Posted in audiObelisk on October 8th, 2013 by JJ Koczan
Full of vague lyrical musings and intentionally languid drift, the two latest jams from North Carolina galaxy-crafters Tasha Yar (who may or may not have dropped the hyphen from their name) represent some of their most resonant work yet. Not quite ever giving in to a sun-drenched psychedelic impulse, there’s a sense of the room, of the rehearsal space, in the two live-recorded cuts, and that makes the tracks sound even more organic. Drummer Tim Greene — who also represents the “front desk” of the band when it comes to mailing out the discs that periodically show up around here — warns that either or both of these freeform jams could turn into songs down the road. Nebulous space rock. What could be more appropriate?
Listen to the guitars and you might hear nods to Neil Young, but rather than sit and pick apart the pieces — which are presumably titled for when they were recorded: “7-25-13, 8:30 PM” and the less specific and bluesier-riffed “‘Bout Nine” — both cuts are far more satisfying to put on and let go, let your mind wander with the echoes, the bits of boogie, the “what did he just say?” and the leftover summer humidity. “‘Bout Nine” is nearly twice as long as “7-25-13, 8:30 PM” and has room for some swing, but it still winds up in hard-panning swirl running from one channel to the next. The crux of what Tasha Yar have sent through the post is in the hypnotic aural meander, and it arrives not a moment too soon.
In case this is the first you’re seeing of the name, over the last couple years, Tasha-Yar have checked in a couple times with updates on their progress and audio to serve as landmarks of this or that captured moment. As they have in the past, songs arrive on CD (a band after my own heart) in a handmade paper sleeve with a note from Greene explaining some of what was going down at the time. This one also seems to have a map of the jam room.
And if you’re wondering, “F.D.T-Y” is “Front Desk, Tasha-Yar.” Click either image to enlarge:
Right on. I always, always enjoy hearing from these cats, and with the permission to share the songs granted so explicitly — he put it in writing and signed it! — there was no way I was going to keep them to myself. What were you doing on July 25? Check out “7-25-13, 8:30 PM” and “‘Bout Nine” on the player below, and please enjoy:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
Posted in audiObelisk on January 4th, 2013 by JJ Koczan
It’s always a thrill to get mail from North Carolinian space rockers Tasha-Yar. Last we heard from them, the amorphous psychedelic outfit were jamming out the raw bliss of “Casting Lots,” and just before the New Year hit, a package showed up from drummer Tim Greene — who handles the “front desk” as well as his kit — containing the song “Make Me Invisible,” housed in what I’ve come to think of as the band’s characteristic folded-paper sleeve.
Greene, in addition to the song itself and an extra (and much appreciated) separate Thin Lizzy mixtape, once again passed on a handwritten note on the sleeve giving some insight into the background of “Make Me Invisible,” the writing and recording with guitarist Chad Davis (also of Hour of 13 and the recently-unveiled Witchcoven). Click the image below to enlarge:
As ever, awesome. Tasha-Yar continue to charm, and it’s interesting to consider that “Make Me Invisible” is an older song, since it’s a little more structured with verses and some of the most forward vocals I’ve yet heard from the band. Could it be that they’re moving ever further into the reaches of the space jam? I look forward to finding out whenever the next package arrives, and in the meantime,Greenewas also generous enough to send along permission to host the track for streaming, so here you go:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
I’ve written about North Carolina space rockers Tasha-Yar a couple times now. A review here, an interview there. They’ve been included in a podcast or two, and their sound has continued to develop and continued to fascinate. Their 2011 full-length, The First Landing, found them starting to come into their own, and the music they’ve made since has only furthered that process.
This is something I know because every now and then a package shows up, usually from drummer Tim Greene, containing a new recording of Tasha-Yar music. Generally, there’s a handwritten note inside, like the one you see below (click to enlarge), explaining what it is I’m hearing and when it was put to tape, what they were going for and, sometimes, the personnel involved, which seems to be as nebulous occasionally as the music itself.
Such is how I came across “Casting Lots,” a 22:30 jam Tasha-Yar recorded last month that’s equal parts massive and endearing. Pretty sure most of it is improvised, but it was so psyched-out, so natural-sounding and so hypnotic, that I asked the band if they’d let me post it for streaming, and fortunately they said to go for it.
So, with the hope that those packages keep arriving and with the hope that it’s as warm and sunny where you are as it is in North Jersey this fine afternoon, please enjoy getting lost in Tasha-Yar‘s “Casting Lots” on the player below:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
“Casting Lots” was recorded Feb. 9, 2012, at Tasha-Yar‘s practice space in North Carolina. For more on the band, check them out on Thee Facebooks here, and to stream The First Landing and purchase a copy of the CD/DVD, hit them up on Bandcamp.
Posted in Reviews on February 28th, 2011 by JJ Koczan
Following last year’s live CD/DVD excursion The First Landing with a new self-released, self-titled studio full-length, North Carolinian collective Tasha-Yar emerge from the wooded hills they call home with a much more realized vision of their sound than they presented in 2010. The six-piece are firmly entrenched in the space rock genre, and the eight tracks on Tasha-Yar make the most of analog synth in the classic ‘70s tradition (though modernly produced), balancing the occasional heavy rock groove against all manner of underlying swirls and flourishes. Like much of its sonic ilk, Tasha-Yar is headphone-ready in terms of revealing its subtleties best with direct contact, but even in the car, the band get their point across. They like Hawkwind. They like Ash Ra Tempel. They enjoy the occasional cosmic excursion. Even better than Tasha-Yar are at making those points, however, their ability to balance ambient soundscaping with driving psych puts them in a different class entirely when it comes to the new league of interstellar seekers.
Although they’re immediately notable for their connection to über-hip North Carolina outfit U.S. Christmas, Tasha-Yar veer more directly into echoplexed churning and have less of a focus on outright tonal thickness. The double-guitars of Chad Davis and Ben Teeter take the lead on a couple of the tracks – opener “Twisted Sage,” the shorter “Flight of the Scanners” and later into “Empty Hand,” but more than that, they’re merely participants in a bigger happening. Both Teeter and Davis also contribute synth, and Tom Devlin III handles nothing but, so with the potential for half the band to be tripping out on knob-twiddling at any given moment alongside bassist John Presnell, drummer Tim Greene and vocalist Joe Sample, it’s safe to say Tasha-Yar give considerable emphasis to the lush aspects of their sound. Indeed, as much as the periodic “heavy part” acts as an offsetting moment of excitement, many of Tasha-Yar’s highlights come in the form of the quiet interplay between the synth and guitar, as with the beginning of opener “Twisted Sage,” which takes the first four of its total eight minutes to affect a slow build around shifting frequencies in and out of the aural spectrum.
“Twisted Sage” also sets the tone for the trade between loud and quiet volumes, which Tasha-Yar engage across the next seven cuts. Sample’s voice has an Al Cisneros-style cadence on the later “Empty Hand” and the closer, “Judgment Hour,” but takes the melody in a different, less referential direction on second track “I. White Squirrel,” which is part one of the three-part “Wasted Light Years” progression. “I. White Squirrel” leads more smoothly into “II. Formation of Being,” than does that song into the more active “III. Flight of the Scanners,” but unless you’re sitting and watching the times change over, you’re likely to just sit and go with it. “II. Formation of Being” might be the low point of Tasha-Yar musically, as the repetition doesn’t quite capture the same hypnotic aspect as other points of the album, but after three minutes in, when the guitars pick up for a solo and the instrumental section that ends the track, it’s satisfying nonetheless. As much as Tasha-Yar are linking themselves stylistically to the traditions of space rock, these songs don’t feel like they’re working with any kind of formula. “III. Flight of the Scanners” feels born out of a fuzzy psychedelic jam (perhaps with Teeter handling lead vocals; hard to know who’s doing what), but “Acorn Falls” is two minutes of pastoral guitar and synth interplay that’s just this side of too rich to be an interlude, containing some of Tasha-Yar’s most effective melody.
Proffering far-off reverb psychedelia like it could ever possibly be in style before going back out, North Carolinian six-piece Tasha-Yar‘s first release, the live album/DVD combo First Landing, is analog head-trippery that stands in line with a long tradition of sono-cosmic exploration. The band, arising after a several-member split from US Christmas, are still really just getting started. Their first studio album is either currently in production or finished, depending on who you ask.
The sounds on First Landing are raw and nascent; you can hear in this month’s podcast that Tasha-Yar are still very much in the gas-cloud stage of their formation, but the sounds are formidable nonetheless, and in anticipation of the inevitable full-length, I thought I’d see if the band would be willing to submit to the Six Dumb Questions treatment as a way of introducing them to anyone who might be willing to step through the airlock and take them on.
Tasha-Yar is comprised ofJoe Sample (vocals), Tom Devlin III (synth), Chad Davis (guitar/synth), John Presnell (bass), Tim Greene (drums), and Ben Teeter (guitar/vocals/synth). Only the last three participated in the interview, but as you’ll see, that’s plenty. Enjoy.
1. How did Tasha-Yar get together? What’s the band’s relation to US Christmas?
John: Tim, Nathan [Hall] and I formed Christmas in ’02. Later, Matt [Johnson] joined, then Chad and then Ben. When we got back from Europe last year some long-simmering issues finally boiled over. Tim, Chad, Ben and I left. After a while the four of us started playing together again. We added Tom and then later Joe.
Tim: When that version of U.S. Christmas disbanded, it wasn’t like the four of us immediately decided to form a new band together. Chad spat out this really cool project called Agrabatti after supper one night, and we all jumped in on that for awhile. We were all getting used to the reality of not playing the same songs anymore, but we still enjoyed making new music together. Tom was with us a lot, and he was always such a big part of our old band, running P.A. and playing sax on the Hawkwind thing, so we stuck him on synth and overall sound development, tire-pressure analyzer. At first we had no name and no singer, but we started having songs, new and fresh, coming from all angles. Then came Joe. We all knew Joe could sing well and that he looked a little crazy. Well, Joe got into it and we picked a name for the band that will probably get us in trouble one day. It’s perfect. While we were doing all this, we heard that Matt and Nate were keeping U.S. Christmas going. They got some really choice musicians involved, and I bet the new stuff will be good. I think they call it USX now. I hope we don’t hear too many comparisons, though. We’re just a rock band, we are, and I’m not good enough to go out there and try to sound like somebody else. If we make up a song and we like it, we’re going to keep it. We sound the way we sound, the way we like it. Cover art and fliers we’ll try to make look different, to a point, but the music will just come up from somewhere like it always has.
Ben: After the ol’ heave ho from Christmas I remember going to Chad’s and he had began working on a rendition of “Ejection” by Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters –fitting, no? I think I did some synth stuff on that, maybe some backing vocals. I believe that was the beginning of Agrabatti. Not long after that me and Chad drove up the mountain to jam with John and Tim. At first we were jamming on some Agrabatti tunes, then we started building up some new songs with a feel all their own. I suppose this was about the time Tasha-Yar came into being. We asked our long-time friend and conspirator Tom Devlin III to play modular synth in this new project, and soon after, we requested the services of one Joe Sample for our vocal pleasures. We wrote a shit-ton of songs in a small period of time, recording the lot of them to a small multi-track microphone Chad purchased from the best of buys. We picked out some tunes and set out to make a setlist. Tasha-Yar played our first show in Boone, NC, at our friend’s record shop, mainly to an audience of friends. We took some songs from the live set and some of the demos we recorded and put together the First Landing album. We ended up taking the DVD from the first show and including it in with the album. Then we went to Chad’s and started recording our studio album. He is a studio wizard. I’m not sure from what demon he gets his power, but I can guess. Any album with him behind the console will sound good. That’s the story in brief.
2. How did your love of classic psych develop?
John: My background comes more from PinkFloyd and a lot of the bands from the ‘60s [more] than Hawkwind and their kin, though I do like a lot of that stuff. To be honest, I never really differentiated between “psychedelic” and other music that I love.
Tim: I saw Edgar Winter and The James Gang when I was in the sixth grade.
Ben: Analog synths. My dad used to play me Pink Floyd early in life. I went to Amsterdam in 2000 and Tom Devlin III gave me Tomita‘s Pictures at an Exhibition to take with me. The synth work knocked me on my ass. I started listening to Air a lot, and old soundtracks. Horror flicks. Bought a Korg Mono/Poly from Chad and got turned onto Goblin. It changed me — true, true. Got a Modular Synth and started geeking out with knobs and wires. At some point in there Chad had turned me onto Hawkwind and that had a severe impact on my sanity. Then the floodgates burst open: Brainticket, Arzachel, Ash Ra Tempel. The sounds we created as U.S. Christmas were inspirational to me at the time as well. I’m still on a constant mission to find Old Future music.
3. How much does Tasha-Yar have recorded at this time, and are there any plans for a release sometime soon?
John: We have First Landing which is a live/rehearsal jam collection which comes with a DVD and we have completed recording on our first studio release. We’re finalizing the art work and some things and should have it out in the next couple of months.
Tim: We have the mostly live recording, First Landing available, complete with a live DVD, and we’re sitting on a real good studio album with no name. But I’m mostly looking forward to the next phase, with Joe settling in with us and the next batch of songs starting to take form.
Ben: First Landing is our first release. Groovy artwork with a DVD and CD attached to it. Comes with a case. Wrapped. We have the studio album finished, we’re just finishing carving the artwork. Actually it might already be done. Let me check…
4. Do you consider Tasha-Yar a jam-based project? Is most of your material born out of spontaneous jamming, or is it more written out beforehand and then brought in and expanded on?
John: I don’t think of us as a jam-based project, especially in a “jam band” kind of way, but we do improvise a lot. The songs can come from either direction. Some songs are brought in and others are shaped from improvisations.
Tim: Both. About half of the first album is spontaneous, just because we know each other so well. And some of the songs (all of the DVD) were brought in by someone and put together by the band. A big portion of the lyrics are Joe’s, but we don’t give him the blame for all of them.
Ben: I have to agree with the rhythm section on this one. We all know each other so well we know before the other farts. Joe sometimes gets visuals from the sounds and writes down words when he can find a pen. Sometimes lyrics are brought in, other times they just come. Same with music, but when the six of us get together it becomes a beast all its own….
5. Tell me about living in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In what ways does the scenery or the general environment play into what you do musically?
John: Subconsciously, mostly, I think. It’s in our blood.
Tim: I’d like to live at the same elevation on the West Coast so I could watch football at 10:00AM. This area seems to produce some really top-notch musicians and pretty people to look at. There have been some really good bands formed from the Catawba River, which runs through all of our lives.
Ben: Growing up around here I spent a lot of my time in the woods. I’m sure the others did the same. It’s almost like a right of passage if you’re from here: exploration. Going up and down the mountain is a constant here as well. Epic looking landscapes. Wooded areas in which you can imagine ancient passages may hide. Most likely you’ll find a moonshine still or pot farm and not a door to an alternate universe, but imaginations flourish in this atmosphere. That’s the thing. Without an imagination and a little common sense it’s just a bunch of trees and some mountains. Where boredom lays imagination eats.
6. Is Tasha-Yar going to tour?
John: It will probably be mostly regional and local for the immediate future. Probably.
Tim: Yes. Crash cymbals, bongos, the whole deal. Station wagon.
Ben: We’re currently on tour in our mind and yours until further plans show themselves.
An offshoot with four ex-members of the much-hyped North Carolinian outfit U.S. Christmas, Tasha-Yar (named for a character on Star Trek: The Next Generation) provide psychedelic ramble à la Lamp of the Universe‘s most active moments while at the same time reveling in the mellow vibes they manufacture. The six-piece played their first show at the end of April and have four tracks — one live, one improv — posted on their MySpace for listening now, which you’ll probably want to check out if you’re a fan of music that comes with its own peppermint swirls.
Spread over nearly nine minutes, “Formation of Being” does in fact have a structure, which builds the song gradually over time before bringing it back down again. Drummer Tim Greene stays more laid back on “Improv I: Time Within Motion,” letting the guitars ring out into cavernous sonic expanses. Vocals show up on the live track, “Flight of the Scanner,” which is shorter and more active in the modern Tee Pee Records sense, sounding like a more tripped-out Nebula, Naam or Ancestors. All of it very psychedelic, very mood-driven, very atmospheric in a natural kind of way.
As a matter of sheer preference and present mood, I’ll take the 6:45 planetary caravan ride of “Twisted Sage” over the jumpier sounds, the tracks seeming to draw the line between the two otherwise disparate sides of the band with John Presnell‘s bass warm and high in the mix, as it should be. With the double-guitar/synth work of Ben Teeter and Chad Davis (who also contributes vocals, though Joe Sample has lead on “Twisted Sage”) and the additional synths of Tom Devlin III, Tasha-Yar have ample room for the occasional freakout but never seem to lose sight of the spaces they’ve created. I don’t know what their plans are for more recordings (they do have a couple shows coming up), but their pedigree and their willingness to explore distant reaches makes them worth keeping on the radar.