Quarterly Review: Fuzz, Crippled Black Phoenix, Bethmoora, Khan, The Acid Guide Service, Vexing Hex, KVLL, Mugstar, Wolftooth, Starmonger

Posted in Reviews on December 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Day III of the Inexplicably Roman Numeralized Winter 2020 Quarterly Review, commence! I may never go back to actual numbers, you should know. There’s something very validating about doing Day I, Day II, Day III — and tomorrow I get to add a V for Day IV! Stoked on that, let me tell you.

You have to make your own entertainment these days, lest your brain melt like wax and drip from your nostrils.

Plurp.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Fuzz, III

fuzz iii

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In the Red Records on Thee Facebooks

In the Red Records on Bandcamp

 

Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst

crippled black phoenix ellengaest

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Crippled Black Phoenix on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Bethmoora, Thresholds

Bethmoora Thresholds

Copenhagen’s Bethmoora served notice in a 2016 split with Dorre (review here) and their debut full-length, Thresholds hone destructive lumber across four low-toned tracks that begin with “And for Eternity They Will Devour His Flesh” and only get nastier from there. One imagines being in a room with this kind of rumbling, maddeningly repetitive, slow-motion-violence noise wash and being put into a flight-or-fight panic by it, deer in doomed headlights, and all that, but even on record, Bethmoora manage to cull, and when their songs explode in tempo, as the opener does late in its run, or “Painted Man” does, that spirit is maintained. Each side of the LP is two tracks, and all four are beastly, pile-driver-to-the-core-of-the-earth heavy. “Keeper”‘s wash of noise has willful-turnoff appeal all its own, but the empty space in the middle of “Lamentation” is where they go in for ultimate consumption. And yeah. Yeah.

Bethmoora on Thee Facebooks

Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

 

Khan, Monsoons

khan monsoons

Khan‘s second album, Monsoons is a departure in form from 2018’s Vale, if not necessarily in substance. Heavy, psychedelic-infused post-rock is the order of business for the Melbourne trio either way, but as guitarist Josh Bills gives up playing synth and doing vocals to embark on an instrumental approach with bassist Mitchell Kerr (also KVLL) and drummer Beau Heffernan on this four-track/31-minute offering, the spirit is inescapably different. Probably easier to play live, if that’s a thing that might happen. Monsoons still has the benefit, however, of learning from the debut in terms of the dynamic among the three players, and Bills‘ guitar reaches for atmospheric float in “Orb” and attains it easily, as the midsection rhythm of the closing title-track nods at My Sleeping Karma and the back end of the prior “Harbinger” manages to shine and not sound like Earthless in the process, and quite simply, Khan make it work. The vocals/synth might be worth missing — and they may or may not be back — but to ignore the breadth Khan harness in little over half an hour would be a mistake.

Khan on Thee Facebooks

Khan on Bandcamp

 

The Acid Guide Service, Denim Vipers

the acid guide service denim vipers

Jammy, psychedelic in parts, Sabbathian in “Peavey Marshall (and the Legendary Acoustic Sunn Band)” and good fun from the doomly rollout of 11-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) “In the Cemetery” onward, the second full-length from Idaho’s The Acid Guide Service, Denim Vipers, brings considerable rumble and nod, but these guys don’t want to hurt nobody. They’ve come here to chew bubblegum and follow the riff, and they’re all out of bubblegum. Comprised on average of longer songs than 2017’s debut, Vol. 11 (review here), the four-tracker gives the trio room to branch out their sound a bit, highlighting the bass in the long middle stretch of the title-track while the subsequent “Electro-Galactic Discharge” puts its guitar solo front and center before sludge-rocking into oblivion, letting “Peavey Marshall (and the Legendary Acoustic Sunn Band)” pick up from there, which is as fine a place as any to begin a gallop to the end. Genre-based shenanigans ensue. One would hope for no less.

The Acid Guide Service on Thee Facebooks

The Acid Guide Service on Bandcamp

 

Vexing Hex, Haunt

vexing hex haunt

Based in Illinois, Vexing Hex make their debut on Wise Blood Records with Haunt, and yes, playing catchy, semi-doomed, organ-laced cult rock with creative and melodic vocal arrangements, you’re going to inevitably run into some Ghost comparisons. The newcomer three-piece are distinguished by a harder edge to their impact, a theremin on “Planet Horror” and a rawer production sensibility, and that serves them well in “Build Your Wall” and the buildup of “Living Room,” both of which play off the fun-with-dogma mood cast by “Revenant” following the intro “Hymn” at the outset of Haunt. Not quite as progressive as, say, Old Man Wizard, there’s nonetheless some melodic similarity happening as bell sounds ensue on “Rise From Your Grave,” the title of which which may or may not be purposefully cribbed from the Sega Genesis classic Altered Beast. There’s a big part of me that hopes it is, and if Vexing Hex are writing songs about retro videogames, they sound ready to embark on a Castlevania concept album.

Vexing Hex on Thee Facebooks

Wise Blood Records on Bandcamp

 

KVLL, Death//Sacrifice

kvll death sacrifice

Proffering grueling deathsludge as though it were going out of style — it isn’t — the Melbourne duo KVLL is comprised of bassist/vocalist/guitarist Mitchell Kerr (also Khan) and drummer Braydon Becher. It’s not without ambient stretches, as the centerpiece “Sacrifice” shows, but the primary impression KVLL‘s debut album, Death//Sacrifice makes is in the extremity of crash and heavy landing of “The Death of All That is Crushing” and “Slow Death,” such that by the time “Sacrifice” ‘mellows out,’ as it were, the listener is punchdrunk from what’s taken place on the prior two and a half songs. There’s little doubt that’s precisely KVLL‘s intention here, as the cavernous screams, mega-lurch and tense undercurrent are more than ably wielded. If “Sacrifice” is the moment at which Death//Sacrifice swaps out one theme for another, the subsequent “Blood to the Altar” and nine-minute closer “Beneath the Throne” hammer the point home, the latter with an abrasive noise-caked finale worthy of standard-bearers Primitive Man.

KVLL on Thee Facebooks

KVLL on Bandcamp

 

Mugstar, GRAFT

mugstar graft

Not that the initial droning wash of “Deep is the Air” or the off-blasted “Zeta Potential” and warp-drive freneticism in “Cato” don’t have their appeal — oh, they do — but when it comes to UK lords-o’-space Mugstar‘s latest holodeck-worthy full-length, GRAFT, it’s the mellow drift-jazz of the 12-minute “Ghost of a Ghost” that feels most like matter dematerialization to me. Side B’s “Low, Slow Horizon” answers back later on ahead of the motorik linear build in the finale “Star Cage,” but the 12-minute vibe-fest that is “Ghost of a Ghost” gives GRAFT a vastness to match its thrust, which becomes essential to the space-borne feel. It’s 41 minutes, still ripe for an LP, but the kind of album that has a genuine affect on mood and mindset, breaking down on a molecular level both and remolding them into something hopefully more evolved on some level through cosmic meditation. Fast or slow, up or down, in or out, it doesn’t ultimately matter. Nothing does. But there’s a moment in GRAFT where the one-skin-on-another thing becomes apparent and all the masks drop away. What’s left after that?

Mugstar on Thee Facebooks

Centripetal Force Records website

Cardinal Fuzz Records BigCartel store

 

Wolftooth, Valhalla

Wolftooth Valhalla

Hooks abound in power-stoner fashion throughout Indiana four-piece Wolftooth‘s second album, Valhalla, which roughs up NWOBHM clarity in early-Ozzy fashion without going overboard to one side or the other, riffs winding and rhythms charging in a way not entirely unlike some of Freedom Hawk‘s more recent fare, but with a melodic reach of its own and a dynamism of purpose that comes through in the songwriting. Grand Magus‘ metallic traditionalism might be an influence on a song like “Fear for Eternity,” but “Crying of the Wolfs” has a more rocking swagger, and likewise post-intro opener “Possession.” With tightly constructed songs in the four-to-five-minute range, Valhalla never feels stretched out more than it wants to, but “Molon Labe” pushes the vocals deeper into the mix for a bigger, more atmospheric sound, and subtle shifts like that become effective in distinguishing the songs and making them all the more memorable. Recently signed to Napalm after working with Ripple, Ice Fall, Cursed Tongue and Blackseed, they seem to be poised to pay off the potential here and in their 2018 self-titled debut (review here). So be it.

Wolftooth on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Cursed Tongue Records BigCartel store

Ice Fall Records BigCartel store

 

Starmonger, Revelations

starmonger revelations

Parisian riff-blaster trio Starmonger have been piecemealing tracks out for the last five years as a series of EPs titled Revelation, and the full-length debut, Revelations, brings these nine songs together for a 49-minute long-player that even in re-recorded versions of the earliest cuts like “Tell Me” and “Wanderer” show how far the band has come. It’s telling that those two close the record out while “Rise of the Fishlords” and “L√©th√©” from 2019’s Revelation IV open sides A and B, respectively, but older or newer, the band end up with a swath of stylistic ground covered from the more straightforward and uptempo kick of the elder tracks to the more progressive take of the newer, with plenty of ground in between. Uniting the various sides are strong performances and strong choruses, the latter of which would seem to be the thread that draws everything together. Whether or not it takes Starmonger half a decade to put out their next LP, one can hardly call their time misspent while listening to Revelations.

Starmonger on Thee Facebooks

Starmonger on Bandcamp

 

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Demon Head Post “The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony” Video; Viscera out Jan. 29

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

This is as crucial a moment as I can think of Demon Head as having in their career. Certainly since their first album, anyhow. With the details of their fourth long-player and label debut for Metal Blade Records, Viscera, the five-piece aren’t just sharing a track off the record like it’s nothing, business as usual. They’re basically introducing themselves to a new listenership thanks to their new home’s larger distribution and promotional footprint. Don’t get me wrong, it was a big deal when they put out Hellfire Ocean Void (review here) and set about moving deeper into the darkened reaches of their own sound, but “The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony” has a pivotal role to play as preorders launch for Viscera.

And Demon Head don’t shy away from it. For those who’ve followed the band, the new track/video shows immediately that they’ve continued to progress. It’s arguably the most atmospheric song they’ve done as a group, and they’ve never been shy about setting a mood. And for those new to the band, “The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony” serves as an exciting outside-genre look at a band come into their own sound. The fact that it’s the closer alone makes it a brave choice as a first single. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the LP.

From the PR wire:

demon head viscera

Demon Head reveals details for new album, ‘Viscera’; launches video for new single, “The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony”

On January 29th, Demon Head will release their new album, Viscera, via Metal Blade Records. For a first preview of the record, a video for the new single, “The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony” (created by Justine Morrow aka lathe.of.heaven), can be viewed at: metalblade.com/demonhead – where Viscera can be pre-ordered in the following formats:

– hardcover digisleeve-CD
– 180g clear deluxe edition vinyl w/ o-card, backpatch, and poster (Kings Road exclusive – limited to 300 copies)
– 180g black vinyl (EU exclusive)
– clear ash grey marbled vinyl (EU exclusive – limited to 250 copies)
– dark red / black marbled vinyl (EU exclusive – limited to 250 copies)
– clear / black dust vinyl (Kings Road exclusive – limited to 100 copies)
– clear brown marbled vinyl (US exclusive)

Demon Head is comprised of five internationally based and widely acclaimed musicians; Mikkel Sander Fuglsang, Birk Gjerlufsen Nielsen, Marcus Ferreira Larsen, Thor Gjerlufsen Nielsen and Jeppe Wittus. Though hesitant to compromise the description of the music they perform through generalizing terms of genre, they’ve coined the term “diabolic rock” as an appropriate presentation.

Their fourth full-length – Viscera – is a new beginning for Demon Head. Recorded during the first months of 2020 between the legendary Sweet Silence Studios by Flemming Rasmussen (Metallica, Morbid Angel, Rainbow) and a remote country house in Sweden, the album was mixed by Martin ‘Konie’ Ehrencrona (In Solitude, Tribulation, Nifelheim). The production shows the impeccable qualities of joined forces, where old techniques meet new aesthetics, and major label possibilities meet underground, uncompromising DIY dedication. The resulting 10 songs showcase acoustic instruments, flourishing mellotron strings, brass instruments, tape manipulation and church organ – displayed in equal measure to the sound of the crushing drums of J.W, cryptic guitars of brothers B.G.N and T.G.N, pounding bass lines of M.S.F, and the vocals of M.F.L combined with the eerily captivating falsetto and baryton of B.G.N.

Demon Head comments: “We are now ready to offer You ‘Viscera’. It contains more of us than any album we have made before, and we hope that You will welcome it as sincerely as it will welcome You.”

Viscera track-listing
1. Tooth and Nail
2. The Feline Smile
3. Arrows
4. Magical Death
5. The Lupine Choir
6. A Long, Groaning Descent
7. In Adamantine Chains
8. Black Torches
9. Wreath
10. The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony

Demon Head will play a release show on January 30th at Pumpehuset in Copenhagen. “A release ceremony will take place in Copenhagen when this year is newly dead. Tokens for the passage are available here: https://pumpehuset.dk/koncerter/demon-head-slaegt-shaam-larein/

Demon Head line up:
Mikkel Sander Fuglsang – bass
Birk Gjerlufsen Nielsen – guitars
Marcus Ferreira Larsen – vocals
Thor Gjerlufsen Nielsen – guitars
Jeppe Wittus – drums

https://www.facebook.com/Demoncoven/
http://www.instagram.com/demonhead_official/
http://demonhead.bandcamp.com/
https://demonhead.bigcartel.com/
http://www.demonhead.org
https://www.facebook.com/metalbladerecords
https://www.instagram.com/metalbladerecords/
https://www.metalblade.com/

Demon Head, “The Triumphal Chariot of Antimony” official video

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Review & Full Album Stream: √ėresund Space Collective, Four Riders Take Space Mountain (Plus Video Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

√ėresund Space Collective Four Riders Take Space Mountain

[Click play above to see the premiere of √ėresund Space Collective’s live-recorded video for ‘Descent to Reality’ from the album Four Riders Take Space Mountain, as well as stream the album in its entirety. It’s out Nov. 24 on Space Rock Productions.]

Very often a band like √ėresund Space Collective can be intimidating to new listeners, and fairly enough so. Ostensibly Danish, or at least named for a city in Denmark, they can pull members from Sweden, the US, Norway, Portugal and just about anywhere else — I don’t think they’d turn anyone away if the vibe was right — and between shifting personnel, their ever-growing discography, the fact that they’ve been at it for 14 years and that pesky slashed-‘o’ at the start of their moniker, it can be hard for the not-already-ingrained to know where to start. I’ll make it easy. Start with Four Riders Take Space Mountain. Start right here.

Why? First of all, it’s as good a place as anywhere. The group — headed by bandleader, synthesist, studio-mixer and guy-most-likely-to-get-on-mic-and-thank-the-crowd-for-showing-up Scott “Dr. Space” Heller — play improvised, instrumental and unflinchingly exploratory cosmic rock. Veering between the already-blurry lines that border heavy psychedelia, classic-style prog and Hawkwindian space fare, √ėresund Space Collective might have up to 30 records in their catalog, and my understanding is there’s even more than that when one subscribes to them on Bandcamp, but none of it is inaccessible once the listener has made the choice to dive in. It’s really just getting over that standing-on-the-edge-of-the-board feeling before hitting play.

And while in some ways¬† it’s as good for an introductory purpose as any of √ėresund Space Collective‘s other studio work — that is, these jams have their own personality to be sure, but it’s not like after however many full-lengths they’re suddenly going to put something out where the chemistry falls apart, though it would be fascinating if they did —¬†Four Riders Take Space Mountain seems to provide an especially warm welcome. The album is a 2LP and the first three sides are comprised of “Approach” (20:55) “Ascent” (20:00) and “Summit” (21:20), so there’s a clear narrative arc to follow that ties in with the title and the sense of journeying (or taking a trip) that is so emblematic of the band’s work on the whole.

That might make¬†Four Riders Take Space Mountain particularly engaging for newcomers, and where some other releases in the vast swath thereof pull from different sessions and offer what feel like extended sections of broader works or are just executed with various aims on their own, the fact that “Approach,” “Ascent” and “Summit” move so smoothly — the transitions are seamless on the CD/DL editions of the album, making the three sides one massive 62-minute jam — and flow so righteously between active and atmospheric sections, with drummer¬†Alex Skepp (G√∂sta Berlings Saga) and bassist Hasse Horrigmoe (Tangle Edge) holding together stretches of lead guitar, keys, synth, as well as the sheer sense of float that comes with the arrival at “Summit,” means that¬†Four Riders Take Space Mountain is a standout even among the band’s other work in being a joy to follow through its progression.

oresund space collective

Psychedelic effects on the violin of¬†Jonathan Segel (Camper van Beethoven), the keys of K.G. Westman (formerly of Siena Root), as well as the range of his guitars and those of Mathias Danielsson (My Brother the Wind, ex-G√∂sta Berlings Saga), Mats Orbation¬†and¬†Jonas Berge (also organ and synth), as well as the steady presence of synth from Heller himself, give Four Riders Take Space Mountain its engaging sense of sprawl, and as elements come and go and are woven into the fabric of the proceedings, that feeling of motion gradually becomes more prevalent, from the first outward steps and restless shuffle of drums on “Approach” to the wash that ensues atop it, ultimately finding its chill somewhere around 16-17 minutes in and thereby establishing the dynamic that continues in “Ascent” and “Summit” between ambience and underlying movement.

This isn’t new territory for √ėresund Space Collective — figuratively or literally; the sessions for these first three of the total four tracks took place in 2014 — but it is in the clarity of how they’re presented that they’re ultimately distinguished. “Summit” is announced with gracefully winding keyboard and unfurls with strikingly proggy guitar and synth and violin, the band united for an exciting moment around a near-cinematic chug in the middle that evolves into the final section. And even when the guitar lets go and all that’s left is some residual synth drone to fade out, there’s a feeling that at any moment they might pick up again and continue the voyage.

All the more appropriate then to have “Descent to Reality” added to side D. What on the vinyl is unedited appears on the CD/DL as a 17:35 jam with¬†Westman notably moving from keyboard to sitar. The vibe is different, the personnel is different, Tim Wallander on drums,¬†Heller on synth,¬†Segel on violin, and¬†Horrigmoe on bass — no guitar — and the departure is palpable as¬†Westman and¬†Segel play out sitar and violin melodies in a psychedelic raga made tense by the rhythm beneath and psychedelic by the synth above. Like the three tracks before, there are ebbs and flows, and an especially satisfying section of violin leading to sitar in the middle makes it a highlight, and they end in suitably meandering fashion on a wave of synth before a final tom run and strum of sitar.

To say this is √ėresund Space Collective¬†in their element is underselling it, but what¬†Four Riders Take Space Mountain does is to take the dug-in nature of their work and offer it in a manner that asks little indulgence on the part of the listener. Some, to be sure — this is nearly 80 minutes of improv psych jams we’re talking about — but the feeling of the album being purposefully constructed and built toward conveying this story is palpable and it gives someone who might be less familiar with √ėresund Space Collective¬†a way to orient themselves in the experience, rather than just flying blind in a sea of interstellar creativity. That has its appeal, don’t get me wrong, but for newcomers or the long-since-converted, Four Riders Take Space Mountain¬†brings into emphasis the transportive nuance and reach of what they do. It is suitably moving.

√ėresund Space Collective on The Facebooks

√ėresund Space Collective on Bandcamp

√ėresund Space Collective website

Space Rock Productions website

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Uffe Lorenzen, Magisk Realisme

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Uffe Lorenzen Magisk Realisme

[Click play above to stream Uffe Lorenzen’s Magisk Realisme in full. Album is out tomorrow on Bad Afro Records.]

An unhurried feel persists throughout the third¬†Uffe Lorenzen¬†solo album,¬†Magisk Realisme. The title translates in straightforward fashion to magical realism, referencing the literary style that brings magical or otherworldly elements to an otherwise “normal,” modern context. It’s fair enough ground for¬†Lorenzen to work in, considering his pedigree dating back 30 years to the beginnings of¬†Danish psychedelic rockers¬†On Trial, for whom he handled drums. That band went on for more than a decade, but the even greater impact on underground psych revivalism for¬†Lorenzen would come with the advent of his own band,¬†Baby Woodrose, in the early aughts. Adopting the¬†nom de plume¬†Lorenzo Woodrose,¬†Lorenzen became an icon — seriously: he was on Danish¬†Sesame Street and everything — of garage and traditionalist psych, performing with an inimitable energy and a cosmos-bound feel that came accompanied by an oft-voiced commitment to a psychotropic lifestyle.

The advent of a solo career, doing work under his own name and in the Danish language, began with the 2017 solo debut,¬†Galmandsv√¶rk¬†(review here) and continued in 2019 with¬†Triprapport¬†(review here), and with¬†Magisk Realisme — released like its predecessors through¬†Bad Afro Records —¬†Lorenzen seems to work to reconcile the various sides of his sonic persona while presenting a cool-toned and engaging float. What began as an exploration of acid folk has transcended stylistically and seemed to become all the more personal even as it covers more aesthetic ground, which is to say, with Lorenzen looking at more of his rocking side — see also:¬†Baby Woodrose,¬†Dragontears, Spids N√łgenhat and so on —¬†Magisk Realisme gives a proportionately more complete picture of who he is artistically. It’s not that this aspect of his work was ignored on Galmandsv√¶rk¬†or¬†Triprapport since the underlying structure of his songs is largely unshakable — not to say¬†Lorenzen has never jammed out, but some of his most effective work is in the pre-punk space-garage vein, verses and choruses at the forefront.

That’s true of¬†Magisk Realisme as well, which seems to present a maturation of¬†Lorenzen as a solo performer. He plays nearly all the instruments on the record, with¬†Henrik Lysgaard Madsen adding a notable pedal steel guitar to “Caminoen” while¬†Trine Trash sings backup and plays cello and¬†Anders Juhl Nielsen brings trumpet — yes, trumpet — to “Efter√•r.” That’s a standout moment, to be sure, but the “magical realism” involved in the album’s title more likely refers to the blend of earthbound and psychedelic elements that takes place across its somewhat unassuming 10-song/37-minute span; a classic-style LP format, divided evenly into two five-track sides. That begins with “Lad Det G√•,” the lead cut that opens with a telltale strummed riff and “Yeah!” from¬†Lorenzen that itself is a dogwhistle to let his fanbase know the man himself has arrived.

uffe lorenzen

Organ, electric guitar, and of course¬†Lorenzen‘s voice, drums, bass, etc., and the backing vocals of¬†Trine Trash in the hook, all set a familiar stage drawing from ’60s psych, but in truth there’s nothing retro about it — the sound is modern, crisp, and the mix executed with a depth and a clarity that allows for the solo in the second half to top the rhythm track fluidly before cutting back to a last verse. A highlight to start off, then, and “I Mit Blod” hits a little harder, even, ahead of the shift to acoustic for “Efter√•r” and the mellow roll and wistful pedal steel in “Caminoen.” These turns of mood and arrangement are handled with remarkable smoothness, and while one should expect no less from a composer of such experience as¬†Lorenzen, it’s nonetheless significant that even in this relatively new context of solo performance, he’s so able to lead the audience wherever he wants to go. On the title-track, that’s to the very heart of guy-and-guitar vibing, an acoustic strum taking a progression that might in another situation be a driving rock riff and turning it into a sentimental meditation. I won’t pretend to speak Danish, but the vocal performance there from¬†Lorenzen, stark with just his own guitar accompanying, is a highlight either way.

More of the same on side B? Well, it starts with another “Yeah!” at the beginning of the also-organ-laced “Livet Skriger,” and¬†Trash returns on backing vocals, so there’s definitely some mirroring going on with the first half of the record, but the pacing has more shove in “Livet Skriger” than did “Lad Det G√•,” and the feeling is of shaking loose, breaking free perhaps, from any constraints. Liberation rock, and perhaps as close as¬†Magisk Realisme comes to¬†Baby Woodrose. An immediate dreamy turn is undertaken with “Tornerose,” wah guitar peppered along with layers of vocals and a subdued spirit that still carries some motion with the drums behind it, deep-mixed though they are, and “Nede Af Vejen” picks up on that and adds tambourine for further percussive revival, which further smooths the shift into “Stjernest√łv.” The penultimate inclusion on¬†Magisk Realisme reinforces the album’s core blend of songwriting and more full-band-style performance from Woodrose, with organ, tambourine, drums, electric guitar, and so on, as he moves through a subtly quick 2:22 to ground the record one last time ahead of “Dommedags Eftermiddag,” for which the drums depart and a fuller drift and trippy melodic wash takes hold.

Lorenzen‘s echoing voice is well established as being suited to such fare, and amid the waves and wahs of electric and acoustic guitar and whatever keys are happening in there, he provides a human presence that is inimitable enough to be entirely his own. The same is true of the record as a whole.¬†Uffe Lorenzen, as a musical project by the person of the same name, is becoming more complex, but in so doing, it also seems to be getting closer to encompassing all the work of that person in the first place. Does it represent a shifting interest in modes of expression back toward rock from the folkier movements of his first two solo albums? Certainly possible, but that’s not something that can really be answered until the next one comes along. Most crucially,¬†Lorenzen shows no signs of stopping or letting up on his creative evolution, and whatever it is he’s searching for in this ethereal landscape, he seems bound only to keep looking. So much the better.

Uffe Lorenzen, “Caminoen” official video

Uffe Lorenzen on Thee Facebooks

Baby Woodrose on Thee Facebooks

Baby Woodrose on Bandcamp

Baby Woodrose website

Bad Afro Records on Bandcamp

Bad Afro Records on Thee Facebooks

Bad Afro Records website

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Uffe Lorenzen Posts “Caminoen” Video; Magisk Realisme out Sept. 11

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

uffe lorenzen

Uffe Lorenzen, otherwise known as Lorenzo Woodrose of long-running Kobenhavn psych-rock leaders¬†Baby Woodrose, is set to release his third solo album,¬†Magisk Realisme, on Sept. 11 through¬†Bad Afro Records. I’m not going to even pretend to know the date, but I know that’s pretty soon. The follow-up to last year’s¬†Triprapport (review here) and 2017’s Galmandsv√¶rk (review here) sees Lorenzen doing more work that bridges the gap between some of the acid-folk fare he’s delved in over the last couple years (and records) and Baby Woodrose‘s more garage-rocking side. Perhaps that’s a result of the man himself — who plays just about everything on the LP but for the odd bit of pedal steel, trumpet, cello and/or backing vocals — becoming more comfortable in this context, feeling freer to explore his own past as well as current leanings. Or maybe quarantine restlessness manifests itself in a variety of ways. You’d have to ask him. I’d love to.

Speaking of quarantine, I’m going to guess that longtime associate¬†Palle Demant‘s video for “Caminoen” was filmed prior to it? There are an awful lot of short-sleeves around for it being early in the year in Scandinavia, so maybe Denmark is out of social distancing. I see hugs and not-masks and high fives and people sitting together and the song is sweet and melodic with the pedal steel playing off¬†Lorenzen‘s verses and on my first watch, I found myself thinking, “Holy shit it would be amazing to get a walking tour of Copenhagen from¬†Uffe Lorenzen and write about it afterwards,” since that’s basically what the clip is — I think of these writing projects all the time and they almost never come to fruition because time and also money. But I had to stop myself because as¬†Lorenzen goes around basically from bar to bar, saying hi to people — pretty sure¬†Demant makes a cameo in a¬†Fuzz Cake Film t-shirt — I remembered that I don’t even know if this kind of thing would happen now, let alone if I, as an American, would be able to enter Denmark to experience it. And that was a pretty sad realization. Gave that pedal steel a weepy edge, to be honest.

But that’s one read, and of course not really what the song is probably looking to evoke. In any case, it’s an appreciated early taste of¬†Magisk Realisme, and should we one day enter a reality in which a walking tour of Copenhagen with¬†Lorenzen as the guide might be possible, I’ll be right there at the head of the line.

Enjoy:

Uffe Lorenzen, “Caminoen” official video

Today I’m releasing the second single from Magical Realism and here’s Palle Demant’s video for the track CAMINOEN, probably the funniest video I’ve ever made – for obvious reasons. It’s myself on all the instruments, with beautiful pedal steel help from Henrik Lysgaard Madsen.

The album will be released on September 11th and can be pre-ordered here: https://badafrorecords.bandcamp.com/album/magisk-realisme

The song is also out on all kinds of digital things: https://badafro.lnk.to/Caminoen

And can be downloaded here: https://badafrorecords.bandcamp.com/track/caminoen-2

Uffe Lorenzen on Thee Facebooks

Baby Woodrose on Thee Facebooks

Baby Woodrose on Bandcamp

Baby Woodrose website

Bad Afro Records on Bandcamp

Bad Afro Records on Thee Facebooks

Bad Afro Records website

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Finding Comfort in Live Music When There Isn’t Any

Posted in Features on August 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Bands and festivals have begun to announce 2021 dates and all that, but let’s be realistic: it’s going to be years before live music is what it once was. Especially in the United States, which is the country in the world hardest hit by the ol’ firelung in no small part because of the ineptitude of its federal leadership, an entire economic system of live music — not to mention the venues, promotions and other cultural institutions that support it on all levels — needs to be rebuilt from the ground up. It isn’t going to be just as simple as “social distancing is over and we can all crowd into the bar again.” Maybe not ever.

You’ve likely seen a band do a live stream at this point, even if after the fact, and I have too. Not the same as a real-life gig, duh, but if it helps raise some funds and keeps creative people working on something and gives an act a way to connect with its audience, you can’t call it bad. I’ve found, though, that with the dearth of live music happening and the nil potential that “going to a show” will happen anytime soon, I’ve been listening to more and more live albums.

This, in no small part, is because there are plenty to listen to. Some groups attempting to bring in cash either for themselves or relevant causes have put out live records in the last few months and made use of the downtime that would’ve otherwise been given to actually being on a stage or writing together in a room or whatever it might be. It’s been a way for a band to not just sit on its collective hands and wonder what the future will bring. When so much is out of your own control, you make the most of what you’ve got.

In that spirit, here’s a quick rundown of 10 recent live outings that I’ve been digging. If you’ve found you’re in the need of finding comfort in live music and whatever act you want to see isn’t doing a stream just this second, maybe you can put one of these on, close your eyes, and be affected a bit by the on-stage energy that comes through.

Thanks as always for reading, and thanks to Tim Burke, Vania Yosifova, and Chris Pojama Pearson for adding their suggestions when I asked on social media. Here we go, ordered by date of release:

Arcadian Child, From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz)

arcadian child from far for the wild

Released Jan. 24.

Granted, this one came out before the real impact of COVID-19 was being felt worldwide, but with the recent announcement of Arcadian Child‘s next studio album coming out this Fall, including From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz) (discussed here) on this list seems only fair. The Cyprus-based four-piece even went so far as to include a couple new songs in the set that’ll show up on Protopsycho as well this October, so it’s a chance to get a preview of that material as well. Bonus for a bonus. Take the win.

Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. 1

kadavar studio live session

Released March 25.

Germany began imposing curfews in six of its states on March 22. At that point, tours were already being canceled, including Kadavar‘s European run after two shows, and the band hit Blue Wall Studio in Berlin for a set that was streamed through Facebook and in no small part helped set the pattern of streams in motion. With shows canceled in Australia/New Zealand and North America as well, Kadavar were hoping to recover some of the momentum they’d lost, and their turning it into a live record is also a part of that, as is their upcoming studio release, The Isolation Tapes.

√ėresund Space Collective, Sonic Rock Solstice 2019

√ėresund Space Collective Sonic Rock Solstice 2019

Released April 3.

Of course, I’m perfectly willing to grant that Sonic Rock Solstice 2019 (review here) wasn’t something √ėresund Space Collective specifically put out because of the pandemic, but hell, it still exists and that enough, as far as I’m concerned. As ever, they proliferate top notch psychedelic improv, and though I’ve never seen them and it seems increasingly likely I won’t at the fest I was supposed to this year, their vitality is always infectious.

Pelican, Live at the Grog Shop

pelican Live at The Grog Shop

Released April 15.

Let’s be frank — if you don’t love Pelican‘s music to a familial degree, it’s not that I think less of you as a person, but I definitely feel bad for you in a way that, if I told you face-to-face, you won’t find almost entirely condescending. The Chicago instrumentalists are high on my list of golly-I-wish-they’d-do-a-livestream, and if you need an argument to support that, this set from Ohio should do the trick nicely. It’s from September 2019, which was just nearly a year ago. If your mind isn’t blown by their chugging progressive riffs, certainly that thought should do the trick.

SEA, Live at ONCE

sea live at once

Released June 19.

Also captured on video, this set from Boston’s SEA finds them supporting 2020’s debut album, Impermanence (review here) and pushing beyond at ONCE Ballroom in their hometown. The band’s blend of post-metallic atmosphere and spacious melody-making comes through as they alternate between lumbering riffs and more subdued ambience, and it makes a fitting complement to the record in underscoring their progressive potential. The sound is raw but I’d want nothing less.

Sumac, St Vitus 09/07/2018

sumac st vitus

Released July 3.

Issued as a benefit to Black Lives Matter Seattle and a host of other causes, among them the Philadelphia Womanist Working Collective, this Sumac set is precisely what it promises in the title — a live show from 2018 at Brooklyn’s famed Saint Vitus Bar. I wasn’t at this show, but it does make me a little wistful to think of that particular venue in the current concert-less climate. Sumac aren’t big on healing when it comes to the raw sonics, but there’s certainly enough spaciousness here to get lost in should you wish to do so.

YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn

YOB Pickathon 2019 Live from the Galaxy Barn

Released July 3.

They’ve since taken down the Bandcamp stream, but YOB’s Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn (review here) was released as a benefit for Navajo Nation COVID-19 relief, and is an hour-long set that paired the restlessness of “The Lie that is Sin” next to the ever-resonant “Marrow.” Of all the live records on this list, this is probably the one that’s brought me the most joy, and it also inspired the most recent episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal, which jumped headfirst into YOB‘s catalog. More YOB please. Also, if you haven’t seen the videos of Mike Scheidt playing his guitar around the house, you should probably hook into that too.

Dirty Streets, Rough and Tumble

dirty streets rough and tumble

Released July 31.

If you’re not all the way down with the realization that Justin Toland is the man when it comes to heavy soul and blues guitar, Dirty Streets‘ new live record, Rough and Tumble, will set you straight, and it won’t even take that long. With the all-killer bass and drums of Thomas Storz and Andrew Denham behind, Toland reminds of what a true virtuoso player can accomplish when put in a room with a crowd to watch. That’s an important message for any time, let alone right now. These cats always deliver.

Amenra, Mass VI Live

amenra mass vi live

Released Aug. 7

Look, I’m not gonna sit here and pretend I’m the biggest Amenra fan in the world. I’m not. Sometimes I feel like they follow too many of their own rules for their own good, but there’s no question that live they’re well served by the spectacle they create, and their atmospherics are genuinely affecting. And I know that I’m in the minority in my position, so for anyone who digs them hard, they put up this stream-turned-record wherein they play a goodly portion of 2017’s Mass VI, and even as the self-professed not-biggest-fan-in-the-world, I can appreciate their effort and the screamy-scream-crushy-crush/open-spaced ambience that ensues.

Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019

Electric Moon Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019

Releasing Sept. 4.

Yeah, okay, this one’s not out yet, but sometimes I’m lucky enough to get things early for review and sometimes (on good days) those things happen to be new live records from Germany psychonauts Electric Moon. The Always-Out-There-Sula-Komets are in top form on Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019 as one would have to expect, and they’re streaming a 22-minute version of “777” now that rips so hard it sounds like it’s about to tear a hole into an alternate dimension where shows are still going on so yes please everyone go and listen to it and maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll really happen. The magic was in you all along.

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Friday Full-Length: Baby Woodrose, Baby Woodrose

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Take a seat in Dr. Lorenzo‘s office for a bit of psychedelic self-care. Danish garage-psych mavens Baby Woodrose released their self-titled long-player in 2009 through Bad Afro Records. Still fronted by founding vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Uffe “Lorenzo Woodrose” Lorenzen after shifts in their lineup, the band operated in the studio as Lorenzen and guitarist/bassist/backing vocalist Adam Olsson, and after returning to Bad Afro for 2007’s Chasing Rainbows following the release of 2006’s Love Comes Down on Playground Music Scandinavia in a flirtation with broader commercial reach, the inward-looking declaration of Baby Woodrose as a self-titled long-player seemed to suit the band just fine. I really don’t have a bad word to say about the band’s catalog on the whole, no matter who’s involved, but as Lorenzen‘s (multicolor, swirling) vision became the basis for their sound and his songwriting matured to the sharp, no nonsense point one finds it here, it was obvious what were the essential elements at play in construction.

And songwriting is where it’s at for Baby Woodrose. Produced by Lorenzen and Johan Lei Gellett, the album comprises 12 tracks across 37 minutes. The longest individual cut is the finale, “Secret of the Twisted Flower” at 5:32, but nothing else touches four minutes, and the sharp, Stooges-style proto-punk of “Take It” and “No Mas” meshes brilliantly with the more kaleidoscopic mindsets of “Laughing Stock,” buzzing opener “Fortune Teller” — a telltale “yeah alright!” to get things rolling early — and the sweeter strums of the duly ’60s-tinged “Open up Your Heart.” The subtle variations in arrangement — a tambourine here, backing vocals there, a change in effects — and Baby Woodrose is/are able to affect turns from psychedelia through raw heavy rock, keeping a classic air about them all the while even as the sound fleshes out in a fashion decidedly modern. Neither are they retro, at least in terms of the ‘vintage heavy’ movement that was beginning to take hold elsewhere in Scandinavia or in Germany at the time. Formed in 2001 and with four studio LPs and a covers collection under their belt by the time they got to 2009, Baby Woodrose always operated separate from the rest of all that, and they still do. The self-titled is precisely what it says it is — the band staking their claim on who they are in terms of aesthetic and approach, and refusing to be anything but what Lorenzen wants them to be.

Tone has never been an issue for¬†Baby Woodrose, from ’01’s landmark¬†Blows Your Mind!¬†onward, and in songs like “Hollow Grove” and the presumed side A capper “Countdown to Breakdown,” each guitar strum and¬†baby woodrose self titledeach line of bass seem to hold purpose in serving the song as a whole, as much thoughtful as they are obvious, like some never-seen tree discovered in middle of a public park of pop songcraft. The hooks of “Emily” and “Laughing Stock” arrive back to back ahead of “Countdown to Breakdown” and though they’re united by the basic underlying structure, the two songs are completely different in mood, the former somewhat wistful in a poised regret and the latter defiant in lyric and fuzz alike, the position of Lorenzen‘s vocals and the effects thereupon enhancing the notion of a transition from one atmosphere to another. The pinging melodies of “Countdown to Breakdown” likewise represent another place-to-place movement, but the theme of the song being mental collapse, the psychedelia is almost a disguise the lyrics wear to get away from themselves. Not gonna say I don’t get it.

Perhaps, then, “Changes Everywhere” is all the more appropriately placed at the start of side B, but in any case, it emphasizes another aspect of Lorenzen‘s work that has held true throughout his career, in¬†Baby Woodrose as well as the prior¬†On Trial, and subsequent side-projects like Dragontears and Spids N√łgenhat as well as his recent solo work, and that is his ability to make a short song a journey. As barebones as some of these tracks can seem, they’re meticulous, purposeful and presented with a care that is rare in or out of psychedelic heavy rock. To wit, the build of the last three tracks on¬†Baby Woodrose, with the acoustic-led pair of “Mikita” and “Scorpio” following the brash “No Mas” and leading into the spacious, drifting and experimental-feeling “Secret of the Twisted Flower” to close, hypnotic but still aware of the drumming taking place in the recesses of the mix. Whether it’s there or earlier in “Hollow Grove,” “Fortune Teller” or “Emily” there’s a sense of storytelling that comes through without a direct narrative across the album as a whole, and each piece becomes habitable even as the procession from one to the next is quick and sometimes (again, purposefully) blindsiding.

The post-Playground Music era of¬†Baby Woodrose had begun two years earlier, true, but I tend to think of the self-titled as a standout moment — not the least for¬†being self-titled — that began a more mature stage for¬†Lorenzen‘s take. 2011‚Äôs¬†Mindblowing Seeds and Disconnected Flowers¬†(review here) looked back on demos and lost tracks from the period of the debut, but 2012‚Äôs¬†Third Eye Surgery¬†(review here) pushed engagingly forward on the ideas presented across Baby Woodrose, and though it would be four years before the band would turn around with 2016’s¬†Freedom (review here), that record and the pair of solo offerings¬†Lorenzen has since issued under his own name and in his own language, 2017’s Galmandsv√¶rk¬†(review here) and 2019’s¬†Triprapport (review here), continued to progress in terms of scope and confidence,¬†the solo albums taken on an ethereal singer-songwriter feel that owes as much to rock as acid folk and is entirely¬†Lorenzen‘s own.

Freedom was the last¬†Baby Woodrose album, and four years matches the longest stretch the band has had between LPs. My understanding is¬†Lorenzen has a third solo offering in the works for later this year — though of course it may meet with some delay as so much has — but whether and whenever another record shows up, there’s little doubt it will further the band’s progression of being simultaneously far out and dug in as only¬†Baby Woodrose can be.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

I wrote the above yesterday, and yesterday, I needed that bit of psychedelic self-care. The early part of the day sucked. It was awful. I was pissed off, the morning was a pain in the ass, everything, terrible. I took half a xanax and watched that Enslaved stream and that helped. The kid/puppy combo though has been pretty brutal this week.

Just got off the phone with a hospital coordinator in Allentown, PA, trying to put my father in a rehab center after his July 3 fall. He apparently still needs help from two people to stand up and is confused and uncooperative which, having grown up as his son, sounds about right to me.

They want a legal guardian for him. That’s gonna end up being me, I know it. Not a job I want, but there it is.

He has no assets to speak of or that I know of — a car. Doesn’t own a home, signed away his half of any of my mother’s assets 25 years ago, and then did so again 15 years ago, so that’s pretty much settled despite the fact that they’ve never divorced. That I would be 38 years old dealing with this shit? Not something I saw coming. Probably should have.

So it’s been a week.

I await a call from a financial coordinator at a rehab facility. Phone tag. I look forward to having a conversation, feeling totally overwhelmed and sad, and then going back to the rest of my life.

That Enslaved stream though, right?

No Gimme show again this week. I think next week? They’ve been doing a bunch of artist sit-ins, and I was the one who pulled the plug on the last episode — just didn’t have it in me to do one more thing — so yeah. I’ll make a playlist over the weekend and try to get some voice tracks down. You don’t care. It’s fine. I’m not out here trying to pretend I’m entitled to anyone’s time. I just need to say these things.

Moving on.

In especially cruel moments, life shows you the aspirations and accomplishments of those braver than you. The things people do. I’m trying to teach the puppy to fetch a tennis ball. Things are pretty mundane these days. I try to write as much as I can. Nothing new there.

Great and safe weekend. Think I’ll go for a run.

FRM.

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Demon Head Sign to Metal Blade Records; New LP in 2021

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

First thought? Fucking a, good for Demon Head. The Danish purveyors of classic-doom-plus issued their third album, Hellfire Ocean Void (review here), last year on Svart, and had never seemed so sure of their purposes or more able to conjure an atmosphere to coincide with the songwriting that’s fueled them since their beginnings. I don’t know where they might go on their follow-up, which they’ll reportedly issue next year as their Metal Blade label debut, but working with such a label ties the band to the history of heavy metal in a way that perfectly suits their aesthetic, and they bring something to Metal Blade‘s roster that it hasn’t really had in such a way since In Solitude went bust in 2015. May Demon Head be so hyped.

The PR wire brings good tidings, no lies, and — for what I believe is the first time — the band’s full names:

Demon Head (photo by Adrian Utzon)

Demon Head signs worldwide deal with Metal Blade Records

Metal Blade Records is proud to welcome Denmark’s Demon Head to its worldwide roster!

Though hesitant to compromise the description of the music they perform through generalizing terms of genre, Demon Head has coined the term “diabolic rock” as an appropriate presentation. The quintet’s full-length debut, Ride The Wilderness (2015), is a youthful and hungry adventure exploring the boundless courage of classic rock music; Thunder on the Fields (2017) turned their inspirations further towards the strange and sinister purposes of life, a tendency followed and completed on Hellfire Ocean Void (2019), with its gothic, and nothing but otherworldly, song-writing and production. Fans can expect Demon Head’s fourth album – due out early 2021 via Metal Blade Records – to continue down this sonic path.

The band comments: “The rudiments are unfolding. Unforgotten promises of friendship and dedication are bearing sweet, sweet fruit. We’re nothing but excited and full of hope to have shaken hands with an as influential and willing partner as Metal Blade Records. No one knows what this will bring.
x o x o x o x o
Demon Head”

Stay tuned for more news about Demon Head coming soon!

Demon Head line up:
Mikkel Sander Fuglsang – bass
Birk Gjerlufsen Nielsen – guitars
Marcus Ferreira Larsen – vocals
Thor Gjerlufsen Nielsen – guitars
Jeppe Wittus – drums

https://www.facebook.com/Demoncoven/
http://www.instagram.com/demonhead_official/
http://demonhead.bandcamp.com/
https://demonhead.bigcartel.com/
http://www.demonhead.org
https://www.facebook.com/metalbladerecords
https://www.instagram.com/metalbladerecords/
https://www.metalblade.com/

Demon Head, Hellfire Ocean Void (2019)

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