T.G. Olson, The Rough Embrace: Providence on the Wind

Posted in On Wax on July 24th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

t.g. olson the rough embrace vinyl and cover

Vocalist/guitarist Tanner “T.G.” Olson of Across Tundras initially self-released The Rough Embrace (review here) last year as a name-your-price download, and the newer vinyl edition of the album — pressed to 150 copies in a swampy kind of green and black swirl on a 150g platter with an obscure, almost runic, front cover and skull-and-hourglass memento mori on back — has a very complementary feel. For example, the record itself doesn’t come with a tracklist. And while one might make out the words “Rough” and “Embrace” on the top and bottom lines of the front cover, there’s little else by which it might be identified, unless you count the title etched into the part of each side after the music has ended.

That’s also how one tells the difference initially between the five-song side A, which begins with “Fool’s Gold Miner,” and the four-song side B, which begins with the moody “Uncharted Depths.” Clearly the intent is that if they want it bad enough, the listener — who no doubt bought the thing off Bandcamp to start with — should go there to get the appropriate information on the recording, mixing, mastering, tracklisting, lyrics, etc., and in reality that’s not a problem. It does give The Rough Embrace something of an artifact feel, though, which is fitting with the name of Olson‘s label, Electric Relics — also the title of the last Across Tundras album (review here), the gatefold 12″ version of which was the first release for the imprint — and also suits the music itself, which is nothing if not classically minded.

Like most folk singers of the last half-century, Olson has had moments in his work where he is almost singularly indebted to Bob Dylan, but neither he nor Woody Guthrie nor Neil Young are necessarily defining influences, and even as “Wars of Bygone Days” marches in tune to the established notions of a protest song — right down to lyrical plays on “manifest destiny” and the notion of using Christian ideals to justify sin (i.e. murder in war) — it retains an experimentalist feel. That, taken in balance with the intimacy of the performance throughout — Olson plays guitar, organ, piano, percussion, does all the vocals, and also recorded, mixed and handled the artwork himself, while Mikey Allred (also of Across Tundras) mastered — is what comes to make The Rough Embrace such an engaging listen despite a superficial simplicity.

Heard on one level, its guy-and-guitar singer-songwriterism seems easy enough to grasp, but that just can’t account for the intertwined echoing lead lines of the sweetly wistful “Sleeper Lines” or the psych-folk vibe of “To Hell You Ride,” which follows and shifts into bouts of more fervent strumming in its chorus. Olson, who has done plenty of balladeering the last several years while also retaining a penchant for droning out on offerings like 2015’s The Wandering Protagonist (review here) and 2013’s sprawling The Complete Blood Meridian for Electric Drone Guitar (review here), keeps more to the former on The Rough Embrace, but even in the subdued nostalgia of “Providence Gone Again,” the underlying organ provides a constancy of tone to complement the guitar that speaks to the other impulse.

It’s range, either way, and that range continues to expand on side B as “Uncharted Depths” gives the album’s shorter second half a quiet launch, lyrics held back until about the halfway mark and then more spoken than sung, the electric guitar ramble very much at the fore. A darker atmosphere is set, but “Out on the Fringes” has a more hopeful spirit, and no doubt it’s on purpose that the one arrives paired with the other. What they have in common is being resoundingly immersive, such that while just seven minutes between them, the more lyrical focus of the penultimate “Birdsong Chorus at Dawn” arrives almost as a surprise.

Would be wrong to call it jarring, but Olson brings the vocals forward again and recalls side A memorable cuts like “Fool’s Gold Miner” and “Wars of Bygone Days” to give side B a landing point; it’s something that, listening to the digital version one might not fully appreciate, but that the vinyl really brings out. That song is a highlight, and “Something Left to Save,” which follows, is very much a closer, a goodbye song that finds Olson singing along to himself, adding a last bit of drums and finishing with a rising drone and sample of what sounds like waves that provides a concluding wash that’s all the more gorgeous for being unanticipated. It’s one more moment that, though Olson‘s work is fluid to the point of having its own current system, is worth taking specific note of, since ultimately its from these things that the depths of his atmospherics are cast. The Rough Embrace offers plenty of those moments, but it’s the whole experience of how they’re strung together that makes it really shine.

T.G. Olson, The Rough Embrace (2014/2015)

Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks

The Rough Embrace on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Naam, T.G. Olson, The Glorious Rebellion, Unconscious Collective and Toke

Posted in Radio on August 8th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to check out the daily playlist feature that Slevin recently added to the Obelisk Radio updates page, but god damn, it’s frickin’ awesome. I get so stoked out on the stuff that’s played. Even when I don’t hear it — because I listen often but not 24 hours a day — it’s cool just to go through the day and see what’s played. Sometimes it’s like, “Oh yeah, I haven’t heard that in a long time!” and I’ll put a record on, and sometimes it’s a reminder of how badass a band was who aren’t doing much anymore. Earlier this afternoon I heard Swarm of the Lotus for the first time in a couple years and my head damn near exploded. Really wish that band had done a third album.

Anyhoo, if you get to check it out, I think it’s been a great addition to what The Obelisk Radio is, and of course huge thanks as always to Slevin for putting in the time and effort on this site’s behalf. It wouldn’t be here without him, so if you’re in North Jersey and you see him at the bar, please say thanks. A killer batch of stuff joined the playlist today, so let’s get to it.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for Aug. 8, 2014:

Naam, Live in Berlin

As Brooklyn heavy psych forerunners Naam get ready to head out on another European tour in September (dates here), they present Live in Berlin, a free-download three-track EP recorded earlier this year (or late last year) at White Trash Fast Food. It’s a brief glimpse at what they can do on stage, but gorgeously assembled all the same, with the wash of fuzzy guitar and organ/synth crafting one the East Coast’s most potent space rock sounds on the near-11-minute “Starchild,” the semi-title-track from 2012’s The Ballad of the Starchild EP (track stream here) and the two cuts from 2013’s Vow (review here) that follow, “On the Hour” and “Beyond.” Their style refined with years of road work and their performances no less dynamic on stage than in the studio, Live in Berlin is a no-brainer to grab while the grabbing’s good, particularly at the asking price, and Naam continue to deliver quality, vital psychedelia the influence others are only beginning to feel. Even in the shorter “On the Hour,” with its quicker rush and catchy vocal interplay, there’s room enough to prove immersive, which only shows how on fire this band is at the moment. Vow was their best work to date, Live in Berlin, if short, is a fair complement and a suitable holdover to whatever they might have coming next. Naam on Thee Facebooks, Live in Berlin on Bandcamp.

T.G. Olson, The Rough Embrace

Though the forms he’s working with for his solo material are familiar — Americana, folk and rambling acoustic country blues — Tanner Olson is so unrelentingly forward-moving as a songwriter that his output almost can’t help but be original. As the frontman for Across Tundras, he adds sonic weight to the equation, but performing under the moniker T.G. Olson, he captures a more intimate spirit. Nonetheless, The Rough Embrace, his latest outing, has plenty of lush moments, and even the wide open spaces of “Providence Gone Again” seem to be full of melody and subtly rich arrangements, a layer of slide guitar doing a lot of work in fleshing out the central guitar line. As Olson performed, recorded, mixed and released the album himself — Across Tundras bandmate Mikey Allred mastered; vinyl is reportedly forthcoming on their Electric Relics Records imprint — it’s fair to give him credit for these embellishments as well, and The Rough Embrace ultimately lives up much more to the latter part of its title than the former. Like everything else he puts out on the Across Tundras BandcampOlson has made The Rough Embrace available as a name-your-price download, making it that much easier to get lost in the album’s wistful jangle and melancholy croon. Across Tundras on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Unconscious Collective, Pleistocene Moon

Noise rock and jazz have made strange enough bedfellows over the years, usually resulting in spastic, somewhat indulgent progressive stew, rawly presented. On their sophomore outing, the Tofu Carnage Records 2LP Pleistocene Moon, Dallas trio Unconscious Collective don’t so much try to impress with how many time signatures they can work into any given three-minute stretch as they do stretch out over long-form works — turning on a dime and plenty jagged, to be sure — but that put as much focus on atmosphere as on their bursts and fits. Pleistocene Moon is a whopping 78 minutes long, and in it the oft-costumed three-piece cast a wide stylistic net, but there’s also a natural sensibility in the room that comes through via spacious-sounding drums, and a live feel that permeates pieces like “Tribe Apini,” which feels if not made up on the spot then certainly performed that way, and the later “Methane Rising,” which brings in horns for an avant freakout of grand proportion that transitions into minimal droning in a fluid roll that continues onto side D with “The Transformation of Matter,” whose propulsive grooving and overarching foreboding feel reminds of a sans-vocal Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, which, if you have any idea who that is, should be enough of an endorsement to pique your interest. Unconscious Collective on Thee Facebooks, Tofu Carnage Records.

The Glorious Rebellion, I 7″

Taking elements from ’90s noise rock — most particularly Helmet‘s dissonant riffing — and merging with the burl of modern American heavy rock, Orlando, Florida’s The Glorious Rebellion debut with a two-song single on Magnetic Eye Records featuring the tracks “My Resume is a Suicide Note” and “Thanks to AA, I’m the DD.” Both songs offer lumbering riffs of considerable weight, and the latter proves even more aggro than the former, starting off with a spitting recitation of a verse over the bassline while the guitar and drums wait to kick in with the initial chorus. Glorious though the rebellion may be, it’s even more pissed off. The band keep to straightforward structures, prove capable of writing solid hooks and have a professional production, though there seems to be some play at a commercial appeal on the single, and I’m not sure how well that will serve them in these radio-less days of genre specialization. Still, it’s a significant push they showcase in about seven minutes’ time, and they’ve obviously got a handle on what they want to do as a band. For their first outing, there’s a lot that can be read into just two cuts. The Glorious Rebellion on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Toke, High Friends in Low Places

Toke hail from Wilmington, North Carolina, and specialize in riffy bruiser sludge, heavy on swing and heavy on riffs, topped with vicious screams in the vein of Bongzilla or, more closely, earlier Sourvein. This is the kind of band that gets compared to Eyehategod all the time, though there’s actually not that much in common. Their two-track outing, High Friends in Low Places, is their second demo following another earlier this year, and both “Into the Light” and “Great Awakening” tap straightforward riff-led pummel and throat-searing, weedian aggression. It isn’t exactly unique, but sometimes nothing will do but a good kick in the ass, and Toke seem glad to provide. With clean but not polished production and enough nod for a release twice as long, High Friends in Low Places meets the standard it sets for itself, and if Toke grow into an outfit more individualized or keep their approach strict to the tenets of Southern sludge, they seem to have gotten that part of the equation down early. Toke on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

You know how this goes by now. Of course this isn’t everything that joined the playlist this week, and unlike last time, I even managed to update the list before I put the post together saying I had updated the list. Progress! To see all of today’s adds, check out the playlist and updates page.

Thank you for reading and listening.

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T.G. Olson of Across Tundras Releases New Solo Album The Rough Embrace

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 1st, 2014 by JJ Koczan

I saw yesterday that Across Tundras were playing with former split-mates Lark’s Tongue in Nashville and was thinking it had been a while since Tanner Olson (Questionnaire here) had put anything out under his solo moniker T.G. Olson. By the all-consuming power of coincidence, today brings word of The Rough Embrace, a new full-length from Olson released digitally this afternoon with vinyl available for preorder set to release at the end of September. Needless to say, I spent all day today thinking how long it had been since I found $20 on the ground in hope of a similar result tomorrow.

The Rough Embrace, truly a solo outing in having been recorded, mixed and performed entirely by Olson — Across Tundras bandmate Mikey Allred mastered — as well as self-released, is Olson‘s first solo offering since the one-two punch of The Bad Lands to Cross and Hell’s Half Acre last November/December. Listening through, one finds on initial impression Olson‘s roll-groove ramble in full-force, twanging acoustics and post-rock airy guitars in a deceptively natural embrace, an intimate feel emerging in cuts like “Sleeper Lines” and “Out on the Fringes” that sees Olson, as ever, driving his craft to new levels of cohesion.

Vinyl preorder info and full-album stream below. Like everything from the Across Tundras BandcampThe Rough Embrace is available as a name-your-price download:

T.G. Olson “The Rough Embrace” 12″ vinyl pre order

Pre order T.G. Olson “The Rough Embrace” on the timeless vinyl format.

12″ split colored vinyl (one half will be black and the other a custom mixed blend) in hand screen printed jackets with custom artwork from T.G. Olson.

Item will ship in late September and all pre orders will receive bonus items!

Includes unlimited streaming of The Rough Embrace via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
shipping out on or around 30 September 2014

*Recorded and mixed April-July 2014 @ The Trailer House – Antioch, TN by T.G. Olson
*Mastered by Mikey Allred @ Dark Art Audio
released 01 August 2014

TGO – Guitars, Vocals, Lyrics, Organ, Percussion

Austere beauty… the rough embrace.


T.G. Olson, The Rough Embrace (2014)

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