Live Review: ROADBURN 2019 Day One, 04.11.19

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ROADBURN DAY ONE BANNER (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.12.19 – 02.31 CET – Thursday night – Hotel

It’s a different kind of Roadburn for me, or at least this morning I decided it would be one. I’m still working on precisely what that means, so bear with me. Some of it I alluded to the other day, and some of it is just procedural on my end. I took no notes today. None. Normally when I’m here (or most places), I’m scribbling between bands, writing down observations that most of the time I don’t even go back and look at. Today I dropped the pretense. It felt freeing, and today was a good day to feel free.

Such as there is a map, Roadburn 2019 is all over it. The day started in low-key shoegaze psych Sherpa (Photo by JJ Koczan)bliss with Sherpa in Het Patronaat. They were the first band of the festival proper after the Ignition three-band pre-show last night. I had come back to the hotel to sleep after finalizing the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch issue this morning, but it was a big no dice. So I was early to the church and sat in front of the stage for a bit while people filed in. There was a good crowd by the time the Italian four-piece took the stage to play their late-2018 joy of a record, Tigris & Euphrates (review here), and they were treated to lush tones and drifting melodies, a kind of easing into Roadburn that one doesn’t always get, but the fest very clearly made an effort to establish its vibe early.

Bismuth would soon rough up the Hall of Fame. It was Myrkur: Folksange on the Main Stage. In the Koepelhal, Crippled Black Phoenix played a two-hour-plus set. And in the Green Room, it was Thor Harris (Swans, etc.) leading the way with Thor & Friends with a set experimentalist enough that you might as well just call it jazz. I caught a couple minutes of Thor & Friends after popping up to see Crippled Black Phoenix as Sherpa were starting to wind down and was treated to a bit of sax and percussion, but it was ultimately Myrkur that held me in place for the duration with gorgeous Nordic folk harmonies accompanied by strings, piano, and a genuine sense of traditionalist homage. I’ve heard Myrkur‘s folk recordings before, but as will happenCrippled Black Phoenix (Photo by JJ Koczan) in Tilburg each Spring, something special was taking place while the afternoon clouds parted to let in a bit of sun outside.

But even Myrkur: Folksange was a part of something larger than itself, and it was that initial burst of diverse sounds that would so quickly establish the vibe for the day. I bounced around until finally landing at Myrkur and stayed put in order to see Molasses, the first of this year’s three commissioned projects, and — I won’t lie — the one to which I was most looking forward. In 2014, following the death of The Devil’s Blood guitarist and aesthetic mastermind Selim Lemouchi, his sister and that band’s vocalist, Farida Lemouchi, took the stage with guitarist Oeds Beydals, Ron van Herpen (Astrosoniq) and a host of others to pay her brother tribute, and it remains one of the most moving sets I’ve ever seen at any RoadburnMolasses, in bringing together Farida and Beydals — who has since brought his band Death Alley to an arguably premature end — as part of a new, complete band that may or may not be ongoing, continues some of the spirit of The Devil’s Blood, but seems bound to find its own path as well.

This was their first show, and as Farida swayed in time to the music ahead of harmonizing with Beydals, they made a Molasses (Photo by JJ Koczan)powerful impression. Roadburn‘s foray into basically making bands and/or happen is no less extensively curated than the festival at large, but there’s a deeply personal aspect to that as well, and one suspects that’s all the more true of Molasses given their Dutch heritage and the members’ history with the festival. It was the start of something special, and I hear tell there’s a vinyl they’ll be selling starting tomorrow. Every year I let myself buy one piece of wax. No question in my mind what it’ll be this time.

Back up at the Koepelhal — which, I don’t know how big it is in comparison to the Main Stage of the 013, but it’s plenty huge enough — the Full Bleed art exhibit looked awesome and was arranged differently this year so it kind of got its own gallery. I had a couple minutes before Thou went on, so walked around. I’d already been there to buy merch — a black t-shirt and a red hoodie, because apparently my midlife crisis involved wearing a color, ever, on my torso; also hippie pants — but it was still being set up. It was packed into its space, but still awesome, and one more example of Roadburn branching beyond the confines of the traditional festival. I think the panel talks start tomorrow at V39, so yeah, there will be more of that.

Thou Acoustic (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Thou took the stage shortly thereafter for what was billed as an acoustic set but was really more just quiet and loaded with harmonies from three vocalists up front and more added from the band behind. The New Orleans outfit have long since left expectation behind, so I wasn’t necessarily anticipating anything specific one way or the other, but as they played I kind of felt like I was intruding on something. It’s hard to explain. It wasn’t that the show was so intimate in that massive space — although I did find myself wishing they would just go ahead and cover Alice in ChainsSap EP in full — and it didn’t lack expressiveness, I just suddenly felt like I was somewhere I didn’t belong. I don’t think Thou were shooting to be particularly inviting, so it’s nothing against them in this incarnation, but yeah. After a few minutes, I galumphed back to the 013 to catch the start of Hexvessel.

The Finnish outfit are kind of regulars on Planet Roadburn. They played here in 2012 (review here), 2013 and 2016 (review here), and frontman Mat McNerney played with the short-lived Beastmilk in 2014 (review here). Not exactly strangers to the experience. Still, they came this time heralding their latest long-player and return to their nature-worshiping forest Hexvessel (Photo by JJ Koczan)folk roots, All Tree (review here), so I was not about to miss them. Highlights from that record translated well to the Main Stage, “A Sylvan Sign” and “Wildness Spirit” working no less fluidly one into the other live than they do on the studio versions. Sudden as the shift seemed to a more kitchen-sink aesthetic on 2016’s When We are Death (review here), All Tree‘s re-establishing of their foundation was no less striking, but they certainly sounded well at home on stage, McNerney well cast as the folk troubadour. I’m not sure why they’re not on the folk circuit, but I’ll take it.

From there on out, it was all about Heilung. I did see some of Emma Ruth Rundle at the Koepelhal, after more take-that-establishment jaywalking across whatever thoroughfare that is, and I was glad to have done so, but I knew what the crux of my night was going to be, and it was going to be wearing antlers and bones of sundry wildebeests and it was going to be percussive and throat-singy while also astoundingly melodic, and that was Heilung playing their Lifa (review here) performance in its entirety. I say without Emma Ruth Rundle (Photo by JJ Koczan)reservation that it’s easily among the most complete aesthetic experiences I’ve ever had in a live setting, from the circle they formed at the outset — bringing Roadburn‘s own Walter in their midst as a part of the ceremony — to the shield and spear-carrying soldiers in black bodypaint, to the later mimed beheading, to the off-the-rails, how-is-this-dance-music-but-it-totally-is fracas that ensued later in the set, it was simply incredible. I have seen as much spectacle in my time as the next guy, but this was really something else.

I’ve heard murmurings that Heilung, who are signed to Season of Mist and have a new album called Futha due in June, are planning to bring their show — and it is a show; a sight as much as a sound to behold — to the US. I have to wonder how that will go in terms of venue and  just where they can play to pull it off. Festivals, presumably. But more than that, it seems like Northern Europe would obviously have a different relationship to the depictions of pre-Christian, pagan Norse history than would an audience in the States. The simple fact that their faces are painted black could very well raise eyebrows, Heilung (Photo by JJ Koczan)even in such a full context. It’s just not a question here, because it’s the native tribalism being depicted. One way or the other, I have little doubt they could make it work. They absolutely delivered a set that I’ll be talking about for probably years, no matter how many times and in whatever setting I might see them subsequent to tonight. I wasn’t going to stay for the whole thing, but there was no other option. A don’t-miss scenario.

There was still a lot of Roadburn left, and that’s not even talking about the next three days, and I had writing to do, but another part of the different Roadburn experience I’m having this year is staying out late. I did trundle back to the hotel to dump photos and get some work in on Crypt Trip (Photo by JJ Koczan)this review, but Crypt Trip came all the way from Texas to be here, and as I’ve been digging their recently-issued full-length, Haze County (review here), it was only fair to be there to see them. For the minimal effort, I was rewarded with some primo Lone Star boogie. You can insert whatever cliche you want to about barbecue here — I’m sure the San Marcos three-piece have heard them all, but the fact of the matter is they earned every hair bit of mustache they had, and even though they were on a totally different wavelength than anything else on the Main Stage today, they absolutely brought their A-game to the 013. I wish I could say I stayed the whole time and partied until two in the morning or whatever, but yeah, I’m old, and lame. Ugly too, but that’s beside the point.

What I was able to catch of Crypt Trip was a joy — and speaking of, Zach Oakley from Joy (who played last year) was hanging out on the side of the stage — and only affirmed in my mind the buzz I’ve been hearing about their live show for the last couple years. After the vast swath that today covered, closing out with some classic-style heavy rock and roll suited me just fine. It’s a long weekend and a big spectrum of aesthetic. Sometimes you just want to get down to the basics. And Crypt Trip definitely got down.

And that was night one of Roadburn 2019. So much for a laid back start to the fest, though I knew that was a pipedream anyway. Tomorrow I’m up again early to wrap the day’s issue of Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. If you saw that today or see it tomorrow or are reading this at all, thank you.

More pics after the jump.

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Tube Cult Fest 2019: Zaum, Coltsblood, Oreyeon, Sherpa, Tuna de Tierra and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

tube cult fest 2019 banner

Extra credit for Tube Cult Fest 2019 not making a single joke about this being the edition that ‘goes to 11.’ Way to play it with class. The Italian festival headed by Davide Straccione of Skeptic Events is indeed in its 11th incarnation this April, with ZaumColtsbloodWayfarer and Entropia serving in headliner roles and killer Italy natives like OreyeonSherpa and Tuna de Tierra, among others, obviously, rounding out the bill. I’m generally a fan of writing/daydreaming about fests in far-off (to me) places, but I feel compelled to add there are a few bands here I don’t know, and given the quality of the names that are more familiar, posting the full lineup here is as much a note to myself about homework to do as it is anything else. Like a to-do list. “Don’t forget to check out The Marigold,” and so on. I have little doubt I’ll be glad I did.

The full announcement from the festival follows here, courtesy of the PR wire:

tube cult fest 2019 poster

Tube Cult Fest is a true celebration of the Underground, an amp-worshipping ritual based in the coastal city of Pescara in the heart of Italy, delving deep into the realm of Heavy Psychedelia since its inception in 2008. The festival has seen a consistent growth throughout the years incorporating Stoner Rock, Doom, Sludge, Drone, Psych Rock, Post Metal as well as some of the most experimental and atmospheric forms of Extreme Metal, while keeping the same original spirit unchanged. In the previous 10 editions this little city on the Adriatic Sea has been touched by the likes of Weedeater, Ufomammut, Samsara Blues Experiment, Monkey3, 1000mods, Belzebong, Karma To Burn, Los Natas and many more.
Chapter 11 will be once again split in the two tiny venues Scumm and MamiWata, hosting 14 bands in 2 days:

Friday 19 April
WAYFARER (USA)
ENTROPIA (PL)
IMPURE WILHELMINA (CH)
THE MARIGOLD (IT)
OREYEON (IT)
THE BLACK CANVAS (IT)
DRESDEN WOLVES (MEX)

Saturday 20 April
ZAUM (CAN)
COLTSBLOOD (UK)
SHERPA (IT)
GORILLA PULP (IT)
S A R R A M (IT)
TUNA DE TIERRA (IT)
KATASTAH (IT)

DJ Aftershows by Moos (https://www.facebook.com/volksradiomoos666) and La Peligrosa (https://www.facebook.com/liathepeligro)

A juicy Free Entry Warm-Up is scheduled for Thursday 18 April always at Pescara’s Scumm with the Philadelphia Stoner-Doom Rockers HIGH REEPER.

Tickets can be reserved by sending an email to tubecultfest@gmail.com

Friday 19 April= 10 €
Saturday 20 April= 10 €
2-DAY PASS = 15 €

http://www.facebook.com/tubecultfest
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https://www.facebook.com/events/368216713728711

Zaum, Eidolon (2016)

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Roadburn 2019: LOOP, Sumac, Crippled Black Phoenix, Sherpa and More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2019 banner

A return appearance from Crippled Black Phoenix seemed like asking a lot. A return appearance from LOOP seemed unrealistic. A complete showcase from Exile on Mainstream? Well now that’s just silly. But silly’s how it goes for Roadburn, which in 2019 will apparently continue to exist on a plane all its own, much to the general betterment of humanity. I’ll happily take the chance to see Emma Ruth Rundle and Sherpa and to get exposed to Cave, who sound so much up my alley that I’m kind of embarrassed I’ve never heard them before. Plus underrated sludgesters Treedeon and you know, Sumac, because Aaron Turner hasn’t curated a Roadburn yet and we might as well build up to that seeming inevitability with an unofficial kind of residency, and Young Widows and enough others that I forgot what the point of this sentence was when I started out and it doesn’t even matter because the lineup is so staggeringly incredible.

Fuck it. Dive in:

loop roadburn 2019

More additions for Roadburn 2019, including curated acts; day tickets on sale in December

TOMAS LINDBERG chooses LOOP and SLÆGT for his curated event
SUMAC to perform
YOUNG WIDOWS to play Old Wounds in full
Return performances for CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX and EMMA RUTH RUNDLE

TOMAS LINDBERG’S THE BURNING DARKNESS

LOOP
LOOP are no strangers to Roadburn – they headlined the 2014 edition of the festival. The psych titans split in 1991, reforming in 2013 and cementing themselves as legends of the scene – and amongst other activities, brought their glorious technicolour to the Roadburn stage. We’re thrilled to welcome them back for a special, one off show as part of Tomas Lindberg’s curated event, The Burning Darkness.
Lindberg comments: “I expect to see you all in the front row for this one. I have goosebumps already.”

SLÆGT
As the frontman for At The Gates, we know Tomas is something of an extreme metal connoisseur. He’s flexing that muscle with his latest addition to the line up, which comes in the shape of SLÆGT. Tomas explains:
“When I think of heavy metal, there is a certain feeling I am after. A special haunting, emotional impact that I’m seeking. I will always be super excited when I get that same feeling that was there when I first got into underground metal. SLÆGT is one of those rare examples.”

SUMAC
Aaron Turner is not a man who likes to sit still. When he realised that he would technically have a day off at Roadburn, his brain started to click and whirr. And soon enough we had SUMAC on the bill.

When Love In Shadow landed in September, it was a swift reminder not to assume you know all there is to know about a band. Turner has promised us something special at Roadburn: a titillating promise. But we can’t help but feel that any SUMAC experience is going to be a special SUMAC experience – and surely better than a day off.

YOUNG WIDOWS
If it’s true that absence makes the heart grow fonder, it doesn’t discount the fact that the occasional tease of a live show can still be pure agony, especially when Europe has historically been somewhat starved of YOUNG WIDOWS. So it’s with something akin to relief mixed with pure joy that we announce YOUNG WIDOWS’ performance at Roadburn 2019. For fans of their 2008 release, Old Wounds, the treat is two-fold; the band will be playing the album in full for us!

CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX
Following their mind-warping set on Roadburn’s main stage in 2017, we welcome back the progressive darkness of CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX. In the band’s decade and a half career, they have released an incredible ten studio records, the latest of which Great Escape is a powerful, treacherous exploration into a the bleakest realms of Justin Greaves’ psyche. A CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX performance is the sound of a band following their own path, their own rules, for their own enjoyment. And ours.

CAVE
Channeling Krautrock staples like Can and Neu! with Miles Davis/Funkadelic style funk, CAVE offers an instrumental galaxy of hypnotic jams. It’s the band’s groove-heavy – yet loose – approach which gives way to an intricate backdrop for these spontaneous explorations; from fuzzy leads to free jazz fusion, from prog to psychedelic library music, from subtle funk to South American delights.

EMMA RUTH RUNDLE
Emma Ruth Rundle made such a mark on Roadburn 2017, we’re overjoyed to have her back for 2019 – and we expect the results to be just as powerful and mesmerising as the first time around.
Her first solo performance at the festival was a pivotal moment for us. Not only did it mark a definitive turning point for the artistic scope of the festival, it was also the moment that we adopted Emma as one of our own. A kindred spirit, a sonic explorer, a soul sister.

LINGUA IGNOTA
Boldly straddling the classical music world and the often hellish soundscapes of harsh noise, LINGUA IGNOTA plucks what she wants from both – and elsewhere – to form a towering inferno of raging fury, manifesting as sonic indignation. The challenge of a visceral and abrasive show is one that we relish. If you’re looking for an experience, something that that burrows into your consciousness and niggles at you for months to come, sign up now. LINGUA IGNOTA will deliver a masterclass.

EXILE ON MAINSTREAM X ROADBURN
EXILE ON MAINSTREAM Records is celebrating twenty years of existence with us at Roadburn 2019. The iconic label has released almost 90 records over the past two decades.The label’s history is somewhat entwined with our own; in fact they celebrated their 15th birthday with us too! We guess we make good cake!
The label will commandeer the Hall of Fame venue on Saturday, 13 April and the following bands will perform:
OSTINATO
NOISEPICKER
CONNY OCHS
TREEDEON
BELLROPE
CONFUSION MASTER

ALSO CONFIRMED:
FEAR FALLS BURNING will see Dirk Serries performing an exercise in minimalism
JAYE JAYLE will reprise their 2017 performance – in the more spacious Green Room
OVTRENOIR will deliver a dose of sludgy post-metal
SHERPA will perform Tigris & Euphrates in full
SOFT KILL will perform both Savior and Heresy in full
THROANE offer a cold and violent take on modern black metal
TREHA SEKTORI will bring an innovative and immersive take on dark ambient sound

TICKETS:
Single day tickets will go on sale on Thursday, December 13. Weekend tickets are on sale now

Tickets are be priced as follows:
3 days ticket (Thu-Sat) €181 + €4,50 service fee
4 days ticket (Thu-Sun) €204 + €4,50 service fee
Day ticket (Thu, Fri or Sat) €62 + €4,50 service fee
Sunday ticket €55,50 + €4,50 service fee

Click here for more ticketing information.

https://www.facebook.com/roadburnfestival/
http://www.twitter.com/Roadburnfest
http://www.instagram.com/roadburnfest
http://www.roadburn.com

Roadburn 2019 November announcement video

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Review & Track Premiere: Sherpa, Tigris and Euphrates

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sherpa tigris and euphrates

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Kim (((o)))’ from Sherpa’s Tigris and Euphrates. Album is out Sept. 28 on Sulatron Records.]

Working around a theme of human evolution, Italian psychedelic scene-setters Sherpa showcase no small amount of progression themselves with their second offering through Sulatron Records, the six-song/42-minute Tigris and Euphrates. From their home-base in the Abruzzo region — think mountains running up against the Adriatic coastline, hillside houses of untold age with roofs of curved tile, lakes, rivers, old castles on the high ground and other things that if you saw them in a calendar you wouldn’t believe they’re real; fly into Rome and then head east — the core four-piece of guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Matteo Dossena, bassist Franz Cardone, dronemaker guitarist Axel DiLorenzo and drummer/percussionist Pierluca Michetti weave textures no less lush for their deceptive minimalism, conjuring gorgeous post-rock wash with the help of Ivano and Enrico Legnini on Fender VI and MicroKorg in closer “Descent of Inanna to the Underworld” and side B opener “Abscent to the Mother of Language” (sic), respectively, Davide DiBernardo‘s sitar on “Overwhelmed” and Federica Vignoni‘s violin on second track “Creatures from Ur.”

One might think that given all the personnel involved and the varied instrumentation, Tigris and Euphrates would arrive as some grand and overblown realization, but as anyone who heard the band’s late-2016 debut, Tanzlinde (review here), can likely tell you, that’s simply not going to be the case. Of course Tigris and Euphrates has a scope aurally and in its subject matter, but the fluidity with which that’s brought to bear and the patience in Sherpa‘s craft, the understated impact of their mellow, gradually-unfolding vision of tonal presence, aren’t to be understated. The end result is an offering that’s immersive and beautiful, foreboding at times and moodier, but never relinquishing its hold on the consciousness of the listener, the band not necessarily needing volume to make their statement heard. Whether it’s the (relative) surge in the second half of opener “Kim (((o)))” or the sitar-laced drift that hypnotizes into the fadeout of the penultimate “Overwhelmed,” the feeling of serenity never departs entirely from Sherpa‘s sound, giving Tigris and Euphrates a hopeful aspect that bleeds into every song in one way or another.

The flow between the tracks is no less resonant than the material itself, and the impression of Tigris and Euphrates as a whole work is palpable, foretold in the hints at darker tones in “Kim (((o)))” that show up in lower distortion beneath “Abscent to the Mother of Language” and in the culmination of “Descent of Inanna into the Underworld.” In this way, the tracks come together and enhance each other, not only supporting the overarching thematic intent of the record but creating a world in which that story plays out, giving a foundation for the exploratory nature of what Sherpa are doing that, like so much of the album itself, is softly and smoothly delivered. A punctuating snare in “Kim (((o))” holds a tension that speaks to the more weighted unfolding in the song’s second half — an interaction between low distortion and a lead guitar lick worthy in its warmth of a Colour Haze comparison — and the wash of noise that slowly consumes the opening track seems to find some clarity before it draws itself down.

sherpa

Immediately, Dossena‘s vocals are more forward on “Creatures from Ur” and they arrive atop a slow progression of drums, keys and quietly strummed guitar. A spacious, somewhat sparse beginning moves easily forward into more voluminous liquefaction, but the peaceful vibe persists thanks in no small part to the methodical timekeeping and waves of volume-swelling synth, Vignoni‘s violin making its presence felt around four minutes into the total 6:38 as it finds complement in the bassline and soon becomes part of the river current, ringing tones holding on at the finish to fade and transition into side A closer “Equiseto.” Also the shortest cut at 5:21, “Equiseto” — the title referring to horsetail, either the plant or the actual tail of a horse — boasts a quiet percussiveness, as a quiet backing crash and tom hits back vocals and guitar repetitions that may or may not be loops but nonetheless add an experimental edge to a particularly folkish moment on an album that for all its peace shows little outward interest in actually being folk. Or at least not subsuming itself to the genre — though one could say the same thing about Tigris and Euphrates and psychedelic rock. It’s not really interested in being anything other than itself.

This, naturally, is one of the album’s great strengths, and it continues into the harmonies of “Abscent to the Mother of Language,” vocal layers taking hold over an ultra-flowing wash of guitar and synth that works its way forward until at about 3:45, it pulls back and lets the bass set the tone for a lower, darker-toned roll that persists throughout the next few minutes, eventually receding to a bookending verse. The side B opener is both a highlight and the longest piece on Tigris and Euphrates at 7:52, and it leads the way into “Overwhelmed” and “Descent of Inanna to the Underworld,” both of which also top seven and a half minutes, where only “Kim (((o)))” approached it so on side A. “Overwhelmed” uses its time to proffer especially resonant soundscaping, its cymbal work and guitar combining to ease forward toward a split at the halfway point into the sitar-inclusive up-strummed kick, more active snare pops adding to the momentum and rhythmic course. Everything’s relative, of course, but the classic psychedelic notion of East meets West is put to effective use, and the turn from one movement to the second in “Overwhelmed” speaks to the confidence of the band’s delivery on the whole. They’re able to put the listener in the exact space they want them to be. This is not to be undervalued as an aspect of their style.

Given the smoothness of their execution throughout and the grace with which Sherpa unfurl Tigris and Euphrates as an entirety that draws strength from its individual components, headphone-ready sonic detailing — Cardone‘s bass is enough to stun on its own — and abiding ambience, it’s easy to read some kind of resolution into the finale of “Descent of Inanna to the Underworld,” which like “Abscent to the Mother of Language” before it also turns to more weighted-sounding fare, this time just before it begins its second half, drawing back quickly and launching once again to give the closer a crescendo ahead of a long fade of residual tones; an end no less encompassing than anything before it. I don’t know if Sherpa intend the story to be finished — isn’t human evolution ongoing? — but their telling is complete and enthralling in its entirety, and their ability to cast out as they do is indicative of the creative growth they’re undertaking as a unit. All the better. They may not have gotten the credit they deserved for what they accomplished on their first outing, but if they keep putting together records like Tigris and Euphrates, sooner or later someone’s going to notice.

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Sherpa, Tanzlinde: Dancing in Trees

Posted in Reviews on January 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sherpa tanzlinde

It’s a rare band who can affect a folkish sensibility, a psychedelic lushness and still maintain an underlying tonal presence to connote a heavy influence. Far, far rarer than the number of bands who claim to be able to do it, anyhow. From Abruzzo, Italy, come Sherpa, an open-minded and semi-experimental five-piece who make their late-2016 debut on Sulatron Records with Tanzlinde and throughout it gracefully play between styles of heavy psych, folk, post-rock, pop, and classic prog without ever losing that sense of presence in the material. Comprised of Matteo Dossena, Ivano Legnini, Enrico Legnini, Axel Di Lorenzo and Pierluca Michetti and featuring a range of guest contributions throughout — the back of the CD lists: Lilia on vocals “Robert W.,” Ayu Shi and Ila Maa on vocals for “Loto,” “Dubinuska,” “Sherpa” and “Big Foot,” Fabiana Giordano on vocals for “Dune” and the title-track, Fabio Duronio and Graziano Zuccarino on pipes, percussion, etc. on “Loto,” Fabio Cardone on synth and xylophone for “Big Foot” and sundry other things on sundry other of Tanzlinde‘s total 10 songs — it’s little wonder the resulting feel is so expansive.

Though the members of Sherpa released a self-titled full-length in 2013 under their prior moniker, Edith Aufn, it’s important to remember that Tanzlinde is their first outing in their current guise, and so it strikes as even more ambitious and even more triumphant in exceeding those ambitions. It was recorded between 2014 and 2016, brings in all these different people throughout who take part in adding to already varied material that basks in a diversity of influence, but Tanzlinde never loses its structural integrity, never gives up its sense of purpose, and at no point does Sherpa let go of the overarching mood and exploration at their core.

No small feat as they move from “Loto,” which reminds of Hypnos 69 at their quietest, to the all-drift psych-folk serenity of “Robert W.” earlier, to the space-ritualized pulsartonics of “Big Foot” and beyond, but true enough to their newer moniker, Sherpa act as a guide for their listeners through their first album’s rich and immersive course. There are a few factors that allow them to do this. First, the individual songs are relatively short. Only “Loto” reaches past six minutes, and none of the others top five — atmospheric closer “Plot” is the shortest at 3:04 — so pieces are quick to come and go, almost like flashes of different worlds being visited throughout this journey, a glimpse of a thing, enough to dive in and then move on. This is especially effective as opener “Dune” moves into “Robert W.” and “Dubinuska,” and Tanzlinde begins to unfold this process to its audience.

sherpa-photo-by-Fabio-Cardone

What allows the band to work this way, on a more practical level, is the rhythm section. Isn’t it always? As much of a delight as the shimmering guitars and dreamscape vocals of “Of Coke and Steel” are, it’s the bassline and the subtle push of the drums that hold the song together, and that’s true of just about the entirety of Tanzlinde save perhaps for the aforementioned finale, which is basically an ambient soundsape — though there’s some percussion there as well. Other tracks, whether they take place as a build à la the wallop duo of “Tanzlinde” and “Sherpa” back to back in the album’s first half or the ’70s churn of “Big Foot” and later fuzzy push of “Of Coke and Steel” in the second, Sherpa are able to enact these various movements because there is essentially no chance of their material coming apart as a result. Taken in combination with the efficiency in their sonic storytelling, and Tanzlinde emerges clean and clearheaded in its psych-prog meld and is able to hold to such gorgeousness as a defining element.

That becomes particularly prevalent on “Magnetic White Tree,” which leads off the second half of Tanzlinde and sets the ground for “Loto,” “Big Foot” and “Of Coke and Steel” to come, but is true nonetheless of the whole affair from “Dune” onward. Credit has to go to Dossena and to Umberto Palazzo, who both contributed to the mixing, because the low end is never overwhelming, and as it should, the bass and acoustic and electric guitars act in complementary rather than competitive fashion. Knowing that Sherpa worked together in a prior band helps explain some of that chemistry, but Tanzlinde benefits from a fullness of sound as much as coherence of purpose, and solidifies many of the impulses they showed on Edith Aufn‘s self-titled, so that the handclaps-into-chants of “Dubinuska” don’t feel the slightest bit incongruous as they otherwise might leading to the nodding, crashing climax that ends that song, and “Of Coke and Steel” holds to its languid, beautiful drift and affects the impression of “Plot” as more than just an outstretching epilogue.

In its breadth, Tanzlinde succeeds in establishing the progressive aspects of what Sherpa do aesthetically, but the flow they’re able to execute from one piece to the next is no less crucial in making the album as staggering as it is. Even with the formidable endorsement of Sulatron behind it, Tanzlinde hits as a welcome surprise, and one hesitates to speculate on what Sherpa might do next for fear of jinxing the magic they’ve been able to conjure on this wonderful first offering.

Sherpa, Tanzlinde (2016)

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Sherpa at Sulatron Records

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