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Tomorrow here in the US it is Thanksgiving, which has some questionable origins but in practice is actually one of our less-abominable holidays, with a focus on togetherness, good food, and enjoying the company of loved ones. Today, the day before, is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year while people get to wherever they’re going. Even if you don’t manage to find it until after the holiday is over, it seemed only fitting to make a new podcast so that anyone who might want to take it along for the ride would be able to do so.
My head has started to get into year-end wrap-up mode, so don’t be surprised if one or two or three of these bands show up in subsequent “Best Of” coverage. Maybe even four, looking at the list. It’s been a crazy good year, and as it starts to wind its way down and we make our way into the next one, I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to these podcasts and hopefully discovered something you wouldn’t have heard otherwise. That’s really the whole idea.
If you’re traveling by road, rail, or air, I wish you a pleasant journey, and even if you’re staying put, the same applies.
Stubb, “Heavy Blue Sky” from Cry of the Ocean
Murcielago, “Way too Far” from Murcielago
Dune, “Of Blade and Carapace” from Aurora Majesty
The Skull, “Send Judas Down” from For Those Which are Asleep
Elephant Tree, “Attack of the Altaica” from Theia
Renate/Cordate, “Laudanum” from Growth
Mothership, “Serpents Throne” from Mothership II
Space Guerrilla, “Event Horizon” from Boundless
Monster Magnet, “End of Time (B-3)” from Milking the Stars
Memnon Sa, “Megalith” from Citadel
Soldat Hans, “Meine Liebste; Sie Zerbricht Sich” from Dress Rehearsal
Atavismo, “Meeh” from Desintegración
Øresund Space Collective, “Remnants of the Barbonaeum” from Music for Pogonologists
Posted in Reviews on November 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
For Monster Magnet fans, there are two things to like about Milking the Stars: The concept and the execution. The long-running New Jersey outfit seemed to be making a turn to come full-circle on 2013’s Last Patrol (review here), bringing in a more psychedelic feel for the first time in over a decade, not quite trying to recapture their brilliance in early albums like 1991’s Spine of God, 1993’s Superjudge and 1995’s Dopes to Infinity, but definitely making a departure from the hard rock sound they’d developed since then on 1998’s landmark Powertrip, 2001’s God Says No, , 2004’s Monolithic Baby!, 2007’s 4-Way Diablo, and 2010’s Mastermind (review here), their sound becoming more straightforward and — though the 2010 outing was probably the “biggest” they’ve ever come across on tape — increasingly formulaic. Last Patrol boldly turned that progression on its head, daring to brood on songs like “Paradise” and “I Live behind the Clouds” and jamming out righteous wah-soaked space rock on “Last Patrol” and the driving “End of Time.” Particularly for those who’d been longing for such a step from the band, it was the best Monster Magnet outing in 15 years’ time and one of the highlight releases of 2013. With Milking the Stars (out on Napalm Records), the full title of which is Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrol, frontman, founder and principal songwriter Dave Wyndorf pushes himself further into satisfying a weirdo trippy impulse, reworking cuts and including material not included on the original Last Patrol to get something new from them and create a record that, even if you didn’t hear the first one, stands on its own, its John Sumrow cover art dogwhistling its companion status to the album before it.
The reason I say the concept should be pleasing to Monster Magnet fans is because what it shows is that Wyndorf – joined at this point in Monster Magnet by guitarists Phil Caivano and Garrett Sweeney, bassist Chris Kosnik (who makes his recorded debut with the band on a couple live bonus tracks), and drummer Bob Pantella – is not only in a place feeling creative enough to take on the material of Last Patrol and give it a thorough screwing with, which is something that’s never been done before in Monster Magnet‘s 25-year history, but also that he’s making it weirder. Some of Milking the Stars‘ cuts, like “End of Time (B-3)” and “I Live behind the Clouds (Roughed up and Slightly Spaced)” don’t depart as much from their original incarnations — though neither will I downplay how much of a game-changer that Hammond is on “End of Time” — but in “No Paradise for Me” Wyndorf takes the moody original to a more open-sounding place and changes the lyrics to more directly address his disappointment with pop modernity: “I guess I’ll have to make up what I want to see.” And so he does. That’s basically what this album is, but that only makes it a more honest work. Opener “Let the Circus Burn” (also the longest cut at 7:26; immediate points) tweaks, slows down and spaces out the original “Last Patrol,” and “Mindless Ones ’68” pulls back on the heavy rocking original for a more garage-rock interpretation, bright lead guitar forward in the mix, tambourine and organ taking the place of snare stomp and a wailing solo. The title-track, “Milking the Stars” was left off Last Patrol and it’s easy enough to speculate why. At 7:26, it would’ve pushed that album to nearly an hour long, and while it has an effective linear build and might’ve bridged a gap between “End of Time” and “Last Patrol” and some of that record’s shorter, more verse/chorus-minded cuts, it makes a better focus cut than secondary player, even if its title can give the idea that the band are simply “milking” their last album for more material — a notion that no doubt occurred to them in picking the title and was taken on with tongue in cheek.
And as for the execution, while I’m not prepared to say Milking the Stars is a better or worse album than Last Patrol– the two are best considered in league with each other — several of the songs are markedly improved here from their originals. “Hallelujah (Fuzz and Swamp)” even more calls Larman Clamor to mind in its blown-out revivalism, “Stay Tuned (Even Sadder)” lives righteously up to its parenthetical, and the drum track and extra guitar that appear in closer “The Duke (Full on Drums ‘n’ Wah)” give that song a personality beyond what one could’ve expected from the first incarnation. Not only are these particular cuts well conceived, but the reality of the listen proves just as satisfying as the idea, and Milking the Stars works as a whole front-to-back listen, rather than a collection of one-off reinterpretations, like a remix record or something. It’s not that. “Reimagining” sounds ambitious, but it’s as close to the fact of what’s taking place here as anything I can come up with, and works all the better perhaps in conveying the adventurous spirit behind the motivation in making the album in the first place. Last Patrol was a brazen step, but Milking the Stars makes it seem like just the beginning of a new phase in Monster Magnet‘s ongoing evolution. As someone who’s a fan of the band, and a fan of Last Patrol, it’s all the more exciting to think that Wyndorf and company might approach songwriting with such an anything-can-happen creative sensibility a quarter-century on from the group’s start. It makes the prospects for where they might go next all the more vast, considering if they can take on Last Patrol and remold it into Milking the Stars, there’s really no telling where they might go from here. All the better. What seemed like it might’ve been Monster Magnet‘s final round looks instead to have become the catalyst for a new phase in their career, and my only hope is they keep getting weirder from here on out.
Nothing against SPV Records — their reissue of Spine of God and other earlier Monster Magnet albums was fair game as they were out of print and unavailable to a bunch of fans who came aboard during the band’s more commercial hard rock era — but if you want to listen to Spine of God, you really need to go for the original. Caroline Records, in a jewel case, some of the finest heavy psych rock ever crafted. Still ahead of its time. We’re still playing catchup to where Spine of God is at. We’ll get there one of these days, then we’ll all crack our skulls doing airplanes and get our heads just right and so on. Cover me with skin and hair. Fucking a.
Spine of God is more than a great Monster Magnet record — they’ve got a few by now — but an absolute landmark. In New Jersey, the state in which I was born and raised, an entire generation of bands came up in the wake of Monster Magnet‘s branching out, and that scene is still going, moving forward. So are Monster Magnet, albeit with a much different lineup than they had 23 years ago, but to go back and look at the development of Red Bank, NJ, as a center in which heavy rock flourished on the East Coast in bands like Godspeed, Core, The Atomic Bitchwax, Solarized, later Halfway to Gone, Solace, The Ribeye Bros., and on and on, Monster Magnet are a big branch on that bizarre family tree, and Spine of God, which was their debut — to mix metaphors — was the root for a lot of what came after. Add to all that it’s an absolute masterpiece, and yeah, I’m gonna close out the week with it.
I’ll further admit that while it was ultimately the classicitude of Spine of God which made me break it out on this late night/early morning, a close second in motivation was the band’s upcoming Milking the Stars, the November release of which was announced earlier this month. I’ve been spending a lot of time with that record, which is comprised of reworked tracks from Monster Magnet‘s 2013 opus, Last Patrol (review here), as well as the previously unreleased title-cut and some other odds and ends, and almost as much as I dig what frontman/songwriter/founder Dave Wyndorf did in remaking the songs, I think the adventurous spirit of the album and the willingness to screw with work that by most definitions would be “finished” already emphasizes a lot of what’s made Monster Magnet so great all these years, and bodes ridiculously well for their proper follow-up to Last Patrol, since basically they can go anywhere at this point. I’ll have a review up of Milking the Stars sometime in the next month or so, but it’s on my mind already.
Enjoy Spine of God. It’s one of my favorite records.
Is is really three in the morning? Ah jeez. I rolled in not at all long ago from seeing Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Danava in New York. Quite a night. I was going to go to Boston last night, but as I mentioned on Thee Facebooks, it was my 10th wedding anniversary — the only holiday about which I give even the remotest of fucks — and, well, 10 years isn’t nothing. Kind of a big deal. If it was seven years, or some other in-between number, I might be able to get away with that. But 10? Nah. As of Sunday, The Patient Mrs. and I will have been together for a total of 17 years, which is more than half of both of our lives. Wild to think about. How stupid lucky I am.
Next week though I’ll review the Uncle Acid gig, and I’ve also got a new track from Eternal Tapestry going up on Monday. If I’m up to it Sunday, I might put up the first recorded demo from Righteous Bloom, which is the new spinoff band from Beelzefuzz. And of course there’s the podcast. Thanks if you got to check that out. Apparently I’m up to 40 of them. Got a thing for round numbers lately, I suppose.
Obviously there’s a lot more than that to come, but I have no idea what it might be. The Patient Mrs. and I are in Connecticut for the weekend, celebrando, so at least I didn’t have to go all the way back to Massachusetts tonight. Felt good to be back in New York. Even Manhattan on a Friday night, which is nightmare of inflated ego, inflated bank accounts and terrifying hawtness. Good to go a show there, I guess. City still smells like pee. I had some point about being in Connecticut. It’s long gone. God damn this Monster Magnet record is awesome.
Have a great and safe weekend. PLEASE check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
There really isn’t a word for what Milking the Starsis in relation to Last Patrol. “Reimagining,” which is what they went with in the title, comes about as close as anything I can think of, but really what Monster Magnet are doing here goes beyond simple reinterpretation. It’s not like they’re just playing fast songs slow or heavy songs acoustic or vice versa, they’re tripping way the fuck out and giving a glimpse at just how liberated these cats are after making their “return” to heavy psychedelia. So the version of “The Duke (of Supernature)” on Last Patrol(review here) was kind of sweet and subdued? Well here’s Bob Pantella‘s snare drum to punch you in the face. “Mindless Ones” was a hard rock rager? Well here it is as echoed-out psych pop. Oh, let’s absolutely drench “End of Time” in Hammond! It’s like listening to Dave Wyndorf‘s studio impulsiveness come to life.
The pivotal New Jersey five-piece will release Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrolon Nov. 18 through Napalm Records, complete with a new cover (you’ll notice the cosmic Bullgod is facing the opposite direction as on Last Patrolas he destroys whichever planet that was, probably ours) by John Sumrow. The title-track is also brand new, put to tape during the Last Patrol sessions, and other parts have been re-recorded as needed. Also worth noting that the two live bonus tracks are the recorded debut of bassist Chris Kosnik (The Atomic Bitchwax) in the band.
PR wire facts, comment from Wyndorf and audio of “No Paradise for Me” — a reworking of Last Patrol‘s “Paradise” — follow:
MONSTER MAGNET to Release Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrol – Artwork, Track Listing and First Song Revealed
Available November 18th on Napalm Records
2013 saw the release of MONSTER MAGNET’s latest album Last Patrol. Now comes Milking the Stars a reimagining of Last Patrol. Met with critical acclaim and supported by a world tour, Last Patrol has become a staple in the MONSTER MAGNET discography.
Today the artwork, track listing and first song from Milking the Stars have been released. Wyndorf’s pick for the first song he wanted fans to be exposed to is “No Paradise For Me”. The song according to Wyndorf is ‘interesting, fucked up and old school sounding’. Listen to “No Paradise For Me”HERE.
Wyndorf on Milking the Stars:
“Milking the Stars is a “re-imagined” version of Last Patrol featuring four new songs and live tracks.
“This was a happy experiment for me. It’s not a re-mix record by the current definition. It’s more like Last Patrol in a “what if?” style alternate reality.
“What if these songs were recorded in 1968?” “What would happen if I turned a pretty song into an angry one?” How would adding creepy organs and Mellotrons affect the emotional vibe of a song?” These are just a few of the questions that roll around in my head when I write and record any album but this time I decided to actually answer them with fully fleshed out, recorded and mixed examples.
“The process actually created new songs. That’s the icing on the cake for me. New sounds, new vocals, different instruments and arrangements make for a weird 1960’s vibe totally apart from Last Patrol which was fun for Phil, Bob, Garrett, mixer Joe Barresi and myself to explore.
“Finally there’s expanded versions of the songs “Last Patrol” and “Three Kingfishers” as recorded live at the AB club in Belgium, 2014. Both those songs were re-arranged for “maximum rock and psych” before we hit the road last year and feature the debut performance of new MAGNET bassist, Chris Kosnik. Personally, I think they beat the original versions.
Milking the Stars Track Listing: 1. Let the Circus Burn 2. Mindless Ones ‘68 3. No Paradise For Me 4. End of Time (B-3) 5. Milking the Stars 6. Hellelujah (Fuzz And Swamp) 7. I Live Behind The Clouds (Roughed Up And Slightly Spaced) 8. Goliath Returns 9. Stay Tuned (Even Sadder) 10. The Duke (Full On Drums ‘N Wah) 11. Last Patrol (Live) 12. Three Kingfishers (Live)
Put Halfway to Gone against any Southern heavy band you want to — including the late, great Alabama Thunderpussy, with whom they once shared a split — and see if they don’t stand up. Of course, they weren’t actually from the South, unless you consider Central New Jersey the South, which some people I know in North Jersey most definitely do. Born in 1999 as an offshoot of Solarized, Halfway to Gone came out of the same Red Bank scene that gave planet earth gifts like The Atomic Bitchwax, Solace, Core and the mothers of them all, Monster Magnet. They released three records on Small Stone in their time — 2001’s High Five was the debut (after the aforementioned ATP split), followed by 2002’s Second Season and a 2004 self-titled — and toured hard at the time, but have played only intermittently over the last eight or nine years. Guitarist Lee “Stu” Gollin and his brother, drummer Danny Gollin, continued on for a while in A Thousand Knives of Fire, whose 2007 outing, Last Train to Scornsville, was recorded in part by Halfway bassist/vocalist Lou Gorra, but that petered out when their bassist moved away. Gorra in the meantime founded his studio and set about recording other bands, including mine, Halfway to Gone getting together every now and again to play Long Branch’s The Brighton Bar, perpetually killing the place.
If I’m not mistaken, they did a show there last year. Last I saw them was 2012, and they were still a force on stage. There was talk at the time of a long-awaited fourth album, though to-date nothing has come of it. Gorra was playing bass with Sourvein this year for their European tour — it was a beyond-pleasant surprise to run into him at Roadburn — but knowing this band and knowing these dudes, I’d never quite count them out. Still, it’s good to go back to the beginning and revisit High Five, which from where I sit is a Jersey classic. Dig that slide guitar on “Story of My Life,” or the reworked Gettysburg Address in “Kind Words for the Southern Gentleman” — the band taking the “you’re not Southern!” contingent head on — and the hook in “Devil Spit (The Van Zant Shuffle)” or the slow roll of “Limb from Limb.” Gorra does whiskey-soaked vocals without the chestbeating Down-ery that seems to have unfortunately become the hallmark of the style over the last decade, and Stu and Danny tear it up, a thick-toned power trio ahead of their time as much as they were behind it. They’d tighten up further structurally on the second record and branch out stylistically on the third, but as far as starting points go, there’s not much for which I’d trade High Five.
Hope you enjoy.
In Connecticut for the weekend. Was here last weekend as well. Actually, the only reason I drove back to Massachusetts on Tuesday was to see High on Fire at The Sinclair – my first show in Boston in, uh… I don’t even know, since Fu Manchu maybe? — and I didn’t get in. It was a free show! No ticket for me. Ugh. I was so beat by the time I’d stood on line for half an hour, right at the front, and listened to the stupid-assed conversations of those around me after driving two-plus hours to get back up there that when I couldn’t get in, I didn’t even have the energy to make a case for myself. I walked back to my car through college-bound Cambridge and went the fuck home to bury my head. What a bummer.
Next weekend is Sleep at the House of Blues with Earthless and Heavy Blanket jamming out to open. Got my fingers crossed for that. The day before, I’ll be in Pennsylvania for All Them Witches and King Buffalo, so a bit of travel there as well. Whatever. I won’t regret it.
This weekend though, some rest and some research. I’ve got a few things in the works that I’m hoping fall into place over the next couple weeks — all very hush hush, or I’d give you the details outright — so it’s important to keep my head straight. Getting there is pretty much my intent for the next couple days.
Reviews coming up for Witch Mountain and maybe the Fatso Jetson/Herba Mate split, but after doing Powered Wig Machine today and Demon Eye yesterday, I’m starting to feel pretty good about tackling the pile, so I might keep up with that as well. I’ll play it by ear and do as much as I have the energy to do. You know how it goes by now. I pretty much post until I feel like I’m ready to fall over and then I stop for a few hours and then post again.
Clacky clacky clacky. Always with the keyboard.
For now though, I’m gonna go watch some Star Trek with The Patient Mrs. and call it a night.
Please have a great and safe weekend and please check out the forum and radio stream, because they are awesome.
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 28th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
A lot has happened in the three years since NJ’s The Atomic Bitchwax made their triumphantly riffed return to Tee Pee Records with The Local Fuzz (review here), what with bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik joining drummer Bob Pantella in Monster Magnet, sundry tours in Europe and so on, but they’re still (shit-)kicking, and this Thursday, they’ll start yet another European run in Berlin. The modus this time around seems to be fest appearances, and right on since the Bitchwax kill no matter what the setting might be. If you’re over there, look for them at Void Fest, Lake on Fire, Yellowstock and the others listed below.
No word on a new release from my beloved Garden State’s most powerful power trio, but the tour is presented by Sound of Liberation and if there’s a chance of a new song or two in the set, all the more reason to show up.
The Atomic Bitchwax’s summer tour : Kick-off on Thursday!! 23 dates in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal & England! Do not miss them!
Check-out the dates right here :
31.07 (Ger) BERLIN – Jaegerklause 01.08 (Ger) BAD KOETZTING – Void Fest 02.08 (Ger) GOESSNITZ – Open Air Goessnitz 03.08 (Pol) WARSAW – Fonobar 04.08 (Pol) WROCLAW – Alive 05.08 (Ger) COTTBUS – La Casa 06.08 (Ger) KARLSRUHE – Alte Hackerei 07.08 (At) MILLSTATT – Bergwerk Sauzipf Warm Up 08.08 (At) WALDHAUSEN – Lake On Fire Festival 09.08 (Bel) GEEL – Yellowstock Festival 10.08 (Uk) LONDON – Borderline 11.08 (Fr) PARIS – Glazart 12.08 (Lux) LUXEMBOURG – Rorcas 13.08 (Ch) MARTIGNY – Palp Festival 14.08 (Ch) OLTEN – Coq d’Or 15.08 (Ger) HOHENSTEIN – Voice of Art Festival 16.08 (Por) MOLEDO – Sonic Blast Festival 18.08 (Ger) COLOGNE – Underground 19.08 (Nl) NIJMEGEN – Merleyn 20.08 (Ger) HAMBURG – Hafenklang 21.08 (Dk) COPENHAGEN – Loppen 22.08 (Ger) KIEL – Schaubude 23.08 (Ger) MANNHEIM – Psi Rock Festival
Posted in Whathaveyou on July 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
A heads up from my beloved Garden State in that Jersey City atmospheric black metallers Hercyn are about to issue a limited split CD with Brooklyn post-metallers Thera Roya. You might recall Hercyn released a 24-minute single-track EP last fall called Magda (review here), which they’ve since followed up with an acoustic version, and the allegiance between the two acts gets even more traction with the fact that Thera Roya used to be known as The Badeda Ladies, whom I was fortunate enough to see late in 2012 at The Grand Victory in Brooklyn (review here).
I’ll be interested to hear what kind of growth the moniker swap has brought that trio, and Hercyn have already proved themselves to be stylistically adventurous, so their inclusion on All this Suffering is Not Enoughis one to look forward to as well. It’s out Aug. 5 and they’re playing a release show in Jersey on Aug. 2, should you happen to be in that part of the world:
Hercyn and Thera Roya releasing split CD
This spring, Jersey City’s epic black metal band Hercyn joined together with Brooklyn’s own gloomy doom band Thera Roya to record a a CD split entitled “All This Suffering Is Not Enough” on the DIY outfit Ouro Preto Productions.
The release finds both American bands contrasting Hercyn’s epic atmosphere and weaving black metal with Thera Roya’s gloomy and sorrowful doom / post-metal. Hercyn deliver Dusk and Dawn, a 14 minute sprawling black metal piece with sub-layers of synth and acoustic strings. Thera Roya’s side of the split features Gluttony, a 9 minute slowly thundering song drenched in emotion. Both bands have worked in private on the creation of the split. All production and recording was handled’s by Hercyn’s Tony Stanziano (ex-Annunaki, ex-Blood Feast). “All This Suffering Is Not Enough” follow’s Hercyn’s 2013 self-released 24 minute epic Magda (listen here) and Thera Roya’s self-titled (listen here).
The split will see an official summer release of August 5th in hand numbered CDs and will be highly limited to 333 total copies. Pre-orders will be announced shortlyhere.
In celebration of the split, both bands will share the same stage August 2nd at the Lamp Post in Hercyn’s hometown (382, 2nd street, Jersey City). The release showis free, music starts at 10pm. Opening the show is special guest, Bible Gun – a dramatic piano and saxophone duo from Montclair, New Jersey (listen here). Early copies of the split CD will be available for purchase at the show.
There doesn’t seem to ever be a break with this stuff. 16 records joined The Obelisk Radio playlist today, and that’s still got me behind on checking out more to add. I don’t know what the state of that hard drive is, but I might not be far off from needing to add a second one. It’s become an archive for me.
Diligent and admirable bastard that he is, Slevin is working on an automatically refreshing script that will allow listeners to see what was played over the last 24 hours, which will be a big help if a file is missing its ID3 tags — that being how the player identifies the songs — as I know things sometimes are. I get asked regularly what was played at a specific time, so hopefully this will be able to answer that question.
So things are in the works, but of course there’s a ton of music to talk about in the meantime, and that’s the fun part anyway.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for July 11, 2014:
All Them Witches, Effervescent EP
There are at least two distinct jams at work in the 25-minute single track that makes up Effervescent, the 2014 EP from Nashville psych-blues rockers All Them Witches. The Fender Rhodes of Allan Van Cleave and airy guitar of Ben McLeod feature heavily in both, as bassist Michael Parks, Jr., and drummer Robby Staebler (interview here) provide a foundation on which to space out, and the two pieces find a bridge in hypnotic, psychedelic stretching and backwards noise beginning at around 13 minutes in before building back up. All throughout, the vibe is central, there is movement, and the four-piece demonstrate that the chemistry they showed burgeoning on last year’s brilliant Lightning at the Door(discussed here) was no fluke, but the beginning of a grand and creative exploration that finds its next installment here. It may be a stopgap — formerly their primary means of release, they’ve recently pulled their full-lengths down from Bandcamp; one expects big, got-signed-type news from them at any moment — but Effervescentis fluid and rich, and as deep as you want to go in listening to it, it’s willing to take you there and further. All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Nyarlathotep, The Shadow over Innsmouth
Some six years after releasing their initial The End is Always Near demo, New Jersey black metal outfit (whom, in the interest of full disclosure, I know personally) Nyarlathotep follow-up with the Lovecraftian full-length, The Shadow over Innsmouth. Based around the short story of the same name, the album breaks down into five extended tracks plus an intro of rage-fueled atmospherics. Using programmed drums to their advantage on “Old Zadok Allen” — the only proper song here under 10 minutes — they add an industrial feel with a keyboard-led midsection backed by vague, ambient screams. The density in the material is striking, but even at their most unbridled — as on the blasting, solo-topped early moments in the title-track — Nyarlathotep hold their commitment to setting a mood firm, and the blown-out, distorted soundscape they create across the release is grim and otherworldly enough to be worthy of its subject matter. It is a complex, biting execution that won’t be for everyone, but that seethes in its quiet parts and gnashes its pointed teeth with monstrous force. Nyarlathotep on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Oklahoma City trio Idre specialize in ambient fluidity and deeply-weighted tonal crush. Their self-released, self-titled debut long-player is comprised of two extended cuts — “Factorie” (26:41) and “Witch Trial” (13:17) — that each impress with their patience, their impact and their ability to contrast the generally claustrophobic feel of post-metal with an open-spaced, salt-of-the-earth pulse. Within its first 10 minutes, “Factorie” has moved from undulating waves of riffing to vast, strumming, Across Tundras-esque roll, and never does it seem to be meandering without purpose in the noisy stages to come. It builds and collapses, and when they seem the most gone, the clean, twanging vocals return to finish out, leading to the parabolically constructed “Witch Trial,” which marries Earth-style drone and galloping drums effectively to create a decidedly Western feel while still building toward, and eventually moving through a sonically pummeling apex. Once again, vocals are sparse, but perfectly placed almost as if to remind the listener of how small a human being can be in so wide a space as the Midwest. Like that landlocked region, Idre‘s Idreis expansive and lets you see for miles. Idre on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Rainbows are Free, Waves ahead of the Ocean
Led by the substantial pipes of vocalist B. Fain Kistler, Norman, Oklahoma, four-piece Rainbows are Free seem keen on finding the place where classic doom and heavy rock meet, and on their second full-length, Waves ahead of the Ocean (released by Guestroom Records), they just about get there. Kistler is a singer worthy of comparison to Grand Magus‘ JB Christoffersson, but Rainbows are Free are less grandiose overall, early songs like “The Botanist,” the title-track and the cumbersomely-titled opener “Speed God and the Rise of the Motherfuckers from a Place beyond Hell” nestling into heavy, engaging grooves marked out by the choice riffing of Richie Tarver, the bass work of Chad Hogue and drums of Bobby Onspaugh. Unpretentious and professional in their presentation, they doom up an otherwise Clutch-style boogie in “Cadillac” before going full-on trad metal in “Snake Bitten by Love,” and ably making their way through a Dio Sabbath push on “Burn and Die,” which works well despite feeling a long way from the upbeat rockin’ of earlier highlight “Sonic Demon” and leads smoothly into closer “Comet,” the six-and-a-half-minute spacier thrust of which seems to be seems to be where Rainbows are Free most choose to harken to the psychedelia one might expect from their moniker. They most drive toward the epic in their finale, and the payoff there is churning and insistent in a way that more than justifies the song’s position on the 37-minute record, but even then have a keen eye for structure and holding the attention of their audience. An impeccably put together album from a band more than ready to turn heads. Rainbows are Free on Thee Facebooks, Guestroom Records on Bandcamp.
Panopticon, Roads to the North
Despite the bluegrass influence and liberal inclusion of banjo amidst its blackened onslaught, Panopticon‘s Roads to the North (released on Bindrune) is perhaps most American of all for its pulling together seemingly disparate elements in defiance of European traditionalism. Billed as and creating the standard for American folk metal, it nonetheless is in conversation with European black metal — a conversation that in my head looks something like it’s being chased à la Benny Hill for its heresies — while purposefully working against its tenets. Roads to the Northis the fifth full-length from the one-man project of Kentucky’s Austin Lunn, and made in collaboration with Krallice‘s Colin Marston (among others), it elicits a sprawl through both its metallic extremity and its devotion to the aesthetic it pioneers. It makes for a heady 74-minute listen, but Panopticon are cohesive throughout — five records deep, they should be — and one doesn’t embark on an album like Roads to the Northlightly or without wanting full immersion into an evocative and blistering landscape. That’s just what you get. Panopticon on Thee Facebooks, Bindrune Recordings.
For the full list of albums added to The Obelisk Radio this week and to see the latest updates, click here.
Posted in Features on June 5th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
From 1PM-3PM today, I’ll be a guest on Diane’s Kamikaze Fun Machine on New Jersey’s venerable institution of the weird, 91.1 WFMU. If you’re in the area, you can tune in directly, but you can listen from anywhere in the world at http://wfmu.org
I am thrilled beyond belief and very, very excited to do this. I don’t get invited to take part in things like this very often, and I’ve picked some killer tracks — a lot of new stuff, and almost all within the last few years — to mark the occasion. If you haven’t heard any of the new Godflesh yet, I’m bringing that along, and a lot of fuzz and heavy psych stuff too. Lots of heavy psych, actually. I kind of went on a tear selecting tracks.
But there’s some brutality too. I’m carting along two full CD’s worth, which is more than we’ll be able to fit for a two-hour show probably by double, but I thought it would be good to have stuff to choose from. I’m crazy stoked, honored to have been asked to go there at all and I really, really hope you’ll be able to check it out.
Again, WFMU streams live online at http://wfmu.org, and all of Diane‘s playlists are available on her show’s page, which I would highly encourage you check out and basically use as a blueprint for stuff you should dig on. FMU has been doing support-worthy freeform radio since long before I knew what absurdity was, so if you’re someplace in the world where you can’t listen via radio, it’s definitely worth your time to listen, whether you do so when I’m on or not.
There’s a running comments page with the live-updated playlist (also a pronunciation guide for my last name in case you’ve ever wondered), so if you get the chance, please say hi. I can’t wait to get on the air!
I haven’t walked away from seeing Clamfight play in the last four years without thinking to myself how devastating a live act they’ve become, so their new live tape, Thank You Delaware, is a welcome arrival as documentation of that phenomenon. Released by Contaminated Tones Productions with the first 20 copies in a limited blue liner, the six-song set seems to have been recorded late in 2013 in a North Jersey club called Dingbatz. At very least, that’s where the pics in the j-card insert come from, and at the start of side two — actually the sides are divided into “Side Clam” and “Side Strips” — drummer/vocalist Andy Martin makes some mention of being in Jersey playing with Tarpit Boogie, so it seems like a safe assumption. The title is a gag as it winds up, since at the end of the set, Martin says, “It’s been real, Delaware,” when they’re most definitely in NJ. They can thank whatever state they want, I’m still going to be on board.
That bias level for the Maple Forum alums and my personal affection for these dudes — Martin, lead guitarist Sean McKee, guitarist Joel Harris, bassist Louis Koble – no doubt colors my opinion of Thank YouDelaware, but I’ve found since the “tape revival” began that some of the stuff I enjoy most of all are releases just like this one; live, raw recordings that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s not a bootleg, because it’s on a legit label — Contaminated Tones specialize in varying forms of extremity — and endorsed by the band, but it’s of that ilk. The label on the tape is pasted on, there aren’t a lot of them around, and while it’s not a DAT-in-the-pocket audience recording from 1974, neither is it overly clean in such a way as to detract from the impact of the live feel. A solid balance, in other words. You get the brutality from “The Eagle” and you get a taste of McKee‘s soaring lead work in the jam around the title-track from 2013’s sophomore full-length, I vs. the Glacier, from which the bulk of the material on the tape comes.
“The Eagle” and “Sand Riders” as a one-two are more or less staples of Clamfight gigs, and they sit well together in that role. I’m glad to have a live recording of “Block Ship,” and “Ghosts I Have Known” was a favorite from their 2010 debut, Vol. 1, that doesn’t always get played, so cool to hear that put to tape as well. If you’ve ever gone to see a band and then heard one of their live albums, you know that sometimes they can come off completely different recorded. Vocals are off, there’s too much separation. You lose the feeling of watching them. With Thank You Delaware, the four-piece’s wall of noise and vicious stage domination is preserved. It’s a big, heavy-slamming sound, and it rounds out at its most raucous with “Stealing the Ghost Horse,” though the intro jam has since developed even further than how it sounds here to boast some of McKee‘s best lead work. The tape finishes with excerpts from an interview conducted by Contaminated Tones in 2010 that recounts, among other things, some vomit-related band shenanigans. Very Clamfight, to say the least.
If you’re not into tapes, fair enough. I’m not likely to change your mind about that. For those not immediately biased along format lines, Thank You Delawaresuccessfully captures the thrashing heft that Clamfight bring to their live performance. Maybe it’s a fan-piece and I’m a fanboy, but that’s not about to diminish my enjoyment at all, and if you’ve dug into I vs. the Glacier, this makes a more than satisfying companion.
Clamfight, “Ghosts I Have Known” from Thank You Delaware (2014)
I only purchased two CDs at this year’s Roadburn festival. One was Rotor‘s 2, which I was far less than thrilled to discover later that I already owned (it was their first one I wanted), and the other was Love Monster, a 2001 compilation of Dave Wyndorf‘s pre-Monster Magnet demos, recorded in 1988. This one, which I didn’t already own, has been on my radar for a while, and though I was royally, epically broke at the fest, I used some of the Euros left in my wallet from 2013 to pay for the disc, which came out on Wrong Way Records basically as a fan-piece for Monster Magnet heads who maybe by then were missing the band’s more psychedelic side.
Remember, this was 2001, the same year Monster Magnet put out God Says No, right around the height of their commerciality, so in a way a release like this was bound to happen. 3,000 copies were made, and indeed, the seven tracks do capture some of the space-rocking spirit of Monster Magnet‘s earliest work — their landmark debut, Spine of God, would see US release in 1992, following a self-titled EP in 1990 — but there’s more to it than that. The material was recorded on a 4-track by Wyndorf himself, so it’s pretty blown out and raw, but there are shades of pre-industrial new wave on “Atom Age Vampire” and Wyndorf adjusts his attitude-drenched vocals accordingly, and “Brighter than the Sun” coats classic garage riffing in echo like the prototype for a psychedelic punk movement that never really existed. Rawness notwithstanding, a lot of what would prove so pivotal to Monster Magnet‘s sound is there on Love Monster, which if nothing else underscores the clarity of vision at work in the band from its launch.
There are seven tracks on the CD, with the penultimate “Five Years Ahead” a cover of obscure New York psych rockers The Third Bardo‘s 1967 single, and the closer “Snoopy” a 10-minute effects-laden noise-buzz freakout, but really, the appeal of Love Monsterwhen it was new would’ve been the chance to hear where Monster Magnet came from some 13 years earlier. Now, another 13 years after that, the EP still has that appeal, however rough it might sound, and in the clever lyrics of “Poster” and the bright-toned bliss of “War Hippie” one can hear one of psych rock’s most accomplished songwriting processes beginning to take shape. What Monster Magnet would go on to accomplish and the influence they’d wind up having didn’t come solely from the songs on Love Monster, but they were a step on the way to getting there, and for that, I was more than happy to shell out a couple of my remaining Euros for the disc.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
New Jersey natives Pharaoh will round out a Philly-Baltimore-D.C. weekender tonight with a set in Montclair, in my beloved Garden State, alongside the formidable likes of Dutchguts, Ilsa and Seven Sisters of Sleep. I’m late in posting the news below about their forthcoming full-length debut, Negative Everything, but I figured better that than never. It’s been five years almost to the day since I reviewed the trio’s The Demonstration 2009demo, and though they’ve had a couple singles out since then, I’m looking forward to finding out where the last half-decade has taken their sound. Time flies. Also birds.
A389 will have Negative Everythingout in the coming months, as the PR wire informs:
PHARAOH: New Jersey Trio Completes Tracking Of New LP For A389
Following two 7″ releases released through A389, Somerville, New Jersey-based trio, PHARAOH, has completed the tracking on their debut LP for the label.
PHARAOH’s hardcore-influenced sludge reverberation can be traced to legendary acts like Bloodlet, Neurosis, Grief and Starkweather, the band demonstrating their craft through a bruising, slow-motion dirge of through monolithic amplification. Through regional touring and multiple recordings, including their 2010-released I Murderer 7″ and 2012-released This House Is Doomed 7″, the past few years have earned the band a respectable cult status in line with the likes of A389 labelmates Ilsa and Seven Sisters Of Sleep.
Now for 2014, PHARAOH’s debut LP, Negative Everything, is being finalized for release. With nearly fifty minutes of new material, Negative Everything takes the band’s intoxicating low-end tunes to new levels of musicianship with more swirling lead guitar mayhem and thunderous rhythms. The album was tracked and produced by the band and mastered by Will Putney at Machine Shop. Upon receiving the final masters, A389 will confirm a late Summer release date for the LP.
PHARAOH will raid Philly for a show tonight, Friday, May 16th, followed by shows in Baltimore and Washington DC the next two nights before joining Seven Sisters Of Sleep, Ilsa and others in Montclair, New Jersey this Monday, May 19th. Additional tour actions will be scheduled as the release of Negative Everything closes in.
PHARAOH Live: 5/19/2014 The Batcave – Montclair, NJ w/ Seven Sisters Of Sleep, Ilsa, Dutchguts, Thera Roya
Posted in audiObelisk on February 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
In a couple days, Philly-adjacent four-piece Gholas will head out on a weekender that will take them from Columbus, Ohio, through Chicago and Pittsburgh, finally looping south to Washington D.C. before heading back up I-95 to their home in New Jersey (a record release show at Kung Fu Necktie is set for later this month with Sadgiqacea and Lord Dying). The occasion for the roadtrip is the release of their second album, Litanies, which is out today on Dullest Records as the follow-up to 2010’s Zagadkaand a prior EP, 2008’s Here I am, Here is Infinity, and which offers just under 40-minutes of vicious and unadulterated pummel.
Their roots are in hardcore. One can hear it easily enough in the vocals of baritone guitarists Bob and Chris (also in the fact that the band is first-names-only), their guttural shouts coming across gruff and raw-throated over the alternately crushing and pummeling tracks on Litanies. The two baritone guitars don’t hurt Gholas‘ overarching tonal thickness, either. Along with Joe‘s bass, they’re able to make a turn like that of the gruelingly slow end of “The Sleeper” into the faster rush of closer “The Fighters” all the more weighted, while drummer Dave handles that and all shifts of pace within the songs with suitable fluidity. While the closing duo both range over nine-minutes, Gholas are never far from a sense of immediacy, the initial thrust and multi-channel vocal tradeoffs of opener “…And the Lives Come Flooding” setting the table for a varied and sometimes disorienting album to come, with shades of Swans-via-Neurosis showing themselves in the guitars and the sense of fluidity that allows the band to transcend aesthetics for an approach less adherent to genre than working in defiance of it.
That’s not to say one can’t hear shades of sludge in the lurching riff of “The Worm,” Converge-style post-hardcore in “With Terrible Purpose” or ambient doom in the surprisingly brief “Call out to the Supplicants,” just that when taken as a whole, Litaniesultimately shows little interest in staying put in one realm or the other stylistically. It works to Gholas‘ advantage over the course of the album, which as a result is best approached front-to-back, rather than one song at a time or in vinyl-style sides. It’s a linear flow, a broader-than-it-at-first-seems range and 39 minutes of multifaceted bludgeoning. You will not hear me complain.
Some of Litanies‘ most atmospherically dense and complex stretches come about in “The Sleeper” and “The Fighters,” but even earlier than that, Gholas establish a brutal course that proves well worth following to its conclusion.
Player, release info and tour dates follow:
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Philadelphia doomhaulers GHOLAS lurk the murky depths of noise, down tuned guitars, no wave, not quite metal and a tad space gazing as only four unfortunate miscreants that spent their formative years in the festering wasteland that is New Jersey could. Their songs are harsh down tuned blasts of sound that scratch the surface of an unhealthy obsession with the writings of Frank Herbert, Philip K Dick and Arthur C. Clarke, among others.
Their latest LP, entitled Litanies, finds the band trimming down their attack while still incorporating the grating noise and ambience of their previous outings into a more concise and, at times, direct aural assault on people’s ears. Litanies was recorded in the winter of 2012/2013 at Red Planet and engineered and mixed by Joe Smiley, with masterful mastering courtesy of James Plotkin.
GHOLAS ON TOUR: 2.13 Columbus OH @ Cafe Bourbon St, The Summit w/ Earthburner 2.14 Chicago IL @ The Burlington 2.15 Pittsburgh PA @ The Rock Room w/ Dendritic Arbor 2.16 Washington DC @ Velvet Lounge 2.26 Philadephia PA @ Kungfu Necktie Record Release Show w/ Lord Dying, Sadgiqacea
Technically speaking, the limited-to-50-tapes Demo isn’t Green Dragon‘s first outing, though it is the North Jersey trio’s first on their own, their debut having been on a 2013 split tape with Purple Knights (review here). The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Zack Kurland, bassist Jennifer Klein and drummer Nathan Wilson released a video for an earlier recording of “Downflame,” which opens this cassette, late in 2012, but in the time since, they seem to have dropped the “The” from the front of their name and come further into their sound. Demo is exactly that: a rudimentary showing of what Green Dragon have to offer sonically, and its four songs — the aforementioned “Downflame,” as well as “Psychonaut,” “Earth Children” and “Book of Shadows” — strike with the urgency and exploratory feel of a band’s earliest going. So if it isn’t precisely their first release, it’s not far off.
Kurland, who was also in Purple Knights and Sweet Diesel , leads the trio’s charge in gritty riffs and blown out vocals. The tape repeats all four tracks on both sides, and altogether each side is just over 14 minutes long, so any way you go, it’s a quick look at Green Dragon‘s approach, which nestles itself somewhere between garage shuffle and doomly grooving. Klein and Wilson add a fervent swing to “Psychonaut,” pushing the song’s Motörhead-style riff into more swaggering territory as Kurland drawls out intonations that would be nearly indecipherable were it not for the included lyric sheets in both the cassette and CD versions of the release. They never get into the same kind of malevolent psycho-delic melodicism as Uncle Acid, but some of the sway in “Earth Children” and the guitar in “Book of Shadows” hint in that direction if presenting a ’90s alt-rock crunch, while “Downflame” shows more of a classic metal root, hitting its stride in Iron Maiden-style hits and gallop in its second half.
A steady underpinning of Sabbath influence serves as a uniting factor and whole the key is remembering that it’s a demo release, Green Dragon show off some sonic fluidity between the tracks as the feedback that ends “Psychonaut” fades out an into that which starts the rolling bass groove of “Earth Children.” It might be me reading into it, but the second two cuts feel more complex than “Downflame” and “Psychonaut,” with “Earth Children” pushing more into psych ground and hitting a fuller stride in the bridge after its second chorus, leading to Kurland ‘s repeating the line, “Earth children are free,” and “Book of Shadows” sounding altogether more patient and assured in its pacing. If those are earlier or later in terms of the songwriting, I don’t know, but listening to the demo front to back — and then flipping over to side two and doing so again — it’s easy to read a narrative of progression into the material. At that point, whether or not it’s there is a secondary consideration (though still relevant of course). You can hear it.
What that might mean for Green Dragon‘s progression remains to be seen, but the balance of elements they devise on Demointrigues as a solid demo should, and the gnarl in Kurland‘s guitar and Klein ‘s bass feels particularly suited to the compression of a tape, though I’ll say as well that both the CD and digital versions work with a little more frequency room to space out. Think of it as a choose-your-own-adventure release. “You’ve just encountered a Green Dragon…”
Posted in Reviews on February 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Second week in a row I’m trying this, since the universe didn’t seem to collapse on itself after the first one — unless you count how bad I fucked up lineups; they’re fixed now. Once again we cover some pretty wide ground geographically and stylistically (also alphabetically!), so let’s get to it:
Buddha Sentenza, South Western Lower Valley Rock
Released last year as their debut on World in Sound Records, the 14-track full-length South Western Lower Valley Rock is Buddha Sentenza‘s follow-up to 2009’s exploratory Mode 0909 (review here). The 46-minute outing from the German instrumental fivesome pairs longer pieces like the classic rocking “Arrested Development” (5:04) and prog-jamming “The Monkey Stealing the Peaches” (2:49) off of brief transitional interludes taking their name from letters in the Greek alphabet. I’m not sure what “A-B-G-D-E-Z-I” is meant to indicate — the tracks being “Alpha,” “Beta,” “Gamma” and so on — but they pair remarkably well with the other pieces, and the emergent feel is not unlike that of My Sleeping Karma‘s 2012 outing, Soma, methodologically as well as aesthetically. Perhaps the highlight of South Western Lower Valley Rockis its longest component, “Debris Moon,” which in just under nine minutes weaves nighttime atmospherics and heavy psych ambience into what’s still a subdued track, never quite paying off the tension it creates until the subsequent “Epsilon” shifts into the aforementioned “The Monkey Stealing the Peaches,” giving even more of a clue that Buddha Sentenza are working in a whole-album mindset, rather than thinking of South Western Lower Valley Rockin terms of its individual tracks. The album makes sense on this level, and on CD presents an immersive, linear listening experience that casts a deceptively wide stylistic berth between keyboard-infused krautrock worship, heavy rock and psychedelia, offering fluid motion from in less skilled hands could easily come across as disjointed elements. They make that My Sleeping Karma comparison almost too easy, but the interludes are ultimately essential in creating the flow, as the ease of movement between the desert crunch of “Tzameti,” “Eta” and Eastern-vibing closer “Psychonaut” underscores. Some of Buddha Sentenza‘s best moments are in playing styles off each other.
Chrome, Half Machine from the Sun: The Lost Tracks from ’79-’80
While the liner notes tell of their having been designated “too accessible” at the time, the 18 songs on Chrome‘s Half Machine from the Sun are still plenty weird. As the title indicates, the release is a compilation of yet-unissued cuts from 1979-1980, the era of Half Machine Lip Moves and Red Exposure for Chrome‘s key collaboration between guitarist/vocalist Helios Creed and drummer/vocalist Damon Edge and arguably the point at which that incarnation of the band’s far-out blend of proto-punk, New Wave, psychedelic rock and experimental pop was at its most potent. Sure enough, Half Machine from the Sun crisscrosses genres on an almost per-track basis, be it the weirdo electro stomp of “Looking for Your Door,” the space rock noise wash of “Morrison” or “Sub Machine,” which turns an almost manic drum beat into the foundation of an otherworldly guitar and vocal exploration. They can and will go anywhere, as “Charlie’s Little Problem” and the creeper keyboards of “Ghost” showcase, but if there’s anything tying Half Machine from the Sun(which is out through King of Spades Records following a successful crowdfunding campaign to have it pressed to CD) together, it’s the fact that nothing is tying it together. Tape loops, analog synth, bizarre vocals, structure out the window — and yes, this is still the “accessible” side of Chrome — these songs nonetheless leave any number of memorable impressions, even if that impression winds up in an overarching sense of “God damn this band was weird.” Gloriously so. Chrome, under the direction of Helios Creed, have reportedly been at work on new material, so maybe all the better to give fans advance notice via this collection, which provides 73 minutes of alternate universe brainfodder to sate the curious and the passionate alike. A fan piece, but a welcome one.
The self-released debut EP from New Jersey-based progressive black metallers Hercyn, Magda, arrives in a full jewel case — the pressing is limited to 100 copies — wrapped in twine. I guess that’s meant to take the place of shrinkwrap, and in that, it’s certainly a more natural-feeling option. Magda‘s namesake track is a 24-minute blend of Euro-doom melancholy, blackened gurgles, grand riffing and ambient weight from the Jersey City trio of guitarist Michael DiCiania, guitarist/vocalist Ernest Wawiorko and bassist Tony Stanziano. About the only thing holding back the EP’s organic vibe is the fact that the drums are programmed, which gives the complex, ambitious “Magda” a mechanical base for what’s otherwise a relatively human sound; the guitars are buzzsaw sharp, but not necessarily without tonal warmth, and particularly in blastbeaten stretches, one almost wants something less precise to go along with the rawness in those guitars, as well as in the bass and Wawiorko‘s vocals. Nonetheless, as lead and rhythm layers intertwine past “Magda”‘s midpoint, there’s beauty in the dismal and a sense of the potential in Hercyn to fluidly cross genre boundaries even more than they already are. That lead is well plotted and sustained, and tempo and chug vary as the song reaches and moves beyond its apex in the second half, with the band offering a bit of Enslaved and Woods of Ypres influence in the interplay of keys and strings. I don’t know if they’ll try to find an actual drummer — for a first release, Magdahardly seems half-assed in its presentation, so maybe this is it; I hear industrial is on its way back — but Hercyn have started with a work of striking intricacy, and prove wholly comfortable in the longer form. An impressive and hopefully portentous debut.
Acid fuzz like a field you could lay down and lose an afternoon in is the contraband trafficked by L.A. freakouts The Warlocks, whose amorphous sonic ooze is every bit in mirror to their lineup, which has seen no fewer than 20 cats come and go and stick around over the course of the last decade and a half. With guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist/bassist Bobby Hecksher as the core around which the eight tracks of the 40-minute Skull Worship swirl, the oft-shoegazing psychedelia isn’t given to complete chaos, but man, The Warlocks go way, way out and don’t seem overly concerned with how they’re getting back. Joining Hecksher for the adventure are guitarist JC Rees, guitarist Earl V. Miller, bassist Chris DiPino and drummer George Serrano, as well as Tanya Hayden, who stops by to add some cello to “Silver and Plastic,” which sounds like what I always secretly hoped Radiohead would deliver instead of the pretentious mopey schlock they put out until they decided they were too smart for albums or whatever. The Warlocks, who had a couple records out on Tee Pee before jumping to Zap Banana/Cargo Records for Skull Worship, at times call to mind the very, very British moments of Crippled Black Phoenix, but then the psychedelic wash of “Chameleon” or “It’s a Hard Fall” takes hold and the whole vibe is groovier, thicker, more multi-colored molasses, whatever other attitude it might convey. The album hits its stride just when you think it might start to drag, and the closing “Eyes Jam” sounds like its backwards cymbals, feedback and drones could just go on into perpetuity, like if the record never returned and the loop kept repeating. Some heady moments, but should be right on the level for those properly tuned in.
Immediately and throughout much of the duration of Polish psychedelic pop rockers The White Kites‘ debut LP, Missing (out on Deep Field Records), the vibe is Beatles. Lots and lots of Beatles, from the Sgt. Pepper-style organ circus swirl of opener “Arrival” on through the McCartney piano bounce of the penultimate “The Missing.” It is a 50-minute album, and much of the lighthearted atmosphere it creates stems from its modern interpretation of the legendary Liverpudlians in their psych era. Hard to rag on a band for digging The Beatles — it’s like yelling at a fish for breathing underwater. And as a seven-piece that includes flute, recorders, keyboards, citole, a variety of percussion, clarinet, ukulele and so on, The White Kites aren’t lacking for sonic diversity — vocalist Sean Palmer has quite a task in tying the album together — but as intricate and progressive as Missing gets, it’s still taking the Lennon/McCartney byway to get there. The corresponding songwriting team for The White Kites seems to be Palmer and bassist/keyboardist Jakub Lenarczyk (presented as Lenarczyk/Palmer), and they’re more than capable in their charge, but hints of early Pink Floyd and King Crimson seem to be waiting to emerge from “Turtle’s Back” and “Beyond the Furthest Star,” like they’re trying to get out and be more prominent in the band’s sound but are overpowered by the traceable poppiness. That doesn’t stop Missing from being enjoyable — unless you’ve never liked The Beatles, maybe — or “Beyond the Furthest Star” from being the highlight, it just means that The White Kites have room to shift the sonic balance should they choose to do so their next time around. Until then, impeccable production and imaginative arrangements throughout give an impression of a band just beginning their discovery.