Rope Trick Release Red Tape EP; Touring East and West Coasts

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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

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.

You can listen here: https://ropetrickband.bandcamp.com. The album will also be available March 30th on CD, iTunes, and Spotify.

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

Rope Trick is:
Indrayudh Shome: guitar + vocal
Nathanael Totushek: drums

ropetrickband.com
ropetrickband.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/ropetrickband
https://www.instagram.com/ropetrickband

Rope Trick, Red Tape (2017)

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Heavy Temple Touring with Pilgrim in March

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:

pilgrim heavy temple tour

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

https://www.facebook.com/HeavyTemple/
https://heavytemple.bandcamp.com
https://www.van-records.de/
https://tridroid.bandcamp.com/album/chassit

Heavy Temple, Chassit (2017)

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

Posted in Features on December 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.

Yeah, I know I said as much when the Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016 went up, but I take it back: this is the hardest list to put together. And to be honest, there’s a part of me that’s hesitant even to post it because I know as soon as I do someone’s going to be like, “No way you dick your entire existence is shit because you forgot Release X,” and very likely they’ll be right. Up to the very moment this post is going live, I’ve been making changes, and I expect I’ll continue to do so for a while after it’s out there.

So what’s a “short release?” That’s another issue. Pretty much anything that’s not an album. Singles, digital or physical, as well as EPs, splits, demos, and so on. The category becomes nebulous, but my general rule is if it’s not a full-length, it qualifies as a short release. Sounds simple until you get into things like, “Here’s a track I threw up on Bandcamp,” and “This only came out as a bonus included as a separate LP with the deluxe edition of our album.” I’m telling you, I’ve had a difficult time.

Maybe that’s just me trying to protect myself from impending wrath. This year’s Top 30 albums list provoked some vehement — and, if I may, prickishly-worded — responses, so I might be a bit gunshy here, but on the other hand, I think these outings are worth highlighting, so we’re going forward anyway. If you have something to add, please use the comments below, but remember we’re all friends here and there’s a human being on the other end reading what’s posted. Thanks in advance for that.

And since this is the last list of The Obelisk’s Best-of-2016 coverage, I’ll say thanks for reading as well. More to come in the New Year, of course.

Here we go:

scissorfight chaos county

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

1. Scissorfight, Chaos County EP
2. Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split
3. Mars Red Sky, Providence EP
4. Mos Generator, The Firmament
5. Soldati, Soldati
6. Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze EP
7. Wren, Host EP
8. Goya, The Enemy EP
9. The Sweet Heat, Demo
10. River Cult, Demo
11. Stinkeye, Llantera Demos
12. Megaritual, Eclipse EP
13. Ragged Barracudas / Pushy, Split
14. Mindkult, Witchs’ Oath EP
15. Iron Jawed Guru, Mata Hari EP
16. Brume, Donkey
17. Bison Machine / Wild Savages / SLO, Sweet Leaves Vol. 1 Split
18. BoneHawk / Kingnomad, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Three Split
19. Wicked Gypsy, EP
20. Love Gang, Love Gang EP

Honorable Mention

An expansive category as ever. In addition to what’s above, the following stood out and no doubt more will be added over the course of the next few days. If you feel something is missing, please let me know.

Presented alphabetically:

Cambrian Explosion, The Moon EP
Candlemass, Death Thy Lover EP
Cultist, Cultist EP
Danava, At Midnight You Die 7″
Dos Malés, Dos Malés EP
Druglord, Deepest Regrets EP
Fu Manchu, Slow Ride 7″
Geezer, A Flagrant Disregard for Happiness 12″
Gorilla vs. Grifter, Split
Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!
Karma to Burn, Mountain Czar
LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place EP
Pallbearer, Fear and Fury
Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…
Sea of Bones / Ramlord, Split
Shallows, The Moon Rises
The Skull, EP
Snowy Dunes, “Atlantis Part I” digital single
Sun Voyager / The Mad Doctors, Split
Valborg, Werwolf 7″

Notes

Was it just the raw joy of having Scissorfight back? No, but that was for sure part of it. It was also the brazenness with which the New Hampshire outfit let go of their past, particularly frontman Christopher “Ironlung” Shurtleff, and moved forward unwilling to compromise what they wanted to do that made their Chaos County so respectable in my eyes. Having always flourished in the form, they delivered an EP of classic Scissorfight tunes and issued a stiff middle finger to anyone who would dare call them otherwise. They couldn’t have been more themselves no matter who was in the band.

At the same time, it was a hard choice between that and the Earthless / Harsh Toke split for the top spot. I mean, seriously. It’s Earthless — who at this point are the godfathers of West Coast jamadelica — and Harsh Toke, who are among the style’s most engaging upstart purveyors, each stretching out over a huge and encompassing single track. I couldn’t stop listening to that one if I wanted to, and as the year went on, I found I never wanted to.

I was glad when Mars Red Sky included the title-track of the Providence EP as a bonus cut on their subsequent album, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul), both because it tied the two releases together even further and because it gave me another opportunity to hear it every time I listened to the record. Their short releases have always shown significant character apart from their full-lengths, and this was no exception. I still tear up when I hear “Sapphire Vessel.”

To bounce around a bit: Had to get Mos Generator on the list for the progressive expansion of the live-recorded The Firmament. Stickman was right to put that out on vinyl. Both Monolord and Goya provided quick outings of huge riffs to sate their respective and growing followings, while Megaritual’s Eclipse basked in drone serenity and the debut release from Sergio Ch.’s Soldati provided hard-driving heavy rock with the particular nuance for which the former Los Natas frontman is known. It’s the highest among a slew of first/early outings — see also The Sweet Heat, Wren (Host was their second EP), River Cult’s demo, Stinkeye, Mindkult, Iron Jawed Guru, Brume, Wicked Gypsy and Love Gang.

Ultimately, there were fewer splits on the list this year than last year, but I’ll credit that to happenstance more than any emergent bias against the form or lack of quality in terms of what actually came out. The BoneHawk and Kingnomad release, the Ragged Barracudas and Pushy split, and that heavy rocking onslaught from Bison Machine and company were all certainly welcome by me, and I’ll mention Gorilla vs. Grifter there too again, just because it was awesome.

One more time, thank you for reading, and if you have something to add, please do so in the comments below. Your civility in that regard is appreciated.

This is the last of my lists for 2016, but the Readers Poll results are out Jan. 1 and the New Year hits next week and that brings a whole new round of looking-forward coverage, so stay tuned.

As always, there’s much more to come.

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Rope Trick Premiere Demo Track “Vivid”; East and West Coast Tours Announced

Posted in audiObelisk on December 16th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

rope trick logo

Comprised of Queen Elephantine members Indrayudh Shome and Nathanael Totushek, one shouldn’t be entirely surprised to find that the new duo Rope Trick have some experimental underpinnings. There’s only so much one can or even should bother trying to fight that impulse, frankly. But while Shome and Totushek‘s other outfit is known for droning meditative sprawl, fully ritualized and spacious as heard on their latest outing, Kala (review here), which came out this fall through Argonauta Records and a slew of others, Rope Trick‘s three-song debut demo, Red Tapes, finds them a little more down-to-business and feels aimed more toward exploring direct instrumental and rhythmic chemistry than sonic spiritualism — though one could easily argue they’re the same to some degree when done right. And fair enough. Its half-hour run through the songs “Vivid” (10:32), “Soothsayer” (7:07) and “Comedown” (12:28) is marked by low-end groove and swells of volume and thrust — see the emergent lurch of the finale’s ’90s-style chug — and Shome‘s layered chant. Nobody’s credited with bass, and indeed there might not be any, but you’d never know that hearing the material itself, which is duly thick and forceful in its presentation in spite of a raw recording fitting to a demo aesthetic.

While they’re quite clearly just starting out with these songs, feeling their way through an initial release and crafting material after what seems to have been a process of stripping projects like Queen Elephantine and Throne in the Void of the Hundred Petal Lotus down to their essential cores, Shome and Totushek unquestionably benefit from their prior time playing together. And if that wasn’t the case, you’d know it almost immediately between the duo format of Rope Trick and the rough edges the demo provides. But listening to the rollout of “Vivid,” which invites listeners along with its bounce of drums and flourish of almost surf-style guitar, topped by drawn-out vocals from Shome — a track that’s gradually developing but not moving slowly by any means — the experience and knowledge from each party of how the other works makes transitions like that circa three minutes in, when they switch to the starts and stops and embark on a forward build from there, is what’s making the whole thing go. It’s no less true on “Soothsayer” or “Comedown,” and especially as their first outing, it’s a crucial component that one hopes will continue to be a key expression of the band as they move on from here in developing the ebbs and flows like that which bring “Vivid” to a standstill in its second half only to have it rise again and drive more intensely toward its conclusion; jazzy, loose-swinging, but never without a sense of direction behind it. Maybe even a little funky? Maybe.

To go with the debut demo release of Red TapesRope Trick are announcing tour dates on both coasts. They’ll be joined on the stints by It’s Not Night: It’s Space and River Cult and Darsombra, so good company kept all around, and you’ll find the dates included under the player below, by means of which you can hear the premiere of “Vivid” now.

I hope you enjoy:

rope trick tour dates

ROPE TRICK has put out a demo dubbed “Red Tapes” and announced US tour dates for Spring 2017. They are looking for a label to sign their first album and have ambitions to tour Europe as well as Asia in the Summer.

They have an East Coast US tour coming up in January with It’s Not Night It’s Space, an East Coast US tour in the works for March, and a West Coast tour in April.

JANUARY
01/04 – Boston MA, O’Brien’s*
01/05 – Dover NH, Needful Things*
01/06 – Poughkeepsie NY, Darkside Records**
01/07 – Brooklyn NY, Cobra Club**
01/08 – Providence RI, Aurora**
01/14 – Providence RI, AS220 – Live Film Scoring Festival
01/15 – Philadelphia PA, Kung Fu Necktie*
*w/ It’s Not Night: It’s Space
**w/ It’s Not Night: It’s Space + River Cult

MARCH-APRIL
03/23 – Boston, MA (TBC)
03/24 – Northampton, MA (TBC)
03/25 – Montreal, QC, CAN (TBC)
03/30 – Providence RI, AS220*
03/31 – Brooklyn NY (TBC)*
04/01 – Philadelphia PA, Kung Fu Necktie*
04/02 – Baltimore MD (TBC)*
04/14 – Seattle WA (TBC)
04/15 – Portand OR, High Water Mark
04/16 – Eugene OR, Old Nick’s
04/18 – Sacramento (TBA)
04/20 – Oakland CA, Golden Bull
04/21-22 – Los Angeles CA (TBA)
*w/ darsombra

Rope Trick is:
Indrayudh Shome: guitar + vocal
Nathanael Totushek: drums

Rope Trick on Bandcamp

Rope Trick on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Presents: The Golden Grass, Pilgrim & The Sweet Heat in Providence, RI, Nov. 5, 2016

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on October 4th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the-golden-grass-dusk

On Saturday, Nov. 5, Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass head north to Providence, Rhode Island. They’ll play a show at Dusk with two of the area’s finest outfits in doomers Pilgrim and heavy rock newcomers Sweet Heat, who formed after the dissolution of Balam, and I couldn’t be more pleased to say The Obelisk will present the show. Three bands, all excellent, each with something of their own to bring. Who the hell wouldn’t want to put a logo on a gig like that?

The Golden Grass head north supporting earlier-2016’s Coming Back Again (review here), their progressive-leaning second album and debut on Listenable Records. Meanwhile, Rhode Island doom forerunners Pilgrim continue their slog back from the abyss. In August, they ran alongside Castle for a handful of shows and continue to reap acclaim for their 2014 sophomore outing, II: Void Worship (review here).

And though The Sweet Heat only recently unveiled their first demo recording, the four-piece arrive with immediate intrigue owing to their past participation in the classically doomed Balam. They’re a brand new band emerging with newfound purpose.

Drummer/vocalist Adam “Adzo” Kriney of The Golden Grass was kind enough to discuss the night a little bit. You’ll find his comments below. He’s right when he says you should show up:

Adzo speaks:

November 5 will be a memorable evening at Dusk. This will be THE GOLDEN GRASS’ triumphant and highly anticipated return after a two-year absence! And we couldn’t be more enthused than to share the stage with two of our favorite local-ish groups, the shimmering doom brilliance of PILGRIM and the throbbing monolith that is SWEET HEAT, who are none other than the newest band featuring four out of five members of BALAM, bringing ever-so-tasty hard rock to the festivities.

Boogie hard straight to your doom everyone! This night gonna be a killer, and anyone who lives within a three-hour radius of this concert had better be there as it’s gonna be one for the records… and everyone gonna get high through the night!

The concert is being graciously presented by The Obelisk.

Amazing eye-popping show poster by the ever-righteous designer Stephen Voland.

Thanks to the bands and venue for allowing The Obelisk to present the show. More info and tickets available from the links below.

The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again (2016)

The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks

Show event page

Dusk on Thee Facebooks

Dusk website

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Queen Elephantine’s Kala Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 7th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Last I heard, Queen Elephantine were still located in Providence, Rhode Island. The info below about preorders for their new album, Kala (review here), being available lists them as having relocated to New York. Entirely possible. Guitarist/founder Indrayudh Shome has been as restless geographically as he has creatively over the years. Hong Kong, New York, Rhode Island. He could basically turn up anywhere and find a host of cohorts with which to express Queen Elephantine‘s always complex and ritualized drone-doom.

Kala has an Oct. 21 release date and some considerable backing from Argonauta Records, Cimmerian Share Recordings, Tartarus Records and Atypeek Music — each imprint releasing it on a different format. If you’ve ever heard the band’s as-yet underrated experimentalism, it’s little wonder so many parties would want to be involved.

From the PR wire:

queen elephantine kala

QUEEN ELEPHANTINE announce new album ‘Kala’ on multiple labels

Release Date – October 21st, 2016
Record Label – Cimmerian Shade Recordings (LP) / Argonauta Records (CD) / Tartarus Records (Cassette) / Atypeek Music (Digital)

Queen Elephantine, the exotic-flavoured doom/ambient band once operating out of Hong Kong (who have since moved to New York), are back with a brand new full length called Kala. They’ve always kept innovating and the new album is even more entrancing, atmospheric and mind-bending. They’ve honed their skills to offer music that’s near unparalleled – the delicate cacophony of the numerous instruments (spaced out, never overcrowding), the suspenseful atmosphere, the ever-lingering sense of intrigue, it’s all there, and better than ever before. Kala taps into your subconscious, creates swirling colourful patterns, a hypnotic effect that doesn’t wear off easily like a rare non-harmful drug. Succumb to the creeping, psychedelic madness that’s Queen Elephantine.

Mastered by Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Swans, Sleep, Eyehategod, High on Fire)

Artwork has been made by Adrian Dexter

Line up:
Indrayudh Shome – Guitar
Ian Sims – Drumset
Mat Becker – Bass
Srinivas Reddy – Guitar
Derek Fukumori – Percussion
Samer Ghadry – Guitar, Synth
Nathanael Totushek – Drumset + Percussion on 2,4,6
Nick DiSalvo – Mellotron on 1, 2, 3
Michael Scott Isley – Percussion on 2,4
Danny Quinn – Surgeon Pepper

Track list:
1. Quartered
2. Quartz
3. Ox
4. Onyx
5. Deep Blue
6. Throne of the Void in the Hundred Petal Lotus

https://www.facebook.com/queenelephantine/
https://queenelephantine.bandcamp.com/album/kala
http://cimmerianshaderecs.storenvy.com/products/17801057-queen-elephantine-kala
http://www.argonautarecords.com/shop/music-/143-queen-elephantine-kala-cd.html
http://tartarusrecords.com/
http://atypeekmusic.com/Atypeek_Music.html

Queen Elephantine, Kala (2016)

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Queen Elephantine Sign to Argonauta Records; Kala Due in October

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

A little while ago, Indrayudh Shome dropped me a line and asked if I might know of any good labels to get behind the latest Queen Elephantine album, Kala (review here). It should say something about the kind of enthusiasm the band’s creative breadth inspires that Shome‘s search resulted in not one but four separate regional and format homes for Kala, which is their fifth outing. They are: a domestic US LP release from Cimmerian Shade, a CD through Italy’s Argonauta Records, a tape through Tartarus and download through Atypeek Music. Kudos to Queen Elephantine for getting the album out there and then really getting the album out there.

If you’re in the Providence area, they share the stage June 4 with Doomriders and Churchburn at AS220. Not trying to tell you your business, just letting you know.

Announcement comes courtesy of Argonauta:

queen elephantine kala

ARGONAUTA RECORDS new signing: QUEEN ELEPHANTINE

Providence based cosmonauts QUEEN ELEPHANTINE inked a deal with ARGONAUTA Records for a worldwide CD release of their fifth opus “kala” next fall.

With a fluid lineup and various experiments in approach over the course of their four albums, Queen Elephantine is a nebulous worship of heavy mood and time. The group formed in 2006 in Hong Kong but has always been a shapeshifter. At the end of 2007 it moved base to New York and is currently based in Providence.

The fifth album “kala” will be released October 21st, 2016 and will see a partnership between different labels for each format:

CD – Argonauta Records (Italy)
LP – Cimmerian Shade Records (US)
Cassette – Tartarus Records (Netherlands)
Digital – Atypeek Music (France)

Recorded by I. Sims, Mixed by Indrayudh Shome. Mastered by Billy Anderson. Art by Adrian Dexter.

1. Quartered
2. Quartz
3. Ox
4. Onyx
5. Deep Blue
6. Throne of the Void in the Hundred Petal Lotus

indrayudh shome: guitar
ian sims: drumset
mat becker: bass
srinivas reddy: guitar
derek fukumori: percussion
samer ghadry: guitar, synth
nathanael totushek: drumset + percussion on 2,4,6
nick disalvo: mellotron on 1,2, 3
michael scott isley: percussion on 2,4

http://queenelephantine.clfrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/queenelephantine/
http://www.argonautarecords.com/

Queen Elephantine, “Quartz”

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Queen Elephantine, Kala: The Ritual Burn (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 23rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

queen elephantine kala

Kala is the fifth full-length from Providence, Rhode Island-based experimentalists Queen Elephantine, who continue to dwell far outside of genre confines and on a plane of their own making in psychedelic ritual, drone, doom, jazz and seemingly whatever else might occur to them at any given moment. The follow-up to 2013’s Scarab (review here) brings six new tracks for a 48-minute, single-LP voyage, and finds much of the personnel from the last time out returned. At the center as always is Indrayudh Shome, whose guitar explorations form the basis from which much of the proceedings is fleshed out, and returning from Scarab are drummer/percussionists Ian Sims and Nathanael Totushek, bassist Matt Becker, and guitarist Srinivas Reddy (who played tanpura on the prior record).

In addition to these, Derek Fukumori and Michael Scott Isley contribute percussion, Samer Ghadry plays guitar and synth, Danny Quinn is credited for/as “surgeon pepper” (presumably as opposed to doctor or sergeant), and Elder‘s Nick DiSalvo handles Mellotron on the first three tracks. Someone new to the band might expect based on the amount of people involved that Queen Elephantine specialize in lush textures and construct layer upon layer of wash, but that’s never been their way. Songs like second cut “Quartz” and “Onyx” build to a head, but many of Kala‘s strongest impressions come in its minimalist moments, a few voices chanting quietly as the tension mounts in “Quartz” or filling the open spaces of 10-minute drone-doom finale “Throne of the Void in the Hundred Petal Lotus,” or the subtle movement underscoring the instrumental “Ox,” which offers a lurching apex only after an extended peripatetic wandering that ultimately proves no less integral to the affect of both.

That’s not to say the tradeoffs in volume that play out patiently across the album’s span are ineffective, just that it’s more about the conversation going on between the members of the band — whoever happens to be on a given track at any point — than about the particular moment when it “gets heavy.” Recorded by Sims over the course of two days last April, produced and mixed by Shome with mastering by Billy Anderson, even the most active moments on Kala retain a raw, live feel, and even down to the progression of song titles, from “Quartered” to “Quartz,” from “Ox” to “Onyx” with “Deep Blue” and “Throne in the Void of the Hundred Petal Lotus,” there is a mindfulness of approach that resonates strongly throughout, and that bleeds into the depth of the initial roll in “Quartered” as much as the feedback-soaked dissonance of its later reaches, the songs drawn together by their contemplative spirit as much as the tones and rhythms through which that spirit is conveyed.

queen elephantine

Most of those rhythms, incidentally, are crawlingly slow. Queen Elephantine have never been in much of a rush, and Kala builds on the meditative aspects of its predecessor, so that even a more upbeat stretch like the opening of “Quartz” retains them. “Quartz” might be the most straightforward inclusion here, with something of a hook in its repeated lines, “I say I’m old, I’m losing reality, I didn’t want anymore/Lust in bloom, Doomed is the pharisee, Submit matter and mind,” over a nodding bass progression and its structure that starts at a (relative) rush, drops to a quiet stretch and then builds back up, but “Ox,” which follows, makes a strong case in its midsection bombast and transitions so deftly executed as to be almost hidden despite drastic changes in volume and intensity. At its loudest, “Ox” lumbers and plods, but the current of mellotron in its final crescendo, as well as a healthy dose of guitar noise, keep it from being so easily tagged as doom.

Bass proves to be the element holding “Onyx” together as well, though it’s the drums and a consistent drone line bled over from the end of “Ox” that begin the track. Before the hissing vocals arise, an angular back and forth between the guitar and bass seems to be jabbing one instrument against the other, but as the guitar moves (temporarily) elsewhere, the low end holds steady under verses and a psychedelic lead. Even the drums start to freak out eventually, but that bassline holds until the song itself seems to come apart leaving just another drone to lead into the penultimate “Deep Blue,” the first half of which pushes toward a peak with drawling drone-singing forward in the mix but nonetheless obscure and a blown-out distortion in focus that seems to drown out the crash cymbal. At about three minutes in, the emergent cacophony ends abruptly and “Deep Blue” roots itself in its central figure to play eerie whispers and eerier falsetto off each other before a drone once again provides the shift into “Throne of the Void in the Hundred Petal Lotus,” which in its linear course, patient execution and holding onto that drone provides a fitting summary of Kala‘s accomplishments to that point.

Less harsh than some of the other cuts, its slower beginning turns toward a grander ending after about five and a half minutes and continues to thrust outward from there until finally the pieces seem to rumble apart, bells chime, amps feed back, and that underlying drone that has been present for much (not all) of the album caps it on a long fade. Wherever they’ve gone soncially over the course of their now-decade-long tenure — and they go a few places here that don’t have a name yet — Queen Elephantine‘s work has always been distinguished by its raw-form creativity, by the sheer will for experimentation that drives it. Kala pushes Queen Elephantine deeper into volume as a spiritual or cerebral expression, and proves just as immersive a journey for the listener as one imagines it was for the artist, but even more than that, it reinforces just how woefully underappreciated they continue to be.

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Listen to “Quartz”

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Concrete Lo-Fi Records

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