Six Dumb Questions with Esben Willems

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on June 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

esben-willems-photo-Hank-Henrik-Oscarsson

Swedish tone-crushers Monolord recently finished work on their impending third album, which will be out later this year via RidingEasy Records. For drummer Esben Willems, the accomplishment is two-fold. In addition to playing, Willems also engineered — a credit he shares with guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger and bassist Mika Häkki — and mixed and mastered. This was done behind the board in the capacity of Berserk Audio, the nom de guerre under which Willems has helmed projects not only for his own outfits Monolord and formerly Marulk, but many others over the years including Långfinger, Vokonis and Cities of Mars.

Unsurprisingly, as Monolord‘s reputation has grown, that of Willems‘ capacity as an engineer has done likewise, and Berserk Audio has become more established as a result. Founded on principals of flexibility and passion — and coffee, of course — the studio is as mobile as the hard-touring Willems himself, and that’s fortunate, because as Monolord make ready to release the aforementioned new full-length, they’ve already announced a co-headlining Fall 2017 European tour with Conan (dates here) that will follow stops this summer at Stoned from the Underground in Germany, SonicBlast Moledo in Portugal, and so on.

A busy schedule, however, is the lifesblood of a recording engineer, and it would seem Willems‘ position is the more the merrier. Right on. Though he was interviewed here around the 2015 release of the second Monolord album, Vænir (review here), which was followed by the 2016 two-songer EP, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze (review here), the work he’s done in bringing Berserk Audio to fruition isn’t to be underestimated, and it was high time to give due attention to this side of Willems‘ creative persona, which I hope the Q&A below does, at least in some measure.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

berserk audio logo

Six Dumb Questions with Esben Willems

How did you get your start in recording? What were some of your early projects and how did your technique develop? Do you have a philosophy when it comes to tracking bands or is each project different in what it requires from the engineer?

My first steps in recording was when I moved out of my parents’ house and to a different town in the early ‘90s, where I soon spent all free time in a rehearsal complex. After spending most of my childhood caught in uninspiring music theory in the local municipal music school – I’ve forgotten almost all of that, haha – I finally met likeminded people who just played music with focus on the music, not the strict theory behind it. That was a real eye-opener for me; I’ve been fascinated with the band format since before I even knew how to phrase that, and to be in an environment that was based on constant curiosity, testing, jamming, constantly forming new bands and side-projects, was pure inspiration. I learned so much more about music during those years than all previous years confined inside the make-believe rules of how music should be executed. The latter is still very mechanic to me; I think that mediating a feeling, a mood, a story, is the essence of music, regardless of genre. That’s still always the base of everything music related I do.

Anyway, that rehearsal complex was where I first started playing around with recording. The place had a small and very basic recording studio. One tiny recording room and one even tinier control room. The equipment wasn’t much more than a handful of crusty SM57’s and 58’s and a 4-track cassette recorder (constant creative mixdowns to get the channels you wanted, haha). That was it. We had so much fun at that house, I’m equally happy and sad that all those endless recording sessions are long gone.

Regarding my technique – if I really have any – I think that developed by the boundless and playful atmosphere at that place. Trying to capture a death metal session properly with a half broken 4-track machine forces your mind to come up with creative solutions. I still like to work that way, I’ve always felt that a certain amount of limitations is a good thing. It forces inspiration.

That also applies when recording different bands. All bands and all musicians are of course very different, with different references and experiences. So I don’t believe much in having a work template, apart from always – always – having a reliable supply of fresh coffee where I work.

Tell me about Berserk Audio. Did you build the studio? How did it all come together? What is the atmosphere like, what’s the layout of the rooms and how do you feel like the studio has developed over the last couple years as you’ve been doing more and more work there?

When I first started working professionally with audio I was aiming at building my own studio, and I wanted to do it by first being an apprentice at one or more established studios. I got the dream chance at a place I don’t want to name here, but it was everything I could ever hope for as a newly-graduated sound tech – welcoming atmosphere, fully booked with professional bands, great acoustics and equipment; and, I got the offer very early on to work there part time. But, the majority of bands recording there played a genre I just couldn’t stand, or understand, which is even more important. Also, the recording method was everything I feel takes the music out of music; sound replacing and quantizing drums, autotuning vocals, cut-and-paste editing in the mix and so on. So, after some grueling soul searching I came to the conclusion that it would kill my passion for music over time and I also wouldn’t do a proper job, since I wouldn’t be able to judge when the material was what the bands wanted. “Is this mechanic and sterile enough for you guys?” might not be the question a band wants. But with that said, I’m fully aware of that’s how the main part of the recording industry works and that it makes things very hard to exclude those studios.

But, I finally made the decision that most aspiring sound techs would feel was stupid: I kindly quit the apprenticeship at that studio, got freelance audio work at intensely boring conferences and invested in a small but efficient portable studio rig. I felt that if recording music that would just make me bitter, I might as well have a boring and undemanding day job and focus on recording bands I liked and with that contribute to a relevant production. That was over a decade ago and I haven’t regretted it once.

Of course I’d love to have my own studio, but never at the expense of the passion for music. I currently have a collab with a really cool place here in Gothenburg called Studio Svavel, which I rent when needed.

What have been some of your favorite projects to work on? Do you have a preference between recording, mixing and mastering?

I think my favorite projects are the ones where I’m part of the entire process, all the way from the rehearsal space. As I see it, most of the work should be done before entering the studio. Writing and selecting material, arranging, pre-production, discussions about sound, mood and feel of the production and so on. Most bands don’t have the possibility to rent a studio for a few months and just enter it with a blank slate, so in order to make the most of the time bands pay me for, I always emphasize the importance of that. If you’re well prepared, you’re actually able to compete with the bands that have all the studio time in the world. And the listener will never know or care about your budget. They’re gonna compare you with any and all of their favorite bands regardless.

That’s where that true essence of music comes in again. If your band is well rehearsed with songs you stand behind and your band sounds like an unbreakable unit – as opposed to a collection of humans just playing correctly in time – you actually will be able to make an album that kicks ass in spite of the ever-limited budget and time.

How has it been for you to record your own band? Is there a difference in how you approach working with Monolord as opposed to other acts? How do you coax a great performance out of a bandmate as opposed to someone who has hired you to work as a producer?

It’s weird and great. It’s inevitable that there’s a difference, since I’m one of the band members. But when we record, we all produce it collectively. We’re all part of the entire recording process. So in some ways the recording part doesn’t differ that much from everything else we do in the band. And the coaxing, I guess that’s a mutual three-way process, haha. When I tell my drum kit to go fuck itself, I rely on Thomas and Mika to filter my anger. And that goes the other way around as well.

The only part where I work alone is during mixing and mastering. But I constantly update my bandmates online, so they’re very much part of that process as well.

Recording your own band makes it a bit harder to be objective and to kill your darlings. But I enjoy that challenge. I’ve learned a lot from it through the years.

You recently finished mixing the third Monolord album. What’s the status of that release now? When can fans expect it to come out and what’s in store this time around from the band? How does splitting your time with being on the road and in the studio affect your ability to take on more recording jobs?

I really wish I could tell you everything about, but we’ll announce all details shortly. What I can tell you is that musically it’s groovier and more dynamic, in all aspects. Still misanthropic and still rumbling, though. The humanity is broken and this is our safety valve, as always.

The mixing and mastering is done and the album will be released in all its glory later this year. Hope you’ll like it!

Being a touring musician and also a studio leprechaun is actually the perfect combo. When I can, I work from home, which means I only have a deadline to consider. I’m not a fan of daily routines when it comes to working hours, so that fits me and my family life just perfectly. And my world is a world without borders, so I can easily have clients all over the planet. And when it comes to mixing and mastering they can easily hire me without insane travel expenses. I’m old enough to have grown up in an internet-free world, so I love the possibilities that has opened up thanks to the online community culture. Borders and flags are war tools. I’d rather work past them.

Who’s next in the studio? Any other recordings coming up, closing words or other plans you want to mention?

Next up is always working on new stuff with Monolord. That’s an ongoing process, so we’re always fiddling with ideas, regardless of actual future plans.

But apart from that, I have a few mastering projects this week I’m gonna sink my teeth into. I break every rule possible when I master and I’m sure most audiophiles would like to subject me to public torture, but the clients I’ve worked with seem to hear things the way I do, so I keep getting requests to do the things I do with their music.

And, with some actual free time for the first time in forever, I’m gonna start working on some side solo stuff that’s been rattling in the back of my head for a while. I have no idea what will come of it.

Monolord, “Lord of Suffering” official video

Berserk Audio on Thee Facebooks

Monolord on Thee Facebooks

Monolord on Twitter

RidingEasy Records website

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Conan & Monolord Announce Co-Headlining European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Goodness gracious this is going to be heavy. If you live somewhere in Europe they’re not hitting or in the US and you’re jealous that Conan and Monolord won’t be co-headlining their way across your particular country this time around, don’t worry. I’m pretty sure wherever you’re at you’ll be able to hear them anyway. Just put your ear to the ground — not in a dirty or wet spot; nothing gross — and listen for the rumble. That’s them. Can’t miss it.

I don’t know who had the idea to pair up the UK riff destroyers with the Swedish masters of nod, but yeah, good work. You get a gold sticker. Conan, of course, are still out supporting early-2016’s Revengeance (review here), and this will mark their second European run of 2017 and follow a recent Obelisk-presented US stint that included a stop at Maryland Deathfest. For Monolord, they go heralding the arrival of their third album, newly completed and awaiting the publication of its release details. Presumably by the time October comes around, we’ll know when and how the record will be out even if we don’t yet.

You’ll note the included slots here at Desertfest Belgium 2017 in Antwerp and Keep it Low 2017 in Munich. I wouldn’t be surprised if another fest or two got added, time permitting. Poster and currently announced dates follow, as hoisted from the social medias:

conan monolord tour

Conan and Monolord – Co-Headline Fall 2017 European Tour

CONAN & MONOLORD live dates:
07.10.17 NL – Nijmegen / Soulcrusher II – Doornroosje
08.10.17 FR – Paris / GLAZART
09.10.17 FR – Nantes / La Scène Michelet
10.10.17 FR – Bordeaux / VOID // BDX
11.10.17 ES – Barcelona / Razzmatazz 3
12.10.17 ES – San Sebastian / Dabadaba
13.10.17 FR – Lyon / Jack Jack
14.10.17 FR – Audincourt / Le Molodo
15.10.17 BE – Antwerp / Desertfest Antwerp 2017
16.10.17 DK – Aarhus / Atlas
17.10.17 DE – Hamburg / Bambi galore
18.10.17 DE – Berlin / Musik & Frieden
20.10.17 DE – Bischofswerda / Morbvs Maximvs
21.10.17 DE – Munich / Keep It Low Festival 2017
22.10.17 CZ – Prague/Brno / Kabinet MÚZ
23.10.17 AT – Vienna / DasBACH
24.10.17 CH – Olten / Coq d’Or
25.10.17 IT – Bologna / Freakout Club
26.10.17 IT – Milan / Bloom
27.10.17 CH – Winterthur / Gaswerk
28.10.17 DE – Siegen / The VORTEX

Poster by Error! Design

https://www.facebook.com/conancavemanbattledoom/
http://www.hailconan.com
napalmrecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/napalmrecords/

https://www.facebook.com/monolordsweden/
twitter.com/MonolordSweden
https://monolord.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/

Conan, “Throne of Fire” live at Maryland Deathfest 2017

Monolord, Vænir (2015)

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Shooting Guns to Release Flavour Country Aug. 11 on RidingEasy

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Canadian leftfield psych rockers Shooting Guns have announced an Aug. 11 release date for their third album, Flavour Country, through venerable Californian imprint RidingEasy Records. Last heard from with their 2015 split with Zaum, Himalaya to Mesopotamia (review here), the six-piece last issued a long-player in 2013’s Brotherhood of the Ram, which was the follow-up to 2011’s Born to Deal in Magic: 1952-1976, but as one will they’ve had a slew of shorter offerings out along the way. Still, they’re about due, and preorders should start for Flavour Country any day now, since RidingEasy is nothing if not on top of that kind of whathaveyou. Keep an eye out.

Details are pretty slim on the album itself in terms of tracks, audio, etc., but there’s art and some preliminary background to go on. Wouldn’t you know, here it is:

shooting-guns-flavour-country

Shooting Guns – Flavour Country

Our 3rd studio album is coming out Aug 11th on RidingEasy Records! Recorded at Pre-Rock Records HQ, “Flavour Country” takes the SG sound to a lot of new places with pre-sales/previews coming next week!!

Shooting Guns provide the perfect soundtrack for the morning after the apocalypse, when you are sitting in the rubble of your home in a bathrobe and think, ‘What should I do now?’ and end up zoning out for hours in a psychedelic trance instead of making a survival plan. Bad move on your part, because you are probably going to die. Shooting Guns are hard at work fortifying the heavy end of the psychedelic spectrum. Hailing from the subarctic wasteland of Saskatoon, SK, they haunt the foggy moor between Sabbath-styled doom riffery and heavy pulse-riding kraut-rock.

Their debut LP, Born To Deal In Magic: 1952-1976, was nominated for the Polaris Prize in 2012 and the 2nd LP, Brotherhood of the Ram, was released in Oct 2013.

Shooting Guns is:
Keef
Laramee
Jay Loos
Jim Ginther
Toby Bond
Zach Low
Brennan Barclay

http://shootingguns.ca/
https://www.facebook.com/shootinggunsband/
https://shootingguns.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ridingeasyrecs.com/product-category/bands/shooting-guns/

Shooting Guns, Himalaya to Mesopotamia split with Zaum (2015)

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Review & Track Premiere: Blackout, The Horse

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

blackout the horse

[Click play above to stream ‘Let ’em Ride’ from Blackout’s The Horse. Album is out May 26 via RidingEasy Records.]

It’s only been two years since Brooklynite three-piece Blackout made their debut on RidingEasy Records with their self-titled full-length (review here), but clearly the riff-rolling tonebearers have been through some changes in that stretch. Their third album, The Horse, arrives via the same label — their first outing was 2013’s independently-released We are Here (review here) — and basks in much of the same irreverent attitude showcased by its predecessors, but also marks the arrival of new drummer Adam Taylor (ex-Ghost Punch), who joins founding guitarist/vocalist Christian Gordy and bassist Justin Sherrell in replacement of Taryn Waldman, who left the band shortly before the writing started up again.

Whether that might or might not have fed into a more aggressive overall take on the part of Blackout for the eight-song/38-minute LP, which was recorded last September in Brooklyn at Spaceman Sound over a period of four days, I don’t know, but the narrative (blessings and peace be upon it) positions The Horse alongside harder-edged New York fare like Cro Mags and Judge, in mindset of snarl if not actual aural impression. That’s probably fair. Even when the Northeast tries to be chill, it can seem impatient about it, and through the raw riffing of “Let ’em Ride” and the chuggy lumber of “Mean Pads,” Blackout do seem to hone in on a particular grit to go along with their thrust, but with Gordy‘s vocals buried as ever and echoing up from under his guitar and Sherrell‘s bass, and a stomper like “Rat Spirit” to provide a nodding cornerstone at the album’s halfway point, mostly Blackout just sound like Blackout. Whether you’ve heard them before or not, that’s nothing to complain about.

What it means is that in a sea of newer-school heavy riffing — the roster of RidingEasy alone finds post-Sleep comparison points in Austin’s The Well — Blackout are managing to concoct a sound across the span of The Horse that stands them out. They’re becoming a more identifiable and individualized band. If being “more New York” is a part of what’s making that happen, then it’s only serving them well. The album’s opener, “Graves,” begins with a stretch of nasty feedback before Taylor‘s drums kick it into the first of many righteous grooves to come, opening up for the verse but held together by toms and rumble for the duration and given further sense of space through Gordy‘s caveman howling. Cro-magnon, indeed.

This straightforward attack has been a big part of Blackout‘s appeal for the better part of the last half-decade, but as “Graves” gives way to “Let ’em Ride” with its play between downer thud and shove, there is growth in songcraft to be heard even from where the three-piece was on Blackout, and a new dynamic with Taylor on drums is unquestionably part of that. “Let ’em Ride” seems about to drift into a wash of chaotic noise just before its final minute, but rights itself around its central riff and crashes to a cohesive, willfully sloppy end to make way for the 2:25 “Roach Bites,” a faster and more all-go of a song which, if anything is tying The Horse to NYC’s small-room-circle-pit past, is what’s doing it.

blackout

Somewhat telling that they immediately counter with “Rat Spirit” — roaches and rats; hey, we are in New York! — which is arguably the biggest-sounding plod the record has to offer, but in playing the contrast directly amid a consistency of tone and overall approach, Blackout do nothing that interrupts the flow or well-established momentum of the record and instead only broaden their stylistic reach, once again sounding more like themselves in the process even as they expand on what that means.

If that sounds like the best case scenario for a band coming to fruition on their third album, it kind of is, but The Horse is too barebones in its approach to sound like some grand arrival, and that’s clearly the point. As it moves into side B, “Amnesia” kicks in with a riff that foreshadows the eight-minute closing title-track to come and embarks on another mid-paced headbang of the sort one found in stretches of “Let ’em Ride” — aggro, sure, but not at the cost of groove and somewhere between “Roach Bites” and “Mean Pads,” another sub-three-minute pile drive that seems to interrupt its own count-in in its rush to get to the meat of its riff. No time to waste. “Mean Pads” winds up being an excellent example of Blackout‘s particular blend of spaciousness and crunch on The Horse, the vocals being so far back and the guitar, bass and drums at the fore, but at 2:36 it’s there and gone and the six-minute “Holy Wood” has taken hold such that on first listen one might miss its appeal. Subsequent visits it is.

A tense chug defines the early going of “Holy Wood,” coming to a maddening cacophony before the two-minute mark only to ease back into a nodding verse and trade between the two sides for the duration, ending in a crash and feedback to highlight the tossoff sensibility so much of The Horse seeks to convey, even if it undercuts this impression through its own thought-out construction. That duality comes into play in the finale as well, which at eight minutes seems to cut itself in half between a clunked initial progression not so dissimilar from the rest of the outing preceding and the big slowdown that occurs just before its midpoint that leads at last to the wash of noise, lead-guitar fuckall and cavernousness that The Horse has been threatening all along. Blackout ride this payoff until about seven minutes in and spend the final stages of the closer essentially disintegrating into amp noise, the drums and bass dropping out to leave a fading feedback as the last element to go much as it was the first element to arrive. Important to know where your foundation lies.

And Blackout clearly do. As they come into their own and continue despite their personnel shift to release a full-length (suitably enough) on the odd-year, they in no way lose sight of their post-Melvins/Sleep beginnings in density of distortion and a seemingly sans-frills delivery that nonetheless shows growth from one offering to the next. That actually is the best of both worlds when it comes to a group hitting their stride, and so it seems that might just be what Blackout are doing as they establish this new lineup in these tracks. It may be 2019 before we really understand the context of The Horse‘s stripped-down approach, but the songwriting and execution GordySherrell and Taylor bring to bear here feels like a landmark for them all the same.

Blackout on Thee Facebooks

Blackout on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records website

RidingEasy Records on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Twitter

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Track Premiere: Brown Acid: The Fourth Trip Sampler Megamix by Ben Westbeech

Posted in audiObelisk on April 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

brown-acid-the-fourth-trip

It would’ve been really easy for the Brown Acid compilation series to go the way of many, many others in either becoming academic retreads or simply fizzling out. Much to its credit, it’s done neither. Brown Acid: The Fourth Trip, out April 20 via RidingEasy Records, is as the title suggests the fourth installment in the collection focused on the years immediately following the heyday of psychedelia — circa 1970-1975 — which it has alternately called the “comedown era” or, as on the cover here, the “Underground Comedown.”

Whatever the name given, it’s that vision of the early ’70s that we see Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke explain in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: the darker years that followed in the wake of the Summer of Love when the war kept going and distortion got meatier. Brown Acid: The Fourth Trip basks in this vibe in the heavy blues of “Carry Me On” by Headstones and “Oceans Inside Me” by Stone Garden and groups included like Bungi, Axas and Zekes — the latter who are making their second appearance in the series with the eight-minute, cowbell-infused, Leaf Hound-style raw jam “Comin’ Back” at the outset of side B — set up a flow across the 10-track/35-minute LP span that’s as much about feeding one groove into the next as it is giving its audience of the converted among the converted a “betcha never heard this before” challenge. To wit, the full tracklisting:

VA, Brown Acid: The Fourth Trip:
01. Kanaan, “Leave It”
02. Stone Garden, “Oceans Inside Me”
03. Headstones, “Carry Me On”
04. Wrath, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fever”
05. Bungi, “Numbers”
06. Erving Forbush, “The Train”
07. Zekes, “Comin’ Back” (previously unreleased)
08. Bad Axe, “Coachman”
09. Ash, “Warrant”
10. Axas, “Lucifer”

As ever for Brown Acid, the prevailing sensibility throughout is one of careful curation made to sound like someone’s just putting on rad singles they found one after the other, like a DJ set where the guy actually out-obscures the room instead of just putting on Atomic Rooster‘s “Death Walks Behind You” and desperately looking around for knowing nods of approval. Working in tandem with Los Angeles’ Permanent RecordsRidingEasy sets up these rarities not to show them off as trophy acquisitions, and not as lessons for their audience in the origins of riffs — because damn it, by now the audience for this stuff knows where riffs come from — but as explorations of cool heavy vibes and songs that kick ass.

I’m not even sure how, but Brown Acid: The Fourth Trip manages to be the heavy ’70s “lost tracks” comp that doesn’t come across as self-important or over-inflating in terms of its celebration of its contents. Nobody’s claiming the wah-soaked leads of Kanaan‘s “Leave It” invented anything. Nobody’s shying away from how much Axas‘ “Lucifer” owes directly to Black Sabbath‘s “N.I.B.” All that stuff is right there for the listener to hear. Whether it’s the motor-chug of Wrath on “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fever” (they have pills for it now), or the crotch-thrust boogie of Erving Forbush‘s “The Train,” the progression of songs wants neither in energy nor flow, and that only serves to emphasize the underlying effort put into making this chapter in the apparently-ongoing series. They make it sound easy. One doubts it actually is.

To herald the comp’s arrival — again, on April 20 — RidingEasy and Ben Westbeech have put together a 12-minute sampler platter of what’s in store on Brown Acid: The Fourth Trip, and today I have the pleasure of unveiling the thing, which runs through the included tracks and ties them together with old biker-movie samples (which are not actually featured on the comp itself). You can check it out in its entirety below, followed by more info from RidingEasy off the PR wire about the process of making this beast happen.

Hope you enjoy:

If you thought we were getting close to the end of the Brown Acid series with our last Trip, you were dead wrong…we’re only just getting rolling. The well of privately released hard rock, heavy psych, and proto-metal 45s is deep and we are nowhere near tapped out. Most of these records were barely released and never properly distributed so they ain’t easy to find, but they’re out there if you’re willing to dig…and we aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty. Hard calluses have formed from handling the shovel and we’ve sifted through a lot of dirt, but we’ve dug up another ten tremendous records to share with all the heavy heads out there. This volume brings together eight insanely rare and skull-crushingly heavy 45s as well as two previously unreleased bangers.

You may remember the Zekes’ jaw dropper “Box” from the First Trip. If you don’t, you better go back and refresh your memory, you stoner. That song rips! And so does this previously unheard recording we legally obtained from the Beverly Hills records vaults. “Comin’ Back” is the longest tune we’ve yet to include on this series and it’s a full-on rager! The only surviving copy of this recording came to us on the original 1/4″ master tape from Hollywood’s long-defunct Demars & Duffy Music. We did our best to preserve the recording and we think you’ll appreciate the rawness.

There have been numerous groups named Bad Axe over the years, but the one you hear here is the baddest. This five-piece fresh outta high school kicked out this jam (and a few others) in a Chicago studio in 1973 just for the hell of it. As a garage band, they were previously named The Burlington Express and they went on to be known as Bitch, but these dudes hit their stride as Bad Axe and “Coachman” is their crowning achievement. It went completely unreleased until 2014 when Permanent Records issued it and “Poor Man, Run” as a limited edition 45 with a killer picture sleeve. It’s long out-of-print and only obtainable now on Brown Acid.

The rest of the records included on this volume vary in rarity, but at least two of them were virtually unknown until we discovered them. You’ll win the lottery before you find copies of all of the original 45s in even the best record stores. Many of the records included in this volume are owned only by the members of the bands and some of the band members don’t even have personal copies. That’s just how hard these guys hit it back in the day! We’re lucky some of these guys are still alive and well enough to give us permission to use their masters.

RidingEasy Records website

RidingEasy Records on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Twitter

RidingEasy Records on Soundcloud

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Blackout Set May 26 Release for The Horse; Stream New Track “Graves”

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I’ll admit I was under the impression that Brooklyn three-piece Blackout were done. Seems like it wasn’t just me, either. The NYC trio lost drummer Taryn Waldman following the 2015 release of their self-titled long-player (review here), which was their debut on RidingEasy and their second overall behind the 2013 We are Here 12″ (review here), and I guess when I stopped seeing the band’s name on show fliers, I figured that was it. Hardly. Guitarist/vocalist Christian Gordy and bassist Justin Sherrell apparently hooked up with Ghost Punch‘s Adam Taylor, and in May they’ll release the third Blackout album, The Horse, once again on RidingEasy Records.

Mark that a win, and to make the announcement a real occasion, the band has opening track “Graves” streaming now, purportedly based around more aggressive, distinctly New York influences. How that’ll play out across the whole album — aggressively? — remains to be heard, but a little bash over the head in Springtime never hurt anybody. Unless we’re speaking literally. Either way, May 26 is the release date. No doubt you’ll be able to put your order in long before then, so keep an eye out.

The PR wire has cover art, details and the song:

blackout-the-horse

NYC trio Blackout premiere first track from new album The Horse

Add hints of NY crossover legends like Helmet, Cro-Mags, Judge, Prong to their signature gritty doom

Ask any New Yorker what makes them special and they’ll all tell you something different. But there’s something very particular about a city so condensed with a vast range of humanity all facing myriad daily challenges that gives its rock music a brash, direct aggression unlike other places. Case in point, NYC trio Blackout’s take on doom and stoner rock is filled with a gritty, mechanistic heft unlike bands of their ilk from anywhere else.

Subsumed within the greasy grooves of The Horse there are echoes of NYC heavy legends like Helmet, Cro-Mags, Judge, Prong and others — not as intentional homage, but rather a vibe that permeates and inadvertently gives its bands a unique power that few can match.

After a brief hiatus between the March 2015 release of their self-titled sophomore album on RidingEasy Records, Blackout has regrouped and (ahem) gotten back on The Horse for an 8-song blast of riffs that does not fuck around.

On one fateful day in July 2016, with a handful of mushrooms and a bottle of tequila, vocalist/guitarist Christian Gordy set out to write an entire new Blackout record. Following the departure of original drummer Taryn Waldman earlier that year, the band’s fate was uncertain. But, Gordy’s writing forray resulted in a wellspring of inspiration and by happenstance he contacted drummer Adam Taylor who had just parted with his band Ghost Punch. Within two months of banging out riffs with bassist Justin Sherrell, Blackout was back in action.

The Horse was recorded over 4 days in September 2016 at Spaceman Sound in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, which the band describes as “a whirlwind session laced with loads of buds, Petey’s burgers and lipstick.”

Or, described by Blackout themselves: “What you have before you now is a messy plate of meat, slathered in weird sauces. A haunted steak from from Centaurus A to sink your dirty fangs into. Sit back, crack a semi cold one, maybe get some snacks… and turn this motherfucker up to 8.”

The Horse will be available on LP, CD and download May 26th, 2017 via RidingEasy Records.

Artist: Blackout
Album: The Horse
Label: RidingEasy Records
Release Date: May 26, 2017

01. Graves
02. Let ‘Em Ride
03. Roach Bites
04. Rat Spirit
05. Amnesia
06. Mean Pads
07. Holy Wood
08. The Horse

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Here Lies Man Premiere “Here Lies Man”; Self-Titled Debut out April 7

Posted in audiObelisk on March 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

here lies man

Los Angeles heavy-psych-gone-Afrobeat outfit Here Lies Man will issue their self-titled debut next week through RidingEasy Records. Preorders are up now ahead of an April 7 release date. I think even the band would probably have to admit that not everyone who hears the album is going to get it, but even if that’s so, for those who do, the eight-track offering is bound to be taken as a treasure. Amid a seemingly endless slew of traditionalism in underground rock, Here Lies Man — the fuzz-‘n’-funked-up brainchild of Antibalas guitarist/vocalist Marcos J. Garcia — tread a different path. Garcia, whose affinity for Ethiopian psychedelic rock and particularly the work of Fela Kuti in defining Afrobeat comes through in the resonant percussiveness of cuts like “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” the instrumental “Belt of the Sun” and the repetitions throughout “When I Come To,” the closing title-track and so on, spearheads the conceptualist outing, but the vibe across the record’s entire span is one of pure rhythmic celebration. Here Lies Man sound more like a festival than a band, and yeah, not everyone’s gonna get that, but those who do will find it impossible not to be swept up by their multi-tiered pulsations.

Among the album’s many hooks is that of its concept. It’s the first question the PR wire asked in sending notification of the record, and you can see it below: What if Black Sabbath played here lies man self titledAfrobeat? If your answer for the question isn’t, “Well, that would be fucking awesome,” then you can probably count yourself among the “not gonna get it” above, but as a thematic foundation for the sonic territory that Here Lies Man are exploring, it’s a question as appropriate as it is evocative. But neither is it the sum total of what the record winds up offering. Because if Black Sabbath played Afrobeat, it would be riffs and percussion. Fine. Here Lies Man expand beyond this in the proclamations of “I Stand Alone” and the swaggering ultrafunk of “Letting Go.” It’s not just about bringing two seemingly disparate components together in a sonic collider — it’s about the new molecules discovered as a result of that and how those can be manipulated into something genuinely individual. Much to Here Lies Man‘s credit — and the credit of their experience as players and songwriters; because while it’s a new project it’s not necessarily a new band — they bring their debut to that high standard and flesh out something bold from the pieces of its creation, finding a whole from the sum of its parts that’s brightly colored and brimming with a vitality of expression and swirl all its own. Their starting point may be that central question, but where they end up is a different wavelength altogether.

And they’re better for it. Certainly the approach makes them an outlier among the more traditional forms of heavy proffered by RidingEasy acts like Monolord, Electric Citizen or Slow Season, but that’s obviously the point, and the progressive aspects of Here Lies Man‘s approach are writ large over the commitment to aesthetic that the band shows throughout. Seems like more than it would be reasonably fair to ask of a debut album, and yet the songs not only realize this multifaceted sonic persona, they set it up for future development should Garcia and his cohorts choose such pursuit. One hopes they do.

Today I’ve got the pleasure of hosting the premiere of “Here Lies Man” from Here Lies Man‘s Here Lies Man. As you might expect, it sums up a lot of what they’re going for in terms of sound and their overall take, and if you want to know just what the hell I’m talking about in the above ramblings, it’s all right there.

PR wire info follows. As always, I hope you enjoy:

What if Black Sabbath played Afrobeat? In short, that’s the underlying vibe to the self-titled debut by Here Lies Man. The L.A. based quintet is founded and conceptualized by Marcos Garcia of Antibalas, bringing his erudite experience of World rhythms and music to the more riff-based foundations of heavy rock. The results are an incredibly catchy and refreshing twist on classic forms, without sounding forced and trite like some sort of mash-up attempt. Here Lies Man merges and expands musical traditions organically, utilizing the talents of drummer Geoff Mann (son of jazz musician Herbie Mann and former Antibalas member) and a host of skilled musicians to make Garcia’s vision a reality.

“These repetitive guitar figures that happen in Afrobeat music are pretty close to heavy rock guitar riffs,” Garcia explains. “It’s based on the clave. It’s the musical algorithm that the rhythms revolve around. That’s what gives it integrity and is part of this musical conversation going on. I knew I wanted it to be psychedelic and heavy, and I wanted to be expanding on a musical tradition than pretending to be creating something new.” The recording and band came together in the somewhat spontaneous fashion for which L.A. is famous. Garcia and Mann laid down the foundations and the band quickly expanded the recording and live shows soon followed.

And that expansion is the brilliant, hazy, psychedelic, hook-laden 8-song masterwork Here Lies Man, available on LP, CD and download on April 7th, 2017 via RidingEasy Records. Pre-orders are available at iTunes and RidingEasyRecs.com.

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Quarterly Review: Ulver, Forming the Void, Hidden Trails, Svvamp, Black Mirrors, Endless Floods, Tarpit Boogie, Horseburner, Vermilion Whiskey, Hex Inverter

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Feeling groovy heading into Day Two of the Spring 2017 Quarterly Review, and I hope you are as well. Today we dig into a pretty wide variety of whatnots, so make sure you’ve got your head with you as we go, because there are some twists and turns along the way. I mean it. Of all five days in this round, this one might be the most wild, so keep your wits intact. I’m doing my best to do the same, of course, but make no promises in that regard.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Ulver, The Assassination of Julius Caesar

ulver-the-assassination-of-julius-caesar

Norwegian post-everything specialists Ulver have reportedly called The Assassination of Julius Caesar (on House of Mythology) “their pop album,” and while the Nik Turner-inclusive freakout in second cut “Rolling Stone” (that may or may not be him on closer “Comign Home” as well) doesn’t quite fit that mold, the beats underscoring the earlier portion of that track, opener “Nemoralia” and the melodrama of “Southern Gothic” certainly qualify. Frontman/conceptual mastermind Kristoffer Rygg’s voice is oddly suited to this form – he carries emotionally weighted hooks like a melancholy George Michael on the electronically pulsating “Transverberation” and, like most works of pop, shows an obsession with the ephemeral in a slew of cultural references in “1969,” which in no way is likely to be mistaken for the Stooges song of the same name. While “So Falls the World” proves ridiculously catchy, “Coming Home” is about as close as Ulver actually come here to modern pop progression, and the Badalamenti-style low-end and key flourish in “1969” is a smooth touch, much of what’s happening in these eight tracks is still probably too complex to qualify as pop, but The Assassination of Julius Caesar is further proof that Ulver’s scope only grows more boundless as the years pass. The only limits they ever seem to know are the ones they leave behind.

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House of Mythology website

 

Forming the Void, Relic

forming-the-void-relic

Last year, Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void had the element of surprise working to their advantage when it came to the surprising progressive edge of their debut album, Skyward (review here). Now signed to Argonauta, the eight-song/55-minute follow-up, Relic, doesn’t need it. It finds Forming the Void once again working proggy nuance into big-riffed, spaciously vocalized fare on early cuts “After Earth” and “Endless Road,” but as the massive hook of “Biolazar” demonstrates, the process by which guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd meld their influences has become more cohesive and more their own. Accordingly, I’m not sure they need the 11-minute closing take on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” since by then the point is made in the lumber/plunder of “Plumes” and in the more tripped-out “Unto the Smoke” just before, but as indulgences go, it’s a relatively easy one to make. They’re still growing, but doing so quickly, and already they’ve begun to find a niche for themselves between styles that one hopes they’ll continue to explore.

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Argonauta Records website

 

Hidden Trails, Instant Momentary Bliss

hidden-trails-instant-momentary-bliss

Though it keeps a wash of melodic keys in the background and its approach is resolutely laid back on the whole, “Beautiful Void” is nonetheless a major factor in the overall impression of Hidden Trails’ self-titled debut (on Elektrohasch), as its indie vibe and departure from the psychedelic prog of the first two cuts, “Lancelot” and “Mutations,” marks a major distinguishing factor between this outfit and Hypnos 69, in which the rhythm section of the Belgian trio played previously. “Ricky” goes on to meld acoustic singer-songwriterism and drones together, and “Hands Unfold” has a kind of jazzy bounce, the bassline of Dave Houtmeyers and drumming of Tom Vanlaer providing upbeat groove under Jo Neyskens’ bright guitar lead, but the anticipation of heavy psych/prog never quite leaves after the opening, and that doesn’t seem to be what the band wants to deliver. The sweetly harmonized acid folk of “Leaving Like That” is on a different wavelength, and likewise the alt-rock vibes of “Space Shuffle” and “Come and Play” and the grunge-chilled-out closer “Denser Diamond.” If there’s an issue with Hidden Trails, it’s one of the expectations I’m bringing to it as a listener and a fan of Houtmeyers’ and Vanlaer’s past work, but clearly it’s going to take me a little longer to get over the loss of their prior outfit. Maybe I’m just not ready to move on.

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Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

 

Svvamp, Svvamp

svvamp-svvamp

Naturalist vibes pervade immediately from this late-2016 self-titled Svvamp debut (on RidingEasy Records) in the bassline to “Serpent in the Sky,” and in some of the post-Blue Cheer heavy blues sensibility, the Swedish trio bring to mind some of what made early Dirty Streets so glorious. Part of the appeal of Svvamp’s Svvamp, however, is that among the lessons it’s learned from heavy ‘70s rock and from Kadavar‘s own self-titled is to keep it simple. “Fresh Cream” is a resonant blues jam… that lasts two and a half minutes. The bouncing, turning “Oh Girl?” Three. Even the longest of its cuts, the slide-infused “Time,” the subdued roller “Big Rest” and the Marshall Tucker-esque finale “Down by the River,” are under five. This allows the three-piece of Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren to build significant momentum over the course of their 35-minute run, casting aside pretense in favor of aesthetic cohesion and an organic sensibility all the more impressive for it being their first record. Sweden has not lacked for boogie rock, but even the most relatively raucous moments here, as in the winding “Blue in the Face,” don’t seem overly concerned with what anyone else is up to, and that bodes remarkably well for Svvamp’s future output.

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RidingEasy Records website

 

Black Mirrors, Funky Queen

black-mirrors-funky-queen

There are few songs ever written that require whoever’s playing them to “bring it” more than MC5’s “Kick out the Jams.” True, it’s been covered many, many times over, but few have done it well. Belgium’s Black Mirrors signal riotous intent by including it as one of the four tracks of their Napalm Records debut EP, Funky Queen, along with the originals “Funky Queen,” “The Mess” and “Canard Vengeur Masqué,” and amid the post-Blues Pills stomp of “The Mess,” the mega-hook of the opening title-track and the more spacious five-plus-minute closer, which works elements of heavy psych into its bluesy push late to welcome effect, “Kick out the Jams” indeed brings a moment of relative cacophony, even if there’s no actual threat of the band losing control behind the powerful vocals of Marcella di Troia. As a first showing, Funky Queen would seem to be a harbinger, but it’s also a purposeful and somewhat calculated sampling of Black Mirrors’ wares, and I wouldn’t expect it to be long before an album follows behind expanding on the ideas presented in these tracks.

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Black Mirrors at Napalm Records

 

Endless Floods, II

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No doubt that for some who’d take it on, any words beyond “members of Monarch!” will be superfluous, but Bordeaux three-piece Endless Floods, who do indeed feature bassist/vocalist Stéphane Miollan and drummer Benjamin Sablon from that band, as well as guitarist Simon Bedy, have more to offer than pedigree on their three-song sophomore full-length, II (on Dry Cough vinyl and Breathe Plastic cassette). To wit, 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Impasse” rumbles out raw but spacious sludge that, though without keys or a glut of effects, and marked by the buried-deep screaming of Miollan, holds a potent sense of atmosphere so that the two-minute interlude “Passage” doesn’t seem out of place leading into the 19-minute lumber of “Procession,” which breaks shortly before its halfway point to bass-led minimalism in setting up the final build of the record. Slow churning intensity and longform sludge working coherently alongside ambient sensibilities and some genuinely disturbing noise? Yeah, that’ll do nicely. Thanks.

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Dry Cough Records on Bandcamp

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Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam

tarpit-boogie-couldnt-handle-the-heavy-jam

Boasting four eight-plus-minute instrumentals, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam finds New Jersey trio Tarpit Boogie rife with classic style heavy rock chemistry, bassist John Eager running fills around the dense-toned riffing from guitarist George Pierro as drummer Chris Hawkins propels a surprising thrust on opener “FFF Heavy Jam.” I’ve been a fan of Pierro and Eager’s since we were bandmates a decade ago, so to hear them unfold “Chewbacca Jacket” from its tense opening to its righteously crashing finale is definitely welcome, but the 37-minute offering finds its true reasoning in the swing and shuffle of the eponymous “Tarpit Boogie,” which digs into the very challenge posed by the title – whether or not anyone taking on the album can handle its balance of sonic impact and exploratory feel – inclusive, in this case, of a drum solo that sets a foundation for a moment of Cactus-style rush ahead of a return to the song’s central progression to conclude. They round out with “1992 (Thank You Very Little),” Chevy Chase sample and all, bringing more crashing nod to a massive slowdown that makes it feel like the entire back half of the cut is one big rock finish. And so it is. A well-kept secret of Garden State heavy.

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Tarpit Boogie on Bandcamp

 

Horseburner, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil

horseburner-dead-seeds-barren-soil

The self-released Dead Seeds, Barren Soil is Horseburner’s second full-length, and it arrived in 2016 from the four-piece some seven years after their 2009 debut, Dirt City. They’ve had a few shorter outings in between, demos and 2013’s Strange Giant EP, but the West Virginia four-piece of Adam Nohe, Chad Ridgway, Jack Thomas and Zach Kaufman seem to be shooting for a definitive statement of intent in the blend of heavy rock and modern, Baroness-style prog that emerges on opener “David” and finds its way into the galloping “Into Black Resolution,” the multi-tiered vocals of “A Newfound Purity” and even the more straight-ahead thrust of “The Soil’s Prayer.” Marked out by the quality of its guitar work and its clearly-plotted course, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil caps with “Eleleth,” which at just under eight minutes draws the heft and the complexity together for a gargantuan finish that does justice to the ground Horseburner just flattened as they left it behind.

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Vermilion Whiskey, Spirit of Tradition

vermilion-whiskey-spirit-of-tradition

Lafayette, Louisiana, five-piece Vermilion Whiskey telegraph participation in the New Wave of Dude Rock to the point of addressing their audience as “boy” in second cut “The Past is Dead,” and from the cartoon cleavage on the cover to the lack of irony between naming the record Spirit of Tradition and putting a song called “The Past is Dead” on it, they sell that well. The Kent Stump-mixed/Tony Reed-mastered six-tracker is the band’s second behind 2013’s 10 South, and basks in dudely, dudely dudeliness; Southern metal born more out of the Nola style than what, say, Wasted Theory are getting up to these days, but that would still fit on a bill with that Delaware outfit. If you think you’re dude enough for a song like “One Night,” hell, maybe you are. Saddle up. Listening to that and the chunky-style riff of closer “Loaded Up,” I feel like I might need hormone therapy to hit that level of may-yun, but yeah. Coherent, well written, tightly performed and heavy. Vermilion Whiskey might as well be hand-issuing dudes invitations to come drink with them, but they make a solid case for doing so.

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Hex Inverter, Revision

hex-inverter-revision

If the cover art and a song title like “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts” weren’t enough of a tip-off, there’s a strong undercurrent of the unsettled to Hex Inverter’s second long-player, Revision. The Pennsylvania-based experimentalists utilize a heaping dose of drones to fill out arrangements of keys, guitar and noise that would otherwise be pretty minimal, and vocals come and go in pro- and depressive fashion. Texture proves the key as they embark on the linear centerpiece “Something Else,” with a first verse arriving over a sweetened bassline after four minutes into the total 9:58, and the wash of noise in “Daphne” obscures an avant neo-jazz groove late, so while opener “Cannibal Eyes” basks in foreboding ambience prior to an emotionally-driven and explosive crunch-beat payoff, one never quite knows what to expect next on Revision. That, of course, is essential to the appeal. They find an edge of rock in the aforementioned “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts,” but as the loops and synth angularity of closer “Fled (Deadverse Mix)” make plain, their intentions speak to something wider than even an umbrella genre.

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