Review: Various Artists, Live in the Mojave Desert, Vols. 1-5

Posted in Reviews on April 13th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

live in the mojave desert 1-5

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A rundown:

Earthless, Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 1

earthless live in the mojave desert
(stream review here)

The crazy thing about this series — or one of the crazy things, anyhow — is that if it had been just¬† Earthless, that probably would’ve been enough to be staggering. Admittedly, it is difficult to hear the audio from bassist¬† Writing my dissertation might be challenging and almost impossible. Our parents had no options to ďpay someone to Do My Stoichiometry HomeworkĒ. Things were different back then, but todayís students have a lot of advantages. You can now get these services for cheap, even in the UK, thanks to our team. We highly appreciate every customer, no matter if we collaborate on a long- or short-term Mike Eginton, drummer¬† Mario Rubalcaba and the aforementioned¬†Isaiah Mitchell and not think of the desert at night being lit up by the¬†Mad Alchemy Liquid Light Show, drones flying overhead as trippy lights flash and shift with the music, but I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.¬†Earthless¬†played three songs — “Violence of the Red Sea,” “Sonic Prayer” and “Lost in the Cold Sun” — and that’s enough to make their release the only 2LP of the¬†Live in the Mojave Desert¬†set, topping out at about 77 minutes, with the entirety of sides C and D dedicated to “Lost in the Cold Sun”‘s 39-minute sprawl.

There’s a reason¬†Earthless were the headliners for this thing, and it’s because there’s no one else who has the same instrumental dynamic they bring to the stage — or sand, as it were — and because if you’re going for “epic” as a standard, they’re the band you call. Will¬†Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 1 replace¬†Live at Roadburn 2008¬†(discussed here) as the band’s supreme live-recorded statement? I don’t know, but it sure sounds incredible. “Sonic Prayer” comes through with due sense of worship and “Lost in the Cold Sun” fuzzy grace feels like the kind of thing a future generation might think of as classic rock. Watching, it was easy to get lost in the show, follow the head-spinning turns of guitar atop the ultra-sure foundation of bass and drums, and listening, it’s the same. With an exquisite mix and a vital performance, it’s every bit the best-case-scenario for what¬†Live in the Mojave Desert could and should be.

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Nebula, Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 2

nebula live in the mojave desert
(stream review here)

With Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 2, I consider Nebula‘s comeback complete. The band reformed in 2017, hit the road hard, and in 2019 offered up the return studio full-length, Holy Shit! (review here), and toured again for as long as that option was available. They have new material in the works too, and what’s most striking about the trio’s performance the 10-song/48-minute set here is how characteristic it sounds. Drummer Mike Amster (also¬†Mondo Generator, etc.) and bassist¬†Tom Davies strap the listener down while founding guitarist/vocalist¬†Eddie Glass takes off to the center of the universe, and amid classics like that opener,¬†Holy Shit!¬†cuts like “Messiah,” “Let’s Get Lost,” “Man’s Best Friend” and the new song “Wall of Confusion” fit right in. There’s never a doubt, never a question of who you’re hearing. Even the sloppiest moments are pure¬†Nebula.

That’s what they’ve always been — part punk, part heavy psych, part pure go — and¬†Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 2¬†brings that to bear without question. As a follow-up to¬†Holy Shit!¬†as well as the band’s second sanctioned live recording behind 2008’s¬†Peel Session, it captures their inimitable sonic persona and the sense of chaos that their material always seems to carry, like it’s all about to come apart at any second and if it did, fuck it anyway, you’re the one with the problem. It never does come apart here, which I guess is to the band’s credit as well, but this set is nonetheless a full expression of who¬†Nebula are as a group. Now get to work on that next record.

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Spirit Mother, Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 3

spirit mother live in the mojave desert

(stream review here)

If one might think of including Spirit Mother in the series as a risk, the risk was mild at best, and as the first of two bands representing a next generation of California’s heavy underground, the Long Beach troupe more than acquitted themselves well in their relatively brief 10-song/33-minute showing.¬†Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 3¬†basks in the violin-conjured atmospheres of the four-piece’s debut album,¬†Cadets (review here), and wants nothing for impact to complement that ethereal sensibility. Their songs are short, and that gives them a kind of proto-grunge edge, and the vocals of bassist¬†Armand Lance, who shares those duties with violinist¬†SJ, add drug-punkish urgency to the procession of one song into the next.

For a band coming off their first album, they are intricate in aesthetic in ways that might surprise new listeners, and that’s exactly why they feature behind¬†Nebula¬†in this series. Hearing them dig into “Black Sheep” and “Martyrs” and “Dead Cells” on¬†Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 3¬†is the best argument I can think of in favor of signing the band for their next studio release, and if¬†Heavy Psych Sounds¬†doesn’t, someone else surely will. Not trying to tell anyone their business, of course, but¬†Spirit Mother¬†are happening one way or another. That combination of air, earth, and fuzz is too good to leave out.

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Stöner, Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 4

Stöner live in the mojave desert

(stream review here)

Aired fifth but billed almost inevitably as¬†Vol. 4, the unveiling of St√∂ner, the new trio from Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri with Ryan Gut (also of the former’s solo band) on drums was a bonus to the¬†Live in the Mojave Desert. On-again-off-again collaborators across decades,¬†Bjork¬†and¬†Oliveri nestled into mostly laid-back, stripped down grooves, their stated purpose in going back to the roots of the sound they helped create in the first place. The¬†Kyuss-ness of the central riff of opener “Rad Stays Rad” is no less demonstration of their having done so than the driving punk of the¬†Oliveri-fronted “Evel Never Dies.” The vibe is nostalgic in that song, as well as “Rad Stays Rad,” the gleefully funked “Stand Down,” and “The Older Kids,” but if St√∂ner¬†is about looking back at this point, they’re doing so with fresh eyes.

To wit, “Own Yer Blues,” “Nothin’,” and the 13-minute mint-jam finale “Tribe/Fly Girl” are more endemic of who these players have become than who they were in the early ’90s or before, and that applies to “Stand Down” too.¬†Bjork‘s vocals sound double-tracked on some of the parts (or at least close delay), but he and Oliveri work well together as one would expect, and as a reveal for what these guys had come up with in renewing their collaboration,¬†Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 4¬†offers seven memorable songs that would make anything more seem unnecessarily fancied up. If their calling card is that rad stays rad, they prove it. And I know he’s not the top bill in the trio with Bjork‘s flow and Oliveri‘s bass tone, but¬†Gut‘s contributions here aren’t to be understated.

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Mountain Tamer, Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 5

mountain tamer live in the mojave desert

(stream review here)

Second only to St√∂ner in curiosity factor, L.A. trio Mountain Tamer have always held a darker edge in their sound, and that comes through in the brash 36 minutes, shouts and screams echoing out over fuzzed garage metal in a fuckall that’s punk in attitude but angrier in its underlying core. Guitarist/vocalist¬†Andrew Hall, bassist¬†Dave Teget and drummer Casey Garcia are the kind of band who open the show and sell the most merch when they’re done. The elements they’re working with are familiar and have been all along in their decade together and across their three LPs — the latest of them, 2020‚Äôs¬†Psychosis Ritual¬†(review here), was released by¬†Heavy Psych Sounds — but more even than in their studio work,¬†Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 5¬†brought to light just how much their own their sound really is.

Whether languid as in “Chained” or “Black Noise” or furious as in “Warlock” and “Living in Vain,”¬†Mountain Tamer give¬†Nebula a run for their money in terms of chaos, and easily make for the most pissed off listen of the bunch in¬†Live in the Mojave Desert. The relative roughness of their edge suits them, however, and the rampant echo on the guitar assures there’s still a spacious sound to act as counterbalance to all that thrashing and gnashing. If you can call it balance, I don’t know, but it works for them and they wield their sound as knife more than bludgeon when it comes to it.

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Live in the Mojave Desert Vol. 1-5 teaser

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