Sleep, they also share a recording engineer in George Leodis. Fair enough. The big-toned riffing and shouty burl on which Godsleep cast their foundation makes its identity felt in the post-Kyussism of “Thirteen” and stonerly grit of centerpiece “This is Mine,” which follows the extended opening salvo of “The Call,” “Thirteen” and “Wrong Turn,” the latter of which is the longest cut at 9:09 and among its most satisfyingly fuzzed nods. They’re playing to style perhaps, but doing so well, and if you’ve gotta start somewhere, recording live and coming out with a heavy-as-hell groove like what emerges in the second half of “Home” is a good place to start. Godsleep are already a year past from when they recorded Thousand Sons of Sleep in Summer 2014, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a follow-up happened sooner than later.
Slow Joe Crow & the Berserker Blues Band, We are Blues People
Kentucky-based, cumbersomely-named Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band may indeed live up to the We are Blues People title of their debut EP, but they’re definitely riff people as well. As such, the four-track sampling of their wares draws from both sides on a cut like opener “No One Else,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Austin P. Lunn, bassist Patrick Flanary and drummer Thom Hammerheart in the process of figuring out how much they want to lean to one or the other. They round out with a fuzzy take on the traditional “John the Revelator,” but the earlier “Muddy Water Rising” strikes a more effective and more authentic-feeling balance, leading to the slow jam of “Before I Go,” which adds a ‘70s rock vibe to push the bluesy feel even further and expand the palette in a manner one hopes they continue to pursue as they move forward.
Canadian trio Monobrow follow their 2014 LP, Big Sky, Black Horse (review here) with what’s essentially a new single that finds them continuing to step forward in their approach. Dubbed A Handwritten Letter from the Moon and taking its name from the 8:33 title-track, the Ottawa group’s latest offering finds the instrumental outfit smoothing out the tones a bit, still hitting into raucous grooves, but closer to Truckfighters than their prior brashness. I don’t know if it’s a method they’ll stick to going into their fourth LP next year, but the result is dynamic and suits them well. “A Handwritten Letter from the Moon” comes coupled with “Dyatlov Station 3,” a seven-minute rehearsal-space jam from 2011 that fascinatingly (and I’m sure by no coincidence) showcases some similar classic heavy rock influence. The only real shame of the release is that both these tracks are probably too long to fit on a 7”, since a small platter of vinyl would be a perfect way to hold over listeners until the next album arrives. As it stands, the digital version is hardly roughing it.
French heavy rocking four-piece Denizen issued their decidedly Clutchian debut, Whispering Wild Stories (review here), in 2011, and follow it through Argonauta Records with Troubled Waters, a more individualized 10-track outing that alternates between punkish rawness and classic upbeat grooves. Four years after their first album, their progression hasn’t come at the cost of songwriting, and while they still have work to do in distinguishing themselves in a crowded, varied European market, they deliver the material with an energy and vitality that makes even its familiar parts easy enough to get down with, be it the Southern heavy solo of “Jocelyne” or the meaner bite of “Enter Truckman.” I’ll take the pair of “King of Horses” and “Heavy Rider” as highlights, and remain interested to find out where Denizen head from here, as well as how long it might take them to get there. Four years between records gives Troubled Waters the feel of a second debut as much as a sophomore effort.
Releasing through Candlelight in their native UK, doom metal trio Witchsorrow mark a decade with their third album, No Light, Only Fire. Opener “There is No Light There is Only Fire” seems to nod immediately at Cathedral, with a speedier, chuggier take, and the record proceeds to alternate between shorter and longer tracks en route to the 14-minute closer “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas,” cuts like “Negative Utopia” and “Disaster Reality” sailing a black ship past the 10-minute mark on a rumbling sea of riffs and slow motion nod. They break for a minute with the acoustic interlude “Four Candles” before embarking on the finale, and the respite is appreciated once the agonizing undulations of “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas” are underway, using nearly every second of their 14:25 to affirm Witchsorrow’s trad doom mastery and bleak, darkened heft. No light? Maybe a little light, but it’s still pretty damn dark, and indeed, it smells like smoke.
Posted in Reviews on June 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Though on the surface its core of warm-toned heavy psychedelia seems straightforward enough, I’ve yet to listen to Given to Emptiness, the second full-length through Nasoni Records from Basque five-piece Arenna, and not hear something new within its span. And it usually doesn’t take all that long, either. The album, which follows their 2011 debut, Beats of Olarizu (review here), is constructed around rich tones and varied arrangements, still jamming and exploratory in the post-Colour Haze tradition, but prone to heavier excursions like that which emerges on “Move through Figurehead Lights,” its impact made all the more forceful by a stretch of acoustic guitar proceeding. As with the first record, the fivesome of bassist Javi, drummer Guille, guitarists Kike (a regional nickname, pronounced like “Quique,” short for Enrique; also acoustics and Tibetan bowls on closer “Low Tide”) and R. Ruiz del Portal (also mellotron on “Visions of Rex”), and vocalist Txus Dr. Sax — who most often backs himself but is joined periodically by Poti (also of Atavismo, formerly Viaje a 800) and Jony Moreno (also of Soulbreaker Company) in the chorus, Poti also handling Mellotron throughout the album and theremin on “Move through Figurehead Lights” — revel in a laid back atmosphere while conjuring fluid expanses of heavy psych, but where Beats of Olarizu topped 68 minutes, Given to Emptiness pares down to an efficient single LP just over 47, its seven tracks cleanly split between two sides, each demarcated by its longest component piece, the longest of which, “Butes,” opens the outing at 10:20.
Immediate points for that, and make it double since they open both sides with the longest track, “Chroma” answering from side B with a nine-minute rollout. “Butes” makes a gorgeous wash to start off Given to Emptiness, gradually unfolding to work in direct contrast to the title of the album, its turns leading it along a building path but showcasing a patience that will come to typify a lot of what they do throughout. Setting the tone, as it were. They do so with liquefied grooves and guitar interplay, soulful vocals from Txus Dr. Sax and a steady nod that holds sway for the duration. This lushness continues into the building “Visions of Rex,” the swirl of which is always present but never overdone, and forward through “Drums for Sitting Bull” (streamed here), which recalls some of the more straightforward moments of the debut but blends them smoothly with the sprawling vibes elicited already throughout the first two cuts. “Drums for Sitting Bull” marks an appearance from both Poti and Moreno on backing vocals, and they’re put to more than solid use, though it’s ultimately Dr. Sax himself who carries the apex of the song over with a sort of wavering, watery presence in his voice. Whether that’s an effect or not, I don’t know, but it’s striking either way, and Arenna roll their way through the end of the track afterwards — Javi‘s bass is a must-hear for appreciators of low end — with the drums dropping out and kicking back in to push the final groove to its eventual crash and ring out, feedback fading to close side A. Already the atmosphere is set for languid, jam-based vibing, but the band’s penchant for deeper arrangements with the touches of Mellotron, additional vocals, acoustics and even just swapping out one effect for another showcase a sense of wanting each track to add something to the larger whole of the effort, and that proves no less true of the four tracks included on side B.
In the spirit of “Butes,” “Chroma” takes its time in shifting from its dreamy opening of guitar, cymbal washes and airy swirls to move into its Mellotron-topped breadth, but unlike the album-opener, the side B launch is instrumental save for a late-arriving sample to mark the landing of the progression’s peak. “Chroma” turns and shifts and undulates naturally, a fuzz-caked nod that many among the converted wouldn’t even try to resist let alone have the ability to do so, but gives way to “Move through Figurehead Lights” — a no less otherworldly opening, even if it’s the drums this time leading the charge — without pretense, that track’s subtle volume swells and quiet vibing met just before the two-minute mark by acoustic guitar (courtesy of a guest spot by Manix S.) and vocals that come to drive the build as much as serve as part of it. It’s the voices of Dr. Sax, Poti and Moreno, in a non-lyricized “ohh” chorus near the end that almost become a riff of their own working in conjunction with the bass and drums along with the solo, and they carry through an almost spiritual celebration, which can’t help but add gravity to “The Pursuer,” which follows. A bit of symmetry with “Drums for Sitting Bull” in terms of structure, maybe, but “The Pursuer” has its own personality to be sure, in open verses and alternating echoes of guitar that, with the vocals, shift in the second half of the song to the album’s most purposefully pretty melody, giving way near the end as Arenna come as close as they have to any sort of aggression in progressive start-stop riffing to close out. With the epilogue, 1:41 “Low Tide” at the finish with its quiet acoustics for a last moment of contemplation, Given to Emptiness ends with something of a lonely mood, but even there I’m fairly certain there are (at least) two layers of guitar working at the same time, so even in its most minimal stretch, it remains far from empty. Somewhat understated in this review up to this point is the emotional resonance of the vocals, which are a driving force in engrossing and holding the listener’s attention throughout, but they’re far from the only aspect of Arenna‘s sound working in their favor. Their sophomore album also marks a decade of their tenure, and one can hear their experience and their chemistry in each track as Given to Emptiness unfolds, its patience never meandering so far from the overarching sense of a design at work that it’s unable to return.
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If you listen to these podcasts on the regular, you might notice this one is a little different than other recent editions have been. I was all set to start it off at a raging clip as per usual and then that Bison Machine track stood out to me with that warm bassline and I just decided that was the way to go, start off languid with that and My Sleeping Karma and ease into the rawer and meaner stuff from there. There are a couple jarring moments here and there, but that’s kind of the idea too, and I think overall across the board it flows well across the two hours, the second of which builds across All Them Witches’ jams and Ichabod’s sludge rock right into the atmospheric doom extremity of Bell Witch. Three songs in about 55 minutes. Awesome.
You might also notice the tracklist below has time stamps. Listed is the start time for each song, so if you get lost along the way, that should hopefully provide some point of reference. In case there was any doubt I pay attention to the stuff people say in comments to these podcast posts.
As always, hope you enjoy:
0:00:00 Bison Machine, “Gamekeeper’s Thumb” from Hoarfrost
0:07:12 My Sleeping Karma, “Prithvi” from Moksha
0:13:39 Weedeater, “Claw of the South” from Goliathan
0:19:00 Sinister Haze, “Betrayed by Time” from Betrayed by Time EP
0:24:15 Sun and Sail Club, “Dresden Fireball Freakout Flight” from The Great White Dope
0:26:11 Lasers from Atlantis, “Protectress” from Lasers from Atlantis
0:33:29 Arenna, “Drums for Sitting Bull” from Given to Emptiness
0:39:40 Mirror Queen, “Scaffolds of the Sky” from Scaffolds of the Sky
0:45:47 Les Discrets, “La Nuit Muette” from Live at Roadburn
0:51:02 Cigale, “Harvest Begun” from Cigale
0:54:49 Black Mare, “A Low Crimes” from Black Mare/Lycia Split
1:00:03 All Them Witches, “It Moved We Moved/Almost There/A Spider’s Gift” from A Sweet Release
1:24:09 Ichabod, “Squall” from Merrimack
1:33:39 Bell Witch, “Suffocation, a Burial I – Awoken (Breathing Teeth)” from Four Phantoms
Posted in audiObelisk on April 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Spanish heavy psych rockers Arenna will release their second album, Given to Emptiness, on May 7. It’s been four years since the five-piece made their debut on Nasoni Records with the full-length Beats of Olarizu (review here) and today I have the privilege of unveiling track three from Given to Emptiness, “Drums for Sitting Bull.” Duly percussive, but no less centered around its heavy groove and warm, fuzzed-out tones, the song finds the melody front and center in contemplative style somewhat similar to the debut, but understandably developed in the four-year interim between releases.
Immediately laid back and catchy, a tell early on is the vocals following the lead guitar. That will come up again later in the song, before a late break cuts short to resume the roll of the central riff, added to by Mellotron (provided by Poti, who presumably is the same Poti from Atavismo, formerly of Viaje a 800), ending out the instrumental push with a quiet sort of apex. For Arenna — guitarists R. Ruiz de Portal and Kike (which I’m not even comfortable typing, but is apparently how he wants to be known), bassist Javi, vocalist Txus Dr. Sax and drummer Guille — it’s a steady flow that reinforces something the first album did well but also shows them trying new things with their sound. Hopefully that’s indicative of what the rest of Given to Emptiness has to offer.
Recording info for Arenna‘s Given toEmptiness and the lyrics in Spanish and English follow “Drums for Sitting Bull,” which you can find on the player below. Please enjoy:
ARENNA – GIVEN TO EMPTINESS
Format: CD / LP / Digital download Genre: Rock / Psychedelic / Stoner Label: Nasoni Records Release date: May 2015
Tracklist: 1 Butes (10:20) 2 Visions Of Rex (6:29) 3 Drums For Sitting Bull (6:17) 4 Chroma (9:00) 5 Move Through Figurehead Lights (7:02) 6 The Pursuer (6:15) 7 Low Tide (1:40) total (47:04)
Recorded by Javier Ortiz at Estudio Brazil (Nov. 1-7, 2014) Mixed by José López Gil at Sound Experience Studio & Estudios K. Mastered by JJ. Golden Produced by José López Gil and Arenna Music by Arenna Artwork by Khoa Le Designed by Artidoto
Music by Arenna Javi: bass Guille: drums & percusions Txus Dr. Sax: vocals & chorus R. Ruiz del Portal: guitars; mellotron (on track 2) Kike: guitars; acoustic guitars & Tibetan bowls (on track 7)
All lyrics by Cameron Webster, Estíbaliz Urretxu, Javier Arbulu & Txus Dr.Sax with special collaboration of P. Quignard (Butes) & F. Kafka (Drums for Sitting Bull)
Additional musicians: Poti: mellotron (on all tracks), theremin (on track 5) and chorus (on tracks 3, 5 & 6), Jony Moreno: chorus (on tracks 3 & 5), and Manix S. acoustic guitar (on track 5).
3. Drums for Sitting Bull If one were only an indian, Alert, on a racing horse, Leaning against the wind, Until one shed one’s spurs, & threw away the reins. Hardly saw land before one, When horse’s neck & head Would be already gone.
3. Tambores para Toro Sentado Si uno pudiera ser un Piel Roja, alerta, cabalgando sobre un caballo veloz, apoyado contra el viento, hasta arrojar las espuelas, hasta arrojar las riendas. Apenas viera ante sí el campo, ya habrían desaparecido las crines & la cabeza del caballo.