Review & Full Album Premiere: La Chinga, Beyond the Sky

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

la chinga beyond the sky

[Click play above to stream La Chinga’s Beyond the Sky in its entirety. Album is out Sept. 7 on Small Stone Records.]

It’s tempting to say that if your van’s not rockin’, don’t bother knockin’ on La Chinga‘s second album for Small Stone and third overall, Beyond the Sky, but the truth is that just about everybody is invited to come dig on what the Vancouver, B.C., buds have put together this time out. It’s a collection of 11 tracks topping 45 minutes that makes the most out of big, unabashed hooks and a classic party-rocking sensibility, from the opening “Woo!” in “Nothin’ That I Can’t Do” into the ’70s-styled “Wings of Fire” and the proto-metal-turns-stoner-mellow-solo-jam “Mama Boogie,” which may or may not be a sequel to “Boogie Children” from their 2013 self-titled debut (discussed here) and which you’d best believe brings back its chorus at the end, it brims with energy well beyond what might qualify as “electric” and sounds in true Small Stone fashion not like it’s mining its influences for parts to reorder and recreate in vintageist loyalty, but instead like it’s engaging with the legends and rockers of yore — Nazareth, AC/DC, Judas Priest, and a host of others among them — to hone a modern interpretation of what they did those generations ago.

The result is an ass-shaking good time that plays itself out high on professionalism and void of pretense as the everybody-sings three-piece of guitarist Ben Yardley, bassist Carl Spackler and drummer Jason Solyom make their way through the opening salvo of the aforementioned three cuts and into the mid-paced “Black River,” no less catchy but with a shift in vocals that marks a transition into the next stage of the release. Their 2016 Small Stone debut, Freewheelin’ (review here), worked in much the same aesthetic territory, but where Beyond the Sky distinguishes itself is in its songwriting. “Mama Boogie,” with that midsection jam-out, is the longest inclusion at 5:35, and the Southern-styled centerpiece “Keep on Rollin'” is the only other cut that tops five minutes, but even those feel taut in their construction, like they’ve been hammered out — not flat, or dry in their delivery at all, but worked on, ironed free of their inefficiencies, and built with a genuine will to engage their audience as they otherwise might on stage, “Nothin’ That I Can’t Do” a signal that festivities have begun that feels hand-made to start a live set.

Lyrics like “Hey mama/Hey mama boogie!” from that song and “Freedom, alright” from “Keep on Rollin’,” as well as some of the declarations in what would seem to be the self-descriptive “H.O.W. (Are You Ready?” — the acronym standing for “Hell on Wheels,” which if you’re into Fu Manchu is no big deal — and the closer “Warlords” might require a grain of salt, but while La Chinga are most certainly all about having fun, they’re not so tongue-in-cheek that they either lose sight of the importance of the songs’ structure or that they feel insincere in their delivery. To be clear, Beyond the Sky is a blast. On point in its pro-shoppery, boozy in all the right ways but not so tipsy that Yardley can’t bust out a succession of blinding solos, and never out of line with the central mission, it nonetheless carries just an undercurrent of danger as the listener makes their way through the front-to-back, if only for the “how can they keep this up?” factor. They do keep it up, though.

la chinga

Side B cuts like “Killer Wizard” and “Death Rider” and “Feel it in My Bones” would be filler on many records — and many records of this ilk; vinyl-ready but more CD length and linear-feeling in its flow — but La Chinga allow for no dip in quality as “Killer Wizard” builds its chorus around choice riffing, “Death Rider” elicits a groove so righteous they just as easily could’ve named it “Papa Boogie” to correspond with “Mama” earlier, and “Feel it in My Bones” proffers yet another masterful hook en route to the closing duo. There are changes in mood throughout, but never a turn from the band’s central purpose of craft, and the spirit of the material they bring to bear throughout Beyond the Sky is as much about the high level of its execution as the who’s-up-for-a-cocktail vibe. For an offering that sounds so studio-made — that is, crisp in the production of Jeremy Koch at Warehouse Studio in Vancouver, and with such an overarching clarity of sound — the vitality that SpacklerYardley and Solyom bring to the proceedings is no less infectious than the choruses they seem to have in such endless supply.

I don’t know if I’d say that’s the greatest accomplishment of Beyond the Sky — take your pick between that and the songwriting itself — but it’s certainly a noteworthy aspect of the listening experience and it serves La Chinga well throughout. In their harmonies, standout guitar work and sunshiny vibe, their energy comes through even the quieter or slower stretches of the songs, and it’s not so much a push as in something being inflicted on the listener as it’s an invitation. Hey, we’re out back and we have some beers — come hang. Whether an individual gets down with what the band are tossing out is of course up to them — nothing is universal — but La Chinga make a strong case for themselves in these tracks, and offer a reminder that a band doesn’t need a ton of experimentalism or heady prog to entice an audience; they just need to make it sound like they’re where it’s at.

And from their ass-shaking grooves to their stories about wizards and warlords and death riders and Mama Boogie herself — all things one might find painted on the side of a van that either is or isn’t rockin’ when you come knockin’ — La Chinga most definitely do that. They’ve been kicking around for six years now and have steadily made a name for themselves since the self-titled and have only continued to refine their approach since then. It’s easy to hear songs like “Black River” and “Death Rider” and the DeepPurple-minus-organ drive of “Warlords” at the end and pine for some mystical bygone age of heavy rock and roll, when “men were men” and the west was wild and jeans were tight and blah blah blah. Bullshit. Fact of the matter is La Chinga aren’t happening 45 years ago. They’re happening right now, and the lessons they’ve learned may be from a formative era but what they’re doing with them is as much of this moment as anything else belonging to this bizarre, bizarre time. It’s a challenge to think we might be in a heavy rock heyday. La Chinga make it a little easier.

La Chinga, “Wings of Fire” official video

La Chinga on Thee Facebooks

La Chinga on Twitter

La Chinga on Instagram

La Chinga on Bandcamp

Small Stone Records website

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

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Sundrifter Sign to Small Stone Records; Visitations Reissue Due Oct. 19

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sundrifter

Boston space-grunge trio Sundrifter have inked a deal with Small Stone Records and will issue their debut album, Visitations (review here), through the label on CD and LP Oct. 19 — an increasingly packed release date that will also see records arrive from Brujas del Sol, Castle, Black Lotus and Moab, probably among others, as well as the tickets on sale for Roadburn 2019. How then does a band like Sundrifter stand out? See that part in the first sentence where it says “space-grunge?” Ain’t nobody playing it quite like Sundrifter are playing it. They released Visitations on their own earlier this year and Small Stone has the leadoff track, “Sons of Belial,” streaming now, and if you didn’t dig into it yet, you probably should. It’ll answer any other questions you might have.

Oh hey, and it turns out I wrote the bio below. Wonders never cease.

Here it is as it appears on the label’s Bandcamp page:

sundrifter visitations

Sundrifter – Visitations – Small Stone

Born out of a Boston rock underground teeming with history and riffs alike, Sundrifter capture the essence of tonal weight with their Small Stone debut, Visitations. Their second album overall behind 2016’s Not Coming Back, the nine-track long-player harnesses spaciousness and heft alike and soars with melodic vibrancy in a way most acts simply can’t balance. Shades of Soundgarden and Queens of the Stone Age appear, but they’re just shades, and Sundrifter’s vision of heavy is their own, someplace between grunge, doom, psychedelia and classic heavy rock.

Sundrifter is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Craig Puera, bassist Paul Gaughran and drummer Patrick Queenan, and Visitations was engineered, mixed and mastered by Dan Schwartz at Futura Productions in Roslindale, Massachusetts. The space the record captures isn’t of the Hawkwind, pulsating rhythm variety, but instead one that oozes with planetary motion, one that rolls along a chaotic cosmic path, not at all afraid to smash one asteroid off another before crashing to the surface, which, as we all know, is how life began in the first place.

Releases October 19, 2018.

Tracklist:
1. Sons Of Belial
2. Death March
3. Lightworker
4. Targeted
5. Till You Come Down
6. Hammerburn
7. Sky Peoples Son
8. Fire In the Sky
9. I Want To Leave

Sundrifter is:
Craig Peura: guitars & vocals
Patrick Queenan: drums & percussion
Paul Gaughran: bass

http://www.facebook.com/sundriftermusic
http://www.twitter.com/sun_drifter1
http://www.sundrifterband.com/
https://sundrifter.bandcamp.com/
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
https://smallstone.bandcamp.com

Sundrifter, Visitations (2018)

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Friday Full-Length: Iota, Tales

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

What a record. I’ve mentioned Iota here and there over the years, mostly when talking about other bands, but it’s now been 10 years since the Salt Lake City-based trio released their debut and apparent swansong, Tales, on Small Stone, and it seems high time the album got a revisit. In hindsight, it was a collection ahead of the curve in its blend of straightforward heavy rock riffing and more open-feeling jams, and even when it came out, it was clear the band were onto something special. I was still working print mags at the time and I remember calling it “like Kyuss in space,” and I stand by that to some degree. Under the mountain-filled skies of Utah, Iota harnessed a style that was as comfortable in the high-rolling lead guitar strut deep into the seventh minute of “The Sleeping Heathen”‘s total 10 as it was tearing through the opening duo of “New Mantis” and “We are the Yithians,” neither of which was half as long. Those two tracks, however brief, were utterly crucial to the overall impression made by guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano, bassist Oz Yosri and drummer/engineer Andy Patterson in what followed.

To wit, with “New Mantis” (4:40) and “We are the Yithians” (3:37) at the outset, Tales subsequently launched into three cuts that would comprise roughly 84 percent of its runtime. “The Sleeping Heathen” (10:42), the sprawling “Dimensional Orbiter” (22:56) and closer “Opiate Blues” (8:14) shot outward from where Tales began, but the context of the two opening tracks gave a straightforward edge to even the most dug-in jams of “Dimensional Orbiter,” which as it hit the five-minute mark, pivoted from its hook and the gritty vocal delivery of Toscano into a consuming instrumental rush that continued until after 19 minutes in, when a slowdown brought the vocals back atop masterful crashing and more wah-drenched lead work. “Dimensional Orbiter” was and remains a gorgeous demonstration of the potential in Iota‘s sound, but the basic elements from which it was crafted are right there in “New Mantis” and “We are the Yithians.” From the furious chug and snare punishment that started the former to the tension of its verses and the takeoff into a solo before the first half was done, to the hook that emerged through the barrage of high-desert tonality and ethereal who-the-hell-knows-what-they’re-talking-about lyrics, and into the semi-metallized slower-thrash riffing of “We are the Yithians,” catchy, quick, efficient as it was, the sense of Iota careening from one movement to the next was palpable even before “The Sleeping Heathen” took hold.

And once it did, it was the beginning point of an entirely different stage of the album. I’d call it a transition point, but it really wasn’t. While “The Sleeping Heathen” picked up at a sprint from “We are the Yithians” and would turn fluidly into “Dimensional Orbiter” on the other end, its place on the record was hardly just about making the shift from one side of the band’siota tales personality to the other. That’s part of what made Tales so special. There was of course a flow between — and plenty within — its tracks, but a huge part of the reason it all worked so well was simply that Toscano, Yosri and Patterson had the confidence to pull it off. Toscano was a grounding presence as a frontman, and the importance of his leading the band through the return to structure in the final minutes of “Dimensional Orbiter” isn’t to be understated for the work it did in establishing Iota‘s songwriting as central. Yeah, they jammed way, way, way out, but they didn’t let the track end without bringing it back either. That was the job of “Opiate Blues,” with its harmonica-laced wash of fuzz and all-gone-not-coming-back vibe. But all the more, then, what “Dimensional Orbiter” did was to show that Iota were conscious of what they were doing in the material. It might sound like they were getting lost in the vastness of their own making, and maybe they were for a while, but they weren’t about to actually stay lost. I’ll happily maintain that Iota‘s Tales was one of 2008’s most exciting albums, and if it showed up now, a decade later, I’d still be dying to hear what the band did next.

A lot’s changed in 10 years, of course, but you take my meaning. Consider the vinyl revival. Tales, as the runtimes and track placements were on the original disc, wouldn’t work on vinyl. You’d probably have to drop off “Opiate Blues” and lose that harmonica-jam finish to close with “Dimensional Orbiter” as a standalone cut on side B. Side A would work with “New Mantis,” “We are the Yithians” and “The Sleeping Heathen” as they are, but the linear aspect of the record would be gone and it would be a marked change in the overall affect. Maybe it would be cool, but I’m not sure sacrificing the closer to fit on a 12″ would be a fair enough trade. But 2008 was a different time. It was a moment of transition in the social media landscape, but even more than that, consider that Texas’ Wo Fat, who’d made their debut in 2006 with The Gathering Dark, would release Psychedelonaut the next year and embark on a similar course of blending straightforward rock with jammier fare. Their take was bluesier, and they certainly went on to do it more than once, but it stands as another example of how new the idea was at that point. Iota were right on the cusp of that movement waiting to happen.

Then nothing happened. They played SXSW a couple times and would talk about new material for a while, but by the second half of 2009, Toscano was beginning to establish his new outfit, Dwellers, and they’d go on to release two records also through Small Stone to-date, while Patterson would take hold of the drums in SubRosa and continue to build his reputation as a producer. Careers took different paths, and gradually Iota became a footnote and a case of what-coulda-been-style potential unrealized. I heard as recently as last year they had some new jams, but nothing has come to the surface as yet, and in the meantime, everyone seems plenty busy otherwise. SubRosa‘s For This We Fought the Battle of Ages (review here) was the best album of 2016, and Dwellers, whose 2014 outing, Pagan Fruit (review here), continues to get periodic revisits, have reportedly started hammering out material for a third LP, to which one looks forward. Yosri was playing with Bird Eater alongside members of the crushing Gaza, but they broke up in 2014. Iota had early demos with different personnel in the rhythm section, but Tales stands alone as the document of what they accomplished during their time. And 10 years after the fact, it still kicks unreasonable amounts of ass.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

We were getting ready to leave Connecticut the other day — prepping for the by-now-so-familiar-The-Pecan-doesn’t-even-really-mind-it-anymore trip south to New Jersey for a final week here before the semester starts and we have to go back to Massachusetts to hunker down for the winter ahead. I was packing the car. I had a laundry basket full of clean clothes coming south, and the baby didn’t want to be put down. He’s got three teeth, working on numbers four and five already, and has been hair-trigger pretty much daily for the last three weeks running. Brutal. I said, “You wanna go for a ride in the laundry basket?” and he gave me a look like, “The fuck kinda question is that chief OF COURSE I wanna go for a ride in the laundry basket,” so I loaded him in, he held onto the sides and I marched out to put the basket in the car. Fine.

I think it must have been when I pulled the basket up onto the back bumper so I could open the hatch on The Patient Mrs.’ car that my back went out. Brutally out. This was Wednesday early on and it’s Friday morning as I write this and I’m still considerably uncomfortable. I’ve spent the last two days with heating pads and ibuprofen and I’m better than I was by Wednesday evening when we got here and I couldn’t really move, but very clearly something was pulled. Something necessary for basic functions. It has sucked, and it continues to suck. Yesterday I could pick the baby up, but couldn’t really hold him long. Just to kind of put him from one place to the other. No way to live.

My father always had chronic back pain. My sister as well, for years. Real genetic lottery winner, this one.

So that’s kind of peppered my last couple days, and by “peppered” I mean “been excruciating and frustrating.” But so it goes. In addition, I’ve been up in the middle of the night doing Obelisk stuff so that I can be available during the day to watch the baby so The Patient Mrs. can work. Working the overnights. “Four-shift crew rotation, Riker. Get it done.” I don’t actually mind that. I can relax and not be as rushed to get things done, but it does pretty much necessitate a nap later on. And every now and then I cry a bit.

–Wow. So I just went fucking apeshit and typed out a whole miserable screed about depression and pills and being a wreck. I deleted it, it’s gone, but it was there. It sucks that I’m not really comfortable enough to post that kind of thing here anymore. I used to feel like I could say anything at any time. Now, it’s setting myself up for bullshit.

Bummer.

Let’s do the notes instead. That’ll be productive. Did you listen to that Moab track today? That record smokes, so I hope so. Here’s what’s up for next week as of now:

Mon.: Clutch review; The White Swan track premiere.
Tue.: Fvzz Popvli track premiere/review; news catchup.
Wed.: Constant Lovers track premiere.
Thu.: Juicer track premiere.
Fri.: Ramprasad EP full stream.

Busy busy, as ever. Probably Monday we’ll head back north to Connecticut and then follow-up with a return to Massachusetts thereafter. The Patient Mrs. has to go be brilliant as she will at a conference in Boston next weekend, so I’m on baby duty for the duration there, which is fine. I should be able to move by then.

Which reminds me: ibuprofen.

I’m gonna finish downing this coffee, fire off an email or two and go back to bed hopefully for 90 minutes or so until The Pecan wakes up. If you need me this weekend, I’m on the social medias and checking in as much as I can getting ready for next week. That Clutch review is going to be a fun one to put together.

Alright. Great and safe weekend, please. And please too, forum and radio:

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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La Chinga Announce Sept. 7 Release for Beyond the Sky; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

 

la chinga

Canadian heavy rockers La Chinga are getting ready to follow-up their 2016 Small Stone debut, Freewheelin’ (review here) with Beyond the Sky, and suitably enough, the first word one hears on the new album is “woo!” That exclamation arrives at the beginning of opening track “Nothin’ That I Can’t Do,” which is streaming now to mark the opening of preorders through Small Stone‘s Bandcamp page and serves an immediate reminder of La Chinga‘s songwriting prowess and aesthetic inspired by classic heavy. In under three minutes, it earworms its way into the brain and sets up residence for a much longer haul. Certainly Freewheelin’ had similar catchiness working in its favor, but it’s nice to know that hasn’t diminished in the interim. As a teaser for the rest of the record, it bodes well.

Oh, and the Alexander von Wieding cover art is awesome. The song, that cover and the album details all came down the PR wire lookin’ like this:

la chinga beyond the sky

LA CHINGA: Hard Rock Power Trio To Release Beyond The Sky Full-Length This September Via Small Stone; New Track Streaming + Preorders Available

Hard rock power trio LA CHINGA will release their impending new full-length, Beyond The Sky, via Small Stone this fall.

The follow-up to LA CHINGA’s 2016 critically-lauded Freewheelin’ full-length was captured at Vancouver’s fabled Warehouse studio with no-less-fabled producer Jamey Koch (DOA, Copyright, Tragically Hip). Opening track “Nothin’ That I Can’t Do” sets the agenda for Beyond The Sky’s forty-five minutes of sublimely confident freedom rock, sometimes meaty and beaty (“Mama Boogie,” “Death Rider”), sometimes glam-handed (“Killer Wizard”), and occasionally even dirtbag pretty (“Keep On Rollin’). When it all melts into a puddle of phased goo in the final bars of “Warlords,” the listener has been rolled, boogied, and otherwise supernaturally conveyed well beyond the sky, maybe even beyond ridiculous.

LA CHINGA’s Beyond The Sky will see release September 7th, on CD, LP, and digital formats via Small Stone. For preorders go to THIS LOCATION where “Nothin’ That I Can’t Do” can be streamed.

Beyond The Sky Track Listing:
1. Nothin’ That I Can’t Do
2. Wings Of Fire
3. Mama Boogie
4. Black River
5. Beyond The Sky
6. Keep On Rollin’
7. Killer Wizard
8. Death Rider
9. Feel It In My Bones
10. H.O.W.
11. Warlords

LA CHINGA was forged in 2012, although in reality it was conceived about a year earlier when bassist/vocalist Carl Spackler was surfing in Southern California and his Chicano beach buddies kept hailing each other with the mysterious phrase: “La chingaaaaa!” It was then that Spackler’s dream of a hard rock power trio built on erogenous funkadelic rhythms and a devotion to life’s more sublime pleasures — chief among them: tequila — was now embodied inside a beautifully obscene two-word incantation.

Drummer/vocalist Jay Solyom and guitarist/vocalist Ben Yardley — also a noted professor of Theremin — were conscripted shortly after, both veterans of Vancouver’s notoriously dead-end music scene, both beautifully obscene in their own right. LA CHINGA’s self-titled debut record was rushed out of a makeshift studio in 2013 on nothing but fumes and the liberating force of not giving a shit, landing like a hairball crossed with a stink bomb inside a world of yoga pant commerce, condo developments, and Macbook “musicians.” This was a revolutionary act, or maybe a devolutionary one, at least.

Meanwhile, Spackler was busying pouring all off his demented ’70s obsessions into wild three-minute homemade music videos, finding the visual language of fuzz itself inside shitty horror films as he furnished the great infernal drive-in of his mind. Somehow, miraculously, this charming brew conspired to make LA CHINGA the hottest bunch of stoned ape groovers to hot wheel out of the Pacific Northwest since forever. Freewheelin’ followed in 2016 on Small Stone, and so did unhinged tours of Europe, more year-end accolades, and festival slots (420 Fest, Sasquatch). In late 2017, LA CHINGA entered Vancouver’s Warehouse studio with producer Jamey Koch. The result is Beyond The Sky, available this fall via Small Stone. This is how it feels to get chinga’d, amigos. Surf’s up.

LA CHINGA is:
Jason Solyom: drums, percussion, vox
Carl Spackler: bass, vox
Ben Yardley: guitar, vox, theremin

http://www.facebook.com/La-Chinga
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords

La Chinga, Beyond the Sky (2018)

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Review & Video Premiere: Black Elephant, Cosmic Blues

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on June 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

black elephant cosmic blues

[Click play above to stream the video premiere for ‘Walking Dead’ by Black Elephant. Their album, Cosmic Blues, is out July 20 on Small Stone Records.]

Though they stay pretty much within the sphere of heavy rock throughout, the actual sound of Italian four-piece Black Elephant is much more nuanced in its refusal to simply do or be one thing. Within the first three tracks of Cosmic Blues, their second album and debut on the ultra-respected purveyor Small Stone Records, the band bounce around between hard-hitting riffs, psychedelic spaciousness, noisy crunch and meandering jams. Only then do they break into the three-minute riff-winding boogie and straight-ahead drive of “Walking Dead.” And yet, as the opening semi-title-track “Cosmic Soul,” the not-at-all-a-cover “Helter Skelter” and the 1:44 instrumental “Chase Me” play out, there’s nothing particularly jarring in the transitions wrought by guitarist/vocalist Caravelli Alessio, guitarist Giacosa Massimiliano, bassist De Stefanis Marcello, and drummer Brunzu Simone.

Particularly with Alessio belting out the vocals as he does on the swinging “Baby Eroina” later, or in the more subdued verses of “Cosmic Soul,” for that matter, there are elements of classic Swedish heavy rock at play in terms of style — that foundation in classic heavy rock melded with a post-’90s grunge groove — but Cosmic Blues is quick to establish its own identity in the sonic meld and thorough in its expansion thereof. The outing totals a relatively quick seven tracks/34 minutes, but that’s more than enough time for Black Elephant to convey their variety of influence, and it’s worth noting that while they seem to make a point of changing up their take throughout, doing so never seems to come at the expense of an individual song itself. From “Cosmic Soul” onward, they go pretty far out, and yet by maintaining a firm commitment to underlying structure, their feet never seem to leave the ground.

A striking balance, and it speaks to the eight years Black Elephant have been a band that they should be able to roll out the languid solo-topped nod early in “Baby Eroina” and move into and through the boogieing midsection of the 7:31 track — that’s the longest on the record, with “Helter Skelter” pretty close at 7:04 — and back to the central riff with such smoothness. Sure, Cosmic Blues has its jarring moments. Following the penultimate also-semi-title-track “Cosmic Blues for Solitary Moose,” the opening push of closer “Inno” hits like a slap to the face, but that’s what it’s meant to do, and this too becomes part of Black Elephant‘s overarching purpose. There’s a strong commitment to vibe throughout, and to be sure, the record has a front-to-back flow that holds firm throughout, but as many wandering solos as there are — they include a particularly resonant one in “Inno,” as one might expect for the finale — the band seem to have an eye on the overarching impression they leave behind them.

black elephant

It’s a positive one, gaining from the different faces Black Elephant show throughout and the efforts they make toward consistency in line with that. Hard not to consider the two longer tracks as highlights. With the extra room in “Helter Skelter” and “Baby Eroina,” Black Elephant flesh out stylistically. In the earlier cut, that means knocking out a noise rock riff early and taking it into a heavier groove before shifting via wah-drenched lead work into its jammed-out midsection, gradually getting more and more minimalist as it goes, only to build excitingly back to the chorus and end with some added crunch. “Baby Eroina” — funny how I keep wanting to put an ‘h’ in front of the second word — is looser in its march overall, but saves its trippiest guitar work for its ending, instead putting out thick distortion and funky vibes in its early moments before launching into its mostly-instrumental second half.

Those are by no means the only highlights of Cosmic Blues — I’ll take nothing away from the effectiveness of “Walking Dead”‘s momentum-maximization at the album’s center or the effectiveness of the brief “Chase Me” before it in capitalizing on a will toward sonic adventure — but they’re striking as focal points just the same, and like “Inno,” they do well to summarize the most important aspect of Black Elephant‘s methodology, which is that rather than jump from one sound to the next, they bring this diversity of ideas into their own approach. The difference is ultimately one of coalescence. Black Elephant are able to shift into and out of parts of songs without losing either their forward momentum or, in the case of some of the jammier moments, themselves in the process. This is what makes the album flow instead of having it be disjointed the whole way through. The intent is writ large throughout Cosmic Blues, but in kind with the album’s variety is that strong sense of identity that feels crafted with such care, and that’s what makes the collection work so well and ties the songs together, longer or shorter.

While Black Elephant don’t necessarily go anywhere that heavy and/or psychedelic rock hasn’t gone before, they do an excellent job of finding their niche in the genre and do even better in tipping the balance in their aesthetic to one side or the other. Some will dig it for its variety. Some will dig it for its familiarity. And some will just dig it because riffs. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, and the varied appeal speaks to Black Elephant knowing their audience — as with many bands in the genre, they play with a fan’s love for it — and knowing how to communicate their ideas through sound. Eight years will no doubt help that effort, but Cosmic Blues stands on its own outside of the time it took the band to realize it, and instead, calls back to its influences and inspirations and invites them, and everyone else, to check out how it all came together in the end. It would be hard to argue against doing so, and I find I’m not inclined to try.

Black Elephant, “Cosmic Soul”

Black Elephant on Thee Facebooks

Black Elephant on Bandcamp

Small Stone Records website

Small Stone Records on Thee Facebooks

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Abrahma Recording New Album Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

abrahma

It seems like a really long time since Abrahma released their second album, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here), but the truth is it’s only three years. That record, also their second for Small Stone behind 2012’s Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here), also followed its predecessor by three years, so actually the pace is pretty consistent. Maybe it just feels like a long time to me because I’ve been talking about their third album since Oct. 2016. Maybe I just can’t fucking do math. I don’t know. Point is: hasn’t actually been that long.

And in that time, I don’t even know how many players founding guitarist/vocalist Sebastien Bismuth has been through. At least one full lineup, and I think another one minus a guitarist? In any case, today’s news that Abrahma will record their third long-player — which had the tentative title In Time for the Last Rays of Light when it was first announced but may or may not be called something else by now — will be recorded next month at Orgone Studios in Bedfordshire, UK, with Jaime Gomez Arellano (Orange Goblin, Ghost, Paradise Lost, etc.) at the helm would seem to indicate that the current five-piece incarnation of the band will be the one captured on tape. Fair enough, and here’s looking forward to what comes out of the session, since while it hasn’t actually been that long since their last one, I’ve still been anxious for new Abrahma for three years running.

The band sent the following down the PR wire:

ABRAHMA LOGO

Long time without news from us… But after many up and down we’re delighted to announce that our third album Will finally be recorded in July with Jaime Gomez Arellano at Orgone Studios.

This new album Will contain 7 songs and some surprises…

It took 3 years to give birth to this album and we really hope you’ll enjoy the fruit of this long work…

Stay tuned for more info….

Tracklisting:
– Lost.Forever.
– Lucidly Adrift
– Eclipse Of the Sane pt.1: Isolation Ghost
– Last Epistle
– Wander in Sedation
– Eclipse of the Sane part.2: Fiddler of the bottle
– There Bears the fruit of Deceit

Sébastien Bismuth – Vocals, Guitars
Florian Leguillon – Guitars, Vocals
Benjamin Carel – Guitars, Synths & Effects
Romain Hauduc – Bass, Vocals
Baptiste Keriel – Drums, Vocals

www.abrahmamusic.net
www.facebook.com/ABRAHMAMUSIC
www.twitter.com/ABRAHMAMUSIC

Abrahma, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (2015)

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Friday Full-Length: Roadsaw, Rawk n’ Roll

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

It’s easy to argue that Roadsaw‘s third album is more relevant today than 16 years ago when it was initially released. Both moments represent a general flourishing of heavy and stoner rock(s), but to listen to Rawk n’ Roll — which originally came out in 2002 via Luna Records and which Small Stone reissued in 2007 (also maybe there was a Tortuga release in 2000?) — its tracks seem even more of this moment than that one. Roadsaw were never the “let’s make a record about weed and space” band. I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen them on multiple occasions and even share the stage once or twice, and they’re a heavy rock hailstorm: riffs that leave dents in the roof of your car. And likewise, they’ve never wanted to be the most intense band on the planet, but to listen to opener “Right on Through” or the rampaging “Blackout Driver,” the undercurrent of punk is right there to be heard. Still, with bassist Tim Catz‘s classically-influenced writing style, Ian Ross‘ heroics on rhythm and lead guitar, drummer Hari Hassin‘s bending of time on the aforementioned “Blackout Driver,” all-out thrust on “The Finger,” strutting groove on “Bad Ass Rising,” quiet timekeeping on “Your Own Private Slice of Hell” and grounding the nod of “Hoof,” which pulls the band into previously undiscovered spaces, they could hardly be tighter or more electric in their delivery. And in the current moment where it’s more accepted that not every “stoner” band actually spends their days dropping out of life with bong in hand, a sans-bullshit record like Rawk n’ Roll, were it coming out now, could only possibly be greeted as a liberator.

Like the best of Roadsaw‘s work throughout the years, Rawk n’ Roll is dynamic, masterfully composed and structured, and executed with a precision that borders on the scary. With frontman Craig Riggs — who started out on drums when they released their debut, One Million Dollars, in 1995 — so firmly in command of the material, Roadsaw‘s range was able to flourish both from album to album and within the records themselves. Consider the spring of “Disconnected” and the organ and guitar showcase instrumental “That’s Mr. Motherfucker to You,” or the hook of “Bad Ass Rising” and the thickened shuffle of “Buried Alive,” the Hammond-infused midpaced classic vibe in “Foot” and the acoustic-based “Planet Caravan”-style spacer “Burnout,” and the range of Roadsaw‘s craft is all the more the star of Rawk n’ Roll. While acting as a tight, crisp and vibrant unit, they’re able to affect a broad range of material while still keeping an central current of righteousness throughout thanks to the quality of their songwriting, Riggs‘ presence as a frontman, and the focus they demonstrate across the entire album, no matter where an individual song might head. In other words? Really good fucking band and really good fucking album. If Rawk n’ Roll hit inboxes today, the heavy rock blogosphere, myself included, would crap its collective pants, and rightly so.

I guess that’s the other point. It’s been 16 years, maybe more, since Rawk n’ Roll first came out, and it’s timeless. It’s not so much that the genre of heavy rock hasn’t moved on, but that it’s moved on to a place even more suited to Roadsaw than “their day” in the late ’90s and aughts. Their material is straightforward without a lot of the dude-for-dudes chestbeating that permeated so much of the riff-based mindset a few years ago, and their songwriting is top notch to a degree that it could and should be used as a blueprint for others to follow. “Oh, Roasaw did it this way? Cool. That’s what I’ll do.” If only. I talk about it a lot here, especially in these week-ending posts, it seems, but Roadsaw belong in that class of pre-social media heavy that, at this point, doesn’t nearly get the recognition it deserves, though part of the reasoning behind that is obvious: it’s been seven years since they last put out a record.

The shame of that is that 2011’s Roadsaw (review here) was brilliant. No loss of edge, but a more mature band doing what they did best in terms of kicking ass and taking names. Like the preceding outing 2008’s See You in Hell!, it came out on Small Stone, and its hooks were as furious as ever. They did some touring for it, but mostly members have spent the years since developing other projects. Catz and Riggs have the suited-punker troupe White Dynomite, and Riggs also went back to drumming, this time in L.A.’s Sasquatch, making them a cross-country outfit. Ross released a self-titled debut (review here) in 2014 with the Maine-based Murcielago, and then-drummer Jeremy Hemond eventually found himself out of the lineup. Roadsaw signed to Ripple Music in 2016 and of course at that point there were discussions of their next album, but nothing has yet to surface. They’ve continued all along to play regional live shows, doing a weekender last Fall with the reactivated Scissorfight.

Their latest post, from February, on thee social medias reads, “The new Roadsaw record sounds great! Can’t wait for you all to hear it,” so it’s hardly like there isn’t any hope the thing will eventually come out, it’s just a matter of when. In any case, Roadsaw are a band who deserve to be embraced by the generation of heavy listeners who’ve come up in the last half-decade-plus, and nothing’s going to make that happen like a new album. I’m keeping my fingers crossed they get there, and so should you. If you need to know why, listen to Rawk n’ Roll again from the start. It’s not a punishment; you’re only doing yourself a favor.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Massachusetts on the brain. Because I’m leaving. Not permanently, but as of this coming week, The Patient Mrs., The Pecan and I will be setting up shop to spend most of the summer splitting time between New Jersey and Connecticut, trying to give the baby as much exposure to both sides of his family as possible, familiarize himself with his older cousins, aunts, uncle, grandmothers. It’s important, and though the house where we’re staying needs a new kitchen — tear! down! that! wall! — I’m also looking forward to getting back to my beloved Garden State and feeling a little bit more like I belong where I am, which I never really have in the five years I’ve lived on the South Shore of MA. I know good people in and around Boston. A lot of them. But while I certainly enjoy the occasional Dudesbrunch (TM) or hanging out with Johnny Arzgarth once or twice a year, I don’t exactly have much going on here. Anyway, I’ll be back around up here periodically — my therapist is here, if nothing else — so I’m not moving, but the base of operations will change until probably later in August, sometime post-Psycho Las Vegas.

This weekend we’re making an initial run. There’s some stuff to bring down — I don’t even know what as of this writing, but stuff all the same; probably baby clothes and toys, maybe my giant Batman action figure. Again, I don’t really know. But I’ve got a few hours to figure it out, so yeah. And if I forget something, well, I’ll be back in MA on Monday, so there’s plenty of opportunity to forget again.

I woke up this morning at 1:30AM. The last couple days I’ve been running a science experiment on myself wherein I forego my evening dose of anxiety medication, which I originally started taking because, well, I was losing my mind. All the time. Anyone remember January? Not me. Anyhow, they’re not the kind of thing that I really think of as a long-term solution, so yeah, I was trying to pull back a bit. Lesson learned? Maybe. I’m going to give it another couple days and if I continue not to sleep, I’ll have my answer. Should make for an interesting weekend though, regardless of the geography. Hell, I’ll probably go back to bed in a bit and read a Star Trek book until I fall asleep, which will be all of 30 seconds. It’s quarter after three as I type this, in case you’re wondering.

While I’m bitching: I also have half a cold, which is delightful if you like sore throated coughing, congestion and sinus pressure. At least I got it traveling.

Notes for next week? Yeah, I have some. With the given that amid all the back and forth over the next five days — running around Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then back to CT, then back to NJ for what we’re thinking of as the actual start to summer on Thursday or Friday, weathepermitting — but here’s what I’ve got so far:

Mon.: Churchburn review. Holy shit that’s heavy.
Tue.: Pelagos review/album stream. Svart weirdness. Also a post about that 18-minute Sleep single.
Wed.: YOB review. That’s a day in itself.
Thu.: Orange Goblin review. Also have an interview done that will run soon.
Fri.: TBD. I’m sure something will come along.

I’m also waiting for my new camera and laptop to show up. According to FedEx, the camera was due yesterday, so I’m hoping it’s here today, and the laptop is supposed to be here early next week. I anticipate it’ll be pretty much an entire day to set that up to my specifications and preferences — no notifications for anything, as little as possible in the startup, remove intrusive and ineffective bundled “virus protection,” install VLC, PhotoShop, etc. — as Windows 10 has a mind of its own in addition to being a data mine. Also, that day will probably take place over the course of three days, because baby.

Baby. Man, I had that Pecan all day Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. Best job ever, but definitely exhausting. The Patient Mrs. was at a social justice colloquium, because she’s fucking brilliant and that’s the kind of awesome shit she’s into, so it was me and The Pecan pretty much straight through the morning and afternoon each day until we went and picked her up on campus. Coming off the London trip, where the situation was much the same, it was no big deal — like, not something scary at this point — but he’s crawling and pulling himself up to standing, and yeah, it’s baby-chasing time for sure. He’s a good dude though. The other night I sang him to sleep with Black Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell,” so yeah. He stays.

Oh, and yesterday we went to this baby music class thing. Like a bunch of babies and toddlers in some very nice guitar-playing lady’s basement, an entire brigade of housewives and yours truly, sitting there in my faded-as-hell Earthless t-shirt with my son, singing “Wheels of the Bus.” Life takes you to unexpected places. The kid liked it though, and it’s an introduction to music more than what he hears me playing in the house all the time and what The Patient Mrs. and I sing to him, plus socialization for an only child who clearly already enjoys engaging with other kids, so I mark it a win.

Jeebus, think this post is long enough? Time to cut my losses and get the hell out for a bit. We’ll be on the road in a few hours, I imagine — everything these days seems to depend and center around naptimes — but I’m going to try to catch up on some email this weekend and Facebook messages and all that stuff. It’s the communication factor that’s really taken a hit since The Pecan was born. I used to be really good at that stuff, but there are only so many hours in the day and it’s the actual writing that I need.

Anyway, point is I’ll be around. Please have a great and safe weekend. It’s June now, so coming on Summer here in the States. If you can see this, I hope the weather’s good where you are and you can enjoy it. That’s what I’m hoping for as well.

All the best and thanks for reading. Back Monday. Forum and Radio.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Black Elephant Release Cosmic Blues July 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

black elephant

Took me frickin’ forever to write the bio below for the Black Elephant record. Like, two months. Just ridiculous. I finally banged it out after I got back from Planet Roadburn last month, but yeah, it was embarrassingly long in the making. Not the record’s fault by any means. You can hear in opening track “Cosmic Soul” that the Italian outfit have their game together on their third record, Cosmic Blues, so yeah, the lag was all on my end. Turns out I just suck. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Lehman, was right all along.

Second grade was a real killer.

Anyhoozle, Black Elephant‘s Cosmic Blues, complete with a bio by yours truly, is out July 20 and available now to preorder from the ultra-venerable Small Stone Records. The PR wire brings release info, art, and some familiar words — which is doubly fortunate, since the document with the bio was on my stolen laptop. “Hooray for cloud backups,” he said far too late.

I just made myself sad twice in the span of one post. Quitting while behind:

black elephant cosmic blues

BLACK ELEPHANT: Psychedelic Fuzz Rock Unit To Release Cosmic Blues Full-Length Via Small Stone This July; New Track Streaming + Preorders Available

Italian psychedelic fuzz rock unit BLACK ELEPHANT will release their third full-length, and first under the Small Stone Records banner, titled Cosmic Blues, this July.

One would be hard-pressed to come up with a better descriptor for BLACK ELEPHANT’s Cosmic Blues full-length than the title of the album itself. Based in Savona, Italy, the four-piece have conjured ghosts of ’70s heavy fuzz and ’90s riff mongering offering up a sonic brew that’s both potent and thoroughly modern. Cosmic Blues follows 2014’s Bifolchi Inside and 2012’s Spaghetti Cowboys (get it?) and marks their debut on Small Stone Records. Comprised of lead vocalist/lead guitarist Alessio Caravelli, rhythm guitarist Massimiliano Giacosa, bassist Marcello Destefanis, and drummer Simone Brunzu, BLACK ELEPHANT makes their mark in their home country’s booming heavy rock underground with memorable songs and a sound that’s just as comfortable getting funky on “Chase Me” as it is reimagining Soundgarden as a riff rock outfit à la peak-era Dozer, rolling out huge grooves en route to “Cosmic Blues For Solitary Moose,” loaded with fuzz and scorching solos.

Given a brisk, live sound in its production – fitting for a group with hundreds of shows under their collective belt – Cosmic Blues comes across natural and at times maintains the intensity of BLACK ELEPHANTS’ earlier work (closer “Inno” walks by and waves), while simultaneously exploring more spacious realms in the not-a-cover “Helter Skelter” and the takeoff jammer “Baby Eroina,” which eases into and out of its nodding rhythm with a smoothness worthy of a group’s third album and a fluidity that typifies the record’s entire thirty-four-minute run. Leaving their own tracks in the footsteps of bands like Small Stone’s own Isaak, BLACK ELEPHANT hits a new level of craft with Cosmic Blues, and if the righteous drive of opener “Cosmic Soul,” the flowing progression of the LP that ensues, and the name they’ve given the whole affair are anything to go by, they know it for sure. All the better.

BLACK ELEPHANT’s Cosmic Blues was recorded and mixed by Giulio Farinelli, mastered by Maurizio Giannotti, and cames wrapped in the cover design of Robin Gnista. The record will see release on July 20th on CD, digitally, and limited edition purple vinyl.

For preorders, go to the Small Stone Bandcamp page at THIS LOCATION where you can also sample opening track, “Cosmic Soul.”

Cosmic Blues Track Listing:
1. Cosmic Soul
2. Helter Skelter
3. Chase Me
4. Walking Dead
5. Baby Eroina
6. Cosmic Blues For Solitary Moose
7. Inno

BLACK ELEPHANT is:
Alessio Caravelli – lead vocals, lead guitar
Massimiliano Giacosa – rhythm guitar
Marcello Destefanis – bass guitar
Simone Brunzu – drums

https://www.facebook.com/blackelephantitaly
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords

Black Elephant, “Cosmic Soul”

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