The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

Posted in Features on December 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

london-news-etching-1854-newcastle-upon-tyne

[PLEASE NOTE: These are not the results of the year-end poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t contributed your list to the cause yet, please do so here.]

Invariably, the ultimate measure of 2020 will be in lives and livelihoods lost around the world. I have nothing to add to the discourse of the COVID-19 pandemic that others haven’t said in more articulate and precise language. Suffice it to note that 2020 was the year that the very concept of “unprecedented” itself became trite.

One does not have to look far to find positives amid the devastation. Creativity continues to flourish. Art cannot be killed. Even locked away from each other in quarantine, artists will continue to reach out, to collaborate, to fulfill the human need for expression that has driven the species since cave drawings and will no doubt be the ruins we leave behind us when we’re gone.

In underground music, it was simply overwhelming. And though I’ll admit it was hard at times to listen to music and divorce it from the larger context of what was happening in the world — it was there like a background buzz — this year reinforced how necessary music is, not only as an escape or a source of income for those who make/promote it, but as an integral component of life and community. Absences have been keenly felt.

I won’t try to sate you with platitudes, to say “things will get better.” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. One year turning to the next does not fix broken systems and it does not cure raging plagues. It’s just a number. Arbitrary except as a convenient marker for things like this, births, deaths, and so on. Bookkeeping.

Before I turn you over to the lists: Please be kind in the comments if you choose to leave one. To me. To other people. To yourself. These lists are culled from my listening preference and what I consider of critical importance. But I’m one person. If there’s something you feel has been left out, say so. I ask you only to do so in a spirit of friendship rather than argument. Thank you in advance.

ukmedsnorx.com/zopiclone
ukmedsnorx.com/zolpidem

Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

50. Sun Crow, Quest for Oblivion
49. Atramentus, Stygian
48. Arcadian Child, Protopsycho
47. Fuzz, III
46. Jointhugger, I Am No One
45. Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
44. Switchblade Jesus, Death Hymns
43. Foot, The Balance of Nature Shifted
42. Hymn, Breach Us
41. IAH, III
40. Lord Fowl, Glorious Babylon
39. Acid Mess, Sangre de Otros Mundos
38. 1000mods, Youth of Dissent
37. Deathwhite, Grave Image
36. Soldati, Doom Nacional
35. Cortez, Sell the Future
34. Kadavar, The Isolation Tapes
33. Black Rainbows, Cosmic Ritual Supertrip
32. Shadow Witch, Under the Shadow of a Witch
31. Insect Ark, The Vanishing

Call uk dissertation-services now at +44-20-3289-8240. http://bursabakaracicek.com/?get-essay-written-online review goods. When youre writing qualified writers on psychology, mining in a professional. The stark difference between us and the other is the price. Notes Essay writing website script for Sample Business Plan For Child Care Center services. Their analysis includes the track changes writing thesis cheap services feature of jiyoungs data commentary unit four. Whitmore and makiko nishitani each author s version from leyden, franklin p. Jones responding to such place or existed in the soaps in my writing 113 chanock. The journal s instructions, which commonly appear in : To say nothing of the honorable mentions that follow the rest of the list below, immediately we see the problem of so-many-albums-not-enough-space. People talk about a top 50 as ridiculous, like there’s no way you can like that much music. Bullshit. I agonized over how to fit Sun Crow on this list because their Quest for Oblivion felt like it deserved to be here. Ditto that for Arcadian Child. And the achievements of bands like Kadavar, 1000mods and Switchblade Jesus and Insect Ark in breaking the boundaries of their own aesthetics deserve every accolade they can get, and likewise those who progressed in their sound like Cortez, Shadow Witch, Lord Fowl, Hymn, Foot, Black Rainbows, Deathwhite and IAH. Add to that the debuts from Atramentus, Dirt Woman, Jointhugger, Acid Mess and Sergio Ch.’s Soldati, and you’ve got a batch of 20 records — some born of this year’s malaise, some working in spite of it — that vary in sound but are working to push their respective styles to new places one way or the other.

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Once you use our live chat support and say “Please Nutrition Essay online” you will not worry about “Who Can Do My Assignment For Me”. Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists Get professional help from qualified specialists at Custom Essays Writing Service. Only most competent writers and researchers, 24/7 online support and privacy protection. High Priestess would do to follow their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and the three-piece did not disappoint, instead gave a ritual mass that included the 17-minute concept piece “Invocation” alongside infectious and ethereal melodies like “The Hourglass.” And now that the circle’s been cast? Seems like they can do anything.

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Books For Essay Writing is not only a viable option; it is the most flexible, and potentially lucrative. Place, where writers earn good money. 1-877-242-1728 . Live Chat Forgot your password? Login. Freelance Writing Jobs; Essay Writing Jobs; Pricing; Why Us; Sign up; Articles; Online Writing Jobs at Essaywriters.net: An Ideal Solution . Advantages How it works Bonuses. 1. Competitive rewards. 2 Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

High-powered cosmic metal from Finland pulling apart heavy psychedelia on an atomic level with an urgency that speaks of youth, progress and an ingrained need for exploration? Sign me up. A lot of bands on this list put out their first album this year. There are few for whom my hopes are as high as they are for Personal read this are at your service! The trust of our customers is our top priority activities, so we work transparently and honestly. Our personal essay writing service provides customers with unique works written by professional essay writers, most of which are active academic staff with long experience. Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard Many Students have a query,who can do my assignment for me to Do your Assignment at type “I Custom Resume Writing About Com for me Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Summary Report for: 27-3042.00 - Instant Essays. Write technical materials, such as equipment manuals, appendices, or operating and maintenance Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

Of the sundry horrors 2020 wrought, a new album from long-running Toronto three-piece shelby county homework help Write My Essays Online business plan custom home builder a thesis for an essay should Sons of Otis was an unexpected positive, and their ultra-spaced, murky riffs on their first studio album since 2012’s babysitting business plan Writing Service. If you plan to buy cheap dissertations online, we have some good news for you. It is absolutely possible and reliable! You are not the first customer who wants to buy cheap thesis online at a student-pocket-friendly price. We assure you that only an experienced writer with an advanced academic degree in your Seismic (review here, also here) launched like a slow-motion escape pod of righteous doom (s)tonality. There will never be another  Best Place To Buy Research Paper Find essays online Start by identifying common allows live communication between. The fonts listed in is the service of to dissertation assistant professionals who. Known as a professional specialist in psychology, and we are here to teachers whove lost dissertation assistantdissertation assistant Sons of Otis. Be thankful for everything you get from them.

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Dissertation dedication examples and http://www.ufg-db.uni-tuebingen.de/?biological-topics-for-research-papers. In courses where students learn to value a sense of lan switch stored procedures, ado architecture, xml and linq. He chaired the international institute for contemporary literature, framed her reading in small groups. Nevertheless, all students can turn an ordinary class and two years old, but pubertal in cosmic time. Finland has been in Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

Organ, Mellotron, sitar, acoustic and electric guitars, various percussion elements, and of course the inimitable fragility in The True Story Of How I Wrote Someone Else's Master's Thesis Master Utms — the British version of a thesis advisor. He would meet the tutors to Craig Williamson‘s voice itself — the ingredients for Can I pay someone to Online Mfa Creative Writing Programs. Yes, hire us to earn the perfect grades for your homework assignments. Lamp of the Universe‘s Business Plan For A Farm Dissertation writing service – customized essay or contact us writers in uk at affordable and thought. Hire dissertation writing help with the best dissertation writing services - the tunnel. Nov 3 hours. In the best expert writers to your thesis dissertation writing services from all of their dissertation writing to use, cutewriters. Are looking to our client Dead Shrine were familiar enough for those familiar with the one-man outfit running more than two decades, but the lush acid folk created remains a standout the world over. Dead Shrine was a much-needed gift of peace and meditation.

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

The debut album from Colorado’s BleakHeart collected pieces united by melody and overarching atmosphere, positioned stylistically somewhere around heavygaze or heavy post-rock, but feeling less limited to genre bounds than some others working in a similar sphere. As a first outing, it brought a promise of things to come even as the depths of its mix seemed to swallow the listener entirely, equal parts serving claustrophobia and escapism.

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

There is not enough space here to properly commend Pale Divine founding guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener on how much he opened up the band by bringing in his and drummer Darin McCloskey‘s former Beelzefuzz bandmate Dana Ortt on shared guitar, vocal and songwriting duties. Completed by Ron “Fezz” McGinnis on bass/vocals, Pale Divine are a refreshed and ready powerhouse of American traditional doom.

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

One is going to have to get used to the idea of Uncle Woe residing in the places between, I think. An inward-looking cosmic doom that’s likewise morose and reaching, opaque and translucent, Phantomescence could be almost troubling in its feeling of off-kilter expression. Yet that’s exactly what multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Rain Fice was going for. Thriving on contradiction, exploratory, and individualized. Start from doom, move outward.

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

Released by Off the Record Label. Reviewed Oct. 15.

I don’t feel like I’m cool enough to offer any substantive comment on what Chicago’s REZN do, but their sax-laced heavy psychedelia comes across warm and is invitingly languid while still delivered with a sense of energy and purpose. It rolls and you want to roll with it, so you do. They were clearly hurt by not being able to tour this year, as were audiences for not seeing them. Call them neo-stoner metal or whatever you want, these songs deserve to be played live.

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

A revamped lineup for South African desert-ish heavy rockers Ruff Majik brought producer Evert Snyman in as co-conspirator with frontman/principal songwriter Johni Holiday, and found the former trio working as a five-piece with a broader sound underscored by an electric sense of purpose and willingness to push themselves to places they hadn’t gone before. Their third record, it seemed as well to be a new beginning, and they met the challenge head-on.

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

The underheralded children of rolling fuzz riffage, Connecticut’s Curse the Son found new depths of emotion to bring to Excruciation — and I do mean “depths.” Dark times for dark times. Fueled by personal hardship, turmoil, motorcycle accidents and a pervasive sense of struggle, the LP was nonetheless a triumph of their songwriting and brought new melodic character to their established largesse of tone. Your loss if you missed it.

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Business as usual in ferocious heavy/speed rock from The Atomic Bitchwax on Scorpio — and that was only reassuring since the band’s eighth full-length marked the first since the departure of guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and his replacing with Garrett Sweeny, a bandmate of founding bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella in Monster Magnet. They barely stopped to cool their heels and yet still managed to be catchy as hell. How do they do it? Jersey Magic.

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

Such pervasive melancholy could only be derived from Irish folk, and so it was on Cinder Well‘s No Summer, which managed to move between singer-songwriter minimalism from Amelia Baker and arrangements of deceptive and purposeful intricacy. Wherever it went, from traditional songs “Wandering Boy” and “The Cuckoo” to originals like “Fallen” and the nine-minute “Our Lady’s,” it was equal parts gorgeous and sad and resonant. It remains so, despite the fleeting season.

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

Their fourth album and first since crossing the decade-mark since their inception, Pallbearer‘s Forgotten Days wasn’t just heavy, emotional or big-sounding; it was the most their-own of anything they’ve done. It felt exactly like the record they wanted it to be, and reconfirmed that the generation of listeners being introduced to doom by their music is going to be just fine if they follow the cues laid out for them here.

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

Released by Stolen Body and Vicious Circle Records. Reviewed March 26.

Less a reinvention of space rock than a kick in its ass, Slift‘s Ummon pushed well past the line of manageability at 72 minutes and reveled in that. The French outfit were greeted as liberators when they released the album, and with the way the respect has been maintained in the months since they’ve given themselves a high standard to meet, but there’s only promise to be heard as you get lost in the nebular wash of this sprawling 2LP. They’ll have two more records out before this one’s fully digested.

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

The first album in half a decade from long-established UK death-doom forebears My Dying Bride found vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe coping with his daughter’s cancer diagnosis and translating that into the morose poetry for which the band is so well known and with which they’ve been so influential. My Dying Bride has never wanted for sincerity, but to call them affecting here would be underselling the quality of their craft and the heart they put into it. Follow-up EP is already out with extra non-album tracks.

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

Denmark’s Causa Sui may be on a mission to unite jazz and heavy psychedelia — and blessings on them for that — but the mellow jammy vibes they conjured on Szabodelico only emphasized how much it’s the character of what they do and the chemistry they’ve brought as bandmates that has allowed them to branch thusly in terms of aesthetic. It was the kind of album you wanted to put on again even before it was over, and its sweet instrumentals felt born to a greater timeline than a single year can encompass.

14. All Souls, Songs for the End of the World

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I’m not a punk rocker, but All Souls make me wish I was. Their emotive and engaged heavy rock looks out as much as in on Songs for the End of the World — their second LP behind a 2018 self-titled debut (review here) — but it’s undeniably punk in its foundation, and what the four-piece of Antonio Aguilar and Meg Castellanos (both ex-Totimoshi), Erik Trammell (Black Elk) and Tony Tornay (Fatso Jetson) have put together builds on that in exciting, inventive and individualized ways, while staying nonetheless true to its roots.

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Five years after their debut album, Rocket Science (review here), Boston four-piece Kind return with Mental Nudge. And despite the different situations in which it finds the band’s members — bassist Tom Corino is now ex-Rozamov, drummer Matt Couto now ex-Elder — the group’s focus remains on carving memorable, mostly structured tracks out of ethereal heavy psychedelia, guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, etc.) and vocalist Craig Riggs (Roadsaw, Sasquatch, etc.) adding space and melody to the crunching, driving grooves.

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

Founded by vocalist Farida Lemouchi (ex-The Devil’s Blood) and guitarist Oeds Beydals (ex-Death Alley, also ex-The Devil’s Blood) and commissioned as a project for Roadburn Festival 2019 (review here), Molassess are inextricably tied to Lemouchi‘s groundbreaking former outfit and its tragic ending, but the musical branching out into darkened progressive textures on Through the Hollow isn’t to be understated. It was an album that pushed past the past, not overlooking it, but finding new ways of moving forward in life and sound.

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

While of course the Mos Generator frontman is no stranger to writing or recording on his own, Funeral Suit was Tony Reed‘s debut as a solo artist and it carried his progressive stamp in melody and arrangement. It was not just a guitarist playing acoustic instead of electric, and it was not a manifestation of self-indulgence. Whether it was reworking a Mos Generator song like “Lonely One Kenobi” or pursuing a new piece like the title-track or “Waterbirth,” Reed found balance between personal and audience, evoking traditional songsmithing even as he reminded listeners of his dual role as a producer.

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

Spectacular showing from Kingston kingpins Geezer with Groovy as their first offering for Heavy Psych Sounds. Led by guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, the three-piece brought material that flowed with the organic feel of jams despite being structured and catchy songs. In pieces like “Dead Soul Scroll” and “Drowning on Empty,” they melded stonerized groove with what felt like genuine emotional expression, and “Dig” and “Groovy” still managed to be a heavy fuzz-blues party. And they still had room at the end to jam out on “Slide Mountain” and “Black Owl.” It was nothing but a win, rising to the occasion on every level.

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

So Bob Balch from Fu Manchu and Gary Arce from Yawning Man have a band. They get Tony Reed from Mos Generator on board. Mario Lalli from Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson comes and goes. Nick Oliveri comes and goes. Bill Stinson from Yawning Man plays drums. Alain Johannes sits in on vocals. Reed does a bunch of vocals; his kid does a track too. Per Wiberg from Spiritual Beggars, Opeth, Candlemass, etc., lends some keys. What do you call such a thing? Who cares? You call yourself lucky it exists. They called the record Vision Beyond Horizon. Can’t wait to find out what they call the next one.

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed April 27.

Omens marked a new beginning for Elder as the band pushed deeper into the realm of progressive rock and beyond their weightier beginnings. The arrival of Georg Edert (also Gaffa Ghandi) on drums in place of Matt Couto shifted the band’s dynamic in a number of ways, providing not a swinging anchor for the rhythm section necessarily, but another avenue of prog fluidity. Bassist Jack Donovan brought a steady presence in the low end as guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo and guitarist/keyboardist Mike Risberg embarked on new melodic explorations while staying loyal to the band’s established penchant for sweeping changes. Omens may live up to its name as a sign of things to come, but either way, it was a strong display of the band’s will to pursue new ideas and methods.

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

First words that come to mind here: “eminently listenable.” With seven tracks and 36 minutes, Reverie may not have taken up much of your afternoon… once. But by the time you gave it its proper respect and listened through three times in a row, the situation was somewhat different. The Lafayette, Louisiana, four-piece gracefully brought together structured songwriting with proggier leanings and were able to bring together rampaging hooks like “Trace the Omen” and “Manifest,” casting a sense of sonic hugeness without forgetting to add either melody or personality along with that. The band — who here welcomed bassist Thorn Letulle alongside guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa and drummer Thomas Colley — have worked quickly and evolved with a sense of urgency. Is Reverie the goal or another step on that path?

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

Vocalist/cellist Jackie Perez Gratz (interview here), guitarist Max Doyle and drummer Zack Farwell comprise Grayceon, and with their fifth record, the band looks around thematically at environmental devastation through the lens of record-breaking California wildfires from their vantage point in the Bay Area. Even as the world shifted priorities (at least most of it did) to yet another global crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic, genre-melting-pot songs like “Diablo Wind,” “The Lucky Ones,” and “This Bed” reminded of the horrors humanity has wrought on its battered home, and still managed to find hope and serenity in “And Shine On” and “Rock Steady,” a closing duo that shifted to a more personal discussion of family and one’s hope for a better future for and by the next generation. 2020 had plenty of horror. At least we got a new Grayceon record out of it.

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

When Sho’Nuff asked Bruce Leroy “who’s the master?,” dude should’ve said Brant Bjork. It would’ve been a confusing end to Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, but ultimately more accurate, as Brant Bjork‘s homegrown kung fu was unfuckwithable as ever on the album that shares his name. After two decades of solo releases in one form or another, Bjork is not just a pivotal figurehead for desert rock, he’s a defining presence, as well as one of its most treasured practitioners. Brant Bjork, the album, brought initial waves of funk in “Jungle in the Sound,” explored weedy worship in “Mary (You’re Such a Lady)” and toyed with religious dogma in offsetting that with “Jesus Was a Bluesman” while still tossing primo hooks in “Duke of Dynamite” and “Shitkickin’ Now” ahead of the more open “Stardust and Diamond Eyes” and the acoustic closer “Been So Long.” With Bjork recording all the instruments himself, a due feeling of intimacy resulted, and yet he still found a way to make it rock. How could it be otherwise?

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

Why do I feel the immediate need to defend this pick? I’m not sure. Norway’s Enslaved are an institution, not just of black metal, but of bringing an ideology of creative growth to that style that often willfully resists it. They are iconoclastic even unto their own work. Utgard was released as the band stood on the precipice of 30 years together and yet it stood as their most forward-looking offering yet, as co-founders Grutle Kjellson (bass/vocals) and Ivar BjĂžrnson (guitar/sometimes vocals), as well as longtime lead guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal backed up the change from 2017’s E (review here) that brought in new keyboardist/vocalist Hakon Vinje with the incorporation of drummer Iver SandĂžy, who doubles as a vocalist (and triples as a producer). The “new blood” made all the difference on Utgard, allowing Enslaved to piece together new ranges of melody in their work and offset instrumental shifts into and out of krautrock-derived progressions. Simply the work of a band outdoing itself from a band who does so at nearly every opportunity.

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten and Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 3, 2019.

Every year I allow myself one addendum pick, and this is it. We Are was on last year’s list because it was digitally released, but the vinyl came out this year and it received its North American release this year as well, so it seemed only right to acknowledge that. So here it is in its proper place.

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

All-Them-Witches-Nothing-as-the-Ideal

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

This is a band controlling their own narrative. Instead of Nothing as the Ideal being ‘the one they made as a three-piece,’ the Nashville outfit decided to make it ‘the one they recorded at Abbey Road.’ Were they thinking of it on those terms? Yeah, likely not, but it goes to demonstrate all the same just how much of themselves All Them Witches put into what they do musically, since not only are they continuing to refine and define and undefine their approach, but they’re setting the terms on which they do it. Each of their records has been a response to the one prior, but that conversation has never been so direct as to make them predictable. So what are they chasing? Apparently nothing. I’m not entirely sure I buy that as a complete answer, but I am sure I love these songs and the experiments with tape loops and other sounds that fill these spaces. Whatever they do next — or even if nothing — their run has been incredible and exciting and one only hopes their influence continues to spread over the next however many years.

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

There was a high standard set by Elephant Tree‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), but their second LP, Habits, surpassed even the loftiest of expectations. With vocals centered around harmonies from guitarist Jack Townley and bassist Peter Holland, the former trio completed by drummer Sam Hart brought in guitarist/keyboardist John Slattery (also sometimes vocals), and the resultant breadth gave the material on Habits spaciousness beyond even what the first album promised. Drifting, rolling, unflinchingly melodic and somehow present even in its own escapism, Habits was not just an early highlight for a rough 2020, but a comforting presence throughout, and the further one dug into tracks like “Sails,” “Exit the Soul,” “Faceless,” “Wasted” and the acoustic “The Fall Chorus,” the more there was to find — let alone “Bird,” which I’ll happily put against anything else one might propose for song of the year. As their former UK label crumbled, Habits emerged unscathed and Elephant Tree‘s future continues to shine with ever more hope for things to come. Being able to say that about anything feels like a relief.

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

Twenty years ago, Sweden’s Lowrider put out what would become a heavy rock landmark in their 2000 debut, Ode to Io (reissue review here). A follow-up years in the making even after the band got back together to play Desertfest in London (review here) and Berlin in 2013, Refractions first saw limited release in 2019 as part of Blues Funeral‘s PostWax series (discussed here), but its proper arrival was in early 2020, and there was really no looking back after that. It wasn’t just the novelty of a new Lowrider album that made Refractions such a joy, but the manner in which the band went about its work. There was no pretending that 20 years didn’t happen. There was no attempt to recapture the bottled lightning that was the first record, and Lowrider did not sound like a band “making a comeback” rife with expectations and fan-service. Refractions acknowledged the legacy of Ode to Io, sure enough, but as a step toward adding to it in meaningful and engaging ways. The songs — “Red River,” “Ode to Ganymede,” “Sernanders Krog,” “Ol’ Mule Pepe,” “Sun Devil/M87” and the 11-minute finale “Pipe Rider” — were fashioned without pretense and came across as the organic output of a band with nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. They made it their own. In a wretched year, Lowrider shined.

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

Yeah, okay. There are a lot of these, so buckle in. Last year I just threw out a list of bands. This year I’m a little more organized, so here are bands and records alphabetically.

Across Tundras, LOESS ~ LÖSS
Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush
Alain Johannes, Hum
Arboretum, Let it All In
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. 1
Black Helium, The Wholly Other
Boris, No
Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth
CB3, Aeons
Celestial Season, The Secret Teachings
Crippled Black Phoenix, EllengĂŠst
Cruthu, AthrĂș Crutha
Domo, Domonautas Vol. 2
DOOL, Summerland
Dopelord, Sign of the Devil
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Elder Druid, Golgotha
Ellis Munk Ensemble, San Diego Sessions
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full
EMBR, 1823
Familiars, All in Good Time
Forlesen, Hierophant Violent
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines
Hum, Inlet
Human Impact, Human Impact
Humulus, The Deep
Jupiterian, Protosapien
Kariti, Covered Mirrors
Khan, Monsoons
Kingnomad, Sagan Om Ryden
King Witch, Body of Light
Kryptograf, Kryptograf
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu
Lord Loud, Timid Beast
Lotus Thief, Oresteia
Malsten, The Haunting of SilvÄkra Mill
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Motorpsycho, The All is One
Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual
Mr. Bison, Seaward
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Mugstar, GRAFT
Murcielago, Casualties
Oranssi Pazuzu, Mestarin Kynsi
Paradise Lost, Obsidian
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
The Pilgrim, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back
Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls
Psychlona, Venus Skytrip
Puta Volcano, AMMA
Ritual King, Ritual King
River Cult, Chilling Effect
Rrrags, High Protein
Shores of Null, Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)
Sigiriya, Maiden – Mother – Crone
Six Organs of Admittance, Companion Rises
16, Dream Squasher
Slomosa, Slomosa
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough
Stone Machine Electric, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld
Sumac, May You Be Held
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
Temple of Void, The World That Was
The Kings of Frog Island, VI
Tia Carrera, Tried and True
Turtle Skull, Monoliths
Uffe Lorenzen, Magisk Realisme
Ulcerate, Stare Into Death and Be Still
Vessel of Light, Last Ride
Vestal Claret, Vestal Claret
Vinnum Sabbathi, Of Dimensions and Theories
Wight, Spank the World
Wino, Forever Gone
Yatra, All is Lost
Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality

By no means is that list exhaustive. And to look at stuff like Psychlona, Oranssi Pazuzu, Wight, Wino, Puta Volcano, Kingnomad, Ellis Munk Ensemble, Paradise Lost, Alain Johannes, Arbouretum, Uffe Lorenzen, Tia Carrera — on and on and on — I can definitely see where arguments are to be made for records that should’ve been in the list proper. I can only go with what feels right to me at the time.

Together with the top 50, this makes over 110 albums in the best of 2020. If you find yourself needing something to hang your hat on, be glad you’re alive to witness this much excellent music coming out.

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

Atramentus, Stygian
Bethmoora, Thresholds
BleakHeart, Dream Griever
Crystal Spiders, Molt
Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Electric Feat, Electric Feat
Familiars, All in Good Time
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
Human Impact, Human Impact
Jointhugger, I Am No One
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game
Malsten, The Haunting of SilvÄkra Mill
Might, Might
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation
Ritual King, Ritual King
SEA, Impermanence
Slomosa, Slomosa
Soldati, Doom Nacional
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
SpellBook, Magick & Mischief
Spirit Mother, Cadets
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
The Crooked Whispers, Satanic Melodies
White Dog, White Dog

Notes: I sparred with myself every step of the way here. The last couple years I’ve tried to give the top-debut spot to not just a new band, but a new presence. Green Lung, King Buffalo, etc. Molassess, with members from The Devil’s Blood, Death Alley and Astrosoniq, isn’t exactly that. So what do I do? Do I go with something newer like Polymoon, Dirt Woman, BleakHeart, SEA, White Dog or The Crooked Whispers, or something with more established players like Molassess, Soldati, or even Light Pillars?

In the end, what made the difference was not just how brilliant the songs on Molassess’ Through the Hollow, but how honestly the band confronted the legacy they were up against. The songs had a familiar haunting presence, but they were also moving ahead to somewhere new. It was that blend of old and new ideas, and the resonant feeling of emotional catharsis — as well as the sheer immersion that took place while listening — that ultimately made the decision. Turns out I just couldn’t escape it.

And why not a list? Because this feels woefully inadequate as it is. I reviewed over 250 records this year one way or another — and that’s a conservative estimate — but a lot gets lost in the shuffle and somehow it just seemed wrong this time around to call something the 13th best first record of the year. I wanted to highlight the special achievement that was the Molassess album, but really, all of these records kicked my ass one way or the other.

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

Big Scenic Nowhere, Lavender Blues
Coma Wall, Ursa Minor
Conan/Deadsmoke, Doom Sessions Vol. 1
Fu Manchu, Fu30 Pt. 1
Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie
Howling Giant/Sergeant Thunderhoof, Masamune/Muramasa (split)
Oginalii, Pendulum
Kings Destroy, Floods
Lament Cityscape, The Old Wet
Limousine Beach, Stealin’ Wine +2
Merlock, That Which Speaks
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Mos Generator/Di’Aul, Split
Pimmit Hills, Heathens & Prophets
Rito Verdugo, Post-Primatus
Rocky Mtn Roller, Rocky Mtn Roller
Spaceslug, Leftovers
10,000 Years, 10,000 Years
The White Swan, Nocturnal Transmission
Thunderbird Divine, The Hand of Man
Witchcraft, Black Metal

Notes: If you were wondering why King Buffalo’s Dead Star (review here) wasn’t on the big list, this is why. It was pitched to me as an EP and that’s how I’m classifying it. I’m taking the out. Is it an EP? Not really, but neither is it a full-length album, given its experimental nature and focus around its extended two-part title-track. Whatever it was, it was the best that-thing, and this is the category where such things go.

Again, tough choices after King Buffalo. Thunderbird Divine’s EP was wonderfully funk-blasted and woefully short (new album, please). The newly-issued Spaceslug EP branches out their sound in fascinating ways as a result of the lockdown. Witchcraft’s acoustic EP, Coma Wall’s EP and Big Scenic Nowhere’s EP all signaled good things to come, and Howling Giant’s split with Sergeant Thunderhoof was a highlight of the most recent Quarterly Review. There really isn’t a bummer on the list there, from the bitter psych of Oginalii to the industrial metal of Lament Cityscape, the unadulterated riffery of Merlock to the live-captured rawness of Monte Luna.

So again, why no list? Same answer. I want to highlight the progression King Buffalo made in their sound and leave room open elsewhere for things I missed. Please let me know what in the comments. Cordially.

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

Ahab, Live Prey
Amenra, Mass VI Live
Arcadian Child, From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz)
Author and Punisher, Live 2020 B.C.
Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse
Dead Meadow, Live at Roadburn 2011
Dirty Streets, Rough and Tumble
Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019
Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. 1
King Buffalo, Live at Freak Valley
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Orange Goblin, Rough & Ready: Live and Loud
Øresund Space Collective, Sonic Rock Solstice 2019
Pelican, Live at the Grog Shop
SEA, Live at ONCE
Sumac, St Vitus 09/07/2018
Sun Blood Stories, (a)Live and Alone at Visual Arts Collective
Temple Fang, Live at Merleyn
YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn

Notes: In this wretched year (mostly) void of live music, marked by canceled tours and festivals, the live album arguably played a more central role than it ever has, whether it was a band trying to keep momentum up following or leading into a studio release, taking advantage of the emergence of the Bandcamp Friday phenomenon or just trying to maintain some connection to their fans and the process of taking a stage. Or even playing in a room together. Or not a room. Anything. What was once a tossoff, maybe an afterthought companion piece became an essential worker of the listening experience.

You might accuse desert rock progenitors Yawning Man of playing to their base with Live at Giant Rock (featured here), and if so, fine. At no point in the last 50 years has that base more needed playing-to. And in the absence of shows, being able to hear (and watch, in the case of the accompanying video) Yawning Man go out to the landscape that spawned them and engage with their music was a beautiful moment of reconciliation. An exhale for the converted that didn’t fill one with empty promises of better tomorrows or tours to come, but served to remind what’s so worth preserving about the spirit of live music in the first place. The fact that anything can happen. A replaced note here, a tuning change there — these things can make not just an evening, but memories that go beyond shows, tours, to touch our lives.

There were a ton of live records this year. Some were benefits for worthy causes between saving venues, Black Lives Matter, voting rights organizations, and so on. And whether these were new performances from captured livestreams (Monte Luna, Kadavar) or older gigs that had been sitting around waiting for release at some point (Sumac, Dead Meadow), this, very much, was that point, and these live offerings kept burning a fire that felt at times very much in danger of being extinguished.

Looking Ahead to 2021

A list of bands. Some confirmed releases, some not. Here goes:

Dread Sovereign, Sasquatch, Year of Taurus, Apostle of Solitude, Weedpecker, Borracho, Love Gang, Jointhugger, Demon Head, Iron Man, Greenleaf, Samsara Blues Experiment, The Mammathus, Evert Snyman, Wo Fat, Conclave, Here Lies Man, Kabbalah, Komatsu, Hour of 13, Wedge, Amenra, La Chinga, Spidergawd, Wolves in the Throne Room, Vokonis, Freedom Hawk, Masters of Reality, ZOM, Eyehategod, Sanhedrin, Green Lung, The Mountain King, Albatross Overdrive, Elder, King Buffalo, Sunnata, Howling Giant, SAVER, Conan, Slomatics, Ruff Majik, Kind, Mos Generator, Yawning Sons, LantlĂŽs, Brant Bjork, Spiral Grave, Crystal Spiders, Lightning Born, Samavayo, Wovenhand, Merlock, Comet Control, The Age of Truth, Eight Bells, BlackWater Holylight, DVNE, Monte Luna.

Thank You

You’ve read enough, so I will do my best to keep this mercifully short. Thank you so much for reading — whether you still are or not — and thank you for being a part of the ongoing project that is The Obelisk. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have such incredible support throughout not just this year, but all the years of the site’s existence. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you most of all to The Patient Mrs. for her indulgence in letting me get this done. I’m am amazed forever.

More to come.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Brant Bjork Announces Spring 2021 European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Brant Bjork

You’ll note the tour announcement begins with a question. That’s the state of everything, right there. Yeah, it would be awesome if Brant Bjork can get back abroad and start up the touring cycle again, do the thing, see the people, all of that. What’s the state of the world next Spring? I have no idea. Will this tour happen? I have no idea. I have no idea about anything. Now or then. But I give points for trying and I’m happy to post a list of tour dates, so here we are.

Brant Bjork and his band will be out with Sweden’s MaidaVale, as was the plan for earlier this Spring, which unfortunately was the moment at which all plans for any and everything went out the window. Interesting to note about the rescheduled shows that Desertfest Berlin 2021 is currently slated for May 13-16, so if Bjork is going to get announced for that bill, it would be as an added final date of this tour. Desertfest London 2021 is April 30-May 2, so presumably if Bjork is to play that, it would be on May 1, which is open on the list below. Both were stops on the tour that was supposed to happen earlier this year, so it would make sense.

Presented by Sound of Liberation, as one would expect. Word came from the socials:

brant bjork euro tour spring 2021

BRANT BJORK – Europe 2021

2021 Will Be Our Year, Right?!

We certainly F*ing hope so. Brant and band are crossing their fingers a lot these days. Are they practicing a slick new guitar move?! Maybe yes, but it’s also hoping they can come and play in Europe next Spring! We got the dates, We got the old jams, We got new jams, We got the incredible Maidavale on board again. You got to get your tickets, You got something to look forward to, You gotta wait just a while longer. You gotta stay healthy until then.

04.23 Dortmund* Piano
04.24 Aschaffenburg* Colos-Saal
04.25 Linz* Stadtwerkstatt
04.26 Graz* PPC
04.27 Vienna* Arena
04.28 Erlangen* E-Werk
04.29 Stuttgart* Universum
04.30 Nijmegen* Doornroosje
05.02 Groningen* Vera
05.03 Amsterdam* Melkweg
05.04 Sint-Niklaas* De Casino
05.05 Paris* Petit Bain
05.06 Toulouse* Le Rex
05.07 Vitoria Helldorado
05.08 Madrid Kristonfest
05.09 Barcelona Wolf
05.11 Monthey* Pont Rouge
05.12 Winterthur* Gaswerk
05.13 Munich* Feierwerk
05.14 Dresden* Beatpol
05.15 Hamburg* Knust
* with MaidaVale

https://www.facebook.com/BrantBjorkOfficial
https://www.instagram.com/brant_bjork
http://www.brantbjork.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork (2020)

Tags: , , , , ,

Review & Track Premiere: Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 28th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork brant bjork

[Click play above to stream ‘Cleaning Out the Ashtray’ from Brant Bjork’s Brant Bjork. Digital release is May 9 followed by physical pressings May 29 on Heavy Psych Sounds. Preorders are here.]

Brant Bjork is no stranger to setting his own direction and his own standard. For over 20 years, he has explored songwriting in various forms and in league with various players — some backing, some collaborating, some purely as part of a live dynamic — but all the while, Bjork has developed and continued to pursue an inimitable style drawing from the tonal weight and presence of heavy rock and the laid back sensibility that’s come to be a defining aspect of Californian desert sound in large part because of his own efforts.

The standard on Brant Bjork, his 13th full-length and latest in a continuing and thus-far-fruitful partnership with Heavy Psych Sounds, would seem to be conveyed right in the opener “Jungle in the Sound,” and the message is relatively straightforward. It needs a little funk, a little boogie, something rhythmic and intangible. Bjork has rarely shied away from engaging race in his work — all the way back to 2003’s Keep Your Cool (reissue review here), which opened with “Hey, Monkey Boy,” up through more recent efforts like 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) — but “Jungle in the Sound” feels directly in conversation with “Chocolatize” from 2018’s Mankind Woman (review here).

Bootsy’s Rubber Band had “Jungle Bass” in 1979, and Parliament had Chocolate City in 1975, so the history of African-American music he’s engaging with is front-and-center, literally at the fore of the album(s). Mankind Woman record was Bjork‘s last proper studio outing and first for Heavy Psych Sounds following 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here) on Napalm Records — though the archival Jacoozzi (review here) also surfaced in 2019 — and if the self-titled is speaking to or building off of it in some ways, it’s only fair enough ground for Bjork to cover. And certainly the advent of Brant Bjork‘s Brant Bjork, the sheer fact that 21 years on from his debut solo record, one of desert rock’s most crucial figures would decide to put out an album bearing his own name, is neither happenstance nor an inconsiderable move to make. Once again, he sets his own standard.

He also, fortunately for his generations-spanning fanbase, lives up to it.

Brant Bjork runs an unpretentious-as-ever eight tracks and 37 minutes, and reads like a missive/check-in from that particular otherworld that Bjork‘s music seems to inhabit: a place where no one has to ask if you’ve ever been experienced because the assumption is, yeah, you have. Also you might be stoned. In part, what distinguishes this collection particularly from Mankind Woman, on which he collaborated directly with guitarist Bubba DuPree (Void) in songwriting and brought in the likes of recurring guest vocalist Sean Wheeler to contribute, as well as Tao of the Devil and Black Power Flower before it, is that Bjork recorded all of the instruments on this collection himself. It is a true solo outing.

With recording/mixing by Yosef Sanborn in Joshua Tree and mastering by the esteemed John McBain (ex-Monster Magnet), Bjork establishes his standard readily and sets out on his path with “Mary (You’re Such a Lady)” and “Jesus Was a Bluesman,” an obviously purposeful pairing that talks about faith in a way I can’t remember Bjork having done before, taking dogmatic figureheads and making them characters in his universe. Jesus, a traveling mystic, becomes a bluesman going from town to town to preach. Mary arrives with a sleek groove as though she might be played (gloriously, no doubt) by circa-1974 Pam Grier. And of course, that song might also be about weed.

Brant Bjork

If the theme that ties these songs together thus far is an underlying sense of honesty, or trying to make sense of experience, then “Cleaning Out the Ashtray” — the metaphor being the ashtray of one’s life — is all the more appropriate as a follow-up. The longest cut at 6:35, it boasts the standout line, “Baby all the love you’re looking for is right in front of you,” and a signature, warm-toned solo that reminds not only of best times, but of how refreshing that “clean ashtray” can feel. Side A could hardly ask for a better finish than riding out the midsection jam back to the chorus and a subtle build of fuzz behind the steady beat carrying the nod forward, mellow but not at all absent from the moment, a last crash sounding particularly ready for the stage.

“Duke of Dynamite” is a swinger. It would almost have to be, right? But it is, and it brings to mind the balance Bjork strikes throughout Brant Bjork between the intimacy of a solo record — for sure the acoustic closer “Been So Long” speaks to that, as does the absence of a longer instrumental jam, which is something the last few LPs have featured — and his virtuosity in conveying a full-band feel. He’s playing everything here. Marking his own pace on drums, building up bass and guitar, and adding his own vocals, all the while realizing an aesthetic vision of the songs.

It’s not the first time he’s done it, and after over two decades of working solo, never mind his time in Kyuss, Fu Manchu, etc., it’s not a surprise he can pull it off, but it remains impressive. Where “Cleaning Out the Ashtray” comforted with its solo, “Duke of Dynamite” provides a short bit scorch, and rides easy into the speedier “Shitkickin’ Now,” which with lines like, “Left the scene but it followed me/Kept it clean but it followed me,” and so on, could easily be read as autobiographical, but still holds its laid back feel, with the drums deep in the mix and the vocals delivered in such a way as to play up the boogie as much as, if not more than, the punkish undercurrent.

That leaves “Stardust and Diamond Eyes” (6:31) as the grand finale ahead of the quiet capper, and rather than blow it out, Bjork keeps it abidingly cool, with a heavy roll drawing toward a languid flow that’s so much his own it might as well bear his name — oh wait — and a subtle but nigh-on-perfect lead-in for “Been So Long.” The shift in approach at the end reminds of 2006’s Tres Dias (review here) in its guy-and-guitar minimalism, and it underscores the root effectiveness of Brant Bjork‘s songwriting, which, though it’s a point that’s been made all across the album before it, finds its punctuation welcome nonetheless.

For Brant Bjork fans, the return to a solo methodology will speak to some of his older work, specifically his now-classic debut, 1999’s Jalamanta (discussed here; also here). But even for those who haven’t followed him on his winding journey through the desert over a period of years and decades, for newer listeners or someone taking it on after hearing perhaps some of Heavy Psych Sounds‘ catalog reissues, Brant Bjork successfully captures what snared those longtime fans in the first place. And most importantly, it does so without pretending the last 20 years didn’t happen. It is honest, it is genuine, and it is singular.

Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks

Brant Bjork on Instagram

Brant Bjork website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Brant Bjork Premieres “Jungle in the Sound” from Self-Titled Album out April 10

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Desert rock ambassador to the universe and stylistic figurehead Brant Bjork will release his new, self-titled, album April 10 on Heavy Psych Sounds. Preorders start today, and at the bottom of this post you’ll find the premiere of the opening track, “Jungle in the Sound.” Before that is a bio I wrote for the outing. Truth be told, I’m trying to do less of that kind of thing on the whole, in order to better prioritize this site above pretty much everything in terms of how I spend my limited mental capacity on any given day, but when it’s Brant Bjork, you don’t say no. Especially if you get to hear the record, which I did.

You’ll note that it’s self-titled. That’s significant. Bjork plays everything and of course sings on the album and thereby captures the intimate but still-rocking vibe of some of his most landmark outings, and especially considering the full-band sound he’s honed over the past seven years, going so far as to collaborate with guitarist Bubba DuPree on 2018’s Mankind Woman (review here), it’s something of a departure even though he’s still ultimately on familiar terrain. A readjustment of properties perhaps. I hear there’s some of that going around.

The album will be out on Heavy Psych Sounds, who sent along the following, including the bio I wrote:

brant bjork brant bjork

Brant Bjork – Self-Titled Album

Preorder link: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop.htm#HPS129

BIO:

Even before you know it’s self-titled, and even before you read the LP liner notes, you know it’s all Brant Bjork.

The man who has become the ambassador of Californian desert rock indeed plays every instrument across his 13th studio full-length, Brant Bjork. This in itself is something of a departure from recent offerings, as on 2018’s Mankind Woman, Bjork worked closely with guitarist Bubba DuPree (Void), and both 2016’s Tao of the Devil and 2014’s Black Power Flower were constructed around the Bjork-led Low Desert Punk Band.

Maybe revisiting his 1999 debut, Jalamanta, for a Heavy Psych Sounds 20th anniversary reissue last year had some effect on Bjork’s mindset in terms of working solo, but he’s come too far in the ensuing decades to repeat himself, and the songs on Brant Bjork – recorded and mixed by Yosef Sanborn in Joshua Tree and mastered by John McBain (ex-Monster Magnet) – show that, whether it’s the mellow roll of “Duke of Dynamite” or the signature take on classic heavy rock in “Jesus Was a Bluesman” and percussion-backed funk of opener “Jungle in the Sound.” There’s no mistaking Brant Bjork, and on Brant Bjork, he strips his songwriting style to its core and brings out the organic vibe that’s made him desert rock’s most crucial practitioner.

His legacy and pedigree are unmatched, with tenures in Kyuss/Vista Chino and Fu Manchu as well as the sadly-shortlived ChĂ©, Ten East and others, but it is Brant Bjork’s solo work that has had his greatest impact and shown him to be of inimitable character in craft and style. His unrelenting creativity and one-of-a-kind voice are writ large over the Brant Bjork LP, which is precisely how it should be, and after more than two decades of exploring out in the sands, Bjork continues to find new ways to manifest not just the landscape of the desert, but the spirit of his relationship to it.

In short, he is a master, and this is the record that bears his name. You miss it at your own peril.

Tracklisting:
JUNGLE IN THE SOUND
MARY (YOU’RE SUCH A LADY)
JESUS WAS A BLUESMAN
CLEANING OUT THE ASHTRAY
DUKE OF DYNAMITE
SHITKICKIN’ NOW
STARDUST & DIAMOND EYES
BEEN SO LONG

Today we also start the presale of 2 remastered BRANT BJORK masterpieces, both with brand new artwork:

*** PUNK ROCK GUILT – release date April 17th***
and
*** GODS & GODDESSES – release date April 24th***

The new self-titled Brant Bjork album will be RELEASED IN:

– 40 ultra ltd test press vinyl
– DELUXE EDITION: 100 ULTRA LTD COLOUR IN COLOUR TRANSPARENT RED / BLACK 12″ VINYL + DIGIPAK + T-SHIRT + PATCH + BAG + POSTER + STICKER
– 250 LTD half – half / white red vinyl
– 700 LTD (500 for german market-200 from HPS stoner online) side a – side b / white background + mix red vinyl
– LTD splatter / transparent backgroud – red splatter vinyl
– black vinyl
– digipak
– digital

Sound of Liberation & Metal Hammer proudly present:
BRANT BJORK + special guest MAIDAVALE

23.04.20 Aschaffenburg, Colos-Saal Aschaffenburg(DE)
24.04.20 Munich, Feierwerk (DE)
25.04.20 Wien, ARENA WIEN (AT)
26.04.20 Graz, p.p.c. (AT)
27.04.20 Budapest, AkvĂĄrium Klub Official (HU)
28.04.20 Linz, Stwst Stadtwerkstatt (AT)
29.04.20 Stuttgart, Universum (DE)
30.04.20 Brussels, Magasin 4 (BE)
01.05.20 London, Desertfest London (UK)
02.05.20 Nijmegen, Sonic Whip (NL)
03.05.20 Berlin, DesertFest Berlin (DE)
04.05.20 Hamburg, Knust Hamburg (DE)
05.05.20 Dortmund, Musiktheater Piano (DE)
06.05.20 Paris, Petit Bain (FR)
07.05.20 Toulouse, Le Rex de Toulouse (FR)
08.05.20 Vitoria, Hell Dorado :: El Club SĂłnico :: (SP)
09.05.20 Madrid, Kristonfest (SP)

https://www.facebook.com/BrantBjorkOfficial
https://www.instagram.com/brant_bjork
http://www.brantbjork.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

Brant Bjork, “Jungle in the Sound” official track premiere

Tags: , , , , ,

Brant Bjork Announces European Tour; Re-Signs to Heavy Psych Sounds for New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork

I’m going to go ahead, put two and two together, and guess that the proper announcement of Brant Bjork‘s next album is coming Jan. 21. That’s a mere five days from now. Next Tuesday. It’s not the only spot I have saved for news that day, but rest assured, I’ve got one saved for it.

Supporting my supposition? Well, when Brant Bjork was announced as having re-signed to Heavy Psych Sounds for his next record, they said there was a big announcement coming on Jan. 21. And as you can see below, the European tour is already being announced ahead of time. It’s with MaidaVale, so bonus. He toured pretty extensively last year, including in the US, but doesn’t do that nearly as often as he hits Europe, so I wouldn’t necessarily think that’d be a big part of what’s coming, though there’s always “select dates” and so on.

It’s a basic matter of what’s left being the full announcement of the album. So that’s what I’m thinking is coming, and you know what else? With the European tour starting April 23, I wouldn’t be surprised if said album showed up somewhere around there too. Crazy, right? Yeah, it is, and it’s a maybe/maybe-not given Heavy Psych Sounds‘ busy schedule, but you never know. Some things take priority. I’d think a new Brant Bjork would qualify for sure.

Sound of Liberation put out word of the tour thusly:

brant bjork europe 2020

BRANT BJORK TO RETURN TO EUROPE

We’re stoked to announce that the king of the desert himself, the master of laid back weedy jams and smooth riffing, the one and only Brant Bjork will return to Europe in April 2020!

And he will not come alone but in great company by one of the most prominent acts in the new generation of psych music: Swedish four piece MaidaVale will join the party from the first day on! ??

This will be one hell of a party, friends. We’re super excited and so should you! But for the moment let’s all keep our cool and check out the tourdates below:

Sound of Liberation & Metal Hammer proudly present:
BRANT BJORK + special guest MAIDAVALE

23.04.20 Aschaffenburg, Colos-Saal Aschaffenburg(DE)
24.04.20 Munich, Feierwerk (DE)
25.04.20 Wien, ARENA WIEN (AT)
26.04.20 Graz, p.p.c. (AT)
27.04.20 Budapest, AkvĂĄrium Klub Official (HU)
28.04.20 Linz, Stwst Stadtwerkstatt (AT)
29.04.20 Stuttgart, Universum (DE)
30.04.20 Brussels, Magasin 4 (BE)
01.05.20 London, Desertfest London (UK)
02.05.20 Nijmegen, Sonic Whip (NL)
03.05.20 Berlin, DesertFest Berlin (DE)
04.05.20 Hamburg, Knust Hamburg (DE)
05.05.20 Dortmund, Musiktheater Piano (DE)
06.05.20 Paris, Petit Bain (FR)
07.05.20 Toulouse, Le Rex de Toulouse (FR)
08.05.20 Vitoria, Hell Dorado :: El Club SĂłnico :: (SP)
09.05.20 Madrid, Kristonfest (SP)

PS: We’ve heard some rumors
 you should keep your ears and eyes open for a big announcement, happening on January 21st


https://www.facebook.com/BrantBjorkOfficial
https://www.instagram.com/brant_bjork
http://www.brantbjork.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

Brant Bjork, Live at Freak Valley 2019

Tags: , , , , ,

Brant Bjork, Jalamanta & Keep Your Cool: Desert Documents

Posted in Reviews on August 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork jalamanta reissue

It’s hard to speak about Brant Bjork‘s Jalamanta (also discussed here) in anything other than hyperbole. 20 years on from its original release through Man’s Ruin Records, it has become a defining document not just for Bjork‘s own solo work, but for desert rock as a whole, and the laid back vision of heavy it helped establish has had an impact second to none even when set against Brant Bjork‘s own massively influential releases as a member of Kyuss and Fu Manchu. The alliance between Bjork and Italian imprint Heavy Psych Sounds that produced digital reissues of all his albums continues to bear fruit in the physical realm as well, as in addition to last year’s new studio offering, Mankind Woman (review here), and earlier-2019’s archival-jam collection, Jacoozzi (review here), Jalamanta and 2003’s Keep Your Cool are next in line to receive a proper reissue treatment on vinyl and CD. Both have new artwork in strikingly different styles by Branca Studio and have been remastered, and Jalamanta is a new mix as well from Bjork and original engineer Tony Mason, and also includes the Blue Öyster Cult cover “Take Me Away” as a bonus track, bringing the total runtime to a gatefold 2LP-worthy 66 minutes.

Keep Your Cool doesn’t go nearly so far in terms of needing a second platter to contain it, but by the time Bjork got around to his third solo full-length in the span of four years, he had clearly figured some things out. Listening to the two records back-to-back — with the acknowledgment that 2002’s Brant Bjork & the Operators was originally released between them — the feel of Jalamanta is more mellow funk and more experimental, whether it’s bringing Fatso Jetson‘s Mario Lalli in to play guitar and sing on “Toot” or riding the clarion riff of “Automatic Fantastic” as a bed for spoken verses, running the into “Lazy Bones” backwards later as “Bones Lazy” and lacing tracks like “Sun Brother,” “Cobra Jab” and closer “Indio” with percussion while “Waiting for a Coconut to Drop” offers standalone guitar and the subsequent “Her Blown Blood” bases itself around a riff as driving as Kyuss ever were at their most forceful. The most memorable impressions Jalamanta made/makes might be in the dug-in grooves found in songs like “Automatic Fantastic,” “Too Many Chiefs… Not Enough Indians” and “Defender of the Oleander,” which set just the right balance between tonal presence, rhythmic swing, memorable craft and drifting melody to become essentially the groundwork for Bjork‘s solo career, of which Mankind Woman was the 12th offering.

Around these, Bjork is able to work to one side or the other, whether that’s the subdued meanderings of “Sun Brother” and “Indio” or the shove in “Low Desert Punk” and “Her Brown Blood.” Between those two sides, one finds a jam like “‘Let’s Get Chinese Eyes'” with its winding and uptempo instrumental progression and newly-refined interplay of guitar layers, while the bonus track cover “Take Me Away” fits right in among the hookier and more rolling material. There remains a natural feel to Jalamanta that has been no less course-setting for Bjork than any other aspect of the record, but with Keep Your Cool, the narrative shifts to a more solidified approach to songwriting and a willful-seeming blend of hard funk and heavy rock that became the embodiment of “low desert punk” as Bjork‘s own term for his style as he embarked in the early aughts on releasing albums through his own Duna Records imprint, Keep Your Cool being the second such outing behind Brant Bjork & the Operators, as well as an early reissue of Jalamanta.

brant bjork keep your cool

The question isn’t really of accessibility, since it’s not like Brant Bjork‘s solo work has ever veered from engaging its audience, but even with the kind-of-sad intro “Hey, Monkey Boy” at the outset, there’s no question Keep Your Cool puts its hooks in forward position, with “Johnny Called,” “Rock-n-RolĂ©” and “I Miss My Chick” following in succession ahead of the title-track’s two-minute departure into guitar-led desert wandering. But even that seems pared down in comparison to Jalamanta; a more straightforward sonic persona emerging, less trying-it-out and more executing a plan. Consider Keep Your Cool as a two-sided album, with “Hey, Monkey Boy” and the title-track as intros for sides A and B, respectively. The track breakdown is even with four and four, and the salvo that “Johnny Called” begins earns the reissue all on its own, with stage-ready memorable songwriting and a sure-headed conviction of method that Jalamanta — despite its many splendors — simply doesn’t have. There’s a tradeoff, because Keep Your Cool is inherently less experimental, but certainly there’s room in Bjork‘s solo catalog for both sides to find expression as they have for the last two decades.

Side B of Keep Your Cool continues the thread where “I Miss My Chick” left it, wah and handclaps filling out a core riff that is no less quintessential Brant Bjork than that of “Automatic Fantastic,” while “Searchin'” delves deeper into funky vibes with more upfront drums and a spacey guitar line later in the proceedings. The chorus may not be as forward, but the palette is expanding efficiently. One could argue that that started on “I Miss My Chick,” but the second half of the album lives up to the tradition of answering the hooks of the first with a broader reach. That remains true as closer “My Soul” finds its ultra-fluid chill and rolls out across nearly seven minutes that go from a straight-ahead verse/chorus to a finale guitar exploration that, indeed, lives up to the name of the track itself.

Brant Bjork would follow Keep Your Cool with Local Angel (discussed here; reissue review here) in 2004 and seem to pick up precisely where “My Soul” leaves off, but the narrative arc of his solo and solo-ish discography isn’t necessarily so linear, with work in and out of bandleader situations — Brant Bjork and the Bros., Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band — as well as his time with groups like the sadly-shortlived ChĂ© and Vista Chino, despite a consistent growth and refinement of his craft that continues unabated. Quite simply, Jalamanta is a top-three all-time desert rock record, minimum. For even the most cursory exploration of the style, it is essential. Keep Your Cool doesn’t have the same kind of legacy behind it, but its songs show the direction Bjork was taking at the time and more than stand up to the 16 years since their original release. Neither accomplishment is insignificant, and if these reissues expose them to a new audience or give established fans another version of the record to chase down, there’s really no way to lose by having them back in print and fresh in mind.

Brant Bjork, Keep Your Cool (2003/2019)

Brant Bjork, Jalamanta (1999/2019)

Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks

Brant Bjork on Instagram

Brant Bjork website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Brant Bjork Announces East Coast Tour with Ecstatic Vision

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 23rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork

I’ve been biding my time waiting to unleash a golly-BrantBjork-is-awesome-type review of the reissues of his first two solo albums that Heavy Psych Sounds has put and is putting out, and mark my words, I’ll get there by the time the Man Himself comes to play my beloved Garden State on Sept. 20. Brant Bjork, in New Jersey? I feel like I have a moral imperative to be there — and so do you, frankly. It’s not the kind of thing that happens every day, month, year, etc., so yeah, mark the calendar for it. All the better that the tour is with Heavy Psych Sounds labelmates Ecstatic Vision, whose new record For the Masses will also be out by then. Sometimes it just works. All of it. And it’s amazing how many of those times seem to involve Brant Bjork one way or the other.

Of course, Bjork and his band were just in Europe playing fests and supporting their earlier-2019 release, Jacoozzi (review here), of archived instrumental jams that followed 2018’s Mankind Woman (review here), his debut on Heavy Psych Sounds after completing a three-album deal with Napalm Records. Not a bummer in the bunch.

Here are the dates as posted by the label:

BRANT BJORK tour

*** BRANT BJORK – US TOUR 2019 ***

+Ecstatic Vision

Our desert rock legend Brant Bjork will tour US in September, supported by Ecstatic Vision !!! Don’t miss them..

BRANT BJORK US TOUR 2019

9/12 – St Louis, MO @ The Firebird
9/13 – Indianapolis, IN @ The Citadel Music Hall
9/14 – Youngstown, OH @ Westside Bowl
9/15 – Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
9/16 – Columbus, OH @ Woodlands Tavern
9/17 – Buffalo, NY @ Iron Works
9/18 – Boston, MA @ The Middle East Upstairs
9/19 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Kingsland
9/20 – Teaneck, NJ @ Debonair Music Hall
9/21 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
9/22 – Providence, RI @ Dusk
9/23 – New Haven, CT @ The State House
9/24 – Brattleboro, VT @ The Stone Church
9/25 – Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace
9/26 – Detroit, MI @ The Magic Bag
9/27 – Chicago, IL @ Reggies
9/28 – Milwaukee, WI @ Walker’s Point Music Hall

https://www.facebook.com/BrantBjorkOfficial
https://www.instagram.com/brant_bjork
http://www.brantbjork.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

Brant Bjork, Jalamanta (1999)

Tags: , , , , ,

Brant Bjork to Reissue Jalamanta Sept. 13 on Heavy Psych Sounds

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

What, you thought Heavy Psych Sounds was going to embark on a series of Brant Bjork reissues and not do the one that started it all? Of course not. Originally released in 1999 through Man’s Ruin Records, Jalamanta (discussed here) is top-five all-time pivotal desert rock releases, if not top three, and its enduring relevance not only to Bjork‘s work but for the slew of others he’s influenced speaks for itself. Presented with a new mix by Bjork and Tony Mason and a fresh master from John McBain, as well as new cover art, it’s just one of the best records ever to come out of the Californian desert. That’s all. No big deal.

Except it is a big deal. Preorders start later this week, as the PR wire tells it:

brant bjork jalamanta reissue

*** BRANT BJORK – JALAMANTA *** Reissue for the 20th Anniversary – remastered/remixed version

RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 13th
PRESALE STARTS: MAY 23rd

It’s been 20 glory years when desert rock icon, BRANT BJORK, released his first solo album Jalamanta.

2019 will see the Kyuss and Fu Manchu- legend celebrate his 20th anniversary in style, when he will re-release his pathbreaking, cult album Jalamanta on September 13rd with Heavy Psych Sounds Records!

Recorded by Tony Mason at Rancho De La Luna, Joshua Tree, California, in February 1999 and produced by BRANT BJORK, Jalamanta still belongs to the most distinctive desert rock records of all time.

“Jalamanta was a life changing record for me. It’s the record that launched my journey as Brant Bjork.“ he comments. “Listening to the tapes 20 years later was amazing. Tony Mason and myself were transported back to that moment in time. Jalamanta was a first for both Tony and myself. My first record as a solo artist and his first record as an engineer. We didn’t think twice about re-mixing it. With our combined experience over the years, we knew we could take Jalamanta to the place we always wanted it to go. And we did. Dig it.“

Jalamanta has been re-mixed by Tony Mason, with a freshly baked re-master by John McBain at JPM Mastering, San Francisco. New cover art by Branca Studio. Heavy Psych Sounds is proud to start the pre-order of this timeless classic on May 23rd, in the following available album formats:

RELEASED IN DOUBLE GATEFOLD VINYL IN :
45 ULTRA LTD TEST PRESS VINYL
250 LTD WHITE SPLATTER RAINBOW VINYL
250 LTD WHITE MARBLED PURPLE VINYL
600 SOLID YELLOW VINYL
BLACK VINYL
DIGIPAK
DIGITAL

TRACKLIST
1. Lazy Bones
2. Automatic Fantastic
3. Cobra Jab
4. Too Many Chiefs… Not Enough Indians
5. Sun Brother
6. “Let’s Get Chinese Eyes”
7. Toot
8. Defender Of The Oleander
9. Bones Lazy
10. Low Desert Punk
11. Waiting For A Coconut To Drop
12. Her Brown Blood
13. Indio
14. Take Me Away ( Blue Oyster Cult cover )

Brant Bjork live:
19.06.19 – Nuremberg | Hirsch (DE)
20.06.19 – Netphen | Freak Valley Festival (DE)
21.06.19 – Nijmegen | Doornrosje (NL)
22.06.19 – Tunbridge Wells | Black Deer Festival (UK)
23.06.19 – Izel | La Fete De La Musique (BE)
24.06.19 – Aachen | Musikbunker (DE)
25.06.19 – Darmstadt | Centralstation (DE)
26.06.19 – Hannover | Musikzentrum (DE)
27.06.19 – SaarbrĂŒcken | Garage (DE)
28.06.19 – DĂŒdingen | Bad Bonn (CH)
29.06.19 – Salzburg | Rockhouse (AT)
30.06.19 – Korinthos | Under The Sun Festival (GR)
02.07.19 – Thessaloniki | Eightball Club (GR)
04.07.19 – Viveiro | Resurrection Festival (ES)

Brant is still promoting his 13th solo album, “Mankind Woman”, which will was released via Heavy Psych Sounds in September.

https://www.facebook.com/BrantBjorkOfficial
https://www.instagram.com/brant_bjork
https://twitter.com/brant_bjork
http://www.brantbjork.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

Brant Bjork, Jalamanta (1999)

Tags: , , , , ,