Old Man Wizard Premiere “Innocent Hands” Video; New Single out Aug. 25

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

old man wizard

To be sure, the progressive metal stylings of Old Man Wizard make them an outlier among San Diego’s crowded heavy underground, which is overflowing with sunny Californian heavy psychedelia and even at its proggiest seems to maintain some loyalty to ’70s-style boogie rock, but the truth of the matter is one would be hard-pressed to find somewhere the three-piece wouldn’t stand out from the crowd. And that is very much part of the appeal. After touring to support their 2013 debut LP, Unfavorable (review here), guitarist/vocalist Francis Roberts, bassist/vocalist Andre Beller and drummer/vocalist Kris Calabio receded somewhat, but their new single Innocent Hands arrives this month in time for another stretch of West Coast dates and finds their quirk-laden prog-doom at a welcome next stage of its development.

That sense comes through quickly in the driving rhythm and melodic resonance of the titular cut. While it starts out with a blastbeaten thrust that feels derived from extreme metal, “Innocent Hands” is just as fast to set its foundation in Roberts‘ gentle vocals, giving a sense of contrast that lends breadth to what’s still a 7″-ready sub-five-minute runtime. A couple cycles through the verse leads to denser riffing that seems to old man wizard innocent handsplay Opethian and Enslaved-style impulses off each other while filtering the result through a rocker’s urgency, and as Calabio and Beller join Roberts in the chorus line, “Rain falls on innocent hands,” the harmonies make the song a distinct highlight worthy of carrying its own release. That is, it stands up as a single, and with “The Blind Prince” as a complementary B-side, the vibe is reaffirmed in a post-Ghostly melodicism and tense instrumental progression. Shorter and in more of a rush, “The Blind Prince” nonetheless braces “Innocent Hands” with a like-minded rhythmic engagement and energized delivery. While they haven’t been putting out a slew of offerings in the four years since Unfavorable, clearly Old Man Wizard haven’t been wasting their time either.

They take to the hills in the clip for “Innocent Hands” that’s premiering below, or at very least to a hill, and with the sun behind them, and a hilariously unacknowledged druid walking past at about the two-minute mark and with at least Beller and Calabio in Witch Ripper t-shirts — Roberts might be as well, it’s kind of hard to see — they give a subtle sense of the tongue-in-cheek persona of the band, which does nothing to cut the progressive value of the songcraft at play. That is to say, just because they’re enjoying themselves doesn’t make Innocent Hands any less of an accomplishment.

Tomorrow they begin the alluded-to West Coast tour that will take them from Tijuana, Mexico, up to Washington State before coming to a close Aug. 23 with a hometown San Diego show. You’ll find the dates for that under the player that follows, which of course contains the video premiere.

To please enjoy:

Old Man Wizard, “Innocent Hands” official video

Progressive heavy rock band OLD MAN WIZARD return with their new single Innocent Hands. The track will be released on 7″ vinyl and will be sold on their upcoming tour in August. The “B” side will be “The Blind Prince”.

OLD MAN WIZARD TOUR DATES:
8/11 Tijuana, BC Mi Pueblito
8/13 San Francisco, CA The Hemlock
8/15 San Jose, CA The Caravan
8/17 Portland, OR The Highwater Mark
8/18 Seattle, WA The Victory Lounge
8/19 Anacortes, WA Kenelly Keys
8/20 Tacoma, WA The Valley
8/22 Los Angeles, CA The Lexington
8/23 San Diego, CA Soda Bar

Old Man Wizard is:
Francis Roberts – Guitar, Vocals
Kris Calabio – Drums, Backing Vocals
Andre Beller – Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals

Old Man Wizard on Thee Facebooks

Old Man Wizard on Twitter

Old Man Wizard on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Boris, Sólstafir, Desert Suns & Chiefs, Elara, Fungus Hill

Posted in Radio on July 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio cavum

Some bigger releases going up to the playlist for The Obelisk Radio this time around, and that’s just fine by me. It’s five albums listed here, but there are a few others included as well that you can see listed on the updates page and it’s good stuff all the way around. It was all actually supposed to go up last week, but you know, life is chaos and all that. I hope as always that you manage to find something you enjoy, and if you haven’t heard some of this stuff as yet — I suspect you have, because you know what’s up and I’m perpetually behind on these things; more than just a week, on average — then all the better. Let’s dig in together.

The Obelisk Radio adds for July 31, 2017:

Boris, Dear

boris dear

If you were Boris and you were looking to celebrate a quarter-century of innovating heavy rock, noise, drone, J-pop, and genreless forays into bizarre sonic delights, how would you do it? If you said, “I’d release 69 heavy-as-hell minutes of rumbling tectonics and progressive scope making for one of the best albums of the year,” you’d seem to be on the money. The Japanese trio’s umpteenth full-length, Dear (on Sargent House in the US/EU and Daymare in Japan), begins with the appropriately-titled “D.O.W.N. – Domination of Waiting Noise,” setting forth a consuming six-minute onslaught of feedback and lumbering pummel before the SunnO)))-rivaling drone of “Deadsong” takes hold, shifting at its midpoint to a spaciousness all Boris‘ own. Then they chug out galloping riff triplets on “Absolutego” like it ain’t no thing. That’s Boris: the band who named themselves after a Melvins song and then utterly outdid their namesake on every creative level and have continued to do so throughout one of underground music’s most landmark tenures. Dear offers simultaneous melodic breadth and droning depth on its centerpiece duo of “Kagero” and “Biotope” after counteracting minimalist march with explosive crash on “Beyond,” but they’re still just getting started. The seven-minute “The Power” leads off the second of the two LPs and seems to stem upward from the same roots as YOB at their harshest, brutally feedbacking into the dronegaze of the shorter “Memento Mori” before the 12-minute “Dystopia – Vanishing Point” and the nine-minute title-track comprise a side D that’s nothing less than a triumphant lesson in how to meet your audience head-on right before you swallow them whole, setting its stage with keys and tribalist drums quickly before hypnotizing through five minutes of quiet stretch and bursting gloriously to life ahead of one last contrast of empty spaces and crushing tonality on “Dear” that gives way at last to the noise and feedback that’s always been so essential to their process. If Dear is a letter to Boris‘ fans, as they have said, it is also a willful embrace of the wide-open sensibilities that have made the last 25 years of their craft so uniquely their own. They can go anywhere stylistically and remain Boris precisely because they refuse to settle on a single idea that defines them.

Boris on Thee Facebooks

Boris at Sargent House’s website

 

Sólstafir, Berdreyminn

solstafir berdreyminn

Having now passed the 20-year mark since their founding in 1995, Iceland’s Sólstafir continue to reshape melancholy in their own image on their sixth album and third for Season of Mist, Berdreyminn. The Reykjavik-based four-piece keep the significant achievements of 2014’s Ótta (review here) close to the chest throughout the eight-track/57-minute offering, but songs like “Ísafold” have an upbeat push behind their emotional resonance, and even on a brooding piano piece like “Hvít Sæng,” the overarching sense of motion and the dynamic is maintained. The penultimate “Ambátt” — first of two eight-minute cuts in a finale duo — might be Berdreyminn‘s richest progressive achievement, with its lush opening vocal harmonies giving way to a patiently-delivered clinic on texture, build and payoff that borders on the orchestral. Of course, strings and horns to appear on the album, adding to already complex arrangements, but Sólstafir never lose their corresponding human center, and as “Bláfjall” closes with an intensity of thrust hinted at by the cymbal-crash wash of opener “Silfur-Refur” and the post-blackened push of “Nárós” but ultimately on its own level, they underline the realization and poise that is simply all their own. Berdreyminn is the sound of a band doing important work, and with it, Sólstafir only prove themselves more crucial on an aesthetic level, yet it might be their ability to somehow still feel in-progress that most defines what makes them so special. More than two decades on, they still come across like a group exploring their sound and finding new ways to develop their songwriting — which they are and which they do here. That in itself is an accomplishment worthy of every accolade they reap, and Berdreyminn lives up to that standard front to back across its engaging, encompassing span.

Sólstafir on Thee Facebooks

Sólstafir at Season of Mist’s website

 

Desert Suns & Chiefs, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter 5

second-coming-of-heavy-chapter-5-desert-suns-chiefs

Ripple Music has made its The Second Coming of Heavy series of split LPs an essential showcase of the variety in underground rock. The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter 5 brings together San Diego heavy psych/blues rockers Desert Suns, who also reissued their debut long-player through Ripple in 2016 and followed it with the single “The Haunting” (review here) in conjunction with Ripple and HeviSike Records, and Phoenix, Arizona’s Chiefs, whose 2015 debut, Tomorrow’s Over (review here), arrived on vinyl via Battleground Records and whose five tracks included on side B here cast them among the best Ripple Music bands in the Southwest not currently signed to Ripple Music for their next album. More than some prior installments, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter 5 finds its two featured purveyors complementing each other’s work excellently, as Desert Suns offer three seven-plus minute tracks running from the harmonica-inclusive “Night Train” and the rolling, long-fading “Solitude” with the push of “Heavy” in between and Chiefs — though their individual runtimes are shorter — holding straightforward heavy/desert rock methods at their core in unpretentious fashion across “The Rhino,” the standout “Baron to Chancellor,” “Low Tide,” “Caroline” and “My Last Stand,” nodding initially at ’90s noise rock à la Helmet in “The Rhino” but in the end keeping to their sandy, well-structured mission. As ever, The Second Coming of Heavy asks nothing more of its audience than a basic exploration of the groups included, and certainly both Desert Suns and Chiefs earn that. Whether one takes it on in the context of the prior chapters or as a standalone split release, it delivers a collection of cuts from two outfits with a shared core of quality songcraft and the underlying message that sometimes the straight-line route is the way to go. Right on, once again.

Desert Suns on Thee Facebooks

Chiefs on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Elara, Deli Bal

elara deli bal

Both sides of Elara‘s PsyKa Records-released debut full-length, Deli Bal, are comprised of one shorter track on either side of eight minutes and one longer one, 12 and 17 minutes, respectively. Between that and the cover art, it should come as no surprise that heavy psychedelic drift is central to what the Stuttgart, Germany, trio of bassist/vocalist Daniel Wieland, guitarist/noisemaker Felix Schmidt and drummer Martin Wieland — who also stylize their name as the bracketed [Elara Sunstreak Band] — get up to in their first offering, but there’s an underlying progressive melodic sensibility as well, and Schmidt‘s guitar seems to have picked up a few lessons from My Sleeping Karma‘s minor-key solo mysticism, so one can hear a sound beginning to take shape early as the leadoff title-track gives way to “Amida,” which swaps back and forth between organ-laden krautrock meandering and fuller-fuzz thrust, and as “Quarantania” reinforces that classic vibe with a warm bass tone from Daniel. Whether you’re listening to the platter itself and switching sides or digitally or on CD, Deli Bal is clearly intended to be consumed as a whole work, and one can hear the vocal melody of “Harmonia” tying back to that in the opener as another example of the underlying structure with which it plays out, despite the broad feel of the songs themselves and the expanses they both intend and actually do cover. The LP has just the four tracks, but the digital version comes with the 9:42 bonus cut “Trimenon,” which builds around a core post-rocking guitar line to come to a fervent apex before receding again to let the listener go gently from Deli Bal‘s total 56-minute runtime; no minor undertaking, but effectively executed and a pleasure in its wandering mind and spirit.

Elara on Thee Facebooks

PsyKA Records on Bandcamp

 

Fungus Hill, Creatures

fungus hill creatures

This early-2017 psychedelic curio from Umeå, Sweden’s Fungus Hill begins by asking “Are You Dead?” The just-under-nine-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) of the groovy outfit’s four-song, self-released, 28-minute debut Creatures EP doesn’t sound overly concerned with whether the answer is yes or no so much as enacting a serene flow by posing the question over a laid back bluesy vibe. Arrangement? Fluid. With dual vocals from guitarist Gustav Orvefors and percussionist Jenny Isaksson — the five-piece is completed by guitarist Erik Sköld, drummer Nils Mörtzell and bassist Tom Westerlund — Fungus Hill are able to bring variety as they turn to post-Ghost straightforward ’70s chorus-leaning in the first half of “Beware of Evil in the Sky,” prior to a midsection trip outward on subdued shimmy and deceptively complex melodicism. The flute (or keyboard flute sounds) of the jazzy “Evolution” brings Isaksson to the floor with a smoky, even-bluesier feel, and the guitar answers back with fuzzy lead flourish that only enhances the soul on display, while a seven-and-a-half-minute closing title-track delves deepest of all into thicker riffing, a “Na na na na” hook taking hold quickly just in case you weren’t sure it was going to be a highlight. It is. More tonally dense than most retro boogie — and less retro, for that matter — Fungus Hill‘s Creatures nonetheless has its traditionalist elements, but across its individual pieces each one points to a different side of the band’s personality, and from the Alan Watts sample at the beginning of “Are You Dead?” to when we meet the troll later in “Creatures,” each side of that personality utterly shines.

Fungus Hill on Thee Facebooks

Fungus Hill on Bandcamp

 

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Radio Moscow Stream New Beginnings Title-Track; Announce More US and UK Touring

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Keep your eye on late September. I have the feeling there’s going to be a lot going on and not the least of it will be the release of Radio Moscow‘s first album for Century Media, the suitably-titled New Beginnings. The blazing San Diego three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Parker Griggs, bassist Anthony Meier and drummer Paul Marrone — who are nigh on supergroup status, what with Meier‘s double-duty in Sacri Monti and Marrone‘s participation in Psicomagia, newcomers Birth (demo posted here), etc. — have posted a studio session clip of the opening title-track “New Beginning” from the record.

However, because the internet sucks, that can’t be embedded. It finds them nonetheless in top form and is linked below for your at-the-source viewing enjoyment. And because I’m stubborn, I found a different live clip of album-closer “Dreams” from Texas earlier this year and that’s at the bottom of this post.

In addition, the cover art and tracklisting for New Beginnings is unveiled today and more tour dates in the UK and US have been added. As ever, it’s a go-go-go kind of deal for these guys. That’s how they do, and they do it better than just about everybody on the planet.

The PR wire has it like this:

radio moscow new beginnings

RADIO MOSCOW Reveal Artwork & Debut Single off “New Beginnings”, Add Fall US & UK Tour Dates

Southern Californian rock trio RADIO MOSCOW has just delivered the masters of its fifth studio album, “New Beginnings”, which is set for release via their new label home, Century Media Records, on September 29, 2017.

The album’s striking cover artwork was created by artist Courtney Cole and photographer Dana Trippe with lettering coming from Robin Gnista. “New Beginnings” was recorded at Lost Ark Studio in San Diego with Mike Butler, produced by the band’s own Parker Griggs and mastered by Mark Chalecki at Little Red Book Mastering.

As a sneak peek at what to expect, check out a video of a radio session take of the album’s first track, “New Beginning”: https://www.vuhaus.com/videos/radio-moscow-new-beginning

“New Beginnings” Track Listing:
1. New Beginning
2. Deceiver
3. Woodrose Morning
4. Driftin’
5. No One Knows Where They’ve Been
6. Last to Know
7. New Skin
8. Pacing
9. Pick up the Pieces
10. Dreams

“New Beginnings” will be released as regular black and limited-edition colored LP+CD (including a poster designed by Robin Gnista) as well as on CD, and all digital/streaming platforms.

Right on time with the release of their new opus, the band has confirmed the “The Drifting Tour”, which will drown Europe from September 26 to October 31 in waves of fuzzy, hard rocking riffs and sweaty, cranked up blues!

Prior to that, RADIO MOSCOW will perform at several European festivals as well as head over to the UK for a mini tour in August with support coming from The Groundhogs. Furthermore, a US west coast tour has been recently added. Full dates can be found listed below.

RADIO MOSCOW LIVE DATES 2017
8/12 Dortmund, DE – Junkyard Open Air
8/13 Cernoy, FR – Celebration Days
8/14 London, UK – Borderline #
8/15 Hastings, UK – Paintworks #
8/16 Bristol, UK – Exchange #
8/17 Birmingham, UK – The Castle & Falcon
8/19 Saint-Nolff, FR – Motorculto Festival
8/25 Costa Mesa, CA – The Wayfarer
8/26 Los Angeles, CA – The Resident
8/27 San Francisco, CA – Bottom of the Hill
8/29 Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
8/30 Vancouver, BC – The Cobalt
8/31 Seattle, WA – Chop Suey
9/1 Boise, ID – The Olympic
9/2 Salt Lake City, UT – Crucial Fest
9/3 Las Vegas, NV – Bunkhouse
9/26 Paris, FR – Backstage ^
9/27 Nantes, FR – Le Ferrailleur ^
9/28 Bilbao, ES – Kafe Antzokia ^
9/29 Gijon, ES – Casino Acapulco ^
9/30 Porto, PT – Hard Club ^
10/1 Lisbon, PT – RCA ^
10/2 Madrid, ES – Caracol ^
10/3 Barcelone, ES – Rocksound ^
10/4 Montpellier, FR – Secret Place ^
10/6 Pratteln, CH – Up in Smoke ^
10/7 Athens, GR – Desertfest ^
10/9 Roma, IT – Traffic ^
10/10 Altroquando, IT – Zero Branco ^
10/11 Torino, IT – Blah Blah ^
10/13 Antwerpen, BE – Desertfest ^
10/14 Groningen, NL – Vera ^
10/15 Cologne, DE – Underground ^
10/16 Wiesbaden, DE – Schlachthof ^
10/17 Vienna, AT – Arena ^
10/18 Innsbruck, AT – PMK ^
10/19 Etagnieres, CH – Croc The Rock Festival ^
10/20 Munich, DE – Keep It Low ^
10/21 Dresden, DE – Beatpol ^
10/23 Hamburg, DE – Hafenklang ^
10/24 Copenhagen, DK – TBA ^
10/25 Stockholm, SE – Undergangen ^
10/26 Gothenburg, SE – Sticky Fingers ^
10/28 Bergen, NO – Garage ^
10/30 Hannover, DE – Chez Heinz
10/31 Berlin, DE – Festsaal
# with The Groundhogs
^ with Kaleidobolt

Radio Moscow line-up
Parker Griggs (vocals, guitar)
Anthony Meier (bass)
Paul Marrone (drums)

http://radiomoscow.net/
www.facebook.com/radiomoscowband
www.instagram.com/radiomoscowband

Radio Moscow, “Dreams” live in Austin, TX

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Birth Post Demo Track “Descending Us”

Posted in Bootleg Theater, On the Radar on June 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

BIRTH

Timing is everything. Wasn’t it just the end of last week that I was calling humanity poorer for the apparent dissolution of San Diego progressive heavy psych rockers Astra? Yes, it was. And wasn’t it just yesterday that band was talking about putting out a third record? Again, yuppers. Well, as it turns out, guitarist/keyboardist Brian Ellis and keyboardist/vocalist Conor Riley from that group have also teamed with drummer Paul Marrone from Radio Moscow and Psicomagia and Psicomagia bassist Trevor Mast to form the new outfit Birth, and their first demo track — a song called “Descending Us” that would seem to account for the general direction of who we are as a species — has been newly unveiled.

The pedigree of the lineup is significant, of course. San Diego’s well-discussed boom in heavy psych wouldn’t have the shape it does without the likes of Astra or Radio Moscow, and if you didn’t hear the El Paraiso-released 2014 self-titled debut from Psicomagia (review here), the arguments in its favor were numerous and convincing. Of the various strains of its lineage, “Descending Us” seems most immediately to have the most in common with Astra, however, and one can hear that in its focus on synth and vocal melody, which offer a restful, similarly post-Crimson vibe that finds still-fluid contrast with the dramatic rhythm drawn from Deep Purple‘s “Child in Time” and the later-emerging shred from Ellis‘ guitar, which at the apex of the track calls to mind Rush as much as SoCal scene kingpins Earthless without owing itself entirely to either of them.

An encouraging start, to say the least, and one that wouldn’t find Birth out of place on labels ranging from Rise Above (which brought Astra‘s two records to light) to Tee Pee to El Paraiso or Heavy Psych Sounds, let alone the broader distributive reach of an outlet like Century Media, which recently picked up Radio Moscow. Wherever they end up, they’ve made a resounding first impression, and one looks forward to what explorations and sonic discoveries may lay ahead.

Enjoy “Descending Us” in the video embed below, followed by the relevant social links:

Birth, “Descending Us” demo

Formed in 2016 in San Diego, Birth is drummer Paul Marrone (Radio Moscow, Psicomagia), bassist Trevor Mast (Psicomagia), guitarist/keyboardist Brian Ellis (Astra, Psicomagia) and keyboardist/vocalist Conor Riley (Astra).

Birth on Thee Facebooks

Birth on Instagram

Birth on YouTube

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Astra Set to Begin Work on Third Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Wasn’t it just at the end of last week that I was wishing Astra would get together again and put out a third album? Why, yes. Yes it was. I’m not by any means about to take credit for the coming of this update from guitarist, vocalist, Mellotronist and synthesist Richard Vaughan, but I’m pretty happy it’s here one way or the other. The good news? Astra will indeed set to work on a follow-up full-length to 2012’s The Black Chord (review here), and though details are obviously minimal at this point, since it’s not like said record exists yet or anything, any word from the band whatsoever is welcome, since as noted the other day, it’s been a while.

You can read Vaughan‘s update below. More to come as I hear or see it:

astra update banner

ASTRA – Status Update 2017

First off, I have to apologize for just dropping off the map for so long. You all deserve much more than that and since so many of you have been nice enough to write and ask “What’s going on with ASTRA?” I wanted to give you all a status update.

Back when our drummer David Hurley left ASTRA in 2013, no one could really foresee the difficulties ahead. We knew carrying on without Dave would be a hard road to travel but we had no idea just how much of an impact his departure would have on us. The 5 of us had an undeniable chemistry that just worked so well in every aspect, but especially when it came to songwriting. After Dave left, I think we were all pretty bummed out and while we were working on writing material for our 3rd album, our frustrations slowly started cropping up. We decided to take a short break which turned into a long break, which turned into a longer break, which happens to be where we’re at now. Because of this long hiatus some of the guys have become extremely busy with their own musical projects which, unfortunately, now leaves very little time for ASTRA.

However, I do have some good news! I just recently spoke with all of the original ASTRA members, including Dave, and everyone is down to record a 3rd ASTRA album if we can get enough material together. Another bit of good news is that Stuart and I have been playing and writing together and we’re hoping that we can eventually make this 3rd album a reality.

Now, none of this is a guarantee but I think it is a step in the right direction. ASTRA will always be my baby and my first love when it comes to music and I don’t want to give up on her so I’m going to do all that I can to make this happen. This will most likely take quite some time since everyone is so busy but I will try to keep you all updated as best I can. I will also try to be much more diligent in responding to your emails and messages in the future.

Lastly, a huge THANK YOU is long overdue, so, thank you all for sticking with ASTRA through the years and for being such amazing fans. I love you all more than words can say and I’m going to do my best to bring some new ASTRA music to your ears as soon as possible.

Be seeing you,
-Richard Vaughan

https://www.facebook.com/astrasound/
http://astratheband.com/
http://www.riseaboverecords.com/

Astra, The Black Chord (2012)

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Friday Full-Length: Astra, The Weirding

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Astra, The Weirding (2009)

In hindsight, Astra were at least as much ahead of their time as they were behind it. I won’t speak for everyone, but I know that when in 2009 the San Diego heavy progressive-psychedelic rockers released their debut album, The Weirding (review here), on Rise Above Records, I didn’t really have the context for understanding where they were coming from. I saw the five-piece live that year at the one-time-only Planet Caravan festival in Asheville, North Carolina, and even then I feel like I didn’t properly appreciate the fluidity and the richness of what they were doing or the effect it would have on the then-nascent scene around them. But though few around them would come close to touching on the same kind of Mellotron-soaked artistry of extended pieces like “Beyond to Slight the Maze” and the earlier key-worship and Moog textures of “Silent Sleep,” Astra and The Weirding in particular would have a significant impact on the overall mindset of what we now think of as the West Coast psych boom, still very much in progress. If nothing else, the title of the album seems to have given the entire process of dudes picking up guitars and shredding with SoCal gnarl and abandon a name: What else would you call it if not a weirding of the wicked world?

When I hear The Weirding on my mental jukebox, as I still do from time to time these eight years after the fact, that line from the early-appearing 15-minute title-track remains a standout, in part because it’s catchy — and it is, despite the extended runtime — but also because of the willful sense of defiance in it. These are the freaks talking to the norms, and if you look at the Arik Roper cover art and listen to the eight tracks/78 minutes of The Weirding as a whole, it’s happening all across the record. What I called “pastoral” at the time I might call otherworldly today, but the work of Richard Vaughan (guitar, vocals, Mellotron, synth), Conor Riley (guitar, vocals, Mellotron, synth, piano and other keys), Brian Ellis (guitar and Moog), Stuart Sclater (bass) and David Hurley (drums, percussion and flute) hits like a dream either way, and as a debut, The Weirding is all the more of a stunner. The patience and sure hands that guide the currents of “The River Under,” or the sweet folkishness of “Broken Glass” — which is like a piece of buried treasure after the hypnotic 17-minute “Ouroboros” before it — land with such a resonant feeling of their own direction and confidence behind them, that it’s nearly impossible not to be swept up in it. Lush in its melodies and unremittingly graceful in the flow between its tracks, The Weirding remains a joyous update of classic progressive rock, reveling in joy at what King Crimson seemed to take almost too seriously in their formative work and thereby establishing Astra‘s own sonic persona as one bright and brimming with life despite being so thoughtful in its presentation.

That blend of concept and poise in execution has proven a precious rarity in the years since The Weirding arrived, and accordingly, it’s only become easier to appreciate what Astra brought to their first offering — which is to say nothing of the ultra-trustworthy getting-it on the part of Rise Above, who over the years have proven able time and again to meet bands’ visions on their own levels, whether it’s a group like this or Orange GoblinUncle Acid, earliest Witchcraft, and so on. The same imprint would stand behind the second Astra full-length, The Black Chord (review here), in 2012, and having played to support the debut in 2010, the group returned to the Netherlands for an appearance at the Roadburn festival in 2013 (review here), where they brought both records to the stage with due energy and molten kosmiche. Sadly, The Black Chord remains the final Astra album to-date. Ellis has continued to make contributions to the West Coast aesthetic through producing and the crafting of solo/side-projects on El Paraiso Records, and Vaughan has a graphic design company, but half a decade after their sophomore long-player, there’s been little sign of a third installment from the band either in the writing or recording stages. Never say never in rock and roll — that is, it could still very much happen — but to the best of my knowledge, there’s nothing currently in progress.

Still, one doesn’t need the promise of a new record to grasp the importance or immersiveness of The Weirding, which is fortunate, and whether you’re listening to it for the hundredth time or the first time, it’s very much the kind of album in which one can always find something new. I hope you do, anyhow, and I hope, as always, that you enjoy.

Thanks for reading and listening.

You’ll forgive me if I don’t really think of this week as being “over” in the true sense of the word, since for me it isn’t. Yeah, I’m gonna check out of Obelisk stuff for a day or so as much as I ever do — I don’t — but after being on the road since leaving Pawtucket, Rhode Island, last Friday following my last day at work, I’ve yet to return home to Massachusetts.

To recap: The Patient Mrs. and I headed on Friday from my work to York, Pennsylvania, for a wedding on Saturday. Sunday night and Monday we stayed with family in Sparks, Maryland. Tuesday we made the eight-hour trip to Statesville, North Carolina, to see my father. We stayed there through Wednesday, saw my aunt and uncle and cousins whom I hadn’t seen in at least 20 years, and then left Thursday morning — yesterday morning — to arrive back in MD as kind of a waypoint/crash-spot. Shortly, we’ll get back in the car and make a break north for New Jersey, where my mother and sister and her family are celebrating my grandmother’s 102nd birthday. Dinner with them tonight, then we stay with my other cousin nearby — still in North Jersey — before seeing friends tomorrow morning quickly, grabbing my mother (who will be staying with us for the next week) and heading back north at least as far as Connecticut, where I think we’ll probably stay until Sunday, if only because it’s less driving than heading directly back home to MA. What’s one more day away at this point?

It’s been a long trip already, I don’t mind saying. And it hasn’t all been pleasant, I also don’t mind saying. But The Patient Mrs. and I went to bed at around 9PM last night and I slept an extra hour this morning, getting up at 5:45AM instead of 4:45, and I had a mug of coffee for breakfast with cinnamon-flavored protein powder in it, and it’s been quiet as I had time to write about the Astra record above, so I can’t really argue with the moment’s setting. One has to steal minutes where one can sometimes. I feel like I’ve managed to do that somewhat effectively this morning. It’s just before 9AM now. We want to be on the road by 1PM.

The elephant in the room here is Maryland Doom Fest, which I’m missing this weekend. I wouldn’t be were it not for the legitimacy of the family occasion — Earthride are fucking great, but how many times does one of your relatives turn 102? — and perhaps even in my younger days I would’ve blown off the celebration in favor of the riffs. I don’t know if it’s a product of being an adult or what, but the can’t-miss factor seems to have shifted my priorities. That lineup is incredible, and if you’re going, I hope you have a great time, but yeah, from where I sit, my presence seems more crucial at the birthday. Getting old is strange.

Whether you’re in Frederick for that fest or not — you should be — I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Here’s what’s in the notes for next week, subject to change as usual:

Mon.: Sasquatch review; Robustfellow giveaway.
Tue.: Tuna de Tierra review/track premiere; Bones of Minerva video premiere.
Wed.: Shroud Eater review/track premiere; The Great Beyond video.
Thu.: Fat Dukes of Fuck video premiere; Six Dumb Questions with Stoned Jesus.
Fri.: Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore split review/stream; Atala video.

So that’s what I’ve got as of this moment. Week after (yes, the week of July 4) will be the Quarterly Review. Busy times as always. Once again, have a great couple days, whatever you’re up to. Thanks for reading, listening, watching, sharing, commenting, and so on, and please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Radio Moscow Announce New Beginnings Due Sept. 9; Euro Tour Sept./Oct.

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I’ll say this as clearly as I possibly can: If you’re not looking forward to the new Radio Moscow, you’re fucking up. The San Diego bringers-of-heavy-rock-tornadoes will release their fifth album, New Beginnings, on Sept. 9 as their debut for Century Media, just as they wrap a small string of West Coast dates and shortly before they begin a European headlining trek set to feature Kaleidobolt as direct support. The three-piece of Parker GriggsAnthony Meier and Paul Marrone were recently confirmed for Keep it Low 2017 (info here), Desertfest Athens 2017 (info here), Up in Smoke 2017 (info here) and Desertfest Belgium 2017 (info here), so we knew they’d be in Europe for the Fall, but there’s something to be said for seeing how it all ties together as well. And when it comes to these dudes, the more shows the merrier.

Radio Moscow had a live album out last year that I could’ve cried when I didn’t get sent a download to review — really, my feelings were hurt — and their last studio outing was 2014’s ultra-driving Magical Dirt (review here). Get it if you don’t have it. Get the new one too. Shit, just buy everything Radio Moscow have ever done. You’ll thank yourself for doing so later.

From the PR wire:

radio moscow

RADIO MOSCOW Announce New Album, “New Beginnings”, Scheduled For Release September 9, 2017 via Century Media Records

Reveal Headlining European Tour in September/October 2017 Featuring Special Guests Kaleidobolt

Southern Californian rock trio RADIO MOSCOW are currently putting finishing touches on their much-anticipated fifth studio album, “New Beginnings”, which is set for release via Century Media Records on September 29, 2017.

Right on time with the release of their new opus, the band has confirmed the “The Drifting Tour”, which will drown Europe from September 26 to October 31 in waves of fuzzy, hard rocking riffs and sweaty, cranked up blues!

Formed in 2003, the power trio led by Stratocaster genius Parker Griggs carved their own sonic niche fusing crunching, heavy Sabbath-style chords with fiery ‘Hendrixian’ solos and a raw intensity that is addictive and captivating. From the self-titled debut back in 2007, which was produced by Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, over to last year’s “Live! In California”, RADIO MOSCOW proved to be not just a cheap time machine but a direct descendant from the golden age of rock ‘n’ roll!

Known as a tremendous live act, Parker Griggs (vocals, guitar), Anthony Meier (bass) and Paul Marrone (drums) have hit the road hard in the U.S. and in Europe in past years, touring with the likes of Graveyard, Witchcraft, Joe Bonamassa and Pentagram as well as playing festivals such as Desert Daze (US), the Void Fest (Ger), Electric Funeral (US), Burg Herzberg Fest (Ger), and the Orbital Festival in Santiago, Chile, to name but a few.

Now, RADIO MOSCOW are gearing up for an exciting new chapter in their career with the release of “New Beginnings” and have kicked off another massive touring cycle with a US mini-tour, selected European festivals in August, and a full European tour in September/October. Even more chances to see the band live are currently in the works!

RADIO MOSCOW live
US mini tour
6/30 Phoenix, AZ – The Rebel Lounge
7/1 Santa Fe, NM – The Bridge at Santa Fe Brewing
7/2 Oklahoma City, OK – 89th Street Collective
7/3 Kansas City, MO – Riot Room
7/6 Chicago, IL – Reggie’s Music Joint
7/7 Des Moines, IA – Western Gateway Park
7/8 Denver, CO – Larimer Lounge
7/9 Telluride, CO – Fly Me To The Moon Saloon

European festivals
12.08.17 Dortmund (DE) Junkyard Open Air
13.08.17 Cernoy (FR) – Celebration Days
19.08.17 Saint-Nolff (FR) Motorculto Festival

“The Drifting Tour” 2017
with special guests Kaleidobolt
26.09.17 Paris (FR) Backstage
27.09.17 Nantes (FR) Le Ferrailleur
28.09.17 Bilbao (ES) Kafe Antzokia
29.09.17 Gijon (ES) Casino Acapulco
30.09.17 Porto (PT) Hard Club
01.10.17 Lisbon (PT) RCA
02.10.17 Madrid (ES) Caracol
03.10.17 Barcelona (ES) Rocksound
04.10.17 Montpellier (FR) Secret Place
06.10.17 Pratteln (CH) Up In Smoke
07.10.17 Athens (GR) Desertfest
09.10.17 Roma (IT) Traffic
10.10.17 Altroquando (IT) Zero Branco
11.10.17 Torino (IT) Blah Blah
13.10.17 Antwerpen (BE) Desertfest
14.10.17 Groningen (NL) Vera
15.10.17 Cologne (DE) Underground
16.10.17 Wiesbaden (DE) Schlachthof
17.10.17 Wien (AT) Arena
18.10.17 Innsbruck (AT) PMK
19.10.17 Etagnieres (CH) Croc the Rock Festival
20.10.17 Munich (DE) Keep it Low
21.10.17 Dresden (DE) Beatpol
23.10.17 Hamburg (DE) Hafenklang
24.10.17 Copenhagen (DK) tbc
25.10.17 Stockholm (SE) Undergangen
26.10.17 Göteborg (SE) Sticky Fingers
28.10.17 Bergen (NO) Garage
30.10.17 Hannover (DE) Chez Heinz (* no Kaleidobolt)
31.10.17 Berlin (DE) Festsaal (* no Kaleidobolt)

Discography
Radio Moscow (2007)
Brain Cycles (2009)
The Great Escape of Leslie Magnafuzz (2011)
3 & 3 Quarters (2012), early demos recorded in 2003 by Parker Griggs
Rancho Tehama EP (2013)
Magical Dirt (2014)
Live! In California (2016)

Radio Moscow line-up
Parker Griggs (vocals, guitar)
Anthony Meier (bass)
Paul Marrone (drums)

http://radiomoscow.net/
www.facebook.com/radiomoscowband
www.instagram.com/radiomoscowband

Radio Moscow, Live in Costa Mesa, CA, March 18, 2017

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Review & Full Stream: Harsh Toke, Joy & Sacri Monti, Burnout Split LP

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

harsh-toke-joy-sacri-monti-burnout

[Click play above to stream the Burnout three-way split between Harsh Toke, Joy and Sacri Monti. It’s out June 23 via Tee Pee Records.]

Not to quibble on titles, but it’s way less Burnout than it is ignition. The West Coast heavy psych boom, centered in San Diego but with offshoots up and down throughout California in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, etc., is years underway at this point, and New York’s Tee Pee Records has proven to be among its most crucial documentarians. In bringing together Harsh TokeJoy and Sacri Monti — three San Diego bands who’ve all had albums out on Tee Pee — the long-running imprint has essentially reinforced the arrival of and camaraderie between members of one of the US’ most vibrant underground scenes. If they wanted, each of these groups could have headlined their own three-band split — there’s enough clout between them and enough other acts around to make that happen, easily — but in uniting them together, Tee Pee is going for broke in representing the particular energy and classic-minded shred that typifies San Diego’s explosive sound.

It is likewise no coincidence that Burnout — a six-song 12″ topping out at 26 minutes — should feature covers from each band as well as original material from Joy and Sacri Monti, since so much of what’s happening and what’s already happened in the heavy ’10s has owed its core approach to the heavy ’70s before it, so that to have Harsh Toke take on Roky Erickson for two tracks — something they also did for a full set at Roadburn festival this past Spring in the Netherlands — as Joy tears into “Spaceship Earth” by Road and Sacri Monti into “Sleeping for Years” by Atomic Rooster not only makes sense sonically, but effectively ties together the still-very-much-exploding current movement of bands with the crucial wave that preceded it nearly half a century ago.

I admit, that’s a pretty heady view of the mission here, and to listen to Burnout, the tracks don’t come across nearly so lofty in their aims, whether that’s Harsh Toke‘s drunk-at-the-piano dive into Erickson‘s “Burn the Flames” at the outset or the scorching, organ-soaked boogie drive of Sacri Monti tackling “Sleeping for Years” at the finish. And rightfully so. If it was pretentious or overly self-aware, the whole affair would fall flat, where in the front-to-back execution, it proves to be anything but, with both Joy and Sacri Monti right in their respective elements in both their own material and their cover selections while Harsh Toke prove to be somewhat the outliers as they leadoff the release. Not so much sound-wise — Roky Erickson‘s weirdo formative and massively influential psych isn’t out of context in their swaying reinterpretation — as in the simple concept of Harsh Toke playing songs.

harsh toke joy sacri monti burnout vinyl

Harsh Toke‘s 2016 split (review here) with San Diego scene lords Earthless — who along with Radio Moscow are very much the elephant in the room when it comes to not only the three outfits appearing on Burnout but the wider San Diego sphere as a whole — and their 2014 debut, Light up and Live, were essentially jam-based releases, and their live sets find them working in likewise methods. To hear them push through the fuzzy proto-punk of “Bermuda,” I’m not sure why they so generally avoid vocals, but the fact that it’s something that doesn’t happen all the time would seem to make it all the more of an event, and they are right at home in that track and “Burn the Flames” preceding, giving a sense of Erickson‘s character in the material while presenting it with their own energetic tack. Naturally, on a three-band split there’ are bound to be some stark leaps in sound, between groups — like on any multi-group compilation — but the speedier “Bermuda” also helps make way for Joy‘s “Your Time Ain’t Long,” the longest inclusion here overall at 5:27.

Meting out similar winding riffage to what high-speed-nodded throughout their 2016 third full-length, Ride Along! (review here), “Your Time Ain’t Long” serves as the first original of Burnout and cuts short after three-and-a-half shuffling minutes to a more languid drift, keeping some progressive tension beneath as it moves with deceptive efficiency back toward its hook. The trio count into “Spaceship Earth” for a live-in-studio feel that the raw fuzz of their tonality and echoing vocals backs up that impression. In their own composition as well as the 1972 Road track, it’s the guitar leading the charge, and even as “Spaceship Earth” moves into outside-the-atmosphere noise following an extended stretch of leads, tone provides the fuel for that ascent. Sacri Monti‘s “Over the Hill” follows immediately.

Their original, like that of Joy before them, showcases a fervent-enough ’70s influence to make its transition seamless, but is distinguished through the use of organ and the interplay there between keys and shred-prone guitar as was their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), and as a next step forward from that release, “Over the Hill” bodes well for the development of their chemistry on the whole. Their selection of an Atomic Rooster track is likewise admirable — and one has to acknowledge it must’ve been tempting, when looking at 1970’s Death Walks Behind You, to take on the title-piece — and they give the UK-based post-blues stompers their due while, like Harsh Toke and Joy before them, bringing their own personality to the presentation in a live-feeling onslaught of groove that dares you to keep up with its nigh-on-frenetic turns. It’s over quickly — so is Burnout as a whole — but Sacri Monti‘s cold finish to “Sleeping for Years” makes a fitting end to the split, since as the scene that birthed these bands also seems to do, it leaves one with the feeling of standing in front of the stage yelling for one more song.

And if they had done another, or if any of these groups came back out and did an encore, you wouldn’t find me complaining. Cities like San Diego, Encinitas, Visalia, Oceanside, and so on, have become more and more crowded over the last couple years, and I expect they’ll continue to for at least the next several years as we move toward and beyond 2020, but with the quality of output from Harsh TokeJoy and Sacri Monti both here and on their own offerings, it’s hard to argue with others wanting to pick up and try to capture some of the same vibe that’s presented as being so utterly molten across this split. In playing to their strengths, each of these bands represents some of the best of West Coast heavy psych as a whole.

Harsh Toke on Thee Facebooks

Joy on Thee Facebooks

Sacri Monti on Thee Facebooks

Burnout at Tee Pee Records

Tee Pee Records on Thee Facebooks

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