Friday Full-Length: Various Artists, Emissions from the Monolith

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan


I’ll admit, it was thinking of the festival itself rather than this compilation in particular that brought Emissions from the Monolith to mind. The festival, which ran annually the last weekend in May in Youngstown, Ohio, between 2000 and 2006 (there was also one in Chicago in 2001) before its final installment in Austin, Texas, in 2007, was a pioneer of heavy festivals in the US. At that point, outside of showcase events like SXSW and the roughly-concurrent Stoner Hands of Doom fest, which started in 1999 and ran until 2013 in various cities, there wasn’t a ton happening in terms of heavy underground gatherings of its level. Run by Greg Barratt, then also of Tone Deaf Touring, it was a celebration of sludge, noise, doom and everything else heavy whose early lineups read like pages out of riffy history. Imagine seeing Penance and Bongzilla and Spirit Caravan in 2000, or Pale DivineWitch Mountain and Dragon Green in 2001. To-date, the 2006 Emissions fest is the only show Colour Haze have ever played in the US, and while its commitment to the deep underground was unquestionable in supporting bands like Test-SiteWooly Mammoth and Kung Pao, and its aesthetic would continue to expand, its foundation always seemed to be in raw, visceral and heavy noise rock.

Which brings us to the 11-track compilation at hand. The 2003 lineup for Emissions from the Monolith featured the likes of Acid King, The Hidden Hand, Pelican, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Erik Larson, Solace, Mastodon, The Atomic Bitchwax and Floor, and yet it’s telling that on the Maduro Records assemblage Emissions from the Monolith, it’s groups like Acid Ape, JJ Paradise Players Club, Meatjack — who featured Brian Daniloski, now of Darsombra, and who once upon a time did the best Melvins cover you’ve ever heard — Volume and Fistula. Some bands featured, like Kung Pao or Rebreather, didn’t actually play that year, but were staples enough that it didn’t really matter. Rebreather in particular, whose primo roller “Earthmover” is included as the second track on the CD, were the quintessential Emissions band, and as regards trivia, they were the first act on the stage at the first edition in 2000. Others, like Pennsylvania’s instrumental heavy jazz experimentalists Stinking Lizaveta were on their own wavelength almost entirely, but still kept that overarching sense of rawness to their approach, while Southern sludge riffers like Burnout and Ohio pill-popper sludge eternals Fistula brought attitude and scathe in kind. Kung Pao‘s “D is for Denim” reads like a mantra and also featured on their 2000 full-length, Bogota (see also: that album’s cover art) — their second record was also a gem — and “The Ballad of Sisyphus MacDuff” by The Rubes began a seven-minute loadout with throat singing before a showing of soulful heavy rock the likes of which still makes me want to break out their 2001 Underdogma Records long-player, Hokum.

Over the last couple years, I’ve talked a lot about pre-social media heavy and many bands lost in that shift from one generation to the next, who maybe had one record out, maybe two, maybe three, and then Facebook happened and they missed the party. Looking at the 2003 Emissions lineup, there are plenty who survived — The Atomic Bitchwax, Weedeater, Mastodon, Acid King, etc. — but others like Dixie Witch, Tummler, All Night, RPG and Abdullah, while they may or may not have stayed active, didn’t quite make the same kind of transition. Though they came back later thanks to the enduring affection for their self-titled, I’d put Floor in that category as well. And listening to the echoing forward drive of Volume‘s “Colossus Freak” on the Emissions from the Monolith comp, it’s not at all like these acts didn’t have anything to offer listeners, or like they still don’t some 15 years later. It really was just a matter of timing. Others, like Sons of Otis, who close the comp with the 10-minute drone-into-riff spectacular “Big Muff,” seem to have an audience just waiting for their next offering to arrive, but some of these bands are gone to parts unknown, and especially considering that, the importance of this collection is unassailable.

Emissions was a special event and The Nyabinghi in Youngstown, where it was held, was a special place. A regular stop on the Tone Deaf circuit in no small part because Barratt owned it, for one weekend every year it became a druggy paradise of barbecue, riffs, booze and volume. You can still see the hotel where everyone stayed from Rt. 80 on your way west, and it’s easy to imagine the scars left behind in that building from the years of stoner abuse it took. I’m sorry to say that there’s much of the 2006 edition I don’t even remember, less for the passage of time than the ridiculous amount of beer consumption the weekend brought. I remember seeing Colour Haze (changed my life; ask me about it sometime), and I remember there was some drama with SunnO))). I remember sheepishly handing Barratt a copy of my band’s demo and being “voted off the island” by a group of friends standing outside in back of the place — I actually had to leave and go back inside — and I remember being poorly hydrated. Thinking back on it now, I kind of wish I’d had my head together more. Story of my life.

But the point is that there was only one Emissions from the Monolith, and though US heavy festival culture is currently undergoing a boom, from Stumpfest and Electric Funeral Fest to Descendants of Crom to Maryland Doom Fest to New England Stoner and Doom Festival, the moment that was Emissions won’t come again. Of course, each of these newer fests is making its own contributions, but thinking back on what Emissions was and listening to this compilation particularly, one can hear the undercurrent of barebones fuckall that typified the time, the place and the room. For those who were there and those who weren’t, it remains a happening worthy of document, and as Emissions from the Monolith works to document even some piece of one year of it, it’s all the more worth preserving.

I sincerely hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

The week started off with punk rock guilt at all the shows I didn’t go to over the last couple weeks that I wanted to see and featured a canceled trip to Portugal for SonicBlast Moledo next weekend — surprise, I was going, now I’m not; that’s a week’s worth of suckage in itself, even with Psycho Las Vegas still to look forward to — so yeah, I kind of rolled with the punches as they came. Was bummed at the lack of response the Sleep live review got — I posted three pics from the show on Thee Facebooks the next day and those got a big reaction, so I guess that’s where it went instead of the actual review. I was really happy with the piece though, so I take comfort in that and if anyone else read it, that’s awesome. Making Clutch’s crab cakes was fun and I was glad I got to post that All Them Witches bio. The week kind of ends on a downer with that Ancestors review — the album is awesome, I’m just sulky because I wasn’t cool enough to premiere a track with it — but it was fun to get on a little nostalgia trip about Emissions from the Monolith above. Ups and downs, I guess.

Also had a lot of time with The Pecan this week, and baby-time is good time. He’s getting closer to walking — we’re thinking first steps in the next couple weeks — and he’s got a couple consonants he breaks out if suitably prompted. “Ba,” “ma,” “da,” “la” and the like. That’s fun. I feel lucky to be able to be home with him, especially seeing other parents I know go to work. Less over the summer — I seem to know a lot of teacher-types — but in general. I don’t know. He’s a pretty great little guy, and we got a baby-gate to keep him away from the Little Dog Dio’s food and water dishes, so all the better.

Other shit persists in follow-the-bouncing-ball fashion. I’ve been trying to be mindful of things like my general state, depression and so on. I was trying to stay off my meds for a couple weeks, working pretty hard to make a go of it, but I just flat-out failed, and yes, I recognize the language puts it on my effort when it’s not necessarily about that. Thank you, inner therapist voice which sounds remarkably like The Patient Mrs. Still, it’s been upwards of eight months now and every time I sit still for more than five minutes I continue to just absolutely fucking disgust myself. Even sitting here at the keyboard, I feel my arms at my sides and want to crawl out of my own skin. Part of that is I didn’t get to shower yesterday — grunge parenting — but I know part of it runs deeper and I still have more work to do. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those self-actualized I’m-okay-you’re-okay types, but it would be awfully nice to make it through an afternoon without feeling like I’m going to have an aneurysm. Whatever. Who fucking cares. The pills help, I guess?

Ugh.

Ups and downs. Strikes and gutters. Some you win, some you lose.

He’s a good kid.

Let’s do the notes for next week. Subject to change blah blah blah:

Mon.: The Crazy Left Experience review/video premiere; The Skull lyric video.
Tue.: Jody Seabody & The Whirls track premiere.
Wed.: Mr. Plow full album stream.
Thu.: Mountain Tamer track premiere.
Fri.: The Machine review.

There are a bunch of other videos I need to sort through and decide what I’m actually going to put up, so I didn’t list them other than The Skull, but Weed Demon, Ape Vermin, Black Space Riders and Windhand all have new clips out, so there’s plenty to plug into the week in whatever order I wind up feeling like doing so. I’ll sort it out over the weekend. Have another bio to write anyway, so I’ll be on the laptop one way or the other.

It’s almost six-thirty and I hear The Pecan waking up in the next room, so I’d better leave it there. Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thank you as always for reading and please don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review & Full Stream: Harsh Toke, Joy & Sacri Monti, Burnout Split LP

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

harsh-toke-joy-sacri-monti-burnout

[Click play above to stream the Burnout three-way split between Harsh Toke, Joy and Sacri Monti. It’s out June 23 via Tee Pee Records.]

Not to quibble on titles, but it’s way less Burnout than it is ignition. The West Coast heavy psych boom, centered in San Diego but with offshoots up and down throughout California in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, etc., is years underway at this point, and New York’s Tee Pee Records has proven to be among its most crucial documentarians. In bringing together Harsh TokeJoy and Sacri Monti — three San Diego bands who’ve all had albums out on Tee Pee — the long-running imprint has essentially reinforced the arrival of and camaraderie between members of one of the US’ most vibrant underground scenes. If they wanted, each of these groups could have headlined their own three-band split — there’s enough clout between them and enough other acts around to make that happen, easily — but in uniting them together, Tee Pee is going for broke in representing the particular energy and classic-minded shred that typifies San Diego’s explosive sound.

It is likewise no coincidence that Burnout — a six-song 12″ topping out at 26 minutes — should feature covers from each band as well as original material from Joy and Sacri Monti, since so much of what’s happening and what’s already happened in the heavy ’10s has owed its core approach to the heavy ’70s before it, so that to have Harsh Toke take on Roky Erickson for two tracks — something they also did for a full set at Roadburn festival this past Spring in the Netherlands — as Joy tears into “Spaceship Earth” by Road and Sacri Monti into “Sleeping for Years” by Atomic Rooster not only makes sense sonically, but effectively ties together the still-very-much-exploding current movement of bands with the crucial wave that preceded it nearly half a century ago.

I admit, that’s a pretty heady view of the mission here, and to listen to Burnout, the tracks don’t come across nearly so lofty in their aims, whether that’s Harsh Toke‘s drunk-at-the-piano dive into Erickson‘s “Burn the Flames” at the outset or the scorching, organ-soaked boogie drive of Sacri Monti tackling “Sleeping for Years” at the finish. And rightfully so. If it was pretentious or overly self-aware, the whole affair would fall flat, where in the front-to-back execution, it proves to be anything but, with both Joy and Sacri Monti right in their respective elements in both their own material and their cover selections while Harsh Toke prove to be somewhat the outliers as they leadoff the release. Not so much sound-wise — Roky Erickson‘s weirdo formative and massively influential psych isn’t out of context in their swaying reinterpretation — as in the simple concept of Harsh Toke playing songs.

harsh toke joy sacri monti burnout vinyl

Harsh Toke‘s 2016 split (review here) with San Diego scene lords Earthless — who along with Radio Moscow are very much the elephant in the room when it comes to not only the three outfits appearing on Burnout but the wider San Diego sphere as a whole — and their 2014 debut, Light up and Live, were essentially jam-based releases, and their live sets find them working in likewise methods. To hear them push through the fuzzy proto-punk of “Bermuda,” I’m not sure why they so generally avoid vocals, but the fact that it’s something that doesn’t happen all the time would seem to make it all the more of an event, and they are right at home in that track and “Burn the Flames” preceding, giving a sense of Erickson‘s character in the material while presenting it with their own energetic tack. Naturally, on a three-band split there’ are bound to be some stark leaps in sound, between groups — like on any multi-group compilation — but the speedier “Bermuda” also helps make way for Joy‘s “Your Time Ain’t Long,” the longest inclusion here overall at 5:27.

Meting out similar winding riffage to what high-speed-nodded throughout their 2016 third full-length, Ride Along! (review here), “Your Time Ain’t Long” serves as the first original of Burnout and cuts short after three-and-a-half shuffling minutes to a more languid drift, keeping some progressive tension beneath as it moves with deceptive efficiency back toward its hook. The trio count into “Spaceship Earth” for a live-in-studio feel that the raw fuzz of their tonality and echoing vocals backs up that impression. In their own composition as well as the 1972 Road track, it’s the guitar leading the charge, and even as “Spaceship Earth” moves into outside-the-atmosphere noise following an extended stretch of leads, tone provides the fuel for that ascent. Sacri Monti‘s “Over the Hill” follows immediately.

Their original, like that of Joy before them, showcases a fervent-enough ’70s influence to make its transition seamless, but is distinguished through the use of organ and the interplay there between keys and shred-prone guitar as was their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), and as a next step forward from that release, “Over the Hill” bodes well for the development of their chemistry on the whole. Their selection of an Atomic Rooster track is likewise admirable — and one has to acknowledge it must’ve been tempting, when looking at 1970’s Death Walks Behind You, to take on the title-piece — and they give the UK-based post-blues stompers their due while, like Harsh Toke and Joy before them, bringing their own personality to the presentation in a live-feeling onslaught of groove that dares you to keep up with its nigh-on-frenetic turns. It’s over quickly — so is Burnout as a whole — but Sacri Monti‘s cold finish to “Sleeping for Years” makes a fitting end to the split, since as the scene that birthed these bands also seems to do, it leaves one with the feeling of standing in front of the stage yelling for one more song.

And if they had done another, or if any of these groups came back out and did an encore, you wouldn’t find me complaining. Cities like San Diego, Encinitas, Visalia, Oceanside, and so on, have become more and more crowded over the last couple years, and I expect they’ll continue to for at least the next several years as we move toward and beyond 2020, but with the quality of output from Harsh TokeJoy and Sacri Monti both here and on their own offerings, it’s hard to argue with others wanting to pick up and try to capture some of the same vibe that’s presented as being so utterly molten across this split. In playing to their strengths, each of these bands represents some of the best of West Coast heavy psych as a whole.

Harsh Toke on Thee Facebooks

Joy on Thee Facebooks

Sacri Monti on Thee Facebooks

Burnout at Tee Pee Records

Tee Pee Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Harsh Toke, Joy & Sacri Monti Announce Burnout Split Due June 23

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Want. It’s that simple. Want.

If you needed further evidence of San Diego as the American epicenter of heavy psychedelic rock, or of Tee Pee Records‘ absolute on-it-ness when it comes to same — I don’t even care if it makes me sound like a fanboy, it’s true; also, does anyone say “fanboy” anymore? — I humbly submit the forthcoming Burnout split vinyl from Harsh Toke, Joy and Sacri Monti. It’s three righteous acts joining forces on the kind of off-album release that keeps people talking for years. The thing looks killer and I’ve no doubt sounds the same, with Harsh Toke taking on two Roky Erickson covers while Joy tackle Road and Sacri Monti treat listeners to some Atomic Rooster, directly tying the original generation of heavy to the current and up-and-coming one.

Whatever. It’s a want. You shouldn’t need me to tell you that. Already holding a spot for it on my list of the best EPs and splits of the year, because that’s the kind of impartial-ass critic I am. Here’s art and info off the PR wire:

harsh-toke-joy-sacri-monti-burnout

JOY, HARSH TOKE & SACRI MONTI Team Up on Three-Way Split EP, ‘BURNOUT’

Ever feel like bands that get tagged with the heavy PSYCH descriptor just aren’t very psychedelic? Or heavy? Tee Pee Records is here to save the day with the three-way heavy psych split, BURNOUT. Featuring California kings HARSH TOKE, JOY and SACRI MONTI, BURNOUT brings back the blues and whisks you away to a place where guitar solos reign supreme! The compilation will be released on June 23 in digital and CD formats as well as a limited edition triple 7″ package (pre-order here).

Alongside SoCal godfathers EARTHLESS, HARSH TOKE, JOY and SACRI MONTI are simultaneously skyrocketing a pathway towards the future of molten heavy psych. You’ve heard about all of the noise coming from the red hot California heavy psych scene that is taking the west coast by storm, now experience for yourself the exciting sounds that have everyone talking with BURNOUT!

On BURNOUT, HARSH TOKE serves up two searing Roky Erickson rippers — in homage to the tribute the band paid to the Texas psychedelic icon at the 2017 Roadburn Festival — while JOY and SACRI MONTI shred through a terrific new track apiece, while also paying tribute to legends that paved the way; JOY covering the ROAD classic “Spaceship Earth” and SACRI MONTI blazing through ATOMIC ROOSTER’s “Sleeping for Years”. Each of the three 7″ records features artwork by acclaimed multi media artist, BB Bastidas, and on the back cover, photography by renowned photographer JT Rhoades.

Equal parts atmospheric and anarchic, HARSH TOKE merges raging, blind fury musicianship with unprecedented white-knuckle volume abuse. In 2016, the band released a celebrated split EP with labelmates EARTHLESS and the acid rock band’s debut, Light Up and Live, came out in 2014.

The sound of JOY has been described as “a spaced-out sonic groove-ride” and “outer reach freak out”, but that hyperbole alone doesn’t do justice to the group’s measured mode of attack. Featuring Hendrixian guitarist Zach Oakley, JOY puts a premium on establishing both structure and dynamics, its kaleidoscopic flurry and full-throttle riffage is anchored by both subtle detail and surprising textural depth. JOY’s latest release was 2016’s Ride Along!

Roughly translated as “Sacred Mountains”, SACRI MONTI’s music is a searing smorgasbord of muscular rock that boils ’70s guitar rock down to its purest essence. Fingers bleed, eardrums implode and craniums collapse when SACRI MONTI cranks up its bitchin’, blistering buzz.

Track listing:

HARSH TOKE:
1.) Burn The Flames (Roky Erickson)
2.) Burmuda (Roky Erickson)

JOY:
3.) Your Time Ain’t Long
4.) Spaceship Earth (ROAD cover)

SACRI MONTI:
5.) Over The Hill
6.) Spaceship Earth (Atomic Rooster cover)

https://teepeerecords.com/collections/frontpage/products/harsh-toke-joy-sacri-monti-burnout-triple-7-out-june-23rd?variant=40958685140
https://www.facebook.com/theHARSHTOKEgoons/
https://www.facebook.com/JOYHEADBAND/
https://www.facebook.com/sacrimontiband/

Harsh Toke, Live at Roadburn 2017

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Buried Treasure: The Johnny Arzgarth Haul

Posted in Buried Treasure on November 7th, 2012 by JJ Koczan


The loot was manifold. Priority Mail flat-rate boxes spread across a long table in a dining room, packed full of old promos from years past. Many of them were familiar to me — sleeves of this or that label release, jewel case demos from just a few years back when such a thing didn’t seem outlandish. Bent-corner digipaks, some of records I’ve known, enjoyed, reviewed, or put on an office shelf to languish, and many others unfamiliar, new names, or older releases from recognizable purveyors of the peculiar styles that were once lumped under the general banner of the old StonerRock.com.

Small Stone bands — Roadsaw, Lord Fowl, Freedom Hawk — played through computer speakers, which was appropriate, since it was the same night as the Boston Small Stone showcase at Radio. This, however, was earlier in the afternoon, and the boxes, the table, the computer speakers and the lovely house in Massachusetts in which they all resided belonged to one John Pegoraro, also known as Arzgarth. The promos were discs he’d accumulated over the years writing for the aforementioned and still-missed outlet, and I was more than happy to give them a good home.

There was some genuine treasure in the mix, and some albums John seemed loathe to part with — a feeling I can certainly understand, owning as I do many CDs that I’ll probably never want to listen to again and still others I never listened to in the first place and yet can’t seem to wrap my brain around getting rid of. Not to say anything against Mountain Mirrors or Whoremaon or Dark Fog or Lost Youth, whose discs I haven’t even had the chance to hear as of today, but it was probably harder to let go of older stuff like Bible of the Devil‘s 2002 sophomore outing, Firewater at My Command, Throttlerod‘s By the Horns 1999 demo, Freedom Hawk‘s Universal demo or Roadsaw‘s Takin’ Out the Trash. No joke, I was honored to be able to take these things and the rest with me when I left.

Along with stuff by Slomatics, Assrockers — from whence Borracho sprang — and Michigan devil worshipers Beast in the Field (their first and third), those were some of the highlights of the haul, but things like Mean Mother ‘s 2009 self-titled, the self-titled Telestrion and a promo-only copy of Yellow #5‘s Demon Crossing, which featured Brant Bjork on drums and Dave Catching on guitar and basked in Palm Desert weirdness, were a boon as well. I grabbed the first Mind Funk, which was recommended to me a long time ago, two records from Iron Giant, the self-titled Maligno, some Hawg Jaw, an L7 live record on Man’s Ruin, and stuff by Lords of Bastard, The Red Plastic BuddhaObskuria, Upwards of Endtime and The Valley as well.

Collector’s impulse, which I suppose is what had me there in the first place, led me to pick up the jewel case promo of the self-titled debut from Kalas, released on Tee Pee in 2006. The band was a side-project for Matt Pike at the time, and I already own it — I actually never got a full-artwork copy, so now I just have two of the promos — but it’s not something you see around, and again, I figured better to have it than not. You never know when a meteor will strike the ‘Ka-Ki’ shelf and you might need a replacement waiting in the wings.

It was an exceptional opportunity from an exceptionally good dude (you can read Arz‘s review of that night’s showcase here), and I look forward to continuing to dig through the box, pull out discs at random, and enjoy listening. I’ve got a ways to go, but if it’s a long haul, count me in. Thanks John for the chance.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,