On the Radar: Stonehenge

Posted in On the Radar on March 1st, 2013 by JJ Koczan

A young, organ-heavy four-piece out of Potsdam, Germany, Stonehenge make their debut with Bunch of Bisons, a mostly instrumental collection showing influence culled from classic rock jams and modern heavy psych. The four-piece, comprised of guitarist/vocalist Enrico Semler, bassist Michael Paukner, drummer Ole Fischer and organist Johannes Walenta, lock into some righteous if mostly familiar grooves, but what really stands them out is Walenta‘s organ work, the natural production of the album’s seven component tracks and the band’s occasional touches of flourish, such as the handclaps and vocals on opener “Arctic Brother.”

The requisite Deep Purple influence mostly shows up in the straightforward guitar-and-organ riffing of “Sun on the Asphalt,” on which Semler (also of the Potsdam sax-infused foursome Minerva), far back in the mix, seems tempted to start in with a verse but thinks twice and just tosses out a couple Cactus-style lines here and there for bluesy affect. Can’t say I blame him, since the instrumental portion of “Sun on the Asphalt” delivers enough of a hook and the songs themselves — not a one of them comes in under seven minutes — are jammy enough that when there isn’t singing, it doesn’t seem to be lacking. A series of “Hey!” gang shouts on “Concrete Krieger” is enough to get the point of a chorus across.

Tonally, they hint at heavy psychedelia, as on the opening of closer “Delay,” but even when Semler‘s guitar seems at rest and Paukner‘s bass is at its richest, Stonehenge — contrary to their moniker, which has earned its reputation by essentially sitting still over a great stretch of time — never come to a halt, switching from one groove to the next to the next, switching up who’s playing what and, in Semler‘s case, belting out soulful vocals way off-mic so as to barely be heard in the riff-rocking rush. That makes Bunch of Bisons a more energetic listen than one might think for something with extended tracks, and as “Delay” moves in its second half to a slower, building progression, one can only wonder how Stonehenge might approach a follow-up to Bunch of Bisons and if their next outing won’t find them a more patient band.

Not that they need to be — they hardly sound winded at the finish of their debut — just that their instrumental dynamic seems to be in its beginnings and could lead to any number of interesting evolutionary paths, particularly as Semler develops his vocals and Stonehenge continue to toy with the balance between the guitar and Walenta‘s organ, which adds melodic depth to these arrangements and is a clear focal point of their sound at this stage. Could be some fascinating things to come.

Stonehenge have made Bunch of Bisons available for streaming, and you can listen on the player below courtesy of their Bandcamp:

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