Review & Full Album Premiere: Sons of Morpheus, The Wooden House Session

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

SONS OF MORPHEUS THE WOODEN HOUSE SESSION

[Click play above to stream Sons of Morpheus’ The Wooden House Session in its entirety. It’s out Feb. 22 on Sixteentimes Music.]

It happened, as one might imagine, in a wooden house. The proverbial cottage in the forest, to which a band withdraws to remove themselves from the distractions of real life, society, obligations of employment and/or family, and all the rest of everything that’s not making music, in order to trap themselves into a creative mindset. In the case of Swiss trio Sons of Morpheus, The Wooden House Session is the second release they’ve been able to cull from undertaking this experience early in 2018 — the first was a split with Berlin’s Samavayo dubbed The Fuzz Charger Split (discussed here) that came out last May — and its six-track/33-minute run speaks to both the intimacy and the urgency of the experience, as the band self-recorded and effectively captured a live feel in so doing. Part of what let them do that might be owed to the fact that Schüxenhaus Ins, where they tracked, is also a venue hosting shows.

So maybe it’s not so much the getting-lost-on-purpose impulse as it was they found a cool spot and dug the surrounding way-out vibe, but either way, as guitarist/vocalist Manuel Bissig, bassist Lukas Kurmann (who also mixed) and drummer Rudy Kink embark on The Wooden House Session, they nonetheless play to the narrative of working to get out of their own heads as a collective and pursue something truly special as a band — to discover who they are. That may be what The Wooden House Session does, and if it is, fair enough. It’s their third album behind 2017’s engaging Nemesis and their 2014 self-titled debut, and so a kind of natural maturing point five years on from their first record, and with a somewhat rawer tone in the guitar and bass, they’re able to bring a grunge sensibility to tracks like “Loner” and “Nowhere to Go” in a way that the slicker production of Nemesis likely wouldn’t. Dirtying up their sound works in their favor.

That’s shown quickly as the introductory “Doomed Cowboy” melds together the Western-style imagery of the album’s artwork with the foreboding atmosphere and the dense tonality toward which its title hints. In the span of a little more than three minutes, its effective wash of crash cymbals becomes surrounded by siren guitars and full-on noise assault as a sludgy march takes hold and deconstructs to abrasive feedback and noise. It’s nasty, but it’s supposed to be, and it doesn’t last long before Kurmann‘s bass starts the bounce of “Loner,” which gets under way with more scorching lead lines from Bissig, swinging drums from Kink, and the album’s first vocal lines. Those familiar with the band will already know the primacy of Queens of the Stone Age as an influence in Bissig‘s vocals and in some of the style of riffing.

sons of morpheus

It’s less true on The Wooden House Session than it was on Nemesis, and whether that’s owed to the circumstances of the recording or just a general result of having toured more and worked to develop a more individual approach, it suits him and the band as a whole. “Loner” plays back and forth between restrained verses and a let-loose hook, but grows spacious in its back half, with a solo taking hold over broad-sounding echoes, and a concluding bluesy lick that speaks of some of the ground later to be covered on the extended closer “Slave (Never Ending Version).” Before they get there, “Paranoid Reptiloid” digs into my personal all-time favorite conspiracy theory, which is that of the lizard people secretly running the earth and using humans as food and fuel — otherwise known as capitalism — amid another right on hook and a more extended instrumental break that gets suitably freaked out for the subject matter, held to earth somewhat by the punctuation of a cowbell amid the barrage of crash, but still churning in a way that Sons of Morpheus haven’t yet showed on The Wooden House Session. They draw it back to the chorus deftly at the end, underlining that their priority is songcraft, which again, holds true until the finale.

The fuzz on “Nowhere to Go” is particularly satisfying, and arrives in surges of volume that answer multi-layered vocal lines with a fervent sense of strut before the track turns to its more fully-toned midsection and a rousing melodic ending. The Wooden House Session, very subtly, has been toying with structure all along, and it continues to do so with “Nowhere to Go,” but especially with the push in the second half, it’s arguably the most switched-on summary of the album’s appeal. They back it with the shorter, catchy “Sphere,” which serves as a penultimate moment of straightforward push before “Slave (Never Ending Version)” takes hold. It’s arguably the most Songs for the Deaf that Sons of Morpheus get, but by the time they’re there, the context of what surrounds is enough to still make it their own. And that’s only more true when one considers “Slave (Never Ending Version)” behind it. A shorter edit of the track appeared on The Fuzz Charger Split, but the full spread of it here tops 13 minutes and becomes a defining moment for The Wooden House Session, fluidly turning from the verse/chorus trades of its early going to a free-sounding exploration that makes its way farther and farther out as it goes.

They ride the central riff and the chorus progression for a while, then over time let it d/evolve into its own space, the change happening right around the nine-minute mark as Sons of Morpheus make it clear that no, they’re not coming back this time. The last few minutes of “Slave (Never Ending Version)” are given to building a jam up to a considerable wash of noise and then letting it end naturally, and as they do, they highlight not only a strength they haven’t yet really shown on the album — i.e. for jamming — but further capture the atmosphere and narrative of The Wooden House Session‘s making. This organic sensibility has been at root in the material all along, but “Slave (Never Ending Version)” brings it forward in such a way as to make it the perfect capstone for the release and the listening experience. Their titling the album after where/how it was made would seem to hint to it being something of a one-off outside the normal album cycle. If that’s the case or not, there are valuable lessons for the band to learn from its construction, and one hopes those carry into whatever it might be they do next.

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Samavayo & Sons of Morpheus to Release The Fuzz Charger Split May 18

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Next time you’re looking at a pair of cartoon tits on an album cover with a cowskull instead of a woman’s face or some shit, remember the artwork for Samavayo and Sons of MorpheusThe Fuzz Charger Split, because that is how a stoner rock album cover is fucking done. I’m not saying every record needs to have a muscle car out front, but you want to speak directly to your audience? This does it better than all that pointless pseudo-ritualistic misogyny anyday. Looks like something straight out of 2002. Kudos to the bands and to Sixteentimes Music for putting it together.

Even better? The rest of the car is on back. I fucking love this genre.

Six tracks kicked off by the immediate momentum build of Samavayo‘s “Rollin'” and running through the dug-in desert fuzz and anchoring bassline of Sons of Morpheus‘ “Slave,” you don’t lose. You only win. Whole thing is 31 minutes well spent.

PR wire background follows, including the preorder link. You’ll want that:

samavayo sons of morpheus cover

Samavayo and Sons of Morpheus – The Fuzz Charger Split

Date: 18th of May 2018
Via: Digital and 12” Vinyl
Label: Sixteentimes Music
KatNo.: SIXT020

Preorder here: https://bit.ly/2ITQb2t

All three band members of Samayo grew up in East-Berlin, in the neighbourhoods Lichtenberg and Friedrichshain. As a 10 year old kid, singer Behrang Alavi fled as a political refugee from his home country of Iran to Berlin, Germany. The brothers Andreas and Stephan Voland grew up in the GDR (East-Germany) in East-Berlin.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the city was open, letting in cultural influences from any foreign country.

The capital city became a multi-cultural melting pot where a singer from Teheran and two brothers from Berlin started making music. More than 500 live shows in Europe and overseas followed, including gigs in Brazil, Albania, Greece, Croatia and France. They also played at one of the most well-known European Stoner Rock festivals “Stoned from the Underground.”

Before Sons of Morpheus were able to tour across Europe (f.e. with Karma to Burn and Kamchatka) and playing shows in 17 countries including USA, a simple feeling gave birth to everything: The need to crank up an amplifier and doing some good-shit rock music. Fuck the world! And that’s exactly what made singer/guitarist Manuel Bissig start conquering stages in Switzerland by the name of “Rozbub” (Swiss-German for “brat”). Everything followed the call, it was loud, nasty and raw – and immediately everyone could see, hear and feel: This “brat” knows exactly what he’s doing.

No surprise that 2013 released debut “S’esch ziit” climbed the Swiss iTunes-charts right away. In no time Sons of Morpheus played shows in the rock-republic of California and recorded for two weeks in Tucson AZ with Producer Jim Waters. That thriving spring in 2014 gave birth to new material and as a result a debut-album simply called “Sons of Morpheus” was about to be released. The band’s call for the following year 2016 was clear: To go back to rehearsal, write new material and get it recorded. Listening to “Nemesis,” Sons of Morpheus appear gloomier yet explosive.

Tracklist:
A01 Rollin – Samavayo
A02 Chopper – Samavayo
A03 Justify – Samavayo
B01 Dark Shadows – Sons of Morpheus
B02 Money – Sons of Morpheus
B03 Slave – Sons of Morpheus

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https://www.facebook.com/samavayo/
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Samavayo, “Cross the Line” official video

Sons of Morpheus, “Monotone” official video

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Review & Track Premiere: Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

outsideinside-sniff-a-hot-rock

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Outsideinside’s ‘Pretty Things.’ Their album, Sniff a Hot Rock, is out Sept. 29 on Machine Age Records in the US and Sixteentimes Music in Europe.]

Outsideinside aren’t three seconds into opening track ‘Pretty Things’ before the handclaps have started, drummer Panfilo DiCenzo is on the bell of his ride cymbal and the boogie has begun that will continue in earnest through just about the entirety of their debut album, Sniff a Hot Rock. Only fair they should get down to business on the quick, since the Pittsburgh four-piece give themselves a pretty high standard to live up to in taking their moniker from one of the greatest and most pivotal heavy rock records of all time — Blue Cheer‘s 1968 sophomore LP — in addition to boasting guitarist/vocalist Dave Wheeler and bassist Jim Wilson in the lineup, both formerly of Tee Pee Records heavy classic rockers Carousel.

Released through Machine Age Records and Sixteentimes Music, the eight-track/35-minute LP dig into early AC/DC vibes on cuts like “Can’t Say Nothin'” and blend that raw sense of songcraft with echoing-solo psychedelic flourish — James Hart joined the band on guitar and backing vocals earlier in 2017, though I’m not sure if he actually features on the recording alongside Wheeler — but the core of Outsideinside‘s approach lies in the playin’-in-a-rock-and-roll-band attitude of hook-out-front pieces like the aforementioned leadoff “Pretty Things,” “Shot Me Down,” “Empty Room” and closer “Say Yeah,” and while the easy narrative might make it seem like Outsideinside are a brand new band formed in the wake of Carousel‘s untimely collapse, the truth is they’ve been kicking around Pittsburgh’s dinged-out bars since before The New York Times declared doing so was cool; having released a split in 2013 with Old Head in 2013 via Machine Age that featured the track “Misled,” which also appears here.

Accordingly, much of this material, while energetically performed in a clear move to bring out a live-sounding vibe — and effectively done, whether it’s the fuzzy/bluesy turns of “Can’t Say Nothin'” or the forward crotchal thrust of “Say Yeah” — would also seem to have the benefit of having been worked on for a while. Where it ultimately triumphs, however, is in not being overwritten as a result of that, but instead pared down to its most basic and classic-sounding elements. As he was in Carousel, Wheeler is a key presence in Outsideinside. He takes forward position early and does not relinquish for the duration, adopting the role of self-effacing storyteller on “Shot Me Down” with an underlying, winking swagger that makes even lines like, “She said ‘Keep on walkin’ son that don’t impress me none’/And she shot me down,” in the first chorus come across in good humor. Likewise, the subsequent “Empty Room” is what it sounds like: a tale of playing to small, unappreciative crowds. This lyrical perspective adds charm to the rhythmic strut that’s so much at the center of Outsideinside‘s writing, from the start-stop of “Pretty Things” to the brazen solo that takes charge of the second half of instrumental “Eating Bread” before “Ten Years” and “Say Yeah” cap side B, and Sniff a Hot Rock benefits greatly from that added sense of personality.

outsideinside

In conjunction with the tightness of the Cactus-style creeping bassline in “Misled” and the writing overall, Wheeler‘s frontman presence becomes a part of a subtle efficiency and professionalism that Outsideinside are in no rush to advertise — truth is doing so would take away from both the grandness and the funkness of their aesthetic — but which underscores the whole of Sniff a Hot Rock just the same. It might be their first record, in other words, but dudes know what they’re doing. They signal it early and often, and some of the record’s greatest success lies in balancing that with the outright fun of their boogie as it shines through on the shuffling “Empty Room,” Wilson‘s choice bass work on “Can’t Say Nothin'” and the brash finish in the one-two punch of “Ten Years” and “Say Yeah.”

As they shift from side A’s catchy landmarks in “Pretty Thing,” “Shot Me Down,” “Empty Room” and “Misled” into the more dug-in rhythm of “Can’t Say Nothin'” and “Eating Bread,” Outsideinside continue to proffer good-times vibes in classic form, their sound organic in presentation as well as structure without necessarily being overly vintage in its production. Heavy ’10s more than heavy ’70s, though of course the roots of the one lie in the other. Still, it’s worth highlighting that while the material they bring to bear throughout Sniff a Hot Rock feels as though it’s had the benefit of being worked on, hammered out, and brought to its most essential aspects, there’s a freshness at the core of Outsideinside that still speaks to this as being their first album. The difference is it’s natural without being haphazard where many others might be, and if that comes from Wheeler and Wilson‘s past work together in Carousel or from Outsideinside simply playing shows and recording for a few years before settling into the studio to track this material, so be it.

One way or the other, the end result is a palpable, two-sided, full-LP flow that signals the arrival of Outsideinside perhaps in picking up a bit where Carousel left off, but also establishing their own course in modernizing classic boogie rock with a vitality of their own and a level of songwriting that’s already plenty sure of itself even if “Shot Me Down” or “Empty Room” might tell you otherwise. It’s no coincidence they end with “Say Yeah.” The closer is a direct address to their audience and finds Wheeler as bandleader calling out for an audience interaction in a way that one very much imagines could end a live set as well, building in the finish as he encourages the “crowd” (i.e. the listener) to say yeah. Obviously in the context of the record itself, should one choose to respond, it’s not like he’s going to hear it, but if you’ve got the song on and you find you’re tempted to do so, it’s certainly understandable.

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Machine Age Records website

Sixteentimes Music website

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