Quarterly Review: Hallatar, Alastor, The Dead-End Alley Band, Hair of the Dog, Soup, Kungens Män, Smoke Wizzzard, Highburnator, The Curf, Ulls

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Here we are, gathered for round four of the Fall 2017 Quarterly Review. After the technical issues with the site for the last couple days, I’m glad to have everything back up and running, and one more time I thank Slevin and Behrang Alavi for making that happen. Though I have no idea what it might actually entail, I don’t imagine switching hosts on the fly for a site with as much content as this one has is easy, but they of course killed it and it is thoroughly appreciated. We move forward, as ever, with 10 more records. So let’s go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Hallatar, No Stars Upon the Bridge

hallatar-no-stars-upon-the-bridge

Finland’s Hallatar was formed after the passing of Trees of Eternity vocalist Aleah Starbridge, life partner of guitarist and songwriter Juha Ravio (also Swallow the Sun). In the new outfit, Ravio pays homage to Starbridge with the debut long-player No Stars Upon the Bridge (on Svart) by using her poems as lyrics, samples of her voice reading on “Raven’s Song,” “Spiral Gate” and the piano-backed centerpiece “Pieces,” and by bringing in Amorphis vocalist Tomi Joutsen and ex-HIM drummer Gas Lipstick to complete a trio playing nine tracks/40 minutes of deeply mournful/beautiful death-doom. The extremity of lurch in “The Maze” late in the record is matched by the gorgeousness of the chants and shimmering guitar on closer “Dreams Burn Down,” and from the opening strains of “Mirrors,” the emotion driving No Stars Upon the Bridge is sincere and affecting. Cuts like “Melt” and the mostly-whispered-until-it-explodes “My Mistake” have a sense of the theatrical in their delivery, but that makes them no less genuine, and though one wouldn’t wish the circumstances leading to the band’s formation on anybody, there’s no question that with Hallatar, Ravio turns tragedy into a lush, resonant catharsis.

Hallatar on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records website

 

Alastor, Black Magic

alastor black magic

Cultish echoes pervade Black Magic, the debut album from Swedish doom-rolling four-piece Alastor, and it’s not so much that the initials-only four-piece of guitarists H and J, bassist/vocalist R and drummer S take influence from Electric Wizard and Black Sabbath, it’s what they do with that influence that’s most striking. Black Magic is made up of three extended tracks – “Enemy” (11:51), “Nothing to Fear” (7:42) and “Black Magic” (14:27) – and with a deep tonal engagement, each one embarks on a huge-sounding sprawl of doom. Yes, the guitars owe the swirl in “Nothing to Fear” to Jus Oborn, but the echoes behind R’s voice there and the melody have an almost New Wave-style feel despite the “all right now!” drawn right from the Ozzy playbook. In other words, Alastor are preaching to the converted, and that holds true in the snowblinded Luciferian spaciousness of the title-track’s early going as well, but the converted should have no problem finding the gospel in what they’re hearing, and as “Black Magic” rounds out with its chanted feel, Alastor affirm the potential to progress within this sound and to continue to develop it into something even more their own than it is now. Familiar superficially, but sneaky in the details, so watch out.

Alastor on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records webstore

 

The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms

the dead-end-alley-band-storms

Lima-based four-piece The Dead-End Alley Band aren’t far into opener “Red Woman” before the dark-psych vibe and languid groove have properly emphasized just how much the guitar of Leonardo Alva and the organ of Sebastian Sanchez-Botta (also vocals) complement each other. Propelled by the rhythm section of bassist/vocalist Javier Kou and drummer Jafer Diaz, Storms is the third album from them behind 2015’s Odd Stories (discussed here) and 2013’s debut, Whispers of the Night (review here), and it continues to blend fuzz and classic garage doom impulses on songs like “Headstone Fortress” and the shuffling “Thunderbolts and Lace,” the latter of which wah-trips to the max around a stirring boogie before “The Clock has Stopped” weirds out on extra vocal echoes and nine-minute closer “Waiting for the Void” brings in the progressive touches of pan flute and percussion. Even in the earlier, shortest track “Need You (It’s Enough),” The Dead-End Alley Band bring no shortage of personality to the proceedings, and confirm that the rough edges of their early outings have matured into essential aspects of who they have become as a band, completely in control of their craft and able to conjure an atmosphere both classic and individual.

The Dead-End Alley Band on Thee Facebooks

The Dead-End Alley Band on Bandcamp

Forbidden Place Records website

 

Hair of the Dog, This World Turns

hair-of-the-dog-this-world-turns

Making their debut on Kozmik Artifactz, Scottish trio Hair of the Dog give their guitar-led compositions plenty of time to flesh out on This World Turns, their third album, as they demonstrate quickly on the nine-plus minute titular opener and longest track (immediate points), but one would hardly call their songwriting indulgent there or anywhere else as “This World Turns” flows easily into the following seven-minute push of “Keeping Watch over the Night” in a resolute one-two punch that soon gives way to the shorter and more driving “Ctrl-Alt-Del,” touching on influences from Thin Lizzy and Scorpions en route as well as modern practitioners like Kadavar, whose stamp can also be heard on side B launch “The Colours in Her Skin.” That’s not to say Hair of the Dog — guitarist/vocalist Adam Holt (interview here), bassist Iain Thomson and drummer Jon Holt – don’t leave their own mark as well, just that their blend stems from multiple sources. A bit of Lynottism surfaces in the penultimate “In Death’s Hands” as well, which has a more subdued feel despite fervent rhythmic movement underlying, and closer “4AM” soars with enough vigor and soul – and a little falsetto – to give This World Turns a suitably smooth and vibrant finish.

Hair of the Dog on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Soup, Remedies

soup remedies

With ties to Motorpsycho through guitarist Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, Soup issue their sixth long-player in the five-track lush melodicism of Remedies, which feels particularly aptly named for the immersion the wash that opener “Going Somewhere” is able to elicit. That is, of course, just the first of the spacious, semi-folk-infused progressions, and it’s with the longer-form “The Boy and the Snow” (11:33) and the psychedelic purposeful meandering of “Sleepers” (13:35) that Remedies truly unveils its considerable breadth, but the Crispin Glover Records release holds a sense of poise even in the two-minute centerpiece church organ interlude “Audion,” and the harmonies of “Nothing Like Home” bring to mind peak-era Porcupine Tree patience and fluidity while holding fast to the bright, orange-sunshiny warmth of the atmosphere as a whole, instruments dropping out just before three minutes in to showcase the vocals before returning to embark on the march to the final crescendo, not at all overblown but with just a touch of extra volume to let listeners dive deeper into the moment. Remedies feels quick at 42 minutes, but turns out to be just what the doctor ordered.

Soup on Thee Facebooks

Crispin Glover Records website

 

Kungens Män, Dag & Natt

kungens-man-dag-natt

Prolific psych-progging Stockholmers Kungens Män return with Dag & Natt, a 2CD/2LP issued through Kungens Ljud & Bild (CD) and Adansonia Records (LP) that overflows with jazzy fluidity and gorgeous immersion. The band’s last studio outing was late-2015’s Förnekaren (review here), and whether it’s 13-minute pieces like opener “Morgonrodnad” and the even-more-krautrocking “Aftonstjärnan” or the seemingly complementary inclusions of the kosmiche-minded “Dag” and wonderfully drifting “Natt,” the album as a whole is a joy and a boon to anyone looking for an extended psychedelic meander. The saxophone of Gustav Nygren on the aforementioned leadoff and “Natt” makes a particularly striking impression, but with a steady, languid wash of guitar, synth and warm bass throughout, Dag & Natt wants nothing for flow, and the gentle, classy spirit is maintained even as the penultimate “Vargtimmen” ups the sense of thrust leading into the finisher payoff of “Cirkeln är Slut.” As of now, Kungens Män should be considered a too-well-kept secret of Scandinavia’s psych underground, though listening to Dag & Natt, one wonders just how long they’ll stay that way.

Kungens Män on Thee Facebooks

Adansonia Records website

 

Smoke Wizzzard, Run with the Wolf

smoke-wizzzard-run-with-the-wolf

Whether it’s through the striking and gruesome cover art or through the lumbering post-Sabbath, post-Cathedral stoner-doom nod contained within, Smoke Wizzzard’s five-song self-titled debut LP thoroughly earns its third ‘z’ – and, for that matter, its second one – with played-to-form thickness and a tonal push that starts with 10-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Astro Lord” and continues to swagger and swing with due viscosity through “Reptiles” after the minute-long punker curveball “Soul Train.” The highlight of the Pittsburgh trio’s first outing might be “The Pass,” which has a hazy patience and some rightly-featured bass tone, but as “Run with the Wolf” moves from its early Electric Wizard muckraking to cap with piano and included howls for a doomier feel, it becomes clear Smoke Wizzzard have yet to play their full stylistic hand and the real highlights may still be yet to come. Fair enough. Something tells me getting stranger is only going to be a boon to Smoke Wizzzard’s approach on the whole, so bring it on.

Smoke Wizzzard on Thee Facebooks

Smoke Wizzzard on Bandcamp

 

Highburnator, Keystoned State

highburnator-keystoned-state

If you hit up Highburnator’s Bandcamp and download their name-your-price Keystoned State EP, you might note the fifth and final inclusion is the entire live-recorded, 28-minute release presented as a single track. No doubt the Pennsylvania three-piece intend the four-song outing to be taken just that way. They begin with the “mad as hell” speech sampled from the 1976 film Network and from there unfold a potent riffly brew met head on with harsh East Coast hardcore-style vocals and more metallic growls. That’s nine-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Brass Rail,” and it sets the tone for what follows on the eponymous “Highburnator” before “Desert Funeral” and the Sleep-style nod of “Peaking at the Coffin” push into even more stonerly vibes. This melding of pissed-off disaffection and mid-paced heavy rock groove is particular to the sludge of the Eastern Seaboard – think of it as regional fare – but Highburnator find space for themselves in the rawness of their riffs and the charm of their puns, and by the time they’re through the four songs, it makes sense why they might want to present the full onslaught as a single entity, essentially giving it to their listeners on one overflowing platter. Got the munchies? It’s right there waiting.

Highburnator on Thee Facebooks

Highburnator on Bandcamp

 

The Curf, Death and Love

the-curf-death-and-love

Greek psych-doomers The Curf made their debut in 2007 with I and then went radio silent until last year’s Royal Water EP. Their sophomore full-length, Death and Love, then, arrives via Fuzz Ink Records with some amount of intrigue behind it, but either way, the sans-pretense heavy roll the band unfurls on “Dark Hado,” and the more uptempo “Smoke Ring,” the dig-in low end of “Lunar Lair” and the scream-topped start-stoppery of “California” present a varied take brought together through heft as well as the crispness of production and delivery, such that when it wants to, Death and Love can bite down hard, but as on the closing title-track or the earlier “Order ‘n’ Sin,” it can rumble out spaciousness as well. Whatever might’ve taken The Curf so long to put together a second album beats the hell out of me, but if they were looking to make an argument for a third one, they do so convincingly across these nine songs, which hold firmly to their overarching flow despite the emergent stylistic range.

The Curf on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Ink Records webstore

 

Ulls, I

ULLS I

For now, Ulls is the solo-project of Barcelona-based David Trillo, formerly guitarist/vocalist for the heavy progressive trio Lord Summerisle, but the hope seems to be to build a full band at some point in the future. The I EP might rightly be called a demo, then, but for the professionalism and cohesiveness of sound with which its three songs are presented and the clarity of intent behind them. With Trillo rumbling away on bass beneath, six-minute opener “Inhumat” fleshes out its arrangement with organ alongside guitar swirl and sets up the classically swinging strut of “Llot Convuls,” on which the drums post-midsection lead the way through starts and stops à la a restless King Crimson and the guitar joins with no less angularity. Eight-minute closer “L’Emersió de l’Executor” brings about a thicker overall tone, but holds to a similar mood through its first half, Trillo finding room after about the four-and-a-half-minute mark for a standout solo executed with the bass running fluidly alongside that carries the song to its fading finish just before seven minutes in, at which point a residual drone takes hold to lead the way out. That ending is telling when it comes to various impulses that might show themselves in Ulls going forward, but as an initial demonstration, suffice it to say that I makes it plain Trillo shouldn’t have much trouble finding other players to come aboard the band with him.

Ulls on Instagram

Ulls on Bandcamp

 

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Review & Track Premiere: Motorpsycho, The Tower

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

motorpsycho the tower

[Click play above to stream ‘A.S.F.E.’ from Motorpsycho’s The Tower. Album is out Sept. 8 via Stickman Records and Rune Grammofon.]

Maybe remaining Motorpsycho founders Bent Sæther and Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan feel they have something to prove with their latest long-player, The Tower. For what it’s worth, they’re probably mistaken about that. The Trondheim natives are already in Norway’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and since first getting together in 1989, they’ve become a crucial influence in progressive, heavy and psychedelic rock across Scandinavia and greater Europe. They’ve scored plays, collaborated with orchestras, written commissioned works and been heralded by audiences and critics alike. Though they’re viciously under-known in the US, they’ve released upwards of 20 LPs, plus other singles and short releases, at a blazingly prolific rate, and constantly offered their listeners sonic development while retaining an identity that is unmistakably their own. Books have been written about them. Films made. To put it another way, they’re a big frickin’ deal, and they have been for quite some time.

In 2016, Sæther (who handles lead vocals, bass, guitar, keys and drums and also played in Spidergawd for their first three records) and Ryan (guitar, vocals, keys, bass and various other strings) said goodbye to longtime drummer Kenneth Kapstad (also and still of Spidergawd) following the particularly proggy Here be Monsters full-length, and with The Tower (released by Rune Grammofon in Norway and Stickman Records for the rest of Europe), they’ve redirected their efforts toward sounding fully reenergized. No doubt the acquisition of drummer Tomas Järmyr has something to do with that — the infusion of fresh blood seems to have brought a restorative effect even to the pacing of serene, drumless moments like the harmonies of the Mellotron-laced “Stardust” — but however it got there, The Tower comes across as a burst of creativity from Motorpsycho, continuing the progressive, forward march of Here be Monsters while also landing with a considerably heavier tonal impact on songs like the opening salvo of the title-track and “Bartok of the Universe,” as well as “In Every Dream Home (There’s a Dream of Something Else),” and the closing pair of “The Cuckoo” and “Ship of Fools.”

Now, it can be a fine line, because The Tower still shares plenty of the post-Greg Lake-era King Crimsoned progadelic pastoralism of its predecessor, but to put it in terms of that band, it’s like the difference between “The Court of the Crimson King” and “21st Century Schizoid Man,” where Here be Monsters is the former and The Tower is the latter. Still in the same vein, but by seamlessly integrating Järmyr into the trio, Motorpsycho can remain as intricate in their composition and arrangements as they were with Kapstad behind the kit, while offering more thrust behind The Tower in cuts like “A.S.F.E.” (an acronym for “a song for everyone”), which seems to imagine what would happen if “Weird Al” Yankovic decided to go space rock — hint: it would be awesome — and the subsequent “Intrepid Explorer,” which builds in a patient swell of melody to one of the album’s most satisfying payoffs before receding into the folkish “Stardust.” Of course, Motorpsycho are still very much Motorpsycho, but as they have all along, during Kapstad‘s 10-plus years with the band and before that as well, they’re making efforts to reshape that definition for themselves and their followers.

motorpsycho

Does it work? Yes, it does. The Tower is a significant climb, and well past the standards of manageability with its 10-track and nearly 85-minute runtime. But the final three tracks, the dreamy-into-percussive “A Pacific Sonata” and the aforementioned “The Cuckoo” and “Ship of Fools” consume more than 37 minutes of that on their own, and a clear 2LP structure to the placement of the songs — with “The Tower,” “Bartok of the Universe” and “A.S.F.E.” as side A, “Intrepid Explorer,” “Stardust” and “In Every Dream Home (There’s a Dream of Something Else)” as side B, the mood-setting psych-folk of “The Maypole” moving into “A Pacific Sonata” for side C and “The Cuckoo” and “Ship of Fools” as a final immersion on side D — makes it that much easier for the listener to put their trust in Sæther, Ryan and Järmyr for the duration. A clear shift in purpose between the first and second platters, from the harder prog of the earlier cuts to the peaceful vibes of “The Maypole” and “Pacific Sonata” — prefaced somewhat by “Stardust” — and the okay-now-it’s-time-to-get-swallowed-in-this closing statement of “The Cuckoo” and “Ship of Fools” (despite the memorable hook of the latter), only reinforces the message to those who’d engage with the material:

Relax. You’re in the hands of professionals.

Maybe it is that overarching sense of command that lets Motorpsycho not only introduce Järmyr without missing a beat (pun totally intended; why even ask?), but do so with a consuming double-LP nearly twice as long as its predecessor and arriving just a year later. If that’s the case, then Ryan and Sæther‘s many years working together are a context from which The Tower can’t and shouldn’t be divorced, but if they’re motivated by a need to reinforce their own will to keep going despite the lineup change or if they’ve simply hit a creative burst, the results are a triumph in these songs. Whether it’s in the longer-form explorations of “A Pacific Sonata” and “Ship of Fools” — the keys alone of which make it a highlight, let alone all the torrential churn surrounding at its apex — the quirky craftsmanship of “Bartok of the Universe” and “A.S.F.E.,” the brief acoustic excursions of “Stardust” and “The Maypole” or the arc-defining prog of the title-track, “Intrepid Explorer,” “In Every Dream Home (There’s a Dream of Something Else)” and “The Cuckoo,” there isn’t a moment that doesn’t earn its place, and as few 2LPs can, The Tower brings forth coherent realization without giving up on the varied nature of its delivery.

That is to say, Motorpsycho chart a difficult course for themselves and then navigate it with enviable ease. Longtime listeners would expect no less of them, but The Tower remains a marked achievement in a discography crowded with them, and if it’s signaling the start of a new era for the band, one can only look forward to the growth Motorpsycho will continue to foster as they inch closer to 30 years on from their beginning. They sound, and are, vital.

Motorpsycho on Thee Facebooks

Motorpsycho on Twitter

Motorpsycho on Instagram

Motorpsycho website

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Thee Facebooks

Stickman Records on Twitter

Rune Grammofon on Thee Facebooks

Rune Grammofon on Instagram

Rune Grammofon website

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Weedpecker Sign to Stickman Records; III Coming Soon; New Song Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

weedpecker

Poland’s Weedpecker already have two strong albums under their collective belt in their 2013 self-titled (review here) and 2015’s even more expansive II (review here), but with an endorsement like that of Stickman Records behind the forthcoming III, it seems all the more like they might just be about to hit their finest hour to-date. The Warsaw four-piece are the latest impressive pickup from the German label, which seems to be on something of a spree over the course of the last year-plus, with King Buffalo, Papir and a distro deal with The Heads‘ imprint Rooster Rock, as well as releases by ElderMotorpsycho, OrangoThe Devil and the Almighty Blues, the aforementioned Papir, etc. All the better, as their taste is basically unfuckwithable as far as I’m concerned.

In the case of Weedpecker, they’re yet another band who take familiar sonic elements and turn them into something brazenly individual. With an underlying influence from their now-labelmates Elder, they honed a progressive feel across the still-psychedelic and very much still-heavy II, and based on what Stickman says about it and the track “Liquid Sky” that’s streaming below, I can’t wait to hear what’s in store for III. Good band. Good news. Positive vibes and kudos all around.

Exact release date still to come. Here’s the cover art and the announcement from the label:

weedpecker iii

STICKMAN WELCOMES WEEDPECKER WITH NEW ALBUM “III”!

It’s the year of the roman numeral at Stickman Records, beginning with Papir’s “V” and continuing the trend with our latest addition to the family – Poland’s WEEDPECKER for their third album, aptly titled “III”!

Weedpecker started turning heads with their fantastic debut album in 2013, no small feat in the oversaturated world of drug rock in the 21st century. Mixing grungy riffs with dreamy, psychedelic soundscapes, their heavy and trippy sound is singular and instantly recognizable. Numerous European tours including shows with our own Elder won the Warsaw quartet the kind of quiet reverence that accompanies any underground band who’s just too good to be let out into the mainstream and discovered for all, and the second LP “II” remains a sought-after gem. When we got the chance to work with them for their latest offering, of course we jumped at the chance!

If the band name conjures up images of marijuana haze – as it undoubtedly should – “III” is a whole ‘nother drug; showing no inhibitions in breaking out of the “stoner rock” mold, the extended trips float over the listener with lush keys, beautiful guitar melodies and ethereal vocal harmonies. Borrowing more heavily from the lighter psychedelia a la early Tame Impala, Pond or Morgan Delt, “III” shows the band experimenting and jamming more than ever before with unexpected and wonderful results.

Says Weedpecker: “We are very happy to announce that our new album will be released by Stickman Records! We’re super proud that Elder, Motorpsycho, Papir, Mos Generator, Anekdoten are our label buddies!”

Release date and details to follow soon!

Weedpecker is:
Wyro-guitar
Bartek-guitar
Mroku-bass
Falon-drums

https://www.facebook.com/Weedpecker-349871488424872/
https://weedpecker.bandcamp.com/
http://weedpecker.bigcartel.com/
http://weedpecker.8merch.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Stickman-Records-1522369868033940/
https://twitter.com/stickmanrecords

Weedpecker, “Liquid Sky”

Weedpecker, II (2015)

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Black Moon Circle to Release New Jams Collection Flowing into the Third Dimension

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

black moon circle

The Trondheim, Norway-based heavy psych jammers Black Moon Circle continue to evolve, and if you haven’t yet dug into that ongoing process, the two 20-minute-plus improvisations on The Studio Jams Vol. III — AKA Flowing into the Third Dimension — are as good a time to do so as either prior installment. Working once again as the four-piece of guitarist Vemund Engan, bassist Øyvin Engan, drummer Per Andreas Gulbrandsen, and synthesist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (also of Øresund Space Collective), they set a course for 180 mark 0 and head about as far out as they’ve gone to-date, which bodes remarkably well for their impending full-length to come next year, on which they’ll also introduce organist/keyboardist Magnus. Intrigue abounds.

Note that Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan of Motorpsycho sits in for The Studio Jams Vol. III as well. Because I guess if you’re going to happen to make your way into a new plane of reality — rest assured Black Moon Circle have spent time in multiple dimensions over the course of their offerings thus far — you should probably keep the best company possible as you go.

Info follows from the PR wire:

black-moon-circle-flowing-into-the-third-dimension

Black Moon Circle – The Studio Jams Vol III

MOON6CGR078 / LP

Black Moon Circle (BMC) is a psychedelic jam band from Trondheim, Norway. The band started off as a 3 piece (Vemund- Guitar, backing vocals; Øyvin- Bass, lead vocals; Per- Drums) in 2012 playing gigs in Trondheim, Oslo and Copenhagen.

In Copenhagen, they met Dr Space (Øresund Space Collective, Space Rock Productions) and a lasting collaboration started, and thrives and evolves to this day. The Plains EP was released on Space Rock Productions (2014) and included 2 songs from the bands set and one long in studio jam. The band did not sit idle for long and over the last 3 years the band has released 2 additional studio albums, a split 10”, split 7 and completed a trilogy of Studio Jam albums (Vols. 1-3). Most of these are released on the local, Crispin Glover Records label.

Vol 1 and 2 have been extremely well received and Vol 3 saw a further evolution in the band, with the addition of Snah, guitar player from Motorpsycho, who joined the band in the studio (he also played on the 10” record) for several jams.

2017 has seen the band expand into a five piece with the addition of Magnus on organ, mellotron, rhodes piano to further augment the bands sound. You will hear his contributions on the next studio album due in early 2018.

http://blackmooncircle.bandcamp.com
http://facebook.com/blackmooncircle
http://crispingloverrecords.com
https://www.stickman-records.com/

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Review & Track Premiere: Papir, V

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

PAPIR V

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Papir’s ‘V.I’ from the new album V, out Aug. 18 on Stickman Records and available for preorder here.]

There isn’t a harsh moment on it — not one blastbeat, scream, or malevolent dirge — but Papir‘s V is a work of extremity all the same. The suitably-named fifth album from the instrumentalist Copenhagen trio of guitarist Nicklas Sørensen, drummer Christoffer Brøchmann Christensen and bassist Christian Becher Clausen, its 2CD/2LP run of seven tracks and 94 minutes pushes into a psychedelic wash of such breadth and immersion that there’s no other word to describe it. Its tones are warm air on cold skin, and its rhythms are cool water on a hot day. It is among the longest hugs you will receive this year. More to the point, it is an ultra-liquid, ultra-engaging flow of heavy psychedelia that stretches well beyond the confines of what one might consider manageable but offers a solar system’s worth of worlds to explore in trade.

In terms of basic circumstance, V notably finds the band shifting from El Paraiso Records — which released 2011’s second album, Stundum, 2013’s III and 2014’s IIII (review here), a compilation of III and IIII together in 2014, as well as their Live at Roadburn outing and a special edition 10″, both in 2015 (their self-titled debut came out in 2010 via Red Tape) — to Stickman Records. That removes them from partnership with like-minded Danish countrymen Causa Sui but establishes them as labelmates to forward-thinking outfits such as MotorpsychoElder, and Orango, among others. Papir show themselves to be no less progressive on V, which brims with a sense of universal expansion playing out across its nigh-on-impossible span; numbered individual pieces — “V.I,” “V.II,” V.VI,” and so on — taking on a life of their own, including “V.III,” which is the shortest of the bunch and the only cut included on V to check in under 10 minutes. If you’re wondering, it is 9:07.

Clearly Papir are envisioning a broad listening scenario. That is, you put the platter or the disc on and let yourself get lost in their jazzy progressive krautrocking psychedelia. Maybe you have headphones in to better experience nuances like the underlying acoustic strum beneath the soaring leads of 15-minute centerpiece “V.IV,” or maybe the space-rock thrust of “V.II” is turned up through speakers in order to let Clausen‘s highlight bassline rumble through the floors. Either way you go, Papir‘s skillful blend of proggy elements, post-rock ambience, mega-patient delivery and aesthetic cohesion proves second to none with V, and the sheer scope of the work they’re doing becomes even more staggering when one considers that it doesn’t necessarily sound like it’s just jamming.

papir

While I have no doubt that at least parts of their material are improvised or based around initial improvisations, listening to the emerging dreamscape clarity of “V.V” — arguably the lushest and most gorgeous single piece Papir have produced to-date, with Christensen‘s drums keeping steady motion beneath guitar, synth and bass interplay that is stirring in a manner instrumental output rarely achieves — there’s a consciousness and a direction at work as well. It could be Sørensen leading the way as his guitar meanders and explores open, vast soundscapes, but it’s definitely a spirit to which all three members of Papir contribute, so that it’s less about the work of one of them and the variety of texture, stylistic complexity and the flow — my god, the flow — they’re able to bring to bear when working together with the effectiveness and they chemistry they show here. Much to their collective credit, as they move toward the 25-minute finale “V.II” through the rumbling and ringing “V.VI” (11:03), there isn’t a moment of redundancy to be found. On a release that’s 94 minutes long, one would hardly be able to hold it against them if there were, but each track on offers something distinct from its surroundings while refusing to sacrifice the overarching purpose that seems to drive the band continually farther and farther outward.

And they end up pretty far out, to be sure. One could easily posit that Papir broke through creativity on III and really defined their course and sonic persona in the reaches of IIII, but even if that’s so, V surpasses both in its scope and execution. Holding to an organic vibe even as “V.VII” drifts along a slow path of effects wash and drone in its early going, this may not be the moment at which Papir make their first declaration of who they are as a band — nor should it be; this is their fifth LP — but it is a moment that finds them blowing that prior definition away like dandelion seeds with such a willful expansion as to be staggering when taken in its entirety. Yes, it is long, but even the length seems to serve a mission more about the effect produced by the material than the length itself — not just that Papir take that time, but what they’re able to accomplish with it.

Circa 20 minutes in, “V.VII” finds Christensen picking up momentum on the drums, and there’s a build of tension there, but if you think Papir are headed for some blowout crescendo, you’ve missed the point. A few cymbal crashes behind the steadily-exploratory guitar and bass serve as an exciting finish that stays true to the high level of class the three-piece have shown throughout V, and emphasizes once more the gracefulness they bring to this massive, encompassing fuller-than-full-length. That may be the theme that most draws the individual tracks together, but when taken as a single entirety, there’s no turn so drastic as to necessarily interrupt the movement of the proceedings overall. Still, no doubt V will simply prove too much for some, and so despite its poise and gentleness and readiness to converse with its audience rather than repel, one continues to think of it as a work of extremity. It just so happens that that extremity finds Papir stepping out from behind their influences to make themselves leaders in heavy psychedelia and in so doing takes the form of one of 2017’s best and most satisfying listening experiences.

Papir on Thee Facebooks

Papir on Bandcamp

Papir Blogspot

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Thee Facebooks

Stickman Records on Twitter

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Wrapping up #VinylDay2017

Posted in Features on July 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Grooves and platters galore. My motivation behind doing Vinyl Day 2017 was simple: I felt like listening to records and sharing that process. It was kind of an off-the-cuff thing. Just an idea I had and ran with it. I figure it doesn’t need to be anything more than that, right? Isn’t putting on an album its own excuse for putting on an album? I tend to think so.

And yeah, I made it a hashtag. Because it’s the future, and hashtags. Instagrammaphone and whatnot. I’m a novice at best when it comes to the social medias, but it seems to me that if you’re going to share a full day’s worth of what you’re listening to, that’s the way to do it. So that’s what I did. If I clogged up your feed or whatever and it pissed you off, sorry.

For anyone who might’ve missed it, it turned out to be nine records of various sorts. Here they are, complete with accompanying audio when I could get it, because it’s the age of instant gratification:

There you have it. Had to be Sleep to end it. Pretty awesome day of music on the whole, and whatever was on your playlist yesterday, if it was this stuff or anything else, I hope you enjoyed. I’m gonna call Vinyl Day 2017 a definite win. Thanks for reading.

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

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Mos Generator to Record New Album Next Month; Live Dates and Reissues Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 24th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

mos generator

Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rockers Mos Generator hit the studio in June to record their next full-length. It’s been a minute since the last time the band either hit the road or had a release — and after a few years of them more or less as a constant, that clearly meant they were up to something. Writing a new record, apparently. All the better. The Tony Reed-led three-piece will sandwich the recording process this time with two local shows before and after, presumably to get themselves in a live mode before laying down the material and then follow-up with a victory lap once the album is tracked, and with the prospect of a release before the end of this year from Reed, bassist Sean Booth and drummer Jono Garrett, there’s little else to say about it other than “right on.” So yeah. Right on.

Of course, that’s just the start of it when it comes to Mos Generator news. Reed, in addition to having now pressed up the Lies of Liberty (review here) EP for a physical release, also checked in with a few other bullet points, including a new video to come for “Wicked Willow.” Not sure if it will be the version from last year’s long-player, Abyssinia (review here), or the EP The Firmament (review here) — the participation of Chris Mathews, Jr., suggests the latter, but that’s not a sure thing — two new vinyl reissues to arrive in the coming months and a European tour being put together for this Fall by Heavy Psych Sounds. They’ve already been announced for Keep it Low 2017 (info here), so it’s good to know there’s more to come on that front as well.

They’ve also been confirmed to take part in Glory or Death Records‘ tribute comp to Thin Lizzy, so it’s a multiple-front attack from Mos Generator, as one has come to expect. You won’t hear me complain. Here’s the latest from Reed and Co.:

mos generator june shows

Mos Generator – New Album Recording & June Shows

We are gearing up to start recording our next record and play our first shows in almost 7 months. We get one rehearsal for those shows. Aaahhh!!!! Should be fun though. I know we are recording part of it in the basement of an old bank that closed in 1982.

We are also book-ending our recording sessions with 4 regional shows. Our first shows of the year.

Mos Generator live:
06.02 Manette Saloon Bremerton WA
06.03 Coog’s Port Angeles WA
06.04-06.08 IN THE STUDIO
06.09 Substation Seattle WA
06.10 The Valley Tacoma WA

Lies of Liberty out now

The majority of these songs were written circa 1986 – 1987 when I was in a band called Lies of Liberty. A few of the songs came from other side projects I was doing around the same time. Lies of Liberty only played a handful of shows and we never made proper recording of these songs (and many others) so great to finally hear these songs recorded and performed the way I always wanted them to be. I sent 1986 – 87 rehearsal recordings of these songs to Sean and Jono to listen to and learn on their own time and then we would get together and record them. On August 1st 2016 we gathered in the jamroom, learned 12 songs, and recorded the music live to 6 tracks of an 8 track recorder in 4 hours. Soon
after I did the vocals and a mix. We have been playing a few of these live and it’s always surprising contrast to our other material. It’s great to see people’s faces when we play ‘em.

Reissues to come and more

— “Songs for future gods”(south spit records) & “Nomads”(south spit records) (US) / Stickman Records (euro) vinyl reissues coming.

— Euro tour in October being booked by Heavy Psych Sounds.

— We will also be filming a video for “Wicked Willow” with Chris Mathews Jr.

https://www.facebook.com/MosGenerator
http://heavyheadsuperstore.storenvy.com/
http://stickman-records.com
https://www.facebook.com/Stickman-Records-1522369868033940/
http://southspitrecords.com/rock/index.php
http://www.shop-listenable.net/fr/47_mos-generator

Mos Generator, Lies of Liberty ’87 (2016)

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