Live Review: Ufomammut, Usnea and Mountain God in Brooklyn, 05.19.15

Posted in Reviews on May 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Ufomammut (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The circumstances by which I found myself in the Tri-State Area were complex enough that I feel no need to recount them, but the point is, if you’re in town anyway, and Ufomammut are rolling through Brooklyn to hit the Saint Vitus Bar on their first US tour ever, supported by Portland’s Usnea and locals Mountain God opening, the obvious choice is to go. Yes, I was at a show in Boston on Sunday, but that seemed like long enough ago that it didn’t matter. It’s fucking Ufomammut. You show up.

Mountain God (Photo by JJ Koczan)I missed the three-piece at Roadburn in 2011, but saw them there in 2009, and even six years later, the impression they left behind was resonant enough that I could see them clearly on the Main Stage bludgeoning the room with their cosmic mastery. The image is vivid. They’ll play Maryland Deathfest this weekend and are out supporting their 2015 Neurot Recordings outing, Ecate (review here), the latest in a line of records a decade long proving their utter supremacy of sound. I felt fortunate to have the planets align in such a way as to allow me to make it to the show.

As I understand it, Mountain God were something of a late addition to the bill. Cool by me. Playing as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Ben Ianuzzi, bassist Nikhil Kamineni and drummer/backing vocalist Ryan Smith (also Thera Roya), they had new material on offer and included two cuts from their 2013 Mountain God (Photo by JJ Koczan)Experimentation on the Unwilling demo (review here), so yeah, sign me up. Their particular brand of atmospheric sludge has only become more visceral over the last couple years, and as expansive as their 2015 single-song Forest of the Lost EP (review here) is, its churn still seems to stir the guts. So it was on stage as well.

Worth noting that for all three bands, the stage was d-a-r-k dark. Most of all for Mountain God and Usnea, but even for Ufomammut the only real light was toward the back of the stage, and there wasn’t much of that. Might as well have been taking pictures in Boston, it was so fucking dark. So it goes. Mountain God‘s new songs, “Nasca Lines” and “Taxidermist,” pushed the limits of their extremity well, Ianuzzi‘s blown-out vocals cutting through his and Kamineni‘s rumbling tonal morass — a heft that would become a theme for the night. The interplay of Ianuzzi and Smith proved especially effective throughout, but either way, ambience remained thick and the effect remained crushing.

Usnea (Photo by JJ Koczan)They finished out with “Experimentation on the Unwilling” itself, a memorable pummel of a riff at its center, and received greetings and well-earned congratulations at the front of the stage while breaking down their gear to make way for Usnea, touring with Ufomammut from their base of operations in Oregon. It was my first exposure to the death-doom four-piece, who made their debut on Relapse last year with their second full-length, Random Cosmic Violence, and I found they were a completely different band from what I expected them to be. As in, I thought they were another band. It was a pleasant surprise when their ultra-nodding brutality held sway for the duration, both guitars tuned to the key of slow-motion destruction as drums and bass stood center-stage to punctuate and foster feel-it-in-your-stomach resonance. Can’t claim to have known the material, but the first impression was a positive one.

And by positive, I mean overwhelmingly negative — the downer vibes so dense they couldn’t seem to let any light escape. Right on. I knew Ufomammut would be headed for more psychedelic terrain, and indeed they were, so to have Usnea follow Mountain God‘s tectonics with their own lumbering doom was a solid fit and welcome complement to the bill. If I’d had any cash, I Usnea (Photo by JJ Koczan)probably would’ve picked up a CD of Random Cosmic Violence, but the water bottle I had in my camera bag I bought with quarters and I didn’t think I had that much change on hand. Maybe next time. Their closer was “Detritus,” the 15-minute finisher from their sophomore outing, and it was as vehement an endorsement of their wares as anything I might recount in a review, plodding and stomping en route to a building finish that left nothing else to say when it was done. Many bands would have trouble following it.

Ufomammut, however, are a different breed. I’m almost surprised this was their first US tour. It’s easy to imagine them — as so many of their contemporaries from around Europe did — coming to the States and playing to upwards of 20 people at The Continental in Manhattan a decade ago before any of this stuff caught on and it was suddenly reasonable to be positioned in front of the stage at the Vitus Bar next to a photographer from The New York Times (“Uh, I run a blog,” was my barely-stammered response when she asked who I was shooting for) at a sold-out show. As if the experience wasn’t surreal enough, Ufomammut — guitarist Poia, drummer Vita and bassist/vocalist Urlo arranged left to right — Ufomammut (Photo by JJ Koczan)played off a setlist that seemed to be written in code, with notations for synths and the mysterious light-up samplers and effects they had on foot-switches while a video screen projected behind.

Devastatingly heavy? Why yes, they were, but that’s really just one component of the experience. Watching Ufomammut play is like being stirred in a cauldron of something thick and molten. Somehow, it swirls, but on the surface level it doesn’t even seem like it should be able to move at all. Each song seemed to take them deeper into space, the entirety of Ecate rearranged for stage presentation and followed by “Oroboros” from Oro: Opus Alter (review here), “Stigma” from 2008’s Idolum and, finally, “God” from 2004’s Snailking, which was brought to a brutal finish as though the trio were trying to pull apart the remnants of the galaxy on a molecular level, some great cosmic code punched in to result in the end of all things in multi-dimensions. It was like that. Sound as force. Senses colliding, and Urlo headbanging with his entire body the whole time. The further they went the more righteous they became, and the room — sweltering, dark, vibrating — went with them all the while, that great cauldron made flesh. To call it breathtaking would be speaking literally.

Ufomammut (Photo by JJ Koczan)There was a moment after they were done that required a return to earth, more of a snap back than a gentle release, and you could feel it from others in the room as much as from yourself. An exhale and realization of the impressionist galaxial scope just witnessed, blurred lines fitting for the summer’s haze that seemed to be settling over the Manhattan skyline on the way into the city. Even having seen the band before, I did it too. People made their way to the bar and out blissfullly stunned, and I did likewise, almost tempted to call Ufomammut‘s arrival on North American shores overdue if they hadn’t rendered things like space and time so irrelevant.

A couple more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Ancient Sky to Release New Album Mosaic on June 9; “Two Lights” Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

ancient sky

Brooklyn psych rockers Ancient Sky have been through some changes since their third record, most notably adding a second drummer, so one looks forward to hearing what they’ve conjured for their fourth album, Mosaic, which is set to be released next month on Wharf Cat Records CD/LP/DL. The new song “Two Lights,” which has just been unveiled, holds open-spaced promise and cosmic pulse, and while I wouldn’t presume it speaks for the entirety of Mosaic — the title alone giving something of an eclectic impression just by the meaning of the word — its groove and vibe certainly wouldn’t be a bad model to work from. Easily worth a look if you’re in search of some edge with your bliss.

And who isn’t? Ancient Sky play their record release at Union Pool in their native borough on June 6 and will take part in the Northside Festival a week later. The PR wire brings pertinent info, audio and links:

ancient sky mosaic

Ancient Sky Share New Song “Two Lights”

Mosaic Out June 9th on Wharf Cat Records

Playing Northside Festival + NYC Record Release Show

Mosaic is a new statement of purpose for Ancient Sky and a record that defines the band as one of Brooklyn’s heaviest and most dynamic units. With a collection of Brian Markham’s best songs yet, Ancient Sky headed into Future-Past Studios in Hudson, NY with the like-minded Ben Greenberg (Uniform, Mission Hubble, The Men) on board as producer and sound engineer. The perfect combination of songs, personnel, and recording space resulted in an album that captures the massive scale of Ancient Sky’s live sound for the first time.

Mosaic is the sound of a band revitalized. With the addition of Adam Bulgasem as second drummer, Pat Broderick’s signature swing hits even harder. Kevin Lamiell and Brandon Evans add bass and keys respectively, leaving Markham to handle the singular guitar, one that riffs and drones in classic Ancient Sky form. From metallic street punk (“Know”) to swinging celestial psych (“Sing Swing”) to the crunching terror blues that is “Two Lights” this is a band showing that maturity means knowing your strengths and also knowing how to keep pushing it.

Mosaic captures the massive scale of Ancient Sky’s live sound for the first time pivoting around such heavy themes as loss, hypnosis, escapism, poverty, the pressure to conform to terrifying new technologies and modern consumerism’s catalytic contribution to the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots.

Ancient Sky have been exploring the wide sonic boundaries of rock music for nearly a decade, drawing inspiration from artists as seminal and diverse as Delta bluesman Skip James, early Pink Floyd, the darker corners of modern ambient represented by Demdike Stare, Pye Corner Audio et al and the ubiquitous influence of heavy Brits such as Hawkwind and Black Sabbath. But to define them simply by their acclaimed progenitors-as impressively curated as the list may be-would be to rob the band members of their own incontrovertible creative drive and a southern-bred, city-tempered history that’s as much a celebration of devoted friendship and blue-collar dedication as it is an acknowledgment of the importance of diverse influences and open minds.

Ancient Sky Live Dates:
6/6: Union Pool – Brooklyn, NY *Record Release Show*
6/13: Northside Festival at Shea Stadium – Brooklyn, NY w/ Gun Outfit and The Ukiah Drag

https://www.facebook.com/ancientskyband
http://wharfcatrecords.com/store/ancient-sky-mosaic
http://wharfcatrecords.com/

Ancient Sky, “Two Lights”

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Swans to Reissue Filth on May 26

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 14th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

swans in 1984

In case anyone’s forgotten just how fucking groundbreaking — also backbreaking — Swans have been for the last 30-plus years, Michael Gira‘s own Young God Records will oversee a reissue of their first album, 1983’s Filth, that seems intent on giving the rawness of the band’s earliest era its due. Genuinely challenging in its atmosphere, gripping in its chaos and grinding in a way that bands are still imitating today without even knowing where it came from, it’s a record that has touched multiple genres and influenced countless acts along the way, so yeah, to have it come with not only Swans‘ first EP as accompaniment but a host of live material as well, it seems fair to call it a chronicle of that period in their long, tumultuous, interrupted but ultimately triumphant history.

To everything, churn! churn! churn!

swans filth

Young God Records is releasing a Deluxe 3 CD edition of SWANS debut album FILTH May 26 in North America; Mute releases this package in all other territories.

This 3CD expanded re-issue package constitutes a definitive picture of Swans in the years 1982 – 1983/4. Includes:

DISC ONE: SWANS original debut LP “Filth” from 1983, with the line up of M.Gira, Norman Westberg, Roli Mosimann, Harry Crosby, and Jonathan Kane. Also features versions of “Strip/Burn,” “Heatsheet,” “Blackout,” “Clay Man,” “Stay Here, and “Weakling,” all recorded live.

DISC TWO: Body to Body material comprised of various studio out-takes and live recordings 1982-85, with a nine-minute version of “Raping a Slave,” recorded live in Berlin, 1984 (originally released with FILTH on YGD-11).

DISC THREE: Debut 12″ EP #1, originally released in 1982, Plus additional live performances from NYC and London.

The package features a 16 panels of previously unseen photos by Catherine Ceresole and Lee Ranaldo (Sonic Youth).

TRACK LISTINGS:

CD ONE: FILTH: 1. Stay Here (5:36) 2. Big Strong Boss (3:02) 3. Blackout (3:47) 4. Power for Power (5:52) 5. Freak (1:13) 6. Right Wrong (4:43) 7. Thank You (3:52) 8. Weakling (5:20) 9. Gang (3:24) 10. Live at The Kitchen, NYC 1982/3 (24:18): a. Strip/Burn b. Heatsheet c. Blackout d. Clay Man e. Stay Here f. Weakling

CD TWO: BODY TO BODY:: 1. I?ll Cry for You (5:41) 2. Red Sheet (3:11) 3. Loop 33 (0:59) 4. Your Game (3:57) 5. Seal It Over (3:48) 6. Whore (3:56) 7. We?ll Hang for That (3:55) 8.Half Life (3:57) 9. Loop 21 (1:26) 10. Get Out (3:31) 11. Job (5:40) 12. Loop 1 (1:01) 13. Mother, My Body Disgusts Me (4:43) 14. Cop (5:56) 15. Only I Can Hear, Only I Can Touch (2:41) 16. Thug (9:44) 17. Raping a Slave (live Berlin 1984) (9:02)

CD THREE: E.P. #1 PLUS LIVE RECORDINGS: 1. Laugh (4:00) 2. Speak (4:24) 3.Take Advantage (4:26) 4. Sensitive Skin (6:05) Live at CBGB NYC 1982-3: 5. Living Arms 6. Howling Red Sheet 7. Big Strong Boss 8. Clay Man 9. We’ll Hang For That. Live at Heaven London 1984: 10. This is Mine 11. Why Hide 12. I Crawled

ll words both CDs M.Gira. Music Gira/Swans. Contributing musicians Filth: M.Gira – bass, vocal, tapes; Norman Westberg – guitar; Roli Mosimann – drums, percussion; Harry Crosby – bass; Jonathan Kane – drums, percussion. Recorded 1983 Vanguard Studios, NYC . Engineer : Mark Berry. BTB CD is comprised of various studio out-takes and live recordings. Thanks to Catherine and Nicholas Ceresole for their contributions.

The following performed live with Swans at one time or another in the years 1982 up to 1985: M.Gira, Norman Westberg, Sue Hanel, Roli Mosimann, Harry Crosby, Mojo, Jonathan Kane, Dan Braun, Thurston Moore, Craig Cafton, Bob Pezzola, Jonathan Prosser… Filth produced by Gira/Mosimann. BTB produced Gira…Perpetual thanks: Daniel Gira, Peter Mason, Kevin Wortis, Derek Woodgate, Jarboe. Packaging design M.Gira for Young God Productions. Execution: Joe Budenholzer. Remastered at Griffin Mastering, Atlanta, Ga. by Chris Griffin.

www.younggodrecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/SwansOfficial

Swans, “Stay Here”

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Live Review: Kings Destroy Record Release with Elder, Apostle of Solitude and Clamfight, Brooklyn, NY, 05.05.15

Posted in Reviews on May 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Elder (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It was a little more touch and go than I’d prefer as to whether or not I’d make this one. Car trouble, money trouble — the mundane bullshit that too regularly keeps us from the things we actually want in life — but ultimately, I found myself driving into Brooklyn from Connecticut to catch the Kings Destroy record release show for their third and what I think is their best album yet. Joined on the bill by Clamfight, Apostle of Solitude and Elder, even before I walked in, I had little doubt it would be one of the best nights of my year, and after ti was over my suspicions were only confirmed. I left the Saint Vitus Bar with more energy than I had when I walked in, having spent a night among great friends and great bands and enough volume to fill a month’s quota. There simply was no way to stop from smiling, and I had little interest in trying.

What started out as a good crowd only got more packed in as the night went on. I turned out to be just a couple minutes late to catch the start of Clamfight, but if my evening was to start in medias res, somehow it seemed even more fitting that I should walk in and immediately feel like I was coming home. To that end, I’ll say that I’m probably the exact wrong person to be reviewing this show — there wasn’t one band of the four playing of which I’m not at least a fan, let alone decade-long friendships, working together on prior record releases and things of that sort — but what the hell. Impartiality is a myth. Let’s have some fun.

Went a little bit like this:

Clamfight

Clamfight (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Three songs from the Philly heavy thrashers — who just a couple months ago were said to have slaughtered the same venue supporting Eyehategod — two of them newer than their second album, the Maple Forum-released I vs. the Glacier. The four-piece were in the midst of “Stealing the Ghost Horse,” the closer from that riffy rampage of an outing, when I walked in, and after finding out it was their first song, I immediately wondered where they’d go from there. I mean, that song finishes the record for a reason and it’s closed live sets for a while now, but Clamfight — guitarists Sean McKee and Joel Harris, bassist Louis Koble and drummer/vocalist Andy Martin — are in a transitional period and have been for about the last two years, pushing back against stylistic convention and growing musically in line with a corresponding uptick both in stage presence and volume. Growing up? Maybe, as much as one might realistically ask of a band called Clamfight, but it’s produced some fascinating sonic turns. To wit, “Taco Bees,” which followed “Ghost Horse,” is a more straight-ahead rocker and they finished out with a sprawler — Martin introduced it as a “doozy,” which was accurate — called “The History of the Earls of Orkney,” which could probably just as easily open their next record as close it. McKee‘s guitar leading the way through initial verses en route to a multi-movement, multi-build instrumental push, it boasted groove, blastbeats, and ambition in kind, and was exciting to watch both because of how well the band pulled it off and because it was as though they’d said, “Well, now we have this sound and what the hell do we do with it?” and as the answer to that question, it bodes exceptionally well. They’re recording more this summer, and I hope to have updates on their progress soon.

Apostle of Solitude

Apostle of Solitude (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The Apostle of Soli-dudes released one-third of an unfuckwithable triumvirate of US doom albums last year in the form of their third outing and Cruz del Sur debut, Of Woe and Wounds (review here) — the other two were from Blood Farmers and The Skull, if you’re wondering — and it had been way, way too long since I last got to see the Indianapolis outfit to start with, so I was excited for their set to say the least. It had been since Days of the Doomed II (review here), nearly three full years, and that would prove to be too much. To undersell it, they did not disappoint. With guitarists Chuck Brown and Steve Janiak sharing vocals, bassist Dan Davidson in center stage with drummer Corey Lee behind, they ran through some of the new record’s most intense tracks, beginning with the opening salvo of their intro, “Distance and the Cold Heart” and moving into the first three from Of Woe and Wounds in order, “Blackest of Times” a particularly righteous launch backed by “Whore’s Wings” and “Lamentations of a Broken Man,” with Janiak in the darker corner of the Saint Vitus Bar stage taking the lead vocally for the verses only to be joined by Brown for a chorus both hair-raising in its effect and of headbang-worthy sonic heft. “The Messenger” from 2008’s debut, Sincerest Misery, was on the setlist but got cut for time, which meant everything they played came from Of Woe and Wounds. Fine by me. Their set was a quick lesson that they’ve only gotten better over the last few years, Janiak and Brown nailing harmonies onstage as fluidly as on the record throughout “Lamentations of a Broken Man” and the galloping “Push Mortal Coil,” which led into a driving take on “This Mania” for a finisher, and I’ll say honestly it gave me a whole new appreciation for that track. I revisited Of Woe and Wounds today just because the songs were still stuck in my head and it was enough to make me want to drive to Philly tonight to see them again with Clamfight, but I sated myself with the knowledge that I’ll hopefully be able to catch them among the headliners at the impending Maryland Doom Fest next month. In any case, it won’t be another three years before Apostle of Solitude and I cross paths.

Kings Destroy

Kings Destroy (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It was Kings Destroy‘s party, we just all happened to be invited. No joke, for a band I quite literally saw more than 20 times last year to get on stage and still offer something exciting, I felt it only underscored how special a group these guys actually are. From the solid low-end foundation of bassist Aaron Bumpus to Rob Sefcik‘s rolling grooves in plunderers like “W2″ and the verses of “Smokey Robinson” from the album they were there to celebrate, their self-titled (review here) on War Crime Recordings, guitarist Carl Porcaro‘s malevolent smile as he tears into the leads of “Blood of Recompense” from 2013’s A Time of Hunting, vocalist Steve Murphy‘s stepping down from the stage for the ending of the same song, or guitarist Chris Skowronski seeming to address the whole of Yankee Stadium in singing along to “Mr. O,” which finished out the set, watching them play was the great time that I knew would justify the drive and they still exceeded my expectations. At this point, I’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum on Kings Destroy shows, but they were positively on fire and it was a thrill to behold. They’d prove to be the loudest band of the night amid stiff competition, and to hear them dig into a more upbeat song like “Green Diamonds” coming out of “Embers” from the new album was a killer turn, the two songs appearing in opposite order on record to what they were live, completely reversed in their function but no less effective. No “Mytho” or “Time for War,” but otherwise they played all of Kings Destroy on the day of its release, and added the oddity of “Turul” from A Time of Hunting, which is always a strange kind of delight on the Saint Vitus Bar stage, so brazenly weird and undefinable as to be the primary characteristic of the album from whence it comes. “Mr. O” followed, again, the closer, and was downright riotous, the five-piece pushing through at full speed and still shoving each other around on stage and piledriving the song as much as performing it, the primary takeaway remaining how much truer to their live experience the self-titled is than anything they’ve done before, and how much stronger it is across the board for that fact. They played a gig worthy of the record that served as its impetus.

Elder

Elder (Photo by JJ Koczan)

One could very easily make a case for Elder being among the most pivotal American heavy rock acts going. Their third and latest offering through Armageddon Shop and Stickman RecordsLore (review here), stands objectively with the best that 2015 has yet brought, and after recently spending a month on the road touring that material, they were tighter at the Saint Vitus Bar than one could have reasonably asked, the Boston/Providence/Brooklyn trio standing on the edge of a West Coast tour that will be followed next month by a return trip to Europe as their ascent continues. How essential is Lore? They opened their set with “Spires Burn” from the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (streamed here) and it seemed like a warmup before guitarist Nick DiSalvo launched into the initial leads that start “Compendium,” the opening track from the new album. Released just in February, the record’s progressive take, flowing movements and clear-headed tonality came through smoothly throughout the remainder of Elder‘s set, and they seemed to still be in tour-mode, less concerned with the evening’s event itself than the raw delivery of their own material, drummer Matt Couto seeming to stare down the drums borrowed from Kings Destroy as he used it to enact New England’s finest swing and bassist Jack Donovan stomping his foot to the march of “Compendium,” completely immersed in the track and the barrage of complex, engaging heavy that followed. To say they owned the room is understating their on-stage command at this point, but they did anyway, and it was the Lore material that most got the room going, something of a mosh breaking out later on. For a group who were playing this show ahead of getting on a plane the next morning to fly out west and go on tour with the likes of Electric Citizen and Stoned Jesus, it would’ve been understandable if Elder weren’t even there mentally, but while they had a bit of that touring-act thousand-yard-stare working, their delivery was every bit as passion-fueled as it had been at the Lore record release back in March, and one could only stand hypnotized as Elder reshaped the confines of genre to suit their creative progression. The most terrifying thing about them is they feel like they’re still only getting started, and maybe they are.

I had to stop for cash on my way out of Brooklyn since I think EZPass canceled my account owing to some unpaid tickets. “Your tag comes up as invalid,” the cop had told me at the toll on my way into the city. Whoops. If I wanted to get through the Midtown Tunnel, I’d have to do it the hard way, so I swung around to a gas station with my one functioning headlight, hit an ATM and sped down the familiar Routes 46 and 80 headed west to crash for the night in my former river valley, landing at around 1:30 and still taking some time to come down from the show, which I feel like I still haven’t really managed to do, my head a whirlwind of riffs, hugs from good friends and the most killer of times.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Insect Ark Premiere “The Collector” from Portal/Well

Posted in audiObelisk on May 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

insect ark

Insect Ark‘s debut album, Portal/Well, is the kind of record that, when it’s over, makes you notice sounds around you that you might otherwise have missed. Birds somewhere across a yard. A car driving past. People talking in the distance. Running water. The nuance that drives Portal/Well — out June 8 on Autumnsongs Records — seems to bleed into the real world, the atmospheres and foreboding rumble captured by bassist/programmer/lap steel guitarist Dana Schechter (ex-Angels of Light, Bee and Flower) playing out in ethereal drones, volume swells and an at times crushing ambience.

Whether it’s a steady roller like the opening title-track, which seems to cast out guitar chords and feedback hum over a kind of slower-Godflesh beat, or the cinematic soundscaping of the later “Parallel Twin” and its minimalist counterpart, the closer “Low Moon,” Portal/Well retains a central focus on ambience. Since its recording, Schechter has brought West Coast-based drummer Ashley Spungin (Taurus) into the lineup, making what was once a solo-project into a duo, but the album carries across its solitary insect-ark-portal-wellspirit in a lonely undercurrent of malevolence, as though something is just around the next corner of “Octavia,” or the horror-style synth work of “The Collector,” waiting to be bumped into in the dark. “The Collector” also arguably boasts Portal/Well‘s most fervent crash, setting up the droning spaciousness of “Lowlands” and “Octavia”‘s encompassing, doomed push.

An entirely instrumental 42 minutes, there’s plenty of Insect Ark‘s dense ambience to get lost in, but even though she’s working here by herself, Schechter dynamically plays minimal spaces off sonic fullness and heft, and the result across Portal/Well‘s span is an album that’s tense at times but never fails to bring the listener along its periodically grueling path. The fluidity with which Schechter constructs layers one on top of the other and the natural ease with which the mix presents them allow even more for someone taking it on to be consumed by its diverse approach and consistent and pervasive gloom.

I’m thrilled today to host the churning “The Collector” for streaming ahead of the June 8 album release. More background on the record follows the song, which you can find on the player below and which I hope you enjoy:

Insect Ark’s debut full-length album, Portal/Well is the result of one years’ work in composer/multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter’s Brooklyn studio. Exploring themes of corruption of the natural world and facing oblivion, Portal/Well continues the wordless existential narratives already established on 2013’s Long Arms EP and 2012’s “Collapsar” 7″ single. Autumnsongs Records will Portal/Well, on CD on June 8, 2015.

Portal/Well finds its voice in the sound of elements burning and crushing into each other: in the haunting groans and swells of the lap steel guitar, the stalking bass, the insistent drum programming, and the deep oscillations of synthesizers. From this morass songs are born, deeply melodic, dense, austere, and wildly unhinged. Creating a personal soundtrack to the underbelly of the human psyche, Insect Ark weaves a brooding, textural landscape–a starless night spiked with light and flash. The music braids together delay-drenched lap steel, programmed and real drums, distorted bass, and synths to create a sonic mural both uncomfortably intimate and icy cold. To say that Portal/Well is a dark album would be a grave understatement – Insect Ark is often called “Experimental/Doom” – but there are moments infused with bright shards of light and respite to breathe clear air, before submerging the listener once again into a deep cavern of lustrous shadow.

Over the course of a year, Schechter wrote and recorded all these tracks alone, at all hours of the day and night. The album was built with careful attention to immaculate detail, but also takes chances, pushing beyond personal barriers. Without the external influence of collaborators, it is the product of a journey into composition and sonic exploration using a small but dynamic palette of instruments and a singular compositional voice.

Insect Ark’s website

Insect Ark on Thee Facebooks

Autumnsongs Records

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Swans to Record New Album in September

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Has there been a more productive reunion this decade than Swans? Even putting aside for the moment the limited Michael Gira demos and live outings they put out through Gira‘s Young God Records, three propulsive, jam-packed full-lengths — 2010’s My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (review here), 2012’s The Seer and last year’s To be Kind (review here) — in a span of four years, plus numerous tours across the US, Europe and most recently Japan. Swans didn’t just just reunite, they reactivated into overdrive.

Up next? The still-avant-after-all-these-years collective will head back to Europe, first to play Turkey and then to spend the bulk of May on the road abroad, returning in July to play All Tomorrow’s Parties in Iceland and hit the north and eastern parts of the continent, also playing Israel in the interim. And when they get back from that, they’ll hit the studio in September to record their fourth long-player since their return, which seems likely to hit early in 2016, at which point one imagines they’ll embark on more touring, limited releases, and so on into an intense perpetuity of assaulting sonics.

Gira announced the intentions thusly:

swans (photo by Jennifer Church)

Swans post live videos, announce recording of new album

“Hello, thank you for listening to our music. I hope it gives you some joy and pleasure.

” I am pleased that you have discovered our music through this medium. I view this experience as the equivalent of previewing a record in a record store in days of old. However, if you wish to experience the music in its’ fullest form, I would strongly encourage you to acquire it in a physical format you can bring into your home. Not only will you then be able to experience the richest version of the music sonically, but you will also be afforded the opportunity to enjoy the tangible artwork, which was conceived in tandem with the music, and serves as a further portal to experiencing the total conceptual and spiritual and emotional content of the work we have labored, lovingly, to bring to you.

I love you,
– Michael Gira / Swans / Young God Records”

Meanwhile, band primum mobile Michael Gira posted this update on his personal FB feed:

These are the remaining Swans shows for 2015. In September we’ll begin recording the new album. (apparently NOT playing Exit Festival in Poland as previously announced. see edited post below).

5.02 Istanbul, Turkey FSK Saloon
5.03 off Istanbul
5.04- fly-
5.05.15 Arhus, DenmarK at Vohalle- confirmed
6.015.15 Stavanger, Norway at Folken – confirmed
7.05.15 Bergen, N at USF Verteft- confirmed
8.05.15 Oslo, N at Vulkan – confirmed
9.05.15 Trondheim, N at Blaest – – confirmed
10.05.15 off
11.05.15 Gothenburg, Sweden at Sticky Fingers-confirmed
12.05.15 Malmo, S at Babel- confirmed
13.05 off
14.05 Nijmegen, NL- Doorroosje–confirmed
15.05 Dortmund, Germany- FZW-confirmed
16.05 Liege, Belgium at Les Ardents Club – confirmed
17.05 Kortrijk, Belgium at De Kreun- confirmed
18.05 leave off
19.05 leave off
May 20 Bristol at Marble Factory- confirmed
May 21 London, UK- The Roundhouse- confirmed
May 22 Liverpool, UK, Liverpool sound Festival
May 23 Glasgow at Art School- confirmed
May 24 Belfast at Mandela Hall- confirmed
May 25 Dublin at Button Factory- confirmed
may 26 off
May 27 Norwich, UK at Epic Studios confirmed
May 28 off
May 29 Nimes, France- Festival-
May 30 Barcelona- Primaververa Festival-
May 31 depart Europe for ny
no shows in june
July 3, Gydina, Poland- Open-Er Festival- confirmed
July 4 Reykavik, Iceland- ATP Festival- confirmed
July h Berlin, D – Volksühne – confirmed
July 6 off- fly to Tel Aviiv
July 7- Tel Aviv, Israel- HaTeatron Club – confirmed
July 8- Paris, F- Trabendo Club- confirmed
July 9 – off fly to Kiev
July 10 – Kiev- Ukraine- Sentrum confirmed
July 11-off – fly to Skopje
July 12 – Skopje, Macadonia, MKC- confirmeded
July 13 off
July 14- tba
July 15- tba
July 16- tba
July 17 Ostrava CZ Ostrava Festival- confirmed
July 18 Crispendorf, D- Chaos Descends Festival- confirmed

Official Young God Records / Swans Store (all albums hand signed by M. Gira): http://bit.ly/1rY35P8
Swans on iTunes: http://bit.ly/1nZmr5R
https://www.facebook.com/SwansOfficial

Swans, “A Little God in My Hands” live in Toronto, 2015

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Unearthly Trance Reunite and Announce Live Shows; Writing New Material

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s been a minute since Unearthly Trance had anything going, but since the three members of the band have been working in Serpentine Path, I guess a reunion as Unearthly Trance never seemed out of the question. Well, it’s happened. After issuing what was called “their final release” in the form of the 2CD compilation Ouroboros last December on Throne Records, the three-piece has come back together and are at worm on new material for a sixth full-length and have announced three live dates in Brooklyn and out on Long Island that seem like a solid start — they’re certainly keeping good company — for a group getting back together in this incarnation.

Just off the PR wire:

unearthly trance (Photo by Will Dahl)

UNEARTHLY TRANCE: Band Announces Reformation; Live Performances

Like a phoenix undead, Brooklyn based black/doom/sludge trio Unearthly Trance has returned! After putting the band on ice in 2012, Darren Verni, Ryan Lipynsky and Jay Newman have decided to resurrect and start playing together once again. The band is already currently writing new music for what will be their sixth full-length album and fourth for Relapse Records.

2015 has shown sparks of life already for the band with the 2xCD release of Ouroboros; a compilation of hard to find songs, vinyl only releases and a few unreleased gems from years past. This collection was released on Throne Records and is available at this location.

In the past Unearthly Trance has shared the stage with the heaviest bands on the planet including The Melvins, Sleep, Electric Wizard, High On Fire, Autopsy and Morbid Angel to name a few. Now Unearthly Trance have announced their first performances in over three years with a few NYC area shows booked in May and July with support from Samothrace, Primitive Man and Churchburn. A series of Northeast dates are also in the works for August as well as a soon to be announced Fest in California this November. A complete listing of confirmed dates is available below.

Although Unearthly Trance became inactive in 2012, the three members were still active and releasing monolithic death/doom records under the banner of Serpentine Path which includes Tim Bagshaw (Ramesses, Electric Wizard) and Stephen Flam (Winter). Serpentine Path will be performing at this year’s Maryland Death Fest 2015 in Baltimore on May 23rd. Lipynsky and Newman also have a new project called Humanless and Lipynsky also keeps busy with Black Metal band The Howling WInd and newer band Force & Fire. Newman has also appeared on the debut recording from Kaiju Daisenso and Verni also pounds the drums for The Sheltering Sky.

Stay tuned for more news on Unearthly Trance including a new merch store (http://unearthlytrance.merchdirect.com/) and a new blog for future info http://unearthly-trance.blogspot.com/

Unearthly Trance Tour Dates:

May 24th 2015 @ Saint Vitus – Brooklyn, NY W/ Samothrace, Trenchgrinder and Beefrot
July 17th 2015 @ The Acheron – Brooklyn, NY W/ Churchburn and Belus
July 21st 2015 @ Sinclairs -Babylon, NY W/ Primitive Man, Opium Lord, Mother Brain, Afterbirth + more

https://unearthlytrance1.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/UnearthlyTrance
https://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

Unearthly Trance, V (2010)

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Brave the Waters Premiere “Voice of the Ancient Oak” from Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days

Posted in audiObelisk on April 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

brave-the-waters

New York ambient two-piece Brave the Waters will issue their debut EP, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days, on May 12. A digital self-release, its core this-is-a-beginning thematic as indicated by the title is somewhat less apparent in the six tracks of the offering itself. No doubt for Rick Habeeb (guitar) and Tom Anderer (acoustic guitar and bass) it’s a major stylistic jump — the two are bandmates in the grinding Buckshot Facelift and progressive death metallers Grey Skies Fallen — but the fluidity of atmosphere they enact over the course of Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days could just as easily be the fifth chapter as the first, as it benefits from Habeeb and Anderer‘s knowledge of how the other plays, even if it’s doing so in a different context from how they’ve ever played before.

Much to their credit, Brave the Waters are not trying to reinvent the soundscape their first time out. Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is an unpretentious 22 minutes that wears its exploratory feel on its sleeve. Most of the material was at least to some degree improvised, and that spirit of immediacy, of the song happening right now feeds into the immersive effect on the listener.brave the waters chapter 1 dawn of days Instrumental for its brief duration an without percussion, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is hardly still. Anderer and Habeeb weave guitar lines and ambient backing swirls around and through each other so that from opener “The New King” down through the passing wisps of melody in “At the Old Stone Bridge,” the progress is so smooth as to be alluring no matter how minimal it gets. And ambience is never far. Marked out by its acoustic foundation, the penultimate “Setting up Camp” reminds of Lamp of the Universe‘s cosmic meditations and Pelican‘s rural escapism (a similar idea with a different musical translation), a particularly memorable melody in “Journey through Highwood Forest” having tapped emotional and sonic resonance just one track earlier.

“Interesting Times” carries the foreboding of the proverb in its atmosphere, but the brightness of “Voice of the Ancient Oak,” with its interplay of acoustic, electric and effects-laden guitar, is enough to counteract just about any lingering worry. Composed, according to the duo, in about half an hour, and expressed completely in three minutes, it’s emblematic of the efficiency with which Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is able to conjure its atmospheres, and still holds firm to the human sensibility at the core of the project — two friends getting together and trying something new instrumentally that’s soaked in reverb and giving a brief look at a vast sonic horizon. Their plan is for yearly releases. With the ground they establish here as a foundation, I do not imagine they’d have any trouble hitting that mark.

Please find Brave the Waters‘ “Voice of the Ancient Oak” on the player below, and enjoy:

Producing a mesmerizing, ethereal brew of beautiful, instrumental movements, far removed from the tumultuous sounds of the extreme output of their other musical creations, BRAVE THE WATERS came together when Grey Skies Fallen and Buckshot Facelift bandmates Tom Anderer (bass guitar, acoustic guitar) and Rick Habeeb (guitar) decided to write and record some instrumentals in a stripped-down fashion. Improvisation and spontaneity were important aspects going in, and while bits and pieces of music were composed prior to entering Keith Moore’s since burned-down Audio Playground Studio, the vast majority of what appears on the band’s six-song debut EP, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days, was written and recorded on the spot.

Containing six tracks of ambient guitar and bass that you will find very different from the duo’s main bands, BRAVE THE WATERS’ Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days sees pounding drums, intense death metal vocals, and immense guitar distortion completely abandoned, and here replaced with clean guitars, melodic bass lines, and a healthy dose of Strymon’s amazing Big Sky reverberator. Just in time for the Winter’s thaw, these winding passages inspire visions of lush nature and rebirth. Reminiscent of several styles at once, yet emerging as its own being, Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days is an immediately comforting, almost familiar release.

BRAVE THE WATERS will release Chapter 1 – Dawn of Days independently through Bandcamp on May 12th, the EP bearing cover art by Travis Smith (Death, Opeth, King Diamond).

Brave the Waters on Thee Facebooks

Brave the Waters on Bandcamp

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