Days of Rona: Erik Conn of Tia Carrera

Posted in Features on April 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. — JJ Koczan

erik conn tia carrera (Photo by Howard Dvorsky)

Days of Rona: Erik Conn of Tia Carrera (Austin, Texas)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

Like everyone else, just trying to stay put, stay healthy, stay informed. Go towards the facts and helpful info, vs. hoarding shit tickets and hysteria.

Everything from work to gigs, to booking, to hangin’ out with friends is just put on hold.

Far as I know this second, everyone I know is holding up well, healthy and sound. Albeit a little stir-crazy… suffering from the early signs of cabin fever. I most certainly am.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Here in Austin, Texas, we’re like most folks abroad, under a stay at home ordinance/ practicing social distancing, etc. By law, no gathering of more than a few people, six feet apart, etc. All bars/restaurants are closed. Only supposed to be out and about for necessities.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

This virus has effectively shut down everything that I’m a part of personally.

As a musician, teacher thereof and technician, (tuning drums, etc.) I’ve lost a sizable chunk of money with canceled gigs both performance-wise and tech work (tuning backline drums, etc.). I’ve also had to finally (after 10 years) give up a lock-out rehearsal studio that I shared with The Well and another local band called The Reeks. Nobody’s able to work, much less pay rent for something we can’t currently access. Fuckin’ major bummer. With SXSW being cancelled, all of those shows alongside all other regular local gigs, and everything in the foreseeable future, the entire music community has been shut down.

For Tia Carrera specifically, we have had several shows cancelled, unfortunately all of which were high-profile with touring bands. Shit can’t be helped though, we understand.

Our current concern is how this will effect our late-summer plans to tour Europe. A long anticipated adventure likely to be postponed. We’ll see.

The flipside to this crazy virus jive is that there’s been lots if creative energy flowing, not just for the music but most any creative outlet. Regarding the tunes, lots of musicians here and abroad have been live-streaming porch jams, or living room shows, etc. That’s all really cool.

As for us? No. I think we’re all of the mind that we need not be in any enclosed space together for a while.

Personally, I miss playing my drums like I’m going through a rough withdrawal. I live in an apartment and have settled for dusting off the rust on the guitar. Relearning lots of tunes I forgot over the years, but yeah no, I’m a fuckin’ drummer. I miss my realm, my happy place behind my cannons, not to mention peeling the paint and carving lines in the cosmos with Jason [Morales, guitar] and Curt [Christenson, bass].

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

I’d like any interested folks to know that barring any unforeseen circumstances regarding playin’ live, we still have a record coming out regardless!

Our eighth official release, Tried and True, is slated to come out this summer. Both on bitchin’ vinyl and a CD. The CD version will also feature the two tracks from our last record release stateside, Early Purple/Visitors.

I’m biased, so whatever, yet I’ve gotta say these five new tracks are our best public offering to date. As per the past three releases, we recorded at Jason’s home studio with him as our engineer and technical wizard — shit sounds incredible! We managed to capture some really good stuff. As usual, all live and improvised, all of us together in the same room. We nailed a couple of groovy new riffs alongside one of our oldest jams from the beginning (the title-track), plus two really ethereal “no-planners.” We’re just really stoked on it and can’t wait for everyone to hear it.

Folks can pre-order the vinyl now off of the Small Stone site. Also the first track, “The Layback,” is available for folks to peep if they wanna a listen.

Fingers crossed everyone stays healthy and positive. We still hope to tour both stateside and abroad. We have a tour booked for Europe come September, at this point though we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes with the health of the world. Regardless though, the music lives! And will be coming out as scheduled!

Until we can all get together and rage, I’ve been telling all of my tribe that line in “Radar Love” from Golden Earring. “Gotta be cool now gotta take care”…. Duty now for the future so we can all keep on livin’ and doing what we love with the people we love.

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Friday Full-Length: The Brought Low, Right on Time

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

They took my neighbor out last night on a stretcher. Ambulance, lights flashing. It was dark over here by then — maybe 8:30PM — so the walls started turning red and blue like we were having a rave of plague anxiety. Older lady. Maybe she fell. She did seem to have bad knees. I don’t know.

That’s what all the pandemic sci-fi literature/pop culture gets wrong. The waiting for what’s coming by those not on the frontlines. The not knowing. There are things happening so fast around us — but locked in our houses, what are we trying to do? We’re trying to clean. We’re doing laundry. The Patient Mrs. and I are trying to keep The Pecan entertained, decently fed. We’re constantly reading the news, quoting statistics at each other, but we’re also just trying to get through another day. We’re asking whether we want the diner or pizza for takeout. I’m grinding coffee for the morning. She’s working. I’m writing reviews.

Life.

You never hear about that waiting, or the worry that’s hiding behind the day-to-day. Consider Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic The Road. How cheap that story seems. They don’t even know what happened to collapse society. It was just gone and okay fine so off we go. Are you kidding me? Nothing in life happens like that. It happens like this. People start dying in numbers we can’t even conceive, so you know what? We don’t conceive them. We see them, we tell ourselves, “that’s awful,” and we make cookies. Those who have to go to work, do.

My sister got laid off yesterday from her corporate gig of long-standing. Sucks, of course, but she’s healthy, experienced and frighteningly competent, so I’m not worried for her. If she doesn’t get rehired to this job, she’ll get another as soon as there are jobs to get. With three million unemployment claims last week, obviously she’s not alone. Your bosses and your bosses’ bosses do not care if you live or die. That’s not their job.The Brought Low Right on Time

We don’t know how many people will get COVID-19. We don’t know how well sheltering in place will work. Maybe by August we’ll all be dancing madly backwards at Psycho Las Vegas, breathing hot desert air through our unaffected lungs and headbanging through our reborn appreciation for being alive. It’s impossible to know what’s coming.

The Brought Low, above, are comfort music for me. Right on Time came out through Small Stone in 2006, and the NYC trio were on top of their game. 14 years later, these songs continue to smoke, and the band — massively underrated — put out one record after it and continue to do periodic shows after a few years away. This was their second and I don’t know if they’ll make a fourth album, but I love these songs and so wanted to close out the week with them, even if I didn’t include the usual critique-style blah blah blah.

I reserve the right to do another Friday Full-Length with Right on Time at some point under more normal circumstances — because not only do I love it, but I think it holds up on the merits of its songs, performance and aesthetic; “Dear Ohio,” “A Better Life,” “Vernon Jackson,” “Shake Down,” “Blues for Cubby,” all of it — it just didn’t seem to work this week.

Not that much did. The wheels came off around Wednesday and I was never really able to get it going again. I made it through the Quarterly Review, but shit, Enslaved announced their new album title this week and I wasn’t even able to get that posted. It’d take me like 20 minutes, max, to put that together, and nope. Just didn’t have it in me, didn’t have time. It has been a difficult, difficult week. I’m sleeping a lot. Even this morning, I slept until 5:30. Tried to get up earlier and couldn’t. And I’ve been sleeping when The Pecan takes a nap, which is like two hours in the afternoon.

Hard days. We go for runs in the morning, he and I, and that seems to help him even out. But he misses doing things, clearly. Gymnastics class, swimming class, daycare. Quarantine has been tough on him, and he’s really just too young to understand what any of it means, so all he knows is he can’t even go see grandma’s dogs and he doesn’t know why. I feel for him, and I feel for The Patient Mrs., who of course is the force keeping the entire household together, as always. She is the center around which my universe spins.

Be healthy. Be smart. Do what you can to enjoy your days, to enjoy each other. If you have someone, hold them. If you’re alone, reach out to someone else. Even if it’s texting, that contact makes a difference. Hell, drop me a line. I’m around. Be well.

Back next week. It’s front-to-back packed.

FRM.

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Lord Fowl to Release Glorious Babylon April 24; Preorders Available & Track Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 18th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Lord Fowl (photo by Meg Herlihy)

It hasn’t been easy waiting for Connecticut four-piece Lord Fowl to put out a new full-length. At this point, it’s been eight years since Small Stone released Moon Queen (review here), and at least five since they started talking about writing and recording what’s been given the title Glorious Babylon. So yes, facing the hard reality that a set April 24 release date and the advent of preorders represent is something of a relief. And not that I’ve heard the record or anything — though to that end I’ll say that I did do a heavy edit on the bio below ahead of this news coming out — but whatever the hell is going on with the album art is earned in the tracks. It’s all that stuff and the logo to boot. I know it’s been a while and momentum or social media push isn’t really in their pocket out of the gate, but don’t sleep it.

Glorious Babylon. April 24. Small Stone. Preorders up. You can hear “Fire Discipline” now, so do that below.

Fresh from the PR wire:

Lord Fowl Glorious Babylon

LORD FOWL: Connecticut Riff Rock/Retro Metallers To Release Glorious Babylon Full-Length April 24th Via Small Stone; New Track Streaming + Preorders Available

Connecticut riff rock/retro metal unit LORD FOWL will release their Glorious Babylon full-length April 24th via Small Stone.

LORD FOWL took shape in New Haven in the summer of 2007 with one goal: to write songs like those they grew up hearing. Songs that drive you. Songs that come alive. Songs that rock. With Glorious Babylon, their third LP and second to see release via Small Stone Records, LORD FOWL refuses to compromise this high standard, bringing forth the energy of their dynamic stage presence and dual lead vocals, as the song-craft of singer/guitarists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino reaches its next level of progression.

Recorded at BirdsEye Studios in West Haven, producer and bassist Jon Conine (with the assistance of by Steve Hill) captures LORD FOWL’s vitality as only one part of the fray could hope to do, and though drummer Michael Petrucci has since left the band with Van Hartley stepping in to fill his significant percussive shoes, the drums provide the foundation of Glorious Babylon.

Across the record’s ten-track/thirty-seven-minute span, LORD FOWL raises their own bar. Following 2008’s Endless Dynamite and 2012’s Moon Queen, Glorious Babylon arrives as an awaited third chapter in LORD FOWL’s peculiar mythology, harnessing the spirit they’ve brought to stages up and down the East Coast, at SXSW, and beyond, breathing life once more into classic, soulful, and psychedelic heavy rock and roll.

With a sound just as likely to nod to Thin Lizzy and a heavy Funkadelic as to early Queen or Paul Di’Anno-era Iron Maiden, it is still the vision and classic purpose of their songwriting that brings the band together. Songs that rock. Old heads, new heads, riff-worshippers, and freaks: LORD FOWL have built a city just for you. Fans of Queen, Dirty Honey, Rival Sons, Freedom Hawk, Crobot, Rival Sons, Greenleaf, Fu Manchu, La Chinga, and the like pay heed.

Glorious Babylon will see release via Small Stone Recordings on CD, digital, and deluxe gatefold vinyl formats on April 24th. The vinyl edition — a German import pressing via Kozmik Artifactz — is limited to 500 and will be available in two color variants: transparent pink or clear with purple and white splatter.

For preorders and to stream opening track “Fire Discipline,” visit the Small Stone Bandcamp page at THIS LOCATION.

Glorious Babylon Track Listing:
1. Fire Discipline
2. Glorious Babylon
3. Get Lost
4. Deep Empty
5. The Wraith
6. In Search Of
7. The Gramercy Riffs
8. Red Cloud
9. Epitaph
10. Space Jockey

LORD FOWL:
Jon Conine – bass, guitar
Vechel Jaynes – guitar, vocals
Mike Pellegrino – guitar, vocals
Michael Petrucci – drums, percussion

https://www.facebook.com/LORD-FOWL
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Lord Fowl, “Fire Discipline”

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Seven Planets, Explorer

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 5th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

seven planets explorer

[Click play above to stream Explorer by Seven Planets in full. Album is out Friday on Small Stone Records. Preorders available here.]

Seven Planets‘ third album and first for Small Stone Records, Explorer, is a simple-enough proposition on its face. The West Virginian double-guitar instrumentalist outfit on paper — things like “instrumental” and “West Virginia” — inherently bring to mind Karma to Burn, who are more or less the kings of the form of straightforward, (mostly) sans-vocal heavy rock and roll. But Seven Planets wind up on a different trip with Explorer, and the surface impression is really just the beginning point for what they have to offer on the eight-track/36-minute Explorer, a follow-up to their 2012 self-titled (review here) and 2008’s first LP, Flight of the Ostrich, both self-released. Eight years between records is no minor stretch, but with a recording credited to the band and mix helmed by guitarist Leonard Hanks, joined in the band by guitarist James Way, bassist Mike Williams and drummer Ben Pitt, Explorer‘s tracks by and large carry an easy groove marked by tonal warmth and fluidity between the players.

It may have taken Seven Planets eight years to put a record out, but whatever might’ve been behind that delay — life? — listening to the languid, semi-bluesy nod of the title-track, it’s easy to believe they’ve been jamming all the while. Beginning with “Vanguard,” they bring together elements out of heavy rock riffing and heavy psychedelic immersion, something that, for the first record, I compared to Clutch offshoot The Bakerton Group. The same applies to Explorer at least in the use of Tim Sult-style wah on lead guitar lines, but perhaps to a lesser degree than on the preceding release, since, as Explorer hints in its title, the band seem to be working here to find their own space and sound here in a progressive step forward from where they were those years ago. The drift of “Plain Truth in a Homespun Dress” shows a patience in unfolding its bluesy undercurrent and builds up over its first 90 seconds or so toward a momentary wash before receding again, cycling through with a solo overtop and shifting in its second half to a surprise bit of boogie before, in the last minute, the jam seems to take an improvised turn led by the guitar before coming apart.

That moment is important and feels particularly honest, if somewhat understated. The title-track follows in its own liquefied near-seven-minutes of flow, but the exploratory feeling is palpable at the culmination of “Plain Truth in a Homespun Dress,” and the fact that the band let the song follow its own path organically, even as it dissipates, is admirably honest and speaks to their ethic and lack of outward pretense overall. Not that their material can’t be thoughtful or planned out, as the initial unfurling of “Explorer” itself certainly seems to be, with hints toward prog structures and a spacier thematic as depicted on the Alexander von Wieding album art, but it’s the ability to move in either realm and to subtly shift between mindsets that gives Explorer as a whole its sense of character throughout its relatively brief runtime. As the title cut settles into its funky bounce moving toward the midpoint, with Pitt‘s drums and Williams‘ bass leading the way through the encompassing jam — something backwards layered in — it’s no challenge for the listener to go along with the groove as they make their way to the finish of the album’s longest track.

seven planets

The spirit of the material is nothing but warm and welcoming throughout, and certainly that’s emphasized in the title-track, which gives way to a quicker, solo-laced boogie in “206,” the presumed end of side A, as the two guitars hold sway over the creation of a swirl of effects and a central riff cutting through. Like “Vanguard” at the outset, “206” feels like something of a snippet, but it moves smoothly into “Seven Seas” — the only piece besides the title-track to reach over six minutes — and provides a buffer between the more psychedelic vibe of the two longer stretches when listening to a linear (CD/DL) format; a well-intentioned pickup in energy and momentum that, like the rest of what surrounds, asks little more of the listener than a nod-along. “Seven Seas” is particularly notable as the beginning point of side B as it leads to “Great Attractor,” which — and not just for the inclusion of organ (or organ sounds) lurking in the mix — makes for the most hypnotic one-two dive on Explorer. With the drums still acting as a grounding factor, Seven Planets are never in any real danger of floating away, but their drive toward meandering here and there in the guitars makes the later moments of “Great Attractor” a mirror for “Plain Truth in a Homespun Dress,” even if the ending works out smoother.

Shuffle blues guitar takes hold in the penultimate “Grissom” with a due sense of space, picking up at the end before dropping out and hitting on the beat into the rush of closer “The Buzzard,” which immediately begins the speediest movement on the record. Feeling more plotted than “Grissom” or some of the other material, the finale works around a winding riff with suitable rhythmic push and a summarizing feel in the interplay of lead and rhythm guitar, resolving itself in a last shove that, as they have at several points throughout, cuts away just as it seems to reach a head. Seven Planets never reach the same kind of jammy elevations as, say, their labelmates in Austin, Texas’ Tia Carrera, but neither do they seem to want to. Rather, their melding together of different styles and plays back and forth between constructed and off-the-cuff material and parts — sometimes, it seems, within individual tracks — is a distinguishing factor for their sound and ends up being the basis for much of Explorer‘s personality. Eight years after the first offering, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise to find that Seven Planets have progressed as a band, but they’ve also managed to hold onto the essential instrumental conversation between them that allows those improvisational stretches to shine through.

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Friday Full-Length: Wo Fat, The Black Code

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

 

Heavy rock and roll’s history — and that of rock more generally — is replete with vehicular infatuation. From Chuck Berry‘s “No Particular Place to Go” to Deep Purple‘s “Highway Star” to Nebula‘s “Down the Highway,” it is a thread that unites subgenres around notions of self-direction, freedom and, of course, movement. In the hands of Dallas three-piece Wo Fat, the idea of the “highway” became “Lost Highway,” with a darker, swampier spin on the trope befitting the album it led off, 2012’s The Black Code (review here; LP review here). The first of two offerings they’d make through Small Stone Records, it followed just a year behind 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here), which if I’m not mistaken gave Wo Fat the distinction of being one of if not the first American band to release through Nasoni Records — if they weren’t actually first, it’s still very select company to be in — and continued momentum built from the success of their 2009 sophomore outing, Psychedelonaut (review here; discussed here). That album solidified elements present on 2006’s nascent The Gathering Dark and established the penchant for hooks and bluesy and well-fuzzed tone of guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, and furthered a penchant for jammier vibes between Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter that would continue through all their subsequent work to-date.

What makes The Black Code‘s five-track/46-minute stretch a landmark in Wo Fat‘s catalog, however, is a combination of three factors. I’ll bullet-point them to make everyone’s life easier:

  • The songs.
  • The evolution.
  • The timing.

The first one is probably the most straightforward. “Oh yeah we’re goin’ down the lost highway/Oh yeah there’s gonna be hell to pay” is as righteously catchy as it is righteously simple a hook, but it’s just the first of the bunch on The Black Code, and even the 12-minute “The Shard of Leng” has a chorus it drives home, let alone the album’s 10-minute title-track or closer “Sleep of the Black Lotus.” The centerpiece “Hurt at Gone” would seem to veer elsewhere structurally, but it makes a point to drive wo fat the black codehome repetitions of its title as well, and proves memorable for its use of slide guitar ahead of the Rhodes on “The Shard of Leng.” The songs all came together around an open-feeling sensibility, not necessarily meandering, but willing to flesh out with a natural patience and explore the territory around them with Stump‘s soloing leading the way. Noche del Chupacabra made a point of its swampiness on “Bayou Juju,” but The Black Code — if it didn’t come right out and say so — continued the theme fluidly.

Which brings up the second point. The reason it’s fair to call The Black Code a landmark isn’t just because it’s been influential in the years since it was released, but it was a critical moment in Wo Fat‘s development as a band. There was a lot that worked from the outset on The Gathering Dark, and that potential came forward on Psychedelonaut. Noche del Chupacabra stripped down some of the second album’s reach and put the focus on the combination of craft and jams. The Black Code ultimately succeeded because it — just a year later — took the lessons of all Wo Fat‘s prior LPs and put them to use in a span of songs that brought together in a way that made the record equal parts immersive and memorable. It was a culmination of everything Wo Fat had accomplished to that point, and those accomplishments had already been significant. In short, it was the moment where Wo Fat “figured it out” as regards the band they wanted to be and what they wanted to do with their music. It pushed them past their influences and onto ground more thoroughly their own.

And the timing for that couldn’t have been better. Consider the spread of mobile social media, the advent of YouTube Channel proliferation of music, Bandcamp, Spotify and so on. I don’t think StumpWalter and Wilson were sitting at a Wo Fat board meeting planning out their digital strategy as to how to get the most out of the solo-into-oblivion methodology at play on “Sleep of the Black Lotus,” but no question that word spread of Wo Fat‘s excellence in a space that, even a few years before, didn’t exist in the same way, and that that had an impact on how they were received, particularly by a new generation of fans. They hit their stride, as it were, and the music-on-social-media infrastructure was there to let them reap the benefits. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that Wo Fat went to Europe for the first time supporting The Black Code, playing Roadburn 2013 (review here) in the Netherlands and a slew of other dates besides.

In 2013, Wo Fat also released their split with EgyptCyclopean Riffs (review here), and that momentum would continue to carry them through 2014’s The Conjuring (review here), a more than worthy follow-up to The Black Code. A limited 7″ split with The Re-Stoned arrived in 2015 ahead of their Ripple Music debut, Midnight Cometh (review here), in 2016. In 2017, Ripple took the 2015 live album, Live Juju at Freak Valley (review here), and with additional tracks, offered it as Live Juju at Freak Valley… and Beyond! on CD and LP, but 2020 will make it four years since their last proper studio offering, which is the longest stretch of their career to-date. They went to Australia in 2019 though and they’re set to play Monolith on the Mesa this year and other gigs, so they’ve been plenty busy one way or the other. Still, I’ve got my fingers crossed for a new record sometime before December.

I’ll admit it felt almost too easy to close out the week with The Black Code, but in thinking about why, it’s because the record so damn relevant. It doesn’t seem nearly as close to eight years old as it is, and given the impact it’s had on the structure of Wo Fat‘s work since — I would expect a new album to bring something of a shift in that, but I’ll save that speculation for another time — the recent discussion here of the best albums of the 2010s, and the ongoing spread of their influence more generally, it speaks as its own best argument. Maybe I’ll shut up finally and just let it do that.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

Thanks for reading.

I lost The Pecan’s hat yesterday evening. Actually my hat, but he has taken it for his own and I have another of the same one, so whatever. Yes, we have matching winter hats. It is a white knit hat that my wife’s grandmother, Helen, first made for me well over 15 years ago. At some point, I came into the second one, and that was the one that didn’t make it out of Stop & Shop at Rt. 10 & 202 last night. Not a tragedy — it’s not like I lost the kid, right? — but an object of marked sentimental value to me and a genuine bummer. I called the grocery store and asked them to keep an eye out. The poor customer service woman thought I was insane. I spared her the full explanation of the hat’s origin.

My sister went twice and looked in the parking lot for it. She also went in and talked to customer service. Her husband went on his way to work this morning too. And The Pecan and I were out this morning early as well. I looked in the parking lot as the sun was coming up and then looked again in the back of the car by his seat and it was there under the floor. It had been there apparently the whole time. Real human relief. Exhale.

Last night, after he went to bed, I also accidentally broke my Chemex carafe that I use to make coffee. I had poured water in the coffee maker (8 cups, same as ever) and was shaking out the excess in the sink and the glass caught the faucet and broke. Again, could’ve been worse. Not a big mess of glass to clean up on the floor, and not the actual, much more expensive, coffee maker broken. But after the day I’d already had running solo point on Pecan duty as The Patient Mrs. is away on a work trip — dude was pissed to have a no-mommy day — and after the thing with the hat, it was clearly time to cut my losses, have dessert and get in bed.

This morning, before I even found the hat, I woke up to a message from a record label whose work I respect telling me that an artist whose work I very much respect has a yet-unannounced new album, and did I want to write the album bio for it. I said yes, and it’s a quick turnaround, so I’ll have to write it tomorrow, but I’m listening to the album now (it’s not Wo Fat, though that’d be cool too), and it’s really good, so all the better. It’s something to look forward to writing about tomorrow, and as it happens, getting blindsided by a new album and then looking forward to writing about it is among my very favorite things in the universe. Right up there with roasted garlic and hot showers.

That was a welcome start to the day, and I haven’t bought a new coffee carafe yet as of this writing — I got a cup at the Panera drive-thru, which was at very least better than Dunkin’ or Starbucks in the realm of “loosely acceptable in a pinch” — but obviously that’s on the agenda. I’m also making pesto this afternoon with kale and hazelnuts and my own roasted garlic that I’ll eat tonight with cauliflower and leftover chicken for dinner. Need to get parm reg at the grocery store when I buy the carafe.

I have a doctor’s appointment at 12:30 — it’s 10:30 now — to do a follow-up ultrasound I guess because they’re worried I might throw a clot after the surgery I had a week ago on my leg and they want to make sure everything’s kosher. Whatever. My father threw a clot in his leg a while back; didn’t kill him. Dude’s heartier than me, but if I dropped dead, well, at least I found that hat and got to hear one more good record that I was looking forward to writing about.

If I did though, I’d miss Ode to Doom next Wednesday in Manhattan, and that’d be a bummer. Apparently it’s Joe Wood from Eternal Black’s birthday. Dude is more than a prince. He’s a king. Seriously one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. If you ever have the opportunity to know him, take it. It will make your life better.

One would expect his birthday would draw a good crowd, even for a weeknight in January.

Tomorrow’s plans include a drive to Connecticut so that The Pecan can visit with The Patient Mrs.’ family and I can continue on to Rhode Island to purchase chicken from the Buffoni Poultry Farm in Johnston. I will get at least 40 pounds of chicken, no bullshit. I was thinking about getting 30 pounds of thighs if I can. It’s almost the start of the semester, so basically we’re stocking up for the next few months ahead of The Patient Mrs.’ break ending, and it’s not like I want to make a three-hour drive for chicken every week. So yeah, I’ll be buying in bulk.

No one in New Jersey runs a free-range, preferably organic, farm that does their processing on-site and sells boneless thighs. These are very exacting standards, and I’ve yet to find anyone who meets them. Plus the chicken from the place in RI is better than anything I’ve had here, and I’ve been through a few farms at this point.

I could go on, but this post is already beyond manageable. Guess I feel like writing. Bodes well for the weekend if I can keep it up. Always plenty of work to do.

Real quick — next week: Premieres for Red Mesa (video), Grey Skies Fallen (track), Yuri Gagarin (video), and another video I’m not sure I’m allowed to talk about ahead of time but that’s slated for next Friday. Also the Ode to Doom review will be up Thursday.

So good stuff to come.

Please, great and safe weekend, and thanks again for reading.

FRM: Forum, Radio, Merch at MiBK.

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Snail Recording Pink Floyd Cover “Fearless”; New LP in the Works

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

snail in studio

As 2019 starts to wind down, it’s time to start looking ahead at some of what next year will offer, and I can pretty much tell you right now that if a new Snail full-length actually materializes, there’s just about no damn way I’m not going to spend a lot of time telling you to listen to it. Now then, the three-piece based in Los Angeles and Seattle aren’t quite recording the LP yet — that starts next month. But they’re currently tracking a take on Pink Floyd‘s “Fearless” as well as a new song called “Nothing Left for You” that will feature alongside it on a precursor single. Digital release seems to be how it’s going to happen, given the timing, but of course they’re open to a 7″, because why wouldn’t they be, should someone be up for releasing. Can’t imagine there wouldn’t be a taker there.

So we’re not to titles or release dates for the album yet. Hold your horses and I’ll do the best to do the same, but realizing it will have been five years since 2015’s Feral (review here) was released by the time the new one arrives, well, I think you’re almost justified in letting the anticipation run wild. It’s officially “a while in the making” as far as I’m concerned.

Bassist/vocalist/recording engineer Matt Lynch — pictured above with drummer/vocalist Marty Dodson this past weekend, while vocalist/guitarist Mark Johnson will track his parts in the Pacific Northwest — was kind enough to give an update on the proceedings:

We are recording Pink Floyd’s Fearless and a song I wrote that has lyrics partially inspired by Fearless [“Nothing Left for You”]. We have been wanting to cover Fearless for over 20 years now and feel the time is finally right. This will be released as an advanced digital single for the coming LP. Unless of course someone wants to put it out on a 7”, which would rule.

Currently no working title for the LP. We want to release this advance single for the new year, so early January. We are recording the rest of the basic tracks for the LP the second week of January. The material’s direction is similar to Feral in that it is varied with a wide range of sound and influences. There is melodic psych and heavy doom. Straight up Camaro stoner rock to galloping metal.

These two [tracks] Mark will do his parts from home in Seattle. The rest of the LP we will all do together at [Mysterious Mammal Recording/All Welcome Records] as much as possible with continued overdubs for Mark’s parts at home as usual.

SNAIL IS
Mark Johnson – Guitars, lead vocals, keys
Matt Lynch – Bass, keys, vocals
Marty Dodson – Drums, percussion, vocals

www.snailhq.com
www.facebook.com/snailhq
https://www.instagram.com/snail_hq/
www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
http://www.smallstone.bandcamp.com

Snail, “Nothing Left for You” drum recording

Snail, Feral (2015)

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Seven Planets to Release Explorer Feb. 7 on Small Stone; Preorders up Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

seven planets

Ah, February release dates. In the last few years especially, as underground release patterns have reorganized around digitalia and the recentering of common focus on vinyl, there’s been a resurgence of the February/September dynamic that I find fascinating. Big albums come out at the start of the year and the end of the year, and the year starts in February and ends in September. You still get stuff in the months between, of course, but consider the fact that it’s mid-November now and we’re already seeing looks-ahead to what’s arriving in 2020. Similarly, as everyone’s touring in the summer, it’s the early Fall releases that are the focus more than anything coming out at the time. The fact that Seven Planets will make their debut on Small Stone Records on Feb. 7 with their third outing, Explorer, is immediately encouraging.

Preorders are up (because that’s how Small Stone does), and a song is streaming now (ditto), so get to it.

Info came from Bandcamp. I edited the bio but can’t take credit for having written it in the first place:

seven planets explorer

Seven Planets – Explorer

West Virginia-based heavy instrumentalists Seven Planets will release their third full-length, Explorer, on February 7, 2020, through Detroit’s Small Stone Records. Drawing on classic metal, heavy boogie, and blues rock, the group formed in 2007 and consists of guitarists Leonard Hanks and Jim Way, bassist Mike Williams and drummer Ben Pitt, all of whom have played in bands together in different configurations for over 25 years. Its groove-anchored sound has drawn comparisons to Brant Bjork and Clutch-offshoot The Bakerton Group.

Written and recorded over a period of personal difficulties and individual strife for the four band members, Explorer captures a sense of escapist freedom in its deep grooves, burly riffs, and expansive atmosphere, which further illustrates what Heavy Planet stated in its review of the band’s self-titled 2012 LP: “Seven Planets take you on an amazing journey into another cosmic dimension.”

The new album features artwork by renowned German illustrator Alexander von Wieding (Monster Magnet, Brant Bjork, Karma to Burn, etc.), giving further representation to the idea of escape with a spacebound retro-style rocket headed to the unknown. Exploration in the truest sense.

Tracklisting
1. Vanguard 02:46
2. Plain Truth In A Homespun Dress
3. Explorer
4. 206
5. Seven Seas
6. Great Attractor
7. Grissom
8. The Buzzard

Recorded by Seven Planets at Stonewall Studios, Beckley, WV.
Produced and mixed by Leonard Hanks.
Mastered by Chris Goosman @ Baseline Audio Labs, Ann Arbor, MI.
Album artwork by Alexander von Wieding.
All songs by Seven Planets.
Published by Small Stone Records (ASCAP)

Seven Planets is:
Leonard Hanks: guitar
Ben Pitt: drums
James Way: guitar
Mike Williams: bass

https://www.facebook.com/Seven-Planets-102040383183657/
https://sevenplanets.bandcamp.com/
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
http://www.smallstone.bandcamp.com

Seven Planets, Explorer (2020)

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Review & Full Album Stream: Bison Machine, Seas of Titan

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

bison machine seas of titan

[Click play above to stream Bison Machine’s Seas of Titan in its entirety. Album is out Sept. 27 on Small Stone Records.]

It feels like an exceedingly long four years since Michigan classic heavy rockers Bison Machine issued their debut LP, Hoarfrost (review here), through Kozmik Artifactz after first releasing it themselves to significant acclaim. They boogied their way through a 2016 split with SLO and Wild Savages (review here) and issued the single “Cloak and Bones” (premiered here) the next year, and they’ve done a fair amount of touring between, mostly but not entirely in the Midwest, but as second-record Seas of Titan arrives via Small Stone Records — Detroit(-ish) band, Detroit label, Detroit rock — one seems to greet it almost with an exhale of relief: “ah, finally.” The winding shuffle of “Cloak and Bones” makes an appearance on side A amid semi-vintage stylized jams like the proto-metallic opener “The Tower,” “Knights of the Stars” and the somebody-please-isolate-the-bass-track-and-send-it-to-me shuffler “Echoes in Space,” which indeed trips out its guitar solo from Casey O’Ryan, who’s been in the band for a while now but is still the ‘new guy’ alongside vocalist Tom Stec, bassust/Moog-ist Anthony Franchina and drummer Breck Crandell.

But beyond that, everything on Seas of Titan at least feels fresh in listening to it, which is something of an accomplishment for a band so readily paying homage to the heavy ’70s in atmosphere and method. Brought together by a stellar recording job from Al Sutton and Steve Lehane, the latter of whom also co-produced with the band and handled mixing duties — Chris Goosman mastered, which is how it goes for most Small Stone releases — Seas of Titan comes across as natural to a clearly purposeful degree, taking that organic vibe and using it to bolster a live-feeling sound that further adds to the already considerable chemistry between Bison Machine as players. The tones are warm, the balance of instruments and vocals in the mix just right, and the flow between the songs enough to carry through the eight-track/42-minute run even before you know it’s over.

A sense of movement is essential to what Bison Machine do on their sophomore full-length, and that starts from the galloping guitar and emphasize-the-point snare of “The Tower” and continues one way or another through everything that follows. An echo treatment on Stec‘s vocals proves a uniting factor throughout, but isn’t any more overdone than intended, and as he seems to tap his inner Plant on “The Tower,” the message of what he’s going for comes through clearly. One might say the same of the band’s work on the whole. They inject boogie rock with a much-needed sense of energy and a much-needed sense of danger, not through violent lyrical themes or anything like that, but through the vitality of their swing, of the sharpness of their performance as captured here. Hooky enough to warrant its leadoff position, “The Tower” leads to “Knights of the Stars,” whereby Thin Lizzy‘s boys end up back in town and in a brawl with Cactus, only to resolve their differences peacefully in the song’s languid, solo-enriched second half, which cuts out before its 5:11 are done and gives way to “Cloak and Bones,” which channels biker-style death fetishism in its lyrics and sets it to an insistent rhythm and percussive foundation.

bison machine

Bass and guitar wind their way around the snapping drums, and together with Stec, all seem to be resolved to conveying the same crucial aspects of their performance. Like “The Tower,” “Cloak and Bones” is more proto-metallic than not, but Bison Machine‘s ability to shift the balance between such runs and jams or boogie-downs is a big part of what makes Seas of Titan work so well for the duration. As “Echoes in Space” digs into a mellower softshoe riff, that range becomes that much clearer as a part of the listening experience, and while it’s all still well within a similar-enough vibe to be coherent — that is, Bison Machine aren’t trying to do something just to catch their audience off-guard — neither are they repeating themselves anymore than they want to be doing to nail down the grooves that so well populate the album, and indeed “Echoes in Space,” which picks up its tempo and adds a line of presumably Moog or other keyboard under the broad-sounding guitar solo for which one assumes the song was named in the first place.

So yes, movement. But also warmth. The synth that begins the side-B-opening title-track is an intro for one of Seas of Titan‘s most driving progressions, but even that carries a distinctly human warmth and character, mirroring the chorus of “The Tower” and some of that same burst of energy, but locking into a bluesier chorus as well, reminding a bit of Radio Moscow as it struts into and out of lead sections. “Seas of Titan” is the longest inclusion at 6:10, but not by so much over “Cloak and Bones” (6:02) or “The Tower” (5:46) that it’s out of step with the rest of the record that shares its name — that intro is essentially the difference, but it’s well enough earned.

They follow-it with a build of momentum through “Star Child,” which oddly enough is more Rainbow than KISS in terms of its sound, but a welcome delving into minor-key fretwork either way as O’Ryan‘s guitar swaps channels before the hook comes back through and leads to an effective section of starts and stops and a last push ahead of the already-going-already-gone “Electric Eliminator,” which somehow finds room in its sub-four-minute run for a winding, boogie-dense jam in its midsection that almost seems like it’s going to hold sway for the duration and then turns quickly back to the central riff. That lets the initial strum of closer “A Distant Sun” make an immediately more peaceful impression, but the tempo remains up and fuller fuzz makes its way in, Stec‘s vocals seeming to tap their inner Freedom Hawk past the midpoint just before they ride the last solo into a roundout with the last hook and then end the set with a ringout and fade, their sense of class coming through almost in spite of the grit of their presentation.

One wouldn’t necessarily accuse Bison Machine of reinventing the wheel in terms of aesthetic, but the fact of the matter is their take on boogie rock is presented with an energy and an edge of its own on Seas of Titan, and though acts like KadavarGraveyard, and half the population of San Diego have cut their teeth on ’70s riffage over the last decade, the grit Bison Machine bring to the proceedings — and again, that class underlying — is well on display throughout these songs. I wouldn’t be surprised in the future to find them loosening up the structure a bit — contrary to my usual impulse, I almost found myself wishing “Electric Eliminator” just let itself go without returning to the hook; the band’s songwriting acumen had already been thoroughly established, so why not? — but their tightness here extends to all levels of what they do and it becomes part of the overarching statement Seas of Titan makes, and makes resoundingly. Maybe it’ll be four years until the next one and maybe not, but it’ll be worth waiting for, in any case.

Bison Machine on Thee Facebooks

Bison Machine on Instagram

Bison Machine on Bandcamp

Small Stone Records website

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

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