To be honest, I don’t know how limited the new tape from NY/NJ-based basement psych duo Purple Knights and NJ trio The Green Dragon is. I know my copy is marked “Batch 1 — 5/5,” so I’m guessing that when all is said and done, there won’t be a lot of them floating around, but I’d think that if you were up for getting in touch with the bands and acquiring one for yourself, they wouldn’t tell you no.
I’ve posted a couple videos from Purple Knights before. The twosome is comprised of Ben Smith and Zack Kurland, both of Sweet Diesel, the former also of The Brought Low, the latter pulling double-duty in The Green Dragon, and to the best of my knowledge, the tape Purple Knights and the Green Dragonis their first physical output behind a self-titled Purple Knights digital-only EP. I won’t take any credit, but the first time I heard the band’s gritty, underproduced but still warm approach, I immediately thought they should get on putting out a series of super-limited tapes, and I told Kurland as much. No doubt in my mind he’d already had the thought, but it’s nice to be proven right by the sound of Purple Knights and the Green Dragon, which even though it takes a few surprisingly rocking turns throughout the 27-minute duration, is remarkably suited to the inherent compression of the format.
As to those surprising turns: The tape is split (obviously) into two sides, the first dubbed “Purple Knights” and the second “The Green Dragon” with an emblem sticker on each side to indicate which is which. Not to read too much into the atmospheres, but Purple Knights find room for a surprising breadth in a short span of time, also keeping a considerable flow between the four songs on each side, proffering blown-out buzzsaw riffs — seriously, put some screams on it and you’ve got black metal — that nonetheless hearken directly to Judas Priest traditionalism on the first half of the release while The Green Dragon – comprised of Kurland on guitar, Jennifer Klein on bass and Nathan Wilson on drums — kicking into a bassy classic rock groove on the latter, finding a niche in a space somewhere between crusty classic psychedelic rock and more driving demo-type energies on “Johnnie’s Spider” before offering final shelter on the Lamp of the Universe-esque “Acadia” to close out.
But what’s really most shocking about Purple Knights and the Green Dragonare its straightforward aspects, whether it’s Green Dragon‘s “Johnnie’s Spider” or the classic metal of Purple Knights‘ “Heathen Realms” opening side one with some showoff guitar soloing and garage-metal chugging set to drawling, echoing vocals for a malevolent feel. Played directly off the spacey explorations of “Whiteout,” it’s a side of Purple Knights that Kurland and Smith haven’t really shown yet, and while the production on the tape is rough to the point of harshness as the minimalism of “Whiteout” gives way to the ultra-aggressive “Touching Stone,” the duo find a way to work that to their sonic advantage, masking the full expanse of their reach in the overarching rudimentary feel.
I have to wonder at this point how Purple Knights or Green Dragon might sound in a real, out-of-the-basement studio, but if either outfit were to put out a couple more of these kinds of releases before getting there, I don’t think they’d be doing themselves a disservice in allowing some of the ideas presented on Purple Knights and the Green Dragonto further solidify across a series of recording sessions. Whatever their intent, they complement each other well on this split but are still working in different enough realms to be distinct. Particularly for a first pressing from either band, I wouldn’t ask anything more than that and I’m looking forward to what the next batch holds.
I ask you, who among us has not awoken in the woods and been compelled by strange forces to build a stone circle and, behooded, take a quick nap within it? Also, it happens in black and white? Brooklyn-based experimental solo act Insect Ark – being the nom de drone of Dana Schechter of Bee and Flower – have recently unveiled a new video chronicling this very phenomenon for the title-track of the new Insect Ark EP, Long Arms.
Long Armsis out via Geweih Ritual Documents on hand screened 10″ vinyl and available for streaming on the Insect Ark Bandcamp. The clip for “Long Arms” was directed by Chris Carlone and — I’ll be darned — here it is:
Posted in Radio on May 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
In the Gozu interview that went up yesterday, there was a discussion of that feeling when a song fits together almost instantaneously in the rehearsal space — no real back and forth, no drama over parts, nothing like that. It just happens and then is done. New York heavy bluesers Geezer seem to have recently experienced such a phenomenon, and their new self-released EP, Gage, is what they have to show for it.
It’s only been a couple months since Geezer released their debut full-length, Handmade Heavy Blues — not enough time for me to review it, apparently — an album rife with slide guitar and gravely vocals, easy grooves and even an early-featured cover of The Beatles‘ “Why Don’t We Do it in the Road,” which sums up a good deal of the attitude present throughout. Gagecame together as a quick follow-up when the trio — guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, bassist Freddy Villano and drummer Chris Turco — entered the studio to record a track, presumably the fuzz-dreaming opener “Ancient Song,” for an upcoming Grip of Delusion Radio compilation. One became three, the live cut “Dude, it’s Molecular” was added, and an EP was made. Sometimes it’s just that simple. Rarely, but sometimes.
The EP itself reflects the relative smoothness of the process that bore it into the world. Harrington‘s guitar leads the way through “Ancient Song,” but the laid back groove that Villano and Turco throw down is not to be understated, the band departing from some ofHandmade Heavy Blues‘ insistence in favor of a languid pace and jammy feel, the vocals tapping into American stoner rock burl while staying deep in the mix and giving the riff the primary space it deserves. Second cut “Thorny” is shorter and bluesier, but also quiet, and the shift to a more subdued atmosphere is at once unexpected and naturally done. The three-piece prove more dynamic throughout than one simple meter or vibe, and “Thorny” feels quick at just over four minutes of airy electric strum, warm bass and minimalist timekeeping, like the psychedelic Americana that Scott H. Biram forgot he always wanted to make, or like Larman Clamor at its most reserved.
With a rhythm and inflection similar to a less bombastic take on Halfway to Gone‘s “Great American Scumbag,” “Ghost Rider Solar Plexus” is the highlight of Gage for its open verses turning Sunday school into a bad trip and extended its solo break, which Geezer skillfully bring back to the chorus at the end, never letting the jam get the best of them. Reportedly played only the one time, “Dude, it’s Molecular” fades up with a clearer live guitar swell and snare rattle to gradually morph into an organic, improv-sounding instrumental that sounds as close to the jam room as we’re likely to get with the band, ending as unassumingly as it started. Geezer — who will play The Acheron in Brooklyn on July 27 as part of The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3 (more info here) — are a relatively new band, but comprised of veterans who obviously know the value that chemistry between players can bring to a lineup. I’m thrilled to get Gage added to The Obelisk Radio this week.
You can hear it there now as part of the regular playlist, or check it out on the player below from the Geezer Bandcamp, where it’s also available for a pay-what-you-will download:
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve kept relatively quiet in the leadup to the release of Kings Destroy‘s second album, A Time of Hunting, which is out as of today, May 15, on War Crimes Records. This was basically on purpose. I’m not involved in the release, but since their 2010 debut, …And the Rest Will Surely Perish, came out on The Maple Forum, I still feel like glorifying the record is something of a conflict of interest. Even though all my copies are long since gone. A conflict of ego, maybe. Still, I probably won’t review it.
Because I’ve held off writing about A Time of Hunting, I’ve been more curious to see what others think of the album and its eight varied songs. From blurbs saying they sound like Queens of the Stone Age (they don’t) to reviews saying it’s their first record (it isn’t), this has been an almost universally frustrating process. Yeah, I’m biased, and yeah, I’ve got a different relationship to the music than the average reviewer — that’s not me touting band bro’ness, like I’m Mr. Ontheinsidetrack or some shit. I was in the rehearsal room with Kings Destroy when they were beginning to put these songs together. I’ve seen them coalesce live, seen the band find their identity after the departure of bassist Ed Bocchino, watched them discover the music they want to be making, and then watched them make it. At this point, I’ve lived with A Time of Huntingsince before it had a name.
And nothing I’ve seen has come close to doing it justice. Sorry. I’m sure if you happened to review the record and I didn’t see it or whatever, your review was awesome. It was the one that got it. But from where I sit, even the good reviews have missed the point. A Time of Huntingisn’t a collection of post-Sabbath riffs set to Ozzy vocals. It’s not even doom, and to write it off as that is to cheapen the actual character of the material, which is dark and complex and progressive and much, much fucking harder to pin down. Even the clarion riff that opens “The Toe” has more to it than a genre tag, let alone the drama in both the guitars and the vocals that caps “Blood of Recompense” or the sheer creepiness of closer “Turul,” which is so strange with its sirens, yowl and chugging lurch that the band had basically no choice but to stick it at the end even though they knew it had to be included. And they were fucking right. A Time of Hunting — especially coming off …And the Rest Will SurelyPerish, which was a doom album and very much wanted to be a doom album– is so much bolder and more realized than I’ve yet seen it given credit for being. Fucking buy it and fucking appreciate it.
A Time of Huntingis out now. Kings Destroy is guitarists Carl Porcaro and Christopher Skowronski, vocalist Steve Murphy, bassist Aaron Bumpus and drummer Rob Sefcik. Here’s the release off the PR wire:
Kings Destroy Album Out Today!
Kings Destroy is set to release A Time of Hunting via War Crimes Records today.
Kings Destroy is a twisted, thundering gang of musicians. The doom metal unit takes its name from an infamous late ’70s/ early ’80s Bronx-based graffiti crew, which make sense, as the principle members of Kings Destroy have been playing together in New York City hardcore bands and heavy music projects since as far back as 1986. Guitarist Carl Porcaro is a founding member of the New York hardcore/punk bands Breakdown, Electric Frankenstein, and Killing Time. Guitarist Chris Skowronski also plays with Killing Time and first met singer Steve Murphy and drummer Rob Sefcik in 1988 when he joined their NYHC outfit, Uppercut.
Kings Destroy on tour: Jun. 07 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus (Record Release Show w/ Clamfight, Windhand, Belus) Jun. 20 Chicago, IL – Reggies (w/ the Swan King and Yakuza) Jun. 21 Milwaukee, WI – Days of the Doomed Fest June 22 Columbus, OH – Cafe Bourbon St (w/ Tank Destroyer)
Posted in Reviews on May 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
With nearly 40 shows under their collective belt in support of their 10th album, Earth Rocker, Maryland roaddogs Clutch are still really just beginning the touring cycle. Fresh off a couple weeks’ break following a long run with Orange Goblin, they returned to Manhattan last night with The Sword and regular tour compatriots Lionize opening, playing a set that included all but two of the tracks from the new album as well as a few classics from their vast catalog.
There aren’t a lot of bands who can get away with this. The rock and roll cliche is that when you hear, “Here’s one from the new album,” it’s time to go get another drink. Clutch, and their fanbase, are an exception to the rule. Earth Rocker (review here) has been out for about a month and a half, and it was the new songs that people wanted to see, to get to know in a live setting, to find out where the band — guitarist Tim Sult, vocalist Neil Fallon, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster — would decide to throw in a jam here and there, and to learn how the new stuff meshed with the old.
Clutch last came through in December as part of their annual holiday tour (review here), and they had played a few of the Earth Rockercuts then, but now with more gigs behind them, the songs were unquestionably more refined. And there were more of them. Save for “Unto the Breach” and “Mr. Freedom,” the entirety of Earth Rockerwas spread throughout the set — eight tracks — mixed with a few cuts from its unofficial companion piece, 2004′s Blast Tyrant(the two albums shared a producer in NJ-based Machine), including “Cypress Grove,” “The Mob Goes Wild,” “Profits of Doom” and “The Regulator,” as well as “Mice and Gods” from 2005′s Robot Hive/Exodus, “The Yeti” from 1998′s ElephantRiders, and the finale, “Electric Worry,” from 2007′s From Beale Street to Oblivion.
The real kicker here is that no matter what Clutch play at a given show, they both picked the setlist right and left something out. 10 albums deep, there’s no way they can get to everything in a single night, so they’re probably right not to try, and with the expectation that a New York crowd probably doesn’t have a lot of first-timers in it — they’ve done and continue to do really well in the area; the sheer size of Terminal 5 can stand as testament — the way for Clutch to give their audience something it hasn’t seen before is to play the new songs. Frankly, that’s what I was there to see.
And they did not disappoint. Opening with “Earth Rocker” into “Book, Saddle and Go” and “Cyborg Bette,” the rush was immediate and their energy palpable. Fallon as ever was back and forth on stage, gesticulating wildly to emphasize the lyrics while Sult, Maines and Gaster held down the still-funkified rhythm behind. “Earth Rocker” seemed a little slower than on the album, but they got up to speed with “Book, Saddle and Go,” and when “Cyborg Bette” slammed into its last verse and chorus — “Cyborg Bette/You done me/Wrong for the last time…” and so on — it was clear by the sing-along just how quickly the crowd had taken to the new material.
Any night I get to see Clutch, I feel like I’ve won out, and any night I get to see them play “The Regulator,” all the more so. Maybe it was because the bulk of the newer songs are faster and more straightforward, but the slowdown mid-set seemed even more dynamic, Fallon picking up a guitar and easing into a more melodic delivery. By then, they’d run through “The Mob Goes Wild” — suitably riotous — and “Profits of Doom” en route to working a jam onto the end of “D.C. Sound Attack” that only added to one of Earth Rocker‘s best grooves, cowbell included. Clutch are known to alternate which member of the band picks the setlist each night, and I don’t know who got this one, but it flowed well and “The Regulator” made a good marker after “Mice and Gods” and “Cypress Grove,” which was shouted out to all the ladies in the house as much good vibing ensued.
In December, “D.C. Sound Attack” had seemed rough in some of its transitions, but that was resolved and the song executed as smoothly as everything else. It feels like a given to say Clutch are one of the tightest live acts I’ve ever seen — like, well duh, of course they are — but it’s worth highlighting just how impressive they really can be on stage, and that even in a space like Terminal 5, with two balcony levels above the floor and a stretch back to rival Roseland Ballroom,not at all intimate, they managed to bring the crowd along with them for the party they were throwing. I’m sure it helped that those in attendance were so willing to go, but still. To seem human in a place like that is a feat and they pulled it off like it was nothing. One more reason to keep coming back.
“Oh, Isabella” followed “The Regulator” and led to “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” which closes the new album. Sult‘s guitar did well in conveying the grandiose sensibility of the final moments, but I wondered if Clutch wouldn’t go so far as to add a second for that part, whether it’s Fallon handling it or someone else, just to give it that extra push when it kicks in at the end. I guess they probably have another 300 shows or so to figure out if that’s a choice they want to make, but it’s a great live song anyway, and fit surprisingly snug with the subdued “Gone Cold” following, that in turn giving way to “The Face,” a highlight of Earth Rocker and probably the song I was most hoping — aside from “The Regulator,” which is a constant on my wish list — they’d play.
Similar in its scope to the ending of “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…,” “The Face” makes an impression on the album through its sheer size and its story of rock and roll redemption. Live, it’s obviously rawer, but its epic riff sounds no less epic, and Fallon nailed the rhythm of the verses, making it all the more thrilling to watch. Hopefully it’s one that stays in the set for years to come. For the encore, Clutch threw in “The Yeti” and added a jam to the end that transitioned into “Burning Beard” — it wasn’t easy, but they got there — and then capped with “Electric Worry,” as one has come to increasingly expect over the last couple years.
For me, it was a laid-back kind of night. I’d worked late the few days prior and been pretty beat, so hitting up a Clutch show was more like seeing old friends — also helped that there were plenty of those in the crowd — than something to stress over. I got to relax, lean back and belt out a few killer tunes along with the band, and I don’t think there’s anything more I could’ve reasonably asked for a Thursday night. They were done just before midnight, I got back to my humble river valley a couple minutes after one, and woke up this morning with “The Face” still stuck in my head. It was the best Clutch show since the last one and it’ll be the best until the next one. That’s how they do.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Just in case you want a glimpse into future live reviews, on June 7, Maple Forum alums and all-around badasses Kings Destroy will play the release show for their second full-length, A Time of Hunting, at Brooklyn’s St. Vitus bar with Windhand, Clamfight and Belus. Yeah, that’s a righteous bill, and if you’re in town and your calendar isn’t duly marked, fine, you lose. The actual release date for A Time of Hunting is May 15, and the album will be out on War Crimes Records.
And aside from deriving an intense satisfaction at the level of bro-ness between Clamfight and Kings Destroy even though I recognize consciously that I had literally nothing to do with bringing the two acts together, I’ll look forward to seeing both bands sharing a bill, much as I’ll look forward to seeing Windhand play again ahead of making their debut on Relapse Records later this year. I don’t know Belus, but dammit, if they’re on this lineup, they’re okay by me.
Kings Destroy have a brand new video out ahead of the album (rumor has it there might also be a track premiere coming…) for the song “Stormbreak,” which is as awesome as it is of the forest and reinforcing the universally accepted notion that children are creepy. You’ll find it below, along with the tour dates that Kings Destroy will play en route to Days of the Doomed III in Wisconsin next month.
Thanks, the PR wire:
Kings Destroy Unveil New Video/Tour Dates
Kings Destroy is set to release A Time of Hunting via War Crimes Records on May 15th. To celebrate, the band has unveiled the Christina Reilly-directed video for “Stormbreak” and announced a string of dates in June.
Kings Destroy is a twisted, thundering gang of musicians. The doom metal unit takes its name from an infamous late ’70s/ early ’80s Bronx-based graffiti crew, which make sense, as the principle members of Kings Destroy have been playing together in New York City hardcore bands and heavy music projects since as far back as 1986. Guitarist Carl Porcaro is a founding member of the New York hardcore/punk bands Breakdown, Electric Frankenstein, and Killing Time. Guitarist Chris Skowronski also plays with Killing Time and first met singer Steve Murphy and drummer Rob Sefcik in 1988 when he joined their NYHC outfit, Uppercut.
Kings Destroy on tour: Jun. 07 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus (Record Release Show) Jun. 20 Chicago, IL – Reggies (w/ the Swan King and Yakuza) Jun. 21 Milwaukee, WI – Days of the Doomed Fest June 22 Columbus, OH – Cafe Bourbon St (w/ Tank Destroyer)
Once they figured out what they wanted to be as a band, Unearthly Trance only got heavier, so that the debut full-length from Serpentine Path — which unites that trio’s final lineup with guitarist Tim Bagshaw, formerly of Ramesses and Electric Wizard — should be darker and more extreme in its doomly ways isn’t so much a surprise as it is a natural evolution. Add to that vocalist Ryan Lipynsky‘s ongoing tenure in black metal progressives The Howling Wind and it makes even more sense, though Serpentine Path have little in common either with Lipynsky‘s other outfit or with Unearthly Trance. Some of Ramesses‘ death-doomiest moments might be recognizable in the eight-track/42-minute self-titled, but there’s little to none of the cultish psychedelia that offset such dirge marching in that band. With Serpentine Path, it’s pretty much all bludgeon.
The album was released last fall on Relapse and met with as positive a response as something so unabashedly negative can, and since it came out, Bagshaw (who wrote the music on the debut) has reportedly relocated to New Jersey from the UK and Winter guitarist Stephen Flam has joined as well, making the band a five-piece rounded out by bassist Jay Newman and drummer Darren Verni. I just recently came into contact with Serpentine Pathcourtesy of Flam, who was interviewed here a while back (if you didn’t read it, you should, it’s awesome), and having spent some time with the record, as usual, I a little bit regret not checking out it sooner. The drawn-out stomp of “Crotalus Horridus Horridus” and the ’90s-style leads infecting “Obsoletion” are a death-doomer’s missing link, and the purposeful unipolarity in Lipynsky‘s vocals there and elsewhere throughout the album only makes the band’s intentions clearer.
Bagshaw‘s guitar even on a shorter track like “Bats Amongst Heathens” — easy to hear a Winter influence there — crafts an abyss of tone, and as they’re no strangers to slow, lurching rhythms, Newman and Verni work well in walking the line between snail’s pace grooving and unhinged immobility. Periodic samples like that at the beginning of “Beyond the Dawn of Time” don’t so much ground the material as add to the chaos, and a song like the later “Compendium of Suffering” is given even more weirdness in its break for the vague spoken echoes playing out over the unceasing plod of the verse riff. I guess if you want the short version, Serpentine Path are seriously fucking heavy and seriously grim. They don’t stray from that modus throughout these tracks, but they don’t really need to either, since the more oppressive a song gets, the more it’s doing its job. They win no matter what.
Closer “Only a Monolith Remains” seems to have been the inspiration for the artwork as well, which seems to be nodding at Hellhammer on the front cover while on the back a sort of Cthulhu-meets-the-Pradator monolith plays host to the tracklist. The inside of the liner has snake scales embossed onto the paper, as do the lyrics, and the tray under the CD also has an embossed ouroboros, so clearly somebody was putting effort into the aesthetic from the ground up. Not the first time I’ve given Relapse‘s Orion Landau kudos and it probably won’t be the last. One way or another, Serpentine Path‘s Serpentine Pathis a record I’m glad I got to check out, since given the changes in the band they’re not likely to repeat themselves next time around.
Posted in Reviews on February 19th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Pushing the very limits of the CD format, NYC-based four-piece Endless Boogie jam out hyperbole-ready classic heavy psych that’s as hypnotic as it is ranging. Songs are songs on their third album for No Quarter Records, dubbed Long Island – depending on whom you ask, it’s their third or fifth or seventh overall; I like to imagine a string of prime numbers, something like, “Legends say Endless Boogie have 53 albums and if you weren’t cool enough to get them at the time, they’re gone forever” – but songs are also showcases for jams, which are formidable in length and potency. This ethic plays out across the eight tracks of Long Island, wandering past 79 minutes with largely improvisational compositions turned into songs after the fact. Or, you know, not. It’s the kind of heavy-edged musing one expects more out of Europe these days, in acts like Insider or Electric Moon, but Endless Boogie seem to owe musical allegiance not so much to a modern scene foreign or domestic, but instead to the psychedelic meanderings of ‘70s yore. Really, it’s the context of their being from New York that makes this a novelty at all (there seems to be a lot of attention paid to the band members’ ages as well, but frankly I don’t give a shit how old they are), since in a city with over eight million people there are maybe 13 who’d be interested enough in music like this to participate in making it, maybe six of whom who could actually play. But guitarists Jesper “The Governor” Eklow and Paul “Top Dollar” Major (the latter also vocals), bassist Marc Razo and drummer Harry Druzd have aligned like so many celestial bodies and following behind 2008’s Focus Level and 2010’s Full House Head, Long Island strikes a tone of individuality right from the beginning strains of the 13:32 opener “The Savagist,” and contrary to my usual position on the matter, I find I’m only more engrossed in listening to Long Island for its maximalist runtime. Such is the strength of Endless Boogie’s jams – solid enough in their purpose to live up to the band’s moniker, though who knows which came first – which seem to defy their own hypnotic aspect and remain memorable if not entirely, then at very least in parts, the mellow-you-the-fuck-out grooves not at all running contradictory to the brash heavy riffing of “Taking out the Trash,” a song about, what else?, drinking after you should’ve stopped drinking.
A big part of what allows Endless Boogie to strike that balance between sonic nonchalance and heaviness is the production of Long Island, itself an anomaly for sounding vintage without sounding retro. The album was put to tape at Dunham Studios by Wayne Gordon with further recording handled by Chris Ribando and Davey Kewell, and Eklow and Matt Sweeney are also credited with producing, but even with so many hands in the pot at one point or another – Chris Ribando also mixed – Long Island not only sounds cohesive, but almost entirely unpostured. Whether it’s Major’s throaty lines on “The Savagist” or more traditional motoring riff-work on “Taking out the Trash,” or any of the mostly-instrumental explorations that follow across “The Artemus Ward,” “Imprecations” and “Occult Banker” (all three tracks clocking in at 9:18), Endless Boogie are neither too classic nor too modern, too loud or soft, too solidified or overly fluid. By the time they’re at the softer, low-end raininess of “The Artemus Ward” – presumably side B of the first record in the 2LP – the vibe is cool enough to warrant whatever gritty cityscape narrative you could want to put to Major’s echoing spoken delivery. Whatever blues they’re referencing, they’re at home in it, and though I’m reminded of some of Brant Bjork’s farthest-out jams, Endless Boogie are never of anywhere musically that isn’t their place. That seems to be enough. It’s easy to imagine Major coming back later to add his lines over the bed of the instrumental jam, and if they were working with traditional structures, it might not work, but by the time “The Artemus Ward” gets around to wrapping up/coming apart, the expectation is way off from pop songwriting. It doesn’t matter. Give me more of that jam. “Imprecations” starts immediately more active with some slight twang in the interplay of Eklow and Major, but it’s Razo and Druzd in the rhythm section who ultimately hold the piece together. There are words for a while, far back behind a wah rhythm line and lead noodling, though the consistent element is more the warm bass than the trippy guitars, which, to their credit, seem to appreciate the opportunity to branch out as they will in preparation for dropping the pretense even further with the instrumental “Occult Banker,” rife with buzzsaw leads and some of Long Island’s most lysergic grooves.
Proffering rich, organic tonality with an unpostured flair for the soulful and classically rocking, Brooklyn’s Traveling Circle made enough of an initial impression to be picked up by Germany’s Nasoni Records for the release of their first album. That’s high praise for psychedelia — especially American psychedelia — and the record, 2010′s Handmade House(review here) left little to question of the three-piece’s having earned it, a patient but still motion-minded flow playing out over the course of tight grooves and well-placed flourishes of synth. The follow-up, Escape from Black Cloud(review here), was also issued on LP by Nasoni late last year.
Its pulse is no harder to read in terms of overall accessibility, but Escape from Black Cloudis nonetheless a more developed full-length, two-sided all the way in its blend of classic psych and modern tonality, a steady beat throbbing under unrepentantly shoegazing opener “Higher,” while the high-pitched vocals space out above the sway. Elsewhere, as on side B’s shuffling “Fountain of Time,” they touch the ground, but there’s little interest presented in remaining there, as the sleepy “Newborn Shadow” demonstrates and the more playful “Rock this Feeling” confirms. At rest or in motion, Traveling Circle draw forth an engaging atmosphere akin to but not necessarily biting off anyone else’s work in psych or space rock. The more you let yourself be carried off by Escape from Black Cloud, the more satisfaction the album is like to provide.
Traveling Circle is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Dylan Maiden, bassist/backing vocalist/electric pianist Charlie Freeman and drummer Josh Schultz. All three were kind enough to participate in the following Six Dumb Questions. Please enjoy:
1. Escape from Black Cloud seems to have a more laid back feel than Handmade House in general. Were there things you knew you wanted to do differently coming off of the last record, or is that just how the songs came out of the jams?
Josh: I do think our attitude was a little different for the new record. We kept in a more sort of spacey pulse area for this album. For me, I really tried to keep the drums more pulsing. I tried to be creative in the approach but also keep it simple. I saw a documentary on Krautrock a while ago and Jaki Liebezeit describes a spaced-out audience member approaching him to suggest he should “play more monotonous.” I definitely tried to “play more monotonous.”
Charlie: Simplicity was the general approach all around. I tried not to overthink things but we had a certain sound in mind.
Dylan: Yeah, the goal was to compose a more linear structure throughout and fill it with melodic accents that give you the feeling of moving up and down.
2. How does the Traveling Circle writing process usually work? Am I way off in hearing a soul/funk influence? If I’m not, where does it come from?
Dylan: There may be some influence from those territories. But, to be honest, I draw inspiration in my writing from just about every place conceivable. The subliminal and subconscious are important drivers behind our writing process. There are many elements at work. We usually enter the practice studio and start arranging these elements into the sonic positions we feel are most appropriate for each song’s narrative.
Charlie: I can see what you mean with the soul/funk influence. “Rock this Feeling” has that vibe running throughout. In general, Dylan has a very soulful vocal delivery and Josh and I have an intertwined approach to drums and bass. This album definitely has more groove injected in it.
Josh: Over the two albums we have used a number of different methods in terms of writing. I think this record has some really great songs that Dylan brought in more or less done from a guitar/vocals perspective. Higher is a good example of this, the way I remember it. Some songs started as jams. “Closer” was sort of an unwritten jam at first. We first played that song as a jam at a bar in Brooklyn called Legend and just improvised it. The room was empty at the beginning of the song and began to fill up by the end. It looked like a good idea to polish it up after that. People seemed to relate to it. “Candle Light Sways” was an odd one in that I worked out the entire drum part at home and then brought it in to see if Charlie and Dylan would be up for making something out of it. The structure changed a bit with the group though. Maybe this is too mechanical an answer…
3. Tell me about writing and recording “Newborn Shadow.”
Dylan: This is one of my favorite songs on the album. I wanted to create a nostalgic atmosphere with the guitar sound, which involved very simple strums. Serendipitously, the guitar ended up sounding like a harp. Then I overlaid vocals that sound like they’re coming from a gothic cathedral. I really love Charlie’s bass on this track. It holds everything together and makes me feel like I’m on a teetering boat with a lantern in my hand, trying to make my way through the darkness ahead.
Charlie: This one came together pretty quickly right before we went into the studio. Dylan had a very clear idea of the overall sound he was going for. It has a really nice build to it. It’s a very haunting song.
Josh: The drums were more involved on that song at one point and it was worse for it! In trying out ideas we got around to the current treatment, which is much stronger for the simple drums.
4. The album sounds so natural. How much of Escape from Black Cloud was recorded live? What was your time in the studio like? Has there been any consideration to bringing in a synth player as a full-time member of the band?
Dylan: We’ve been praised for our live performances. Many people have said they prefer hearing us live to our albums. The aim of Escape from Black Cloud was to capture the energy and emotion of our live performance and bring it to the forefront. We brought in friends to help with arrangements such as synthesizer and Theremin, but this by no means compromised the integrity of our sound. Having our brethren by our side helped accentuate the most important bits and crystallize the vision. Nostalgia and dustiness aside, considering how many tracks we recorded live, Escape from Black Cloud came out sounding quite polished as a studio piece, both in its execution and production.
Josh: We did the bass, drums and guitar tracks all at once in a live fashion and then went from there. We recorded at Seaside Lounge with MitchRackin. Mitch is the best! His record with Heavy Hands is great. I listen to it pretty regularly. The album is called Smoke Signals. Seaside is a great place to record. They record to tape and have a lot of sweet vintage gear and are great guys! I wish I was at Seaside Lounge right now! As for the mixing, Dylan was in contact with Gordon Raphael and we decided to approach him about trying out some mixes, we really liked what he came up with and so we asked him to mix the album. He was working between Berlin and Texas so we handled the mixes through the mail. It was an unusual way to work for us but I like what we ended up with.
We have talked at times about adding a member but haven’t really done much about it. Charlie handles the keys on “Willow Tree Fair.” He comes up with great parts. Other additional parts include Theremin played by Matt Dallow and some studio magic from Gordon.
Charlie: We keep some pretty odd rehearsal times too. A lot of people don’t want to get up that early on a Sunday morning.
5. Can you give some insight into Erin Klauk’s work on the cover art? Was there some discussion of direction beforehand? How did you wind up working together in the first place?
Josh: Erin has done a lot of posters for us over the years and also the cover to the last LP. She did the posters for Brooklyn Psych Fest as well. I don’t recall much direction. I guess she just riffed on the title. Pretty far-out stuff, right? Alexandra Zorbas-Maiden took the sweet photos, including one on the back and another on the poster insert.
Charlie: Erin had some couch pillows made with the cover art and gave them to us as gifts. That was the first time I saw the art and I was blown away. We’re really lucky to have people as talented as Erin and Alex working with us.
Dylan: I was at an art opening in Chelsea that featured some really cool Himalayan artwork. They were dark depictions of mountains and clouds. Very simple line drawings that almost resembled wood engravings. I was very inspired and thought the tone somehow related to the songs we selected for our second album. Knowing Erin was going to illustrate the cover,
I texted her pictures from this Himalayan artist as inspiration for what would later become Escape from Black Cloud.
The photo on the back cover of Escape from Black Cloud was taken in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, by my wife Alex. The poster insert photo was also taken by her in the Muir Woods.
6. Will there be a CD release? Any shows, plans or other closing words you want to mention?
Josh: Currently there are no plans for a CD but we have been receiving requests. The best way to pick up Escape from Black Cloud is on vinyl at www.nasoni-records.com. They also have both an LP and CD of our first album, Handmade House. If you don’t listen to records, Escape from Black Cloud is on iTunes and Spotify. We are currently planning to hold record listenings in three cities as well, New York, San Francisco, and Sydney. If anyone is interested, keep an eye on our Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/TravelingCircle for more details.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 31st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Meeting at the intersection of punishing modern doom and industrial experimentation, Brooklyn’s Batillus seem destined to always be an oddball musically. Their 2011 Seventh Rule debut full-length, Furnace (review here), reveled in its bleak weirdness, and I’d expect no less of the follow-up, Concrete Sustain, which is due out March 19 through the same label.
Also sprach the PR wire:
BATILLUS: Avant-Industrial Doom Conjurors To Unleash Concrete Sustain Via Seventh Rule Recordings Next Month
Artwork + Track Listing Revealed
Brooklyn, New York avant-industrial doom conjurors BATILLUS (buh-TILL-us) today confirm March 19, 2013 as the official North American release date of their forthcoming new full-length. Titled Concrete Sustain, the follow-up to 2011’s critically-lauded Furnace long player, was recorded and mixed by Sanford Parker and BATILLUS at Sound Generation in Manhattan and Hypercube in Chicago and mastered by Collin Jordan at the Boiler Room.
With songs that range from relentless mid-tempo churns to subterranean crawls, BATILLUS cohere the extremes of heavy music into a surge of massive riffing, rolling over and descending on the listener with the force and intensity of a sudden storm. Concrete Sustain delivers six unforgettable tracks of chilling industrial doom.
Originally conceived in 2007 as an instrumental trio, the BATILLUS lineup expanded in 2009 to add vocals, synthesizer, and samples to the dynamic range of their music. The tight and focused songs on Concrete Sustain reflect this expanded palette, which has had a profound effect on the band’s writing process.
Concrete Sustain will be released via Seventh Rule Recordings. Stay tuned for further info on BATILLUS, including a stretch of live rituals, in the coming weeks.
Posted in Reviews on January 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Somebody’s Range Rover had broken down in the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, so the traffic getting across to the St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn was a cruelty. The Patient Mrs. had business elsewhere in the borough as well, so we carpooled and sat for about an hour, waiting, inching forward, honking, being honked at, staring at the billboards for Soylent Orange or whatever it was, waiting. Waiting. Mostly it was waiting.
I was still early to the show, though, which was the live debut of the supergroup (they need to come up with a new tag for “band made up of people known for being in other bands”) Corrections House, whose lineup reads like a list of influences. Mike Williams of Eyehategod on vocals, Scott Kelly of Neurosis on guitar, Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont handling sax, backing vocals and noise, and producer/Nachtmystium member Sanford Parker – permanently linked to the largely unmatched crush of Buried at Sea in my mind — acting as warden behind a podium with the band’s logo draped on the front, his laptop, sampler, drum machine adding to the experimental edge and providing the rhythmic base of the material.
The concept for the show was pretty complex. Two bands were opening: noise trio York Factory Complaint and blackened noisemakers Theologian, both NY-native. After them, each of the members of Corrections House would come up for a brief 10-15 minutes of solo work, then, once they were pieced together on the stage, a Corrections House set would close out the night. It was a cool theory, and it felt even better to know that St. Vitus bar was the first time they were trying it out, but I guess my concern going into it was how they’d actually make it happen with each member doing something different, what the order would be and how many songs Corrections House, as a band, could possibly have.
Answer? Three or four songs. But it was a long road to get there. York Factory Complaint went on at about 10PM, so I knew right away it was going to be a pretty late night. All the gear was backlined behind and around the outfit — which lists itself as a four-piece so perhaps someone was missing — who sat and knelt on the floor of the stage in front of their vintage-looking manipulators, Moogs and whathaveyous. Their noise was, well, noise. As advertised. Screaming vocals gave some inkling of structure, but there wasn’t really a verse as such, just lines spit over harsh audio.
I guess that’s going to happen from time to time, and for what it was, I thought the presentation was cool and the ambience creative. I always wanted to start a noise project with equipment hooked up to giant walls with knobs on them that I could dress as a mad scientist in a labcoat and run from side of the stage to side of the stage turning like a fool. Of course, with neither the money for equipment nor a knack for working with oversized knobs, it’s resided in the pile of band ideas next to my one-man black metal band with no music because nothing sounds kvlt enough and my doom project with lyrics based solely on the themes of Final Fantasy games.
York Factory Complaint was much simpler in their approach, and Theologian likewise, though the Leech-led live trio — which included Fade Kainer of Batillus on, you guessed it, synth and noise — were a little more grounded, relatively speaking, and had a projector going behind and over them while they played. That didn’t do much to make the sounds any friendlier or more accessible, but the point was the experiment, and their complex wash of synth, effects-laden vocals and array of abrasive screeches felt all the more purposed for its bleakness of mood. A couple toms on the side of the stage manned by Matt Slagle provided human-driven thud when called upon, and Leech‘s voice became as much a part of the wash as anything else. I wondered how they’d serve as a lead-in for Corrections House, but with Sanford Parker up first crafting a noise barrage of his own, it made more sense than one might have expected.
Dressed as all the members of the band would be in a black button-down withCorrections House logo patches sown on the arms and a larger logo on the back, Parker set quickly to work laying a bed of industrial-style beats and noisy flourishes. Samples came and went muddled by the surrounding swell as Parker, lost in the rhythm, continued to construct the sound one element at a time, even picking up a mic and manipulating feedback from it. After a while, Lamont joined him on stage, picking up his baritone sax and running it through a pedal board of his own, soon doing the same with some vocalizations and even scratches on the microphone that ran along the border between experimental and obnoxious. It can be a fine line sometimes.
Williams appeared unceremoniously on the side of the stage, holding a notebook, and gradually, Parker and Lamont brought the noise down to a steady drone. This actually worked really well, because in his reading — Williams in addition to fronting Eyehategod has done spoken word for a while now and has a book of poems called Cancer as a Social Activity– he gripped the mic, yelled and often had space to pause for the sound behind him filling what would otherwise have been silence tempting people in the crowd to talk over him. I’ve been to that kind of gig before and it’s excruciating, but whatever else you can say about Williams, he’s charismatic like few others I’ve seen on a stage. Like a magnet for eyeballs.
His poems/writings ran through a litany of post-beat disaffection, navigating a gamut of vague imagery and all-too-specific chemically-added grit. It’s hard to critique a written work by hearing a reading, but his delivery could change in a line from tragic and solipsistic to engaging with smiled charm, and not without interrupting the flow of a piece, and that’s worthy of commending. As he read, Kelly made his way to the front and took up position at the side of the stage, fresh off two rare East Coast Neurosis gigs, in Philly and at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple for a weekender preceding the launch of this tour. Lamont and Parker were still up there as well, the former kneeling in front of his pedal board in attentive semi-meditation and the latter tucked away behind his podium.
Closing out his portion with an extended poem that was a series of purposefully ridiculous claims ended by the refrain “That’s what the obituary said,” and finally ending it with what he seemed to make his own concerning his many-storied history of drug abuse — there was some mention of “finally kicking the habit” — Williams then made way for Kelly to run through a couple songs. This turned out to be something of a side-step, since each of the preceding additions of personnel to the stage had added to the atmosphere of what would become Corrections House, whereas Kelly‘s material is more straightforward and more definitively solo. Even “The Sun is Dreaming in the Soul,” which featured a second guitar on last year’s The Forgiven Ghost in Me(review here), was wholly Kelly‘s own despite complementing ethereal backing vocals from Lamont. I’m not about to complain for getting to watch Scott Kelly play his solo material — that can only make a good night better — but it was a turn from the process of building Corrections House on the stage, since what he was playing as part of the band turned out to be heavier, darker and more fitting to the rhythmic pulsations of Parker‘s drum machine.
Once they were all there, again, Corrections House only had three, maybe four songs to play. The difference was it had already been about an hour, so it was more like an extended encore than a full set. I wasn’t about to complain. Aside from Kelly playing angrier and with more distortion, there wasn’t much about Corrections House that hadn’t already been revealed. A digital “leak” of their “Hoax the System” video had given some idea of what to expect, and the other material they played followed suit, once more leaning on the line between organic darkened heavy and industrial coldness. Williams spat fury with his characteristic nihilism, Lamont kept up with Parker in laying the foundation of noise, be it with his sax or mic or both, and where once there wasn’t one, an increasing swirl of chaos ensued. It was all I could do to realize how far we’d already come by the time Corrections House were into their second offering.
They wrapped with an extended take on “Hoax the System,” its insistent rhythm playing out steady as the final tide of feedback rolled over it and just about everything else, Williams seeming to hold on against the rush with repetitions of his last lyrics urging the title. It was nearly 1AM by the time they were done, and I knew The Patient Mrs. was waiting, so I was quick out the door of the St. Vitus bar and back down the block to where she’d parked and was waiting for me to drive back to Jersey. Fortunately, whoever’s Range Rover it was had been towed by then. Small favors.
Pretty much the whole way through, this show wasn’t what I’d expected or planned on. From the traffic getting there to Williams taking the frontman spot then relinquishing for Kelly only to resume it shortly thereafter, to Lamont‘s mic-scratching, to the clear-road record time I made to the valley afterwards, the vast majority of my preconceived notions of what Corrections House would be had turned out to be in need of — forgive me — correcting. That’s what they got, anyhow. Rumor has it a 7″ is in the works, after that, who knows. But whatever might come next for these guys in this collaborative form, at least now I know why I’m anticipating it.
…And they do it in grand style, with a short teaser clip of spaced-out sonics set to a red-skied open field. The Brooklyn-based psychonauts have never exactly wanted for atmosphere, but if you had the chance to hear last year’s The Ballad of the Starchild EP, then you know that much weirdness is afoot and that it’s working for them. Very much looking forward to hearing what Naam get down to on Vow when the album drops on June 4. I have the feeling they could surprise a lot of people.
Here’s the teaser, with assurances of more to come:
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
NYC-based doom outfit Archon opened a new chapter when it basically merged with the concurrent and still ongoing post-sludge outfit Alkahest, bringing in drummer Rajah Marcello, guitarist Nikhil Kamineni and screamer Chris Dialogue alongside founding bassist Andrew Jude and mostly-melodic vocalist Rachel Brown. The change is even more palpable on their forthcoming album, Ouroboros Collapsing, which follows 2010′s pre-lineup-change release, The Ruins at Dusk (review here). What remains consistent, however, is a black hole’s portion of darkness resounding through their extended, trenchant plod.
The Path Less Traveled Records has signed on to issue the new album on Feb. 19 and sends the following word down the PR wire:
ARCHON – Ouroboros Collapsing OUT 2/19/13
Archon is a New York City based metal band whose sound blends the heaviest of psych, stoner, doom and sludge. Created in 2008 by Andrew Jude, Archon has persisted through several lineup changes. In 2010, the band self-produced its first full length record, The Ruins at Dusk. A collaboration of seven people, The Ruins at Dusk fused the epic atmospherics and dynamics of Electric Wizard and Neurosis while maintaining a melodic sensibility reminiscent of doom godfathers St. Vitus and Black Sabbath.
Since late 2010, the band has been comprised of Andrew Jude (guitar, bass), Nikhil Kamineni (bass, guitar), Rajah Marcelo (drums), Rachel Brown (vocals, synth) and Chris Dialogue (vocals, noise). In 2011 Archon toured the Northeast, and over the years has shared the stage with doom heavyweights Unearthly Trance, Coffinworm, Wolvserpent, Negative Reaction, Apostle of Solitude, Cough, Hull, Batillus, Sea of Bones, Graven and Earthride.
With the upcoming release of Ouroboros Collapsing, Archon travels further down the path of devastation, disillusion and despair by exploring the depths of self as a microcosm for all existence. The crushing riffs are still heavy as fuck, but are interlaced with more contemplative ambience. With dueling vocals ranging from death growls to clean singing, and everything in between, the sense of universal collapse will engulf you.
Posted in Reviews on January 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve had an itch to catch Baltimore’s Arbouretum live really since I caught wind of their 2011 album, The Gathering (which I didn’t review here because I didn’t think it would fit; I’ve since stopped caring), but especially since hearing about their sharing the stage with Om in their hometown the same weekend I was there and not being able to make that gig. Hearing their new record, Coming Out of the Fog, which is due out Jan. 22 on Thrill Jockey, only added to the urgency, and when I heard they were sharing a two-band bill with long-running alt country pioneers Freakwater at The Bell House on a Tuesday night, the decision basically made itself.
The ride in was easy enough. I’d stayed at the office late to split on time to get there for a 9PM start and miss most of the tunnel traffic, and when I got to The Bell House, I paid the door charge and was somewhat surprised to find rows of foldout chairs set up in front of the stage. I was taken aback, since last time I was there was to see YOB in May 2012, but I grabbed a seat up front and proceeded to make an activity of waiting the 10 or so minutes for the band to come out. It was mildly awkward and I felt a bit like the curtain behind Brian Carey‘s drums was going to rise and we were all going to be treated to a live The Creation of Adam à la Arrested Development (“Where is god?” “There is no god!” etc.), but no, in another couple minutes, Arbouretum emerged from the side door and the show began.
This being my first time watching them play and a big part of my attraction being their tonal warmth, I was particularly interested to see what kind of amps guitarist/vocalist David Heumann was playing through. It would be just as easy to imagine full stacks from some obscure fuzz factory, or even Dead Meadow-style Orange combos, given the sonic richness and fullness that pervades from Heumann and bassist Corey Allender, though the reality was far more understated. Heumann ran two small Egnater half-stacks arranged separately (it was a bit of linguistic near-irony when one of them started smoking mid-set; I couldn’t get “ignitor” out of my head), and while the striking visual aspect wound up working in the opposite direction from what I’d figured, his tone was unmistakable, and the band quickly went to work straddling and crossing the lines between heavy psychedelia, folk, indie and doom, as few other than them seem to be able to do.
My familiarity is really with the last couple albums (I was kind of hoping they’d have any of the first three on their merch table and I’d be able to get caught up, but no dice), but I recognized a goodly portion of the material they played, the memorable “Oceans Don’t Sing” standing out from Coming Out of the Fogalong with “Renouncer” and “The Promise.” The three cuts from the new album ran in order as they do on the record behind set opener “Mohammed’s Hex and Bounty” from 2007′s Rites of Uncovering. It seemed a curious choice to me to start off with — one would expect something more recent, and, if they’re playing tracks two, three and four from the new one, then “The Long Night,” which leads off Coming Out of the Fog, wouldn’t have been out of place — but it very quickly became apparent they knew what they were doing.
The lightly rolling groove of “Renouncer” and more lumbering fuzz of “The Promise” — on which Matthew Pierce turned from his Rhodes to add percussion and complement Carey – were an excellent setup for the instrumental build of “Oceans Don’t Sing,” which also proved a highlight for showcasing Heumann‘s voice, like an earthier David Bowie gone west. The setlist was probably tailored to the show, that is, playing with Freakweather, Arbouretum probably weren’t looking to blast out eardrums — though before they got going, Heumann warned that parts would be pretty loud and they were — but the flashes of heavy that came through the songs seemed to be met with appreciated from where I was sitting. Catchy almost in spite of itself with the vocals following the guitar line in a bouncing melody, “Renouncer” rumbled a subtle threat in Allender‘s bassline, and “The Promise” paid that off with a noisy finish and a solo that Heumann didn’t seem to want to let go.
Contrast was a big part of what made it all work. Arbouretum balanced heaviness and sweetness of melody and tone and ranged dynamically in terms of pace and volume. Rites of Uncoveringopener “Signposts and Instruments” followed “Oceans Don’t Sing” with a similar if less countrified linearity and the subsequent “St. Anthony’s Fire” provided the most raucous stretch of the set. Longer than everything else and seeming to range even further than the studio version (which appears as part of a 2012 split with Hush Arbors called Aureola), “St. Anthony’s Fire” gave way to a legitimately huge-sounding jam led by Heumann‘s guitar, which broke into an extended heavy solo, periods of shred offset only by the crunch elicited when the guitar, percussion and bass came together with Carey‘s thudding drums. Maybe it was the fact that I was sitting right in front of it, but Heumann’s lead was particularly impressive, sounding soulful and even a little funky as it moved along in a world seemingly of its own.
Little doubt that’s what Heumann was thinking of when he warned earlier they’d get loud, and the band lived up to the warning. The crowd at The Bell House had been filtering in throughout their whole set, but there were enough people in the room by the time Arbouretum got around to “St. Anthony’s Fire” to give a genuine response, and it was a cool moment to witness, cheers coming up after Heumann finished that solo. I had been hoping for “The Long Night” or even “The White Bird” from The Gathering, which still gets stuck in my head on the regular, as a closer, but they finished with the title-track to Coming Out of theFog. It rounds out the album as well and might have been somewhat faster live owing to the sheer momentum they built during “St. Anthony’s Fire,” but they made it work anyway, despite what looked like some technical difficulty in Allender‘s backing vocals.
Given that it was still early when they finished, I thought maybe I’d stick around for a bit and catch at least some of Freakwater, even just for myself if not to write about it later, but the temptation of being able to go to a show in Brooklyn and still get back to Jersey before midnight won out. I waited for the band to emerge so I could buy a copy of Coming Out of the Fogand then headed out, the freezing rain that would turn to snow overnight just starting to fall as I crossed the street to my car.
Posted in Reviews on January 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The title may be purposefully vague, but the debut full-length from New Paltz, NY, space-jamming trio It’s Not Night: It’s Space, the self-released Bowing Not Knowing to What, nonetheless displays clear ideas of worship and of purpose. Tonally warm and classically exploratory, the threesome’s seven-track/50-minute outing is somehow fitting the hippie-idyllic small college town from whence they come, Kevin Halcott’s guitar painting colors of fall leaves while bassist Tommy Guerrero and drummer Michael Lutomski offer the languid motion of sentimental dreams. With an album structure that places the 12:30 “Painted Serpent” as its centerpiece, there’s a pervasive ritualism in what It’s Not Night: It’s Space are doing, and the music answers back with like-minded richness, embarking on not exactly the kind of layering one would call lush, but still enough effects and wandering moments to sound full and periodically hypnotic. It’s an ethic that in some ways allies them more to European heavy psychedelia than North American, but the post-rock echo in Halcott’s tone is a geographical giveaway (at least as far as continents go) and shows a breadth of influence wider than just classic kraut and space rock, though those vibes persist as well as opener “The Gathering” introduces It’s Not Night: It’s Space’s first movement with burgeoning jam ethic and psychedelic expanse, slow percussion and ethereal vocals mixing with a wash of warm guitar drone and flute moving forward in a slow march before the nine-minute “The Mantis and the Cow” adds more propulsion. Bowing Not Knowing to What essentially breaks down into three parts. There are the first three tracks, the centerpiece, and the last three tracks, each representing a section within the whole of the album, so that it winds up looking like this:
1 .The Gathering (3:19)
2. The Mantis and the Cow (9:00)
3. The Magus in the Valley (6:31)
4. Painted Serpent (12:30)
5. Blue Mountain Freedom (7:32)
6. Vibration Eater (4:13)
7. Palace of the Bees (7:17)
Helping this interpretation is the fact that Movements One and Three run for almost exactly the same length of time – 18:48 and 19:00, respectively – and whether or not It’s Not Night: It’s Space went into the studio with Rick Birmingham (who produced, mixed, mastered and also contributed sitar and other strings) with that idea in mind, the music supports it too, a full-album flow established between the movements but occurring within them as well. The first three cuts, “The Gathering,” “The Mantis and the Cow” and “The Magus in the Valley” find their culmination in the opening build of the third, with Guerrero matching Halcott note for note on impressive runs while Lutomski locks in the groove behind. “The Mantis and the Cow” was more expansive, using an early push and possibly the album’s single most memorable guitar line as a foundation for space-rocking indulgences, but “The Magus in the Valley” winds up summarizing the first movement effectively while also setting up a smooth linear transition into “Painted Serpent,” which is more or less an album unto itself. Growing in presence as it makes its way through the first four minutes, the song soon breaks while Lutomski continues the beat on his toms, only to gradually resurface and continue to develop and unfold naturally over the remaining time, sparse vocals echoing behind the patient progression. Guitar bliss ensues, leading to a slight shift at 9:45, when the riff and bassline change and “Painted Serpent” shifts into a more immediate build, reaching toward a heavier apex by the time another minute has passed and carrying those ideas to a fittingly natural conclusion, swirling with wah and righteous in its groove. A sudden and cold ending is somewhat jarring, considering the gradual feel of the 12:30 preceding, but I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if that was where the tape ran out. That’s the feel It’s Not Night: It’s Space elicit, anyway, if not the actual circumstance and here as with most heavy psych of Bowing Not Knowing to What’s jammy ilk regardless of its point of origin, the feel is paramount. The vibe. The atmosphere. Ambience. Call it whatever you want, but if a full-length from a band like these guys can’t put the listener where it wants them, it simply isn’t going to work.