Review & Video Premiere: Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on January 15th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

yuri gagarin the outskirts of reality

[Click play above to see the premiere of Yuri Gagarin’s new video for ‘QSO.’ The Outskirts of Reality is out Jan. 31 on Kommun 2 and Sound Effect Records.]

One tends to think of the motorik beat and the notion of the kosmiche in terms of kraut- and progressive space rock as being ideas drawing from influences half a century ago, but Yuri Gagarin readily demonstrate that it doesn’t have to be so. The Gothenburg-based troupe realize a modernist vision of krautrocketing hypnosis on their third long-player, The Outskirts of Reality, and drill to the molten core of a planetoid all their own with an approach that, far from reckless, approaches grandeur as though wielding a cosmic hammer, ready to smash the last vestiges of the reality in its title to shards floating in the sonic ether. Instrumental and running over a stretch of 44 minutes that begins with the ultra-fueled 10-minute blaster “QSO” and follows immediately with the 13-minute dimension-bending immersion of “Oneironaut,” resulting in a side A that seeks to pummel brain cells through the subspace barrier, never to be seen or heard from again. But the important thing to remember amid all this we’re-all-star-stuff-so-let’s-start-acting-like-it aural going-boldly is that Yuri Gagarin, in following up late-2015’s sophomore LP, At the Center of All Infinity — which was also recorded with Linus Andersson — is that Yuri Gagarin manage to pull together this sound of such a vast range and atmospheric willfulness without simply repeating the past. The Outskirts of Reality isn’t classic space rock. At least not yet. It’s forward thinking. It’s urgent and it’s energetic and it’s not just about who plays to what time or what stylistic rules are being followed. It’s about rewriting those rules to suit its own purposes.

And what are those purposes? What is it that Yuri Gagarin seek there in the outskirts? If the synth-laden closing title-track — which follows the delightfully airy “Crystal Dunes” and the even-more-experimentalist “Laboratory 1” on side B — has secrets to unveil, it’s doing so in the wash of guitar and keyboard creating melodic instrumentalist surges setting themselves to convey a feeling of “The Outskirts of Reality” as a point of arrival rather than a place of departure. That is, if we’re buying into the cliché of the album as a journey — and hell yes, we most certainly are — then ‘the outskirts’ is clearly the place we’re headed. The positioning of the title-track last speaks to this, as does the progression of the song itself, which one might think of as answering the liftoff-ignition-blast of “QSO” with a last, consuming wash of noise. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I don’t think so, because while Yuri Gagarin are jamming here in the sense of following instrumental paths of their songs to the places they might naturally lead — linear builds, ebbs and flows, and so on — the dynamic the Swedish outfit bring to space rock has so much intentionality behind it that to give anything less than full consideration to its complexity feels half-assed. Even as the push-push-push of “QSO” departs and the song’s last two minutes or so are given to a stretch of quiet guitar fade that lead directly into “Oneironaut,” there’s a plan at work, if not a direct narrative. This isn’t just about self-indulgence or a showcase of effects wash. There’s more to it.

yuri gagarin the outskirts of reality

Certainly Yuri Gagarin are aware of space rock’s past glories. Almost 50 years later, Hawkwind looms over the entire genre as much as ever, but there’s a significant difference between being aware of something and beholden to it and it seems to be the latter where the band draw the line. It isn’t just a question of having modern production or a sleek gatefold by Påhl Sundström — though neither hurts in terms of presentation — but about the forward push in the material itself. To wit, the winding guitar of “Crystal Dunes” and how that song touches on Middle Easternism or Mediterranean folk without fully abandoning the overarching outward thrust of The Outskirts of Reality‘s entirety, instead bringing those elements into the context of the song and the record as it moves ahead toward the track’s emergent wash and eventual dissolution around a final resonant hum and strum. That this happens en route to the time-warp manipulations of “Laboratory 1” likewise isn’t a coincidence. Aside from being a fit in terms of runtime, the otherwise-interlude is a readjustment of mentality that sets up and reinforces the spirit of arrival at “The Outskirts of Reality” itself. And while the title-track doesn’t hit 13 minutes like “Oneironaut” or even the 10 of “QSO” back on side A, it doesn’t need to.

Rather, the point comes across in the encompassing effects and keys and the scorching guitar soloing, as undulations and surges of melodies take hold and recede and return in nigh-on-maddening fashion. They’re five minutes in before you realize what’s happened, and by then, you couldn’t get out if you wanted to. The shift to the final progression is subtle, but there, and soon Yuri Gagarin are engulfed in a last wash of noise that takes hold despite the ongoing and adjoining loops. If you’re wondering who wins, the answer is noise. Noise wins. The band doesn’t so much deconstruct the piece as let it drift off into the crushing vacuum, and as harsh as the noise is, it fades out in surprisingly gentle fashion. Perhaps there’s room for sentiment in the cosmos after all. One way or the other, Yuri Gagarin‘s The Outskirts of Reality portrays space rock as a reinvigorated aesthetic in such a way as to make it exciting not just to established fans of the style, but those who might be taking it on for the first time. It’s a rare sense of outreach in terms of audience-building, and thus something of a gamble on the part of the band, but in terms of world-building and making its own impression, it is likewise resonant and organic: An ultrasonic blowout for all tomorrow’s todays. Sometimes with records that see envelopes as things to push there is purist backlash as a result, and maybe Yuri Gagarin are at least potentially exposing themselves to that, but there’s much work being done on The Outskirts of Reality to open the minds of those who take it on, and those willing to meet the band on their level will find doing so all the more rewarding.

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Kommun 2 Records website

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Quarterly Review: Mos Generator, Psychic Lemon, Planet of Zeus, Brass Hearse, Mother Turtle, The Legendary Flower Punk, Slow, OKO, Vug, Ultracombo

Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’d like to hope y’all know the drill by now. It’s the Quarterly Review. We do it (roughly) every quarter. The idea is 10 reviews per day for a Monday to Friday span, running 50 total. I sometimes do more. Sometimes not. Kind of depends on the barrage and how poorly I’ve been doing in general with keeping up on stuff. This time is ‘just’ 50, so there you go. You’ll see some bigger names this week and some stuff that’s come my way of late that I’ve been digging and wanting to check out. It’s a lot of rock, which I like, and a few things I’m writing about basically as a favor to myself because, you know, self-care and all that.

But staring down the barrel of 50 reviews over the next few days has me as apprehensive and how-the-hell-is-this-gonna-happen as ever, so I think I’ll just get to it and jump in. No time to waste.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Mos Generator, Exiles

mos generator exiles

Worth it just for the Sabbath cover? Most definitely. As Mos Generator take on “Air Dance” from Never Say Die as part of the Glory or Death Records LP compilation release, Exiles, they blend the proggy swagger of later-’70s Iommi leads with the baseline acoustic guitar fluidity that makes those final Ozzy-era records so appealing in hindsight. It’s just one of the six reasons to take on Exiles however. The A side comprises three outtakes from 2018’s Shadowlands (review here), and guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed‘s Big Scenic Nowhere bandmate Bob Balch sits in on “Battah,” while a duly manic reworking of Van Halen‘s “Light up the Sky,” the Black Sabbath track and a live version of Rush‘s “Anthem” from 2016 make up side B. It’s a quick listen and it’s Mos Generator. It may be a stopgap on the way to whatever they’re doing next, but if you think about it, so is everything, and that’s no reason not to jump in either for the covers or the originals, both of which are up to the band’s own high standard of output.

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Glory or Death Records on Bandcamp

 

Psychic Lemon, Freak Mammal

psychic lemon freak mammal

The distorted wails of Andy Briston‘s guitar echo out of Freak Mammal — the five-track/46-minute third LP from London’s Psychic Lemon — like a clarion to the lysergic converted. A call to prayer for those worshiping the nebulous void, not so much kept to earth by Andy Hibberd‘s bass and Martin Law‘s drums as given a solidified course toward the infinite far out. Of course centerpiece “Afrotropic Bomb” digs into some Ethiopian groove — that particular shuffling mania — and I won’t take away from the lower buzz of “Free Electron Collective” or the tense hi-hat cutting through all that tonal wash or the ultra-spaced blowout that caps six-minute finale “White Light,” but give me the self-aware mellower jaunt that is the 13-minute second track “Seeds of Tranquility” any day, following opener “Dark Matter” as it does with what would be a blissful drift but for the exciting rhythmic work taking place beneath the peaceful guitar, and the later synthesized voices providing a choral melody that seems all the more playfully grandiose, befitting the notion of Freak Mammal as a ceremony or at very least some kind of lost ritual. Someday they’ll dig up the right pyramid and call the aliens back. Until then, Psychic Lemon let us imagine what might happen after they return.

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Drone Rock Records website

 

Planet of Zeus, Faith in Physics

PLANET OF ZEUS FAITH IN PHYSICS

There’s a context of social commentary to Planet of ZeusFaith in Physics that makes one wonder if perhaps the title doesn’t refer to gravity in terms of what-goes-up-must-come-down as it might apply to class hierarchy. The mighty, ready to fall, and so on. Songs like the post-Clutch fuzz roller “Man vs. God” and “Revolution Cookbook” (video premiere here) would seem to support that idea, but one way or the other, as the later “Let Them Burn” digs into a hook that reminds of Killing Joke and the dense bass of eight-minute closer “King of the Circus” provides due atmospheric madness for our times, there’s a sense of grander statement happening across the album. The Athens-based outfit make a centerpiece of the starts and stops in “All These Happy People” and remind that whatever the message, the medium remains top quality heavy rock and roll songcraft, which is something they’ve become all the more reliable to deliver. The more pointed perspective than they showed on 2016’s Loyal to the Pack suits them, but it’s the nuance of electronics and arrangements of vocals and guitar on cuts like “The Great Liar” that carry them through here. If you believe in gravity, Planet of Zeus have plenty on offer.

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Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Brass Hearse, Oneiric Afterlife

brass hearse oneiric afterlife

Experimentalist keyboard-laced psychedelic goth your thing? Well, of course it is. You’re in luck then as Brass Hearse — an offshoot of once madly prolific Boston outfit Ice Dragon — unveil three new songs (plus an intro) with the Oneiric Afterlife and in 10 minutes work to unravel about 30 years of genre convention while still tying their material to memorable hooks. “Bleed Neon,” “Indigo Dust” and “Only Forever” seem simple on the surface, and none of them touch four minutes long, let alone “A Gesture to Make a Stop,” the 26-second introduction, but their refusal of stylistic constraint is as palpable as it is admirable, with a blend of folk guitar and dark-dance-party keys and percussive insistence on “Bleed Neon” and a ’60s Halloweeny rock organ line in “Only Forever” that’s complemented by low-end fuzz and a chorus that would rightly embarrass Ghost if they heard it. In comparison, “Indigo Dust” is serene in its presentation, but even there is a depth of arrangement of keys, guitar, bass and drums, and the skill tying it all together as a cohesive sound is not to be understated. A quick listen with a lot to unpack, it’s not going to be everyone’s thing, but those who get it will be hit hard and rightly so.

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Brass Hearse on Bandcamp

 

Mother Turtle, Three Sides to Every Story

mother turtle three sides to every story

The first of three tracks on Greek progwinders Mother Turtle‘s fourth LP, Three Sides to Every Story, “Zigu Zigu,” would seem to cap with a message of congratulations: “You’ve listened to three musicians indulging themselves with some kind of weird instrumental music.” It then goes on to question its own instrumentalism, because it has the words presently being spoken, continuing in this manner until a long fadeout of guitar leads to the funky start of the 15-minute-long “Notwatch.” Good fun, in other words. Mother Turtle maybe aren’t so weird as they think they are, but they are duly adventurous and obviously joyful in their undertaking, bringing chants in over drifting guitar and synth swirl in “Notwatch” before building to a crescendo of rock guitar and organ, ultimately dominated by a solo as it would almost have to be, before intertwining piano lines in 16:46 closer “A Christmas Postcard from Kim” lead to further shenanigans, vocal experimentation, plays on metal, holiday shimmer, and a fade into the close. At 38 minutes, Three Sides to Every Story doesn’t at all overstay its welcome, but neither is it an exercise looking for audience engagement in the traditional sense. Rather, it resonates its glee through its offbeat sensibility and thus works on its own level to craft a hook. One can’t help but smile while listening to the fun being had.

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Sound Effect Records website

 

The Legendary Flower Punk, Wabi Wu

The Legendary Flower Punk Wabi Wu

It is something to consider, perhaps as you dive into the nine-minute “Prince Mojito” on The Legendary Flower Punk‘s Wabi Wu, that the band started as a psych-folk solo-project. Currently working as a core trio plus a range of guests, the Russian troupe make their debut on Tonzonen with the brazenly prog seven-tracker, totaling just a 44-minute run but with a range that would seem to be much broader. Alternately jazzy and synth-laden, technically intricate but never overly showy, pieces like the bass-led “Azulejo” and the penultimate “Trance Fusion På Ryska” present a meeting of the minds with founding guitarist Kamille Sharapodinov at the center of most compositions, he and bassist Mike Lopakov and drummer Nick Kunavin digging into nothing’s-off-limits textures from fusion onward through New Wave and dub. The abiding rule followed seems to be whatever moves the band about a given track is what they roll with, and though The Legendary Flower Punk has evolved well beyond its origins, there’s still a bit of flower and still a bit of punk amid all the legends being made. Good luck keeping up with it.

The Legendary Flower Punk on Bandcamp

Tonzonen Records website

 

Slow, VI – Dantalion

Slow VI Dantalion

With the follow-up to 2018’s V – Oceans (review here), Belgian duo Slow rattle off another 78 minutes of utterly consuming, crushing, atmospheric and melancholic funeral doom like it’s absolutely nothing. Well, not like it’s nothing — more like it’s a weight on their very soul — but even so. Issued through Aural Music, VI – Dantlion brings the two-piece of guitarist/vocalist/drummer Déhà and bassist/lyricist Lore B. once again into the grueling, megalithic churn of self-inflicted riff-punishment that’s so encompassing, so dark, so deep and so dramatic it almost can’t help but also be beautiful. To wit, second track “Lueur” is a 17-minute downward journey into ambient brutalism, yet as it moves toward the midsection one can still hear melodic elements of keyboard and orchestral sounds peaking through. There is letup in the lush finale “Elégie,” but to get there, you have to make your way through “Incendiaire,” which is possibly the most extreme movement of the seven inclusions. Though frankly, after a while, you’re buried so far down by Slow‘s glorious miseries that it’s hard to tell. The world needs this band. They are what humanity would sound like if it was ever honest with itself.

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Aural Music on Bandcamp

 

OKO, Haze

oko haze

Adelaide, Australia, newcomers OKO present their debut EP in the form of Haze, a 14:44 single-song outing that sees the instrumental three-piece of guitarist Nick Nancarrow, bassist Tyson Ruch and drummer Ash Matthews tap into organic heavy psych vibes while working cross-planet with Justin Pizzoferrato (known for his work with Elder, among others) on the mix and master. The resulting one-tracker has a clarity in its drum sound and clean feel that one suspects might speak of more progressive intentions on the part of OKO in the longer term, but as they are here they have a sense of tonal warmth that serves them well across the unpretentious span of “Haze” itself, the winding riff inevitably bringing to mind some of Colour Haze‘s jammier work but still managing to find its own direction. I hear no reason OKO can’t do the same, regardless of the influences they’re working under in terms of sound. Further, the longform modus suits them, and while future work will inherently develop some variety in general approach, the natural exploration they undertake on this first outing easily holds attention for its span and is fluid enough that, had they wanted, they could have pushed it further.

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OKO website

 

Vug, Onyx

vug onyx

Vug are not the first European heavy rock band to blend vintage methods with modern production. They’re not the first band to take classic swagger and drum urgency and meld it with a pervasive sense of vocal soul. I’m not sure I’d tell them that though, because frankly, they’re doing pretty well with it. At its strongest, their Tonzonen-released sophomore outing, Onyx, recalls Thin Lizzy via, yes, Graveyard, but there’s enough clarity of intention behind the work to make it plain they know where they’re coming from. Such was the case as well with their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and though they’ve had some lineup turnover since that first offering, the self-produced four-piece bring a character to their material on songs like “Tired Of” and the penultimate boogier “Inferno” before closing with the acoustic “Todbringer” — a mirror of side A’s “On My Own” — that they carry the classic-style 39-minute long-player off without a hitch, seeming to prep the heavy ’10s for a journey into a new decade.

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Noisolution webstore

 

Ultracombo, Season 1

Ultracombo Season 1

As the title hints, the Season 1 EP is the debut from Italy’s Ultracombo, and with it, the five-piece of vocalist Alessio Guarda, guitarists Alberto Biasin and Giordano Tasson, bassist Giordano Pajarin and drummer Flavio Gola work quickly to build the forward momentum that brings them front-to-back through the 23-minute five-track release. “Flusso” and opener “The King” feel particularly drawn from an earlier Truckfighters influence, but Guarda‘s vocals are a distinguishing factor amidst all that ensuing fuzz and straight-ahead drive, and in “Sparatutto” and the closer “Il Momento in Cui Non Penso,” they seem to strip their approach to its most basic aspects and bring together the tonal thickness and melodicism that’s been at root in their sound overall. The subtlety, such as it is, is to be found in their songwriting, which results in tracks that transcend language barriers through sheer catchiness. That bodes better for them on subsequent outings better than a wall o’ fuzz ever could, though of course that doesn’t hurt them either, especially their first time out.

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Yuri Gagarin to Release The Outskirts of Reality Jan. 31; Preorders up This Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Blastoff is pretty immediate in the teaser for Swedish space rock demons Yuri Gagarin‘s new album, The Outskirts of Reality, which is due out Jan. 31 through Sound Effect Records in Greece and Kommun 2 in Sweden itself. Some teasers, they give you a minute of a single song, or maybe even less than that. Some have 30 seconds of ambient nothing and kind of leave you feeling like a sucker for hoping for some substance. Yuri Gagarin, on the other hand, present nearly five minutes of an album that as far as I’m concerned can go on as long as it likes given what I’m hearing so far.

The Outskirts of Reality will comprise five tracks — one fewer than its predecessor, 2015’s At the Center of All Infinity — and I don’t hear a bummer note at all in the teaser as it gives a sampling of each of those pieces. I’m assuming “Laboratory 1” is the drone-sounding piece, if only because its title sounds like something a band might call an experimental track like that, but otherwise, Yuri Gagarin sound like they’ve got their intermix chamber aligned to the proper matter/antimatter ratios and are ready to punch it to warp seven the second they leave drydock. You got a list of albums you’re looking forward to in 2020? I do. Yuri Gagarin are on it.

Info about the record is pretty minimal at this point, apart from the tracklisting, the audio in the teaser, and the righteous gatefold cover art by Påhl Sundström — so not nothing, I guess — but I’d keep an eye out for perhaps more details to come later this week as they launch preorders on Dec. 13. If I was gonna, say, put out a whole track and the full album details to follow-up the teaser, that’d probably be the day to do it. Not trying to tell anyone to run their publicity campaign or anything.

Here’s what’s out there so far:

yuri gagarin the outskirts of reality

Yuri Gagarin – The Outskirts of Reality

Here’s a teaser for our new full length album: The Outskirts Of Reality. The artwork is made by Swedish artist Påhl Sundström.

It will be available on LP and CD on Kommun 2 Records and Sound-Effect Records January 31.

Pre-sales will be available December 13. More info coming soon.

Tracks:
QSO
Oneironaut
Crystal Dunes
Laboratory 1
The Outskirts Of Reality

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https://www.soundeffect-records.gr/

Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality album teaser

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Comacozer, Mydriasis: Your Outer Limits Tourism Guide

Posted in Reviews on September 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

comacozer mydriasis

Already in 2019, Sydney’s Comacozer have shared stages across Australia and/or toured with Wo Fat, 1000mods, Naxatras and Oz’s own Mt. Mountain, among others, so while they haven’t necessarily traveled far and wide, their reach is nothing if not considerable. Last year, the instrumentalist psych three-piece of guitarist Rick Burke, bassist Rich Elliott and drummer Andrew Panagopoulos added a fourth in synthesist/keyboardist James “Jabs” Heyligers, and the three-song limit-stretched that is Mydriasis is their first offering since. Their fourth record overall, it follows the vinyl-minded outfit’s impressively expansive 2017 LP, Kalos Eidos Skopeo (review here), 2016’s Astra Planeta (review here) and their 2015 EP compilation, Deloun Sessions, as well as various other odds and ends, and pushes further into cosmic depths, self-recorded with Dan Frizza as a co-mixer and engineer and issued through HeadSpin Records (LP) and Sound Effect Records (CD).

It is comprised of only three tracks and runs 45 minutes, and works in longform explorations of sonic psychedelic ideology. Resonant tones and weighted groove play out in patient fashion across “Mydriasis” (13:11), “Tryptamine” (11:30) and “Kykeneon Journey” (20:51), and Comacozer balance a will to hypnotize their listener against progressions that are immersive but still forward enough to justify active attention. Setting up an overarching flow has never been a problem going back to 2014’s Sessions demo, but the ethereal vibe of Mydriasis is a thing to behold, and it’s easy to argue it stands as Comacozer‘s broadest stretch of space-infused soundscapes to-date.

No doubt the inclusion of Heyligers in the proceedings is a factor in that — how could it not be? — but the change goes beyond simply what’s being played as well and plays a role in the larger conversation happening between BurkeElliott and Panagopoulos as well. It can be heard in the patience with which the songs are brought to bear across Mydriasis, the way Comacozer allows parts to breathe and seemingly find their own way, not necessarily on improvisational terms, but with a natural path that’s never any further out in its wanderings than the band wants it to be. From the initial kick of the drums in the opening title-track, there’s a sense of movement maintained across the album, but a spacious sensibility that’s always been there in Comacozer‘s sound is all the more enhanced by the breadth that Heyligers brings to it.

Rest assured, there’s heft, nod and effects galore, but more than ever, their work seems to be about the journey into and through the fuzz that swallows “Mydriasis” at its midpoint rather than simply being in that place. That is, such outwardly heavy stretches are part of the story rather than the story itself. The guitar rings out with a gloriously triumphant lead over steady-rolling drums and bass and drones, and a molten heavy psych vibe meets with a classic blues jam feel, neither side compromising what it does — or needing to — in order to fit alongside the other. Again, this is as exciting as it is hypnotic, and while it’s easy and enjoyable to lost oneself in the spaces Comacozer craft on their fourth LP, conscious engagement pays further dividends in satisfying slow-motion freakery and dizzying stretch. You dig? You could.

comacozer

It’s “Mydriasis” and “Tryiptamine” on side A, and the opener finishes with a long fade of resonant drone and synth swirl as “Tryptamine” soon answers back with a gradual, sample-topped entry and further use of synth at the outset for a beginning that reminds a bit of earlier YOB in its cosmic spread, but is ultimately directed someplace jammier, charting a gorgeously executed linear path into a payoff that happens late but is brought to bear with marked grace and, again, not at all contrived sounding, despite being a familiar structure at play. Echoplex-style noise backs the increasingly intense drums as bass fills out behind the guitar, and it’s not until shortly before nine minutes in that the full brunt of the tonality is brought to bear.

One has visions of time travel, of things that move fast but on such a scale that they seem to be slow, of selves looking at other selves in real space. I’d say it’s not for the faint of heart were it not so god damned gentle about it, Captain. Comacozer‘s finest hour is and should inherently be “Kykeneon Journey,” with its unmatched sprawl and righteous use of effects, etc., but even the shortest cut on Mydriasis leaves a significant impression as well as an impression of significance. Noise brings that track to its end as well and transitions easily into the start of “Kykeneon Journey.”

There’s a side flip in between, of course, but let’s for a moment pretend we’re not all sitting in smoking jackets listening to vinyl on vintage players and instead listening to music as part of real lives that involve things like headphones and laptops. In that more linear regard, “Kykeneon Journey” is a powerful moment of arrival for Mydriasis as well as for Comacozer more generally. The song seems to work in at least three stages and the last of them, as it would be, is the crescendo of song and album alike. It kicks in at 14:24 and carries through languidly and with airy soloing overtop, growing more intense as it moves past the 19-minute mark and crashing out just before 20:10 to dedicate the remaining 40 seconds or so to a residual wash of noise and drone that finishes on a more gentle fade.

It is encompassing in a way that Comacozer have been moving toward being throughout the last half-decade and, if they were indeed headed in that direction, would be a fair predecessor for a single-song album. That is, if the Sydney foursome continued to expand in ideas and runtimes, I wouldn’t be surprised. As it stands, their first release with this lineup seems to remove conceptual restraints and let them feel their way forward in a manner that’s exciting for the listener as well, no doubt, as it is for them. Wherever they may end up over the longer term of course will remain to be seen, but it’s becoming increasingly clear they’re onto something special.

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HeadSpin Records website

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Oblivion Reptilian, Fried on Rock: Into Isotropic

Posted in Reviews on August 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Oblivion Reptilian Fried on Rock

Sometimes an experiment works. Last year, Sydney, Australia’s Comacozer and UK spacefarers Blown Out released a split LP with one song from the former and three from the latter on Riot Season Records. Much acid-soaked chicanery was had. It is from out of that stellar nursery that Oblivion Reptilian, as a concept, comes, bringing together Comacozer drummer Andrew Panagopoulos and Blown Out guitarist Mike Vest (also of Bong, etc.). Together, the two very-very-far-apart players present the instrumentalist Fried on Rock through Sound Effect Records, with Vest handling bass as well as guitar and collaborating with Panagopoulos across a distance vast enough to be genuinely planetary. No challenge, right? A Dropboxed riff here, some drum backbeat there, done. Easy. On some level that’s probably true, but what that fails to capture as regards Oblivion Reptilian in particular is the live and improvisational feel of the five tracks on Fried on Rock and the cosmic reaches with which they’re able to commune.

There are parts that feel led by the drums and parts that feel led by the guitar, and the effect is such that if one didn’t know they had operated remotely as a two-piece, it would be no challenge to believe their kraut-y jams were tracked live with at least three players all in the same room, let alone on the same continent. That mission makes the 36 minutes of Fried on Rock a more complex affair than just the output of two dudes who dug each other’s bands and decided to start a band — though there’s nothing wrong with that either, of course — and it’s in setting and attaining that goal that Oblivion Reptilian‘s outward course is defined. Do you need that context to listen to the eight-minute post-Nebula scorcher “Daraconian” at the start of the album? Nope, not at all. You could put on Fried on Rock, dig the jams, freak out when the freakness gets freaky, and go about your business as you otherwise might. The record’s a burner either way. But it’s in understanding where its foundation lies that the true drive behind its expression is fully revealed.

That is, when you know what Oblivion Reptilian were going for and the circumstances through which the tracks were made, with ideas passed back and forth from the UK to Australia and parts recorded as beds for improv by both players, it’s all the more an impressive feat. “Daraconian” finds its way into a wash of airy guitar scream, and though it must’ve been a question at some point, Vest‘s decision to also play bass in the duo was without a doubt the right call. The fuzz he adds under his own solo at the outset of “Alien Shit” bolsters that track in ways that speak to some of Earthless‘ more kosmiche moments without being a direct descendant thereof, and as Panagopoulos‘ uptempo swing holds together a forward exploration of vibe and righteously Hendrixian wankery. Even unto the way it sputters out at the end, it feels live.

oblivion reptilian jealousy

The recording is raw in just the right way from both parties so that it sounds like they’re playing together, and as the consuming loops of delay take hold in centerpiece “Amplification from Stimulated Emission,” that vitality comes through. It’s resonant in the brief “Saurian Architect,” and as 8:51 closer “Isotropic Transucent” claws its way onto the brain stem, the wash of guitar hits a new level, layer piled upon layer with the drums and bass acting out a common groove beneath in classic power trio modus. It’s not that Oblivion Reptilian are trying to put one over, like they’re going to trick someone into thinking two players are three, but their intention creatively seems to have been to pay homage to this particular strain of heavy psychedelia, and even if they just decided to work together and see what came out and this is what did, that’s all the more honest to the roots from which their work stems. Isn’t that how it always goes, at least in the ideal scenario for jam-based psych and space rock?

One is left to wonder what might happen if Vest and Panagopoulos ever manage to get into the same studio at the same time, but as the creeping low-end severity of the final progression in “Isotropic Transucent” play out, it’s not like there’s something missing for the approach they’ve taken. I guess that’s ultimately what’s so impressive about the debut from this collaboration — it runs directly counter to the narrative of “oh, you have to all be there playing live, capture lightning in a bottle, blah blah.” There’s no right way to make an album except the way you want to or can do, and while I know both these players have experience working in that fashion, their output as Oblivion Reptilian finds a way around it in order to not just effectively layer tracks on top of each other, but to give a real sense of chemistry and nascent dynamic between them. That’s especially true as the far-back hypnosis of “Saurian Architect” leads into “Isotropic Transucent,” a long fade from the penultimate cut bringing about the emergence of the closer, sounding like a jam captured already in progress, which it may well have been.

It’s so effectively done and so dead-on spaced that the listener just goes where the band leads, getting perhaps willfully lost as the last solos begin to intertwine and lead to the maybe-keyboard/maybe-effects topped finish. Radness abounds. Gnarl abounds. The universe abounds. This kind of fare is never for everybody, but however it was made, the fact remains that Oblivion Reptilian‘s Fried on Rock marks the beginning point of a collaboration with noteworthy potential for future exploration, and that if it’s not an unspeakable pain in the ass to do so, Panagopoulos and Vest should make every effort to keep it going and see where they end up, as reportedly they will. Because if what this debut does is establish the effectiveness of their methodology — I’ll argue it does that and more — then surely the only thing to do at that point is set to refining and innovating that and discovering where the path might go. Right now they’re here. Next time, they can be anywhere.

Oblivion Reptilian, Fried on Rock (2019)

Oblivion Reptilian on Thee Facebooks

Oblivion Reptilian on Bandcamp

Sound Effect Records website

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Elevators to the Grateful Sky Release Nude this Month; Two New Songs Posted

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

elevators to the grateful sky

April 19 is the release date for Elevators to the Grateful Sky‘s new album, Nude. It’ll be out through Greece’s Sound Effect Records after the band were caught up in the whole WTF-ness that took hold with HeviSike, their former aligned purveyor. That someone would pick them up isn’t a particular surprise — 2016’s Cape Yawn (review here), was good times all the way around — but that it’s a label with the psychedelic taste of Sound Effect should tell you something.

Mostly, when it comes right down to it, it should probably tell you to listen to the two new tracks the band have streaming in lyric videos embedded below. If it doesn’t tell you that, I will. So yeah, go ahead and give those a once-over. And it’s two of 11 total inclusions, so expect the band to have another trick or five up their collective sleeve.

Album info follows, courtesy of the label:

elevators to the grateful sky nude

Elevators to the Grateful Sky – Nude

Elevators to the Grateful Sky are back with their third firey full-length album. ‘Nude’ showcases an extremely focused sound where early 90’s Seattle-Sub Pop vibes melt with seducingly psychedelic sections, heavy riffage and dreamy, sun-burnt instrumentals. Mastered at famed Mammoth Sound Mastering studio by Dan Randall (Iron Reagan, Noothgrush, The Walking Dead OST and countless others) and decorated by carefully hand-drawn imagery by vocalist Sandro Di Girolamo, the album comes in both coloured and black vinyl versions for the first time ever on Sound Effect Records. ‘Nude’ out on April 19th 2019.

Formed in sunny Palermo, Sicily in 2011, the band has since released one self-financed demo EP and two full-length albums, Cloud Eye (2013) and Cape Yawn (2016) on Transubstans Records (SWE) and Hevi Sike Records (UK) respectively. Their new, 11-songs album showcases a mature band whose varied songwriting has blossomed into distinctive compositions influenced by 90’s grunge, stoner and alternative rock acts such as SOUNDGARDEN, ALICE IN CHAINS, MASTERS OF REALITY, QOTSA, GODMACHINE and even DEAD MEADOW and EARTH. ETTGS’s hard-hitting edge has remained intact as they cross the entire spectre between psych jamming, acoustically soothing and straight heavy music.

“Nude” has been recorded and mixed by Silvio “Spadino” Punzo between Southern and Northern Italy in different sessions along 2018, and mastered by Dan Randall at Mammoth Sound Mastering (Maine, USA).

Preorder here: https://www.soundeffect-records.gr/nude

Elevators to the Grateful Sky is:
Sandro di Girolamo – vocals and percussion
Giorgio Trombino – guitars, bass, alto saxophone, congas, keyboards, alternate lead vocals
Giuseppe Ferrara – rhythm guitars
Giulio Scavuzzo – drums, darbouka, tambourine, percussion and alternate lead vocals

https://www.facebook.com/ElevatorstotheGratefulSky/
http://elevatorstothegratefulsky.bandcamp.com/
http://www.soundeffect-records.gr
https://www.facebook.com/SoundEffectRecords/

Elevators to the Grateful Sky, “Song for July” lyric video

Elevators to the Grateful Sky, “Insects in Amber” lyric video

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Quarterly Review: 11PARANOIAS, Robot Lords of Tokyo, The Riven, High Reeper, Brujas del Sol, Dead Witches, Automaton, Llord, Sweet Jonny, Warp

Posted in Reviews on March 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day three. Cruisin’. Oh, another 10 reviews to write? Yeah, no problem. I’m on it.

Okay, maybe a little less that and a little more be banging my head against the wall of sound, but the point is we — you and I — move forward anyhow. The Quarterly Review continues today with the third batch, which at the end will bring us to the halfway point, 30 of the total 60 records done, and that always feels like an occasion. Also helps that it’s a pretty good batch of stuff, so let’s not waste time with formalities, right?

Quarterly Review #21-30:

11PARANOIAS, Asterismal

11paranoias asterismal

It’s a freakout, but not the good kind. More like a panic attack happening in slow motion on another dimensional plane. The masters of murk, 11PARANOIAS return through their own Ritual Productions imprint with Asterismal, collecting/conjuring upwards of nine tracks and 73 minutes of material depending on in which format one encounters it. The core of the outing is the six-song/45-minute vinyl edition, and that’s plenty fucked enough, to be honest, as bassist/vocalist Adam Richardson (Ramesses), guitarist Mike Vest (Bong) and drummer Nathan Perrier (ex-Capricorns) unfurl a grim psychedelic fog across songs like opener “Loss Portal” and tap into The Heads-style swirl on “Bloodless Crush” only to turn it malevolent in the process. The 12-minute “Quantitative Immortalities” finds Vest in the forward position as it summarizes the stretch of doom, psych, and bizarre atmosphere that’s utterly 11PARANOIAS‘ own, and that’s before you get into the experimental and sometimes caustic work on the CD/digital-only “Acoustic Mirror” (10:35) and “Acoustic Mirror II” (15:08), which both rise from minimalist bass to become a willful test of endurance only a select few will pass. All the better.

11PARANOIAS on Thee Facebooks

Ritual Productions website

 

Robot Lords of Tokyo, Rise Robot Rise

Robot Lords of Tokyo Rise Robot Rise

Was there ever any doubt Robot Lords of Tokyo could do it on their own? Not if you ever listened to Robot Lords of Tokyo, there wasn’t. The Columbus, Ohio-based outfit built a reputation in the earlier part of the decade by bringing guests onto their records, but their new EP and first outing in half a decade, Rise Robot Rise, features five songs of just the band itself, with founders Rick Ritzler (drums) and Paul Jones (vocals) joined by bassist Joe Viers and guitarists Steve Theado and Beau VanBibber. Their last outing was the 2013 full-length Virtue and Vice (review here), but they seem in “In the Shadows” and “Looking for the Sun” to come into their own with Jones bringing a John Bush-type edge to the hook of “Looking for the Sun” and echoing out a bit on centerpiece “Hell Camino,” which boasts not the band’s first nod to Clutch. With opener “In the Shadows” setting the tone for an undercurrent of metal, “My Aching Eyes” and “Terminus” pay that off without losing their rock edge and thereby highlight just how much force has always been in the core lineup to start with.

Robot Lords of Tokyo on Thee Facebooks

Robot Lords of Tokyo at CDBaby

 

The Riven, The Riven

The Riven The Riven

Issued by The Sign Records, the self-titled debut from Sweden’s The Riven (also discussed here) hones in on classic heavy rock but never actually quite tips all the way into vintage-ism. It sounds like a minor distinction until you put the record on and hear the acoustic guitar lines deep in the mix of “Far Beyond” or the echoing vocal layers in the second half of the later “Fortune Teller” and realize that The Riven are outright refusing to sacrifice audio fidelity for aesthetic. There’s no shortage of shuffle to be had, rest assured, but The Riven are less concerned with aping traditionalism than updating it, and while they’re not the first to do so, the fact that on their first record they’re already working to put their stamp on the established genre parameters bodes well, as does the bluesy float of “I Remember” and the mellow vibing early in “Finnish Woods.”

The Riven on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Bandcamp

 

High Reeper, Higher Reeper

high reeper higher reeper

Philadelphia exports High Reeper offer their second full-length through Heavy Psych Sounds in Higher Reeper, upping the stakes from their 2017 self-titled debut (review here) in more than just title. In the intervening two years, the five-piece have toured extensively, and it shows in the pacing and general craft of the eight songs/38 minutes here, from the perfectly-timed nod at the end of “Buried Alive” to the face-slap proto-trash riff that starts the subsequent “Bring the Dead,” from the mountaintop echoes of “Obsidian Peaks” (note the “Hole in the Sky” riff rearing its head) to the howling roll through “Plague Hag” and into six-minute closer “Barbarian,” as High Reeper hone elements of doom to go with their biker rock sleaze. Stellar guitar is a running theme beginning with opener “Eternal Leviathan,” and Higher Reeper quickly proves that if you thought the debut had potential, you were right.

High Reeper on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Brujas del Sol, II

brujas del sol ii

if the 6:40 album opener “Teenage Hitchhiker” from Brujas del Sol‘s Kozmik Artifactz-delivered II makes anything plain, it’s that the songs that follow on the seven-track/43-minute outing are going to pay attention to texture. Still about half-instrumental, the Columbus, Ohio, four-piece veer from that modus with “Sisterlace,” the New Wave-y “Fringe of Senility,” the delightfully dream-toned “White Lights,” and the final Floydian section of closer “Spiritus,” adding vocals for the first time and leaving one wondering what took them so long. Nonetheless, the winding lines and later subtly furious drums of “Sea Rage” and the scorching leads of the penultimate “Polara” bring the proggy mindset of the band that much more forward, and if II is transitional, well, it was going to be anyway, because a band like this never stops growing or challenging themselves. They certainly do here, and the results are an accomplishment more than worth continuing to build upon.

Brujas del Sol on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Dead Witches, The Final Exorcism

dead witches the final exorcism

The centerpiece of Dead Witches‘ sophomore album, The Final Exorcism, is a play on ’60s psych-garage-folk that asks “When Do the Dead See the Sun?,” and the rest of the LP that surrounds provides the answer: The sun isn’t showing up anytime soon, for the dead or otherwise. After issuing their first full-length, Ouija (discussed here), in 2017, the multinational horror-cinema doomers brought aboard vocalist Soozi Chameleone alongside drummer Mark Greening (Ramesses, ex-Electric Wizard), bassist Carl Geary and guitarist Oliver Irongiant, and one might be tempted to think of The Final Exorcism as a kind of second debut were it not for the fact that it’s so cohesive in its approach. With Greening‘s swinging march at the foundation, cuts like the title-track and “The Church by the Sea” stomp out thick-toned and grainy organic creep, plundering through the cacophonous “Lay Demon” en route to the abyssal plod of “Fear the Priest” at the end, fearsome in purpose and realization and hopefully not at all “final.” Like any good horror franchise, there’s always room for another sequel.

Dead Witches on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Automaton, TALOS

automaton talos

It was hard to know where Automaton were headed after they remixed their debut EP, Echoes of Mount Ida (review here), and released it in LP format with two additional tracks. The original version was raw and weighted, the remix spacious and psychedelic. With TALOS, their first proper long-player (on Sound Effect Records), they answer the question with seven songs/48 minutes of expansive and richly atmospheric post-metal, seeming to take from all sides and shift their focus between crushing with dense tones on 11-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Trapped in Darkness,” as well as the frantically drummed “Automaton Marching,” “The Punisher” or the end stage of “Talos Awakens” and honing more of a varied and atmospheric approach throughout the sample-laced “Giant of Steel,” the drifting “Submerged Again” and the minimalist acoustic-led closer “Epilogue,” all the while donning both an overarching concept and a new level of production value to bolster their presentation. It is a significant step forward on multiple fronts.

Automaton website

Sound Effect Records website

 

Llord, Cumbria

llord cumbria

Raging and experimental, the rumble-laden Barcelona duo Llord make their full-length debut on Féretro Records with Cumbria, which culls together five punishing-but-still-atmospheric tracks of plod and drive as bassist Aris and drummer David share vocal duties and bludgeoning responsibilities alike. Ill-intentioned from the get-go with the two-minute “Adtrita Sententia,” Cumbria unfurls its 29-minute run like a descent into low-end madness, varying speed and the amount of samples involved and bringing in some guest gralla on “Brega” and closer “Kendal/Crewe,” but finding itself in a consistent tonal mire all the same, shouts reverberating upward from it as through trying to claw their way up during the collapse of earth beneath their feet. It is brutal — an extreme vision of atmospheric sludge that makes the concept of a guitar riffing overtop seem like an indulgence that would only dull the impact of the proceedings as they are, which is formidable.

Llord on Bandcamp

Féretro Records on Bandcamp

 

Sweet Jonny, Sweet Jonny

sweet jonny sweet jonny

I can’t claim to be an expert on the ways of Britpunk classic or modern, but UK swagger-purveyors Sweet Jonny weave a heaping dose of snearing attitude into their self-titled, self-release debut album’s 12 tracks, and it comes set up next to a garage rock fuckall that isn’t necessarily contradicted by the actual tightness of the songwriting, given the context in which they’re working. “American Psycho,” well, that’s about American Psycho. “Sick in the Summer?” Well, guess that could be taken multiple ways, but somebody’s sick in any case. You see where this is going, but Sweet Jonny bring character and addled-punk charm to their storytelling lyrics and barebones arrangements of fucked-up guitar, bass and drums. I don’t know what the punkers are into these days, but the vibe here is rude in the classic sense and they bring a good time feel to “Superpunch” and “It Matters Not” — which stretches past the four-minute mark(!) — so what the hell? I’m up for something different.

Sweet Jonny on Thee Facebooks

Sweet Jonny website

 

Warp, Warp

warp warp

If the approval stamp of Nasoni Records isn’t enough to get you on board — and it should be, frankly — the Sabbathian lowercase-‘g’ ghost rock Warp proffer on their self-titled debut is bound to turn heads among the converted. The Tel Aviv-based outfit tear through eight tracks in a crisp, bitingly fuzzed 28 minutes, taking on classic boogie and doom alike before they’re even through opener “Wretched.” They get bonus points for calling their noise interlude “‘Confusion Will Be My Epitaph’ Will Be My Epitaph,’ as well as for the shuffle of “Gone Man” that precedes it and the stomp of “Intoxication” that comes after, the latter a rhythmic complement to the central progression of second cut “Into My Life,” which only departs that snare-snare-snare to soar for a dual-layered solo. Hard not to dig the space-punk edge of “Hey Little Rich Boy II” and the throttled-back stoner nod of closer “Enter the Void,” which is done in under five minutes and still finds room for the album’s best stop-and-crash. Fucking a.

Warp on Bandcamp

Nasoni Records webstore

 

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Quarterly Review: Kungens Män, PFUND, Crystal Spiders, The Misery Men, Hubris, Woorms, Melody Fields, Oreyeon, Mammoth Grove, Crimson Devils

Posted in Reviews on March 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

I used to be pretty artsy and write poetry. Let’s give it a shot:

There was an old man who wore no-toe shoes.
He said, I’mma go do 60 reviews.
He was out of his head,
Should’ve gone back to bed,
But he loves him some dirty psych blues.

Years from now, when I link back to this post for a “(review here)”-type scenario, I’m going to see that and I’ll still think it’s funny. The planet’s dying. I’d say a bit of silly is more than called for.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Kungens Män, Chef

kungens man chef

Krautrockers, assemble! Or, you know, whatever krautrockers do — I assume it involves homemade spacecraft that, yes, absolutely fly. Perhaps one of these days I’ll ask Stockholm’s Kungens Män, whose latest outing for Riot Season, simply titled Chef, is an outbound delight of psych-infused progressivism. Beginning with the opening throb of “Fyrkantig Böjelse” and moving into the volume swells, steady drum line and wandering guitar that starts “Öppen För Stängda Dörrar” on side A, its four extended tracks craft otherworldly textures through a meld of organic instrumental flow and waves of synth, the second cut building to a tense wash of distortion all the while keeping that hypnotic march. The two corresponding 10-minute-plus cuts on side B waste no time in offering cosmic boogie in “Män Med Medel” with a more active rhythmic flow, and closer “Eftertankens Blanka Krankhet” — longer than the opener by one second at 11:24 — fades in on meditative guitar and explores a serene minimalism that only underscores the all around joy of the album.

Kungens Man on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records webstore

 

PFUND, PFUND

pfund pfund

The self-titled, self-released debut full-length from Kiel, Germany’s PFUND arrives and departs with a guesting horn section, and while that inevitably adds a bit of grandeur to the proceedings, the bulk of the outing is dedicated to straightforward, semi-metallic heavy rock, held to ground even in the seven-minute “Spaceman” by a considered sense of structure and an earthy drum sound that draws the songs together, whether it’s the classic riff rock in “Sea of Life” or the moodier sway in the earlier “Lost in Rome.” Dual guitars effectively multiply the impact, and the vocals showcase a nascent sense of melody that one imagines will only continue to grow as the band moves forward. At nine songs and 44 minutes, it shows some breadth and nuance in “Exhaustion” and “Paranoia,” the former tapping into an edge of progressive metal, but the primary impact comes from PFUND‘s heft of groove and how it blends with a rawer edge to their production. The Kyuss-referencing centerpiece here might be called “Imbalance,” but that’s hardly representative of what surrounds, horns and all.

PFUND on Thee Facebooks

PFUND on Bandcamp

 

Crystal Spiders, Demo

crystal spiders demo

Three songs, 11 minutes and three distinct vibes from the aptly-titled Demo demo of North Carolinian three-piece Crystal Spiders. On “Tigerlily,” “Flamethrower” and “Devil’s Resolve,” the trio of bassist/vocalist Brenna Leath (also Lightning Born), guitarist/vocalist Mike Deloatch and drummer/backing vocalist Tradd Yancey careen from bluesy spaciousness to hard-driving catchiness and end up — because why not? — in repeating cult-sludge chants, “Come to the devil’s resolve!” like Black Widow trying to lure people to the sabbat, except shouting. If the purpose of a demo is for a new band to try different methods of working and thereby take a first step in discovering their sound, Crystal Spiders are well on their way, and for what it’s worth, there isn’t anything within their scope as they present it that doesn’t work for them. There are edges to smooth out, of course, but that too is a part of the process starting here.

Crystal Spiders on Thee Facebooks

Crystal Spiders on Bandcamp

 

The Misery Men, Deathspiration

The Misery Men Deathspiration

If you’d asked, depending on which part of Deathspiration was on, I’d probably have called The Misery Men a bass/drum duo, but nope, that’s guitar. Tonally one is reminded of At Devil Dirt from Chile, but the Portland, Oregon, two-piece of vocalist/guitarist Corey G. Lewis and drummer Steve Jones are entirely more barebones in their craft, eschewing digital involvement of any sort in the recording or mixing process and sounding duly raw as a result throughout the subtle earworm of “C.W. Sughrue” and the lumbering “Harness the Darkness.” The subsequent “Night Creeps In” brings a Northwestern noise payoff to quiet/loud trades and the near-10-minute closer “Stoned to Death,” well, it seems to meet an end befitting its title, to say the least. As their stated intent was to capture the most organic version of their sound possible, and made a point of working toward that ideal in their recording, one could hardly fault them for the results of that process. They wanted something human-sounding. They got it.

The Misery Men on Thee Facebooks

The Misery Men on Bandcamp

 

Hubris, EP #II Live

hubris ep ii live

Some — not all — of what one needs to know about HubrisEP #II Live is right there in the title. Indeed, it’s their second EP. Indeed, it was recorded live. And indeed, like using a ‘#’ sign with a Roman numeral, there’s something about the way the three included songs from the Toulouse, France-based outfit sound that’s just a little bit off-kilter from what you might expect. “Zugzwang” (7:19), “Tergo” (19:58) and “Biotilus” (27:04) are arranged shortest to longest, and while the opener starts off like Queens of the Stone Age on an Eastern-tinged psychedelic bender, the lengthy jams that follow — the first of them with a fervent drum punctuation, the second a gradual intertwining of synth and guitar with hardly any percussion at all until after its 22nd minute. The instrumental flow that ensues from there is almost like a hidden bonus track, at least until they Hubris get to minute 26 and the whole thing explodes in crash and plod. The underlying message, of course, is that if you think you’re safe at any point, you’re not.

Hubris on Thee Facebooks

Hubris on Bandcamp

 

Woorms, Slake

woorms slake

Lumbering fuckall pervades the debut full-length, Slake, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, sludgers Woorms — also stylized all-caps — which incorporates past singles “Find a Meal Find a Bed Find a God” and “Mouth is a Wound” amid the sample/noise barrage of “Our Lady of Perpetually Shitfaced” and the willfully brash “Racist Kevin” that follows. There’s an edge of Melvinsian chug to the proceedings, but Woorms‘ take, though presented in finished compositions, comes across as almost nihilistic rather than making a show of its experimentalism. That is, they’re trying to say they don’t give a fuck, and in listening, they make it kind of easy to believe, but there’s still something about the cohesiveness of “Veni Vidi Fucki” and “Rice Crispy” and the saved-the-best-nod-for-last finale “Sore Afraid” that undercuts the notion even while making the listening experience all the more pummeling, and from the intro “Corpse Corps” through “Urine Trouble Now”‘s echoing shouts and the closer’s unmitigated stomp, there’s still plenty of exploration being done.

WOORMS on Thee Facebooks

WOORMS on Bandcamp

 

Oreyeon, Ode to Oblivion

Oreyeon Ode to Oblivion

Rebranded since their 2016 debut, Builders of Cosmos (discussed here), from their more phonetically intuitive original moniker, Orion, Italy’s Oreyeon issue a cosmically expansive spacescape follow-up in their six-song/40-minute sophomore outing, Ode to Oblivion, also their first release through Heavy Psych Sounds. Echoing vocals pervade “Big Surprise” after the introductory “T.I.O.” and “Trudging to Vacuity” establish the wide-cast mix and anti-grav rhythmic density, and the nine-minute side A finale title-track runs mostly-instrumental circles around most of what I’d usually call “prog” only after it lays down a sleek hook in the first couple minutes. After “Big Surprise,” the 8:45 “The Ones” trades volume back and forth but finds its breadth at about the sixth minute as the dramatic lead turns on a dime to desert rock thrust en route to wherever the hell it goes next. Honestly, after that moment, everything’s gravy, but Oreyeon lay it on thick with closer “Starship Pusher” and never neglect melody in the face of nod. Worth a deeper dig if you get the chance.

Oreyeon on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Melody Fields, Melody Fields

melody fields melody fields

Sometimes you hear a record and it’s like the band is doing you a favor by existing. To that, thanks Melody Fields. The Gothenburg psych troupe lace their lysergic flow with folkish harmonies and an open sensibility on their self-titled debut that comes coupled with enough tonal presence to still consider them heavy not that it matters. They break out the sax on “Morning Sun” to welcome effect, and the sun continues to shine through “Liberty” and the garage-buzzing “Run” before “Rain Man” turns water droplets into keyboard notes and Beatlesian — think “Rain” — voice arrangements atop soothing instrumental drift, every bit the centerpiece and an excellent precursor to the acoustic-based “Fire” and the 10-minute “Trädgränsen,” which is the crowning achievement of this self-titled debut, which, if I’d been hip to it in time, would’ve made both the 2018 best albums and best debuts list. They cap with a reprise of “Morning Sun” and underscore the solid foundation beneath the molten beauty of their work throughout. To ask for another album seems greedy, but I will anyway. More, please.

Melody Fields on Thee Facebooks

Sound Effect Records website

 

Mammoth Grove, Slow Burn

mammoth grove slow burn

Okay, look, enough screwing around. It’s time for someone to sign Mammoth Grove. The Calgary natives have been putting out quality heavy psych rock since their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), and their latest long-player, the four-song Slow Burn is a righteous amalgam of peace-thru-rock that lives up to its freewheeling vibes in “Seasons” after the methodical opener “Valleys” and rolls out a bit of melodic ’70s biker rock bliss in “Black Meadow” before the side-B-consuming “Gloria” (18:42) asks early if you’re ready to go and then goes like gone, gone, gone, and gone further. Given the analog mindset involved and the heart on display throughout, there’s something fitting about it being pressed up in an edition of 100 hand-screenprinted LPs and 100 CDs likewise, but the more people who could hear it, the merrier, so yeah, some label or other needs to step up and make that happen, and I dare you to listen to the solo that hits past the 14-minute mark in “Gloria” and tell me otherwise. Dare you.

Mammoth Grove on Thee Facebooks

Mammoth Grove on Bandcamp

 

Crimson Devils, A Taste for Blood

crimson devils a taste for blood

Since pared down to a trio from the four-piece incarnation they present here, Austin’s Crimson Devils first released their debut, A Taste for Blood, in 2017, but gave it a vinyl revisit last year and it’s little mystery why. The record comprises 11 sharply-composed tracks of Small Stone-style heavy rock, taking cues from Sasquatch in modern-via-classic modus, picking and choosing elements of ’70s and ’90s rock to conjure formidable groove and engaging hooks. There’s considerable swagger and weight in “They Get It,” and while opener “Dead and Gone” seems to show an influence in its vocal patterning from Elder, as the album unfolds, it’s more about the blast of “Captain Walker” or the penultimate “Nothing to Claim” and the straight-ahead vibes of “Bad News Blues” and “No Action” than anything so outwardly prog. There’s plenty to dig in the rock-for-rockers mindset, and it’s the kind of offering that should probably come with an octane rating. However such things are measured, safe to say it would not be low.

Crimson Devils on Thee Facebooks

Crimson Devils on Bandcamp

 

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