Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan
In look and sonic vibe, Frozen Planet 1969 seem to be shooting for that obscure, lost private press LP heavy you pick up unknowningly from the rack at your favorite musty shop, take to the counter, and promptly receive — rightly so — a lecture on how frickin’ awesome it is. All you can do is nod your head in vague agreement and roll with it until you get home and realize how correct that trusty clerk was. The Australian heavy psych jammers — who also stylize their name with an elongated ellipse: Frozen Planet….1969 — will issue Electric Smokehouse on Jan. 11, with vinyl out through Headspin Records and CD/DL from Pepper Shaker Records. I’d never presume to play the role of the store clerk, but they’ve got the song “Supersaturation” from the new outing streaming now, and it’s a tasty bit of fluidity sure to consume the converted. By all means, dig in.
They got in touch over subspace frequencies and sent this down the PR wire:
New Frozen Planet….1969 album
New album by Frozen Planet….1969 ‘Electric Smokehouse’. This is the band’s fourth album. It contains more of the heavy-psych instrumental experimental improvisation the band has become known for! ‘Electric Smokehouse’ will be released very early in the new year- January 11 2017. It will be available on vinyl in black or transparent purple in a gatefold sleeve on Headspin Records and on CD and digitally via Pepper Shaker.
The vinyl version can be found on the Shiny Beast mail-order website and there will also be some copies available via the Pepper shaker Records Bandcamp page. The CD and digital versions will be available via the Pepper Shaker Records Bandcamp page.
Although the band name suggests otherwise, Frozen Planet….1969 dates back to early 2012! It was then that a heavy-psych jam session between two Sydney-based musicians, Paul and Frank Attard, and Canberra-based Lachlan Paine, took place.
Luckily, this afternoon of improvisation at the home of Pepper Shaker Records, Frank Street Studio, was recorded. However, it wasn’t until over a year later that the three decided they should finally mix and release some of the material they had created that day. Paul and Frank had been playing in the stoner-doom band, Mother Mars. Lachlan was playing in the Canberra heavy rock trio, Looking Glass. After playing on numerous bills together over the years it seemed only natural there would be some sort of collaboration between the two bands at some point.
Frozen Planet….1969 played its first show in February 2014. It was also around this time that the band recorded another mammoth jam session. From this jam session came the second and third releases for the band, “Lost Traveller Chronicles, Volume 1” (released 20th August 2014) and “Lost Traveller Chronicles, Volume 2” (released 6th May 2015). The concept this time would be a travel journal through the constellations, with each song being a chapter from the journal! Both volumes were released in digital and physical format on Pepper Shaker Records. The physical format for Volume 1 was a limited 10-inch vinyl and for Volume 2 the format was CD.
To date, the band has only played a handful of shows. Each show has been uniquely different with the band continuously jamming for thirty to forty minutes. No rehearsal necessary. Every time Frozen Planet….1969 gets together it’s either to record or play live. All improvised!
Posted in Reviews on November 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
It’s almost 100 percent certain that’s their origin, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to call the five tracks on Comacozer‘s debut LP, Astra Planeta, jams. There are moments that definitely give an air of spontaneity to the outing, whether that’s the initial unfolding textural nod of “Saurian Dream” or the guitar-led flourish that factors so significantly into closer “Hypnotized by Apophis,” but the course overall feels plotted, and with the blend of psychedelic and heavier impulses that the Sydney-based trio have on offer throughout the 41-minute HeadSpin Records LP, presented in clear/black or clear/purple gatefold vinyl with art by Fever Dog guitarist Danny Graham, there’s some measure of comfort in that.
Of course, Comacozer aren’t exactly entering into their first album blind. Astra Planeta follows behind two EPs in 2014’s Sessions and 2015’s Deloun that wound up combined and pressed to vinyl as — wait for it – Deloun Sessions, but where that was very clearly drawing a line between two early outings, Astra Planeta draws a significant amount of its purpose from exacting a linear flow across its two sides, split with three cuts on side A and two longer ones on side B, opting it would seem for maximum immersion at all times, whether the source of that is Rich Burke‘s willfully-meandering guitar, Richard Elliott‘s patient basslines or the steady push in Andrew Panagopoulos‘ drumming that seems to hold these proceedings together, giving a song like second track “The Mind that Feeds the Eye” a sense of build late and adding direction to the record as a whole.
The opening that “Saurian Dream” and “The Mind that Feeds the Eye” give to Astra Planeta is key to understanding that direction. In listening, I’ve been trying to determine the source of what I’m hearing so distinctly as an earlier My Sleeping Karma influence. It seems to be in some of the minor-key Easternisms early in “Saurian Dream,” blended with Western heavy psych impulses, and no doubt part of the connection stems from the fact that both groups are instrumental, but I think it has even more to do with the smoothness in Comacozer‘s tones. Layers of watery effects from Burke‘s guitar and the depths in Elliott‘s bass as heard just past the midpoint of the opener as it comes more to the forefront of the mix join together to craft a hypnotic impression that, while still figuring out some elements of its approach — one hopes that growth is a lifelong process for the band only beginning here — is marked in its effect on the listener in a similar manner as the German masters of the form.
Where Comacozer distinguish themselves is in their immediate drive to push beyond this root inspiration, drawing from it the fluidity from which their debut very much benefits and then suiting that to the purposes of their already-noted instrumentalist songwriting, whether that’s the linearity of “The Mind that Feeds the Eye” or the more rhythmically-minded, open structure of “Navigating the Mandjet,” which follows and closes out side A with Panagopoulos expanding the percussive scope amid more adventurous arrangements of guitar, tapping sitar-esque feel and wah-soaked bass as handclaps assure a duly human feel beneath and alongside the earlier ceremonial thrust that gives way to funkier terrain as the three-piece make their way into the second half of the song, which is the shortest on Astra Planeta at 6:21.
It’s fitting for the overarching progression of Astra Planeta that the two lengthiest pieces should follow. One might have a difficult time saying “Illumination Cloud” (8:18) and “Hypnotized by Apophis” (11:38) go further out than any of the first three tracks, since the basic cosmos-bound flow remains largely consistent, but with more time at their disposal, Comacozer do get a chance to show more of the aforementioned spontaneity. Burke‘s solo late in “Illumination Cloud,” which if it isn’t improvised is a close enough approximation over the steady groove offered by the bass and drums — Elliott‘s bass takes over circa 7:30 after that solo drops out and offers a moment to genuinely appreciate his tone shortly before the song ends — as well as in the thicker, early Natas-style fuzz of “Hypnotized by Apophis,” which settles into a march in its second half only after a satisfyingly exploratory midsection in which the low end again shines as the guitar noodles-out in trippy fashion.
Granted, it might ultimately be a familiar blend of styles — heavy, psych, some underpinnings of stoner and doom — but as with any encouraging debut, Astra Planeta presents a telling glimpse of where Comacozer are coming from sound-wise and gives listeners a chance to speculate on where and how they might develop going forward. As to that, the most engaging facets of Astra Planeta prove to be its ultimate immersion, its willingness to subtly engage with expanded layering and arrangements, its tonal warmth and the chemistry beginning to take shape between Burke, Elliott and Panagopoulos. So long as Comacozer can maintain those going forward, the rest should take care of itself naturally, and particularly as naturalism seems to be such a focus for them on Astra Planeta, there should be little to worry about in that regard.
Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
I’ll admit I’m a little surprised at the shape this Quarterly Review has taken. As I begin to look back on the year in terms of what records have been talked about over the span, I find it’s been particularly geared toward debut albums, both in and out of wrap-ups like this one. There’s less of that this time around, but what’s happened is some stuff that doesn’t fall into that category — releases like the first two here, for example — are getting covered here to allow space for the others. Let’s face it, nobody gives a shit what I have to say about Russian Circles anyhow, so whatever, but I’m happy to have this as a vehicle for discussing records I still think are worth discussing — the first two releases here, again for example — rather than letting them fall through the cracks with the glut of new bands coming along. Of course things evolve as you go on, but I wish I’d figured it out sooner. Let’s dive in.
Quarterly Review #31-40:
Russian Circles, Guidance
From the warm wash of guitar that begins “Asa” onward, and no matter how weighted, percussive and/or chug-fueled Russian Circles get from there, the Chicago trio seem to be offering solace on their latest outing, Guidance. Recorded by Kurt Ballou and released through Sargent House, the seven-track offering crosses heavy post-rock soundscapes given marked thickness and distinct intensity on “Vorel,” but the record as a whole never quite loses the serenity in “Asa” or the later “Overboard,” crushing as the subsequent “Calla” gets, and though the spaces they cast in closer “Lisboa” are wide and intimidating, their control of them is utterly complete. Six albums in, Russian Circles are simply masters of what they do. There’s really no other way to put it. They remain forward thinking in terms of investigating new ideas in their sound, but their core approach is set in the fluidity of these songs and they revise their aesthetic with a similar, natural patience to that with which they execute their material.
Following their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here) – which, presumably met with some pronunciation trouble outside the band’s native Sweden – Salem’s Pot return with Pronounce This!, further refining their blend of psychedelic swirl, odd vibes and garage doom riffing. They remain heavily indoctrinated into the post-Uncle Acid school of buzz and groove, and aren’t afraid to scum it up on “Tranny Takes a Trip” or the slower-shifting first half of “Coal Mind,” but the second portion of that song and “So Gone, so Dead” take a more classically progressive bent that is both refreshing and a significant expansion on what Salem’s Pot have accomplished thus far into their tenure. Still weird, and one doubts that’ll change anytime soon – nor does it need to – but as Pronounce This! plays out, Salem’s Pot demonstrate an open-mindedness that seems to have been underlying their work all along and bring it forward in engaging fashion.
International House of Mancakes – yup – is the follow-up to Bridesmaid’s 2013 long-player, Breakfast at Riffany’s, and like that album, it finds the Columbus, Ohio, instrumentalists with a penchant for inserting dudes’ names into well-known titles – see “Hungry Like Nick Wolf” and “Ronnin’ with the Devil” – but it also expands the lineup to the two-bass/two-drum four-piece of Scott Hyatt and Bob Brinkman (both bass) and Cory Barnt and Boehm (both drums). Topped off with KISS-meets-Village People art from W. Ralph Walters, there are shortages neither of snark nor low end, but buried underneath is a progressive songwriting sensibility that doesn’t come across as overly metal on cuts like “Ricky Thump” and doesn’t sacrifice impact or heft for the sake of self-indulgence. Opening with its longest track (immediate points) in “It’s Alectric (Boogie Woogie Woogie),” International House of Mancakes unfolds a heavy rock push that, while obviously driven in part by its sense of humor, earns serious consideration in these tracks for those willing to actually listen.
Too thick in its tones to be a completely vintage-style work, the sleazy vibes of Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell’s Keep it Greasy! (on Rise Above) are otherwise loyal to circa-1971 boogie and attitude, and whether it’s the rewind moment on opener “U Got Wot I Need” or proto-metallic bass thrust of the “Hawkline Monster” or the brash post-Lemmy push of “Tired ‘n’ Wired,” the album is a celebration of a moment when rock isn’t about being any of those things or anything else, but about having a good time, letting off some steam from a shit job or whatever it is, and trying your damnedest to get laid. Radio samples throughout tie the songs together, but even that carries an analog feel – because radio – and the good Admiral are clearly well versed in the fine art of kicking ass. Familiar in all the right ways with more than enough personality to make that just another part of the charm.
The invitation to completely immerse comes quickly on the 13-minute “Delusion Sound,” which opens Landing’s Third Sight (on El Paraiso), and from there, the Connecticut four-piece sway along a beautiful and melodic drift, easing their way along a full-sounding progression filled out with airy guitar and backing drones, moved forward patiently by its drum march and topped with echoed half-whispers. It’s a flat-out gorgeous initial impression to make, and the instrumental “Third Site” and “Facing South” follow it with a tinge of the experimentalism for which Landing are more known, the former led by guitar and the latter led by cinematic keyboard. To bookend, the 14-minute “Morning Sun” builds as it progresses and draws the various sides together while creating a rising soundscape of its own, every bit earning its name as the vocals emerge in the second half, part of a created wash that is nothing short of beautiful. One could say the same of Third Sight as a whole.
While they’ve spent the last few years kicking around the deeper recesses of Brooklyn’s heavy underground, Reign of Zaius mark their debut release with the 26-minute Planet Of… EP, bringing together seven tracks that show what their time and buildup of material has wrought. Opener “Hate Parade” reminds of earliest Kings Destroy, but on the whole, Reign of Zaius are rawer and more metal at their core, the five-piece delving into shuffle on “Out of Get Mine” and showing an affinity for classic horror in both “They Live” – which starts with a sample of Roddy Piper being all out of bubblegum – and “Farewell to Arms,” previously issued as a single in homage to Evil Dead. The charm of a “Dueling Banjos” reference at the start of “Deliver Me” leads to one of the catchier hooks on Planet Of…, and the shorter “Power Hitter” closes with a bass-heavy paean to smoking out that digs into punkish summation of where Reign of Zaius are coming from generally as they continue to be a band up for having a good time without taking themselves too seriously.
Kind of a mystery just where the time goes on Sydney rockers Transcendent Sea’s self-released 50-minute first album, Ballads of Drowning Men. Sure, straightforward cuts like “Over Easy” and “Mind Queen” are easily enough accounted for with their post-Orange Goblin burl and boozy, guttural delivery from vocalist Sean Bowden, but as the four-piece of Bowden, guitarist Mathew J. Allen, bassist Andrew Auglys and drummer Mark Mills get into the more extended “Throw Me a Line,” “Blood of a Lion” and closer “Way of the Wolf” – all over 10 minutes each – their moves become harder to track. They keep the hooks and the verses, but it’s not like they’re just tacking jams onto otherwise structured tracks, and even when “Way of the Wolf” goes wandering, Bowden keeps it grounded, and that effect is prevalent throughout in balancing Ballads of Drowning Men as a whole. It takes a few listens to get a handle on where Transcendent Sea are coming from in that regard, but their debut proves worth at least that minimal effort.
Brothers Rael and Ryan Andrews, both formerly of Lansing, Michigan, art rockers BerT, revive their heavy punk duo Red Teeth with the four-song Light Bender 7” on GTG Records. Both contribute vocals, and Ryan handles guitar and bass, while Rael is on drums and synth through the quick run of “Light Bender, Sound Bender,” “Tas Pappas,” “134mps” and “Elephant Graveyard,” the longest of which is the opener (immediate points) at 4:49. By the time they get down to “Elephant Graveyard,” one can hear some of the Melvinsian twist and crunch that often surfaced in BerT, but whether it’s the ‘90s-alt-vibes-meet-drum-madness of “134mps” or the almost rockabilly riffing of “Tas Pappas,” Red Teeth – whose last release was eight years ago – have no trouble establishing personality in these songs. Approach with an open mind and the weirdness that persists will be more satisfying, as each track seems to have a context entirely of its own.
One can hear the kind of spacious darkness and through-the-skin cold of New England winters in this new split EP from Connecticut crushers Sea of Bones and grinding New Hampshire compatriots Ramlord from Broken Limbs Recordings. What the two share most of all is an atmosphere of existential destitution, but there’s an underlying sense of the extreme that also ties together Sea of Bones’ “Hopelessness and Decay” (10:36) and Ramlord’s “Incarceration of Clairvoyance (Part III)” (10:10), the latter of which continues a series Ramlord started back in 2012 on a split with Cara Neir. Both acts are very much in their element in their brutality. For Sea of Bones, this is the second release they’ve had out this year behind the improvised and digital-only “Silent Transmissions” 27-minute single, which of course was anything but, and for Ramlord, it’s their first split in two years, but finds their gritty, filthy sound well intact from where they last left it. Nothing to complain about here, unless peace of mind is your thing, because you certainly won’t find any of that.
Philadelphia-based five-piece Holy Smoke formed in the early hours of 2015, and the exclamatory Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo! three-track EP is their debut release. Opening with its longest cut (immediate points) in “Rinse and Repeat,” it finds them blending psychedelic and heavy rock elements and conjuring marked fluidity between them. As the title indicates, it’s a demo, and what one hears throughout is the first material Holy Smoke thought enough of to put to tape, but on “Rinse and Repeat” and the subsequent “Blue Dreams” and “The Firm,” they bring the two sides together well in a way it’s easy to hope they continue to do as they move onto whatever comes next, pulling off “The Firm” particularly with marked swing and a sense of confidence that undercuts the notion of their being their first time out. They have growing to do, and by no means would I consider them established in style, but there’s a spark in the songs that could absolutely catch fire.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Aussie heavy rockers Arrowhead will issue their second LP, Desert Cult Ritual, via Ripple Music on Nov. 4. They made their debut in 2013 with Atomsmasher (review here) and offered up Desert Cult Ritual early last year. They join a string of others in similar reissue circumstances in working with Ripple, who continue to have their collective ear to the ground in terms of picking up acts who’ve met with a decent digital response in order to translate that into physical sales. As far as sustainable business models go for the modern music industry, one could do way worse. Like trying money on Pandora. That would be worse.
So yeah, it’s kind of a reissue, but to my knowledge it’s actually also the first physical pressing. If you didn’t hear Desert Cult Ritual when it first came out, you can get a listen via the Bandcamp player below.
From the PR wire:
ARROWHEAD: Oz trio summon spirits with the release of Desert Cult Ritual
Desert Cult Ritual is released worldwide on vinyl/digital on 21st October and on CD on 4th November
Rising from the underground of Sydney’s stoner rock scene, the brotherhood of Arrowhead fire an explosive, all killer/no filler triptych of volume, attitude and down-tuned grooves.
Having paid their dues as a band since late 2009, the iniquitously titled Desert Cult Ritual is the latest addition to the power trio’s quiver and first for the Californian label Ripple Music, following the release of their self-titled EP in 2010 and Atomsmasher, their storming full-length debut from 2013.
Hitting you harder than a Frank Frazetta-airbrushed panel van travelling at 100mph, Arrowhead is very much a band defined by the riffs that raised them. Fronted by guitar player, vocalist and chief songwriter Brett Pearl – the son of a self-confessed “hippy-dippy mom” with a record collection to die for – Brett was brought up on a staple diet of classic rock with Hendrix, Zeppelin, Floyd and Sabbath rarely leaving the turntable. Joined by fellow purveyor of low-end grind in bass player/Viking Dave Lopez and steel backbone, Matt Cramp on drums, all three feed into the Arrowhead-approved vision of hard rock reverie via Hollywood monsters and science fiction cinema.
Arrowhead’s Desert Cult Ritual is released on vinyl/digital on 21st October and worldwide on CD on 4th November through Ripple Music.
Arrowhead: Brett Pearl – Guitar/Vocals Matt Cramp – Drums Arron Fletcher – Bass Guitar
Track Listing: 1. Desert Cult Ritual 2. Hypnotiser 3. Hell Fire 4. Bone Mountain 5. Maneater Blues 6. Weed Lord 7. Rogue Asteroid 8. Dragon Whips Its Tail
Issued in July 1973, the sophomore outing from Aussie heavy rockers Buffalo falls right between Deep Purple‘s Who Do We Think We Are? (Jan.) and Black Sabbath‘s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Dec.), and when it comes to Volcanic Rock itself, that’s not a bad way to think about where it was coming from generally. The Sydney-based band formed in 1971 and released their debut, Dead Forever, in 1972, and so missed out on taking part in the barrage of self-titled offerings that showed up in the few years prior, 1970-’71 serving as a nexus point from which heavy rock and roll still seems to be expanding. Still, if they were a little behind the times, Volcanic Rock is no less sincere than any of its 1971 counterpart offerings from gritty rockers like Atomic Rooster, Cactus or countless others. If anything, Buffalo are harder-edged from the start of the propulsive “Sunrise (Come My Way)” through the epic proto-metal finish of “Pound of Flesh/Shylock.” Led by John Baxter‘s guitar and with Dave Tice‘s bluesy vocals, Buffalo represent much of the best of their era, and if the fact that Volcanic Rock showed up two years later means anything in the long run, it means the band’s time was well spent in making it.
To wit, the lurching groove of the nine-minute “Freedom” is an absolute high point, swinging and patient with Jimmy Economou‘s drums and Peter Wells‘s bass. It would be easy for this song and any number of others to fall into post-Led Zeppelin theatric posturing, but it never quite does. Instead, it captures a dead-on nod-jam that sets the tone for some of what “Shylock” will offer later on before giving way to “Till My Death,” in which one can hear the seeds of what Judas Priest would soon enough turn into classic metal. Through that track and “The Prophet,” which thickens up hard-blues grooves and plays off a traditional American gospelism, Buffalo cast an identity for themselves that remains resonant to this day, their methods simply burlier and more roughed up than a lot of heavy rock was and would become as it continued to grow under a progressive influence. Buffalo had their own path, and after Volcanic Rock — the bizarre cover art of which is discussed here — they would continue down it with 1974’s Only Want You for Your Body, 1976’s Mother’s Choice and their final album, 1977’s Average Rock ‘n’ Roller, all through Vertigo Records.
As will happen with this kind of thing, there are numerous editions of the album in existence. I don’t know from which the bonus tracks included in the video above are culled, but whatever. The record itself ends after “Shylock” at 37:25. If you want to push beyond that into the rest, that’s cool too. None of it sucks.
Hope you enjoy.
Quiet start to the New Year, all things considered. I knew it was midnight last night when someone down the way started setting off fireworks. I was still up, but kind of lost in the process of putting together the Year-End Poll Results that went up earlier today. The Patient Mrs. was already asleep. Guess I wasn’t paying attention. Happy New Year.
Also woke up early this morning to finish laying out images, players and links and to start writing the Quarterly Review, which starts next week and of which I got a pathetic amount done between the hours of seven this morning and one this afternoon. I’ll get it done. It’ll be fine. I’m not gonna stress about it (yes I am), or the La Chinga full-album stream that’s slated for Monday, or any of the news posts I’m already behind on (Graveyard playing Freak Valley, etc.). Why stress? Why get upset?
Oh right, because I’m compulsive.
So anyway, yeah, next week is the Quarterly Review. 50 albums written up across Monday to Friday, 10 per day. Since I’m counting it as the end of a quarter of 2015 even though we’re into 2016 already, that will make 200 records covered this year under that format. Next one should be at the end of March/early April, depending on how I can time it with going to Roadburn. Let me get through this one first. Then I’ll start on the next.
The Quarterly Review will eat up a good portion of the week’s posts, but where and when I see news, videos, audio, whatever else there might be, I’ll get as much of it in as I can. That’s the deal around here anyway.
One more time before I sign off for the weekend: Happy New Year and thanks to everybody who took part in the Year-End Poll. At some point this month I’ll have a list up of albums to look forward to in 2016. Last I checked, I was over 100 names. No idea how I’m going to organize it yet, but I will. Gotta see if I can write Mars Red Sky and Neurosis in extra-big letters.
Have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in audiObelisk on November 30th, 2015 by JJ Koczan
Sydney six-piece We Lost the Sea first released their third full-length, Departure Songs (review here), this past summer. They financed it on their own and worked with Bird’s Robe Records and Art as Catharsis, and the latest version of the album was issued by Translation Loss this past Friday. It’s out now. It’s streaming on their Bandcamp page and has been for I don’t know how long. Why, then, would one bother to host the tracks for a full-album stream like it’s not something that everybody can just go find on their own? The simple answer is that the five-song, 67-minute outing is that much worth the time and focus.
Departure Songs, almost entirely instrumental save for a choral part in opener “A Gallant Gentleman” and samples in “Challenger Part 1 – Flight” and “Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song,” is richly evocative, broad in its scope and gorgeously engrossing throughout its span. It has moments of rage, of excitement and times where its breadth seems to just go on and on, but its intent is plain: To convey loss. We Lost the Sea‘s work has always been thematic in one way or another — their 2010 debut, Crimea, took inspiration from poetry about the Crimean War, and 2012’s The Quietest Place on Earth resounded with melancholy at its center — but Departure Songs brings this to a new level of poignancy and specificity, each track referring directly to a tragic death that, as the band put it, “tells the stories of those who have gone above and beyond their duty as humans and sacrificed themselves for others for honorable reasons.”
The subject matter is no coincidence. In 2013, We Lost the Sea frontman Chris Torpy committed suicide, devastating the band and others around him, and as the group continues to move forward, it seems that in listening to the quiet reaches of centerpiece “The Last Dive of David Shaw” — Shaw an Australian diver who lost his life trying to recover the body of another diver — that the cathartic exploration on the part of the band is as much inward as it is outward. That’s as much the case for the soft airy guitars that begin “A Gallant Gentleman” — English explorer Laurence Oats who sacrificed himself so that the rest of his party could survive in the Antarctic — and for the subsequent “Bogatyri,” which takes its narrative from the story of three people (Valeri Bezpalov, Alexie Ananenko and Boris Baranov) who died opening the floodgates at Chernobyl to lessen the impact of the fallout, as it is for the two-part “Challenger,” which closes out in homage to the crew of the ill-fated 1986 shuttle of the same name.
It may well be that by telling these stories through music, the remaining members of We Lost the Sea — guitarists Mark Owen, Matt Harvey and Brendon Warner, bassist Kieran Elliott, pianist/keyboardist Mathew Kelly and drummer Nathaniel D’Ugo — are in some way attempting to make sense of their own, but it’s worth noting that in a subject territory in which everything and anything has been said and all that’s left is to rehash the superficial comforts of cliché, Departure Songs brims with original, personal boldness. Tracks are immersive and so gracefully textured that, even without the context retreaded above, it succeeds in putting the listener in a kind of contemplative, quiet place with its emotional gamut, the final wash of “Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song” bringing a tear to the eye for what is the most universal truth of our condition. All of us. Everybody.
Like I said, the album is out now, so take this as a long-form version of “Recommended” if you want to, but either way, I urge you to dive into Departure Songs one way or another. Whether that happens here on the player below, their Bandcamp, Spotify, through Translation Loss, wherever, I hope you enjoy:
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 30th, 2015 by JJ Koczan
Sydney heavy post-rockers We Lost the Sea initially released their latest album, Departure Songs (review here), this summer, but it’s been picked up for a label-backed issue via Translation Loss next month, and if you heard it, there’s really no mystery as to why. Lush in its textures but still human-sounding in a this-might-be-able-to-be-replicated-on-stage kind of way, its atmospheric crux was as much emotional as sonic, and particularly for an instrumental band, its songs seemed to evoke precisely the kind of wistfulness that the band intended.
More about their intentions — including some of the direct themes they’re drawing from throughout — follows in the news about the Departure Songs release on Translation Loss. If you haven’t yet had the chance to take a listen to the tracks, they’re below courtesy of We Lost the Sea‘s Bandcamp. Well worth your time:
WE LOST THE SEA to Release New Album ‘Departure Songs’ November 27
Australian Post-Rock Pack Creates Cinematic Instrumental Atmospherics
Progressive instrumental heavy rock band WE LOST THE SEA will release its new LP, Departure Songs, on November 27 via Translation Loss Records. The Australian sextet, which calls its sound, “an unstoppable force meets an immovable object” and “crushing guitar noise with post-rock atmospherics”, recorded the album at Sydney’s 301 Studios (Coldplay, Chvrches, Muse) with producer Tim Carr. Departure Songs is the follow-up to WE LOST THE SEA’s 2012 release, The Quietest Place On Earth, a recording that was hailed as “a ride of despair, aggression and melancholy filled to the brim with emotion.”
A conceptual album with song titles and themes inspired by actual events, Departure Songs pairs heavy subject matter with the group’s depth-filled, melancholic, yet emotionally charged music. “A Gallant Gentleman” is a sound story about Laurence Oats, an English cavalry officer and explorer who, during an expedition to the Antarctic, willingly committed an act of self-sacrifice when aware that his ill health was compromising his companions’ chances of survival. “Challenger” pays homage to the Space Shuttle Challenger and its brave crew who perished on January 28, 1986. “Bogatyri” is a tribute to Valeri Bezpalov, Alexie Ananenko and Boris Baranov — aka “the suicide squad” — who gave their lives diving to the depths of the Ukraine’s Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in order to open its floodgates, saving much of Europe from deadly nuclear fallout. Finally, “The Last Dive of David Shaw” honors the Australian scuba diver, technical diver — one of only 11 people who have dived below a depth of 240 metres (800 ft) on self-contained underwater breathing apparatus — who gave his life in “Bushman’s Hole” (believed to be the sixth-deepest submerged freshwater cave (or sinkhole) in the world) while attempting to recover the body of Deon Dreyer, a South African diver who had died in the same spot ten years previously.
“‘Departure Songs’ is about failed journeys and it tells the stories of those who have gone above and beyond their duty as humans and sacrificed themselves for others for honorable reasons,” says the band. “It is also a tribute to our late friend and front man, Chris Torpy. It is about those that have left us and moved on. Each song on this album has a themed attached to it; almost like the song’s lyrics, telling a story. All of the stories are from history and about real people. Part of the band’s creative process was and is to find themes that fit the music and tell stories like that. Epic stories for epic songs. It helps give context, narrative and character.”
WE LOST THE SEA creates music that incorporates expression, pensive atmospherics melody, dynamics and crushing heaviness that, while seeming and sounding to be downbeat and somber, is also at once appreciative, commemorative, remembering and celebratory. A cathartic experience of sadness and perseverance encapsulated in five amazing instrumental passages, Departure Songs will come housed in a four panel heavyweight wallet with a 12 page booklet CD. The album will also be released on LP (packaged as a 2xLP gatefold), available in both black and limited colored vinyl, with accompanying 12 page / 12″ booklet.
Track listing: 1.) A Gallant Gentleman 2.) Bogatyri 3.) The Last Dive of David Shaw 4.) Challenger part 1: Flight 5.) Challenger part 2: A Swan Song
Posted in Reviews on October 1st, 2015 by JJ Koczan
We’re in the thick of it now. It’s hard sometimes putting these things together to remember that each band has worked incredibly hard to put out an album. I’ve been through that process (once), and so I know it can be harrowing at times between acts going back and forth about recording, what’s included, how to release, when, and so on. There’s a lot to cover this week — and we’re not out of the woods yet — but I hope that, just because each review is short, you don’t take that as a sign I don’t have the utmost respect for the effort that has gone into making each of these releases. It can be a tremendous pain in the ass, but of course it’s worth it when you get to the end product. We continue.
Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #31-40:
We Lost the Sea, Departure Songs
To be blunt, We Lost the Sea’s Departure Songs is the kind of album that immediately makes me want to own everything the band has done, in hard copy, for posterity. The Sydney outfit’s third full-length finds its crux in its two-part closing duo of “Challenger Part 1 – Flight” and “Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song,” enacting a lush instrumental interpretation of the Space Shuttle Challenger flight and disaster that took place nearly 30 years ago in Jan. 1986. In its progression, patience, flow and discernable narrative thread it is nothing short of brilliant, a lush and sad beauty that serves as a genuinely affecting reminder of the hope for a better future that died with that shuttle’s civilian crew and the era of aspiration that tragedy brought to a close. I think the closing sample is the only time I’ve ever heard Ronald Reagan speak in my adult life and felt something other than anger, and that’s a testament to the ground Departure Songs covers – on the preceding three cuts as well as the final two – and the masterful execution on the part of We Lost the Sea.
There does not yet exist a name for what Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising bring to bear on the two side-consuming tracks of their Neurot Recordings debut and sixth album overall, Inversum. Self-recorded and presented following some shifts in lineup, the album swells to a massive head of bleak, noise-infused psychedelia, fully ritualized and self-aware but still vibrant as it makes its way further and further down into itself. It is bright black, based so much around contrasting ideas of form and tonality that to listen to it, one almost doesn’t believe that the band are accomplishing what they are on an aesthetic level, but the weight, chants, screams, cavernous feel and nod that “Eso” (24:05) and “Exo” (23:52) enact is ultimately real no matter how nightmarish and otherworldly the impression might be. A work that sounds as likely to digest as be digested, it constructs a temple of its own sound and then burns that temple and everything around it in a glorious final push into charred chaos.
Few endorsements carry as much weight for me as that of Germany’s Nasoni Records, so when I see that venerable imprint is on board for the release of Red Mountains’ first album, Down with the Sun, expectations immediately rise. The Norwegian four-piece don’t disappoint, calling forth a heavy psychedelia weighted enough to be immersive without really falling into the trap of sounding too post-Colour Haze or Causa Sui, finding a balance right away on opener “Six Hands” between open-vibe and structured songcraft. They toy with one side or the other, getting crunchy on “Rodents” and tripping out into ambient echoing on the penultimate “Silver Grey Sky,” but that only makes the debut seem all the more promising. Particularly satisfying is the scope between “Sun” and “Sleepy Desert Blues,” which is enough to make the listener think that grunge and desert rock happened in the same place. An engaging and already-on-the-right-track start from a band who sound like they’re only going to continue to grow.
It’s improper to think of Germany’s Black Space Riders as entirely psychedelic if only because that somehow implies a lack of clearheaded consciousness in their work, which as their fourth album, Refugeeum, demonstrates, is the very core tying all the expanses they cover together. As Europe comes to grip with its most dire refugee crisis since World War II, Black Space Riders take their thematic movement from such terrestrial issues (a first for them) and it makes a song like 11-minute centerpiece “Run to the Plains” all the more resonant. Of course, the big-chug groove of “Born a Lion (Homeless)” and the cosmic thrust of the penultimate “Walking Shades” still have a psychedelic resonance, but the balance between the earthly and the otherworldly do well to highlight the progressivism that’s been at work in the band’s sound all along. A considerable undertaking at 61 minutes, Refugeeum is an important step in an ongoing development that has just made another unexpected and welcome turn.
And so, with their third and final outing, III, Portland, Oregon, trio Lamprey reserve their strongest point for their closing argument. The two-bass trio of bassist/vocalist Blaine Burnham (now drumming in Mane of the Cur), bassist Justin Brown (now bass-ing in Witch Mountain) and drummer Spencer Norman recorded the conclusive six-tracker with Adam Pike at Toadhouse (Red Fang, Mammoth Salmon, etc.) and even the slower shifts of “Harpies” and the decidedly Conan-esque “Lament of the Deathworm” breeze right by. Like their two prior releases, 2012’S The Burden of Beasts (review here) and 2011’s Ancient Secrets (review here), III is a showcase of songcraft as much as tone, and it seems to presage its own vinyl reissue, each of the two halves starting with a shorter piece, the opener “Iron Awake” a notably vicious stomp that sets a destructive vibe that the rumble and weirdo keys and leads that finish out “Gaea” seem to be answering, a quick fade bringing an end to an underrated act. They’ll be missed.
If newcomer bruisers Godsleep seem to share some commonality of method with fellow Athenians 1000mods, it’s worth noting that on their debut, Thousand Sons of Sleep, they also share a recording engineer in George Leodis. Fair enough. The big-toned riffing and shouty burl on which Godsleep cast their foundation makes its identity felt in the post-Kyussism of “Thirteen” and stonerly grit of centerpiece “This is Mine,” which follows the extended opening salvo of “The Call,” “Thirteen” and “Wrong Turn,” the latter of which is the longest cut at 9:09 and among its most satisfyingly fuzzed nods. They’re playing to style perhaps, but doing so well, and if you’ve gotta start somewhere, recording live and coming out with a heavy-as-hell groove like what emerges in the second half of “Home” is a good place to start. Godsleep are already a year past from when they recorded Thousand Sons of Sleep in Summer 2014, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a follow-up happened sooner than later.
Slow Joe Crow & the Berserker Blues Band, We are Blues People
Kentucky-based, cumbersomely-named Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band may indeed live up to the We are Blues People title of their debut EP, but they’re definitely riff people as well. As such, the four-track sampling of their wares draws from both sides on a cut like opener “No One Else,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Austin P. Lunn, bassist Patrick Flanary and drummer Thom Hammerheart in the process of figuring out how much they want to lean to one or the other. They round out with a fuzzy take on the traditional “John the Revelator,” but the earlier “Muddy Water Rising” strikes a more effective and more authentic-feeling balance, leading to the slow jam of “Before I Go,” which adds a ‘70s rock vibe to push the bluesy feel even further and expand the palette in a manner one hopes they continue to pursue as they move forward.
Canadian trio Monobrow follow their 2014 LP, Big Sky, Black Horse (review here) with what’s essentially a new single that finds them continuing to step forward in their approach. Dubbed A Handwritten Letter from the Moon and taking its name from the 8:33 title-track, the Ottawa group’s latest offering finds the instrumental outfit smoothing out the tones a bit, still hitting into raucous grooves, but closer to Truckfighters than their prior brashness. I don’t know if it’s a method they’ll stick to going into their fourth LP next year, but the result is dynamic and suits them well. “A Handwritten Letter from the Moon” comes coupled with “Dyatlov Station 3,” a seven-minute rehearsal-space jam from 2011 that fascinatingly (and I’m sure by no coincidence) showcases some similar classic heavy rock influence. The only real shame of the release is that both these tracks are probably too long to fit on a 7”, since a small platter of vinyl would be a perfect way to hold over listeners until the next album arrives. As it stands, the digital version is hardly roughing it.
French heavy rocking four-piece Denizen issued their decidedly Clutchian debut, Whispering Wild Stories (review here), in 2011, and follow it through Argonauta Records with Troubled Waters, a more individualized 10-track outing that alternates between punkish rawness and classic upbeat grooves. Four years after their first album, their progression hasn’t come at the cost of songwriting, and while they still have work to do in distinguishing themselves in a crowded, varied European market, they deliver the material with an energy and vitality that makes even its familiar parts easy enough to get down with, be it the Southern heavy solo of “Jocelyne” or the meaner bite of “Enter Truckman.” I’ll take the pair of “King of Horses” and “Heavy Rider” as highlights, and remain interested to find out where Denizen head from here, as well as how long it might take them to get there. Four years between records gives Troubled Waters the feel of a second debut as much as a sophomore effort.
Releasing through Candlelight in their native UK, doom metal trio Witchsorrow mark a decade with their third album, No Light, Only Fire. Opener “There is No Light There is Only Fire” seems to nod immediately at Cathedral, with a speedier, chuggier take, and the record proceeds to alternate between shorter and longer tracks en route to the 14-minute closer “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas,” cuts like “Negative Utopia” and “Disaster Reality” sailing a black ship past the 10-minute mark on a rumbling sea of riffs and slow motion nod. They break for a minute with the acoustic interlude “Four Candles” before embarking on the finale, and the respite is appreciated once the agonizing undulations of “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas” are underway, using nearly every second of their 14:25 to affirm Witchsorrow’s trad doom mastery and bleak, darkened heft. No light? Maybe a little light, but it’s still pretty damn dark, and indeed, it smells like smoke.