Quarterly Review: Earthless, Satan’s Satyrs, Mantar, Child, T.G. Olson, Canyon, Circle of the Sun, Mythic Sunship, Svarta Stugan, Bast

Posted in Reviews on December 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

There isn’t enough coffee in the universe, but I’ve got mine and I’m ready to burn the living crap out of my tongue if that’s what it takes to get through. We’ve arrived at Day 4 of the Quarterly Review, and though we’re less than halfway to the 100-album goal set by some maniac sitting at his kitchen table with a now-burnt tongue, there’s been an awful lot of good stuff so far. More even than I thought going into it, and I slate this stuff.

That said, today’s list is pretty killer. A lot of these bands will be more familiar than maybe has been the case or will be on some of the other days of this Quarterly Review. It just kind of worked out that way as I was putting it together. But hey, a few bigger bands here, a few “debut EP” demos there. It’s all good fun.

So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Earthless, From the West

earthless from the west

Bonus points to whatever clever cat correctly decided that Earthless‘ 2018 studio album, Black Heaven (review here), needed a companion live record. With artwork mimicking a Led Zeppelin bootleg of the same name, From the West arrives through Silver Current and Nuclear Blast capturing the most powerful of power trios earlier this year in San Francisco, and it’s like the fire emoji came to life. With Mike Eginton‘s bass as the anchor and Mario Rubalcaba‘s drums as the driving force, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell starts ripping holes in the fabric of spacetime with “Black Heaven” and doesn’t stop until 64 minutes later as “Acid Crusher” dissolves into noise. Of course “Gifted by the Wind” from the latest LP is a highlight, and suitably enough, they cover Zeppelin‘s “Communication Breakdown,” but I’m not sure anything tops the extended take on “Uluru Rock” from 2013’s From the Ages (review here) — and yes, I mean that. Of course they pair it with the 1:48 surge of “Volt Rush,” because they’re Earthless, and brilliant is what they do. Every set they play should be recorded for posterity.

Earthless website

Silver Current Records on Bandcamp

Earthless at Nuclear Blast webstore

 

Satan’s Satyrs, The Lucky Ones

satans satyrs the lucky ones

Encased in cover art that begs the Spinal Tap question, “what’s wrong with being sexy?” and the response that Fran Drescher gave it, Virginia classic heavy rockers Satan’s Satyrs return with their fourth full-length, The Lucky Ones (on RidingEasy and Bad Omen), which also marks their first record as a four-piece with guitarist Nate Towle (Wicked Inquisition) joining the returning lineup of bassist/vocalist Clayton Burgess, guitarist Jared Nettnin and drummer Stephen Fairfield, who, between the fact that Burgess founded the band and played in Electric Wizard, and all the lead guitar antics from Nettnin and Towle, might be the unsung hero of the band. His performance is not lost in the recording by Windhand‘s Garrett Morris or Burgess‘ own hefty mix, and as one would expect, Satan’s Satyrs continue to deliver deceptively refined ’70s-heavy vibes caked in cult biker horror aesthetics. Some songs hit more than others, but Satan’s Satyrs‘ dust-kicking approach continues to win converts.

Satan’s Satyrs on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records on Bandcamp

Bad Omen Records on Bandcamp

 

Mantar, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze

mantar the modern art of setting ablaze

One generally thinks of Hamburg duo Mantar as having all the subtlety of a bone saw caught on video, and yet, in listening to “Seek + Forget” from their third album, The Modern Art of Setting Ablaze (on Nuclear Blast), there are some elements that seem to be reaching out on the part of the band. Guitarist Hanno‘s vocals are more enunciated and discernible, there is a short break from the all-out blackened-sludge-punk assault that’s been their trade since their start in 2012, and “Obey the Obscene” even has an organ. Still, the bulk of the 12-track/48-minute follow-up to 2016’s Ode to the Flame (review here) is given to extremity of purpose and execution, and in pieces like the churning “Anti Eternia” and the particularly-punked “Teeth of the Sea,” they work to refine their always-present threat of violence. Closer “The Funeral” brings back some of the quiet moodiness of intro “The Knowing” and underscores the point of sonic expansion. I hope next time they use a string section.

Mantar on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast website

 

Child, I

child i

It took me a few minutes to get to the heart of what my problem with Child‘s I EP is. Really, I was sitting and listening to “Age Has Left Me Behind” — the first of the three included tracks on the 20-ish-minute 12″ — and I had to ask myself, “Why is this annoying me?” The answer? Because it’s not an album. That’s it. It’s not enough. Kudos to the Melbourne, Australia, heavy blues trio on having that be the biggest concern with their latest release — it follows 2016’s righteously-grooved Blueside (review here) — and kudos to them as well for their cover of Spirit‘s “The Other Song,” but of course it’s the 10-minute jam “Going Down Swinging” on side B that’s the immersive highlight of I, as Child‘s balance of softshoe-boogie and expansive mellow-psych is second to none in their subgenre. It’s not an album, and that’s kind of sad, but as a tide-ya-over until the next long-player arrives, I still does the trick nice and easy. And not to get greedy, but I’d take a II (or would it be You?) whenever they get around to it.

Child on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

T.G. Olson, Wasatch Valley Lady & The Man from Table Mountain

tg olson wasatch valley lady and the man from table mountain

Across Tundras frontman T.G. Olson, who by now has well lapped that band’s output with his solo catalog, would seem to have sat down with his guitar sometime in the last week and put two songs to tape. The resulting 10-minute offering is Wasatch Valley Lady & The Man from Table Mountain, its component title-tracks stripping down some of the more elaborate arrangements he’s explored of late — his latest full-length, Riding Roughshod (review pending; it’s hard to keep up), came out in October — to expose the barebones construction at root in his Rocky Mountain country folk style. “Wasatch Valley Lady” and “The Man from Table Mountain” make an engaging couple, and while Olson has a host of videos on YouTube that are similarly just him and his acoustic, something about the audio-only recordings feel like a voice out of time reaching for human connection. The first seems to have a natural fade, and the second a more prominent rhythm showcased in harder strum, but both are sweet melodies evocative as ever of open landscapes and wistful experience.

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

T.G. Olson/Across Tundras on Bandcamp

 

Canyon, Mk II

canyon mk ii

The Deep Purple-referential Mk II title of Canyon‘s second EP, also the follow-up to their 2017 debut LP, Radiant Light, refers to the lineup change that’s seen Dean Welsh move to drums so that he and guitarist Peter Stanko can welcome bassist/vocalist Fred Frederick to the fold. The three included songs, the hooky “Mine Your Heart,” expansively fuzzed “Morphine Dreams” and bouncing “Roam” make a hell of a first offering from the reconstituted trio, who capture classic heavy naturalism in a chemistry between players that’s mirrored in the songwriting itself. Canyon‘s 2016 self-titled debut EP (review here) held marked promise, and even after the full-length, that promise would seem to be coming to fruition here. Their tones and craft are both right on, and there’s still some gelling to do between the three of them, but they leave no doubt with Mk II that this incarnation of Canyon can get there. And, if they keep up like this, get there quickly.

Canyon on Thee Facebooks

Canyon on Bandcamp

 

Circle of the Sun, Jams of Inner Perception

Circle of the Sun Jams of Inner Perception

One man jams! Psych-jam seekers will recognize Daniel Sax as the drummer for Berlin-based trio Cosmic Fall. Circle of the Sun is a solo-project from Sax and Jams of Inner Perception collects six tracks for 39 minutes of adventuring on his own. Sax sets his own backbeat and layers bass and “effectsbass” for a full-lineup feel amid the instrumental creations, and those looking to be hypnotized by the space-rocking jams will be. Flat out. Sax is no stranger to jamming, and as one soaks in “Jamming in Paradise” or its nine-minute predecessor “Liquid Sand,” there’s little mistaking his intention. Curious timing that Circle of the Sun would take shape following a lineup change in Cosmic Fall — perhaps it was put together in the interim? — but whether Jams of Inner Perception is a one-off of the beginning of a new avenue for Sax, its turn to blues noodling on “Desert Sun,” thick-toned “Moongroove” and fuzzy roll on “Acid Dream” demonstrate there are plenty of outer realms still to explore.

Circle of the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Circle of the Sun on Bandcamp

 

Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

Mythic Sunship Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

The simplest way to put it is that Mythic Sunship‘s Another Shape of Psychedelic Music lives up to the lofty ambitions of its title. The Danish band is comprised of guitarists Kasper Stougaard Andersen and Emil Thorenfeldt, bassist Rasmus ‘Cleaver’ Christensen, drummer Frederik Denning and saxophonist Søren Skov, and with Causa Sui‘s Jonas Munk — who also produced the album — sitting in on the extended “Backyard Voodoo” (17:41) and “Out There” (13:53) as well as overseeing the release through El Paraiso, the band indeed makes there way into the far out reaches where jazz and psychedelia meet. It’s not about pretentiously saying they’re doing something that’s never been done. You’ll note it’s “another shape” and not a “new shape” or the “shape to come.” But immersion happens quickly on opener “Resolution” (14:23), and even quicker cuts like “Last Exit,” “Way Ahead” and “Elevation” carry the compelling spirit of forward-thinking creativity through their dynamic course, and if Mythic Sunship aren’t the shape of psychedelic music to come, it’s in no small part because there are so few out there who could hope to match what they do.

Mythic Sunship on Thee Facebooks

El Paraiso Records website

 

Svarta Stugan, Islands / Öar

svarta stugan islands oar

Islands / Öar — the second word being the Swedish translation of the first — is the 40-minute debut full-length from Gothenburg atmospheric heavy post-rock instrumentalists Svarta Stugan, who demonstrate in influence from Hex-era Earth on the opener “Islands III” but go on in subsequent tracks to pull together a sound distinct in its cinematic feel and moody execution. Five out of the seven component tracks are “Islands” pieces, which are presented out of order with “Islands IV” missing and “Islands Unknown” perhaps in its place, and the respective side A/B finales “Inner Space” and “Prospects Quatsi” standing apart. Both bring to bear a style ultimately consistent with the melancholy so rife throughout Islands / Öar as a whole, but they’re obviously intended as outliers, and so they seem to be. The LP release follows a couple shorter outings, issued over the past six-plus years, and it’s clear from the depths and range on display here in the build-to-crescendo of “Inner Space” alone that Svarta Stugan haven’t misspent their time in their progression to this point.

Svarta Stugan on Thee Facebooks

Svarta Stugan on Bandcamp

 

Bast, Nanoångström

bast nanoangstrom

Largesse of scope and largesse of tone work in tandem on Bast‘s Nanoångström full-length on Black Bow, as they bring together aspects of post-metallic churn and more extreme metal methods to hone a style highly individualized, highly weighted and as much cosmic as it is crushing. Through six tracks and 57 minutes, the London trio (plus two guest spots from Chris Naughton of Winterfylleth) careen and crash and set an atmosphere of chaos without actually being chaotic, their progressive craft working to tie the songs together into a larger impression of the work as a consuming entirety. It’s the kind of record you pick up and still hear new things in by the time they put out their next one. Production from Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio only helps creates the heights and depths of their dynamic, and whether they’re rolling out the severity of closer “The Ghosts Which Haunt the Space Between the Stars” or laying out the soundscape of “The Beckoning Void,” Bast shape the tenets of genre to suit their needs rather than try to work within the barriers of any particular style. Nanoångström is all the more complex and satisfying for their efforts in that regard.

Bast on Thee Facebooks

Black Bow Records webstore

 

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Rifflord Premiere “The Other Side” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

rifflord

Playing before a monolithic wall of citrus-hued amps and cabinets, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, five-piece Rifflord give a taste of their tonal-worship vibes and catchy songcraft in their new video for “The Other Side,” an early cut from their forthcoming second album, 7 Cremation Chant / Meditation, which is no less at home tapping into David Eugene Edwards-style Americana than it is digging into High on Fire gallop or Electric Wizard riffing with Fu Manchu-esque vocals. By the time “Seven” has made its way into “Dead Flower Child” — note the veer into Sabbath‘s “Hand of Doom” in the latter — and “The Other Side” itself, there’s no question why STB Records would pick them up for the vinyl. Shit, somebody was bound to do it.

Rifflord work quickly across the album, almost deceptively so. To wit, “The Other Side” is one of only three out of the total 13 tracks to top four minutes in runtime, and other pieces like the 2:16 “BB Gun” is a sharp boogie that takes the murderousness out of its Rifflord 7 Cremation Ground-Meditationunderlying prairie feel, while “Lucid Trip” brings together acoustic guitar and underlying keyboard/voice drones that lead into the charging second half of the album with the immediacy of “Poison Mother,” a vocal change bringing keyboardist Tory Jean Stoddard into the foreground with guitarist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett stepping back after the more aggro chug of album centerpiece “Transcendental Medication.” Momentum is swiftly built and rigorously maintained throughout, but the songs themselves don’t feel rushed in either their composition or delivery. The keys help flesh out the melodic presence of the vocals and Bartlett and Paul Pinos‘ guitars, while bassist Matthew Mcfarland and drummer Tommy Middlen carry through the molasses-thick tones with a sense of movement that continues even into the lumbering “Electric Grave” — as opposed to, yes, an “Electric Funeral” — or the aptly-named “The Riffman Cometh,” which is a cold-ending celebration of all things heavy rock, doom and otherwise Iommic.

The blend of Western and heavy principles on “Dead Flower Child” or “Coyote Fodder” and “Holy Roller” early on adds depth to the personality of 7 Cremation Chant / Meditation — the number in the title is still something of a mystery and I suspect that’s intentional — and as the closing pair of “Hou Dou Vou Dou” and “Thunder Rider” present the record’s most fervent boogie and a corresponding shove to respond to that of “Transcendental Medication” earlier, the variety in Rifflord‘s songwriting would seem to undercut their moniker. That is, they’re by no means simply a “riff band.” Certainly riffs are a factor, but the roles they play throughout the material run in different if still cohesive directions, and the organ and other key sounds throughout come off as no less of a focus. ‘Keylord’ or ‘Choruslord’ wouldn’t necessarily make for a great band name, but the point is don’t go into “The Other Side” thinking it’s just about the riffs, because there’s a lot more to Rifflord, and a lot more to 7 Cremation Chant / Meditation, than might at first be implied.

PR wire with vinyl info, preorder link, etc., follows the video below.

Please enjoy:

Rifflord, “The Other Side” official video premiere

Battle-scarred heavy rockers RIFFLORD are set to release their second album, 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation, via STB Records in the coming weeks. This follow-up to their self-released 2010 debut 26 Mean and Heavy is the product of mushroom-induced brawls, dashed expectations, and a band that’s coming back stronger than it ever was before.

RIFFLORD was founded in 2007 by vocalist/guitarist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett and guitarist Tom Davoux after discovering a love affair the two had with vintage tube amps, Hammond organs, and tinnitus-inducing volume. Today RIFFLORD is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reanimated by Bronc and a wall of Orange amps. Bronc says of the band’s music and journey:

Some things are the result of calculated decision making. Other things drag you face down through the dirt by virtue of their own momenta. RIFFLORD, for me, has been a combination of both. The album […] is a visceral product of struggle, mottled with the fingerprints of both terrible and glorious human beings. It is the sound of countless trips across rural South Dakota and hours of refinement in one studio session after another. The album was mixed five separate times, and remastered three. It is the true and living testament of the Riff. Thank you for waiting.

7 Cremation Ground / Meditation will be released digitally on November 27th, 2018 with a variety of personalized vinyl options coming out on December 1st.

https://stbrecords.bandcamp.com/album/7-cremation-ground-meditation

Vinyl Pressing Information
-Test Press: Limited to 15. Comes with a Handmade leather LP jacket hand whip stitched and branded by Wyatt Bronc Bartlett of RIFFLORD
-Die Hard Edition: Limited to 100 units on black smoke and transparent brown vinyl comes with a special high-density high-quality LP jacket that is foil stamped with “die hard edition” as well as some other foil stamping and Spot UV upgrades on the jacket. Each die hard edition also comes with Special edition band specific tarot cards exclusive only to the die hard pressing. Exclusive booklet with “The Story Of Rifflord” and Picture outtakes.
-OBI Series: Limited to 100 units hand numbered alternate art work spine wrapped OBI strip. Vinyl is a clear base with silver center and brown and white splatter. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.
-Not So Standard Edition: Limited to 150 units on white and brown swirl. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.
-Band Edition / Distro: Limited to 150 Units on Cloudy White vinyl. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.

Rifflord is:
Lead Guitar and Vocals: Wyatt Bronc Bartlett
Guitar: Paul Pinos
Bass: Matthew Mcfarland
Keys: Tory Jean Stoddard
Drums: Tommy Middlen

Rifflord on Thee Facebooks

Rifflord on Instagram

Rifflord website

STB Records BigCartel store

STB Records on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

Salt of the Earth Records on Bandcamp

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Rifflord to Release 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation Dec. 1 on STB Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

rifflord

I was trying to think about why South Dakota’s Rifflord might have such a thing for numbers in their titles. Their 2015 debut was 26 Mean and Heavy, and 26 is two times 13, a number with a long connection to weed culture, ‘m’ being the 13th letter of the alphabet, etc. So either they’re twice stoned or they’re doubling down on their dedication. Maybe it works out to be the same. Their new album, which will be released on Dec. 1 through respected purveyor STB Records, is 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation, is a little harder to figure out. Seven is a prime number, which in itself is something special, and the band was founded in 2007, but if there’s some mysticism at work, it’s too obscure for my unresearching ass.

Either way, the band’s focus seems way more on gear, so maybe that’s how many tubes they blew out while recording. Whatever the motivation, I doubt much of anything will distract them from their main riffy purposes, so while it might be a point of curiosity, it’s ultimately tertiary to the album itself, which is fuzzed to the hilt and rolling forth with a digital release later this month.

The PR wire has details:

Rifflord-7-Cremation-Ground-Meditation

RIFFLORD – 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation – STB Records

1 December 2018

Battle-scarred stoner rockers RIFFLORD are set to release their second album, 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation, via STB Records in the coming weeks. This follow-up to their self-released 2010 debut 26 Mean and Heavy is the product of mushroom-induced brawls, dashed expectations, and a band that’s coming back stronger than it ever was before.

RIFFLORD was founded in 2007 by vocalist and guitarist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett and his friend Mike Hutchins, known as “Hutch” in the band’s lore, after they accidentally snorted meth at a basement party. Over the course of a decade, the band’s location, priorities, and lineup changed many times. One thing, however, remained constant: the love of the all mighty RIFF.

Today RIFFLORD is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reanimated by Bronc and a wall of Orange amps. Bronc says of the band’s music and journey:

Some things are the result of calculated decision making. Other things drag you face down through the dirt by virtue of their own momenta. RIFFLORD, for me, has been a combination of both. The album 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation is a visceral product of struggle, mottled with the fingerprints of both terrible and glorious human beings. It is the sound of countless trips across rural South Dakota and hours of refinement in one studio session after another. The album was mixed five separate times, and remastered three. It is the true and living testament of the Riff. Thank you for waiting.

7 Cremation Ground / Meditation will be released digitally on November 27th, 2018 with a variety of personalized vinyl options coming out on December 1st.

Vinyl Pressing Information

Test Press: Limited to 15. Comes with a Handmade leather LP jacket hand whip stitched and branded by Wyatt Bronc Bartlett of RIFFLORD

Die Hard Edition: Limited to 100 units on black smoke and transparent brown vinyl comes with a special high-density high-quality LP jacket that is foil stamped with “die hard edition” as well as some other foil stamping and Spot UV upgrades on the jacket. Each die hard edition also comes with Special edition band specific tarot cards exclusive only to the die hard pressing. Exclusive booklet with “The Story Of Rifflord” and Picture outtakes.

OBI Series: Limited to 100 units hand numbered alternate art work spine wrapped OBI strip. Vinyl is a clear base with silver center and brown and white splatter. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.

Not So Standard Edition: Limited to 150 units on white and brown swirl. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.

Band Edition / Distro: Limited to 150 Units on Cloudy White vinyl. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.

Band Members
Lead Guitar and Vocals: Wyatt Bronc Bartlett
Guitar: Paul Pinos
Bass: Matthew Mcfarland
Keys: Tory Jean Stoddard
Drums: Tommy Middlen

https://www.facebook.com/rifflordusa/
https://www.instagram.com/rifflord/
https://rifflord.com/
http://stbrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/STB-Records-471228012921184/

Rifflord, 26 Mean & Heavy (2015)

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T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain: Streams of Life Below

Posted in Reviews on April 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tg-olson-foothills-before-the-mountain

The latest in a long string of solo full-lengths from founding Across Tundras guitarist/vocalist T.G. OlsonFoothills Before the Mountain nonetheless represents a landmark in the prolific South Dakota-based songwriter’s steadily-expanding catalog. Where recent outings like 2016’s La Violenza Naturale (review here), From the Rocky Peaks b/w Servant to Blues single (discussed here) and The Broken End of the Deal (review here) and Quicksilver Sound (discussed here) long-players found Olson — who indeed works alone on most of these offerings, playing any and all instruments and recording and releasing DIY as he does here — dug into drone-folk meditations, working to bring together acoustic country blues authenticity and a pervasive experimentalism of form, Foothills Before the Mountain leans decidedly in a different direction.

In some cases, with a song like new-album centerpiece “Dust on the Wayside,” the change is mainly the inclusion of louder and distorted electric guitar and drums laid on top of a similar acoustic foundation, but from the opening title-track onward, Olson seems willing to shirk off minimalism in a way that feels like a significant shift, bringing in flourish of keys, flute, percussion, etc., in mindful arrangements or even just working to play the acoustic and electric guitar off each other more directly, as in “Dying on the Silver Screen,” the second track. Songs vary in structure and overall feel, some darker, some brighter, but all are marked by a production that, while raw, allows for depth enough to mostly bury the vocals in the mix, and all carry the rhythmic ramble and sway that has become perhaps the defining hallmark of Olson‘s songwriting style — or certainly wound up no less so than his Dylanesque approach to singing.

Already noted, the placement of Olson‘s vocals in the mix throughout these tracks — low, always under the guitar, usually coated in reverb; somewhat obscured by the surrounding instrumentation — comes across as entirely purposeful. So much so that as the somewhat intense guitar line of “Foothills Before the Mountain” gives way to the roll of “Dying on the Silver Screen,” which is probably as close as Olson has come in a solo context to sounding like his main outfit, and the drearier march of “No More Debts to Pay,” which is the longest cut on Foothills Before the Mountain at 5:38, one can’t help but wonder if the music itself isn’t intended as an aural representation of landscape. That is, if the fullness of sound around him isn’t the mountain and his own presence is at the foothills, lower, looking up, the way his vocals seem to be echoing to the higher altitude of the guitar laid over.

This impression holds through the moody “A Stones Throw,” and while even at their barest, Olson‘s songs always carry a sense of space with them, that space has yet to spread as wide as it does on Foothills Before the Mountain, and if the tracks are meant to tie together in this way, the theme of being made small by surrounding nature would fit not only with the starkness of the prairie that Olson calls home but also his long-running allegiance to conveying a sense of place in both his solo material and with Across Tundras, the post-Earth Americana rumble of “A Stones Throw” only providing further evidence of intent as it distant-thunder-rumbles some impending threat into “Dust on the Wayside” as the gateway to the record’s second half.

t.g. olson

The winding guitar line of the aforementioned centerpiece feels like a moment of arrival, with a steady build of guitar and handclap-easy punctuation of drums behind, but “simplicity” has proven to be a point of deception for Olson before and it is here again, as neither the elements at use nor their arrangement in the mix are at all haphazard or lacking consciousness behind them. Foothills Before the Mountain, while still sounding as organic as anything Olson has done as a solo artist in the last several years, brings forth an entirely different level of purpose in his songwriting.

I don’t think that’s overstating it, since the shift is one from doing the work of a one-man outfit to basically doing the work of a band. It’s a new mindset. The backing flute in “Leader of the New Death” might be an echo of the opening title cut, but the guitar, drums, drones, vocals and other elements at play around it seem geared toward conveying plurality, and likewise the rhythmic pickup of “What’s Mine,” which pushes the guitar even farther forward in an almost teasing verse progression, slow winding but over a straight-ahead percussive march. Olson‘s in there, a human presence in this wide-cast reach, but perhaps at his most vague, and the contrast between his obscurity and the clarity of definition in the acoustic and electric guitar, the bass and the drums is yet another example of the atmospheric crux of Foothills Before the Mountain: the evocation of landscape through soundscape and exploring where a person fits in that.

The Rocky Mountains are a humbling sight, to put it lightly, and with those foothills in mind it’s maybe not wrong to think of Olson as humbling himself before them in “What’s Mine,” ironic as that might make the title, but either way, the overarching impression of humanity as a small thing and nature as a big thing is the core of what the record presents conceptually, and it remains vigilant as side B heads toward its finale with “From Where You Came” and “Cut Losses.” The latter, the closer, is the shortest inclusion at 4:21 and it follows a tempo kick in “From Where You Came,” which boasts more stomp than just about anything before it, marked by an echoing snare, howling lead line and crisp strum. Also speedier than “What’s Mine” or “Leader of the new Death,” “Cut Losses” closes out instrumentally and comes fairly close to a genuine wash between its low and high ends, a current of drone playing out beneath energetic guitars and far-back percussion, tonal fuzz and acoustics melding together one last time against a backdrop of ghostly noise, culminating in a decisive but not necessarily cold finish.

When Olson first posted Foothills Before the Mountain — which, like all his releases, is available name-your-price from the Across Tundras and T.G. Olson combined Bandcamp page — I speculated that perhaps the fuller sound was itself the foothills and the mountain before it/them was the prospect of a new album from Across Tundras, whose last long-player, Electric Relics (review here), came out four years ago. Having dug further into Foothills Before the Mountain, I’m not sure I still feel that way. It’s certainly not impossible that’s Olson‘s intent, that this record should be a transition back into actually functioning as part of a complete-band lineup, but it seems more likely that the mountain in question here is creativity itself, and that, like all works in one way or another, these songs are telling the story of their own making even as their execution expands and in some ways redefines the scope of their creator’s aesthetic. I won’t guess at what Olson will do next, as to do so would simply be an opportunity to be wrong, but as much development as he’s shown as a singer-songwriter over the last several years, Foothills Before the Mountain feels like a crucial forward step for and from him, and whatever it leads to can only benefit from the lessons to be gleaned in its tracks.

T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain (2017)

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Across Tundras/T.G. Olson on Bandcamp

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T.G. Olson Releases New Album Foothills Before the Mountain

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

T.G. Olson of Across Tundras steps away from the acoustic drone folk of his recent solo work with his latest album, Foothills Before the Mountain, and it doesn’t take long for one to notice the change. In addition to layers of acoustic and electric guitar, flutes, organ, vocals, tambourine, and so on, the opening title-track has a rhythmic heft and — wait for it — drums! It’s much more of a full-band vibe this time out, and it may indeed be that the mountain whose foothills we’re standing in is the much-awaited next offering from Across Tundras. If that’s the case, Olson is effectively drawing the line sonically in that direction here, as cuts like “Dying on the Silver Screen” and “What’s Mine” have that inimitable combination of swing and Americana ramble that has become the hallmark of Across Tundras‘ style.

I’m going to review the Foothills Before the Mountain hopefully sometime in the next couple weeks, so I won’t say much more about it than that for now. Olson, however, was kind enough to offer some comment on its making, and as ever, the album’s been released as a name-your-price download on the Across Tundras/T.G. Olson Bandcamp, and you can stream it and get the files at the bottom of this post.

Dig it:

tg-olson-foothills-before-the-mountain

T.G. Olson – Foothills Before the Mountain

New album of heavy sounds available for free/name your price download!

Played, recorded, and mixed by T.G. Olson in the months of December 2016 through March 2017. All instrumentation played by T.G. Olson.

Tanner Olson on Foothills Before the Mountain:

After finishing La Violenza Naturale and really all the recent solo albums which leaned towards the lighter folk/country side and followed a similar formula, I just knew wanted to do something drastically different. I actually wrote these songs and recorded the basic structure on organ first… which I had never done before. I had no idea what they would turn into from the outset. As I started recording and building the tracks the sound took shape and it was somewhere in between Across Tundras and T.G. Olson along with weird ’90s and other random influences. It’s a bit different than previous albums… but what the hell, Across Tundras and my solo stuff are all over the place musically as is… so I guess it keeps up with that unpredictable and changing nature.

I also thought it would be a good little tide over until the new Across Tundras album finally sees the light of day, which will hopefully be later this year. The songs are written and demoed, just waiting for everyone involved who are currently scattered around the country to come together and start playing again!

Tracklisting:
1. Foothills Before the Mountain 04:47
2. Dying on the Silver Screen 04:53
3. No More Debts to Pay 05:37
4. A Stones Throw 05:01
5. Dust on the Wayside 05:02
6. Leader of the New Death 05:02
7. What’s Mine 04:43
8. From Where You Came 04:55
9. Cut Losses 04:21

https://www.facebook.com/AcrossTundrasBand/
https://acrosstundras.bandcamp.com/

T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain (2017)

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T.G. Olson Releases New Single From the Rocky Peaks b/w Servant to Blues

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 5th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

It’s been what, days? since the last time we heard from Across Tundras frontman T.G. Olson with his solo album, The Broken End of the Deal? Granted, that review was hardly timed to the record’s release, but the fact of the matter is that Olson doesn’t give much by way of a heads up when he’s putting stuff out, so hopefully my being behind the times can be forgiven. Even in this case, the From the Rocky Peaks b/w Servant to Blues single — recorded at Ramble Hill Farm, in I believe Tennessee, I’m not sure when — has already been out for a few days. Some people are forever playing catchup, and by some people, I mean me. Makes me feel busy.

The A-side is an original, and features Olson on all instruments and vocals for an active full-band feel that anyone itching for a new album from Across Tundras (as I am, if I haven’t made that clear) might take as a sign of things moving in that direction, at least as much as anything is ever a sign of anything, and the B-side is a Wooden Wand cover that basks in slow, bluesy sway while keeping a firm grip on a discontented atmosphere. Vibe pervades both cuts, however, and even on a quick release such as this, Olson casts a personal stamp of melancholy Americana that many try to engage and fall woefully short. You’ll hear what I mean when you listen.

As ever, the download is name-your-price, so go ahead and name one:

tg olson from the rocky peaks-700

From the Rocky Peaks b?/?w Servant to Blues by T.G. Olson

New digi single from T.G. Olson with a Wooden Wand cover on the backside. Available now for free/name your price download!

1. From the Rocky Peaks 04:22
2. Servant to Blues (Wooden Wand cover) 03:02

Recorded, played, and mixed by T.G. Olson @ Ramble Hill Farm. Released August 31, 2016.

New Sounds of the Past. Old Sounds for the Future.

*Servant to Blues written by Wooden Wand. Support one of the best modern songwriters out there: woodenwand.bandcamp.com

*TGO cross stitch by Sheila Ausland. Love you Grandma. RIP

https://www.facebook.com/AcrossTundrasBand/
http://acrosstundras.bandcamp.com/album/from-the-rocky-peaks-b-w-servant-to-blues

T.G. Olson, From the Rocky Peaks b/w Servant to Blues (2016)

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T.G. Olson, The Broken End of the Deal: Distill and Ferment

Posted in Reviews on August 24th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

tg olson the broken end of the deal

The odd dichotomy that has taken hold in the output of T.G. Olson is that he’s just about completely reliable but you never quite know what you’re going to get. We’re now three years removed from Electric Relics (review here), the last full-length from Olson‘s main outfit, Across Tundras, but in that time the guitarist, vocalist, auteur and DIY packaging specialist has hardly kept still. To wit, he’s put forth no fewer than six solo offerings, including 2013’s The Bad Lands to Cross (discussed here) and Hell’s Half Acre (discussed here), 2014’s The Rough Embrace (review here; vinyl review here), 2015’s The Wandering Protagonist (review here) and The Boom and Bust (discussed here), and 2016’s Quicksilver Sound (discussed here), along with a 2016 Across Tundras EP, Home Free (discussed here).

These all arrived in much the same way as his latest outing, The Broken End of the Deal — via Bandcamp, name-your-price download with a possible follow-up physical pressing on tape, CD or vinyl, usually in a limited, dirt-cheap handcrafted package, tossed into the great digital ether almost completely sans fanfare. Perhaps the underlying truth of Olson‘s work is that he’s too busy writing new releases to promote the ones he’s already finished, but either way, the Sioux Falls, South Dakota, by way of Nashville, Tennessee, by way of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, native brings out some of his richest and most complex soundscaping on The Broken End of the Deal, effectively marrying two sides of his prior solo material that have grown together over time so that cinematic drone and barebones Americana almost impossibly coexist and flow in parallel across eight tracks/28 minutes that nonetheless keep a strong current of improvisation at their core.

In addition to helming the recording, Olson played all the instruments — some I wouldn’t even guess what they are — on The Broken End of the Deal, and he’s worked in this form enough times by now that it’s clear he knows what he’s going for sound-wise, though his process is still well open enough to let happy accidents happen when they will. Organ adds a gospel inflection to the end of the drone-folk opener “Tough Break” and the following “Hope Slivers,” as well as the closing duo of “Always Turning Away” and “Walk the Lonesome Valley,” and while one doubts that bookend is coincidental, it’s hardly the full tale when it comes to the scope of the album. And at 28 minutes, it is an album. In its construction, flow and ambient depth, The Broken End of the Deal builds a fluid full-length momentum, and though some tracks are barely more than on either side of a minute long, like “Green Sahara” (more organ there as well), the string-infused “Hum” or the aforementioned “Always Turning Away,” they add to what longer pieces like “Tough Break” and eight-minute album highlight “Blisslessness” accomplish in atmosphere and overall breadth.

tg olson

Tied together by a spirit of persistent twang, Olson‘s vocals, and overriding melancholy, as well as background drones that fill spaces that otherwise might give way to minimalism, The Broken End of the Deal allows its arrangements to wander, “Hope Slivers” blending acoustic and electric guitar, organs, drones, harmonica and voice, as well presumably as two or three other things Olson had in the room at that time. It’s the fact that nothing feels out of place or like it pushes too far that makes the songwriting such a standout. “Green Sahara” gives way to open-country psychedelia, an ethereal pastoralism that one wishes were more than 1:21, but “Blisslessness” hums in on guitar noise and flute and keys, and unfolds a full experimentalist dronescape almost completely departed sonically from “Tough Break” or even “Hope Slivers,” but still of the same spirit and among the most evocative of Olson‘s individual solo pieces.

The transition into “Hum” comes with a fade out and back in, and the briefest cut on The Broken End of the Deal at just 55 seconds long digging quickly into a foreboding swirl before the more immediate guitar/drone/vocal start of “Distilled to Nothing” begins, Olson‘s verse delivered quietly and still with plenty of effects, but nonetheless forward in the mix in a way it isn’t on earlier tracks. Repetitions of the title line, “Distilled down to nothing,” seem to hint at the root message of the record, but that this dirge should come with such a complex wash of sound is a contrast that shouldn’t be overlooked. Olson‘s done barebones before — though written and recorded completely on his own, this isn’t necessarily it. At 1:12, “Always Turning Away” breaks in half and plays out first forward and then apparently again backward as though to underline the experimentalist heart in the work overall, and closer “Walk the Lonesome Valley” brings prominent guitar strums, organ, far-back voice, drone and percussion, which I think might be a first since “Tough Break.”

Like its predecessors, “Walk the Lonesome Valley” is both familiar and captivating in being so out of place in this universe, an oddity that you already seem to know, like when you’re dreaming you have a hole in your head and that’s just always the way life has been. It makes its own sense. I’m not sure I’d call it an apex in the traditional sense, but the soulful kind of falsetto comes to a head later in the track with guitar and organ backing, and the end of The Broken End of the Deal comes with a quick fade, which no doubt is the result of Olson needing to get to work on the next album. All kidding aside, these tracks mark a pivotal next step in continuing to bridge the various facets of Olson‘s songwriting modus, and in so doing prove themselves to be anything but broken. I would not venture to guess what might come next for him as a songwriter, and I don’t think he would either, but whatever it might be, he never fails to move forward with each outing. Reliable, even if you don’t know what you’re going to get.

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

Across Tundras/T.G. Olson on Bandcamp

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T.G. Olson Releases New Album The Broken End of the Deal

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 23rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Some of T.G. Olson‘s work steers toward raw folk and blues, and some of it is flat-out drone experimentalism. With his new solo — and I do mean solo, since he performs everything on it, recorded and mixed — album, the Across Tundras guitarist/vocalist effectively brings the two sides together, resulting in a kind of ritualized soundscape Americana. There’s something lurking deep in the underlying hum of “Blisslessness,” but a steady acoustic strum there and in the earlier “Hope Slivers” that keeps the material grounded, leaving Olson‘s vocals free to become part of the ether, which they do, contributing either far-back lyrics or ambient melody, as on the aforementioned “Blisslessness,” the longest track on the album by far at over eight minutes.

The album just got released — like, an hour ago — so obviously there’s no word yet on whether or not Olson will put together a physical version. In the meantime, it’s available via the Across Tundras/T.G. Olson Bandcamp page in name-your-price fashion.

I know I’ve said this before, but if you don’t already keep up with that Bandcamp page, you should. Aside from being dirt cheap on the whole, Olson‘s physical releases are almost always gorgeously hand-made and come with extra tracks, individualized package designs, etc.

Still waiting on news one of these days about the next Across Tundras LP, but in the meantime, The Broken End of the Deal is Olson‘s second solo offering of the year behind January’s Quicksilver Sound (discussed here), so there’s been plenty to chew on:

tg olson the broken end of the deal

The Broken End of the Deal by T.G. Olson

Across Tundras & T.G. Olson just released The Broken End of the Deal by T.G. Olson.

1. Tough Break 05:11
2. Hope Slivers 03:34
3. Green Sahara 01:21
4. Blisslessness 08:15
5. Hum 00:54
6. Distilled to Nothing 03:14
7. Always Turning Away 01:12
8. Walk the Lonesome Valley 04:28

All instruments and soundscapes were improvised, played, distorted, recorded, and mixed by T.G. Olson in the Spring of 2016.

New Sounds of the Past. Old Sounds for the Future.

http://acrosstundras.bandcamp.com/album/the-broken-end-of-the-deal
https://www.facebook.com/ACROSS-TUNDRAS-67862323857/

T.G. Olson, The Broken End of the Deal (2016)

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