Posted in Whathaveyou on January 11th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s a mini-tour in that it’s four dates, but it also covers the bulk of the geography of the West Coast, so you know, not really all that ‘mini.’ Seattle’s He Whose Ox is Gored are heading out as they continue to support their 2015 debut full-length, The Camel, the Lion, the Child (review here), and over the course of four nights, they’ll trek from Portland to San Francisco to Los Angeles to Sacramento. It’s that Portland to SF part that’s the real trouble, but the ride back northbound from L.A. to Sacramento is hardly an afternoon jaunt either.
Of course, the band aren’t exactly novices at this point when it comes to putting in time on the road, so it’s not like they’re not gonna make it, but one would hardly accuse them of taking it easy on themselves. Or, I suppose, on Dust Moth, with whom they’ll be touring.
The PR wire has it all like this:
HE WHOSE OX IS GORED: Ethereal Sludge Collective Confirms February Headlining Mini-Tour With Dust Moth; Video Teaser Posted
Ethereal progressive sludge collective HE WHOSE OX IS GORED will kick off the New Year with a West Coast headlining tour. The four-date mini excursion will commence on February 16th and make its way through Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. Support will be provided by shoe gazing experimentalists Dust Moth featuring Ryan Frederiksen of These Arms Are Snakes.
“We are covering songs off all four releases, and may have a few surprises in the set as well,” issues the band of the upcoming dates. “We can’t wait to hit the road with our dear friends in Dust Moth. They are some of the hardest working, best people we know, and we couldn’t be more excited to share the stage with them for four nights.”
HE WHOSE OX IS GORED w/ Dust Moth: 2/16/2017 Ash Street Saloon – Portland, OR 2/17/2017 Thee Parkside – San Francisco, CA 2/18/2017 The Echo – Los Angeles, CA 2/19/2017 The Colony – Sacramento, CA
HE WHOSE OX IS GORED continues to tour in support of their critically-lauded The Camel, The Lion, The Child issued in 2015 via Bleeding Light Records. A monolithic, eight-track, near hour-long exercise in sonic alchemy, with The Camel, The Lion, The Child the Seattle unit travels far beyond the confines of traditional musical boundaries with a sound that’s at once cinematic, ethereal, and sprawling yet unequivocally heavy. Captured at Red Room and Ex Ex Audio in Seattle by Robert Cheek (Serial Hawk, Noise-A-Tron etc.) with additional recording at Avast Studios with Randall Dunn (Sunn O))), Earth, Wolves In The Throne Room etc.), mixed by Matt Bayles (Isis, Mastodon etc.) and mastered by frequent collaborator, Blake Bickel, The Camel, The Lion, The Child is a truly cathartic audio expedition not to be ignored.
If you’ll allow me a sentimental moment: I remember quite clearly standing in front of the stage at Kimo’s in San Francisco in 2010 and singing along with Snail‘s Mark Johnson and Matt Lynch to the titular hook of their 2009 return album, Blood (review here). It was among the greatest joys of the day to do so again this past August at The Obelisk All-Dayer at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. Some time passed between the two events, obviously, and Snail have put out two more records in the meantime in 2012’s Terminus (review here) and 2015’s Feral (review here) and shifted from a four-piece back to the original trio of Johnson on guitar, Lynch on bass and drummer Marty Dodson, but still, it was something special.
When I announced The Obelisk All-Dayer was a thing that was happening, Snail were among the first acts who got in touch with me, offering to make their way across the continent for what would be their first East Coast appearance ever in a history that stretched as far back as their 1993 self-titled debut (review here). The generosity of that gesture was unbelievable, but the truth of the matter is I’d already dreamed of having Snail involved in the show, as Feral was so decisively their best album to-date and those songs ones I very, very much wanted to see brought to life onstage. I’m hardly an impartial observer at this point, but they were even better in Brooklyn than they’d been six years earlier in California.
The video below for “Blood” was recorded at The Obelisk All-Dayer and takes footage captured by the esteemed Frank Huang and Jennifer Hendrix and manipulates it with some additional psychedelic weirdness suited to the overall vibe. But listen to the sound as well. Snail were so on-point that I was just blown away, and as I watch “Blood,” I can only keep my fingers crossed they follow this up with a companion clip for “Thou Art That,” or, you know, a tape release of the whole set. Either way. No pressure. Ha.
I’ve included the full-stream of Feral at the bottom of this post also. I know you’ve heard it, but hell, you should hear it again.
And please enjoy:
Snail, “Blood” at The Obelisk All-Dayer official live video
Happy New Year! The high point of 2016 (for us) was getting to play The Obelisk All-Dayer in Brooklyn. Matt combined footage from a variety of sources and the board tracks and created a really trippy video of our performance of ‘Blood.’ Check it out! See if you can find the footage of a person giving blood at a blood bank…
Video and Sound Production: Matt Lynch Footage courtesy of Frank Huang and Jennifer Hendrix. Photos by Jennifer Hendrix.
Special Thanks to: Jennifer Hendrix, Frank Huang, JJ Koczan and The Obelisk and all the folks who came to rock.
Posted in audiObelisk on December 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Seattle-based folk-blues guitarist Michael Wohl will release his new album, Windblown Blues, early next month. He’ll offer the full-length on CD and tape as he did with his prior Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar (review here) in 2013, but while both bask in a warm and organic creative spirit, the two outings could hardly be confused for each other. True to its title, that album was a minimalist affair, Wohl with a recording-into-a-tin-can-in-a-room sensibility to his approach, the whole thing feeling as DIY as it was and instrumental in its entirety. For Windblown Blues, Wohl expands the scope significantly. Still humble in its acoustic and organic roots, the 12-track/43-minute sophomore outing signals an immediately different intent on opener “Animals” via cello accompanying the guitar, and the arrangements continue to flesh out with fiddle, bass, pedal steel, drums, piano, all played by a range of guests, and — perhaps even more notably — vocals from Wohl and others as he takes on new original songs like the countrified “If I Could,” the semi-plugged “I Said too Much” and relatively minimal “Leaving the House of a Friend,” as well as traditional pieces like “In the Pines” (popularized by Lead Belly, also interpreted by Nirvana and countless others), “Cocaine Blues” (you may have heard Robert Johnson‘s version), and “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor” (see also Mississippi John Hurt). There are still plenty of instrumental pieces, from the aforementioned opener to the rambling solo guitar of “Ship of No Port” and electric-and-drum toe-tapper/near-samba “Ribosome,” but it’s a marked departure Wohl is making here, and one that ultimately serves him well over the course of the record.
The confidence of his vocals should be highlighted outright. Hailing from now-defunct classic-style heavy rockers Mystery Ship, he did sing in that band, but to do so in a context like Windblown Blues, with no distortion or tonal blast to hide behind, feels especially bold. Granted, he’s joined by no fewer than four other guest vocalists throughout — Alex Hagenah (also bass/guitar), Aaron Semer (also guitar), Danica Molenaar and Kate Voss — but his versions of “Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor” and “In the Pines” find him standing alone and shining in the performance nonetheless, and as broad as the almost-CSNYian “Drown” seems next to the wholesome fiddle-laden finish of “Eastern Avenue Rag,” Wohl himself remains at the core of Windblown Blues and is responsible for guiding it down its deceptively varied path. That becomes a significant task as the lush melodies of “I Said too Much” shift into the piano-and-guitar “Pajaro,” but Windblown Blues holds firm to a clean-sounding sensibility no matter what its arrangements might bring — it was produced by Wohl and Tom Meyers, who also recorded at Ground Control in Ballard, Washington — and is united across its span by that while still coming across as natural and fluid in its transitions thanks to traditional songwriting and a generally subdued feel to the material. I wouldn’t at all call it humble in the same way as Eight Pieces for Solo Guitar, and Wohl seems to be moving at least partially away from willful primitivism in these songs — there are stretches on Windblown Blues that sound like a full band is playing because, essentially, one is — but this is still genuine Americana and carries with it a ready familiarity, whether that’s in the originals or the other pieces Wohl has chosen to include, and no doubt that will carry forward into whatever he decides to do from here.
Today I have the pleasure of hosting the premiere of “In the Pines” ahead of the proper record release next month. Amid this sonic expansion, it seemed only fair to get Wohl‘s perspective on the changes in approach that Windblown Blues represents, and he was kind enough to offer thoughtful introspection and insight into what went into the album’s making below.
Michael Wohl on Windblown Blues:
I started work on this record about two years ago. It represents a period of initial frustration that became one of a lot of musical growth and development . I was writing a lot of the songs as my old band, Mystery Ship, was coming undone. We had put in a lot of work, and I felt like our best days were around the corner, but things didn’t turn out that way. I’d started developing a solo style during the last part of those days, writing, recording, and playing out by myself. All of a sudden I found that to be my only outlet, which was scary and liberating at the same time.
My first solo recordings were all instrumental acoustic guitar explorations. As I continued to play shows by myself, I found that I wound up singing more and more, so this album represents a change in style. It’s not acoustic album; I’ve tried to push myself to write and arrange with respect to what the song calls for, rather than setting up initial parameters in which to work. I was also fortunate to have a huge stable of phenomenal players backing me up. Trying t o figure out which musicians would fit best in what songs as well as which would be better solo was a really cool part of the process. It was a new experience for me, and it brought the songs to a lot of places that I wouldn’t have expected. I’ve found that freedom to pursue whatever sounds I’m feeling to be one of the most rewarding things about my own music. I have a hard time zeroing in on a style to work within, so many times in my life I’ve shelved a song because it didn’t fit in with the aesthetic of a band I was with. I don’t have that problem any more.
In the process of recording, I think I developed as a singer a lot — “found my voice” so to speak — and more confidence in that. I also realized I pretty much blew my voice out and messed up my throat every time I sang with a loud band because I was trying to keep up with the volume.
I didn’t necessarily set out to do so, but I think the album paints a pretty good picture of the threads of my influences. I guess I’m trying to connect the dots and demonstrate that though there are some seemingly-disparate elements, it’s all a cohesive scene in my head. I started playing “In the Pines” a few years ago. I remember singing it with some friends on a lake up on Vancouver Island beneath a black blanket of stars and thinking it would be a good tune to offer up. I’d heard so many versions of it; Lead Belly’s original, the Kossoy Sisters version with the beautiful, haunting close harmony singing, Dave Van Ronk, Joan Baez, and of course the Nirvana version from “Unplugged in New York”.
It got me thinking about how these days I listen to a lot of these old folk and blues singers, but I’ve known that song through a different lens since I was very young. Like a lot of kids who were picking up guitars in the early-mid 90s, Nirvana and the Seattle scene had a huge influence on me. It was heavy, honest, and intense. Thinking about that really drove home the sense that there is a continuum from the folk, country, and blues tunes of the pre-WWII era through the folk revivals, psychedelia, and singer-songwriter eras of the ’50s/’60s/’70s, through the music of the ’90s and ’80s I was so inspired by when I first picked up a guitar.
Lori Goldston, who played the cello on the album on “Animals” played with Nirvana on that recording. When I thought about that, a lot of things kind of felt like they were folding inwards and like maybe musical development is not a linear thing. When the tunes all sound so superficially different, you start to think of the underlying fundamental quality – – what is it that draws you to a song in the first place, and what keeps you coming back? There’s an intense, unpolished quality to all of it, in which I think some grain of truth can be found. Trying to tap into that feeling is the guiding force for my music. If I feel that way upon playback, I’ll have done what I set out to do.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 26th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Set to consume any and all light around them, as ever, SunnO))) have issued a new single as a name-your-price download and announced tour dates in the Northeastern US and Southeastern Canada for March 2017. In addition, the magnates of the form have also enacted a Bandcamp sale through the remainder of 2016 offering 35 percent off presumably as a favor to those of us whose finances are depleted as will happen circa the holidays. Some rare kindnesses on the part of SunnO))), who are much more known for the inherent cruelties and coldness of their approach, but take it either way while you can, since there are fewer darknesses out there more suited to January’s dismal stretch than that of the rumble and gurgle SunnO))) emit.
The PR wire has details, links and all that good stuff:
SUNN O))) To Tour Northeastern USA, Southeast Canada In March; Digital Bandcamp Sale And Free Track Available Through The Year’s End
The first set of SUNN O))) tour dates for 2017 sees the collective bringing their dense and arrhythmic blend of metal, drone, and minimalist music back to the Northeast USA and Southeastern realms of Canada for a week of performances. SUNN O))) will converge in Washington DC on March 12th, following with shows in Pittsburgh, Toronto, Montreal, Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia confirmed through March 18th. Support on all shows will be provided by Southern Lord labelmates, Montreal-based Big | Brave, whom have also joined SUNN O))) on their recent tours of the Southwest, Southeast and Midwest states and Europe.
This follows the recent announcement of SUNN O)))’s appearance at London’s massive performing arts venue, Barbican Centre, as part of this year’s Convergence Festival on March 21st. Support for the performance will come from Icelandic singer and cellist, Hildur Guðnadóttir, who has played and recorded with bands such as Pan Sonic, Throbbing Gristle, and Múm. Guðnadóttir also wrote the arrangements for the Wildbirds & Peacedrums session as part of the Barbican’s Nils Frahm curated Possibly Colliding marathon weekend in July.
Tickets for the East Coast shows go on sale this Friday, December 23rd at 10am local time. Tickets for the Barbican performance are available HERE.
As Winter Solstice approaches, SUNN O))) extends thanks to their fans for their support throughout 2016, and as a token of their appreciation, offer a free track as well as a digital sale through the rest of the year. Fans can now find the exclusive track «???? // ??» (aka “Aokigahara // Jukai” from the flexi 7″ which was released together with some vinyl copies of Kannon) for free download through the end of December at THIS LOCATION. To take advantage of the 35% Bandcamp discount, go to sunn.bandcamp.com or sunn-live.bandcamp.com and enter discount code SOLSTICE2016.
SUNN O))) Tour Dates: 3/12/2017 930 Club – Washington, DC w/ Big | Brave 3/13/2017 The Rex – Pittsburgh, PA w/ Big | Brave 3/14/2017 Queen Elizabeth Theatre – Toronto, ON w/ Big | Brave 3/15/2017 La Sat – Montreal, QC w/ Big | Brave 3/16/2017 The Coolidge – Boston, MA w/ Big | Brave 3/17/2017 Knockdown Center – Brooklyn, NY w/ Big | Brave 3/18/2017 Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA w/ Big | Brave 3/21/2017 Barbican – London, UK @ Convergence Festival w/ Hildur Guðnadóttir
Posted in Features on December 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.
Of all the lists I do to wrap up or start any given year, this is the hardest. As someone obviously more concerned with first impressions than I am and thus probably better-dressed once said, you only get one chance at them. For bands, that can be a vicious bite in the ass on multiple levels.
To wit, you put out a great debut, fine, but there’s a whole segment of your listeners who’re bound to think you’ll never live up to it again. You put out a meh debut, you sell yourself short. Or maybe your debut is awesome but doesn’t really represent where you want to be as a band, so it’s a really good first impression, but a mistaken one. There are so many things that can go wrong or go right with any LP, but with debuts, the stakes are that much higher because it’s the only time you’ll get the chance to engage your audience for the first time. That matters.
And when it comes to putting together a list of the best debuts of the year, how does one begin to judge? True, some of these acts have done EPs and singles and splits and things like that before, and that’s at least something to go on, but can one really be expected to measure an act’s potential based on a single collection of songs? Is that fair to anyone involved? Or on the other side, is it even possible to take a debut entirely on its own merits, without any consideration for where it might lead the band in question going forward? I know that’s not something I’ve ever been able to do, certainly. Or particularly interested in doing. I like context.
Still, one presses on. I guess the point is that, like picking any kind of prospects, some will pan out and some won’t. I’ve done this for enough years now that I’ve seen groups flame or fade out while others have risen to new heights with each subsequent release. It’s always a mix. But at the same time, it’s important to step back and say that, as of today, this is where it’s at.
And so it is:
The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016
1. King Buffalo, Orion
2. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree
3. Heavy Temple, Chassit
4. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
5. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
6. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
7. Wretch, Wretch
8. Year of the Cobra, In the Shadows Below
9. BigPig, Grande Puerco
10. Fuzz Evil, Fuzz Evil
11. Bright Curse, Before the Shore
12. Conclave, Sins of the Elders
13. Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore
14. High Fighter, Scars and Crosses
15. Spirit Adrift, Chained to Oblivion
16. Bellringer, Jettison
17. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real?
18. Merchant, Suzerain
19. Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
20. King Dead, Woe and Judgment
There are many. First, the self-titled from Pooty Owldom, which had so much weirdo charm it made my head want to explode. And Iron Man frontman Dee Calhoun‘s acoustic solo record was technically a debut. And Atala‘s record. And Horehound. And Mother Mooch. And Domkraft. And Spaceslug. And Graves at Sea? Shit. More than a decade after their demo, they finally put out a debut album. And Second Grave‘s full-length would turn out to be their swansong, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the thing. There were a lot of records to consider in putting this list together. As always, it could’ve been a much longer list.
For example, here are 20 more: Swan Valley Heights, Arctic, Blues Funeral, Teacher, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Nonsun, Duel, Banquet, Floodlore, Mindkult‘s EP, Mountain Dust, Red Lama, Red Wizard, Limestone Whale, Dunbarrow, Comacozer, Sinister Haze, Pants Exploder, Akasava, Katla and No Man’s Valley. That’s not even the end of it. I could go on.
It was a fight to the finish. There’s always one, and as late as yesterday I could be found kicking back and forth between King Buffalo and Elephant Tree in the top spot. What was it that finally put King Buffalo‘s Orion over Elephant Tree‘s self-titled? I don’t know. Ask me tomorrow and the answer might be completely different.
They had a lot in common. Not necessarily in terms of style — King Buffalo basked in spacious Americana-infused heavy psych jams while Elephant Tree proffered more earthbound riffing and melodies — but each executed memorable songs across its span in a way that would be unfair to ask of a debut. The potential for what both bands can turn into down the line played a part in the picks, but something else they share between them is that the quality of the work they’re doing now warrants the top spots. Orion and Elephant Tree were great albums, not just great first albums.
From there, we see a wide swath of next-generation encouragement for the future of heavy rock, whether it’s coming from Sweden’s Vokonis or Philadelphia’s Heavy Temple, or London’s Bright Curse, or Los Angeles duo BigPig. The latter act’s punkish fuzz definitely benefited from guitarist/vocalist Dino von Lalli‘s experience playing in Fatso Jetson, but one hopes that as the years go on his own multifaceted songwriting style will continue to grow as well.
A few offerings weren’t necessarily unexpected but still lived up to the anticipation. High Fighter‘s EP prefaced their aggro sludgecore well. Ditto that for the grueling death-sludge of Massachusetts natives Conclave. The aforementioned Bright Curse, Merchant, Fuzz Evil, Atala, Bellringer, Holy Grove, Wretch and Worshipper all had offerings of one sort or another prior to their full-length debuts — in the case of Bellringer, it was just a series of videos, while Wretch had the entire The Gates of Slumber catalog to fall back on — but each of those albums offered surprises nonetheless.
It would’ve been hard not to be taken by the songwriting on display from the likes of Holy Grove, Year of the Cobra, Pale Grey Lore and Beastmaker, who between them covered a pretty broad variety of atmosphere but found ways to deliver high-quality crafted material in that. Those albums were a pleasure to hear. Put Boston’s Worshipper in that category as well, though they were just as much a standout from the pack in terms of their performance as what they were performing. Speaking of performance, the lush melodies from Church of the Cosmic Skull and classic progressive flourish were enough to make me a believer. Simply gorgeous. And one-man outfit Spirit Adrift shined, if in that matte-black doom kind of way, on an encouraging collection of modern melancholic heavy that seemed to hint at sprawl to come.
As we get down to the bottom of the list we find Pennsylvania ambient heavy post-rockers King Dead. Their Woe and Judgment was released digitally last year (2015) but the LP came out earlier this year, so I wasn’t quite sure where to place them ultimately. I know they got some mention on the 2015 lists somewhere, but while they’re an act who’ve flown under a lot of people’s radar as yet, I have good feelings about how they might continue to dig into their sound and the balance of bleakness and psychedelic color they bring to their material. They’re slated for a follow-up in 2017, so this won’t be the last list on which they appear in the next few weeks.
Like I said at the outset, putting out a debut album is a special moment for any band. Not everyone gets to that point and not everyone gets beyond it, so while a list like this is inherently bound to have some element of speculation, it’s still a worthy endeavor to celebrate the accomplishments of those who hit that crucial moment in their creative development. Hopefully these acts continue to grow, flourish, and build on what they’ve thus far been able to realize sonically. That’s the ideal.
And before I go, once again, let me reinforce the notion that I recognize this is just a fraction of the whole. I’d like it to be the start of a conversation. If there was a debut album that kicked your ass this year and you don’t see it here, please drop a note in the comments below. I’m sure I’ll be adding more honorable mentions and whatnot over the next couple days, so if you see glaring omissions, let’s have ’em.
Seattle duo Year of the Cobra released their debut full-length, …In the Shadows Below (review here), precisely one month ago today via STB Records. It’s a record that benefits both from scope and force as the bass/drum outfit of Amy Tung Barrysmith and Jon Barrysmith put to engaging use both the rawness that a two-piece construction can offer and a corresponding melodic breadth that, while nascent as one might expect in a debut, already marks significant progression from Year of the Cobra‘s 2015 first EP, The Black Sun (review here). Emphasis on both can be heard, as well as seen, in their new video for “Persephone” from the album.
Filmed earlier in November at The Funhouse in Seattle by Dead Cowboy Productions, it’s essentially a performance video with the studio verson of the track layered over, but to go with all that slow motion and black and white whathaveyou, one finds the fervent groove of “Persephone” itself. The leadoff for side B of the …In the Shadows Below vinyl, the song named for the goddess of the underworld and springtime is fittingly vibrant in its thrust, with Amy and Jon locking in shifts between righteous punkishness and dense nod, which can also be seen manifest in the audience in front of them that night, significant in their number, consumption and engagement.
Year of the Cobra were out earlier this year alongside Mos Generator, with whom they also released a split, and have been kicking around the Pacific Northwest with them as well for a couple post-Thanksgiving shows this past weekend. The two bands will head into California and back next week ahead of Year of the Cobra announcing more dates for 2017, which would seem to be impending.
In the meantime, my understanding is STB‘s numbers are low on the Die Hard and Obi-strip vinyl editions of …In the Shadows Below, so if it’s something you’ve been hemming and hawing on, that might be worth taking into consideration.
En route to one of those shows this weekend, Amy Tung Barrysmith was kind enough to offer some comment on the track and their intent behind it. That and current live dates follow the clip below.
Year of the Cobra, “Persephone” official video
Amy Tung Barrysmith on “Persephone”:
Persephone is one of my favorite songs to play. We wrote it about two weeks before we went in to record our full-length and had a ton of fun playing around with the idea of doing something that touches on our hardcore background, but then settles into a killer riff. This video was recorded at our record release show on Nov. 12, 2016.
Live footage was on 11/12/2016 at the Funhouse in Seattle, WA. Filmed and edited by Tyler Wilson and Dead Cowboy Productions. “Persephone” is a track featured on “…In the Shadows Below” which is available now on STB Records.
Year of the Cobra live: 12/2 – Seattle, WA. @ The Tractor – 99.9 KISW Presents 12/7 – Eugene, OR. @ Old Nick’s Pub w/ Red Cloud and Aerial Ruin 12/8 – Sacramento, CA. @ The Starlite Lounge w/ Mos Generator 12/9 – Arcata, CA. @ The Alibi w/ Mos Generator 12/10 – Medford, OR. @ Johnny B’s w/ Mos Generator 12/11 – Tacoma, WA. @ The Valley w/ Mos Generator and Ancient Warlocks
Posted in Reviews on November 9th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
It’s the kind of debut that makes it easy to forget it’s a debut. Seattle duo Year of the Cobra‘s …In the Shadows Below arrives via a cross-coastal alliance with New Jersey’s STB Records as the follow-up to an earlier 2016 split with Mos Generator coincidental to a tour together supporting their prior three-song EP, The Black Sun (review here), which garnered fervent praise almost immediately upon its release in the middle of 2015. Year of the Cobra have done nothing but gain momentum since. Both Devil’s Child Records and DHU Records had a hand in putting out the EP, and I’m pretty sure STB had signed on for the full-length even before bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith and drummer Jon Barrysmith hit the studio with Billy Anderson (uh, he’s Billy Fucking Anderson) behind the board to engineer and mix.
Turned out to be the right call on the label’s part, and an easier one to consider affirmed with the EP showing such cohesion of approach between Amy and Jon and their clear demonstration of a willingness to get out and take their brand of heavy door to door, venue to venue. Fortunately, the eight-track/43-minute …In the Shadows Below builds so decisively on the first offering’s accomplishments. Reusing only one song — “White Wizard,” which opened the EP and appears in a pivotal spot here on side B — Year of the Cobra stamp their feet hard in heavy rolling terrain, proffering post-Acid King nod that revels in its guitar-less heft, the resulting focus on low-end leaving all the more space for Amy‘s voice to carry the tracks melodically, which she does ably regardless of the cacophony surrounding.
There are only two people in the band — hence “duo,” “two-piece,” etc. — but …In the Shadows Below is nothing if not well populated. Song titles list characters human, mystic and animal beginning with opener “Lion and the Unicorn,” and continuing as a theme through “Vision of Three” (about three witches), “Spider and the Fly,” “Persephone,” “White Wizard,” “Temple of Apollo” and closer “Electric Warrior,” who would seem to also be depicted on the cover art. Only second track “The Siege” would comes through as about the action of a narrative rather than the character perspective inherent to it, and those lyrics, presented over one of the record’s speedier and hookiest gallops, take on a first-person point of view, Amy‘s breathy echoes warning, “They’re coming for us.”
Front to back, this has the effect of drawing together the material under a theme, though I’ll admit that with the molasses consistency in Amy‘s tone and the bounce-prone drumming style from Jon, Year of the Cobra could probably go from “The Siege” to a song about the tv show Diff’rent Strokes and make it work. They are bolstered by Anderson‘s production, the now-Pacific Northwest-based producer having previously worked with the likes of Sleep and Acid King (among many others, of course), but find an identity through surging volume in “The Siege” and grueling, spacious nod in “Vision of Three” that only sets them up to further distinguish themselves from their influences as time goes on, also working as a deceptive lead-in for a burst of faster-paced cuts that begins with “Spider and the Fly” closing out side A and continues into “Persephone,” “White Wizard” and “Temple of Apollo” on side B.
The latter, penultimate track is perhaps the fastest of the bunch and the most straightforward, taking in a classic pop-rock sensibility as Year of the Cobra reimagine Blondie as a sludge artist without sacrificing the irresistible choruses thereof. Thinking of the band’s potential, which is writ large across the record’s entirety, to have elements of songwriting like that — which go beyond even the major-key positivity of Torche in their unabashed friendliness — can only make them a richer sonic experience. They would not be the first to take on a sludge-pop blend — see the aforementioned Torche, and Floor before them — but the get-your-ass-on-that-rowing-machine sense of drive behind “Temple of Apollo” is palpable and striking.
Even more so with “Electric Warrior” behind it, returning to a slower nod in a late affirmation of contrast that bookends …In the Shadows Below with layered-in wah, far-back vocals and swells of volume as Amy and Jon move through the chorus, only to recede again in the verse. By the time they move toward the final push with some more Mars Red Sky-style low-end wah, they’ve built a significant wall of volume around them, but the crashing finish and residual amp hum that close out still only seem like the beginning of their story. In that way, maybe it is easy to keep in mind that …In the Shadows Below is Year of the Cobra‘s first album, since so much of hearing leads one toward imagining how they might continue to grow as they move forward. I won’t speculate as to where that growth might take them — at least not in writing — but it’s encouraging just how underway the process of getting there already seems to be, and the care and craft behind these songs put …In the Shadows Below among 2016’s finer debuts.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 7th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’m a little torn on the prospect of a new Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. Can be a fine line between ‘holy fuck’ and ‘fuck yes.’ Sometimes it’s hard to pick just one and go with it as a reaction. Wait! I got it:
New Brothers of the Sonic Cloth in the works? Holy fuck yes.
The Tad Doyle-fronted Seattle megacrushers have announced their final show of the year, set for later this month. After that, the band’s intent is to adjourn into a writing process for a follow-up to the self-titled debut (review here) that left such massive craters when it was released last year on Neurot. They’ll embark on this effort with the contributions of new member Andrew McInnis in tow, who seems to be charged with adding atmospherics, doubtless from an array of noisemaking devices electronic and otherwise.
An intriguing expansion there, and considering it was years waiting for Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s debut, a turnaround in 2017 for a sophomore offering would seem to speak to a creative surge on the part of the band, which is never a bad starting point.
Details from the PR wire:
BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH: Seattle Doom-Bringers Announce Final Show Of The Year; Band Welcomes New Member + Sophomore Full-Length In The Works
Seattle-based doom-bringers, BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH, are pleased to welcome the addition of multi-instrumentalist Andrew McInnis to the fold to add atmospheric glaciers of resonance and texture. McInnis will appear with the band on their headlining show Saturday October 29th, 2016 at Seattle’s own premier underground venue, Substation. There are only 100 tickets available. The bill also includes Black Bone Exorcism who will be celebrating the release of their Crack The Bone, Break The Heart full-length (recorded, mixed, and mastered at Tad Doyle’s Witch Ape Studio in 2015) as well as Summoned By Giants and Guest Directors the latter of which features original TAD guitarist Gary Thorstensen. The performance marks the final BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH show of the year.
BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH: 10/29/2016 Substation – Seattle, WA
BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH will spend the remaining months of 2016 and early 2017 preparing the next level of low-end power and irrefutable rhythmic dimensionalism that was being hinted at on their 2015 self-titled debut. In the writing of their next recording, the band will be taking new paths and push themselves beyond what they know of their instruments and voices.
BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH – guitarist/vocalist Tad Doyle (formerly of Tad and Hog Molly), bassist Peggy Doyle and drummer Dave French (The Anunnaki) – unleashed their self-titled debut album last year via Neurot Recordings. Captured at Robert Lang Studios and Doyle’s own Witch Ape Studio and mixed by Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Zoroaster, Eyehategod, Taurus, Ommadon etc.), Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth is the sound of earthly decomposition and planetary ruin; a slow, suffocating, spellbinding dance towards a looming apocalypse.