On Wax: Tia Carrera, Cosmic Priestess

Posted in On Wax on December 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Austin jammers Tia Carrera were probably a little ahead of their time when they got going and started playing happy hours and pressing CDRs in the middle of the last decade, but certainly by the time they got around to releasing Cosmic Priestess (review here) in 2011, an improv-based heavy psych jam unit wasn’t unheard of. Yet their name is rarely in the conversation when it comes to this kind of psychedelia. That might be in part because they don’t really tour, but I think it has something to do with how much of a standout they are even in their hometown, which boasts plenty of heavy rock and plenty of jamming, but very little crossover. Veterans of course of SXSW, the trio has also jammed out at Roadburn and everything they recorded for Cosmic Priestess – which was their second offering through Small Stone after 2009′s The Quintessential (review here) — was improvised and recorded live to 1″ tape in 2010 with the lineup of guitarist Jason Morales, bassist Jamey Simms and drummer Erik Conn.

The sum total of the four tracks on the CD version of the album stood at 64 minutes, and to this day, the CD version of Cosmic Priestess is a considerable undertaking. Even if you’re just going to put it on to trip out to the echo and wah and lose yourself in whichever of the four extended jams, it’s a commitment in time and attention. They could’ve probably released the 33-minute “Saturn Missile Battery,” which was mixed by the band with Mark Deutrom (ex-the Melvins), on its own as a full-length and no one would’ve blinked, but the ambition in Tia Carrera‘s improvisational project finds its mirror in the amount of output they have to show for it, which of course is more than a single 12″ LP can hold.

Small Stone has pressed Cosmic Priestess to a 12″ platter, however — 250 copies on black wax and 250 in a yellow record with black and red swirl, both on 180 gram vinyl in a gatefold package that highlights the oh-hell-yessery of Alexander von Wieding‘s turn-it-sideways cover art — and the solution for making it fit has been to edit the songs. CD closer “A Wolf in Wolf’s Clothing” is out entirely, while opener “Slave Cylinder” remains untouched at 7:32. The real difference comes in middle pieces “Sand, Stone and Pearl,” which is 15:10 on disc and 11:40 on vinyl, and “Saturn Missile Battery,” taken from 33:40 to 20:48. Both still give plenty of time for Tia Carrera to make their point, of course, but it’s a change in how the album itself is presented, with “Saturn Missile Battery” occupying all of side B while side A has two relatively neat jams that run roughly the same amount of time. It changes the structure of the album, and I don’t think it’s for the worse.

It’s a hard thing to say you’re in favor of editing a band’s output, and I’m not going to say I am, only that Cosmic Priestess sounds really fucking good on vinyl, and if trimming off some of the material was how that happened, then it’s a fair enough trade from a listening standpoint. I put headphones on and was immediately sucked into the unfolding course of “Slave Cylinder,” and Conn‘s drumming on “Saturn Missile Battery” came across as all the more righteous, the subtle hiss of my record player adding complement to the band’s analog worship and classic heavy sensibilities. They’re still jamming the living hell out of the tracks, and while the LP edition of the album is shorter, the trade there is it’s also more accessible. By the time side B comes to its finish, I want Tia Carrera to keep going, and that’s just how it should be.

To the best of my knowledge, the three-piece hasn’t done anything in the studio since Cosmic Priestess, and members have other projects going, but they’ll still play shows in and around Austin every now and again. In light of the emergence of a more jam-minded heavy psychedelia over the last couple years, both in the US and in Europe, it would be interesting to see how a new Tia Carrera album fared upon release. Whether or not that’ll happen, I don’t know, but Cosmic Priestess has easily proved worth a vinyl revisit.

Tia Carrera, Cosmic Priestess (2011)

Tia Carrera on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records

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Small Stone Announces SXSW Showcase Schedule

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I know I’ve talked before about the amazing times and staggering drunken debauchery I’ve (allegedly) witnessed and/or been involved in at Small Stone‘s SXSW showcases. For all the years I went to SXSW, it was unquestionably the high point, and if I was going to go now, it would be just about the only reason.

The label just announced their 2012 schedule with an exceptionally well-constructed press release — I mean, seriously, whoever wrote the thing should be hired for some cushy work-from-home newsletter-writing gig at a major corporation with money to spend so he can spend his days blogging about European heavy psych records — and the lineup is enough to make me wistful for the hazy memories that could be.

Mic check!

Now entering its 17th year of operation, Small Stone Records has announced the final lineup for its 2012 SXSW showcase, set to take place Friday, March 16, on the outside back patio at Headhunters on Red River in Austin, TX. The label, home to the best in heavy and ‘70s-fueled motor rock, has assembled a roster of new and old blood for a night that’s sure to remind Austin why it loves volume so much in the first place.

Says label honcho Scott Hamilton, “We are very much looking forward to our yearly showcase in Austin. We have a great lineup that we’ll stuff into Headhunters, which is also one of our favorite little watering holes on Red River. It is always nice to tilt some back with some old friends, and some new ones too! Save the date, Friday March 16th!”

Spanning genres from the fuzz-drenched psychedelic improv jams of Austin natives Tia Carrera, who will close out the night, to the crunchy, noise-driven blues of New Orleans trio Suplecs, Small Stone’s showcase is an annual high point of South by Southwest for those who manage to remember it the next morning. The complete lineup is as follows:

Friday, March 16
Headhunters (Outside Back Patio) 720 Red River at 8th St.:
1am: Tia Carrera
12am: Dixie Witch
11pm: Suplecs
10pm: Lo-Pan
9pm: Gozu
8pm: Backwoods Payback
7pm: Dwellers

Original 18″x24″ silk screen concert poster available by New York-based artist and illustrator Joshua Marc Levy.

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Tia Carrera, Cosmic Priestess: The Expanding Universe

Posted in Reviews on February 9th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

“Slave Cylinder” opens with a nod to Sabbath’s “N.I.B.,” and from there, Cosmic Priestess — the second album from Tia Carrera on Small Stone Records — only gets trippier. The Austin, Texas, trio made their label debut in 2009 with The Quintessential, and while that album felt especially geared toward transposing their live sound to plastic, Cosmic Priestess seems more of a studio effort. Of course, the band relies heavily on improvisation throughout the four extended instrumental jams that make up the new collection, but it’s a different entity, a different spirit driving them throughout. Doubtless it was recorded live, the three of them in a single room, but the clean sound is thick with bass and rich classic rock drumming, and relies less on feedback to fill empty space than did The Quintessential. It’s less just about the noise and more about the interaction among players.

At least I think it is. Entirely possible I have my head up my ass and Cosmic Priestess is nothing more than three dudes ripping out good vibes for upwards of 30 minutes at a clip. Whatever the case, Tia Carrera not only manage to capture the excitement and immediacy of the best of heavy and/or stoner rock, but they do so now based on concrete ideas of what they want each piece of music to accomplish. “Slave Cylinder” wraps with the three-piece — Erik Conn (drums), Andrew Duplantis (bass) and Jason Morales (guitar) – coming together to drive home a central riff, before “Sand, Stone and Pearl” opens wide into electric piano and sustained notes from Morales. The heady psychedelia is a change from the opener, and shows Tia Carrera have more to their sound than simple jam-band pseudo-jazz crescendos or pointless noodling. Duplantis’ bass marches in time with Conn’s drumming even as it offers counterpoints to it, and as the 15-minute track plays out, it’s all the more evidence of the band’s growing chemistry and self-awareness. They’re not without their lost moments – which you expect in a live/jam setting and so aren’t out of place here – but the overall flow of Cosmic Priestess is encompassing. “Sand, Stone and Pearl” is twice as long as the opener, and in turn, “Saturn Missile Battery” is more than twice as long as it (Tia Carrera then pulls back to the eight-minute range to finish). In a way, it feels like the album is growing around you while you listen.

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Small Stone Announces April Release Dates for Roadsaw, Tia Carrera; Suplecs and The Might Could Out Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 3rd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster

Coming off an exceptionally bright 2010 that had killer albums from Red Giant, Gozu, House of Broken Promises and Solace, Detroit‘s Small Stone Records is showing no signs of slowing down. Their first releases of 2011, Suplecs and The Might Could are available now, and there’s more to come in April with Roadsaw and Austin, Texas, improv artists Tia Carrera.

Let’s let the label take it from here:

We hope that you all survived the holidays. We have kept ourselves rather busy here at Small Stone HQ, so here is some quick news to keep you all in the loop.

The brand new recordings (in the CD format) from both The Might Could and Suplecs are now in stock and ready for your consumption… Buy them both, and thank us later. They just smoke, plain and simple!

The brand new recordings from Roadsaw and Tia Carrera are now getting mastered. The new self-titled album from Roadsaw will hit the streets in March, andTia Carrera’s new album Cosmic Priestess will hit the streets in April. Both of these releases will be coming out on the LP and CD formats…

Both of the new albums (coming later this Spring) from Ironweed and Lo-Pan are currently in the mixing process at Mad Oak Studios, with our main man Benny Grotto working his engineering and production mojo on ‘em.

Finally, we are getting all geared up for the 2011 SXSW festival, which will include both a Small Stone Day Party and our official SXSW Evening Showcase… Lot’s of propaganda, details, and hype to soon follow.

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RECOVERED: Tia Carrera, The Quintessential: Spreading the Jam

Posted in Reviews on August 19th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster

They get the crown.Oh feedback, you?re the greatest. You fill out songs, you give that raw rock edge, you can either be sweet and warm or harsh and jagged. Without you, there simply wouldn?t be heavy rock. You?re the embodiment of the spirit of music so often lost in today?s cookiecutter, corporate agendified radio milieu. When you?re not near me, I?m blue. Oh feedback, I love you. Here?s a haiku I wrote in your honor:

Sound waves, crashing, crest
Themselves on shores of the mind.
Six strings sitting still.

Austin, Texas, mostly improv jam trio Tia Carrera start their Small Stone Records full-length debut, The Quintessential, with a solid four minutes of softly honed feedbacking on the track ?Home,? accompanied by cymbal washes and ambient guitar notes. It?s a peaceful beginning to an active album, full of unexpected twists and changes in approach that have the band, whose live presence is a thing of dirty classic rock beauty, jamming until the tape runs out on ?New Orleans? (they bought the 15-minute tape), and pushing even further on the 22-minute ?The Unnamed Witness,? while also trying out structure and composition (and vocals!) on mostly-acoustic closer ?Hazy Winter.?

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