Posted in Reviews on January 14th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Russian heavy rockers The Grand Astoria have only gotten more progressive and more prolific. La Belle Epoque, which was released last month by Setalight Records, is their first long-player since 2013’s Punkadelica Supreme (review here) and their fifth overall, but in the time between the two albums, the Saint Petersburg-based outfit have unleashed a barrage of outings, including singles, EPs, splits and live releases, plus side-projects from guitarist/vocalist Kamille Sharapodinov (The Legendary Flower Punk) and lead guitarist Igor Suvarov (Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds). Their increasing tendency toward exploration has led them to a more metallic approach on La Belle Epoque, and what seemed on their earlier works like a defining core of stoner rock and punk has become only pieces of a puzzle to which, apparently, more is being added. Their first three records, 2009’s I (review here), 2010’s II (review here) and 2011’s Omnipresence (review here), showed an increasing tendency to look outside the band itself — a rotating lineup around Sharapodinov and Suvarov has been part of that; near as I can tell, keyboardist/floutist/vocalist/metallophonist Danila Danilov is the only other returning player from Punkadelica Supreme — and La Belle Epoque further extends that impulse stylistically. It is their proggiest work to date, though at seven-tracks/43 minutes it’s not like they’ve gotten so indulgent as to surpass an easy vinyl fit, but the range of their material and their ability to fluidly bring listeners along for the ride throughout is indicative of their growth. As much as it is exploring, La Belle Epoque is also a mature, not-at-all-confused offering.
Opener “Henry’s Got a Gun” makes a surprising first impression in calling to mind Faith No More sonically, and I find the more I listen to La Belle Epoque, the more that band fits as a comparison point. Not always in sound — The Grand Astoria aren’t limited to aping one group or genre at this point, if they ever were — but in method. The likeness comes more from the ability to translate experimental tendencies into traditional or semi-traditional forms of songwriting; that is, to take the experiment and develop it into a fully-realized song. Be it the slight country touch of guest banjo in “The Answer,” the Metallica groove early in “Gravity Bong,” the Devin Townsend-style harmonies and prog-metal range of the 14:05 “Serpent and the Garden of Eden” or the sweet melodicism of the clarinet-inclusive title-track and the brief, positive moment provided in closer “Charming,” each song offers something different, but La Belle Epoque does not overbake its ideas or push too far in one direction or another, instead keeping a balance sound-wise and through Sharapodinov and Danilov‘s vocals that guides the listener across the various movements on hand. Overarching flow winds up one of the great strengths of the CD — the vinyl presumably splits just before “Serpent and the Garden of Eden” — though that’s not really a surprise given it’s The Grand Astoria‘s fifth full-length. The tonal quality is a bit more of a surprise, the guitars having more bite and bassist Eugene Korolkov and drummer Vladimir Zinoviev following them on runs like those of “Lisbon Firstborn”‘s instrumental first half, which shifts after four minutes to an acoustic homage to Lisbon that in turn builds to organ-topped classic rock groove and soloing to finish out.
In many other contexts, such shifts might come across as manic or disjointed, but by the time they get around to “Lisbon Fuzzborn,” The Grand Astoria have bent the rules far enough that they can more or less squeeze through whatever they want. Of course, at 14 minutes, “Serpent and the Garden of Eden” is a focal point, and from its grandiose opening build through the metallic tension that arises early, the tight groove, psychedelic vibe in Suvorov‘s first-half solo, and progressive changes and turns made from there on out, winding up in a second-half payoff for song and album alike, it’s a singular achievement in the band’s discography in its arrangement and execution. As an example of how far they’ve come since their debut six years ago, I don’t think there’s much more one could ask of it, though one could just as easily say the same of “La Belle Epoque” itself, which clocks in at a much shorter 3:19. So it’s not just about how they’ve written a long track, or found a metal-sounding production. It’s about how La Belle Epoque demonstrates a progression hard won through constant evolution of songwriting and work on the road. Most satisfying of all is how increasingly these elements belong solely to The Grand Astoria, and how they’ve carved an identity for themselves in their willful searching for their sound. They’re only going to keep moving forward, and while La Belle Epoque features their familiar cow-skull mascot on its cover by Sophia Miroedova, the tracks on the album itself are anything but repetitive. If anything, this is one in a series of ambitious adventures that character has had, and I’d be very surprised if it’s all that long before the next one arrives.
Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Yesterday was pretty rough. Some excellent stuff in that batch of 10 discs, but man, by the end of it I don’t mind telling you I was dragging more than a bit of ass. I guess that’s to be expected. Still, I think that, as a project, this was worthwhile. There was a lot of stuff — too much — sitting around that was going to go undiscussed coming out of 2014, and now here we are, it’s the New Year, and I feel like at least a small percentage of what came my way got its due. Small victories.
So this is it. Reviews 41-50. After this, there isn’t much from 2014 that I’ll be looking back on; it’s mostly stuff to come, which is a different matter entirely. I’m sure we won’t be out of Jan. before I’m behind again in a major way, but what the hell, at least I’m trying, and at least there’s 50 discs that showed up on my desk that can be put on the shelf instead. Yes, it’s a very complex filing system. Ask me sometime and I’ll tell you all about it. Until then, let’s finish it like the final battle from Highlander. There can be only… 10… more…?
Okay maybe not.
Thanks for reading.
The Re-Stoned, Totems
Helmed since 2008 by the multifaceted Ilya Lipkin, Moscow mostly-instrumentalists The Re-Stoned release their fourth album in the form of Totems on R.A.I.G., a 58-minute wide-breadth journey into heavy rock groove with touches of psychedelia, plotted jazz-jamming and a raw tonal sensibility. Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump contributes a noteworthy solo to “Old Times,” and along with bassist Alexander Romanov, Lipkin (who himself handles the artwork design, guitar, bass, shaman drum, jew’s harp, mandala and some voice work) employs a guest drummer, percussionist and didgeridoo player, so there’s a measure of variety to the proceedings, be it the jerky pauses in “Shaman” or the earlier effects-laden exploration of “Chakras.” “Old Times” has a bit of funk to it even before Stump’s arrival, and the acoustics of “Melting Stones,” which follows, border on cowboy Americana. They’ve never had the most vibrant production, but The Re-Stoned manage to convey a natural feel and confidence as they progress, the creative growth of Lipkin always at the center of what they do.
For his second album under the moniker Anthroprophh, guitarist/vocalist Paul Allen (also of The Heads) brings in a rhythm section to aid him in his time-to-get-really-weird purposes. Thus, bassist Gareth Turner and drummer Jesse Webb, who together form the duo Big Naturals, add to the strangeness of songs like “2013 and She Told Me I was Die” on Anthroprophh’s Outside the Circle, a 45-minute excursion into warped sensibilities and things meant to go awry. Songs are made to be broken, and that happens with drones, sudden shifts in atmosphere, some smooth transitions, some jagged, all designed to transport and ignite stagnation. It does not get any less bizarre as Outside the Circle moves toward its nine-minute title-track, but one doesn’t imagine Allen would have it any other way, and one wouldn’t have it any other way from him. I call a fair amount of music adventurous for deviating from the norm. Anthroprophh makes most of that sound silly in comparison with its buzzsaw guitar and raw experimental display.
Saskatoon four-piece Lavagoat continue to challenge themselves even as they bludgeon eardrums. Their single-track CD EP, Weird Menace, pulls together six individual songs recorded mostly live in their rehearsal space with a purposeful drive toward rawness and a horror thematic. Sure enough, where their 2012 LP, Monoliths of Mars (review here) and 2010 self-titled debut (review here) offered increasing stylistic complexity, Weird Menace steps forward atmospherically by pulling back on the production value. Murky screams permeate “Ectoplasm” only to be immediately offset by the low growls and deathly groove of “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” presented as nasty as possible. There are still some touches of flourish in the guitar – one can’t completely cast off a creative development, even when trying really, really hard – but to call Weird Menace’s regressive experimentalism anything but a success would be undervaluing the turn they’ve made and how smoothly they’ve made it. Note: a follow-up LP, Ageless Nonsense (actually recorded earlier than this EP), has already been released.
Limited to 50 CD copies and presented in an oversize sleeve, soon-to-be-picked-up-by-somebody Colorado five-piece Ketch’s self-titled debut demo/EP is death-doom brutal and doom-death grooving. Vocalist Zach Salmans and guitarist Clay Cushman (who also recorded) trade off growls and screams over plus-sized, malevolent riffs and guitarist Jeremy Winters, bassist Dave Borrusch and drummer David Csicsely (also of The Flight of Sleipnir) only add to the pummel, which hits a particularly vicious moment in the grueling second half of “Counting Sunsets,” a dirge of low growls giving way to churning, nodding despair. Beginning with 9:18 longest cut “Shimmering Lights” (immediate points), Ketch deliver a precision extremity that even on this initial offering makes its villainous intent plain with volume and overarching drear. The midsection stomp of “Chemical Despondency” and the gurgle in closer “13 Coils” affirm that Ketch have found their stylistic niche and are ready to begin developing their sound from it. One looks forward to the growth of this already maddening approach. Bonus points for no obvious Lovecraft references.
Somewhere between death, black and doom metals, one finds Rhode Island three-piece Eternal Khan exploring cosmic, existential, literary and mythological themes on their self-released debut full-length, A Poisoned Psalm, the jewel case edition of which includes both lyrics and liner note explanations of each of its seven tracks. It’s an ambitious take from a trio who seem destined at some point to write a concept album – maybe based on Faust, maybe not – but the actual songs live up to the lofty presentation, be it the suitable gallop of “Raging Host,” despondent push of centerpiece “The Tower” or double-kick bleakness of “Void of Light and Reconciliation.” Guitarist/vocalist N. Wood, guitarist T. Phrathep and drummer D. Murphy mash their various styles well, but there’s room to grow here too, and I’d wonder how “The Black Stork” might work with an element of drone brought into the mix to add to the atmosphere and provide contrast to the various sides of Eternal Khan’s extremity. Even without, A Poisoned Psalm serves vigorous notice.
Rife with ‘70s swagger and easy-rolling blues grooves, Get Pure is the third record from Columbus, Ohio trio Mount Carmel, and it goes down as smooth as one could ask, the guitar work of Matthew Reed, bass of his brother, Patrick Reed (since out of the band and replaced by Nick Tolford) and drums of James McCain meshing with a natural, classic power trio dynamic only furthered by the vocals, as laid back as Leaf Hound but with an underlying bluesiness on cuts like “One More Morning” and “No Pot to Piss.” At 11 tracks and a vinyl-minded 35 minutes, neither the album as a whole nor its component tracks overstay their welcome, and late pushers like “Hangin’ On” and “Fear Me Now” leave the listener wanting more while closer “Yeah You Mama” bookends with opener “Gold” in hey-baby-ism and irrefutable rhythmic swing. Comfortable in its mid-pace boogie, Get Pure offers a party vibe without being needlessly raucous, and its laid back mood becomes one of its greatest assets.
One could hardly accuse Stockholm classic proggers Pocket Size of living up to their name on Exposed Undercurrents, their second album. Even putting aside the expansive fullness of their sound itself, there are nine people in the lineup. It would have to be some pocket. The group is led by guitarist Peder Pedersen, whose own contributions are met by arrangements of saxophone, Hammond B-3, flute, theremin and so on as the 11 tracks of Exposed Undercurrents play off intricately-conceived purposes to engaging ends. One is reminded some of Hypnos 69’s takes on elder King Crimson, but Pocket Size have less of a heavy rock stylistic base and are more purely prog. A clean production – this is clearly a band that wants you to hear everything happening at any given moment – serves the 54-minute offering well, and though it’s by no means free of indulgence, Exposed Undercurrents is imaginative in both the paths it follows and those it creates, the joy of craftsmanship clearly at the core of its process.
Though it’s actually only about 41 minutes, I doubt if Zoltan’s Sixty Minute Zoom would benefit from the extra time in terms of getting its point across. The instrumental London trio of keyboardist Andy Thompson, bassist/keyboardist Matt Thompson and drummer/keyboardist Andrew Prestidge revel in ‘70s synth soundtrack stylizations. For good measure I’ll name-check Goblin as a central influence on “Uzumaki,” the second of Sixty Minute Zoom’s five inclusions, but John Carpenter’s clearly had a hand as well in brazenly cinematic texturing of synth and the late-‘70s/early-‘80s vibe. The various washes culminate in the side B-consuming 21-minute stretch of “The Integral,” which is broken into separate movements but flows smoothly between them, pulsations and drones interweaving for a classic atmosphere of tension and balance of the chemistry between the Thompsons and Prestidge and the progressive, immersive sound they create. Fans of earlier Zombi will find much to chew on, but Zoltan dive even further into soundtrack-style ambience. All that’s missing is Lori Cardille running down a dimly lit hallway.
Offered as a nine-track full-length plus a four-song bonus EP, the self-titled debut from Madison, Wisconsin’s The Garza meters out noise rock punishment with sludgy ferocity. A trio of notable pedigree – drummer/vocalist Magma (Bongzilla, Aquilonian), guitarist Shawn Blackler (Brainerd, Striking Irwin), and bassist Nate Bush (ex-Droids Attack, ex-Bongzilla) – they fluidly pull together post-hardcore elements and Crowbar-esque turns while retaining a core of punk rock. “Rage” is a solid example of this, but it’s true of just about all of the album proper, which largely holds to its approach, adding some melody to the seven-minute pre-bonus-tracks closer “Kingdoms End” and varying tempo here and there around its destructive central ideology. The four bonus tracks are of a similar mind as well, Magma switching up his vocals every now and then to add variety to proceedings that otherwise prove vehemently assured of their position. I’m not sure if the extra cuts help reinforce the album’s rawness or detract from the closer, but The Garza aren’t exactly light on impact either way.
Dot Legacy’s self-titled Setalight Records debut, particularly for a green-backed CD with vinyl-style grooves on front, is not nearly as stoned as one might think. The Parisian foursome of Damien Quintard (vocals/bass/recording), Arnaud Merckling (guitar/keys/vocals), John Defontaine (guitar/vocals) and Romain Mottier (drums/vocals) employ a broad range on the 46-minute album’s nine tracks, from the shoegaze post-rock of “The Passage” to the driving heavy psych of “Gorilla Train Station,” all the while holding firm to a creative reasoning geared toward individuality. If they wound up adopting “The Midnight Weirdos” as a nom de guerre, I wouldn’t be surprised, but in fact there’s little sense that at any point Dot Legacy aren’t in full command of where their material is headed. All the better for the surprising opening duo of “Kennedy” and “Think of a Name,” which shift between reverb-soaked meditation and vibrant, hook-laden heavy rock. A fascinating and original-ish debut that could be the start of something special. They should hit the festival circuit hard and not look back.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Released by the band in a hand-painted box in an edition of ONE copy, The Beginner’s Guide to The Grand Astoria includes nine CDs, two 7″s and a plethora of other pieces of memorabilia: backstage passes, stickers, and so on, plus some stuff from Kamille Sharapodinov‘s side-project. It’s really more than just a beginner’s guide, considering it’s everything, but an impressive assemblage all the same, and even more tempting since it’s put together personally by the band and they’re only doing one of them.
The Grand Astoria are a hard band to keep up with. The prolific Russian rockers have, by my count, six releases out this year. Two are singles, one is a 29-minute track on a split with Argentina’s Montenegro, one’s a live record, one is a front-to-back cover of Black Flag‘s The Process of Weeding Out EP, and most recent is the full-length La Belle Epoque, which was released in September. It can be an overwhelming amount of material, but if you were ever thinking of diving in headfirst, The Beginner’s Guide to The Grand Astoria would at very least mean you’re all caught up. For now.
Here’s the post from Sharapodinov on the auction for the box, which seems to be taking place on Thee Facebooks:
Okay folks! I promised something special for the real fans and supporters of THE GRAND ASTORIA and my other projects! Here is the box hand-painted by our lovely Sophia Miroedova which includes 9 CDs of The Grand Astoria, 2 seven inch singles of The Grand Astoria, 2 CDs of The Legendary Flower Punk with latest albums, 9 backstage passes from different festivals we played during these years, gently saved by me for this very moment, 1 ticket for our very FIRST SHOW EVER and also 1 sticker. I want only 130 euro (plus shipping costs) for this box.
Only one single copy in the whole world was made Because I am not sure how many of you may want to buy this – I decided to start an auction for this beauty which actually starts right now and will end on 22-00 (Russian time) on 18th of November 2014. If nobody is interested – I will put it to ebay later. All the money will support my recent music activities and I will really appreciate any sum! Put your bid under this post! Thank you and go ahead, first bid is 130 euro.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
German/Russian heavy psych rockers Iguana kick off a round of European dates tonight that will cover the next couple months, playing with Naam in Weil der Stadt. Later this month, they’ll hit the Keep it Low festival and then on from there for a series of weekenders that goes into December. Their debut album, Get the City Love You (review here), came out in 2012. Rumor has it — and by “rumor” I mean what they said on Thee Facebooks — they’ve got new songs written, so perhaps they’ll use these dates as a means for working out the kinks en route to recording their sophomore outing sometime this winter or next year.
Either way, if you happen to be somewhere these dudes are playing and up for a jammy good time, you know what’s up.
The IGUANA-Tour starts with some highlights. On 3rd of October IGUANA shares the stage with brooklyn based psychrockers NAAM. On the 18.10. they will play Keep It Low Festival, with acts like KADAVAR, BLUES PILLS, MARS RED SKY and THE SHRINE. The bands’ personal highlite will take place on the 25th of October, when IGUANA will be playing with SPIDERGAWD (including two members of the fabulous MOTORPSYCHO). So there is a lot of parties to come. Please join us!
IGUANA are touring Europe for some years now in the good old manner of DIY. IGUANA played more than 120 shows with bands such as Colour Haze, Kadavar, Saint Vitus, Brant Bjork. And they played Stoned From The Underground twice, also Void Fest and Blue Moon Fest.
Tourdates 2014 – IGUANA – Fall Winter Tour 2014: 03.10.2014 – Weil der Stadt (DE), JH Kloster, w. Naam 18.10.2014 – München (DE), Feierwerk – Keep It Low Festival, w. Kadavar, The Shrine, Mars Red Sky 24.10.2014 – Lüneburg (DE), Jekyll & Hyde, w. Eta Lux 25.10.2014 – Hamburg (DE), Bambi Galore, w. Spidergawd 31.10.2014 – St. Gallen (CH), Rümpeltum, w. Wight, Bushfire 01.11.2014 – Kranichfeld (DE), Crossing All Over Fest 14.11.2014 – Nijmegen (NL), De Onderbroek 15.11.2014 – Den Haag (NL), Club tba 20.11.2014 – Dresden (DE), Ostpol, w. Kalamahara 22.11.2014 – Würzburg (DE), Immerhin, w. Stone Troopers 13.12.2014 – Berlin (DE), Cortina Bob, w. Deaf Flow
Posted in Radio on September 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s been a couple weeks since the last time I was able to get together a proper round of adds to The Obelisk Radio, and the list as a result is accordingly huge. I’d have to go back and compare the last 18-plus months to be sure, but I think 40 albums is up there with what I might have uploaded during the initial buildup of the playlist, just basically getting everything I could think of and a bunch of stuff I couldn’t to expand on what was on the hard drive when I got it. We’ll be at two years since the Radio stream went live before I know it. Time goes quick, and seems to all the more when each post has a timestamp.
I say this every time, but there’s a lot of killer stuff included this week, so I hope you find something you enjoy.
The Obelisk Radio Adds for Sept. 13, 2014:
Bong, Bong Presents Haikai No Ku Ultra High Dimensionality LP
I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to try to ascertain what plane of being Bong are residing on these days, but suffice it to say, they’ve evolved beyond corporeal form and merged with the all-consuming distortion of the universe. At least that’s how it sounds. The maddeningly prolific UK drone-doomers present this release but aren’t actually on it, save for guitarist Mike Vest, who leads the side-project Haikai No Ku through five tracks of blissful psychout on Ultra High Dimensionality. If you’re looking for differences between the two outfits, Haikai No Ku lean less toward grim droning than Bong, and songs like “Dead in the Temple” and “Blue at Noon” roll out huge psychedelic grooves — the band is completed by bassist Jerome Smith and drummer Sam Booth – but there’s consistency to be found in the wash of noise and the complete hypnosis of their repetitions anyway, and as high as the dimensionality might be, the volume should be higher. One to get lost in for sure, and there’s enough space for everyone. Bong on Twitter, on Bandcamp.
Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, The Shining One
The pun in the moniker of Moscow double-guitar four-piece Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds probably doesn’t need to be pointed out. Featuring The Grand Astoria collaborator Igor Suvorov, Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds pull together touches of psychedelic impulsiveness and classic heavy rock structures with the production clarity and catchy songwriting of mid-era Queens of the Stone Age. There’s a danger underscoring the boogie of “How to Fix Things” from the band’s self-released debut LP, The Shining One, that seems to find payoff later in the big-groove hook of “Highlow World,” which provides one of the album’s most satisfying listens before shifting into an airier dreamspace and fading into the noisier “Lords of the Damned,” reviving the largesse of riff prior to the closing title-track. An intriguing debut for an outfit loaded with potential, the fullness of their sound boding particularly well for their confidence in their sound and the precision of their execution. One not to be missed. Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Desert Lord, To the Unknown
Finnish stoner-doom foursome Desert Lord get into some Sabbath-worship on their debut long-player, To the Unknown, but manage to avoid both the trap of retro ’70s-ism that has much of Europe so firmly in its grasp and the trap of sounding like Reverend Bizarre, whose legacy in their native land isn’t to be understated. Of particular note is that Desert Lord cite The Cult as an influence. One can hear shades of that in the guitars on opener “Forlorn Caravan,” but Desert Lord quickly move into doomier fare on the subsequent nine-minute “Wonderland,” which distinguished by weeded-out wah on Roni‘s bass. Middle-ground is sought and found on “New Dimensions,” with vocalist Sampo Riihimäki reminding of Earthride‘s Dave Sherman in his movement between rougher delivery, spoken word, and accentuated screaming, also hinting at roots in more traditional metal, though “Manic Survivor’s Song” gives way to more stoner territory in the guitar, reminding of some of Eggnogg‘s stylistic turns, though with less of a mind toward tonal thickness. They’re still figuring out where they want to be, but Desert Lord‘s To the Unknown has more than a few moments worth the effort of a listen. Desert Lord on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Space Mushroom Fuzz, Onward, to the Future
Perpetually progressive and perpetually prolific bizarro psych rockers Space Mushroom Fuzz return with another new release, dubbed Onward, to the Future. The Boston outfit, led by Adam Abrams of Blue Aside, include two tracks this time out, “Onward, to the Future,” a laid back space rocker made strange in its midsection with some theremin-style keys, and the waltzing “Half the Way Down,” which shows off some classical guitar work over a subtly oompah backing rhythm with soft, brooding vocals. Is it possible to have a shoegazing waltz? Space Mushroom Fuzz never lack character in they do, Abrams periodically leading the way through jams that could and sometimes do run into indulgent (if satisfying) noodlefests, but particularly with “Half the Way Down,” there’s something more grounded and sadder at the root. “Onward, to the Future” tells a tale of alien invasion — short version: they win — and showcases the band’s exploratory side, but even that ends contemplative and relatively minimal, sort of dropping instruments one at a time by its finish on a long fade. A lesson in taming expectation, perhaps, and a fascinating, quick journey from this inventive outfit. Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Plunger, Space Plumber
All seems to be on a course for weirdo noise punk as Los Angeles bass/drum duo Plunger get underway on their debut Space Plumber EP, some Melvins influence making itself felt on “Toxic Wrap,” and then they rumble and thump their way into the eight-minute centerpiece title-track, and it becomes apparent that there’s much more going on with twin brothers Mark (bass/vocals) and Kris Calabio (drums/vocals, also of Old Man Wizard) than it might at first seem. They quickly put their own minimalism to work for them on the faster opener “Blerg Rush,” but “Space Plumber” moves far off into sparseness, the drums barely there when they are and then gone ahead of the transition into “Sleep,” on which both Mark and Kris contribute vocals over a fuller rumble and steady roll, clearly enjoying the contrast. “Plunger” rounds out the release with a fuller take on some of the faster movement of the opener, starts and stops in the unpretentious 1;53 finale. One gets the feeling the (Super) Calabio Bros. are only going to get stranger from here, and that suits them well. Plunger on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Once again, these are five cool releases, but there were 35 other records that join the playlist today, including full-lengths from Orange Goblin, Electric Wizard, Apostle of Solitude and on and on. A couple of these will be on the year-end list, so if you get the chance to check out The Obelisk Radio playlist and updates page, I think it’s worth a look.
Posted in Reviews on August 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Russian heavy rockers The Grand Astoria have traveled a long way in a relatively short amount of time. With a seemingly amorphous lineup surrounding multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/principle songwriter Kamille Sharapodinov and guitarist Igor Suvarov, the band has made a point of refusing to settle either in terms of their sound or their work ethic. Amidst a handful of European tours, The Grand Astoria have released three prior albums — 2009’s I (review here), 2010’s II (review here) and 2011’s Omnipresence (review here) — the 2013 live album Good Food – Good Show! (streamed here) and a host of other singles, including a split with U.S. Christmas that coincided with a tour together. In short, they keep busy, and that extends to their latest full-length studio outing as well, the ambitiously-titled Punkadelica Supreme. While marrying influences ranging from classic metal to heavy psych and even throwing in a touch of bluegrass in opening intro “Welcome to the Club” and some prog metal on the 13:40 penultimate “Score,” The Grand Astoria — Sharapodinov, Suvarov and drummer Alexander Chebotarev — incorporate no fewer than four keyboardists, three bassists, the aforementioned banjo, a sitar and a metallophone. Outside of the core trio and backing vocalist Danila Danilov, who is fairly easy to spot, sorting out who is contributing what to which of Punkadelica Supreme‘s 13 tracks can be a confusing affair, and as the album reaches to a full 77-plus minutes, the band are making no bones about pushing the limits both of their own creativity and of the CD format itself to which it’s pressed in a six-panel foldout digipak released through Setalight Records with well-drawn and stylized artwork by Sophia Miroedova, featuring The Grand Astoria‘s unnamed mascot who has graced all of their covers to date. With that kind of runtime, it is an expansive outing in more than just its sonic breadth. Each of The Grand Astoria‘s prior studio efforts was longer than its predecessor, but even Omnipresence was a full 20 minutes shorter than Punkadelica Supreme, and with the proliferation of extended solos and jams between bursts of metallic crunch and the other experimental elements, it is a challenge to sort out the purposes one song even as it leads into the next.
That’s not to say it’s not worth the effort of doing so — an attentive listen pays dividends — just that the likelihood of the average listener being able to dedicate 77 minutes solid of their attention span to Punkadelica Supreme‘s twists and turns seems slim, particularly as the jammy, sitar and metallophone-ized “Space Orchid vs. Massive Drumkit” arrives ultra-hypnotic prior to the halfway point in the tracklist. Standout moments like the Tool reference at the beginning of “Street Credit” and the locked-in, immediate groove of the later “To Cross the Rubicon” provide landmarks along the way, but by the time second cut “Slave of Two Masters” has reached its massive, lead-laden peak, the solos have stretched upwards of eight minutes and though the opener, on which Sharapodinov sets up a narrative of looking forward to and then finally being at a show and it being great, is lacking nothing for charm, that narrative is lost almost immediately and doesn’t seem to come up again until track 10, “King Has Left the Building,” on which the famous clip of Horace Lee Logan informing the screaming young girls in his audience that Elvis is gone is aired, and even that’s kind of a stretch bringing it back to the opener. You could argue that the 1:23 instrumental jam “Intermission” that closes after “Score” is part of it as well, and that everything between is the meat of the show that you as “the audience” are experiencing. With as far out as they go sonically, I’m not sure that’s enough to tie that together, so if it’s a setup, it’s one that goes more or less without an answer. What we get instead is a richly varied but ultimately consistent — surprisingly so considering the swath of personnel involved — collection of tracks that represent the boldest creative statement yet from The Grand Astoria. There may be a lot of it, but Punkadelica Supreme is rife with engaging stretches and fluid transitions. Sharapodinov has never sounded so confident as a frontman (the backing vocals of Danilov) also go a long way in complementing), and in the arrangements of extended cuts like “To Cross the Rubicon,” “Punkadelica Supreme,” “King Has Left the Building” and of course the monolithic “Score,” show payoff for the relentless creative growth he’s demonstrated as a songwriter over the course of The Grand Astoria‘s prior offerings.
The track “Then You Win” by prolific, always-busy Russian heavy rockers The Grand Astoria was released as a digital single earlier this year (streamed here), but as there’s a new 7″ version of the single out as a precursor to their latest full-length, Punkadelica Supreme, the St. Petersburg-based weirdo revelers decided they’d put together a video for it as well. Culled from footage from some recent shows in their native land, “Then You Win” gives those of us who may never get to see the band live some view of what we’re missing.
From the looks of it, plenty. The Grand Astoria never shy away from injecting their material with a healthy individualized sensibility, and “Then You Win” sets ’90s-style guitar crunch against some off-kilter melodies, resulting in a feel that — true to the upcoming album — isn’t quite punk, isn’t quite psych, somehow relatable to the Melvins but not seeming remotely interested in actually sounding like them. One of my favorite things about the band is that I have a hard time classifying them, and as they make ready to release Punkadelica Supreme, that doesn’t seem to have dissipated in the slightest.
Diagnosed with a terminal case of “the weird,” adventurous Russian heavy rockers The Grand Astoria are shortly to loose their latest full-length, Punkadelica Supreme. The St. Petersburg outfit have become stewards over the last couple years of the Russian riffy scene, touring around their native land and across Europe while keeping up a fairly prolific clip of singles, EPs and even a split with U.S. Christmas.
I’m not sure on the release date for Punkadelica Supreme, but The Grand Astoria posted a new video for the track “Feels Like Home,” directed by guitarist Igor Suvorov, and if you’re prone to seizures as a result of flashing lights, I can’t really advise checking it out, but for everyone else, it’s pretty rocking even if you put it on and just listen to the audio. Fuzz-toned and punk-shouting, given break in its stomp by organ, it sounds like The Grand Astoria are really shooting for the mark their title sets up.
The Grand Astoria, “Feels Like Home” Official Video
Posted in Whathaveyou on March 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Something tells me that even if they didn’t live all the way in Russia, I’d probably have a hard time keeping up with The Grand Astoria. Maybe it’s the fact that every time I turn around, the St. Petersburg-based outfit have a new release coming, if not more than one. Their split with venerated North Carolinian psych merchants U.S. Christmas still fresh off the press, The Grand Astoria have announced three new works on the way — a single and a live album due in April and a new studio album due later in the year. As much music and info as I could get follow here, grabbed from The Grand Astoria Bandcamp and Thee Facebooks pages:
The Grand Astoria, Good Food – Good Show! (April 17)
A selection of live performances from different countries
1.Mania Grandiosa (Yellowstock,BE 2012) 2.Rat Race In Moscow (Yellowstock,BE 2012) 3.Evolution Of The Planet Groove (Yellowstock,BE 2012) 4.All The Same (St.Petersburg,RU 2013) 5.Omniabsence (Potsdam,DE 2011) 6.Something Wicked This Way Comes (Potsdam,DE 2011) 7.The Man.The Sun.The Desert (Seville,ES 2010) 8.Wikipedia Surfer (Preili,LV 2010) 9.Lenin Was A Mushroom (St.Petersburg,RU 2010) 10.Map Of The Starry Night (St.Petersburg,RU 2010) 11.Shoreline Melody (St.Petersburg,RU 2010)
The Grand Astoria, Punkadelica Supreme (Later 2013)
1.Welcome To The Club 2.Slave Of Two Masters 3.I Know 4.Punkadelia Supreme 5.Street Credit 6.Space Orchid vs Massive Drumkit 7.Dropping Aitches 8.Feels Like Home 9.To Cross The Rubicon 10.King Has Left The Building 11.Visualize 12.Score 13.Intermission
Moscow-based heavy psych outfit The Re-Stoned have sandwiched the bulk of the material on their new album between two massive 11-minute tracks, opener “Faces of Earth” and closer “Alpha Rhythm,” but that’s really just the beginning of the story when it comes to how Plasma is put together. The instrumental band led by and mostly comprised of guitarist/bassist Ilya Lipkin released their last record, Analog(review here), through R.A.I.G. in 2010, and Plasma sees issue through the same label as well, but instead of a jewel case arrives bundled in a folded cardboard box — almost like a miniaturized vinyl mailer with the logo printed on the front and the album info on back. It may not prove the most durable packaging option when it comes to standing the test of time, but it certainly is creative.
Lipkin, who is joined by drummers Vasily Bartov, Pavel Voloshin and Evgeny Tkachev throughout Plasma‘s eight tracks/58 minutes, employs a host of effects on his guitar and bass to add flourish to the tradicionnyj stoner riffing that lies at the heart of the band’s sound, and while the cardboard packaging doesn’t seem to have any direct correlation to what’s happening musically or thematically with the album or its titles — though one does unfold the package and the flow of the album unfolds as well — it does grab the attention as only intricate physical media can. I’ve never thought of cardboard as particularly groovy, but maybe that’s what Lipkin is going for. I couldn’t really say.
The album boasts two covers — an extended jam on Jefferson Airplane’s “Today” in the first half and one on Pink Floyd‘s “Julia Dream” in the second — and with guest vocals from Veronika Martynova, they stand out in the tracklisting immediately and wind up as some of the record’s strongest material, incorporating elements of psychedelic folk with Lipkin layering acoustic and electric guitar. Elsewhere, the standout soloing of “Moon Dust” seems to be surfing with Joe Satriani‘s alien, while the riffs on the earlier “Grease” remind of some of the Karma to Burn-isms that showed up last time around. Fittingly titled, “Acoustic” is no less rich than any of the other material, given depth by Arkady Fedotov‘s synth and Tkachev‘s percussion, and as it occurs directly toward the middle of the album, it too seems to fall in line as another well-placed element at work to the benefit of Plasma.
Really, rather than be fed into by the music as part of an overarching theme, the uncommon packaging option for Plasmaserves as an example of how intricately the record as a whole is constructed, be it the space-rocking jam of “The Clay God” or the more open, airy musicality of “Alpha Rhythm,” slowly developing over the calming course of its 11:26. The Re-Stoned and in particular Lipkin as the driving force behind the band impress on all fronts, and if it’s the package housing the CD that gets you to notice the album first, it’s one more thing to be thankful for after you’ve heard it later.
I’ve spouted off plenty of times about what a difference physical media can make in giving someone an impression of a work, so I’ll spare it, but in a case like this, the artwork — Lipkin also designed the logo — and the presentation to the audience becomes a part of the experience, and every time I reach for Plasma, it will be a different feeling than anything else that might be situated on that shelf, including Analog. If the record wasn’t up to par as a listen, it would be gimmicky, but The Re-Stoned have even more tools with which to satisfy sonically than they do in terms of the aesthetic in their choice of casing, so in addition to being a nice package, Plasmais also a complete one.
Posted in Reviews on January 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
There’s a lot of sludge in this world. It comes from everywhere. From places warm and sunny and cold and dank, dry and wet, north and south. And somehow, the sound manages to fit. Based around a universal core of dissatisfaction and misanthropic fuckall, sludge can speak to similar ideas coming from India or New Orleans. Geography really doesn’t matter, and yet, in listening to Products, the R.A.I.G. debut from sludge extremists Fire to Fields , I can’t get the fact that they’re from Siberia out of my head. It makes the flames on their album cover seem to have an element of wishful thinking, adds a bone-chill to the vicious screams of frontman Stas, and renders the six-track/55-minute outing even less pleasant in a cross-sensory kind of way, burying the doomed riffing and plodding groove under a weighted blanket of snow and biting wind. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the album is a challenge. The best extreme sludge should be fundamentally unpleasant on the ear, and Fire to Fields are almost entirely amelodic. Their rhythms are slow, progressions lag and drag, and whether it’s the trashcan snare sound from drummer Oleg, buzzsaw distortion of guitarist Vova and bassist Dima or Stas’ largely one-sided extremity of delivery, there’s really no letup in the pummel. Products is comprised of four new recordings and two older ones — the penultimate Eyehategod cover “Depress” and closer “Fire to Fields” were on the band’s original 2009 demo – and though the difference between the first four tracks and the last two is audible, if you’re listening to Fire to Fields for the sound fidelity, you’re doing it wrong. This is feedback-drenched noise malevolence that plays out like it’s in a contest with itself to see how fast it can get you to beg mercy or at least press stop, the already-extended “From Illness into Sickness” (7:08) and “Manufacturing Corpse” (10:45) giving way to the droning molasses of “Fat,” the longest track at 12:22 and an easy focal point of Products for the radicalism on display in its musical ideology. Its cold is that much colder.
Their formative Eyehategod cover is a good establishing point for their overall sonic ethic (as much as you can call music like this ethical), but no question the newer tracks or at least newer recordings are more developed in terms of approach. On “From Illness to Sickness,” lyrics are there but almost completely indecipherable through listening – they appear printed in the CD liner – and Stas cuts through the morass of guitar and bass nastiness to become a singularly defining element in the band. There will be many who can’t listen to Products on account of his vocals alone, never mind the high-pitched noise solo Vova works into the opener’s halfway point and the barrage of feedback that occurs throughout, but the album doesn’t feel haphazard or like its assault is without purpose. Even nihilism has to have a reason behind it, and Fire to Fields’ method is there underlying the violence for anyone willing to find it. The question is just whether or not a given listener is going to be able to stand said violence, and in the case of most, the answer is probably no. Likely this suits Fire to Fields well enough, if the inhumanity of “Manufacturing Corpse” is anything to go by, since they show little interest in being friendly and establish only the most cursory of riff-led grooves, their sound based more around a lurch than anything that might elicit a nod from all but the most angry of show-going drunkards… in Siberia. Both “From Illness to Sickness” and “Manufacturing Corpse” have a chorus, as it were, but by the time you’ve dug it out, you’re so caked in dirt that it doesn’t matter anymore. And when “Fat” kicks in with its ultra-plodding, slow, slower, slowest-type pacing, Stas winds up eliciting a sense of agony few have been able to harness since Alan Dubin. Oleg drives the plod of “Fat,” slamming into toms and cymbals while Dima’s thickened tone rumbles along and the guitars seem to growl in kind with fits of disturbing noise. They’re nearly 11 minutes in before the foot moves off your neck, and even then, the only real difference is that the tempo picks up slightly, a searing chirp of tube-melting gurgle leading into the rumbled beginning of “Superstore Fodder.”
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 23rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Bit of a media blitz on this one, so bear with me. The Grand Astoria released the track “To Whom it May Concern” on a split with U.S. Christmas at the beginning of last month. The St. Petersburg, Russia, outfit went all out on it. The song is a 19-minute sprawl of psychedelic experimentation, rife with samples, winding riffs and ethereal flourishes and swirls. Don’t just take my word for it, though. They’ve put it up on their Bandcamp, so you can check it out here:
Pretty wild stuff. Over the course of their three albums — last year’s Omnipresence (review here), 2010’s II (review here) and 2009’s self-titled (On the Radar’ed here) — the band have quickly grown to cast a wide stylistic berth, but I think “To Whom it May Concern” is the farthest out The Grand Astoria have gone yet. Should be interesting to see what they do with it on tour, whether they strip it down or jam out on its space rocking elements. They hit the road on Friday, dates below (click to enlarge):
Ever ones for multi-media, they’ve also put together a video flyer for the run of shows, which they posted on the ol’ TubesofYou:
Now, they don’t really highlight it in there — presumably out of humility — but on this tour, The Grand Astoria will be taking part in Mudfest, which is happening Nov. 9-10 in Venlo, in the Netherlands, at Peron55. They’ll be playing with the likes of Sungrazer, Wheelfall, Kadavar, Black Bombaim, Glowsun and Belzebong on a stacked two-day bill. Here’s the poster for that one:
They’ve also announced they’ll play Roskilde Festival next year in Denmark. One would think this flurry of activity and the recently-issued split would be enough to keep The Grand Astoria busy, but according to a pic they recently posted on their Thee Facebooks, they’re also looking to have a new album out next spring. It may or may not be titled Punkadelica Supreme(though I certainly hope it is), and if you squint, you can check out the maybe-tracklisting below:
The really crazy part is, there’s probably more. I’m sure as we get closer to 2013 and the new album release, there’ll be further updates on The Grand Astoria and their manifold adventures, but that’s all my limited research skills could muster for the moment. In any case, plenty to look forward to, and if you want to check out more of their records, they’re all up on Bandcamp. Right on.
Posted in Reviews on October 16th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I am constantly working at a deficit. Financially, yes, because like many of my countrymen I’m am tens of thousands of dollars in debt — but also in terms of reviews. I’malwaysbehind on reviews. Hell, it was into July of this year before I finally put the kybosh on writing up anything from 2011, and I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t put my foot down on it, I’d still have year-old albums going up or older. My to-do list grows like a witchcult.
It’s not something to complain about and I’m not complaining. I’m stoked people give enough of a shit to send their CDs in to be reviewed — especially those who actually send CDs — and it’s for that reason that I do this second reviewsplosion (first one here).
Yeah, as ever, I’m behind on reviews, but I’m also working on being more concise — I swear I am; check out the At a Glance reviews if you don’t believe me — and one of the things I liked so much about the last reviewsplosion was it forced me to get to the fucking point. As direct a line as possible to a review. Boiling the idea down to its essential core.
With that in mind, here’s my attempt to both balance my review budget and be as clear as humanly possible. Hope you dig:
Altar of Oblivion, Grand Gesture of Defiance
The subject of some spirited debate on the forum, the second record from Danish five-piece Altar of Oblivion revels in traditional doom methods. There’s an air of pomp in some of the songs — “Graveyard of Broken Dreams” lays it on a little thick — but by and large, Grand Gesture of Defiance(Shadow Kingdom) is a more than solid showing of genre. Classic underground metal flourishes abound, and while it’s not a record to change your life, at six tracks/34 minutes, neither does it hang around long enough to be overly repetitive. You could do way worse. Altar of Oblivion on Thee Facebooks.
Blooming Látigo, Esfínteres y Faquires
Primarily? Weird. The Spanish outfiit Blooming Látigo make their debut on Féretro Records (CD) and Trips und Träume (LP) with the all-the-fuck-over-the-place Esfínteres y Faquires, alternately grinding out post-hardcore and reciting Birthday Party-style poetry. They reach pretty hard to get to “experimental,” maybe harder than they need to, but the on-a-dime stops and high-pitched screams on tracks like “Onania” and “Prisciliano” are well beyond fascinating, and the blown-out ending of “La Destrucción del Aura” is fittingly apocalyptic. Who gave the art-school kids tube amps? Blooming Látigo on Bandcamp.
Five years since their second offering, Green Magic, left such a strong impression, Italian stoner rock trio El-Thule return with Zenit (Go Down Records), which makes up for lost time with 50 minutes of heavy riffs, fuzzy desert grooves and sharp, progressive rhythms. The band — El Comandante (bass), Mr. Action (guitar/vocals) and Gweedo Weedo (drums/vocals) — may have taken their time in getting it together, but there’s little about Zenit that lags, be it the faster, thrashier “Nemesis” or thicker, Torche-esque melodic push of the highlight “Quaoar.” It’s raw, production-wise, but I hope it’s not another half-decade before El-Thule follow it up. El-Thule on Thee Facebooks.
Botanist, III: Doom in Bloom
It’s a nature-worshiping post-black metal exploration of what the History Channel has given the catchy title “life after people.” If you’ve ever wondered what blastbeats might sound like on a dulcimer, Botanist‘s third album, III: Doom in Bloom has the answers you seek, caking its purported hatred of human kind in such creative instrumentation and lyrics reverent of the natural world rather than explicitly misanthropic. The CD (on Total Rust) comes packaged with a second disc called Allies, featuring the likes of Lotus Thief and Matrushka and giving the whole release a manifesto-type feel, which suits it well. Vehemently creative, it inadvertently taps into some of the best aspects of our species. Botanist’s website.
Say what you will about whiteboys and the blues, the bass tone that starts “Nobody Get Me Down” is unfuckwithable. And Seattle trio GravelRoad come by it pretty honestly, having served for years as the backing back for bluesman T-Model Ford. The album Psychedelta (on Knick Knack Records) jams out on its start-stop fuzz in a way that reminds not so much of Clutch but of the soul and funk records that inspired Clutch in the first place, and though it never gets quite as frenetic in its energy as Radio Moscow, there’s some of that same vibe persisting through “Keep on Movin'” or their Junior Kimbrough cover “Leave Her Alone.” Throaty vocals sound like a put-on, but if they can nail down that balance, GravelRoad‘s psychedelic blues has some real potential in its open spaces. GravelRoad on Thee Facebooks.
The Linus Pauling Quartet, Bag of Hammers
Texas toast. The Linus Pauling Quartet offer crisp sunbursts of psychedelic heavy rock, and after nearly 20 years and eight full-lengths, that shouldn’t exactly be as much of a surprise as it is. Nonetheless, Bag of Hammers(Homeskool Records) proffers a 41-minute collection of heady ’90s-loving-the-’70s tones while venturing into classic space rock on “Victory Gin” and ballsy riffing on “Saving Throw.” Being my first experience with the band, the album is a refreshing listen and unpretentious to its very core. Eight-minute culminating jam “Stonebringer” is as engaging a display of American stoner rock as I’ve heard this year, and I have to wonder why it took eight records before I finally heard this five-man quartet? Hits like its title. LP4’s website.
Odyssey, Abysmal Despair
It’s the damnedest thing, but listening to Abysmal Despair, the Transubstans Records debut from Swedish prog sludge/noise rockers Odyssey, I can’t help but think of Long Island’s own John Wilkes Booth. It’s the vocals, and I know that’s a really specific association most people aren’t going to have, but I do, and I can’t quite get past it. The album is varied, progressive, and working in a variety of modern underground heavy contexts nowhere near as foreboding as the album’s title might imply, like Truckfighters meets Entombed, but I just keep hearing JWB‘sKerry Merkle through his megaphone. Note: that’s not a bad thing, just oddly indicative of the greater sphere of worldwide sonic coincidence in which we all exist. If anything, that just makes me like Abysmal Despair more. Odyssey on Soundcloud.
Palkoski, 2012 Demo
Conceptual Virginian free-formers Palkoski released the three-track/67-minute 2012 demo earlier this year through Heavy Hound. Most of it sounds improvised, but for verses here and there that emerge from the various stretches, and the band’s alternately grinding and sparse soundscapery results in an unsettling mash of psychotic extremity. It is, at times, painful to listen, but like some lost tribal recording, it’s also utterly free. Limited to 100 CDs with a second track called “The Shittiest EP Ever” and a third that’s a sampling of Palkoski‘s ultra-abrasive noise experimentation live, this one is easily not for the faint of heart. Still, there’s something alluring in the challenge it poses. Palkoski at Heavy Hound.
Radar Men from the Moon, Echo Forever
Following their charming 2011 EP, Intergalactic Dada and Space Trombones, the Eindhoven instrumental trio Radar Men from the Moon (On the Radar’ed here) return on the relative quick with a 51-minute full-length, Echo Forever. More progressive in its jams, the album’s psychedelic sprawl shows the band developing — I hesitate to compare them to 35007 just because they happen to be Dutch, but the running bassline that underscores “Atomic Mother” is a tempter — but there’s still an immediacy behind their changes that keeps them from really belonging to the laid-back sphere of European jam-minded heavy psychedelia. They’re getting warmer though, stylistically and tonally, and I like that. Interesting to hear a song like “Heading for the Void” and think Sungrazer might be burgeoning as an influence. Cool jams for the converted. Radar Men from the Moon on Bandcamp.
Sound of Ground, Sky Colored Green
There are elements of of Yawning Man, or Unida or other acts in the Californian desert milieu, but basically, Moscow’s Sound of Ground sound like Kyuss. They know it. Their R.A.I.G. debut full-length, Sky Colored Green, makes no attempt to hide it, whether it’s the “Green Machine” riffing of “Lips of the Ocean” or the speedier Slo-Burnery of “El Caco,” though the metallic screaming on “R.H.S.” is a dead giveaway for the band’s youth, coming off more like early Down than anything Josh Homme ever plugged in to play. While not necessarily original, the trio are firm in their convictions, and Sound of Ground tear through these 11 tracks with engaging abandon. The Russian scene continues to intrigue. Sound of Ground on Thee Facebooks.
Posted in Reviews on January 26th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Near as I can tell, the plot in the lyrics of Evil Cosmonaut’s “Boris Yeltsin vs. Giant Ants” is that huge bugs come and attack the world. Buildings fall, people die, and then Boris Yeltsin shows up, does an evil dance, and saves the planet. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that’s fucking awesome. Much of the Moscow three-piece’s R.A.I.G. debut, We Have Landed, follows that kind of course – not always to such heights of badassery, but nonetheless with a notable degree of charm. “My Moustache” calls its titular subject, “My present from God,” and “Armageddon” playfully name-checks the stars of the 1998 blockbuster, even going so far as to mention Steve Buscemi. That, in combination with the clay artwork, the crunchy tone of guitarist/vocalist Alex “Kaza” Kazachev and the bluesy groove of “The Song We Will Never Play Again,” seems to make We Have Landed a record that gets by more on personality than innovation, but whatever does it does it. The album’s nine tracks and 42 minutes feel quick, songs vary enough to hold interest, and periodic bursts of punkish energy keep the pace from being mired by sleepy stonerisms. A mostly dry production keeps Evil Cosmonaut grounded from where some of the space-program thematics might otherwise take them, giving the album a garage-esque feel at times, but between Kazachev and bassist Denis “Memphis Dead” Petrov, the tones are thicker than most of what passes these days for that aesthetic. It’s all rock.
And if anything, it’s hard to pick a highlight from among We Have Landed’s fare. “Armageddon” certainly makes a case for itself, with its rudimentary chugging riff and live feel, as well as its lyrics, but “Old Guy Neil,” which recalls the moon landing and Neil Armstrong’s first steps out of the craft, starts the album off with a crisp (if somewhat misleading) aggressive bent and foretells a lot of the perspective to come. Drummer Konstantin Sosnin, the only member of Evil Cosmonaut without a nickname, is straightforward in his approach and well-suited to Kazachev’s riffs, which for the most part lead the way. The upbeat shuffle of “Marvin” – either an inside joke or a reference I don’t get to an old man who lives in a cave – features some of We Have Landed’s best fuzz, to be later complemented by closer “The Golden Apples of the Sun,” and maintains the forward motion of the opener, leading to the even more rocking “Big Super Mega Monsters,” which earns its chorus shout of the title line late in the track. The song can’t help but be memorable with a name like that, but the music stands up to it with a marked simplicity of approach and a cheeky self-awareness that matches Kazachev’s vocal. However simple the album might seem, Evil Cosmonaut have a clear mindfulness of structure, as “The Song We Will Never Play Again” shows by slowing down the momentum of “Big Super Mega Monsters” and giving way in turn to the middle-pacing of “Armageddon.” Given the tongue-in-cheek nature of most of the lyrics – here a drunken alien abduction is recounted – I’d doubt the veracity of the title “The Song We Will Never Play Again,” or at least hope it’s not true, since the song’s relatively lumbering groove is among the album’s most fascinating assets.
Posted in Reviews on June 29th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
If it feels like there’s been a lot of instrumental heavy psych reviewed around here lately, you’re right. Joining the pack with their second studio full-length on R.A.I.G. (they also had a live album out) is previously On-the-Radar’edMoscow trio The Re-Stoned, whose latest seven-track collection of wah-jam voodoo is called Analog. A lot of what you need to know about the band and the album is right there. As their moniker might lead you to believe, they’re stoned again – playing a kind of heady guitar-led stoner/psych rock – and they’re not at all shy about highlighting the analog warmth of the cuts included; calling it Analog feels almost brazen, daring the listener to take on the album’s natural feel. And in so doing, one is making a considerable investment in both time and energy. The three-piece cover a wide swath of mostly familiar ground on Analog, and with opener “Northern Lights” as the shortest piece at 5:58 and closer “Dream of Vodyanoy” the longest at 14:01, the record clocks a robust 61 and a half minutes, which is a lot and feels like it.
Immediately that’s a kind of drawback for The Re-Stoned. “Fronted” in a musical sense by heavily-effected, Orange-amped guitarist Ilya Lipkin, Analog takes shape around classic psych jams like “Crystals,” and while the bluesy favor in Lipkin’s playing is often satisfying as offset by the double-Vladimir rhythm section of Vladimir Nikulin (bass) and Vladimir Muchnov (drums), as “Crystals” turns into “Feedback” turns into “Music for Jimmy” and the album’s middle becomes its end, the course of jam parts, the occasional plotted riff and extended solos starts to feel samey, in concept if not actual sound. The Re-Stoned recorded Analog live, which was undoubtedly the way to go considering the spontaneous vibe of the material, and in multiple sessions, and one can hear that mostly in Muchnov’s drums, which have an entirely different snare sound on the title-track than they do on the riffier “Put the Sound Down or Get the Hell Out.” And while this change in the actual audio keeps Analog from sounding overly redundant, there’s no denying the ethic is the same. That said, “Analog” blends the more riff-led and jammier elements in The Re-Stoned’s approach better than nearly everything else on the album, so it’s not like Analog is lacking in satisfying moments or is somehow entirely without merit or appeal. Just the opposite.