Quarterly Review: Nadja, London Odense Ensemble, Omen Stones, Jalayan, Las Cruces, The Freeks, Duncan Park, MuN, Elliott’s Keep, Cachemira


Day three, passing the quarter mark of the Quarterly Review, halfway through the week. This is usually the point where my brain locks itself into this mode and I find that even in any other posts where I’m doing actual writing I need to think about I default to this kind of trying-to-encapsulate-a-thing-in-not-a-million-words mindset, for better or worse. Usually a bit of both, I guess. Today’s also all over the place, so if you’re feeling brave, today’s the day to really dig in. As always, I hope you enjoy. If not, more coming tomorrow. And the day after. And then again on Monday. And so on.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Nadja, Labyrinthine

Nadja Labyrinthine

The second full-length of 2022 from the now-Berlin-based experimental two-piece Nadja — as ever, Leah Buckareff and Aidan Baker — is a four-song collaborative work on which each piece features a different vocalist. In guesting roles are Alan Dubin, formerly of Khantate/currently of Gnaw, Esben and the Witch‘s Rachel Davies, Lane Shi Otayonii of Elizabeth Colour Wheel and Full of Hell‘s Dylan Walker. Given these players and their respective pedigrees, it should not be hard to guess that Labyrinthine begins and ends ferocious, but Nadja by no means reserve the harshness of noise solely for the dudely contingent. The 17-minute “Blurred,” with Otayonii crooning overtop, unfurls a consuming wash of noise that, true, eventually fades toward a more definitive droner of a riff, but sure enough returns as a crescendo later on. Dubin is unmistakable on the opening title-track, and while Davies‘ “Rue” runs only 12 minutes and is the most conventionally listenable of the inclusions on the whole, even its ending section is a voluminous blowout of abrasive speaker destruction. Hey, you get what you get. As for Nadja, they should get one of those genius grants I keep hearing so much about.

Nadja website

Nadja on Bandcamp


London Odense Ensemble, Jaiyede Sessions Vol. 1

London Odense Ensenble Jaiyede Sessions Volume 1

El Paraiso Records alert! London Odense Ensemble features Jonas Munk (guitar, production), Jakob Skøtt (drums, art) and Martin Rude (sometimes bass) of Danish psych masters Causa Sui — they’re the Odense part — and London-based saxophonist/flutist Tamar Osborn and keyboardist/synthesist Al MacSween, and if they ever do a follow-up to Jaiyede Sessions Vol. 1, humanity will have to mark itself lucky, because the psych-jazz explorations here are something truly special. On side A they present the two-part “Jaiyede Suite” with lush krautrock rising to the level of improv-sounding astro-freakout before the ambient-but-still-active “Sojourner” swells and recedes gracefully, and side B brings the 15-minute “Enter Momentum,” which is as locked in as the title might lead one to believe and then some and twice as free, guitar and sax conversing fluidly throughout the second half, and the concluding “Celestial Navigation,” opening like a sunrise and unfolding with a playful balance of sax and guitar and synth over the drums, the players trusting each other to ultimately hold it all together as of course they do. Not for everybody, but peaceful even in its most active moments, Jaiyede Sessions Vol. 1 is yet another instrumental triumph for the El Paraiso camp. Thankfully, they haven’t gotten bored of them yet.

El Paraiso Records on Facebook

El Paraiso Records store


Omen Stones, Omen Stones

Omen Stones Omen Stones

True, most of these songs have been around for a few years. All eight of the tracks on Omen Stones‘ 33-minute self-titled full-length save for “Skin” featured on the band’s 2019 untitled outing (an incomplete version of which was reviewed here in 2018), but they’re freshly recorded, and the message of Omen Stones being intended as a debut album comes through clearly in the production and the presentation of the material generally, and from ragers like “Fertile Blight” and the aforementioned “Skin,” which is particularly High on Fire-esque, to the brash distorted punk (until it isn’t) of “Fresh Hell” and the culminating nod and melody dare of “Black Cloud,” the key is movement. The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Tommy Hamilton (Druglord), bassist Ed Fierro (Tel) and drummer Erik Larson (Avail, Alabama Thunderpussy, etc. ad infinitum) are somewhere between riff-based rock and metal, but carry more than an edge of sludge-nasty in their tones and Hamilton‘s sometimes sneering vocals such that Omen Stones ends up like the hardest-hitting, stoner-metal-informed grunge record that ever got lost from 1994. Then you get into “Secrete,” and have to throw the word ‘Southern’ into the mix because of that guitar lick, and, well, maybe it’s better to put stylistic designations to the side for the time being. A ripper with pedigree is a ripper nonetheless.

Omen Stones on Facebook

Omen Stones on Bandcamp


Jalayan, Floating Islands

Jalayan Floating Islands

Proggy, synth-driven instrumentalist space rock is the core of what Italy’s Jalayan bring forward on the 45-minute Floating Islands, with guitar periodically veering into metallic-style riffing but ultimately pushed down in the mix to let the keyboard work of band founder Alessio Malatesta (who also recorded) breathe as it does. That balance is malleable throughout, as the band shows early between “Tilmun” and “Nemesis,” and if you’re still on board the ship by the time you get to the outer reaches of “Stars Stair” — still side A, mind you — then the second full-length from the Lesmo outfit will continue to offer thrills as “Fire of Lanka” twists and runs ambience and intensity side by side and “Colliding Orbits” dabbles in space-jazz with New Age’d keyboards, answering some of what featured earlier on “Edination.” The penultimate “Narayanastra” has a steadier rock beat behind it and so feels more straightforward, but don’t be fooled, and at just under seven minutes, “Shem Temple” closes the proceedings with a clear underscoring the dug-in prog vibe, similar spacey meeting with keys-as-sitar in the intro as the band finds a middle ground between spirit and space. There are worlds being made here, as Malatesta leads the band through these composed, considered-feeling pieces united by an overarching cosmic impulse.

Jalayan on Facebook

Sound Effect Records store

Adansonia Records store


Las Cruces, Cosmic Tears

las cruces cosmic tears

Following 12 years on the heels and hells of 2010’s Dusk (review here), San Antonio, Texas, doomers Las Cruces return with the classic-style doom metal of Cosmic Tears, and if you think a hour-long album is unmanageable in the day and age of 35-minute-range vinyl attention spans, you’re right, but that’s not the vibe Las Cruces are playing to, and it’s been over a decade, so calm down. Founding guitarist George Trevino marks the final recorded performance of drummer Paul DeLeon, who passed away last year, and welcomes vocalist Jason Kane to the fold with a showcase worthy of comparison to Tony Martin on songs like “Stay” and the lumbering “Holy Hell,” with Mando Tovar‘s guitar and Jimmy Bell‘s bass resulting in riffs that much thicker. Peer to acts like Penance and others working in the post-Hellhound Records sphere, Las Cruces are more grounded than Candlemass but reach similar heights on “Relentless” and “Egyptian Winter,” with classic metal as the thread that runs throughout the whole offering. A welcome return.

Las Cruces on Facebook

Ripple Music store


The Freeks, Miles of Blues

The Freeks Miles of Blues

Kind of a sneaky album. Like, shh, don’t tell anybody. As I understand it, the bulk of The Freeks‘ nine-tracker Miles of Blues is collected odds and ends — the first four songs reportedly going to be used for a split at some point — and the two-minute riff-and-synth funk-jam “Maybe It’s Time” bears that out in feeling somewhat like half a song, but with the barroom-brawler-gone-to-space “Jaqueline,” the willfully kosmiche “Wag the Fuzz,” which does what “Maybe It’s Time” does, but feels more complete in it, and the 11-minute interstellar grandiosity of “Star Stream,” the 41-minute release sure sounds like a full-length to me. Ruben Romano (formerly Nebula and Fu Manchu) and Ed Mundell (ex-Monster Magnet) are headlining names, but at this point The Freeks have established a particular brand of bluesy desert psych weirdness, and that’s all over “Real Gone” — which, yes, goes — and the rougher garage push of “Played for Keeps,” which should offer thrills to anyone who got down with Josiah‘s latest. Self-released, pressed to CD, probably not a ton made, Miles of Blues is there waiting for you now so that you don’t regret missing it later. So don’t miss it, whether it’s an album or not.

The Freeks on Facebook

The Freeks website


Duncan Park, In the Floodplain of Dreams

Duncan Park In the Floodplain of Dreams

South Africa-based self-recording folk guitarist Duncan Park answers his earlier-2022 release, Invoking the Flood (review here), with the four pieces of In the Floodplain of Dreams, bringing together textures of experimentalist guitar with a foundation of hillside acoustic on opener and longest track (immediate points) “In the Mountains of Sour Grass,” calling to mind some of Six Organs of Admittance‘s exploratory layering, while “Howling at the Moon” boasts more discernable vocals (thankfully not howls) and “Ballad for the Soft Green Moss” highlights the self-awareness of the evocations throughout — it is green, organic, understated, flowing — and the closing title-track reminisces about that time Alice in Chains put out “Don’t Follow” and runs a current of drone behind its central guitar figure to effectively flesh out the this-world-as-otherworld vibe, devolving into (first) shred and (then) noise as the titular dream seems to give way to a harsher reality. So be it. Honestly, if Park wants to go ahead and put out a collection like this every six months or so into perpetuity, that’d be just fine. The vocals here are a natural development from the prior release, and an element that one hopes continue to manifest on the next one.

Duncan Park on Facebook

Ramble Records store


MuN, Presomnia

MuN Presomnia

Crushing and atmospheric in kind, Poland’s MuN released Presomnia through Piranha Music in 2020 as their third full-length. I’m not entirely sure why it’s here, but it’s in my notes and the album’s heavy like Eastern European sadness, so screw it. Comprised of seven songs running 43 minutes, it centers around that place between waking and sleep, where all the fun lucid dreaming happens and you can fly and screw and do whatever else you want in your own brain, all expressed through post-metallic lumber and volume trades, shifting and building in tension as it goes, vocals trading between cleaner sung stretches and gut-punch growls. The layered guitar solo on “Arthur” sounds straight out of the Tool playbook, but near everything else around is otherwise directed and decidedly more pummeling. At least when it wants to be. Not a complaint, either way. The heft of chug in “Deceit” is of a rare caliber, and the culmination in the 13-minute “Decree” seems to use every bit of space the record has made prior in order to flesh out its melancholic, contemplative course. Much to their credit, after destroying in the midsection of that extended piece, MuN make you think they’re bringing it back around again at the end, and then don’t. Because up yours for expecting things. Still the “Stones From the Sky” riff as they come out of that midsection, though. Guess you could do that two years ago.

MuN on Facebook

Piranha Music on Bandcamp


Elliott’s Keep, Vulnerant Omnes

Elliott's Keep Vulnurent Omnes

I’ve never had the fortune of seeing long-running Dallas trio Elliott’s Keep live, but if ever I did and if at least one of the members of the band — bassist/vocalist Kenneth Greene, guitarist Jonathan Bates, drummer Joel Bates — wasn’t wearing a studded armband, I think I might be a little disappointed. They know their metal and they play their metal, exclusively. Comprised of seven songs, Vulnerant Omnes is purposefully dark, able to shift smoothly between doom and straight-up classic heavy metal, and continuing a number of ongoing themes for the band: it’s produced by J.T. Longoria, titled in Latin (true now of all five of their LPs), and made in homage to Glenn Riley Elliott, who passed away in 2004 but features here on the closer “White Wolf,” a cover of the members’ former outfit, Marauder, that thrashes righteously before dooming out as though they knew someday they’d need it to tie together an entire album for a future band. Elsewhere, “Laughter of the Gods” and the Candlemassian “Every Hour” bleed their doom like they’ve cut their hand to swear an oath of fealty, and the pre-closer two-parter “Omnis Pretium (Fortress I)” and “Et Sanguinum (Fortress II)” speaks to an age when heavy metal was for fantasy-obsessed miscreants and perceived devil worshipers. May we all live long enough to see that particular sun rise again. Until then, an eternal “fucking a” to Elliott’s Keep.

Elliott’s Keep on Facebook

NoSlip Records store


Cachemira, Ambos Mundos

Cachemira Ambos Mundos

Sometime between their 2017 debut, Jungla (review here), and the all-fire-even-the-slow-parts boogie and comprises the eight-song/35-minute follow-up Ambos Mundos, Barcelona trio Cachemira parted ways with bassist Pol Ventura and brought in Claudia González Díaz of The Mothercrow to handle low end and lead vocals alongside guitarist/now-backing vocalist Gaston Lainé (Brain Pyramid) and drummer Alejandro Carmona Blanco (Prisma Circus), reaffirming the band’s status as a legit powerhouse while also being something of a reinvention. Joined by guest organist Camille Goellaen on a bunch of the songs and others on guitar, Spanish guitar and congas, Ambos Mundos scorches softshoe and ’70s vibes with a modern confidence and thickness of tone that put to use amid the melodies of “Dirty Roads” are sweeping and pulse-raising all at once. The name of the record translates to ‘both worlds,’ and the closing title-track indeed brings together heavy fuzz shuffle and handclap-laced Spanish folk (and guitar) that is like pulling back the curtain on what’s been making you dance this whole time. It soars and spins heads until everybody falls down dizzy. If they were faking, it’d fall flat. It doesn’t. At all. More please.

Cachemira on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds store


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2 Responses to “Quarterly Review: Nadja, London Odense Ensemble, Omen Stones, Jalayan, Las Cruces, The Freeks, Duncan Park, MuN, Elliott’s Keep, Cachemira”

  1. […] Keep, Vulnerant Omnes – Reviewed by The Obelisk ! Check it out here at this link: […]

  2. J. says:

    Really digging London Odense Ensemble, thanks for the review.

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