The Obelisk Radio Adds: Boris, Sólstafir, Desert Suns & Chiefs, Elara, Fungus Hill

Posted in Radio on July 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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Some bigger releases going up to the playlist for The Obelisk Radio this time around, and that’s just fine by me. It’s five albums listed here, but there are a few others included as well that you can see listed on the updates page and it’s good stuff all the way around. It was all actually supposed to go up last week, but you know, life is chaos and all that. I hope as always that you manage to find something you enjoy, and if you haven’t heard some of this stuff as yet — I suspect you have, because you know what’s up and I’m perpetually behind on these things; more than just a week, on average — then all the better. Let’s dig in together.

The Obelisk Radio adds for July 31, 2017:

Boris, Dear

boris dear

If you were Boris and you were looking to celebrate a quarter-century of innovating heavy rock, noise, drone, J-pop, and genreless forays into bizarre sonic delights, how would you do it? If you said, “I’d release 69 heavy-as-hell minutes of rumbling tectonics and progressive scope making for one of the best albums of the year,” you’d seem to be on the money. The Japanese trio’s umpteenth full-length, Dear (on Sargent House in the US/EU and Daymare in Japan), begins with the appropriately-titled “D.O.W.N. – Domination of Waiting Noise,” setting forth a consuming six-minute onslaught of feedback and lumbering pummel before the SunnO)))-rivaling drone of “Deadsong” takes hold, shifting at its midpoint to a spaciousness all Boris‘ own. Then they chug out galloping riff triplets on “Absolutego” like it ain’t no thing. That’s Boris: the band who named themselves after a Melvins song and then utterly outdid their namesake on every creative level and have continued to do so throughout one of underground music’s most landmark tenures. Dear offers simultaneous melodic breadth and droning depth on its centerpiece duo of “Kagero” and “Biotope” after counteracting minimalist march with explosive crash on “Beyond,” but they’re still just getting started. The seven-minute “The Power” leads off the second of the two LPs and seems to stem upward from the same roots as YOB at their harshest, brutally feedbacking into the dronegaze of the shorter “Memento Mori” before the 12-minute “Dystopia – Vanishing Point” and the nine-minute title-track comprise a side D that’s nothing less than a triumphant lesson in how to meet your audience head-on right before you swallow them whole, setting its stage with keys and tribalist drums quickly before hypnotizing through five minutes of quiet stretch and bursting gloriously to life ahead of one last contrast of empty spaces and crushing tonality on “Dear” that gives way at last to the noise and feedback that’s always been so essential to their process. If Dear is a letter to Boris‘ fans, as they have said, it is also a willful embrace of the wide-open sensibilities that have made the last 25 years of their craft so uniquely their own. They can go anywhere stylistically and remain Boris precisely because they refuse to settle on a single idea that defines them.

Boris on Thee Facebooks

Boris at Sargent House’s website

 

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn

solstafir berdreyminn

Having now passed the 20-year mark since their founding in 1995, Iceland’s Sólstafir continue to reshape melancholy in their own image on their sixth album and third for Season of Mist, Berdreyminn. The Reykjavik-based four-piece keep the significant achievements of 2014’s Ótta (review here) close to the chest throughout the eight-track/57-minute offering, but songs like “Ísafold” have an upbeat push behind their emotional resonance, and even on a brooding piano piece like “Hvít Sæng,” the overarching sense of motion and the dynamic is maintained. The penultimate “Ambátt” — first of two eight-minute cuts in a finale duo — might be Berdreyminn‘s richest progressive achievement, with its lush opening vocal harmonies giving way to a patiently-delivered clinic on texture, build and payoff that borders on the orchestral. Of course, strings and horns to appear on the album, adding to already complex arrangements, but Sólstafir never lose their corresponding human center, and as “Bláfjall” closes with an intensity of thrust hinted at by the cymbal-crash wash of opener “Silfur-Refur” and the post-blackened push of “Nárós” but ultimately on its own level, they underline the realization and poise that is simply all their own. Berdreyminn is the sound of a band doing important work, and with it, Sólstafir only prove themselves more crucial on an aesthetic level, yet it might be their ability to somehow still feel in-progress that most defines what makes them so special. More than two decades on, they still come across like a group exploring their sound and finding new ways to develop their songwriting — which they are and which they do here. That in itself is an accomplishment worthy of every accolade they reap, and Berdreyminn lives up to that standard front to back across its engaging, encompassing span.

Sólstafir on Thee Facebooks

Sólstafir at Season of Mist’s website

 

Desert Suns & Chiefs, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter 5

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Ripple Music has made its The Second Coming of Heavy series of split LPs an essential showcase of the variety in underground rock. The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter 5 brings together San Diego heavy psych/blues rockers Desert Suns, who also reissued their debut long-player through Ripple in 2016 and followed it with the single “The Haunting” (review here) in conjunction with Ripple and HeviSike Records, and Phoenix, Arizona’s Chiefs, whose 2015 debut, Tomorrow’s Over (review here), arrived on vinyl via Battleground Records and whose five tracks included on side B here cast them among the best Ripple Music bands in the Southwest not currently signed to Ripple Music for their next album. More than some prior installments, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter 5 finds its two featured purveyors complementing each other’s work excellently, as Desert Suns offer three seven-plus minute tracks running from the harmonica-inclusive “Night Train” and the rolling, long-fading “Solitude” with the push of “Heavy” in between and Chiefs — though their individual runtimes are shorter — holding straightforward heavy/desert rock methods at their core in unpretentious fashion across “The Rhino,” the standout “Baron to Chancellor,” “Low Tide,” “Caroline” and “My Last Stand,” nodding initially at ’90s noise rock à la Helmet in “The Rhino” but in the end keeping to their sandy, well-structured mission. As ever, The Second Coming of Heavy asks nothing more of its audience than a basic exploration of the groups included, and certainly both Desert Suns and Chiefs earn that. Whether one takes it on in the context of the prior chapters or as a standalone split release, it delivers a collection of cuts from two outfits with a shared core of quality songcraft and the underlying message that sometimes the straight-line route is the way to go. Right on, once again.

Desert Suns on Thee Facebooks

Chiefs on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Elara, Deli Bal

elara deli bal

Both sides of Elara‘s PsyKa Records-released debut full-length, Deli Bal, are comprised of one shorter track on either side of eight minutes and one longer one, 12 and 17 minutes, respectively. Between that and the cover art, it should come as no surprise that heavy psychedelic drift is central to what the Stuttgart, Germany, trio of bassist/vocalist Daniel Wieland, guitarist/noisemaker Felix Schmidt and drummer Martin Wieland — who also stylize their name as the bracketed [Elara Sunstreak Band] — get up to in their first offering, but there’s an underlying progressive melodic sensibility as well, and Schmidt‘s guitar seems to have picked up a few lessons from My Sleeping Karma‘s minor-key solo mysticism, so one can hear a sound beginning to take shape early as the leadoff title-track gives way to “Amida,” which swaps back and forth between organ-laden krautrock meandering and fuller-fuzz thrust, and as “Quarantania” reinforces that classic vibe with a warm bass tone from Daniel. Whether you’re listening to the platter itself and switching sides or digitally or on CD, Deli Bal is clearly intended to be consumed as a whole work, and one can hear the vocal melody of “Harmonia” tying back to that in the opener as another example of the underlying structure with which it plays out, despite the broad feel of the songs themselves and the expanses they both intend and actually do cover. The LP has just the four tracks, but the digital version comes with the 9:42 bonus cut “Trimenon,” which builds around a core post-rocking guitar line to come to a fervent apex before receding again to let the listener go gently from Deli Bal‘s total 56-minute runtime; no minor undertaking, but effectively executed and a pleasure in its wandering mind and spirit.

Elara on Thee Facebooks

PsyKA Records on Bandcamp

 

Fungus Hill, Creatures

fungus hill creatures

This early-2017 psychedelic curio from Umeå, Sweden’s Fungus Hill begins by asking “Are You Dead?” The just-under-nine-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) of the groovy outfit’s four-song, self-released, 28-minute debut Creatures EP doesn’t sound overly concerned with whether the answer is yes or no so much as enacting a serene flow by posing the question over a laid back bluesy vibe. Arrangement? Fluid. With dual vocals from guitarist Gustav Orvefors and percussionist Jenny Isaksson — the five-piece is completed by guitarist Erik Sköld, drummer Nils Mörtzell and bassist Tom Westerlund — Fungus Hill are able to bring variety as they turn to post-Ghost straightforward ’70s chorus-leaning in the first half of “Beware of Evil in the Sky,” prior to a midsection trip outward on subdued shimmy and deceptively complex melodicism. The flute (or keyboard flute sounds) of the jazzy “Evolution” brings Isaksson to the floor with a smoky, even-bluesier feel, and the guitar answers back with fuzzy lead flourish that only enhances the soul on display, while a seven-and-a-half-minute closing title-track delves deepest of all into thicker riffing, a “Na na na na” hook taking hold quickly just in case you weren’t sure it was going to be a highlight. It is. More tonally dense than most retro boogie — and less retro, for that matter — Fungus Hill‘s Creatures nonetheless has its traditionalist elements, but across its individual pieces each one points to a different side of the band’s personality, and from the Alan Watts sample at the beginning of “Are You Dead?” to when we meet the troll later in “Creatures,” each side of that personality utterly shines.

Fungus Hill on Thee Facebooks

Fungus Hill on Bandcamp

 

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Merchant, Deamon’s Child, Derelics, Cosmic Fall & Aphodyl, Theta

Posted in Radio on July 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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Here in the States, today is Independence Day. It’s a day marked by fireworks and barbecues and ignoring all the heinous shit in which the nation has engaged over its 200-plus years of existence, and really before that as well, as a colonial enterprise, and so on. War, genocide, all that stuff. We don’t talk about it on Independence Day. Perhaps unsurprisingly, one of my favorite things to do on this day is listen to music. Really, that works for any day, but if I’m hanging out, I want some tunes on, so it seems only fair to have The Obelisk Radio going in the background, since as it happens I think the playlist is pretty reliable. If I do say so myself.

So, if this is my way of celebrating the Fourth of July, then fine. You’ll note it’s all a bunch of international bands. Ha. To see the full list of everything that hit the server today, click here.

The Obelisk Radio adds for July 4, 2017:

Merchant, Beneath

merchant beneath

With two massive, 14-minute-plus slabs of cosmic sludge viciousness, Melbourne four-piece Merchant offer the tonal siege and atmospheric cruelty of their Beneath EP, reaffirming the dual edges of space and claustrophobia that existed on 2016’s debut full-length, Suzerain (review here), and the YOB-circa-Catharsis influence that proved so central to that release. Here, “Guile as a Vice” dives into more extreme territory, with vocals buried beneath a rolling ball of molten lead, while “Succumbing” lives up to its name late in a marked devolution toward noise and feedback that feels like it’s peeling its own skin away to reveal the raw flesh underlying — pure abrasion and unwanting of anymore expression than its initial headbang-worthy slams or final howling minutes allow. A portrait of brutality brought forth in multiple shades, Beneath lives up to its name in how it seems to dig into its own execution, and even more than on Suzerain, one finds Merchant carving their identity from their pummeling, scathing take on familiar sonic aspects. “Guile as a Vice” and “Succumbing” are made all the more the band’s own by their unbridled nastiness and the skill with which the band wields it. They remain loaded with potential, but already across these initial outings, we’ve started to see that potential come to fruition. May it continue to do so.

Merchant on Thee Facebooks

Merchant at Black Bow Records’ Bandcamp

 

Deamon’s Child, Live im Lux

deamon's child live im lux

Tracked at a June 3, 2017, show at the Lux club in Hannover, Germany, Live im Lux brings seven tracks of Deutsche heavy punkers Deamon’s Child in a warts-and-all onstage context. That is, there’s no attempt to hide or mask anything about the set, flubs, righteous moments, any of it. It’s the show, as it happened. Plain and simple. They open with the thrust of “Zucker” and one finds the vocals of bassist Ana Muhi a little high in the mix, but the crowd eats it up whole, and along with guitarist Sven Missullis and drummer Tim MohrMuhi goes on to deliver highlight moments in the slower roll of “Lutscher,” the noise-infused starts and stops of “Geld” and the 11-minute exploration of “Nichts.” The majority of the material on Live im Lux comes from Deamon’s Child‘s 2016 second long-player, Scherben Müssen Sein (review here), and they give those songs a suitable roughing up throughout, right up until the calls from the crowd for an encore inspire a spirited rendition of that album’s opener, “Das Vogellied,” which is marked out by Mohr‘s thrash-worthy double-kick and the quick turns it prompts, somewhere between noise rock and metal and punk and heavy-impulse riffing, Muhi‘s vocals again at the center of the tumult. Live im Lux will probably serve as something of a curio for the band’s followers or those who were there to see the show — they’re DIY’ing a limited CDR pressing — but for anyone else who happens upon the stream, it’s going to be a welcome find.

Deamon’s Child on Thee Facebooks

Deamon’s Child on Bandcamp

 

Derelics, Guilty of Being Young

derelics guilty of being young

Not only does Guilty of Being Young have in common with Derelics‘ prior 2015 EP, Introducing (review here), that’s it’s three tracks, but in going from the six-minute “Guilty of Being Young” to the eight-minute “The Summer Song” to the five-minute “The (Wicked) Witch is Dead,” it follows the same timing pattern with just one minute trimmed off the closer. I don’t know whether the London trio had that kind of direct conversation between releases in mind when they put Guilty of Being Young together, but it comes accompanied by a marked shift in sound, pulling back on some of the aggressive edge that typified the debut in favor of a bright-toned bounce that recalls Zeppelin at their most pastoral jangle on the opener and swirls through garage-grunge moans on “The Summer Song” before “The (Wicked) Witch is Dead” mixes in some Soundgarden-ing vibes amid a tonal spread born of classic psychedelia and maybe just a touch of Blind Melon melodicism. Derelics swapped out bassists between the two short releases, bringing in Thom here alongside guitarist/vocalist Reno and drummer Rich, and while they still seem to be figuring out where they want to end up sound-wise, the progressive shift they’ve made on Guilty of Being Young has only made them more of a standout from the bulk of London’s crowded heavy underground, and the direction in which they seem to be headed fits remarkably well.

Derelics on Thee Facebooks

Derelics on Bandcamp

 

Cosmic Fall & Aphodyl, Starsplit

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The lesson of the PsyKA Records-issued Starsplit release from newcomer German outfit Cosmic Fall and the somewhat longer-running Aphodyl would seem to be pretty simple: If it’s not an improv-sounding psych-funk jam of at least 11 minutes in length, it can pretty much screw off. Both groups traffic in such wares, and as Cosmic Fall follow-up their single “Haumea” (premiered here) and their two quickly-arrived full-lengths, First Fall (discussed here) and Kick out the Jams (review here), and Aphodyl add to a slew of DVD and other live outings issued since their apparent founding circa 2013, immersion is the key that unites them. Across two LP sides — one per band — of 23 minutes each, Cosmic Fall and Aphodyl tap heartily into classic space/krautrock impulses and transfigure that elder progressive sensibility into an argument for a new wave of German hypnotic rock. Aphodyl get into some percussive nuance in the aptly-titled “Jam 2,” which is preceded by — you guessed it — “Jam 1,” while Cosmic Fall enact a more effects-driven swirl across “Overhead Intelligence” and “Blues at CME,” but it’s the far-out-far-outness of Starsplit as a whole that serves as the prevailing impression of the release, and those who would dig into an ever-expanding universe of kosmiche jamming will no doubt welcome the opportunity to lose themselves among the stars on this still-digestible stellar sampler, which offers lightyears of vibe in a laid back and molten complement.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Aphodyl on Thee Facebooks

PsyKA Records on Bandcamp

 

Theta, Obernuvshis’

theta Obernuvshis

Milan tone-crusher solo-outfit Theta makes its full-length debut with the curiously possessive Obernuvshis’, a five-track/46-minute lumber-laden offering of post-industrial doom that comes accompanied by the advice to “Listen at extremely loud volume only.” I’ll admit I didn’t, but multi-instrumentalist Mattia Pavanello (ex-Furor Gallico) got his point across anyway in the tectonics of opener “Travel Far into the Black Hole Depths,” which represents just the first steps along the grueling instrumental path toward 11-minute finale “Concrete and Foundation,” which though faster, would seem to summarize the mindset from which the project is working in the first place — setting its foundation in something remarkably solid and extremely heavy. Samples spread throughout about consumerism, religion, spirituality, etc., give songs like centerpiece “Butterfly’s Cycle” a critical edge, but as intentionally plodding as Obernuvshis’ is on the whole, it doesn’t necessarily feel heavy-handed in its social aspects, instead letting its heft do the talking when it comes to conveying a sense of being weighted down by modernity. And if one has to be dragged down by such things — which, yes, one invariably does; it’s called culture and there’s no escape from it — then the layers of noise-soaked riffing in “Harshness of A” and the vague edge of hope buried in the later lead guitar aren’t a bad way to go. Loud volume ultimately doesn’t hurt, but Theta‘s intentions ring clear one way or the other.

Theta on Thee Facebooks

Theta on Bandcamp

 

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