Quarterly Review: Novembers Doom, Abrams, The Grand Astoria, Hosoi Bros, Codeia, Ealdor Bealu, Stone Lotus, Green Yeti, Seer, Bretus

Posted in Reviews on July 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-summer-2017

So, after kvetching and hemming and hawing and all that other stuff that basically means ‘fretting and trying to shuffle a schedule around’ for the last several days, I think I’ve now found a way to add a sixth day to this Quarterly Review. Looking at all the records that still need to be covered even after doing 50, I don’t really see any other way to go. I could try to do more The Obelisk Radio adds to fit things in, but I don’t want to over-tax that new server, so yeah, I’m waiting at the moment to hear back on whether or not I can move a premiere from Monday to Tuesday to make room. Fingers crossed. I’ve already got the albums picked out that would be covered and should know by tomorrow if it’s going to happen.

Plenty to do in the meantime, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Novembers Doom, Hamartia

novembers-doom-hamartia

Look. Let’s be honest here. More than 20 years and 10 records in, one knows at least on a superficial level what to expect from Chicago’s Novembers Doom. Since their first album arrived in 1995, they’ve played to one side or the other between the spectrum of death-doom, and their work legitimately broke ground in the style for a US band and in general. After a push over their last couple albums including 2014’s Bled White (review here) into more deathly fare, Hamartia (on The End Records) brings 10 tracks and 58 minutes of the melancholy dramas – special hello to the piano/acoustic-led title-track – and gut-wrenching, crushingly emotive miseries – special hello to “Waves in the Red Cloth” and “Ghost” – that have defined them. One doesn’t expect a radical departure from them at this point and they don’t deliver one even as they turn to another side of their overarching aesthetic, but whether it’s the still-propulsive death gallop of “Apostasy” or the lush nine-minute finale “Borderline,” Novembers Doom reinforce their position as absolute masters of the style and give their longtime fans another collection of vital woes in which to revel.

Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks

The End Records website

 

Abrams, Morning

abrams morning

Not a hair out of place in the execution of Morning, the Sailor Records second long-player from Denver three-piece Abrams (interview here). That has its ups and downs, naturally, but is suited to the band’s take on modern progressive heavy rock à la newer Mastodon and Baroness, and with production from Andy Patterson (of SubRosa) and Dave Otero (Khemmis, Cephalic Carnage, etc.), the crisp feel is both purposeful and well earned. Their 2015 debut, Lust. Love. Loss. (review here), dealt with a similar emotional landscape, but bassist/vocalist Taylor Iversen, guitarist/vocalist Zachary Amster and drummer Geoffrey Cotton are tighter and more aggressive here on songs like opener “Worlds Away” (video posted here), “At the End,” “Rivers,” “Can’t Sleep” and “Burned” (video posted here), and “Mourning,” “In this Mask” and closer “Morning” balance in terms of tempo and overall atmosphere, making Morning more than just a collection of master-blasters and giving it a full album’s flow and depth. Like I said, not a hair out of place. Structure, performance, delivery, theme. Abrams have it all precisely where they want it.

Abrams on Thee Facebooks

Abrams on Bandcamp

 

The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny

the-grand-astoria-the-fuzz-of-destiny

Dubbed an EP but running 29 minutes and boasting eight tracks, The Grand Astoria’s The Fuzz of Destiny is something of a conceptual release, with the St. Petersburg, Russia-based outfit paying homage to the effect itself. Each song uses a different kind of fuzz pedal, and as the ever-nuanced, progressive outfit make their way through the blown-out pastoralism of opener “Sunflower Queen” and into the nod of “Pocket Guru,” the organ-inclusive bursting fury of “Glass Walls” and the slower and more consuming title-track itself, which directly precedes closer “Eight Years Anniversary Riff” – yup, it’s a riff alright – they’re able to evoke a surprising amount of variety in terms of mood. That’s a credit to The Grand Astoria as songwriters perhaps even more than the differences in tone from song to song here – they’ve certainly shown over their tenure a will to embrace a diverse approach – but in giving tribute to fuzz, The Fuzz of Destiny successfully conveys some of the range a single idea can be used to conjure.

The Grand Astoria on Thee Facebooks

The Grand Astoria on Bandcamp

 

Hosoi Bros., Abuse Your Allusion III

hosoi-bros-abuse-your-allusion-iii

Oh, they’re up to it again, those Hosoi Bros. Their 2016 full-length, Abuse Your Allusion III, from its Guns ‘n’ Roses title reference through the Motörhead riffing of “Saint Tightus” through the stoner punk of “Topless Gnome” and the chugging scorch of the penultimate “Bitches are Nigh” offer primo charm and high-order shenanigans amid the most professional-sounding release of their career. Across a quick 10 tracks and 36 minutes, Hosoi Bros. readily place themselves across the metal/punk divide, and while there’s plenty of nonsense to be had from opener “Mortician” onward through “Lights Out” (video premiere here) and the later swagger of “Unholy Hand Grenade,” the band have never sounded more cohesive in their approach than they do on Abuse Your Allusion III, and the clean production only seems to highlight the songwriting at work underneath all the zany happenings across the record’s span, thereby doing them and the band alike a service as they make a convincing argument to their audience: Have fun. Live a little. It won’t hurt that much.

Hosoi Bros on Thee Facebooks

Hosoi Bros. on Bandcamp

 

Codeia, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared

codeia-dont-be-afraid-she-whispered-and-disappeared

There’s actually very little that gets “Lost in Translation” in the thusly-titled 22-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) of German post-metallers Codeia’s cumbersomely-named Backbite Records debut album, “Don’t be Afraid,” She Whispered and Disappeared. With heavy post-rock textures and an overarching sense of cerebral progressivism to its wash underscored by swells of low-end distortion, the three-piece of guitarist/backing vocalist Markus L., bassist/vocalist Denis S. and drummer Timo L. bring to bear patience out of the peak-era Isis or Cult of Luna sphere, sudden volume shifts, pervasive ambience, flourish of extremity and all. Nine-minute centerpiece “Shaping Stone” has its flash of aggression early before shifting into hypnotic and repetitive groove and subsequent blastbeaten furies, and 16-minute closer “Facing Extinction” caps the three-song/48-minute offering with nodding Russian Circles-style chug topped with growls that mask the layer of melodic drone filling out the mix beneath. They’re on familiar stylistic ground, but the breadth, depth and complexity Codeia bring to their extended structures are immersive all the same.

Codeia on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records website

Mountain Range Creative Factory website

 

Ealdor Bealu, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain

ealdor-bealu-dark-water-at-the-foot-of-the-mountain

“Water Cycle,” the 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) of Ealdor Bealu’s debut full-length, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain, introduces a meditative feel and a breadth of sound that helps to define everything that follows. The ostensible side B leadoff of the self-release, “This too Shall Endure” (11:04), offers no less depth of atmosphere, and the graceful psychedelic expanses of the penultimate “Behind the Veil” continue to add to the overall scope with interplay of tempo variety and acoustic and electric guitar, but even earlier, shorter cuts like the wistful indie rocker “Deep Dark Below” and the linear-building “Behold the Sunrise” have an underlying progressivism that ties them to the longer form material, and likewise the particularly exploratory feeling “Ebb and Flow,” which though it’s the shortest cut at just over five minutes resonates as a standout jam ahead of “Behind the Veil” and subtly proggy seven-minute closer “Time Traveler.” The Boise-based four-piece of guitarist/vocalist/spearhead Carson Russell, guitarist Travis Abbott (also The Western Mystics), bassist/vocalist Rylie Collingwood and drummer/percussionist/saxophonist Alex Wargo bring the 56-minute offering to bear with marked patience and impress in the complexity of their arrangements and the identifiable human core that lies beneath them.

Ealdor Bealu on Thee Facebooks

Ealdor Bealu on Bandcamp

 

Stone Lotus, Comastone

I can take spicier foods than I ever could before.

One might consider the title of “Mountain of Filth,” the second cut on Stone Lotus’ debut album, Comastone, a mission statement for the Southwestern Australian trio’s vicious ‘n’ viscous brand of rolling, tonal-molasses sludge. Yeah, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dave Baker, bassist Samuel Noire and drummer Reece Fleming bring ambience to the interlude “Aum,” the slower loud/quiet shifts in “Anthropocene” and the subsequent “Umbra” that leads into the creepy launch of the title-track – in fact, quiet starts are something of a theme throughout Comastone; even the thudding toms that begin opener “Swamp Coven” pale in comparison to the volume swell of massive distortion that follows closely behind – but it’s the rhythmic lumber and the harsh vocals from Baker that define their course through the darker recesses of sludged-out misanthropy. No complaints there, especially on a first long-player, but Stone Lotus are right to keep in mind the flourish of atmosphere their material offers, and one hopes that develops parallel to all the crushing weight of their mountainous approach.

Stone Lotus on Thee Facebooks

Stone Lotus on Bandcamp

 

Green Yeti, Desert Show

I'm not sure if that's an effect of dropping carbs or how it would be, but it's strange.

Even before it announces its heft, Green Yeti’s Desert Show casts forth its spaciousness. The second offering from the Athens-based trio in as many years dogwhistles heavy riffing intent even unto its David Paul Seymour album cover, but the five track rollout from guitarist/vocalist Michael Andresakis, bassist/producer Danis Avramidis and drummer Giannis Koutroumpis, as it shifts from the opening salvo of “Black Planets (Part 1)” and “Black Planets (Part 2)” into the Spanish-language centerpiece “Rojo” (direct homage perhaps to Los Natas? if so, effectively done) and into the broader-ranging “Bad Sleep (Part 1)” and 15-minute closer “Bad Sleep (Part 2)” builds just as much on its atmosphere as on its newer-school stoner rock groove and fuzz riffing. It is a 41-minute span that, without question, speaks to the heavy rock converted and plays to genre, but even taken next to the band’s 2016 debut, The Yeti has Landed, Desert Show demonstrates clear growth in writing and style, and stands as further proof of the emergence of Greece as a major contributor to the sphere of Europe’s heavy underground. Something special is happening in and outside of Athens. Green Yeti arrive at the perfect time to be a part of it.

Green Yeti on Thee Facebooks

Green Yeti on Bandcamp

 

Seer, Victims

seer victims

Let’s just assume that Seer won’t be asked to play at Dorney Park anytime soon. The Allentown, Pennsylvania, three-piece dig into largesse-minded instrumental riffing someplace between doom and sludge and do so on raw, formative fashion on the two-song Victims EP, which features the tracks “Victims… Aren’t We All?” and “Swollen Pit,” which is a redux from their 2015 debut short release, Vaped Remains. Some touch of Electric Wizard-style wah in Rybo’s guitar stands out in the second half of the opener, and the closer effectively moves from its initial crawl into post-Sleep stonerized idolatry, but the point of Victims isn’t nearly as much about scope as it is about Rybo, bassist Kelsi and drummer Yvonne setting forth on a stomping path of groove and riff worship, rumbling sans pretense loud enough to crack the I-78 corridor and offering the clever equalizer recommendation to put the bass, treble and mids all at six. Think about it for a second. Not too long though.

Seer on Thee Facebooks

Seer on Bandcamp

 

Bretus, From the Twilight Zone

bretus-from-the-twilight-zone

Doom! Horror! Riffs! Though it starts out with quiet acoustics and unfolds in echoing weirdness, Bretus’ new album, …From the Twilight Zone, more or less shouts these things from the proverbial cathedral rafters throughout its seven tracks. The Catanzaro, Italy, foursome weren’t shy about bringing an air of screamy sludge to their 2015 sophomore outing, The Shadow over Innsmouth (discussed here), but …From the Twilight Zone shifts more toward a Reverend Bizarre trad doom loyalism that suits the Endless Winter release remarkably well. Those acoustics pop up again in expanded-breadth centerpiece/highlight “Danza Macabra” and closer “Lizard Woman,” and thereby provide something of a narrative thread to the offering as a whole, but on the level of doom-for-doomers, there’s very little about the aesthetic that Bretus leave wanting throughout, whether it’s the faster-chug into drifting fluidity of “The Murder” or the nodding stomp of “In the Vault” (demo posted here) and crypto-NWOBHM flourish of “Old Dark House” (video posted here). Not trying to remake doom in their own image, but conjuring an eerie and engaging take in conversation with the masters of the form.

Bretus on Thee Facebooks

Endless Winter Records

 

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The Grand Astoria Release The Fuzz of Destiny EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

In my experience, there’s always something to dig about it when Saint Petersburg progressive heavy rockers The Grand Astoria get an idea in their heads. That usually leads to projects like that time they put out one copy of a 9CD box set or that time they did a record of tracks influenced by classical music. You never really know where they’re headed. This time? They’re headed for fuzz. The Fuzz of Destiny, as it happens.

That’s the title of the Russian outfit’s latest EP, and it features eight tracks using eight different distortion pedals, basking in the glories of fuzz and the different sides of a sonic personality that said effect can bring forth, from the harsher bite of “Sunflower Queen” to the warmer depths of “Glass Walls.” But what makes the project even cooler and even more The Grand Astoria‘s own is the fact that they list the different pedals used to achieve these sounds, basically letting the listener play along at home as they make their way through the short release.

Feel free to do that by streaming the release at the bottom of this post, if you’re so inclined. All the release info follows as hoisted from their Bandcamp page:

the-grand-astoria-the-fuzz-of-destiny

First ever tribute to the distortion box!

8 years of The Grand Astoria / 8 songs / 8 different fuzz pedals

Personnel:
Kamille Sharapodinov – vocals, guitars, concept, music and lyrics
Danila Danilov – vocals, bass, keyboards, flute, percussion, recording
Nikolay Kunavin – drums
Ksenia Shamarina – vocals (4)
Alexander Karelin – mixing and mastering
Sophia Miroedova – artwork

Recorded by Danila Danilov at Red Wave Studio during December 2016 – February 2017

Tracklisting:
1. Sunflower Queen 02:53
2. Extra Lap 01:15
3. Tour Diary 04:30
4. Pocket Guru 05:40
5. Glass Walls 02:37
6. The Sleeper Awakes 04:51
7. The Fuzz of Destiny 04:50
8. Eight Years Anniversary Riff 02:32

Pedals used:
1 – Dr. No Octofuzz (with octave off)
2 – Dr. No Power Driver/Booster + Old Octave
3 – Guyatone TZ2
4 – Black Arts Toneworks Pharaoh
5 – Dunlop Jimi Hendrix System Classic Fuzz
6 – ZVex Wooly Mammoth
7 – Dr. No Kafuzz
8 – MXR Blue Box

CD (4 panel digipack) is available via thegrandastoria@gmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/TheGrandAstoria/
https://thegrandastoria.bandcamp.com/album/the-fuzz-of-destiny-ep

The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny EP (2017)

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Various Artists, Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3: Journeys End and Begin

Posted in Reviews on January 17th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

electric funeral cafe vol 3

Look. The thing is immense. One can barely hope to give a decent accounting of a compilation in a review in the easiest of scenarios, but to attempt to sum up the scope of Robustfellow ProductionsElectric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3, which spans three CDs in its physical incarnation and tops out at an astonishing 48 tracks and four-plus hours of listening material when the digital bonus tracks are included from the Bandcamp version, the idea itself becomes silly. All one can really do is the same thing the listener likely does: make your way through it at your own pace, try to absorb as much as you can, and step back to admire the incredible amount of coordinating effort that must have gone into its making.

The latter is particularly impressive as what’s been touted as the final installment of the Kiev-based Robustfellow‘s Electric Funeral Cafe trilogy — nothing like going out with a bang — is bigger even than its predecessors, which came out in 2016 and 2015 and were “only” two discs apiece. The first two were broken down into component Electric and Funeral halves, arranged along this theme by discs. This edition works much the same way, with the Electric discs more focused on heavy rock and the Funeral disc dug into dirge-style doom and sludge, but adds the Cafe disc, on which one might be hear the Beatles-gone-electro-pop psych of Black Maloka, the Creedence Clearwater Revival-style boogie of Freeky Clean or the pure Doorsian meandering of The Jossers, along with more familiar names like Krobak (a Stoned Jesus side-project) or The Legendary Flower Punk (a The Grand Astoria side-project).

As with the earlier volumes, the bulk of the inclusions here highlight the underground boom in the Ukraine itself. 38 of the total 48 groups involved hail from the Ukraine. Two more are from Russia (The Legendary Flower Punk and A Foggy Realm, also on the Cafe disc), and one each from Japan (Eternal Elysium, on the Electric disc), Finland (Loinen, Funeral disc), the US (Contra, Electric), Sweden (Suffer Yourself, Funeral), Belarus (Nebulae Come Sweet, Funeral), the UK (Sons of Alpha Centauri, Cafe), and Italy (Le Scimmie, Funeral). It’s easy to get lost in the sprawl of a release like this, certainly, but worth noting all the same that this is the first of the Electric Funeral Cafe offerings to branch outside the Ukraine itself, so even as Robustfellow ends the series, it does so by reaching into new territories, making the project all the more impressive. One imagines that if the label kept it going, it would only continue to grow.

ELECTRIC FUNERAL CAFE POSTER

Not that it’s lacking in its current form, of course. Pick your poison and it’s likely here somewhere, from the progressive heavy vibes of Stonefromthesky and Ethereal Riffian on the Electric disc to the deathly chug of Chainsaw Jack‘s “Crashing Waves” and post-hardcore-sludge of Nebulae Come Sweet on the Funeral disc to the ’90s-style psych of Vermilion Nocturne and beat-backed drone of Submatukana‘s “Genesis” — which boasts a sampled Bible reading amid creepy whispered vocals — on the Cafe disc. There are, of course, a host of bands here who aren’t so easily fit into one category or another, as Dreadnought foreshadow on the Electric disc some of the screaming that will be a running theme throughout most of the Funeral disc, and the huge Ufomammut-style roll, push and echoes of Soom on Funeral do likewise for Cafe, but each piece of Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 offers something distinct from the others, and so the themes are not only ably established, but solidified while jumping from band to band, city to city, country to county, atmosphere to atmosphere.

And as ever for a worthy various-artists release, Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 presents a number of curios warranting further investigation. In particular, Lviv’s 1914, who lead off the Funeral disc with “8×50 mm Repetiergewehr M95” would seem to have a fixation with WWI — remind me to tell you sometime about how it was the fall of Western Civilization; unless you’re European, in which case you already know — and Lucifer Rising on the Electric disc blend modern buzz tone with classic blues rock thrust, but there are a swath of such interest-piquers as the comp plays out, and the real challenge lies in not being overwhelmed by all of it.

Much to the credit of Robustfellow and to the benefit of the acts contributing, everyone is given a genuine chance to ply their sonic wares, whether that’s a sub-three-minute death-doom rumbler like Monmuth‘s “Vail Seven” or the nine-minute heavy post-rock rollout of Stonefromthesky‘s “67,” which makes sense in a if-you’re-going-to-do-it-and-it’s-already-huge-then-don’t-skimp kind of way, and if the tradeoff for that is there’s a lot of music to dig into, it’s the kind of issue a listener should probably be thankful to take on, even if it requires multiple rounds to get through the front-to-back experience — a four-hour listening session is a rare gift in these busy times. Bottom line is Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 will be there, whether one wants to take it as a whole or in pieces — as a document of Ukrainian heavy, yes, but also the scene’s will to reach outside itself and include others in a creative conversation — and as that movement continues to flourish and progress, such an impulse can only help broaden a scope already shown here to be considerable. And by considerable, I mean staggering.

Various Artists, Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 (2017)

Robustfellow Productions on Bandcamp

Robustfellow Productions on Thee Facebooks

Robustfellow Productions website

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Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 Compilation Due Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

If you’ve had the chance to check out the prior two installments of Robustfellow Productions‘ compilation series Electric Funeral Cafe, you already know they’re massive things. Huge in terms of the sheer amount of music they feature, and with a strong focus solely directed on the Ukrainian heavy scene, they bring to light some acts who those of us outside the region might not necessarily run into on a daily basis. Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 is no different, but it’s worth noting that in addition to the good dose of acts from Kiev and Lviv it provides, it for the first time pushes international and boasts bands from the US, the UK, Belarus, Finland, Japan and Sweden included, so this final installment in the series — which comes with seven more tracks if you get the digital version — is by no means limited. Fitting for the mission of the series that it would expand even unto its conclusion.

I feel like the first line below under specifications really says it all: 41 bands, 9 countries, three discs, over three and a half hours of music. Sold.

Release date is Jan. 21. Here’s info from the PR wire:

electric funeral cafe vol 3

V/A – ‘Electric Funeral Café vol.3’

Formats: 3xCD in Deluxe digipack & Download
Catalogue # RBF 016 | IHR005
Label: Robustfellow Prods. & Iron Hamster Recs.
Release Date: 21 January 2017

Specifications:
– 41 bands from 9 countries on 3 CDs lasts for more than 3,5 hours
– Including 23 special tracks that you hardly hear anywhere else
– Plus 7 bonus tracks on digital version on bandcamp
– The final chapter of EFC trilogy
– Deluxe ltd.ed. that will consist of EFC vol.1,2,3
– Launch Party 21.I.2017 @ Winter Mass [“Monte Ray Live Stage”, Kyiv, UA]

Artwork design by Zinkovskaya Oksana
Design and DTP by Marsym Gavronsky
Made in Ukraine | 21.I.2017

List of robust bands involved in EFC vol.3 from A to Z:
1914 [Lviv, UA]
5R6 [Kharkiv, UA]
A Foggy Realm [Moscow, RU]
Atomic Simao [Kyiv, UA]
Bichkraft [Kyiv, UA]
Black Maloka [Kyiv, UA]
Borum [Kyiv, UA]
Chainsaw Jack [Kharkiv, UA]
Contra [Cleveland, OH, USA]
Dreadnought [Ternopil`, UA]
Drunk Diver [Lviv, UA]
Eternal Elysium [Nagoya, JP]
Ethereal Riffian [Kyiv, UA]
Filthy Rich Preacher [Cherkassy, UA]
Freeky Cleen [Kyiv, UA]
Krobak [Kyiv/Kharkiv, UA]
Katakomba [Kyiv, UA]
Le Scimmie [Vasto, IT]
Les Gendarmes [Kyiv, UA]
Loinen [Karjaa, FIN]
Love’n’Joy [Kyiv, UA]
Lucifer Rising [Kyiv, UA]
MAUT [Ivano-Frankivsk, UA]
Monmuuth [Dnipro, UA]
Nebulae Come Sweet [Minsk, BY]
Night on Fire [Zhytomyr, UA]
Ningen-girai [Cherkassy, UA]
Nödutgång:Självmord [Poltava, UA]
Obriy [Uzhgorod,UA]
Octopus Kraft [Drohobych/Lviv, UA]
Onsager [Khmelnitsky, UA]
OwlCraft [Cherkassy, UA]
Risin Sabotage [Kyiv, UA]
Small Depo [Kyiv, UA]
Sons Of Alpha Centauri [Kent, UK]
Soom [Kharkiv, UA]
Space-man [Lviv, UA]
stonefromthesky [Kyiv, UA]
Straytones [Kyiv, UA]
Submatukana [Dnipro, UA]
Suffer Yourself [Kyiv, UA/Linköping, SWE]
The Curse Of Wendigo [Kharcyzk/Kyiv, UA]
The Jossers [Kalush, UA]
The Legendary Flower Punk [St.Petersburg, RU]
Trip Inside Me [Kyiv, UA]
Tungu [Chernihiv,UA]
Vermilion Nocturne [Kyiv, UA]
Warningfog [Kyiv, UA]

http://robustfellow.blogspot.com/
https://robustfellow.bandcamp.com
https://www.youtube.com/user/TheRobustfellow
https://www.facebook.com/RobustfellowProds/
http://vk.com/robustfellow

Various Artists, Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 2 (2016)

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The Legendary Flower Punk Releases New Album Zen Variations

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 10th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the-legendary-flower-punk

From the moment the project was named, it was clear that The Legendary Flower Punk had the potential to be kind of all over the place. And what began as a solo vehicle for The Grand Astoria guitarist/vocalist Kamille Sharapodinov has played out that scenario to its most enticing effect yet on the new album, Zen Variations. Self-released by the band — yup, a band — the new full-length veers through deeply progressive krautrock experimentation. One could argue Sharapodinov‘s guitar is its guiding force, but the tracks, each of which is a “Zen” of one kind or another — much needed — toy with arrangement in a way that even The Grand Astoria at its boldest has yet to do.

Though as Sharapodinov took the time to explain, the two acts are also growing closer together in terms of lineup. Could the future belong to The Legendary Astoria? I guess we’ll have to wait to find out where it’s all heading. You won’t find me daring to speculate.

His words, more info on the new album, the lineup and upcoming tour dates for The Legendary Flower Punk follow, as culled from the internet and from Sharapodinov directly:

the-legendary-flower-punk-zen-variations

The Legendary Flower Punk – Zen Variations

“These tracks were written during last year and were stage tested during the tours we had in 2015-2016,” explains The Legendary Flower Punk guitarist/founder Kamille Sharapodinov. “The project now is The Grand Astoria’s de facto instrumental family outfit, since it includes TGA’s current drummer and the very first TGA bassist (the one who recorded the first album with us and then left). The music is jam-oriented and we are writing it together, which is the main difference from TGA where I write all the music alone.”

The Legendary Flower Punk, Zen Variations tracklisting:
1. Earthquake Zen 08:58
2. Urban Zen 07:46
3. Party Zen 05:11
4. Subway Zen 04:09
5. Warfield Zen 04:09
6. White Magick Zen 06:47
7. Christmas Zen 08:27

The Legendary Flower Punk is going to hit the road the release of new CD! Check the dates below.

The Legendary Flower Punk on tour:
12.11 Zelenograd (RU) “cinema”
13.11 Kaluga (RU) “garage”
19.11 Vilnius (LT) “Narauti”
20.11 Warsaw (PL) “2Kola”
22.11 Berlin (de) ” deep reason ‘
23.11 Hamburg (DE) “227 Bar”
24.11 Halle (de) ” ha7″
25.11 Karlsruhe (de) “Akk”
26.11 Würzburg (DE) “Cairo”
27.11 Nuremberg (de) “Artichoke”
28.11 Leipzig (de) “Mespotine sessions”
03.12 St. Petersburg (RU) “Zoccolo 2.0”

The Legendary Flower Punk is:
Kamille Sharapodinov – guitars
Mike Lopakov – bass
Nik Kunavin – drums, percussion

The Legendary Flower Family:
Danila Danilov – synth (3-6), metallophone (1)
Denis Kirillov – acoustic grand piano (7), flute (7), fender rhodes piano (1)
Ravil Azizov – clarinet (2, 4)
Vladimir Ermolov – trumpet (1, 3, 5)
Ekaterina Kulagina – saxophone (2)
Slava Lobanov – trombone (2, 5)
George Nefedov – balalaika (1)
Alexander Karelin – mixing and mastering
Sophia Miroedova – artwork

https://thelegendaryflowerpunk.bandcamp.com/album/zen-variations
https://www.facebook.com/thelegendaryflowerpunk
https://www.facebook.com/TheGrandAstoria/

The Grand Astoria, Zen Variations (2016)

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Quarterly Review: Swans, Virus, The Re-Stoned, Castle, Spirit Adrift, Robb & Pott, Family, Les Discrets, Liquido di Morte, Witchskull

Posted in Reviews on October 7th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

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Last day. As ever, I am mentally, physically and spiritually exhausted by this process, but as ever, it’s been worth it. Today I do myself a couple favors in packing out with more familiar acts, but whatever, it’s all stuff I should be covering anyway, so if the order bothers you, go write your own 50 reviews in a week and we can talk about it. Yeah, that’s right. That’s what I said. Today we start with Swans. Everything’s a confrontation.

Once again, I hope you’ve found something somewhere along this bizarre, careening path of music that has resonated with you, something that will stick with you. That’s why we’re here. You and me. If you have, I’d love to know about it. Until then, one more time here we go.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Swans, The Glowing Man

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Oh fucking please. You want me to try to summarize The Glowing Man – the culmination and finale of an era of Swans that Michael Gira began now more than half a decade ago – in a single review? Even putting aside the fact that the record two hours long, the notion is ridiculous. If there ever was a chart, the scope here is well off it. The material unfolds and churns and is primal and lush at once on “Cloud of Forgetting,” genuinely chaotic on the 28-minute title-track, and it ends with a drone lullaby, but seriously, what the fuck? Some shit is just beyond, and if you don’t know that applies to Swans by now, it’s your own fault. You want a review? Fine. I listened to the whole thing. It ate my fucking soul, chewed it with all-canine teeth and then spit it out saying “thanks for the clarity” and left me dazed, bloodied and humbled. There’s your fucking review. Thanks for reading.

Swans on Thee Facebooks

Young God Records website

 

Virus, Memento Collider

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Oslo trio Virus have long since established that they’re a band working on their own wavelength. Memento Collider (on Karisma Records) is the jazzy post-black metallers’ first album in five years and brings together adventurous rhythms, poetic declarations, dissonant basslines and – in the case of “Rogue Fossil,” the occasional hook – in ways that are unique unto Virus. Look at this site and see how often I use the word “unique.” It doesn’t happen. Virus, however, are one of a kind. Memento Collider makes for a challenging listen front to back on its six-track/45-minute run, but it refuses to dumb itself down or dull its progressive edge, bookending its longest (that’s opener “Afield” at 10:41; immediate points) two tracks around jagged explorations of sound like “Steamer” and “Gravity Seeker,” which engage and intrigue in kind after the melodic push of “Dripping into Orbit” and leading into “Phantom Oil Slick,” a righteous affirmation of the angular thrust at the core of Virus’ approach.

Virus on Thee Facebooks

Karisma Records webstore

 

The Re-Stoned, Reptiles Return

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In 2010, Moscow troupe The Re-Stoned issued their first EP, Return to the Reptiles, and being obviously concerned with evolution, they’ve now gone back and revisited that debut release with Reptiles Return, a reworking of the four studio tracks that made up the initial version – “Return,” “Run,” “The Mountain Giant” and “Sleeping World.” The opener is a straight re-recording, as is one other, where another is remixed and the other two remastered, and Reptiles Return – which is presented on limited vinyl through Clostridium Records and a CD box set with bonus tracks via Rushus Records – pairs them with more psychedelic-minded soundscape pieces like “Winter Witchcraft,” “Walnut Talks,” the proggy “Flying Clouds” and sweetly acoustic “Roots Patter,” that showcase where founding multi-instrumentalist Ilya Lipkin is taking the band going forward. The result is a satisfying side A/B split on the vinyl that delights in heavy riffing for its own sake in the first half and expands the scope in the second, which should delight newcomers as well as those who’ve followed The Re-Stoned along this evolutionary process.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records website

 

Castle, Welcome to the Graveyard

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It may well be the fate of San Francisco’s hard-touring, ass-kicking, genre-refusing duo Castle to be terminally underappreciated, but that has yet to stop them from proliferating their righteous blend of thrash, doom and classic, fistpump-worthy metal. Their latest outing, Welcome to the Graveyard, arrives via respected purveyor Ván Records, and entices in atmosphere and execution, cohesively built tracks like “Hammer and the Cross” and the penultimate “Down in the Cauldron Bog” finding a balance of personality and delivery that the band has long since honed on stage. The Dio-esque barnburner riff of “Flash of the Pentagram” makes that cut a highlight, but as they roll out the cultish vibes of “Natural Parallel” to close, there doesn’t seem to be much on the spectrum of heavy metal that doesn’t fit into Castle’s wheelhouse. For some bands, there’s just no justice. Four records deep, Castle have yet to get their due, and Welcome to the Graveyard is further proof of why they deserve it.

Castle website

Ván Records

 

Spirit Adrift, Chained to Oblivion

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One can hear a new wave of modern doom taking shape in Chained to Oblivion, the Prosthetic Records debut from Arizona one-man outfit Spirit Adrift. The work of Nate Garrett alone in the studio, the full-length offers five mostly-extended tracks as a 48-minute 2LP of soaring, emotional and psychedelic doom à la Pallbearer, but given even further breadth through progressively atmospheric passages and a marked flow in its transitions. To call it personal seems superfluous – it’s a one-man band, of course it’s personal – but Garrett (also formerly of metallers Take Over and Destroy) brings a palpable sense of performance to the songwriting, and by the time he gets to the 11-minutes-apiece finale duo of the title-track and “Hum of Our Existence,” it’s easy to forget you’re not actually listening to a full band, not the least because of the vocal harmonies. Calling Chained to Oblivion a promising first outing would be underselling it – this is a project with serious potential.

Spirit Adrift on Thee Facebooks

Prosthetic Records website

 

Robb & Pott, Once upon the Wings

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Unpredictable from the start of opener “Flesh ‘n’ Steel,” Once upon the Wings is a first-time multinational collaborative effort from Robbi Robb of California’s 3rd Ear Experience and Paul Pott of Germany’s The Space Invaders. Its five tracks/42 minutes arrive through no less than Nasoni Records, and provide a curious and exploratory blend of the organic and the inorganic in sound, as one finds the 11-minute “Grass” no less defined by its percussion solo, guitar line and ‘60s-style vocal than the electronic drums that underscore the layered wash of noise in its midsection. Further definition hits with the 16-minute centerpiece “Prophecy #1,” which works in a space-rocking vein, but the shorter closing duo of the catchy “Looney Toon” and darkly progressive “Space Ear” show a creative bent that clearly refuses to be tamed. Robb & Pott, as a project, demonstrates remarkable potential throughout this debut, as they seem to have set no limits for where they want their sound to go and they seem to have the command to take it there.

Robb & Pott on Bandcamp

Nasoni Records website

 

Family, Future History

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Most of the tracks on Brooklyn progressive noise rockers Family’s second album and Prosthetic Records debut, Future History, come paired with interludes. That cuts some of the growling intensity of winding pieces like “Funtime for Bigboy” and “Floodgates,” and emphasizes the generally experimental spirit of the record as a whole, broadening the scope in sound and theme. I’m somewhat torn as to how much this actually works to the 51:50 outing’s benefit, as shorter pieces like “Prison Hymn” and “Transmission,” while adding dynamic to the sound and narrative drama, also cut the immediacy in impact of “The Trial” or closer “Bone on Bone,” but it’s entirely possible that without them Future History would be an overwhelming tumult of raw prog metal. And while the play back and forth can feel cumbersome when one considers how effectively “Night Vision” bridges the gap between sides, I’m not sure that’s not what Family were going for in the first place. It’s not supposed to be an easy record, and it isn’t one.

Family on Thee Facebooks

Family website

 

Les Discrets, Virée Nocturne

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France’s Les Discrets haven’t had a studio offering since 2012’s Ariettes Oubliées (review here), and while they released Live at Roadburn (review here) last year documenting their 2013 set at that festival, there’s little there that might presage the stylistic turn the Fursy Teyssier-led outfit takes on their new EP, Virée Nocturne (on Prophecy Productions). With four tracks – two new, complete recordings, one demo and the last a remix of the opener by Dälek and DeadverseLes Discrets attempt to find a stylistic middle ground between post-rock and trip-hop, and for the most part, they get there. “Virée Nocturne” itself leads off and can be jarring on first listen, but successfully blends the lush melodicism for which the band is known with electronic-driven beats, and both “Capricorni. Virginis. Corvi” and even the demo “Le Reproche” continue to build on this bold shift. The finale remix adds over two minutes to “Virée Nocturne,” but uses that time to make it even more spacious and all the more immersive. For anyone who thought they might’ve had Les Discrets figured out, the surprise factor here should be palpable.

Les Discrets on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions website

 

Liquido di Morte, II

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Presented across four tracks beginning with the 12-minute and longest-of-the-bunch (immediate points) “The Corpse of Dr. Funkenstein” (double points for the reference), II, the aptly-titled second album from Liquido di Morte expands the progressive atmospherics of the Italian four-piece’s 2014 self-titled debut (review here) without losing sight of the performance and spirit of exploration that helped bring it to life. Isaak’s Giacomo H. Boeddu guests on brooding vocals and whispers for “The Saddest of Songs I’ll Sing for You,” which swells in seething intensity as it moves forward, while “Rodents on the Uphill” casts a vision of post-space rock and closer “Schwartz Pit” rounds out with crash and wash that seems only to draw out how different the two halves of II actually are. Not a complaint. Liquido di Morte make their way across this vast span with marked fluidity, and if they prove anything throughout, it’s that they’re able to keep their command wherever they feel like using it to go.

Liquido di Morte on Thee Facebooks

Sstars BigCartel store

 

Witchskull, The Vast Electric Dark

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Canberra, Australia, trio Witchskull initially released their debut full-length, The Vast Electric Dark, last year, and caught the attention of the cross-coastal US partnership between Ripple Music and STB Records, who now align for a reissue of the eight-tracker. Why is quickly apparent. In addition to having earned a fervent response, The Vast Electric Dark basks in quality songcraft and doomly, heavy vibes, keeping a consistent pace while rolling through the semi-metallic push of “Raise the Dead” or the later rumble/shred of “Cassandra’s Curse.” All the while, guitarist/vocalist Marcus De Pasquale provides a steady presence at the fore alongside bassist Tony McMahon and drummer Joel Green, and what’s ultimately still a straightforward rocker of an album finds a niche for itself between varies underground styles of heavy. Between the balance they strike across their 37 minutes and the energy that courses through their songs, Witchskull’s The Vast Electric Dark proves easily worth the look it’s getting.

Witchskull on Thee Facebooks

STB Records webstore

Ripple Music website

 

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The Re-Stoned Post “Return” Video; Reptiles Return out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

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Kind of hard to get a sense from the video for the track, but the leadoff and longest piece on The Re-Stoned‘s latest collection, Reptiles Return, is actually pretty colorful. And by that I mean the clip isn’t. Black and white for the duration, it nonetheless fades smoothly into and out of various shots mostly of founding guitarist Ilya Lipkin — also a mysterious robed figure in the woods — as it complements the song’s dreamy tones and heavy psychedelic warmth. The Moscow-based outfit released Reptiles Return in August on Clostridium Records and also have it out as a limited box edition through Rushus Records accompanied by the band’s first outing, 2010’s Return to the Reptiles.

The titular similarity is, of course, no coincidence. Return to the Reptiles was The Re-Stoned‘s first outing and Reptiles Return, if I read it right, seems to be Lipkin‘s way of going back to the start in an attempt to rebuild and expand on the foundation that release laid down. “Return” seems to have been one of the ones re-recorded entirely — it’s two minutes longer here than in the original version — but it works well opening the always adventurous instrumentalists’ first full-length since 2014’s Totems (review here), which came out on R.A.I.G. as the band’s fourth album overall. And to hear them tell it, as they do below, there’s much more to come as well in the form of a new double-LP, so all the better.

Not sure I’d call the video a cinematic masterwork, but it gets the job done and is a cool chance to check out the track, so either way, please enjoy:

The Re-Stoned, “Return” official video

Idea, Producing & Original graphics by Ilya Lipkin, Camera by Wolfsblood, Video Editing by Arkadiy Fedotov.

Special thanks to Vasily Arzamastsev, Wolfsblood, Arkadiy Fedotov, CSBR, Maltvormast and Andrey Kiselev.

Ilya Lipkin – guitars, bass
Ivan Fedotov – drums
Mixed by Ilya Lipkin, Mastered by Janne Stark and Ilya Lipkin. Released on the album “Reptiles Return” /Clostridium Records – CR 022/ Rushus records – RR 03 / 2016

“Reptiles Return”- vinyl release of 8 tracks LP (Clostridium Records – CR 022) and 10 tracks on limited edition CD-R with “Reptiles” BOX Set (Rushus records – RR 03). This time the Grandmaster of this Moscow psychedelic fuzz orchestra Ilya Lipkin and associates made an attempt to rethink the legacy of the primal days of the band – the very first EP “Return to the Reptiles” with one track remixed, two – re-recorded a new and two more – remastered. The new album also includes new songs (4 in vinyl version and 6 in digital) covering more broad sonic space – acoustic pieces and psychedelic soundscapes which have been composed and recorded over the period of the last three years. “Reptiles Return” is a good appetizer for those fans tired of waiting for the brand new double LP due to release in the nearest future.

The Re-Stoned on Bandcamp

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks

Clostridium Records

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The Grand Astoria Touring Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

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Always adventurous and never far off from their next outing, Russian psychedelic progressives The Grand Astoria have just issued a collection of tracks from members’ other outfits. This follows up on 2015’s Soft Focus quieter outing and the grandiose, classically-influenced The Mighty Few, and brings together cuts from The Legendary Flower Punk and other side-projects related to The Grand Astoria proper. To coincide with the latest in a prolific string of outings, The Grand Astoria will hit the road next month through Western Europe, hitting France and the Iberian Peninsula over the course of two weeks before August brings a few select festival dates, among them Yellowstock in Belgium.

This follows up on a run the band did between February and March of this year, as they continue to be somewhat underappreciated in the wider European sphere despite years of steady, quality work. They’re a lot to keep up with at this point — admittedly I feel like I fail to do so more often than not — but their material has always proven to be well worth the effort.

Dates, of which there are reportedly more to come, and other info follow:

the grand astoria poster

First bunch of dates of The Grand Astoria summer tour. We are building around these ones. If you are interested in booking us – please mail to: thegrandastoria@gmail.com

14.7 – Balagny-sur-Thérain (FRANCE) “Le Cheval Blanc”
16.7 – Tarbes (FRANCE) “Celtic Pub”
18.7 – Bilbao (SPAIN) “La Nube Cafe Teatro”
19.7 – Madrid (SPAIN) “Wurlitzer Ballroom”
21.7 – Cangas (SPAIN) “Salason”
22.7 – Ourense (SPAIN) “Urban Place”
23.7 – Figueira de Foz (PORTUGAL) “Woodrock Festival”
25.7 – Cascais (PORTUGAL) “Stairway Club”
27.7 – Loule (PORTUGAL) “Bafo de Baco”
06.8 – Beelen (GERMANY) “Krach am Bach Festival”
13.8 – Cernoy (FRANCE) “Celebration Days Festival”
14.8 – Geel (BELGIUM) “Yellowstock Festival”

From the forthcoming The Grand Astoria family compilation! Lovely piano piece from our keyboards wizard ????? ????????. Enjoy and share with your friends and parents (your mom will dig it)!

https://www.facebook.com/TheGrandAstoria
https://thegrandastoria.bandcamp.com/

The Grand Astoria, “Viipuri Lumi”

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