Quarterly Review: Emma Ruth Rundle, T.G. Olson, Haast, Dark Ocean Circle, El Castillo, Tekarra, 1782, Fever Dog, Black Holes are Cannibals, Sonic Wolves


If you, like me, drink coffee, then I hope that you, like me, have it ready to go. We enter day two of the Jan. 2022 Quarterly Review today in a continued effort to at least not start the year at an immediate deficit when it comes to keeping up with stuff. Will it work? I don’t know, to be honest. It seems like I could do one of these for a week every month and that might be enough? Probably not, honestly. The relative democratization of media and method has its ups and downs — social media is a cesspool, privacy is a relic of an erased age, and don’t get me started on self-as-brand fiefdoms (including my own) that permeate the digital sphere in sad, cloying cries for validation — but I’m sure glad recording equipment is cheap and easier to use than it once was. Creativity abounds. Which is good.

Lots to do today and it’s early so I might even have time to get some of it done before my morning goes completely off the rails. Only one way to find out, hmm?

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Emma Ruth Rundle, Engine of Hell

Emma Ruth Rundle Engine of Hell

It’s not inconceivable that Emma Ruth Rundle captured a few new ears via her previous LP and EP collaborations with New Orleans art-sludgers Thou, and she answers the tonal wash of those offerings with bedroom folk, can-hear-fingers-moving-on-strings intimacy, some subtle layering of vocals and post-grunge hard-strumming of acoustic guitar, but ultimately a minimal-feeling procession through Engine of Hell, an eight-track collection that, at times, feels like it’s barely there, and in other stretches seems overwhelming in its emotional heft. Rundle‘s songwriting is a long-since-proven commodity among her fans, and the piano-led “In My Afterlife” closes out the record as if to obliterate any lingering doubt of her sincerity. Actually, Engine of Hell makes its challenge in the opposite: it comes across as so genuine that listening to it, the listener almost feels like they’re ogling Rundle‘s trauma, and whatever it’s-sad-so-it-must-be-meaningful cynicism one might want to saddle on Engine of Hell is quickly enough dispatched. Rundle was rude to me once at Roadburn, so screw her, but I won’t take away from the accomplishment here. Not everybody’s brave enough to make a record like this.

Emma Ruth Rundle website

Sargent House website


T.G. Olson, Lost Horse Returns of its Own Accord

TG Olson Lost Horse Returns of its Own Accord

Released in November, Lost Horse Returns of its Own Accord isn’t even the latest full-length anymore from the creative ecosystem that is T.G. Olson, but it’s noteworthy just the same for its clarity of songwriting — “Like You Never Left” makes an early standout for its purposeful-feeling hook and the repeated verse of “Flowers of the End in Bloom” does likewise — and a breadth of production that captures the happening-now sense of trad-twang-folk performance one has come to expect and leaves room for layered in harmonica or backing vocals where they might apply. A completely solo endeavor, the 10-track outing finds the Across Tundras founder taking a relatively straightforward approach as opposed to some of his more experimentalist offerings, which makes touches like the layering in closer “Same Ol’ Blue” and the mourning of the redwoods in the prior “The Way it Used to Be” feel all the more vital to the proceedings. More contemplative than rambling, the way “Li’l Sandy” sets the record in motion is laden with melancholy and nostalgia, but somehow unforgiving of self as well, recognizing the rose tint through which one might see the past, unafraid to call it out. If you’ve never heard a T.G. Olson record before, this would be a good place to start.

Electric Relics Records on Bandcamp


Haast, Made of Light

Haast Made of Light

Formerly known as Haast’s Eagled, Welsh four-piece Haast make a strikingly progressive turn with Made of Light, what’s ostensibly a kind of second debut. And while they’ve carried over the chemistry and some of the tonal weight of their work under the prior moniker, the mission across the seven-track offering is more than divergent enough to justify that new beginning. Cuts like “A Myth to End All Myths” and the from-the-bottom-up-building “The Agulhas Current” might remind some of Forming the Void‘s take on prog-heavy or heavy-prog, but Haast willfully change up their songwriting and the execution of the album, bringing in vocalist Leanne Brookes on the title-track and Jams Thomas on nine-minute closer “Diweddglo,” which crushes as much as it soars. The central question that Made of Light needs to answer is whether Haast are better off having made the change. Hearing them rework the verse melody of Alice in Chains‘ “We Die Young” on “Psychophant,” the answer is yes. They’ve allowed themselves more reach and room to grow and gained far more than whatever they’ve lost.

Haast on Facebook

Haast on Bandcamp


Dark Ocean Circle, Bottom of the Ocean

dark ocean circle bottom of the ocean

Have riffs, will groove. So it goes with the debut EP from Stockholm-based unit Dark Ocean Circle, who present four formative but cohesive tracks on Bottom of the Ocean, following the guitar in more of a Sabbathian tradition then one might expect from the current stoner-is-as-stoner-does hesher scene. To wit, the title-track’s starts-stops, bluesy soloing and percussive edge tap a distinctly ’70s vibe, if somewhat updated in the still-raw production value after the straight-ahead fuzz of “Battlesnake” hints toward lumber to come in its thickened tone. “Setting Sun” feels more spacious by the time it’s done, but makes solid use of the just over three minutes to get to that point — a short, but satisfying journey — and the closing “Oceans of Blood” speaks to a NWOBHM influence while pairing that with the underlying boogie-blues that seemed to surface in “Bottom of the Ocean” as well. A pandemic-born project, their sound is nascent here but for sure aware of its inspirations and what it wants to take from them. Sans nonsense heavy rock and roll is of perennial welcome.

Dark Ocean Circle on Facebook

Dark Ocean Circle on Bandcamp


El Castillo, Derecho

El Castillo Derecho

Floridian three-piece El Castillo self-tag as “surf Western,” and yeah, that’s about right. Instrumental in its 19-minute entirety, Derecho is the first EP from the trio of guitarist Ben McLeod (also All Them Witches, Westing), bassist Jon Ward and drummer Michael Monahan, and with the participation of McLeod as a draw, the feeling of two sounds united by singularity of tone is palpable. Morricone-meets-slow-motion-DickDale perhaps, though that doesn’t quite account for the subtle current of reggae in “Diddle Datil” or the somehow-fiesta-ready “Summer in Bavaria,” though “Double Tap” is just about ready for you to hang 10, even if closer “Hang 5” keeps to half that, likely in honor of its languid pace, which turns surf into psych as easily as “Wolf Moon” turns it toward the Spaghetti West. An unpretentious exploration, and more intricate than it lets on with “El Norte” bringing various sides together fluidly at the outset and the rest unfolding with similarly apparent ease.

El Castillo on Facebook

El Castillo on Bandcamp


Tekarra, Kicking Horse

Tekarra Kicking Horse

Listening to “Hunted,” the 22:53 leadoff from Tekarra‘s two-song long-player, Kicking Horse, it’s hard not to feel nostalgic for standing in a small room with speaker cabinets stacked to the ceiling and having your bones vibrate from the level of volume assaulting you. I’ve never seen the Edmonton, Alberta, three-piece live, but their rumble and the tension in their pacing is so. fucking. doomed. You just want to throw your head back and shout. Not even words, just primal noises, since that seems to be what’s coming through on their end, so laced with feedback as it is. Coupled with the likewise grueling “Crusade / Kicking Horse” (23:11), there’s some guttural vocals, some samples, but the overarching intention is so clearly in the tune-low-play-slow ethic that that’s what comes across most of all, regardless of what else is happening. I’d be tempted to call it misanthropic if it didn’t have me so much pining for the live experience, and whatever you want to call it there’s no way these dudes give a crap anyway. They’re on another wavelength entirely, sounding dropped out of life and encrusted with cruelty. Fuck you and fuck yes.

Tekarra on Facebook

LSDR Records on Bandcamp


1782, From the Graveyard

1782 from the graveyard

It’s been the better part of a year since 1782 released From the Graveyard, and I could detail for you the mundane reason I didn’t review it before now, but there’s only so much room and I’d rather talk about the bass tone on “Bloodline” and the grimly fuzzed lumber of “Priestess of Death.” An uptick in production value from their 2019 self-titled debut (review here), the 43-minute/eight-song LP nonetheless maintains enough rawness to still be in the post-Electric Wizard vein of cultistry, but its blowout distortion is all the more satisfying for the fullness with which it’s presented. “Seven Priests” sounds like Cathedral played at half-speed (not a complaint) and with its stretch of church organ picking up after a drop to nothing but barely-there low end, “Black Void” lives up to its name while feeling experimental in structure. Familiar in scope, for sure, but a filthy and dark delight just the same. Give me the slow nod of “Inferno” anytime. Even months after the fact its righteousness holds true.

1782 on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


Fever Dog, Alpha Waves

Fever Dog Alpha Waves

Alpha Waves is a sonic twist a few years in the making, as Fever Dog transcend the expectation of their prior classic desert boogie in favor of a glam-informed 10-track double-LP, impeccably arranged and unrepentantly pop-minded. A cut like the title-track or “Star Power” is still unafraid to veer into psychedelics, as Danny Graham and Joshua Adams, but the opener “Freewheelin'” and “Solid Ground” and the later “The Demon” are glam-shuffle ragers, high energy, thoughtfully executed, and clear in their purpose, with “King of the Street” tapping vibes from ELO and Bowie ahead of the shimmering funk-informed jam that is “Mystics of Zanadu” before it fades into a full-on synthesizer deep-dive. Does it come back? You know what, I’m not gonna tell you. Maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t. Definitely you should find out for yourself. Sharp in its craft and wholly realized, Alpha Waves is brought to bear with an individualized vision, and the payoff is right there in its blend of poise and push.

Fever Dog on Facebook

Fever Dog on Bandcamp


Black Holes are Cannibals, Surfacer

Black Holes are Cannibals Surfacer

Led by Chris Jude Watson, the dronadelic outfit Black Holes are Cannibals may just be one person, it may be 20, but it doesn’t matter when you’re dealing with a sense of space being manipulated and torn apart molecule by molecule, atom by atom. So it goes throughout the 19-minute “Surfacer,” the 19:07 title-track of the two-songer LP accompanied by “No Title” (20:01). At about eight minutes in, Watson‘s everything-is-throat-singing approach seems to find the event horizon and twists into an elongated freakout with swirls of echoing tones, what seem to be screams, crashing cymbals and a resonant chaotic feel taking hold and then building down instead of up, seeming to disappear into the comparatively minimal beginning of “No Title,” which holds its own payoff back for a broader but more linear progression, ending up in the same with-different-marketing-this-would-be-black-metal aural morass, willfully thrown into the chasm it has made. You ever have an out of body experience? Watson has. Even managed to get it on tape.

Black Holes are Cannibals on Facebook

Cardinal Fuzz store

Little Cloud Records store


Sonic Wolves, It’s All a Game to Me

sonic wolves its all a game to me 1sonic wolves its all a game to me 2

What is one supposed to say to paying tribute to Lemmy Kilmister and Cliff Burton? Careers have been made on far less original fare than the two homage tracks that comprise Sonic WolvesIt’s All a Game to Me EP, with “CCKL” setting the tempo for a Motörheaded sprint and “Thee Ace of Spades” digging into early-Metallica bombast in its first couple minutes, drifting out for a while after the halfway point, then thrashing its way back to the end. Obviously it’s not the same kind of stuff they were doing with their 2018 self-titled (review here), but neither is it worlds apart. The basic fact of the matter is bands pay tribute to Motörhead and Metallica, to Lemmy and Cliff Burton, all the time. They just don’t tell you they’re doing it. In that way, It’s All a Game to Me almost feels courteous as it elbows you in the gut.

Sonic Wolves on Facebook

Argonauta Records website


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