Spliffripper Premiere “Left is Law”; Self-Titled Debut Out Next Month on Desert Records

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on February 12th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


You wanna know how much of a stoner I’m not? I tried to look up what a ‘bing’ is without realizing that the band is just screwing around and using ‘bing’ as opposed to ‘bong.’ No bings, just bongs. Get it?

Desert Records has signed on to enable Spliffripper, these Montana-based, reefer-minded miscreants, whose sludgy “Left is Law” you can stream premiering at the bottom of this post. The three-piece will issue their basement-recorded (one assumes if the basement wasn’t dank when they got there it was by the time they left) self-titled full-length debut through the noted imprint on March 26. Their mission is shouty sludge with due crust and no pretense about the various influences sonic and otherwise under which they’re working. You’ll note in the tracklisting below that the album closes with “Jazz Cabbage,” and that happens to be my particular favorite euphemism for weed.

Wonder how these dudes feel about edibles.

Either way, their anti-marijuana “weed kills” stance is a riot, and brings a very specific kind of charm. I haven’t heard it yet, but I’m sure “Funeral Bong” is a good time.

The PR wire has this:

spliffripper spliffripper

Spliffripper – Desert Records


Preorder: https://spliffripper.bandcamp.com/album/spliffripper

The anti-stoner reefer-enforcement squadron has arrived: SPLIFFRIPPER!!!

Assault your earholes with our message of the true dangers of the illegal narcotic: MARIJUANA!!!

Prepare your feeble, hazed-out minds for a sonic assault of sludgy death, cultic tone worship, and cannabis-fueled rage, with riffs so nasty, you’ll drink the bongwater!

Songs of overdose, addiction, loss, and insanity that are a direct result of this dangerous chemical substance!

Your skull will cave in from the sheer power of our propaganda, and you will immediately relinquish all hazardous or unlawful substances, which shall be placed in our possession henceforth!


“Spliffripper is the living embodiment of propaganda, spewing forth the inane truths of the dangers of cannabis. Rage-fueled, hate-inducing riffs are bound to turn you into a murderous reefer fiend.”

“No bings
No bubblers
No bullshit
*spliffs and jays are A-okay*”

1. Bongbreaker
2. Left is Law
3. Vietbong
4. Chief Kief
5. Maui Waui
6. Funeral Bong
7. Jazz Cabbage

Granddaddy Purple – Riffweaver/Exhaler
Sgt. Stoned – Doomstick
Smokey “Bong” McBongwater – Primitive Skin Slapper


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Stone Machine Electric Post “Free Thought” Official Live Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 1st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

stone machine electric

I know what you’re thinking: But wait, isn’t the version of this song on the album live?

Yes, it is, and that’s exactly the kind of head-screwery I’d expect from Texas two-piece Stone Machine Electric. Indeed, the version of “Free Thought” that appears on Dec. 2020’s just-cut-and-paste-it-because-you’ll-never-get-it-right-otherwise Desert Records long-player The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld (review here) is the same one that is being played in the video below, captured at the Freetown Boom Boom Room in Lafayette, Louisiana, shortly before live shows evaporated in the face of global pandemic — timing, as ever, is everything.

Accordingly, much as Stone Machine Electric blurred the line between a live and a studio album, they’re here doing the same to the line between live and official videos. Just like they’ve been blurring the lines between jams and songs, psychedelia and doom and jazz, and so on and so forth all throughout their tenure, now past the decade mark as it is. Some bands fit easy categorization. That’s a line of which Stone Machine Electric are solidly on the other side.

At nine minutes, “Free Thought” — presented in its entirety in the video — is the shortest track on The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld by a substantial margin. And if you haven’t had a chance to get acquainted with the record yet, it’s streaming in full below.

Have fun:

Stone Machine Electric, “Free Thought” official live video

Free Thought off the album The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld on Desert Records.


Recorded live at The Freetown Boom Boom Room in Lafayette, LA on 2/22/2020. Audio mastered by Kent Stump at Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas, TX.

Stone Machine Electric, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld (2020)

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Abysm Sign to Desert Records for EP Series

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 1st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Cork, Ireland’s Abysm released the debut EP, A Grim Reminder, in October 2020. The project was founded as a solo endeavor split off from Worn Out during lockdown. One suspects 2021 is going to bring a lot of quarantine-era solo outfits, and fair enough. For Abysm, the debut EP is reportedly to begin a series, which it’s now been announced will be released through Desert Records. A Grim Reminder, then, is the first installment of a trilogy of short releases. Not like there wasn’t time to come up with plenty of stuff.

The plot thickens when the band hints at lineup expansion, i.e. becoming a band rather than a project, and adding vocals to what was instrumental initially. How that means A Grim Reminder will serve as a lead-in to the series it’s beginning, I don’t know. Depends on how the progression of what Abysm is/does plays out over the subsequent releases. We could just be hearing an extended intro this time around, which I find fascinating.

Here’s the announcement from the PR wire, spliced with a few words from Abysm when the EP came out:

abysm logo

Abysm – Desert Records

Please welcome the sludge metal project ABYSM to Desert Records.

Based out of Cork, Ireland (a city I absolutely love), I’m very happy to bring you the first EP, A Grim Reminder.

The EP is up on Bandcamp now! It’s NYP.

Please support this and pay whatever you can afford if you’re digging this. $1 from many supporters can really help a band these days.

The big news: Desert Records will be releasing a trilogy of EP’s from ABYSM this this year.

“I have been putting a lot of work into piecing this together and I couldn’t be more proud of the outcome,” says Abysm. “The process of creating a follow up is well underway and expect some new things from the next release, and also some vocals as well, but more on that on when the time is right.”

EP2 and EP3 will continue the story arc of EP1.

Dig it here:


Abysm, A Grim Reminder (2020)

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Cortége Premiere “Chasing Daylight (Part 1)” from Chasing Daylight

Posted in audiObelisk on January 29th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Austin-based duo Cortége are set to release their new EP, Chasing Daylight, through Desert Records on Feb. 26. Comprised just of its two-part title-track, it’s their first offering through the label and the follow-up to 2019’s Capricorn (discussed here), which, like several of the band’s outings, skimmed the line between EP and full-length. Chasing Daylight, running 16-plus minutes, makes it somewhat easier.

It feels cliché almost to the point of rudeness to call Cortége‘s style “cinematic.” But there it is. Sorry. On a level of observational depth, you might as well call it “sound.” Cinematic is the point. I don’t think you break out the tubular bells unless you’re going for a particular kind of atmosphere, and Chasing Daylight indeed nails that atmosphere, with the first of its two parts shorter at 7:22, but reaching voluminous heights and almost minimalist lows in a sprawl that’s vaguely Western with the ringing guitars, but nonetheless carries an undercurrent of l0w-end synth that gives the central procession of the rhythm — CORTEGE CHASING DAYLIGHTslow, slow, slow in patient form from a band who’s done this before — a particularly foreboding feel that’s also vaguely futuristic.

The Morricone of Tomorrow, Today? Maybe, but there’s more going on than just that as “Chasing Daylight (Part 1)” surges to its finish and the opening melody of “Chasing Daylight (Part 2)” nearly veers into “Silent Night” as it unfurls. The synth, initially more forward, recedes behind the guitar line that in another context would recall Bell Witch, and Cortége make their way into an even more barren stretch, barely keeping time with bells and drums likeminded in their funereal vibe. The payoff is ambient, more drift than burst, and that’s just fine as the hypnotic aspect of all that lurch would feel cheap if they swapped in a big finish for its own sake. As it is, “Chasing Daylight,” the whole work, almost seems to ask for a third part, the brevity of the two pieces included here leaving room to be expanded upon.

Whether or not that’s something Cortége have in mind, of course I’ve no idea. You can stream “Chasing Daylight (Part 1)” below, and for being (roughly) half of the total outing, it gives a sense of what the two-piece are up to with the EP, and where they might head from here.

Please enjoy:

PRE-ORDER: https://cortege.bandcamp.com/album/chasing-daylight

Post-Western, heavy ambient doom duo Cortége has signed to New Mexico’s Desert Records. The label will release the band’s new EP Chasing Daylight February 26, 2021 on CD and digital formats.

Recorded, mixed and mastered in the fall of 2020 with Jeff Henson (DUEL) at Red Nova Ranch in Austin, Texas, Chasing Daylight is a cinematic, chrome tinged portrait du temps for the end of the world as well as a musical foreshadowing of things to come. Lush arrangements wind through the familiar Cortége territories of drone, prog, doom, western and ambient soundscapes with a few surprises therein, including a guest appearance from Michael St. Claire on brass.

Album cover art comes courtesy of Steven Yoyada.

Cortége are:
Mike Swarbrick: Bass VI, Moog, Mellotron, Tubular Bells
Adrian Voorhies: Drums

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Cortége Sign to Desert Records for Chasing Daylight EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan


Austin, Texas, heavy Americana soundscapers Cortége have signed to Desert Records to release their recently-recorded Chasing Daylight EP. As hinted below, the band will also appear on the label’s split series Legends of the Desert, the first volume of which boasted Lord Buffalo and Palehorse/Palerider; part of the label’s ongoing effort to expand the definition of “desert” aesthetic to something beyond simple geography.

In that, the duo are nothing if not a fit, their 2019 Capricorn LP (discussed here) finding ground between heavy atmospheric rock and purposefully cast expanse, a progressive sense of arrangement doing little to take away from the ability to convey something big and seemingly empty while teeming with life close to the ground. You can hear that record below and see the art for Chasing Daylight here, along with the label’s announcement.

The bottom line is yeah, this one makes sense. So let it make sense:


Cortége, the Austin based post-western, heavy ambient Doom duo will be releasing their new EP “Chasing Daylight” via Desert Records on Feb. 26th.

The band is self-described as “If Earth and Pink Floyd teamed up and did a soundtrack to a David Lynch film”.

From Desert Records: “This collaboration has been under wraps for over a year now. I saw these guys open for Mdou Moctar at Sister Bar in Albuquerque and instantly knew they were perfect for the label. This is just the beginning…The Raven whispered in my ear that Cortege will be on a future volume of some compilation that has to do with Legends or Deserts or something…”

FROM THE DUO: “We couldn’t possibly be more pleased to announce our formal partnership with Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Desert Records, for both the release of the forthcoming Chasing Daylight EP and yet to be revealed future endeavors. In procuring an impressively diverse and uniquely curated armada of heavy, droning talent across the country, Brad and his team have carved a deep etching in the independent label sphere and we’re proud to say many of our new label mates we already count among friends. And so, from an otherwise dismal year, hope springs eternal. Mark your calendars for the release of our first collaboration together; a cascading, hypnotic post western epic taken to the edge of the sunrise. Chasing Daylight out 2/26/2021”.

According to the band: “we’re very excited and even with preemptively dry mixes, this little release is truly dramatic and we can’t wait for you to hear it. It’s part of a larger concept but it towers on its own two legs, our portrait du temps to the end of the world.”

Cortége is:
Mike Swarbrick – Bass Guitar, Synthesizers, Percussion & Tape Delay
Adrian Voorhies (ex Canyon of the Skull, ex Humut Tabal) – Drums


Cortége, Capricorn (2019)

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The Penitent Man Premiere “Purple Kiss” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the penitent man

Based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, The Penitent Man released their self-titled debut back in March, and followed up this Fall with a vinyl edition through Desert Records. The have-blues-will-share five-piece offer four tracks that run a total 34 minutes, so long enough to be considered an album if it matters anymore — it fits on a 12″, so there — and their vibe is no less shadowy than their new video for “Purple Kiss,” as guitarists Steven “That’s with a ‘V'” King and Phil Gallegos lead (and riff) the way through a Americana-tinged, weighted blues rock vibe, the janga-janga-janga chug of “Purple Kiss” actually something of an anomaly on the outing for its more upbeat motion.

At 5:43, “Purple Kiss” is the shortest of the inclusions on The Penitent Man‘s The Penitent Man, and it mostly matters because how the band — King and Gallegos on guitar, Ethen Garrido on bass, Chris Garrido on drums and Allan Davidson on vocals — use the rest of their time. Beginning with the longest cut (immediate points) in the 10:46 “The Devil was Christ,” they bring moody barroom spirit and country blues-inflected heavy, building to a volume surge across the first six-plus minutes ahead of a the penitent man the penitent mandrop to the bassline that leads into a tent-revival jam, Davidson taking full advantage of the opportunity to testify. While spacious, the track is no less catchy for that in its leaning on the title line, and though “Purple Kiss” is more straight-ahead structurally, it holds much of the same vibe in place. No doubt that’s why they thought it’d make a good video. Fair enough.

The dynamic continues to flesh out on side B with “Stone” (8:44) and “Buffalo” (9:36) bridging high desert landscapes with stonerized drawl, the former biding its time until the breakout can ignite a little funk-twang while “Buffalo” meets slide guitar and vocals with a fervent thud and crash, becoming a highlight for not only its eventual rolling payoff, but the gone-ramblin’ trip it takes getting there, as well as the acoustic finish that speaks to a burgeoning interest in arrangement depth that will only continue to serve the band well. Consider mid-period Wovenhand if you’re wondering what I’m talking about.

The Penitent Man have already given the self-titled a companion live outing in Live at Pale Horse Sound (also on Desert Records), and with the video behind them, will no doubt stare once more into the bluesy abyss and work on their next record — no substitute for momentum, and so on. If you’ve not yet caught wind of their met-at-the-crossroads stylizations, “Purple Kiss” indeed gives a sample of what they’re all about. The clip for it is below, followed by a few words from Davidson, as well as the stream of the entire record.

Please enjoy:

The Penitent Man, “Purple Kiss” official video premiere

Allan Davidson on “Purple Kiss”:

“The ‘Purple Kiss’ video was filmed in the early Fall of 2020 with Greg Downs of Pale Horse Sound in Sugarhouse, UT. When we began to contemplate a music video we immediately thought of ‘Purple Kiss.’ We felt it was a good representation of the energy and vibe that we were trying to convey with this album. We felt that as artists we would prefer that our music (coupled with some pretty cool filming techniques) take the forefront of our video more than us as players. I guess we prefer the shadows and let our music do the talking.”

The Penitent Man are:
Allan Davidson – Vocals
Chris Garrido – Drums
Steven King – Guitar
Phil Gallegos – Guitar
Ethan Garrido – Bass

The Penitent Man, The Penitent Man (2020)

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Stone Machine Electric, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

stone machine electric the inexplicable vibrations of frequencies within the cosmic netherworld

[Click play above to stream Stone Machine Electric’s The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld in its entirety. Album is out Dec. 4 on Desert Records.]

Texas-based duo Stone Machine Electric are not by any means the first to put together a fusion of jazz and psychedelia, but they do it with a deceptive intricacy of purpose. Over the last decade-plus, guitarist/sometimes-vocalist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer/sometimes-noisemaker Mark Kitchens have explored the outer reaches of heavy rock and managed to capture a heavy psychedelic nuance that is both expansive and weighted. Perhaps most of all on the cumbersomely-named The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld, which is the three-song follow-up to 2019’s Darkness Dimensions Disillusion (review here), the underrated two-piece lean toward their make-heavy-things-float sensibility.

Positioned longest to shortest with the 20-minute “Journey on the Nile” leading off as the longest cut (immediate points), followed by “At Crystal Lake” (15:36) and “Free Thought” (9:07) rounding out, the band’s maybe-fourth full-length — it depends on what you count as an album vs. an EP, etc. — the album finds them working in three separate contexts and recording situations as they remain united in their atmospheric purpose.

The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld is instrumental in its entirety and arguably the “jammiest” work Stone Machine Electric have done since 2014’s Garage Tape (review here), which preceded 2015’s The Amazing Terror EP (review here), which begat 2016’s ah-ha moment of self-discovery, Sollicitus es Veritatem (review here), which begat the 2017 live album, Vivere (review here), etc., but it stands in line with impulses Dub and Kitchens have followed since their 2013 self-titled debut (review here) and the prior 2010 demo Awash in Feedback (review here) in terms of finding their place within the material itself and, even if they’re working with an overarching plan, doing so in an engaging and unpredictable way.

Effects play a larger role here than they sometimes do, but the spontaneity that feeds into the overall vibe of the record — the improvised-sounding nature of some of its stretches — is easily worth the minimal buy-in the band ask on the part of the listener. That is, they hypnotize, and whatever level of self-indulgence is inherent to an offering like this, it’s easy to follow where one is lead.

The destination, incidentally, is ethereal. Though “Journey on the Nile” enters a chugging progression at around 16:30 and from there rides a post-C.O.C. “Albatross” riff with duly respectful roll and nod, the bulk of the track brims with lysergic ambience to a degree that by the time they get there, they’ve set such a mood for the remainder of the offering that even the most straightforward of shifts feels like one is stepping on soft wax. Recorded in May 2019 with Josh Block at Niles City Sound in Fort Worth, “Journey on the Nile” also gives the first hint of how the titles play a role in telling the story of the album. There are no lyrics, and yet each track seems to capture something different in the overall sphere of Stone Machine Electric‘s sound.

“Journey on the Nile” references both the river itself and the studio in which the piece was put to tape, so what one takes away from that is that Dub and Kitchens are looking to show a process of cascading along with the underlying currents of the music itself. They do precisely that in the song, whether a given change is planned or not. Accordingly, “At Crystal Lake” nods at Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas, where it was helmed in July 2018 by Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist and regular Stone Machine Electric producer Kent Stump, and also references Camp Crystal Lake from the original Friday the 13th movie.

stone machine electric

It is especially poignant that Stump recorded “At Crystal Lake” (he also mastered the entire LP), since although Stone Machine Electric have worked under Wo Fat‘s influence throughout their tenure, it’s arguable that’s never been less the case than with the initial unfolding of the 15-minute track itself, the title of which would also seem to lean toward the cinematic atmosphere of the keys at its outset. Once again, a heavier guitar emerges as Kitchens and Dub move through the runtime, but they never lose that underlying line of melodic, almost whistling drone, and the effect is to make “At Crystal Lake” not only its own statement, but also a push farther-out than “Journey on the Nile” on stylistic terms, adding to the flow of the The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld on the whole.

What, then, about “Free Thought?” The last and briefest of the album’s inclusions was recorded in Feb. 2020 at Lafayette, Louisiana’s Freetown Boom Boom Room, which is a statement all on its own when it comes to the preservation of live music in a post-COVID world. But “Free Thought” refers both to the name of the locale and the spirit of the track itself, which is open in terms of structure and not quite as avant garde as one thinks of free-jazz as being, but decidedly unhindered in its readiness to go where it wants.

It goes toward a more driving push in a linear build and then spends its last few minutes in an at-first-mellow freakout — cymbal wash and guitar noise leading to a solo, a wild tempo pickup, then finally a chugging comedown, which Dub and Kitchens manifest with the kind of chemistry that only stems from artists able to have a genuine musical conversation. And that turns out to be what unites these three songs recorded over a span of three separate years in three separate settings: the conversation. It too is called out by the band, as one suspects that’s what The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies… is about, while …Within the Cosmic Netherworld is the molten soundscapes that each song manages to create in its own way.

It’s not surprising that Stone Machine Electric would be conscious of what they’re doing in terms of putting an album together, but the multifaceted nature of their intention is emblematic of what makes them so undervalued as artists. They jam, sure, and they do it well. But though its title is long enough to be over-the-top, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld offers interpretive depth for those willing to dig into it as well as spacey nodders for those looking for a bit of zone-out mental escape.

Dub and Kitchens are able to serve varied purposes while staying united in their own mission, continuously avoiding predictability and forging a progressive creative identity through tone and rhythm alike. Tuning into their ‘frequencies’ can only highlight the strengths so readily on display here.

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Grim Earth Sign to Desert Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 30th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Olympia, Washington, sludgers Grim Earth posted in October they were looking for a new second guitarist, so I don’t know if the lineup listed below with Eaon Forgash alongside guitarist/vocalist Craig Moore is current or what, but that was the version of the band that put out last year’s Stash of the Damned three-song pummeler anyhow, and well, that certainly gets the point across, whatever personnel changes may have taken place since its issue.

How about Desert Records going on a bit of a tear lately, hmm? Wasn’t even a week ago I posted word that the Albuquerque-based imprint had picked up Phog, and now here we are again. Label honcho Brad Frye (also of Red Mesa) better be careful or he might just turn into the American Argonauta. Which now that I think about it wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.

Info cobbled together from various social-type sources, slightly edited:

grim earth

Grim Earth – Desert Records

Welcome Grim Earth to Desert Records! We are happy they’re joining the DR family!

Grim Earth is a sludge metal band out of Olympia, Washington. They formed, as so many other bands do, out of the ashes of previous projects. Longstanding musical partnerships come together within the band as they seek to craft the heaviest riffs known to man. Grim Earth seeks to fuse the influences of legends like Iron Monkey or High on Fire. However, they aren’t afraid to experiment with touches of Nails or even Autopsy making their way into the sound. And so, years of DIY metal have percolated into a twisted whole.

We are re-releasing their most recent EP “Stash of the Damned”. It is available for NYP here: grimearth.bandcamp.com/album/stash-of-the-damned-ep

After initially coming together in 2017 and recording a demo, it wasn’t until 2019 that the band started to put together a more serious lineup committed to touring and recording. Their hodgepodge of backgrounds, ranging from stoner rock to hardcore by way of underground death metal means that the band has a distinct take on the genre. Simultaneously, the fact that drummer Austin Peterson and frontman Craig Moore have been playing together for half a decade means that the band has gelled on a level that borders on the spiritual. It also means that relative newcomers Elmer Saez (bass) and Eaon (guitars) have been able to immediately find their roles in this unique sonic texture.

After releasing the Stash Of The Damned in the fall of 2019 the band has started to prepare for their next phase. With new music constantly being written, Grim Earth have the bitter determination it takes to bring their band to the next level. Sludge metal fans of the world stand back – the riff worshippers in Grim Earth are ready to take your head.

Grim Earth are:
Craig Moore – Vocals and Guitar
Elmer Saez – Vocals and Bass
Eaon Forgash – Guitar
Austin Peterson – Drums


Grim Earth, Stash of the Damned (2020)

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