Review & Full Album Stream: Domo, Domonautas Vol. 1

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

domo domonautas vol 1

[Click play above to stream Domonautas Vol. 1 by Domo in its entirety. Album is out Dec. 15 on Clostridium Records.]

With psychedelia itself so often given to ideas of fluidity, being molten and/or in some way liquid, it only seems fair that Domo‘s Domonautas Vol. 1 should be such a melting pot. Issued on limited LP in an edition of 400 copies by Clostridium Records — 250 black, 150 red/black transparent splatter for a die-hard edition — the four-track/37-minute offering is the first offering of any kind from the Alicante, Spain, four-piece since 2015’s split with Pyramidal, Jams from the Sun (review here), which also followed some four years after their 2011 self-titled debut (review here).

Their stated intention is that Domonautas Vol. 1 is to be the first of a two-part continuity of albums with Maarten Donders cover art, and that Domonautas Vol. 2 will follow next year, essentially completing the single work across two LPs. I don’t know if Vol. 2 is written, let alone recorded — it could very well be both or either — but it’s an ambitious undertaking for the jam-based psych outfit, and however it works out over the next 12 months, it’s worth noting that Domonautas Vol. 1 in no way sounds incomplete. Its four included tracks are arranged for maximum immersion, with “Oxímoron” (5:15) at the outset giving way to “Astródomo” (12:28) on side A, and “Ritual del Sol” (12:04) and closer “Planisferio” (7:56) finishing the thread on side B.

This shorter-longer-longer-shorter construction, parabolic in its way, creates an arc that brings the listener deeper into the proceedings from the start of “Oxímoron,” which sets off in grandiose fashion, with effects-laced synth severity, like something out of a lysergic Ben-Hur, for almost its full initial two minutes, acting more as an intro to the album(s). From there, a drift of wah with a still-vaguely Middle Eastern vibe takes hold, echoing trumpet in the distance playing out alongside quiet drums from Paco and melodic guitar lines. Sam and Pablo (the latter also trumpet) handle six-string duties with due attention to effects sprawl.

Perhaps some of that Moorish architecture in the arrangement comes from a Viaje a 800 influence from further south in Algeciras on the coast, but, one way or the other, Domo use the final build to introduce bassist Óscar‘s first vocals of the record and with just a beat of a pause between, go from the end of “Oxímoron” to the full-on fuzz roll verse riff of “Astródomo,” thick and righteous, with vocals echoing up to further a sense of space, subtle layering of shouts and acoustic guitar flourish (or what sounds like it, anyhow) for further breadth. “Astródomo” is the longest cut on Domonautas Vol. 1 — not by a lot, but still — and it uses its time to affect multiple changes in movement, beginning a more winding transitional course at about three and a half minutes in as a bed for an emergent lead over a more forward rhythm before crashing into another verse, this one with a stomping march behind, and an extended ring-out and feedback course around the seven-minute mark, underscored and held together by the bassline.

domo (Photo by Rafa Perdomo)

It is a moment of hypnosis led by Óscar that the band will soon enough pay off with a return of vocals, guitar and drums, but that bassline — which seems to draw a bit from Clutch‘s “Spacegrass” in its construction; not a complaint — is a quiet moment that does much to showcase the range that seems to be at play across Domonautas Vol. 1, as the band are perfectly capable of moving between loud and quiet stretches, either creating a wash of effects and riffs or leaving open space for the unsuspecting audience to lose itself within. This serves them well during the instrumental passages of “Astródomo” and “Ritual del Sol,” the latter of which is arguably the most patient of the inclusions on the record.

It unfolds gradually across a multi-stage linear build, led by the guitar with effects/horn backing for atmosphere, and kicks in its fuzz at 3:45, still maintaining a post-rock kind of spirit, which will tie into “Planisferio” as well soon enough. A surge of low end accompanies the entry of vocals, and a new stage of nod is entered, but it’s short-lived as the bass and drums drop out to leave the guitar to set up a more forward riff that becomes the central adrenaline charge of the progression. They shift smoothly into a solo that carries them to and through the halfway point, turn back to a quick couple lines, then blast out even more desert-cosmic, eventually bringing the proceedings downward in energy level to a stretch of effects and subdued guitar float, tension holding in the bass as a tell that they’re not actually done yet.

Sure enough, after 10 minutes, they’re off and running again on the jam, and that leads them out in full party fashion. It would seem to be the apex of Domonautas Vol. 1 were it not for the instrumentalist work “Planisferio” does in setting up its grand finale, working from the ground up on a larger riff, receding again and gracefully executing a heavy psychedelic interpretation of what post-metal has taken on as a signature element: the “Stones from the Sky” moment, wherein that ultra-landmark Neurosis riff provides the foundation of a crescendo, usually manipulated in some way.

Domo join it to a melodic flourish of guitar and keep the central rhythm in focus all the while, pushing forward through that key progression and — most importantly — making it their own as the wind and twist toward the finish of the record, which comes in last crashes and residual guitars. I don’t know when Domonautas Vol. 2 might surface, and if there’s more to the story than Domo are telling here, I’ll be curious to find out just what that is, but it bears repeating that Domonautas Vol. 1 comes through as a coherent, complete statement, and doesn’t seem at its conclusion to be missing anything. That is, it doesn’t sound like you’re listening to half of a record, which is only a positive. Whatever Domo‘s future plans might be, after some years’ delay, they’ve given listeners plenty to explore with these tracks and the scope that seems to come so naturally from them.

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Stahv Premiere “Voyage of the Dawndraper”; The Sundowner EP out Feb. 21

Posted in audiObelisk on December 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

stahv

Today, Seattle one-man outfit Stahv announce the Feb. 21 release of a new EP, The Sundowner, streaming where stuff streams and on limited edition tape through Solid 7 Records. Out as the follow-up to the project’s early-2018 self-titled debut (review here), it’s a quick instrumentalist run through a variety of anti-genre influences, maintaining a heft of atmosphere while exploring further reaches of echoing guitar in darkened progressive form. One might not know that from the noise-rock-origins-giveaway opener “Voyage of the Dawndraper,” which takes its skronk and you-go-here-while-you-go-here rhythm-making with jazzy seriousness and virtuosity, but from there, the prior single “All Seeing I” takes seven of the total 22 minutes of the offering and introduces a more willfully fluid course of post-heavy, upon which “Evhgot” builds with an added sense of churn and the finale title-track resolves in interweaving layers of guitar and drone, drums or drum sounds sitting out the final four and a half minutes to leave room for strumming breadth and undulating waves of keys or synth or effects or other noise.

It’s a course designed to be linear, I think. At lest that’s how it seems on listening. The leadoff is the outlier, which is a particularly progressive and — dare I say it? — fun move on the part of Stahv and Solomon Arye Rosenschein, who is the lone figure at the stahv the sundownerhelm of the band. It’s a purposeful act of disorientation. Meant to throw the listener off. Maybe that would happen wherever “Voyage of the Dawndraper” went, but it’s pretty clear that “All Seeing I,” “Evhgot” and “The Sundowner” all run together as a unified work, and before you get there, you have this bumpy two-and-a-half-minute ride through brash noise-jazz and, yeah, I’m sorry, but that’s just a blast. From the surf guitars to the freakout organ and the snare shuffle and the theremin-esque fuzz lead, it’s a rush and a head-spinner that by the time you’re two minutes into “All Seeing I” seems to have been a dream only to be led away by the melancholy YawningMan-of-the-Pacific-Northwest spirit of what follows, but that contrast, the sheer brazen nature of the incongruity, makes the whole release as far as I’m concerned.

That’s not to take away from the scope of what follows, however. Honestly, if Stahv put out The Sundowner without “Voyage of the Dawndraper,” I’d probably praise it anyway for its fluidity and the open-feeling nature of its course, the patience of its execution and the sense of atmosphere it builds. The fact that all of that happens after a two-minute blastoff, however, only adds an element of joy and celebration to the proceedings, even if those proceedings aren’t especially celebratory themselves. It is a surge of artistic honesty and playfulness that’s rare in underground music or otherwise, and as I find doing-whatever-he/she/they-want to be one of the most respectable drives a creative person or project can follow, it’s hard not to admire the entirety of The Sundowner all the more for the fact that it lets itself have a bit of a good time before getting down to business.

Again, the EP’s not out for another three months, so maybe sit tight for a bit until they get there, but between the premiere of “Voyage of the Dawndraper” below and the prior stream of “All Seeing I” (also at the bottom of the post), maybe you can get some idea of what’s going on with the thing. Listen to them back-to-back and you’ll get some sense of what I’m talking about.

However you go, enjoy:

STAHV – The Sundowner

On February 21st, STAHV will release The Sundowner EP, a 22-minute head trip dusted with traces of Meddle-era Floyd, Oxbow-style polyrhythms, bleak post-metal atmospherics, and auditory hallucinations a la Can. The Sundowner is the followup to STAHV’s self-titled 2017 debut.

A post-metal solo project by multi-instrumentalist Ari Rosenschein, STAHV expands its palette on The Sundowner to incorporate slide guitar, synth textures, even a smattering of vocals–new for the primarily instrumental act. The EP will appear on all streaming platforms with a limited-edition cassette version arriving via Solid 7 Records (Sons of Alpha Centauri, Yawning Man, Gary Lee Conner of the Screaming Trees).

The Sundowner’s opening salvo, “The Voyage of the Dawndraper,” pushes off the dock with odd-metered riffs and unhinged vocals. Included on The Sundowner, last year’s single “All-Seeing I” is a jumping-off point for the rest of the EP which takes STAHV into darker dimensions. At seven and a half minutes, the penultimate “Evhgot” incorporates both contemplative passages and frenetic soloing.

Live, STAHV has supported Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Sixes, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Mondo Generator, Yawning Man, Indian, Usnea, and Conan. The band has also appeared on curated festivals like Northwest Terror Fest, Rat City Recon, and Freakout Fest.

Music: Solomon Arye Rosenschein
Image: Detail of Sundowner Moth by Bernard Dupont
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 25

Posted in Radio on December 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

As this is the final episode of The Obelisk Show… of the year — ha! gotcha — as well as being the 25th episode, it seemed only fair to make it a special one. As such, it’s a recap of Some of a Little Bit of the Best of 2019. Barely a snippet, really, but a digestible snippet as compared to, say, the full Top However Many list that’ll go up around here in the coming weeks.

This was a fun one to put together, and, frankly, easy. Yeah, I keep a running tally of what I think are any given year’s best records as the year plays out, but I pulled most of these just off the top of my head. Some are more recent, post-June, and some are from earlier in the year, but it’s all high-quality stuff, and though it by no means represents everything awesome that’s come my way — let alone all the stuff I’ve missed; Boris walks by and waves (on their way to the next Quarterly Review, anyhow) — it’s a fun look at some of a little bit of it. Hence the silly title.

I’ll be truthful and say I kind of miss doing this every other week, but it’s been once a month now for a couple months and I guess that’s fine. Gimme Radio has a couple other heavy rock-minded shows — John Brookhouse from Worshipper, Matt Bacon come to mind — but I’m still a little out there from that stuff, and I kind of like it that way. It’d be dishonest otherwise.

In any case, show’s on at 1PM today, and if you get to listen, I certainly appreciate it. Airs at http://gimmeradio.com

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 12.06.19

Nebula Let’s Get Lost Holy Shit
Monolord The Last Leaf No Comfort
Slomatics Telemachus, My Son Canyons
BREAK
Mars Red Sky Hollow King The Task Eternal
Blackwater Holylight Seeping Secrets Veils of Winter
Earth An Unnatural Carousel Full Upon Her Burning Lips
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard The Spaceships of Ezekiel Yn Ol I Annwn
Roadsaw Along for the Ride Tinnitus the Night
Lo-Pan Ascension Day Subtle
BREAK
Saint Vitus Remains Saint Vitus
Orodruin Letter of Life’s Regret Ruins of Eternity
Destroyer of Light Dissolution Mors Aeterna
Lord Vicar The Temple in the Bedrock The Black Powder
Goatess Goddess Blood and Wine
Yatra Smoke is Rising Death Ritual
BREAK
Inter Arma The Atavist’s Meridian Sulphur English

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every first Friday of the month at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Jan. 3, I think. Thanks for listening if you do.

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Wooden Earth Premiere New Single “Fangs”

Posted in audiObelisk on December 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

wooden earth

Dallas, Texas, heavy rockers Wooden Earth are gearing up to release their new digital single ‘Fangs’ next Friday, but if you’re feeling fancy — and I know you are — you can stream the track on the Bandcamp player below. Recorded as the duo of guitarist Devin Moreno and drummer/vocalist Griffin Thomas, it is the follow-up to the band’s 2018 debut EP, Waves of Smoke, and finds them working along similar principles of putting their priorities in line as being groove, heft and a tight-knit execution of songwriting. The EP dug into some bluesy vibes, and though “Fangs” keeps the boogie and the periodic use of vocal layering/harmonies, it’s also somewhat more progressive feeling. Or at very least creatively willful.

Thomas and Moreno have been together as Wooden Earth for two years, and in that time they’ve had three bass players come and go as they’ve tried to assemble a touring lineup. Some you win, some you lose, but if “Fangs” is their way of testing out life as a duo, a lack of low end doesn’t seem Wooden Earth Fangsto be holding them up at all. Rather, in three and a half minutes, “Fangs” turns from upping the tempo on some Sleep-style riffing to play up a shuffle to paying that off with an Elder-esque turn of melody and drive in the second half of the song. All the while, it’s quick, and it moves. There’s an organ featured in there, unless it’s cleverly layered guitar effects — always possible — and though structurally it’s not such an outlandish turn from Waves of Smoke before it, in that melody and in Thomas‘ pulled-back-on-the-burl vocal approach, one can hear the sound of the band beginning to take shape. It’s nothing but encouraging.

They’ve been hither and yon around Texas for the last couple years, but especially if they decide post-“Fangs” to make it work live as a duo, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they started getting out beyond Lone Star borders and doing more tours. I don’t know what their plans are ultimately, but a debut album is an inevitability of the path they’re on, and “Fangs” only portrays them as more ready for that task than they were even a year ago.

If you’re in the Dallas area (and aren’t we all, really?), they’ll be at The Blue Light on Jan. 10 with kingpins Mothership as well as Bull by the Horn and Holy Death Trio. Got that event page right here: https://www.facebook.com/events/435447817399515/.

They offer some short comment below and there’s more from the PR wire, but of course the reason we’re all here is the song itself, so that’s right under these lines for your consumption. You’re almost there. Just keep going.

Good.

Enjoy:

Wooden Earth on “Fangs”:

We’re happy to be releasing our new song FANGS! The song is about conquering your reality with a blood thirst to survive. Pushing forward and building something great. Being optimistic when the world is at its darkest.

Dallas Texas WOODEN EARTH will release their new single “Fangs” on December 13th 2019.

Since their formation in 2017 the group has not only started to craft concept records starting with 2018’s Waves Of Smoke EP, but also written a yet-to-be-released comic book depicting the story behind the band. To become road dogs they have had to stay resilient, the core duo of drummer/vocalist Griffin Thomas and guitarist Devin Moreno have been through three bassists and are currently touring as a two-piece. Currently the band is preparing for a several week tour in early 2020 as well as the release of their debut album. This new record will see them building on the controlled chaos that is their sound and will build on of over a decade of playing together.

Wooden Earth is:
Griffin Thomas – Drums/Vocals
Devin Moreno – Guitar

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Lord Buffalo Sign to Blues Funeral Recordings for Tohu Wa Bohu Release; Premiere Title-Track

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on December 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

LORD BUFFALO

Austin, Texas, heavy Americana psych/post-rockers (vague enough for you?) Lord Buffalo will release their sophomore album, Tohu Wa Bohu, through Blues Funeral Recordings sometime in the early going of 2020. Though the four-piece will likely draw immediate comparisons to Rochester, NY, trio King Buffalo, if only for the similarity of their monikers, the 40-minute eight-tracker shows a diversity of influence from All Them Witches brooding, bluesy moon-howling atmospherics in its early going on “Raziel” or “Halle Berry” to some of Young Hunter‘s sneaky guitar bounce and nuance in the title-track and flourish of piano and strings prefaced in “Dog Head” that finds realization across the final trio of “Kenosis,” the relatively brief “Heart of the Snake” and closer “Llano Estacado No. 2,” executed with a build and airy fluidity of presence that reminds of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds tripping on Wovenhand‘s often-severe point of view.

It is a heft of ambience as much as tone, but there’s no shortage of rhythmic impact as well, as even the lumber of “Dog Head” shows, vocals and violin sweeping up Lord Buffalo Tohu Wa Bohuin a melodic wash punctuated by a thick-sounding snare that brings its crescendo down and locks in the more immediate thump-on-a-can of “Tohu Wa Bohu” itself, the title-track manifesting the highway-at-night vibe that the single’s accompanying cover also portrays. Lord Buffalo are no less comfortable in stark reaches than they are in their moments of fuller arrangement, and “Tohu Wa Bohu” transitions from one to the other with a hypnotic flow that would seem to lead off the immersion of side B of the vinyl, which of course only runs deeper as the subsequent tracks play out, culminating in “Llano Estacado No. 2,” with its repetitive string line and post-apex plays toward abrasion on a long fade capping. The standout line of the record and certainly of the song itself belongs to the title-track’s “Come show me how to feel,” which is delivered with due implore, but at no point is Tohu Wa Bohu cloying. Its songs are patient and often beautifully constructed, and whatever elements exist that might invite comparisons to the work of others, they’re used in such a way as to hone a persona belonging to the album itself.

Those who want to take the drive will find “Tohu Wa Bohu” premiering below, followed by comment from Lord Buffalo, as well as Blues Funeral, and the signing and release announcement. It’s a lot to pack into one post, but I have faith you’re up for it.

Please enjoy:

Vocalist/guitarist Daniel Pruitt on “Tohu Wa Bohu”:

As a band, we get booked on all kinds of bills. We’re often the loud band on a quiet bill or the quietest band on a heavy bill, and we can do both. We like a lot of different music, but it’s all pretty dark, and that has been our guiding light.

“Tohu Wa Bohu” is the title-track from our new record, and it’s a good example of what we’re going for, starting tight and sparse and building into something large and wide open. We wanted to try to use the rhythmic elements as the drone. It’s this pulsing, repetitive wave of bass and drums that makes a bed for the guitar and violin and builds into a huge vocal chant.

Jadd Shickler of Blues Funeral Recordings on the signing:

Lord Buffalo is a departure from our more familiar stoner/doom output, but we have broad tastes and know our listeners do, too. We’ve been fans of bands like 16 Horsepower, Son Volt and Godspeed You! Black Emperor for decades, and Lord Buffalo’s atmospheric ghost-town Americana captivates us in much the same way that those bands do. We saw them at the inaugural Monolith on the Mesa festival, where they absolutely decimated on a bill alongside tons of traditionally heavy bands. We’ve got no doubt that they’ll land for fans of bands like Dead Meadow, WovenHand, and Calexico, and can’t wait to release their new record.

Album Release Info:

America’s vast ocean of rolling prairie, brutal in its rhythmic repetition and sameness, can be unsettling to take in. The plains force a communion with the open sky, the endless landscape turning one’s eye inward.

Lord Buffalo’s second LP, Tohu Wa Bohu, is just that: the outward gaze forced inward, where the unknowable lingers on the blurred horizon between land, sky and mind.

In the Torah, “tohu wa bohu” refers to the formless void; the shape of things before the act of creation.

In thinking about writing the album, Lord Buffalo wanted to embrace unformed space and resist the instinct to control the process.

With only some basic arrangements in place, they entered Good Danny’s studio in Lockhart, Texas. As the tape rolled, they aimed to catch moments of new creation, the spirit hovering over the surface of the deep.

The end result is an elusive animal, equally at home under yellow street lights and purple desert skies. Tohu Wa Bohu is a heavy/quiet record that plays across genres, taking cues equally from Morricone and Badalementi as Sabbath and Swans. In sum, its thirty-nine minutes play more as a continuous movement than a collection of songs, a ride through open plains and melancholic midwestern imagery under a storm-threatening sky.

Tohu Wa Bohu will be available worldwide on LP, CD, and digital via Blues Funeral Recordings in early 2020.

Lord Buffalo are:
G.J. Hellman
P.J. Patterson
Yamal Said
D.J. Pruitt

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The Goners Premiere “World of Decay” from Debut LP Good Mourning

Posted in audiObelisk on December 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the goners

What do we know about The Goners? Well, what do we really know about anything? In an age of malleable truths, alternative facts and flat earths, suddenly not being 100 percent on the origins of a band seems only too appropriate, but in some measure — I believe at least in the case of Nate GoneThe Goners are born out of Swedish alt rockers Yvonne and the apparent demise of the riffly Salem’s Pot, and in relation to the semi-costumed witchy ’70s horror/sexploitation doom of that outfit, they present a marked turn of aesthetic. Not just in the lack of fancy dress — though while we’re generalizing, aren’t we all just wearing costumes all the time? are we all not impostors of ourselves? — but in terms of sound as well, The Goners cast off Salem’s Pot‘s lumbering riffage in favor of a rawer approach on their debut release, Good Mourning, out in March on RidingEasy Records.

Think ’60s more than ’70s, garage and surf more than doom, and reverb more than fuzz and you’re probably on your way to wherever it is The Goners are headed — the answer, seemingly, is to “gone.” Good Mourning comprisesthe goners good mourning 10 tracks, the last of which is the Dead Moon cover “Dead in the Saddle,” and though there’s a bit of residual Electric Wizardry in “Evil (Is Not Enough),” but “Good Ol’ Death” offers immediate counterargument, reminding of some of Kadavar‘s more recent wistful Western meanderings, and the bulk of Good Mourning in general is on a more stripped trip, with opener “Are You Gone Yet?” asking the essential question like some lost Death Alley demo reminding of a day when every single from an album was released as a 45RPM and played with a never-changed needle that seemed to be digging its own grooves because it was.

Cuts like the slower second inclusion “High, Low and in Between” and the subsequent Thin Lizzy swaggerer “World of Decay,” seem to find even footing in establishing some diversity of approach, but later on, The Goners seem to take extra delight in the brash two-minute squibbly-laced distortion blast that is “The Sickening,” and the subsequent “Down and Out” echoes out some maybe-horns at the start of its second half, just to throw a wrench into the gears of expectation. So it goes, goes, gone. “You Better Run” is noteworthy for its proto-riffly nod backing synth weirdness — too earthy to be space, but delightfully weird — and the last of the originals, “The Little Blue,” feels like a side B’er with a bit of flash in the guitar betraying Good Mourning‘s modern origins without necessarily contradicting the proceedings as a whole. And a reverby, handclap-inclusive Dead Moon cover on top of all that? Yeah, go ahead and count me in on the fun.

Good Mourning by The Goners is out in March through RidingEasy. It’s a standout on the record in terms of style, but “World of Decay” is a damn good time, and you can stream the premiere on the player below.

Have at it and enjoy:

Rock bottom. A place you have to throw yourself over the edge and burn all your bridges to reach. A place where the devil is laughing as a constant reminder of everything that went to shit. A place where you owe.

As the echoes of the past get louder and the forget-me-now’s no longer work, you have to pick up the remaining pieces and try to make them fit. You can only wake up in an unknown bed with aching intestines and a throbbing noise inside your skull, still craving more, so many times until you realize that your life didn’t quite turn out to be what you expected it to be. The killing floor is crowded and when the smoke starts to clear you start to notice just how bad you’ve been letting yourself go. It’s Monday. You are on your own now.

And even as you start to do the right, start paying your dues and bills, doing the 9 to 5 and saying your sorries, you’re still standing there like a sack of dead meat in a stinkin’ world of decay where nobody cares. Gone but still aware. Ain’t that something! Ain’t that grand!

There’s no remedy, no working cure but at least you got loud guitars, thumping bass and bashing cymbals to ease the pain. And as you stumble into your thirties, scorched earth policy-style, you can at least smile at the fact that you finished first. At last you succeeded in something. Now you can just lay back, back where the sun doesn’t shine and ask everybody else ”aren’t YOU gone yet?”.

Don’t worry, you soon will see that Gone is just a four-letter word. We’re all heading south and again, no one really gives a fuck.

It’s Sunday. Join us.

Tracklisting:
01. Are You Gone Yet?
02. High, Low and Never In Between
03. World of Decay
04. Evil (Is Not Enough)
05. Good Ol’ Death
06. The Sickening
07.. Down & Out
08. You Better Run
09. The Little Blue
10. Dead In The Saddle (Dead Moon)

The Goners are:
Mick Dagger
Nate Gone
Vic Odin
Timo Tinto
Grave Dave

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Review & Track Premiere: Colour Haze, We Are

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

colour haze we are

[Click play above to stream the title-track of Colour Haze’s new album, We Are. Digital release is this week through Elektrohasch, followed by CDs next week and LPs in January.]

It is no small thing for a band to change its construction after about 20 years of working with the same lineup, but as they cap their 25th anniversary celebration in 2019 with the release of the new album, We Are (formerly titled Life), that is precisely what Munich’s Colour Haze have done. The godfathers of European heavy psychedelia have operated since 1998 as the core trio of guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald, but with 2017’s In Her Garden (review here), they began to experiment more with adding flourish of organ and various synth from Jan Faszbender, and since then, Faszbender has become a part of a new four-piece incarnation of Colour Haze.

On the seven-track/45-minute We Are, which is released as ever through Koglek‘s Elektrohasch Schallplatten imprint and opens its first side at a rush with its quick-boogie title-track, they continue to experiment and drive themselves forward in that integration, with Faszbender moving between playing off the energy of Merwald‘s drumming, running along with Koglek‘s guitar in the graceful instrumental sweep in the second half of “Life,” and generally filling out the melodic and rhythmic foundations of the material while offering a few standout moments of his own, such as the organ laying the bed for the soaring vocals — and I mean “soaring”; there are some pointedly operatic guest vocals going on there too — of the album apex “Be with Me.” The change, in other words, suits Colour Haze. Their studio arrangements have been branching out since well before 2012’s She Said (review here) brought in strings and horns and 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) answered back and built on those impulses, but from where the branching out is happening has changed, and their sound is that much richer for having Faszbender in the lineup on a hopefully ongoing basis.

Of course, signature elements remain. Rasthofer‘s bass is still of singular tonal warmth and execution, and Merwald‘s drumming makes progressive and jazzy changes no less fluid than the bassist’s runs from one fret to the next. Koglek is still an explorer, and while longtime followers of Colour Haze will recognize snippets like a push-off from the central riff of “Aquamaria” from 2006’s Tempel (discussed here) in “I’m with You” on side B, there’s also the four-and-a-half-minute centerpiece “Material Drive” to contend with, led as it is by acoustic guitar with Koglek in the RichieHavens-at-Woodstock role as the rest of the band gradually joins in behind, Faszbender in particular making the song that much more of a high point of We Are with a two-handed approach of organ and synth running concurrently while the bass fills out the mix. And I don’t know if that’s flute — which has been used on Colour Haze records before — or flute Mellotron, but anytime they want to do a record of semi-acoustic acid folk protest songs, I’m ready for it.

colour haze (Photo by JJ Koczan)

That’s not to take away from the running jam of closer “Freude III” or the earlier one-into-the-next-like-the-phrase-it-spells-out “We Are,” “The Real” and “Life” on side A or even the two-part side B complement in “I’m With You” / “Be With Me,” I’m just saying the arrangement of “Material Drive” works well. Really the same applies across the board on We Are, and the band are careful to acknowledge the role of the mix in their presentation of the material, balancing guitar and keys well even just as “The Real” takes off after the initial hooky shuffle of “We Are” itself starts the record at a rush, setting the tone in a way for what’s to come on an almost subconscious level for the listener. In some ways it’s less pointedly prog than was the prevailing spirit of In Her Garden, which ran 72 minutes and was a 2LP of marked immersiveness, but as the band’s 13th long-player, We Are confirms that even in their relatively new four-piece incarnation, Colour Haze‘s focus remains on an organic feel and delivering the most natural sound possible.

Some spoken lines from Koglek and his voice following note for note with his subsequent guitar lead are the only vocals on “The Real,” but as both that and the peaceful-build-int0-fervent-thrust of “Life” top eight and a half minutes, it’s early on that the band captures the listener’s attention and sets to unfolding the course of We Are as a whole, which of course side B expands beginning with “Material Drive” and moving through the layered vocals of “I’m With You” and more flute sounds on “Be With Me,” a whirlwind of guitar turns opening wide to the payoff of the album in the spirit of songs like She Said‘s “Transformation” circa four minutes in, just before the vocals begin their aforementioned flight. That would seem to leave “Freude III” (‘freude’ being ‘joy’ in English) as an afterthought, but it turns out instead to seem to be answering some of the progressions of In Her Garden while still holding to We Are‘s particular balance, an enticing cascade of nuance and natural impulses that plays out across the seven-minute instrumental finale in two distinct movements, the last of which ends — suitably enough — on a long fadeout of synth as if to underscore how far Colour Haze‘s journey has taken them not only since the riffier beginning of the record on “We Are,” but in general across their span of years and span of albums.

They are inherently in conversation with their past on We Are — the name of the record can certainly be taken as a declaration of self, despite how the songs portray it — as even those emergent titular phrases was an element put to use on 2008’s All (discussed here), and perhaps reflecting on a quarter-century of the band’s existence is a part of that either consciously or not, but they show as clearly as ever in this material that looking back by no means has to stop you from moving forward. I will gladly admit to being a fan of the band, so if you need to take this review with that in consideration, that’s fine. From where I sit, every time Colour Haze puts out a record — and again, this is their lucky 13th — it is nothing less than a gift, and We Are sneaks in under the wire as one of the best gifts 2019 has had to offer. For old fans, it offers something new in the shift of lineup and fleshing out of arrangements, and for newcomers, its refreshed sound should prove all the more welcoming. Quite simply, Colour Haze make the world a better place.

Colour Haze website

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Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

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Review & Full Album Stream: BBF, Outside the Noise

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

bbf-outside-the-noise

[Click play above to stream BBF’s Outside the Noise in full. Album is out Dec. 6 on Argonauta Records.]

First thing’s first: Italian outfit BBF‘s moniker, yes, is derived from the family names of the three players involved in the band. That’s guitarist/vocalist Claudio Banelli, bassist/synthesist/vocalist Pietro Brunetti and drummer/percussionist Carlo ForgiariniB, B and F going by the initials. Easy enough, and suited to some of the more ’70s aspects of their sound on their second album and Argonauta Records debut, Outside the Noise, as some of the lead guitar shimmers on post-intro leadoff track “Third Eye” shimmers with a ’70s pastoralism à la Marshall Tucker Band checking your eyesight and solos are reserved for a reverb-laced seer that seems more drawn from the school of Eddie Hazel. “Time” bops like Ginger Baker-era Masters of Reality, “Kaleidoscope” drawls out cosmic and ethereal with a surprising patience, and the mid-album pairing of “Outside the Noise” and “Into the Light” consumes about 16 minutes of the 41-minute runtime but puts it to excellent use, running through multiple movements and moods in the title-track only to find its way in the second piece and celebrate with a highlight guitar and percussion interplay enhanced by some Rolling Stones-style blues harp.

Instrumentally, BBF show a ready adventurousness and their songs have a fluidity to them that makes the moments of drift all the more effective, but when they want to rock there’s plenty of room for that as well, as they show early in the record on “Third Eye” and “Time,” though ultimately their sonic reach proves more varied in its intention. That is to its credit and to the band’s, as they seem to have no trouble holding the proceedings together and letting their songs work in defiance of what one might generalize as some of the tropes of Italian heavy rock, eschewing influences like Fu Manchu and Nebula in favor of broader styles of songcraft, while still holding to an energy of performance that keeps the eight-track offering moving forward in interesting ways as it weaves between one expression and the next.

If, as the intro “Apollo” suggests in reading the transcription left behind by the first astronauts to touch down on the moon, BBF “came in peace for all mankind,” that’s not exactly a minor ambition. I can’t speak to the universality of its appeal — that is, what portion of “all mankind” is going to be able to get down — but their having come in peace is easy enough to grant. “Apollo” is just two minutes long before it gives over to “Third Eye,” but it plays an essential role in Outside the Noise just the same in that it adjusts the listener’s expectation at the outset for immediacy. As in, there isn’t one. And it’s smartly done, because as Outside the Noise is the band’s first offering for Argonauta, it’s an exposure to a new audience perhaps taking them on for the first time — I know I am, at least — so essentially “Apollo” works with deceptive efficiency in those two minutes to teach that new audience how to experience what’s coming on the seven cuts that follow. They’re not the first to do such a thing, and it may or may not have been a conscious decision on their part, but it’s smoothly done just the same.

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And that smoothness also becomes a running theme throughout. “Third Eye” has perhaps the most prevalent hook on the record — figuratively as well as literally; the vocals are too high and dry in the chorus, which is something “Kaleidoscope” corrects later but that comes back again on the penultimate “Sun” — but even as BBF leave behind the straightforward path in favor of more open and exploratory vibes, they do so with an inviting spirit. The three movements across the 9:33 of “Outside the Noise” itself are clearly-enough marked in the track with drops to silence at 2:53 and 7:43 to draw the lines between sonic turns. The first part seems to bring in guest vocals for some soulful wailing over guitar that’s ably enough done but probably would seem all the more so with some lyrics being delivered, while the midsection taps Blind Melon wistful grunge, and the ending serves as a meditative intro to the spacier textures soon to take hold in “Into the Light” and which will continue to unfold on “Kaleidoscope,” “Sun” and the droney closer “Harvest Moon.”

The solo tone that was prefaced in “Third Eye” finds its realization in “Into the Light” and, yeah, if these guys wanted to whip out a “Maggot Brain” cover at any point, I’d be down to check it out. The guitar work is classy, not at all overwrought, and however they got it, that tone is something special and worth preserving. It stands out somewhat in contrast to the drift and post-rock of what surrounds, particularly with “Kaleidoscope” following, but that works to its benefit. It’s made to stand out, where “Kaleidoscope” is made to be hypnotic and sure enough is precisely that, running through a subtly quick 4:21 and giving way to “Sun” which enacts the final build of the record with a marked character and charged emotional progression palpable in the instruments as much as the vocals.

Its turns aren’t unexpected, but their immediate familiarity acts in their favor as it’s that much easier to follow them upward to the crescendo of Outside the Noise, leaving “Harvest Moon” as what might be a five-minute afterthought were it night such an experimentalist delight. Chimes, acoustic guitar, electric drone, quiet cymbal washes and rain sticks and in the end a consuming churn and wash of synth to cut to silence to show a band willing and ready to step outside of even the fairly wide comfort zone they’ve established over the course of the record to that point. That’s an impulse and a drive that serves them well in bidding goodbye to their second offering and holds promise for continued growth, but based on what they do here, one wouldn’t want to make any predictions on their direction for a third release, except perhaps to say that the progression underway in these tracks does not seem to be at an end point and that BBF do not seem like the kind of band to find their sound and hold still in it. There’s a restlessness here, as much as it’s coming in peace, but BBF channel that into an engaging and fascinating variety of craft on Outside the Noise, and though the record isn’t perfect, somehow it feels like if it was it would lose some of its natural spirit.

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Argonauta Records website

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