Quarterly Review: Elara Sunstreak Band, Lost Breed, T.G. Olson, Acid Reich, White Powder, Hellish Form, Mosara, Tombstunner, Moanhand, Appalooza

Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

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Second week, locked in and ready to roll. The message of today is that the Quarterly Review goes where it wants when it wants. If I’m steering this ship at all, it’s in only the most passive of ways. I hope you had a good weekend. I hope you spent it listening to killer music. I hope you managed to get all your reviews done. Ha.

So much good stuff to come this week. I’m looking forward to diving into it. And you know what? I did end up adding the extra day, so the Summer 2021 QR will go 11 days instead of 10, bringing it to 110 releases covered. Pretty sure that’s the longest I’ve ever gone.

Better get to it.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Elara Sunstreak Band, Vostok I

Elara Vostok 1

True, Elara Sunstreak Band‘s second album and first for Sulatron Records, dubbed Vostok 1, is not a minor ask at four songs and 72 minutes. But by the time you’re through the 19:44 opener/longest track (immediate points) “Nexus,” the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Daniel Wieland, drummer Martin Wieland and guitarist/sitarist/synthesist Felix Schmidt have set their course outward and they continue to surprise along the way, from the shimmering Elder-style progressive guitar work in the title-track to the guest vocals of Felix Seyboth nodding at Blind Melon in the crescendo of sitar-laced closer “Orange October.” Even “On a Drink With Jim” manages to thrill with its blend of the terrestrial with the spacious, let alone its Doors homage as hinted in its title. These nuances meld with an overarching hypnosis to create a satisfying depth of presentation on the part of Elara Sunstreak Band, and it becomes all the more a far out journey worth taking.

Elara Sunstreak Band on Facebook

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Lost Breed, Speak No Evil

Lost Breed Speak No Evil

Classic doom metal from experienced practicioners of the art. Speak No Evil is kind of a curious release. Vinyl only as yet, and self-released by the band, it answers back to the group’s initial Hellhound Records run in the 1990s and also their 1989 Wino Daze demo that featured Scott “Wino” Weinrich on vocals around the same time he left Saint Vitus and restarted The Obsessed. Weinrich appears on vocals and lead guitar throughout the first half of Speak No Evil, fronting the catchy opener “My Way Out” as well as “Thrift Store Girl,” “Cradle to the Grave” and the double-kick-laced “Doom,” which is nothing if not aptly-titled, while guitarist Pat Lydon sings on “Snakebite,” the less outwardly political “Wake the Dead,” “Siren Song” and “Stalker,” the pairing of which feels intentional. One might think the two sides/two-frontmen thing would make the release uneven, or the fact that it was recorded across two coasts, but nah, it’s doom either way and these guys know what they’re doing. Don’t sweat it. Do hope it gets a wider release.

Lost Breed on Facebook

Pat Lydon on YouTube

 

T.G. Olson, T.G. Olson

T.G. Olson T.G. Olson

Though it’s been a minute as he’s reprioritized Across Tundras, embarked on other projects, relocated to Iowa, farmed, and so on, T.G. Olson has still put out enough records under his own name that to have one arrive as a self-titled is significant in itself. Sure enough and somewhat ironically for someone who’s done so much him-and-guitar work in the past, the nonetheless-unassuming 35-minute eight-tracker features more personnel and broader arrangements than one might expect. That’s hardly a detriment, as even the layers of voice on “Steal a Day” come through as benefitting from the attention to detail, and the harmonica-inclusive twang of “Scythe” has its blues all the more emphasized for the clarity of its strum, while closer “Downer Town” invites a singalong. Personnel varies throughout, but the contibutions of Abigail Lily O’Hara (vocals), Ben Schriever (guitar, bass) and Caleb R.K. Williams (synth, guitar, banjo) — all of whom feature in the latest incarnation of Across Tundras as well — aren’t to be understated, as identifiable as Olson‘s songcraft is at the core of this material.

Across Tundras/T.G. Olson on Bandcamp

 

Acid Reich, Mistress of the Perpetual Harvest

Acid Reich Mistress of the Perpetual Harvest

John McBain, Tim Cronin and Dave Wyndorf — in Dog of Mystery together at the time — would go on to form Monster Magnet a short time after, seemingly on a whim, Acid Reich‘s freakout Mistress of the Perpetual Harvest was put to tape in their rehearsal space as one of a number of “fake” weirdo projects. Listening to these five tracks, including likewise irreverent takes on “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and “Amazing Grace,” the feel here is like an acid psych treasure trove of Jersey Shore fuckery. Joining the trio were Ripping Corpse‘s Shaune Kelley and Joe Paone of hellSausage, and by their own admission, the audio’s a mess. It’s an archival tape dug up from 1989 — if you’re thinking you’re getting high fidelity, you’re missing at least one of the points of putting it out in the first place. Laced with acid culture samples that may or may not have been added after the fact, this is the first official release this material has ever gotten, and it’s nasty, raw, demo fare that, if it wasn’t so blown into the cosmos you’d call it punk rock. If that doesn’t sound right on to you, it’s probably your loss.

Guerssen Records on Bandcamp

Guerssen Records website

 

White Powder, Blue Dream

white powder blue dream

Based in Austin, Texas, and operatin as the four-piece of guitarist Jason Morales (also Tia Carrera), bassist Win Wallace, keyboardist Ezra Reynolds and drummer Jeff Swanson, White Powder recorded their whoa-this-shit-is-awesome mostly-instrumentalist debut LP, Blue Dream in 2014 and only now is it being at last pressed to vinyl. Given their chosen moniker, the 46-minute/nine-song session is perhaps surprisingly laid back, with the keys/synth and guitar coming together in mellow-prog style atop not-entirely-languid-but-not-overly-insistent grooves; all parties seeming geared toward immersion as much of self as for their listenership, be it in the piano of “Connemara” or the later fuzzer “Rula Jabreal,” where ripplng organ lines top the popping-snare rhythmic tension until the guitar pushes it over the edge of volume swell and wash. Some classic heavy for good measure in “Alice Walker,” but Blue Dream works best taken in its entirety, and listening to it that way, one only hopes they manage to do another in seven years or so. Or seven months. That’d work too. Extra points for the sleek-as-hell soul vocals in the Steely Dan cover “Dirty Work” on side B.

White Powder on Spotify

White Powder on Bandcamp

 

Hellish Form, Remains

Hellish Form Remains

Quarantine-era cross-country duo Hellish Form earn a Khanate comparison on their debut release, Remains, for their sheer unwillingness to pull back from the grueling, punishing tension they create in the slowly unfolding opener/longest track (immediate points) “Your Grave Becomes a Garden.” The dirge is so much forward that it makes the post-Bell Witch lead guitar mourning feel like an afterthought, and the screaming, echoing vocals shared between multi-instrumentalists Willow Ryan (Body Void) and Jacob Lee — who both recorded their parts at home — are a harsh reminder of the existential chaos serving as the background to these songs’ making. “Ache” is shorter and puts synth more forward, and “Shadows with Teeth” thicker and nastier if that’s possible, but through them and the 10-minute finale “Another World,” the feeling of dread, fear, and loss is palpable, and Remains is a fitting name for a record that feels so much like an aftermath.

Hellish Form on Facebook

Translation Loss Records website

 

Mosara, Mosara

Mosara Mosara

Mosara emerge from Phoenix, Arizona, with a sound that just as easily could’ve come down from the mountains as out of the desert, and that’s by no means a complaint. Big riffs promulgate their eight-song self-titled debut LP, and they bring forth aggro sludge undertones alongside lumbering rollout, rawly-captured in the recording but not lacking presence for that, as the mounted chug of “Cypher” demonstrates. Is it heavy enough to crash your hard drive? I’m not trying to lay blame on Mosara‘s riffs or anyone else’s, but apparently there’s only so much assault modern technology can take before falling victim. We’ll call that computer a sacrifice to the eight-minute “Earth God,” its crashing drums and deceptively spacious mix creating a cavernous largesse in spite of the barebones vibe that persists across the span, “Clay and Iron” and “Majestik XII” establishing the atmosphere early but not the full sonic reach of the band, whose plunge is made all the deeper by the High on Fire-style drive of “Oumuamua.” Doesn’t have to be a revolution to fuck you up.

Mosara on Facebook

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp

 

Tombstunner, Call to the Void

Tombstunner Call to the Void

I don’t know if Grand Rapids, Michigan, yet has an officially designated “scourge,” but I’d be happy to see Tombstunner end up with the title. The band’s debut album, Call to the Void, reminds at once of fellow sneering Midwestern chicanery-bringers Bloodcow and also of early ’90s, Blind-era C.O.C., their tones refusing to give themselves over to one side or the other of the argument between metal and heavy rock. Marked out by considered and sometimes willfully clever lyrics, the record strikes with plenty of groove — plenty of “strike,” for that matter — and not an ounce of pretense on pieces like “ASH” or the later “Contempt’s Concrete,” which touches on harsher fare, but again, isn’t really keen to leave its rock foundation behind. They probably make the right choice in that. Eight-minute capper “The Last Ride” is catchy and weighted in kind, seeming to pack as much as possible into its finale as though to let there be no uncertainty the band has more to say. Fair enough. There’s growing to be done, but Call to the Void‘s untamed sensibility is ultimately a strength, not a weakness.

Tombstunner on Facebook

Tombstunner on Bandcamp

 

Moanhand, Present Serpent

moanhand present serpent

Sometimes there’s nothing like a good scream. Moscow-based Roman Filatov has one. The lone figure behind Moanhand can growl, and unlike many harsher metal vocalists, he can also sing, and does so readily across his band’s first album, Present Serpent, but god damn, that’s a good scream. Enviable. Comprised of six tracks, Present Serpent is as progressive as it is extreme, as doom as it is any number of other microgenres, and despite the formidable and varied nature of his performances throught — second track “The Charmthrower” has more scope than many bands do in an entire career arc — he does not fail to put songwriting first ahead of either technique or impact. Present Serpent will not hit a nerve with everyone, but the lumbering “Raw Blessings” and the atmosludge metal of finisher “The Boomering of Serpents,” calling back to opener “Serpent Soul (A Tale of Angels’ Slaughter)” in semi-blackened throb, just leaves me wondering why the hell not. On the level of Moanhand‘s forward potential alone — never mind any of the actual songs — it is a staggering debut.

Moanhand on Facebook

Moanhand on Bandcamp

 

Appalooza, The Holy of Holies

appalooza-the-holy-of-holies-cover

The percussion nuance and guitar lick nodding at Morricone in opener “Storm” amid all the post-Alice in Chains vocal arrangements should be a signal of the reach France’s Appalooza bring to their second LP and Ripple debut, The Holy of Holies. To wit, the subsequent “Snake Charmer” is off and careening almost immediately on its own path, and it’s commendable on the band’s part that where they go on the burlier “Reincarnation” and the more spacious “Nazareth” and the centerpiece “Conquest” — which starts out particularly hard-hitting and by the time it’s done is given over to standalone acoustic guitar without sounding disjointed in getting there — remains so seemingly even-handed in its delivery. Their material is considered, then. It proves no less so through the brash/tense “Azazael,” the desert-but-not “Distress” and “Thousand Years After,” which is a melodic highlight even among the many other surrounding. Tasked with summarizing, closer “Canis Majoris” answers “Conquest” with melancholy and heft, its ending satisfying in an emotional context in additing to being a well earned sonic payoff.

Appalooza on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

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Quarterly Review: Across Tundras, Motorpsycho, Dark Buddha Rising, Vine Weevil, King Chiefs, Battle Hag, Hyde, Faith in Jane, American Dharma, Hypernaut

Posted in Reviews on December 29th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Just to reiterate, I decided to do this Quarterly Review before making my year-end list because I felt like there was stuff I needed to hear that I hadn’t dug into. Here we are, 70 records later, and that’s still the case. My desktop is somewhat less cluttered than it was when I started out, but there’s still plenty of other albums, EPs, and so on I could and probably should be covering. It’s frustrating and encouraging at the same time, I guess. Fruscouraging. Life’s too short for the international boom of underground creativity.

Anyway, thanks for taking this ride if you did. It is always appreciated.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush

Across Tundras The Last Days of a Silver Rush

Issued as part of a late-2020 splurge by Tanner Olson and Across Tundras that has also resulted in the full-length LOESS – LÖSS (review here), as well as three lost-tracks compilations called Selected Sonic Rituals, an experimental Western drone record issued under the banner of Edward Outlander, and an EP and three singles (two collaborative) from Olson solo, The Last Days of a Silver Rush offers subdued complement to the more band-oriented LOESS – LÖSS, with an acoustic-folk foundation much more reminiscent of Olson‘s solo outings than the twang-infused progressive heavy rock for which Across Tundras are known. Indeed, though arrangements are fleshed out with samples and the electrified spaciousness of “The Prodigal Children of the God of War,” the only other contributor here is Ben Schriever on vocals and there are no drums to be found tying down the sweet strums and far-off melodies present. Could well be Olson bridging the gap between one modus (the band) and another (solo), and if so, fine. One way or the other it’s a strong batch of songs in the drifting western aesthetic he’s established. There’s nothing to say the next record will be the same or will be different. That’s why it’s fun.

Across Tundras on Bandcamp

Eagle Stone Collective on Bandcamp

 

Motorpsycho, The All is One

motorpsycho the all is one

What could possibly be left to say about the brilliance of Trondheim, Norway’s Motorpsycho? One only wishes that The All is One could be blasted into place on a pressed gold vinyl so that any aliens who might encounter it could know that humanity isn’t just all cruelty, plagues and indifference. The prolific heavy prog kingpins’ latest is 84 willfully-unmanageable minutes of graceful and gracious, hyperbole-ready sprawl, tapping into dynamic changes and arrangement depth that is both classic in character and still decidedly forward-thinking. An early rocker “The Same Old Rock (One Must Imagine Sisyphus Happy)” and the shuffling “The Magpie” give way after the opener to the quiet “Delusion (The Reign of Humbug)” and the multi-stage “N.O.X.,” which unfolds in five parts, could easily have been an album on its own, and caps with a frenetic mania that is only off-putting because of how controlled it ultimately is. Then they throw in a couple experimental pieces after that between the nine-minute “Dreams of Fancy” and the mellow-vibing “Like Chrome.” Someday archaeologists will dig up the fossils of this civilization and wonder what gods this sect worshipped. Do they have three more records out yet? Probably.

Motorpsycho website

Stickman Records website

 

Dark Buddha Rising, Mathreyata

Dark Buddha Rising Mathreyata

From out of the weirdo hotbed that is Tampere, Finland, Dark Buddha Rising reemerge from the swirling ether with new lessons in black magique for anyone brave enough to be schooled. Mathreyata follows 2018’s II EP but is the band’s first full-length since 2015’s Inversum (review here), and from the initial cosmically expansive lurch of “Sunyaga” through the synth-laced atmosludge roll of “Nagathma” and the seven-minute build-to-abrasion that is “Uni” and the guess-what-now-that-abrasion-pays-off beginning of 15-minute closer “Mahatgata III,” which, yes, hits into some New Wavy guitar just before exploding just after nine minutes in, the band make a ritual pyre of expectation, genre and what one would commonly think of as psychedelia. Some acts are just on their own level, and while Dark Buddha Rising will always be too extreme for some and not everyone’s going to get it, their growing cult can only continue to be enthralled by what they accomplish here.

Dark Buddha Rising on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records website

 

Vine Weevil, Sun in Your Eyes

vine weevil sun in your eyes

Together, brothers Yotam and Itamar Rubinger — guitar/vocals and drums, respectively — comprise London’s Vine Weevil. Issued early in 2020 preceded by a video for “You are the Ocean” (posted here), Sun in Your Eyes is the second album from the brothers, who are also both former members of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, and in the watery title-track and the Beatles-circa-Revolver bounce of “Loose Canon” they bask in a folkish ’60s-style psychedelia, mellotron melodies adding to the classic atmosphere tipped with just an edge of Ween-style weirdness — it’s never so druggy, but that undercurrent is there. “You are the Ocean” hints toward heavy garage, but the acoustic/electric sentimentality of “My Friend” and the patient piano unfurling of “Lord of Flies” ahead of organ-led closer “The Shadow” are more indicative overall of the scope of this engaging, heartfelt and wistful 31-minute offering.

Vine Weevil on Thee Facebooks

Vine Weevil on Bandcamp

 

King Chiefs, Flying into Void

king chiefs flying into void

Since before their coronation — when they were just Chiefs — the greatest strength of San Diego heavy rockers King Chiefs has been their songwriting. They’ve never been an especially flashy band on a technical level, never over the top either direction tempo-wise, but they can write a melody, craft a feel in a three-or-four-minute track and tell any story they want to tell in that time in a way that leaves the listener satisfied. This is not a skill to be overlooked, and though on Flying into Void, the follow-up to 2018’s Blue Sonnet (review here), the album is almost entirely done by guitarist/vocalist Paul ValleJeff Podeszwik adds guitar as well — the energy, spirit and craft that typify King Chiefs‘ work is maintained. Quality heavy built on a foundation of grunge — a ’90s influence acknowledged in the cover art; dig that Super Nintendo — it comes with a full-band feel despite its mostly-solo nature and delivers 37 minutes of absolutely-pretense-free, clearheaded rock and roll. If you can’t get down with that, one seriously doubts that’ll stop King Chiefs anyhow.

King Chiefs on Thee Facebooks

King Chiefs webstore

 

Battle Hag, Celestial Tyrant

battle hag celestial tyrant

How doomed is Battle Hag‘s doom? Well, on Celestial Tyrant, it’s pretty damn doomed. The second long-player from the Sacramento, California-based outfit is comprised of three worth-calling-slabs slabs that run in succession from shortest to longest: “Eleusinian Sacrament” (12:47), “Talus” (13:12) and “Red Giant” (19:15), running a total of 45 minutes. Why yes, it is massive as fuck. The opener brings the first round of lurch and is just a little too filthy to be pure death-doom, despite the rainstorm cued in at its last minute, but “Talus” picks up gradually, hard-hit toms signaling the plod to come with the arrival of the central riff, which shows up sooner or later. Does the timestamp matter as much as the feeling of having your chest caved in? “Talus” hits into a speedier progression as it crosses over its second half, but it’s still raw vocally, and the plod returns at the end — gloriously. At 19 minutes “Red Giant” is also the most dynamic of the three cuts, dropping after its up-front lumber and faster solo section into a quiet stretch before spending the remaining eight minutes devoted to grueling extremity and devolution to low static noise. There’s just enough sludge here to position Battle Hag in a niche between microgenres, and the individuality that results is as weighted as their tones.

Battle Hag on Thee Facebooks

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp

 

Hyde, Hyde

hyde hyde

It might take a few listens to sink in — and hey, it might not — but Parisian trio Hyde are up to some deceptively intricate shenanigans on their self-titled debut LP. On their face, a riff like that of second cut “Black Phillip” or “DWAGB” — on which The Big Lebowski is sampled — aren’t revolutionary, but the atmospheric purpose to which they’re being put is more brooding than the band give themselves credit for. They call it desert-influenced, but languid tempos, gruff vocals coated in echo, spacious guitar and rhythmic largesse all come together to give Hyde‘s Hyde a darker, brooding atmosphere than it might at first seem, and even opener “The Victim” and the penultimate “The Barber of Pitlochry” — the only two songs under five minutes long — manage to dig into this vibe. Of course, the 11-minute closing eponymous track — that is, “Hyde,” by Hyde, on Hyde — goes even further, finding its way into psychedelic meandering after its chugging launch rings out, only to roll heavy in its last push, ending with start-stop thud and a long fade. Worth the effort of engaging on its own level, Hyde‘s first full-length heralds even further growth going forward.

Hyde on Thee Facebooks

Hyde on Bandcamp

 

Faith in Jane, Mother to Earth

Faith in Jane Mother to Earth

Maryland’s best kept secret in heavy rock remain wildly undervalued, but that doesn’t stop power trio Faith in Jane from exploring cosmic existentialism on Mother to Earth even as they likewise broaden the expanse of their grooving, bluesy dynamic. “The Circle” opens in passionate form followed by the crawling launch of “Gone are the Days,” and whether it’s the tempest brought to bear in the instrumental “Weight of a Dream” or the light-stepping jam in the middle of the title-track, the soaring solo from guitarist/vocalist Dan Mize on the subsequent “Nature’s Daughter” or the creeper-chug on “Universal Mind,” the cello guest spot on “Lonesome” and the homage to a party unknown (Chesapeake heavy has had its losses these last few years, to say nothing of anyone’s personal experience) in closer “We’ll Be Missing You,” Mize, bassist Brendan Winston and drummer Alex Llewellyn put on a clinic in vibrancy and showcase the classic-style chemistry that’s made them a treasure of their scene. I still say they need to tour for three years and not look back, but if it’s 56 minutes of new material instead, things could be far worse.

Faith in Jane on Thee Facebooks

Faith in Jane on Bandcamp

 

American Dharma, Cosmosis

American Dharma COSMOSIS

Newcomer four-piece American Dharma want nothing for ambition on their 70-minute debut, Cosmosis, bringing together progressive heavy rock, punk and doom, grunge and hardcore punk, but the Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, outfit are somewhat held back by a rawness of production pulling back from the spaces the songs might otherwise create. A bona fide preach at the outset of “Damaged Coda” is a break early on, but the guitars and bass want low end throughout much of the 14-song proceedings, and the vocals cut through with no problem but are mostly dry even when layered or show the presence of a guest, as on closer “You.” Actually, if you told me the whole thing was recorded live and intended as a live album, I’d believe it, but for a unit who do so well in pulling together elements of different styles in their songwriting and appear to have so much to say, their proggier leanings get lost when they might otherwise be highlighted. Now, it’s a self-released debut coming out during a global pandemic, so there’s context worth remembering, but for as much reach as American Dharma show in their songs, their presentation needs to move into alignment with that.

American Dharma on Thee Facebooks

American Dharma on Bandcamp

 

Hypernaut, Ozymandias

hypernaut ozymandias

Call it a burner, call it a corker, call it whatever you want, I seriously doubt Lima, Peru’s Hypernaut are sticking around to find out how you tag their debut album, Ozymandias. The nine-song/38-minute release pulls from punk with some of its forward-thrusting verses like “(This Is Where I) Draw the Line” or “Cynicism is Self-Harm,” but there’s metal there and in the closing title-cut as well that remains part of the atmosphere no matter how brash it might otherwise get. Spacey melodies, Sabbathian roll on “Multiverse… Battleworld” (“Hole in the Sky” walks by and waves), and a nigh-on-Devo quirk in the rhythm of “Atomic Breath” all bring to mind Iowan outliers Bloodcow, but that’s more likely sonic coincidence than direct influence, and one way or the other, Hypernaut‘s “Ozymandias” sets up a multifaceted push all through its span to its maddening, hypnotic finish, but the real danger of the thing is what this band might do if they continue on this trajectory for a few more records.

Hypernaut on Thee Facebooks

Hypernaut on Bandcamp

 

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Across Tundras Release Selected Sonic Rituals Vol. 1 Compilation

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 28th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Pressed in an edition of 33 CDR copies, the new collection of lost tracks, demos and so on from Across Tundras has been dubbed Selected Sonic Rituals Vol. 1. That’s fair enough. The Vol. 1 part of that implies that there are likely to be further volumes, and the parenthetical ‘s’ next to “collection” speaks to that as well, so I guess if you were thinking the Tumbleweeds series was all the band had to say as regards buried tapes, wrong-o. The remaster job these songs have been given is part of the appeal here, as it brings a sense of cohesion to what are by the band’s own admission and by the nature of the comp a bunch of different recordings from different sources. For all that, it sounds pretty right on, and the download is name-your-price on Bandcamp, which is how Across Tundras always roll.

If you haven’t heard it yet, Across Tundras‘ 2020 long-player, LOESS – LÖSS (review here), came out earlier this month and was released in similar fashion. The arrival of this follow-up compilation seems only appropriate for harvest time.

Info and stream, as taken from Bandcamp, which is the only social media-ish thing the band has at this point:

across tundras selected sonic rituals vol 1

Across Tundras – Selected Sonic Rituals Vol. 1

The final and undefinitive collection(s) of lost and out of print AT recordings. Culled, curated, and remastered from long lost tour CDR’s, cease & desist letters, and hazy late night demo sessions. Resurrected from their resting places on almost dead hard drives and half baked tapes for one last rodeo! Let the rest live on in the bootlegger’s ether. Cheers!

Released October 26, 2020.

Tracklisting:
1. Breaking Ground II (2020 Remaster) 02:36
2. Hearts for the Rain (2020 Remaster) 05:32
3. Indian Summer Storms (2020 Remaster) 06:03
4. Final Breath Over Venom Falls (2020 Remaster) 06:43
5. Prodigal Child Mind (2020 Remaster) 04:02
6. Eyes That Tell a Story (2020 Remaster) 06:06
7. Blackbird Crimson Sky (2020 Remaster) 05:29
8. Cosmic Dust Bowl (2020 Remaster) 04:47
9. Cold Ride (2020 Remaster) 04:54
10. Blood for the Sun (2020 Remaster) 05:28

~ Recorded by Tanner Olson, Shannon Murphy, Matt Shively. Mixed and mastered by Tanner Olson.
~ Music by : Tanner Olson, Shannon Murphy, Matt Shively, Nate Rose

https://acrosstundras.bandcamp.com/

Across Tundras, Selected Sonic Rituals Vol. 1 (2020)

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Review & Full Album Stream: Across Tundras, LOESS – LÖSS

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Across Tundras LOESS LoSS

[Click play above to stream Across Tundras’ LOESS – LÖSS in full. Album is out Oct. 2]

For those who’ve followed the inward-bound trajectory of Across Tundras and founding frontman and songwriter T.G. Olson over the past five-plus years, the new album, LOESS – LÖSS, will seem both like a reaching out and a continuation. The expansive nine-track/51-minute release brings a return of the lineup from last year’s The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds (review here) with Olson on guitar, keys, percussion and vocals joined by bassist/vocalist Ben Schriever, vocalist Abigail Lily O’Hara, synthesist/keyboardist/noisemaker Caleb R.K. Williams and drummer Noel Dorado, and would seem to be compiled from recordings done remotely by OlsonSchriever (the pair who also mixed the album, while Mikey Allred mastered), and Williams and O’Hara (the latter two in France).

There is a breadth to the material that begins to show itself in the concluding, hypnotic drone and sampled reading of the Carl Sandburg poem “Hoof Dusk” in second track “Our Mother of Infinite Sorrows,” which continues throughout the subsequent nine-minute prairie sprawl of “Unsatiated” and on from there. Opener “#GDSOG” sets forth with an open atmosphere, and one would expect no less from Across Tundras in any incarnation, but is more straight-ahead structurally and clearly positioned as a lead-in for what follows. And certainly The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds — which after its release received a track-by-track series of remix EPs later bundled together as the box set Complete Altered States (discussed here) — had its sense of mood and landscape too.

The reaching-out noted above, then, comes from the overall sound of LOESS – LÖSS, which has a fuller and more immersive mix than its predecessor, as well as a generally cleaner production value despite the same personnel involved in making it, and plays out almost like what was referred to tongue-in-cheek as the “Hot Radio Mix” of the last album in that box set. Even as “Unsatiated” resolves in drum-backed mellow ambience in its comedown and gives way to the intertwining lines of guitar and slide on “Feral Blues,” and LOESS – LÖSS digs into some of its most meditative vibes, there is an overarching sense of clarity behind what the band are doing.

And part of the difference a year can make is just how much Across Tundras feel like a band on these tracks. “#GDSOG” makes that impression early, and the thread plays out in the heavy Americana ramble of “Feral Blues” and coinciding march of “In a Veil of Dark Smoke” as well, the latter telling a sort of gold-prospector’s-curse narrative that seems to play into ideas of ecological devastation as well, engaging the time in which we live and tying it to the past as Across Tundras‘ music itself does through its roots in folk, country and even post-sludge’s weighted tonality.

Across Tundras LOESS LoSS tape art

But where The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds seemed to come across as an extension of the arrangements and impulses of Olson‘s solo work, which had seen a boom in productivity since the prior Across Tundras LP, 2013’s Electric Relics (review here), especially with the incorporation of drones and more explicit soundscapes, LOESS – LÖSS embraces a greater range of ideas and has an all the more encompassing spirit for that. “In a Veil of Dark Smoke” leads off the second half of the tracklisting — at 51 minutes, the album would push the limits of vinyl, but if you wanted to call it the start of side B, I don’t think anyone would fight you — and dissolves into a haunted melodic wash with keys and residual distortion crafting an ambience that is striking if relatively short-lived as the guitar-led lurch of “The Boundary Waters” revives the forward momentum.

At 4:50, it’s the shortest cut since “#GDSOG” and has a prominent chug of blended acoustic and electric guitar (a regular feature ’round these parts) and deep-mixed drums behind that seem to focus the listener’s attention directly on the instrumental melody that takes hold. There is a chorus, though somewhat obscured, and “The Boundary Waters” also gives way to a drone finish before the more immediate start of “Piasa,” which runs 8:59 and, despite its made-in-isolation reality, seems to jam its way through its second half, departing its structured foundation as much of LOESS – LÖSS has done up to this point in favor of drifting exploration, inviting the listener to wander along, get lost, whatever it might be.

Sure enough, Across Tundras have always brought a feeling of space to their material. It’s part of what made early outings like 2008’s Western Sky Ride or 2006’s Dark Songs of the Prairie so groundbreaking, but LOESS – LÖSS does so in a new and progressive-feeling way, playing verses and choruses off of sonic vastness in a readjusted balance of their approach even from what they were doing a year ago. They cap with “No Secret in the Tomb,” which is marked out by string sounds alongside its layers of guitar and percussion, building in volume as it moves forward in one of the record’s most memorable hooks, and as they’ve used the drones all along to transition from one track to the next, so too do they use one to shift into the end of the record, with “No Secret in the Tomb” giving over its last 90 seconds or so to the windy sounds and intermittent chimes that set a foreboding tension before simply fading out.

A sign of things to come? I wouldn’t bet one way or the other, much as I wouldn’t have bet that, after six years between Electric Relics and The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken MindsAcross Tundras would turn around another full-length in a year’s time. But LOESS – LÖSS feels on some levels like an answer to the questions posed by the album before it, and it finds the band, which has traveled like a ghost entity with Olson from Denver, to Nashville, to Nebraska, harnessing some of the strongest aspects of their past outings while keeping their eye unblinking on the horizon far off. At the same time, these songs stand boldly on their own and are distinct unto themselves, in and out of the context of Across Tundras‘ catalog. An end of one era? A beginning of another? Is there any difference? 16 years on from the band’s inception, that they’d inspire those questions at all is evidence of the engrossing nature of their work.

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Across Tundras Release Complete Altered States Companion Remixes for Latest Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I’ve been kind of expecting something like this, but it’s still kind of an overwhelming project. Since the release in June of Across Tundras‘ latest full-length, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds (review here), founding guitarist/vocalist T.G. Olson has been going through and revisiting the album with track-by-track remixes, resulting in a series of digital EPs that have been trickled out one at a time over the past few months. He’s gone in order, one to the next through the entire album. They range from the “Hot Radio Mix” collection — which probably could’ve been released as the album proper — to more experimental styles like the “Ennio’s Mix” tracks, but the root of each is still the original itself. It’s in there somewhere. The only question is how hard one has to dig to find it.

Olson — self-releasing, as ever, through Bandcamp as a name-your-price download — has it organized in the same order as the tracklisting of the album, but as I’ve been going through, I’ve been listening to one version of the whole record at a time. I admit I’m not through the entire 28-track Complete Altered States at this point — only so many hours the day — but it’s a fascinating project however one might want to take it on. As Olson has done homemade CD box sets in the past, the chance to do a Complete Rugged Ranges collection seems to be self-evident.

Whether or not that comes to fruition, here’s the info off Bandcamp and the streams of both the remixes and the original for those feeling adventurous:

across tundras the rugged ranges complete altered states

Across Tundras – The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds ~ Complete Altered States

Altered States of The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds

released November 7, 2019

1. The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds (Ennio’s Mix) 03:35
2. The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds (Hot Radio Mix) 06:05
3. The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix) 06:57
4. The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds (Campfire Mix) 05:52
5. Slow Down and Breathe (Ennio’s Mix) 02:29
6. Slow Down and Breathe (Hot Radio Mix) 04:18
7. Slow Down and Breathe (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix) 04:18
8. Slow Down and Breathe (Choral Mix) 06:22
9. Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues (Ennio’s Mix) 01:43
10. Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues (Hot Radio Mix) 04:22
11. Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix) 05:41
12. Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues (Campfire Mix) 05:44
13. Boots of Snake Leather (Church Organ Mix) 04:44
14. Boots of Snake Leather (Hot Radio Mix) 04:14
15. Boots of Snake Leather (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix) 05:00
16. Boots of Snake Leather (Big Bass & Wide Slide Mix) 05:09
17. Whirlwind Reapin’ (Drone Out Mix) 03:00
18. Whirlwind Reapin’ (Hot Radio Mix) 05:17
19. Whirlwind Reapin’ (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix) 06:50
20. Whirlwind Reapin’ (Bass & Drumz Mix) 06:49
21. When We Were All One (Ennio’s Mix) 02:16
22. When We Were All One (Hot Radio Mix) 03:41
23. When We Were All One (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix 04:00
24. When We Were All One (Sky Jam Mix) 04:00
25. New War on the Range (Ennio’s Mix) 04:48
26. New War on the Range (Hot Radio Mix) 05:55
27. New War on the Range (Stereo Cinemascope Instrumental Mix) 07:39
28. New War on the Range (Thunder Jam Mix) 04:48

Tanner Olson ~ Ben Schriever ~ Caleb R.K. Williams ~ Abigail Lily O’hara ~ Noel Dorado

https://acrosstundras.bandcamp.com/

Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds – Complete Altered States (2019)

Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds (2019)

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Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds: In the Ashes of Idealism

Posted in Reviews on June 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

across tundras the rugged ranges of curbs and broken minds

It has been six years since Across Tundras released their last full-length. That record, Electric Relics (review here), was a triumph of the band’s songwriting approach, blending elements from heavy rock and psychedelia with Americana and folk roots in a way that, even though they’d been at it for nearly a decade by then, still remained forward-thinking. It was also their first album to be released through their own imprint, Electric Relics Records, following 2011’s Sage (review here) coming out via Neurot and others released either by themselves and other labels. One could hardly say The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds follows a period of inactivity, given the fact that in the interim, the band has issued 2015’s Home Free EP (discussed here), a 2017 two-songer single, Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain (discussed here), as well as various archival offerings, and founding guitarist/vocalist T.G. Olson has issued numerous solo full-lengths, singles and other releases, under his own name and several other incarnations, experimenting in folk, drone, assembled noise and so on, all being issued, like The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds, through Bandcamp with little to no prior announcement and as a name-your-price download and limited, usually hand-crafted, physical pressing.

That kind of promotional minimalism hasn’t done much for Across Tundras in terms of fanfare, but is has let Olson control and build his discography on his own terms, which is very much how the band operates throughout the new album, which, though again, they haven’t exactly been gone, has been nonetheless long awaited. To wit, before this stretch, the longest they’d gone between full-lengths was two years. And the crafting of these tracks would not seem to have been uncomplicated, recorded during moves between Nebraska and Nashville, Tennessee, with the final lineup of Olson, Ben Schriever, Caleb R.K. Williams, Abigail Lily O’Hara and Noel Dorado, but the fluidity that results serves as a reminder of what has always been a signature strength for Across Tundras in terms of creating space with their sound.

From their 2005 debut, Dark Songs of the Prairie onward, their mission has been in part to capture the spirit of a heavy Americana, and that remains true on The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds, but like the land itself, the shape that has taken in their sound has changed, and some of the ramble that found its way into Across Tundras‘ rolling grooves in years past has turned sullen, gazing less at shoes than out at an expanse of empty land, but gazing all the same. In darker moments like “Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues” or the wistful leadoff title-track, there’s a clear line to be drawn to some of Olson‘s recent solo work, which has blurred the lines between full-band-style soundcraft and guy-and-guitar folk, but one of The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds‘ most engaging aspects is the wash it creates and the deceptive depth of its mix, with pedal steel and drones resting far back behind the strumming electric guitar and voice, the drums subtle sometimes and more forward others, as when they lead the march of uptempo second cut “Slow Down and Breathe,” which boasts arguably the most memorable hook on the record, or in the later “Whirlwind Reapin’,” the midsection of which rises from a soundscape of distortion and heartsick melody to move into a wash of tone before closing with residual noise.

across tundras rock pile

Though it does not struggle to make an immediate impression, the album is best on repeat listens — a slow burner that lets the voice speaking at the beginning of the penultimate “When We Were All One” come through, and gives the soft-touch blues of centerpiece “Boots of Snake Leather” its proper room to breathe — and the more its genuine scope is revealed, the more those listens are earned. Whether it’s the tale-telling of “The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds” or the noisy, organ-laced finish of “New War on the Range,” which is also the longest track at 7:42, the band hold firm to an experimentalist purpose and care of arrangement that goes beyond the surface of Olson‘s songwriting, and the vision of the prairie they’re using as their backdrop is that much richer for it.

As a fan and someone who — if I didn’t get the point across — was waiting for a new Across Tundras LP to come out, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds is all the more satisfying because it doesn’t ignore what Olson has done over the last six years. It ties to his solo work in a way that isn’t trying to be something that it’s not. It’s still rooted in that heavy Americana ideal, but more patient in its songwriting than the band have ever been, and more willing to, like the song says and eventually does, “Slow Down and Breathe” almost as an act of escapism from the modern chaos hinted at in the album’s title. In its blend of naturalist wash and country folk, it is both lush and organic, with Olson‘s mostly laid back, breathy post-Dylan vocal style providing the human core around which the other elements swirl and churn and do whatever else it is they might do.

All told, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds is seven songs/43 minutes of material that pushes the band into places where they’ve never been, and while it does so, it seems to find itself closer to the heart of what they’ve been going for all along, that kind of resonance shared between emotionality and place. In the howling leads of “Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues” and the way “When We Were All One” seems to bask in imaginary sentiment — what could be more American? — Across Tundras are able to manifest their ideas in a way they’ve never been before, and they’re ultimately stronger for incorporating what Olson has learned in the intervening years of solo work in making that happen. Though the American underground is rife with heavy blues of various shapes and forms, Across Tundras are unto themselves, and whether one thinks of it as heavy bluesgaze folk or whatever else, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds is a welcome reminder of that fact.

Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds (2019)

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Across Tundras Release New Album The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

You know, after six years, I just didn’t want the release of a new Across Tundras album to go unmarked. I’ll have a review up in about a week after I sit with the thing and give it its due — it’s currently slated for June 18, if you want to keep track; that may change — but just for my own satisfaction as a fan of the band, I wanted to put up a post just with the stream for anyone who wanted to check it out to do so and just to say, hey, here’s a thing that exists.

So yeah, it exists. It’s been a long time coming. I’d love to know the recording circumstances, as frontman, founder and principal songwriter T.G. Olson has been back and forth between Nebraska and Nashville over the last couple years, but I guess that’s concern for another day. If The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds was pieced together over however long, it certainly doesn’t lack fluidity for that. But all that is concern for another time. Right now, I’m just glad it’s out there. They put it out the same way Olson does his solo releases: with just about no prior notice and no fanfare — a link shared on social media and that’s it. There are CD and tape preorders though — got mine in — and I imagine if those sell through, the topic of vinyl will be broached.

But anyway, it’s a name-your-price download in the meantime, and you can listen below as well as on the Across Tundras/T.G. Olson Bandcamp page, as always. Dig it:

across tundras the rugged ranges of curbs and broken minds

The new full length album from Across Tundras is available now for free/name your price download!

Pre orders for CD and Cassette are up now. All proceeds go towards getting this album pressed on vinyl. We need your support to get this album on wax where it belongs!

Pulled from the jaws of defeat 2018-2019.

Sounds by T.G. Olson ~ Ben Schriever ~ Caleb R.K. Williams ~ Abigail Lily O’Hara ~ Noel Dorado. Recorded by T.G. Olson and Caleb R.K. Williams, Mastered by T.G. Olson, Caleb and Abigail appear courtesy of The Eagle Stone Collective.
eaglestone.bandcamp.com

Photography and design by T.G. Olson.

Tracklisting:
1. The Rugged Ranges of Curbs & Broken Minds 06:58
2. Slow Down and Breathe 06:24
3. Talkin’ Rust Cohle Existential Blues 05:42
4. Boots of Snake Leather 05:02
5. Whirlwind Reapin’ 06:50
6. When We Were All One 04:39
7. New War on the Range 07:42

Thanks to Jackson C. Frank, Carl Sandburg and Librivox Public Domain Recordings, Rainy Day Women, Dogs, Road Trippin’, Strange Days and YOU for listening.

BLUE CHEERS Y’ALL!

https://www.facebook.com/AcrossTundrasBand/
https://acrosstundras.bandcamp.com/

Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds (2019)

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T.G. Olson, Riding Roughshod: Torch Songs

Posted in Reviews on December 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

tg olson riding roughshod

Even for T.G. Olson, four full-lengths in a year is a lot. The once and perhaps future guitarist/vocalist of Across Tundras started 2018 by issuing Owned and Operated by Twang Trust LLC and A Stone that Forever Rolls (both reviewed here) consecutively in February and March, and it would seem Autumn has been no less productive, with Earthen Pyramid (review here) in September, the two-songer single Wasatch Valley Lady and the Man from Table Mountain (review here), and the latest collection, Riding Roughshod at the end of October. One might perhaps speculate that the successive-month patterning of albums is the result of two especially productive writing periods, but given Olson‘s solo discography — I don’t even know what number release he’s up to in the past five-plus years, but it’s well into the teens at least, and more still if one counts his noise outfit Inget Namn or his drone incarnation Funeral Electrical, not to mention the odd Across Tundras offering here and there; it’s all up on the Bandcamp site for Electric Relics Audio Artifacts, his label, as name-your-price downloads — it’s hard to imagine a time at which he’s not writing songs.

It may well be he just had time in those two seasonal blocks to record when he didn’t over the summer. In any case, four full-length albums in eight months would be enough to make Hawkwind blush, but it’s not necessarily out of character for Olson, and it’s one of the reasons to most admire his project: it’s relentless. As subdued, as melancholic as some of his output can be — and certainly is on Riding Roughshod as well, its nine-song/36-minute run based around acoustic guitar and vocals with layers of wistful pedal steel and other, more experimental aspects rolled in — there is an immediacy to it as well. It is an attempt on Olson‘s part to capture the barebones roots of American folk music, and to put his own twist thereupon. Does that make a song like “Cautious Eyes” or the preceding “Chaser” something along the lines of experimentalist traditionalism? It’s in this collision of ideas that Olson seems most comfortable.

Recording specifics for Riding Roughshod are sparse, but it seems most likely Olson tracked the songs DIY as is his wont, and along with the album, he has it tagged “A=432HZ,” referring to the tuning of A at a frequency said to have healing properties toward cosmic oneness. I’m neither an expert on music theory nor frequency manipulation, but songcraft-as-catharsis is certainly an easy idea to get on board with, and if that’s what’s happening here, so be it. From the opening title-track — making the album like poem titled for its first line — onward, a resonance persists thanks in no small part to the atmospheric layers of drone and various other instruments worked in as Olson seems to harness a mountainous naturalism to a fervent sense of human presence within an overwhelming landscape.

tg olson

“Riding Roughshod” is the shortest track on the long-player that shares its name, and “Chaser” and “Cautious Eyes” follow and lead into the in medias res beginning of “Sunday Morning,” which is wistful enough to almost beg for a weepy country fiddle but does just fine with the guitar instead. His voice has a kind of breathy approach that is very much his own with no less twang than the backing pedal steel, but whether he’s forward in the mix as on the centerpiece “Keep it Hidden” or farther back as on the title-cut, he never fails to do what will best serve the song in ambience and overarching presentation. That impulse is no less a signature for Olson than his style of singing, but he barely stops to notice before he’s on to the next piece, single, project or album. Still, “Pickup Truck” is sentimental enough that its opening guitar line calls to mind The Beatles‘ “Yesterday,” and, though it’s only a little over four minutes long, almost too easy to get lost in when it comes to the emotionalism on display. The subsequent “Backslider” holds truer to a guitar-in-open-space feel, but fits atmospherically with the surroundings and the preceding “Pickup Truck,” seeming to stop early only to let the guitar carry it quietly out.

The sometimes (purposefully) choppy waters of Olson‘s cascade of craft seem to smootth themselves out as the penultimate “Bless the Singer of he Torch Song” takes hold, its lyrics far back and murky following the opening title-line. “Bless the Singer of the Torch Song” is a highlight here in the spirit of “Pickup Truck,” “Riding Roughshod” or “Sunday Morning,” but closer “Trespasser” provides a last-minute experimentalist thrust, as Olson dons an angry-Dylan vocal style and tops his plucked guitar strings in double-layered fashion. A sample of someone yelling, presumably at a trespasser, is worked into “Trespasser,” and it gives the final cut on Riding Roughshod a standout element of its own, apart from the rest of the record before it. Olson has used samples and field recordings before, so it’s not out of line with his work necessarily on the whole, but it does serve as a last reminder of just how broad his creative process has become.

That intensity is as encompassing as it is fascinating, since it not only results int his glut of material in an ever-growing discography, it also never seems to fail to result in a quality of material and a distinct sound that belongs to Olson entirely. His work has only become all the more his own during this prolific stretch, and whether it continues or his winds carry him elsewhere, there’s no doubting who you’re hearing when you’re listening to a T.G. Olson release, and one can’t help but view the mania with which he seems to create albums and, on a more basic level, songs, as building an archive, some message from a particular now to a particular future. Maybe he’s thinking of it on those terms and maybe not, but the effect is the same, and his driven creative sensibilities continue to result in individualized endeavors waiting to catch the imagination of any and all who wander in their direction.

T.G. Olson, Riding Roughshod (2018)

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