Review & Track Premiere: Svvamp, Svvamp 2

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

svvamp svvamp 2

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Hillside’ from Svvamp’s new album, Svvamp 2, out June 8 on RidingEasy Records and available now to preorder.]

The soothing effect of the 42-second intro to Svvamp 2 is immediate, and from there, the Swedish trio of vocalist/guitarist Henrik Bjorklund, vocalist/bassist Erik Stahlgren and vocalist/drummer Adam Johansson present a run of pointedly classic-vibing heavy rock and roll. They made something of an understated self-titled debut (review here) in 2016, catching ears among the converted and reaping praise for their endearing sonic naturalism. That theme very much continues on Svvamp 2, which moves from its introduction into the heavier-riffed highlight “Queen” and the blues-rolling “The Wheel,” with the first of several vocalist switches working subtly to add variety and texture to the straightforward songwriting and traditionalist, vintage spirit of the recording.

While the groups who arguably led the charge for recrafting heavy ’70s sonic warmth — fellow Swedes like Witchcraft, Graveyard, Burning Saviours, etc. — have moved on toward more modern aesthetics, Svvamp hold firm to the tenets of the subgenre while proving there’s still new ground to cover, as the poppy, soul-derived bounce of “Sunshine Street” demonstrates, the fuzz subtle and the drums spacious like they were beamed straight in from 1969, and the subsequent “How Sweet Would it Be” only reinforces this notion, like a lost studio cut from the Get Back sessions, the guitars leading the easy groove punctuated by steady, languid cymbal timekeeping. Semi-harmonized vocal melodies evoke the sweetness in the title without losing the effectiveness of the hook that emerges: “Oh, out in the country/Me and my baby/We’re gonna be so damn free now.”

It is the fodder of humid summer singalongs, and much to their credit, they make you believe it. Plenty of vintage bands have popped up in the wake of the likes of Kadavar, Blues Pills, and so on, and attempted to capture heavy blues lightning in a psychedelic bottle. Well, Svvamp may be reverse-engineering innovation, but whatever they might be doing throughout their second album, their heart is in it, from the chorus of “Queen” through Stahlgren‘s bassline in (presumed) side B opener “Hillside” and on to closer “Alligater” (sic), the expression remains genuine and the swing remains a fervent, crucial factor. With a current running through it of analog synth or effects, “Surrender” nonetheless mirrors the fluidity of “The Wheel” earlier, and while the “beep-boop-beep” might seem a little out of place among all the focus on organic elements and execution, it’s ultimately the latter that win out in the song.

svvamp

To follow side A/B symmetry as they have so far, Svvamp should be dipping into more soulful fare à la “Sunshine Street” with “Out of Line,” but they change the script and instead offer a swaggering bounce and riff-forward groove, a touch of wah worked into a midsection that seems to layer its guitar solo across both left and right channels. More akin to “Queen” and “Hillside” for its rhythm and good-time rocking feel, “Out of Line” caps with another call and response solo — maybe in three layers? — on a long fadeout and gives way to the acoustic penultimate cut “Blues Inside,” the shortest inclusion on Svvamp 2 save for “Intro,” and a quiet reflective moment before “Alligater” taps Blue Cheer for the most raucous stretch on the album to close.

Once again, Svvamp find themselves nestled into heavy blues, but “Alligater” is more blown out on the whole and more of a wash than any of its rocking predecessors on Svvamp 2, and the crashing, the layers of fuzz, the rumble beneath all come together to give a sense of the kind of party the trio can hone when the mood strikes. I wouldn’t exactly call the record subtle in its purposes, but Svvamp 2 does build on the debut’s accomplishments, and for all the changes in singer and approach it presents throughout its 35 minutes, the flow remains consistent across the span, and perhaps the band’s greatest strength lies in their utter lack of pretense. While some in a vintage mindset have attempted to capture a progressive feel and met with varying degrees of success, by keeping their material outwardly simple, catchy and friendly, JohanssonStahlgren and Bjorklund are able to give their audience something to latch onto without an overdose of self-indulgence or a departure from their core purpose.

Apart perhaps from “Intro” and “Blues Inside” — and mostly for length in the case of the latter — there isn’t one song between “Queen,” “The Wheel,” “Sunshine Street,” “How Sweet it Would Be,” “Hillside,” “Surrender,” “Out of Line” and “Alligater” that wouldn’t work as a 45RPM single, its paper sleeve crinkled and found in some dusty record shop bin like so much buried treasure. And though they may be looking back aesthetically in terms of finding their points of inspiration in classic heavy rock circa 1968-’72, they’re also pushing themselves forward as songwriters and stewards of this sonic legacy. They wield it better than most, and on Svvamp 2 they demonstrate plainly that even something so plainly tied to a specific era can also sound timeless.

Svvamp on Thee Facebooks

Svvamp on Instagram

Svvamp on Twitter

Svvamp on Bandcamp

Svvamp preorder at RidingEasy Records website

Tags: , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Ulver, Forming the Void, Hidden Trails, Svvamp, Black Mirrors, Endless Floods, Tarpit Boogie, Horseburner, Vermilion Whiskey, Hex Inverter

Posted in Reviews on March 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Feeling groovy heading into Day Two of the Spring 2017 Quarterly Review, and I hope you are as well. Today we dig into a pretty wide variety of whatnots, so make sure you’ve got your head with you as we go, because there are some twists and turns along the way. I mean it. Of all five days in this round, this one might be the most wild, so keep your wits intact. I’m doing my best to do the same, of course, but make no promises in that regard.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Ulver, The Assassination of Julius Caesar

ulver-the-assassination-of-julius-caesar

Norwegian post-everything specialists Ulver have reportedly called The Assassination of Julius Caesar (on House of Mythology) “their pop album,” and while the Nik Turner-inclusive freakout in second cut “Rolling Stone” (that may or may not be him on closer “Comign Home” as well) doesn’t quite fit that mold, the beats underscoring the earlier portion of that track, opener “Nemoralia” and the melodrama of “Southern Gothic” certainly qualify. Frontman/conceptual mastermind Kristoffer Rygg’s voice is oddly suited to this form – he carries emotionally weighted hooks like a melancholy George Michael on the electronically pulsating “Transverberation” and, like most works of pop, shows an obsession with the ephemeral in a slew of cultural references in “1969,” which in no way is likely to be mistaken for the Stooges song of the same name. While “So Falls the World” proves ridiculously catchy, “Coming Home” is about as close as Ulver actually come here to modern pop progression, and the Badalamenti-style low-end and key flourish in “1969” is a smooth touch, much of what’s happening in these eight tracks is still probably too complex to qualify as pop, but The Assassination of Julius Caesar is further proof that Ulver’s scope only grows more boundless as the years pass. The only limits they ever seem to know are the ones they leave behind.

Ulver on Twitter

House of Mythology website

 

Forming the Void, Relic

forming-the-void-relic

Last year, Louisiana four-piece Forming the Void had the element of surprise working to their advantage when it came to the surprising progressive edge of their debut album, Skyward (review here). Now signed to Argonauta, the eight-song/55-minute follow-up, Relic, doesn’t need it. It finds Forming the Void once again working proggy nuance into big-riffed, spaciously vocalized fare on early cuts “After Earth” and “Endless Road,” but as the massive hook of “Biolazar” demonstrates, the process by which guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd meld their influences has become more cohesive and more their own. Accordingly, I’m not sure they need the 11-minute closing take on Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir,” since by then the point is made in the lumber/plunder of “Plumes” and in the more tripped-out “Unto the Smoke” just before, but as indulgences go, it’s a relatively easy one to make. They’re still growing, but doing so quickly, and already they’ve begun to find a niche for themselves between styles that one hopes they’ll continue to explore.

Forming the Void on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Hidden Trails, Instant Momentary Bliss

hidden-trails-instant-momentary-bliss

Though it keeps a wash of melodic keys in the background and its approach is resolutely laid back on the whole, “Beautiful Void” is nonetheless a major factor in the overall impression of Hidden Trails’ self-titled debut (on Elektrohasch), as its indie vibe and departure from the psychedelic prog of the first two cuts, “Lancelot” and “Mutations,” marks a major distinguishing factor between this outfit and Hypnos 69, in which the rhythm section of the Belgian trio played previously. “Ricky” goes on to meld acoustic singer-songwriterism and drones together, and “Hands Unfold” has a kind of jazzy bounce, the bassline of Dave Houtmeyers and drumming of Tom Vanlaer providing upbeat groove under Jo Neyskens’ bright guitar lead, but the anticipation of heavy psych/prog never quite leaves after the opening, and that doesn’t seem to be what the band wants to deliver. The sweetly harmonized acid folk of “Leaving Like That” is on a different wavelength, and likewise the alt-rock vibes of “Space Shuffle” and “Come and Play” and the grunge-chilled-out closer “Denser Diamond.” If there’s an issue with Hidden Trails, it’s one of the expectations I’m bringing to it as a listener and a fan of Houtmeyers’ and Vanlaer’s past work, but clearly it’s going to take me a little longer to get over the loss of their prior outfit. Maybe I’m just not ready to move on.

Hidden Trails on Thee Facebooks

Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

 

Svvamp, Svvamp

svvamp-svvamp

Naturalist vibes pervade immediately from this late-2016 self-titled Svvamp debut (on RidingEasy Records) in the bassline to “Serpent in the Sky,” and in some of the post-Blue Cheer heavy blues sensibility, the Swedish trio bring to mind some of what made early Dirty Streets so glorious. Part of the appeal of Svvamp’s Svvamp, however, is that among the lessons it’s learned from heavy ‘70s rock and from Kadavar‘s own self-titled is to keep it simple. “Fresh Cream” is a resonant blues jam… that lasts two and a half minutes. The bouncing, turning “Oh Girl?” Three. Even the longest of its cuts, the slide-infused “Time,” the subdued roller “Big Rest” and the Marshall Tucker-esque finale “Down by the River,” are under five. This allows the three-piece of Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren to build significant momentum over the course of their 35-minute run, casting aside pretense in favor of aesthetic cohesion and an organic sensibility all the more impressive for it being their first record. Sweden has not lacked for boogie rock, but even the most relatively raucous moments here, as in the winding “Blue in the Face,” don’t seem overly concerned with what anyone else is up to, and that bodes remarkably well for Svvamp’s future output.

Svvamp on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Black Mirrors, Funky Queen

black-mirrors-funky-queen

There are few songs ever written that require whoever’s playing them to “bring it” more than MC5’s “Kick out the Jams.” True, it’s been covered many, many times over, but few have done it well. Belgium’s Black Mirrors signal riotous intent by including it as one of the four tracks of their Napalm Records debut EP, Funky Queen, along with the originals “Funky Queen,” “The Mess” and “Canard Vengeur Masqué,” and amid the post-Blues Pills stomp of “The Mess,” the mega-hook of the opening title-track and the more spacious five-plus-minute closer, which works elements of heavy psych into its bluesy push late to welcome effect, “Kick out the Jams” indeed brings a moment of relative cacophony, even if there’s no actual threat of the band losing control behind the powerful vocals of Marcella di Troia. As a first showing, Funky Queen would seem to be a harbinger, but it’s also a purposeful and somewhat calculated sampling of Black Mirrors’ wares, and I wouldn’t expect it to be long before an album follows behind expanding on the ideas presented in these tracks.

Black Mirrors on Thee Facebooks

Black Mirrors at Napalm Records

 

Endless Floods, II

endless-floods-ii

No doubt that for some who’d take it on, any words beyond “members of Monarch!” will be superfluous, but Bordeaux three-piece Endless Floods, who do indeed feature bassist/vocalist Stéphane Miollan and drummer Benjamin Sablon from that band, as well as guitarist Simon Bedy, have more to offer than pedigree on their three-song sophomore full-length, II (on Dry Cough vinyl and Breathe Plastic cassette). To wit, 24-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Impasse” rumbles out raw but spacious sludge that, though without keys or a glut of effects, and marked by the buried-deep screaming of Miollan, holds a potent sense of atmosphere so that the two-minute interlude “Passage” doesn’t seem out of place leading into the 19-minute lumber of “Procession,” which breaks shortly before its halfway point to bass-led minimalism in setting up the final build of the record. Slow churning intensity and longform sludge working coherently alongside ambient sensibilities and some genuinely disturbing noise? Yeah, that’ll do nicely. Thanks.

Endless Floods on Thee Facebooks

Dry Cough Records on Bandcamp

Breathe Plastic Records on Bandcamp

 

Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam

tarpit-boogie-couldnt-handle-the-heavy-jam

Boasting four eight-plus-minute instrumentals, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam finds New Jersey trio Tarpit Boogie rife with classic style heavy rock chemistry, bassist John Eager running fills around the dense-toned riffing from guitarist George Pierro as drummer Chris Hawkins propels a surprising thrust on opener “FFF Heavy Jam.” I’ve been a fan of Pierro and Eager’s since we were bandmates a decade ago, so to hear them unfold “Chewbacca Jacket” from its tense opening to its righteously crashing finale is definitely welcome, but the 37-minute offering finds its true reasoning in the swing and shuffle of the eponymous “Tarpit Boogie,” which digs into the very challenge posed by the title – whether or not anyone taking on the album can handle its balance of sonic impact and exploratory feel – inclusive, in this case, of a drum solo that sets a foundation for a moment of Cactus-style rush ahead of a return to the song’s central progression to conclude. They round out with “1992 (Thank You Very Little),” Chevy Chase sample and all, bringing more crashing nod to a massive slowdown that makes it feel like the entire back half of the cut is one big rock finish. And so it is. A well-kept secret of Garden State heavy.

Tarpit Boogie on Thee Facebooks

Tarpit Boogie on Bandcamp

 

Horseburner, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil

horseburner-dead-seeds-barren-soil

The self-released Dead Seeds, Barren Soil is Horseburner’s second full-length, and it arrived in 2016 from the four-piece some seven years after their 2009 debut, Dirt City. They’ve had a few shorter outings in between, demos and 2013’s Strange Giant EP, but the West Virginia four-piece of Adam Nohe, Chad Ridgway, Jack Thomas and Zach Kaufman seem to be shooting for a definitive statement of intent in the blend of heavy rock and modern, Baroness-style prog that emerges on opener “David” and finds its way into the galloping “Into Black Resolution,” the multi-tiered vocals of “A Newfound Purity” and even the more straight-ahead thrust of “The Soil’s Prayer.” Marked out by the quality of its guitar work and its clearly-plotted course, Dead Seeds, Barren Soil caps with “Eleleth,” which at just under eight minutes draws the heft and the complexity together for a gargantuan finish that does justice to the ground Horseburner just flattened as they left it behind.

Horseburner on Thee Facebooks

Horseburner on Bandcamp

 

Vermilion Whiskey, Spirit of Tradition

vermilion-whiskey-spirit-of-tradition

Lafayette, Louisiana, five-piece Vermilion Whiskey telegraph participation in the New Wave of Dude Rock to the point of addressing their audience as “boy” in second cut “The Past is Dead,” and from the cartoon cleavage on the cover to the lack of irony between naming the record Spirit of Tradition and putting a song called “The Past is Dead” on it, they sell that well. The Kent Stump-mixed/Tony Reed-mastered six-tracker is the band’s second behind 2013’s 10 South, and basks in dudely, dudely dudeliness; Southern metal born more out of the Nola style than what, say, Wasted Theory are getting up to these days, but that would still fit on a bill with that Delaware outfit. If you think you’re dude enough for a song like “One Night,” hell, maybe you are. Saddle up. Listening to that and the chunky-style riff of closer “Loaded Up,” I feel like I might need hormone therapy to hit that level of may-yun, but yeah. Coherent, well written, tightly performed and heavy. Vermilion Whiskey might as well be hand-issuing dudes invitations to come drink with them, but they make a solid case for doing so.

Vermilion Whiskey on Thee Facebooks

Vermilion Whiskey on Bandcamp

 

Hex Inverter, Revision

hex-inverter-revision

If the cover art and a song title like “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts” weren’t enough of a tip-off, there’s a strong undercurrent of the unsettled to Hex Inverter’s second long-player, Revision. The Pennsylvania-based experimentalists utilize a heaping dose of drones to fill out arrangements of keys, guitar and noise that would otherwise be pretty minimal, and vocals come and go in pro- and depressive fashion. Texture proves the key as they embark on the linear centerpiece “Something Else,” with a first verse arriving over a sweetened bassline after four minutes into the total 9:58, and the wash of noise in “Daphne” obscures an avant neo-jazz groove late, so while opener “Cannibal Eyes” basks in foreboding ambience prior to an emotionally-driven and explosive crunch-beat payoff, one never quite knows what to expect next on Revision. That, of course, is essential to the appeal. They find an edge of rock in the aforementioned “I Swear I’m Not My Thoughts,” but as the loops and synth angularity of closer “Fled (Deadverse Mix)” make plain, their intentions speak to something wider than even an umbrella genre.

Hex Inverter on Thee Facebooks

Hex Inverter on Bandcamp

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Svvamp Stream New Track “Oh Girl”; Self-Titled Debut out Aug. 19

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 8th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

svvamp

Swedish boogie groovers Svvamp will make their self-titled debut via RidingEasy Records on Aug. 19. The trio previously announced same last month by unveiling a track from the record, and to go with the album art and preorders, they’ve followed up with another audio teaser, this time the cut “Oh Girl,” which you can hear below. The vintage-style riffing is evident from the very start of the song and one can hear a pronounced influence from Pentagram‘s First Daze Here as well as Blue Cheer, as though the last 45-plus years were melted away and the capital-letters Psychedelic Era begun anew. Easy enough to dig where they’re coming from, and though Sweden suffers no lack of classic heavy enthusiasts these days, it doesn’t take much more than the rumbling bass tone in the second half of “Oh Girl” to have me hooked.

Looking forward to hearing the rest. In the meantime, here’s what we know:

svvamp svvamp

Countless bands today strive to sound genuine — whether faking their way through a ProTools pastiche of carefully assembled takes, painstakingly tarnishing tracks to give them a “live feel” or simply copying the style of their favorite band. And, usually, their posturing is entirely transparent.

Every once in a while though, you find a band without self-conscious pretense that truly echoes the mood and vibe of an era when the rulebooks were burned with the draft cards and the act of playing rock’n’roll was simultaneously defiant and inherently casual. Swedish trio Svvamp is just that type of primordial beauty captured on a perfect 11-song debut.

Svvamp was created by three friends – Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren – drawn together for the sake of jamming and a love of rock, folk and blues. Their resulting heavy psych sound is immediately gripping in its homespun feel and hints of Cream, Eric Bell-era Thin Lizzy, CCR and Crazy Horse.

www.ridingeasyrecords.com
facebook.com/SwampJKPG
http://svvamp.bandcamp.com/

Tags: , , , ,

Svvamp Sign to RidingEasy Records; Self-Titled Debut Due in August

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 11th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

RidingEasy Records has picked up Swedish trio Svvamp and will release their self-titled debut in the dead of summer this August. The Jönköping-based three-piece have unveiled the first audio to come from the album through their new label’s YouTube page in the form of the song “Burning Down” — which you can stream below — a sweet blues-groover sans pretense and classic in its style that somehow manages to skirt the issue of sounding like Graveyard, which at this point is an impressive feat for a new band out of Sweden. An encouraging sign for the rest of the outing, at the very least.

The PR wire brings more background:

svvamp

RidingEasy Records announce new signees SVVAMP, share first new track

Southern California label RidingEasy Records proudly announces the signing today of Swedish trio Svvamp to the roster. Hear and please share the first track from the band’s forthcoming self-titled debut, “Burning Down” via YouTube.

Swedish trio Svvamp is the real deal. Countless bands today strive to sound genuine — whether faking their way through a ProTools pastiche of carefully assembled takes, painstakingly tarnishing tracks to give them a “live feel” or simply copying the style of their favorite band. And, usually, their posturing is entirely transparent.

Every once in a while though, you find a band without self-conscious pretense that truly echoes the mood and vibe of an era when the rulebooks were burned with the draft cards and the act of playing rock’n’roll was simultaneously defiant and inherently casual. Svvamp is just that type of primordial beauty captured on a perfect 11-song debut.

Svvamp was created by three friends – Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren – drawn together for the sake of jamming and a love of rock, folk and blues. Their resulting heavy psych sound is immediately gripping in its homespun feel and hints of Cream, Eric Bell-era Thin Lizzy, CCR and Crazy Horse.

“Our first recordings were made on a 4-channel cassette PortaPro (with microphones that we found lying around) and were really crude, recorded live to cassette,” the band explains. “We grew fond of that live feel and demo takes started to sound like finished songs. Over time, with almost everything made live in our rehearsal room, it became a full album.”

“Serpent in the Sky” kicks things off with a syncopated bluesy riff romp, while “Burning Down” echoes the stomping freeform feel of the New Yardbirds’ “How Many More Times.” Once things settle in to the laid back shuffle of “Free At Last”, Svvamp really finds its groove and lets loose like Axis: Bold As Love Jimi Hendrix. “Time” sounds almost like Ziggy Stardust era Bowie with a boogie swagger and cheeky vocals. “Set My Foot and Leave” sounds as earnest and unpretentious as The Faces (and at times like Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May”, without all that shaggy, smug Rodness). Elsewhere, “Blue In the Face” slips into a heavy groove while “Oh, Girl” bashes out stop ‘n’ go riffs with the Marshall stack dramatics of Blue Cheer. Chiming mandolin and acoustic guitars lead the charming closing anthem, “Down By The River” (not the Neil Young song).

Svvamp will be available everywhere on LP, CD and download late August 2016 via RidingEasy Records.

www.ridingeasyrecords.com
facebook.com/SwampJKPG

Svvamp, “Burning Down”

Tags: , , , , ,