Quarterly Review: The Cult of Dom Keller, Grandpa Jack, Woven Man, Charivari, Human Impact, Dryland, Brass Owl, Battle City, Astral Bodies, Satyrus

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Ah, the Wednesday of a Quarterly Review. Always a special day in my mind. We hit and pass the halfway point today, and I like the fact that the marker is right in the middle of things, like that sign you pass in Pennsylvania on Rt. 80 that says, “this is the highest point east of the Mississippi,” or whatever it is. Just a kind of, “oh, by the way, in case you didn’t know, there’s this but you’re on your way somewhere else.” And so we are, en route to 50 reviews by Friday. Will we get there? Yeah, of course. I’ve done this like 100 times now, it’s not really in doubt. Sleeping, eating, living: these things are expendable. The Quarterly Review will get done. So let’s do it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

The Cult of Dom Keller, Ascend!

the cult of dom keller ascend

They’re not going quietly, that’s for sure. Except for when they are, at least. The Cult of Dom Keller send their listeners — and, it would seem, themselves — into the howling ether on the exclamatory-titular Ascend!, their fifth LP. Issued through Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud records it brings a bevvy of freakouts in psych-o-slabs like “I Hear the Messiah” and the early-arriving “Hello Hanging Rope” and the building-in-thickness “The Blood Donor Wants His Blood Back,” and the foreboding buzz of “We’re All Fucked (Up),” peppering in effective ambient interludes ahead of what might be some resolution in the closing “Jam for the Sun.” Or maybe that’s just narrative I’m putting to it. Does it matter? Does anything matter? And what is matter? And what is energy? And is there a line between the two or are we all just playing pretend at existence like I-think-therefore-I-am might actually hold water in a universe bigger than our own pea-sized brains. Where do we go from here? Or maybe it’s just the going and not the where? Okay.

The Cult of Dom Keller on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz on Bandcamp

Little Cloud Records on Bandcamp

 

Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie

Grandpa Jack Trash Can Boogie

Brooklynite trio Grandpa Jack are working toward mastery of the thickened midtempo groove on their second EP, Trash Can Boogie. Led by guitarist/vocalist Johnny Strom with backing shouts from drummer Matt C. White and a suitable flow provided by bassist Jared Schapker, the band present a classic-tinged four tracks, showing some jammier psych range in the 7:47 second cut “Untold” but never straying too far from the next hook, as opener “Ride On, Right On” and the almost-proto-metal “Imitation” show. Finishing with “Curmudgeon,” Grandpa Jack ride a fine line between modern fuzz, ’90s melody and ’70s groove idolatry, and part of the fun is trying to figure out which side they’re on at any given point and which side they’ll want to ultimately end up on, or if they’ll decide at all. They have one LP under their collective belt already. I’d be surprised if their next one didn’t garner them more significant attention, let alone label backing, should they want it.

Grandpa Jack on Thee Facebooks

Grandpa Jack on Bandcamp

 

Woven Man, Revelry (In Our Arms)

woven man revelry in our arms

There’s metal in the foundation of what Woven Man are doing on their 2019 debut, Revelry (In Our Arms). And there’s paganism. But they’re by no means “pagan metal” at least in the understood genre terms. The Welsh outfit — featuring guitarist Lee Roy Davies, formerly of Acrimony — cast out soundscapes in their vocal melodies and have no lack of tonal crunch at their disposal when they want it, but as eight-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) shows, they’re not going to be rigidly defined as one thing or another. One can hear C.O.C. in the riffs during their moments of sneer on “I am Mountain” or the centerpiece highlight “With Willow,” but they never quite embrace the shimmer outright Though they come right to the cusp of doing so on the subsequent “Makers Mark,” but closer “Of Land and Sky” revives a more aggressive push and sets them toward worshiping different idols. Psychedelic metal is a tough, nearly impossible, balance to pull off. I’m not entirely convinced it’s what Woven Man are going for on this first outing, but it’s where they might end up.

Woven Man on Thee Facebooks

Woven Man on Bandcamp

 

Charivari, Descent

charivari descent

Whether drifting mildly through the likes of drone-laden pieces “Down by the Water,” the CD-only title-track or “Alexandria” as they make their way toward the harsh bite at the end of the 11-minute closer “Scavengers of the Wind,” Bath, UK, heavy post-rockers Charivari hold a firm sense of presence and tonal fullness. They’re prone to a wash from leadoff “When Leviathan Dreams” onward, but it’s satisfying to course along with the four-piece for the duration of their journey. Rough spots? Oh, to be sure. “Aphotic” seethes with noisy force, and certainly the aforementioned ending is intended to jar, but that only makes a work like “Lotus Eater,” which ably balances Cure-esque initial lead lines with emergent distortion-crush, that much richer to behold. The moves they make are natural, unforced, and whether they’re trading back and forth in volume or fluidly, willfully losing themselves in a trance of effects, the organic and ethereal aspects of their sound never fail to come through in terms of melody even as a human presence is maintained on vocals. When “Down by the Water” hits its mark, it is positively encompassing. Headphones were built for this.

Charivari on Thee Facebooks

Worst Bassist Records on Bandcamp

 

Human Impact, Human Impact

human impact human impact

Bit of a supergroup here, at least in the underrated-New-York-art-noise sphere of things. Vocals and riffy crunch provided by the masterful Chris Spencer (formerly of Unsane), while Cop Shoot Cop‘s Jim Coleman adds much-welcome electronic flourish, Swans/Xiu Xiu bassist Chris Pravdica provides low end and the well-if-he-can-handle-drumming-for-Swans-he-can-handle-anything Phil Puleo (also Cop Shoot Cop) grounds the rhythm. Presented through Ipecac, the four-piece’s declarative self-titled debut arrives through Ipecac very much as a combination of the elements of which it is comprised, but the atmosphere brought to the proceedings by Coleman set against Spencer‘s guitar isn’t to be understated. The two challenge each other in “E605” and the off-to-drone “Consequences” and the results are to everyone’s benefit, despite the underlying theme of planetary desolation. Whoops on that one, but at least we get the roiling chaos and artful noise of “This Dead Sea” out of it, and that’s not nothing. Predictable? In parts, but so was climate change if anyone would’ve fucking listened.

Human Impact on Thee Facebooks

Ipecac Recordings store

 

Dryland, Dances with Waves

dryland dances with waves

The nautically-themed follow-up to Bellingham, Washington, progressive heavy/noise/post-hardcore rockers Dryland‘s 2017 self-titled debut album, the four-song Dances with Waves EP finds the thoughtful and melodic riffers working alongside producer/engineer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, etc.) on a recording that loses none of its edge for its deft changes of rhythm and shifts in vocals. There’s some influence from Elder maybe in terms of the guitar on “No Celestial Hope” and the finale “Between the Testaments,” but by the time the seven-minute capper is done, it’s full-on Pacific Northwest noise crunch, crashing its waves of riffs and stomp against the shore of your eardrums in demand of as much volume as you’ll give it. Between those two, “Exalted Mystics” moves unsuspectingly through its first half and seems to delve into semi-emo-if-emo-was-about-sailing-and-death theatrics in its second, while “The Sound a Sword Adores” distills the alternating drive and sway down to its barest form, a slowdown later setting up the madness soon to arrive in “Between the Testaments.”

Dryland on Thee Facebooks

Dryland on Bandcamp

 

Brass Owl, State of Mind

brass owl state of mind

Brass Owl foster on their self-released debut full-length, State of Mind, a brand of heavy rock that maintains a decidedly straightforward face while veering at the same time into influences from grunge, ’70s rock, the better end of ’80s metal and probably one or two current hard or heavy rock bands. You might catch a tinge of Five Horse Johnson-style blues on “No Filter – Stay Trendy” or the particularly barroom-ready “Jive Turkey,” which itself follows the funkier unfolding jam-into-shredfest of “The Legend of FUJIMO,” and the earlier “Hook, Line & Sinker” has trucker-rock all over it, but through it all, the defining aspect of the work is its absolute lack of pretense. These guys — there would seem to have been three when they recorded, there are two now; so it goes — aren’t trying to convince you of their intelligence, or their deep-running stylistic nuance. They’re not picking out riffs from obscure ’80s indie records or even ’70s private press LPs. They’re having a good time putting traditionalist-style rock songs together, messing around stylistically a bit, and they’ve got nine songs across 43 minutes ready to roll for anyone looking for that particular kind of company. If that’s you, great. If it ain’t, off you go to the next one.

Brass Owl website

Brass Owl on Bandcamp

 

Battle City, Press Start

Battle City Press Start

From even before you press play on Press Start, the 22-minute debut release from South Africa’s Battle City, the instrumental duo make their love of gaming readily apparent. Given that they went so far as to call one song “Ram Man” and that it seems just as likely as not that “Ignition” and “Ghost Dimension” are video game references as well, it’s notable that guitarist/bassist Stian “Lightning Fingers Van Tonder” Maritz and drummer Wayne “Thunder Flakes” Hendrikz didn’t succumb to the temptation of bringing any electronic sounds to the six-song offering. Even in “Ghost Dimension,” which is the closer and longest track by about three minutes, they keep it decidedly straightforward in terms of arrangements and resist any sort of chiptune elements, sticking purely to guitar, bass and drums. There’s a touch of the progressive to the leadoff title-track and to the soaring lead “Ignotion,” but Press Start does likewise in setting the band’s foundation in a steady course of heavy rock and metal, to the point that if you didn’t know they were gaming-inspired by looking at the cover art or the titles, there’d be little to indicate that’s where they were coming from. I wouldn’t count myself among them, but those clamoring for beeps and boops and other 8-bit nonsense will be surprised. For me, the riffs’ll do just fine, thanks.

Battle City on Thee Facebooks

Battle City on Bandcamp

 

Astral Bodies, Escape Death

Astral Bodies Escape Death

Spacious, varied and progressive without losing their heft either of tone or presence, Manchester, UK, trio Astral Bodies debut on Surviving Sounds with Escape Death, working mostly instrumentally — they do sneak some vocals into the penultimate “Pale Horse” — to affect an atmosphere of cosmic heavy that’s neither indebted to nor entirely separate from post-metal. Droning pieces like the introductory “Neptune,” or the joyous key-laced wash of the centerpiece “Orchidaeae,” or even “Pale Horse,” act as spacers between longer cuts, and they’re purposefully placed not to overdo symmetry so as to make Escape Death‘s deceptively-efficient 36-minute runtime predictable. It’s one more thing the three-piece do right, added to the sense of rawness that comes through in the guitar tone even as effects and synth seem to surround and provide a context that would be lush if it still weren’t essentially noise rock. Cosmic noise? The push of “Oumuamua” sure is, if anything might be. Classify it however you want — it’s fun when it’s difficult! — but it’s a striking record either way, and engages all the more as a first long-player.

Astral Bodies on Thee Facebooks

Surviving Sounds on Thee Facebooks

 

Satyrus, Rites

satyrus rites

Following its three-minute chanting intro, Satyrus let opener and longest track (immediate points) “Black Satyrus” unfold its cultish nod across an eight minutes that leads the way into the rest of their debut album, Rites, perhaps more suitably than the intro ever could. The building blocks that the Italian unit are working from are familiar enough — Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Electric Wizard, maybe even some Slayer in the faster soloing of second cut “Shovel” — but that doesn’t make the graveyard-dirt-covered fuzz of “Swirl” or the noisefest that ensues in “Stigma” or subsequent “Electric Funeral”-ist swing any less satisfying, or the dug-in chug of bookending nine-minute closer “Trailblazer.” Hell, if it’s a retread, at least they’re leaving footprints, and it’s not like Satyrus are trying to tell anyone they invented Tony Iommi‘s riff. It’s a mass by the converted for the converted. I’d ask nothing more of it than that and neither should you.

Satyrus on Thee Facebooks

Satyrus on Bandcamp

 

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The Cult of Dom Keller Set Jan. 17 Release for Ascend!; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the cult of dom keller

I know I’ve said this before, but if you’ve got a quota for weird, The Cult of Dom Keller will make short work thereof. The Devon, UK, four-piece have a Jan. 17 release for their exclamatory new album, Ascend!, and they’ve been streaming the single “Right Wrong” since the start of September and while I’m not sure if it’ll end up on the final version of the record — which will be out through Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud Records — its cavernous guitars ring out in righteous British dystopian fashion. Think Blade Runner stark lines over ambient whatnottery and vocals lurking down in the mix like post-all and not a care in the universe for anything beyond expression. I dig. You? I don’t know. I can’t tell you how to live your life.

The vibe is dark, dark, dark, dark, so be ready for that. If the record is Ascend!, then this might be the senses-overwhelmed, encounter-with-the-unfathomable portion of the story. Obviously I’m curious to see/hear/taste how the rest comes out.

Preorders aren’t open yet so far as I can tell, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens soon and I wouldn’t be surprised if they sell out on preorders, because, you know, boutique psych and all that.

Be informed!

the cult of dom keller ascend

Excited to announce details of the first of 2 release for Friday Jan 17th 2020

The Cult Of Dom Keller – Ascend!

a 500 pressing with a ltd Orange Colour Vinyl. Presented in a 350gsm Card Sleeve with full colour insert and Download code. Sam Giles Vinyl Replica Cdr edition too.

Prepare your ears for some serious melt-downs and wig-outs.

Coming via Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud Records

Artwork – Brett Savage

Ryan: Vocals/Lead Guitars/Keys
Neil: Vocals/Keys/Tambourine
Jason: Guitar/Synthesizer/BkVocals
Liam: Bass
Al: Drums/Percussion/Samples

https://www.facebook.com/cultofdomkeller/
https://thecultofdomkeller.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CardinalFuzz/
cardinalfuzz.bigcartel.com/
https://littlecloudrec.com/
https://littlecloudrecords.bandcamp.com/

The Cult of Dom Keller, “Right Wrong”

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Quarterly Review: Earth, Heilung, Thronehammer, Smear, Deadbird, Grass, Prana Crafter, Vago Sagrado, Gin Lady, Oven

Posted in Reviews on July 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Deep breath. And… here we go.

Welcome to The Obelisk’s Summer 2019 Quarterly Review. You probably know the drill by now, but just in case, here’s what’s up: starting today and through next Monday, I’ll be reviewing 10 records per day for a total of 60. I’ve done this every three months (or so) for the better part of the last five years, each one with at least 50 releases included. Some are big bands, some are new bands, some are releases are new, some older. It’s a mix of styles and notoriety, and that’s exactly the intent. It’s a ton of stuff, but that’s also the intent, and the corresponding hope is that somewhere in all of it there’s something for everyone.

I’ll check in each day at the top with what usually turns out to be a “hot damn I’m exhausted, but this is worth it”-kind of update, but otherwise, if we’re all on board, let’s just get to it. First batch below, more to come.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Earth, Full Upon Her Burning Lips

earth

Finding post-Southern Lord refuge with Sargent House in similar fashion to Boris, Earth seem to act in direct response to 2014’s Primitive and Deadly (review here) with the 10-track/62-minute Full Upon Her Burning Lips, stripping their approach down to its two essential components: Dylan Carlson‘s guitar and Adrienne Davies‘ drums. The former adds bass as well, and the latter some off-kit percussion, but that’s about as far as they go in the extended meditation on their core modus — even the straightforward photo on the cover tells the story — psychedelic and brooding and still-spacious as the music is. Gone are folk strings or vocals, and so on, and instead, they foster immersion through not-quite minimalist nod and roll, Carlson‘s guitar soundscaping atop Davies‘ slow, steady pulse. It’s not nearly so novel as the last time out, but timed to the 30th anniversary of the band, it’s a reminder that if you like Earth, this dynamic is ultimately why.

Earth on Thee Facebooks

Sargent House website

 

Heilung, Futha

heilung futha

It might seem like an incongruity that something so based in traditionalism conceptually would also turn into experimentalist Viking jazz, but I defy you to hear “Galgadr,” the 10-minute opener of Heilung‘s third full-length, Futha (on Season of Mist), and call it something else. Cuts like the memorable and melodic “Norupo” and the would-be-techno-but-I-think-they’re-actually-just-beating-on-wood “Svanrand,” which, like “Vapnatak” before it, is rife with the sounds of battle, but it’s in the longer pieces, “Othan,” 14-minute closer “Hamrer Hippyer,” and even the eight-plus-minute “Elivgar” and “Elddansurin” that precede it, that Heilung‘s dramas really unfold. Led by the essential presence of vocalist Maria Franz — who could hardly be more suited to the stated theme of calling to feminine power — Heilung careen through folk and narrative and full cultural immersion across 73 minutes, and craft something willfully forward thinking from the history it embellishes.

Heilung on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Thronehammer, Usurper of the Oaken Throne

thronehammer usurper of the oaken throne

The reliable taste of Church Within Records strikes again in picking up Thronehammer‘s first full-length, Usurper of the Oaken Throne. The project is a dark and warmaking epic mega-doom working mostly in longform material — it’s six tracks/78 minutes, so yeah — conjured in collaboration by the trio of vocalist Kat Shevil Gillham (Lucifer’s Chalice, etc.), guitarist/keyboardist Stuart Bootsy West (ex-Obelyskkh, ex-The Walruz) and drummer/bassist Tim Schmidt (Seamount), that hits with a massive impact from 17-minute opener “Behind the Wall of Frost” into “Conquered and Erased” (11:24) and “Warhorn” (19:12), making for an opening salvo that’s a full-length unto itself and a beast of doomed grandeur that balances extremity with clearheaded presentation. They simplify the proceedings a bit for “Svarte Skyer” and the eponymous “Thronehammmer,” but are clearly in their element for the 15-minute closing title-track, which rounds out one of the best doom debuts I’ve heard so far this year with due heft and ceremony.

Thronehammer on Thee Facebooks

Church Within Records on Bandcamp

 

Smear, A Band Called Shmear

Smear A Band Called Shmear

Smear‘s live-recorded A Band Called Shmear EP is basically the equivalent of that dude getting dragged out of the outdoor concert for being at the bottom of the puffing clouds of smoke going, “Come on man, I’m not hurting anybody!” And by that I mean it’s awesome. The Eugene, Oregon, four-piece get down on some psychedelic reefer madness tapped into weirdo anti-genre tendencies that come to fruition in the verses of “Guns of Brixton” after the drifting freaker “Old Town.” The whole thing runs an extra-manageable 21 minutes, and six of that are dedicated to the fuzzed jam “Zombie” — tinged in its early going with a reggae groove — so Smear make it easy to follow their outward path, whether it’s the surf-with-no-water “Weigh” at the outset or “Quicksand,” which hints at more complex melodic tendencies almost in spite of itself. You like vibe, right? These cats have plenty to go around, and they deliver it with an absolute lack of pretense. Whatever they do next, I hope they also record it live, because it clearly works.

Smear on Thee Facebooks

Smear on Bandcamp

 

Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree

deadbird iii the forest within the tree

One hesitates to speculate on the future of a band who’ve just taken 10 years to put out an album, but Deadbird sound vital on their awaited third full-length: III: The Forest Within the Tree (arrived late 2018 through 20 Buck Spin), and with a revamped lineup that includes Rwake vocalist Chris Terry and Rwake/The Obsessed bassist Reid Raley as well as bassist Jeff Morgan, guitarist Jay Minish and founders Phillip (drums) and Chuck (guitar) Schaaf and Alan Short — all of whom contribute vocals — Deadbird emerge from the ether with a stunningly cohesive and varied outing of post-sludge, tinged Southern in its humid tonality but still very much geared toward heft and, certainly more than I recall of their past work, melody. In just 38 minutes they push the listener into this dank world of their creation, and seem to find just as much release in experiments “11:34” and “Ending” as in the crashes of “Brought Low” or “Heyday.” Are they really back? Hell if I know, but these songs are enough to make me hope so.

Deadbird on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin on Bandcamp

 

Grass, Fresh Grass

grass fresh grass

Brooklyn four-piece Grass released a live recording in 2017, but the late-2018 EP Fresh Grass marks their studio debut, and it comprises five tracks digging into the traditions of heavy rock with edges derived from the likes of Clutch, Orange Goblin, maybe a bit of Kyuss and modern bluesier practitioners as well in cuts like “Black Clouds” — the lone holdover from one release to the next — and the swaggering “Runaway,” which veers into vocal layering in its second half in a way that seems to portend things to come, while the centerpiece “Fire” and closer “Easy Rider” roll out in post=’70s fashion a kind of rawer modern take. Their sound is nascent, but there’s potential in their swing and the hook of opener “My Wall.” Fresh Grass is the band searching for their place within a heavy rock style. I hear nothing on it to make me think they won’t find it, and if they were opening the show, you’d probably want to show up early.

Grass on Thee Facebooks

Grass on Bandcamp

 

Prana Crafter, MindStreamBlessing

Prana Crafter MindStreamBlessing

Reissued on vinyl through Cardinal Fuzz with two bonus tracks, Prana Crafter‘s 2017 offering, MindStreamBlessing, originally saw release through Eidolon Records and finds the Washington-based solo artist Will Sol oozing through acid folk and psychedelic traditions, instrumentally constructing a shimmer that seems ready for the platter edition it’s been granted. Songs like “As the Weather Commands” and “Bardo Nectar” are experiments in their waves of meandering guitar, effects and keys, while “Mycellial Morphohum” adapts cosmic ecology to minimal spaciousness and vague spoken word. Some part of me misses vocals in the earthy “FingersFlowThroughOldSkolRiver,” but that might just also be the part of me that’s hearing Lamp of the Universe or Six Organs of Admittance influences. The interwoven layers of “Prajna Pines,” on the other hand, seem fine without; bluesy as the lead guitar line is, there’s no doubting the song’s expressive delivery, though one could easily say the same of the krautrock loops and keys and reverb-drenched solo of “Luminous Clouds.”

Prana Crafter on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

 

Vago Sagrado, Vol. III

vago sagrado vol iii

Heavy post-rockers Vago Sagrado set a peaceful atmosphere with “K is Kool,” the opening track of their third album, Vol. III, that is hard to resist. They’ll soon enough pump in contrast via the foreboding low end of “La Pieza Oscura,” but the feeling of purposeful drift in the guitar remains resonant, even as the drums and vocals take on a kind of punkish feel. The mix is one that the Chilean three-piece seem to delight in, reveling in tonal adventurousness in the quiet/loud tradeoff of “Fire (In Your Head)” and the New Wave shuffle of “Sundown” before “Centinela” kicks off side B with the kind of groove that Queens of the Stone Age fans have been missing for the last 15 years. Things get far out in “Listen & Obey,” but Vago Sagrado never completely lose their sense of direction, and that only makes the proceedings more engaging as the hypnotic “One More Time with Feeling” leads into the nine-minute closer “Mekong,” wherein the wash teased all along comes to fruition.

Vago Sagrado on Thee Facebooks

Vago Sagrado on Bandcamp

 

Gin Lady, Tall Sun Crooked Moon

gin lady tall sun crooked moon

I’m more than happy to credit Sweden’s Gin Lady for the gorgeous ’70s country rock harmonies that emanate from their fourth album, Tall Sun Crooked Moon (on Kozmik Artifactz), from the mission-statement opener “Everyone is Love” onward, but I think it’s also worth highlighting that the 10-track outing also features the warmest snare drum sound I’ve heard maybe since the self-titled Kadavar LP. The Swedish four-piece have nailed their sound down to that level of detail, and as they touch on twang boogie in “Always Gold” or find bluesy Abbey Roadian deliverance in the more riff-led chorus of “Gentle Bird,” their aesthetic is palpable but does not trump the straight-ahead appeal of their songwriting. The closing duo of “The Rock We All Push” and the piano-soother “Tell it Like it Is” are the only two tracks to push past five minutes long, but by then the mood is well set and if they wanted to keep going, I have a hard time imagining they’d meet with complaints. Serenity abounds.

Gin Lady on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Oven, Couch Lock

oven couch lock

For an EP called Couch Lock — i.e., when you’re too stoned to even stand up — there’s an awful lot of movement on Oven‘s debut release, from the punk thrust of “Get It” to the arrogant sleaze of “Go James” and even the drums in “This Time.” And the nine-minute “Dark Matter” is basically space rock, so yeah, hardly locked to the couch there, but okay. The five-tracker is raw in its production as would seem to suit the Pennsylvania trio, but they still get their point across in terms of attitude, and a closing cover of Nebula‘s “To the Center” seems only to reinforce the notion. One imagines that any basement where they unleash that and the nod that culminates “Dark Matter” just before it would have to be professionally dehumidified afterward to get the dankness out, and an overarching sense of stoner shenanigans only adds to the good times that so much of East Coast-ish psych misses the point on. They’re having fun. You should too.

Oven on Bandcamp

Oven on Thee Facebooks

 

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White Manna, Ape on Sunday: Off You Go

Posted in Reviews on June 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

white manna ape on sunday

As though beamed in from some dimension rife with all the colors humans can’t see shining in pools of lysergic applesauce, White Manna‘s sixth album, Ape on Sunday, immediately enters the kosmiche foray with its seven-minute opening title-track. Also the longest inclusion (immediate points) at 7:10, it is immersive and exploratory in kind, a sweeping space rock mover that captures the attention and doesn’t so much hold it as toss it back and forth between hands, reshaping and kneading consciousness like so much stiff dough that’s been sitting around for too long. The proceedings call to order via Cardinal Fuzz around the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist/keyboardists David Johnson and Anthony Taibi, bassist Johnny Webb and drummer/vocalist Tavan Anderson, and the LP presents a don’t-want-to-take-up-too-much-of-your-time-microwaving-your-brain 34 minutes across which unfold seven tracks each one component in the purpose of sonic adventure and expression.

Mike Dieter adds synth to the mix as well (is he in the band full-time? I don’t know, man, is anyone? Are you? Are we all?) and the Arcata, California-based troupe put it to excellent use — if that’s what I’m hearing — in “O Captain,” which follows behind “Spirit of St. Louis,” the second and second to longest cut (secondary points) which unfurls almost direct from the leadoff with swirls and stick-click percussion. I think I hear a tambourine far back in there, but can’t be sure if I’m imagining it. Neither of the two tracks in the opening salvo really delve into lost-control freakoutery — “Ape on Sunday” is too solid in its space rock push, and “Spirit of St. Louis” has a cyclical bassline that holds it together — but there’s headphone-worthy fare just the same as White Manna slowly and patiently build on the space-jazz wash that capped “Ape on Sunday” with “Spirit of St. Louis,” a change in the drum pattern just before the three-minute mark signaling the turn to the even bouncier vibe that takes hold, then fades out to let manipulated and sampled-sounding organ and other sundries finish. Two songs and 13 and a half minutes deep, Ape on Sunday shimmers bright and feels purposeful in its jammy foundations.

Not that a band six records deep shouldn’t know what they want to do, but sometimes not knowing exactly where a piece is headed is fun too. The mood shifts markedly with the aforementioned “O Captain,” which is shorter at 3:35 and, though it’s also the likely closer of side A, comes paired in the tracklisting with the 3:56 “Night in Lisbon” as the next of Ape on Sunday‘s three two-song movements, completed by the three-minute closer “More More More” at the end, which works twice as well because despite its title, it’s the only such movement without a second song. Around mellow keys and post-prog drama-drumming, “O Captain” feels still compared to the title-track and “Spirit of St. Louis” before it, and that seems to be intentional, not to much in a stop-and-rest vein but more like an arrival at a different place, from which “Night in Lisbon” — hey, that’s a place! — takes hold with a quickly manifest fuzz overload and echoing vocals overlaid, the effects ringing outward into intertwining layers of guitar and synth and once again it’s Anderson tasked with holding it all together, which he does ably with (more?) tambourine and a mantra of tom hits. “Night in Lisbon” doesn’t really shove into any kind of grand payoff or anything, but White Manna let it breathe instrumentally in its final two minutes, fading out long until only residual swirl remains.

white manna

A quick howl of guitar volume swell and emergence of bass and drums and (soon enough) synth and keys signal the arrival of “Eye in the Cloud that Serves as Thunder,” which feels more spacious in its mix despite the immediacy of the drum line and tape-loop-sounding whatnot surrounding. The tension is such that White Manna seem to be signaling something’s gotta give, and what does is reality, as the band dive headfirst into an angular proggy noodle that comes apart amid maddening let-it-all-go a bit of either sax or sax sounds in the fade, the leftover echoes of which extend into “Zodiak Spree,” which is entrancing drone and soundscaping that’s like New Age if New Age had ever been any good. The synthesizer oozes in and out over a consistent low-end drone and guitars gently enter and exit as well while the hypnotic figures play. There’s no verse, no chorus, no lyrics, no real “parts” as such, but at five-minutes long, “Zodiak Spree” seems to speak to the same feeling of arrival — not necessarily in Portugal or, for that matter, anywhere else — as “O Captain,” rounding out the third pairing on Ape on Sunday with resonant chill.

That leaves just “More More More” to act as the keystone move on its own for White Manna, and it does so as also the shortest track at 3:03, a twisted jangle of guitar noise, garage rock drumming, synth, keys, whatever. Someone is speaking or making noise or just kind of laughing, but there’s a momentary cast to the jam wherein it takes a bodily presence around a Hendrixian guitar line circa two-minutes in and locks down a groove for, a measure or two. That one part could’ve lasted probably 10 minutes, but that’s not White Manna‘s trip this time around. Instead, it cuts itself short and leaves the guitar hanging and the synth running outward, coming apart quicker than some of the other pieces but staying consistent in doing so anyhow. It’s gone before they hit three minutes, which is fair enough as by that time, Ape on Sunday has already traversed up, down and between spaces of sound and let its audience come along for the brief but wide-ranging and evocative ride.

Some of the more cinematic aspects of the synth in “O Captain” or even “Eye in the Could that Serves as Thunder” add further breadth to the whole experience, but the truth is that White Manna are going where they’re going whether they know how to get there or not. That’s part of what makes Ape on Sunday so exciting a listen as the communion of exploration takes on so many forms.

White Manna, Ape on Sunday (2019)

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White Manna Announce Ape on Sunday out June 28

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

white manna

I was like, ‘Oh hey White Manna have a new album coming out, I’ve written about them before’ — they’ve been in year-end poll lists and a couple news stories here and there probably much like this one — then I hit their Bandcamp to check out the tunes and I was reminded why I’d written about White Manna before. The place they call home, Arcata, California, is just about the halfway point along the US West Coast, so they’re pretty far removed from the San Diego and San Francisco scenes to the south and likewise the Portland/Seattle stuff to the north. Accordingly, the wash they craft is their own, and as they move toward the release of their sixth album, Ape on Sunday — out June 28 through Cardinal Fuzz — they seem to draw from all sides with a fluid of groove and a manifestation of psychedelia true to tradition and their own intent alike.

That’s going by two songs, but something tells me the rest of this one isn’t exactly a dud. Keep an eye out.

Here’s PR wire info, links and audio:

white manna ape on sunday

Cardinal Fuzz are proud to present to you ‘Ape On Sunday’ – the 6th Long Player from Arcataa, California’s White Manna. Recorded over a period of time that saw front man David Johnson return home to Massachusetts to spend time with his family after a traumatic event. While away Dave and Anthony (back on board fully for this new lp) tackled the recordings they had started while Tavan and Johnny laid down the drum and bass tracks and Mike Dieter also rejoined White Manna to lay down some synth parts (honing a Klaus Schulze vibe) . When Dave returned to Humboldt they at long last got down to finishing the LP. ‘Ape On Sunday’ takes its inspiration and title from a Robert Zimmerman poem in his poetry book/novel – ‘Tarantula’ – a stream of conscious / cut up style prose from ’66.

You can feel how the life experiences over the last year have seeped, shaped and informed ‘Ape On Sunday’ which is the bands most intimate release since ‘Come Down Safari’. It’s a heady hypnotic mix that at times plays like psychedelic meditations and at others like music for a post apocalyptic movie. The Redwood canopies of Northern California’s Emerald Triangle still influence White Manna but there sound here is heading out in a more experimental direction where the music is more kosmische in style with sounds wreathed in mist and vapours, droning synths and shimmering guitars. ‘Ape On Sunday’ finds White Manna re-entering the stratosphere and floating back down to the dense redwood forest of their homeland.

Housed in a 350gsm Gloss Laminated Sleeve with a full colour insert and download code.

Tracklisting:
1. Ape On Sunday 07:10
2. Spirit Of St. Louis
3. O Captain
4. Night In Lisbon
5. Eye In The Cloud That Serves As Thunder
6. Zodiak Spree
7. More More More

https://www.facebook.com/whitemanna/
https://whitemanna.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CardinalFuzz/
cardinalfuzz.bigcartel.com/

White Manna, Ape on Sunday (2019)

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Los Mundos, Calor Central

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Los Mundos Calor Central

[Click play above to stream Los Mundos’ Calor Central in its entirety. Album is out April 26 through Cardinal Fuzz, Avandadoom and Little Cloud Records.]

Depending on how one counts, Calor Central is upwards of the sixth full-length from Monterrey, Mexico, two-piece Los Mundos, and it follows on a quick turnaround from their 2018 offering, Ciudades Flotantes. Issued through Avandadoom in Mexico, Cardinal Fuzz in Europe and Little Cloud Records in the US, comprises six tracks and 28 minutes of earthy heavy psych rock, here and there peppering in garage buzz tonality in the guitars of Luis Angel Martínez (also vocals, synth) and/or Alejandro Elizondo (also drums, bass, synth), as on “Sin Vértigo,” but making more of an impression with the subtle layering in cuts like “Olas de Lava” and the overarching spaciousness to be found across the songs. Part of that might stem from the fact that the duo reportedly recorded the drums and percussion for Calor Central in an abandoned mine outside of Monterrey, but it extends to the guitar and bass and even vocals as well, which are just as likely to be coated in cavernous echoes on the nine-minute penultimate groover “Subterráneo Mar Jurásico” as are the drums that begin the opening title-track.

Indeed, for a sound that holds so much grit, space plays a large part in what Los Mundos do, the band creating and populating a context for their songs to inhabit across the relatively short LP, holding to an experimentalist feel while staying true to a foundation in heavy rock and psychedelia. They’ve had time to develop this approach — their self-titled debut was released in 2011 — but even that release and the subsequent 2012 EP, Mi Propia Banda Quiero Ver, have a clear forward-thinking intention at their root. A heavier overall result suits them throughout Calor Central, such that even shorter tracks like the fuzz-blasting second cut “Apertura” or the strut-right-out-of-here closer “La Salida” land with considerable impact and are able to play off the open sense of creativity both within themselves and in the pieces surrounding. If this is their journey to the center of the earth, then the core is indeed molten.

Though, again, Calor Central is relatively brief, it sets an immersive pattern from the outset. Vibe is primary. Ringing bell begins “Calor Central” like a call to prayer and echoing drum thud follows soon after, joined by guitar that only adds to the breadth of sound. More than two minutes have passed before the vocals enter in chanting layers and semi-spoken forward lines that shift between half-singing and all-out narration, guitar strums accompanying in a mood of defiance. It’s the drums at the bottom of the mix holding everything together as keys and backing voices and guitar ooze out overhead, and the title-cut feels its way forward until essentially the drums stop, and it’s as gentle as it could possibly be — that shift to silence — but still somewhat jarring. “Apertura” plays off that gracefully with the suckerpunch of its own percussive start, a churning progression more immediately greeted by airy guitar arriving in waves and seemingly intent on blowing every tube in whatever amp is being so cruelly tested.

los mundos (Photo by Victoria Orozco)

The shift to “Sin Vértigo” is direct and smoothly done, but the impact of “Apertura” goes beyond its own two minutes to the album as a whole. Its departing from even the loosest of verse/chorus structure, which “Calor Central” had, gives Martínez and Elizondo free reign to go where their whims take them, and they do precisely that with the command of a band on their sixth record. Foreboding guitar lines open to full-on fuzz roll in “Sin Vértigo” with a return of the spoken word of the opener to come and a guitar line that seems to answer back and beckon the song forward into its tonal bliss and semi-hook, a solo in the second half giving way to a last verse before the devolution to rumbling amplified noise takes hold and fades out slowly to end side A, only to let the immediately dreamy “Olas de Lava” lead off Calor Central‘s back half in surprising fashion.

Perhaps the most outwardly psychedelic inclusion on the record, “Olas de Lava” gives its guitar line a sitar treatment and an according backwards layer during its initial verses, the title line serving as the chorus in the midsection as forward momentum is built and maintained. From there, there’s no return to the verse or hook as “Olas de Lava” spaces out and a synth drone rises from out of the mix to consume the guitar even as the whole affair fades out slowly to let a troubling wash of distortion act as precursor to “Subterráneo Mar Jurásico,” which as it takes up almost a third of the album’s runtime on its own is an obvious focal point. The rhythm is relatively straightforward early on — though that might just be Los Mundos doing well in adjusting the listener’s frame of mind/expectations for “normality” — with a tinge of grunge in the verse riff, but after the second chorus, the switch flips and the guitar freaks out with a noisy lead that shifts into surf-rocking echo only to itself be consumed by the next verse, with effects swirl, drums and percussion coming forward to meet the guitar buzz head on, and a outbound progression that sure enough shows no interest in making its way back.

A noisy jam ensues to provide a satisfying apex to Calor Central as a whole in terms of the band doing whatever the hell they want and making it work, and along with some residual percussive tension and guitar ring-out, there’s a kind of vocal echo test at the end that seems to be there just for extra weirdness. Right on. On their way out, they tap garage-doomgaze with “La Salida,” swinging all the way and seeming to build to a grand finale but cutting off before they get there because, once more, they’re by no means beholden to the traditional tenets of genre. That’s not to say they don’t put them to use when they so please — there’s no shortage of fuzz or nod-ready groove throughout — just that their intention is broader than general stylistic confines can generally hold. Of course, that only makes Calor Central all the more righteous in its position.

Los Mundos on Thee Facebooks

Los Mundos on Bandcamp

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

Avandadoom on Bandcamp

Little Cloud Records on Bandcamp

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Black Bombaim to Release Zone of Resident Bodies March 11

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

black bombaim

Like a fair amount of Black Bombaim‘s work at this point, it’s probably going to be a decade or two before Zone of Resident Bodies has fully sunk in, but in the meantime, the Portuguese experimentalists have once again broadened the scope of what makes an album an album, working with three different producers in three different explorations of sound and texture in three different environments. How does the room affect sound? How does it affect the mood of the creator of that sound? How does that mood affect the creation? How has no one written a dissertation on this yet?

All these questions and more will, until the Roddenberryian post-scarcity economy takes hold and everyone just works on whatever they most feel deserves their attention — surely at that point a dissertation would be forthcoming — remain unanswered, but the album is a joy nonetheless and its reaches invite these inquiries and evocations fluidly despite the purposeful shifts behind the circumstances of their creation. It’s out March 11. You can dig into a track below. You should do that.

Info came from the PR wire:

black bombaim zone of resident bodies

BLACK BOMBAIM – ZONES OF RESIDENT BODIES (2XLP GATEFOLD)

Cardinal Fuzz and Lovers & Lollipops are proud to bring to you the new magnum opus from Black Bombaim titled ‘Zone Of Resident Bodies’.

Black Bombaim approached their latest creation with the mindset of pushing the boundaries of their musicianship by working with three different electronic composers in three unique recording settings — an old workers auditorium, a huge empty space on the postal office building and on a reverberation room on the university of engineering.

Working with Jonathan Saldanha, Luís Fernandes, Pedro Augusto helped Black Bombaim break free of the constraints of a band in a recording studio as each new recording environment and composer brought new textures and ambiance to the music created. It really is rather special to hear.

‘Zone Of Resident Bodies’ is presented in a 350gsm gatefold sleeve, pressed on black vinyl and comes with a download code. 750 Pressing World-Wide.

Preorders: https://cardinalfuzz.bigcartel.com/product/black-bombaim-zone-of-resident-bodies-cardinal-fuzz-2xlp-gatefold

Black Bombaim: Paulo Gonçalves (drums), Ricardo Miranda (guitar), Tojo Rodrigues (bass)
Producers: Luís Fernandes, Jonathan Saldanha and Pedro Augusto

http://facebook.com/blackbombaim
https://blackbombaim.bandcamp.com/
http://www.blackbombaim.pt/
https://cful.bandcamp.com/
https://cardinalfuzz.bigcartel.com

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Old Mexico, Old Mexico: Out Past Walls

Posted in Reviews on February 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

old mexico self titled

It’s hard to tell at some points whether Old Mexico‘s Old Mexico is a tale of one album, two albums or three, and not really being able to determine that ultimately winds up part of the fun. A collaboration between Dead Meadow‘s Jason Simon, Arizona-based acid folkslinger Trans Van Santos (aka Mark Matos) and jazz drummer Dave Mihaly released through Union Zero in the US and Cardinal Fuzz in Europe, it’s possible to take its six tracks/37 minutes all as one thing, as is, straight through. That’s one album. Sure. Nifty. Cool. It’s two albums because of the way its near-14-minute opener and longest inclusion (immediate points) “Past the Western Wall” seems so much an entity unto itself even taken in kind with “The Old Ones,” which is Simon‘s other included composition. And it’s three albums because Simon, Matos and Mihaly each lend material. And maybe it’s even four albums because it’s also the kind of album that if you try to take it by the numbers, you’ll just be doing it wrong. So, yeah.

However one chooses to read it, the key to Old Mexico‘s Old Mexico is an open mind. With a liberal dose of saxophone from Michael Bello — who didn’t write any of the six songs, but is sort of the unsung hero of the record nonetheless — and Mihaly‘s smooth drums behind most of the songs, at least when he’s not switching to guitar, as on his own “Stellar Jay,” on which he also sings, and instrumental closer “Madeline Kahn,” there’s an underlying jazzy sensibility to some of the songs. It’s truest of “Past the Western Wall,” which should rightly be a focal point for anyone taking on the LP. It can’t help but be. It’s right there in front. But hearing Matos take lead on the weirdo Westernism of “Neon Tree” and the stoned ramble “Black Matador,” one could just as easily tie Old Mexico to folk, and certainly there’s a familiar forward progression to at least the verses of “Past the Western Wall” and “The Old Ones” that one could argue stem from Simon‘s songwriting method. The best approach might be not to tie it at all.

An album that begs for a truly open listening experience? Bands say that all the time. It’s rarely as true as it is with Old Mexico. A modus of craft is affirmed throughout, but that modus changes of course as the songs themselves change in terms of composer and arrangement. And the best answer that results in the most satisfying listening experience is to go with it. Follow it out. There’s a clue in the name of the project: California. At least the Southern and Central parts of the Golden State. Maybe that’s what’s being summarized here; a bit of desert strangeness met with San Francisco’s hippie refinement, running up and down a dreamed-up mellow Pacific Coastline while the sun sets 10 feet out over the water. I wouldn’t know, but it fits. There’s a lot here that could fit. I think that’s part of the point too, when it’s all done and percussion-laced homage to the immortal Ms. Kahn has been paid.

Old Mexico

Freak jams like that in “Past the Western Wall,” so molten and hypnotic, but still so nuanced and so conscious, don’t happen every day, and if that was the impetus on which the rest of Old Mexico was built, fair enough. It’s an impulse one hopes they follow again, getting even weirder in the process. But it’s not the whole story of the album. There’s an unfolding that happens before that leadoff is even three minutes in, but Old Mexico aren’t just getting lost either. It’s not until after 12 minutes in, but “Past the Western Wall” makes its way back across the grand distance it creates to the verse, and ends not in a jammy culmination, but in subdued melody, giving one the impression that what’s ultimately crucial to the album is the exploration through songwriting and collaboration itself. These people working with these people. To that end, the contributions of Bello on sax can’t be ignored any more than the grounding effect of Mihaly‘s voice on “Stellar Jay,” or the Wurlitzer of Jon Randano or the manner in which Jason Crimele (who recorded three tracks while Stefan Lirakis recorded the other three) shifts from bass to drums to percussion as need be.

But even with them and the backing vocalists and other contributors, it’s Simon, Matos and Mihaly at the forefront of the songs. The turn from “Black Matador” to the soft-swinging “The Old Ones” tells some of the tale, as the two six-plus-minute tracks groove from peyote-bombed desert-jazz-folk to the nighttime vibes and contained spaciousness of a more rock-style arrangement. “Neon Tree” is a highlight for its twang ahead of the ritualized tribute/ode “Madeline Kahn,” on which anything around that jangles or clangs seems to have been put to some measure of use, but no single cut on Old Mexico really leads to an understanding of where the album as a whole is coming from — not even “Past the Western Wall,” glorious though it is.

Instead, it all feeds into the totality of the listening experience, which again, becomes less about parsing it and more about everything coming together. It might be tempting to pick apart Old Mexico‘s work based on who wrote it or who recorded or who played on it — and that might be fun, at least to certain, admittedly demented kind of listener — but the overarching crux of Old Mexico is more about the resulting sonic spread from everyone. It’s an album, not a split. What one hopes coming out of it is that it’s also not a one-off. With the recognition that these are busy people with other projects, and exploration so vast only seems to set up the potential for going further. I wouldn’t guess what a follow-up might entail, but in hearing the way in which this first outing eases its way into a desert skyscape and seems to dissipate there in the atmosphere, I’d sure like to find out.

Old Mexico, Old Mexico (2019)

Old Mexico at Jason Simon’s Bandcamp

Old Mexico at Cardinal Fuzz Bandcamp

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