Ian Blurton Sets June 7 Release for Signals Through the Flames

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ian blurtons future now

Way back in January, you might recall a track was premiered from Ian Blurton’s Future Now called “Space is Forever.” That first single will be issued as a 7″ next month and even when that was being posted, it was intended as a lead-in for Blurton‘s upcoming solo-ish record, Signals Through the Flames. Well, I got the album yesterday and the short version is it kicks ass, which is why I’m writing about it now. It’s due out June 7 and I’m sure there will be preorders and advance public audio all that fun stuff, but consider this a heads up. If you’re not from Toronto or the surrounding area, maybe you’re less familiar with Blurton‘s three-decade-plus career in bands and producing, and that’s fine. Don’t worry about it. That context is nice, but in listening to Signals Through the Flames, the songs stand on their own. I’m going to hope to have more on the record before it’s out, but yeah, just early warning here, that’s all. It’s the kind of record that’s really going to hit with some people. I think I might be one of them.

Art and PR wire info follow:

Ian Blurton Signals Through the Flames

Ian Blurton – Signals Through The Flame – Pajama Party

Release: 7 June 2019

It’s time for a veteran to show the new generation how it’s done. After 35+ years in the Canadian music industry, playing in over 40 bands and producing, engineering and mixing over 100 albums, Ian Blurton is finally releasing a solo record. You’ve probably seen Blurton play in your town, fronting Change of Heart, Blurtonia, Bionic, C’mon, or the still-active Public Animal. If you missed those bands, his name is still likely to pop up somewhere in your record collection; you’ll find Blurton’s producer credit on career-defining albums for Blood Ceremony, Cursed, Tricky Woo, the Weakerthans and more. Or you may have caught him guest with acts as diverse as Richard Lloyd, Buffy Sainte-Marie , the Sadies, Teenage Head, Twink or The Viletones.

It’s no surprise that Blurton’s inaugural solo effort pulls from an impressive pool of talent and a range of influences. In 2017 a sudden torrent of inspiration brought him a slew of songs best suited to a power-trio format. Enlisting friends who also happened to be some of his favorite drummers and bassists, he set out on a quest to create a combination of dark pop hooks, molten riffage and ambient soundscapes that is his heaviest work to date. Between Blurton’s layers-upon-layers of guitar, a plethora of gifted musicians such as Mike Armstrong (King Cobb Steelie), PJ Dunphy (Iron Giant), Eric Larock (Tricky Woo), Glenn Milchem (Blue Rodeo), Damon Richardson (Danko Jones), Anna Ruddick (Randy Bachman), Nick Sewell (Biblical), and Darcy Yates (Flash Lightnin’) all make appearance on Signals Through the Flames. The result is a heavy music melting pot with one foot in the past and the other planted firmly in the future.

Mixed by Daryl Smith (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) at Chemical West and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege, Signals Through The Flames will be released by new Toronto imprint Pajama Party digitally, on vinyl and cassette June 7, 2019.

The first single, Space Is Forever b/w Upon Yesterday, is out May 4 on Yeah Right! Records, launching at a release show at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern and can be heard here: ianblurton.bandcamp.com

The live band, Ian Blurton’s Future Now, draws from the same talent as the record, and currently features drummer Glenn Milchem, bassist Anna Ruddick and Aaron Goldstein as second guitarist. This spring and summer sees the band playing dates between Montreal and Calgary, including appearances at Sled Island and Hillside Festival.

Tracklisting
01 EYE OF THE NEEDLE 4:55
02 SEVEN BELLS 3:34
03 DAYS WILL REMAIN 3:30
04 THE MARCH OF MARS 4:18
05 NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE 3:16
06 ICQ 2:58
07 KICK OUT THE LIGHTS 4:53
08 NIGHT OF THE BLACK GOAT 4:47
09 INTO DUST 6:37

Tour dates
May 1 Montreal – Turbo Haus w/ Dead Quiet, Mountain Dust
May 4 Toronto – Dakota Tavern w/ Sick Things, Rough Spells
May 17 Peterborough – Gordon Best Theatre w/ Mokomokai
June 6 Toronto – Sneaky Dees w/ Spirit Adrift
June 7 Kitchener – The Starlight w/ Hawkeyes
June 14 Toronto – secret show NXNE
June 17 Sudbury – The Townehouse
June 18 Thunder Bay – The Apollo
June 19 Winnipeg – The Handsome Daughter
June 20 Saskatoon – Amigo’s
June 21 Edmonton – The Rec Room Edmonton South
June 22 Calgary – The Palomino/Sled Island Festival
June 23 Regina – The Club at The Exchange
July 14 Guelph – Hillside Festival
July 19 Hamilton – This Ain’t Hollywood
July 20 Toronto – The Horseshoe Signals Through The Flames record release

ianblurton.bandcamp.com
twitter.com/ianblurton

Ian Blurton, “Space is Forever”

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Ian Blurton’s Future Now Premiere “Space is Forever”

Posted in audiObelisk on January 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ian blurton

Ian Blurton’s Future Now played their first show this past New Year’s Eve at Bovine Sex Club in their native Toronto. The project is spearheaded by its eponymous figure, whose career in bands and production goes back decades to his work in Change of Heart, who released their debut album in 1986. Along the way, Blurton has helmed outings for Blood Ceremony, Electric Magma, Cursed, The Weakerthans and a wide swath of others in just as wide a swath of genres, and as one might imagine, his new project benefits from an array of influences. Joined by guitarist Aaron Goldstein, bassist Anna Ruddick and drummer Glenn Milchem, Blurton elicits a vibe in the band’s first single, “Space is Forever,” that brings to mind the sharp-hewn indie quirk of Pinback while tapping into a classic heavy strut with its rhythm and a timeless melody that speaks to hours spent in sunshine and gives its progressive edge an accessible complement.

It does not feel happenstance, which is to say there’s more to come. Blurton will release a solo album in May titled Signals Through the Flames, and the band seems to be so formative that I’m not even sure if “Space is Forever” has anyone else playing on it, but the clearheadedness of its aesthetic moves — the way it drifts smoothly into echoes as it fades — tell the tale of more to come either way. I’ll go one step further and note that New Year’s Eve was like two and a half weeks ago, and I don’t think the four-piece lineup of Ian Blurton’s Future Now were around all that long before that, so there could well be some changes as they continue to take shape. They might, for instance, decide just to call themselves Future Now, since although born out of the Ian Blurton solo-project, they’re a full band now one way or the other. Whatever they end up calling themselves by the time Signals Through the Flames lands, “Space is Forever” is a catchy, tightly-structured but still laid back-feeling cut that sounds fresh even as it taps into familiar genre elements. The power of songwriting laid bare.

Whatever the coming months and beyond (that’s not to say “the future”) might bring for them — as of Twitter two days ago, they were recording a B-side for a new 7″, so it may well be that this song will feature there — I’m happy today to host the premiere of “Space is Forever,” which you’ll find on the ol’ Bandcamp embed below, followed by a few words from Blurton about the track and a couple Ontario live dates.

I hope you enjoy:

Ian Blurton on “Space is Forever”:

The song is about staring into the endless infinity of space and trying to find light in its darkness. It’s about days becoming nights and nights becoming days and the sun and moon leading us through them. It’s about pondering the planetary phases of the solar system and coming to the realization that the future is now.

Ian Blurton’s Future Now upcoming live shows:
Sat Jan 19 Toronto at The Horseshoe Tavern – Biblical, Whoop-Szo, IBFN
Sat Feb 2 Hamilton at This Ain’t Hollywood – Not Of, IBFN, Mount Cyanide

Future Now (the band) has been put together to play shows in support of Ian’s upcoming solo record (Signals Through The Flames, due out in May) and two pre-LP tracks of which Space is Forever is one. They consist of Toronto heavy hitters Glenn Milchem on drums (Holy Fuck/Starvin’ Hungry), Anna Ruddick on bass (Randy Bachman) and Aaron Goldstein on flying V (Daniel Romano) backing Ian, a 35+ year veteran of the Toronto music scene as a musician and producer (Cursed, Tricky Woo, Blood Ceremony).

Ian Blurton on Twitter

Ian Blurton on Bandcamp

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Rough Spells Sign to DHU Records; Debut Album out This Year

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

DHU Records has announced the pickup of Toronto-based cultists Rough Spells, who issued their debut EP, Modern Kicks for the Solitary Witch — please tell me they got the title out of an alternative-lifestyle shoe catalog that was trying to be hip; even if it’s not true and I’m sure it isn’t, please just let me believe it — last summer. Tapes were pressed just last month through Hoove Child Records, and DHU will present the as-yet-untitled long-player sometime before the end of 2019, which is pretty much now. I like the fact that the signing was the result of an Instagram comment and the mysterious interference of a dude named Reggie (please also let me believe it was Reggie Jackson; I’ve got a whole narrative going here), and it seems like all manner of witchly doom is set to unfold, so cool by me. I’ll admit their signing is the first I’m hearing of the band, so I look forward to digging in.

If you’re in a similar situation, you can check out the EP at the bottom of this post, courtesy of the band’s Bandcamp. The announcement came, of course, from the PR wire:

rough spells

DHU Records signs Rough Spells to release debut full length in 2019

DHU Records is thrilled to announce the signing of Toronto, Canada’s Dysfunctional/Doom outfit Rough Spells!

When in the summer of 2018 DHU Records first was introduced to Rough Spells via a comment on Instagram, a spell was cast and the stars started to align.

A man by the name of Reggie, who is an acquaintance of the band, sent DHU a message informing he’ll be in Amsterdam for a week and would love for us to hear this record nobody had yet heard of outside of Canadian borders.

With only 2 songs available on Soundcloud and a 6 song LP that was in existence but only sold locally, we thought it wise to spread this outstanding classic to the world through the vinyl community, and so it did, like wildfire!

Since then they opened a Facebook account, put their record titled “Modern Kicks for the Solitary Witch” up on Bandcamp and Spotify so listeners can now fully enjoy these 6 powerful incantations and at DHU we are over the top excited to be working with them!

DHU Records will release Rough Spells as of yet untitled Debut Full Length in 2019 on Limited Edition vinyl

STAY DOOMED STAY HEAVY

Rough Spells:
Sarena Sairan: Vocals/Guitar
Maija Martin: Guitar/Vocals
Dave Lucas: Bass
Tobey Black: Drums

https://www.facebook.com/Rough-Spells-441982039657307/
https://www.instagram.com/roughspells/
https://roughspells.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DHURecords/
https://www.instagram.com/dhu_records/
https://twitter.com/dhu_records
https://darkhedonisticunionrecords.bandcamp.com/
darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com/

Rough Spells, Modern Kicks for the Solitary Witch (2018)

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Review & Track Premiere: Sundecay, Gale

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sundecay gale

[Click play above to stream “Gales” from Sundecay’s new EP, Gale. Vinyl is out Nov. 30.]

It’s an old debate, EP vs. LP. Where the line stops between a short release and a full-length. I take my cues from bands, and Sundecay have made it clear that their new self-released four-songer, Gale, is an EP. But I don’t necessarily agree. At half an hour long, it’s right on the border of one side or the other, but the key factor for me is the way the Toronto DIY five-piece arrange the songs themselves to set up a clear flow from opener “Heavy Motions” through the 11-minute closer “The Land that Never Thaws.” Gale breaks roughly even into two vinyl sides — which is fortunate, because they’ve pressed it up as a 12″ in limited numbers, gold-embossed front lettering, etc. — of two songs apiece, and especially in physical form, there’s no substance lacking that one would say it isn’t an impressive debut album.

Does it ultimately matter? Probably not, and it could well be that Sundecay will next year put out a full-length that’s a 70-minute 2LP and show themselves as thinking of an album as a completely different entity — I don’t know that that’s going to happen, I’m just positing a hypothetical — but the bottom line either way is that Gale presents a strong front-to-back fluidity amid its burly double-guitar riffs, spacious vocal echoes and largesse of groove to ignite the argument.

With Mark Chandler and Brian Scott (the latter also cover art) on guitar, Derek Hoffman as bassist, engineer and mixer, Julian Vardy on drums and Rich Pauptit on vocals, Sundecay bring together “Heavy Motions,” “Gales,” “From Corners” and “The Land that Never Thaws” with a firm sense of aesthetic, capturing some of the marauding sensibility of mid-period High on Fire but played at maybe two-thirds speed, so that the battle axe of riffs is swinging, but kind of in slow motion. Tempo shifts and moments of ambience like those that open “Heavy Motions” or appear in the second half of “The Land that Never Thaws” suit the band well, but of course the sheer level of impact is a major consideration in what they do.

And their work hits hard. “From Corners” is the shortest cut on the EP at 3:57, pairing smoothly with the closer on side B, and it has an almost classic doom approach to its swaggering groove, making it all the more understandable where they’re coming from in touting a Pentagram/proto-metal influence, but someone in this band listens to or listened to earlier Mastodon, and the effect of that style of weighted, almost-angular chugging tension is present in the guitar as well as the dreary atmospheres surrounding. It’s a fitting answer to the echoing beardo-burl of Pauptit‘s vocals, which seem to call up in “Heavy Motions” from beneath the rolling nod in a way that’s both headphone-worthy and calling for max-volume presentation, so, you know, watch your eardrums.

sundecay gale vinyl

If nothing else, “Heavy Motions” lives up to its name, moving from its gradual start into a melodic interplay of guitar for the verse before seeming to grow thicker as it progresses through the midsection and plods into a drum-dropout before the five-minute mark, only to resume the fervent march in apex fashion as the ending, which concludes in a long fade bringing about the foreboding open of “Gales,” the guitars evoking a bluster of wind from the outset that seems to blow in multiple directions. Like “Heavy Motions” before, the opening is gradual, but does much to establish the feel of the song itself, and when the drums and bass kick in at full-tone, there’s a feeling of arrival.

A more driven push takes hold before two minutes in with a faster meter and some of that crunching angularity brought forward in the guitar at the central position. They wind their way into a slowdown in the middle third but hold to it for a while, and make it unclear at first if they’l even go back at all to the chug from whence they came. When they do, it’s with about a minute left, and they run through the verse one more time before finishing out with a showcase of symmetry that seems all the more relevant for ending the first half of the record.

The relatively brief “From Corners” follows and plays a crucial role not only in offsetting “The Land that Never Thaws” still to come, but in allowing the band to expand the context of the album — (coughs loudly) — overall, with a departure from the methods of the two prior tracks. “From Corners” is inherently more straightforward in its structure, and while it remains tonally and rhythmically consistent with what surrounds, Sundecay use it to efficiently demonstrate a malleable methodology on the whole.

Their 2014 debut, Bodies at the Frontier, had a similar construction to its songs, if swapped in side A and B, but the band’s growth in sound is palpable and it’s hard to argue against closing with “The Land that Never Thaws,” which drops its title-line in the first verse and brings its slower chug to bear along with a markedly epic feel underscored by the lumber of the drumming at its root. It’s not the first time the band have gone marching, but they do it well and with a particularly downtrodden flare in “The Land that Never Thaws,” and as that gives way to the stretch of guitar, bass and vocals alone, the nigh-goth pastoralism is one more fascinating turn that makes the surge that begins after nine minutes in even more of a crescendo. Pauptit‘s vocals come to the fore of the mix with surrounding wails of guitar and plod of bass and drums, and the guitars cap in chugging fashion on a fade to mirror that of “Heavy Motions.”

Whether one considers Gale an EP or an LP, that symmetry is essential to the progressive impression the band makes on the whole. It may well be that this collection is just a sampling of their intent toward larger- and longer-form works to come. If so, fine. But the adage of “it’s just an EP” doesn’t really apply to the formidable presence Sundecay establish or the swath of heavy styles they seem to so naturally make their own in this material.

Sundecay on Bandcamp

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Sons of Otis to Release Live in Den Bosch LP Nov. 15

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sons of otis

Science has proven time and again the in depth equation that any new Sons of Otis is good Sons of Otis. If we see the long-running Toronto ultra-stoners as object A, then we can truly posit that A to the power of n equals G times infinity. It all looks like this:

An = Gi

You can’t argue with the math.

Totem Cat Records last week announced it would offer a previously-tour-only compilation from Bongzilla and said at the time there would be another announcement following shortly. Live at Den Bosch will be limited to 300 LP copies — if they’re not already gone on preorders, certainly they will be soon — and is a one-time pressing of Sons of Otis playing live in the Netherlands in 2011. Again, the mere fact of its existence is a positive, and whether you manage to snag a copy or not, you should take heart in knowing that it’s out there.

Of course, the band’s last studio outing was 2012’s Seismic (review here) on Small Stone, and as they hit Europe this past summer playing Hellfest and more, they also noted that a new album was in the works. I think we already know how the numbers play out on that issue.

The band passed the 25-year mark in 2017, and 2019 would be seven years since Seismic, so if you believe in due, they’re due. But one way or the other you’ll probably want to chase this down if you can. There are two versions up for preorder now through the label, with the official release slated for Nov. 15:

sons of otis live in den bosch

[NEW RELEASE ANNOUNCEMENT] Sons of Otis – Live In Den Bosch

Live recording from 2011 in The Netherlands. One-time pressing of only 300 vinyl.

TRACKLIST :
1 – I’m Gone
2 – Bad Man
3 – Lost Soul
4 – Haters
5 – Cosmic Jam
6 – Far From Fine

Preorders start October 30. Official release on November 15.

Cover art by Flog Diver | Illustration & Design

https://www.facebook.com/sonsofotis/
https://www.reverbnation.com/sonsofotis
https://www.facebook.com/totemcatrecords/
http://totemcatrecords.bigcartel.com/

Sons of Otis, Live at Hellfest 2018

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Familiars Premiere “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

familiars (Photograph by Thomas Van Der Zaag)

Toronto-based heavy psych rockers Familiars have newly released their new cumbersomely-titled two-songer, This Water that is Warm, I Will Soon Join, and if immersion is the idea, then they’re definitely comfortable working with the theme. Their tempos on “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” and the accompanying “The Gardiner’s Coming Down” are methodical, the second track a little faster than the first in a kind of fuzzy-garage stomp where “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” feels more about the roll and the reverbed-out vocals, a blend of tonal heft and melodic reach that feels born from similar impulses to Mars Red Sky but not at all aping what the Frenchmen have done on their own records.

This Water that is Warm, I Will Soon Join is by no means the first short release from the trio of Anton Babych, Jared MacIntyre and Kevin Vansteenkiste, and the hope on the part of the band is it will lead them into the process of making their first full-length this Spring. Certainly the janga-janga-janga riff of “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” and the punctuated-buzz-turned-post-QOTSA-thrust-turned-echoing-daydream of “The Gardiner’s Coming Down” would be an indicator they’re ready for the task. As both songs can be streamed now and downloaded name-your-price style at the bottom of this post, it only seems that Familiars are looking to be as readily accessible to their audience as possible, and given the professionalism of their presentation and the depths of their tones, I wouldn’t be surprised to find them picked up by this or that label before the album is out.

MacIntyre co-directed the new video for “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” and Vansteenkise did the Sergio Leone-inspired title-card, so the band’s definitely used to being hands on with their own output. The clip itself features a be-robbed wandering protagonist headed across some gloriously open spaces, only to find the band rocking out in a field — like you go. Alam directed the atmosphere of the video is a good match for the song in that it’s gorgeous, and I like the idea that we never find out who’s under the hood, as it were. We never see a face, a gender, anything, and the band is pretty careful to avoid saying one way or the other. I think that kind of thing is cool. It can be the band’s secret.

Look out for more news on Familiars — I hope, anyway — as they set to recording the aforementioned debut LP, and in the meantime, dig into the video for “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” below, followed by more info from the PR wire.

Enjoy:

Familiars, “As Our Distance Has Grown Further” official video premiere

A wanderer gets lost in what it’s searching for.

“As Our Distance Has Grown Further” is the single off of the 7 inch “This Water That Is Warm, I Will Soon Join”.

7 inch available at: https://familiarsmusic.bandcamp.com/

We are recording our debut full length this spring.

Directors: Mashie Alam & Jared MacIntyre
Director Of Photography: Thomas Van Der Zaag
Colour & Effects: Nathan Winspear
Title card: Kevin Vansteenkiste

Familiars live:
Tuesday March 27th in London Ontario w/ Woodhawk
Wednesday March 28th in Hamilton Ontario w/ Woodhawk.

Familiars are Kevin Vansteenkiste, Anton Babych, & Jared MacIntyre

Familiars, This Water that is Warm, I Will Soon Join

Familiars on Thee Facebooks

Familiars on Twitter

Familiars on Instagram

Familiars website

Familiars on Bandcamp

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Sons of Otis Working on New Album; Touring Europe this Summer

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I really don’t even remember where, but I read something on the interwebs last week about Sons of Otis having new material in the works and that was enough for my brain to be like, ‘Holy crap, you need to go bother Sons of Otis immediately!’ So I did. The band’s been kicking around a little more actively of late — they played Psycho Las Vegas last year, for example — and as it will have been six year’s since their sixth album, 2012’s Seismic (review here and here), by the time a new one gets out, they’re nothing if not due.

Granted, the long-running Toronto trio did reissue their 2001 album, Songs for Worship, last year on Concrete Lo-Fi Records, and you won’t find me saying that’s not awesome or anything like that, but a new long-player from these drown-you-in-tone stalwarts would most certainly be a win. The more Funkadelic-referential jams, the better. Or maybe they could just do a 40-minute version of “Maggot Brain” as a one-off. That’d work too.

Ken Baluke, who is the man behind OxFuzz pedals, was kind enough to give me an update on the next studio outing from Sons of Otis — which will reportedly be out through Totem Cat Records — an impending live record, and a summer European tour for which the dates are still TBA, but which at least runs from Hellfest in France on June 22 through Stoned from the Underground in Germany on July 14. When I hear how the time between those two will be filled in or get any other details, I’ll let you know.

Until then, this:

sons of otis

Sons of Otis Update from Ken Baluke:

Yep we still climbing this mountain of fire 26 years later. It’s true, we have been working on new tracks and hope to get an album out this year. The new songs are very intense and cathartic. Also we’re touring Europe this summer with Bongzilla and Dopethrone.

So needless to say….it’s gonna get heavy. High LIVE’N Dirty.

We also have a live album in the works from our Euro tour back in 2011. Hopefully that will also come out this year.

Sons of Otis live:
June 22 Hellfest Clisson France
July 13 Red Smoke Fest Pleszew Poland
July 14 Stoned from the Underground Erfurt Germany

Sons of Otis is:
Ken Baluke – Guitars, Vocals
Frank Sargeant – Bass
Ryan Aubin – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/sonsofotis/
https://www.reverbnation.com/sonsofotis
http://clfrecords.com/
http://facebook.com/clfrecords

Sons of Otis, Live at Psycho Las Vegas 2017

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Review & Track Premiere: Low Orbit, Spacecake

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

low orbit spacecake

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Dead Moon’ from Low Orbit’s Spacecake. Album is out early Dec. on Pink Tank Records.]

Given the associated ideas of thick, consuming fuzz, spaced-out vibes, massive and rolling grooves and a general checked-out-of-life overarching spirit to the proceedings as a whole, one might be forgiven for immediately thinking of Sons of Otis upon hearing that the earth-buzzing sound you hear from the ground originates in Toronto, Ontario. But with their second album and Pink Tank Records debut, the three-piece Low Orbit make a strong case for themselves as practitioners of the riffly form. Spacecake — reminds of Patton Oswalt’s “skycake” bit; look it up — is the suitably molten and somewhat single-minded follow-up to Low Orbit‘s 2014 self-titled debut, and it arrives as a manageable six-track/42-minute LP that ignites a feeling psychedelic drift through tonal density, the guitar of Angelo Catenaro (also vocals) very much leading the way while backed by Joe Grgic‘s bass and synth and Emilio Mammone‘s drums.

From opener “Dead Moon” onward, their intentions as a group could hardly be clearer or presented in a less pretentious manner. Five out of the six cuts included directly reference space or some space-minded element in their title — “Dead Moon,” “Planet X,” “Shades of Neptune,” “Venus,” and “Lunar Lander,” in that order — and even closer “Machu Picchu” nestles itself into repetitions of “burn the sky” from Catanero after lyrics about the stars, new dawns rising and planets laid to waste, etc. I’m not sure where the ‘cake’ portion of the album’s name comes into play except perhaps in some reference to edibles or in terms of the record itself, which feels duly baked and iced, particularly as the title is referenced in the 10-minute “Shades of Neptune,” which is a highlight as it rounds out side A with a particularly resonant lysergic ooze.

The lava begins to churn after a brief bit of introductory synth at the start of “Dead Moon,” and there’s just about no letup from there. In terms of influences, “Dead Moon” nods — and I do mean nods — at the aforementioned propensity for rolling grooves from fellow Torontonians Sons of Otis, and one can hear shades of earliest Mars Red Sky in the ride-cymbal-punctuated bouncing verse of “Planet X,” but at root beneath both of these and much of the rest of Spacecake is post-Sleep riff idolatry, and Low Orbit do well finding a place for themselves within that context. Lead layers emerge over a wash of high and low fuzz in “Planet X,” and though subtle and in some places buried deep in the mix, that current of synth and effects is almost always present in one form or another, and its flourish both adds to the breadth that Low Orbit cast and bolsters the cosmic theme through which their work is seeking to function.

low orbit

Both “Dead Moon” and “Planet X” offer a tonal warmth that one might take as a contrast to the coldness of atmospheric vacuum, but they’re hardly the first to make that pairing, and as they cut the pace on “Shades of Neptune” to an even more languid push, any and all such grounded concerns more or less dissipate in deference to the groove that emerges. Like the cuts surrounding, one would hardly accuse “Shades of Neptune” of making any revolutionary moves, but it is a more than capable play to style from the trio, whose persona is established within the individual examples of songwriting and in the interplay between them over the flowing and laid back course the band sets into the very heart of the “far out” itself.

With the willful adoption of genre tropes that pervades, one expects side B of Spacecake to mirror and perhaps reinforce the accomplishments of the album’s first half, and to the greater extent, it does precisely that. At five and six minutes, respectively, “Venus” and “Lunar Lander” answer the mid-paced density called out by “Dead Moon” and “Planet X,” and as it reaches just under nine, indeed “Machu Picchu” offers a tempo dip to back up that in “Shades of Neptune.” Fortunately, this is achieved with no discernible decline in the quality of hooks, and as Catanero shouts out the chorus of “Lunar Lander” ahead of the bigger roll that takes hold past the song’s midpoint, it becomes apparent that perhaps Low Orbit haven’t played their complete hand yet in terms of how much they have to offer sound-wise. The closer furthers this supposition with a well-honed-if-self-aware ritualized vibe, led off by Grgic‘s bass and a backing drone to give an immediately Om-style feel. Not at all unwelcome.

A melodic semi-wash takes hold, vocals echo from far off, and Low Orbit find ambient reaches heretofore unknown to Spacecake even as they make their way to a more straightforward march in the chorus. “Machu Picchu” undulates like this throughout its 8:52, coming forward and receding again, and it winds up in a lead-topped crescendo in its last minute that chugs to a sudden-seeming fadeout that one imagines could’ve easily gone on another three or four minutes on its own had the band chosen to have it do so. Perhaps their relative brevity is to be commended, since it would almost be too simple to have Spacecake push into stoner indulgence, and certainly by that time, Low Orbit‘s underlying message has been well delivered. Hidden within a standard subspace signal is a carrier wave to the converted: Come nod with us. It’s warm here and familiar and feels like home.

Low Orbit, “Machu Picchu” official video

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