Posted in Whathaveyou on August 27th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was already a pretty significant run, but Philly’s Ecstatic Vision have added even more shows around their upcoming tour with Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Ruby the Hatchet. Of course, Ecstatic Vision are out supporting their Relapse Records debut, Sonic Praise(review here), the lysergic nature of which was unveiled last month. These guys have already shown a willingness to hit the road, as they did earlier in 2015 alongside Enslaved and YOB, and I’d be very surprised if they didn’t wind up doing even more in 2016. Maybe a trip to Europe? Maybe in springtime?
And in case that dogwhistle wasn’t loud enough, I was speculating that they’d be the latest Relapse act to make an appearance at Roadburn in April. [UPDATE: I’ve just read that Ecstatic Vision have signed with Swamp Booking and will indeed be touring Europe in April, making that appearance even more likely.] I guess we’ll see if I’m right on that one, but they’re plenty busy in the meantime.
From the PR wire:
Ecstatic Vision Add More North American Live Dates
Touring with Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Ruby The Hatchet
Ecstatic Vision hit the road in a couple of weeks with Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Ruby The Hatchet for a full North American trek. Their stunning live show and debut, Sonic Praise earned them a signing with Relapse Records just a little after a year of coming together as a band. Don’t miss them in a city near you – all shows listed below.
In case you missed it: Ecstatic Vision weave the guitar heroics of the 70’s heavy classics of UFO and Hawkwind with the rhythmic intensity of Sun Ra and Fela Kuti. Massive riffs vibe seamlessly with deep rhythms to create one of the most original and best heavy psych debuts in years.
Ecstatic Vision Live Dates: 9/8: The Garage- Winston Salem, NC 9/9: Center Stage – Atlanta, GA # 9/10: The Golden Pony – Harrisonburg, VA 9/11: Baltimore Sound Stage – Baltimore, MD # 9/12: Webster Hall – New York, NY # 9/13: Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA # 9/14: Royale – Boston, MA # 9/16: Corona Theater – Montreal, QC # 9/17: Phoenix Theater – Toronto, ON # 9/18: Mr. Smalls – Pittsburgh, PA # 9/19: Metro – Chicago, IL # 9/20: Mill City Nights – Minneapolis, MN # 9/22: Summit Theater – Denver, CO # 9/23: Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT # 9/25: Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, BC # 9/26: El Corazon – Seattle, WA # 9/27: Wonder Ballroom – Portland, OR # 9/29: Slims – San Francisco, CA # 9/30: Slims – San Francisco, CA # 10/1: The Fonda Theater – Los Angeles, CA # 10/2: The Observatory – Santa Ana, CA # 10/3: Time Out Lounge – Tempe, AZ 10/6: Sons of Hermann Hall – Dallas, TX * 10/7: Hotel Vegas – Austin, TX 10/8: Vino’s – Little Rock, AR 10/9: TBA – Nashville, TN 10/10: Zanzabar – Louisville, KY 10/11: Blind Bobs – Dayton, OH
# – w/ Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Ruby The Hatchet * – w/ King Dude
Posted in Reviews on August 10th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Philadelphia heavy psych trio Ecstatic Vision were signed to Relapse Records last winter on the strength of their first demo and an apparent readiness to hit the road hard. They did so this spring alongside Enslaved and YOB and will do so again this fall with Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and fellow Philly residents Ruby the Hatchet. Their first album, Sonic Praise, could easily have been an afterthought to their touring intentions. It is not. The trio of guitarist/vocalist/noisemaker Douglas Sabolik, drummer/percussionist Jordan Crouse — both formerly of metalcore-ish agents A Life Once Lost — and bassist Michael Connor effectively conjure heavy psychedelic vibing and space rock thrust throughout Sonic Praise‘s five tracks and vinyl-minded 38 minutes, positioning the longest cut, “Astral Plane” (12:38), effectively as the second piece behind the already-jammy opener “Journey” for maximum out-there exploration.
Some of the elements feel interchangeable on a thematic level — that is to say, “Astral Plane” could just as easily be called “Sonic Praise” and “Sonic Praise,” which appears as track four, could just as easily be called “Journey,” and so on — but there’s no denying that Ecstatic Vision hit their marks, and given how hard they make it to remember this is their first album and that essentially they’re a band of players exploring a new style of expression as they jam their way through, it’s correspondingly easy to get on board with some familiar weedian worship. Sabolik‘s guitar work is at the fore, but a great strength Ecstatic Vision show from the beginning of “Journey” lies in immersion, and they leave little room for either being completely hypnotized or nothing at all. The former is the more enjoyable position.
“Journey” starts off quick a wash of effects and synth swirl before a Sleep-y riff takes hold, but already there’s more at work than simple Pike/Cisneros worship. That’s good news, and likewise the psychedelic push that emerges from Crouse‘s drumming and the grounding effect of Connor‘s bass — which remains reliably earthbound while Sabolik‘s gruff vocals invite the listener along the trip to come from deep in the mix — layered keys and guitar following in the last minute to transition into “Astral Plane” and seemingly demonstrate a meeting of the expanded minds. Sonic Praise as a whole seems to run on a loose drop-out-get-high narrative, the 12 minutes of “Astral Plane” directly questioning what we work for and what the point of doing anything other than getting stoned might be. Fair question, frankly, but what makes the second track the album’s standout is the jam itself.
With added percussion, Ecstatic Vision tie into some loose Afrobeat elements, more Goat than Fela Kuti, but more Hawkwind than either of them, saxophone swirl and all, the guest horn contributed by Kevin Nickles, who also adds flute. If Sonic Praise is going to grab the listener, it’s in “Astral Plane,” and while it’s not necessarily as bold a move as it might have been to lead off with it, putting what on many records would be the closer second is commendable. By the time they get around to the centerpiece of the CD/side B opener of the vinyl, “Don’t Kill the Vibe,” there seems to be minimal danger of that actually happening. Much like Crouse‘s drumming, the narrative is pushing straight ahead, toward stoned enlightenment amid swirling synth ghosts and righteous lysergics, all the while retaining a self-aware presence that never truly seems lost no matter how much Ecstatic Vision seem to be advocating a wandering consciousness.
Does that undercut — or further, kill — the vibe? Not really. As the second half of Sonic Praise gets underway, they’re in deep enough that even if they’ve managed to keep their heads about them while building this massive swirl, that doesn’t necessarily mean that one listening to it needs to do the same. “Don’t Kill the Vibe” and the title-track, which follows,” continue the thread that “Journey” and “Astral Plane” set out of trance-inducing psychedelia, the title-track in particular dipping into percussive and melodic nuance in a way that broadens the context of the album overall, winding up with echoing drums and shouts and trailing leads feeding directly into “Cross the Divide,” which at 9:43 is enough to provide a fitting counterpoint to “Astral Plane” and account for the resulting moment of the narrative — the “good time” aspired to in “Don’t Kill the Vibe” is attained — but once again, it’s the power trio instrumental chemistry that Ecstatic Vision boast and the richness of sound they’re able to bring amid their subtly moving repetitions that give the album its satisfying finish.
They shift through a deceptive hook in the last two verses of “Cross the Divide,” but it’s less about structure and, true to form for the entire album preceding, much more about vibe. Vibe is the key. Vibe is the intent — and it’s an intent they state, further emphasizing the consciousness lurking beneath all that psychedelic chaos — and vibe is what they emit. It oozes from the speakers in colorful, headphone-worthy emanations, and while Sonic Praise sounds longer then its 38 minutes, that’s not at all because it’s boring, but because one eventually snaps back to consciousness after the long fadeout of “Cross the Divide” and inevitably wonders what the hell just happened. Make no mistake, Sonic Praise is a beginning point. It’s a band’s first album, and it sounds like it. But it’s also among the most promising debut releases I’ve heard from and American band this year, and with the obvious work they’re willing to put into supporting it, one doubts it’ll be all that long before Ecstatic Vision find themselves mastering this cosmos of their own making.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
One thing that Heavy Temple bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk doesn’t mention in the update on the Philly trio’s impending second EP below is that their first release, the 2014 self-titled EP (review here) released through Ván Records, has been made available as a name-your-price download while they continue work on the follow-up. It can currently be grabbed at will via their Bandcamp or on the embedded player below.
Very interested to hear what Nighthawk and company have come up with on the new recording. Since that self-titled came out, she’s had a complete revamping of lineup, bringing in drummer Siren Tempestas and guitarist Archbishop Barghest (nommes de guerre respected via request) after operating for a time as a duo. In addition to elaborating on the progress for the next offering, Heavy Temple also note two upcoming appearances worth extra emphasis: at Vultures of Volume II in Maryland and the Shadow Woods Metal Fest in Pennsylvania, both in Sept.
Our new EP is loosely based on the Dark Tower series by Stephen King, and the novels’ parallels in my own life. We’ve recorded 4 tracks so far, not sure if there are going to be more.
Some of the music was written while we were still a two piece. We were prepared to record as such, but decidedly, the guitar is almost a necessary part of the Heavy Temple sound.
As always, the ringmaster is myself, High Priestess Nighthawk. Our new drummer is Siren Tempestas, and our new guitarist is Archbishop Barghest. (May sound silly, but we all prefer not to be called by name, diggin’ on the anonymity thing).
There are some riffs in the 2nd EP that appear in the 1st EP, part of the interwoven sonic tapestry, if you will. So they could potentially be listened to as one album.
As for shows, the two big ones we have coming up are Vultures of Volume (opening Saturday’s festivities), and Shadow Woods Metal Fest, which is the weekend of September 25th.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 4th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The marked, cosmic ascent of Philadelphia trio Ecstatic Vision continues this fall as they head out on tour supporting Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and their fellow Philly-dwellers Ruby the Hatchet. Pretty interesting that two Philly bands will open the run for Uncle Acid. Could it be that East Coast psych — elusive in these post-Naam days, but spread throughout the usually-too-angry seaboard nonetheless — has a new home? I wonder what Brooklyn would have to say. Or maybe Brooklyn’s over it. I’m not cool enough to know.
Ecstatic Vision will be out supporting their Relapse Records debut LP, Sonic Praise, which — as a fella once said — is a good ‘un. Dates and info follow, rocketshipped off the PR wire:
Ecstatic Vision Announce North American Tour With Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Ruby The Hatchet
Debut Album Sonic Praise Out Now on Relapse Records
Ecstatic Vision hit the road next month with Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Ruby The Hatchet for a full North American trek. Their stunning live show and debut, Sonic Praise earned them a signing with Relapse Records just a little after a year of coming together as a band. Don’t miss them in a city near you – all shows listed below and stay tuned for more headlining dates to be added.
In case you missed it: Ecstatic Vision weave the guitar heroics of the 70’s heavy classics of UFO and Hawkwind with the rhythmic intensity of Sun Ra and Fela Kuti. Massive riffs vibe seamlessly with deep rhythms to create one of the most original and best heavy psych debuts in years.
Ecstatic Vision Live Dates:
9/9: Center Stage – Atlanta, GA # 9/11: Baltimore Sound Stage – Baltimore, MD # 9/10: The Golden Pony – Harrisonburg, VA 9/12: Webster Hall – New York, NY # 9/13: Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA # 9/14: Royale – Boston, MA # 9/16: Corona Theater – Montreal, QC # 9/17: Phoenix Theater – Toronto, ON # 9/18: Mr. Smalls – Pittsburgh, PA # 9/19: Metro – Chicago, IL # 9/20: Mill City Nights – Minneapolis, MN # 9/22: Summit Theater – Denver, CO # 9/23: Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT # 9/25: Commodore Ballroom – Vancouver, BC # 9/26: El Corazon – Seattle, WA # 9/27: Wonder Ballroom – Portland, OR # 9/29: Slims – San Francisco, CA # 9/30: Slims – San Francisco, CA # 10/1: The Fonda Theater – Los Angeles, CA # 10/2: The Observatory – Santa Ana, CA # 10/6: Sons of Hermann Hall – Dallas, TX *
# – w/ Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats and Ruby The Hatchet * – w/ King Dude
More than content to let their freak flag fly, Philly trio Ecstatic Vision released their debut long-player earlier this month on Relapse Records. That album, Sonic Praise (review pending), is as informed by the bright multi-color vividness of Goat as it is by classic Hawkwindian space rock, and it serves notice of the three-piece’s arrival on the heavy psych scene, their only prior work a demo that got them picked up by Relapse and found them on tour with the likes of YOB and Enslaved earlier this year. Not a bad way to start out.
“Astral Plane” is the first video to come from Sonic Praise and it is little surprise that it’s trippy as hell. Directed by Philadelphia’s Woodshop Films, it’s essentially a performance clip, but like the song itself, it takes traditional forms and manipulates them through a cosmic sprawl to get a weirdo result that’s multifaceted and oddly familiar at the same time. Hard to imagine it’ll be long before Ecstatic Vision are back out supporting their first full-length’s arrival, but for anyone who hasn’t yet had the chance to see them on stage, the clip gives a decent sense of what they’re all about.
Have at you:
Ecstatic Vision, “Astral Plane” official video
Ecstatic Vision take us on a ride with their new live video “Astral Plane”. Their stunning debut, Sonic Praise earned them a signing with Relapse Records just a little after a year of coming together as a band and they’ve already toured North America with Yob and Enslaved. You can’t miss this one. Sonic Praise weaves the guitar heroics of the 70’s heavy classics of UFO and Hawkwind with the rhythmic intensity of Sun Ra and Fela Kuti. Massive riffs vibe seamlessly with deep rhythms to create one of the most original and best heavy psych debuts in years.
Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The final day of the Quarterly Review is upon us. It has been one hell of a week, I don’t mind saying, but good and productive overall, if in a kind of cruel way. I hope that you’ve been able to find something in sifting through all these releases that you really dig. I have, for whatever that’s worth. Before we dig into the last batch, I just want to thank you for checking in and reading this week. If you’ve seen all five of these or if this is the first bunch you’ve come across, that you’re here at all is appreciated immensely.
Quarterly Review #41-50:
Lucifer, Lucifer I
Vocalist Johanna Sadonis, who burst into the international underground consciousness last year with The Oath, resurfaces following that band’s quick dissolution alongside former Cathedral guitarist and riffer-of-legend Gary “Gaz” Jennings in Lucifer, whose Lucifer I eight-song debut LP is released on Rise Above Records. Joined by bassist Dino Gollnick and drummer Andrew Prestidge, Sadonis and Jennings wind through varied but thoroughly doomed atmospheres across songs like opener “Abracadabra” – the outright silliness of the “magic word” kind of undercutting the cultish impression for which Lucifer are shooting – or early highlights “Purple Pyramid” and “Izrael.” A strong side A rounding out with “Sabbath,” Lucifer I can feel somewhat frontloaded, but on repeat listens, the layered chorus of “White Mountain,” “Morning Star”’s late-arriving chug, the classically echoing “Total Eclipse” and the atmospheric finish of “A Grave for Each One of Us” hold their own. After a strong showing from Lucifer’s debut single, the album doesn’t seem like it will do anything to stop the band’s already-in-progress ascent. Their real test will be in the live arena, but they sustain a thematic ambience across Lucifer I’s 44 minutes, and stand ready to follow Rise Above labelmates Ghost and Uncle Acid toward the forefront of modern doom.
Drone-prone Philadelphia post-metallers Rosetta return with Quintessential Ephemera, the follow-up to 2013’s The Anaesthete and their fifth LP overall, which resounds in its ambience as a reinforcement of how little the band – now a five-piece with the inclusion of guitarist Eric Jernigan – need any hype or genre-push to sustain them. Through a titled intro, “After the Funeral,” through seven untitled tracks of varying oppressiveness and rounding out with the unabashedly pretty instrumental “Nothing in the Guise of Something,” they continue to plug away at their heady approach, relentless in their progression and answering the darker turns of their prior outing with a shift toward a more colorful atmosphere. At 52 minutes, Quintessential Ephemera isn’t a slight undertaking, but if you were expecting one you probably haven’t been paying attention to the last decade of Rosetta’s output. As ever, they are cerebral and contemplative while staying loyal to the need for an emotional crux behind what they do, and the album is both dutiful and forward-looking.
Pressed up by Brutal Panda Records for Stateside issue following a 2014 release in Europe on Svart, Death by Burning is the debut full-length from sans-bass Hamburg duo Mantar – vocalist/guitarist Hanno, drummer/vocalist Erinc – and as much as it pummels and writhes across its thrash-prone 10 tracks, opener “Spit” setting a tone for the delivery throughout, there are flourishes of both character and groove to go with all the bludgeoning throughout standout cuts like “Cult Witness,” “The Huntsmen,” the explosive “White Nights,” “The Stoning” and the more lumbering instrumental closer “March of the Crows,” the two-piece seamlessly drawing together elements of doom, thrash and blackened rock and roll into a seething, tense concoction that’s tonally weighted enough to make one’s ears think they’re hearing bass strings alongside the guitar, but still overarchingly raw in a manner denoting some punk influence. Bonus points for the Tom G. Warrior-style “ough!” grunts that make their way into “The Stoning” and the rolling nod of “Astral Kannibal.” Nasty as hell, but more subtle than one might expect.
Though it seems King Giant’s fate to be persistently underrated, the Virginian dual-guitar five-piece offer their most stylistically complex material to date on their third full-length, Black Ocean Waves (released on The Path Less Traveled Records and Graveyard Hill), recorded by J. Robbins (Clutch, Murder by Death, etc.) as the follow-up to 2012’s Dismal Hollow (streamed here). Still commanded by the vocal presence of frontman Dave Hammerly, the album also finds moments of flourish in the guitars of David Kowalski and Todd “T.I.” Ingram on opener “Mal de Mer,” the leads on “Requiem for a Drunkard” or the intro to extended finishing move “There Were Bells,” bassist Floyd Lee Walters III and drummer Keith Brooks holding down solid rhythms beneath the steady chug of “The One that God Forgot to Save” and “Blood of the Lamb.” Side A closer “Red Skies” might be where it all ties together most, but the full course of Black Ocean Waves’ eight tracks provides a satisfying reminder of the strength in King Giant’s craftsmanship.
The 14 single-word-title tracks of Si Ombrellone’s Horns on the Same Goat were originally recorded in 2006, but for a 2015 release, Connecticut-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret, King of Salem) took them back into his own UP Recording Studio for touch-ups and remastering. The endeavor is a solo outing for Tuozzoli, styled in a kind of post-grunge rock with Frank Picarazzi playing drums to give a full-band feel, and finds catchy, poppy songwriting coming forward in the layered vocals of “Innocence,” while later, “Forgiveness” and “Darkness” offset each other more in theme than sound, as “Love” and “Hate” had done earlier, the album sticking to its straightforward structures through to six-minute closer “Undone,” which boasts a more atmospheric take. It’s an ambitious project to collect 14 sometimes disparate emotional themes onto a single outing, never mind to do it (mostly) alone – one might write an entire record about “Trust,” say, or “Rage,” which opens – but Tuozzoli matches his craftsmanship with a sincerity that carries through each of these tracks.
Boasting a close relationship to Duster69 and Mother Misery and featuring in their ranks Daredevil Records owner Jochen Böllath, who plays guitar, German heavy rockers Grand Massive revel in commercial-grade Euro-style tonal heft bordering on metallic aggression. 2 is their aptly-titled second EP (on Daredevil) and it finds Böllath, lead guitarist Peter Wisenbacher, vocalist Alex Andronikos, bassist Toby Brandl and drummer Holger Stich running through six crisply-executed tracks of catchy, fist-pumping riffy drive, slowing a bit for the creepy ambience of the interlude “Woods” or the more lurching tension of “I am Atlas,” but most at home in the push of “Backseat Devil” and closer “My Own Sickness,” a mid-paced groove adding to the festival-ready weight Grand Massive conjure. Word is they’re already at work on a follow-up. Fair enough, but 2 has plenty to offer in the meantime in its tight presentation and darker vibes, Grand Massive having been through a wringer of lineup changes and emerged with their songwriting well intact.
Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Live from Roadburn 2014
If you guessed “spacey as hell” as regards this meeting between NorCal psych explorers Carlton Melton and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Danish jammers Øresund Space Collective, go ahead and give yourself the prize. Limited to 300 copies worldwide courtesy of Lay Bare Recordings and Space Rock Productions, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space’s Live from Roadburn 2014 is a consuming, near-100-minute unfolding, Heller joining Carlton Melton on stage for four of the total seven inclusions, adding his synthesized swirl to the swirling wash, already by then 26 minutes deep after the opening “Country Ways > Spiderwebs” establishes a heady sprawl that only continues to spread farther and farther as pieces unfold, making “Out to Sea” seem an even more appropriate title. It will simply be too much for some, but as somebody who stood and heard the sounds oozing from the stage at Cul de Sac in Tilburg, the Netherlands, as part of the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner event, I can say it was a special trip to behold. It remains so here.
According to El Paraiso Records, Sela was held up as so many releases have been owing to plant production having been overwhelmed by Record Store Day and will be out circa August. Fair enough. Consider this advance warning of Danish improve collective Shiggajon’s first outing for the Causa Sui-helmed imprint, then, and don’t be intimidated as we get closer to the release and people start talking about things like “free jazz” and dropping references to this or that Coltrane. The real deal with Shiggajon – central figures Mikkel Reher-Lanberg (percussion, drums, clarinet) and Nikolai Brix Vartenberg (sax) here joined by Emil Rothenborg (violin, double bass), Martin Aagaard Jensen (drums), Mikkel Elzer (drums, percussion, guitar), Sarah Lorraine Hepburn (vocals, flute, electronics, tingshaws) – is immersive and tipped over into music as the ritual itself. One might take on the two 18-minute halves of Sela with a similarly open mind as when approaching Montibus Communitas and be thrilled at the places the album carries you. I hope to have more to come, but again, heads up – this one is something special.
“The Spell” proves right away that Alps-based heavy rockers Mount Hush (I love that they don’t specify a country) have the post-Queens of the Stone Age fuzz-thrust down pat on their debut EP Low and Behold, but the band also bring an element of heavy psychedelia to their guitar work and the vocals – forward in the mix – have a bluesier but not caricature-dudely edge, so even as they bounce through the “Come on pretty baby” hook of “The Spell,” they’re crafting their own sound. The subsequent “King Beyond” showcases how to have a Graveyard influence without simply pretending to sound like Graveyard, even going so far as to repurpose a classic rock reference – “Strange Days” by The Doors – in its pursuit, and the seven-minute “The Day She Stole the Sun” stretches out for a more psychedelic build. Most exciting of all on a conceptual level is closer “Levitations.” Drumless, it sets ethereal vocals and samples over a tonal swirl and airy, quieter strumming. Hardly adrenaline-soaked and not intended to be, but it shows Mount Hush have a genuine will to experiment, and it’s one I hope they continue to develop.
Joined for the first time by drummer Bas Snabilie (apparently since replaced by Aletta Verwoerd) Amsterdam heavy art rockers Labasheeda mark four full-length releases with Changing Lights on Presto Chango, the violin/viola of vocalist/guitarist Saskia van der Giessen and guitar/bass/keyboard of Arne Wolfswinkel carrying across an open but humble atmosphere, touching here on Sonic Youth’s dare-to-have-a-verse moments in “My Instincts” and pushing into more blown-out jarring with the slide-happy “Tightrope.” They bring indie edge to a cover of The Who’s “Circles,” and round out with a closing duo of the album’s only two tracks over five minutes, “Cold Water” and “Into the Wide,” van der Giessen’s croon carrying a sweetness into the second half of the former as the latter finishes Changing Lights with a rolling contrast of distortion and strings as engrossing as it is strange. Labasheeda will go right over a lot of heads, but approached with an open mind it can just as easily prove a treasure for its blatant refusal to be pinned to one style or another.
Posted in Features on June 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
So this is part one of the Clamfight recording update — the heavy thrashing Philly four-piece in the studio at Gradwell House with Steve Poponi at the helm as they track their third full-length, yet untitled — but it might be a while before we see part two. As drummer/vocalist/smith of words Andy Martin explains, the process of making this outing is different from either their self-titled 2010 debut (review here) or the subsequent I vs. the Glacier (track-by-track here), which was released on this site’s then-not-at-all-defunct in-house label, The Maple Forum, in that it will have a two-month break in between its start and its completion.
A strange process? Yes. But as Martin — joined in the band by lead guitarist Sean McKee, guitarist Joel Harris and bassist Louis Koble — informs, the album itself is also pretty different from what they’ve done before, so maybe in a way it’s fitting. Perhaps best to let him tell the tale:
DIG IF YOU WILL, A PICTURE:
It’s 2:30 or 2:40 last Sunday, and after setting up since noon, we are finally about to start recording our third full-length record. We’re a little nervous, but we’re excited; we’ve practiced as much our suddenly-super-adult schedules allowed, and the general vibe is, “we are ready.”
I might have the geography of this slightly backwards, but I’m fairly certain Steve Poponi (who did our last two records, and as far as we’re concerned knocked them both of the park) was in the big room doing some last-minute dicking with cables* and we were in the control room discussing what song we were going to start with, when a sweaty, middle-aged guy with the standard issue South Jersey manual labor pompadour appeared in the control room and uttered one of nobody’s favorite phrases in the English language, “Which one of you drives the…”
And just like that, Joel’s car needed a new door, and that “we are so ready for this session” vibe when right out the fucking window.
Sunday ended up being a really long day, and though I managed to finish all my drum tracks, and since that was technically our only concrete goal for this session, you could argue that we ended up ahead of the game, but our shaky-as-a-baby-deer’s-first-steps beginning kind of put a pale over the session. It’s actually why this writeup took me a little longer to get together; I had to ask myself whether I was going to be honest and say, “this was a tough one,” or lie and say, “great times guys! Pay no attention to Joel having to sweep up broken glass and file police reports when he’d rather be recording.”
So in the end, and as you can guess because you’re reading this, I opted for honesty. But here’s me also being honest: the new stuff smokes and it’s made the rough way this session began okay in our books. Though it felt really slow in coming, the change really started Sunday. “Whale Road” which will lead off the next record, was a bear to record, but then “Selkie” went a lot smoother, and “Echoes” and “The History of the Earls of Orkney” were both real close to being first-takers. Our crazy non-Clamfight-related schedules, the accident, all of that stuff was something we got over, but realistically it did make the start of this session a little clumsier than any of us wanted.
Speaking of another unanticipated monkey wrench: the length of these songs. Clamfight III, or whatever we end up calling it (A Vulgar Display of a Tree Service Guy Not Using His Mirrors?), is made up of big, long songs, and though there’s been a seven-minute song or two on each of our prior records, we’d never recorded anything in the 10-or-beyond-minute range, and hence, didn’t quite realize the time commitment that is. If one take of the song lasts 10, or nearly 13 minutes as in the case of “History…,” then the playback takes at least that long. More, if you count the number of times, myself included, that one of us dopes has a fascinating dick joke that can’t wait until the listening is done. If there’s one downside to being in a band with three of your best friends, and making records with a good friend like Poponi, it’s that there is a lot of gum flapping… and when your songs are all 10 minutes, that adds up to a lot of time gone when you’re not recording.
With the drums done and 5AM wake ups for Joel and I looming, we called it a day (the other guys have inside jobs, I’m not sure when they wake up… 10? 11? I picture their morning routines like Eddie Murphy’s in the beginning of Coming to America). We reconvened Monday night and Sean got to work on his rhythm tracks, and in predictable Sean fashion he banged it out at warp speed. The funny thing about Sean’s recording chops versus my own is that since we both do the majority of writing for Clamfight, you might assume that we’d both be similarly hassle free about recording. You would however, be wrong. In fact, if you watched the two of us record, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Sean wrote and practiced these songs for months by his lonesome, and the first time I heard them was the morning of the session.
But I digress. The takeaway is that Sean crushed it on this, and Steve’s ability to get a great tone out of his rig remains intact. We quit around midnight, I believe, and tired from a seemingly endless day we hit home. To be brutally honest, I still didn’t know what we had yet. I was hearing glimmers of the record now, and was liking what I could hear, but I was still too rattled from what I expected to be an easy session turning into a battle to really have an opinion on it. I was edgy but starting to get a sense that maybe this stuff was turning out alright.
Day three, and our final day for this session, began around six the next night, and Louis stomped through his tracks fairly quickly. Not to get a bunch of angry (but probably deserved) comments from my many bass-playing buddies, but I’m not sure I ever appreciated the bass as much as I did listening to Louis lay down his tracks. I gained a newfound appreciation of how much fuller the bass makes things, and how crucial its role as “the sound between sounds” really is. We were pressed for time at this point, so Joel only managed to get tracking done on two of the songs (which after being up since five and still answering phone calls about his car I think gives him MVP status), but we had enough for our other stated goal of the session; rough mixes for which Sean could write solos for and I could write lyrics.
Because here’s the rub, and why this session is a bit different than our prior records: we went into the making of this record knowing there was going to be a two month break in the proceedings. It’s good because as much as we wanted and tried to schedule this record in a big block of time in the manner we did I Versus the Glacier it was impossible. Somewhere in the five years since we recorded our last full-length we got mired into a whole host of outside-of-Clamfight, adult responsibilities, and adding to that mix Steve and the Gradwell House’s ever more packed schedule (he just did Fight Amp’s stellar new record, Constantly Off), it meant that blocking out a week to make this record happen wasn’t going to work. If there’s an upside to us being older and busier, it’s that we’ve all maybe grown a bit more patient, so fighting overall schedules, we managed to figure out a way to make it go, even if that way for us is a little different than what we’re used to.
So here we are, with a record 50 percent of the way done, and a few months off to tighten up solos and lyrics, and then come back in the fall and finish this pig in a weekend. As for how we feel about the material now? We’re happy. Real happy. There was a flood of back and forth, “oh man, did you hear that?” messages in the days following finishing this session. Even in its current state, missing half of Joel’s parts, and all of the solos and vocals, it sounds big. Booming. Dynamic. We’re this-is-the-best-thing-we’ve-ever-done stoked on it. We’re proud of it enough that’s actually put us in a good place about this weirdly tough session, and we’re all dying to come back and finish this thing so we can start letting people hear it.
One decade after the release of their Translation Loss debut, The Galilean Satellites, Philadelphia’s Rosetta stand on the cusp of their fifth long-player, Quintessential Ephemera. Released in association with Golden Antenna Records, the new album follows 2013’s independently-released The Anaesthete and the 2014 Flies to Flame EP, as well as an original score produced earlier this year for a film about the band, Rosetta: Audio/Visual, and is the latest in a line of deeply creative outings furthering the band’s stylstic meld of atmospheric metal, sludge, post-rock and ambience. Noteworthy also for being their first full-length with the lineup of vocalist/noisemaker Mike Armine, guitarist Matt Weed, bassist Dave Grossman, drummer BJ McMurtrie and guitarist Eric Jernigan after having brought the latter on board in 2014 (he doubles in City of Ships), Quintessential Ephemera continues Rosetta‘s workman-style approach to progressive, fluid and exploratory songwriting, their commitment more to going places they’ve never gone than to any particular genre or other.
Weed took some time out recently to respond to The Obelisk Questionnaire and you’ll find his answers below. Please enjoy:
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Matt Weed
How did you come to do what you do?
Hard to say, since I’ve been in one band or another with our drummer BJ for over half my life. I picked up a guitar when I was 14 and it has always been a kind of territory that I explored, rather than an object I tried to master. So I’ve always written music by default – it was much harder to learn music written by other people. I went to school for totally unrelated stuff and that was probably a good thing, since academic study tends to destroy one’s enjoyment of a thing. I’m a bit of a robot in personality anyway, and music was one of the only ways I could ever access, understand, and communicate about emotion. The verbal language of emotion is either mystifying or outright off-putting to me, but playing an instrument I always felt like I had access to a more truthful way of communicating with people.
Describe your first musical memory.
My parents played a lot of classical LPs on a really crappy integrated turntable/amp system from the ’70s when I was a kid. My dad liked Romantic composers like Brahms and Tchaikovsky a lot, and my mom played the piano in the house, often old hymns. I would sit at the piano and play individual notes to see which I liked. I liked the A two octaves below middle-C the best. I would wail on that note for long periods, sometimes chanting over it (I was about four or five), but my family never complained about it. I guess that was my first foray into drone music.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
In high school, when I was still training on violin, I did a program where high school kids got to sit with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and play together. Each pair of stand partners was one PO member and one high school student. It was remarkable mainly because I was a “just-okay” student of the violin, but while I was on-stage with such serious players, my technique just seemed like it magically improved, instantly. I had no idea I could play like that. It wasn’t objectively great but it was an order of magnitude better than I was normally capable of. I never forgot it, because it was proof to me that everyone does their best work in collaboration; one person who develops skill and takes risks has a beneficial effect on everyone he or she plays with. Likewise, being lazy or self-satisfied drags down everyone around you.
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
There have been several extended periods where I really struggled with the idea that having integrity and good character is more important than success. I was brought up believing that (my parents were neither achievement-oriented nor overly accommodating), and I still do. But it’s easy to make that statement when you have enough to eat and can make rent and people are regularly affirming the work you do. Society says that integrity matters, but then turns around and judges you exclusively on indicators of wealth, prestige, or social significance. That would probably explain why so many truly awful people are among the most successful. Especially in the world of art, you need to be profitable, popular, or critically acclaimed. If you’re none of the three, you must not be very good at what you do. Then you feel pressure either to adapt your work to the market or to quit entirely. But neither of those options demonstrates integrity. I’m not sure it’s possible to resolve that conflict, ultimately.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
Laying aside questions about marketability, it seems like it’s a progression of greater risk-taking. You try something new and then ask, did it communicate what I wanted to say? Was it satisfying? Did I learn something in the process? If it didn’t work, then you go back and try again. If it worked, then you jump off from there and take more risks. If you’re not taking risks, then you’re not making art, you’re producing a commodity. But taking risks necessarily means failing sometimes.
How do you define success?
Sustainability. I don’t just mean that in the financial sense. I’ve never made any money from the band and I probably never will, but I’m happy for the band to support itself. Money hasn’t ever been a goal, it’s just one means to the end of being able to keep going for as long as there is music we want to make. But there are other dimensions to sustainability, like avoiding personal burnout and cultivating new audiences, not getting stuck in unproductive habits, becoming more disciplined people as time goes on. During periods where Rosetta was broke and almost unable to continue, money always loomed as the largest dimension. But once we went independent and the band more or less began to pay for itself, I started to see a lot of different ways it could be derailed that had nothing to do with money. I think success would be a situation where we had what we needed and were spending more time creating than problem-solving.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
A No Doubt show at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia in 2002. Yes, it was for a girlfriend. Someone puked on my shoes.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
A drone record made with a guitar and found sounds from my house to a four-track tape recorder.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
Every year my wife and I try to go on a wilderness backpacking trip to some weird remote location. I always look forward to that. I feel most human in situations where I have to submit to the law of nature, rather than using technology to bend nature to my wishes. Real life seems totally unreal by comparison.
Rosetta, Rosetta: Audio/Visual Original Score (2015)