Shiggajon, Sela: To Build a River

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 20th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

shiggajon sela

[NOTE: Press play above to hear the stream of Shiggajon’s Sela. Thanks to El Paraiso for letting me host the premiere.]

Danish collective Shiggajon issue a disclaimer as regards their sound, and it goes like this: “Shiggajon is not freejazz.” Fair enough. The truth of what they “are,” at least on their newest offering, Sela — also their first to be issued through Causa Sui‘s label, El Paraiso Records — is both more complicated and less off-putting. Jazz is part of it, freedom is part of it, but there’s also psychedelic exploration, jamming, experimental rock, ambient texturing and a deep-rooted improvisational sensibility that, in large part, defines the two included tracks, “Mæander” and “Sela,” each of which boasts sprawl enough to consume a vinyl side. Another part of what Shiggajon “are,” however, is amorphous.

Based around the duo of saxophonist Nikolai Brix Vartenberg and Mikkel Reher-Langberg, who on Sela handles drums, percussion and clarinet, the band has a revolving-door contributorship as well as a massively prolific level of output, including studio and live records, one-off CD-Rs and so on. Being hard to define is part of the trip. For “Mæander” (18:14) and “Sela” (18:29), they’re joined by violinist and double-bassist Emil Rothenborg, drummer Martin Aagaard Jensen, drummer, percussionist ang guitarist Mikkel Elzer and vocalist and silver flutist Sarah Lorraine Hepburn, who also donates electronics and tingshaws, the latter of which sets a major tone of pastoralism in the developmental stages of “Mæander,” along with Rothenborg‘s violin and various jingling bells.

Far back percussion — congas, maybe — gives a somewhat ritualized feel, and Hepburn‘s sans-lyrics vocal textures come presaged by an uptick in those bells, so there’s a plan at work on “Mæander,” though far more satisfying is the process of letting Shiggajon, whoever, wherever, whenever, whatever they are, construct the flow of the track and be carried along its multifaceted currents. Natural vibing is pervasive and proceeds gloriously, without interruption, to spread out over side A’s 18-minute course, cymbals keeping rhythm not in straightforward rock progressions but in timed ceremonial march.

shiggajon

 

As the strings and the percussion continue to build intensity to and through the 12-minute mark, one is reminded of some of Swans‘ mounting-chaos experimentalism, but Shiggajon are ultimately on a much more peaceful trip, and rather than come to a head and explode with aggression, “Mæander” finds a distinctly meditative feel in its repetitions, elements moving in and out around a central angularity that has an underlying melody but isn’t shy about defying it either. When Hepburn returns in the second half of the track, it’s clear just how ceremonial “Mæander” has become and how much of a march has emerged. Seemingly perpetual, it ends on a long fade, the bells cutting through on the way out, only to have the title-track fade in quietly around turns of violin, more bells and a subtly grounding drum beat. More experimental-sounding on its face — that is, with a less prominent initial foundation — “Sela” itself is also a more linear build, flowing smoothly toward an apex and then making its way out again peacefully.

More than its predecessor, “Sela” comes together as a wash of tone and cymbals. There’s a drone-style feel to some of its early going, but it’s more active than it at first seems, and like “Mæander,” it’s best experienced as a sort of passive participant, which is to say, if you’re going to go with it, go with it. By the time they’re 10 minutes in and the guitars begin to hint at post-rock echoes amid a peaceful din that’s just as real as it is oxymoronic, you’re either going to be lost or completely on board for wherever Shiggajon go next. That destination? A somewhat more rhythmically insistent apex — the flute comes into play — that’s gorgeously layered into a consuming, almost overwhelming push.

I couldn’t point to an exact second where they hit it, but the crescendo is over shortly past the 15-minute mark — the cymbals drop out — and from there, Shiggajon set about deconstructing “Sela”‘s various elements, the flute staying so long, then withering into the background drone, then rising again. It’s an ending that fits with the odd but always flowing spiritualism preceding, but one gets the feeling coming out the other side that Shiggajon probably didn’t stop to look back at the ending, by which I mean a band like this — as much as they are a band — is almost always looking forward at what’s next rather than what they’ve done before, constantly striving toward the next step in their ongoing progression. While Sela unquestionably captures a moment in their existence worth seeking out, for Shiggajon, it’s likely to be one more chapter in a longer story rather than any kind of stopping point. As one can hear on both sides of the platter, there’s no shortage of movement within.

Shiggajon’s website

Sela at El Paraiso Records

El Paraiso on Thee Facebooks

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Quarterly Review: Lucifer, Rosetta, Mantar, King Giant, Si Ombrellone, Grand Massive, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Shiggajon, Mount Hush, Labasheeda

Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk summer quarterly review

The final day of the Quarterly Review is upon us. It has been one hell of a week, I don’t mind saying, but good and productive overall, if in a kind of cruel way. I hope that you’ve been able to find something in sifting through all these releases that you really dig. I have, for whatever that’s worth. Before we dig into the last batch, I just want to thank you for checking in and reading this week. If you’ve seen all five of these or if this is the first bunch you’ve come across, that you’re here at all is appreciated immensely.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Lucifer, Lucifer I

lucifer lucifer i

Vocalist Johanna Sadonis, who burst into the international underground consciousness last year with The Oath, resurfaces following that band’s quick dissolution alongside former Cathedral guitarist and riffer-of-legend Gary “Gaz” Jennings in Lucifer, whose Lucifer I eight-song debut LP is released on Rise Above Records. Joined by bassist Dino Gollnick and drummer Andrew Prestidge, Sadonis and Jennings wind through varied but thoroughly doomed atmospheres across songs like opener “Abracadabra” – the outright silliness of the “magic word” kind of undercutting the cultish impression for which Lucifer are shooting – or early highlights “Purple Pyramid” and “Izrael.” A strong side A rounding out with “Sabbath,” Lucifer I can feel somewhat frontloaded, but on repeat listens, the layered chorus of “White Mountain,” “Morning Star”’s late-arriving chug, the classically echoing “Total Eclipse” and the atmospheric finish of “A Grave for Each One of Us” hold their own. After a strong showing from Lucifer’s debut single, the album doesn’t seem like it will do anything to stop the band’s already-in-progress ascent. Their real test will be in the live arena, but they sustain a thematic ambience across Lucifer I’s 44 minutes, and stand ready to follow Rise Above labelmates Ghost and Uncle Acid toward the forefront of modern doom.

Lucifer on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records

Rosetta, Quintessential Ephemera

rosetta quintessential ephemera

Drone-prone Philadelphia post-metallers Rosetta return with Quintessential Ephemera, the follow-up to 2013’s The Anaesthete and their fifth LP overall, which resounds in its ambience as a reinforcement of how little the band – now a five-piece with the inclusion of guitarist Eric Jernigan – need any hype or genre-push to sustain them. Through a titled intro, “After the Funeral,” through seven untitled tracks of varying oppressiveness and rounding out with the unabashedly pretty instrumental “Nothing in the Guise of Something,” they continue to plug away at their heady approach, relentless in their progression and answering the darker turns of their prior outing with a shift toward a more colorful atmosphere. At 52 minutes, Quintessential Ephemera isn’t a slight undertaking, but if you were expecting one you probably haven’t been paying attention to the last decade of Rosetta’s output. As ever, they are cerebral and contemplative while staying loyal to the need for an emotional crux behind what they do, and the album is both dutiful and forward-looking.

Rosetta on Thee Facebooks

Rosetta on Bandcamp

Golden Antenna Records

War Crime Recordings

Mantar, Death by Burning

mantar death by burning

Pressed up by Brutal Panda Records for Stateside issue following a 2014 release in Europe on Svart, Death by Burning is the debut full-length from sans-bass Hamburg duo Mantar – vocalist/guitarist Hanno, drummer/vocalist Erinc – and as much as it pummels and writhes across its thrash-prone 10 tracks, opener “Spit” setting a tone for the delivery throughout, there are flourishes of both character and groove to go with all the bludgeoning throughout standout cuts like “Cult Witness,” “The Huntsmen,” the explosive “White Nights,” “The Stoning” and the more lumbering instrumental closer “March of the Crows,” the two-piece seamlessly drawing together elements of doom, thrash and blackened rock and roll into a seething, tense concoction that’s tonally weighted enough to make one’s ears think they’re hearing bass strings alongside the guitar, but still overarchingly raw in a manner denoting some punk influence. Bonus points for the Tom G. Warrior-style “ough!” grunts that make their way into “The Stoning” and the rolling nod of “Astral Kannibal.” Nasty as hell, but more subtle than one might expect.

Mantar on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records

Brutal Panda Records

King Giant, Black Ocean Waves

king giant black ocean waves

Though it seems King Giant’s fate to be persistently underrated, the Virginian dual-guitar five-piece offer their most stylistically complex material to date on their third full-length, Black Ocean Waves (released on The Path Less Traveled Records and Graveyard Hill), recorded by J. Robbins (Clutch, Murder by Death, etc.) as the follow-up to 2012’s Dismal Hollow (streamed here). Still commanded by the vocal presence of frontman Dave Hammerly, the album also finds moments of flourish in the guitars of David Kowalski and Todd “T.I.” Ingram on opener “Mal de Mer,” the leads on “Requiem for a Drunkard” or the intro to extended finishing move “There Were Bells,” bassist Floyd Lee Walters III and drummer Keith Brooks holding down solid rhythms beneath the steady chug of “The One that God Forgot to Save” and “Blood of the Lamb.” Side A closer “Red Skies” might be where it all ties together most, but the full course of Black Ocean Waves’ eight tracks provides a satisfying reminder of the strength in King Giant’s craftsmanship.

King Giant on Thee Facebooks

The Path Less Traveled Records on Thee Facebooks

Si Ombrellone, Horns on the Same Goat

si ombrellone horns on the same goat

The 14 single-word-title tracks of Si Ombrellone’s Horns on the Same Goat were originally recorded in 2006, but for a 2015 release, Connecticut-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret, King of Salem) took them back into his own UP Recording Studio for touch-ups and remastering. The endeavor is a solo outing for Tuozzoli, styled in a kind of post-grunge rock with Frank Picarazzi playing drums to give a full-band feel, and finds catchy, poppy songwriting coming forward in the layered vocals of “Innocence,” while later, “Forgiveness” and “Darkness” offset each other more in theme than sound, as “Love” and “Hate” had done earlier, the album sticking to its straightforward structures through to six-minute closer “Undone,” which boasts a more atmospheric take. It’s an ambitious project to collect 14 sometimes disparate emotional themes onto a single outing, never mind to do it (mostly) alone – one might write an entire record about “Trust,” say, or “Rage,” which opens – but Tuozzoli matches his craftsmanship with a sincerity that carries through each of these tracks.

Si Ombrellone on Thee Facebooks

Si Ombrellone album downloads

Grand Massive, 2

grand massive 2

Boasting a close relationship to Duster69 and Mother Misery and featuring in their ranks Daredevil Records owner Jochen Böllath, who plays guitar, German heavy rockers Grand Massive revel in commercial-grade Euro-style tonal heft bordering on metallic aggression. 2 is their aptly-titled second EP (on Daredevil) and it finds Böllath, lead guitarist Peter Wisenbacher, vocalist Alex Andronikos, bassist Toby Brandl and drummer Holger Stich running through six crisply-executed tracks of catchy, fist-pumping riffy drive, slowing a bit for the creepy ambience of the interlude “Woods” or the more lurching tension of “I am Atlas,” but most at home in the push of “Backseat Devil” and closer “My Own Sickness,” a mid-paced groove adding to the festival-ready weight Grand Massive conjure. Word is they’re already at work on a follow-up. Fair enough, but 2 has plenty to offer in the meantime in its tight presentation and darker vibes, Grand Massive having been through a wringer of lineup changes and emerged with their songwriting well intact.

Grand Massive on Thee Facebooks

Daredevil Records

Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space, Live from Roadburn 2014

carlton-melton-meets-dr.-space-live-from-roadburn-festival-2014

If you guessed “spacey as hell” as regards this meeting between NorCal psych explorers Carlton Melton and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Danish jammers Øresund Space Collective, go ahead and give yourself the prize. Limited to 300 copies worldwide courtesy of Lay Bare Recordings and Space Rock Productions, Carlton Melton Meets Dr. Space’s Live from Roadburn 2014 is a consuming, near-100-minute unfolding, Heller joining Carlton Melton on stage for four of the total seven inclusions, adding his synthesized swirl to the swirling wash, already by then 26 minutes deep after the opening “Country Ways > Spiderwebs” establishes a heady sprawl that only continues to spread farther and farther as pieces unfold, making “Out to Sea” seem an even more appropriate title. It will simply be too much for some, but as somebody who stood and heard the sounds oozing from the stage at Cul de Sac in Tilburg, the Netherlands, as part of the Roadburn 2014 Afterburner event, I can say it was a special trip to behold. It remains so here.

Carlton Melton’s website

Øresund Space Collective on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings

Shiggajon, Sela

shiggajon sela

According to El Paraiso Records, Sela was held up as so many releases have been owing to plant production having been overwhelmed by Record Store Day and will be out circa August. Fair enough. Consider this advance warning of Danish improve collective Shiggajon’s first outing for the Causa Sui-helmed imprint, then, and don’t be intimidated as we get closer to the release and people start talking about things like “free jazz” and dropping references to this or that Coltrane. The real deal with Shiggajon – central figures Mikkel Reher-Lanberg (percussion, drums, clarinet) and Nikolai Brix Vartenberg (sax) here joined by Emil Rothenborg (violin, double bass), Martin Aagaard Jensen (drums), Mikkel Elzer (drums, percussion, guitar), Sarah Lorraine Hepburn (vocals, flute, electronics, tingshaws) – is immersive and tipped over into music as the ritual itself. One might take on the two 18-minute halves of Sela with a similarly open mind as when approaching Montibus Communitas and be thrilled at the places the album carries you. I hope to have more to come, but again, heads up – this one is something special.

Shiggajon’s Blogspot

El Paraiso Records

Mount Hush, Low and Behold!

mount hush low and behold

“The Spell” proves right away that Alps-based heavy rockers Mount Hush (I love that they don’t specify a country) have the post-Queens of the Stone Age fuzz-thrust down pat on their debut EP Low and Behold, but the band also bring an element of heavy psychedelia to their guitar work and the vocals – forward in the mix – have a bluesier but not caricature-dudely edge, so even as they bounce through the “Come on pretty baby” hook of “The Spell,” they’re crafting their own sound. The subsequent “King Beyond” showcases how to have a Graveyard influence without simply pretending to sound like Graveyard, even going so far as to repurpose a classic rock reference – “Strange Days” by The Doors – in its pursuit, and the seven-minute “The Day She Stole the Sun” stretches out for a more psychedelic build. Most exciting of all on a conceptual level is closer “Levitations.” Drumless, it sets ethereal vocals and samples over a tonal swirl and airy, quieter strumming. Hardly adrenaline-soaked and not intended to be, but it shows Mount Hush have a genuine will to experiment, and it’s one I hope they continue to develop.

Mount Hush on Thee Facebooks

Mount Hush on Bandcamp

Labasheeda, Changing Lights

labasheeda changing lights

Joined for the first time by drummer Bas Snabilie (apparently since replaced by Aletta Verwoerd) Amsterdam heavy art rockers Labasheeda mark four full-length releases with Changing Lights on Presto Chango, the violin/viola of vocalist/guitarist Saskia van der Giessen and guitar/bass/keyboard of Arne Wolfswinkel carrying across an open but humble atmosphere, touching here on Sonic Youth’s dare-to-have-a-verse moments in “My Instincts” and pushing into more blown-out jarring with the slide-happy “Tightrope.” They bring indie edge to a cover of The Who’s “Circles,” and round out with a closing duo of the album’s only two tracks over five minutes, “Cold Water” and “Into the Wide,” van der Giessen’s croon carrying a sweetness into the second half of the former as the latter finishes Changing Lights with a rolling contrast of distortion and strings as engrossing as it is strange. Labasheeda will go right over a lot of heads, but approached with an open mind it can just as easily prove a treasure for its blatant refusal to be pinned to one style or another.

Labasheeda on Thee Facebooks

Labasheeda on Bandcamp

 

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audiObelisk Transmission 048

Posted in Podcasts on May 26th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

The second hour starts a little early this time around, and what I mean by that is when you’re like five minutes into hour two and trying to figure out on the tracklisting below what improv-sounding brilliant cut you’re hearing, pay careful attention to when hour one ended. Just 11 seconds from the start of the second half of the podcast. So yeah, that 18-minute wonder gets filed under hour one instead, but it comes with a wink and a nod. I just couldn’t bring myself to file something under hour two without a one at the front of the time stamp, which shows you how sad and compulsive I am because I’ve only been time-stamping these podcasts for two months now. What a dork.

It’s good stuff this. Always is, I suppose, but starting out with Goatsnake into The Machine and then on from there, it builds a flow that makes some sense one into the next in a way that, listening back to it after I put it together, was especially satisfying. Hopefully you agree as you make your way though.

As always, hope you enjoy:

First Hour:
0:00:00 Goatsnake, “Grandpa Jones” from Black Age Blues
0:04:36 The Machine, “Coda Sun” from Offblast!
0:09:55 Galley Beggar, “Pay My Body Home” from Silence and Tears
0:18:51 Steve Von Till, “Night of the Moon” from A Life Unto Itself
0:25:48 Venomous Maximus, “Through the Black” from Firewalker
0:29:42 Black Pyramid, “Open the Gates” from Dead Star 7”
0:34:59 Ape Skull, “A is for Ape” from Fly Camel Fly
0:39:54 Sunder, “Deadly Flower” from Demo
0:43:53 Eternal Fuzz, “Sea Change” from Nostalgia
0:47:37 Geezer, “Long Dull Knife” from Long Dull Knife
0:53:31 Fogg, “Joy of Home” from High Testament
0:59:49 Shiggajon, “Sela” from Sela

Second Hour:
1:18:07 Blown Out, “Thousand Years in the Sunshine” from Planetary Engineering
1:34:01 Les Lekin, “Loom” from All Black Rainbow Moon
1:47:14 Undersmile, “Knucklesucker” from Anhedonia

Total running time: 1:59:00

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 048

 

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Shiggajon to Release Sela on El Paraiso Records in June

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 28th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

The catalog of Danish collective Shiggajon is about as amorphous as both the band’s lineup and their improvisational methodology, full of independent live releases with varying participants, splits, limited tapes and CDRs dating back to 2006 or thereabouts. They’ve had numerous full-lengths already, but no doubt signing to El Paraiso Records for the impending June release of Sela will be a landmark for the outfit. The album is available now for preorder on LP and is comprised of two extended tracks of improv-worship, the feel duly psychedelic, but not geared toward any particular idea of what that might mean.

You can get a feel for yourself with the sample of the immersive title-track below. It’s only five minutes of an 18-minute track, but I think you’ll be able to get a feel for what Shiggajon are getting up to, and hopefully agree it’s worth pursuing.

500 copies of the album will be pressed. Info follows from the PR wire:

shiggajon sela

Shiggajon Sela LP

Shiggajon is a Danish collective based around musicians Mikkel Reher-Lanberg and Nikolai Brix Vartenberg. Much like the music itself the collective is in constant flux, sometimes performing in the form of a small ensemble, other times appearing on stage with as many as 15 persons, depending on the situation.

It’s tempting to categorize Shiggajon as a spiritual jazz ensemble, since their music is able to induce a heightened, spiritual euphoria much similar to that of Pharoah Sanders, Don Cherry or Alice Coltrane. But any narrow definition of their sound would be misleading. While there’s an element of ritualism present, there’s also a post-modern tendency to absorb everything from sufi music to krautrock and contemporary electronic drone. Heavily modulated guitar pedals and processed vocals accompany layers of flutes, strings, bells and percussion as the most natural thing in the world.

It’s the kind of music that demands openness and surrender. Every time the ensemble performs improvisation is fundamental – it’s a journey into the unknown. As in John Coltrane’s later works, Shiggajon establishes a unity between spirituality and improvisation – they embrace the paradox of seeking elevation and existential affirmation through sounds that occasionally verges on chaos and dread. These two long, multi-layered, cacophonous pieces occasionally come off as slightly abrasive and dissonant, but ultimately the music is a process resulting in joyful catharsis and healing.

Emil Rothenborg, violin and double bass.
Martin Aagaard Jensen, drum-kit.
Mikkel Elzer, drums, percussion, and electric guitar.
Mikkel Reher-Langberg, drums, percussion, and clarinet.
Nikolai Brix Vartenberg, saxophone.
Sarah Lorraine Hepburn, vocals, silver flute, electronics and tingshaws

http://www.shiggajon.blogspot.com/
http://elparaisorecords.com/releases/shiggajon-sela
https://www.facebook.com/elparaisorecords

Shiggajon, “Sela (excerpt)”

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