Various Artists, Kept in a Cave Vol. 1: The European Union of Fuzz

Posted in Reviews on May 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I don’t know how many times I’ve said so – probably at least once for each time I’ve actually brought myself to do it – but I hate reviewing compilations. For most of them, there’s no flow between the tracks, being that it’s different artists, different recordings and sometimes different genres, and even when you get a gem, a non-album track or something like that, there’s no real context for being able to enjoy it, because once it’s over, you’re swept abruptly off to the next thing. Most of the enjoyment I get out of them is in hindsight, years later, when that non-album track is legitimately rare and hard to track down, or the alternate version has never appeared anywhere, or when the comp itself has built up some mystique as a landmark moment – those are even fewer and farther between, but it happens sometimes – either for an artist or the genre. Even if they’re alright to listen to, reviewing them is terrible. You’re either promoting the release outright – “hey, these people are doing good work and you should spend your money on it” – or doing little more than listing the bands involved – “this comp is cool because it has so-and-so involved and they do this song, whereas this band does another song,” and so on. I’ve never been able to find a middle ground in comp reviews and while I do genuinely think there are people out there putting in significant effort to promote artists they believe in, the pain in my ass that reviewing a compilation becomes is enough that I generally try to avoid it as much as possible.

So this is the part where, post-disclaimer, I tell you the case is wholly different with Kept in a Cave, Vol. 1, the 13-track mining operation of Europe’s heavy underground undertaken by Stonerrock.eu, right? Sort of. Kept in a Cave certainly gets a flow going, thanks in part to the similarities in fuzz and jam-minded process of the bands that make up its midsection – Sungrazer into The:Egocentrics into Been Obscene into Electric Moon works rather well and with a healthy dose of Elektrohasch and Elektrohasch-style heavy, there’s not much room for stuff to be out of place – but I still find myself in the position of wanting either to run through the tracklist or just promote it because I respect the effort on their behalf in making the release and its four-panel digipak with giant-mantis artwork happen. To counteract the first, here’s the rundown of artists and songs in its entirety, taken directly off the back of the package:

1. Grandloom, “Larry Fairy” (7:07)
2. Under Brooklyn Palms, “Restlessness” (6:20)
3. Mars Red Sky, “Sadaba” (5:07)
4. Kosmic Elephant, “Bloot Pilot” (6:38)
5. Sungrazer, “Wild Goose” (5:19)
6. The:Egocentrics, “Lost and Found” (4:54)
7. Been Obscene, “Endless Scheme” (6:55)
8. Electric Moon, “Triptriptrip” (8:45)
9. Samsara Blues Experiment, “Hangin’ on the Wire” (5:30)
10. Stonehenge, “Concrete Krieger” (7:36)
11. The Machine, “5 & 4” (6:14)
12. DxBxSx, “Problemkind” (2:16)
13. Sahara Surfers, “Gas” (6:00)

All this adds up to a 79-minute front-to-back listen, about as much as a single-CD will hold. Of the included artists, Sungrazer, Been Obscene, The Machine and DxBxSx are signed to Elektrohasch, and certainly familiar acts like Mars Red Sky, Samsara Blues Experiment and Electric Moon fit aesthetically with that fuzzy, jammy sound as well, so though it’s long, Kept in a Cave makes for a decent listen if you’re going to take it on as a whole, put it on for a party – I’m told music at parties is something human beings do – or whathaveyou, and even the likes of Grandloom, Under Brooklyn Palms (who, yes, are German), Kosmic Elephant, Stonehenge and Sahara Surfers fit on a sonic level. Nothing here is really out of place and obvious consideration has been given to how one song is met by the next – for emphasis, I’ll cite putting the punkier DxBxSx as the second-to-last cut, giving a short burst of energy after the fuzzfests preceding – so the project becomes even more admirable.

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On the Radar: Stonehenge

Posted in On the Radar on March 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

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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