Were it not for the lyrical proclamations made by guitarist Paul Major throughout, I’d almost accuse New York’s Endless Boogie of the grammatical flub of forgetting to put a colon between the two words in the title their new album. That would make the No Quarter Records release Vibe: Killer instead of Vibe Killer, which to me seems a much likelier description of how the record will actually sound upon its arrival May 19, following the band’s Australian tour set for later this month and preceding by a week a new book release by the aforementioned Major.
Endless Boogie‘s last studio offering was 2013’s Long Island (review here), which it would be fair to call a sleeper only if you had the misfortune of sleeping on it, and notice of Vibe Killer‘s Spring arrival follows their inclusion on my 2017 Most Anticipated Albums list, for which I had them in the most-speculative “Would be Awfully Nice” category. Sure enough, I still think it’ll be awfully nice to get a new record from them.
Feeding that argument is the public unveiling of the Vibe Killer title-track, which you can and should stream below, and which comes courtesy of the PR wire:
Endless Boogie announce “Vibe Killer” / share title track
Endless Boogie have announced their 4th studio album Vibe Killer will be released on May 19th. Vibe Killer is the bands first single LP, a concise 6 track effort recorded at Gary’s Electric in Brooklyn, NY. As on the 2013 album Long Island, Matt Sweeney again joins the Boogie’s core of Marc Razo (bass), Harry Druzd (drums), Jesper Eklow (guitar) and Paul “Top Dollar” Major (guitar).
Endless Boogie will tour Australia this March, and the US this Summer (Dates TBA). On May 26th Anthology Archives will release a book Paul by Major called Feel The Music collecting all of his writings on rare and private press albums, as well thoughts on his time in New York, going back to his days in a grimy East Village apartment in the 70’s. It’s an incredible collection.
March 13th – The Curtin – Melbourne March 14th/15th – Boogie Festival – Tallarook March 20th – Newtown Social Club – Sydney March 21 – Black Bear Lodge – Brisbane
Posted in Reviews on October 4th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Day Two starts now. I don’t know if you’re ready for it. I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Ah hell, who am I kidding? I love this stuff. No place I’d rather be right now than pounding out these reviews, batch by batch, all week. This one gets heavy, it goes far out, it rocks hard and relentless and it gets atmospheric. And more. But don’t let me try to sell you on reading it. Even if you skim through and click on players, I hope you find something you dig. If not today, then yesterday, or tomorrow or the next day. Or hell, maybe the day after. It’s 50 records. There’s bound to be one in there. Here we go.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze
A relatively quick two-songer issued via RidingEasy to mark the occasion of the Swedish trio’s first US headlining tour this summer, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze offers a more stripped-down feel than did Monolord’s second full-length, Vænir (review here), which came out last year. The roll elicited by guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger, drummer Esben Willems and bassist Mika Häkki, however, remains unspeakably thick and the band’s intent toward largesse and nod continues to ring true. They’re in and out in 11 minutes, but the ethereal, watery vocal style of Jäger and the more earthbound pummel of the three-piece as a whole on “Lord of Suffering” and the grueling spaciousness of “Die in Haze” – not to mention the bass tone – show that Monolord are only continuing to come into their own sound-wise, and that as they do, their approach grows more and more dominant. They make it hard not to be greedy and ask for a new album.
Seattle two-piece Teacher served notice early this year of their then-forthcoming self-titled, self-recorded debut LP, and it was easy to tell the Tony Reed-mastered full-length would be one to watch out for as it followed-up their prior EP1812, released in 2015. Arriving via Devil’s Child Records, the 10-track Teacher does indeed dole out a few crucial lessons from drummer/guitarist/vocalist Jonathan Ethan Mercer and guitarist/vocalist Solomon Arye Rosenschein. Whether it’s “Heavy Metal Parking Lot 1979” or the swinging “Peripatetic Blues” or the gone-backwards psych interlude “Wildcard Jambalaya” that immediately follows, the record basks in an organic diversity of approach drawn together by the clear chemistry already present between Mercer and Rosenschein. A harder edge of tone keeps a modern feel prevalent, but even the forward punker charge of “Mean as Hell” has classic roots, and as they finish with “Home for the Summer” as the last of three out of the four EP tracks included in a row to round out the LP, they seem to have entered the conversation of 2016’s most cohesive debuts in heavy rock. Their arrival is welcome.
There’s an element of danger to Rosy Finch’s debut long-player, Witchboro (on Lay Bare Recordings). Actually two. One: it sounds like it could come apart at any given moment – it never does. Two: any given one among its nine component tracks could wind up just about anywhere. Though the Spanish trio of bassist/vocalist ElenaGarcía, guitarist/vocalist Mireia Porto and drummer Lluís Mas keep individual songs relatively raw sounding – or at very least not overproduced as something so progressive could just as easily have wound up – but even the soothing “Ligeia” holds to a driving sense of foreboding. Punk in its undercurrent with more than a touch of grunge, Witchboro is as much at home in the atmospheric crush of “Polvo Zombi” as the quick-turning finale thrust of “Daphne vs. Apollo,” and its overarching impression is striking in just how readily it manipulates the elements that comprise it. Ambitious, but more defined by succeeding in its ambitions than by the ambitions themselves.
Holy Mountain Top Removers, The Ones Disappearing You
Psychedelic surf? Wah-soaked, bass rumbling foreboding? Euro-inflected lounge? All of the above and much more get a big check mark from Nashville instrumentalists Holy Mountain Top Removers, whose The Ones Disappearing You LP covers an enviable amount of stylistic ground and still leaves room near the end for bassist/keyboardist Mikey Allred to lead a blues dirge on trombone. He’s joined by drummer/percussionist Edmond Villa and guitarist Anthony Ford, as well as guest trumpeter Court Reese and violinist Allan Van Cleave, and as they careen through this vast terrain, Holy Mountain Top Removers only seem to revel in the oddness of their own creation. To wit, the early jangle of “Monsieur Espionnage” is delivered with gleeful starts and stops, and the later “Serenade for Sexual Absence” given a mournful snare march and what sounds like tarantella to go with Van Cleave’s violin lead. Playful in the extreme, The Ones Disappearing You nonetheless offers rich arrangements and a drive toward individuality that stands among its core appeals, but by no means stands there alone.
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, The Rarity of Experience I
Philadelphia four-piece Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band must have worked quickly to turn around so soon a follow-up to last year’s debut album, Intensity Ghost (review here), but their second offering, The Rarity of Experience lacks nothing for growth. A two-disc, 72-minute 10-tracker also released through No Quarter, The Rarity of Experience hops genres the way rocks skip on water, from the exploratory psychedelic vibing of “Anthem II” to the Talking Heads-style jangle of “The Rarity of Experience II” and into horn-infused free-jazz fusion on “The First 10 Minutes of Cocksucker Blues” – which, by the way, is 12 minutes long. A big change is the inclusion of vocals, but the penultimate “Old Phase” still holds to some of the pastoral atmospherics Forsyth and company brought together on the first record, but principally, what The Rarity of Experience most clearly shows is that one doesn’t necessarily know what’s coming from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, and as much as they offer across this massive stretch, I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to expand their sound.
Initially released by the band in January, the self-titled debut from Munich heavy rockers Swan Valley Heights sees wider issue through Oak Island Records in an edition of 200 LPs. After rolling out the largesse of welcome-riff in opener “Slow Planet,” the three-piece dig into longform groove on “Alaska” (9:09), “Mammoth” (11:02) and “Let Your Hair Down” (9:35), finding a balance between hypnotic flow and deeply weighted tones. Riffs lead the way throughout, and while there aren’t a ton of surprises, once they make their way through “Caligula Overdrive,” the shimmer at the start of “Mountain” and some of the more patient unfolding of closer “River” called Sungrazer to mind and I couldn’t help but wonder if Swan Valley Heights would make their way toward more lush fare over time. Whether they do or not, their debut engages in its warmth and cohesion of purpose, and offers plenty of depth for those looking to dive in headfirst.
I can’t help but feel like Portland, Oregon’s Cambrian Explosion are selling themselves a little short by calling The Moon an EP. At five songs and 35 minutes, the follow-up to their 2013 The Sun outing boasts a richly progressive front-to-back flow, deep sense of psychedelic melodicism and enough crunch to wholly satisfy each of the payoffs its hypnotic wanderings demand. Sure sounds like a full-length album to my ears, but either way, I’ll take it. The four-piece set an open context in the intro noise wash of “Selene,” and while “Looming Eye” and “Mugen = Mugen” push further into ritual heavy psych, it’s in the longer “Innocuous Creatures” (9:24) and closer “Crust of Theia” (8:23) – the two perfectly suited to appear together on the B-side from whatever label is lucky enough to snap them up for a release – that The Moon makes its immersion complete and resonant, blowing out in glorious noise on the former and basking in off-world sentiment as they round out. Gorgeous and forward-thinking in kind. Would be an excellent debut album.
Not sure if there’s any way to avoid drawing a comparison between Italian five-piece Haunted’s self-titled debut (on Twin Earth Records) and Virginian doomers Windhand, but I’m also not sure that matters anymore. With the two guitars of Francesco Bauso and Francesco Orlando meting out post-Electric Wizard churn and Cristina Chimirri’s vocals oozing out bluesy incantations on top as Frank Tudisco’s low end and Valerio Cimino’s drums push the lumber forward, it’s all doom one way or another. “Watchtower” has a meaner chug than opener “Nightbreed,” and the centerpiece “Silvercomb” delves into feedback-laden horror atmospherics, but it’s in the closing duo of “Slowthorn” and “Haunted” that Haunted most assuredly affirm their rolling intention. They’ll have some work to do in distinguishing themselves, but there’s flourish in the wash of guitar late and some vocal layering from Chimirri that speaks to nuance emerging in their sound that will only serve them well as they move forward from this immersive first offering.
Taking their name from a track off Monster Magnet’s 2010 outing, Mastermind, Brazilian heavy rockers Gods and Punks mark their debut release with The Sounds of the Earth, a self-released five-track EP awash in classic influences and bolstered through a double-guitar dynamic, maybe-too-forward-in-the-mix vocals and a rock solid rhythm section. These are familiar ingredients, granted, but the Rio de Janeiro five-piece present them well particularly in the mid-paced “The Tusk” and the catchy, more extended closer “Gravity,” and are able to put a modern spin on ‘70s vibing without becoming singularly indebted to any particular band or era, be it ‘70s, ‘90s or the bizarre combination of the two that defines the ‘10s. Gods and Punks are setting themselves up to progress here, and how that progression might play out – more space rock to go with the theme of their excellent artwork, maybe? – will be worth keeping an eye on given what they already show in their songwriting.
Mostly instrumental, deeply atmospheric and clearly intended to divide into the two sides of a vinyl for which it seems more than primed, A Cure for Time is the second album from Copenhagen post-metallers Gaia. Each half of the four-track/39-minute outing pairs a shorter piece with a longer one, and the flow the trio set up particularly on the closing title cut calls to mind some of YOB’s cosmic impulses but with a spaciousness, roll and context that becomes their own. Shades of Jesu in the vocals and the balance of rumble and echo on the earlier “Nowhere” make A Cure for Time all the more ambient, but when they want to, Gaia produce a marked density that borders on the claustrophobic, and the manner in which they execute the album front to back emphasizes this spectrum with a progressive but still organic flourish. I wouldn’t call A Cure for Time directly psychedelic, but it’s still easy to get lost within its reaches.sh
Morale is good as I stare down day three of this Quarterly Review. I’m encouraged by the good response the two-so-far posts have gotten and hope if you’ve had the chance to check out any of this stuff you’ve been able to find something you’re into. Or if not, I hope the next three days can rectify that situation. There are 30 records still to go. Bound to be something in there for everyone, myself included.
Quarterly Review #21-30:
Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors
Royal Thunder’s second full-length for Relapse, Crooked Doors, is bound to surprise some listeners. A three-piece when they issued CVI through the label in 2012, the Savannah, Georgia, outfit arrives at Crooked Doors as a foursome with the addition of guitarist Will Fiore of Zoroaster, and embarks on a considerable shift in approach. Slickly, almost commercially produced, the album brisks past some riffy elements in songs like opener “Time Machine,” also the longest cut at 7:20 (immediate points), and “The Line” toward an aesthetic reinterpreting ‘80s pop-metal melodramas through a vaguely heavy rock filter. Between Fiore and might-spit-beer-on-you guitarist Josh Weaver, one might expect more tonal heft than Crooked Doors offers overall, but the album instead leans heavily on bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz to carry the emotional crux of the material (though Evan Diprima’s drums still hit with some impact as well). Parsonz’s voice proves up to the task — in pop-singer form, she carries the record — and is bolstered through layering, but by the time Crooked Doors’ hour runtime ends up at the lounge-blues and piano stylizations of “The Bear I” and “The Bear II,” it feels cumbersome and like the point has already been made.
A sophomore EP from this London five-piece following their impressive 2013 self-titled (review here), Luia doesn’t top half an hour, but its five included tracks show marked progression in pushing Strauss away from the Kyuss-isms that in large part defined their prior work. Opener “Mud at You” is immediately more aggressive, and though “Humanphobic (to Mary Shelley)” (note: anthropophobia), slows the pace and opens wide in its middle third, vocalist Stef shouts to remind of the core intensity in the songwriting. That takes a back seat as centerpiece “For all the Wrong Reasons” moves toward an apex of a cleaner-sung chorus, but the riffs of guitarists Charles and Bano, and the groove from bassist Bill and drummer Doc, remain heavy enough that the point isn’t lost. The eight-minute “Eclipse” has it all – doomed chug, screams, singing, crash, tempo changes, nod and so on – but the funky jam that starts closer “2015” shows Strauss are willing to have some fun with their heaviness as well. All the better. Time for a full-length.
Comparisons to Witch Mountain are inevitable for Minneapolis four-piece Kult of the Wizard, whose vocalist, Mahle Roth, carries a bluesy inflection not dissimilar from Uta Plotkin on the five-song EP, The White Wizard. Self-released, it’s the band’s first work with Roth as frontwoman, guitarist Aaron Hodgson, bassist Ryan Janssen and drummer Travis Nordahl having released two prior outings – The Red Wizard (2013) and The Blue Wizard (2014) – instrumentally, and the difference is palpable. Roth adds a commanding presence to the rolling leadoff track “Tusk of the Mammoth,” showcases a noteworthy range on “Black Moon” and steps back only for an eerie wash of noise and samples on centerpiece “Plasma Pool,” but the finest performance on all fronts is closer “Devil Delight,” which meters out stomp and echo at its peak to concoct an otherworldly churn of psychedelic cult doom, Roth once again steering the progression with a sure hand. One does not expect The White Wizard to be the last we hear from Kult of the Wizard. Hell, they haven’t even done all the primary colors yet.
With 350 copies pressed by H42 Records in no fewer than five different color variations and at least that many versions of the cover art, Ein Herz Voller Soul, the latest 7” single from horn-laden German rockers Coogans Bluff hits with a fair amount of circumstance. It is, nonetheless, two songs and a quick listen. Its A-side is “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” a German-language retelling of “Heart Full of Soul” from the band’s 2014 full-length, Gettin’ Dizzy, and the B-side is “She Gave Her Life for a Man,” a classic rocker given middle-era Beatlesian flair by Stefan Meinking’s trombone, which feels fitting after the garage style of “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” though both cuts retain an element of the progressive in their approach, the band – Meinking, guitarist Willi Paschen, bassist/vocalist Clemens Marasus, drummer Charlie Paschen and saxophonist Max Thum – not afraid to branch wherever the song might take them, to a call and response hook or harder drum stomp. A stopgap, maybe, but Coogans Bluff have a tendency to engage and here they do so in hardly any time at all.
Papir Meets Electric Moon, The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014
Members of German psych-jam godsends Electric Moon and Copenhagen progressive explorers Papir took the stage at Roadburn 2014 in the Netherlands as a follow-up to their 2013 outing, The Papermoon Sessions (review here). I don’t think they’d played live together before and I’m pretty sure they haven’t since (though don’t quote me on that), but in any case, the billing Papir Meets Electric Moon isn’t something that happens every day, and the two north-of-20-minutes pieces conjured up for inclusion on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 only emphasize how special the collaboration actually is, washes of synth and effects layered over gloriously krautrocking rhythms, swiftly turning one minute and peaceful the next, but never disjointed, never losing the sense of flow. Each track — the second one is shorter at 22:15 — has its own movement, but the thing to do is put on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 and just let it go and go along with it. For a group that came together in the wake of a tragedy — the untimely passing of Danish promoter Ralph Rjeily — Papermoon proves yet again that beauty can spring even in dark times. I hope they do another record.
Seems unlikely a band is going to dive into songs like “Hippies are Dead,” “Whore Island (Jim Loves His Wife” or “King Mullet Destroyer” and not have a sense of humor, let alone call themselves We are Warwick Davis – please note: the actor is nowhere to be seen – so yeah, the Illinois double-guitar five-piece get up to some chicanery on their Storming the Castle full-length. Lots of chicanery, as it happens. Vocalist Joe Duffy is blown out over the punkish progressions of “Audio Visual” but reminds more of Jello Biafra on “Mind Enemy Mine,” which launches the album following a voicemail intro about blowing people off the stage. Former Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain mastered the album, and it was apparently a couple years in the self-recording process. It’s accordingly raw, and at 57 minutes, I doubt the band could be accused of understating their argument. Out of balance here and there to the point of abrasion, but ultimately harmless.
Rongeur, The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos
With members of folk metallers Trollfest, off-kilter hardcore punkers Ampmandens Døtre and atmospheric post-metallers Sju in tow, it may or may not be fair to call Rongeur a side-project, but they sure as hell are varied in their influences. The Oslo trio of drummer/vocalist Jostein, guitarist/vocalist Ken-Robert and bassist/vocalist Dag Ole (who belong respectively to the bands above) arrange their two-to-date demos with the newer tracks first on The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos, on Disiplin Media, so that the listener encountering them for the first time hears where the trio are as of 2014, then goes back to their first explorations, from 2013. Raw noise ensues, a post-hardcore vibe delivered with shouts and sludgy heft, but the older tracks offer a fuller distortion that they seem to have stripped down before getting around to songs like “Traitors” or the barebones-aggro “Jon Hogg.” One wonders where they might go from here, which is probably the whole point of the release.
Heavy rock and death metal rarely tread the same ground without being immediately cast to one side or another. Gothenburg’s Crowlegion seem determined to stake a claim to both sides, and the 24-minute The First Offering EP, issued on CD by Grave Goods Productions, makes good on that attempt. The seven tracks are short – only two top four minutes – but stylistically ambitious, guitarist/vocalist Linus Pilebrand seeming to be the driving force behind the project’s blend of rolling riffs and guttural growls. He’s since replaced the rhythm section, having played bass on this recording in addition to guitar, with Jonas Jörgensen also on guitar and Sarah Tefke drumming, and four of the seven cuts also feature guest vocals, most of them working in extreme styles as well. I’m not sure if The First Offering is the release that finally crosses that long bridge between aesthetics, but Crowlegion position themselves well with these tracks to continue to make the journey. Nod or headbang. Your choice.
Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, Intensity Ghost
Less about the sonic heft of any given moment than the overarching freedom of exploration throughout its five instrumental tracks, Intensity Ghost is the first studio offering from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band (released on No Quarter), and it’s fucking brilliant. The Philly-based five-piece got together in 2013 but play like they’ve been sharing stages for a decade, whether it’s the smoothness with which they ride the bassline and current of synth in “Yellow Square” or closer “Paris Song”’s subtle move from minimalism into contemplative psychedelia. Dreamy centerpiece “I Ain’t Waiting” is the shortest of the bunch at 5:16, and opener “The Ballad of Freer Hollow” the longest and jammiest at 11:25 (immediate points), but wherever these guys – Forsyth on guitar, plus guitarist Paul Sukeena, bassist Peter Kerlin, drummer Steven Urgo and synth/organist Shawn Edward Hansen – seem to go, they get there with an engrossing fluidity that’s nothing short of masterful. A joy, front to back.
Eldorado’s Babylonia Haze, at 10 tracks and 55 minutes, is not an insignificant undertaking. The Spanish four-piece brazenly take on classic rock hooks topped with organ-and-guitar fluidity and the soar-ready singing of Jesus Trujillo, joined in the band by guitarist Andres Duende, bassist Cesar Sanchez and drummer Christian Giardino (since replaced by Javier Planelles). A progressive clarity marks out acoustic-led cuts like “Breathe the Night” and the later “Resurrection Song,” the arrangements natural and purposeful in kind, and longer inclusions like “Flowers of Envy” (8:02) and “Karma Generator” (11:35) have breadth enough to sustain their runtimes while keeping a structured feel, the latter providing plotted movements toward the apex of the album before “Moon Girl” offers a lesser build of its own as afterthought, reimagining prog-fueled heavy rock as the fodder of a pop wistfulness. Accomplished and precise, it’ll be too clean for some ears, while others will no doubt wonder how its brilliance can be ignored.
Posted in Features on June 18th, 2013 by JJ Koczan
This is always fun, and because the year’s only (just about) half over, you always know there’s more to come. The last six months have brought a host of really stellar releases, and the whole time, it’s felt like just when you’ve dug your heels into something and really feel content to rest with it for a while, there’s something else to grab your ears. So it’s been for the last six months, bouncing from one record to the next.
Even now, I’ve got a list of albums, singles, EPs, tapes, demos, whatever, waiting for attention — some of which I’m viciously behind on — but it’s time to stop and take a look back at some of what the best of the first half of 2013 has been. Please note, I’m only counting full-lengths here. While I’ve heard a few killer EPs this year — looking at you, Mars Red Sky — it doesn’t seem fair to rate everything all together like that. Maybe a separate list.
If you’ve got a list of your own or some quibbling on the numbers, please leave a comment and be heard. From where I sit, that’s always the best part of this kind of thing.
The third Endless Boogie album on No Quarter was basically the soundtrack to the end of my winter, with smooth grooving cuts like “The Artemus Ward” and the classic rock shake of “On Cryology” providing a soundtrack as cool as the air in my lungs. It was my first experience with the longform-jamming improv-heavy foursome, and a CD I’m still stoked to put on and get lost in, having found that it works just as well in summer’s humidity as winter’s freeze, the off-the-cuff narrations of Paul Major (interview here) carrying a vibe unmistakably belonging to the rock history of the band’s native New York City. Was a sleeper, but not one to miss for its organic and exploratory feel.
Proffering righteous traditional doom and misery-drenched atmospherics, the debut full-length from Massachusetts-based Magic Circle hit hard and showed there’s life yet to the old ways. It never quite veered into the cultish posturing that comprises so much of the trad doom aesthetic these days, and from the grandiose riffing of guitarists Dan Ducas and Chris Corry and the blown-out vocals of frontman Brendan Radigan, it found the band carving a memorable identity for themselves with clear sonic ideas of what they wanted to accomplish. Out of all the bands on this list, I’m most interested to hear what Magic Circle do next to build on their debut.
Berlin trio Kadavar had a tough task ahead of them in releasing a sophomore answer to their self-titled, which I thought was the best first album of 2012, but when Abra Kadavar surfaced as their debut on Nuclear Blast, it was quickly apparent that the retro heavy rockers had put together a worthy follow-up. Cuts like “Come Back Life” and “Doomsday Machine” underscored the straightforward triumphs of the prior outing, while late-album arrivals “Liquid Dream,” “Rhythm for Endless Minds” and “Abra Kadabra” gave a sense that Kadavar were beginning a journey into psychedelia the results of which could be just as rewarding as even the most potent of their choruses. Their potential remains one of their biggest appeals.
It wasn’t without its rough edges, but at the core of Indianapolis heavy rockers Devil to Pay‘s fourth record was an unflinching songwriting quality that quickly established it among my go-to regulars, whether it was the quirky doom hook of “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife,” the darkly progressive riffing of “Black Black Heart” or the suitably propulsive rush of “This Train Won’t Stop.” The double-guitar four-piece didn’t have much time for frills in terms of arrangement or structure, but by building on the developments over the course of their three prior releases, Devil to Pay delivered a slab of deceptively intricate standouts that made hard turns sound easy and demanded the attention it deserved.
6. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below
Unfuckwithable tone set to destructive purpose. Immediately upon hearing the unsung Michigan drum/guitar duo’s fourth album, the impact of The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below — overwhelming though it is at times throughout the album; hello, “Oncoming Avalanche” — refused to be denied. Beast in the Field haven’t gotten anything remotely close to the attention they should for this devastating collection, but it’s one I absolutely can’t put down, cohesive in theme and full of skull-caving riffs as dynamic as they are brutally delivered by the instrumental twosome. If it’s one you missed on CD when Saw Her Ghost put it out in March (as I did), keep your eyes open for a vinyl release coming on Emetic in the next couple months. Really. Do it.
Massachusetts trio Black Pyramid quickly dispatched any doubts of their ability to continue on after the departure of their previous guitarist/vocalist, bassist Dave Gein and drummer Clay Neely joined forces with Darryl Shepard (Hackman, Blackwolfgoat, Roadsaw, etc.) to reinvigorate their battle-ready doom, and whether it was the extended jamming on “Swing the Scimitar” or the surprisingly smooth riffing on “Aphelion,” the results did not disappoint. Regardless of personnel, I’ve yet to hear a Black Pyramid album I didn’t want to hear again, and though I’ll freely admit they’re a sentimental favorite for me at this point, Adversarial is a suitable dawn for their next era. Long may they reign.
True, I will argue tooth and nail that Boston four-piece Gozu should get rid of their goofball, sitcom-referential song titles, but that’s only because I believe the band’s lack of pretense speaks for itself through the music and their tracks are too good to give listeners a chance not to take them seriously. When it comes to The Fury of a Patient Man — their second full-length behind the impressive 2010 debut, Locust Season (review here) — I knew the first time I heard it toward the end of last year that it was going to be one of 2013’s best, and while I’ve heard quibbles in favor of the debut, nothing has dissuaded me from thinking the sophomore installment outclasses it on almost every level. Expect a return appearance when the year-end list hits in December.
There’s a big part of me that feels like a sucker for digging …Like Clockwork, the first Queens of the Stone Age full-length since 2007’s relatively lackluster Era Vulgaris, but when it comes right down to it, I hit the point in listening to the album that I came around to its sheen, its up-and-down moodiness and its unabashed self-importance. I hit the point where I was able to separate …Like Clockwork from its “viral marketing” and just enjoy Josh Homme‘s all-growed-up songwriting for what it is. Would I have loved a second self-titled album? Probably, but it wasn’t realistic to think that’s what …Like Clockwork would be, and as much as I’ve tried out other spots for it, I’d be lying if I put this record anywhere else on this list but here. So there you go. I understand the arguments against it, but reason doesn’t always apply when it comes to what gets repeat spins.
I was late to the party on the second Uncle Acid offering, 2011’s Blood Lust, as I often am on records where the hype gets to din levels, but by the time the subsequent Mind Control was announced, I knew it was going to be one to watch out for. Aligned to Rise Above/Metal Blade, the UK outfit began to unravel till-then mystery of itself, playing live and developing the brazen psychedelic pop influences hinted at in the horrors of Blood Lust so that the swing of “Mt. Abraxas” and the acid-coated psych of “Valley of the Dolls” could exist within the same cohesive sphere. Between the death-boogie of “Mind Crawler” and mid-period Beatlesian exploration of “Follow the Leader,” Mind Control continues to be an album I hear as much on the mental jukebox rotation as one I actually put on to listen to again. Either way, there’s no getting away from it — the eerie melodies of guitarist/vocalists Kevin “Uncle Acid” Starrs and Yotam Rubinger are hauntingly ever-present.
Obvious? Probably, but that doesn’t make it any less genuine. To set the scene, here’s me on the Masspike a couple weeks ago in the Volvo of Doom™ with the little dog Dio, 90 miles an hour shouting along to “Crucial Velocity” at the top of my never-on-key lungs. I couldn’t and wouldn’t endeavor to tell you how many times I’ve listened to Earth Rocker since I first got a taste, but from the title-track on through the surging groove at the end of “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…,” front to back, the 10th Clutch album still does not fail to roil the blood with not a dud in the bunch. The Maryland road dogs of course shine best on a stage, and Earth Rocker‘s polished, layered production is a studio affair in the truest sense, but all that does is make me hopeful they’ll complement it with a live record soon. Clutch could easily have phoned in a follow-up to 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West and their fanbase probably would’ve still salivated over it, myself included, but by boldly pushing themselves to write faster, more concise material, they’ve reenergized one of heavy rock’s best sounds. Whether you’re a longtime fan or a brand new listener, Earth Rocker is utterly essential.
Two more records I have to mention: Kings Destroy‘s A Time of Hunting and Clamfight‘s I vs. the Glacier. I wasn’t involved in releasing the Kings Destroy, but felt close to it nonetheless, and since the Clamfight came out on The Maple Forum, it wouldn’t be appropriate to include it in the list proper, but hands down, these are my two favorite records of the year so far and made by some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure to know over the course of my years nerding out to heavy music.
Some other honorable mentions go to Toner Low, Cathedral, Church of Misery, Serpent Throne, Naam, The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic and All Them Witches. Like I said, it’s been a hell of a year so far.
You may note some glaring absences in the list above — Black Sabbath, ASG, Orchid, Ghost, Kvelertak and Voivod come to mind immediately. Some of that is a result of my disdain for digital promos, and some of that is just a matter of what I listened to most. Please understand that although release profile is not something discounted, at the heart of what’s included here is one individual’s personal preferences and listening habits.
Thanks for reading. Here’s to your own lists and to the next six months to come!
Posted in Features on March 8th, 2013 by JJ Koczan
There was only one real hiccup in my recent conversation with Endless Boogie guitarist/vocalist Paul “Top Dollar” Major, and it came when I asked him about whether he was able to draw on his extensive knowledge of classic psychedelic rock — Major is a noted record dealer and collector in NYC, where the band is also based — as fuel for the group’s extended, mostly-improvised jams. Chalk it up to the limits of human interpersonal communication — more particularly those that involve me stammering on a phone — but where what I meant to do was introduce a discussion of influences and use that to segue into a chat about artists in and around New York he considered to be carrying that torch now, he seemed to think I was asking if he ever just ripped off obscure psych records for guitar parts. Not at all my intent, and frankly, if I thought that had been the case, I wouldn’t have wanted to interview Major to start with, and their latest album, Long Island, probably would’ve sat in the pile instead of receiving the lengthy, laudatory review it did.
Even so, it led Major to a fascinating point about the idea of authenticity and some of his feelings and preconceptions of how an artist might best attain it or at very least drive most toward his or her own idea of it. As he succinctly puts it, one can push toward this notion of creative authenticity simply if you, “don’t think about it.” It’s a kind of anti-academic mentality that’s about as New York as pre-froyo Bleecker, born of post-Warhol neo-beat and an automatic shield against one — a critic, let’s say — who might call art a movement. I don’t know that I’d agree consciousness automatically saps art of its ability to capture an idea or make a statement, but he’s certainly got a point in being wary of overthinking one’s given approach, especially in the case of an outfit like Endless Boogie, whose improv jamming seems to arise out of a sort of trance-state and become a song like the moody and subdued “The Artemus Ward” or 13-minute Long Islandopener “The Savagist” through after-the-fact editing — a very conscious process, but separate still from the actual creation.
As someone whose creative project (i.e. this site) directly involves a conscious critique of media, and as someone not at all immune to occasional bouts of overthought, I was intensely fascinated to hear Major discuss that balance. Coming as that turn did after talking about some of Endless Boogie‘s processes and how a record like Long Islandcomes together in terms of being recorded live, vocals recorded later, sometimes parts cut out from longer jams to hone in on a specific idea or feel, it was a different level of insight into what makes Endless Boogie so much of their place — Long Island‘s second cut, “Taking out the Trash,” is somehow even more urbane in its classic ballsy groove than “The Artemus Ward,” which shouts out 14th St. — and yet so distinct within those surroundings, their jamming ethic more common among European acts like Germany’s Electric Moon, with whom Endless Boogie will share the stage at this year’s Roadburn festival next month in the Netherlands.
Two more things about talking to Major, should you ever have the chance to do so. First, his laugh is infectious and it draws you in, makes you want to laugh with him (I was cracking up while he was talking about Phil Spector‘s hair), and he laughs a lot. Second, he jams. You can hear (and hopefully read) in the cadence of his words and the way he moves from one idea to the next that he’s someone used to improvising and thinking on his feet, so that he seems to be half a step ahead in his thoughts from what his mouth is saying, subtly getting ready for his next move even while his mouth is still grooving on whatever it is he’s currently talking about. There were a couple places where he got deep into that jam, but much like Long Islanditself, in conversation, Major never failed to emerge with a cohesive idea.
In Endless Boogie, whose origin point seems to hover on average somewhere around the late ’90s or early ’00s, Major is joined by guitarist Jesper “The Governor” Eklow, bassist Mark “Memories from Reno” Ohe and drummer Harry Druzd. Long Islandis available now as the band’s third release on No Quarter Records.
Please find the complete, 3,700-word Q&A with Paul Major after the jump, and enjoy:
Posted in Reviews on February 19th, 2013 by JJ Koczan
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.
New York might have all the bands and all the shows, but there’s one thing Jersey will forever (hopefully) be able to hold over its head: WFMU. The long-running freeform station is so iconic they should put it on the welcome sign when you cross the border: “Welcome to NJ. We’ve got good pasta and WFMU.” So far, no one at the governor’s office has answered my emails on that one.
NYC-based rockers Endless Boogie will release their new album, Long Island, through No Quarter Records on Feb. 19, and to celebrate, they’re taking to the airwaves on Brian Turner‘s show on FMU and doing a solid three hours, which is pretty friggin’ excellent. That’ll be on this week, and you can find the details below.
In addition to that, the four-piece will play Roadburn in Tilburg, the Netherlands, on April 20 and have made the new song “Taking out the Trash” available for public-type hearing via the No Quarter Soundcloud page, so go ahead and dig into this while you get informed:
ENDLESS BOOGIE announce “LONG ISLAND”
also, a 3 hour session on WFMU !!
CD/2xLP OUT FEBRUARY 19th WFMU session: January 15th, 36pm (east coast time) Record Release show 2/15 @ Cameo Gallery Brooklyn, NY w/ Arbouretum & Hans Chew
New York’s Endless Boogie are pleased to announce that their third studio album Long Island will be in stores February 19th. The foursome – comprised of Paul “Top Dollar” Major, Jesper Eklow, Harry Druzd and Marc Razo – have made a monstrous, epic of an LP spanning 8 tracks and running 79 minutes and 48 seconds. More often than not, Matt Sweeney joins them on these songs, a recent staple of the live band (at least at New York–area shows) and an able partner for Major to work off. Sweeney and Eklow are credited with producing.
Paul Major says of Long Island: “There’s a lotta strange characters on this album, I don’t know who most of them are. They span time. They seem to know me. They insist there are no messages in the music beyond blasting off and staying there… We brought the beast back alive this time, be careful when you tear off the shrink wrap… “