The Obelisk Presents: Buzzov*en, Earthride & Crushed at Knitting Factory Brooklyn, Oct. 29

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on October 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Every now and again, life affords you the opportunity to have a truly memorable evening. These nights don’t have to be perfect — sometimes they can involve getting kicked in the head — but they’re the sorts of nights you continue to bring with you as you move along the course of your existence. They affect you long after they’re over, sometimes in ways you don’t even immediately understand, and it’s not until you look back years later that you fully realize the impact that single night had.

I’m thrilled to have The Obelisk counted among the sponsors for Buzzov*en and Earthride‘s tour stop at Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on Oct. 29 with Crushed opening because I truly believe this could be one of those nights for those fortunate enough to be in attendance. It might be smooth going, or you might get kicked in the head, but so help me, one way or another and no matter what sort of ingestion you might undertake along the way, you’re going to remember you were there when this thing happened. It’s going to be one hell of an evening: volume, intensity, rawness, groove. Don’t be surprised if at least three new bands form from people in the crowd, because the impulse to carry forward this level of onslaught will be strong. I mean it.

Let’s sell this one out, Brooklyn. All ages. Make it happen. Here’s info:

buzzoven-earthride-poster

OCT. 29 – Buzzov*en, Earthride, Crushed

Knitting Factory Brooklyn

361 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, New York 11211

$20 adv | $25 dos | all ages

Buzzov-en has been cranking out drug-fueled, misanthropic sludge punk in various incarnations since their inception in 1990. Known almost as much for their out-of-control and sometimes violent live shows as they are for their music, the band carries on a tradition shared by such fellow Southern troublemakers as Eyehategod and Antiseen. They have endured several lineup changes and apparent breakups over the years, with the only permanent member being singer/guitarist Kirk Fisher (alternately credited on albums as “Reverend Dirtkicker” or simply “Kirk.”).

Buzzov*en are:
Kirk – Vocals/Guitar
Dave “Dixie” Collins – Bass/vocals
Ash Lee – Drums
Zak Hembree – Guitar

Buzzov*en, Earthride & Crushed at Knitting Factory Thee Facebooks event page

Buzzov*en on Thee Facebooks

Earthride on Thee Facebooks

Crushed on Thee Facebooks

Tone Deaf Touring website

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Quarterly Review: Wucan, Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Thera Roya, Ojos Rojos, Ett Rop På Hjälp, BongCauldron, Nomadic Rituals, Mental Tremors, Gin Lady, Swanmay

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Round five of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review begins now. After dealing with the technical issues this week and changing hosts and having the site down for – well, as I write this, it’s still down, so I don’t really have a finished count yet, though obviously by the time you’re reading it it’ll be back up – yeah, it’s made putting together a batch of 10 reviews a day seem like a breeze. “Oh, you mean you’re only writing 10 reviews today? Well now this is happening.” That kind of thing. Didn’t I say something earlier this week about a piano falling on my head? Prescient.

Plan is to finish the QR on Monday and then get back to what passes for normalcy around here. Still plenty of good stuff to come between now and then though, so let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Wucan, Reap the Storm

wucan reap the storm

Bilingual heavy blues rockers Wucan offer their second full-length, Reap the Storm, through MIG Music, and with it showcase a stunning range of songwriting. The album is set up as a 2LP and runs eight songs/73 minutes from the Dresden, Germany, four-piece of vocalist Francis Tobolsky (also flute, guitar, theremin, sitar and percussion), guitarist/keyboardist Tim George, bassist Patrik Dröge and drummer Philip Knöfel, and from the expansive jamming of 10-minute opener “Wie Die Welt Sich Dreht,” it solidifies into the classic-prog-meets-heavy-boogie of “Ebb and Flute/The Eternal Groove” and nestles into driving semi-psychedelic rock on “Out of Sight out of Mind” to lead the charge on a side B marked out by the organ in “I’m Gonna Leave You,” the interplay of trippy/soulful vocals and flute on “The Rat Catcher” and the quiet, German-language post-Zeppelin acoustic folk of “Falkenlied.” Okay. Already your head’s spinning. Then Wucan dive into “Aging Ten Years in Two Seconds” and “Cosmic Guilt,” which together comprise the second of the two LPs, the former running 21:05 and the latter 18:04, and basically between them represent another album entirely, tying all of the elements previously listed together into one richly complex, progressive-but-still-warm delivery. Their breadth is met by an overarching organic feel – the flute and Tobolsky’s vocals help greatly in this – and though the results are somewhat unmanageable, Wucan remain impressively cohesive throughout the many twists and turns.

Wucan on Thee Facebooks

MIG Music website

 

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, Silent Echo

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The new single “Silent Echo” is an awaited return from Moscow progressive heavy rockers Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, who showed up with an encouraging debut, The Shining One (review here), in 2014. In the rhythmic push and balance of melody and hook, “Silent Echo” reaffirms the appeal of that album and presses it forward, and the band – now comprised of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Oleg Sakharov, guitarist Sergey Starykh, drummer Ramis Cervantes and backing vocalist Alexey Fedotov – hold fast to the underlying proggy sensibilities that fall so well in line with the crispness of their production and the clarity of intent in their songcraft. If they were German or Swedish, they’d already be signed. After three years, a new album would be welcome, but perhaps “Silent Echo” is a harbinger of things to come, and if indeed the six-minute track is all we’re getting for now, it’s got resonance enough behind it to last at least for a while. Hard to hear it though and not want more from these guys.

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Thee Facebooks

Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Bandcamp

 

Thera Roya, Masterful Universe

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Tracked a year ago in North Carolina, Thera Roya’s Masterful Universe two-songer follows behind their earlier-2017 debut long-player, Stone and Skin (review here), and continues their headfirst dive into noise-laden riotousness across the seven-minute “Static Transmission” (I’m sorry, but are those monkey sounds around the three-minute mark?) and five-minute “Confused Population,” which starts out with a sample of the bomb-riding end sequence of Dr. Strangelove, because I guess the Brooklyn/NJ trio of drummer/vocalist Ryan Smith, guitarist Christopher Eustaquio and bassist Jonny Cohn are feeling topical. Fair enough. That song pushes into cleaner vocals, almost drone-chants, for a particularly experimental feel, and keeps samples as a running theme (at least until the blackened cave-echo screams at the end), where “Static Transmission” is more scathingly aggressive at its core, but in both tracks, the message of Thera Roya getting weirder and weirder comes through clearly, and that only works to their benefit on this short but consuming offering. Run with it, dudes.

Thera Roya on Thee Facebooks

Thera Roya on Bandcamp

 

Ojos Rojos, Sons of Love and Death

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It’s been seven years since California-based heavy psych rockers Ojos Rojos made their debut with the full-length Disappear (review here), but you’d hardly know it from the vibrancy of their new five-song/26-minute Sons of Love and Death EP, which from its opening title-track – also the longest here (immediate points) – through the rightly spacious “Atmosphere” and smoothly rolling centerpiece “Say Goodbye” affects desert-hued shoegaze engagement that asks little of the listener more than to drift along with its easy path. “A Hole Inside” (pun sense tingling) brings especially satisfying fuzz in the guitar and a swirling couple leads to complement like stars overhead, and closer “So Free” doesn’t at all let the fact that it’s so darn laid back let it stop it from strutting its start-stop groove with such swagger. All told, Sons of Love and Death is a work of drippingly lysergic vibe, reminiscent of Dead Meadow at their most languid, but it comes across neither as staid nor redundant. Be it in the rhythmic push of “Atmosphere” or the final crashes of “So Free,” Ojos Rojos find the means to portray an active ecosystem in something that, from the surface, seems still and peaceful.

Ojos Rojos on Thee Facebooks

Ojos Rojos on Bandcamp

 

Ett Rop På Hjälp, Sans och Balans

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Ett Rop På Hjälp, quite simply, deserve a higher profile than they’ve got for their second album, Sans och Balans. The Gothenburg natives are a half-decade removed from their 2012 debut, Hur Svårt Kan Det Vara? (review here), on Transubstans, and the new collection is a more than worthy follow-up, offering classic-style boogie rollout on cuts like “En Djavuls Falla” and the later solo work on “Blanka Eftermiddagen,” while “Defenestration” (the only English title present, though it’s still sung in Swedish), highlights organ/keys alongside its low end depth and catchy movement, shifting at its midpoint to an instrumental jam that carries it into the bluesy build and harmonies of “Snomannen.” The penultimate “Leker Med Karlek” is particularly heavy ‘70s, but skirts the trap of sounding like Graveyard, Witchcraft or most others of that vintage ilk, and the finish in “Slutat Tro” prefaces its payoff with a subtle heft that comes to the fore late, manifesting a proto-doom working well to contrast the sweetness of the earlier vocal melody. It may be harder for those who don’t speak Swedish to grasp the verses and howling chorus of “Folkhemsdesperado” and the other inclusions here, but Sans och Balans is nothing if not worth that effort and clearly a record that earns more attention than it’s getting.

Ett Rop På Hjälp on Thee Facebooks

Sans och Balans on Spotify

 

BongCauldron, Binge

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Leeds trio BongCauldron have been kicking around the UK’s fertile heavy underground for the last five-plus years since their self-titled EP, issuing a series of shorter releases and splits and gradually readying themselves for a larger attack. That arrives as their eight-song/40-minute debut full-length, Binge, which sludge-bludgeons (yes, it sludgeons) its listener into submission with thickened nod, growls and an attitude that’s best represented perhaps in the title of second cut “Bury Your Axe in the Crania of Lesser Men.” Yeah, it’s like that. “68” and closer “Yorkshire Born” offer a Motörhead/High on Fire-style gallop, but the larger impression Binge makes comes from the pairing of the title-track and “Bigfoot Reigns” in the middle of the album. These two longest tracks, back to back, pummel their viscous onslaught, and even when the latter swaps out its faster first half for the massive slowdown of its second, its shift is purely from one extreme to the other. Feels like it’s been a while in the making, and maybe it has, but BongCauldron’s first long-player has nastiness a-plenty to make up for any and all lost time.

BongCauldron on Thee Facebooks

APF Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Nomadic Rituals, Marking the Day

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Marking the Day builds from minimalist drone over the first couple minutes of “From Nothing” into a maddeningly heavy, grueling, hour-long slog of noise-soaked and extremist post-sludge. It is the second album from Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Nomadic Rituals, and its cosmically-themed lumber is utterly vicious as it plays out across six tracks, the shortest of which, “Expansion,” is just under eight minutes long. Over the course of this creation-to-destruction journey, guitarist/vocalist Peter Hunter, bassist/vocalist Craig Carson and drummer Mark Smyth (all three also contribute noise and/or synth) take listeners “From Nothing” and leave them “Face Down in the Sea of Oblivion,” and it’s that 14-minute finale and specifically the tumultuous, pushed-even-further apex thereof, that is intended to capture the grand undoing of everything. One imagines when the end comes it won’t actually sound quite so glorious, but an interpretive representation, Nomadic Rituals give brutal portrayal that seems to fit the onslaught of chaos, and the final amp hum reminds that every ending is likewise a new beginning, even one so mammoth and consuming as this.

Nomadic Rituals on Thee Facebooks

Nomadic Rituals on Bandcamp

 

Mental Tremors, Mental Tremors

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A duo who manage to sound like a full band on a studio album is nothing new at this point, between layering and tonal heft and whatever else might be at play in a given act’s aesthetic. Fortunately, Melbourne two-piece Mental Tremors don’t need to rely on novelty. In the fuzz of songs like “Bastard Son” and “Violently” – that’s a riff you should hear – their self-titled debut long-player offers legit chops in craft and performance, yes, sounding full, but still natural as it makes its way through the weirdo-psych nod of the six-minute “Patient Man,” solidifying as it goes, and seeming to turn the classic LP dynamic of straightforward A and more expansive B sides on its head as it rounds out with “Hunters” and “The Fevering,” individualizing catchy, post-Queens of the Stone Age impulses and hairy riff-led raucousness. Initially self-released earlier this year, Mental Tremors was picked up for a vinyl pressing by Cursed Tongue Records, and whether it’s the clarion groove of opener “Like a Broken Town” or the nods and echoes that pervade “The Cascade,” there’s no question it earns that preservation that only physical media can provide.

Mental Tremors on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Gin Lady, Electric Earth

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Modern enough in its production, Gin Lady’s fourth album, Electric Earth (on Kozmik Artifactz) is nonetheless in pretty direct conversation with the ‘60s, whether it’s “I’m Your Friend” chatting it up with Paul McCartney circa Rubber Soul or the acoustic/piano stomp of “Mercy” in a back and forth with The Rolling Stones, even going so far as to reference “Satisfaction” in the lyrics. These pop-minded textures are met with some heavier rock vibes, but at its loudest, Electric Earth still sticks to a pretty serene feel, starting off at a dancey clip with “Flower People” and capping with the quick Lennonism of “Running No More,” while in between, the four-piece of vocalist Magnus Kamebro, guitarist/vocalist Joakim Karlsson, bassist/vocalist Anthon Johansson and drummer Fredrik Normark gracefully capture bygone vibes on the wistful “The Things You Used to Do,” the jammy “Brothers of the Canyon” and the crisp, clear “Water and Sunshine,” the hook of which could’ve easily come from a lost single from 1965. It’s a niche not everyone’s playing toward at this point, but still instantly familiar and engagingly, efficiently done.

Gin Lady on Thee Facebooks

Electric Earth at Kozmik Artifactz

 

Swanmay, Stoner Circus

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Unabashed stoner rock riff-led ideology persists throughout Stoner Circus, the hard-driving debut full-length from Linz, Austria, three-piece Swanmay. Working from a center of dense but not overblown fuzz, the rockers cast forth a clear-in-its-purposes nine tracks highlighted by “Lake on Fire,” which one can only wonder if whether or not was written in homage to the Austrian annual festival of the same name. In any case, that hook is one of several that feel particularly engaging throughout Stoner Circus, and the depth of tone on the instrumental “Dopechild” is enough to make that song memorable despite a lack of lyrics. Far from revolutionary, ultimately, but clearly not trying to be either, Swanmay’s first LP preaches its post-Kyussism on “Dharma” and in the Lowrider-style roll of “Sylvan” earlier on, but there’s an aggressive edge to it as well that comes to the fore on “Padawan” ahead of closer “Shiva,” which rounds out with a satisfying-if-telegraphed slowdown to make the point one more time about putting the groove first. So be it. As a debut, Stoner Circus gives Swanmay something to build on and already shows promise in songwriting and its well-honed execution of genre tenets.

Swanmay on Thee Facebooks

Swanmay on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Spotlights, War Cloud, Rubble Road, Monte Luna, High Reeper, Frozen Planet….1969, Zaius, Process of Guilt, Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk, Owlcrusher

Posted in Reviews on September 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Day two of the Quarterly Review and feeling groovy so far. Managed to survive yesterday thanks in no small part to good music and good coffee, and looking at what’s coming up in today’s batch, I don’t expect the situation will be much different — though the styles will. I try to keep in mind as I put these weeks together to change up what’s in each round, so it’s not just all psych records, or all doom, or heavy rock or whatever else. This way I’m not burning myself out on anything particular and I hopefully don’t wind up saying the same things about albums that maybe only share vague genre aspects in common — riffs, etc. — in the same way. Essentially trying to trick my brain into being creative. Sometimes it even works. Let’s see how it fares today.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Spotlights, Seismic

spotlights seismic

After touring hard with the likes of Melvins, Deftones and Refused, heavy post-rockers Spotlights mark their first release on Ipecac Recordings with their second album, Seismic, which finds the core duo of Mario and Sarah Quintero working with producer Aaron Harris (Isis) to follow-up 2016’s Tidals with 65 minutes/11 tracks of weighted atmospherics and far-spanning melodic textures as shown on emotive heft-bringers like “Ghost of a Glowing Forest.” Heavygaze, I suppose, is the genre tag that’s emerged, but with the opening title-track, the chugging “Learn to Breathe” and the later percussive turns of “A Southern Death,” there’s as much focus on crush as on ambience, though as Seismic makes its way through the pair of eight-minute tracks “Hollow Bones” (wonder if they know the 30 Rock reference they’re making) and “Hang us All” before the minimal subdued drones and melodic effects swirls of closer “The Hope of a Storm,” Spotlights succeed in finding a middle ground that offers plenty of both. In its moments of intensity and its range, Seismic builds cohesion from ether and immediately benefits from the purposeful growth the Quinteros have clearly undertaken over the past year by hitting the road with the dedication they have.

Spotlights on Thee Facebooks

Ipecac Recordings website

 

War Cloud, War Cloud

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Bay Area rockers War Cloud don’t get too fancy on their self-titled debut, which they make via Ripple Music as the follow-up to their 2016 single Vulture City (discussed here), but as they prove quickly in the dual-guitar Thin Lizzyisms of opener “Give’r” and the later post-Motörhead/Peter Pan Speedrock careening of “Speed Demon,” neither do they necessarily need to. Comprised of guitarists Alex Wein (also vocals) and Tony Campos, bassist Sean Nishi and drummer Joaquin Ridgell, War Cloud offer 31 minutes of brisk, unpretentious asskickery, riffs trading channels at the outset of “Hurricane” as it makes ready to settle into its proto-thrashing rocker groove, and the mood of the release as a whole engaging as much through its reimagining 20-year-old Metallica as a heavy rock band there as on the more grandly riff-led “Divide and Conquer.” Structures are straightforward, and not one of the eight tracks tops five minutes, but they’re more than enough for War Cloud find their place between metal form and heavy rock tone, and cuts like “Chopper Wired” and brazenly charged closer “Vulture City” nail the core message of the band’s arrival.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Rubble Road, The Clowns Have Spoken

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Rubble Road ain’t hurtin’ nobody. The Orlando-based double-guitar four-piece take two prior singles and put them together with four new tracks as their 29-minute/six-song debut EP, The Clowns Have Spoken, and thereby bring forth straightforward heavy rock that seems to be finding its personality in tone but nonetheless has a strong structural foundation underlying that holds up the material and “The Judge” tosses in a bit of metallic gallop to go with the forward-directed heavy rock proffered on the prior “Galactic Fugitives” and “Gospel (Get it Together).” I won’t say much for the politics of “Truck Stop Hooker,” which caps with the line, “Your mother gives great helmet, baby,” but “Wizard Staff” and “Do it Yourself” broaden the dynamic of the release overall. They’ve got some growing to do, but again, there’s an efficiency in their songwriting that comes through these songs, and as an initial showcase/demo, The Clowns Have Spoken shows Rubble Road with the potential to continue to grow.

Rubble Road on Thee Facebooks

Rubble Road on Bandcamp

 

Monte Luna, Monte Luna

monte luna monte lona

You might check out the self-titled debut from Austin, Texas, duo Monte Luna. You might even pick up the digipak or tape version. You might listen to extended tracks like “Nameless City” (12:53) and “6,000 Year March” (17:42) and be like, “Yeah, cool riffs dudes.” You might even then chase down the The Hound EP that guitarist/vocalist/bassist James Clarke and drummer/synthesist Phil Hook put out last year. At some point though, you’re going to put Monte Luna’s Monte Luna on your shelf and leave it there. Fair enough. However – and I’m not going to say when; could be sooner, could be later — then you’re going to find yourself remembering its massive, 71-minute sprawl of riffs, its doomed-out grooves, shouts, screams, growls and the way its builds become so utterly immersive, and you’re going to put Monte Luna on again. And that’s the moment when it will really hit you. It might take some time, and part of that is no doubt that there’s simply a lot of record to wade through, but whether it’s the rumbling start of “Nightmare Frontier” (14:26), the cacophonous stomp of “Inverted Mountain” (12:04) or the righteous crash of “The End of Beginning” (9:42), Monte Luna will have earned that deeper look, and if you allow them to make that deeper impression with their self-titled, they almost certainly will.

Monte Luna on Thee Facebooks

Monte Luna on Bandcamp

 

High Reeper, High Reeper

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Newcomer five-piece High Reeper telegraph Sabbathian heavy rocker intent with their self-released, self-titled debut album. The Delaware-based lineup of Zach Thomas, Napz Mosley, Andrew Price, Pat Daly and Shane Trimble make no bones about their roots in opener “Die Slow,” and as the stoner-swinging “High Reeper,” the doom-swaggering “Reeper Deadly Reeper” and the yo-check-out-this-bassline nodder “Weed and Speed” play out in the record’s midsection, it seems increasingly likely that, sooner or later, some imprint or other will pick up High Reeper for a wider release. As the band demonstrates through the stomping “Soul Taker” and the seeming mission statement “Black Leather (Chose Us)” ahead of closer “Friend of Death,” which breaks its six minutes in half between Judas Priest thrust and an instrumental finish that calls to mind “Heaven and Hell,” they’ve got a keen ear for updating classic elements, and though formative, their first outing is cleverly memorable and an immediately resonant display of songcraft. Now we know High Reeper can engage these stylistic components — the test will be how they develop them into something individualized going forward.

High Reeper on Thee Facebooks

High Reeper on YouTube

 

Frozen Planet….1969, From the Centre of a Parallel Universe

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From the Centre of a Parallel Universe is the second long-player of 2017 from Sydney/Canberra’s Frozen Planet….1969. It arrives on CD through Pepper Shaker and LP via Headspin with five tracks/43 minutes of improv-style psych jams following suit from the prior Electric Smokehouse (review here) and helps to bring the band’s funk-infused, spacious dynamic all the more into focus. Also out of focus. Like, blurry vision-style. They range far and wide and keep the proceedings delightfully weird in the three extended pieces “Celestial Gambler,” “Through Hell’s Kaleidoscope, Parts I & II” and “Ancient Wings Taking Flight” – all north of 11 minutes – and with “Signals (Channelling…)” and “The Lady and the Archer” leading the way into each LP side, Frozen Planet….1969 take the time to assure they’re bringing their listeners along with them on their potent journey into the cosmically far out. The must-hear bass tone in “Ancient Wings Taking Flight” is but one of many reasons to dig in, but whatever it takes, From the Centre of a Parallel Universe’s invitation to get lost is not one to be missed.

Frozen Planet….1969 on Thee Facebooks

Pepper Shaker Records on Bandcamp

 

Zaius, Of Adoration

zaius of adoration

Chicago’s history with instrumentalist post-metal goes back as far as the notion of the subgenre itself with acts like Pelican and Russian Circles providing aesthetic-defining landmarks over the last 15-plus years even as a group like Bongripper embraces darker, more lumbering fare. The four-piece Zaius, who make their full-length debut with Of Adoration on Prosthetic Records after two self-released EPs in 2013 and 2011, position themselves more toward the shimmering airiness of the former rather than the latter’s raw lumber, but there’s heft to be found in the expanses of “Sheepdog” and “Seirenes” all the same, and the second half of “Echelon” and closer “Colin” tighten up some of the ethereality of pieces like opener “Phaneron” and the driftingly progressive “Reformer” or the penultimate, patient rollout of “Anicca” to hone a sense of balance that feels as emotionally driven as it is cerebral in its construction. Hard for a band like Zaius to stand themselves out at this point given the swath of acts working in a similar style in and out of the Windy City, but in its textural approach and held-steady flow, Of Adoration satisfies.

Zaius on Thee Facebooks

Prosthetic Records webstore

 

Process of Guilt, Black Earth

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Portuguese post-doomers Process of Guilt hit the 15-year mark with the release of their fourth album, Black Earth (on Division/Bleak Recordings), and with a mix by Brooklyn noise-rock specialist Andrew Schneider, a mastering job by Collin Jordan in Chicago and striking cover art by growler/guitarist Hugo Santos with images by Pedro Almeida, the sense of atmosphere is thick and the mood is aggressive throughout. Santos, along with guitarist Nuno David, bassist Custódio Rato and drummer Gonçalo Correia chug and flow through a linear 42 minutes and five tracks on the suitably darkened offering, touching on progressive nuance but not letting cerebral underpinnings take away from the onslaught feel of “Feral Ground” or the tension mounted early in the 11-minute penultimate title-track, which uses feedback as a weapon throughout no less capably than the subsequent closer “Hoax” affects immediately with its nodding tonal wash. Taken as a whole, Black Earth finds Process of Guilt exploring depths of their sound as much as with it, and the directions they go feel as much inward as out.

Process of Guilt on Thee Facebooks

Division Records website

Bleak Recordings website

 

Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk, Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk

Sundus-Abdulghani-Trunk-self-titled

The challenge for an outfit like Stockholm’s Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk, whose self-titled debut arrives via respected purveyor Kozmik Artifactz, lies separating themselves from the shadow of fellow Swedes Blues Pills, whose semi-psych heavy-blues-rocking first album has cast a wide influence that can be heard here as well as in any number of other bands currently kicking around the Euro underground proffering as balance of soul and heavy rock as songs like “It Ain’t Love (But Close Enough)” and “Like Water” do here. Where Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk most succeed in doing this is in the harmonies of “Black Magic Man,” which brings to mind classic acid folk while holding to a heavy blues vibe, but there are other moments throughout when individuality flourishes as well. The attitude is laid on a bit thick in “Them Dames,” but the hooks of “Sister Sorrow,” “She Knows,” “The Devil’s Got a Hold on You” and “Stay” and the burgeoning sense of arrangements complementing Abdulghani’s vocals do well in helping cast an identity one hopes will continue to develop.

Sundus Abdulghani & Trunk on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Owlcrusher, Owlcrusher

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Conceived by guitarist/vocalist Andrew Spiers, bassist/vocalist Steve Hobson and drummer Damien McKeown, Banbridge trio Owlcrusher conjure three extended, slicing slabs of black-singed sludge extremity on their self-titled Seeing Red Records debut, and it’s enough to make one wonder just what the fuck is going on in Northern Ireland to inspire such outright bleakness. Beginning with the 16-minute “Feeble Preacher” (also the longest inclusion here; immediate points), Owlcrusher’s Owlcrusher lumbers excruciatingly forth with screams and growls cutting through a tonality geared for max-volume consumption, though it remains to be seen who is consuming whom as “Feeble Preacher” gives way to the likewise scorched eponymous “Owlcrusher” (11:30) and 15-minute closer “Spoiler,” the last of which brings the only real moment of letup on the album after about nine minutes in, and even that takes the form of an interlude of Khanate-style minimalist ambience before the rolling megacrush resumes and plods to a somehow-even-heavier finish. Clearly a band pushing themselves toward the superlative, Owlcrusher get there much faster than their crawling tones would have you believe. Madness.

Owlcrusher on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: The Necromancers, The Asound & Intercourse, Bohr, Strobe, Astrosaur, Sun Q, Holy Mount, Sum of R, IIVII, Faces of the Bog

Posted in Reviews on September 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

The season is changing here in the Northeastern part of the US. Leaves have just barely started to change, and the summertime haze that settles over the region for for the better parts of June, July and August has largely dissipated. It’s getting to be hoodie weather after the sun goes down. This past weekend was the equinox. All of this can only mean it’s time for another Quarterly Review — this one spanning a full Monday-to-Monday week’s worth of writeups. That’s right. 60 albums between now and a week from today. It’s going to be a genuine challenge to get through it all, but I’m (reasonably) confident we’ll get there and that when we’re on the other side, it will have been completely worth the lengthy trip to get there. Hell, you know the drill by now. Let’s not waste any time and get to it, shall we?

Quarterly Review #1-10:

The Necromancers, Servants of the Salem Girl

the-necromancers-servants-of-the-salem-girl

A noteworthy debut from the Poitier, France-based four-piece The Necromancers, whose coming has been much heralded owing in no small part to a release through Ripple Music, the six-track/41-minute Servants of the Salem Girl lumbers through doom and cultish heavy rock with likewise ease, shifting itself fluidly between the two sides on extended early cuts like opener “Salem Girl Part I” and the nine-minute “Lucifer’s Kin,” which gets especially Sabbathian in its roll later on. The album’s midsection, with the shorter cuts “Black Marble House” (video premiere here) and “Necromancers,” continues the flow with a general uptick of pace and ties together with the opening salvo via the burly vocals of guitarist Tom, the solo work of Rob on lead guitar, and the adaptable groove from bassist Simon and drummer Ben, and as the penultimate “Grand Orbiter” engages moody spaciousness, it does so with a refusal to commit to one side or the other that makes it a highlight of the album as a whole. The Necromancers finish contrasting rhythmic tension and payoff nod on “Salem Girl Part II,” having long since thoroughly earned their hype through songwriting and immediately distinct sonic persona. There’s growth to do in melodicism, but for being “servants,” The Necromancers show an awful lot of command in structure and style.

The Necromancers on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

The Asound & Intercourse, Split 7″

the asound intercourse split

Noise is the order of things on the Tsuguri Records split 7” between New Haven, Connecticut’s good-luck-Googling aggressives Intercourse and North Carolinian sludge rockers The Asound. Each band offers a two-song showcase of their wares, with Intercourse blasting short jabs of post-hardcore/noise rock angularity on “Too Fucked to Yiff” and “Corricidin is a Helluva Drug” and The Asound bringing a more melodic heavy rock swing to “Slave to the Saints” while saving a more galloping charge for “Human for Human.” It’s a quick sampling, of course, and “Slave to the Saints” is the relative epic inclusion as the only one over three minutes long – it goes to 4:20, naturally – but boasts a surprisingly professional production from The Asound and an unhinged vibe from Intercourse that meets them head on in a way both competitive and complementary to the aggression of “Human for Human.” Fodder for the bands’ merch tables in its limited-to-300, one-time-only pressing, but there’s hardly anything wrong with that. All the more worth grabbing it if you can, while you can.

The Asound on Thee Facebooks

Intercourse on Thee Facebooks

Tsuguri Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Bohr, Bohr

bohr bohr

Officially called Self-Title, this two-song outing released by Tandang Records and BTNKcllctv serves as the first release from Malaysia’s Bohr, and with shouts and growls duking it out over massive plodding tones on opener “Voyager,” they seem to take position right away in the post-Conan verve of megadoom. Peppered-in lead work showcases some welcome nuance of personality, but it’s the second track “Suria” that trips into more surprising terrain, with a faster tempo and something of a letup in thickness, allowing for a more rocking feel, still met with shouted vocals but hinting at more of a melodic reach nonetheless. The shift might be awkward in the context of a full-length, but on a debut single/EP, it works just fine to demonstrate what may or may not be a nascent breadth in Bohr’s approach. They finish “Suria” with hints of more to come in a plotted guitar lead and are done in about 10 minutes, having piqued interest with two disparate tracks that leave one to wonder what other tricks might be up their collective sleeve.

Bohr on Thee Facebooks

Tandang Records on Bandcamp

BTNKcllctv on Bandcamp

 

Strobe, Bunker Sessions

strobe bunker sessions

It’s worth noting outright that Strobe’s Bunker Sessions was recorded in 1994. Not because it sounds dated, but just the opposite. The Sulatron Records release from the under-exposed UK psychedelic rockers finds them jamming out in live-in-studio fashion, and if you’d told me with no other context that the resultant six-track/40-minute long-player was put to tape two months ago, I’d absolutely have believed it. This would’ve been the era of their 1994 third album, The Circle Never Ends, and while some can hear some relation between that and Bunker Sessions in the shimmering lead and warm underscoring basslines of 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Sun Birth,” the drift in “Chameleon Earth,” synth-laden space rock meandering of “Opium Dreams” and cymbal-wash-into-distortion-wash of closer “Sun Death” are on a wavelength of their own. It’s something of a curio release – a “lost album” – but it’s also bound to turn some heads onto how ahead of their time Stobe were in the ‘90s, and maybe we’ll get lucky and Sulatron will use it to kick off a full series of convenient LP reissues.

Sulatron Records on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Astrosaur, Fade In / Space Out

astrosaur-fade-in-space-out

While their moniker brings to mind pure stoner idolatry, Oslo instrumentalists Astrosaur acquit themselves toward more progressive fare with Fade In // Space Out, their Bad Vibes Records debut album, finding open spaces in bookending extended opener “Necronauts” and the dramatic shift between droning experimentalism and weighted lumber of the closing title-track even as middle cuts “Space Mountain,” “Yugen” and “Fishing for Kraken” balance with fits of driving progressive metallurgy. Comprised of Eirik Kråkenes, Steinar Glas and Jonatan Eikum, Astrosaur do get fuzzy for a bit on “Yugen,” but by the time they’re there, they’ve already space-doom-jazzed their way through such a vast aesthetic swath that it becomes one more stylistic element in fair-enough play. Open in its structure and building to an affecting cacophony in its ending, Fade In // Space Out is defined in no small part by its stylistic ambition, but whether it’s in the head-spinning initial turns of “Fishing for Kraken” or the stretch of peaceful, wistful guitar after the seven-minute mark in “Necronauts,” that ambition is admirable multifaceted and wide-reaching.

Astrosaur on Thee Facebooks

Bad Vibes Records website

 

Sun Q, Charms

sun q charms

There’s an encouraging and decidedly pro-shop fullness of sound being proffered on Sun Q’s debut full-length, Charms, to match an immediate sense of songcraft and stylization that puts them somewhere between heavy psych and more driving fuzz rock. Vocalist Elena Tiron takes a forward position in opener “Petals and Thorns” over the briskly-captured tones from guitarist Ivan Shalimov and bassist Denis Baranov while drummer Pavel Poseluev pushes the proceedings along, and whether they’re bringing in Seva Timofeev’s Hammond for the subsequent bluesy vibing of “After This,” toying with pop playfulness on “Plankton,” giving Andrey Tanzu percussive room on “Dancing Souls” or going full-expanse on keyboard-laden centerpiece and aptly-titled longest cut “Space,” there’s purpose behind the variety on offer and Sun Q never seem to lose their sense of poise throughout. There are moments where the bite of the production hits a little deep – looking at you, “Plankton” – but especially as their debut, Charms lives up to the name it’s been given and establishes these Moscow natives as a presence with which to be reckoned as they move forward.

Sun Q on Thee Facebooks

Sun Q on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mount, The Drought

holy mount the drought

White Dwarf Records picked up what by my count is Holy Mount’s fourth full-length, The Drought, for a vinyl issue following the Toronto foursome’s self-release last year, and with the immersive, dense heavy psych nod of “Division,” it’s little wonder why. The seven-cut LP is the second to feature the lineup of Danijel Losic, Brandon McKenzie, Troy Legree and Clayton Churcher behind 2014’s VOL, and its moments of nuance like the synth at the outset of “Blackened Log” or the blend of tense riffing and post-The Heads shoegaze-style vocal chants on the markedly insistent highlight cut “Basalt” only further the reasoning. The penultimate “Blood Cove” returns some to of the ritual sense of “Division,” and The Drought’s titular finale pierces its own wash with a lead that makes its apex all the more resonant and dynamic. Not nearly as frenetic as its cover art would have you believe, the already-sold-out vinyl brims with a vibe of creative expansiveness, and Holy Mount feel right at home in its depths.

Holy Mount on Thee Facebooks

White Dwarf Records webstore

 

Sum of R, Orga

sum of r orga

Over the course of its near-hour runtime, Orga, the Czar of Crickets-issued third full-length from Bern, Switzerland, ambient outfit Sum of R deep-dives into droning atmospheric wash while effectively producing headphone-worthy depths and avoiding the trap of redundant minimalism. Chimes in a song like “Desmonema Annasethe” and ringing bells in “We Have to Mark this Entrance” give a feeling of lushness instead that serves the release well overall, and these details, nuances, take the place of what otherwise might be human voices coursing through the bleak mire of Orga’s progression. One might look to closing duo “Let us Begin with What We Do Not Want to Be” and “One After the Other” for some sense of hopefulness, and whether or not it’s actually there, it’s possible to read it into the overarching drone of the former and the percussive movement of the latter, but by then Sum of R have well set the mood in an abiding darkness, and that remains the prevailing vibe. Not quite dramatic or brooding in a human/emotional sense, Orga casts its drear in soundscapes of distant nighttime horizon.

Sum of R website

Czar of Crickets Productions website

 

IIVII, Invasion

iivii invasion

Noted graphic artist and post-metal songwriter Josh Graham – formerly visuals for Neurosis, but also art for Soundgarden and many others, as well as being known for his work with A Storm of Light and the woefully, vastly underrated Battle of Mice – makes his second ambient solo release in the form of IIVII’s Invasion on Belgian imprint Consouling Sounds. A soundtrack-ready feel pervades the nine tracks/44 minutes almost instantly and holds sway with opener “We Came Here from a Dying World (I)” finding complement in the centerpiece “Tomorrow You’ll be One of Us (II)” and a thematic capstone in closer “Sanctuary,” only furthering the sense of a narrative unfolding throughout. There are elements drawn in “Unclouded by Conscience” from the atmospheric and score work of Trent Reznor and/or Junkie XL, but Graham doesn’t necessarily part with the post-metallic sense of brooding that has defined much of his work even as the pairing of “We Live” and “You Die” late in the record loops its way to and through its dramatic apex. Obviously not going to be for everyone, but it does make a solid argument for Graham as a composer whose breadth is still revealing itself even after a career filled with landmarks across multiple media.

IIVII on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds website

 

Faces of the Bog, Ego Death

faces-of-the-bog-ego-death

In some of their shifts between atmospheric patience and churning intensity – not to mention in the production of Sanford ParkerFaces of the Bog remind a bit of fellow Windy City residents Minsk on their DHU Records debut album, Ego Death, but prove ultimately more aggressive in the thrust of “Drifter in the Abyss” and the later stretch of “The Serpent and the Dagger,” on which the guitars of Mark Stephen Gizewski and Trey Wedgeworth (both also vocals) delve into Mastodonic leads near the finish to set up the transition into the 10:33 title-track, which begins with a wash of static noise before Paul Bradfield’s bass sets up the slow nod that holds sway and only grows bigger as it presses forward. That cut is one of two over the 10-minute mark, and the other, closer “Blue Lotus,” unfolds even more gradually and ventures into cleaner vocals presaged on “The Weaver” and elsewhere as it makes its way toward an album-payoff crescendo marked by drummer Danny Garcia’s thudding toms and a low end rumble that’s as much a presence unto itself as a harbinger of progression to come.

Faces of the Bog on Thee Facebooks

DHU Records webstore

 

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Review & Full Stream: Heavy Traffic & The Mad Doctors, Split 7″

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

heavy-traffic-mad-doctors-split

[Click play above to stream the new split between Heavy Traffic and The Mad Doctors in its entirety. Seven-inch is out Sept. 22 via Twin Earth Records and King Pizza Records.]

It’s a quick one, but there’s enough cacophony in the split between Heavy Traffic and The Mad Doctors to make a larger impression than its seven-minute runtime might lead you to believe. The two New York-based bands pair up for a mini-platter with the cooperation of their respective labels, Twin Earth Records and King Pizza Records, and really, that’s about where the cooperation ends. From the point of its existence onward, the split is much more about brash noisemaking than being friendly, though both bands certainly seem to be having a good time. Maybe “mischief” is the right word. Yeah. It’s like if the night before Halloween was a two-song sampler of what these groups have to offer; as though a release might somehow throw rolls of toilet paper into the tree in your front yard or egg your car. Take that, suburbia.

Pressed in an edition of 500 copies with smaller numbers on clear (150), gold (150) and black (200) vinyl, the split brings one song each from Heavy Traffic and The Mad Doctors, both of whom are following up on relatively new releases. In the case of the four-piece Heavy Traffic, their sixth full-length, Plastic Surgery (review here), was issued late in 2016 via Twin Earth, and the 4:44 of “Daylight Ripoff” begins side A with a fervent charge that answers the heavy psychedelic blister-raising they proffered with the album, which was the debut of the lineup that found guitarist Ian Caddick and drummer/vocalist/cover-artist Tav Palumbo — both formerly of Santa Cruz, California, blowout psych-gazers Spanish Moss — joined by bassist Dave Grzedzinski and drummer Dan Bradica (which presumably moved Palumbo to guitar/vocals, though don’t quote me on that).

Whether or not “Daylight Ripoff” was recorded at the same time as Plastic Surgery or under similar live-tracked conditions, I don’t know, but it’s certainly a believable. The song begins with just a momentary wail of feedback before lurching forth with a blast and wash alike, melodic vocals topping a thrust that could just as easily have come from modern black metal as heavy psych. It’s a surprising way to begin, and no doubt that’s exactly what Heavy Traffic had in mind. About 20 seconds in, they find their footing a prog-metallic churn of intertwining guitars at 53 seconds, they slam on the brakes to hit into a Sabbathian lumber that will slow even further as they hit the second minute, maintaining a spaciousness and fuzzed tonality as it nods itself seemingly into oblivion. The “but wait — there’s more!” moment happens just before the three-minute mark when they bring back the melodious assault that began “Daylight Ripoff” and cycle through it and the more angular riffing again before a distant lead echoes out behind tense chug and a build on the toms in the last minute.

This fades out relatively quickly and relatively noisily and “Daylight Ripoff” seems like anything but as it ends having been marked by its dizzying tempo changes and drawn together through the vague but resonant vocals laid over its shifting bulk. One might be tempted to call it a kitchen-sink approach, but Heavy Traffic keep the arrangement to their two guitars, bass, drums and voice, even if those common elements are put to uncommonly madcap use. In relation to Plastic Surgery, “Daylight Ripoff” feels altogether more unhinged than groove-rolling cuts like “Rule of Nines” or “Three Stigmata,” and whether its punkish refusal to settle into a pace or method is indicative of an overall shift in direction on the part of the band or just a one-off experiment in style and/or structure, it’s impossible to say, but the weirdo vibe suits Heavy Traffic well. If “Daylight Ripoff” is them continuing to refine and explore options with their approach and this relatively new lineup, one can hardly argue with either the variety or the intensity with which they deliver.

Though their inclusion is shorter and more straightforward, The Mad Doctors hardly come across as subdued upon the flip to side B. Their cleverly-titled “Yuengling Malmsteen” checks in at 2:57 and is the first new music they’ve had out since their earlier-2017 sophomore full-length, No Waves, Just Sharks (discussed here). The trio of guitarist/vocalist/recording engineer Seth Applebaum, bassist Joshua Park and drummer Greg Hanson, who also runs King Pizza Records, employed a few guests throughout that album for vocals and had spoken word samples peppered throughout as they shifted between surf punk and heavier impulses, crafting a rare union in atmosphere that actually worked without being either overly punkish, overly surfish, or a crude amalgam of desert and garage, while still sounding impressively off the rails and unpredictable — it really was something, if you didn’t hear it — but here it’s just the three of them and they once again adjust the balance.

“Yuengling Malmsteen” doesn’t feel intended to be a summary of The Mad Doctors‘ sound as a whole — I suspect it would have at least as tough a time in providing that summary as I just did — so much as a quick-burst showcase of their craft in general. Its push begins with a deceptive jangle before unveiling a full tonal boar moving at a crisp tempo that shortly opens to the first verse. Momentum is held in Hanson‘s drums throughout and before the first minute is done, The Mad Doctors have trod through the verse and chorus both in shoving, party-time fashion. Not a moment is wasted, but “Yuengling Malmsteen” doesn’t necessarily feel stripped down either — vocals are soaked in reverb and the guitar and bass are both weighted and present a depth of tone, the former particularly with a quick-but-drawn lead around two minutes in that shimmers before a final chorus takes hold to drive the song to its somewhat understated finish. The thickened thrust that kicks in before each verse proves especially righteous, and “Yuengling Malmsteen” is primarily about motion and its own forward drive, which it fulfills while giving the sense that if one just continued to let the record play, ApplebaumPark and Hanson would be on to the next track in no time at all.

Of course, that’s not the case, but in each band giving listeners a look at what they do, Heavy Traffic and The Mad Doctors both acquit themselves well in terms of songwriting and style without necessarily sounding like they’re competing with one another in the way of splits with groups more sonically akin. That’s not to say they don’t have anything in common, just that while both show a strong sense of personality on this short release, those personalities are distinct enough that there’s never going to be any confusion about who it is saying what with their material. Heavy Traffic raise a few questions as to where they might be headed and The Mad Doctors reaffirm the deceptive depth of their latest album, and among the traits the two bands share is a clear efficiency with which this is accomplished. Like I said at the outset, it’s over and done in about seven minutes.

Heavy Traffic on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Traffic on Bandcamp

The Mad Doctors on Thee Facebooks

The Mad Doctors on Bandcamp

Twin Earth Records webstore

King Pizza Records webstore

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Review & Video Premiere: Weird Owl, Bubblegum Brainwaves

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on September 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

weird-owl-bubblegum-brainwaves

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Weird Owl’s video for ‘War.’ Their album, Bubblegum Brainwaves, is out Oct. 13 and up for preorder here.]

To their credit, Weird Owl do seem to take particular delight in living up to their name. Not so much the owl part, I suppose, but definitely the weird. The Brooklynite four-piece are a decade out from the release of their first EP, Nuclear Psychology, and after three full-lengths in 2008’s Ever the Silver Cord be Loosed, 2011’s Build Your Beast a Fire (discussed here) and 2015’s Interstellar Skeletal, as well as the Healing EP in 2013 that was their introduction through A Recordings, the imprint helmed by Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre, they’ve become the kind of band for whom predictions sonic or otherwise are largely irrelevant. Thinking you know what you’re going to get from a Weird Owl release is an act of self-delusion.

It’s probably going to be psychedelic one way or another, fair enough, but as to the actual shape and tone that will take, that’s a much more open prospect, and it’s one the band plays to with the bright, crisp melodies of their fourth LP, Bubblegum Brainwaves. At times brazenly poppy and elsewhere dug into a sense of exploration that feels born of space rocking impulses, it’s a record of varied sensibilities that, by the time it’s into its second side, turns even its own methods on their head in favor of heading somewhere else. To wit, that’s the eight-minute, spoken-word-topped “Bartholomew Iris,” on which Genesis Breyer P’Orridge of Psychic TV and Throbbing Gristle steps in to recite a sci-fi narrative about a protagonist who chooses the means of his own death. To say the least, it’s a distinct moment of departure.

And not necessarily the first on the album, which opens its easily-manageable nine-track/41-minute run with the proverbial ‘Drink Me’ potion in the form of a keyboard line, drum intro and fuzzy shuffle met with echoing vocals on “Invisibility Cloak.” With “You (Sometimes Not You)” and “Black Never White” immediately following, “Invisibility Cloak” is the first part of a three-song launch salvo from the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Trevor Tyrrell, bassist/keyboardist John Cassidy, keyboardist Dave Nugent and drummer Sean Reynolds that boasts some of Bubblegum Brainwaves‘ most standout hooks, but also three strikingly different takes. Immediately, Weird Owl set a broad sonic context for themselves and flow between the high-energy cosmic soak of the opener, into the key-focused dreamgaze synth-pop of “You (Sometimes Not You)” — the otherworldliness of which comes through all the more thanks to its lyrics — and the urbane post-punk swagger and unabashed fun of “Black Never White.”

Taken as a set, these songs don’t top 13 minutes, and side A will continue to unfurl a diverse personality in the acoustic-led “Such a Myth” before resolving itself in the sweet, semi-Beatlesian melody of “The Lizard and the Owl,” but the cue to the listener to adjust their expectations to be as broad as possible is a hard one to miss, and as skillfully drawn together as the pieces are via their underlying structures and catchiness, it makes the shifting character of Bubblegum Brainwaves more fluid and accessible, allowing for the move into the politically-minded cynicism and comment on appropriation in “Such a Myth” — lyrics like, “Oh it’s my war too/Oh it’s my body too,” seeming to offer a general take on a social media-driven propensity for ego-tizing larger issues — to happen without any hiccup. Keyboards/organ do some of that tie-in work as well, and though he’s never particularly showy as a vocalist, Tyrrell‘s voice provides a steady and human presence across side A that only helps to further guide the listener through what might otherwise be a bumpier course. As it is, tracks are memorable enough in themselves so as not to simply be a hypnotic wash, but still satisfyingly lysergic in their tone and atmosphere. As “The Lizard and the Owl” rounds out the first half of Bubblegum Brainwaves with a subtle apocryphal feel in its storytelling, its linear build underscores the grace with which Weird Owl have been delivering their material all along. It is natural and warm, and so clearly it’s time for the LP to make another turn.

weird-owl-photo-Hal-Horowitz

Side B brings four tracks in “War,” the aforementioned “Bartholomew Iris,” “Many Things I Saw in the Coffin” and closer “Tired Old Sun,” and like the material on the album’s first half, each one has its own take, working further to the band’s accomplishment and that of producer Jeff Berner (also guitar in Psychic TV) at Galuminum Foil Studios in constructing Bubblegum Brainwaves with such overarching ethereality of spirit. The feel, however, is darker. “War” is more active and doesn’t quite mirror the push of “Invisibility Cloak” at the start of the record, but is definitely working off some of the same intent, but the low end feels denser and the vocals are rawer and more forward. These things are relative, of course, but while “War” has a hook still very much working in its favor, the titular subject — whether metaphor or literal — represents a marked shift from the bulk of side A’s brightness. That will continue on “Bartholomew Iris,” which, as the band steps back to allow P’Orridge‘s audiobook-style narrative recitation, is the unquestionable odd-cut-out in the tracklisting.

Purposefully so. The only song over five minutes long, it’s meant to leave standard songwriting behind, and while I don’t know the origin of the plot being told — that is, if it’s by Tyrrell, P’Orridge, or sourced elsewhere — the elements of genre fiction and the narrative itself are compelling. Not to be understated, however, is the effect “Bartholomew Iris” has on the tone of Bubblegum Brainwaves. It is such a moment of arrival that it bleeds into the songs before as well as after, and while “Many Things I Saw in the Coffin,” with its folkish acoustic strum, synth flourish, and simple punctuating drums, has more in common with “Such a Myth” early as it moves toward its molten post-midpoint wash, there remains the lingering presence of “Bartholomew Iris” all the while. And when it comes around, “Tired Old Sun” — in which the sun itself seems to resign itself to fatigue in the way one might reading the news every day — works to reengage the dreaminess of the album’s earlier going, but is nonetheless sadder in sound as well as theme. Even for laid back, drift-prone psychedelic progressive rockers, it would seem, the times can feel weighing.

That’s not to say Bubblegum Brainwaves doesn’t offer plenty of float. It does. And I won’t discount the joy with which “right!” is tossed into “Black Never White” to playfully affirm the lines, “We seek the truth, we speak light/And you know we do it every night/Right?” either, but there’s a melancholy in Weird Owl circa 2017 as well, and that turns out to be as much a part of their rendering here as the momentum launched by “Invisibility Cloak” or the depth of the arrangement mounted in “Many Things I Saw in the Coffin.” Fortunately, this variable mood is complemented by likewise malleability of songcraft, and Weird Owl no more lose themselves in discourse than they do instrumentally. This speaks to the maturity taken hold in their approach over their years together, but more important, it makes Bubblegum Brainwaves a work of depth that can feel light or weighted depending on how its audience wants to interact with it. And that it’s open to that interaction, weird, unpredictable and swerving as it is, means there’s still some hope in there as well.

Weird Owl on Bandcamp

Weird Owl on Thee Facebooks

Weird Owl on Twitter

Weird Owl website

Weird Owl on Soundcloud

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The Golden Grass Announce Midwestern Tour & New Album Recording Plans

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the golden grass

Alright, let’s just go ahead and put The Golden Grass‘ third album on the list of most anticipated for 2018. The groovy Brooklynite three-piece played it proggy on their second record last year, Coming Back Again (review here), but still held to the sunshiny vibes and standout songwriting of their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), so a third installment from them is a no-brainer to look forward to as far as I’m concerned. Pretty killer as well that as they get ready to hit the studio to record it, they’ll do a nine-date Midwestern run playing all new songs, so not only will they have a chance to see what works on stage and what doesn’t and adjust accordingly, but by the time they get back to NYC they should be in top form to actually go and track the material. It’s a badass plan. Hopefully the results show up sooner than later.

Also, I’m not usually going to be the kind of guy who tells you that you need to watch a tour promo video, but the one below by Anthony Franchina for these shows, in addition to boasting a clip of a new song from The Golden Grass, actually gives a pretty succinct impression of what the band is all about. So yeah, you should take the 100 seconds or so to check it out.

Dates and info from the PR wire:

the golden grass midwest tour poster

THE GOLDEN GRASS announces October Midwest USA Tour Dates and enter studio immediately after to record album #3.

That’s right, Brooklyn’s one and only traditional heavy rock boogie band THE GOLDEN GRASS is headed ((OUT ON THE ROAD)) in the USA once again! It’s been a few years since they’ve toured domestically, finding their niche more amongst the European underground and focusing on touring abroad, but they’re beyond excited to bring their soulful sounds across America’s heartland this October 2017 for 9 concerts stretching from PA to IL and back again!

They’ll be exclusively performing ALL NEW MATERIAL this time out, which has been slowly and organically crafted over the past year, and all of which will end up on their 3rd full length LP (their 2nd for Listenable Records). In fact, this tour is a true-to-life road test for their new batch of music, and by taking it out, performing, twisting, living, and breathing it every night, it will be internalized and honed to perfection, and THEN the boys will be entering the studio immediately following the tour to record it all for the new record!

Once again, they’ll be utilizing the powerhouse recording/mixing engineering team of Andrea Zavareei (Urban Spaceman Studio) and Jeff Berner (Studio G), both of whom have had a hand in capturing each THE GOLDEN GRASS release so far. There is a high energy about the group right now, so if you’re along the tour route, do your best to catch it!

The good folks at Heavy And Beyond have created an amazing Tour Promo video for the group, showing off some sneak peaks of their new musical material, and tease the forthcoming album, not to mention some choice groovy footage of the boys!

In For The Kill Records Presents THE GOLDEN GRASS 2017 Midwest USA Tour
10/06 The Bog – Scranton PA w/ THE HILL YOU DIE ON
https://www.facebook.com/events/264624160696366/
10/07 Stonehenge Gardens – Tamaqu PA w/ MYSTERYTRAIN
https://www.facebook.com/events/265140343984727/
10/08 The Happy Dog – Cleveland OH w/ BURNIN LOINS + SALEM’S EYE
https://www.facebook.com/events/121403778585243/
10/09 The Tree Bar – Columbus OH w/ BOURBON TRAIN
https://www.facebook.com/events/117163712345407/
10/10 Reggies – Chicago IL w/ MR BLOTTO
https://www.facebook.com/events/114572125888037/
10/11 The Spot Tavern – Lafayette IN w/ SPACEWORDS
https://www.facebook.com/events/167903790434163/
10/12 Bent River Brewing Company – Rock Island IL w/ SUBATLANTIC
https://www.facebook.com/events/479941462369690/
10/13 Chameleon – Cincinnati OH w/ THE HARLEQUINS
https://www.facebook.com/events/143554142903428/
10/14 Guidos Speakeasy – Frederick MD w/ BLACK RADIO + BORRACHO
https://www.facebook.com/events/746296975549182/

http://www.facebook.com/thegoldengrass
http://www.thegoldengrass.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/listenablerecs
http://www.listenable.net

The Golden Grass, Midwestern Tour Promo

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Mirror Queen Announce New LP Verdigris Due Oct. 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

mirror-queen-photo-john-fell

Earlier this year, NYC-based heavy classic progressive rockers Mirror Queen issued a seven-inch single Starliner (premiered here) that came prior to their summer tour with Tee Pee Records labelmates The Atomic Bitchwax. The song was a first glimpse at the follow-up to 2015’s Scaffolds of the Sky (review here), which has now been announced with the title Verdigris and an Oct. 27 release date. If you didn’t hear it at the time, I’ve embedded the track below for convenience’s sake, and whether or not it’s the same recording at that which will appear on the six-long LP next month, it speaks well of Mirror Queen‘s particular and longstanding meld between driving ’70s rock and more nuanced and progressive impulses.

Curious to hear what Swans guitarist Norman Westberg adds to that mix on Verdigris, as well as to hear the album in general. Led as always by guitarist/vocalist Kenny Sehgal — aka Kenny Kreisor in honor of the outfit from which Mirror Queen evolved prior to their debut in 2011 — Mirror Queen remain a secret kept too well by NYC’s heavy underground.

Album art and details from the PR wire, which gets extra credit in my book for using the phrase “street level” to describe part of Mirror Queen‘s sound. Nicely done there:

mirror-queen-verdigris

Mirror Queen to Release New Album, ‘Verdigris’. October 27

NYC volume dealers MIRROR QUEEN will release their new album, Verdigris, on October 27 via Tee Pee Records. A masterclass of riff-driven melodic hard rock, the LP is the follow-up to the band’s 2015’s LP, Scaffolds of the Sky.

Combining edgy, street-level rock ‘n’ roll with more cerebral elements of poetry and literature, MIRROR QUEEN rides hard and loud, kicking out the jams at every opportunity. Here the songs are expansive and lush in their textures, with ethereal songwriting full of crossing guitar lines and an insistent, demanding rhythmic throb. Featuring additional guitars from SWANS six-stringer Norman Westberg, Verdigris is a rock monolith, all dark delight and sinister pleasure, that demands headbanging and fists raised to the sky.

A mainstay in the NYC hard rock scene, MIRROR QUEEN has shared the stage with heavyweight peers such as Earthless and The Shrine and toured Europe with legends such as Uli Jon Roth and UFO. The group’s driving music accelerates at the distinct point where NWOBHM and heavy Prog Rock intersect; a direct and definite delineation of an era when urgent metallic sound was the order of the day.

Track listing:

1.) Poignard
2.) Flying Eyes
3.) Sorrow’s End / Dark Kiss of the Sun
4.) Starliner
5.) Verdigris
6.) Curse the Night

MIRROR QUEEN features Kenny Kreisor (guitar, vocals), Jeremy O’Brien (drums), Morgan McDaniel (guitar) and James Corallo (bass).

https://www.facebook.com/mirrorqueennyc/
https://www.facebook.com/teepeerecords/
https://twitter.com/teepeerecords
https://instagram.com/teepeerecords/
https://teepeerecords.bandcamp.com/
http://teepeerecords.com/

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