Quarterly Review: The John Denver Airport Conspiracy, Clara Engel, Cormano, Black Lung, Slowenya, Superlynx, Øresund Space Collective, Zone Six, The Cimmerian, Ultracombo


Today’s Friday, and in most but a decreasing number of circumstances, that means a Quarterly Review is over. Not this one. Remember, doublewide means it goes to 100 albums. The really crazy part? It could go longer. I could add another day. It could go to 11! Have I done that before?

Probably. That Spinal Tap reference is too obvious for me to have never made it. In any case, I’ve got something booked for Monday after next already, so I won’t be adding another day, but I could just on the releases that came in over the last couple days. Onto the list for next time. Late September/early October, I think.

If you’re hurting for Quarterly Review in the meantime? Yeah, stick around. There’s a whole other week coming up. That’s what I’ve been saying. Have a great weekend and we’ll pick back up on Monday with another 10 records.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

The John Denver Airport Conspiracy, Something’s Gotta Give

John Denver Airport Conspiracy Something's Gotta Give

Hail Toronto psych. The John Denver Airport Conspiracy released Something’s Gotta Give as a 16-tracker name-your-price Bandcamp download nearly a year ago, and vinyl delays give squares like yours truly who missed it at the time another opportunity to get on board. The 14-song LP edition runs 42 minutes, and it’s time well spent in being out of its own time, a pedal steel Americana-fying the ’60s drift of “Comin’ Through” while “Jeff Bezos Actually Works for Me” pairs garage strum-and-strut with a cavernous echo for an effect like shoegaze that looked up. “2000 November” and closer “The Lab” dares proto-punk shimmy and “Green Chair” has that B3 organ sound and lazy jangle that one can’t help but associate with 1967, “Ya, I Wonder” perhaps a few years before that, but “The Big Greaser” works in less directly temporal spaces, and the whole album is united by an overarching mellow spirit, not totally in a fog because actually the structures on some of these songs are pretty tight — as they were in the 1960s — but they’ve definitely and purposefully kept a few screws loose. Their sound may solidify over time and it may not, but as a debut album, Something’s Gotta Give is deceptively rich in its purpose and engaging in its craft and style alike. I wish I’d heard it earlier, I’m glad to have heard it now.

The John Denver Airport Conspiracy on Instagram

Cardinal Fuzz Records webstore

Little Cloud Records website


Clara Engel, Their Invisible Hands

Clara Engel Their Invisible Hands

Clara Engel‘s experimentalist folk songwriting moves into and across and over and through various traditions and methods, but their voice is as resonant, human and unifying as ever, and that’s true from “O Human Child” through the softly echoing guitar pieces “Golden Egg” and “High Alien Priest,” the more ethereal “Glass Mountain,” and so on, while excursions like “I Drink the Rain,” “Cryptid Bop” and “Dead Tree March” earlier add not only instrumental flourish but an avant garde sensibility consistent with Engel‘s past work, even if as songs they remain resoundingly cohesive. That is to say, while founded on experimentalist principles, they are built into songs rather than presented in their rawest form. The inclusion of organ in finale “The Devils are Snoring” is striking and complements the minimalist vocals and backing drone, but by then Engel has long established their ability to put the listener where they wants, with the image of “Rowing Home Through a Sea of Golden Leaves” duly poetic to suit the music as demonstration. Gorgeous, impassioned, hurt but striving and ever moving forward creatively. Engel‘s work remains a treasure for those with ears to hear it. “I Drink the Rain” is an album unto itself.

Clara Engel on Facebook

Clara Engel on Bandcamp


Cormano, Weird Tales

Cormano Weird Tales

Though the initial push of doomer riffing and melodic vocals in the post-intro title-track “Weird Tales” reminds a bit of Apostle of Solitude, the hooky brand of heavy wrought by Chilean three-piece Cormano — vocalist/guitarist Aaron Saavedra, bassist/backing vocalist Claudio Bobadilla, drummer/backing vocalist Rodrigo Jiménez — on their debut full-length is more about rock than such morose proceedings, and in fact it’s the prior intro “La Marcha del Desierto” that makes that plain. They’ll delve into psychedelic airiness in “El Caleuche” — the bassline underneath a highlight on its own — and if you read “Bury Me With My Money” as a capitalist critique, it’s almost fun instead of tragic, but their swing in “Urknall” and the roll of “Rise From Your Grave” (second Altered Beast reference of this Quarterly Review; pure coincidence) act as precursor to the thickened unfurling of “Futuere” and “A Boy and His Dog,” a closing pair that reinforce Cormano‘s ultimate direction as anything but settled, the latter featuring a pointedly heavy crash before a surprisingly gentle finish. Will be curious to see where their impulses lead them, but Weird Tales is that much stronger for the variety currently in their influences.

Cormano on Facebook

Cormano on Bandcamp


Black Lung, Dark Waves

Black Lung Dark Waves

Like the rest of reality, Baltimorean heavy psychedelic blues rockers Black Lung have undergone a few significant changes in the last three years. Guitarist/vocalist Dave Cavalier (also Mellotron) and drummer/synthesist Elias Schutzman (also Revvnant, ex-The Flying Eyes) bid farewell to fellow founding member Adam Bufano (guitar, also ex-The Flying Eyes) and brought in Dave Fullerton to fill the role, while also, for the first time, adding a bassist in Charles Braese. Thus, their first record for Heavy Psych Sounds, the J. Robbins-produced/Kurt Ballou-mixed Dark Waves is a notable departure in form from 2019’s Ancients (review here), even if the band’s core methodology and aesthetic are the same. The sound is fuller, richer, and more able to hold the various Mellotrons and other flourishes, as well as the cello in “Hollow Dreams” and guest vocals on “Death Grip” and guest keys on “The Cog” and “The Path.” Taking inspiration from modern global uncertainties sociopolitical, medical and otherwise, the band put you in a mind of living through the current moment, thankfully without inducing the level of anxiety that seems to define it. Small favors amid big riffs. With shades of All Them Witches and further psychedelic exploring transposed onto their already-a-given level of songwriting, Black Lung sound like they’re making a second debut.

Black Lung on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


Slowenya, Meadow

Slowenya Meadow

Make a big space and fill it with righteousness. Finland’s Slowenya are born out of an experimentalist hotbed in Turku, and the three-piece do justice to an expectation of far-out tendencies across the nonetheless-concise 31 minutes and six songs of Meadow, their second long-player in as many years. There’s an undercurrent of metal as “Synchronized” holds forth with a resilient, earthy chug, but the melodicism that typifies the vocals running alongside is lighter, born of a proggy mindset and able to keep any overarching aggression in check. With synths, samples, and ambient sounds filling out the mix — not that the massive tonality of the guitar and bass itself doesn’t do the job — a breadth is cast from “Intro” onward through “Nákàn” and the gone-full-YOB swell of “Irrevocable,” which is yet another of the tracks on Meadow one might hear and expect to be 20 minutes long and instead is under seven. The penultimate “Transients” pushes deeper into drone, and “Resonate and Relate” (7:53) caps Slowenya‘s impressive second LP with a due blend of melodic wash and lurching rhythmic physicality, the screams into a sudden stop effectively carrying the threat of more to come. You want to hear this.

Slowenya linktr.ee

Karhuvaltio Records on Facebook


Superlynx, Solstice EP

Superlynx Solstice

As their growing fanbase immediately set about waiting for their third full-length after 2021’s Electric Temple, Norwegian heavy-broodgaze trio Superlynx issued at the very end of the year the Solstice EP, combining covers from Saint Vitus, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Nat King Cole (because obviously he’d be third on that list) and Nirvana with two originals in “Reorbit” and “Cosmic Wave.” As bassist/vocalist Pia Isaksen has already put out a solo release in 2022, drummer Ole Teigen has a blues band on the side among other projects, and one assumes guitarist Daniel Bakken is up to something else as well, Solstice serves as a welcome holdover of momentum after the album. It’s worth the price of admission (eight Euro) for the take on Nirvana‘s “Something in the Way” alone, but the so-slow-it-sounds-like-it’s-about-to-fall-apart “Reorbit” and the leadoff adaptation of “Born Too Late” enforces that song’s message with a modernized and made-even-more slogging sense of defeat. Maybe we were all born too late. Maybe that’s humanity’s fucking problem. Anyway, after you get this, get Isaksen‘s solo record as Pia Isa. You won’t regret that either, especially with the subdued vibe in some of the material on this one.

Superlynx on Facebook

Dark Essence Records website


Øresund Space Collective, Oily Echoes of the Soul

oresund space collective oily echoes of the soul

The always-hit-record ethic of multinational conglomerate jammers Øresund Space Collective pays dividends once again as Oily Echoes of the Soul emerges publicly — it was previously released in a different form to Bandcamp subscribers — as carved from a session all the way back in 2010. At the time I’m pretty certain all members of the band actually lived in Denmark, but sitarist K.G. Westman, who appeared here while still a member of Siena Root, is from Sweden, so whatever. Ultimately the affair is less about where they’re from than where you’re going while hearing it, which is off to a laid-back, anything goes psychedelic improvisation, beginning with the funky and suitably explorational, half-hour-long opener “Bump and Grind ØSC Style” before moving into the sitar-led “Peace of Mynd” (13:27) and the 24-minute title-track’s organic surges and recessions of volume; proggy, ’70s, and unforced as they are. Before twang-happy and much shorter closer “Shit Kickin'” (4:10), the 15-minute “Deep Breath for the EARTH” offers affirmation of the project’s reliably expansive sound. I’ve made no secret that I listen to this band in no small part for the emotionally and/or existentially soothing facets of their sound. Those are on ready display here, and I’ll be returning to this 12-year-old session accordingly.

Øresund Space Collective on Bandcamp

Space Rock Productions website


Zone Six, Beautiful EP


Recorded in Dec. 1997 at Zone Six‘s practice space, the two-song Beautiful EP portrays a much different band than Zone Six ultimately became, with Australian-born vocalist Jodi Barry and then-Liquid Visions members Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (bass, effects), Hans-Peter Ringholz (guitar, noise) and drummer/recording specialist Claus Bühler as well as keyboardist/etc.-ist Rusty and bringing two longform, molten works of pioneering-at-the-time heavy psychedelia. I mean, we’re talking 20 years ahead of their time, at least, here. It’s still forward-thinking. The guitars and breathy vocals in “Something’s Missing” are a joy and “Beautiful” plays off drone-style atmospherics with intermittently jazzy verses and a more active rhythm, winding guitar and pervasively spaced mindbending. Imagining what could’ve been if this record had been finished, one could repaint the scope of 2010s-era European heavy psychedelia as a whole, but on their own, the two extended inclusions on the 23-minute EP are a gorgeous glimpse at this fleeting moment in time. It is what it says it is.




The Cimmerian, Thrice Majestic

The Cimmerian Thrice Majestic

Thrice Majestic and four-times barbarous comes this debut EP release from Los Angeles’ The Cimmerian, a new trio featuring Massachusetts expat David Gein (ex-bass, The Scimitar, etc.) on guitar, and the brand of heavy that ensues readily crosses the line between metal and doom, as the galloping “Emerald Scripture” reinforces directly after the eight-minute highlight and longest groover “Silver and Gold.” Drummer David Morales isn’t shy with the double-kick and neither should he be, and bassist/vocalist Nicolas Rocha has a bark that reminds of Entombed‘s L.G. Petrov, and that is not a compliment I’m ever going to hand out lightly. Lead cut “Howls of Lust and Fury” promises High on Fire-ist thrash in its opening, but The Cimmerian‘s form of pummel goes beyond any single point of inspiration, even on this presumably formative suckerpunch of an EP, which balances intensity and nod in the finishing move “Neck Breaker,” a last growl perhaps the most brutal of all. Fucking a. More of this.

The Cimmerian on Facebook

The Cimmerian on Bandcamp


Ultracombo, Season II

Ultracombo Season II

You could probably sit and parse out where Ultracombo are coming from — geographically, it’s Vincenza, Italy — in terms of sound on the sequentially titled follow-up to 2019’s Season I (review here), but to do so denies the double-guitar five-piece credit for the obvious efforts they’ve put into making this material their own. Those efforts pay off in the listening experience of the five-tracker, which runs 25 minutes and so offers plenty enough to make an impression. Witness the slowdown in centerpiece “Umanotest” or the keyboard-or-keyboard-esque lead in the back half of the prior “Follia,” the added jammy feel in “Specchio,” the this-is-the-difference-the-right-drummer-makes “12345” or the return of the synth and an added bit of playfulness before the big ending in — what else? — “La Fine.” That this EP manages to careen and pull such hairpin turns of rhythm is a triumph unto itself. That it manages to do so without sounding like Queens of the Stone Age feels like a fucking miracle. “Dear Ultracombo, Hope you’re well. Time to make an album. Put in an interlude or two depending on space. Sincerely, some dude on the internet.”

Ultracombo on Facebook

Ultracombo on Instagram


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2 Responses to “Quarterly Review: The John Denver Airport Conspiracy, Clara Engel, Cormano, Black Lung, Slowenya, Superlynx, Øresund Space Collective, Zone Six, The Cimmerian, Ultracombo”

  1. dutch gus says:

    yeah that’s the sort of labelling scapegoating shit you shouldn’t put on children, even if you’re thinking it

    keep on keeping on, unconditional positive regard, empathy and boundaries, teaching and containing

    Oh right, some music stuff… I dig that Kaleidobolt record, it’s fucking nuts!

  2. Scott Heller says:

    THanks JJ….. glad you liked it…..

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