The six years since its release have done little to dull the luster of Lights from Paradise (review here), the second full-length from Toronto heavy psych conjurers Quest for Fire. Offered up through Tee Pee Records, its eight tracks continue to stand out for their lush tones, melodic resonance and memorable craftsmanship, and in their peaceful, patient approach, Quest for Fire distinguished themselves from the jammier tenets of post-krautrock Europsych and from the focus on heft that propelled much of what was happening in North America at the time. From the gentle opening of “The Greatest Hits by God” through the soaring guitar apex of closer “Sessions of Light,” Lights from Paradise stayed conscious of the spaces it was exploring, and assured the listener followed the band through a series of subtly infectious hooks, the shoegaze-style vocals of guitarist Chad Ross keeping the flow consistent on the more active “Strange Vacation,” the shuffling “Set out Alone” and “In the Place of a Storm,” the entire outing as molten as it was dreamy. As it still is dreamy.
I was fortunate enough to see Quest for Fire early in 2012 (review here), as they were supporting Naam and Monster Magnet, and though they were missing bassist Josh Bauman, who plays on the record, guitarist Andrew Moszynski, Ross (covering on bass), and drummer Mike Maxymuik (ex-Cursed) held true to the fluid vibe of this outing. When the album came out, I attributed some of its laid back sensibility to a Dead Meadow influence, which I stand by, but the depth of what Lights from Paradise has to offer by no means ends there. To wit, “Confusion’s Home,” which ends the first half of the record, brings down the uptick of pace from “Set out Alone” and “Strange Vacation,” but the softer roll that takes hold as Ross asks the question, “What’s another word for ‘being alive?'” and the interplay of acoustic and electric guitars, ride cymbal and underlying bass rumble is like jumping into warm water. Through side B opener “In the Place of a Storm,” the folkish “Psychic Seasons” and the build of “Hinterland Who’s Who,” Quest for Fire show breadth of style even as they affirm the core vibe, and the nine-minute “Sessions of Light,” with its “I Want You/She’s so Heavy”-worthy leads, is as glorious a finish as one could possibly ask.
Sadly, as much as Lights from Paradise seemed to mark the arrival of a band whose work could’ve become a representative staple of Canadian psychedelia, it would be Quest for Fire‘s last. The band broke up in 2013. By then, Ross had already released his Worldwide Skyline (review here) album with solo-outfit Nordic Nomadic, and the self-titled debut from Comet Control (review here), with Ross and Mosyznski (who also plays in Wrong Hole), surfaced in 2014, also on Tee Pee. That album took them to Europe alongside labelmates Harsh Toke, and the group recently teased the prospect of a follow-up with the inclusion of the space-rocking new track “Axid Rain” on Who Can You Trust? Records‘ Sweet Times Vol. 4 split. What their plans for the future might be, we’ll have to see when we get there.
Closing out the week and not really closing out the week at the same time, since as I type this I’m waiting for Psycho Las Vegas to announce the last of its headliners. Of course, today is April Fools, so maybe it’s coming and maybe it’s not, but either way, I’m keeping an eye out and will post accordingly.
Tomorrow I’m going — yes, I’m really going — to see Bongzilla with Black Cobra, Kings Destroy and Lo-Pan in Somerville, MA. The Obelisk is presenting the show (info here). You should come too.
I’m overdue for a podcast, and after the Quarterly Review this week, there’s plenty of stuff I’d like to share, so I’ll see if I can’t make that happen, but in addition to the review of tomorrow’s show, which I’ll post on Monday, I’ve also got a video premiere for Will Z., followed by a full-album stream from Red Wizard on Tuesday, a full EP stream from Cities of Mars on Wednesday, maybe a track premiere on Thursday and likely a full-album stream from Henryspenncer on Friday, so it’s pretty packed. Oh, and there’s an interview with Holy Grove that needs to go up too.
Speaking of the Quarterly Review — if you got to check out any of that, thank you. Those things are a genuine challenge to put together, but the opportunity to cover a range of stuff that I might not be able to otherwise is too much to let slip by. I’ll have the next one in late June/early July. I haven’t started planning it yet, but soon.
Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2013 by JJ Koczan
Put this one in your “Oh, What Could’ve Been” file. According to a post on their Thee Facebooks page, Toronto-based psychedelic dreamers Quest for Fire have decided to abandon the search. We told them that it’s winter and all our caveman asses will freeze if they don’t keep going, but then they reminded us that it’s the future and to go adjust the thermostat. Still a bummer.
If you never heard it, Quest for Fire‘s last album, 2010’s Lights from Paradise(review here), was frickin’ brilliant, all hazed out and shoegazing but thick in the low end and memorably hypnotic. It’s a shame they won’t get to follow it up, though I suppose if Chad Ross decides to dedicate more of his time to his Nordic Nomadic side-project — he released Worldwide Skylinein 2011 (review here) — that’s not exactly a tragic fate either.
Whatever happens, Quest for Fire was a good band and too bad they didn’t get to do more in their time. Please find the announcement in full below, its lack of capitalization maintained for posterity:
after 6 amazing years we have officially decided to call it quits. sorry to all the kind folks out there that were expecting a new record in 2013…. but we promise you, a few new bands are already in the works. good things on the horizon!
lots of great tours, good friends (old and new), good jams, heavy parties, and long roads, will be filed away, forever foggy and shining in our collective memories.
thanks for the love! QFF.
our last show will be at the horseshoe tavern in toronto, on february 15, 2013. some special guests will be announced shortly.
Posted in Reviews on January 16th, 2012 by JJ Koczan
There was a moment, as I made my way around the block of North 6th St. in Brooklyn last Friday night, that I thought I’d never be able to find parking, and that I would just spend the rest of my days driving in that circle, like something out of The Twilight Zone. Maybe it would be some bitterly ironic punishment for having one time inadvertently dicked someone out of a spot, masterminded by that person secretly like Saw. I don’t know. Either way, I was sure I’d never get to the Music Hall of Williamsburgin time to see Monster Magnet, Naam or Quest for Fire, let alone LadyKiller, who were opening the show.
Turns out the opener was the only act I actually missed. I wound up finding a spot right outside the Academy Records Annex and rushed down the block to the venue with just enough time to spare to get my ticket and head in for the start of Quest for Fire. I felt like I lucked out. The room wasn’t too full as they got going, and as they opened with “Greatest Hits by God” from 2010’s Lights From Paradise (review here), it seemed like the universe was suddenly in the business of doing me personal favors. Amazing how fickle luck can feel.
I remembered standing outside the Bat Cave at Roadburn while Quest for Fire played, getting up on the bench along the wall opposite the open door of the room and trying at least to soak in some of their set and being tragically unsuccessful. To see them now, especially alongside labelmates Naam, was enough for me to make the difference between catching Monster Magnet in Brooklyn or going one night later to see them at the Starland Ballroom on a bill populated by pay-to-play openers. Seems like an easy call, but when you factor rolling into Williamsburg on a Friday night, you gotta really like Quest for Fire to make that weigh out.
Playing on Naam‘s equipment, the Toronto psych rockers justified the trip — both mine and theirs. Their songs were heavier in person, and rawer without the layering that comes through so lush on Lights From Paradise and its 2009 self-titled predecessor. Part of that is probably due to the fact they were down a guitar. Chad Ross, who also handles vocals, was playing bass, but even with just Andrew Moszynski‘s guitar, their psychedelia was subdued and moody where it wanted to be and never out of control when heavy, and drummer Mike Maxymuik gave each piece a dynamic pulse.
When they finished, I went out front to look for their merch, hoping to find a copy of Worldwide Skyline from Ross‘ solo-project, Nordic Nomadic, or maybe some other goodies, but no such luck. Monster Magnet had a tour-exclusive EP called Dopes for $15 that I’m still not quite sure why I didn’t buy, and neither Quest for Fire or Naam had anything for sale. Oh well. I didn’t get a shirt either. Or beer. All things considered, it was a pretty austere night. A $4 bottle of water and gas on the way home. Go figure.
Having seen them twice at Santos Party House in Manhattan last year (here and here), I knew enough to be sure Naam would do well in the role of the hometown heroes, and joined by the keys that seem to be more and more a regular fixture, they did just that. I had been hoping for some new material and it came in the form of “Starchild,” the title-track of their next EP, reportedly due in May. I’d heard the song live before, but it’s grown some in the months since, both in jammed-out presence and actual length. Naam have done a fair amount of touring at this point (most recently in Europe with Black Rainbows), and it showed in their performance.
They didn’t play many songs for time constraints, but guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lugar seemed more at ease on stage and bassist Ryan Preston Bundy‘s vocals were both better mixed and more confident than any other time I’ve been fortunate enough to see the band play. If they’re the hometown heavy psych heroes, it’s because of the wandering they’ve done in the past.
And maybe it’s just because with the Monster Magnet kit backlined behind him he was pushed further toward the front of the stage, or maybe it was following Maxymuik, but drummer Eli Pizzuto seemed to be especially crisp in his performance. Through the newer stuff and Naam‘s standard closer, “Kingdom,” from the EP of the same name, his fills served more than basic percussive function, and his focus was intense to the point of intimidation. While Lugar had his sway to the riffs and Bundy was ready at a moment’s notice to tilt his head back and hoist his beard aloft like an offering to the gods of facial hair who’ve blessed him with it, Pizzuto a little bit looked like he wanted to kick someone’s ass, and the variation in stage presences among the four players on stage only enriched the experience of their set.
It was almost like two shows rolled into one, though. You had Naam and Quest for Fire on one side, and then Monster Magnet coming from somewhere else completely. Sure, this was the tour where they were performing 1995’s Dopes to Infinity in its entirety, and you won’t hear me deny that record is a classic of American heavy psych rock, but where Naam and Quest for Fire both feel like they’re just getting to that point in their careers, that they’re really getting a handle on their aesthetic and the creativity they can bring to the form, Monster Magnet have long since moved onto something different, sound-wise, so for them to revisit it in Brooklyn was, in light of everything they’ve done since on their subsequent and more straightforward hard rock records, a bit incongruous.
For example, after Naam was done, the mood in the room changed. It was packed by then — a diverse crowd of fans young and old, some hard rockers and some heavy rockers — and as Monster Magnet‘s crew set up and checked the gear, it was like the air got colder, more clinical. It’s been a long time now since Monster Magnet decided they were a professional band, and the thing about Dopes to Infinity and their material preceding it is that they weren’t really professional albums, so as the crew taped down setlists all over the stage on all four sides, taped down wires so they wouldn’t get tangled, shifted monitor positions and warmed up the amps for guitarists Garrett Sweeny (of Riotgod) and Phil Caivano and bassist Jim Baglino (also Riotgod), I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if Monster Magnet just came out and played?
I realize that at this stage in the band’s career, that’s an unreasonable expectation. It’s not what they’re about. They’re about a more commercial brand of hard rock — one with a bent in the songwriting that appreciates the structures of late ’60s and early ’70s classics and with no shortage of personality thanks to the lyrics and vocals of band founder and principal songwriter Dave Wyndorf — but still a huge step away sonically from the band’s beginnings. Once they got going following a long stretch of house lights down, no one on stage and sitar drones coming through the P.A., watching Monster Magnet in 2012 play Dopes to Infinity was like seeing a completely different band.
Because it was a different band. Their last connection to that era, apart from Wyndorf himself, was lead guitarist Ed Mundell, who left following the release of 2010’s Mastermind (review here). Rounded out by drummer Bob Pantella (also Riotgod and The Atomic Bitchwax), the latest Monster Magnet lineup around Wyndorf is built to rock the way new Monster Magnet rocks — and they’re good at it, but it’s enough of a difference from what they did on Dopes to Infinity to be notable and definitely affected their interpretations of the material on stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg.
One can’t really fault them for it, since they’re different musicians with different modes of playing than those that originally appeared on the album, and I won’t deny that Monster Magnet rocked the Dopes stuff hard, playing it out of the original order to better account for it being a live show and saving “Negasonic Teenage Warhead” for the encore. “Look to Your Orb for the Warning,” the title-track, “Dead Christmas” and “All Friends and Kingdom Come” were highlights as they are on the record, but the apex of the show came with “Third Alternative.” Wyndorf, ever one for killer stage banter, prefaced it by saying, “As this thing goes on, it gets darker — kinda like life, huh?” but then laughed it off and said, “But we won’t talk about that.” Why not? For a song that says, “I’ll stuff myself in a pit of darkness and slam till I can’t see home,” it’s not like there’s any beating around the bush going on. Own it.
That was the darkest part of their show, and among the most honest. Wyndorf nailed the delivery of the vocals — he called the song a “21st Century blues,” which was a little ironic since it came out in ’95 — and then left the stage as the band transitioned into the instrumental “Theme From ‘Masterburner'” before regular-set closer “King of Mars.” The crowd was in their pocket the whole time, and didn’t thin out at all when they finished “King of Mars” and went backstage, where they stayed long enough for me to get distracted and let my mind wander. It was late by most show standards these days, getting on 1AM, but there was no way I was missing the encore.
My perpetual hope is that at some point I’ll see them do “Spine of God” and have my consciousness fractured by it, spending the rest of my days in blissful, devastated catatonia. The reality — no doubt in part due to the circumstances of the band I described above — would no doubt be different, but if reason had anything to do with it, it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. Nonetheless, no such luck on the encore. They did “Negasonic Teenage Warhead,” a welcomed plodding rendition of Mastermind opener “Hallucination Bomb,” “Powertrip” and, naturally, “Space Lord,” their biggest hit and most unavoidable single. Even if they didn’t want to play it, they couldn’t not.
Wyndorf himself acknowledged this, giving the most concise summation I’ve ever heard of a band’s view on their own material. As Sweeny and Caivano began the riff to “Space Lord,” he said, “Obvious? Yes. Necessary? Yes!” He was right. For whatever reason, Monster Magnet had to do “Space Lord,” and everyone knew it was coming, and everyone dug the hell out of it. I spent all of the subsequent Saturday with the chorus ringing in my ears — it’s simply undeniable.
So too is Monster Magnet‘s legacy. They may have departed sonically the field in which their influence is most felt, namely heavy psych and stoner rock, but their stage presence in the current incarnation is remarkable, and the players with whom Wyndorf has surrounded himself are masters at what they do — Caivano and Sweeny on guitar, Baglino like some kind of born rock and roll salesman on bass and Pantella on drums. I left the show and went back to my car outside the Academy Annex, stared down the block at the luxury riverfront condos that stood where once there had been vacant lots and run-down warehouses, and had to recognize for a moment that nothing is static, nothing stays undeveloped and that to ask the present to be the past is foolish. Dopes to Infinity had its day, Monster Magnet were as faithful to it as they wanted to be 17 years later. You either enjoy it for what it was or sulk, and sulking seemed to me a waste of time.
Extra pics after the jump, and thanks for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 19th, 2011 by JJ Koczan
It must be showcase season, because New York imprint Tee Pee Records has announced a slew of label nights as they always do. And as per usual, they’ve put together a couple killer evenings of heavy psych and rock, which will take place as part of the Montreal Pop and CMJ fests. Fortunately, as you can see below, most of the bands playing the CMJ showcases in Brooklyn don’t have to travel too far to get there.
Here’s the news off the PR wire:
New York City-based independent rock label Tee Pee Records has announced plans to showcase at two of North America‘s most celebrated music festivals in the coming weeks. On Thursday, Sept. 22, Tee Pee will proudly showcase an array of its artists at the 10th annual Pop Montreal festival, an annual music festival occurring in Montreal, Quebec. Artists slated to appear include Canadian psychedelic rockers Quest for Fire, fast-rising Brooklyn stargazers Naam, Toronto hardcore punks Burning Love and Brooklyn “astral metal” band Elks.
The following evening (Sept. 23), Tee Pee will bring the family to Toronto, ON, with a supercharged show at The Silver Dollar Room. Quest for Fire and Elks will bring the rock and the whole shebang will conclude with a (super loud) performance from Naam.
Tee Pee will follow the Pop Montreal showcase and Toronto show with not one, but TWO showcases at the 32nd annual CMJ Music Marathon, set to take place Oct. 18-22 in NYC. Tee Pee will host the first of its CMJ showcases on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Brooklyn‘s SaintVitusBar and follow with a second evening of diverse Rock ‘N’ Roll on Friday, Oct. 21 at UnionPool.
The lineups for Tee Pee Records‘ 2011 CMJ showcases are as follows (check it out!):
Tee Pee Records CMJ (Night 1) Wednesday Oct. 19 at Saint Vitus Bar (1120 Manhattan Ave (between Clay St & Box St), Brooklyn, NY 11222 Featuring: Hopewell (Brooklyn, NY) Weird Owl (Brooklyn, NY) The Main Street Gospel (Columbus, OH) Nordic Nomadic (Feat. Chad Ross of Quest for Fire, Toronto, ON) Dead Stars (Brooklyn, NY)
Tee Pee Records CMJ (Night 2) Friday, Oct. 21 at Union Pool (484 Union Ave. # A, Brooklyn, NY 11211-3440) Featuring: Naam (Brooklyn, NY) Very Special Guest TBA (Brooklyn, NY) The Fucking Wrath (Montalvo, CA) Elks (Brooklyn, NY) Mirror Queen (Brooklyn, NY) Unstoppable Death Machines (Brooklyn, NY)
Not to steal thunder from this month’s just-posted podcast, but it just wouldn’t be a series if you missed an episode. Accordingly, here is the next batch of streams recorded live at this year’s Roadburn festival at the 013 Popcentrum in Tilburg, The Netherlands. Some cool stuff here from Voivod, Soilent Green,Blood Farmers and Black Mountain and a couple I didn’t get to see from The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble and Jesse Sykes, plus Quest for Fire, who packed out the Bat Cave, a second set from Dragontears (if you missed the first, it’s here), and a few more, so there’s lots to check out.
As always, these links come at the generosity of Walter and the Roadburn crew and were captured/mixed by Marcel van de Vondervoort and his team at Spacejam. Heartfelt gratitude to all parties involved.
I don’t really buy into the whole Record Store Day thing. It’s cool that the website has a map I can find stores on wherever I go, but honestly, I don’t buy vinyl and just about every payday is “record store day” for me. As an institution, I think the record store is something worth saving, which is why I go to record stores and spend my money on a regular basis. Well, that and the records, anyway.
As I’ve been out of the country three Record Store Days in a row, I thought I’d do a little pre-shopping this year and while I was in Connecticut for the weekend earlier this month, I swung by my favorite shop in the state, Redscroll Records in Wallingford. It’s always good to know you’re on friendly ground, and when I walked in, they were playing Black Pyramid‘s self-titled album, so I immediately felt at home. Time before last, if you’ll recall, it was Sleep‘s Dopesmoker.
It doesn’t quite match the batch of discs I pulled in last time I was there in the fall, but I still managed to find some good stuff. I grabbed yet another Monster Magnet promo CD — it’s amazing how many there are floating around — called Five Reasons to Testify that has the awful God Says No shot of them with Dave Wyndorf‘s metal codpiece on the front (I’m not even going to show it, as well as the first Firebird record, the first Quest for Fire and the 1999 Bong Load Custom Records issue of Fireball Ministry‘s Où est la Rock? Not a bad haul, all told.
The Firebird I’d picked up at the band’s merch table at Roadburn 2009, but that was the European reissue and this was the original on The Music Cartel, so I couldn’t resist. When I reviewed the second Quest for Fire album, Lights from Paradise, I said that I’d have to go back and buy the first, and it was good to do that, although I think I prefer the second anyway. I couldn’t remember if I owned the Fireball Ministry or not, but decided to take the chance anyway and it paid off. The record kind of rules. Very Fu Manchu, except maybe for the Obsessed-esque “Death Dealer,” which actually features Guy Pinhas on bass, but enjoyable throughout. Probably the most stoner rock of all their albums, which suits me just fine.
There’s a hole punched in the UPC of the Fireball Ministry, which means it was probably someone’s promo, and I always think that’s interesting, and wonder who got the record initially, what they did or didn’t do with it and how they came to sell it. Every time I get emailed another link to download a new release, I get that “born too late” feeling. I’ve gotten plenty in my day, don’t get me wrong, but when I think of the shit that could have come in my mail (all those Monster Magnet promos, for one) and all the silver-backed bootleg CDs I could have bought in the pre-CDR era, I get a little sad. I guess we make the most with what we’ve got. It’s fun hunting this stuff down, anyway.
Most likely I’ll be back at Redscroll before too long, but just figured I’d share anyway, since it’s a quality store and deserves to have the word spread about it as much as possible. Check them out here if you haven’t yet, or find them on that Facebook the kids love so much.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 25th, 2011 by JJ Koczan
To be fair, they probably could have milked this for more than one press release. Nonetheless, venerable NYC imprint Tee Pee Records has made public its plans for both this year’s SXSW music festival and a considerably sized European tour that will take its bands through Roadburn and beyond.
Before I give it all away, here’s the PR wire:
Tee Pee Records is proud to announce the details for its 2011 South by Southwest (SXSW) label showcase. The independent record company will spotlight its diverse family of artists on Friday, March 18 at Headhunter’s (720 Red River Street, Austin, TX). This year’s lineup will feature Iron Age (Austin, TX), Sweet Apple (feat. Dinosaur Jr.‘s J Mascis), Night Horse (Los Angeles, CA), Lecherous Gaze (ex-Annihilation Time; Oakland, CA), Weird Owl (Brooklyn, NY) and The Main Street Gospel (Columbus, OH) and marks the 10-year anniversary of Tee Pee‘s annual SXSW “rock party.”
This April, Tee Pee will highlight its roster with its first ever European label tour, which will kick off on April 5 in Wiesbaden, Germany and will be headlined by stoner rock legends The Atomic Bitchwax. Also performing will be fast rising New York heavy psych band Naam, Toronto-based psych rock band Quest for Fire and NYC rockers Mirror Queen, rounding out the bill.
The 2011 Tee Pee European label tour itinerary is shaping up as follows: Tee Pee Records 2011 European Tour
04/05 Wiesbaden, Germany Schlachthof
04/06 Vienna, Austria Arena
04/07 Würzburg, Germany Cafe Cairo
04/08 Dresden, Germany Groovestation
04/09 Hohenstein, Germany Schützenhaus
04/10 Berlin, Germany Magnet
04/11 Hamburg, Germany Molotow
04/12 Marburg, Germany KFZ
04/13 Dortmund, Germany Piano
04/14 Tilburg, Netherlands * Roadburn Festival (feat. The Atomic Bitchwax, Naam, Quest for Fire)
04/15 Jena, Germany Rosenkeller
04/16 Salzburg, Austria Black
04/17 Millstatt, Austria Bergwerk
04/18 Maribor, Slovenia Dvorana Gustaf-Pekarna
04/19 Torino, Italy United Club
04/20 Brescia, Italy Latte & Live
04/21 Luzern, Switzerland Sedel
04/22 Winterthur, Switzerland Gaswerk
04/23 Weil der Stadt, Germany JH Kloster
04/24 Paris, France Nouveau Casino
04/25 Rotterdam, Netherlands Baroeg
04/26 Antwerpen, Belgium Trix
04/27 London, UK Underworld
Well, now that the forums are back online and everything seems to be working in the back end of the blog proper as well, I thought it was only fair to close out the week. A little psychedelia for your Sunday from what I think was one of the year’s best records in the genre: Quest for Fire‘s Lights from Paradise. The song is “Greatest Hits by God.” Hope you enjoy.
Next week is Xmas, but we’ll pick up the top 20 of 2010 countdown with number eight, and keep moving despite holidays and the rest of it. I’ll also have an EPIC interview with Victor Griffin of Place of Skulls/Death Row/Pentagram fame in which he opens up about his spiritual beliefs, working with Bobby Liebling on the new Pentagram and much more, so please, stick around for that. I was on the phone with the guy for over an hour spread across two days and I really think it’s one of the best interviews to come on this site yet. I’m very excited.
If you’re reading this, thanks. I’m sorry about the glitch in the forums that caused them to bite it, and like I said yesterday, I’m going to do my best to see that doesn’t happen again. Database backups abound!
Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I’ll be on the couch reading and listening to music with the little dog Dio for as much of today as possible, and tomorrow we’ll pick back up with reviews and regular posting. I look forward to it.