Review & Full Album Premiere: Various Artists, Legends of the Desert Desertfest 12″

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

va legends of the desert 4 way split

For the last several years, German imprint H42 Records has partnered with Desertfest to create a special limited split release for in honor of the Spring festivals in London and Berlin. Past editions have included Karma to Burn and Sons of Alpha Centauri, Raging Speedhorn together with Monster Magnet, and Greenleaf locking heads with Steak — the tracks generally with some measure of exclusivity, be they previously unreleased, a remastered oldie (which I seem to recall was the case with Greenleaf), etc. In 2018, a year where the entire universe has unveiled its conspiracy against humanity to be completely overwhelming, H42 has also decided to up its game, though it does so in particularly serene fashion.

This year’s Desertfest split is titled Legends of the Desert, and in addition to jumping from 7″ vinyl to a full 12″, it also doubles the amount of acts included from two to four, bringing together the interrelated projects Fatso Jetson, Yawning Sons, WaterWays and Mario Lalli und Matthias Schneeberger to each present one cut seemingly representing one aspect or another of the Californian desert that the principle figures involved call home. Speaking of, while there are four groups included on Legends of the Desert, the platter is really telling the story of two key figures of California’s initial low desert rock scene in Mario Lalli and Gary Arce. Arce‘s trademark shimmering surf-derived guitar tone features on two of the four inclusions — Yawning Sons’ “Down in the Street,” and WaterWays‘ “Three Rivers” — while Lalli is aboard for three as a member of Fatso Jetson, WaterWays and of course his solo-project with Schneeberger, whose production work not only for Fatso Jetson but also the likes of earthlings?, Nick Oliveriand Gutter Twins, among many, many others, has made him a crucial presence behind the board in that scene.

As they should, Fatso Jetson lead off the proceedings with “Semi Lost,” which even if it weren’t the only track to include vocals would probably still be the catchiest song here. Aside from their “desert legends” status, which is basically irrefutable more than 20 years into their career, Fatso JetsonMario Lalli on guitar/vocals, Dino von Lalli on guitar, Larry Lalli on bass and Tony Tornay (now also of All Souls) on drums — have retained the experimentalist sensibility of their songwriting. As their last album, 2016’s Idle Hands (review here) reminded, their songwriting process is deeply varied, and as they open side A with “Semi Lost,” it’s a more laid back feel than some of their more forward punk-blasting groovers. Just so happens — total coincidence, I’m sure — that in addition to providing that landmark hook, it suits the vibe of the split really well.

Last I heard, Mario Lalli and Tony Tornay were both in WaterWays as well, featuring as the rhythm section alongside Gary Arce‘s inimitable guitar tone, derived from surf and goth rock but unmistakably of the desert itself. Though the two groups are very different, Arce serves as the uniting force between WaterWays closing out side A with the four-minute just-too-active-to-really-be-drift-but-kind-of-drifting-anyway “Three Rivers,” his guitar tone echoing out spacious as ever and evocative of the desert in a manner that groups from around the world have done their best to emulate and generally fallen flat in the effort. “Three Rivers” is resoundingly hypnotic, despite being just four minutes long, and though it’s twice the length and has a much fuller arrangement owing to the complete lineup of UK progressive instrumentalists Sons of Alpha Centauri, Yawning Sons‘ “Down in the Street” might dip lower in low end tone, but ultimately winds up in a similarly broad sphere, the ambience stretching out comfortably and patiently for the song’s duration, no less trance-inducing leading off side B than “Three Rivers” was in capping side A, though I will readily admit to being a sucker for Yawning Sons as I still consider their lone full-length, 2009’s Ceremony to the Sunset (review here, vinyl review here), among the finest releases Californian desert rock has ever produced. Anything new from them is welcome as far as I’m concerned.

Legends of the Desert ends with a particular note of intrigue in Mario Lalli und Matthias Schneeberger‘s “Spector,” which at 4:17 brings together the clear collaborative elements of the former’s guitar and the latter’s keys, but there are also drums and bass involved and I’m not sure who handled them. If it’s a studio project, it could’ve certainly been either party or someone like Tornay stopping through for the afternoon, but the real question is why “Spector” isn’t a Fatso Jetson song. Sure it’s instrumental, but Fatso Jetson have done plenty of instrumentals over the years, and Schneeberger, aside from producing, has been a regular guest contributor to their work. One can easily imagine, then, it was a conscious decision to adopt the Lalli/Schneeberger banner, and extrapolate from that the curiosity as to whether the two will collaborate directly on some future release apart from Lalli‘s work in Fatso Jetson, and what that might sound like. “Spector,” for what it’s worth, continues in the open-feeling spirit of Yawning Sons and WaterWays before it — a bit darker in tone — and whether or not it’s a harbinger of things to come, it makes a satisfying closing argument to Legends of the Desert, each side of which tells the tale of arid-climate-born fluidity and resonates with a creative force unlike anything from anywhere else. These Legends are still being told, still being shaped, but there’s no question that the impact they’ve had on the worldwide underground is massive, and if that’s what’s being celebrated here, you’ll get no argument from me.

I have the pleasure today of streaming the complete Legends of the Desert 12″, which officially releases May 4. You’ll find it below courtesy of H42 Records and Desertfest, and it is presented with my gratitude to both of them as well as to you for reading and listening.

Please enjoy:

DESERTFEST is just around the corner in May. 2018. For the past three years we contributed in collaboration with the DesertFest team the vinyl for the FEST. We decided to change the format into the 12″ vinyl format this year.

And what fits better to the DesertFest, as an album with bands with a very big relation to the ‘desert’? So we called the album LEGENDS OF THE DESERT (RELEASE MAY 4th 2018). For this fantastic vinyl we could won great bands and musicians, each of them with a previously unreleased song:

FATSO JETSON, YAWNING SONS, WATERWAYS and a solo project under the direction of MARIO LALLI & MATHIAS SCHNEEBERGER. As always ALEXANDER VON WIEDING was responsible for artwork and layout: a slightly variation of the original 7″ art.

Desertfest London website

H42 Records on Thee Facebooks

H42 Records on Bandcamp

H42 Records website

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On Wax: Yawning Sons, Ceremony to the Sunset

Posted in On Wax on January 22nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

yawning-sons-ceremony-to-the-sunset-cover-and-lp

Oh, I love this album. I really do. Quite frankly, I consider it a treat to even be writing about it again. From Wendy Rae Fowler singing about how she lost her heart at Wounded Knee on “Ghostship – Deadwater” to Mario Lalli stepping in for a croon on “Meadows,” the instrumental depth brought to “Tomahawk Watercress” and “Wetlands” by Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce and UK atmospheric heavy rockers Sons of Alpha Centauri, and Scott Reeder‘s layered harmonies on “Garden Sessions III” — the echoes of “waves on a distant shore” feature in my mental jukebox regularly — Yawning Sons‘ 2009 debut, Ceremony to the Sunset (review here), is among the most beautiful executions of heavy psychedelia I’ve ever heard. And the only reason I call it a “debut” instead of “only album” — they also have a split out with WaterWays, another Arce-inclusive project — is because no small part of me is still hoping for a follow-up at some point even six years later. It’s not impossible. This is an album that has kept me warm in winter, has soundtracked summer nights and has come with me on every significant bit of travel I’ve undertaken since its release. I think of it as an “airplane” album, because if I’m going to crash out of the sky and fall 35,000 feet to my demise, it’s I want to have the chance to be listening to it as I go down. No bullshit.

yawning-sons-ceremony-to-the-sunset-front-coverAlone Records has seen fit to reissue Ceremony to the Sunset, giving the album its first vinyl release after the original CD version came out via Cobraside in the US and Lexicon Devil in Australia. The pressing is 500 copies in translucent red, orange or yellow (I got yellow and it doesn’t look like it lets light through in the pics above because of the white background, but it does). It comes in a gatefold with a reworked cover no less suited to the spaciousness conjured throughout the record by Arce and Sons of Alpha Centauri — the lineup of guitarist Marlon King, bassist Nick Hannon, texturist Blake and drummer Stevie B. is the same now as it was then — and it’s even more distinguished from the original offering by the inclusion of closer “Shores of Desolation,” an instrumental added to the back of side B that was tracked during the initial sessions in the UK and never released. While Alone pretty much had me at the word “go” on a reissue for Ceremony to the Sunset, I will say that the chance to hear a piece of music yet-unissued from this collaboration added significant appeal to the thought of giving the record a revisit. And no regrets. Blake must feature heavily on a song so textured, and sweet-toned guitar feedback is used to bring out further waves of melody before a final fadeout and back in and back out ends the new version of the album on a contemplative, sans-drums note following the bounce of “Japanese Garden.” Somewhat similar to “Whales in Tar,” but with a more foreboding undertone.

Since I usually put on Ceremony to the Sunset for a front-to-back listen, the vinyl does change the dynamic with two sides, and in that, “Shores of Desolation” serves a secondary function in evening out the halves. I hadn’t thought of “Meadows” as an opener,yawning-sons-ceremony-to-the-sunset-gatefold but it works well to start off side B after the flip, regrounding the proceedings after the three instrumentals “Tomahawk Watercress,” “Wetlands” and “Whales in Tar” appear in succession following album-opener “Ghostship – Deadwater” on side A. That track and “Tomahawk Watercress” continue to provide a tonal bliss that is largely unmatched in desert rock, Arce and King weaving guitar lines around each other while Hannon‘s bass and Stevie‘s drums give them a foundation on which to play out the memorable progression, descending and wistful. “Wetlands” brings the drums more forward, as does “Japanese Garden,” Yawning Sons‘ original closer, and like “Ghostship – Deadwater” and “Meadows” mirror each other as eight-minute side-starters, so too do “Whales in Tar” and “Shores of Desolation” work in conversation to end each half. I’ll make no attempt to hide my appreciation for Reeder‘s vocals on “Garden Sessions III,” but the guitar movement he tops is accordingly lush and open-spaced, relieving the almost-tense buildup that follows Lalli‘s guest spot on “Meadows.” Even with the rush of underlying percussion, it is a song to drift away by, and Reeder‘s voice is the tidal pull that carries you off. A one-man Beach Boys. Brilliant.

Granted I’m hardly impartial, but I can’t imagine that if you haven’t heard Ceremony to the Sunset before that the vinyl edition of it won’t grab you with its atmospherics and hooks both vocal an instrumental. In the history of desert rock, it’s probably a footnote, but for me it’s a landmark and an album that I’ve spent six years with at this point and found only a richer experience as time has passed. If Alone‘s reissue gets more people to hear it, or if those who appreciated it before have another excuse to take it on again and hear it in a different way, then all the better. Maybe one of these days Arce and Sons of Alpha Centauri can get together again and make a follow-up. Here’s hoping.

Yawning Sons, “Shores of Desolation”

Yawning Sons on Thee Facebooks

Sons of Alpha Centauri on Thee Facebooks

Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks

Alone Records

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Yawning Sons’ Ceremony to the Sunset Vinyl Due this Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 14th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

I was fortunate enough to be there to take the above photo of Yawning Sons at the 2013 Desertfest in London. Their set was plagued by technical difficulties — all the more a bummer since the collaboration between Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce and UK instrumentalists Sons of Alpha Centauri doesn’t happen every day — but still, my affection for Yawning Sons‘ debut album, Ceremony to the Sunset (review here), had (and has) endured to the point where it hardly mattered. Just being there to watch them jam out, even for about half their allotted time, was one of the high points for me of that entire trip.

Seems I’m not the only one who still digs on Ceremony to the Sunset five years after its initial release through Cobraside Distribution. Respected Spanish imprint Alone Records has the album slated for a vinyl pressing on Oct. 6, with a preceding digital reissue next week. That’s notable because the record is gorgeous and worth hearing for anyone who hasn’t yet had the occasion, and because in addition to reworked cover art, the new version will also feature a previously unreleased track from Yawning Sons, started with the intent of being included on the album but never finished.

You can find the vinyl details below — pressing of 500, transparent colors, etc. — courtesy of the PR wire, but keep an eye out either way, since rumor has it this is a prelude to further collaboration between Arce and Sons of Alpha Centauri, and if that’s the case, the desert just got richer.

Dig:

YAWNING SONS is the result of a unique collaboration between musicians from different sides of the Atlantic. ALONE RECORDS are proud to present the vinyl release of the desert rock classic CEREMONY TO THE SUNSET.

Limited to only 500 copies housed in a deluxe gatefold housing on either transparent yellow, red or orange vinyl this release includes the original closing album track from the studio master tapes not on the 2009 release! CEREMONY TO THE SUNSET has proven itself as a classic desert rock album and five years after initial release deserves the fullest vinyl release treatment – a revelation to fans of any and every of the artists involved.

Since 2009 and this release, YAWNING SONS have gone from strength to strength releasing their first 7″ single from Abbey Road Studios in 2010 with desert brothers ‘WaterWays’ and beginning live performances in 2013. Return now to the beginning of the adventure with this deluxe release and remember the freedom of music and the spirit of the CEREMONY TO THE SUNSET!!

Limited to only 500 copies housed in a deluxe gatefold housing on either transparent yellow, red or orange heavy vinyl.

Highly limited pre-orders begin here: http://www.the-stone-circle.com/store/ and the LP release date is October 6th.

The album will be digitally re-released on Monday August 25th.

http://www.the-stone-circle.com/store/
https://www.facebook.com/yawningsons

Yawning Sons, “Ghostship – Deadwater”

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LONDON DESERTFEST 2013 Day One: Gods of Fire! Gods of Fire!

Posted in Features on April 26th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

04.26.13 — 11:28PM GMT — Friday — Holiday Inn, Camden

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…

Crystal Head

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.

Groan


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.”

Yawning Sons


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.

Yawning Man


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 Formations and 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.

Fatso Jetson

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 Larry Lalli, 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.

Steak

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.

More pics after the jump.

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Yawning Man, Yawning Sons and Fatso Jetson Confirmed for London Desertfest 2013

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 30th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

Dag, yo. I guess it really is a Desertfest when you’ve got Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man on the bill. Not only that, but Yawning Sons! Gary Arce from Yawning Man‘s collaboration with UK proggers Sons of Alpha Centauri will be jamming. To this day, I consider their Ceremony to the Sunset album indispensable. I’m glad I’d already decided to go, because this would otherwise seal the deal.

Yeah, that’s right. After all my hemming and hawing about it, I’m going to both Desertfest London and Roadburn again next year. And though I’ve caught Fatso Jetson live before, all three of these acts just joined my must-see list. Can’t wait.

This from the Desertfest website:

The Desert Godfathers Play Desertfest

DesertFest UK are exceptionally proud to announce ‘The GODFATHER’S’ of desert rock FATSO JETSON & YAWNING MAN will be headlining this years DesertFest on the Friday night at the Underworld. They will be accompanied by an EXCLUSIVE performance of THE ultimate desert stoner US / UK collaboration that is YAWNING SONS. That’s right – YAWNING SONS, YAWNING MAN & FATSO JETSON all on the same stage, all on the same night – only at DesertFest UK 2013!!

This promises to be one of the most special and intimate nights ever conceived with the history of desert rock laid out in front of audiences. Yawning Man founded the desert generator parties with both their music and Lalli’s band Across the River being covered by Kyuss. Lalli has contributed to the Desert Sessions with Fatso Jetson and co-written songs with Josh Homme. Gary Arce remains one of the influential artists of the genre founding acts such as Dark Tooth Encounter, Ten East (with Brant Bjork), WaterWays (also featuring Mario Lalli) and of course the legendary collaboration with Sons of Alpha Centauri known as Yawning Sons.

This never before seen line up will deliver an amazing opening night to DesertFest and from the mainstage will set the tone for the entire festival. Expect exclusive guest appearances, specially designed memorial merchandise and most of all – the music of the desert from the people who created and the crafted the genre to which this festival is now a testament!!

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Six Dumb Questions with Sons of Alpha Centauri

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on July 6th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

It’s been four years since UK instrumental heavy proggers Sons of Alpha Centauri released their self-titled full-length on Sound Devastation, and though they’ve got another record in the works, it’s not like the four-piece has been sitting still since that time. In 2009, they released one of the best albums of that year in Ceremony to the Sunset, the debut of Yawning Sons, their collaboration with Gary Arce of Californian desert legends Yawning Man, as well as a split with Karma to Burn offshoot Treasure Cat.

In 2011, Sons of Alpha Centauri return with another installment of Yawning Sons. This time, it’s a split 7″ with another of Arce‘s many projects, Waterways, and, as SOAC proper, another split 7″ — this one with Karma to Burn. If you believe in guilt by association, Sons of Alpha Centauri have thrown themselves headfirst into the upper echelon of the instrumental heavy underground, and while one hopes their next offering lives up to the high standard they’ve set in these collaborations, their progressive atmospheres have already helped make several strong releases even stronger.

There’s a lot to keep up with, so all the more reason to hit up bassist Nick Hannon to get a better sense of everything happening with the band. Fortunately, he was kind enough to field the interview and you’ll find the results below.

Sons of Alpha Centauri is Hannon, guitarist Marlon King, first-name-only ambience specialist Blake and drummer Stevie B. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions.

1. How did the collaboration/split projects with Gary Arce and Karma to Burn come about? Does the writing process differ at all when you know someone else is going to be playing on the track?

The projects were quite straightforward to arrange. I called Gary and Will and they both responded with interest to develop some new music. SOAC are a flexible band and both Gary and Will [Mecum, Karma to Burn] are accommodating musicians. As such, when they came over, they used our equipment, and compositionally, we held the bass and drums low with room for guitars to breathe along. It was great to watch the tracks unfold in front of us from there! We played and practiced by the sea and everyone found it a very emotional and inspirational experience.

2. Tell me about the Yawning Sons process this time around. Did Gary come to the UK again to record?

No, no Gary by the sea this time! The track on the vinyl came from an original demo from the Garden Sessions from when we were all recording over in Marlon’s garden. There are quite a few tracks that didn’t make it onto Ceremony to the Sunset and that’s one of them. We didn’t have time in the studio so we re-recorded it and sent it over the Gary who laid it down thick on his end. We had it mastered at Abbey Road and it sounds very chilled. Just like when we were in the garden!

3. Any idea on a release date for the new Sons of Alpha Centauri full-length? How has the recording been, and can you give any hint as to what can be expected from the album? Did you have anything in mind specifically for the songwriting and recording?

We have been determined in writing and recording the second album but there’ll be plenty of music on there, so it’s not going to be a short production. Blake is having a much greater role in the band compared to six or seven years ago and it’s been great to grow since writing and recording the debut. All I can say for the time being is that it’s next logical step and level for us from the debut. Strangely we’ve been together 10 years and we’ve only just started recording our second album! We’re aiming for a release date of mid/late-2012.

4. Talk about the development of the Sons of Alpha Centauri sound. Do you feel that these collaborations have had an effect on how you create new material?

As we had hoped, we’ve grown from the collaborations and accelerated our learning curve for new ideas and exploration of sound for sure. In a way they’ve developed into entities in their own right now, which is cool. For the first five years we wrote 35 songs and picked some for an introduction to some of the styles we liked. The new album is a complete concept in itself and we’re really excited about it.

5. What does the word “progressive” mean to you?

To spiritually evolve organically within your environment. Musically the same applies to SOAC and Yawning Sons. We’re both progressive bands for sure – always evolving!

6. What’s next for you guys? Will you do any other joint projects or releases between now and the next Sons of Alpha Centauri release? Is anything in the works as far as touring after the record comes out?

Well, we’re busy at the moment, which is good. Later this year we’ll be finishing off and putting out the next Space Age and Cheesecake release on 7” vinyl. This is the second in the SOAC/Karma to Burn 7” series as it goes. As with the previous release it’s got a new SOAC track on there and new artwork from Alex Von Wieding. We’ll also be doing a special 12” release before the second album comes out so we’ll be focusing on that for the New Year. Got some great people involved with that…

As for touring, we’re hoping to play some shows in Europe next year and depending on our setup we’ll be looking to bring our background visual setup with us like we’ve been using for the UK shows.

Sons of Alpha Centauri’s website

Yawning Sons on Thee Facebooks

Space Age & Cheesecake Records

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The Top 10 of 2009: Number Eight…

Posted in Features on December 16th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Nice.Yawning Sons‘ debut, Ceremony to the Sunset, was a special kind of release: namely the kind you don’t see coming. The collaboration between desert rock luminary Gary Arce of Yawning Man and UK instrumentalists Sons of Alpha Centauri — hence Yawning Sons — was released by small Australian label Lexicon Devil in the spring, though it wasn’t until the summer that I finally got my hands on a copy. It quickly became my go-to album for meditative listening.

I don’t even remember what it was, but just last week, I was driving around, pissed off about something (big change for me), and when it seemed like my frustration was going to culminate in ramming into one of the barriers on the Parkway, I put on Yawning Sons and all was well again. The soothingly psychedelic sounds never stop moving, but at any given moment, you feel held in place by the album. I can only hope it’s not a one-time-only project.

If you missed it, there’s a review here, and the record boasts guest spots from Fatso Jetson‘s Mario Lalli, Wendy Rae Fowler (Mark Lanegan Band) and Scott Reeder, whose multi-layer contribution to “Garden Sessions III” is the out-of-nowhere highlight of Ceremony to the Sunset. There were records I listened to more in 2009, but very few from which I was able to glean such a satisfying aural experience.

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Yawning Sons are Worthy of Ceremony

Posted in Reviews on June 30th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Pretty.You can make whatever sound comparisons or analogies you want, to my ears, the debut from Yawning Sons is principally two things. First: mesmerizing. Second: warm. The band is end result of a fortunate ocean-crossing collaboration between Californian desert rock legend Gary Arce of Yawning Man and the UK?s Sons of Alpha Centauri. Presumably they went with Yawning Sons because ?Arce & Sons? sounded too much like they were electricians. In any case, their debut, Ceremony to the Sunset, released by Australia?s Lexicon Devil, is seven cuts of mostly instrumental experimental post-rock psychedelic hypnosis, with guest vocal spots from Fatso Jetson?s Mario Lalli, Wendy Rae Fowler (Mark Lanegan Band) and Scott Reeder spread throughout to act as trail markers.

The story goes that Arce and the four-piece Sons of Alpha Centauri had never met before he flew to the UK to produce a record for them, but when he arrived they jammed and over the course of a week, wrote and recorded Ceremony to the Sunset instead. Not to say the narrative lacks plausibility (Arce himself recounts it in the liner notes), but if that?s how it went down, the chemistry between Arce and Sons of Alpha Centauri members Nick Hannon (bass), Marlon King (guitar), Stevie B. (drums) and Blake (textures) must have been immediate. Otherwise the project would?ve fallen flat entirely — or, more likely, it wouldn?t have happened in the first place — and the intricate melodies that permeate ?Tomahawk Watercress? and closer ?Japanese Garden? would have nowhere near as much power as they do. Ceremony to the Sunset is a patient album, but it feels fast, spontaneous and exciting, striking a rare balance.

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