Stream Review: Elephant Tree, Live at Buffalo Studio, London, 07.24.20

Posted in Reviews on July 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

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It is a fortunate happenstance of relative geographic positioning that so many live streams taking place in European primetime occur right in the midst of my toddler son’s afternoon nap. An 8PM start in  Elephant Tree‘s native London meant 3PM for me, and amidst global pandemic and a chaotic year that no one could have anticipated except for all the people who did and were ignored, I’ll take what I can get. As far as I’m concerned, 3PM is primetime anyway.

I parked myself on the couch to stream Elephant Tree‘s hour-long performance at Buffalo Studio in East London — presented and produced/directed by The Preservation Room — and even managed to cast it to the tv, which the Facebook app has been iffy on in the past. Presumably, the four-piece would’ve been on tour by now under different circumstances, supporting their album-of-the-year-contending second LP, Habits (review here), on Holy Roar/Deathwish Inc., but like everybody’s everything, well, you’re alive, so you know.

Shit luck. The record deserves to be hand-delivered by the band to audiences far and wide. Elephant Tree‘s progression as a four-piece, what guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist John Slattery — who joined in 2018 — brings to the lineup, was evident when I last saw the band in Nov. 2019 at Magnetic Eye‘s Brooklyn showcase at Saint Vitus Bar (review here), and they seemed all the more comfortable highlighting songs from Habits, moving from a windy drone opening similar to that which starts the album with “Wake.Repeat” into lead-single “Sails,” quickly adjusting the line sound to pull Sam Hart‘s reverby snare down and bring up fellow founder Jack Townley‘s guitar and vocals, joined in the chorus as he was by Slattery and bassist Peter Holland (also of Trippy Wicked). Under studio lighting with two movable cameras, it was very much a made-for-tv stream, as opposed to more of a concert-minded experience.

If there was a warmup-factor, they were through it fast. I don’t know how often the four of them have been able to get together or rehearse over the last several mostly-locked-down months, but they ended “Sails” tight and shifted immediately to the between-song banter that has become a staple of their live sets, Townley remarking on how is ears were too small for the in-ear monitors in what would become a running gag for the set — Slattery later referred to himself as “blessed” in that regard — before they moved into the harmony-focused roller “Faceless,” continuing to follow the progression of the album’s tracklisting, Townley chastising himself after for getting the lyrics wrong. New songs. Likewise, Hart reminded Holland before they went into “Wasted” that the count-in was six stick-clicks. Holland pointed to the camera: “Six clicks. Remember.”

They had threatened new material — newer even than the album, which came out in April — but none was aired. The combination of fuzz tones and keys in “Wasted” would be a highlight just the same, Slattery bringing more synthy melody later in the song, before they wished a happy birthday to superfan Sister Rainbow and APF Records‘ Andy Field and launched into “Aphotic Blues.” It was one of two cuts from their 2016 self-titled debut (review here) they would play, and perhaps shifting into something older let them loosen up a bit more, but as that track turned to its bigger-riffing second half, they seemed to let fly a little and get into it, having pushed through the three-part vocal midsection and positively nailed it.

elephant tree buffalo studio

Goofing their way through a vinyl giveaway that would continue after — the game was that Townley was thinking of a number between 1-1,000 and if you guessed it you won a vinyl; I guessed eight and 42 — they soon went into “Bird,” another Habits high point and particularly emblematic of the progressive edge that’s emerged in their sound. With a duly floating vocal above Hart‘s steady drum and Holland‘s bass, they segued smoothly into the song’s atmospheric middle and dynamic ending with energy worthy of a live show, and though I’d seen them play it in November, knowing the song from actually having the record of course made a difference. Not ashamed to say I was singing along with the television at several points during their set, “Bird” being one of them.

Holland, who had been handling shout-outs (though Townley mentioned Sister Rainbow), gave me a hello — hey Pete — and “Exit the Soul” followed, with its extended break, three-part vocal and before closing with “Dawn” from the first record, they gave away the Habits vinyl. The winning number was five. At least I was close. Finishing off, they seemed once more right at home, as they had long since gotten momentum on their side and rolled through with apparent ease. Newer songs or older, they had it down and I don’t know if it was me projecting or an actual feeling on the part of the band, but there was evident relief when it was over before the feed cut, like they were glad to have gotten it off their collective chest. There wasn’t a full audience in the room to see it, but hell, at least they got to play and at least those who tuned in got to watch.

I was glad I did, and again, thankful for the afternoon timing making it possible to do so. I wound up spending a decent portion of the second half of the set being chewed on by our new puppy, which reminded me not only to take her out, but of how “real life” and music interact with live streaming in a way that never happens with actual live shows. If it was 10PM, would I have watched in bed on my phone before crashing out for the night? If it was 7PM, would I have been annoyed at having my nightly Star Trek viewing interrupted? Maybe. These are weird times and they’ve forced those who care about art and creativity to adjust the balance of the space they occupy in the day to day. The dog nipped at my hand while they played “Exit the Soul.” I was happy that at no point did she pee on the floor.

Watching the several streams I’ve seen — some trying to capture a band-on-stage experience, some a fly-on-wall camera in the rehearsal space, some, like this, kind of in-between — I can’t help but feel some pressure to bring it in the context of the “current moment,” but honestly, screw that. Bands are trying to get by, like everyone else. They can’t play shows so this seems to be what’s happening. It’s interesting seeing different acts’ personalities come through their A/V presentation, and of course it’s different than watching a band on stage. Do I need to say that? Do I need to say how important supporting each other through a global pandemic is? If I do, I shouldn’t have to. Whatever.

I took the dog for a walk after Elephant Tree were done, then got the kid up from his nap at the appointed wake-up time (4:38PM, if you’re curious). We drove around for a bit while he looked at sundry construction vehicles and ate some food, and when we came home, watched PBS Newshour, took the dog for another walk. I made leftovers for dinner, we watched Star Trek, the dog peed on the floor, and we went to bed. The Yankees — also playing without a crowd — had a day off. Life happened, and the stream got folded into the day, not quite the escapist experience a live show would be, but still something special while it lasted. Listen to Habits.

If you’re still reading, thanks and I’ll make it easy:

Elephant Tree, Habits (2020)

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Trippy Wicked Premiere Acoustic Crowbar Cover “The Lasting Dose”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Trippy wicked

Hey, if you’re feeling like you’re having the year you expected to have in 2020, congratulations on your success as a supervillain. For the rest of us, it’s improv-mode, trying to make the most of whatever we’ve got to make the most of. For London heavy rockers Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight that means stepping back from putting together their third long-player and instead working at home, remotely, on putting together properly recorded versions of the backlog of acoustic versions of their own songs and covers that they’ve built up over the years. The third of these is Crowbar‘s “The Lasting Dose,” which premieres below.

The original Crowbar song was the lead cut on 2001’s landmark Sonic Excess in its Purest Form and I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say it’s one of the band’s best tracks — something of a landmark in their increasingly vast discography. As with the other acoustic cuts they’ve unveiled thus far, guitarist/vocalist Peter Holland (here on ukulele and vocals) and drummer Christopher West (here on acoustic guitar) did a live take on “The Lasting Dose” some eight years ago. Seated at what appears to be a backyard picnic table, they manage to hold it together as a car horn honks and neighbors start chatting loudly in the second half of the song. If you think that doesn’t add charm, I’ll invite you to watch that clip after the premiere of the new one and revisit your position.

In listening to the two back-to-back, one might notice a bit more embellishment from Holland on the vocal melody, but the basic form is consistent, and despite taking a very, very heavy song and taking out the tonal weight, the emotional burden of the tempo remains. I’m not sure what the plans are for Trippy Wicked — generally completed by bassist Dicky King — to release the acoustic material they’ve put to tape at this point. I don’t even know if they know. But again, they’re making the most of what they’ve got, and I think once you listen you’ll agree it’s worth the effort.

Please enjoy:

Trippy Wicked, “The Lasting Dose” (Crowbar cover) premiere

The Lasting Dose is the third in a series of acoustic singles we’re putting out in 2020.

We were recording our 3rd full length album at the beginning of the year when coronavirus happened and we had to stop working on that.

Without any work and not able to continue with the album we started recording and releasing some acoustic songs because we can record them remotely from each other.

The songs are a mix of acoustic covers of heavy songs and also acoustic versions of our own songs that we have worked on over the years.

Check out the playlist of acoustic singles here: https://youtu.be/CUfW5RioWDQ

Trippy Wicked, “The Lasting Dose” (Live in 2012)

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Friday Full-Length: Stubb, Stubb

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Stubb did not emerge out of London’s heavy underground as a band trying to keep secrets. There was no asking how they did what they did on their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) — it was all right there for the listener to hear. Issued through Superhot Records, Stubb‘s Stubb collected eight tracks of just-varied-enough riff rockers, driven by a dense fuzz and hooky songwriting that unfolded to some later jamminess. As debuts go, the eight-song/35-minute outing was not void of ambition, but it was what it already showcased in its dynamic that made it so enjoyable, whether it was the PG-sleaze of “Soul Mover” and “Scale the Mountain” with its “And I hope I can scale your mountain sometime” chorus and “Hard Hearted Woman” in the classic panacea of British heavy or the opening pusher “Road,” the winding boogie of “Flame” and on and on. Happening concurrent to the beginning stages of a boom in UK heavy fostered by Desertfest in London, Stubb‘s laid-back but still weighted grooves, the interplay on vocals between guitarist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland (who went on to join Elephant Tree) and the solid foundation of the established chemistry between Holland and drummer Chris West from working together in Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight helped to enrich the songs and give the record all the more personality.

Tempos shift through side A’s four tracks, but the songs are united through the vitality of the performance, the tried and true power trio dynamic that lets Dickinson‘s guitar get playful on “Road” before the more relaxed rollout of “Scale the Mountain.” To contrast, side B starts with the acoustic “Crosses You Bear,” still catchy and deceptively quick-moving in the guitar, but at just over two minutes, it’s enough to efficiently signal the increase in the album’s scope and the departure from the ultra-straightforward shove of Stubb‘s first half. The album was recorded by Tim Cedar of Part Chimp, and though “Road,” “Flame” and “Galloping Horses” had appeared on Stubb‘s Dropout Sessions demo in 2007 — a completely different lineup around Dickinson at the time — they each sounded fresh in their inclusion on Stubb, the latter closing out side B with a stretch past the seven-minute mark that found the band purposefully breaking their own rules in terms of craft, setting up a catchy progression of repeated lines early — “The skies stubb stubbare crimson red,” “Ride on high/Crimson sky” — before turning just about at the halfway point to a broader jam. There’s a stop preceded by West wailing on his snare, and Dickinson‘s guitar returns in standalone fashion to set the stage. Holland and West reenter and by the time they hit 4:30 of the total 7:13, they’re underway and headed outward. Dickinson — who by then has already impressed in terms of soloing on “Road,” “Flame,” “Soul Mover,” the bluesy drift that emerges in “Hard Hearted Woman,” and even the melancholy penultimate inclusion “Crying River,” on which the guitar seems most to sing the chorus on its own — leads the trio’s exodus as Holland and West offer sharp but not overblown groove coinciding. A brief return hinting at the hook finishes out, and Stubb finish out with a crash and a bonk like they hardly got a speck of dirt on them despite kicking up so much on their way.

2012 saw a few landmark releases, from Conan‘s Monnos and Orange Goblin‘s A Eulogy for the Damned in the UK to records from the likes of OmNeurosisKadavarGreenleaf and Colour Haze elsewhere. Through that glut, Stubb still managed to make an impression with these songs, and again, it wasn’t a mystery why. They represented a next generation of English fuzz that, far from trying to escape the past, embraced it and pushed it forward into a new era. In some ways they were a vanguard of things to come from London’s soon-to-be-flooded underground, but while there was a buzz in the town at that time, it’s friggin’ London. There almost always is. In any case, the fact that Stubb had already toured — they did a UK stint in 2011 with Stone Axe, whose guitarist Tony Reed (soon enough to reignite Mos Generator) would end up mixing and mastering the LP — undoubtedly had an effect on how the songs ultimately came out. They feel tightened and worked through in their construction even eight years after the fact, but maintain their natural base, and the clarity of the recording only helps the organic guitar and bass tones shine through with the drums punctuating underneath. Stubb were the kind of band a kid could listen to and want to start a band, and I suspect a few did along the way.

Stubb toured again with Stone Axe  and Trippy Wicked — Holland and West pulling double-duty — in Europe, and I was fortunate enough to see them in Eindhoven (review here). What a night. What a blast. Hard to think about it now and not get sentimental. In any case, Stubb went on to sign to Ripple Music ahead of the release of their second album, 2014’s Cry of the Ocean (review here), which incorporated more soulful influence and psychedelic range. By then, Tom Fyfe (now also The Brothers Keg) had replaced West on drums and a split with Mos Generator (discussed here) followed in 2015 through the then-emergent-since-collapsed HeviSike Records. Stubb continued to play shows, bringing Tom Hobson in on bass and exploring jammier and more psychedelic textures on the 24-minute 2017 single “Burning Moon” (premiered here). That blowout is the last they were heard from in terms of studio work, though they played Ripplefest in London and have maintained a social media presence all along. The latest is they’re passing ideas back and forth digitally during COVID-19 distancing, so perhaps a new album could follow in the next year or two. Cry of the Ocean hardly sounded like a band with nothing left to say, so whenever such a thing might surface, it would only be welcome on these shores.

An album that, for me at least, is a bit of an escape into nostalgia, but which has not at all gone stale in the actual listening. As always, I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

Thanks for reading.

So, we got a dog. A Wheaten/Poodle mix. She’s eight weeks old as of today — bought her from a family in Wisconsin who had a litter; my mother-in-law trekked out there to get her — and we’ve named her Iommi, though she mostly just goes by Omi. “Omi come,” “Omi sit,” “Omi don’t chew that,” “Omi no!” “Good girl, Omi,” and so on. She is currently asleep and dream-wiggling on my feet.

Kid and dog together is a lot. Either on their own is plenty, to be honest. I’m not sure The Pecan is in an emotional place where he’s ready to share things like attention with something new — it’s like he got a little sister — but it is what it is, and unless the dog starts showing crazy aggression, which seems unlikely given what we’ve seen of her personality this first week, I don’t think she’s going anywhere.

I wasn’t really ready for a new dog either, to be honest. I thanked my wife this week for picking one that was all-black, as opposed to the still-much-missed Dio, who was just about all-white. But behavior comparisons are inevitable; puppies, like people, engage in certain universal behaviors. I catch myself playing with her a certain way or talking to her a certain way and feel a bit like I’m cheating on the memory of my old dog. Which I suppose I am, if you want to come right to it. Isn’t that what you do when a dog dies and you get another dog, like some broken toy you replace?

What a species we are.

But it’s been nearly two years and the boy needs a dog — the one overriding point with which I can’t argue and, ultimately, the reason we have a dog — so there it is. She’s cute, as nearly almost all puppies and baby animals are. It’s a transition. Everything is change. Constant change. Every new reality, every new ability The Pecan demonstrates, it’s all a new world to which my puny hew-mon brain stumbles in processing.

We picked him up from daycare yesterday and while we were changing his shoes to leave — they put them in slippers to hang out — he pulled the fire alarm. I was holding him at the time, and he just looked up, saw a thing, reached up and pulled it. The bell was right above us and it was loud the way you think of Sunn O))) as loud. It was also naptime, so as caregivers rushed out of the adjoining rooms to see what the hell happened and/or what was on fire, an entire daycare’s worth of kids and babies woke up crying. That’s my son. I feel relatively sure that, having done it once, he’ll try it again. I can only hope a plastic box of some kind is placed over the fire alarm.

“He’s not the first,” said the woman who runs the place. I told her that was very comforting and kind of her to say. I said this while wearing a mask that, sadly, could not hide the shame in my eyes.

By the end of the day, it was already kind of funny. I suspect in years to come it will grow more so. But off, living through it was a rough and loud couple minutes. Then The Pecan ran away from us on our way out to the car. He was overwhelmed — obviously; we all were — but still totally unacceptable. That was another meltdown that basically ended with driving home and putting him down for his afternoon nap.

The dog is awake and puppy-chewing my toes. “Omi no biting.”

You can see perhaps why I might have been driven toward a nostalgia for simpler times in picking Stubb to close out the week.

No Gimme show today. Back next week with a new one.

Have a great and safe weekend, and again, thanks for reading. Be safe, have fun. And don’t tell anybody, but I’m going to have another post up after this.

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The Brothers Keg Premiere “Moorsmen” Video; Folklore, Myths & Legends out Sept. 18

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the brothers keg

London heavy rockers The Brothers Keg will release their debut album, Folklore, Myths & Legends, through APF Records on Sept. 18. The album follows behind a well received 2017 demo of similar title, Folklore, Myths & Legends of The Brothers Keg (review here), and runs a gamut from the brash rock of “No Earthly Form” and largesse of “Introducing the Brothers Keg” to the prog-style ambience and narration of “…From the Records of Arthur Shnee” and “The Ice Melteth” and “From the Battle of Castle Keg” to the wink at The Beatles‘ “Within You Without You” in the 12-minute space-doomer “Brahman,” with the brazen sludgy shouts in the culminating “Castle Keg” and the spare guitar and aptly-titled spoke “Epilogue” at the end for good measure.

With the nine-minute “Moorsmen” at the outset, it is something of a dizzying back and forth array, but what it works out to is each ‘song’ song is followed by a companion interlude, with the exception of “Introducing the Brothers Keg” and “Brahman” in the album’s midsection, and “Moorsmen” begins with an introductory sample/spoken part as well, so clearly the storyline is a major factor in what The Brothers Keg are bringing to their first record. It’s an ambitious 43 minutes presented across the nine total tracks by bassist/vocalist Paul Rosser, the brothers keg folklore myths and legendsguitarist/vocalist Tom Hobson and drummer Tom Fyfe (the latter two also of Stubb), and while the sound of the album has raw aspects — the shouts, the crackly speech, the pop of the snare drum — that does not take away from the atmosphere the three-piece are able to conjure. It is fitting that “Moorsmen” should be the first audio to make its way to public ears from Folklore, Myths & Legends, since it functions much as a closer otherwise might in terms of summarizing the proceedings that follow, from its angular and sludgy earlier riffs all the way to its spacious and headspinning solo later on.

Ultimately, with “Moorsmen,” The Brothers Keg charge into the story the telling of which consumes the rest of the album, but rest assured, it well earns each of its nine minutes. The video is suitably over the top and features not only elements of the plotline, but also a bit of lightning coming off RosserHobson and Fyfe for good measure. That too is only appropriate as throughout their debut, The Brothers Keg make their enjoyment of what they’re doing as up front as their riffs. It’s a willfully peculiar record, but has a certain charm for that, and it’s clear that The Brothers Keg were going all-in on the recording and bringing their ideas to life. You can dig as deep into it as you like, or you can just enjoy the grooves and the figurative (and literal, in the case of the video) lightning. It’s really up to the listener, but the record works either way.

I’m happy of course to host the premiere of the “Moorsmen” video, which you’ll find below, followed by APF‘s announcement of the record and a choice quote from Hobson, the all-over-the-place-all-over-the-top nature of which sums up the record more beautifully than I ever could.

Please enjoy:

The Brothers Keg, “Moorsmen” official video premiere

Sometimes, heavy isn’t purely about brutal riffs and gut-wrenching, despair-invoking themes; often, heaviness shines through when it’s filtered through jam-invoking psychedelic tightness. The Brothers Keg fall into that latter side of heavy, and in their few short years have become one of the finest examples of it in the whole of the UK.

Made up of the rhythm section of psych / stoner scene mainstays STUBB – with Tom Fyfe on drums and Tom Hobson switching out his bass for guitar / vocal duties – as well as Paul Rosser, who completes the trio on bass / vocals, The Brothers Keg have been kicking up an avalanche of the finest elements of stoner-doom as well as grunged-out psychedelia since their formation in London in 2018.

Now we are finally able to unleash The Brothers Keg’s debut album “Folklore, Myths and Legends of The Brothers Keg” upon you. Recorded at Bear Bites Horse Studio in London (Green Lung, Terminal Cheesecake, Opium Lord and many others), producer Wayne Adams has expertly extracted the esoteric essence of the project, and the spirit of the KEG flows freely in full force. The album, as the title suggests, follows the origin story of ‘The Brothers Keg’ – three ancient folk characters which the band is named after.

Tom Hobson: “We imagined the record as akin to a fantasy film soundtrack, with cinematic voiceovers and a nod to sci-fi classics. Expect heavy riffing psyched-out sci-fi doomageddon. HP Lovecraft meets Queen’s Flash Gordon listening to Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds at the wrong speed smoking a medieval spliff dipped in poppers.”

Tracklisting
1. Moorsmen
2. …From the Records of Arthur Shnee
3. No Earthly Form
4. The Ice Melteth
5. Introducing the Brothers Keg
6. Brahman
7. From the Battle of Castle Keg
8. Castle Keg
9. Epilogue

The Brothers Keg are:
Tom Hobson – Guitar/Vocals
Paul Rosser – Bass/Vocals
Tom Fyfe – Drums

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Quarterly Review: Paradise Lost, Vinnum Sabbathi, Nighthawk, Familiars, Mountain Witch, Disastroid, Stonegrass, Jointhugger, Little Albert, Parahelio

Posted in Reviews on July 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-qr-summer-2020

Last day, you know the drill. It’s been a pleasure, honestly. If every Quarterly Review could feature the quality of material this one has, I’d probably only spend a fraction of the amount of time I do fretting over it. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and enjoyed the music as much as I have. If you haven’t found something here to sit with and dig into yet, well, today’s 10 more chances to do just that. Maybe something will stick at last.

See you in September.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Paradise Lost, Obsidian

paradise lost obsidian

It is impossible to listen to Obsidian and consider Paradise Lost as anything other than masters of the form. Of course, that they were one of the original pioneers of gothic death-doom helps, but even in the decade-plus since they began to shift back toward a more metallic approach, they have established a standard that is entirely their own. Obsidian collects nine tracks across a palatable 45 minutes, and if the hook of “Fall From Grace” is fan-service on the part of the band, then it is no less righteous for that. In atmosphere and aggression, cuts like “The Devil Embraced” and the galloping “Ghosts” deliver on high expectations coming off 2017’s Medusa (review here), even as side B’s “Ending Days” and “Hope Dies Young” branch into a more melodic focus, not departing from the weight of impact presented earlier, but clearly adjusting the approach, leading to an all the more deathly return on “Ravenghast,” which closes out. Their doom remains second to none; their model remains one to follow.

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Vinnum Sabbathi, Of Dimensions and Theories

Vinnum Sabbathi Of Dimensions and Theories

The narrative thread carried through the six tracks of Vinnum Sabbathi‘s Of Dimensions and Theories is a futuristic sci-fi tale about humanity’s first foray into deep space amid a chaos of environmental collapse and nuclear threat. The real story, however, is the sense of progression the instrumentalist Mexico City outfit bring in following up their debut LP, 2017’s Gravity Works (review here). Tying thematically to the latest Cegvera album — the two bands share personnel — pieces at the outset like “In Search of M-Theory” and “Quantum Determinism” maintain the exploratory vibe of the band’s jammier works in their “HEX” series, but through spoken samples give a human presence and plotline to the alternately atmospheric and lumbering tones. As the record progresses through the airier “An Appraisal” and the feedback-drenched “Beyond Perturbative States,” their dynamic finds realization in “A Superstring Revolution I” and the drum-led “A Superstring Revolution II.” I don’t know about humanity’s prospects as a whole, but Vinnum Sabbathi‘s remain bright.

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Nighthawk, The Sea Legs EP

Nighthawk The Sea Legs EP

Composed as a solo outing prior to the founding of Heavy Temple, the Nighthawk solo endeavor (presumably she wasn’t a High Priestess yet), The Sea Legs EP, is plenty self-aware in its title, but for being a raw execution of material written performed entirely on her own, its four tracks also have a pretty significant scope, from the post-QOTSA heavy pop of “Goddamn” leading off through the quick spacegaze of “I’m From Tennessee Woman, All We Do is Honky Tonk,” into the deceptively spacious “I Can Haz” with its far-back toms, dreamy vocal melody and vaguely Middle Eastern-sounding guitar, and ending with the if-Ween‘s-country-album-had-been-weirder finish of “Stay Gold.” Nighthawk has issued a follow-up to The Sea Legs EP in the full-length Goblin/John Carpenter-style synth of The Dimensionaut, but given the range and balance she shows just in this brief 12 minutes, one hopes that indeed her songwriting explorations continue to prove so multifaceted.

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Familiars, All in Good Time

familiars all in good time

Contending for one of the year’s best debut albums, FamiliarsAll in Good Time offers eight songs across 43 minutes that blend organic-feeling grit with more ethereal, landscape-evocative psychedelics. The Ontario three-piece have a few singles to their credit, but the lushness of “Rocky Roost” and the emergent heft of “Barn Burning,” the fleshy boogie of “The Dirty Dog Saloon” and the breadth of “Avro Arrow” speak not just to Familiars‘ ability to capture a largesse that draws their songs together, or the nuance that lets them brings subtle touches of Americana (Canadiana?) early on and echoing desert roll to the fuzzy “The Common Loon,” but also to the songwriting that makes these songs stand out so much as they do and the sense of purpose Familiars bring to All in Good Time as their first long-player. That turns out to be one of the most encouraging aspects of the release, but in that regard there’s plenty of competition from elements like tone, rhythm, melody, craft, performance — so yes, basically all of it.

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Mountain Witch, Extinct Cults

Mountain Witch Extinct Cults

Mountain Witch‘s fourth album, Extinct Cults, brings the Hamburg-based duo of guitarist René Sitte and drummer/vocalist René Roggmann back after a four-year absence with a collection that straddles the various lines between classic heavy rock, proto-metal, ’70s heavy prog and modern cultism. Their loyalties aren’t necessarily all to the 1968-’74 period, as the chug and gruff vocals of “Back From the Grave” show, but the post Technical Ecstasy sway of the title-track is a fascinating and rarely-captured specificity, and the vocal melodies expressed in layers across the record do much to add personality and depth to the arrangements while the surrounding recording remains essentially raw. No doubt vinyl-minded, Extinct Cults is relatively brief at six songs and 33 minutes, but the Priestly chug of “Man is Wolf to Man” and the engrossing garage doom of closer “The Devil Probably” offer plenty of fodder for those who’d dig in to dig into. It is a sound familiar and individual at once, old and new, and it revels in making cohesion out of such contrasts.

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This Charming Man Records website

 

Disastroid, Mortal Fools

disastroid mortal fools

You might find San Francisco trio Disastroid hanging out at the corner of noise and heavy rock, looking disreputable. Their first record for Heavy Psych Sounds is Mortal Fools, and to go with its essential-bloody-essential bass tone and melodic semi-shouted vocals, it brings hints of angularity rounded out by tonal thickness and a smoothness between transitions that extends to the flow from one song to the next. While for sure a collection of individual pieces, Mortal Fools does move through its 43 minutes with remarkable ease, the sure hand of the three-piece guides you through the otherwise willfully tumultuous course, brash in the guitar and bass and drums but immersive in the overarching groove. They seem to save a particular melodic highlight for the verses of closer “Space Rodent,” but really, whether it’s the lumbering “Hopeless” or the sharper-toothed push of “Bilge,” the highlight is what Disastroid accomplish over the course of the record as a whole. Plus that friggin’ bass sound.

Disastroid on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Stonegrass, Stonegrass

stonegrass self titled

I don’t know when this was first released, but the 2020 edition seems to be a remaster, and whenever it first came out, I’m pleased to have the chance to check it out now. Toronto duo Stonegrass brings together Matthew “Doc” Dunn and Jay Anderson, both of a markedly psyched-out pedigree, to dig into experimentalist acid-psych that pushes boundaries stylistic and national, tapping Afrobeat vibes with closer “Drive On” and the earlier 13-minute go-go-go jam “Tea” while “The Highway” feels like a lost psychedelic disco-funk 45, “The Cape” drones like it’s waiting for someone to start reading poetry over-top, and mellow hand-percussion and Turkish psych on centerpiece “Frozen Dunes.” The whole thing, which runs a manageable 39 minutes, is as cool as the day is long, and comes across like a gift to those of expanded mind or who are willing to join those ranks. I don’t know if it’s new or old. I don’t know if it’s a one-off or an ongoing project. I barely know if it’s actually out. But hot damn it’s rad, and if you can catch it, you should.

Cosmic Range Records on YouTube

Cosmic Range Records on Bandcamp

 

Jointhugger, I Am No One

jointhugger i am no one

Norwegian half-instrumental trio Jointhugger have already captured the attention of both Interstellar Smoke Records and Ozium Records with their four-song debut long-player, I Am No One, and as the follow-up to their 2019 Daemo, it leaves little question why. The more volume, the merrier, when it comes to the rolling, nodding, undulations of riff the band conjure, as each member seems geared toward bringing as much weight to bear as much as possible. I’m serious. Even the hi-hat is heavy, never mind the guitar or bass or the cave-echoing vocals of the title-track. “Domen” slips into some shuffle — if you can call something that dense-sounding a shuffle — and underscores its solo with an entire bog’s worth of low end, and though closer “Nightfright” is the only inclusion that actually tops 10 minutes, it communicates an intensity of crush that is nothing if not consistent with what’s come before. There are flashes of letup here and there, but it’s impact at the core of Jointhugger‘s approach, and they offer plenty of it. Don’t be surprised when the CD and LP sell through, and don’t be surprised if they get re-pressed later.

Jointhugger on Thee Facebooks

Ozium Records webstore

Interstellar Smoke Records webstore

 

Little Albert, Swamp King

Little Albert Swamp King

Stepping out both in terms of style and substance from his position as guitarist in atmospheric doomers Messa, Little Albert — aka Alberto Piccolo — pronounces himself “swamp king” in the opening lines of his debut solo release of the same name, and the mellow ambiance and psychedelic flourish of tone in “Bridge of Sighs” and “Mean Old Woman” and the aptly-titled “Blues Asteroid” offer an individualized blend of psychedelic blues that seems to delight in tipping the balance back and forth from one to the other while likewise taking the songs through full band arrangements and more intimate wanderings. Some of the songs have a tendency to roll outward and not return, as does “Mary Claire” or “Mean Old Woman,” but “Outside Woman Blues” and the closer “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” hold tighter to the ground than some of what surrounds, so again, there’s a balance. Plus, as mellow as Swamp King is in its overarching affect, it’s neither difficult nor anything but a pleasure to follow along where Piccolo leads. If that’s off the psych-blues deep end, so be it. Only issue I take with him being king of the swamp is that the album’s domain hardly seems so limited.

Little Albert on Thee Facebooks

Aural Music on Bandcamp

 

Parahelio, Surge Evelia, Surge

Parahelio Surge Evelia Surge

Beautiful, patient and pastoral psychedelia fleshes out across the three tracks of Parahelio‘s debut full-length, Surge Evelia, Surge. Issued on vinyl through Necio Records, the three-song offering reportedly pays homage to a mining town in the band’s native Peru, but it does so with a breadth that seems to cover so much between heavy post-rock and psych that it’s difficult not to imagine places decidedly more ethereal. Beginning with its title-track (12:33) and moving into the swells and recessions of “Gestos y Distancia,” the album builds to an encompassing payoff for side A before unveiling “Ha’Adam,” a 23-minute side-consuming rollout that encompasses not only soundscaping, but a richly human feel in its later take, solidifying around a drum march and a heavy build of guitar that shouldn’t sound strange to fans of Pelican or Russian Circles yet manages somehow to transcend the hypnotic in favor of the dynamic, the immersive, and again, the beautiful. What follows is desolation and aftermath, and that’s how the record ends, but even there, the textures and the spirit of the release remain central. I always do myself a favor with the last release of any Quarterly Review, and this is no exception.

Parahelio on Thee Facebooks

Necio Records on Bandcamp

 

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Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight Post Acoustic “Dragonaut” Cover

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 26th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Trippy Wicked

Does this mean we’re going to get an acoustic recording of Trippy Wicked‘s take on Crowbar‘s “The Lasting Dose” too? Because that’d be just fine as far as I’m concerned. I went back and looked, the Trippy Wicked‘s acoustic take on Sleep‘s ultra-classic “Dragonaut” dates back to 2011, so when Chris West says he’s been meaning to properly record them “forever,” he’s at least talking about nine years’ worth of time, which certainly isn’t nothing. I’ve posted the original video under the new version at the bottom of this post, because after all this time it still brings me joy, and I’m glad they’re using the lockdown time to get these to tape, because they’re quality beyond novelty.

Here’s the news and the audio:

trippy wicked dragonaut

Trippy Wicked Launch Series of Acoustic Singles With Their Cover of Sleep’s Dragonaut

In early 2020 the band had to suspend recording of their third full length album due to Covid-19 lockdown measures. Out of work and with a lot of time on their hands they decided to start remotely recording some of the acoustic material they have worked on over the years.

This material includes some cover songs and some acoustic versions of Trippy Wicked songs.

Chris West commented:

“Both myself and Pete are currently out of work and recording these acoustic songs has been on my to do list forever so now is the perfect time. Recording the album was going well and this is a way of not losing too much of the momentum with the band. We’re gonna start putting them out as singles to start. Mostly they’re light and they’re fun and I just want people to hear them. I wasn’t sure about putting an album together at first but I think we probably will because I’m having more and more ideas around that as I work on the songs.”

The project kicks off with their acoustic cover of Sleep’s Dragonaut which is now available most places.

https://www.facebook.com/trippywicked
https://www.instagram.com/trippywicked
https://trippywicked.bandcamp.com/
https://www.trippywicked.band/

Trippy Wicked, “Dragonaut”

Trippy Wicked, “Dragonaut” (live take)

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Black Helium Set July 24 Release for The Wholly Other

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

black helium

They open the record with a song called ‘Hippie on a Slab,’ so if there was any doubt London psych freaks Black Helium meant business, that should set the matter at least somewhat to rest. Of course, if such concerns existed at all, it probably wasn’t from those exposed to the band’s 2018 debut, Primitive Fuck (review here), which was every bit the outsider rowdiness one might expect from its name while still taking the time to play with atmospheres like somebody melting a Sabbath record onto a turntable and somehow playing it. It was a weirdo rager, through and through.

One’s expectations are accordingly high for the follow-up, The Wholly Other, which is out next month on Riot Season Records. I haven’t yet, but I’m going to do everything in my power to hear it, as I think out might be just the kick in the ass I need. And by what’s in my power, I mean I’ll probably try to send an email. Hear me roar, and such.

Take it away, PR wire:

black helium the wholly other

BLACK HELIUM RELEASE 2ND LP ‘THE WHOLLY OTHER’ WITH RIOT SEASON RECORDS

Black Helium aim to deliver a lysergic heterogeneous sprawl on this, their second LP ‘The Wholly Other.’ From the blunt thunderous groove of ‘Hippie On A Slab’ to the narcotic tranquillity of ‘Teetering On The Edge’, via the hypnotic ascension of ‘Pink Bolt’.
‘The Wholly Other’ was recorded live over two loud, sweat drenched days in August 2019 by Wayne Adams at Bear Bites Horse Studio (Green Lung, 11PARANOIAS, Casual Nun), just before the band embarked on a UK tour with Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs, Pigs.

Black Helium are a four-piece psychedelic rock group, based in London. Never afraid to stray from the beaten path, they traverse aural hallucinatory soundscapes; from detuned Neanderthal rock to deep oceans of introspective blissed out psychedelia. Influences include, amongst many: Amon Duul II, Loop, Hawkwind, The Stooges, The Groundhogs, Spacemen 3 and Electric Wizard.

ARTIST Black Helium
TITLE The Wholly Other
CATALOGUE REPOSELP093
LABEL Riot Season Records
RELEASE DATE 24th July 2020

SIDE A
1 HIPPIE ON A SLAB (7:12)
2 TWO MASTERS (5:05)
3 DEATH STATION OF THE GODDESS (10:03)

SIDE B
1 ONE WAY TRIP (5:02)
2 PINK BOLT (10:27)
3 TEETERING ON THE EDGE (4:03)

BLACK HELIUM are
Stuart Gray (vocals, guitar)
Beck Harvey (bass, vocals)
Diogo Gomes (drums)
Davey Mulka (guitar)

https://www.facebook.com/blackhelium
https://blackheliumband.bandcamp.com
https://www.instagram.com/blackheliumband
http://www.riotseason.com
https://riotseasonrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/riotseasonrecords

Black Helium, Primitive Fuck (2018)

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Friday Full-Length: Josiah, Procession

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 19th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

It continues to be a matter of some debate as to whether rock and roll will save or damn your eternal soul. Well, your soul is a myth, and if rock and roll gets your blood moving during your limited, mostly futile existence, then fuck it, run with that. Once upon a United Kingdom there was a band called Josiah, and oh my, could they boogie. In the annals of pre-mobile/social media ubiquity, they were a well-kept secret of fuzz worshipers, riff heads and those frequenting the message boards of the day, but my oh my their grooves hold up. Procession (review here) was their final outing, arriving in 2010 through Colour Haze guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek‘s Elektrohasch Schallplatten imprint, and it only underscored the point of how fierce they could be in their prime.

Fronted by guitarist Mat Bethancourt — who also did time with The Kings of Frog Island and Dexter Jones Circus Orchestra and was last heard from in Cherry Choke, running his own festival and doing artwork for various acts — and completed in their final incarnation by bassist Sie Beasley and drummer Keith Beacom, Josiah started around the turn of the century and were well ahead of the pack when it came to ’70s-style riffing, most especially in the UK, where doom and more straight-ahead stoner rock largely reigned supreme, Bill Steer‘s Firebird notwithstanding. Josiah‘s 2002 self-titled debut has been reissued a number of times at this point and it remains undervalued for what it accomplished in heavy boogie, and the organic tonality that came with Into the Outside in 2004 and 2007’s harder-driving No Time was not to be taken lightly or overlooked. Releasing through Elektrohasch and Molten Records, their profile was never as high as some of England’s forerunners in Orange Goblin, Electric Wizard or Cathedral, but even unto the post-breakup swansong that was Procession, the force of their delivery and groove was palpable, and whatever direction it was sending you, it sent you.

Of course, by 2010, the situation had changed, or at very least it was changing. The rise of Witchcraft and the first Graveyard record in Sweden has brought retroism to a broader audience, and Kadavar would soon rise up from Germany to continue the movement. Still though, Josiah were never a purely retro band, and Procession‘s early tracks remind of the niche they occupied between the classic and more modern josiah processionbranches of heavy rock. Certainly the swing and proto-punk rush of the opening title-track and “Broken Doll” after it have their foundations in a ’70s mindset, but “Thirteen Scene” was and is distinguished by its Queens of the Stone Age-style bounce, and even the strut of “Dying Day,” which follows, seems to modernize a one-guitar Thin Lizzy groove, all that swagger and attitude channeled into a nod-ready rhythm that is a timeless vision of cool refusing to be denied. That these first four tracks were recorded in 2006 is important. That puts them before or at least vaguely concurrent to No Time, but if they sat around after those sessions and were going to show up elsewhere and didn’t, then at least the band was able to put them to good use posthumously and remind their audience of what was.

“Dead Forever” serves as a transition point following “Dying Day” — two morose-sounding cuts, to be sure, but neither of which is particularly dark in terms of sound — and is a rawer take in the actual recording. It veers into some spaced-out guitar over the shove of its apex, and might represent the last of Josiah‘s studio work, given that it came after the final album-album. If that’s the case, it’s somewhat emblematic of the changing mindset on the part of Bethancourt, whose appreciation for garage rock came through not only in the third album from The Kings of Frog Island, which was his last with the band, but with the first Cherry Choke LP as well. “Dead Forever” harnesses some of that same style, but the personality of the rhythm section is still prevalent in what they’re doing, and so the five-and-a-half-minute cut keeps a more weighted edge. It makes for a fascinating blend, and if Josiah had wanted to, no doubt they could’ve put together a full-length of such material and continued to refine their niche and songwriting processes, but it wasn’t to be.

I don’t know what became of Beasley or Beacom, but from the first Cherry Choke album in 2009 through the most recent one in 2015, Bethancourt kept expanding that band’s sonic palette to suit shifting influences between garage rock, heavy psychedelia and classic-styled boogie. When last they were heard from on social media, they were working on material for a fourth record, though who knows what the status of that might be.

In the meantime, though, Procession rounds out Josiah‘s run with five corresponding live tracks that were taped in Sweden circa 2007. Among them are four songs from No Time in “Time to Kill,” “Looking at the Mountain,” “Silas Brainchild” and “I Can’t Seem to Find It,” which closes, as well as “Malpaso,” which comes from the first record and is perhaps truest to the original era of late-’90s/early-’00s stoner rock of anything Josiah have on offer here. That Procession is split between studio and live material doesn’t really matter to the overall listening experience — if anything, it brings into relief just how much in common they had between performing in one context and the other — and the front-to-back progression of Procession (yes, I’m a little ashamed of that phrasing) feels all the more appropriate as an encapsulation of who Josiah were for having both sides represented. I like the idea of a goodbye offering, and Procession is a particularly encompassing one that puts a stamp on Josiah‘s career and even a decade after the fact reminds of what they managed to accomplish during their time together.

And anytime Elektrohasch want to go ahead and do another pressing of JosiahInto the Outside or No Time, or hell, even this, I can’t imagine they’d run into much argument. Someday some Akarma-style label is going to come for all this stuff. I hope I’m around to dig it all over again when that happens.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

I wrote the above yesterday so I’d have time this morning to work on the Mars Red Sky review that went up a bit ago. Nice to have that kind of flexibility, but I honestly don’t think it matters much to anyone other than me. Reviewing streams makes for interesting discussion in my mind, but to this point it’s a conversation I’m having with myself. Ups and downs to that, like anything. Humbling, usually.

Next week is full. There’s a lot of premieres. One for Temple Fang that’s been pushed back a couple times. A Psychlona video. A track from Morton Gaster Papadopoulos, who’ve been featured here before.

I’d find you the link to the last time I posted about that project with members of Stinking Lizaveta and Clutch and so on, but I’m writing in the car and as you might expect, running the wifi off my phone is for crap, especially as we’re driving through a rural area in New Jersey to go to Space Farms basically so my kid can throw corn out the window to animals as we drive past — “1-2-3-corn!” he yells while throwing. It’s usually a walk-around zoo, but they’ve made it a driving thing during the pandemic. This is the second time we’ve gone in the last week.

Because that’s real life. You do what you need to do.

Anyhow, that’s basically the weekend plans. Get through it. Went for a run this morning with the kid and he face-planted on the pavement, got a big scrape and knot on his forehead that’s gonna be there for at least the next week. We hold hands while we run, but frankly, we were both sweaty and he just slipped out of my grasp while falling. I had caught him like four other times, which is pretty standard, but yeah. The one time. He was up and finishing the run shortly after though. Dude is way tougher than my ass. I’d be in bed for the rest of the day. If not two days.

More real life.

Thanks for reading. Great and safe weekend. If you’re reading this, I hope you and yours are well; life, limb, livelihood.

FRM.

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