The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Singles, EPs, Splits and Demos of 2015

Posted in Features on December 29th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top 20 short releases of 2015

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

What’s a short release? Anything that’s not a full-length. I’ve done this list in the past and given a small list — The Top 20 EPs, Splits, Demos and Singles, or whatever — but “Short Releases” seemed more concise, and believe it or not, that’s something I shoot for.

Essentially, what we’re taking a look at here is everything else a band might put out in a given year. No question that albums are where the greatest impact is made over the longer term, but from landmark 7″s to EPs that provide crucial experiments or serve notice of bands solidifying their sound or marking pivotal first impressions, the shorter offerings have tremendous value, and it’s worth considering them on their own merit, rather than in comparison to LPs directly.

I know for a fact that there are releases I’ve missed here. Particularly among the Bandcamp-only demos, there’s just so much out there that for any one person to keep up with all of it is even more impossible than it’s ever been before. Before you berate me immediately with, “Hey you forgot X Band!” and start throwing tomatoes at your computer or mobile device screen, please keep in mind The Obelisk is run by a single individual and there are only so many hours in the day. As always, I do the best I can.

Here we go:

foehammer foehammer

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2015

1. Foehammer, Foehammer EP
2. Mos Generator & Stubb, The Theory of Light and Matter Split
3. Sun Voyager, Lazy Daze EP
4. All Them Witches, A Sweet Release
5. Geezer & Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 Split
6. Fatso Jetson & Farflung, Split
7. Eggnogg & Borracho, Sludgy Erna Bastard Split 7″
8. Shroud Eater, Face the Master EP
9. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some EP
10. Stars that Move, Demo Songs
11. Wight, Helicopter Mama 7″
12. Thera Roya, Unraveling EP
13. Shatner, EP
14. Cities of Mars, Cyclopean Ritual EP
15. Pyramidal & Domo, Jams from the Sun Split
16. Sandrider & Kinski, Split
17. Mount Hush, Low and Behold! EP
18. Godhunter & Amigo the Devil, The Outer Dark Split
19. Groan, Highrospliffics EP
20. Rozamov & Deathkings, Split

Honorable Mention

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Notes

It’s something of a break in routine for me to put any kind of debut in a top spot (other, of course, than on the list of debuts), but Foehammer simply would not be denied. The Virginia trio’s three-song EP release on Grimoire Records (LP on Australopithecus Records), it was a self-titled that seemed to be telling you the name of the band twice as if in a warning against forgetting it. And that warning was one to heed. Foehammer‘s first outing brought the Doom Capitol region to new heights of extremity, and while at over half-an-hour long it could’ve just as easily have been called a full-length, part of the overarching threat is what the band will bring to bear when they actually get around to their first LP.

A good number of splits included here, with Mos Generator and Stubb‘s The Theory of Light and Matter (HeviSike Records), Geezer and Borracho‘s The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 (launching a series for Ripple Music), Fatso Jetson and Farflung‘s joint release (on Heavy Psych Sounds) and Eggnogg and Borracho‘s Sludgy Erna Bastard (on Palaver Records) all cracking the top 10. No coincidence that Washington D.C. heavy riffers Borracho show up twice in that mix. As Pyramidal and Domo‘s blissful Jams from the Sun, Sandrider and Kinski‘s one-two, Godhunter and Amigo the Devil‘s Battleground Records collaboration and Rozamov and Deathkings‘ joint single feature between #11-20, a total of eight out of the full included 20 releases here are splits. Last year it was only five.

Whether that means the form is growing in an attempt to capture fickle social-media-age attention spans while cutting individual vinyl pressing costs, I couldn’t say — likely a combination of the two and more besides — but it’s noteworthy that a split is more than just a toss-off, between-albums castaway at this point, something for songs to later be included on rare-tracks comps. One could easily say the same of EPs as a whole. To that end, Sun Voyager‘s Lazy Daze was a brutal tease for the NY psychgaze outfit’s first album, hopefully out in 2016. And while All Them WitchesA Sweet Release was over 50 minutes long — longer, actually, than their Dying Surfer Meets His Maker LP, which was also issued this year — they considered it an EP/live collection, and that indeed proved how it worked best, immersive though its stretch remained.

Shroud Eater and Bedroom Rehab Corporation both turned in impressive outings that showed marked progression from their last time out, while Shatner‘s first batch of tracks tipped off a songwriting process well-honed and Stars that Move, Cities of Mars, Thera Roya and Mount Hush — I’d put Mount Desert in this category as well — had compelling outings that, like Foehammer at the top, showed much potential at work in formative sounds. Not to be forgotten, Wight‘s Helicopter Mama 7″ gave listeners a heads up on the funkified stylistic turn their upcoming full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know, will take even further, and UK stoner miscreants Groan proved once and for all that, along with logic and reason, a constantly changing lineup can’t hold back their good times.

Like I said — like I always say — if I left something out, let me know about it in the comments. Really let me have it. Call me a jerk. It’s cool. I can take it.

Please note: I can, in no way, take it.

Still, if I left something/someone out, I hope you’ll let me know. And please don’t forget that if you haven’t yet, you can still contribute your list of 2015 favorites to the year-end poll until Dec. 31. EPs, LPs, whatever, however many, it doesn’t matter. All entries are welcome there.

Thanks for reading.

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Fatso Jetson & Farflung, Split: Sand and Space

Posted in Reviews on May 22nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

fatso jetson farflung split

The two probably have more in common existentially than sonically. Both Fatso Jetson and Farflung trace their roots back to California in the early ’90s, Farflung having gotten together in ’92 and Fatso Jetson in ’94, and both have endured over the two-plus decades since while remaining consistently underrated at home and abroad. Both are a good distance away from their last full-length — Fatso Jetson‘s Archaic Volumes (review here) dropped in 2010, Farflung‘s A Wound in Eternity in 2008, and both have done more of their recent work as splits, Farflung with Black Rainbows on Heavy Psych Sounds and with White Hills on Cobraside in 2012, and Fatso Jetson with Yawning Man in 2013 and with Herba Mate (review here) last year. And while recent years have seen Fatso Jetson‘s street cred greatly expanded as a new generation has come up to appreciate their contributions to desert rock and Farflung‘s spacey designs have also caught on more in Europe, it’s still safe to say both are underappreciated by the general listening consciousness. Whether or not Heavy Psych Sounds had that in mind in pairing them up for their new split LP, which boasts two new tracks from each band, I wouldn’t know, but it ties the release together in a way that still allows for the two to have distinct sonic personalities that show through in the material, Fatso Jetson‘s sound having pushed to the roots of desert rock in punk and warm-toned groove and Farflung pushing cosmic Hawkwindy jamming and effects-laden exploration.

Again, there’s more drawing them together in terms of their situation than aesthetic, but listening to the songs back to back, as on a CD or digital version, their split isn’t especially choppy in moving from one to the next. Part of that owes to the open-ended weirdness that has emerged in Fatso Jetson‘s sound, a well-established penchant for quirk playing out now with the inclusion of guitarist Dino Von Lalli, son of founding guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli and nephew to bassist Larry Lalli. Driven as ever by the sharp drumming of Tony Tornay (who also played on Brant Bjork‘s last record) and quick-turning fuzz riffing, “Taking off Her Head” nonetheless has a punkish undercurrent particularly in comparison to the jammier vibes that pervaded the Herba Mate split. This isn’t necessarily unexpected — one knows better than to expect the same approach from Fatso Jetson twice in a row — but there’s still room in the song’s seven minutes for fleshing out, as they do in a bridge and softer-delivered ending section, the rhythmic shove remaining intact all the while. “Flesh Trap Blues” has more swing and swagger, but keeps a bizarro thread going with the effected opening lyrics, “Yes I need it/You don’t want it/I can’t have it/I can’t even try,” running backward and forward at the same time before the instrumental buildup begins. In its groove and shake, “Flesh Trap Blues” plays to the band’s strengths, but tonally and structurally it fits with “Taking off Her Head” as well; it just happens to be that Fatso Jetson at this point can pull off whatever shifts they want and make it work. Call it an earned luxury 20 years on from the release of their first album, Stinky Little Gods.

fatso-jetson farflung

If you’re wondering, Farflung‘s debut LP, 25,000 Feet per Second, also came out in 1995, but they’re not yet 30 seconds into the 12:53 “Jettisoned in the Rushes… Phase One” before the mood has undergone a significant shift, gong wash, tense guitar and synth marking the beginning of an expansive instrumental surge, vague whispers pervading in an anything-goes progression, elements arriving unannounced, staying for a while and then splitting again, synth, Mellotron, various guitar swirls and so on showing up over a drum beat mostly straightforward but subtly changing tempo from one movement to the next. But for the overarching fluidity, one might be tempted to call it collage, pieced together, but given Farflung‘s history, I’ve no trouble believing they could make “Jettisoned in the Rushes… Phase One” happen at will. The closer “Igneous Spire” — still longer than either of Fatso Jetson‘s tracks but seeming short after its predecessor at 7:55 — has classic Hawkwind-style thrust and more straightforward verses. It wouldn’t be right to call it grounded, because it’s space rock, but it’s less experimental despite the swirl, the various turns of echo and the moment in the second half of the song where the whole thing seems to break through some cosmic barrier and arrive at an open, empty space populated by tom hits, residual synth and sparse guitar, residing there for a minute or so before picking back up for the final surge, which is given added drama by string sounds and a combined forward motion, all parties setting the same course and bringing “Igneous Spire” to a satisfying if sudden end while avoiding smashing into any asteroids along the way.

At a vinyl-ready 34 minutes, the Fatso Jetson and Farflung split is a relatively quick listen, but it travels a significant distance in that time between one act and the next. It doesn’t quite solve the issue of both groups being due for full-length releases, but it’s an engaging front-to-back pulse and offers something different in each piece from each band, so for the already-converted, there’s nothing to complain about in taking it on. It might not be the most obvious pairing on the surface, but it makes an appropriately peculiar kind of sense by the time it’s over.

Fatso Jetson & Farflung, Split (2015)

Fatso Jetson on Thee Facebooks

Farflung on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds

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Fatso Jetson and Farflung to Release Split on Heavy Psych Sounds

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Not the most obvious pairing to bring together desert legends Fatso Jetson and the more space-minded Farflung, but now that it’s been done, the idea of the two bands getting together seems like a no-brainer in terms of the potential results. Italian imprint Heavy Psych Sounds will have those results out in May on vinyl and CD, with preorders starting later this month. Seems fair to expect that the 200 vinyl copies will go.

For Fatso Jetson, this new split follows the Early Shapes split released in 2014 with Herba Mate (review here) that found the band pushing into comparatively languid textures, something Mario Lalli has said doesn’t necessarily portend things to come. It’ll be the first new music from Farflung in a longer while, their last full-length being 2008’s A Wound in Eternity, though 2012 saw them issue splits with Black Rainbows and similarly underrated New York troupe White Hills — a release that should’ve been called “Got Here a Decade Early, Sorry About That,” but ultimately carried another title.

Black Rainbows guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori being the driving force behind Heavy Psych Sounds, a continued association between the label and Farflung makes sense, what with the space and the Hawkwind and the whathaveyou. The label made the announcement with due circumstance, and you can find it along with the cover art below:

fatso jetson farflung split

Heavy Psych Sounds Records is Stoked to announce the Desert/Space Split of the Century!

***FATSO JETSON // FARFLUNG***

These two monsters of the psych scene together in a wonderful split record!!

The fathers of the Desert Rock meet the Space Rock Lords. 4 brand new tracks for about 30 minutes of unreleased music. Released in 200 Ltd clear blue vinyl / black vinyl / cd and digital. Out May 8, Presale Starts April 24 on www.heavypsychsounds.com

Distributed by: Cargo Germany, Goodfellas, All That’s Heavy , Cobraside, Shellshock Uk

https://www.facebook.com/fatsojetson
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Farflung-official-Site/210883438782
www.heavypsychsounds.com

Fatso Jetson, “Trans World Sleep”

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