Friday Full-Length: Brainticket, Cottonwoodhill

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Brainticket, Cottonwoodhill (1971)

The lingering anecdote about Brainticket‘s 1971 debut LP, Cottonwood Hill, is that when it came out the record’s inner sleeve carried the warning that after you listened to it your friends wouldn’t know you anymore and that if you listened more than once per day, it might destroy your brain. Fair enough, I guess. The five-track offering from the German outfit is more than fairly acidic, and it wouldn’t have been the first album saddled with lysergic properties. I don’t know that twice a day would do it, but I’d think if you went a week listening to the three-part title-track that only counts two of its parts as parts (is your mind destroyed yet?) four times every day, you’d emerge from that experience a different person than you went in.

Brainticket, led by founding keyboardist/floutist/vocalist Joel Vandroogenbroeck didn’t quite invent psychedelia or space rock, and they didn’t quite invent prog, but they certainly helped shape the blend of them that krautrock became, and Cottonwoodhill‘s brazen experimentalism over its five songs showcases a lot of the signature elements of the genre. Weird, found sounds populate “Brainticket Part I” while organ plays out behind, bells ring, crowds cheer, and vocalist Dawn Muir interjects creepy whispers over Ron Bryer‘s looped guitar: “I did it. Yes, I did.” The proceedings only get stranger the farther out Brainticket go, and after the already trippy start to the album with opener “Black Sand” and the subsequent “Places of Light,” they wind up traveling a good distance into whatever sonic cosmos it was they were charting. The second part of the three-parter is “Brainticket Part I (Conclusion),” and I think if you were to ask why, you’d probably be missing the point. Not that there isn’t a plan at work, but the forms it’s drawing from aren’t intended to be generally conventional, or accessible. They’re intended to be classical music from the future, and they may yet be.

When “Brainticket Part II,” the 13-minute closer, picks up from the preceding conclusion, it not only revives the same progression but brings Muir on for a spoken word freakout that proceeds to shouting before giving way to weird buzzing that turns out to be repetition of the song and band’s name, then goes too, and other pieces come and go, Muir returns, shouts out the album’s final moments in a flurry of noises, some mechanical or urban — modern chaos — and others deeper back and obscure. It’s a tripped out happening, but underlying it all is the sense that Brainticket — the aforementioned, plus bassist Werner Frohlich, keyboardist/noisemaker/producer Hellmuth Kolbe, drummer Cosimo Lampis and percussionist Wolfgang Paap — like earliest King Crimson taken to its logical, raw-creativity conclusion, are in their minds even as they sound like they left them far behind.

In 1972, the band would release the somewhat more conventional Psychonaut, and follow it with 1974’s Celestial Ocean. They had two albums out in the 1980s, and like most bands, had undergone significant lineup changes along the way. With Vandroogenbroeck as the remaining original member, Brainticket offered up Alchemic Universe in the year 2000 — a good time to be prog, existentially speaking — and last year, they issued Past, Present and Future, which followed a 2011 box set on Vandroogenbroeck‘s own Coloursound Recordings imprint which had 18 CDs and was dubbed The Coloursound Box.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Fuck this week. And not like, in-a-loving-relationship-expressing-physical-intimacy fuck it, or even just-having-a-good-time-consenting-adults fuck it. Fuck it in the worst way possible. Shamefuck it.

That’s about all I want to say on the matter. Moving on.

The response to adding Mars Red Sky to the All-Dayer was encouraging. If you haven’t bought your ticket yet, it’s Aug. 20 at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. Ticket presales are here. Thank you for your support.

Next week: Reviews and streams for Deathkings, Elephant Tree — whose debut album is a big part of what’s carried me through this terrible fucking week — and one on Tuesday that I don’t think I’m allowed to say yet but I’m also stoked for. If I can manage to do so, I’d like to squeeze in a Hexvessel review as well, but I’d also like to fucking play in traffic, so we’ll see which comes first.

Also next week: Fucking somehow, a list of over 100 albums to watch for in 2016. I don’t even know how many are on the list. Might be over 110 at this point. I’ll count ’em up and get it posted. I don’t know how. Or when. But whatever. It’ll happen. Then I’ll be done with lists for a while.

If you didn’t see on Instagram, the last of the merch orders go out tomorrow. Apparently international shipping costs have gone up considerably since the last time I sent packages out of the country. I won’t wind up with nearly enough net to buy that camera, or a plane ticket to Australia. I told The Patient Mrs. to pay student loans with it, because she’s been stressing about that, and everything is fucking pointless anyway so we might as well throw it away on bullshit like interest we’ll never manage to pay off if we live to be 150. Anyway, I very much appreciate your placing an order if you did. You made life easier for my wife, and that’s not something I’ll soon forget.

These are hard days. Other days will be better. Music still sounds good.

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Elliott’s Keep Interview with Jonathan Bates: “Music is an Essential Part of Our Lives. It is Not a Passive Thing.”

Posted in Features on November 11th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

After reporting on their album progress, debuting a track, reviewing the record and including them in the latest podcast, short of going to their house (dudes in bands all live in the same house, right?) and standing outside of their window holding up a boombox playing Bathory, an interview is the only means I have left of showing Dallas metal doomers Elliott’s Keep the love. So we’ll go with that.

The trio’s second full-length, Sine Qua Non, continues the mission of paying tribute to fallen band comrade Glenn Riley Elliott, and what Elliott’s Keep do through this collection of songs is basically establish themselves as a band with a distinct sound within the world of doom. By upping the level of black and death metal influence from 2008’s In Medias Res debut, they carve a niche for themselves in a crowded Texas scene by brazenly taking on forms of extremity most bands wouldn’t dare touch. Oh yeah, and it’s heavy too.

More than it being simply heavy, though, what I enjoy most about Elliott’s Keep is the spirit behind the music and the obvious passion in playing it. Sure, they’re skilled songwriters, but the band strikes me more as friends who enjoy playing together than career-driven musicians looking to get as big as possible in the music industry. And isn’t that what doom is all about? Getting together with your buddies, playing killer heavy tunes and having a good time? How could it be anything else?

Guitarist Jonathan, bassist/vocalist Kenneth and drummer Joel have refined and intensified their approach, showing growth in both musicianship and consciousness, but honestly, given all the links above, I’ve probably said enough about Sine Qua Non. It’s time to give someone else a turn. Jonathan takes the conch in the interview to follow, providing answers as sincere as Elliott’s Keep‘s music to questions about their writing process (unlike most bands, the riffs do not necessarily come first), recording the album, working with Brainticket Records head John Perez of Solitude Aeturnus, who also provides a guest solo on Sine Qua Non, and much more.

Q&A is after the jump, as ever. Please enjoy.

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Elliott’s Keep: Fearless Fate in the Darkest Corners

Posted in Reviews on October 25th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

There are two things that anyone who heard Dallas doom trio Elliott’s Keep’s first record are going to notice immediately about the follow-up. Primarily, Sine Qua Non is a lot heavier than In Medias Res, especially in the vocals of bassist Ken, and second, that there’s a lot more of it. In Medias Res — which, like the sophomore outing, was released on Brainticket Records – was 40 minutes long, and Sine Qua Non adds nearly half that time again to clock in at 58:49. It’s a lot of doom, and though it’s not without its lulls, Elliott’s Keep have clearly grown as players and as a band in the two years since In Medias Res.

And yet, a lot of the mission seems to have stayed the same. The look of the two albums is similar down to the fonts used and the layout of the back covers. Both have medieval-themed artwork (though I prefer the deep reds of the new album), Latin titles, production credited to J.T. Longoria at Nomad Studios in Dallas with mastering by Gary Long. Hell, if you stand In Medias Res and Sine Qua Non next to each other, even the logos and titles on the spines line up. Obviously, the trio of Ken, guitarist Jonathan and drummer Joel (who seem to prefer first names only) weren’t looking to revolutionize their approach, and that holds true for the music as well, though right from the start with the pummeling alliterative back-to-back heaviness of “Fearless” and “Fate,” Elliott’s Keep show their songwriting has matured. Both tracks top eight minutes both hold attention well, and with a guest solo from Solitude Aeturnus guitarist/Brainticket head honcho John Perez on the emotionally tortured 7:50 “Shades of Disgrace,” you’re 25 minutes through Sine Qua Non before you even know it.

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audiObelisk EXCLUSIVE: Elliott’s Keep Premiere Devastating Lead Track from Sine Qua Non

Posted in audiObelisk on September 29th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Yesterday, Sept. 28, 2010, Dallas doomers Elliott’s Keep released their second album through Brainticket Records. Titled Sine Qua Non, the full-length sees them take the traditional doom they unleashed on their 2008 debut, In Medias Res, and up the heaviness with blistering black and death metal vocals alongside the clean ones as heard on the previous outing. The first time I put the song on I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

I enjoyed In Medias Res, don’t get me wrong, but the subtle change in approach puts Elliott’s Keep and Sine Qua Non in a different category entirely. They might still be traditional doom, but they’re refining the tradition instead of working within it. Once you hear the song, you’ll understand the difference.

And about that: The Obelisk couldn’t be more thrilled to bring you the opening track from Sine Qua Non, called “Fearless.” Stream it in high quality on the player below and get filled in on the info from the band’s MySpace:


We recorded again at Nomad Studios in Carrollton, Texas, with J.T. Longoria (Solitude Aeturnus, RobertLoweCandlemass, Concept of God, Absu, King Diamond) at the helm.

As with our initial 2008 release — In Medias ResSine Qua Non will be issued on John Perez’s Brainticket Records. We are honored that he makes a special guest appearance with a guitar solo on the track “Shades of Disgrace.”

The title Sine Qua Non is Latin for “Without This, Mothing,” meaning, “Without this part of my life, the rest is meaningless.”

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Live Review: Las Cruces and Iron Man in Philadelphia, 08.27.10

Posted in Reviews on August 30th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Much as I love the city of Philadelphia — and I do; it’s the Wesley Snipes to NYC‘s Stephen Dorff — it’s a long way away. Nonetheless, for a lineup like Las Cruces and Iron Man, the trip is well worth it. And hey, I didn’t drive as far as Las Cruces, who are from San Antonio, and thus know what salsa should taste like. So it could be worse.

I was in no hurry to get to the Millcreek Tavern, since it was just the two bands on the bill and I knew the show would be running late. Las Cruces went on first, playing tracks off of their latest, Dusk, as well as older material and a new song called “Egypt” that I shouted from the crowd was a keeper. And it was. There wasn’t much of an audience — apparently some fest was happening down the street — but the loyal few enjoyed what the four-piece had to offer, myself included, and when they played “Wizard” and “Cocaine Wizard Woman” back-to-back, I felt like life was doing me a personal favor. Two songs with “wizard” in the title — in a row! Doesn’t get more doomed than that, folks.

In general I consider myself a fan of a singing drummer, and Paul DeLeon of Las Cruces didn’t disappoint. While guitarists George Trevino and Mando Tovar (Pillcrusher) poured out killer riffs and solos and bassist Jimmy Bell windmilled a breeze enough to feel it from in front of the stage, DeLeon held down the rhythm and the melody of material both old and new. Dusk is the band’s first full-length in 12 years, but the band and the songs sounded fresh and they put on a righteous show despite the fact that there weren’t too many people in the crowd to see it.

A chicken cheese steak was enjoyed in between sets — no onions — and I had plenty of time to eat, as Iron Man took their time getting going. Vocalist Joe Donnelly must have been running late, or else waiting outside to make his grand entrance, since he came in just before the set started. Bassist Louis Strachan and new drummer Mike Rix (who has about four more toms in his rack-mounted kit than he needs for doom) make for a killer rhythm section, and Donnelly‘s Ozzy-style antics are well documented and always good for a laugh, but the essential component in Iron Man is Al Morris III, whose sheer presence while he plays guitar makes the whole set. I managed to get video of the opener, “I Have Returned,” which you can see below. Watch his solo and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Amazing.

Iron Man played a new song as well. I didn’t catch the name of it, but it’s good to know they’re working on material for a follow-up to I Have Returned. They were selling the recent Shadow Kingdom reissues of Generation Void, Black Night and The Passage as well, though I don’t know how many people were there who didn’t already have them. They played an 11-song set, which seemed like a bit much, but although it’s three days later and my sleep pattern is still thrown off, I’m not going to say it wasn’t worth the time or effort to get to the show. It was all the more special because of the sparse attendance, and with Las Cruces having come so far, and Iron Man having made the trip from Maryland, it seemed the least I could do to show up. I guarantee whatever else was going on in town that night wasn’t as doomed out as this show was.

Adding to the argument in favor of attendance was not knowing when Las Cruces would be back this way. Iron Man is killer, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve already seen them this year and worse comes to worst, Maryland is only three hours away. San Antonio is a little farther out from Jersey, and since I enjoyed Dusk so much (even the tracks not about wizards of any shape or form), I wanted to be there to support the band. I don’t know if it did them any good in terms of getting gas money to get to the next show, but there you go. Should have been a couple local acts on the bill to round it out and fill up the place, should have been more people there, but it was a killer gig and easily justified the ride down. No complaints out of me.

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John Perez Records Guitar Solo for New Elliott’s Keep Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

As one of the foremost originators in American doom, a huge supporter of Texas heavy metal and the dude who’s going to put out the record on his Brainticket Records label, it’s maybe not so much of a surprise that John Perez would show up on Sine Qua Non, the new album from DallasElliott’s Keep. Nonetheless, it’s happy news, and as Elliott’s Keep guitarist Jonathan Bates informs, progress on the album is moving right along.

He sends along the following:

John Perez, doom lord of Solitude Aeturnus, has recorded a guitar solo for the new Elliott’s Keep album, Sine Qua Non. Sunday, John joined us at Nomad Studios, where we have been tracking the new record, to lay down a solo on the song “Shades of Disgrace.”

As an update about the recording of Sine Qua Non, with the completion of the bass tracking Sunday, all of the music has been recorded. Vocal tracking will get underway in a series of sessions which should commence in a week or so.

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Elliott’s Keep Start New Record on Memorial Day

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 30th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

May 31 is Memorial Day, and there’s no better time for Dallas doomers Elliott’s Keep to commence the recording of their new album. After all, the band is named in honor of fallen comrade Glenn Riley Elliott, and their particular brand of doom is certainly in homage to the riffers of yore, so while it’s not exactly the jingoism the US government had in mind when they gave everyone that Monday off, it still works.

Guitarist Jonathan sent a note via the rarely-used ObeliskSpace to give the following update:

Just sending a shout out to update you regarding our band. We are headed back to Nomad Studios to record our next album, Sine Qua Non. The title is Latin again and translates to “Without this, Nothing,” as in — without this part of my life the rest would be meaningless. The album will include eight songs and should come in just over 60 minutes.

We will begin recording drums Memorial Day weekend and the entire process will likely be spread across three-to-four months because of work commitments and the like. We are working with JT Longoria again. I can’t say enough good things about him.

We were very fired up to see you mention us in a recent entry about Texas bands that should have been playing the Austin festival. That was very cool for us — thanks much!

Next up for us is the Dallas Doom Daze 3 festival [April 16-18 — ed.] and we are excited to be playing again this year. Should be great fun.

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Last Chapter Gets Another Read

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

Always, always, always read the liner notes. That’s the message to take from Brainticket’s reissue of Last Chapter’s The Living Waters, which was originally released by the label in 1997. Not only by doing so will you find out that the band almost broke up before putting out their debut album, but you’ll learn a valuable life-lesson that could save you time, money and a lot of frustration down the line.

That lesson? Never have Robert Lowe sing on your demo and expect to find someone that good again.

Last Chapter, based in Arlington, TX, did indeed employ the Solitude Aeturnus vocalist for their original four-track outing in 1993, and it would be another three to four years before they realized that no one else would rate and asked him, with the help of Brainticket head and Solitude Aeturnus guitarist John Perez, to come back and sing on what would become The Living Waters. The way drummer Jason Spradlin tells it in the liner notes, Last Chapter almost broke up from the disappointment of trying to find someone to fill those shoes after the demo. Well of course they did! Basically if you’re not calling up Ronnie James Dio circa 1983 and telling him to come on over, Robert Lowe is as good a metal singer as you’re going to find. In the lineup roster, it lists him as “Honored Guest Vocals.” Damn right.

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