The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Interview: Christian Peters of Samsara Blues Experiment

Posted in Features on May 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

christian peters samsara blues experiment

This one’s been a while in the making. Like, years. And as Samsara Blues Experiment guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters says below in his answer, the question I’ve been waiting to ask him as well is the one about his band’s experience touring the US for their 2013 album, Waiting for the Flood (review here). I had been thinking of this as a tipping point for the group to enter into something of a semi-hiatus as they did after that record, touring some in Europe but ultimately stepping back for a few years as Peters pursued solo work, his Electric Magic Records label, and other creative outlets.

My narrative, as ever, was off. It was a long European run that set Samsara Blues Experiment to the task of reevaluating who they were and what kind of band they wanted to be, and as the Berlin-based trio make their return in 2017 via their fourth full-length, One with the Universe (review here), Peters seems nothing if not clearheaded in his feelings on the issue. Joined in the now-three-piece by drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt after parting ways with former bassist Richard Behrens (who nonetheless recorded the new album), Peters seems to be embracing the opportunity to refresh his band’s sense of purpose and direction, and as they’ve never sounded so much like themselves on tracks like “Vipassana,” “Sad Guru Returns” and the album’s title-track, so too do Samsara Blues Experiment come across as assured of the methods by which their creativity is brought to life.

As it turns out, that sense of being assured was hard-won, both on his part and that of the band as a whole, and that tour in the US did seem to be a factor in how they’ve wound up where they are, for better and worse alike. In talking to Peters about that trip and about the album in general, I wanted to get a sense of where they were and where they might be going, and though he was reluctant to speculate on the latter, the honesty and at times philosophical approach to everything his group has been through underscores his knowing how vitally important the band is to him. It’s not something he could just leave behind — it’s an ongoing work driven by passion and a shifting creative spirit.

And after a full decade together, one shouldn’t be surprised to find One with the Universe also is Samsara Blues Experiment‘s most mature offering to-date, but what seems even more resonant to me in reading Peters‘ answers about its making is just how much more a work of spirit it is than simply another batch of parts thrown together. Not every artist is brave enough to admit that about their own output; some like to pretend these things just happen by mistake. Granted a song can come about spontaneously, and often those results are among the most satisfying, but that doesn’t mean they don’t matter. To pretend otherwise is silly. This is important to Peters. Crucially so. Especially in light of the quality of the work they’re doing, it’s hard not to respect the hell out of that.

Complete Q&A follows here. Please enjoy.

samsara blues experiment

It’s been four years since the last Samsara Blues Experiment album. Tell me about what’s changed in the band over that time and where you feel you are today as a group as opposed to where you were when you did Waiting for the Flood?

The most evident change is the turn back to a three-piece, as it was already in the earlier days of the band. In November 2013 we did this one long EU tour which sort of set the tracks for what had to happen right after this. I for myself was at one point pretty close to a burnout situation then, not sure if everything in the rock ‘n’ roll circus really was made for me, and I had to take a time out from the whole thing then. So right after this tour we had a few weeks of no rehearsals or playing live, and when the four of us met, it was mostly for talking about where everybody wanted to go with the band and with his life.

It pretty soon turned out that Richard, in total contrary to my ideas, wanted to tour even more, play more, turn it all into this sort of a job. Which then was something like a worst-case scenario for me, also because I thought that the four-piece sound really had to be thought about and worked out much more than we did then. I was not always happy with two dueling guitars too. And also, you know, in my belief there has to remain some kind of freedom which probably cannot be maintained if my while life sort of depends only from what I do in the band. I wanted to play better songs, better shows, not necessarily more! But I also wanted something else, of which I wasn´t specific about… I needed to find that out for myself.

So at some point it all seemed to have become a pretty tricky situation because everybody wanted to first of all find a “let’s stay together”-solution, but several other personal things led towards Richard leaving the band and Hans switching to bass. At some point it just happened kind of naturally, also because Hans was a bass player before, and btw one whom I always admired. We had to get used to this new situation and work a lot behind closed doors… So we spent the years 2014 and 2015 with shaping “the new band sound” and the new band as well. And besides from that I also got pretty deep into playing synthesizers and recorded a whole bunch of solo albums and EPs as Surya Kris Peters. I just needed to find other ways to be creative, I guess.

So after these weeks and months of “reshaping,” Thomas, Hans and I agreed that 2016 would be pretty much the year for coming up with new ideas for a new album, and not playing live at all. But since a year without one show can be long, at some point we decided to at least play one Berlin show and aside of that did what we needed to do to record One with the Universe in January 2017, again in Richard’s studio with him on the job, as a friend, now also a “hired studio technician” but sometimes still also a fourth creative input, not more on bass, more like a co-producer.

What’s the story behind “Sad Guru Returns?”

It started as a wordplay, because whenever I went through Berlin last summer I saw these Sadhguru-posters. I just like words, how words sound, how words interact, and I then made up this sad-guru thing and later found these samples of him speaking which could be pretty much be my own thoughts when he says, “we are the most comfortable generation ever, but we are not happy,” etc. — to me it’s like almost everybody seems to be looking for something but rarely anybody starts with him- or herself.

Life’s not about things you know. Not at all. In my humble opinion, it’s mostly about making real connections with people. Then there’s a lot of potential in each and every one of us, to be positive and loving and happy, to be creative, to be an even more important part to the whole thing than we are already. You know, I just don’t dig people dragging themselves and others down, especially if there seems to be no reason for that. All the negativity in people right now it seems to be just too much. At least that’s how I see it. Too much sadness in this world, way too much fear too these days… Everybody can make decisions, to a certain point at least. You can be happy and poor too. We all live, we’ll all die. Think about it. How do you want to spend your time on this planet?!

In the interim between records, you embarked on several solo outings as well. Did this affect your return to songwriting for Samsara Blues Experiment at all?

Well probably, because some of the songs have quite a lot of synths in them, like the whole intro-part of “Eastern Sun and Western Moon” or the title-track. I am just happy that both and Hans and Thomas share some of my enthusiasm for sounds from these “little keyboards,” as someone once described them…

What ultimately made you decide it was time to bring back Samsara Blues Experiment?

Honestly, I went through a really rough time from 2015 on. I lost contact to this once really important person. It was pretty much the first time I thought I had this love-relationship-thing sorted out, but then it turned out I knew nothing at all. I spent a long time in despair, in a dark room with nobody but myself. I was almost crazy and at some point nearly suicidal and I am not saying this to show off or something but it was just one of the darkest periods of my life for sure.

Then I heard of Rutger [Smeets] from Sungrazer committing suicide and it was really like a shock. I barely knew the guy, but we occasionally met and all the guys in Sungrazer were like these happy dudes, always sharing a good story, a BBQ, a bottle of limoncello (I didn´t forget.), whatever… I have no idea why Rutger finally did it, but at this point I pretty much just thought: WHAT THE F**K?! THIS IS JUST WRONG!!

I had a series of other not-too-happy-moments but then really felt like I needed to put myself together and started to finally look at the good things that remained there with me, and as one of the main things, there is this band. Honestly, at that period I also pretty much left Hans and Thomas in the dark, which wasn´t very nice of me to do but I just couldn´t handle it otherwise. Again, I canceled rehearsals and I even went out to play with other guys, just to find out where I belong I guess.

And I still belong with SBE, the band that Thomas and Hans I have formed in these last years and even earlier on, for all the songs we wrote when Richard wasn’t with us, when he was working his sound technician job and we already rehearsed or played live as a three-piece (we played one show in Kiev, Ukraine, as a three-piece when Richard wasn’t allowed into the country because he forgot to bring his passport… one of the many stories).

So to sum it up, I basically had to learn to appreciate thesamsara blues experiment band and to find again my place in the puzzle. I am a musician. Right now this is pretty much what I’d say to some stranger who’d ask me what I do in my life. I live music 24/7 now. Nothing else.

Oh, and at some point some of our fans helped as well to realize what we have here with this band. So, thank you there! We all are part of this picture.

Which came first, the album title or the song “One with the Universe” itself? Tell me about how that song came together, and how does it tie into the album (and, I suppose, the universe) as a whole?

Most times the music comes first, as it was also with this one. In 2016 we always did this one long jam session, based on two or three basslicks from Hans and a few parts from me, and it seemed almost impossible to bring all these pieces together to just one “proper song,” but after something like a half-year we miraculously did it. It was for sure among the hardest tasks in my almost 20-year-long career as a productive musician. I still refuse to learn too much about music theory, writing down notes or tabs or any of that. I know it’s maybe a bit stupid and limiting, but then I also often don’t have a lot of patience, nor a real interest for learning this to be honest.

The title “One with the Universe” just seemed to fit some of the overall topics that are connected with the album. In the first place maybe also that there is a new unity within the band. But also the idea that we all belong to a more “wholesome concept,” that no one really is nor should be isolated. That there is no “us versus them” as it is so often implied with the very cultivated society models we live in, and as it’s also projected even on artists, musicians and their work and recordings. Hey everybody: This is not a contest, you know?! And also, even while I am not a big philosopher or something, but also this man against woman thing, which seems to be part of “our culture.” To me all of this is just not right at all! Again, it’s also pretty much what Sadhguru says, and he is not my guru as more a person with whose thoughts I can partially identify myself.

How was it working with Richard as a producer/engineer as opposed to also having him in the band playing bass?

By now all or most the problems of the past seem pretty much solved. Richard seems to be very happy with his new role, and we are happy with the “new band.” It’s pretty much of a karmic relationship, but if you let all the ego-stuff aside, there´s a lot of great memories to share and a lot of good memories to be made for us still, if we want. You know, I could be angry for a whole lot of stupid reasons that lie back in the past, and so could be Richard or anybody else, but at some point you realize that you made a deep connection as friends and you either cherish that, or you go on bumping into the next karmic relationship. Simple as that, complicated as that.

You came to the US to support Waiting for the Flood. Tell me about that experience, what you learned from it and how you’ve been able to take that and move forward with this record. Will you be back at any point?

Well, this is the question I have been waiting for and it’s a tricky one to answer indeed. As you know we have been in the States as early as we had our first demo recordings, which back then seemed very naive and maybe a bit stupid, but the more the bravest thing a young band could do. Since my childhood I have been heavily influenced by the American way of life. I played baseball with a wooden stick when kids around me thought I’d gone crazy. I even fantasized of once going to US high school and college and becoming a professional in either baseball or basketball, or maybe the funniest: American football! I introduced all my friends to all these “cool things” from America, as in the GDR or the young reunited Germany we did not really have an idea what the real life in the USA would be like: All of it just seemed to be magical. So it was the first and greatest dream to come to the USA, and I made it not earlier than 2009 with the first long tour SBE ever did. It seemed all to be dreamlike still. We slept on dirty floors, we played for a few bucks for even fewer enthusiasts or music nerds or people who just came to the shows because they had some ancestor from Germany, I don’t know… it was okay back then, when most of us were like big kids in a candy store, basically.

Change of scenery, the band now has played a bunch of festivals and longer tours in Europe. We have grown up to adults in our early-to-mid 30s. Some of us have families and jobs and need to compromise on all the things that life brings along when you realize that not all of it is happening in candy stores anymore. Following the call of our not-so-few fans in the USA — as we had recorded three studio albums in the meantime since our first US tour — we found people to help organizing this return, as we thought, until a few weeks before this tour was supposed to happen all crashed down like a castle made of sand. I still have a lot of reason to be angry and frustrated here and I could name a few names, but there is no reason for that as more to say; we do not have very good and trustworthy contacts in your country. People whom we can rely on and who do this for the sake of the music and not because they need to earn their living from this, which just won’t work at all.

We are not a commercial act. We do not think very much in commercialist patterns. We are just not like most of the bands you know, we really basically play for the sake of expressing feelings though music, but when we travel we also expect to be treated with respect and honesty. We would love to return to the USA, but at this point it does not seem much practical or even possible. I am sorry for our fans there, but we will see what the future will bring, and not give up on trying to make “deeper connections.”

I hope this wasn’t confusing.

In the meantime, Samsara Blues Experiment toured South America already this year for the first time. How were those shows and how was that experience overall for you?

In one word: incredible!! People in South America seem to be starving for a good live show, even while we in particular always had quite many fans there, thanks to the miracles of the internet. I am just so grateful for having met Felipe [Toscano] of Abraxas booking, who started out as a fan of our music and now runs this amazing organization, in his free time from work and private life. What an amazing guy, really. What an overwhelming positive vibe on all shows on that continent. I still may be under the illusion of a first naive impact now, but I have rarely felt as welcome as there. It was just amazing, incredible, lovely.

You’ve now made four albums with Samsara Blues Experiment and it’s almost a decade since the first demo surfaced. How do you feel about what you’ve accomplished in that time? Where do you see the progression continuing to go?

I think we’ll just go with the flow, more or less. I am pretty much happy as it is now. I only would like to see us more widely exposed, like playing on more different occasions than just mostly stoner festivals, which isn’t wrong at all but I think we are much more than just another stoner group that likes Black Sabbath. Don’t get me wrong or so, I know where we belong the most, but then we also belong to the universe, and the universe is big. I would like to get things solved with the USA really, also in terms of distribution, but we are samsara blues experiment one with the universeworking on it and hopefully solving some of these issues.

You’ve just done Desertfest and have other festival dates coming up as well. Any plans yet for the Fall or anything else you want to mention?

Maybe we will be doing new songs then, maybe we will travel, or just be with the ones we love the most. Who knows? I think we’ll really try and go with the flow for a bit.

Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe (2017)

Samsara Blues Experiment on Thee Facebooks

Samsara Blues Experiment Tumblr

Samsara Blues Experiment on Instagram

Samsara Blues Experiment on Bandcamp

Electric Magic Records on Thee Facebooks

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,

Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe: Returning to the Path

Posted in Reviews on May 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

With the release of their ambitiously-titled fourth album, One with the Universe, Berlin-based heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment provide the keystone of a resurgence that began late last year with a return to playing shows. Their last outing was 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here), and it was the most vivid realization to-date of their blend of progressive rock and psychedelic jamming, while continuing the momentum they’d built throughout their prior outings, 2011’s Revelation and Mystery (review here) and 2009’s Long Distance Trip (review here) debut, and with that behind them, it was easy to expect them to roll forward as they had for the half-decade since their demo (review here) surfaced in 2008. They didn’t.

By 2015, what had been a four-piece parted ways with bassist Richard Behrens (now of Heat), and after an increasing profile of tours and festival appearances, shows pretty much stopped as guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters embarked on a succession of solo outings exploring textures of synth and classic krautrock influences. In hindsight, the break makes some sense, particularly given the work Peters did in the interim, and really it hasn’t been egregiously long since the last Samsara Blues Experiment came out — four years isn’t eight, mathematically speaking — but as a fan of the band’s work, it’s hard to note the arrival of One with the Universe via Peters‘ own Electric Magic Records imprint with anything other than a sense of relief. Even before one digs into the five-track/43-minute outing rife with winding instrumental explorations, Eastern-minded inflections of theme and arrangement, and an overarching sense of celebration resonant from driving opener “Vipassana” (premiered here) through the swinging, pushing-outward finale of “Eastern Sun and Western Moon,” it’s awfully good to have Samsara Blues Experiment active again.

That’s about the least impartial statement one could make about the record beyond “duh, I like it,” so maybe take this review with the appropriate grain of salt, but the truth is that from their beginnings in the post-Colour Haze sphere of warm-toned heavy psych, Samsara Blues Experiment — now Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt — have become one of Europe’s leading underground presences in terms of the individualism they bring to their approach. One can hear it as rolling waves lead the way into “Vipassana,” a track that takes its name from the Buddhist concept of insight into reality’s true nature, Vedder‘s drums providing the transition into a progression marked by what ends up as an instrumental theme throughout: the use of keys and synth alongside the guitar, bass and drums.

With a recording job by ex-member Behrens and a wide-sounding mix that allows for shifts in volume and tone in “Vipassana” as much as for flourish of sitar on the centerpiece “Glorious Daze” and the bouncing ’70s organ work on the 15-minute penultimate title-track, Samsara Blues Experiment sound free to explore these spaces and well beyond, such that the earlier “Sad Guru Returns” — instrumental save for some samples at the beginning and end — and the trade between the push and crash of its hook and the sense of jammy-but-purposeful meandering in “Vipassana” set an immersive vibe more interactive than it is hypnotic.

That is to say, as “Glorious Daze” comes on to chill out the end of side A — not that it doesn’t build to its own crescendo around the aforementioned sitar and keys, because it most definitely does — One with the Universe sounds less about trying to draw listeners into an unconscious state than encouraging them to actively engage with what they’re hearing. Maybe “get up and dance” would be a too-strong interpretation, but at very least, Samsara Blues Experiment are asking those hearing these songs to remain present in the moment with them, whether that’s expressed through the thrust of “Vipassana,” the drift into swirl of “Sad Guru Returns” or the move from serenity to serenity in “Glorious Daze.”

samsara blues experiment

Of course, one can still get plenty lost in One with the Universe if so desired, and that’s especially true of the title-track. Starting out with a somewhat foreboding keyboard movement from Peters and bassline from Eiselt, the extended stretch is immediate in signaling its own patience and adjusting the expectation of the listener accordingly. Thus far, Samsara Blues Experiment have been fairly energetic in their delivery and they’ll be again as they move through this and “Eastern Sun and Western Moon” still to come, but the opening minutes of “One with the Universe” itself are given over to a languid unfolding that eases through the first half so subtly and fluidly that by the time vocals show up amid all the synth swirl, double-timed hi-hat, spacious guitar strum that turns to starts and stops, they’re more than nine minutes deep and one has all but stopped anticipating their arrival.

From that point on, the trio hit into a boogie-fied section that feels written for the stage and is the most prevalent example of the album’s celebratory mood — the lines, “Hey hey, want to be with you every day/Hey hey, think of all the promises we made,” defining the good-times atmosphere Samsara Blues Experiment are inhabiting in the back half of the song. Peters moves to layer keys and guitar (and vocals) as a verse takes hold, and a joyous, righteous jam ensues that’s as much fun to hear as it is an expression of the organic power trio construction between him, Vedder and Eiselt, vocals locking in note for note on a quick guitar lead before the song moves into its next verse playing off the “Hey hey, want to be with you every day/Hey hey, think of all the groovy times we’ve had,” lyrical foundation with added percussion behind.

They’re in full swing at this point, and at 14 minutes flat, they align to push “One with the Universe” to its conclusion, Vedder‘s crash becoming a wash in the process. That would seem to leave “Eastern Sun and Western Moon” as something of an epilogue, but in its lyrical theme and seven-minute linear build, it proves essential in tying One with the Universe together from start to finish, finding a place for itself between the thrust of “Vipassana” and the patience of the title-cut, bringing back the interplay of organ and guitar, and offering listeners a last chance to travel along with the band as they make their way toward a late-arriving peak in the song’s second half and close out the record with a bit of residual hum — sound waves rather than the ocean waves that started out the opener, but still undulating.

In addition to signaling their return after this four-year stretch, One with the Universe also marks a decade since Samsara Blues Experiment first got together in 2007. If one looks at the scope of what they’ve been able to accomplish over their tenure, the context in which this new collection arises is even broader and all the more worthy of appreciation. It’s been a significant creative journey up to this point, and whatever their future might hold in terms of releases, touring, etc., their fourth full-length confirms that no matter what might change for them or how their aesthetic might shift in the process of their continued becoming, their commitment to growth is unwavering and a crucial, defining aspect of who they are as a unit. Yet one more reason to be glad to have them back.

Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe (2017)

Samsara Blues Experiment on Thee Facebooks

Samsara Blues Experiment Tumblr

Samsara Blues Experiment on Instagram

Samsara Blues Experiment on Bandcamp

Electric Magic Records on Thee Facebooks

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,

Samsara Blues Experiment Premiere “Vipassana”; Reveal Art and Tracks for One with the Universe out May 12

Posted in audiObelisk on March 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

samsara blues experiment

As they returned home to Germany this past week from a South American tour and made ready to head out over the next month on a slew of European dates including festival stops at Under the Black Moon, Riff Ritual, and Desertfest in London and their native Berlin, Samsara Blues Experiment came one step closer to the release of their fourth full-length, One with the Universe. The album — confirmed for a May 12 release through Electric Magic Records with cover art by Michel Bassot newly unveiled below — arrives four years after the third Samsara Blues Experiment outing, Waiting for the Flood (review here), and finds the band pared down to a trio for the first time on a studio offering, returning to activity after several years away following a prolific run between 2009 and 2013, and embarking on some of their boldest and most progressive arrangements to date.

I haven’t heard One with the Universe in its entirety yet — as of this weekend, the master was still being finalized — but today I have the extreme pleasure of hosting the premiere of the 10-minute opening track, “Vipassana,” for your (and my) streaming enjoyment. Obviously, its my basis for the assessment above about the arrangements, and as the song plays through its jam-based course, one can hear that coming through in the synth provided by guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, joined in the three-piece by drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt. At the same time, to go along with the core warmth of low end and natural push of the toms at the start and the airy guitar and echoing vocals that accompany, there also emerges some weightier tonality in the chorus that hits with a more aggressive underlying vibe. Dare I say “doomly?” I won’t guess how it plays out across the span of One with the Universe, which runs just under 47 minutes, but along with the synth sprawl that starts at about the halfway point, it’s something that turned my head listening to “Vipassana.”

I’ll hope to have a review up sometime between now and the May 12 release date, so I’ll save some of the rambling for that, but the name of the song, if you’re wondering, refers to the Buddhist notion of insight into the true nature of reality. Not exactly a toss-off scale on which to begin an album. Such purposes are welcome from Samsara Blues Experiment, who recorded the likewise ambitiously-titled One with the Universe with former bassist Richard Behrens (also of Heat), who also helmed the last outing. One looks forward to hearing how this spiritual searching resolves itself, or if it does at all, throughout the rest of the tracks.

Peters was kind enough to give some background on the making of “Vipassana,” and you’ll find his words, the complete album tracklisting, upcoming tour dates and more info under the player below.

Please enjoy:

Christian Peters on “Vipassana”:

‘Vipassana’ is the first song we did after Richard had left the band. It came out from a series of jam sessions. Pretty much this is all we did in the first rehearsals after Richard left: jamming, jamming and even more jamming. The song topic seems to be about growing up, or maybe growing up responsibly. Kind of a coming of age thing wrapped in heavy riffs and Pink Floydish-psychedelia, plus some kind of Indian raga theme. It’s pretty much what one can consider as ‘classic SBE’-material already, I think.

It may be interesting to know that Richard, who did not play any instruments, but again recorded the album, also contributed some nice ideas in the process, like having me play the backward solo or putting in some vintage tape-effects. we are all very happy with the outcome of this song in particular and hope you will enjoy. there is much more on the album.

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universeSAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT’s fourth ‘full piece of wax’ “One with the Universe“ is a culmination of all their works and truly a hard hitting cosmic invitation for floating into their universe of spiritual progression. The most evolutionary development compared to previous albums is the cosmic usage of analog synthesizers, keyboards and effects, while not losing focus on catchiness and well-rendered songwriting.

These five new epics subtly integrate flashes from Jimi Hendrix´ “Electric Ladyland“, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, with Canterbury Prog elements à la Caravan and the fuzzed-out riffs of Kyuss. “One with the Universe“ can not be put just into one genre: it is a multifaceted heavy rock album with tons of soul, courage and originality!

The album will be released on May 12th through Electric Magic Records.

TRACK LISTING:
1. Vipassana (10:43)
2. Sad Guru Returns (7:55)
3. Glorious Daze (6:01)
4. One with the Universe (15:03)
5. Eastern Sun & Western Moon (7:09)

– ARTWORK FROM MICHEL BASSOT –

EUROPEAN SHOWS:
25.03. Roma (IT), Defrag
31.03. Osnabrück, Westwerk
01.04. München, Under The Black Moon Festival
02.04. Leipzig, Werk 2
22.04. Barcelona, Riff Ritual Festival
29.04. Berlin, Desertfest
30.04. London (UK), Desertfest
12.05. Berlin, Zukunft am Ostkreuz (Stummfilm-Special)
13.05. Berlin, Zukunft am Ostkreuz (Albumrelease Parteeey)
14.05. Hamburg, Hafenklang
15.05. Wiesbaden, Schlachthof
16.05. Bielefeld, Forum
17.05. Nijmegen (NL), Doornroosje
18.05. Nantes (FR), Le Ferrailleur
19.05. Paris (FR), Backstage
20.05. Köln, Underground
11.08. Finkenbach, Finki Festival

Samsara Blues Experiment on Thee Facebooks

Samsara Blues Experiment Tumblr

Samsara Blues Experiment on Instagram

Samsara Blues Experiment on Bandcamp

Electric Magic Records on Thee Facebooks

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,

Samsara Blues Experiment Post One with the Universe Teaser Clip

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT

It’s only a minute-long teaser clip, but there are still some things to learn from the first actual glimpse at the new and much-awaited fourth album from Berlin heavy psych trio Samsara Blues Experiment. For one thing, the title. They’ve given the record the ambitious name One with the Universe, and in unfurling that alone, the band speak to their spiritual and cosmic leanings that have been at their root since the days of their 2008 demo (review here), which they’ve continued to refine ever since, and are among the defining features of their approach.

Then we get to the actual audio of the thing itself. I haven’t heard any full songs from the record or gotten word of titles, but we’re treated to a moment of key-laced jamming, a laid back rhythmic bounce given bluesy flavor that makes a comfortable-seeming bed for a few vocal lines. The first burst of guitar tone is raw, and the drums and bass also feel suitably natural in a way that has me wondering just how much improvisation is going to be a factor across One with the Universe. That’s not to say there isn’t a sense of direction — unless I’m mistaken, it’s Christian Peters handling guitar and keys, and since they’re both going at the same time, some layering must’ve taken place at some point — but Hans Eiselt‘s bass fills feel remarkably organic in how it adds to the overall fluidity and Thomas Vedder‘s drumming accents the guitar and keys with classic-style dynamics.

Bottom line? I was looking forward to hearing the new Samsara Blues Experiment. A lot. I still am. A lot.

Check out the teaser below, followed by the three-piece’s upcoming tour dates in South America and Europe. One with the Universe will be out this May on Electric Magic Records.

Enjoy:

Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe teaser

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe-banner

4th SBE-album is coming…

Movie scenes from “The Blue Bird” (1918).

SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT LIVE DATES:
SOUTH AMERICA TOUR – MARCH 2017:
03/02 – Santiago, CL @ La Capilla
03/03 – Buenos Aires, AR @ The Roxy Live
03/04 – Montevideo, UR @ Bluzz Live
03/05 – Córdoba, AR @ Refugio Guernica
03/08 – Porto Alegre, BR @ RIFF.E Bar
03/09 – Florianópolis, BR @ Célula Showcase
03/10 – Belo Horizonte, BR @ Stonehenge Rock Bar
03/11 – São Paulo, BR @ Inferno Club
03/12 – Rio de Janeiro, BR @ Hocus Pocus Fest

EUROPEAN SHOWS:
25.03. Roma (IT), Defrag
31.03. Osnabrück, Westwerk
01.04. München, Under The Black Moon Festival
02.04. Leipzig, Werk 2
22.04. Barcelona, Riff Ritual Festival
29.04. Berlin, Desertfest
30.04. London (UK), Desertfest
12.05. Berlin, Zukunft am Ostkreuz (Stummfilm-Special)
13.05. Berlin, Zukunft am Ostkreuz (Albumrelease Parteeey)
14.05. Hamburg, Hafenklang
15.05. Wiesbaden, Schlachthof
16.05. Bielefeld, Forum
17.05. Nijmegen (NL), Doornroosje
18.05. Nantes (FR), Le Ferrailleur
19.05. Paris (FR), Backstage
20.05. Köln, Underground
11.08. Finkenbach, Finki Festival

Samsara Blues Experiment on Thee Facebooks

Samsara Blues Experiment Tumblr

Samsara Blues Experiment on Instagram

Samsara Blues Experiment on Bandcamp

Electric Magic Records on Thee Facebooks

Electric Magic Records on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,