The White Swan Post Video for Tracy Bonham Cover “Tell it to the Sky”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 15th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the white swan (Photo by Kandiss Bradley)

Ontario’s The White Swan released their Nocturnal Transmissions EP (review here) last month as their fourth short release since 2016. Prefaced by three originals of a rolling and atmospheric sludge style, the offering rounded out with a cover of “Tell it to the Sky,” originally by singer-songwriter Tracy Bonham and featured on her 1996 debut, The Burdens of Being Upright. Obvious sonic disparity between The White Swan and Bonham, but it’s fair enough ground for reinterpretation, since one can hardly argue about the solid structural foundation of the original. It’s amazing how many shapes a verse and chorus can take.

You might notice in the video for The White Swan‘s take on “Tell it to the Sky” that the band in the clip is decidedly not the band in the photo above. I’m not sure what happened between photo and video shoots to revamp the group, but you can pretty clearly see in the clip it’s a COVID-era work. Although all three members of the trio appear, don’t actually ever share the same space, and stills from the filming posted on social media include the pretty-minimal crew working with masks on and so forth. These are the times we live in. One looks forward to a great who-knows-when, at which point individuals might be able to be in the same room without worrying about “precautions” for anything other than social awkwardness.

Speaking of, in a perfect world, I’d be perfectly happy to be the weirdest dude at a The White Swan show.

Enjoy the video:

The White Swan, “Tell it to the Sky” official video

Atmospheric sludge rock unit, THE WHITE SWAN, are pleased to unveil the video accompaniment to their cover of Tracy Bonham’s “Tell It To The Sky.” The track is featured on the band’s Nocturnal Transmission EP released last month. Spearheaded by Kittie’s Mercedes Lander, alongside Kira Longeuay and Shane Jeffers (Bloodmoon Collective), Nocturnal Transmission delivers over twenty minutes of sprawling, melodic sound waves.

In December 2019, THE WHITE SWAN recorded three songs and a cover of what can only be described as love songs. Lander has penned lyrics that chronicle the joy, desire, longing, and eventual feeling of completeness that comes with a romantic relationship. From the night drives through the snow in the early days, right through to the handcrafted guitar built as a wedding gift from her now husband, the intricacies of true love permeate every moment of Nocturnal Transmission.

Describing Nocturnal Transmission as a “turning point” for the band, the album art by collage artist Caitlyn Grabenstein reflects the feeling of standing on the precipice, staring into the unknown. Acknowledging that there will always be a constant sound to THE WHITE SWAN, Lander states that their main intention is to “grow and grow.” With an ever-developing sound and a solid combination of creative musicians in their ranks, Nocturnal Transmission is the latest in what is sure to be an ever expanding back catalog of triumphs.

The White Swan, Nocturnal Transmission (2020)

The White Swan on Thee Facebooks

The White Swan on Instagram

The White Swan on Bandcamp

The White Swan website

 

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Quarterly Review: Mrs. Piss, Ulcerate, Shroom Eater, Astralist, Daily Thompson, The White Swan, Dungeon Weed, Thomas V. Jäger, Cavern, Droneroom

Posted in Reviews on October 9th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Today is what would be the last day of the Fall 2020 Quarterly Review, except, you know, it’s not. Monday is. I know it’s been a messed up time for everybody and everything, but there’s a lot of music coming out, so if you’re craving some sense of normalcy — and hey, fair enough — it’s right there. Today’s an all-over-the-place day but there’s some killer stuff in here right from the start, so jump in and good luck.

And don’t forget — back on Monday with the last 10 records. Thanks for reading.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery

mrs piss self surgery

If “Nobody Wants to Party with Us” as the alternately ambient/industrial-punk fuckall of that song posits, most likely that’s because they’re way too intimidated to even drop a text to invite Mrs. Piss over. The duo comprised of vocalist/guitarist Chelsea Wolfe and guitarist/bassist/drummer/programmer Jess Gowrie issue Self-Surgery as an act of sheer confrontation. The screams of “You Took Everything.” The chugging self-loathing largesse of “Knelt.” The fuzzed mania of ‘M.B.O.T.W.O.,” which, yes, stands for “Mega Babes of the Wild Order.” The unmitigated punk of “Downer Surrounded by Uppers” and the twisted careen-and-crash of the title-track. The declaration of purpose in the lines, “In the shit/I’m sacrosanct/I’m Mrs. Piss” in the eponymous closer. Rage against self, rage against other, rage and righteousness. Among the great many injustices this year has wrought, that Wolfe and Gowrie aren’t touring this material, playing 20-something-minute sets and destroying every stage they hit has to be right up there. It’s like rock and roll to disintegrate every tired dude cliché the genre has. Yes. Fuck. Do it.

Mrs. Piss on Instagram

Sargent House website

 

Ulcerate, Stare into Death and Be Still

Ulcerate Stare into Death and Be Still

As progressive/technical death metal enjoys a stylistic renaissance, New Zealand’s Ulcerate put out their sixth full-length, Stare into Death and Be Still and seem right in line with the moment despite having been around for nearly 20 years. So be it. What distinguishes Stare into Death and Be Still amid the speed-demon wizardry of a swath of other death metallers is the sense of atmosphere across the release and the fact that, while every note, every guitar squibbly, every sharpened turn the 58-minute album’s eight tracks make is important and serves a purpose, the band don’t simply rely on dry delivery to make an impression. To hear the cavernous echoes of the title-track or “Inversion” later on, Ulcerate seem willing to let some of the clarity go in favor of establishing a mood beyond extremity. In the penultimate “Drawn into the Next Void,” their doing so results in a triumphant build and consuming fade in a way that much of their genre simply couldn’t accomplish. There’s still plenty of blast to be found, but also a depth that would seem to evoke the central intention of the album. Don’t stare too long.

Ulcerate on Thee Facebooks

Debemur Morti Productions on Bandcamp

 

Shroom Eater, Ad.Inventum

shroom eater ad inventum

Nine songs running an utterly digestible 38 minutes of fuzz-riffed groove with samples, smooth tempos and an unabashed love for ’90s-style stoner rock, Shroom Eater‘s debut album, Ad.Inventum feels ripe for pickup by this or that heavy rock label for a physical release. LP, CD and tape. I know it’s tough economic times, but none of this vinyl-only stuff. The Indonesian five-piece not only have their riffs and tones and methods so well in place — that is, they’re schooled in the style they’re creating; the genre-converted preaching to the genre-converted, and nothing wrong with that — but there are flashes of burgeoning cultural point of view in the lead guitar of “God Isn’t One Eyed” or the lyrics of “Arogant” (sic) and the right-on riffed “Traffic Hunter” that fit well right alongside the skateboarding ode “Ride” or flourish of psychedelia in the rolling “Perspective” earlier on. Closing with “Dragon and Tiger” and “Friend in the High Places,” Ad.Inventum feels like the work of a band actively engaged in finding their sound and developing their take on fuzz, and the potential they show alongside their already memorable songwriting is significant.

Shroom Eater on Instagram

Shroom Eater on Bandcamp

 

Astralist, 2020 (Demo)

astralist 2020 demo

I’m not usually one to think bands should be aggrandizing their initial releases. It can be a disservice to call a demo a “debut EP” or album if it’s not, since you only get one shot at having an actual first record and sometimes a demo doesn’t represent a band’s sound as much as the actual, subsequent album does, leading to later regret. In the case of Cork, Ireland’s Astralist, it’s the opposite. 2020 (Demo) is no toss-off, recorded-in-the-rehearsal-space-to-put-something-on-Bandcamp outing. Or if it is, it doesn’t sound like it. Comprised of three massive slabs of atmospheric and sometimes-extreme doom, plus an intro, in scope and production value both, the 36-minute release carries the feel and the weight of a full-length album, earning its themes of cosmic destruction and shifting back and forth between melodic progressivism and death-doom or blackened onslaught. In “The Outlier,” “Entheogen” and “Zuhal, Rise” they establish a breadth and an immediate control thereof, and their will to cross genre lines gives their work a fervently individualized feel. Album or demo doesn’t ultimately matter, but what they say about Astralist‘s intentions does.

Astralist on Thee Facebooks

Astralist on Bandcamp

 

Daily Thompson, Oumuamua

daily thompson oumuamua

Lost in the narrative of initial singles released ahead of its actual arrival is the psychedelic reach Dortmund trio Daily Thompson bring to their fourth album, Oumuamua. Yes, “She’s So Cold” turns in its second half to a more straightforward heavy-blues-fuzz push, but the mellow unfurling that takes place at the outset continues to inform the proceedings from there, and even through “Sad Frank” (video posted here) and “On My Mind” (video posted here), and album-centerpiece “Slow Me Down,” the vibe remains affect by it. Side B has its own stretch in the 12-minute “Cosmic Cigar (Oumuamua),” and sandwiched between the three-minute stomper “Half Thompson” and the acoustic, harmonized grunge-blues closer “River of a Ghost,” it seems that what Daily Thompson held back about the LP is no less powerful than what they revealed. It’s still a party, it’s just a party where every room has something different happening.

Daily Thompson on Thee Facebooks

Noisolution website

 

The White Swan, Nocturnal Transmission

The White Swan Nocturnal Transmission

Following up 2018’s Touch Taste Destroy (review here), Ontario’s The White Swan present their fourth EP in Nocturnal Transmission. That’s four EPs, in a row, from 2016-2020. If the trio — which, yes, includes Kittie‘s Mercedes Lander on vocals, drums, guitar and keys — were waiting to figure out their sound before putting out a first full-length, they were there two years ago, if not before. One is left to assume that the focus on short releases is — at least for now — an aesthetic choice. Like its predecessor, Nocturnal Transmission offers three circa-five-minute big-riffers topped with Lander‘s floating melodic vocals. The highlight here is “Purple,” and unlike any of the other The White Swan EPs, this one includes a fourth track in a cover of Tracy Bonham‘s “Tell it to the Sky,” given likewise heft and largesse. I don’t know what’s stopping this band from putting out an album, but I’ll take another EP in the meantime, sure.

The White Swan on Thee Facebooks

The White Swan on Bandcamp

 

Dungeon Weed, Mind Palace of the Mushroom God

Dungeon Weed Mind Palace of the Mushroom God

A quarantine project of Dmitri Mavra from Skunk and Slow Phase, Dungeon Weed is dug-in stoner idolatry, pure and simple. Mavra, joined by drummer Chris McGrew and backing vocalist Thia Moonbrook, metes out riff after feedback-soaked, march-ready, nod-ready, dirt-toned riff, and it doesn’t matter if it’s the doomier tolling bell of “Sorcerer with the Skull Face” or the tongue-in-cheek hook of “Beholder Gonna Fuck You Up” or the brash sludge that ensues across the aptly-named “Lumbering Hell,” all layered solos and whatnot, the important thing is that by the time “Mind Palace” comes around, you’re either out or you’re in, and once you make that choice there’s no going back on it. Opener “Orcus Immortalis/Vox Mysterium” tells the tale (or part of it, as regards the overarching narrative), and if ever there was a band that could and would make a song called “Black Pudding” sound heavy, well, there’s Dungeon Weed for you. Dungeon Weed, man. Don’t overthink it.

Dungeon Weed on Thee Facebooks

Forbidden Place Records website

 

Thomas V. Jäger, A Solitary Plan

thomas v jager a solitary plan

The challenge of rendering songcraft in the nude can be a daunting one for someone in a heavy band doing a solo/acoustic release, but it’s a challenge Thomas V. Jäger of Monolord meets with ease on the home-recorded A Solitary Plan, his solo debut. Those familiar with his work in Monolord will recognize some of the effects used on his vocals, but in the much, much quieter context of the seven-song/29-minute solo release — Jäger plays everything except the Mellotron on the leadoff title-track — they lend not only a spaciousness but a feeling of acid folk serenity to “Creature of the Deep” and “It’s Alright,” which follows. Mixed/mastered by Kalle Lilja of Långfinger, A Solitary Plan is ultimately an exploration on Jäger‘s part of working in this form, but it succeeds in both its most minimal stretches and in the electric-inclusive “The Drone” and “Goodbye” ahead of the buzzing synth-laced closer “The Bitter End.” It would be a surprise if this is the only solo release Jäger ever does, since so much of what takes place throughout feels like a foundation for future work.

Thomas V. Jäger on Bandcamp

RidingEasy Records website

 

Cavern, Powdered

CAVERN POWDERED

Change has been the modus operandi of Cavern for a while now. They still show some semblance of their post-hardcore roots on their new full-length, Powdered, but having brought in bassist/vocalist Rose Heater in 2018 and sometime between then and now let out of Baltimore for Morgantown, West Virginia, their sonic allegiance to a heavier-ended post-rock comes through more than ever before. Guitarist/synthesist Zach Harkins winds lead lines around Heater‘s bass on “Grey,” and Stephen Schrock‘s drums emphasize tension to coincide, but the fluidity across the 24-minute LP is of a kind that’s genuinely new to the band, and the soul in Heater‘s vocals carries the material to someplace else entirely. A song like “Dove” presents a tonal fullness that the title-track seems just to hint at, but the emphasis here is on dynamic, not on doing one thing only or locking their approach into a single mindset. As Heater‘s debut with them, Powdered finds them refreshed and renewed of purpose.

Cavern on Thee Facebooks

Cavern on Bandcamp

 

Droneroom, …The Other Doesn’t

droneroom the other doesnt

Droneroom is the solo vehicle of guitarist Blake Edward Conley and with …The Other Doesn’t, experiments of varying length and degree of severity are brought to bear. The abiding feel is spacious, lonely and cinematic as one might expect for such guitar-based soundscaping, but “Casual-Lethal Narcissism” and “The Last Time Someone Speaks Your Name” do have some measure of peace to go with their foreboding and troubling atmospherics. An obvious focal point is the 15-minute dronefest “This Circle of Ribs,” which feels more forward and striking than someone of Droneroom‘s surrounding material, but it’s all on a relative scale, and across the board Conley remains a safe social distance away from structural traditionalist. Recorded during Summer 2020, it is an album that conveys the anxiety and paranoia of this year, and while that can be a daunting thing to face in such a way or to let oneself really engage with as a listener — shit, it’s hard enough just living through — one of the functions of good art is to challenge perceptions of what it can be. Worth keeping in mind for “Home Can Be a Frightening Place.”

Droneroom on Thee Facebooks

Humanhood Recordings on Bandcamp

 

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Handsome Pants Premiere New Single “Rut”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on September 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

handsome pants

Canadian heavy rock newcomers Handsome Pants have a show booked for Oct. 3. Any other year, ‘Band Has Show in Ontario’ probably wouldn’t qualify as newsworthy on its own, but as you know, this isn’t any other year. So yeah. Oct. 3, at The 765 in London, ON, they’ll be playing. The band, formed by vocalist/guitarist Andrew Bateman, and the presumably-brothers rhythm section of bassist Jordan Nodwell and Kyle Nodwell after the dissolution of their prior outfit The Rapscallions, made their first audio public earlier this year in the form of the single “Turgid.”

It’s at the bottom of the post if you don’t feel like clicking through to chase it down on their Bandcamp, but with the newer track premiering below, called simply “Rut,” they bring something of a different look, playing off experimental-feeling twisted harmonica via Handsome Pants‘ non-Rapscallion member, Chuck Smith, as well as a languid bluesy groove, a subtle hook and vocal interplay that works well to add depth to the proceedings. I ain’t gonna lie, the fact that they swiped the Hot Wheels logo doesn’t hurt either in terms of catching the eye — lotta monster trucks around my house these days, with the toddler and all — but it was ultimately the cleverness of the song itself that won me over. I’ll spare you the “one to watch” cliché, but the song’s cool, and hell, you’ve got time. Don’t pretend like you don’t.

Their plans? How should I know, and who would even bother with plans at this point of planetary down-the-drainitude? They’ve got a show! They’ve got a new single! I fail to see what more you could possibly ask.

Song’s right below, PR wire announcement follows.

Enjoy:

Handsome Pants, “Rut” official premiere

Handsome Pants is the kind of band that shows up to a gig dressed haphazardly in mismatched Value Village clothes they picked out for each other. The kind of band that doesn’t take themselves seriously just wants to rock out and have a good time with their fans. Handsome Pants proves fun does not be sacrificed to make lively, highly creative music.

Loud and obnoxious is the name of the game for Handsome Pants and the rambunctious uniqueness really shines through with their new single, “Rut” which follows a concept that a lot of people are familiar with. The feeling of being stuck in a rut and turning to alcohol. The band explains the single in more depth:

“Rut is the second release in our early existence as a band. This song is something Andrew has been sitting on for a long time and rewriting lyrics. Finally finding the right content and lyrics putting it together at this time seems perfect. It seems to relate to a lot of people right now and what they are going through with the pandemic and everything else happening right now.”

The most mainstream track the band has to date still holds on to its originality with the layered vocals and prominent harmonica.

“Rut” is suitable for all kinds of rock radio, it’s punchy and tight, for fans of Royal Blood, Highly Suspect, and Clutch, Handsome Pants is just getting started and anticipates more music coming down the pipe.

Handsome Pants are:
Andrew Bateman – Lead Vocals and Guitar
Jordan Nodwell- Lead Bass
Kyle Nodwell- Drums
Chuck Smith- Harmonica

Handsome Pants, “Turgid”

Handsome Pants on Thee Facebooks

Handsome Pants on Instagram

Handsome Pants on Bandcamp

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LOOP to Record New Studio Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 22nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

If anyone had ‘new LOOP record’ on their 2020 Bingo card, kudos. I sure didn’t, and yet of all the truly horrible shit that’s gone down and continues to go down this year, a new LOOP offers promise of shimmer to come. The pioneering Britpsych outfit have put out word that their Array series — begun with the release of the Array 1 EP some five years ago now — is dead-dead-deadski, but that they’ll instead embark on putting together a new long-player which will, as the headline below says, be their first since 1990. That album was A Gilded Eternity. Put it on and it still sounds ahead of its time, but yeah, three decades later is probably fitting enough for a follow-up.

Not so much with the release dates or anything like that, but hell, what’re you gonna do, complain if it’s late? Get over yourself. It’s frickin’ new LOOP. If you say you knew it was happening at all three days ago, and you’re not, like, related to Robert Hampson or whatever, then you’re probably just lying.

Here’s what the esteemed Mr. Hampson himself had to say:

loop

LOOP CONFIRM FIRST ALBUM SINCE 1990…

2020… ?

It’s been quite a while since a full length LOOP album release.

Perhaps too long?

Perhaps not long enough?

It’s possible to list an encyclopaedia’s worth of content of what has transpired since A GILDED ETERNITY in this battered and bewildering world of Prime Ministers / Leaders and the odd Demagogue here and there, who refuse to curtail their excesses until everything around them is completely shit and we are at each other’s throats over a piece of land or the colour of skin and a belief.

And then there’s just general bad behaviour by people who really should make way for others in their self serving lives and get with the fucking program.

Your liberty is not at risk for wearing a face covering.

Perhaps look at who you are voting for if you feel something like liberty is at risk first, then perhaps a bit of cloth might not seem so threatening.

Anyhoo…

Perhaps… nothing really changes?

Forever changes.

“Always Forward” pretty much has been my motto for as long as I can remember.

Sometimes, you have to go in reverse, to manoeuvre around the odd thing here and there.

Bringing LOOP back into life has had its trials and tribulations as much as anything you can figure on as it had back in the day, but the desire to explore further hasn’t left me…yet.

So, back in the studio then.

Can’t tell you what it’s all about just yet, apart from the fact it’s a blast of high octane guitars, rattling drums and low frequency bass.

To clear the air, sadly the Array project has been shelved indefinitely.

It seems pertinent to think on new projects than ones that didn’t get finished.

This is NOT ARRAY 2 & 3

We’re working with our man Joe Garcia in his smart studio on cooking something righteous and I’m sure I’ll be allowed to spill the beans here and there in how it’s all going.

So, it is what it is, and once it is out there, it’ll be tangible and then maybe I can talk on it further.

Until then, we all have to wait and see on where it goes and where it’ll end up

RH x

LOOP is:
Robert Hampson (vocal, guitar)
Hugo Morgan (bass)
Dan Boyd (guitar)
Wayne Maskell (drums)

https://www.facebook.com/loopbandofficial
https://www.instagram.com/loopbandofficial/
http://soundheads.org/

LOOP, “Radial”

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Orange Goblin Postpone December UK Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

ORANGE GOBLIN

When Orange Goblin posted their Dec. 2020 tour dates in May, it seemed optimistic but not necessarily unreasonable to think they might happen. They’ve been pushed to 2021 in the hope that by the end of next year venues will once again be allowed to hold full capacities.

At this point, I’m wondering if that’s ever going to happen, or if the idea of “capacity” itself in a building, bar, venue, whatever, is going to have to be redrawn to allow fewer people in a given space. Does that look like a band playing the same room three nights in a row to three different crowds while on tour, each show holding a third of what it “used to?” I don’t know. Does that mean tours go three times as long? Is that remotely feasible? Or does live music become something that only happens in summertime, when it’s warm enough to be done somewhere outside?

How is it ever going to happen?

Maybe by the end of next year everything will be alright. In the UK. The US is fucked forever. I mean that.

Anyway, in a spirit of crossed fingers, here’s Orange Goblin‘s Dec. 2021 tour dates:

orange goblin dec 2021

ORANGE GOBLIN – UK TOUR RESCHEDULED DATES ANNOUNCEMENT

Legendary UK heavy metal four piece Orange Goblin have been forced to postpone their previously announced tour for December this year, until the same time period in 2021. In a move that will come as no surprise, the band have bowed to the inevitable and postponed their dates.

The newly scheduled shows will run as follows:

Orange Goblin UK & Ireland Tour 2021
(support Spirit Adrift & King Creature)
Wed 08 Dec – The Booking Hall, Dover, UK * (Orange Goblin only)
Thu 09 Dec – Tivoli, Buckley
Fri 10 Dec – Limelight 2, Belfast
Sat 11 Dec – Grand Social, Dublin
Mon 13 Dec – King Tuts, Glasgow
Tue 14 Dec – Gorilla, Manchester
Wed 15 Dec – Asylum, Birmingham
Thu 16 Dec – The Globe, Cardiff
Fri 17 Dec – The Underworld, London
Sat 18 Dec – The Underworld, London

All tickets purchased remain valid for the new dates, and both Dover and Buckley go on sale at 10am on Friday 11th Sept.

Vocalist Ben Ward explains the situation;

‘It is with a very heavy heart that we have to concede defeat and announce that due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent venue restrictions, Orange Goblin are going to have to postpone our 25 Year Anniversary tour, scheduled for December 2020. We wanted to wait as long as possible to see whether we would be given the go ahead but with no clear indication that full capacity shows will be allowed by then we now have no choice but to reschedule for December 2021.

The safety and well being of our fans, crew, venue staff and bandmates is always the most important issue for us so we hope that you understand our situation. The new dates are already in place and any tickets already purchased will still be valid for the shows in 2021. We are also happy to say that both support bands, Spirit Adrift and King Creature, are behind this decision and will be with us when we return in 2021. We have also added a couple of extra dates, one at The Booking Hall in Dover, which will be a warm-up show for the tour (No Spirit Adrift or King Creature for that one!) and a show at the Tivoli in Buckley too. As always, we thank you for your continued support!”

https://www.facebook.com/orangegoblinofficial/
https://twitter.com/OrangeGoblin1
https://www.instagram.com/orangegoblin1/
http://www.orange-goblin.com/
https://www.facebook.com/spinefarm
www.spinefarmrecords.com/

Orange Goblin, Rough & Ready, Live & Loud (2020)

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The Brothers Keg Album Release Show Set for Sept. 17

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the brothers keg

A band playing a release show might not ordinarily be news, but this is 2020. Note that The Brothers Keg‘s celebration of their debut album, Folklore, Myths & Legends (review here), is taking place at London’s famed The Black Heart venue, and that it’s limited capacity, small-group seating only. 45 people get to go. I’ve been lucky enough to be in that upstairs room at The Black Heart where they do shows, and it’s by no means big, but I’d guess it holds about 150 when they’re crammed in, so 45 I guess is about right for these days. The show is put on by Desertscene — also known for Desertfest — and will feature The Grand Mal as well.

I don’t know how The Black Heart will work it with the bar downstairs and upstairs, and stuff like that, but I assume there will be copious mask-age involved, and maybe even some of those plastic faceshields. If you’re in that part of the world and thinking about going — having recently attended a live performance myself, it was spiritually refreshing in the extreme — maybe you just want to go all out and get a welding mask. Whatever it takes. I also just read about the UK locking down on social gatherings of more than like six people starting next Monday, so I don’t even know how that will affect this. Could be REALLY limited capacity, I guess. Like two people in the crowd, which would make it like heavy rock shows in the early ’00s.

But the show’s sold out its 45 spaces, by the way, as one might expect. Good luck, you intrepid pavers of the way. I hope the gig happens.

Desertscene posted the following:

the brothers keg release show

***DESERTSCENE – THE BROTHERS KEG – NEW SHOW ANNOUNCEMENT*** FOR 2020!

We’re very excited to be teaming up with our friends at The Black Heart to dip our toes back into the world of non-virtual, actually in a room with other human beings, live music events. Next Thursday we will be bringing you a limited capacity, socially distanced album release show from The Brothers Keg, with support from The Grand Mal. The current capacity for this show is 45 people and seated tickets will be available in groups of 2, 3 or 4 only – with some tasty Stone & Wood Brewing + ticket combos to boot.

More details about the social distance guidelines & on-the-day protocols can be found via the event page or ourblackheart.com. We really hope you’ll join us in trying to kickstart our scene back into action!

Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1040600833040567/

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

https://www.facebook.com/thebrotherskeg/
https://www.instagram.com/thebrotherskeg/
https://thebrotherskeg.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/apfrecords
https://www.instagram.com/apfrecords/
https://apfrecords.bandcamp.com/
http://www.apfrecords.co.uk/

The Brothers Keg, “Moorsmen” official video

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Album Review: Black Helium, The Wholly Other

Posted in Reviews on August 28th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

black helium the wholly other

The very first thing that The Wholly Other has to offer is tension. A chugging guitar begins the second album from London four-piece Black Helium — and the introduction of drummer Diogo Gomez to the fold — and it’s soon joined by a militaristic snare as the aggressively-titled “Hippie on a Slab” begins to unfurl. Offered up through Riot Season Records, The Wholly Other, both the name of the album and its execution, would seem to be deriving from Black Helium‘s drive toward individuality in heavy psychedelia and beyond.

The band — here guitarist/vocalists Stuart Gray and Davey Mulka and bassist/vocalist/graphic artist Beck Harvey alongside Gomez — made their debut in 2018 with the likewise ambitious and confrontational Primitive Fuck (review here, and it wouldn’t necessarily be correct to call The Wholly Other classier in its delivery, but it is obvious in listening to its six-track/41-minute run that Black Helium learned a few crucial lessons from their time in the studio and were able to translate those into this batch of material.

They didn’t lack confidence before — one does not call a record Primitive Fuck in a timid spirit — but there’s an element of direction to The Wholly Other that comes through likewise in its individual pieces and in the front-to-back listening experience. Tonally and melodically rich, they are brazen enough stylistically to require their audience’s attention and grab it without asking, and the effect of “Hippie on a Slab” is to do precisely that, with the already noted tension of its rhythm as well as its deceptively memorable chorus. It is a clever opener, with a short intro of birdsong before the guitar and hi-hat kick in — there’s a floor tom thud that starts off as well — and the ensuing energy buildup that seems headed toward release over the song’s first 90 seconds before… it stops. Dead.

It’s just for a few seconds, but it’s a really important few seconds. In the first minute and a half of The Wholly Other, Black Helium are telling their audience to broaden their expectations, and maybe even to raise them somewhat. This isn’t going to be simple genre fare, a runthrough of well trod clichés and familiar elements. In subsequent side A tracks “Two Masters” and the 10-minute “Death Station of the Goddess,” respectively, they directly reference Nirvana‘s “Drain You” in another build and make the likewise pivotal choice of keeping the established vocal chant mellow even as the track hits into one of the album’s most consuming washes of tone. In making choices like these, Black Helium simply put themselves on another level of songcraft, and whether this is done in calculated fashion — a kind of progressive decisiveness behind each nuance throughout — or in the raw spirit of what comes out of the jam room by collaborative instinct, the same holds true.

black helium (photo by Steve Gullick)

There are, of course, holdover aspects from Primitive Fuck that carry into The Wholly Other. “Hippie on a Slab”‘s later reaches play cacophony over atmospheric spaciousness, and even the Britgrunge of “Two Masters” rampages through a dense fuzz as it makes its way back toward its central riff to close. “Death Station of the Goddess” is an inevitable focal point in its graceful procession and ensuing mania, which is something that its 10:34 side B counterpart “Pink Bolt” — positioned as the centerpiece of that side’s three tracks rather than as the album’s finale; another clever move to contradict genre convention — doesn’t try to match, instead playing out in less linear fashion as it moves from heavy post-rock airiness into a wandering jam and resolving in a lumbering plod that tops the Electric Wizard-style horrormaking of the sample-topped roller “One Way Trip” just before and rumbles beneath its own noisy crescendo.

Shit is massive. Tell your friends or someone else will.

Can it be that after all this, Black Helium find some kind of collective resolution? “Teetering on the Edge,” which rounds out The Wholly Other feels like a peace offering in following “Pink Bolt.” As though the four-piece were scooping up the melted remnants of their audience’s psyche and saying, “Sorry about that, here’s this now, everybody take a breath.” Assuming the purposeful nature of how the two sides of The Wholly Other play out, with the first two tracks leading into “Death Station of the Goddess” and “Pink Bolt” surrounded on either side — these two more extended pieces playing off the shorter cuts around them — the flow with which Black Helium cap off, as though harnessing the ethereal presence of an ultra-mellow Dead Meadow, isn’t to be understated. They’ve already blown out the airlock. It’s time to explore the vacuum.

So they do, with no less aplomb than they brought to The Wholly Other at its noisiest and most sonically forceful. They never quite return to the tension of “Hippie on a Slab,” even in “Two Masters,” which has its own chug, but the album remains informed by it nonetheless, and the sense of not knowing what to expect at any given turn throughout is something they use masterfully to their advantage when it comes to carving out their sonic persona in the manner they seem to have set as their goal. That too is an outgrowth of the work they did on the debut, marking out a range of avenues they might traverse and, here, forging a modus that fluidly or strikingly draws from among them as best serves the songs. This is harder than it sounds, rarer than it sounds, and certainly ‘other’ enough to be noteworthy.

And when considering the attention to detail Black Helium bring to their second album, one shouldn’t ignore Harvey‘s cover art either, the freaked-out freneticism of it and the geometric shape beneath. The font and positioning of the band’s name would seem to be important as well, and at least to my eyes it recalls the staging of the Now That’s What I Call Music series of top 40 pop compilations. If that is the standard to which Black Helium have set themselves against and what they’re reacting to, their second LP could not be better named. Perhaps most exciting of all, though, is that even after this collection of songs is over, it’s hard to guess how the band might continue their forward creative growth, but whatever manifestations may lay ahead, The Wholly Other is a beast unto itself.

Black Helium, The Wholly Other (2020)

Black Helium on Thee Facebooks

Black Helium on Bandcamp

Black Helium on Instagram

Riot Season Records website

Riot Season Records on Bandcamp

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

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

elephant tree boiler room

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)

Elephant Tree on Thee Facebooks

Elephant Tree on Instagram

Elephant Tree website

Holy Roar Records website

Holy Roar Records on Thee Facebooks

Deathwish Inc. website

Deathwish Inc. on Thee Facebooks

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