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)

White Manna on Thee Facebooks

White Manna on Bandcamp

Cardinal Fuzz on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

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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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Quarterly Review: Godflesh, Serpents of Secrecy, Vymaanika, Zong, Vitriol, Pillars, Lamp of the Universe & Kanoi, Azonic, Thousand Vision Mist, Arcadian Child

Posted in Reviews on January 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

Today is the last day of The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review, and it’s kind of hard to believe it’s gone so fast. Before I put the Big Boot to the proceedings like Hulk Hogan getting ready to call it a day with an elbow drop at Wrestlemania — yup, just like that — I have to take a special moment to thank The Patient Mrs. for allowing me the time this week to bang out all of these reviews and get everything sorted on the back end, etc., for these posts. She, of course, as always, perpetually, has been unbelievable, and especially with The Pecan to manage, she’s earned her title more than ever. It is thoroughly, deeply, appreciated. Much love, baby. Thank you.

Okay, Big Boot time. Let’s do this thing.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Godflesh, Post Self

godflesh post self

Guitarist/vocalist/programmer Justin K. Broadrick and bassist BC Green return with Post Self, their second post-reunion full-length behind 2014’s A World Lit Only by Fire (review here) and a collection of churning electro-noise hymnals that work in a sphere that should by now be well familiar to their multi-generational fanbase. The groundbreaking industrial pioneers sound decidedly led by the guitar on the chugging “Parasite” and the airy, almost Jesu-style wash of “The Cyclic End,” but the intensity of the beat behind “No Body,” bass and noise onslaught of “Be God” and synth-driven soundscaping of “Mortality Sorrow” recall the sonic diversity that’s always been as much a part of Godflesh’s approach as their signature cyclical rhythmic style. More perhaps than ever, Broadrick and Green seem to be aware of what defines Godflesh as a band in terms of sound, and as they make the crucial move from a “reunion” band to a working one, they seem as glad as ever to push those boundaries once more.

Justin K. Broadrick on Thee Facebooks

Avalanche Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Serpents of Secrecy, Uncoiled: The Singles

serpents-of-secrecy-uncoiled-the-singles

This two-song single may end up bring the only offering Serpents of Secrecy ever make public, and it was years in coming together. In December, the Chesapeake region group with members of Foghound, Borracho and King Giant suffered the loss of bassist Jim Forrester, who was murdered in Baltimore, and while a debut long-player was in discussion, to-date the five-piece have only issued “Warbird’s Song” and “The Cheat” as Uncoiled – The Singles, and obviously now any kind of follow-up is in question. Whether it’s the raucous burl of “Warbird’s Song” or the bluesy, organ-topped fluidity of “The Cheat,” the J. Robbins-produced tracks demonstrate the potential at heart from the lineup of vocalist Mark Lorenzo – who wound up in the role after members of Alabama Thunderpussy and Mister Bones vacated – guitarists Steve Fisher and Todd Ingram, Forrester and his former Sixty Watt Shaman bandmate Chuck Dukehart III. The only question at this point is whether that potential will ever see further realization. Right on as these songs are, I’m torn on the idea, to be honest.

Serpents of Secrecy on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

 

Vymaanika, Spectroscope

vymaanika-spectroscope

Multinational space rockers Vymaanika debut with the 20-minute two-songer Spectroscope EP, comprised of its 10-minute opening title-track and the subsequent “Golden Void,” which may or may not be named in honor of the side-project of Earthless guitarist Isaiah Mitchell. I’d believe it either way. The band comprises members from Catalan – guitarist/vocalist/synthesis Carles Esteban and bassist Andrés Paniagua, Chile in drummer/synthesist Jose Jünemann, and the US in guitarist/vocalist/synthesis Benjamin Mahoney, but they all seem to have come together to record in Barcelona, and the breadth of “Spectroscope” and serene psychedelic mantra-making of “Golden Void” benefit from that band-in-the-room vibe. Especially so the latter, which touches early on vocal harmonies over drifting guitar strum, steady synth drone and percussive pulsations before building to a more active apex in its second half. After the cacophony taking hold in the back end of “Spectroscope,” it’s a clear demarcation of a varied sonic persona, and while I don’t know how often Vymaanika will be able to get everyone together with the geographic spread, it’s easy to be glad they did it for this first EP.

Vymaanika on Thee Facebooks

Vymaanika on Bandcamp

 

Zong, Zong

zong zong

Flowing arrangements abound on Zong’s self-titled four-track debut full-length. The Brisbane, Australia-based heavy psych three-piece are well within their genre sphere, but from opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cosmic Embryo” (13:00) through “Arcane Sand” (8:10), the perhaps-Zardoz-referential “Giant Floating Head” (11:48) and closer “Return of the Alien King” (10:32), they demonstrate a natural chemistry, patience and warmth of tone that is no less comfortable in the march and lurch of its penultimate cut than in dug-in repetition-born hypnosis of the leadoff. Deceptively weighted from almost its beginning point with the low end of Michael Grinstead’s bass and the rolling drums of Henry Bennett, there’s also a balance of airiness from guitarist Adam Anderson that adds nuance when called upon to do so, though there are plenty of moments where Zong’s Zong seems perfectly content to cave-jam its far-out atmospheric fluidity. Not an ethic and not a result you’re going to hear me complain about.

Zong on Thee Facebooks

Cardinal Fuzz Records webstore

Praying Mantis Records on Bandcamp

 

Vitriol, Pain Will Define Their Death

vitriol-pain-will-define-their-death

Brutal tech-death pervades Vitriol’s first EP, Pain Will Define Their Death – a three-song onslaught the violence of which is writ large over every minute of its total 12. Sharing a penchant for opening to bigger-sounding choruses like that of its opening title-cut with peak-era Hate Eternal, the pummel factor, ultra-tense push and unmitigated viciousness eschews some of the more machine-like aspects of such technically-minded fare, and while Vitriol’s overarching groove, gutturalist execution and hammer-swing breakdowns are casting out their own assault on the aforementioned opener as well as the subsequent blast-laden “Victim” and “Violence, a Worthy Truth,” they’re working in service to songcraft much more than to an indulgent showcase of prowess, and that makes all the difference in terms of the material’s ultimate impact. That impact? When was the last time you were actually kicked in the face? Nothing if not aptly named, Vitriol’s death metal seethes and rages in kind and bodes remarkably well for future manifest devastation.

Vitriol on Thee Facebooks

Vitriol on Bandcamp

 

Pillars, Pyres and Gallows

pillars-pyres-and-gallows

Hailing classic doom and darker atmospheres, French four-piece Pillars debut on Seeing Red Records via the Pyres and Gallows EP. Its four songs run a gamut of traditional grooves, but lumber with a balance between their rawness and a spirit of underlying riffy nuance that adds texture beneath the gruff, dudely vocals of frontman Klem, the tones of guitarist Djé and bassist Disaster well suited to the plodding companionship of drummer JJ on a song like the problematically-titled second cut “Dirty Whoreshippers” or the 10-minute title-track that rounds out. At 33 minutes, I’m not sure what’s stopping Pyres and Gallows from being a full-length, but if that’s a hint that Pillars have more to say going forward, then fair enough. They may be preaching to the converted in these tracks, but they’re doing so in righteous fashion and with a sense of their own identity under development. Doom on? Yeah, totally doom on. By all means. Please do.

Pillars on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

Lamp of the Universe & Kanoi, Split

lamp-of-the-universe-kanoi-split

Among the fascinating factors at work on this cross-continental Clostridium Records split release between long-running New Zealand acid folk outfit Lamp of the Universe and Austrian psychedelic fuzz purveyor Kanoi is the fact that both parties involved are solo-projects. For Lamp of the Universe’s Craig Williamson (also Arc of Ascent), he brings three tracks of his signature drenched-wet lysergism in “In the Beginning,” “The Cosmic Body Track,” “Father” and “Space Chant,” while Kanoi’s Benjamin Kantschieder revisits two cuts from 2016’s Mountains of the Sun full-length in the extended “I’m Gone (I’m Gone)” and “Mountains of the Sun” itself. The novelty of having two single parties match wits on such fluid arrangements – my head always begs for collaboration in these instances – is offset by the quality of their work itself. Neither is new to their sphere, but both seem keen to continue to experiment and explore, and it’s from that commonality that the split most benefits.

Lamp of the Universe on Bandcamp

Kanoi on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records website

 

Azonic, Prospect of the Deep Volume One

azonic-prospect-of-the-deep-volume-one

The first Azonic offering since the mid-‘90s finds Brooklyn-based experimentalist Andy Hawkins reviving the project alongside his Blind Idiot God bandmate Tim Wyskida as a melding of drone/noise and percussive ideas. Released through Hawkins’ own Indivisible Music, Prospect of the Deep Volume One – pretty ambitious to put a “volume one” in the title of your first record in 20-plus years – presents two expansive works in “Oblivion of the Deep” (18:53) and “The Argonauts Reckoning” (18:42) as well as the CD bonus track “Voices of the Drowned” (10:12) that brim with atmospheric intent and have an underlying sense of control on the part of Hawkins that speaks to some measure of steering what might in other hands simply feel like sonic chaos. You can hear it early into “The Argonauts Reckoning,” as the layered wash seems to want to fly off the rails and swell and Hawkins’ guitar simply doesn’t let it go, but it’s true elsewhere on Prospect of the Deep Volume One as well, and in listening, it’s the difference between the album being a joy in the immersion, which it is, and a self-indulgent misfire, which it very much is not.

Azonic on Thee Facebooks

Indivisible Music website

 

Thousand Vision Mist, Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow

thousand-vision-mist-journey-to-ascension-and-the-loss-of-tomorrow

Named for the lone 2002 full-length from Maryland doomers Life Beyond, in which guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon also featured, newcomer trio Thousand Vision Mist debut with the progressive-leaning edge of Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow, a 52-minute 10-tracker. Yes, Rush are a factor in terms of influence. However, propelled by the drumming of Chris Sebastian, whose frenetic snare adds a Mastodonic feel to “Headstones Throw,” the otherwise classic-vibing “Final Flight of Fall” and the later “Darklight,” among others, the cumbersomely-titled offering sets its balance between modern prog metal, doom and classic heavy rock, with bassist Tony Comulada adding vocal harmonies alongside Kenyon and providing a needed anchor to keep songs like the penultimate “Skybound and Beyond” from actually taking off and leaving their audience behind. Reportedly long in the works, Journey to Ascension and the Loss of Tomorrow isn’t a minor digestion process at its busy and extended runtime, but while the recording is raw, there’s no shortage of fodder for engagement throughout its swath of choruses and head-spinning turns.

Thousand Vision Mist on Thee Facebooks

Thousand Vision Mist on Bandcamp

 

Arcadian Child, Afterglow

arcadian-child-afterglow

Though not at all without its more driving aspects, some of the most satisfying moments on Arcadian Child’s debut album, Afterglow, come from a soothing hook like that of “Rabbit Hole,” which finds the Cypriot four-piece more fully embodying a laid back desert rock atmosphere that underpins the Fatso Jetson-esque opener “She’s on My Mind” and subsequent “Little Late for Love.” As the feels-short-at-29-minutes record unfolds, “Electric Red” blends fuzz and Mediterranean rhythmic push, “Irresistible” toys with layered swirl beneath a solidly-weighted verse and chorus, “Run” makes itself a highlight around a post-Lullabies to Paralyze atmospheric lead and start-stop riff, and the title-track casts momentum in melody and groove into closer “Used,” which pays one more welcome visit to the more serene side of their personality before they’re done. It might be a sleeper, but I’d be surprised if someone didn’t pick Afterglow up for a vinyl release sooner or later; the songwriting, performance, presentation and potential for future growth are all there waiting to be found by the right ears.

Arcadian Child on Thee Facebooks

Arcadian Child on Bandcamp

 

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Zong Self-Titled Debut out Nov. 20 on Cardinal Fuzz / Praying Mantis; Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

zong

Oh yes. This will do nicely. Four extended cuts of warm-hued instrumental heavy psych — there are few things that I find as welcome in the morning. Or in the afternoon. Also good at dinnertime. Or late at night. Okay, so maybe records like Zong‘s Zong are less of a time-dependent thing for me than they are just something I dig regardless of when I might run into them, but that doesn’t make the digging any less vigorous, and the Brisbane trio bring a classic psychedelic character to their material — as one can hear on the winding eight-minute course of “Arcane Sand” as part of the full album streaming at the bottom of this post — that serves well to distinguish them along with the cover art by drummer Henry Bennett for their self-titled debut, which I’ve already slated to be part of the Quarterly Review next month. It’s out Nov. 20 through Praying Mantis and the ultra-respected purveyors of Cardinal Fuzz.

The latter sent the following down the PR wire and just about made my whole damn day:

zong zong

ZONG – ZONG

VINYL Release Date: 20TH NOVEMBER 2017

Cardinal Fuzz and Praying Mantis Records are proud to present ZONG.

Hailing from Brisbane Australia, Zong are a three-piece instrumental group focused on improvised cosmic jams with emphasised themes of psychedelic states, tribal rituals, gothic horror, alien encounters and medieval fantasy. Tying this all together is the groups explosive, intense and emotional delivery sounding out in the rich, golden, down-tuned and cranked amplifier glory akin to Black Sabbath and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the more modern groups Sleep and Earthless. Their true uniqueness, however, lies in their ability to blend genres and sonically improvise together making them a most satisfying heavy tripped-out listen, and a spectacle to behold as a live performance.

Since the live recording of their first ever show one year ago Zong have honed their craft playing with a myriad of bands, recently with Kadavar, Monolord, Ufomammut, Elder and Pallbearer, and now bring you their explosive debut Self-Titled LP, complete with the mind-bending album artwork by their very own drummer, Henry Bennett.

“Zong” by Zong is a monstrous swirling tidal wave of heavy riffs, pounding drums, weaving bass and guitar duels, intricate inter-dimensional psychedelia and dark mysticism which propels the listener deep into the chasms of their own imagination while also satisfying the cravings of Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix fans.

From the “space-giant wreaking havoc in the cosmos” sounds of the opening track ‘Cosmic Embryo’, to the eerie desert dancing mysticism of ‘Arcane Sand’, through to the pulverising and stark gothic doom of ‘Giant Floating Head’, and into the final majestic ‘Return of the Alien King’ fuelled with fuzzed out riffs and other-worldly mandalas of delayed guitar and blazing Aztec jungle beats, the album is a journey into the cosmos, through history and your own imagination. A well-curated and interesting blend of old and modern genres and visualised themes.

Vinyl & CD available here from ZONG directly. Additionally available from Cardinal Fuzz records in the UK/ EU and Praying Mantis records in Australia.

500 Pressing (300 For Europe via Cardinal Fuzz and 200 For Australia via Praying Mantis)

ZONG:
Zac Anderson – Guitar
Michael Grinstead – Bass
Henry Bennett – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/zongbrisbane/
http://www.instagram.com/zongband
https://zongband.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CardinalFuzz/
cardinalfuzz.bigcartel.com
https://www.facebook.com/prayingmantisrecords/
https://prayingmantis.bandcamp.com/

Zong, Zong (2017)

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