Posted in Features on January 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
I’ve been trying to get this one on the page for a couple weeks now — really since last year if you want to go back that far — and I finally just decided to do it. Granted, it’s already 2014, but I’m pretty used to being behind the times, so I hope you’ll indulge me on this one.
The thing is, of course we already did the Top 20 Albums of 2013, but that leaves an awful lot out in terms of quality shorter releases. Demos, singles, EPs, splits — whatever it might be — there’s a lot more to the story of a year in music than who’s putting out what full-length. That might be true now more than ever, with digital releases and artists having the ability to more or less give a song-by-song feed of new material should they so choose. Since this is the first time I’ve done this list, I’ve kept the presentation pretty basic, but there’s a lot to dig into here anyway in terms of the quality of the music and what people were able to accomplish in, in some cases, just one or two tracks.
My basis for judgment here is basically the same as with the full-albums list, and by that I mean how much I listened to something played a huge role, and it’s not just how important I think an EP or a split or a demo was that got it included on this list — though of course that stuff matters as well. Like spelling, repeat listens count. And it goes without saying these are my picks and have nothing to do with the Readers Poll, the results of which are here.
Okay, let’s do this:
The Top 20 Short Releases of 2013
1. The Machine/Sungrazer, Split
2. Dozer, Vultures
3. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide
4. Black Thai, Seasons of Might
5. Wo Fat/Egypt, Cyclopean Riffs Split 12″
6. Young Hunter, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain
7. Shroud Eater, Dead Ends
8. Steak, Corned Beef Colossus
9. Geezer, Gage
10. The Golden Grass, One More Time b/w Tornado 7″
11. Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Underground
12. King Buffalo, Demo
13. Groan, Ride the Snake
14. Crypt Sermon, Demo MMXIII
15. Stubb, Under a Spell b/w Bullets Rain 7″
16. Salem’s Pot, Watch Me Kill You Tape
17. Undersmile/Coma Wall, Wood and Wire Split
18. Second Grave, Antithesis
19. Sinister Haze, Demo
20. Olde Growth, Owl
Honorable mention has to go to the Fatso Jetson/Yawning Man split, C.O.C.‘s MegalodonEP, which was right on but which I didn’t really hear enough to include. The Gates of Slumber‘s Stormcrow as well.
Just a couple notes: In the case of Olde Growth, putting them last was actually more about not being sure when the official release date of Owlwas than anything else. I actually listened to that quite a bit, and “Tears of Blood” remains my favorite work of the duo’s to date. In terms of demos, it was a good year for doom debuts, with Crypt Sermon and Sinister Haze both showing some malevolent classicism, and King Buffalo‘s demo grew on me almost immediately upon hearing it and right away made me look forward to whatever might come next from them.
I was a little hesitant to put a split in the number one spot, but The Machine‘s riff for “Awe” alone made it necessary. I’ve kept this disc on my person for almost the entire year and continue to have no regrets in doing so. For Dozer, yeah, it was a collection of older material, but I still enjoyed the crap out of it. Both Mars Red Sky and Black Thai signaled considerable creative growth in four-song EPs, and the Wo Fat and Egypt split more than lived up to its mission. The riff lives in bands like that, and as we get further into stylistic nuance and subgenre development, it’s those groups who are holding on to the Heavy.
Young Hunter are one of the most promising bands I’ve heard in the last three years. Flat out. Killer release. Ditto that in a much different context for Shroud Eater, whose take on heavy only got more sinister and more effective with Dead Ends. Steak emerge as tops among the five British bands — a quarter of the list! — here. Their Corned Beef Colossus also had the best title I heard all year, and though Trippy Wicked, Groan, Stubb, and Undersmile/Coma Wall (the latter earning bonus points for putting out a split with themselves) all thrilled, Steak‘s potential got them that spot. Time for a full-length, guys.
Not to leave out New York — though the geographical alignment is a coincidence — Geezer‘s Gagetapped into a jammier feel that I thought suited the band remarkably well, and The Golden Grass‘ debut single offered one of the most charming irony-free good times I’ve heard in a long while. The Salem’s Pot cassette was one of my most-listened-to tapes this year, last mentioned but not at all least, Second Grave‘s Antithesisprobably would’ve clocked in higher if I’d had more time with it, but was definitely one I wanted to put in here anyway.
As I said, a lot of really astounding shorter outings, and worthy of attention in their own right. If I missed anything, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments.
Posted in Reviews on September 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
With last year’s Going Home full-length,UK heavy rockers Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight began to show growth in a heavier direction tonally. Their second album (review here), it kept some of the riffier elements of 2009’s Movin’ On(review here), but was clearly headed someplace else stylistically — a burlier and more metal vibe persisted. The new UndergroundEP stands as the follow-up to Going Home, and as it was also recorded by drummer Chris West and guitarist/vocalist Pete Holland — also mixed and mastered by West; the three-piece is completed by Dicky King on bass — it’s not so much a surprise that it is likewise loud, meaty and weighted. Where Undergroundreally makes itself separate from the trio’s work up to this point is in its overarching thematic. True to its artwork by Dan Schooler, the five-track collection clocks in at 30 minutes of science fiction-minded lyrics that seem to frame a loose narrative. This happens over the course of the opening title-track and closer “New Beginnings,” while between them, “Echoes Return” gives a personal angle to the story and “Enlightenment” and “Discoveries” provide instrumental continuity. At the same time, Undergroundis more dynamic stylistically than Going Home, and particularly in “Enlightenment” and “Discoveries,” embellishes a touch of heavy psychedelia that feels like a definite departure from the last album. In terms of approach and storyline, then, Trippy Wicked are trying something new, and whatever sonic similarities the EP has to the LP before it, that’s not the whole tale. In the interest of clarity, I consider myself a fan of Trippy Wicked both as a band and as people, so while my observations on Undergroundmay be and I hope they’re found to be considered, I won’t exactly call them impartial. With that said, Undergroundstrikes as the most complex and accomplished outing Trippy Wicked have crafted yet, and feels more complete as a whole work than its EP tag can properly convey. Released on the band-affiliated Superhot Records, it could just as easily have been dubbed a short album and I’d find no argument.
Holland, whose confidence and range have grown in kind over the band’s five years of releases, is at his most melodically adept here. Whether he’s following his guitar on “Echoes Return” and “Underground” or subtly branching out in the verses of “New Beginnings,” he sounds comfortable in the more relaxed spaces and able to convey a depth of emotionality that wasn’t attempted even on Going Home, which had a narrative thread of its own, mostly about drinking and the resulting raucousness. Maybe it’s the more nuanced thematic bringing out the performance, but it makes more sense to me to think of the evolution as coinciding rather than sparked by one or the other. An all-around growth, in other words. Likewise, the band’s songwriting, while it has long since “clicked” in terms of creating memorable hooks across a variety of moods, seems to have stepped up as well, and Holland, King and West are a tight and fluid trio, each bringing out the best from the compatriot two. Repetition in the choruses of the three tracks with vocals also provides a consistency across the release, giving it even more of a sense of being one whole work, as “Underground” features a series of lines starting with “World slows down/Sun’s burnt out,” and ends with an almost nursery rhyme made of “Down, down, round and round/We’re lost until we’re found,” while “Echoes Return” plays homophones with “I find it hard to believe in you today/I find it hard to be leaving you this way” as a secondary chorus and “New Beginnings” moves into a first-person-plural in starting more of its chorus lines with “We had” or “We can” as it winds down the storyline. All this feeds into the overarching cohesion of Underground, making it a compelling listen that satisfies in more than just its actual audio, but it’s important to remember that although Trippy Wicked are engaging these new methods (or at very least developing past ideas to new levels of refinement), Undergroundis still very much a heavy rock record. Pretense is nil, and while the production is crisp and full and professional, it’s not so overblown as to take away from the natural feel of the songs themselves.
Posted in Features on August 7th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’re anything like me — and let’s just hope for your sake you’re not — then you’re sitting in front of your laptop staring at a calendar telling you it’s August wondering what the hell happened to June and July. Last time I turned around, it was barely summer, and now it’s starting to get cold at night.
We’re well past the halfway mark on 2013, and I know for some the year’s best picks are already set in mind, but there’s a ton of cool releases still to come before 2014 hits, and I figured now’s as good a time as any for a rundown of a few picks that seem to be sure to arrive prior to December 31. As much as anything’s ever “sure,” anyway. Subject to change, and all that.
With the gracious suggestions/assistance of those checking in on the forum (see that thread for many more picks) taken into consideration, here are 15 suggestions to be on a lookout for starting in September. Some of these I’ve heard, some I haven’t, but take it as a sampling of what I’m looking forward to, if nothing else.
And because I know nothing says “I know how to have a good time” like a list in order of release date, here goes nothing:
Vista Chino, Peace (Sept. 3)
It took me a couple listens to come around to Vista Chino‘s Peace (review here), but once I got to that point, there was no turning back. The much-anticipated Napalm Records debut from the four-piece birthed out of Kyuss Lives!, Peace ultimately moves forward as much as it looks back, and though much of the lyrics center around the lawsuit that forced Kyuss Lives! to change their name, the songs themselves do arrive at a certain place of acceptance by the end of the record, so that in the end it lives up to its title. Some won’t be able to make the leap over their expectations for what an album with Brant Bjork, John Garcia and Nick Oliveri on it should sound like, but most importantly, Vista Chino are pressing on and I hope this isn’t the last record they make together, even if Oliveri is already out of the band’s touring lineup.
Larman Clamor, Alligator Heart (Sept. 10)
The solo-outfit of graphic artist Alexander von Wieding, Larman Clamor has been pumping out quality swamp boogie for the last two years at a more than prolific clip. Last year, von Wieding made his debut on Small Stone with Frogs (review here), and while the forthcoming Alligator Heart (out through the same label) strips the approach down somewhat — as you can hear on the single “Banshee w’Me” — the murkedelic blues spirit remains supreme at the center of the project’s approach. Larman Clamor has flown relatively under the radar so far into its run, but showing a little bit of a poppier side on Alligator Heart‘s tracks might gain it some more attention. Von Wieding‘s songwriting continues to be worth the price of admission to the bizarre carnival he creates.
Windhand, Soma (Sept. 17)
Richmond-based cult sludgers Windhand made their debut on Relapse earlier this year on a split release with Cough — with whom they share a bassist and a hometown — and will follow that next month with Soma, their second LP behind their 2012 self-titled debut full-length. The band have only gotten darker and meaner since adding Cough‘s Parker Chandler on bass, and with that split heralding its coming, Somashould arrive with a fittingly devastating impact. Windhand have also put in no shortage of time on the road, and even as the new one comes out, they’ll be embroiled in a coast-to-coast US tour, so keep an eye out — and that goes for Europe too. I wouldn’t be surprised if a full tour with Inter Arma got announced around their joint Roadburn appearances next spring.
Sasquatch, IV (Sept. 24)
Sasquatch bloody Sasquatch. If you’ve got a face, these dudes’ll rock it right off. With IV(Small Stone) their first full-length since 2010’s III(review here), L.A. trio Sasquatch very casually offer a reminder that those who talk about how rock and roll needs to be “saved” don’t have a clue what’s really up, that rock and roll never went anywhere and that its awesomeness continues unabated. Need testimony? Check out the track stream for “The Message.” Classic grooves, class-y showoff solos, catchy tunes and later in the album even a foray into psychedelic jamming — let there be no doubt that Sasquatch have nailed down right where they want to be sound-wise and are ready to make the most of the good times they’re rolling out as they continue to lay their own railroad, grand and funky as it is. Soundgarden wishes they had this kind of edge.
Iron Man, South of the Earth (Sept. 30)
You’d pretty much have to be a jerk not to feel good about the fact that long-running, long-underappreciated Maryland doom stalwarts Iron Man are getting their due in the form of a Rise Above Records release for their new album, South of the Earth. I know that’s not the most impartial statement in the world, but seriously, who deserves Lee Dorrian-endorsed doom cred more than Iron Man? The names are few and far between. South of the Earthalready had me on the hook for being their first full-length with frontman Dee Calhoun on board alongside guitarist “Iron” Al Morris III, bassist Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann, but with the hopefully increased profile of issue on Rise Above, who knows what could be in store for them once it’s out?
Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Underground EP (Sept.)
Trippy Wicked caught me off guard last year with the heavier and more metal side that showed up on their Going Home long-player (review here), but this time I’m ready. I’ve readjusted my expectations for what the UK trio might unleash on the new Underground EP — set phasers to who-the-hell-knows — and after the quick mastery of the metallurgical arts they showed the last time out, I’m happy to follow wherever their creative whims might take them. I know this is a list of albums and technically an EP isn’t a full album, but screw it, I dig these guys and am fascinated enough by their progression that it’s worth including even the smaller release here. If the art for Underground(due out through Superhot Records) is anything to go by — and I don’t yet know that it is — we could be in for a pretty wild ride.
Earthless, From the Ages (Oct. 8)
San Diego instrumentalists Earthless are looking to make an epic return on From the Ages (Tee Pee Records), which is their first studio full-length in six years. Though they’ve had a steady stream of live releases, limited splits and the like, and guitarist Isaiah Mitchell released a debut album with the heavy psych outfit Golden Void last year, nothing’s quite the same as Earthless‘ righteous jams and extended progressions. Look out for the 31-minute title-track (one of four on the album; more info here) as Earthless step into the limelight and reap the momentum they’ve built through steady years of touring and critical acclaim. From the Agesmight just prove one for the ages.
Monster Magnet, Last Patrol (Oct. 15)
My only question when it comes to Monster Magnet‘s second album for Napalm Records — touted by frontman Dave Wyndorf as a return to their psychedelic beginnings — is how literally we’re supposed to take the title Last Patroland if indeed this is going to be the final go for the long-running and hugely influential New Jersey outfit. If so, they draw their circle as complete as they possibly could, and whether it’s “The Duke (of Supernature),” which has received nearly 23,000 plays since being premiered here on July 23, or the driving churn of “End of Time,” Monster Magnet tap into the spirit that propelled 1995’s Dopes to Infinity and readjust the balance of their influence in a way fans have been clamoring for for years now. The more I hear it, the more I need to hear it.
Pelican, Forever Becoming (Oct. 15)
A new Pelican album is an interesting enough proposition at this point — it’s been four years since the Chicago instrumental outfit released What We all Come to Need (review here) — but Forever Becoming (Southern Lord) has an added level of intrigue for being Pelican‘s first album without guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec. Stepping in to fill the second guitar spot is Dallas Thomas of The Swan King, and it should be interesting to hear how the band’s approach has shifted after almost half a decade and what Thomas brings to the well-established chemistry between bassist Bryan Herweg, drummer Larry Herweg and guitarist Trevor de Brauw. If the first track is anything to go by, Pelican still sounds like Pelican, and I’m not going to complain about that.
Corrections House, Last City Zero (Oct. 29)
Probably the bigger surprise would’ve been if the super-type group Corrections House didn’t make their full-length debut on Neurot, but still, word was welcome when it came down a couple weeks back that the conjoined efforts of Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Mike IX Williams (EyeHateGod), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, Minsk and the guy you want to record your album) were resulting in an actual album to follow up on their initial single and tour earlier this year. Whether the entirety of the record works in the kind of industrial, post-Godflesh noise crunch they brought to the stage on that tour (review here), we’ll just have to wait and see. But I’m damn interested to find out.
Red Fang, Whales and Leeches (Oct.)
Those who heard Red Fang‘s 2011 boot-to-the-ass second album, Murder the Mountains (review here), will probably find Whales and Leeches (named for a track off their 2008 self-titled debut) a reasonable follow-up. The Portland forerunners’ second offering through Relapse finds bassist/vocalist Aaron Beam even more front and center with clean vocals, and ultra-catchy songs like “Blood Like Cream” and “No Hope” seem to pick up right where Red Fang left off last time, offsetting Beam‘s poppier style with guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles‘ throaty grit . Watch out for much more to come on this one. Between the record itself and their formidable road ethic, you’re probably going to be hearing a lot about it.
The Melvins, Tres Cabrones (Nov. 5)
If you were to ask me how many records the Melvins have out in 2013, I’d go, “Uh… I dunno… six?” and the mere fact that that doesn’t seem like a ridiculous answer should be indicative of the frankly absurd pace at which the long-enduring Washington outfit add to their already insurmountable catalog. What makes Tres Cabrones (Ipecac) different? Reportedly, it’s a semi-reunion of the band’s 1983 lineup — as close as they were willing to get, was how Buzz Osbourne put it in the press release — that finds Dale Crover playing bass to make room for drummer Mike Dillard. The Melvins released the collection Mangled Demos from 1983 in 2005, but Tres Cabroneswill be entirely new material. You never know quite where the Melvins are headed next, and if anyone could find a way to go forward even as they go backward, it’d be them.
Sandrider, Godhead (Date TBA)
So in case you couldn’t tell by the “TBA” above, this one’s a bit of wishful thinking on my part. I don’t actually know that Sandrider (members of Akimbo and The Ruby Doe) will issue a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled Good to Die Records debut (review here) before the end of 2013, but golly, I hope they do. The band said on July 11 via their Thee Facebooks that they’d finished mastering the album, titled Godhead, for a Fall release, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see once it’s pressed and ready to go. The sooner the better, since that first record was a smoker and nothing says “autumn” like some noise crunch bombast. At least that’s what I have embroidered on my doilies…
Snail, Feral (TBA)
Not sure on the release date for West Coast riffers Snail‘s fourth album and third since reactivating in 2009 with Blood, but the recording’s reportedly done, so hopefully it’s not too long before they get it out. The band recently announced the departure of guitarist Eric Clausen, so they’re down to the original trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson, and how that will affect their sound on the follow-up to last year’s metallized self-release, Terminus (review here), remains to be seen, but if there’s any chance Snail might be able to get more road time in support of Feral, whenever it arrives, than no doubt it will have been worth the tumult in the meantime.And even if not, the album’s still one to watch for.
The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum (TBA)
Another one with no exact date, but according to producer Chris Fielding, it’ll be out before 2013’s over. Either way, when it lands, Consolamentum will serve as the Candlelight Records debut. It’s their fourth outing overall, and the second to be produced by Fielding and to feature frontwoman Sharie Neyland, whose work on 2011’s In the Chapel ofthe Black Hand (review here) made that album one of the year’s most satisfyingly bizarre and dreary doom offerings. Along with founding guitarist Steve Mills, Neyland returns for Consolamentum and whether it hits in 2013 or 2014, look for the band to progress from the last time out. Mills (interview here) is a relentlessly forward-thinking songwriter and his penchant for creating atmospheric and crushingly dark sonic spaces is not to be underestimated.
Whew. These things always take so much longer than I think they’re going to when I start writing names on Post-It notes.
Of course, this is just a sampling of what’s to come over the next few months. Borracho‘s new one is supposed to get a vinyl release, and A Storm of Light have a new record, plus I heard rumors of new Slough Feg (they have a new single that would seem to back that up) and a much-awaited Brothers of the Sonic Cloth full-length coming before the end of the year — I also, right now, quite literally this second, just got news of a new Diesto on Eolian Empire — so please don’t assume that if it’s not here it’s never coming or whatever. There’s so much out there, I always feel like I’m leaving out something big and/or awesome.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
After they spliced the riffier take presented early on with a metallic edge on last year’s Going Home full-length (review here), I was eager to hear where UK trio Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight might go on their next release. Looks like I won’t have to wait too much longer to find out, since the trio of Peter Holland (guitar/vocals), Dicky King (bass) and Christopher West (drums) will have a new EP in September out through Superhot Records. The title-track, which you’ll find below, seems to emphasize just how little you can actually know what to expect from these guys. I dig it.
Trippy Wicked are headed out with Bright Curse and Wight to support the release, and they kick off with a gig alongside Steak and Kerala to start, so good stuff all around. I also like the tag “alt-stoner,” which I haven’t heard before. The PR wire sends word:
Trippy Wicked announce new EP and UK headlining tour in August
The UK’s alt-stoner trio have been working on a 5 song EP exploring the sludgier side of their split-personality genre hopping style.
To promote the EP Trippy Wicked will be embarking on a tour of the UK with Wight and Bright Curse in support for all but the first date. Wight have recently released their first live album ‘Live auf 603qm’ and Bright Curse have just released their self titled EP on Bilocation Records.
Here’s the full list of dates:
With Steak and Kerela August 21st Brighton – Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar
With Wight and Bright Curse August 22nd Bristol – Exchange August 23rd London – The Black Heart August 24th Birmingham – Scruffy Murphy’s August 25th Cardiff – The Moon Club (HUB Festival) August 26th Sunderland – Pure August 27th (Private acoustic show) August 28th Manchester – The Bay Horse August 29th Edinburgh – Bannermans Bar August 30th Cambridge – The Man on the Moon August 31st Sheffield – The Three Cranes
Superhot Records is set to release Underground in September on digipack CD featuring the incredible artwork of Daniel Schooler. The band will have CDs for sale on tour.
Housekeeping kicked me out of my hotel room. While I’m staying somewhere, I usually don’t like to have people come through and clean — I’m not making that much of a mess, and what mess I make, I can clean up myself — but sometimes it just has to be done. So they gave me the boot, but I was still early to head down for the official start of London Desertfest 2013. Or late, depending on how you want to look at it. I’ll explain as we go along, though before we get down to it and the rest of my night gets its course, let me just say that some of what I saw today is the kind of stuff that I’ve no doubt will stay with me for as long as I have the capacity to remember it. Really. It was like that. From watching friends kick ass to seeing bands I never thought I’d be lucky enough to see, it was the perfect start to a landmark weekend.
In the spirit of doom, let’s do a slow count-in: 1… 2… 3… 4…
Native British trio Crystal Head were my favorite find of last year’s Desertfest — a band about whom I really knew nothing who just blew me away on stage. Obviously the surprise factor wasn’t there this go around, but the Londoners were perhaps even more satisfying to watch in 2013 since I knew most of the songs, which came from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here). As such, they made a great launch point for day one of this year’s Desertfest and though the setting was different at the Jazz Cafe, guitarist/vocalist Tom Cameron, bassist/backing vocalist Jon Deal and drummer Dean Deal nonetheless made short work of the room. Self-titled opener “Perfect Weirdo,” was a highlight, and Cameron‘s hollow-body Gretsch was as righteous as I remembered. Curiously, since I thought it was a shoo-in, they didn’t play “True to Say,” but I guess the DJ beforehand had gotten wind of the fact that they weren’t going to, and it was aired over the P.A. nonetheless before they took the stage. I had thought that was weird. Along with “Wouldn’t You Know” — which I might very well have stuck in my head for the rest of this weekend — they kicked into a new song called “Bellicose” that was introduced as being, “about how nice the world is.” So be it. Moody as they get, and they get plenty, Crystal Head never stray too far from the next hook, and even “Bellicose” had a solid crash groove from Dean that slammed into half-speed at just the right moment. When they closed with “Truth Hurts,” I wanted to hear a new record as badly as I wanted to hear the self-titled after they finished at The Underworld in 2012.
I went back and looked, and I haven’t called a band a hoot yet on this trip. Well, that’s what Groan were. They were a hoot. Just lots and lots and lots of fun. Fun to watch, fun to hear, fun from the moment of their ultra-pretentious classical intro to every over-the-top grandiose song of their set. I dug the hell of it. Not like I’d seen them before, but the now-fivesome have been through some lineup changes since they released The Divine Right of Kings (review here) in the latter half of 2012, shifting drummer Christopher West (also of Trippy Wicked) over to guitar while bringing on new drummer Zel Kaute and new guitarist Mike Pilat to join forces with bassist Leigh Jones and frontman extraordinaire Andreas “Mazzereth” Maslen. They brought the house down early with their unabashed heavy metal shuffle, dipping into their split with Vinum Sabbatum (review here) for “Cosmic Boogie” before “Magic Man” showed off some of the more metallic riotousness that showed up on the last album. They were a top-notch stage act, Mazz playing host to a chaotic carnival while Jones followed suit and the three relative newcomers kept the material in check while adding to the energy. Pilat contributed some vocals along with Jones in a few choruses, and it was cool to hear older songs from 2010’s The Sleeping Wizard(review here) like “Witchy Woman” and their finale, “Sleeping Wizard,” get treated to the band’s newer tones. Foremost, though, Groan were a really good time as they rushed through their set, and Mazz got in the last word of wisdom before they walked off stage: “Let’s have a party!” It seemed like we just had.
Mars Red Sky
The warmth. I guess in the intervening year since I saw them at Roadburn, I’d somehow tricked my brain into thinking there was no way France’s foremost ministers of fuzz Mars Red Sky could actually sound that thick and still be so languid, dreamy, psychedelic on stage. But no, they were. At The Underworld, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast (left above), vocalist/guitarist Julien Pras (middle above) and drummer Matgaz (right above) had the perfect balance of tonal weight and melodic sweetness, and of all the fuzz I’m bound to hear in the next few days, I’ve no doubt that at the end, theirs will have been some of the most satisfying. Most of the new Be My Guide EP (review here) was played, including “Clean White Hands” and the title-track before the trio moved on to “Curse” and “Marble Sky” from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), Kinast coming to the fore vocally for the latter. “Strong Reflection” from the full-length was even slower coming from the stage, which I didn’t expect, but that only made the rolling, nod-inducer of a riff even richer, Pras‘ vocals echoing but still conveying a single-layer’s fragility that doubling inherently removes from the studio versions of the material, giving what’s already ultra-natural-sounding a rawer vibe. The EP is still new, but the album cuts got a great response, and as Mars Red Sky capped with “Way to Rome,” I felt like I was being issued a reminder that summer is on the way and will be here before I know it. All the better for having Mars Red Sky‘s temperate fuzz to bake in solar scorch. They also let me take their picture outside the venue later. Right on.
Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight
My original intention had been to watch cumbersomely-named appreciated amigos Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight (oft just Trippy Wicked) start the day with an acoustic set at the Vans store in Camden. The downside to this plan? I had no idea where said retail outlet was. This was a two-fold downer: First, because I like Trippy Wicked‘s acoustic stuff a lot — they break out a ukulele and really make it interesting and moody and varied — and Second, because the friggin’ Vans store in Camden was right in front of my god damn face the whole time. I walked past it on my way to Jazz Cafe for the start of Crystal Head and actually did a facepalm. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone back and forth in front of it since getting into town, but it’s several. Fortunately, my feeling like a jackass (familiar as it is) was tempered by knowing that Trippy Wicked were also booked for a full-on slot at The Black Heart, which is where I caught the St Albans trio, whose drummer Chris West and guitarist/vocalist Peter Holland had been kind enough to host me earlier this week. Time was a factor, but I did get to see them play a new song, and that was awesome, and I got to see them fill up The Black Heart such that people were queued (yeah, I’m in the UK) through the door and into the hallway to get in. Not really surprising, since last year they played The Purple Turtle (not a part of Desertfest 2013, which has already saved a few long walks, I’m sure) and garnered much the same reaction, and if not for the power of their oh-so-heavy rock and roll, certainly the fancy shirts of Holland and bassist Dicky King would’ve packed the house. I don’t know if anything will ever beat seeing them in Eindhoven last year, but whenever I get to watch them play I’m glad to be there. My only regret of the day was I didn’t get my dose of “Hillbilly Moonshine.”
What could’ve possibly drawn me away from such rock-your-socksery? The thing is, to say I have an enduring affection for the Sons of Alpha Centauri/Gary Arce collaboration — he being the “Yawning,” as in his main outfit, Yawning Man, and they being the “Sons” as in the first word of the name of their band — and their 2009 debut album, Ceremony to the Sunset (review here), is to grossly understate the situation. Theirs was the first in a trio of desert-based sets (Sons of Alpha Centauri are from the UK, but Arce counts in atmosphere as well as geography, so we’ll give them credit at least this time), that went from Yawning Sons to Yawning Man to Fatso Jetson as the closers for The Underworld. Frankly, it wasn’t the kind of thing I was going to be able to live with myself if I missed, and it seemed I was lucky when I got there and Yawning Sons hadn’t started yet. Unfortunately, in a couple short seconds within beginning to play, Arce‘s guitar cut out. Gone. The Sons portion of the lineup — guitarist Marlon King, bassist Nick Hannon, soundscaper Andrew Blake and the drummer who held together much of the jams that would ensue — locked in the gorgeousness of “Tomahawk Watercress” on their own while Arce figured out his situation, and just when it seemed to be up and running, off his guitar went again. It went on like that for a while, and was a genuine, visible bummer that cut into their set time. King and company were pros all the way, and the tech crew for Desertfest and even Arce‘s Yawning Man bandmate, Mario Lalli (also of Fatso Jetson), came out to help. Finally they got the guitar working and were able to build a bit of momentum over the remainder of their set. Lalli returned to guest on vocals for “Meadows” from the album, and that helped, and they ended with just King and Arce playing off each other on guitar, which was a cool moment to see, though I don’t think the set turned out the way anyone had anticipated or hoped. Still, I can’t call it a disappointment from where I stood. Getting to see Yawning Sons play any of their material at all was an automatic win.
I don’t know if it gets more of-the-desert than the Yawning Man lineup of Gary Arce, Mario Lalli and drummer Alfredo Hernandez. There’s plenty of acts and artists who’ve emerged from that vast, beautiful wasteland expanse, but aside from being pivotal to the creation of desert rock — period — is there anyone who so singularly embodies the heavy sound associated with that region? Maybe having Yawning Man play Desertfest 2013 was a way to find out, and if so, I’ll take it. I know they’re American and I’m American, but America’s a big country, and I honestly didn’t ever think I’d get to watching Yawning Man live, so this was something really special for me to witness — these three players jamming out still-unheralded classics for an audience that, if they went through and hand-picked a crowd, they couldn’t have found one more appreciative of what they do and what they’ve done for heavy rock and heavy psychedelia as a whole. And their albums, 2005’s Rock Formationsand 2010’s Nomadic Pursuits(review here) — even the latter, for which I still carry a nerd’s torch, don’t do them justice live. The songs are heavier, yeah, but also just plain deeper tonally, Arce‘s guitar expanding to full echo breadth as he signaled changes to Lalli and Hernandez for when to move to the next part. I know Yawning Man have had some lineup shuffles in their time and even recently, but to have these guys come out and start running through “Sand Whip” and “Perpetual Oyster” and get a real flow going from one jam into the next, the massive influence they’ve had on the probably thousands of bands who’ve taken bits and pieces of their sound over the course of a generation — some without even knowing they did it — made a lot of sense. By way of new material, they played “Dark Meet” from their split 12″ with Fatso Jetson, which is only the second piece of vinyl I’ve bought since I left home, and before they started, I got to hold Gary Arce‘s guitar for him while he went and grabbed a replacement part, and I felt honored just for standing where I was even more than I had already.
Boomer’s Blues! Boomer’s Boogie! Moving to guitar and getting a microphone for vocals, Mario Lalli commenced Fatso Jetson‘s set by asking the existential question, “What is desert rock, anyway?” I was going to yell out, “rebranded post-punk!” but thought better of it. In any case, Lalli isn’t quite post his punk. Joined in this iteration of his seminal outfit by drummer Tony Tornay, bassist/cousin LarryLalli, both mainstays,and his son, guitarist/backing vocalist Dino von Lalli — who may or may not be 16 now; Mario said something on stage about pulling him out of high school to do this show — Lalli and the band answered his question to whatever degree Yawning Man could possibly have left it unanswered. They ran through a fortified, boogie-fied groover set that touched on Fatso Jetson albums like Cruel and Delicious (2002), Toasted(2001), Flames for All(1999) and Power of Three(1997), but conspicuously absent was anything from 2010’s Archaic Volumes(review here). I don’t know if maybe the band decided to leave that material be on account of not having Vince Meghrouni on-hand to contribute sax and vocals as he did on the record, “New Age Android,” “I’ve Got the Shame” and “Tutta Dorma” go a long way. There wasn’t any new material to be had, but having seen them at Roadburn in 2010, I knew Fatso Jetson delivered live, and they did precisely that. To my misfortune, I was standing up front next to The Most Fucked Up Couple In London™ (my only challenge was deciding which between the two was, in local parlance, the bigger cunt) and promptly had beer spilled all down my back, so I wasn’t long for being there, and once wrenched off the floor level of The Underworld, soon decided to pick up that Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson split and head back to The Black Heart to close out the night in local style.
It was a little like walking into Mos Eisley with the lights off, going back to The Black Heart. All around me, drunken murmurs and shouts in a variety of mumbled languages couldn’t be placed to their source, and even as I turned the corner to go down the alleyway to get to the bar, I knew I was in for it. I’d already been doused — I mean, covered — in beer, so whatever was coming, I felt like I was ready. I saw Steak here last year and dug them, and dug as well their sci-fi/comic thematic Disastronaught EP (review here), and with a new one coming called Corned Beef Colossus, figured this would be a chance both to get in some last-minute fuzz for the day and sample their latest material. The band features guitarist Reece Tee, who also organized Desertfest (not totally on his own, as no great feat is accomplished single-handedly, but still), vocalist Kippa, who set up his mic on the monitor box at the front of the stage, bassist Cam and new drummer Sammy, replacing Dan Kinsey, now of Wizard Fight, and Sammy would soon make the presence of his doubly-floor-tommed kit felt in more than just a busted hammer on a kick pedal as the London four-piece unrolled tones and grooves sliced even thicker than I remembered. Kippa, not content to be on the box, climbed onto the monitor itself to get to the ceiling, and the assembled masses seemed to treat it more as a start to the inevitable after party than the final set of the night. No doubt that was exactly the intent. This is their scene, their friends, their party, and the moment was well earned, both on Tee‘s part and the band’s.
It’s nearly four in the morning as I type this and I still have pictures to sort. Tomorrow is fewer bands, more full sets, and I’m looking forward to that for sure, but today was fantastic front to back, so I’m not about to complain. You can really get a sense being here of the spirit of appreciation with which this fest is executed, and I hope that comes across both in this and in the posts to come tomorrow night and Sunday. Thanks as always for reading.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
I guess until we can get these dudes over for a run of the US East Coast, I’ll just have to make due with seeing Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight at Desertfest in London. Not exactly a hardship, as it happens. Trippy Wicked released the surprisingly metallic Going Home in 2012 (review here) and I don’t know what else they might have in the works for 2013, but when I see ‘em, I’ll be sure to ask.
Looking forward to this one for sure. Here’s the official announcement:
Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight at DesertFest 2013
Yippee-ki-yay motherfuckers! St. Albans’ premier exponents of bluesy sludge are back for a second bite at the DesertFest cherry after packing out the WPC/h_d_p stage earlier in 2012.
Trippy’s exciting blend of grungy wrecking-ball riffage, thunderous drumming, sing-a-long-able choruses and all with a swaggering bluesy twang, has won them a strong following across the South of England and beyond. Sure to be showcasing tracks from latest release Going Home, along with fans’ favourites from their debut proper Movin’ On, get ready to chow down on equal helpings of both mosh-pit and ho-down with these modern-age masters of the groove. Like QOTSA? Like Soundgarden? Like Hank3? Get ready to rock with your new favourite band. Dig it!
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
I mean, seriously. The chihuahua from Mars Attacks? I don’t know whose brilliant idea that was, but I both tip my hat and wish I could be there to see it when British heavy riffers Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight take on German heavy psych upstarts Wight in a cage match known as nine shows in nine days. I’d hit up a show, but there seems to be an ocean in my way. Stupid ocean. Never done nothin’ for nobody.
Been on the PR wire long enough to get stale, but it still smells fresh to me:
Fat&Holy Records is proud to present you the upcoming tour of the two Psychedelic Stonerrock bands WIGHT from Darmstadt, Germany and TRIPPY WICKED from St Albans, England…. it will be totally wicked! Both bands know how to rock, without compromises, evil and dark, but without losing humour. There are a lot of different moods and feelings and these bands totally reflect the real life in their songs.
The tour will be all over Germany and also in France! Check out the route:
FR 12.October – GER – Immerhin Würzburg
SAT 13.October – GER – Metzgerstraße Hanau
SUN 14.October – GER – Oetinger Villa Darmstadt
MON 15.October – GER – Radio Unerhört Marburg
TUE 16.October – FRA – Les Combustibles Paris
WED 17.October – FRA – Jimmy’s Pub Strasbourg
THU 18.October – GER – Hühnermanhattan Halle (Saale)
FR 19.October – GER – White Trash Berlin
SAT 20.October – GER – Rock The Hall Festival Mitwitz
Wight have just released their second album “Through The Woods Into Deep Water” on LP on Bilocation Records and CD on Fat&Holy Records. The feedback has been incredible with album of the day at roadburn.com, album of the summer at theobelisk.net and a lot of high rated reviews. Wight planned to write a rock album with all their influences from 70s Classic Rock to the 90s Grunge Scene and true to that have ended up with a mix of high overdriven guitars and groovy rhythms. The album was released in July 2012 and Wight had already played it live at Festivals like Desertfest Berlin, Stoned From The Underground and Misty Mountain to a great reception.
After a meeting of both bands at the beginning of the year they decided to tour together.
Trippy Wicked & the Cosmic Children of the Knight’s most recent album, Going Home, was released 30th April 2012 on CD and LP via the band’s own label Superhot Records. Going Home is the band’s second full length album and continues their alternative take on the stoner and doom genres, injecting some much needed positive vibes and generally turning expectations on their head. And of course, there are drinking songs. Lots of drinking songs.
Going Home was recorded by the band themselves in late 2011 and after a successful European tour with the USA’s Stone Axe, Tony Dallas Reed, who counts the latest Saint Vitus album among his credits, was put in charge of mixing and mastering the record (Reed also mastered the Wight album, so the triangle closes).
Not content with just working the desk for Trippy Wicked, Tony has offered to step in on drums for the upcoming October tour as drummer Chris West will be filling in for Dicky King on bass.
Posted in Reviews on May 30th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
It was loyal Maine-dwelling Obelisk amigo Mike H. who first put me on to UK trio Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight and since their 2009 demo, Lowering the Tone (review here), their every move has pretty much been covered. Their later ‘09 debut full-length, Movin’ On, was reviewed, and drummer Christopher West subsequently interviewed. When West and guitarist/vocalist Peter Holland released their The Bleak acoustic EP, that received a plug some time later, and when they joined vocalist/guitarist Jack Dickinson in Stubb on drums and bass/vocals, respectively, they were also On the Radar’ed and their self-titled debut was reviewed earlier this year and coupled with a video premiere. I was fortunate enough to see West and Holland play in both bands at Desertfest in London and again alongside Stone Axe in Eindhoven this past April, and reviewed both of those shows, and I’ll be damned if Trippy Wicked didn’t also show up in the playlist when I did my all-British podcast back in June 2010. That same year, just a couple months before, when I found myself stranded in the UK following the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, the Icelandic volcano that disrupted European airspace just in time for the start of Roadburn, Holland and West – who are joined in Trippy Wicked by bassist Dicky King – were kind enough to offer me a spot to crash on their couch and a chance to get to see them play acoustic, which to this day I still relish, and not just because I also got to see absurdist singer-songwriter Mark Barnes that night either, though I did buy all three of his albums. We got to have a few beverages as their tour fellows in Stone Axe made a stop at Roadburn 2011, and this year, seeing them at the aforementioned Eindhoven show was one of the high points of that whole trip. They’re killer dudes in a rocking band, so when I grabbed their second album, Going Home (released on their own Superhot Records), off the Desertfest merch table, I was immediately stoked to give it a listen.
Some time would pass before I’d actually be able to do so, but when I finally put on the nine-track/41-minute Going Home – which was recorded by Holland and West and mixed and mastered by the increasingly ubiquitous Tony Reed – I was surprised right away by the density of its tones. Both Holland and King have beefed up their sound since Movin’ On, and though the semi-Southern edge that showed itself on that record (particularly on, ahem, “Southern”) remains here especially in the alcohol-fueled midsection, it does so in a much different context than on the debut. The opening title-track, aside from earning Trippy Wicked immediate points for putting their longest cut first, offers some spaciousness in terms of its sound in the guitar at the end and features the first of several mellotron contributions from Reed, but the beginning movement is all straightforward drive, and the grooves only get more metallic from there. All of a sudden, using Stubb as a comparison point feels less valid, since if Going Home makes anything at all clear, it’s that despite sharing two-thirds of the same personnel, the bands are heading in different directions almost entirely, Stubb geared more toward fuzz rocking groove and Trippy Wicked as they are here showing more of a metallic base to their riff construction and general modus, though Holland seems always to be mindful of melody in his vocals. His howling is much improved over how it came off on Movin’ On, and while often one can credit that kind of growth to acoustic work – there being less for singers to kind behind without distortion – it’s probably just as much a result of Trippy Wicked’s road time. In any case, the combination of the two results in palpable development on the opener and “Up the Stakes,” which follows. He veers into and out of a throatier, gruffer approach throughout, hinted at with a “Hey!” following the first verse of “Up the Stakes,” but is just as able to carry the song melodically in his vocals as with the guitar, King and West nailing down a solid and rocking groove behind.
The balance between rock and metal shifts throughout Going Home, with a song like “Up the Stakes” winding up more toward the latter more because of its tone than what’s actually being played while “Go Outside” is more directly aligned stylistically with ‘90s metallic crunch. It doesn’t hurt the flow because the band don’t seem confused about what they’re doing, but the angle from which they’re approaching the idea of “heavy” has shifted, and it’s a marked change from what someone familiar with their prior work might expect. More pivotally, “Go Outside” is riotously catchy, West crashing a wash of cymbals behind Holland as he nestles into the chorus. King’s bass offers start-stop grooving in the intro and thickens the song considerably while the guitars establish a driving riff that becomes the core. Holland is mixed high (perhaps he’s not “nestling into” that chorus as standing on top of it), but the later inclusion of horns adds further curiosity and an experimental element to what might otherwise just be a straightforward exercise, setting up the transition to Going Home’s middle, on which Trippy Wicked’s boozehound shuffle shows itself in the brief and upbeat “Ain’t Gonna End Well.” It’s a song I mark as the beginning of a narrative that plays out over the ensuing three tracks, “I Want Another Drink,” “Hillbilly Moonshine” and “Pour Me Another One.” You could argue, I suppose that the whole album’s musical flow plays out like a night of drinking, finding precursor in the opener and going from there in mood and atmosphere, but it’s really in the middle and toward the end of the second half that it’s applicable, given the borderline social commentary of “Going Home” and “Up the Stakes.” “I Want Another Drink” is as direct as its title, and somewhat curiously, the only place Trippy Wicked’s acoustic side shows its head, and even then, only in the introduction (which cycles through twice, once in the beginning and once halfway through the song). Horns tie it to “Go Outside,” but Holland’s rougher vocal adjusts the mood to start what — by the time “Hillbilly Moonshine” follows – is a party in full swing.
First, you have to understand that The Rambler, shady though the name might be, was awesome. The kind of awesome that has Westmalle at 3.50 Euro. I thought I was playing it safe — hell, I had the dubbel and not the tripel — but the fact that I’d eaten nothing up to that point in the day but a protein bar came back to haunt me. By the time I sauntered out of The Rambler, I was sloshed.
The good news is that tragedy — and by that I mean vomit — was avoided. And between arrival at and departure from The Rambler, massively good times ensued watching Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Stubb and Stone Axe play to an enthusiastic room that included several faces I recognized from Desertfest this weekend. I’d gotten into Eindhoven just a few hours prior, and was ready to have a little beery fun.
Chatted it up with the bands for a while, all of whom I saw last Friday (Stone Axe twice) and already had a few in me by the time Trippy Wicked took the stage. They’d soundchecked prior and the room — Xmas lights, wood floor, racks of CDs in the corner, full-size coffins to mark the men’s and women’s restrooms and Queens of the Stone Age‘s Lullabies to Paralyze on the P.A. — had pretty good acoustics. For rock. The stage area was wider than it was long, and I guess The Rambler was kind of a dive, but classier than that, even with the coffins. It was toying with country, is another way to put it. Again, it turned out to be a cool spot.
Unfortunately, riding around in a tour van all weekend had left Trippy Wicked guitarist/vocalist (and Stubb bassist/vocalist) Peter Holland with a cold. He looked and reportedly felt like hell, but wasn’t about to cancel the set; the show, going on, so forth. He rested up and before they played and when they got going, he played most of the set with his distortion off and changed the setlist to accommodate. I’ve seen Holland and drummer Christopher West do Trippy Wicked acoustic, so hearing the songs not as loud as they might otherwise be wasn’t really anything new, and in the semi-country surroundings, with the slight twang Holland puts on his singing voice, it actually sounded pretty good when they did “Southern” and “The Water.”
Later into their time, Stone Axe frontman Dru Brinkerhoff brought Holland some whiskey and, his voice already pretty blown out, I guess he figured there was no more harm he could do. The distortion was kicked on and he was full-on dry-throating it through the end. Admirable, and again, it didn’t sound that bad. Heavy rock works with a gravely voice, so while it wasn’t necessarily the most representative outing for the band, though Holland, West and bassist Dicky King all played really well and the songs got their point across. I’m looking forward to checking out their new album, not just because Holland has grown so much as a vocalist, but also because both times I’ve seen the band now, their chemistry has been top notch. It was a casual night — at one point, Holland remarked on how he knew everyone in the crowd — but even so, Trippy Wicked rocked like pros and only got better as they kept going.
Holland still had to get through Stubb‘s set, so he wasn’t yet off duty. After a bit of a break, West went back to the drums, Holland moved over to bass, opting out of a microphone, which left guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson in charge of covering all the vocals. He did it, and did it well, and since most of the audience, myself included had already seen the band in the last week, everyone knew what was up and it was fine. Stone Axe drummer Mykey Haslip got up and shared Dickinson‘s mic for the chorus of “Mountain,” and “Hard Hearted Woman” and “Road” were great to hear again, even with the single vocals. Straight-backed and keeping perfect time while also executing a barrage of fills, West showed his versatility as a drummer and was a pleasure to watch, and by the end, even Holland was singing along. It was more of a party than a show, almost.
“Galloping Horses,” which closes their new, Superhot Records self-titled debut (review here) was especially killer, Dickinson shifting his inflection and timing just a bit to make a full verse out of the repeated line, “The skies are crimson red” and taking a long solo in the semi-psychedelic midsection before coming back for one last chorus. They’re pretty straightforward in terms of style, but more even than the record showed potential, the live show confirmed it. I’d say I’m excited for what Stubb do next — and I am — but don’t let that imply that I’m at all finished with the self-titled, because it’s got way more than two months of staying power. Classic fuzz is timeless.
And speaking of classic, Stone Axe are a band I could very easily get used to seeing on a regular basis. This was the third set in five days (granted, one was the Free covers set, but still), and I was only more stoked for having some idea of what was in store. They got going as I was wrapping what would not turn out to be my last beer, and seemed more relaxed than at Desertfest. Brinkerhoff looked to be pretty well in the bag, but his voice was spot on, and the hooch only added to the swagger of his stage presence, which along with Tony Reed‘s guitar, is an essential element of the band. The aforementioned Haslip on drums and bassist Mike DuPont showed their prowess as a rhythm section behind, and though standing on the left side of the stage, it was almost like watching two acts at once, they were undeniably on the same page with the same mission in mind.
Their set ran long, which, you know, was awesome, and they threw in “The Skylah Rae” and “Taking Me Home” along with “Black Widow” and “Riders of the Night” from the first album and “Chasing Dragons,” “Just a Little Bit” and the excellent “Ain’t Gonna Miss It” from the second. “The Skylah Rae” in particular was something special, but Stone Axe‘s AC/DC stomp was in top form the whole time, and everyone was smiles and laughs and drinks and seemed to be genuinely enjoying themselves through each catchy as hell chorus, Brinkerhoff driving home the memorability of Reed‘s songwriting every chance he got. And for his part, Reed demonstrated once again his clear mastery of the classic heavy rock form, backing Brinkerhoff on vocals every now and again and tearing through worship-worthy solos with what he made look like ease.
When it was over, I was more or less finished with the day. Several nights of less than stellar sleep had left me tired enough, and Westalle, though delicious, makes a lousy energy drink, so I said goodbyes and thanks and split out for the two block walk back to my hotel room, stopping along the way for pommes frites and more beer which I ended up crashing out before I could drink. It seems funny to say it, since all I’m going to be doing starting tomorrow for four days straight is seeing bands at Roadburn, but it was awesome to see a show over here that was just a gig, not a fest. Just another stop on a tour. Eindhoven’s a beautiful town and this was a really good night I won’t soon forget. I’m just glad I remember it.
Posted in Features on April 6th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
04/06/12 — 22:47 GMT — Friday — Hotel
Beyond the blister lurking underneath the callous of my foot, it’s hard to remember where today even began, though I’ll say that having failed yet again to attain a cellophone for the Eurozone — I mention it only because my lack of competency at this point I find comical — I made my way around the High Street intersection, trying to follow the weirdos this way and that in search of the Black Heart. It was, as a young man named Isaac guided me, behind the Underworld, back down an alley called Greenland Place. I guess it was a street. Hard to know, really.
I was early, having failed gloriously to acquire a phone, and after getting my wristband (it’s gold, you can see some red ones above), I sat at the bar and had a few Camden Town Lagers. Amazing how similar their font looks to the Brooklyn Brewery. Even the taps looked alike. Anyway, the lager was decent, and I was waiting — viciously awkward soul that I am sitting at a bar by myself — for Stone Axe to go on and do their set of Free covers. I ran into Pete Holland from Trippy Wicked/Stubb and then Tony Reed from Stone Axe, and following a few more drinks and some pleasant conversation, Desertfest was underway. That’s probably as good a place to start as any.
Stone Axe made a set of Free songs so much their own that, half the time, I wouldn’t have even questioned whether or not they were covers. Helps a bit that Free is probably the single act from which the Washington four-piece — whose Live at Roadburn 2011 CD I somehow ended up buying twice — most draw stylistically, but either way, they killed it. Highlights included “Fire and Water” from the 1970 album of the same name and they closed with “All Right Now,” which was somewhat expected, it being Free‘s most enduring “hit,” but nonetheless one of the many tracks Stone Axe sounded natural embodying, vocalist Dru Brinkerhoff making the lyrics sound like something he just came up with. A killer way to start the fest and it made me look forward to their set of originals at The Purple Turtle still to come.
From there, I was fortunate enough to have some kind soul willing to lead my semi-drunk ass down the block to the Purple Turtle in time to catch Stubb. I’m not going to lie, for me, this was the meat of the fest. It’s why I came to London; to see bands I wouldn’t be able to catch otherwise. Stubb, which boasts in its lineup two-thirds of Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, did not disappoint. From “Mountain” — on which guitarist Jack Dickinson and bassist Pete Holland shared vocals excellently during the chorus — to the closer “Soul Mover,” they were an absolute thrill to watch, and as the room at The Purple Turtle was totally packed, it seemed I wasn’t the only one who thought so. It felt like I was transplanting myself on another locale’s scene, and you know, I was glad to do it. These dudes, aside from being a kickass band, I consider friends, and the chance to see them live, as well as to see Trippy Wicked immediately following, was something really special. In short, it’s why I’m here.
Holland moved over to guitar for the Trippy Wicked set, and drummer Christopher West stayed put as bassist Dicky King came on stage to make up the difference for Dickinson departing. He didn’t go far, though, as Trippy Wicked got going, backing up Stubb‘s power trio ethic with one of their own. They have a new album out, and I bought it back at the Black Heart, just to have the chance to support the band directly, and after hearing them play, I’m looking forward even more to checking it out. Holland‘s vocals have come a long way since they started out, and King and West make a formidable rhythm section behind the guitar melody. Like Stubb, they were a native band I felt lucky to be able to catch. As I’ve grown increasingly envious of the UK scene over the last few months, it was awesome to see Trippy Wicked in front of their own crowd. I think I’ll probably skip out on Berlin next week and try to catch these dudes with Stone Axe (and Stubb, naturally) in Eindhoven on Tuesday. We’ll see how it goes, but either way, killer set from a killer bunch of guys. Seriously. Made me glad I came.
Ditto that for Stone Axe, whom, though we hail from the same continent, I’ve only ever seen in Europe. Last year, their set at Roadburn made me not regret missing Ufomammut in the slightest — which should say something about the rock quotient; most of that set is available on that live CD I decided to make a double — and as afternoon transitioned into evening, I wanted to make sure I caught their originals to follow up on the killer start their set of Free covers made to the fest as a whole. Brinkerhoff and Reed showed no wear for pulling double-duty — maybe the fact that they’re touring with Trippy Wicked and Stubb had them keeping up with Holland and West on the two-set front — and the whole set was a party, the highlights of which were “Chasing Dragons” and “We Know it’s Still Rock and Roll,” which had one of the night’s best sing-alongs. I was right up front while they played, and I had no regrets for it. I missed Ancestors while Stone Axe was playing (and maybe a bit during the changeover to Greenleaf), but I’ll make the effort to see them next weekend at Roadburn. Stone Axe was a necessity.
Greenleaf, as the band who sealed the deal in my mind for coming here in the first place, all the more so. I didn’t anticipate much in their set older than 2007’s Agents of Ahriman, if only for the lineup involved, and that was pretty much how it went. They threw in a couple older songs, but by and large it was Agents material and songs from the new album, Nest of Vipers (review here), including the opener “Jack Staff,” “Case of Fidelity” and “Lilith,” which was missing its organ a bit, but still left me with no complaints overall. They started off with “Alishan Mountain” from Agents of Ahriman, in what I can only assume was a personal favor to me, and commenced from there to what I can say with no exaggeration I will consider a landmark experience for me as regards show-going. No bullshit. Greenleaf was a band I never thought I’d see. They were just too far away, and with guitarist Tommi Holappa in Dozer and vocalist Oskar Cedermalm in Truckfighters, I just didn’t think it would happen. No matter what else happens to me on this trip, I saw Greenleaf. Fuckin’ a. If I’m 100 percent honest, that’s enough. I could’ve caught a plane home after their set and still felt like I won out. Also cool to see Cedermalm‘s fellow Truckfighters, Niklas “Dango” Källgren and Oscar “Pezo” Johansson in the crowd. Gave the whole thing a family atmosphere, not that one was lacking after the sets that had already gone down at The Purple Turtle.
I wanted to stay and see Sigiriya, but I also didn’t want to miss Asteroid back at the Black Heart, so I decided to compromise. I stayed for the first couple Sigiriya songs before heading out to the other venue. Worth noting that along with Ancestors, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Karma to Burn and Rotor were on the main stage at the Underworld tonight, but I didn’t make it there at all. Tomorrow I will to catch Roadsaw, Sungrazer, etc., but not tonight. Anyway, Sigiriya‘s Return to Earth wasn’t exactly fresh on my mind — that is, it’s been a minute since I last put it on — but the songs came right back, whether it was “The Mountain Goat” or “Whiskey Song,” and the grooves were mighty. They were killing it, hands down, but I had to head out to catch Asteroid, so I departed a few songs into their set and made back for the Black Heart, my own black heart heavy in my hands at having split out on what I knew was some righteous rock.
There was, however, no debating it. I had to see Asteroid. Not seeing Asteroid simply would not do. It brought the day full-circle to be back at the Black Heart, and I topped off what was already a several-hours-long buzz with one last Camden Town Lager and waited for the Swedish trio to take the stage. Outside, the dudes from Black Pyramid were getting ready to head across the street to catch Karma to Burn, and I knew that would be awesome, but hell, I’d come too far to miss it now. Asteroid took the stage promptly and kicked into what seemed like an hour-long jam. It’s interesting now that I’ve seen both bands to realize how much they have in common tonally with Graveyard, but they’re on their own trip. “Time” knocked me out, and “Disappear” was more than a treat. They wound up doing about half of “Dr. Smoke” from the first album as a semi-encore, the crowd singing along to the riff with hands held high. I was in the back by then, my feet beginning to feel those new-sneaker blisters taking hold, but I stayed until they were finished, and — I can’t think of another way to put it — they were awesome, guitarist Robin Hirse and barefoot bassist Johannes Nilsson splitting vocal duties with ease and capturing the organic sounds of their albums (the second one is reviewed here) with what seemed like no trouble at all.
I made my way back to the hotel as quickly as I could when they were done, hoping perhaps to catch an open coffee/sandwich shop along the Parkway here in Camden Town, alas, to no avail. Some spicy ramen noodles, a bag of salt and pepper chips and, finally, another protein bar served as dinner to cap a long day of music and drink. Tomorrow I’ll wake up and likely do it all again, though hopefully having some time in the morning to go CD shopping before Desertfest kicks up its sands again. I’ve got my wristband. My earplugs. My Advil. I’m ready for whatever comes.
Just a friendly reminder that some of what I’m most looking forward to seeing at Desertfest in London isn’t just happening there — that Stone Axe, Stubb and Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight are hitting the road for nine days solid of shows together in the UK and Europe. I didn’t have the heart to ask them if they needed a merch beardo, but anyway, if you’re in that part of the world, consider this your official recommendation to show up at the following:
First up in the new releases feature is Stone Axe Captured Live! Roadburn Festival 2011. This release will be available on CD/LP. The LP has nine blistering tracks from our set at the Roadburn festival in Holland, April 16, 2011. The CD has four extra tracks. The set has a good mix of Stone Axe classics and songs that we rarely play live. Get it from Ripple Music.
Next up is the Stone Axe II deluxe 2CD set. Ripple Music has released the second installment of the Stone Axe reissue series. Unlike the two-disc Stone Axe I reissue from last year this is a 2CD set rather than a CD/DVD combo. For disc 2 of the set, I compiled everything that has only been available on vinyl up to this point, including our contribution to the Stone Axe/Wight split 12″. It’s 60+ minutes of virtually unheard material. It’s like having a new Stone Axe record.
Last but not least is the Wight/Stone Axe split 12″. This split is an interesting departure for Stone Axe. It marks the first studio recording that features the whole live band. Taking from Wight‘s queue, we set up at our studio and wrote and recorded three songs in two hours. All of the live tracks were kept and then vocals and keyboards were added to give a nice spacey feel to the songs. We feel like the sounds range from soundtrack-era Pink Floyd to Iron Butterfly. It was a treat for us to do. check out Wight and Fat & Holy Records.
If you’d like to find out if you’re one of them, I heartily recommend this video of Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight performing “Coventry Carol” in honor of the holiday season. I promise, this is as close as I get to any Xmas-themed posting, but given Pete‘s red booties, it’s already closer than I thought I’d be.
A discussion earlier today on the Facebook prompted me to revisit the acoustic EP, The Bleak, by UK rockers Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight. I think what I like best about it is that while most bands and/or songwriters, when they do their “acoustic album” or “go unplugged,” they just basically do the same thing they do on an electric guitar with an acoustic. Trippy Wicked, on the other hand, break out the ukulele and take a whole new approach to crafting their material. When you’re done with their reimagining of Sleep‘s classic “Dragonaut” (which seems to have earned a “gh” somewhere along the line) above, check out their video for “Separate Paths” here. It’s also quite good.
I also hope you got to take a look at the Brian Mercer interview, both because I’m a fan of his work and because he has some cool things to say about inspiration and the creative process. I think so, anyway, and hopefully you do too.
On Monday we jump back into it. Over the next week I’ll have reviews of the new Tasha-Yar studio full-length and Grand Magus‘ Hammer of the North, and an interview with Wo Fat guitarist Kent Stump about their awesome new album (reviewed here). We’ll close out the February numbers and take a look at what’s to come for March (lots), and I’ll have an update too about the next release on The Maple Forum, so there’s a lot to stay tuned for.
In the meantime, have a great and safe weekend, and if you’re around, I’ll see you on the forum, where — by request — you can now preview a topic just by scrolling over it with your mouse. Fancy that.
Posted in Features on November 27th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
The UK has a long, storied love affair with blues-based rock and roll, and stepping right in line with the tradition are Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, a passionately independent trio from St. Albans whose latest full-length, Movin’ On, was recently reviewed here. Comprised of Pete “Trippy Pierre” Holland on guitar/vocals, Dicky King on bass and Chris West on drums, Trippy Wicked harnesses a totally live feel on record while balancing it with clarity of sound and a modern production. Similar to the criminally underappreciated Shovelhead, the dynamic between the three players is as much a part of their sound as the guitar tone.
West was kind enough to take time and field some questions via email about the band, their experience recording at Chuckalumba Studios (Electric Wizard), self-releasing albums in the digital age and bringing the blues into a heavy context. Q&A, as ever, is after the jump. Please enjoy.
Posted in Reviews on November 10th, 2009 by H.P. Taskmaster
Fact: There are more letters in the band moniker Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight than there are letters in all the names of its component musicians; Pete Holland (guitar/vocals/horns), Chris West (drums) and Dicky King (bass). The final tally, as I count it, is 43 to 29. Not necessarily relevant to a discussion of their music — or maybe it is, depending on how you look at it — but certainly something The Melvins or Kyuss never had to deal with.
The maximalist-bannered trio release their first full-length in the form of Movin? On, which takes several of the cuts from the Lowering the Tone demo EP and revitalizes them via re-recording. Holland, West and King holed up at Chuckalumba Studios in Dorset (Electric Wizard) for a week — no small feat for an unsigned band on a budget to book that much studio time — and the output justifies the probable expense. Listening to the new version of ?Sea Shanty,? it?s easy to see why Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight would want to revisit it in this context.
Their songwriting is memorable if self-contained, and by that I mean I put the record on to listen to it almost immediately when it came in, then left it for a couple days, and having only heard the songs once before when I went back to it, recognized most of them immediately. Catchy tracks like ?Fire? — with what might be a Twin Peaks reference in the chorus — ?Echoes,? ?The Water? and ?Southern? find the UK rockers adopting a range of personalities, from heavy stoner riffers to bluesy groovers, all the while maintaining a solid identity within themselves.