Posted in Whathaveyou on July 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
A couple months ago, while out on a run with The Obsessed and Karma to Burn — Tone Deaf is killing it with the package tours this year — bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik of The Atomic Bitchwax sustained an injury to his arm that forced the band to cancel about half the dates. Sierra filled in, but still kind of a bummer for the stalwart NJ trio, whose 2015 Tee Pee Records album, Gravitron (review here), was among the year’s finest.
No doubt they’d get back out, and this time they’ll be headlining a coast-to-coast stint with Ohio’s Lo-Pan and Memphis blues rockers The Dirty Streets. For Lo-Pan, it will mark the four-piece’s first tour with new guitarist Chris Thompson, who was just announced as having joined the band earlier this week. They’re on the tour from Aug. 19 through Aug. 27 only, it looks like, so presumably the next night will serve as their stop at Psycho Las Vegas. The Dirty Streets, on the other hand, have an off-night as the Bitchwax and Lo-Pan roll into Tucson on Aug. 27, so I guess that’s when they’ll be playing the Vegas megafestival.
In any case, glad to see The Atomic Bitchwax heading off again and continuing to keep excellent company. Dates were posted by the band:
USA!! Arm is healed up so let’s try this again!!
THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX (ALL DATES) W/ LO PAN (8/19-9/27) and THE DIRTY STREETS (8/19-9/10 excluding 8/27) 08/19/2016 Charlotte NC The Milestone w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets 08/20/2016 Hattiesburg MS The Tavern w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets 08/21/2016 New Orleans LA Siberia w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets 08/22/2016 San Antonio TX Limelight w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets 08/23/2016 Houston TX White Oak Music Hall w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets 08/24/2016 Austin TX Grizzly Hall w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets 08/25/2016 Ft Worth TX Rail Club w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets 08/26/2016 Albuquerque NM Ned’s Bar w/ Lo-Pan, The Dirty Streets 08/27/2016 Tucson AZ Flycatcher w/ Lo-Pan 08/28/2016 San Diego CA Soda Bar w/ The Dirty Streets 08/29/2016 Los Angeles CA Viper Room w/ The Dirty Streets 08/30/2016 San Francisco CA Elbo Room w/ The Dirty Streets 08/31/2016 Portland OR Dante’s w/ The Dirty Streets 09/01/2016 Vancouver BC Biltmore w/ The Dirty Streets 09/02/2016 Seattle WA El Corazon w/ The Dirty Streets 09/03/2016 Bellingham WA Shakedown w/ The Dirty Streets 09/06/2016 Minneapolis MN Grumpy’s w/ The Dirty Streets 09/07/2016 Chicago IL Double Door w/ The Dirty Streets 09/08/2016 Cleveland OH Grog Shop w/ The Dirty Streets 09/09/2016 Philadelphia PA Kung Fu Necktie w/ The Dirty Streets 09/10/2016 Brooklyn NY Black Bear w/ The Dirty Streets
Two Fridays ago, we closed out the week with Internal Void‘s 1993 debut, Standing on the Sun, in honor of the band’s appearance at Maryland Doom Fest 2016. Now that the fest is over, it seems only fair to follow that up with something more current representing another side entirely of the offerings last weekend in MD. Philly/New Jersey’s Ruby the Hatchet are one of the groups I was most looking forward to seeing throughout the weekend for the simple reason that I’d never seen them before and their early 2015 Tee Pee label debut and second album overall, Valley of the Snake (review here), was positively entrancing, taking Uncle Acid-style garage doom to more psychedelic places with a classic sensibility in its swing and organ-inclusive melodies.
The songs were also catchy as hell, and that never hurts.
Comprised of six tracks for a 40-minute run, Ruby the Hatchet‘s second LP broke cleanly into its two sides and asked little more of the listener than to nod along to cuts like the strong opening duo of “Heavy Blanket” and “Vast Acid,” the latter of which seemed to wink directly at Uncle Acid‘s ultra-influential “I’ll Cut You Down,” but still come out of it with a personality of its own, and both of which were highlights of their performance at the fest. Frontwoman Jillian Taylor was responsible for a lot of that, and her vocal command is a major appeal throughout the record, but guitarist John Scarperia, bassist Mike Parise (since replaced by Lake Muir), drummer Owen Stewart and organist Sean Hur each have their say as well, and as they shift into the drawl of side A closer “Tomorrow Never Comes,” it’s Ruby the Hatchet as a whole working cohesively to elicit the doomed feel.
That song plays a bit of back and forth with tempo late, but its primary impression is slower than the two cuts before it. When they start side B with “The Unholy Behemoth,” the feeling is very much like they’ve gone back to the start, but “The Unholy Behemoth” and “Demons,” which follows, are both more the band’s own. Unafraid to break out an upbeat winding intro riff, “Demons” boasts plenty of swing and is still definitely cult rock in its atmosphere, but there’s a sense of Ruby the Hatchet putting their stamp on the sound more than playing to style. The hooks are no less prevalent, fortunately, and as they move into the sunshiny heavy psychedelia of the closing title-track, introducing it with some underlying noise, acoustic guitar and organ, they are completely in their own space. Some heft emerges later on as toms and electric guitar kick in, but Valley of the Snake‘s closer remains golden-hued all the same, capturing a sentimental vibe to finish that’s as resonant emotionally as it is sonically individual.
Post-MDDF, Ruby the Hatchet spent this week on tour with Black Mountain, and will wrap with the dates below:
Ruby the Hatchet live: 7/1 – Ithica, NY @ The Haunt* 7/2 – Boston, MA @ The Sinclair* *supporting Black Mountain **supporting The Obsessed
As this is posted, I’m making my way back down to Maryland. The Patient Mrs.‘ car, which broke down on the final day of Maryland Doom Fest — literally right as I pulled into the parking space outside Cafe 611 as Mangog were getting ready to start — is still at a garage in Frederick. The alternator has been fixed, which is super, but Frederick is about seven hours in the car from where I live on the best of days, let alone the Friday before the July 4 holiday. Traffic sucked pretty bad last week. I don’t expect this trip will be any better.
My first (four-day) week of work at my new job is under my belt. It was good, I think. Actually managed to do something semi-productive yesterday — like an actual task that will be a part of my job going forward — without completely screwing it up, so that was a nice feeling. Other than that, it’s been a lot of meetings, a lot of meeting people, a lot of information overload, pretty typical stuff. I was good and beat by Wednesday night, yesterday dragged some, but today was a half-day, as are all Fridays, so getting out at 1 is pretty much what’s making it possible to get to Maryland, and I’m thankful for that. Can’t keep a rental car forever.
It’s a crowded office, and I share a cubicle, but the people seem nice and nobody’s told me to fuck myself yet. I wore sandals today and yesterday, and a t-shirt with an open short-sleeve button-down, so you know, could be worse. I figure I’ll lose the button-down altogether sooner or later. Don’t think it will be an issue. Too many people here for anyone to care.
Before I check out and take over driving from The Patient Mrs., I’d like to extend a special thanks to Sean “Skillit” McEleny for absolutely killing it on the poster for The Obelisk All-Dayer (tickets here) Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar. If you didn’t see it, click below to enlarge:
It turned out better than I could’ve hoped and his monumental effort is massively appreciated. Superlatives all around. Dude is amazing.
Been a stressful week, gonna be a stressful next day or two down to MD and back to CT, then MA, but whatever. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Might put one or two posts up Monday relevant to Europe if anything comes through, or might just let it ride until Tuesday. Maybe a podcast! It’s been forever. Gonna play it by ear.
[Click play above to hear ‘Artificial Light’ from Comet Control’s Center of the Maze. Album is out this Friday on Tee Pee Records.]
Though it spends much of its time engaged in a garage-in-space push, the prevailing vibe on Comet Control‘s second album, Center of the Maze, is still one of serenity. The Toronto five-piece’s sophomore release follows their 2013 self-titled (review here), and like that debut it arrives via Tee Pee Records with a bright, vital blend of heavy psychedelic and space rock lent further shoegazy ethereality by the languid vocals of guitarist Chad Ross. Ross, joined in the band by guitarist Andrew Moszynski, bassist Nicole Howell, drummer Jay Anderson and keyboardist Christopher Sandes, is responsible in no small part for that serene impression, and after full impulse power of songs like opener “Dig out Your Head” and “Criminal Mystic” is disengaged and Comet Control set themselves to the relative drift of closing duo “Sick in Space” and “Artificial Light” — which between them comprise 18 of the record’s total 45-minute runtime — the vocals become another part of the lush and consuming arrangements that offer warmth as much as hypnotism.
Although Center of the Maze ultimately finds Ross and Moszynski pushing farther away from their work with prior outfit Quest for Fire (they were also in The Deadly Snakes), the songcraft and depth of mix in these eight tracks speaks to some measure of continuity between the two projects. Still, there’s little question that Comet Control have set themselves to the task of finding their own personality apart from what their members have done before, and that shows itself in dividends from one end of the LP to the other.
The sense of journey along the way isn’t to be understated. At their starting point in “Dig out Your Head,” Comet Control dive and weave and space-rock-stomp through what serves as an immediate hook on which they continue to build as they go forward into other early cuts like the more shuffling “Darkness Moves,” with some highlight snare work from Anderson, and the more folkish “Silver Spade,” which calls to mind Revolver-era The Beatles without aping them either in melody or structure. That in itself is an accomplishment worthy of note, acoustics leading as Mellotron-style keys add melodic flourish and brighten the atmosphere. They seem to be setting up a solo freakout like that which “Darkness Moves” undertakes in its solo section, but keep it smooth as “Silver Spade” heads into the tambourine-laden shoegaze of “The Hive.”
Acoustic strum is audible in kind with the spaced-out fuzz, and “The Hive” seems to deliver the swirlfest in its second half that “Silver Spade” hinted toward, the march that’s been underway the whole time subtle but already at some distance removed from when they set out on “Dig out Your Head,” the flow between songs remarkable and feeling very intentional but not in a way that sacrifices the natural sound of the material. Purposeful but not contrived. That continues as the motion of “The Hive” feeds into “Criminal Mystic,” on which Sandes comes forward in the chorus wind a similar course to the guitars but provide the hook beneath the heavier, lower-toned fuzz of the guitars and Howell‘s bass. “Criminal Mystic” is a particularly good example of the heavy psychedelia that Comet Control have made their own, a blend of instrumental push and vocal calm, swirling and spacious but still catchy as well. In its place at the end of side A (I think), it becomes a high point of Center of the Maze‘s first half.
There is, however, a decided sonic shift as Comet Control begin side B. It happens as the keys come to the fore on “Golden Rule” after space rock howling opens to elicit a late-’60s stomp, soon further emphasized through tambourine. In pace, it connects with a lot of side A — even “Silver Spade” moved — but it also sets up the transition into the more pastoral spaces that “Sick in Space” and “Artificial Light” will cover. The closing duo also comprise the two longest tracks on Center of the Maze at eight and 10 minutes, respectively, and between them also go further out into cosmic meandering, wonderfully melodic and full in sound and realization, “Sick in Space” soothing even as its wash grows more prevalent. That apex is powerful, but the song ends with Ross delivering the album’s title line and it feels like a setup for “Artificial Light,” which of course it is.
And it’s a finale worthy of setup. No doubt in my mind that when December list time comes around, “Artificial Light” will be one of the best songs of the year. Sonically, it recalls some of the best moments of Quest for Fire‘s laid-back mind expansion, but as they have all along, Comet Control put their own twist on it, this time via a flat-out beautiful meld of standout synth lines and background effects wash and overarching vocal harmonies for the ultra-memorable chorus, “I’ll be your eyes/I’ll be your heart and your breath/Spread your wings or fall to your death.” Once again, acoustic strum emerges alongside the electrified guitars, and Comet Control cap the triumph of their second record with a sense of patience that answers all the prior rush as if to wonder what was the hurry in the first place. As it gracefully waltzes into its second half solo, “Artificial Light” dives into classic heavy grandeur while sounding effortless and keeping its core rhythm, tempo and that current of acoustic guitar intact, never quite letting go until it casts out its final, long-fading wash of keys and noise to end the album.
Staggering in resonance and emotionally gripping as it is, Center of the Maze‘s finish is still just one part of what it has to offer, and after it’s over, it’s all the more worth looking back to “Dig out Your Head” and internalize the distance covered. It is vast. A follow-up from Comet Control had been one to anticipate, but I’m not sure even the most hopeful of scenarios could have accurately predicted what they achieve here.
With the addition of Amsterdam’s Death Alley, the bill for the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer is complete. Show is Saturday, Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. The complete lineup is as follows:
THE OBELISK ALL-DAYER:
Mars Red Sky*
* first East Coast appearance.
Motor-driven Netherlands heavy rockers Death Alley tore their way into the consciousness with their 2015 debut album, Black Magick Boogieland (review here), on Tee Pee Records. An offering that set itself a seemingly impossible task with its title and then managed to live up to it, the record pulled together straightforward, classic-style brashness and offered an edge of spaced-out expanse that worked in a scope few groups would dare attempt, especially their first time out.
With members of Gewapend Beton, The Devil’s Blood and Mühr in the lineup, they’re not exactly inexperienced, but the energy they brought to Black Magick Boogieland and the energy they bring to the stage is fresh and righteously their own. I was fortunate enough to see them at Roadburnin 2014 (review here) and again twice this year (reviews here and here), and the progress they’ve made in that time was evident both in their sound and in the crowd they drew to watch them play. A group that obviously enjoys what they do on stage and wants you to do the same, they’ll bring vitality and push to The Obelisk All-Dayer in a way that no one else could, and maybe get a little weirdo jammy in the process. Awesome.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “Oh an afterparty. La-di-da. Let’s all do blow and talk about Reaganomics.” Not quite what I’m going for. The show itself will run from 2:30PM until about midnight. Today I’m thrilled to announce that at 12AM, two DJs will be taking over: DJ Adzo and Walter Roadburn.
I don’t think either needs much of an introduction. Walter is of course the creative force behind the aforementioned Roadburn festival in Tilburg, the Netherlands. DJ Adzo is also known as Adam from Brooklyn’s own The Golden Grass and La Otracina. Both are excellent human beings and I’m humbled they’re willing to be involved in The Obelisk All-Dayer.
From 12AM to 2AM, they’ll be spinning whatever the hell they want — classics, new stuff, stuff you know, stuff you don’t — and I feel completely comfortable trusting the taste of both of them and can’t wait to hear what they put on. After Mars Red Sky‘s headlining set, there’s still plenty of party left, and I hope you’ll stick around for it.
The Obelisk All-Dayer is Aug. 20, 2016, at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, New York, and will feature full sets, after-show DJs, food on-hand, live recordings, limited edition merch and much more. Official poster and set times coming soon.
Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is one of those tour-to-end-all-tours tours. Beginning in Austin on Sept. 27, including a stop Oct. 14 at Erosion Fest and culminating Oct. 23 at Southwest Terror Fest, the newly-announced tour with Saint Vitus, The Skull and Witch Mountain also covers both coasts in nearly its month-long stretch. I’ll admit the prospect of seeing these three bands together at the Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn has my arm hair standing on end, remembering the Vitus-at-Vitus gig from 2012 (review here) as one of the best shows I’ve ever seen, at that venue or anywhere else. It’ll be a different lineup of the band this time, with original vocalist Scott Reagers back in that position as the Die Healing-referential poster art indicates, but they’re keeping excellent company in The Skull and Witch Mountain as well, so kudos all around, including to Nanotear, which put the package together.
Witch Mountain have a couple dates as well en route to meeting up with the others. Find the complete routing, including those shows, below:
SAINT VITUS tour dates All dates with THE SKULL, WITCH MOUNTAIN Sept. 27 Austin, TX @ Midway Field House Sept. 28 Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Dallas Sept. 29 San Antonio, TX @ The Mix Sept. 30 Shreveport, LA @ Riverside Warehouse Oct. 1 New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jack’s Saloon Oct. 2 Atlanta, GA @ The EARL Oct. 3 Raleigh, NC @ Kings Oct. 5 Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts Oct. 6 Boston, MA @ @Middle East Oct. 7 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus Bar Oct. 8 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop Oct. 9 Indianapolis, IN @ 5th Quarter Lounge Oct. 10 Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s Bar Oct. 11 Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon Oct. 12 St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club Oct. 14 Missoula, MT @ Erosion Festival Oct. 15 Seattle, WA @ El Corazon Oct. 16 Portland, OR @ Star Theater Portland Oct. 18 Sacramento, CA @ Starlite Lounge Oct. 19 Oakland, CA @ Oakland Metro Operahouse Oct. 20 Costa Mesa, CA @ Wayfarer. Oct. 21 Los Angeles, CA @ The Viper Room Oct. 22 San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick Oct. 23 Tucson, AZ @ Southwest Terror Fest
Witch Mountain shows on the way to meet up with Saint Vitus + The Skull: 9/22 Portland, OR – Dante’s (WM only) 9/23 Boise, ID – Neurolux (WM only) 9/24 Salt Lake City, UT – Metro (WM only) 9/25 Denver, CO – Hi-Dive (WM only)
Hermano was and to a certain extent remains a band John Garcia formed after the dissolution of his prior outfit, Kyuss. One imagines that was a hard rebound. Hermano formed in 1998. By then, Slo Burn — Garcia‘s first post-Kyuss band — were done, and Unida getting together was roughly concurrent. Recorded in 1999 and 2000, Hermano‘s debut album, …Only a Suggestion, was eventually released by Tee Pee Records in 2002, and at just barely 28 minutes long, it’s always felt somewhat understated as a first offering. I wouldn’t expect or even necessarily want an hour-long epic, but both of Only a Suggestion‘s follow-ups, 2004’s Dare I Say… and 2007’s Into the Exam Room… were 43 minutes long, so even by comparison to their own work, there’s a significant difference. All the more reason …Only a Suggestion qualifies as a quick kick in the ass.
In addition to finding Garcia at the top of his game in terms of the powerful delivery that made Kyuss‘ later work and Slo Burn‘s Amusing the Amazing such landmarks in his career, the guitars of David Angstrom and Mike Callahan, the bass/keys of Dandy Brown and the drums of Steve Earl came together immediately in cuts like “5 to 5” and the sleek-grooving “Alone Jeffe.” The crux of …Only a Suggestion arrives in its midsection with “Senor Moreno’s Introduction” and “Senor Moreno’s Plan,” but the rolling nod of opener “The Bottle” sets a tone of heavy desert groove that the rest of the record seems only too happy to build on, and the push of “Manager’s Special” and the hook of “Landetta (Motherload)” offer standout moments that are both memorable and prescient for what would continue to develop as staples of Garcia‘s style all the way up to his 2014 self-titled solo debut (review here), arguably the most him moment of his career to-date.
As noted, Hermano‘s latest album is now coming up on nine years old. Into the Exam Room… was something of a departure from Hermano‘s two prior outings, with a fuller sound and more depth of arrangement, particularly in the vocals. It remains my favorite post-Kyuss recorded performance for Garcia as a singer — though I’ll admit some stiff competition in that regard from Vista Chino‘s 2013 debut/maybe-swansong, Peace (review here). That album was much rawer in its production but all the more natural for that, where Into the Exam Room… (which I assume will close out a week around here at some point; maybe next year to mark a decade since it came out) had a kind of sweeping effect on the listener. I bring it up because there were rumors about a fourth Hermano album in the works for a 2016 release, as well as a second solo LP from Garcia, which seems more likely, and I can’t help but wonder which direction a new record would go after so long, whether they’d strip back to …Only a Suggestion-style desert rock or continue to build on where they were in 2007. I guess we’ll find out if it ever happens.
Hope you enjoy, as always.
Today was my last day at my job. I resigned on Monday, after last Friday accepting a position at the toy company Hasbro. They’re located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, which cuts about an hour a day off my commute between actual distance and direction of traffic, it’s more money, better work — I’ll be copywriting as part of a team in their Games division — half-day Fridays, prospects or at very least basic potential for a future there, and access to the company toy store.
For the first time in a long while, I’m excited on any level about professional employment. Would I rather be retired and live in the woods, spending my days writing, keeping house and sipping homemade iced tea? Obviously, but as I don’t live in the magical pretend-time plane of existence where that’s possible for me at age 34, I need to make the best of what I got. New job starts on Tuesday, June 28. I thought it wiser to give myself an extra day coming back from Maryland Doom Fest, which is the prior weekend.
Until then? I plan on decompressing a lot. The work I’ve been doing for the past year has taken a lot out of me. More than I realized really until I went to Roadburn in April and remembered how good life could actually be at its best and how far from that I was spending most of my time. I’ll look to catch up on not sitting in traffic — though it did take me two hours to get home after leaving the office early and I am going back into Boston later to go to the Obelisk-presented Gozu record release show, so maybe not off to the best start there — and do some writing, some housecleaning, catching up on things like the mail, which has been piling up, going to the beach and spending some time with my family. The Patient Mrs. called it “funemployment,” having apparently read same somewhere on the internet. Sounds good to me.
I had originally slated the next Quarterly Review to take place what’s now the week I’ll be starting my new job, so yeah, that’s not happening. Rather than push it back, to when I’ll be in the thick of getting adjusted to a new office and new tasks, I’ve decided to push it forward, to when I’ll be sitting on my ass anyway. I’ll be finishing setting up the preliminaries this weekend — so I can start actually setting it up after that — and then we’ll kick it off on June 20.
In the meantime, next week I’ve got an interview and video premiere (both! in one post!) for Greenleaf, as well as reviews of tonight’s Gozu release show and records by West, Space & Love, Sergio Ch., and hopefully Surya Kris Peters. Also new videos from Blues Pills and Mother Mooch, news about Monkey3‘s impending album — spoiler alert: there is one — and much more that I’m already behind on. It’s going to be an absolute blast and I’m looking forward to being able to give The Obelisk my complete attention, at least for a couple weeks before the next version of real life kicks in.
Thanks everyone for checking in this week. Hope you have a great and safe weekend, and please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Reviews on May 31st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Whoever first had the idea to pair up Earthless and Harsh Toke for a split full-length, he or she was correct. Hardly the deepest critical insight I’ve ever had, but there it is. The San Diego longform heavy psychedelic rockers team exceedingly well on the 12″ platter, Acid Crusher / Mount Swan, each band offering a side-consuming single track immersion with a different take on similarly-intentioned righteousness. For the heads who will get it, this review is superfluous. Not only does Acid Crusher / Mount Swan sell itself to the already-converted, but comes across more as a victory lap than a release, Earthless‘ “Acid Crusher” and Harsh Toke‘s “Mount Swan” both taking ‘er easy all over lazy-day lysergics, unleashing instrumental chemistry between them the likes of which few others could claim as their own. That’s true of both bands, by the way, and not just Earthless.
Aside from the sonic commonalities, one reason Acid Crusher / Mount Swan works so well is that it brings together that landmark three-piece — whose last album was 2013’s From the Ages (review here) but who also had a new song out earlier this year on a Scion-sponsored multi-band EP — with a younger outfit who clearly on one level or another are working under their influence and successfully bringing their own personality to their approach. There’s little question that Earthless have been a key factor in the boom of West Coast heavy psych of the last five years or so, and their presence here alongside Harsh Toke both reinforces their position at the fore of that movement and demonstrates some of the best of what’s being done with the impact they’ve had.
It’s worth acknowledging as well that Acid Crusher / Mount Swan might be a listener’s first exposure to Harsh Toke, who made their debut on Tee Pee in 2014 with the grower-listen Light up and Live, touring Europe that same year including a stop at Roadburn and going back last fall alongside labelmates Sunder, and if that’s the cast, then all the better for the impression they give. Their “Mount Swan” clocks in at just a bit under 20 minutes and offers molten psychedelic flow, some early vocals acting as the ground from which the subsequent instrumental breadth takes off. I don’t know how much of it is improvised or plotted out beforehand, outlined or meticulously written out measure by measure, but the flow they enact feeds gorgeously from the laid back motion of Earthless‘ 15-minute “Acid Crusher,” which over on side A pulls back on some of the thrust for which the band is known in favor of a key-and-percussion-laced fusion-style rollout, steady funk groove underlying the straightforward, grounding drum progression from Mario Rubalcaba.
The fluidity there becomes the theme that unites both tracks, and though Harsh Toke start out with a somewhat foreboding nod, after the initial verses, by the time they’re two minutes in, they set to a for-its-own-sake meandering that defines the rest of the song, starting out with a wash of feedback and noise and tripping on slow-motion cosmic swirl marked by periodic upticks in pace and an increased push of kick drum late. Would be fair enough to call it a payoff toward the end, but “Mount Swan” is less about a linear progression upward than a liquefied spreading outward, and that remains true even as the wheels start to come off near the finish and the dual guitars chug and solo around the central rhythm when the drums have faded out. The guitars fade out too, as it happens, which leads me to believe that somewhere on this planet there exists and even longer version of “Mount Swan” than that which appears here.
I started with the B-side for a reason, and that reason might be that Earthless are almost a given at this point. Rubalcaba, guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (also of Golden Void) and bassist Mike Eginton, hit their 15th year together in 2016, and though they only put out albums sporadically, the mark they’ve left can be heard throughout the West Coast and beyond. With “Acid Crusher,” they make it plain that they’ve by no means finished their exploration. They waste no time getting down to the business of groove with serene key work and fuzzy tones marching in step backed by percussion, flourishes of tambourine and an underlying current of volume swells and other effects, what sound like Echoplex loops but may or may not actually be. As is their wont generally, “Acid Crusher” is entirely instrumental, but it’s more than a jam as well, setting its vibe in the first half and expanding it in the second as Mitchell takes an extended solo at the 10-minute mark and uses it to lead the band to the song’s peak, which subsides in the last minute or so — presumably by then the acid in question has been thoroughly crushed — and they return to the locked-in groove that’s been at the center all along.
In showcasing their nuance and the fact that they can basically go wherever they want and make it work, “Acid Crusher” brings forward a different side of Earthless than some of the more raucous classic-style heavy psych for which they’re known, and Harsh Toke complement that well with “Mount Swan” while also affirming that Light up and Live‘s follow-up will be one worth anticipating. As I said at the outset, there will be many listeners who take on Acid Crusher / Mount Swan for whom its quality will be an absolute given, but even for those who might approach it on less sure footing, the delivery on the part of both acts winds up being pretty inarguable. These are two of the finest in heavy psych that California has to offer. They’re doing what they do.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Have to chuckle a bit at The Skull calling a tour ‘November of Doom,’ when they’re from Chicago and that same city is host to Novembers Doom, but hey, sometimes coincidences happen. On their latest run of Europe, which follows two earlier this Spring, including one that stopped for a total of three sets at Roadburn 2016, they’ll be joined by Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain. As coordination would have it, the two bands share a guitarist in Rob Wrong at this point, so though he’ll be pulling double-duty, the pairing makes an awful lot of sense. The Skull, who are continuing to support their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here), as well as a self-titled follow-up EP (review here), features vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner, guitarist Lothar Keller and drummer Sean Saley, in addition to Rob Wrong.
To my recollection, this is the first time Witch Mountain will be headed to Europe since acquiring vocalist Kayla Dixon. They toured North America last Spring alongside Enslaved and YOB and are about due for a follow-up to 2014’s Mobile of Angels (review here), their gorgeous and fraught fourth full-length.
Both bands also play Erosion Festival 2016 (info here) in Missoula, Montana, this October.
From the PR wire:
THE SKULL featuring former Trouble members including vocalist Eric Wagner and bassist Ron Holzner are returning to Europe in November 2016!
The Skull & Witch Mountain: 11/04 Bristol, UK Exchange 11/05 Milton Keynes, UK Crauford Arms 11/06 London, UK Underworld 11/07 Tilburg, NL Little Devil 11/08 Utrecht, NL DBS 11/09 Karlsruhe, DE Jubez 11/10 Vienna, AT Doom Over Vienna 11/11 Arnstadt, DE Rockjunfer 11/12 TBA 11/13 Drachten, NL Iduna 11/14 Wiesbaden, DE Schlachthof 11/15 Kassel, DE Schlachthof 11/16 Hamburg, DE Hafenklang 11/17 Dortmund, DE Piano 11/18 Würzburg, DE Hammer Of Doom 11/19 Winterthur, CH Gaswerk