After premiering the 11-minute opening track here late last year, psych-ritualizing two-piece Rope Trick have made their debut EP, Red Tape, officially available for public consumption. They’ll have CDs before the end of the month, and that timing makes sense since the Queen Elephantine-affiliated duo are set to tour between the Northeast and the West Coast over the course April and May. Wasting no time, they play tonight in New Hampshire and on March 30 are in their half-native Providence, Rhode Island (they also claim roots in Philly, where they’ll be April 1), in the significant company of Baltimore drone-wash joyspreaders Darsombra.
Dates and other info came in off the PR wire, and you can check out the full stream of Red Tape at the bottom of the post:
ROPE TRICK: ‘Red Tape’ + East & West Coast US Tour Dates
ROPE TRICK, a new psych rock duo from Providence/Philadelphia, USA is supporting its new self-released album Red Tape with tours on both East and West Coasts of the US. They share the stage with, among others, Darsombra, Owl, Heavy Temple, Weird Owl, Aboleth, and Ultra Electric Mega Galactic, the psych project of Monster Magnet’s Ed Mundell.
ROPE TRICK is the term given by physicist John Malik to “the curious lines and spikes which emanate from the fireball of certain nuclear explosions just after detonation.”
ROPE TRICK SPRING 2017 TOUR DATES
East Coast 3/24 – Rollinsford, NH, Sue’s 3/30 – Providence RI, AS220* 3/31 – Brooklyn NY* Don Pedro* 4/1 – Philadelphia PA, Shred Shed* 4/2 – Baltimore MD, The Crown* 5/17 – New York NY, Arlene’s Grocery 5/27 – Brooklyn NY, Cobra Club *w/ darsombra
West Coast 4/14 – Seattle WA, Blue Moon Cafe 4/15 – Portland OR, High Water Mark 4/16 – Eugene OR, Black Forest 4/18 – Sacramento CA, Starlite Lounge 4/19 – San Francisco CA, El Rio 4/21 – Los Angeles CA, Cafe NELA 4/23 – Anaheim, CA, Doll Hut
[Click play above to hear ‘Mirrored Parabola Theory’ from Green Meteor’s Consumed by a Dying Sun. Album out April 21 on Argonauta Records.]
From the abiding buzzsaw fuzz that permeates the five included tracks to the samples at the beginning of “Acute Emerald Elevation” and “Sleepless Lunar Dawn” to the comic book cover art that adorns the front cover to the density of groove as they roll out reefer riff after reefer riff, the intention behind Green Meteor‘s Consumed by a Dying Sun seems to be to tap into the raw roots of ’90s-style stoner rock. Fortunately, the Philadelphia four-piece bring a few crucial lessons of modernity with them along this trip through neo-retroism. I don’t recall even early Acid King being this blown-out, for example, and the tonal devouring here from first-names-only guitarists Amy and Leta (the latter also vocals) and the bass of Algar that’s shoved forward by Tony‘s drums does not forget to chew. It has teeth. And bite.
That proved to be the case last year when the band unveiled “Acute Emerald Elevation” (posted here) as a lead-in teaser prior to signing with Argonauta Records for the actual album release, and the same song does well on Consumed by a Dying Sun to let the listener know that while indeed they might be blasting off into space, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride getting there. The key to understanding the record’s utterly-manageable 32-minute run is realizing that Green Meteor are using the roughness of sound to their advantage, giving their aesthetic a garage-derived feel so that the Hawkwind-via-Monster Magnet thrust of the intro to the closing title-track seems as well to be playing off an Uncle Acid mindset in a manner that almost foreshadows the noise-soaked roller apex before the punkier last push of the record as a whole.
All of this happens quickly, but with immersion, and because Green Meteor are so tonally-centered — even Leta‘s voice seems to have been swallowed by the instruments surrounding — Consumed by a Dying Sun is able to work through its material while deceptively changing pace and the intentions of a given song. It is Green Meteor‘s first album, and it sounds like a first album in how the band seems to be working through the process of figuring out where they want to take their material and where they want their material to take them, but as that unfolds, they demonstrate a clear penchant for melding hooks and an underlying focus on songwriting that, while buried like the vocals, remains a present, consistent theme from “Acute Emerald Elevation” onward. Another manner in which Green Meteor prove loyal to the ’90s roots of stoner rock? It’s three minutes into the six-minute opener before the first verse starts.
It would seem to be as close to an eponymous cut as the band is willing to come, rounding out with repetitions of “green meteor” from Leta, who pushes her voice in a manner reminiscent of Stars that Move, and leading to “Sleepless Lunar Dawn” which is the longest track at 9:37 and a mid-paced swing that roughs up and blisses out Sleep-style grooving en route to a snare-mania from Tony that chills for its middle third before resuming in a kind of back-and-forth between languid flow and energetic uptick — intermittent thrusters; it happens — as it aligns planets for the more massively-riffed arrival of centerpiece “In the Shadow of Saturn.” It’s shorter at just over seven minutes, but “In the Shadow of Saturn” brims with addled purpose, and where “Sleepless Lunar Dawn” seems to grow impatient in its back half, here the foursome largely stick to the slow-oozing molasses from whence they begin. There’s a bit of kick here and there, but the primary focus is nod and that suits Green Meteor well at the beginning of what would likely be an LP’s side B.
“In the Shadow of Saturn” caps with radar ping that leads, on rhythm, into the uptempo start of “Mirrored Parabola Theory.” It’s the shortest inclusion at 3:34, and some of that might be due to pace alone, but as Leta finds her way into a memorable stretch ranting about a tilting hourglass — strange things are afoot, but science is happening — toward the end of the track, it’s also the most direct emphasis Green Meteor put on songwriting throughout Consumed by a Dying Sun, and it proves essential between the hypnotic gravitational field of “In the Shadow of Saturn” and the finale’s more blistering cosmic pulsations. Like a radar signal from space to let you know someone’s out there? Maybe. Might be a stretch. There’s telemetry from the probe that needs more analysis, but it’s important to consider that with “Mirrored Parabola Theory,” Green Meteor give clear notice to their listener that their purview includes more traditional structures as well as the kind of all-go explosiveness with which they choose to end “Consumed by a Dying Sun.”
In hindsight, they let you know it’s coming at the start of the track, but by the time it comes around again just past four minutes in, the molten midsection of the closer — a touch of Electric Wizard, more Acid King, more Sleep, lots of noise; no complaints — has melted consciousness away to the point where it’s legitimately an unexpected turn. That’s to the band’s advantage, certainly. They end on a final verse at full speed and an almost surprising amount of human presence amidst the onslaught, and wind up underscoring the primary are-my-speakers-blown wash of Consumed by a Dying Sun with the feeling that our species and the untamed vacuum can in fact coexist in their work. I won’t speculate on how Green Meteor might develop from here or the shifts they could make in aesthetic or which impulses will ultimately win out as they move forward, but Consumed by a Dying Sun deftly asserts honesty in its rawness and is all the more refreshing for that. As far as launch points go, theirs provides a suitable blast.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Lineup additions have continued to come out over the last week-plus since Pittsburgh-based fest Descendants of Crom made its first announcements with the formidable likes of Earthride, EYE, Foghound and Stinking Lizaveta taking part. West Virginian instrumental trailblazers Karma to Burn, New Jersey rock destroyers Solace, Kansas boogie-thrusters The Midnight Ghost Train — as the names have appeared, the geographic reach of Descendants of Crom 2017, which is set for Sept. 30 on the Cattivo Nightclub‘s two stages, has only expanded, but perhaps the biggest addition yet brings the festival much closer to home.
Penance released their Alpha and Omega album in 2001 via the Martyr Music Group, and with it debuted a five-piece incarnation that will play for the first time in 15 years at Descendants of Crom, in a great add to the bill that fulfills the stated mission of the fest in honoring Pittsburgh’s own underground contributions as well as looking outside its borders. Badass all around.
In addition to the already-noted, Cant, Ol’ Time Moonshine and Archarus, have also been added, so the more right on. Here’s the latest from the fest, including some comment from organizer Shy Kennedy on Penance signing on:
DESCENDANTS OF CROM – Penance to Headline with ‘Alpha & Omega’ Lineup
All-day fest set for Sept. 30, 2017, with two stages fueled by riffs created by the riddle of steel.
This all day music festival is the first of its kind in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The underground scene of stoner and doom here is healthy and thriving and the location at Cattivo Nightclub is perfect with two large floors, a stage on each, and good sound with friendly staff.
Descendants of Crom Festival lineup: CANT MONOLITH WIELDER OL’ TIME MOONSHINE ARCHARUS HORSEBURNER WASTED THEORY FOGHOUND EYE BRIMSTONE COVEN SOLACE THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN KARMA TO BURN VALKYRIE EARTHRIDE STINKING LIZAVETA PENANCE (Alpha & Omega lineup)
Shy Kennedy on Penance headlining:
It all starts out with an idea of, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great if there were a gig in Pittsburgh that had a bunch of riff-fueled bands of all rock and metal genres?’ It’s the perfect place for it, really. The scene here is supportive and it’s an accessible city to many. It doesn’t come out of nowhere –- you have to make it happen.
Next, who headlines this underground, doom-rooted event? The answer would be Penance but they’ve been dormant for some time. The Alpha & Omega lineup are all right here and nearly all active in the scene someway or another. Turns out that you just have to ask. Penance are as excited to be a part of the Descendants of Crom as I am. A lot of the seasoned fans are going to appreciate this and for those who aren’t familiar with Penance are going to get a little lesson in Pittsburgh Doom History.
DESCENDANTS OF CROM will bring great regional talent to a hungry crowd, utilizing national fan favorites to lure them to learn about these other amazing artists. This first year is anticipated to be a contender among other established annual fests and will not be an event to miss.
Through what seems in hindsight like some miracle of interwebular happenstance — and by that I mean it likely happened through StonerRock.com or the All That is Heavy store — I managed to catch wind of the self-titled debut from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, trio Pearls and Brass around the time of its release through Doppelganger Records in 2003. That record was killer, and I’ll admit that if anyone had put it up on YouTube in its front-to-back entirety, I’d probably be closing out the week with it instead of its 2006 follow-up, The Indian Tower, which came out on Drag City, but the second outing was more fully developed in its approach, bringing together the bounce and desert-perfection thrust of Queens of the Stone Age‘s Songs for the Deaf with rolling Pennsylvania hillsides on cuts like opener “The Tower” and the subsequent “No Stone” while saving room for acoustic blues on “I Learn the Hard Way” and closer “Away the Mirrors,” and ’70s-style boogie that seems absolutely prescient in hindsight on “Pray for Sound” and only gets more manic with the kick into next gear on “The Boy of the Willow Tree.” First record or second, you don’t really lose either way, is my point. While keeping to organic undertones and the occasional flourish of pastoralia, Pearls and Brass could absolutely scorch the earth when they chose to do so — see “The Mirror” here — but they’d ultimately be no less defined by that than the heavy blues vibe of “Wake in the Morning.” Dudes were just awesome.
Last time I saw Pearls and Brass was in 2011 (review here). It was my first experience ever going to Saint Vitus Bar — I appreciated the fact that it wasn’t in Williamsburg but had little forethought as to the institution it would and has become — and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Randy Huth, bassist/backing vocalist Joel Winter, and drummer Josh Martin still brought it. By then, they were already overdue for a third full-length, but watching them live gave some measure of hope they’d be able to get something going again. Four years earlier, in 2007 Huth had also released a solo album of unplugged Americana folk blues, also via Drag City, under the moniker of Randall of Nazareth. Copies still exist for purchase on the interwebs if you’re interested in hunting it down, which if either “I Learn the Hard Way” or “Away the Mirrors” pique your interest as a complement to the rush of “The Face of God” here build on that nicely. Intimate vibe, like a bluesier take on some of Ben Chasny‘s stuff, but unpretentious to the point of recorded-in-the-living-room humility. Some five years after that record came out, I was fortunate enough to catch Huth — who had been playing for years with aggro punkers Pissed Jeans already — do a Randall of Nazareth set in Philly opening a show for EYE and Serpent Throne at Johnny Brenda’s (review here). I felt like I was getting away with something, and given how much he and/or Pearls and Brass have done since — not much — I probably was.
I don’t know what Winter or Martin have been up to, but Pissed Jeans have kept Huth busy. They have a new album, titled Why Love Now, out in two weeks on Sub Pop, for example, and they’ll tour to support it, so while Pearls and Brass are very likely tabled for good — as much as anything is ever permanent in rock and roll; never say never, never say die, always say “hiatus” — at least Huth has managed to find success elsewhere. It’s not really my thing compared to the pull and shove of “Black Rock Man” on The Indian Tower, but good on him anyhow. The self-titled Pearls and Brass, its follow-up and the Randall of Nazareth outing can remain as ripe-for-reissue fodder for the time being, like so many righteous offerings of the pre-Facebook oughts era.
As always, I very much hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.
Sort of a procedural note here — some bookkeeping, if you will — but at the end of last week I changed the name I post under from from H.P. Taskmaster to JJ Koczan, which if you didn’t know is my real name. It wasn’t a secret or anything. It’s what I post as on Thee Facebooks and I think Twitter and Instagram as well, but I’d been using H.P. Taskmaster for years here basically because it felt self-serving to see “published by JJ Koczan” on every post. Still kind of does.
It’s a weird name, not particularly attractive to the eye, so I avoided looking at it for a long time. I guess I finally decided I didn’t give a shit anymore. It’s not anything that has a bearing on what I’ll cover or how I’ll cover it — like I said, just bookkeeping — but it was a change I made and I thought I’d mention it, if only so I could go back later, search for “when I started posting under my real name” and find the date. I had decided not to mention it on social media and see if anyone even noticed. If they did, nobody mentioned it. Fair enough.
We got a decent-sized snowstorm yesterday on the Eastern Seaboard, and I was given the day off work as a result. Back at work today, but the bonus day was a welcome gimme and I was glad to take it. My commute is an hour each way — not nearly as bad as the last one, and neither is the job itself, but still, it’s not nothing — and it’s started to wear on me a bit, particularly in the winter evenings. I leave in the morning, it’s dark. I come home at night, it’s dark. I don’t think I saw the sun at all in January. Hello, Norway. It’s started to get lighter earlier and stay lighter later, but I find myself looking forward to summer in a way that can only mean I’ve forgotten how unpleasant life is when it’s 100 degrees out. Humans are simple creatures. Whatever I qualify as, it’s even simpler.
Next week (and actually the week after, too) is already packed. Here’s what’s in my notes:
Mon.: Six Organs of Admittance review (doing myself a favor there) and Dot Legacy video premiere.
Tue.: Full album stream/review of the new Thera Roya, video from Deep Space Destructors.
Wed.: Track premiere from the new Sweat Lodge EP, video from Lung Flower.
Thu.: Track premiere from the new Libido Fuzz album.
Fri.: Full album stream/review from Deep Space Destructors.
Yeah, it’s gonna get pretty far out by the time we hit Friday next week, and that’s definitely okay by me.
The Patient Mrs.‘ birthday is this weekend, and while the snowstorm curtailed my prior present-picking-up intentions yesterday, we’ll nonetheless be celebrating with family on Saturday and likely eating homemade jalapeno poppers on Sunday, which is the day itself, so I expect that will be good. Whatever you’re up to, I wish you a joyous time, relaxing if that’s what you’re looking for, or otherwise action-packed and suspenseful, if that’s more your speed.
Have fun, be safe, thanks again for reading, and please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Kind of an ICYMI here, in the parlance of our times, but good to note either way that next month, Philly’s Heavy Temple will hit the road alongside Rhode Island doomers Pilgrim. The latter seem poised to make something of a comeback this year after nearly grinding themselves into dust in support of their last full-length, 2014’s II: Void Worship (review here), and in joining them, Heavy Temple make their most significant leap into touring life yet. It’s an East Coast run, and they did hit the Midwest last fall, but 10 dates on the road is the longest I’ve seen from them to-date. Doubt it will be the last.
They of course go supporting the 2016/2017 release Chassit (review here), alternately billed as a debut full-length and a second EP (the latter below). I had thought I read of a parting of ways with guitarist Archbishop Barghest, but maybe I’m wrong about that or bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk and drummer Siren Tempestas are heading out as a duo? I’d be interested to know for sure either way.
To be perfectly honest, half my impulse in posting these dates a couple weeks after they were first announced is in making sure they’re here for future reference. Seems like the kind of thing I’ll want to have to look back on down the line.
From the PR wire:
Heavy Temple to tour with Pilgrim
Heavy psych/doom band HEAVY TEMPLE released their new EP Chassit on January 27th 2017. The EP was initially available on cassette and digital formats via Tridroid Records and CD is now available via Van Records.
Heavy Temple formed at the end of 2012 with High Priestess Nighthawk on bass and vocals and presently features Siren Tempestas on drums and Archbishop Barghest on guitar.
The band will also be playing some shows with doom heavyweights PILGRIM in March:
TOUR DATES: March 2nd The Fire, Philadelphia, PA March 3rd The Broadberry (With Windhand), Richmond, VA March 4th Pilgrim (With Subrosa) Saint Vitus, Brooklyn, NY March 4th Heavy Temple (With Toke) TBA, Winston, Salem NC March 5th Riffhouse Pub,, Chesapeake, VA March 6th Sidebar, Baltimore, MD March 7th Meatlocker, Montclair, NJ March 8th O’Briens, Boston MA March 9th Mohawk Place, Buffalo, NY March 10th Bug Jar, Rochester, NY March 11th Geno’s, Portland, ME March 12th AS220, Providence, RI
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Hot damn. Philly space-truckers Ecstatic Vision make a compelling claim over the title of their second record with the first track reveal from it. The album? They’re calling it Raw Rock Fury, which feels way more immediately declarative than did their 2015 debut, Sonic Praise (review here). The song? It’s called “You Got It (Or You Don’t),” and with it, the four-piece seem to be throwing down a seven-minute gauntlet of frenzied kraut-jamming and warp-seven psychedelia.
I like the fact that the record’s only got four tracks on it, I like the fact that they’ve already got a return trip to Europe booked to support it — they’d previously been announced for Desertfest and Sonic Ritual, so we kind of knew a tour was coming — and I like the fact that “You Got It (Or You Don’t)” feels like an immediate forward leap from the last time out. Could it be that Ecstatic Vision have decided to name themselves the new masters of the cosmos? Guess we’ll find out April 7 when the album hits, via Relapse, as did the last one.
From the PR wire:
ECSTATIC VISION Announce New Album Raw Rock Fury Coming April 7th via Relapse Records
Unveil First Single “You Got It (Or You Don’t)”
U.S. Tour Announced: SXSW and More with Creepoid
Philadelphia’s heavy psych quartet ECSTATIC VISION return with their 2nd LP Raw Rock Fury, the follow up to 2015’s highly acclaimed Sonic Praise.
The band commented on the new album: “With ‘Raw Rock Fury’, we set out to make an album that would remind listeners of what an unpolished, dangerous rock recording should sound like. This is the opening composition entitled “You Got It (Or You Don’t)”. Prepare for a searing mash-up of the driving rhythms of Sly & The Family Stone mixed with the sounds of Hawkwind playing Funhouse-era Troglodyte Rock.”
April 7th, 2017 will see the worldwide release of Raw Rock Fury via Relapse Records on CD/LP/Digital. Physical pre-order and bundles are available via Relapse HERE and digital downloads can be pre-ordered by Bandcamp HERE.
Raw Rock Fury exhibits the band locking in on primordial, troglodyte Detroit rock grooves, krautian motorik sounds that recall the obscure one-time collaboration between NEU and the MC5, grimy harmonica flourishes that evoke Beefheart at his most savage, and the Hawkwindian, primal world heavy psych their debut expertly showcased. All of this is captured on four songs and 35+ minutes of the dirtiest sounding recordings since Kick Out The Jams. Do you miss the days when rock recordings were dangerous? If so, you must crave Raw Rock Fury.
After touring extensively with the likes of YOB, Uncle Acid and the deadbeats and others, ECSTATIC VISION head out again with Creepoid. The leg includes SXSW, Chicago, Denver and more before traveling to Europe for an appearance at Desertfest. All dates available below.
Ecstatic Vision Raw Rock Fury Relapse Records April 7, 2017 Pre-order Here 1 – You Got It (Or You Don’t) 2 – The Electric Step 3 – Keep it Loose 4 – The Twinkling Eye
ECSTATIC VISION Live Dates: Mar 16-18: Austin, TX – SXSW Mar 20: Oklahoma City, OK – 89th Street Collective # Mar 21: Wichita, KS – Kirby’s Beer Store # Mar 22: Fort Collins, CO – Surfside # Mar 23: Denver, CO – Hi-Dive # Mar 24: Salt Lake City, UT – Diabolical Records # Mar 25-26: Boise, ID – Treefort Music Fest # Mar 28: Omaha, NE – O’Leavers # Mar 29: Chicago, IL – Subterranean # Mar 30: Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class # # – w/ Creepoid
Europe Apr 21: Roma, IT – HPS Night Apr 22: Parma, IT – Titty Twister Apr 24: Trieste, IT – Tertis Apr 25: Salzburg, AT – Rockhouse Apr 26: Bologna, IT – Alchemica Club Apr 27: Olten, CH – Le Coq D’Or Apr 28: Liege, BE – Garage Apr 29: Nijmegen, NL – Doornroosje Apr 30: Berlin, DE – Desertfest May 02: Koln, DE – Limes May 03: Paris, FR – Glazart May 04: Lille, FR – Biplan May 05: Rennes, FR – Mondo Bizarro May 06: Clermont Ferrand, FR – Raymond Bar May 09: Sevilla, ES – Sala X May 10: Louele, PT – Bafo Baraco May 11: Cascais, PT – Stairway Club May 12: Madrid, ES – Wulrlitzer Ballroom May 13: San Sebastian, ES – DABADABA May 14: Bordeaux, FR – VOID May 16: Lucerne, CH – Treibhaus Luzern May 17: Bolzano, IT – Sudwerk May 18: Zagreb, HR – Vintage Bar May 19: Ravenna, IT – Bronson May 20: Milano, IT – BLOOD (Sonic Ritual)
ECSTATIC VISION is: Doug Sabolik Michael Field Connor Jordan Crouse Kevin Nickles
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Indeed, seven years. Seven years and a week, if you want to go by the last time I wrote about Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, sludge rockers Electric Horsemen. The occasion was a review of a split they had out with Count von Count (review here), and that was the last I heard from the offshoot of heavy rockers Black Cowgirl until a couple days ago. As it turns out, Electric Horsemen last month posted a single called “Milk Coma.” It was recorded back in 2008, but you can hear it below and it neatly encapsulates the density that was at root in their appeal way back when.
I don’t know where they’re actually at with new material — they say below there are plans to record “sometime this year” — but they’ve got a couple shows booked in Eastern PA next week with Backwoods Payback, and, well, it’s just kind of cool thinking they might get back to it, all hot pickled eggs and whatnot.
Confession time: I’ve never had a hot pickled egg. Not sure I could hang. Mostly these days I eat protein bars and chicken caesar salads without croutons. Rock and roll, y’all.
The band sent this down the PR wire:
Electric Horsemen – Back from Hiatus
Lancaster County Pennsylvania’s Electric Horsemen is ending a 7 year hiatus starting with two shows in February with fellow Pennsylvanians and friends Backwoods Payback. The band founded in 2006 is hoping to get back in the studio to record new material sometime this year. The lineup includes 2 current and 1 former member of Black Cowgirl, former bassist Chris Casse, current bassist Wyatt Kring and vocalist/guitarist Ben McGuire as well as original Electric Horsemen drummer Barry Lupacckino.
The band made a reputation for themselves in the myspace era for playing feedback-laden Crowbar influenced-riffs and being the heaviest band to ever come from Lancaster County PA (there was no competition) as well as having the market cornered in hot pickled egg sales. They are back in action, heavier than ever and filling jars with hot pickled eggs in preparation for their return!
February 17 – The Alternative Gallery (Allentown PA) Electric Horsemen w/Backwoods Payback and more! February 18 – REX’s (West Chester PA) Electric Horsemen w/Backwoods Payback and more!
Posted in Reviews on February 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
At four tracks and just under 19 minutes, the self-titled debut EP from Philadelphia three-piece Canyon give listeners just enough of a glimpse of where they might be headed to emphasize the potential at work. Canyon is their first outing since getting together in 2015 with the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Peter Stanko, bassist/vocalist Dean Welsh and drummer/vocalist Anthony Bove and after an initial digital self-release and tape through Anvileater Records, the short outing shows up as a full jewel-case CD with a picture of the band out front to emphasize the classic ideas they’re working from. I would not be surprised if some of the root jams out of which opener “Mashriq” was formed were some of Canyon‘s earliest, as there is definitely a formative aspect to their approach, vocals following the riff closely in a bouncing rhythm that, even compared to what follows on the palpably airier “She Comes to Me,” seems straightforward in a we’re-a-new-band-getting-our-footing kind of way.
That process itself, honestly represented as it is, can be and is refreshing to hear, and in the context of Canyon‘s style, which benefits greatly from an organic warmth of tone in the guitar and bass along with the interplay of vocals, it makes a particular sense that they would showcase where they’re at in this early stage of their progression. Their sound, captured here by Alex Santilli, who engineered and mixed at Spice House Sound while Mark Trewella at Full Circle Mastering handled the finishing touches, is raw, but still offers plenty to the curious listener, and even more so on repeat visits.
After some initial thud, “Mashriq” starts off with a righteously fuzzed impression. Philly has seen no shortage of heavy psych come through the last couple years, from Ruby the Hatchet and Ecstatic Vision to Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlesome Bells, but right away, “Mashriq” positions Canyon as having a more earthbound take — fitting enough for their name, I suppose — given to roll and straightforwardness in structure. At just under three and a half minutes, it’s the shortest of the four inclusions on the EP and as “She Comes to Me,” “Radiant Light” and “Tell Me Mister” play out behind it, it becomes something of an outlier stylistically for that. Where Stanko, Welsh and Bove soon enough dig into a languid blend of heavy blues rock and, in the case of “Radiant Light” particularly, find a niche for themselves in dreamy vocal melodicism to complement a shimmer in Stanko‘s guitar, the leadoff cut seems more about establishing a context on which the subsequent material builds.
Maybe that’s Canyon‘s way of easing the listener into their world, and that’s certainly valid, even on a short offering like this one, but “Mashriq,” while a strong opener and memorable in its hook, ultimately does little to account for some of the fleshed-out vibes that follow, even as “Tell Me Mister” rounds out with a return to a more energetic push and the gotta-hear-it buzz-tone that begs to be turned up even louder than it starts. How one accounts for that will depend on the listener, but if we look at the concept of a “debut EP” doing the work that a band’s “demo” used to do, then Canyon‘s establishes them as an outfit with an immediately varied approach of craft, however nascent it might otherwise be.
Could that be the work of multiple songwriters? I don’t know, but I’d believe it based on how the progression plays out front to back. Most importantly, however, Canyon offer intrigue and show several potential avenues for future growth and where their sound might go, toying with pop elements in their use of backing vocals in a kind of garage-grunge mindset — this happens in “Mashriq” as well — and dedicate themselves to a breadth of approach that stays apparent even in this abbreviated context. As to how that growth might manifest, it hardly seems fair to speculate, but as the self-titled plays out with increasing complexity almost on a song-by-song basis until “Tell Me Mister” bridges the gap in summarizing what the band has been putting together all the while, it’s easy enough to foresee Canyon stabilizing their approach to songwriting in a way that allows them to construct a full-album flow.
This, of course, is essential to the work of an initial outing like this one — to give the band lessons to learn as they move forward, and I hear nothing in the tracks to make me think Canyon won’t do precisely that. On the most basic level, it’s a quick debut outing — a demo by any other name — that shows potential in tone and in trading between bounce and blues and drift and thrust all while holding to identifiable markers and avoiding a direct, blatant flag-bearing of its influences. This already is more than one might reasonably ask of it, and it is not by any means the sum total of what is delivered.