Desert Survival: How to Do Psycho Las Vegas on a Budget

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

psycho las vegas 2017 banner

Hey, if you’re going to go broke, let’s face it: You’re not likely to run into many causes as worthy as the lineup culled together for Psycho Las Vegas. It ain’t cheap — any event that advertises a payment plan obviously knows it’s a considerable ask — but whether you’re going to see Slo Burn for their only US gig or King Diamond doing Abigail or Mulatu Astatke because going to see Mulatu Astatke is a life-event, the arguments in favor are plentiful and convincing. Whatever else you want to say, Psycho Las Vegas is the first annually-held American festival with a focus on heavy and underground rock to really establish itself as world class.

That in itself is a reason to support the cause, whether it’s through a day ticket or a pass for the entire weekend, but it doesn’t necessarily lesson the expense of making the trip or staying in one of the US’ most lucrative tourist traps, let alone things like band merchandise, meals and the occasional adult beverage if you’re inclined to have one. The thought of seeing NeurosisSleep and Carcass share a stage over the course of a weekend or watching Conan, the new trio-incarnation of Pentagram and Yawning Man poolside or from the balcony of a room in the Casino Tower is incredible, and after hearing stories from those who undertook the journey in 2016 or attended the prior Psycho California in 2015, the idea wants nothing for appeal. Fiscal issues can be a bummer. By the time August rolls around, I’ll have been out of paid work for two months. I know how it goes.

And I’m hardly the most responsible person when it comes to money, but the truth of the matter is there are ways to mitigate costs for travel, lodging and other concerns, and if the thing preventing you from picking up a ticket to the show has been the seeming impossibility of affording a stay at the Hard Rock or of finding a cheap-enough flight to get there, maybe it’s worth trying to shift finances around to make it happen. Music is important, and when debt collectors are spamming your phone it’s hard to think about the non-cash value of life experiences, but the fact is the bills you need to pay will still be there. The bill with Corrosion of Conformity in a lineup alongside Kylesa‘s Laura Pleasants, Domkraft, Swans, Elephant Tree and Heavy Temple? Much less so.

Here are a few pointers that hopefully can save you a couple bucks. Some of it’s day-one stuff, but things like hotel picks and transportation nuances are good to know either way.

Check it out:

psycho-las-vegas-2017-poster

Flying In
• Buy tickets on a Tuesday for the cheapest rates.
• Use a discount flight search.
• If you can, fly in on Thursday and leave on Monday for better rates, search different days and times to come in and leave.
• Book early. Rates go up in the summer.

Getting There
• Ride apps cost less than cabs.
• The Hard Rock is less than a mile from the airport. Cheap trip anyway.
• There are free shuttles from most Vegas hotels to the strip and tourist attractions.

Staying There
• This one is huge… don’t stay at the Hard Rock if you can’t afford it! Alexis Park, RUMOR, Red Roof Inn are all across the street and cheap. Scope out a position on a map if you need to; that’s what Street View is there for.
• Partner up to share rooms. You’ve got social media and it’s not like you’re going to do more than sleep and (hopefully) shower there anyway. Might as well join forces and save expense where you can.

Drinks
• BYO. Vegas has open-container laws. If you think hooch is too expensive at the Hard Rock, get loaded on the sidewalk before you go in.
• One way or another, hydrate. You’re staying in the desert in August. Don’t be stupid.

Psycho Las Vegas 2017 Lineup
Abbath, Ace Frehley, Black Anvil, Blood Ceremony, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Buzzov*en, Carcass, Celeste, Chelsea Wolfe, Cirith Ungol, Cloud Catcher, Code Orange, Conan, Corrosion of Conformity, Cough, Cult Leader, Cult Of Luna With Julie Christmas Diamond Head, Domkraft, Earthless, Elephant Tree, Eternal Tapestry, Fister, Floorian, Gatecreeper, GEQ, Gojira, Gost, Graf Orlock, Heavy Temple, Hollow Leg, Inter Arma, Khemmis, King Diamond, Laura Pleasants & Special Guests, Magma, Manilla Road, Merlin, Minsk, Morne, Mothership, Mouth of the Architect, Mulatu Astatke, Murder City Devils, Mustard Gas & Roses, Myrkur, Neurosis, North, Oathbreaker, Pelican, Pentagram, Psychic TV, The Rods, Ruby the Hatchet, Sasquatch, Saturndust, Sleep, Slo Burn, Slomatics, Snail, Sons of Otis, Sumac, Summoner, Swans, The Skull, Toke, Urchin, Usnea, Vhol, Weedeater, Windhand, Wizard Rifle, Wolves in the Throne Room, Yawning Man, Year of the Cobra, Youngblood Supercult, Zeal & Ardor.

http://www.vivapsycho.com
https://www.facebook.com/psychoLasVegas
https://www.instagram.com/psycholasvegas

Pentagram, “Relentless / Broken Vows” Live in Richmond, VA, 2017

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Psycho Las Vegas Completes Lineup: Ace Frehley, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Corrosion of Conformity, Sasquatch, Mothership, Ruby the Hatchet, Heavy Temple & Many More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The Psycho Las Vegas lineup wasn’t exactly lacking in ‘holy shit’-factor before, but, uh… holy shit. The poster below is so god damned packed it’s got me wondering if they’re going to sneak in an extra day to fit it all. Well, I guess they are if you count the pre-party — a fest unto itself with the additions of Ruby the HatchetSasquatch, ConanYawning Man and Great Electric Quest — but to see acts like EarthlessCorrosion of ConformityDiamondheadLaura Pleasants of KylesaMothershipSaturndust, Heavy TempleToke and so many others added to the bill for the fest proper, it borders on the overwhelming. Sons of OtisYear of the CobraEternal Tapestry? I take back that part about “borders on.” Shit’s giving me the vapors.

Swoon.

Blah blah blah tickets, blah blah blah on sale, blah blah blah how much you don’t need me to tell you this is probably the best heavy lineup the US has ever seen. Also Ace Frehley will be there.

Full lineup follows:

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS

Psycho Las Vegas 2017

-CONFIRMED LINEUP-
KING DIAMOND (USA 2017 Exclusive)
THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE
ACE FREHLEY
GOJIRA
SWANS
NEUROSIS
MAGMA
SLEEP
MELVINS
CARCASS
MURDER CITY DEVILS
CORROSION OF CONFORMITY
SLO BURN
DIAMONDHEAD
CIRITH UNGOL
ABBATH
CHELSEA WOLFE
CULT OF LUNA WITH JULIE CHRISTMAS
WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
MULATU ASATKE
PSYCHIC TV
EARTHLESS
SUMAC
MANILLA ROAD
CELESTE
WINDHAND
PELICAN
BLOOD CEREMONY
CODE ORANGE
WEEDEATER
MINSK
COUGH
VHOL
ZEAL & ARDOR
OATHBREAKER
MYRKUR
BUZZOV-EN
THE SKULL
INTER ARMA
SLOMATICS
GOST
YOUNG AND IN THE WAY
GATECREEPER
MOTHERSHIP
CULT LEADER
LAURA PLEASANTS & SPECIAL GUESTS
MOUTH OF THE ARCHITECT
SONS OF OTIS
SNAIL
MORNE
DOMKRAFT
KHEMMIS
ETERNAL TAPESTRY
JEX THOTH
FISTER
NORTH
WIZARD RIFLE
USNEA
ROYAL THUNDER
YOUNGBLOOD SUPERCULT
TOKE
SATURNDUST
HEAVY TEMPLE
SUMMONER
BLACK ANVIL
FLOORIAN
HOLLOW LEG
YEAR OF THE COBRA
MERLIN
ELEPHANT TREE
CLOUD CATCHER

PSYCHO PRE-PARTY:
PENTAGRAM
CONAN
YAWNING MAN
SASQUATCH
MUSTARD GAS & ROSES
GRAF ORLOCK
RUBY THE HATCHET
URCHIN
GREAT ELECTRIC QUEST

Psycho Las Vegas 2017 is set for Aug. 18-20 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV. Tickets are available at https://www.vivapsycho.com

http://www.vivapsycho.com
https://www.facebook.com/psychoLasVegas
https://www.instagram.com/psycholasvegas

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sons of Otis: LP Preorders Available for Songs for Worship Reissue

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I don’t know about you, but I’m about ready for some new Sons of Otis. Summer 2017 will make it five full years since their sixth album, Seismic (review here and here), came out via Small Stone, which by any measure is far too long to go without the Toronto trio’s megarolling, tone-crushing psychedelic stoner drift. Concrete Lo-Fi Records has stepped up to provide some means of relief for this by means of an LP revisit of their 2001 third offering, Songs for Worship, that’s available to preorder now ahead of a May release. At this point, I’m inclined to take what I can get.

Songs for Worship — the original version of which you can hear below because, unlike 1999’s Templeball, it’s on YouTube in its entirety; something I mention because I feel like I’ve had my eye out for months for somebody to upload that earlier record so I can close out a week with it — had the circumstantial misfortune of being released on Sept. 11, 2001. Not that they or their label, which was The Music Cartel, knew it at the time, but if you had to pick the worst release date of this century so far, that’s probably it. That bit of trivia aside, the album is easily worth the reissue, so pending any generation-defining terrorist attacks on May 1, keep an eye out.

For those not looking to take their chances, Concrete Lo-Fi have preorders available now. Info follows:

sons-of-otis-songs-for-worship

Sons Of Otis – Songs For Worship – Concrete Lo-Fi

SONS OF OTIS are pioneers of the lethargic heavy blues that fell from space in the early 90s. Along with Sleep in the US and Electric Wizard in the UK, Sons of Otis laid the foundation for a new stoned doom sound.

We are proud to present the Sons of Otis 2001 classic, Songs For Worship, on vinyl for the first time. Remastered with care by Golden Mastering and sequenced for vinyl by the artist.

Expected release May 1st. All editions include download card.

Sons of Otis is:
Ken Baluke – Guitars, Vocals
Frank Sargeant – Bass
Ryan Aubin – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/sonsofotis/
https://www.reverbnation.com/sonsofotis
http://clfrecords.com/
http://facebook.com/clfrecords

Sons of Otis, Songs for Worship (2001)

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday Full-Length: Sons of Otis, Spacejumbofudge

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 16th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Sons of Otis, Spacejumbofudge (1996)

What’s not to like about Sons of Otis? Putting on the Toronto trio’s 1996 debut LP, Spacejumbofudge, is like listening to Monster Magnet at half-speed — an engrossing murk of tone and gurgling heavy psychedelia that feels like it’s swallowing audience and universe alike. The core of the band’s sound has always been slow, lurching riffs and expansive fuzz, the bellowed vocals taking a back seat to the all-consuming low-end. Their nod is primal, and as Spacejumbofudge proves, that’s been the idea the whole time.

Man’s Ruin Records picked up the band for the 1999 release of their second album, Templeball, and did a reissue of Spacejumbofudge with Frank Kozik art and a partially revamped tracklist the next year. When that label folded, Sons of Otis issued their third album, Songs for Worship, via The Music Cartel on Sept. 11, 2001 — timing is everything — and were one of several acts to be picked up by Small Stone, in good company with Acid KingDozerNatas and (The Men of) Porn. Their fourth, X, followed in 2005, and 2009’s Exiled (review here) and 2012’s Seismic (review here) affirmed their reign among the most stoned of the stoners, guitarist Ken Baluke‘s branded Oxfuzz effects swirl making an impression wholly distinct from the rising tide of heaviness around them.

Some six albums earlier, it’s maybe not such a shocker that Spacejumbofudge is rawer than the likes of Seismic, but a lot of what would typify Sons of Otis‘ sound over the better part of the next two decades is right there on the first album, even if it’s not as jammed out. Baluke, bassist Frank Sargeant and drummer Ryan Aubin are reportedly no longer with Small Stone, but there’s nothing to necessarily indicate they’re done as a band. While it’s been three years already since Seismic was first issued, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find Sons of Otis rising again sooner or later with another massive wall of fuzz built up behind them. Here’s hoping, anyway.

Now, I don’t believe in fate or the tempting thereof, but last Friday, spiritually exhausted and physically injured, I had the gall to say this: “What happens next? What shitty misadventure awaits? I don’t know and I don’t really care.”

Once again, I don’t believe in tempting fate, but Friday evening I started getting reports that Ed Barnard of Doommantia had died, I put together a tribute to the guy and the reports turned out on Monday to be wrong — I’m glad he’s still alive, and I certainly felt like a jackass for saying otherwise — and in the interim, I got call Friday from my family in New Jersey that my 99-year-old grandmother was in the emergency room, in and out of lucidity and I should probably think of heading down.

It had been less than a week since I was last in New Jersey, and if you’re not from this part of the world, let me explain to you that it’s a minimum four-hour ride from where I live in Massachusetts. A not inconsiderable trip, despite the frequency with which I make it. I’m not 20 years old anymore. I get fucking tired. But it’s my grandmother who, again, is 99, so what am I going to do? Be like, “No, I’m beat and I can barely walk and I’m staying home?” Of course not.

Last Saturday morning, The Patient Mrs. and I hightailed it to Jersey, and I spent two nights at the hospital, Saturday and Sunday overnight, with about two hours of sleep between them while my grandmother, not recognizing me or my sister who also stayed, accused us of stealing from her and redoing her house — it was the hospital room — without her permission. It feels like a complete-enough review of the experience to say it sucked. Monday she went home and has been receiving in-home care since. The Patient Mrs. — who was brilliant and set up said in-home care and is wonderful and whom I’m so lucky to have in my life — and I were at her house, and grandma still didn’t know who I was. “Who do I have in my family that’s an editor and has a beard and hair like yours?” I could only point to myself.

What a shitter.

I slept as hard as I’ve ever slept in my adult life on Monday night, and Tuesday we came back to Massachusetts because The Patient Mrs. was — news to me as of the day before — flying to Austin, Texas, to visit a friend early on Wednesday. Probably better she didn’t tell me, to be honest, because it just would’ve been one more thing to worry about. In a welcome home fitting to my entire experience living in this area, I got a ticket en route to the airport in an empty (apart from the officer and I) speed-trap highway tunnel where the limit dropped to 35 miles an hour. Fucking perfect. I didn’t even answer the cop when he gave me the thing, just rolled up my window and proceeded on to terminal B. She comes back tomorrow, does The Patient Mrs., and I shit you not I haven’t left the house since I got back Wednesday afternoon except to get mail and take out and bring back in the recycling containers. I’m 33 years old. I’d blame the weather, which is shit forever, or the fact that I’m broke, but that’s not even it. I just don’t have anywhere to go. Unless, of course, you count New Jersey.

In Lord of the Rings, in one of the appendices it talks about how Arwen goes into the forest, I think at Cerin Amroth, and just sits there long enough that she becomes a tree. I feel like I’m about to become my couch. Like father, like son, but that’s a whole different story.

Not looking for sympathy on any of this, just trying to tell you what’s up and clear my head. A while ago I asked on Thee Facebooks about longer vs. shorter reviews and some guy said, “Sometimes I feel like I’m reading your diary. Less of that.” Ha.

Hey, seven posts today! Look at that. Have a great weekend. Smiley face.

Forum, Radio.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

Tags: , , , , , ,

Buried Treasure and the Tales of Massacoit

Posted in Buried Treasure on December 12th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

About two weeks ago, I visited the “Not Just” Rock Expo outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and while I found some pretty killer stuff there, one thing I didn’t pick up was the 2007 Concrete Lo-Fi Records split CD between Queen Elephantine and Sons of Otis. The dude wanted $20 for it and that was more money than I had left to spend. I was bummed out about leaving it behind, and all the more so since I couldn’t find a copy on the interwebs once I got back home and tried looking. Seemed like I was going to have to let it go, at least for the time being, and maybe keep an eye on eBay or Amazon or hope to randomly run into it at Armageddon Shop somewhere down the line.

Well, a couple days ago, Indy Shome from Queen Elephantine dropped a line and said he was sending a copy over. It showed up today and it’s been the perfect thing to get me through an overtired fuckoff of an afternoon. The split is comprised of three songs, two from Toronto stoner lords Sons of Otis and one from Queen Elephantine, totaling just under 44 minutes, and comes complete with Adrian Dexter artwork and vibe to spare. For Queen Elephantine, it’s one of their earlier releases, after they made their 2006 debut on a split with Elder, but before they released their first album, Surya, and for Sons of Otis, it arrived two years after their Small Stone debut, X, and two years before its follow-up, Exiled.

Sons of Otis go first, their “Tales of Otis” embarking on an eight-minute march that seems to slow time along with it. There’s little more to it than thud and vague riffing, but somehow it manages to be grooving anyway. There are no vocals on either of the Canadian band’s inclusions, and interestingly, both songs include drums, though only bassist Frank Sargent and guitarist Ken Baluke are listed as playing on it. Could be a loop, I guess. Both “Tales of Otis” and the subsequent “Oxazejam” are repetitive enough in their rhythms to have that be the case (and that’s not a knock on them), the latter also a slow-burning jam that keeps the smoked-out feel of “Tales of Otis” going as Baluke‘s guitar seems to sort of wisp into and out of lead progressions. They’ve always excelled that that kind of ultra-chilled semi-consciousness, and in the six years since this release, that hasn’t changed at all.

Unless I’m mistaken, Shome, who handles guitar and vocals in Queen Elephantine and is the only remaining member from this incarnation — the band having since parted ways with bassist Daniel Quinn, drummer Michael Isley and percussionist J. Alexander Buck — was based in New York at the time this split was issued. He gets around, be it to Providence, Rhode Island, or Hong Kong. In any case, the band’s 26-minute exploration “The Battle of Masscoit (The Weapon of the King of Gods)” is a fitting precursor to the types of jammed-out contemplative psychedelic experiments Shome has been leading even up to this year’s Scarab (review here), albeit somewhat less expansive in the sonic ingredients used and the overall atmosphere. The will to drone is there, however, and it serves Queen Elephantine well as the piece unfolds, molten and held together somewhat by the drums but by no means beholden to them.

Because the idea entertains me, I’ll use the phrase “ambient as fuck,” but let the point be that Sons of Otis and Queen Elephantine worked remarkably well side-by-side on this release, and both give ample opportunity to let your mind wander in their psychedelic and engrossing haze. I’m glad I got to hear it on disc, and I’ll look forward to future sonic escapes like the one it provided me today. Sometimes you just gotta check out for a while. May I suggest:

Queen Elephantine, “The Battle of Massacoit (The Weapon of the King of Gods)”

Sons of Otis on Thee Facebooks

Queen Elephantine on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , , ,

On Wax: Sons of Otis, Seismic

Posted in On Wax on November 8th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

For cosmic sonic destruction, accept no substitutes. Now with over 20 years under their collective stonerly belt, Toronto’s Sons of Otis are a band like none other in tone and in ethic. You’re not going to get a new album out of them every year, but when a platter from the trio does arrive, you know it for the fact that the earth itself seems to be breathing and your hand leaves trails when you wave it in front of your face. The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ken “Ox” Baluke, bassist Frank Sargeant and drummer Ryan Aubin signed to Small Stone in time to release 2005’s X after bouncing from Man’s Ruin to The Music Cartel, and followed X with Exiled in 2009. Their latest outing, Seismic (review here), was released last year.

It’s the unfuckwithable tonality and burnout lurch of the latter that arrives on my turntable this afternoon. Pressed in three colors — 150 black, 175 purple swirl, 175 lime green swirl — with matte finish on the Alexander von Wieding cover art, the LP is a bastard of low end. Baluke and Sargeant have never compromised on their dense wall of fuzz and Seismic is no exception. As Baluke echo-gurgles “Here I go again” at the beginning of opener “Far from Fine,” it’s easy to imagine he’s talking about blowing out the tubes of his amp as much as whatever foible the lyrics might go on to describe. At 50 minutes, Sons of Otis push the limits of the format, but with the side split after “Guilt,” side B of Seismic makes for an especially spaced-out hypnosis, starting with the nine-minute swirl of “PK,” with its layers of wah and echo and Aubin‘s steady march forward leading to the Mountain cover “Never in My Life” and another eight-plus minutes of aptly named “Cosmic Jam.”

This stands somewhat in contrast to the bluesier and more song-based side A, which has its vibe cast in resin by “Far from Fine” and the complementary “Lessons,” with “Alone” and “Guilt” also making significant statements of riff and zoneout. That divide and semi-split personality for Seismic was something that only came to mind in the abstract on CD, but with the vinyl, it genuinely seems to have been an intentional decision on the part of the band. I don’t know if they knew Seismic would get an LP release or if they just wanted to give a sense of sides anyway, but it works well leading to the meandering closing jam on Funkadelic‘s “Mommy What’s a Funkadelic?” guitar progression, which Sargeant holds down on bass with Aubin while Baluke goes on an effects freakout that is many things, among them pretty funky. All the more so upon its return from the titular cosmos at the album’s finale.

It was and still is pretty easy to get lost in the CD version of Seismic — I’d list that among the album’s assets — but even the simple act of having to flip the record makes it a different level of listening experience, and with the inherent perceivable warmth of vinyl to go with the deep fuzz Sons of Otis emit, it’s that much warmer. I’ll admit, I was a little surprised when the low end didn’t vibrate my turntable into oblivion, or at very least bounce the needle around, but the fact that it didn’t only makes it easier to turn back to side A and go again. Fuzz on.

Sons of Otis, Seismic (2012)

Sons of Otis on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone on Bandcamp

Small Stone Records

Tags: , , , , , ,

Myelin Constellation Digital Comp to Fight MS Available Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 11th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Originally announced at the beginning of September, the first volume of the Myelin Constellation MS benefit comp has been released. You can see below all the artists who took place in the thing with previously unreleased material, but seriously, it’s the $6 price tag that should be catching your eye. To shell out so little cash, have it go to a good cause — because, really, fuck MS — and get 20 tracks from killer bands, including Sleestak, whose own Matt Schmitz put the whole thing together can’t be seen as anything but a bigtime win if you’ve got ears and six dollars to your name.

Schmitz sent the following down the PR wire:

Myelin Constellation Vol. 1 is released!

I’m just gonna make this quick because I’ve been fairly busy with a handful of different things.

Myelin Constellation Volume 1 is out now (actually released October 1st but only got around to doing an email for it now). Please go to http://mconstellation.bandcamp.com/ to download your copy. 20 bands, $6 or more if you can. Every bit helps us out over here and I appreciate everyone who has downloaded it so far! Thank you! Bands that appear in this first edition include:

Northless
Sons Of Otis
Gates Of Slumber
Backwoods Payback
Coltsblood
Wo Fat
Stone Magnum
Apostle Of Solitude
Sons Of Alpha Centauri
Sleestak
Black Capricorn
At Devil Dirt
Confused Little Girl
Abrahma
Narcotic Luxuria
Asatta
Headless Kross
Myopic Empire
Switchblade Jesus
Albatwitch

Make sure to read the liner notes on the Bandcamp page please! Visit our Facebook page at http://facebook.com/mconstellation and stay tuned for news regarding Volume 2. As always we are constantly accepting submissions from bands who have live, unreleased, alternate version, remixed, demo, rare, or just plain brand spankin’ new songs in their archives and want to be a part of this benefit comp for Multiple Sclerosis.

Thanks to all the bands who have helped, all the blogs, radio stations, and individuals that have helped with promoting this project!

-Matt

http://mconstellation.bandcamp.com/

Various Artists, Myelin Constellation (2013)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sons of Otis, Seismic: Spacequake.

Posted in Reviews on July 20th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

The thing about listening to Sons of Otis is that, if you’ve ever heard them before, you probably know what’s coming. The Toronto tone merchants have trafficked in densely crushing psychedelia since before the release of their first album, Spacejumbofudge, in 1996, and despite lineup tumult, extended breaks between records, and one retirement from live performances, Sons of Otis have remained largely loyal to their aesthetic over the course of their six full-lengths, the latest of which is the aptly-titled Seismic, on Small Stone. If there’s a more fitting descriptor of guitarist/vocalist Ken Baluke’s fuzz, it would almost certainly have to involve the cosmos – “space-tectonic,” perhaps, but that’s not quite as catchy an album name. In any case, the sound of the 51-minute/seven-track outing makes a fitting inspiration for the title Seismic, and while, again, that’s nothing new for Sons of Otis, they do seem to have coalesced and refined their sound somewhat, even from 2009’s Exiled (review here). Exiled had a lot in common with the sprawling, lurching riffage that songs like “Alone” and “PK” present on Seismic, but there’s a more prevalent blues edge in Sons of Otis circa 2012 that comes across in the first two tracks here, “Far from Fine” and “Lessons,” which both follow a smoked-out course of dirt-covered regret and self-loathing. “Far from Fine” launches with a buildup of amp noise and the exasperated lines “Here I go again/Nothing’s gonna change,” in Baluke’s familiar echoing gurgle, while “Lessons” finds him repeatedly asking, “When will I learn?” over a descending bassline from Frank Sargeant.

That addled sensibility isn’t necessarily new ground for Sons of Otis – one recalls songs like “Losin’ It” from 2001’s Songs for Worship or “Nothing” from 1999’s Templeball – but what the band does better on Seismic is balance that head-down sorrowfulness with hazy jamming and weighted psychedelics. Also the shortest apart from the Mountain cover “Never in My Life” on the album’s second half, “Far from Fine” and “Lessons” are the two shortest and more straightforward songs on Seismic, and they’re well placed at the front. By the time the noise-infused eight minutes of “Alone” kick in – drummer Ryan Aubin thundering the song’s beginning with what I can only assume are toms wide enough to drive a truck through – it marks a change of mood almost in spite of itself, and “Alone” follows suit. It’s slower than “Far from Fine” and more droning on its riff. There’s still a stoned sense of hopelessness to it, as there is to everything Sons of Otis puts out, but where Exiled was murky as regards its purposes, Seismic seems to be more – dare I say it? – clearheaded about what it wants to accomplish. I don’t think it would be fair to paint the picture of Baluke, Sargeant and Aubin as being suddenly mature as artists – Sons of Otis have never seemed particularly unclear about what they want to be sound-wise, but their presentation of the album is nowhere near as mud-soaked as their rumble seems to be. The first two tracks cross that line that Bongzilla did on Amerijuanican between riffy sludge and abrasive blues, and “Alone” follows with noisy psychedelic expansion of those ideas, culminating in a cymbal wash and amp freakout that serves as a firm reminder that it’s more than a little bit about pain.

“Guilt” is a minute shorter than “Alone,” but no less lysergic, creeping along its low-end dominance. To go by titles only, “Far from Fine,” “Lessons,” “Alone,” and “Guilt” might be enough to make one think Seismic follows a messy divorce (from what I hear, they’re all messy, but we say it anyway), but that’s pure conjecture. In any case, the downer spirit is maintained, and with “Guilt,” Sons of Otis force the realization of just how long they’ve been at this and how many have followed since trying to capture a similar tonal feel. Templeball was out by the time Ufomammut released their first record, and Sons of Otis have managed to develop their sound without letting go of their creative impetus. “Guilt,” as the end of the first half of the album, presents a wash of Echoplex swirl toward its finish, but though its guitar and bass tones are always central, it’s Aubin who really delivers the standout performance. Like everything else on Seismic, he sounds huge and in headphones, utterly encompassing, which is rare for drums. But even they seem to be tuned down, and each resultant thud is, well, I think you can guess the word to use.

Read more »

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,