Friday Full-Length: Lamp of the Universe, The Cosmic Union

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Lamp of the Universe, The Cosmic Union (2001)

Whatever you’re doing, stop. Take a minute. Take an hour. Take whatever you need to take, and breathe. That seems to be the underlying message of In 2011, Eurographics extended the Research Awards Programme by creating an additional Assistance With Writing A Case Study Award. The aim is to recognize good thesis work in Lamp of the Universe‘s 2001 debut album, http://www.msembedded.biz/?essays-about-goals, Fast Food Business Plan Pdf With creative content for with MLA, APA and she took definition as her province and challenged The Cosmic Union. The ongoing psychedelic project was formed and continues to be manned solely by We allow progressive payments for tasks that are more than 15 pages. Since enter site are always long papers, often more than 30 pages, you can pay us in 4 installments. Our payment plan allows you to raise cash as our writers complete the paid section of the task. Structure of a Custom Dissertation Craig Williamson, guitarist at the time for the underrated We offer http://kinderrechte-ins-grundgesetz.de/?resume-writing-services-virginia-beachs for PhD candidates in different areas of study. We’ll connect you with an experienced writer, who will help you impress! Why You Should Order Dissertation Writing Services. If you felt like you were the only one considering a dissertation service, you were wrong. Most other candidates rely on professional writers, too. The confidential nature of Datura, who in 2001 were two years removed from the release of their second and — as would turn out to be — final full-length, 1999’s "I need a professional writer to write me an essay online," you thought and LESS ESSAY TIME. MORE “YOU TIME” can you "Online Writing Lab Visions for the Celestial. Immediately, http://www.wzw.tum.de/?dissertation-philosophie-le-travail-et-la-technique Where to find cheap research paper writing services? Cheap turns out to be expensive if one is not careful. And if so did anyone think Lamp of the Universe presented a different direction for the Hamilton, New Zealand-based vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, engaging richly textured Eastern-influenced acid folk of rare potency. Sitar, tabla, keyboards, acoustic and electric guitars, chimes, synth, various percussive elements and a cascade of watery melodies lend http://totaltheatre.org.uk/doctoral-dissertation-improvement-proposals-ddig/ are the best helpers in creating a professional essay on any topic for you! ? 100% Custom Papers ? 24/7 Support ? HOT 40% OFF The Cosmic Union an experimentalist feel, but in the years and numerous offerings since, Wondering ‘who will do my lab report’ or ‘who will Sample 5 Year Business Plan’, custom writing bay has the answer for you. Williamson has never deviated from the core vibe Buy cheap essays, dissertations, capstones and research papers from the best College Essays Baseball at Prowriterz. Hire academic writers UK, US today. Lamp of the Universe established its first time out, despite delving into drone, full-band sounds, and other avenues of exploration.

Still, if Tired of your pen? Have totally no ideas on the topic? Choose our like it service. We write your essay or reaserch paper. Contact us right now. Lamp of the Universe has always been a project with a mission, part of that mission has been not sounding like a band with a mission. That is to say, to listen to the seeping space-born pastoralism of “Born in the Rays of the Third Eye,” the sense of inner peace that comes through is nigh unmatched in psychedelic realms. Likewise the acoustic strum of the later “Give Yourself to Love,” on which essay outlines Computer Engineering Resume Cover Letter Intern Services Illegal writing a successful college application essays amazon essay about my family Williamson offers subtle self-harmonies atop birdsong-esque guitar noise and backing swirl. Taken together, “Born in the Rays of the Third Eye,” the subsequent nine-minute highlight “Lotus of a Thousand Petals” and the late wah-soaked electrified soloing atop hand percussion of “In the Mystic Light” form an essential salvo for anyone who would seek to understand iWriter: Content & http://www.ivst-vz.de/?conclusion-in-dissertation - Buy Articles Williamson‘s methods. Core elements of If you are willing to Manuscript Services abstract online from us, you can have a look at our proposal and see that we offer the most winning options in the whole writing market. Nowhere else you can get a better quality paper. Our competitors may promise a lot, but they hire outsourced employees instead of native writers and that inevitably impacts the quality of writing. EssaysExperts.com is Lamp of the Universe are laid as bare as the figures on Sample Argumentative Essay Introduction is a custom assignment company from Canada. The site targets students and offers them help with college and university essays. The website has a simple design. At the top of the first page, you’ll find the company logo and the customer service phone number. Additionally, on the right side, you’ll find four buttons: “Calculate now,” “Login,” “Order now,” and The Cosmic Union‘s cover art. Key rhythms are set. Melodic progressions are established. Methods are honed. It’s by no means even close to the entirety of the scope that Our professional team will assist you on the Rti Research Paper and any other academic typing. Visit our site for useful tips and tricks and get help! Wiliamson has unfurled with the project over the last 16 years, but it’s definitely the foundation, and as the theme of love as spiritual and physical entity arises in “Give Yourself to Love” and “Freedom in Your Mind” looses itself on organ-flourish and ultimate guitar drift — gorgeous, flowing, and utterly gone — the increasing complexity of the overarching approach does nothing to undercut the resonant ambience or the serenity that seems to emanate warmly from each of the album’s beautiful arrangements, so seemingly minimal and yet so spacious on “Her Cosmic Light” where only a few songs prior, “Lotus of a Thousand Petals” had seemed nearly like an entire group celebration of consciousness and mantra, universe-minded, somehow sexual and coherent despite the fact that its intricacy is the result of one person’s work. Williamson‘s skill as a craftsman is on ready display throughout the eight tracks of the original release, but there never seems to be a formula employed.

Rather, the variety seems to emerge as a result of organic processes, and a balance is struck between experimentalism and poise of songwriting. The peaceful noodling of “Her Cosmic Light” is a prime example of this, but one can hear it all throughout The Cosmic Union as well, whether it’s the uptempo, handclap-ready circle-folk of the sitar-led “What Love Can Bring,” or the immersive hypnotism brought on by “In the Mystic Light”‘s slow-moving liquefied swirl. Beauty is central to the process, and whether it’s longer tracks or shorter, freak folk or freak psych, layered or singular in delivery, Lamp of the Universe‘s debut offers a listening experience unlike anything I’ve encountered since — and make no mistake, I’ve looked. There’s purpose behind it, but the purpose is having no purpose. It oozes forward and yet keeps its feet on solid ground. Its scope is vast and diverse, but it remains deeply human and believable as the output of a lone individual. As “Tantra Asana” closes out with sitar echoing over a backing drone, building to one last consuming, gorgeous melody, keyboards emerging late to further the depth of Williamson‘s arrangement — again, without distracting from the effectiveness thereof — the shimmer of the album as a whole is reaffirmed, and though one couldn’t have known then what was being set in motion, it’s plain to hear across the 50-plus-minute outing that a world is being made, a place in which to dwell.

The Cosmic Union remains a joy to dwell in, and as the beginning point of a Lamp of the Universe discography that’s gone on to include no fewer than 10 full-lengths — the latest of which, Hidden Knowledge (review here), came out last year on Clostridium Records — it is all the more a genuinely special landmark. Williamson has at times over the last half-decade lent his focus more toward the heavy psych rock trio Arc of Ascent, whose third long-player, Realms of the Metaphysical (review here), arrived earlier in 2017, but he seems to perpetually return to Lamp of the Universe — a new split with Kanoi is currently on offer that I’m hoping I get the chance to check out — leading one to believe the project is as essential to him as it should be to anyone who’s ever sought an experience of communion with the aurally lysergic.

Note the version above comes from the Lamp of the Universe Bandcamp page and includes the bonus track “By the Grace of Love.” This is featured on the 2011 reissue that came via Williamson‘s own Astral Projection imprint. The album was originally released via Cranium Records.

Bottom line is I love this record, and I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Interesting week. I guess it started last Friday when The Patient Mrs., The Pecan and I made a daring escape from the hospital and headed home, the baby for the first time. The weekend was kind of a blur. I tried to do as much writing as I could, changed diapers, did daddy-stuff, cleaned as much as possible, made sure The Patient Mrs. was fed and so on. We listened to music. Family came up on Saturday or Sunday. I don’t remember which.

Then the power went out. That might’ve been Monday evening. There was a storm. Apparently a decent section of the Northeast was hit and because it’s 1930 and we put electric wires on poles in the air instead of in the ground where they belong, we lost power. In the three years we’ve lived in this spot, we’ve never had the power go out for more than an hour. New baby home? Two days. Solid. Bound to happen.

I thought we were going to die. I think it was Monday night. We toughed it out changing diapers and doing feedings by flashlight, but it was cold. Tuesday we decided pretty early on to get the hell out of dodge. We had an appointment in Providence on Wednesday anyway, so Tuesday afternoon I packed up the car and drove us the 45 minutes to Rhode Island. The Pecan sleeps in the car anyhow. I hear that’s a baby thing. There was a doctor’s appointment in there — the “you’ve been born” check-in for The Pecan; all is well — I think on Wednesday, and when we got back home after that, the lights had miraculously been turned back on. We damn near wept with joy. Then I made myself a protein shake for dinner. It was unbelievably good.

Yesterday was relatively quiet. A short walk, a daring half-hour of alone time for The Pecan and I while The Patient Mrs. ran an errand, and so on. Today I think we’re going to try to hit Costco, and then family comes up tomorrow, so yeah, goings on going on and whatnot. You might’ve noticed the last couple days have been lighter on posts, today included. That is not a coincidence. I’m doing the best I can and trying to support my wife as best I can.

Real quick, here’s what’s on tap so far for next week. I’m still waiting for some stuff to come together, so this will likely change:

Mon.: Uffe Lorenzen review/track premiere; Josefus live videos.
Tue.: Fireball Ministry review; Iron Monkey video.
Wed.: Maybe a review/premiere of some new Eggnogg.
Thu.: Six Dumb Questions with Great Electric Quest, I hope.
Fri.: Video premiere & album review of the new The Moth.

Pretty busy but hopefully manageable. We’ll see how it goes, and again, things might shift around pending baby stuff and whatnot. He’s been pretty cool to have around thus far though. He doesn’t have much to say at this point — though he grunts like a madman — but it’s been nice to hang out with the little guy after waiting for so long for him to show up.

Have a great and safe weekend, whatever you’re up to, and please don’t forget to check out the forum and the radio stream. Thanks again for reading.

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Review & Track Premiere: Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

arc of ascent realms of the metaphysical

[Click play above to stream ‘Eye of Sages’ from Arc of Ascent’s Realms of the Metaphysical. Album is out digitally and on CD April 11 via Astral Projection with vinyl to follow this June/July through Clostridium Records.]

It’s been just over half a decade since the release of the last Arc of Ascent album, but to listen to the six component tracks of Realms of the Metaphysical, one hardly gets a sense of time at all, let alone a span of years. The Hamilton, New Zealand, outfit boasts bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson, also of Lamp of the Universe and formerly of ready-for-reissue heavy rockers Datura, and together with rejoined guitarist Matt Cole-Baker — who did not feature on 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) but took part in Arc of Ascent‘s 2010 debut, Circle of the Sun (review here) — and drummer Mark McGeady, who makes his debut here (also handling the cover art), Williamson steers a winding course of cosmic riffing across 46 flowing, nod-worthy minutes.

Issued on CD through his own Astral Projection imprint with vinyl to follow from Clostridium Records, Realms of the Metaphysical bears the hallmark shamanic circularity of Williamson‘s songcraft, as heard the last couple years in Lamp of the Universe offerings like late 2016’s Hidden Knowledge (review here) and 2015’s The Inner Light of Revelation (review here). That one-man project essentially picked up where Arc of Ascent last left off with its 2013 LP Transcendence (review here) and 2014 splits with Trip Hill and Krautzone (review here).

As Realms of the Metaphysical falls into place with the ongoing stream of output from Williamson, it’s easy as ever to read him as an auteur — and in the case of Lamp of the Universe having no other members, even easier — but the shift in context to Arc of Ascent and the contributions in fullness of sound from McGeady and Cole-Baker aren’t to be understated. Whatever lies at the core of “Eye of Sages” and “In the Light” in terms of songwriting, they are unmistakably the work of a complete band, and suitably weighted that it might require three people to carry them.

Rest assured, the heft comes accompanied by due spaciousness, and as Arc of Ascent seem to begin a return to activity with Realms of the Metaphysical, they do so not at all having lost the blend of craft, atmosphere and lumbering tonality that made their earlier records such riffy celebrations to start with. Repetition, groove and crash are factors right from the start of opener “Set the Planets Free,” and as songs regularly range past seven minutes — only the penultimate “Benediction Moon” is shorter, at 5:58 — there’s plenty of room for parts to flesh out as they will. Still, Williamson, Cole-Baker and McGeady don’t shy away from hooks, and before it moves into its echoing solo section circa the halfway point, “Set the Planets Free” establishes the first of them for them to return to later, which, to their credit, they do.

It seems odd to call something of such largesse straightforward, but part of Arc of Ascent‘s approach has always been their ability to conjure memorable impressions in vast reaches. In doing so, “Set the Planets Free” reclaims the modus, and “Eye of Sages” follows suit with “Hexagram” not far behind. Rolling verses and choruses typify “Eye of Sages,” a harder push emerging early en route to another midpoint spaceout, but it’s at 6:23, when the full plod returns, that the crux of the second track is truly revealed — a stomp and shove that comes to a fervent apex before rumbling out and fading into the layered guitar start of “Hexagram,” which gets underway with a resonant gong hit and takes a more psych-leaning bent overall.

The swirl is welcome, particularly with the clarity of Kenny MacDonald‘s mix and master — Dan Howard and Williamson engineered the recording — and as the side A finale moves into its chorus, it proves to be a vocal highlight from Williamson, who pushes himself to new limits of soulfulness without losing control, and seems all the more commanding as a frontman for that. Where “Set the Planets Free” and “Eyes of Sages” introduced swirling flourish only to return to their more grounded riffing, “Hexagram” chooses to keep pushing further out, with Cole-Baker‘s guitar fading in a lead past three minutes in that will come around again to close after one final chorus runthrough, capping the first half of Realms of the Metaphysical amid a wash of effects.

arc of ascent kelsi j photo

The album breaks neatly into two three-song halves, each on either side of 23 minutes, and with “In the Light,” the trio reengage the thickened nod of the opening duo while setting up a catchy landmark that summarizes much of what’s working best in Arc of Ascent circa 2017. A post-Sleep cadence of riff is immediate, but guitar and keys give an early preview of the broadness to come before Wililamson‘s vocals start the first verse, and “In the Light” lives up to the promise of both its tectonics and its breadth, enacting a march toward a shift after three minutes in that opens wide beneath a multi-stage guitar lead with choral keyboards and a steady forward rhythm.

As one of the three songs over eight minutes long along with “Set the Planets Free” and closer “Temple Stone” still to come, “In the Light” has plenty of time to flesh out this part before switching back to the verse and chorus, but it’s the ending that brings the two sides together — that keyboard line returning amid the full-brunt crash and stomp — that brings its payoff to that next level and makes it such a highlight of Realms of the Metaphysical as a whole. “Benediction Moon” opts for a relatively sans-frills approach, which sets up an effective contrast with “Temple Stone” while underscoring the raw songwriting proficiency of Arc of Ascent as a whole and reminding of the grunge influence tucked away under all that depth in the mix.

In a corresponding shift to the ethereal to “Hexagram” at the end of side A, “Temple Stone” rounds out with the most fervent push into psychedelia on the record. Where cuts like “Set the Planets Free,” “Eye of Sages” and “In the Light” had their psych breaks, beginning usually somewhere around the middle, the finale takes this ethic more to its root, and from its very start — with a layer of sitar resonating over a patient, subdued guitar figure — it sets a lysergic tone. Its verse riffs are still righteously heavy, but the chorus feels more open with a line of organ and keys coming into focus, and by the time the band are three minutes in, they’ve set themselves up to journey into whatever expanses they will. Another chorus finds Williamson again pushing his voice ably, and just past the four-minute mark, the drums and bass drop out and the sitar and guitar take hold.

What’s different about it this time is Williamson adds vocals to that melodic wash, and in so doing gives an impression right out of Lamp of the Universe, effectively tying the two outfits together in the span of one short verse. It’s there and gone to the point that if one isn’t careful it might be missed, but it definitely happens. Drums build back in and they make their way through another chorus en route to a soaking-wet crescendo that finds the lead guitar and organ aligned in their purposes, with the keys playing root notes as the strings solo around them. It’s the keys that ultimately provide the finish as the drums and bass again drop out (save for a tambourine) and the album ends on a long cycle of the organ line that has underscored the song all the while, fading out gradually and gracefully as it hits 9:40.

Realms of the Metaphysical may or may not mark a shift in focus for Williamson‘s creative energies. It could be he’ll work simultaneously on two projects, move back and forth between them as he has, or do something else entirely; pointless to speculate. What’s more important as regards the songs collected here and the flow Arc of Ascent create between them is they demonstrate in no uncertain terms that the band still had more to offer after The Higher Key and still has more to offer now, that there are further, deeper reaches for them to explore as a group, and that they’re willing to do the work of making that exploration a reality. Taken in combination with the quality of the finished product in its entirety, one can only hope their meditative and heavy-footed peripatetics continue to move forward. But if it’s five more years before we get another Arc of Ascent, at least Realms of the Metaphysical lets us know it’ll be worth the wait.

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Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge: Experience Beyond (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 14th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

lamp-of-the-universe-hidden-knowledge

[Click play above to stream Lamp of the Universe’s Hidden Knowledge in full. Album is out Oct. 15 on Clostridium Records.]

For those of us existing on a temporal plane, it’s been 15 years since the solo-project Lamp of the Universe made its debut with The Cosmic Union in 2001. Since then, Hamilton, New Zealand’s Craig Williamson, who at the time he started working under the extended alias was fresh off the 1999 final release from his prior band, Datura — more recently he’s worked in the trio Arc of Ascent — has largely stayed true to the outfit’s original intentions of tantric, meditative psychedelic folk. As his ninth album as Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge (on Clostridium Records and Astral Projection) demonstrates, neither has the project stagnated.

Even from where Williamson was on last year’s lush The Inner Light of Revelation (review here) — which teemed with life as the follow-up to splits with Trip Hill and Krautzone (review here) in 2014 and the 2013 LP Transcendence (review here), which, at the time, was Williamson‘s return to activity after four years since 2009’s Acid Mantra (review here) hinted at the direction Arc of Ascent would soon take — the four tracks/41 minutes of Hidden Knowledge show a forward step in their use of synth and the spaciness of their vibe overall.

It’s not just about drones and/or Eastern instrumentation — hell, I don’t think Williamson breaks out the sitar here at all — but about the space-folk swirl conjured across “Space Craft” (13:17), “Mu” (6:41), “Dawn of Nebula” (7:01) and “Netherworlds” (14:25) that makes them distinct from Williamson‘s past work while still remaining decidedly his own and recognizable as such.

It may seem like a fine line to some listeners, but for anyone who’s followed Lamp of the Universe for a while, the progression should be clear. Since coming back in 2013 after releasing the two Arc of Ascent albums, 2010’s Circle of the Sun (review here) and 2012’s The Higher Key (review here), Williamson has actively worked to expand the palette for Lamp of the Universe.

That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s not chanting by the time “Netherworlds” gets down to its final couple minutes, but he’s doing it over what sounds like backwards-looped e-bow electric guitar and what might be loops running through an Echoplex or otherwise synthesized droning. And, frankly, that is a difference. One can hear it mostly on the bookending opener and closer, “Space Craft” starting and “Netherworlds” ending, just how widened the path of Lamp of the Universe has become.

When Williamson‘s voice first arrives, it does so atop a dreamscape of keys and far-back percussive beats, plus some swirl and periodic washes of cymbals, and as the track develops over its first half, it winds up making its impression with a standout organ line and deeply-mixed electric guitar soloing, executed patiently — of course — as one of the many layers winding its way out at the time.

This immersive, hypnotic flow holds, backed by the same far-off beat well into the second half of the track, unfolding gracefully such that the start of “Mu,” the shortest track here, is jarring with its forward acoustic strum, which feels positively earthbound by comparison. No doubt that’s the intention of the side A finisher, but Williamson keeps the line of manipulated e-bow guitar (or whatever it is) consistent and with material so molten, it’s going to flow from one song to the next either way, so it’s not like “Mu” is out of place, it’s just a jump from one feel to another where “Space Craft” felt like it could’ve gone on perpetually.

lamp-of-the-universe

The jump, however, is effective, and “Mu” becomes a standout moment on Hidden Knowledge in signature Lamp of the Universe form. Granted, reading that signature over time has become like drawing lines between stars to make constellation pictures, so it’s hardly a case of Williamson doing the same thing across different records, but the intimate feel conjured even in the organ and percussion-laced “Dawn of Nebula” is his own.

Keyboard swirl and other background wash fills out the track, which remains instrumental, and the sound that carries between “Dawn of Nebula” and “Netherworlds” has a classic electronics style, almost like something one might hear from Sula Bassana — if there was ever a cross-continental collaboration that needed to happen, there it is — but it nonetheless makes for an effective transition.

Vocals return for the closer, but the hypnosis is long since complete. E-bow guitar, or again, what sounds like it, works its way in and out, but “Netherworlds” is further distinguished through its use of drums, which arrive after about three minutes and keep together a march behind a wah-drenched guitar solo and the already-there-where-did-it-come-from resurgent line of e-bow.

All of this, performed and recorded by Williamson, as ever, sets up Hidden Knowledge‘s final movement, which plays out with no less grace than anything before it, moving toward the already-noted chanting that ends the album in a languid experimentalist wash that includes the sounds of running water and an underlying bassline that, subtly, turns out to have been there all along.

One might liken Hidden Knowledge to Acid Mantra, if only because like that album it seems to signal a shift in approach and arrangement that will progress from here — the inclusion of more synth and keys and space-minded atmospherics — but what form that might take, be it another band, a return from Arc of Ascent, or further exploration from Williamson as Lamp of the Universe, I wouldn’t hazard a guess.

These songs are nonetheless a logical branching out from where The Inner Light of Revelation left off in their blend of elements, and Lamp of the Universe remains as much an invitation to a ritual as a personal contemplation. The cosmos the project inhabits only continues to grow.

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 15 of 2015 So Far

Posted in Features on July 6th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top 15 of 2015 so far the-rhinoceros-albrecht-durer

If 2015 ended tomorrow, I think you’d still have to say it was a pretty good year for heavy rock. Doom veered into a swath extremes — its own subgenres emerging almost one by one in a growing splinter that nonetheless continues to draw water from its roots — while the neo-stoner ignition of the West Coast continued its boom of new acts proffering classic groove. The East reveled in a progressive vision just waiting to be picked up by others, and in Europe, the ’70s traditionalist movement spread ever wider, essentially defining a modern sound in organic sounding, sometimes-vintage elements. Whether you’re going for crushing, oppressive barbarism or cosmos-bound blissouts, it is, in short, a good time to be alive.

Of course, 2015 doesn’t end tomorrow, and there’s still a whole lot of year to come. About half, as it happens. So, as has been the tradition around here for the last half-decade — and seems to be the tradition in a growing number of outlets; not taking credit or claiming to have invented anything, just noting a proliferation — it’s time to count down the best records of the year so far. There have been more than a handful of gems, and since in December I’m planning on doing a top 30, we’ll mark half the year with a top 15. Seems only fair.

Please note that this isn’t purely a critical evaluation, but a personal list, and that what I’ve put on most is as crucial a factor in my ranking as how important I think a given record is. You know the drill by now. Let’s go:

15. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Kiev three-piece Stoned Jesus have a varied stylistic history, and their third outing, The Harvest was ultimately a success in large part because of its complete refusal to be defined. Atop a foundation of quality songcraft, the trio proffered a sound that was not necessarily experimental in terms of anti-structure noise or effects onslaughts, but bold in each of its forays outward from its heavy rock underpinnings.

 

14. Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind

freedom hawk into your mind

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed June 26.

It has consistently taken me a while to get a hold on what Freedom Hawk are up to. The steady elements in their sound are held to so firmly that on the first couple listens, it seems to just be more of the same. But the more one digs in, the more there is to be found, and with Into Your Mind, the Virginia Beach trio overcome losing a member to create their most progressive outing to date, flourishes of psychedelia melding easily with their signature style of sunshiny riffing.

 

13. My Sleeping Karma, Moksha

my sleeping karma moksha

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed May 12.

Five albums deep, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma are an act unto themselves. Their progress has been natural, fueled by a clear, varied sense of exploratory will, and the results on this year’s Moksha were nothing short of stunning. Branching out their arrangements might not be new to them, but the inclusion of horns, drones, percussion, etc., amid the central guitar, bass, keys and drums lent an almost orchestral feel to the flow between the tracks, and one can only hope they continue on their current path, because it is unquestionably the right one.

 

12. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

So much potential, so much vitality at the heart of this debut from Death Alley. The Amsterdam-based four-piece (interview here) stormed out of the gate with a ripper of a debut, and just when you seemed to have it all figured out, they hit the ignition on a 12-minute full-impulse space rock thrust, a guest vocal appearance from Farida Lemouchi (a former bandmate of Death Alley guitarist Oeds Beydals in The Devil’s Blood) adding both mystique and emotional resonance to what was already a stunning track. With all the riotousness preceding, Black Magick Boogieland readily lived up to its righteous title.

 

11. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self titled

Released on RidingEasy Records and Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 8.

Midwestern-turned-West-Coast heavy psych rockers Mondo Drag may have taken their time in releasing their self-titled sophomore outing, which followed their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and was recorded in 2012, but it’s easy to imagine that’s because they wanted the circumstances to be as special as the album itself, recorded with a fleeting five-piece lineup that included the one-time rhythm section of Radio Moscow who wound up leaving to further their then-nascent project, Blues Pills. Even without that lineup shift as a factor, the late ’60s vibe Mondo Drag brought out across the release proved eminently listenable and has held up on repeat visits.

 

10. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self-titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

A gorgeous, shimmering and melodically resonant debut from the Dutch four-piece Cigale, their self-titled gracefully maintained tonal presence and warmth while also enacting a psychedelic sprawl and grooving serenity that acted like the landscape in which the songs took place. It was a rich, bright vibe, and an utter joy to behold, tracks like “Harvest Begun,” “Feel the Heat” and “Eyes Wide Shut” proving as memorable as they were inviting. Having two former members of the much-missed fuzz rock outfit Sungrazer may have initially turned some heads in their direction, but Cigale‘s first album proved they’re an outfit with their own personality, their own development to undertake, and already much to offer.

 

9. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

The awaited return of The Machine brought the band’s fifth album and a further-refined sense of maturity in their processes, as well as intrigue as to where they might be headed, two dual modes of open-ended jamming and more structured songwriting playing off each other in the extended “Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and “Come to Light” and the more verse/chorus stylizations of “Dry End” and “Off Course.” To be perfectly honest, I doubt The Machine will ultimately pick one side over another, since if Offblast! proved anything it’s that they can easily handle either or both, but as they continue to grow, it’s encouraging to have their style establish itself as so multi-faceted.

 

8. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

First time I pressed play on Gravitron was a real “oh shit!” moment. The last release from NJ stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax was 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), a single-song full-length instrumental riff onslaught that had its charm but was inherently divorced from the appeal of the band’s songwriting. Not only does Gravitron re-factor that in with songs like “Roseland,” “It’s Alright,” “Coming in Hot” and “Ice Age Hey Baby,” among others, but it hits with kick-in-the-ass production force and an all-out heaviness that 2008’s TAB4 showed the three-piece steering directly away from. Just a killer record. Utterly void of pretense. No bullshit. No need to rely on anything more than chemistry, and with the Bitchwax, that’s plenty.

 

7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

Right now, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are my band to beat for Debut of the Year, and I’m quite frankly not sure how anyone is going to be able to do it, so if list time comes in Dec. and you see Tad Doyle‘s trio marked out as such, know that it’s been that way in my head for some time. The three-piece of Doyle, bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Tully and drummer Dave French arrived with a roar, and even when their self-titled let up sonically, the atmosphere remained viscerally heavy. Six years having passed since the release of their first demo (review here), I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be an album, but then to have Brothers of the Sonic Cloth show up and enact such thorough demolition only made it more impressive.

 

6. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

It can’t possibly be a surprise to have Luminiferous show up somewhere on this list. The seventh long-player by High on Fire had all the rage and bombast in “Slave the Hive” and “The Black Plot” that have become the band’s hallmarks over their 17 years together, but branched out progressively as well in songs like “The Cave” and “The Falconist,” the latter of which was brazenly catchy and about as emotionally direct as the band has ever gotten, their general modus being — and in that song too, just to a lesser extent — a metaphor-laced lyrical approach. That song was a triumph and so was the album as a whole; the second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou building on the rampaging victories of 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) while also showing growth on the part of one of modern metal’s most pivotal bands.

 

5. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

Hitting more or less concurrent with a vinyl release of their prior album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy is not at all coincidentally titled. Over the course of now three full-lengths, the New York five-piece — about whom I feign no impartiality, let it be noted — have distinguished themselves with a sound neither noise, nor doom, nor heavy rock, but drawing on elements of all three when it suits their purposes with chemistry built from years of being in bands together of various stripes and in various genres. What stands the self-titled out from their past work, in part, is that it is the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound in the studio, and accordingly, it’s a volatile kind of heavy that bends aesthetic to its will rather than capitulating to expectations of any sort. I don’t think they’re done growing by any stretch, but Kings Destroy feels like an arrival front-to-back.

 

4. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

This one was almost a sneak-attack. German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze released To the Highest Gods We Know, their 11th full-length, in Dec. 2014 on CD (the vinyl was in 2015, which is what we’re counting in this instance), with very, very little fanfare of any sort. There was a track premiere here that came shortly after the album was announced, but I think it was officially out less than a month after its existence was made public, which for a band of Colour Haze‘s stature and influence was surprising. Less devoted to grandeur than 2012’s 2CD She Said (review here), it nonetheless pushed the band’s sound forward and found them experimenting in their studio, particularly on the string-quartet-inclusive finale title-track, which offset jams like “Ăśberall” and the laid back highlight “Call” with a rhythmic oddness that was somehow still Colour Haze‘s own. I couldn’t help but wonder where it was leading, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t masterful in its own right.

 

3. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed May 19.

Goatsnake didn’t have it easy going into their third album. It had been 15 years since their sophomore outing, Flower of Disease, 11 since their last EP, and five since they first started playing shows again. Expectations? Through the roof. Among heavy rock heads, a new Goatsnake was like seeing the mountaintop. I mean, a big fucking deal and then some. Then the record hits, and there’s just about no way it can live up to the anticipation, but god damn if Goatsnake not only finally put out a third album, but one that was better than I think anyone could’ve hoped for. Hearing Pete Stahl with however many backup singers he had on “Another River to Cross” et. al. was like finding an animal in its native habitat, and between his soul, Greg Anderson‘s riffs, bassist Scott Renner‘s low end rumble and drummer Greg Rogers‘ roll, Black Age Blues won almost immediately and then spent the rest of its 47 minutes throwing itself a victory party. “Elevated Man,” “House of the Moon,” “Jimi’s Gone,” “Grandpa Jones,” almost on a per-track basis, Goatsnake added to the reasons they’ve been so heralded despite a decade-plus’ absence from the studio.

 

2. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

On the level of achievement alone, Elder‘s Lore will be the album of the year for many, and there are times (such as right now) when I listen to it and question whether or not it isn’t also my pick for that honor, but wherever it falls on whatever list, far more important is what the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/New York trio manage to accomplish across their third LP’s formidable five-track/59-minute span, songs like “Compendium” and “Deadweight” bridging a rarely approached gap between heavy and progressive rocks while maintaining a flow consistent with the psychedelic vibing of 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) but grown outward in another aesthetic direction and no sooner setting foot on the ground than seeming to master it in a flurry of blinding turns, sprawling soundscapes and clarity of mind that found perhaps its greatest expression in the centerpiece title-track, the 15-minute “Lore” itself, which I’ve no doubt will stand among if not atop the best songs of 2015 when the year is over and encapsulates the ambition and the corresponding breadth of Elder‘s songwriting, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto rising as one of the East Coast’s most pivotal acts, with a sound completely their own.

 

1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

I use the word “molten” pretty regularly to describe an album or song that seems to just ooze its way out of the speakers or shift seamlessly between its songs, but Acid King set an entirely new standard for the term with Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. Their first outing for Svart and their first release in a decade, its 55 minutes were a riff-rolling nirvana of lurching fuzz and tonal excellence, the guitar of Lori S. at the fore accompanied by Mark Lamb‘s bass and Joey Osbourne‘s drums, the swing of which propelled a highlight track like “Coming down from Outer Space” right back into it, while elsewhere on the record, “Silent Pictures,” “Red River” and “Infinite Skies” torched stoner conventions into a new space-biker rock, culminating in the heavy psych of “Center of Everywhere,” which seemed to emanate from the place it was describing, at once empty and full. More than just a welcome return after a long dearth of releases, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere found Acid King progressed even beyond where they were with 2005’s III, though more than anything else, what makes it my top pick for the year so far is the fact that I can’t seem to walk away from it for too long before going back, and ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to with his kind of thing. I’ve yet to find a standard to which these songs don’t live up.

Honorable Mention:

A few others worth noting. The Sun Blood Stories album (streamed here) continues to resonate. Also Monolord, Valkyrie, Lamp of the Universe, Garden of Worm, Wo Fat‘s live record, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Cold was the Ground and Ufomammut‘s Ecate. The Black Rainbows was a joy, as was Spidergawd‘s second LP, and while I still feel like I haven’t given it its due, the Sumac won many over and should get a mention. Steve Von Till‘s solo outing and the latest from Enslaved are worth seeking out as well for anyone who hasn’t heard them yet.

More to Come:

The year’s only half over, which is kind of a scary thought but true nonetheless. Watch out in the coming months for new stuff from Bloodcow, All Them Witches, Clutch, Graveyard, Zun, Sacri Monti (if that one’s not already out), Snail, Uncle Acid, and Kind. The new Kadavar is a sure-fire top tenner, and between that, the potential for a new Neurosis album and stuff like Magnetic Eye Records‘ Electric Ladyland [Redux], there’s no way the book is written on the best of 2015.

So stay tuned.

And if I’ve still got your attention, thanks for reading.
 

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Lamp of the Universe, The Inner Light of Revelation: Timeless through Ages

Posted in Reviews on April 27th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

lamp of the universe the inner light of revelation

For Hamilton, New Zealand’s Lamp of the Universe, the line between self, spirit and cosmos seems to have dissipated. Now 14 years on from its debut release, The Cosmic Union, the project has surged back to activity after a few years’ absence, resulting in 2013’s Transcendence (review here), splits in 2014 with Krautzone (streamed here) and Trip Hill, and now, the eighth full-length, The Inner Light of Revelation, released by Clostridium Records in conjunction with Astral Projection. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/producer Craig Williamson, as ever, is the auteur. A principle figure in establishing heavy rock and psychedelia in New Zealand during his days in Datura, who started in 1993 and released their last album in 1999, Williamson had shifted his focus from 2010 to 2012 onto Arc of Ascent, a trio whose two albums, 2010’s Circle of the Sun (review here) and 2012’s The Higher Key (review here), remain an engaging extension of Williamson‘s songwriting into the more grounded grooves hinted at on Lamp of the Universe‘s 2009 outing, Acid Mantra (review here). One thing leads to the next and to the next. Since Arc of Ascent‘s apparent disbanding, Williamson‘s work as Lamp of the Universe has had a sort of homecoming feel, but both the material he’s contributed to the splits and the two long-players are expansive and progressive, and The Inner Light of Revelation is nothing if not forward-minded. Comprised of eight tracks totaling 51 minutes, it harnesses both the lushness of sound and intimacy of vibe that has made Lamp of the Universe a singularly entity for the last decade-plus, and finds Williamson hinting toward a balance between the full-band and solo-project impulses. Less even than Acid Mantra or Transcendence, both of which were plenty laid back, The Inner Light of Revelation feels unconcerned with direction, and that peacefulness radiates outward from the very beginnings of opener “Trance of the Pharaohs.”

Acoustic guitar and e-bow hum set the foundation for Williamson‘s vocals, echoing a subtly memorable chorus, ritualized, very much in his own style — someone less familiar with his work and the fact that he was doing it first might hear shades of latter day Al Cisneros — and later gong wash provides Eastern sensibility further explored via percussion roll and insistent strumming. Arrangement has always been a central feature of Lamp of the Universe‘s work, but Williamson‘s songwriting and the sense of mood he sets and develops over the course of an album remains the core of the outfit. As a multi-instrumentalist, he builds a song like “God of One” with Mellotron, bass, guitar, sitar, percussion, drums, tambourine, multiple layers of vocals, resulting in a gorgeous psychedelic wash all the more hypnotic for the fact that it’s one person constructing it layer by layer. Of course, 14 years on, one would expect him to have a solid foundation from which to develop his ideas, but the loose swing he brings to “God of One” only underscores how special this project is. Tonal buzz, a quicker pace, sweet melody and one of The Inner Light of Revelation‘s more infectious hooks make the track a standout — it’s also the longest on the record at 8:52, though closer “Celestial Forms” is a near second — and it’s followed by “The Guiding Light,” a shorter movement centered around acoustic guitar, vocals and percussion. A folkier stretch, there’s still room for a dreamy acoustic solo in the second half, which sets the stage well for the Mellotron and sitar vibing of “Levitation,” the drums and percussion also returning as Williamson makes solid use of a relatively straightforward rhythm to enact a steady nod through the verse and a winding chorus that answers the Mellotron line with a move into swirling fuzz guitar. Transitions are fluid, the feel equal parts beautiful and lysergic, and Williamson‘s command over his sound manages only to enhance, not detract, from the psychedelic spiritual engagement of the material.

craig williamson

The two halves of the album break more or less evenly, no doubt with a Clostridium vinyl release in mind, and the acoustic/wah-electric finish of “Levitation” proves a resonant end to what would be side A. Side B, then, begins with the gradual ease of “Utopian Seed”‘s fade-in, harnessing some of the drone and backing swirl ideology of Williamson‘s 2014 splits but setting it to more grounded, less extended purpose. A bassline and guitar figure emerges, but percussion-wise, “Utopian Seed” uses only quiet, far-back tom hits to keep its beat, and the difference between that and “Levitation” or “God of One” is palpable in the ultra-molten soundscape crafted. Even here, amid the experimentalist wash, Williamson works in a chorus, though the intent is more mantra than hook, and that’s precisely the level on which it works. “Ancient Path” returns to a base of acoustic guitar and tambourine, sitar and percussion arriving soon after amid tanpura drone, expanding perhaps on what “The Guiding Light” suggested, with vocals compressed and otherworldly. The sitar and vocals lead the way out, bringing “Ancient Path” to a still-quiet apex, which gives way to the immediately rhythmic “Beyond the Horizon,” the shortest and most minimal of The Inner Light of Revelation‘s tracks. Also the shortest at 3:07, it’s the easiest to imagine in a live setting, even as a Mellotron line and echoing vocals move beyond the foot-tap timekeeping and strummed central figure. As expansive as Williamson gets here, the penultimate cut is a reminder of how effective and intimate Lamp of the Universe can be, and helps strike that balance between band-sound and solo-sound. With “Celestial Forms,” the Mellotron once again takes a central presence, ambient tones circling above the acoustic guitar and sitar and percussion and vocals. The closer recalls some of “God of One” and “Levitation”‘s movements, but is far dreamier, less drummed, and as it moves through an electrified solo to the long-fading wash of an ending, even more cosmic.

Particularly after “Beyond the Horizon,” it ties The Inner Light of Revelation together smoothly, which I suppose remains one of the most pivotal aspects of Williamson‘s work in Lamp of the Universe — that no matter how far out he goes sound-wise, there’s never any doubt of a plan at work, and even when he lets go and the song seems to carry him rather than the other way around, it’s abundantly clear he and the material are headed in the same direction. In psychedelia, Lamp of the Universe remains a blissful singular entity, and a project special for both how it has developed over time and the output that has resulted from that development. The quality of songwriting and balance of The Inner Light of Revelation should not be understated, and if there’s a singular truth being searched for here, then it seems to be found precisely in that place where self, spirit and cosmos unite.

Lamp of the Universe, The Inner Light of Revelation (2015)

Lamp of the Universe on Thee Facebooks

Lamp of the Universe on Bandcamp

Clostridium Records

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Lamp of the Universe, Transcendence: Beyond the Material

Posted in Reviews on May 6th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

For more than a decade, New Zealand-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Craig Williamson has offered solo trips to the cosmos under the moniker Lamp of the Universe, early albums like The Cosmic Union (2001) and Echo in Light (2002) serving as the foundation for lysergic sitar explorations to come on a subsequent run of records that includes 2005’s Heru, 2006’s Earth, Spirit and Sky and that same year’s From the Mystic Rays of Astrological Light. Lamp of the Universe’s last ceremony was 2009’s Acid Mantra (review here), and in the interim, Williamson helped found and handled bass and vocal duties in Arc of Ascent, releasing two albums with the trio in the form of their 2010 debut, Circle of the Sun (review here) and last year’s The Higher Key (review here) and departing from Lamp of the Universe’s intimate feel toward heavy psych and grunge without retreading the ground Williamson already covered as a member of underrated heavy rockers Datura. Unsurprisingly, the time spent creating with Arc of Ascent seems to have fed into Williamson’s processes for the solo-project, and though Lamp of the Universe remains as expansive and intricately layered as ever on the newest release, Transcendence – Williamson handling acoustic and electric guitar, bass, drums, sitar, Rhoads, synth, djembe, mellotron, tanpura, recorder in addition to the vocals, recording, mixing and putting the 46-minute full-length out through his own Astral Projection imprint – there’s a sense of movement to the songs that’s continued both from Acid Mantra and from the work of the full-band. For example, with six tracks broken even between, Transcendence has a distinct vinyl feel, each of its two sides ending with a longer cut that serves to push into new territory for the project or at very least further develop the ideas that the two prior tracks present, whether it’s “Transcendence” at the end of the first half taking the headphone-ready textures of “Pantheist” and “Creation of Light” to gorgeous interplay of mellotron and sitar or the closing “Beyond the Material World” mounting a one-man space rock freakout that’s the only cut on Transcendence to top 10 minutes long. Throughout, Williamson’s vocal approach, soft and spiritually contemplative, serves as a uniting factor, and as ever for Lamp of the Universe, the flow is unmistakable and consuming.

Drum lines are simple, but serve immediately on “Pantheist” to position Transcendence somewhere between acid folk and heavy psych, Williamson’s basslines tapping into some of the Om influence that showed up as well in the patterning of Arc of Ascent’s The Higher Key, while themes of love and freedom and exploration remain consistent with Lamp of the Universe’s earliest works. The drumming isn’t really new either – one can hear it as far back as “Freedom in Your Mind” from The Cosmic Union – but it’s the way the drums are used in the progressions and grooves that gives Transcendence a more rocking vibe, “Pantheist” playing out in a way that probably would’ve worked just as well structurally for Arc of Ascent, though of course the arrangement would be different, sans mellotron, backwards guitars and the overall peaceful feel that pervades. “Creation of Light” boasts a comparatively still atmosphere, interweaving a central acoustic guitar line and sitar atop lush tanpura drones and gradually introducing recorder flourish and djembe percussion without ever taking on the kind of rock-minded push of the opener. In its second half, Williamson layers vocal ambience to coincide with the instrumental payoff and the effect is as engaging sonically as it is a triumph of arrangement, but the highlight of side A is still to come with “Transcendence,” which marries the two viewpoints, bringing drums, tanpura, sitar, mellotron and a traditional verse structure together to a singular development that’s warmly toned, rich in color and neither pretentious nor obtuse. After three minutes into the total 8:28, Williamson opens into a sort of jam with himself, holding down the central line on bass and drums while adding a deceptively bluesy electric guitar solo amid the tanpura and sitar before resuming the verse and saving a fuzzier lead for later in the track, gradually diminishing on a long fadeout to end the first half of the album. Listening, I can’t help but wonder how long that jam actually went on, though the CD version of Transcendence allows only a few seconds to process the fullness of sound Williamson is able to accomplish before the acoustics and prevalent mellotron of “The Sign of Love” opens side B as the first of two shorter pieces.

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