TC and the Seaside Assembly Release Fly Like a Seagull

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 17th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Check out the list of names. My goodness. Given the context of the times we’re in, one can easily imagine the devil’s-workshop idleness of hands that led Tim Catz, known for his work in Roadsaw and White Dynomite, to walk by a dead bird and think to himself, “I’m gonna write an album about that.” But to do so with the assemblage he’s got here, with Roadsaw bandmates Ian Ross and Craig Riggs, White Dynomite‘s Dave Unger, as well as Andrea Gillis of Other Girls, Neil Collins of Murcielago, Marc Gaffney of Gozu, Darryl Sheppard of Kind, Janet Egan and Justine Covalt of Justine and the Unclean, and Mad Oak Studios‘ own Benny Grotto on percussion, feels all the more significant.

I’ve barely, barely, barely begun to scratch the surface of the eight-tracker but wanted to get a post up just the same to note the release and the significant logistics that would’ve been involved, especially with the pandemic. That must’ve been some bird.

Here’s the info, and the stream is at the bottom of the post. Fly Like a Seagull — get it? — is five bucks on Bandcamp, which is about 35 cents per performer included:

tim catz

So last summer I managed to write and record this record called “Fly Like A Seagull”. It’s a 28 minute rock opera about the short life and gruesome death of a seagull.

I was incredibly fortunate to have Dave Unger, Craig Riggs and Benny Grotto help lay the foundation at the luxurious Mad Oak Studios in the heart of Allston. I was also lucky enough to have some incredibly gifted friends to sing and play on different tracks. Thank you from the depths of my boozey heart.

I hope you all dig it. It was certainly fun to do. Cheers!

1. Get Born 04:19
2. Ain’t No Swan 03:20
3. Eat 02:28
4. The Ships Are Coming In 02:09
5. Mine 02:40
6. Bombs Away 01:44
7. Alka Seltzer Revenge Killing 01:38
8. Ascension/Fly Like A Seagull 05:18

Tc- Guitar, Bass, Keys, Vocals

Craig Riggs- Drums, Vocals on 1 and 8
David Unger – Fender Rhodes, Mellotron, Moog, Vocals on 2 and 6
Benjamin Grotto – Triangle, Egg Shakers, Tambourine
Andrea Gillis- Vocals on “Swan”
Marc Pinansky – Back Up Vox on “Swan
Darryl Sheppard – Lead Guitar on “Mine”
Ian Ross- Lead Guitar on 1 and 8
Sean Drinkwater – Synthesizers on “Ascension ”
Justine Covault – Vocals on “Ships”
Janet Egan – Additional Vocals on “Ships”
Neil Collins – Vocals on “Mine”
Marc Gaffney- Vocals on “Eat”
James Rohr – Piano Solo on “Ain’t No Swan”

Recorded and Mixed by Benjamin Grotto At Mad Oak Studios, Allston
All Songs and Lyrics by Tim Catz Except “Ascension” by Sean Drinkwater

TC and the Seaside Assembly, Fly Like a Seagull (2021)

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Quarterly Review: Bellrope, Cracked Machine, The Sky Giants, Sacred Monster, High ‘n’ Heavy, Warlung, Rogue Conjurer, Monovine, Un & Coltsblood, La Grande Armée

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan


Day Six. Not that there wasn’t a bit of a crunch along the way, but I definitely think this Quarterly Review was aided by the fact that I dug so much of what I was writing about on a personal-taste level. You get through it one way or the other, but it just makes it more fun. Today is the last day and then it’s back to something approaching normal tomorrow, but of course before this thing is rounded out I want to thank you as always for taking the time and for reading if you did. It means a tremendous amount to me to put words out and have people see them, so thank you for your part in that.

This could’ve easily gone seven or eight or 10 days if scheduling had permitted, but here’s as good a place to leave it. The next one will probably be the first week of July or thereabouts, so keep an eye out.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Bellrope, You Must Relax

bellrope you must relax

How much noise can your brain take? I don’t mean noise like start-stop riffs and dudes shouting. I mean actual, abrasive, amelodic noise. Bellrope, with ex-members of the underrated Black Shape of Nexus start their Exile on Mainstream-delivered debut album, You Must Relax, with three minutes of chaff-separation they’re calling “Hollywood 2001/Rollrost.” It’s downright caustic. Fortunately, what follows on the four subsequent extended tracks devotes itself to lumbering post-sludge that’s at least accessible by comparison. “Old Overholt” is the only other inclusion under 10 minutes as the tracks are arranged shortest to longest with the 17:57 “CBD/Hereinunder” concluding. The thickened tones brought to bear throughout “Old Overholt” and the blend of screams and growls that accompany are more indicative of what follows on the centerpiece title-track and the penultimate “TD2000,” but the German four-piece still manage to sound plenty fucked throughout. Just not painfully so. There’s something threatening about the use of the word “must” in the album’s title. The songs realize that threat.

Bellrope on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream Records website


Cracked Machine, The Call of the Void

Cracked Machine The Call of the Void

Here be dragons. Though its core tonality is still within the bounds of heavy rock, Wiltshire, UK, four-piece bring a far more atmospheric and progressive style to fruition on their second album, The Call of the Void, than it might at first appear. With post-rock float to the guitar of Bill Denton, keyboard textures from Clive Noyes, and fluid rhythms carried through changes in volume and ambience from bassist Christ Sutton and drummer Blazej Gradziel, the PsyKA Records outfit present a cerebral seven tracks/47 minutes of immersive and seemingly conceptual work, with opener “Jormungandr” establishing the context in which each song that follows is named for a different culture’s dragon, whether it’s the Hittite “Illuyanka,” Japan’s “Yamata No Orochi” or the Persian “Azi Dahakar.” Cracked Machine use this theme to tie pieces together, and they push farther out as the record unfolds late with “Typhon” and “Vritra” a closing pair of marked scope. The shortest cut, the earlier 5:14 “Kirimu,” has probably the most straightforward push, but Cracked Machine demonstrate an ability to adapt to the needs of whatever idea they’re working to convey.

Cracked Machine on Thee Facebooks

PsyKA Records webstore


The Sky Giants, The Shifting of Phaseworld

the sky giants the shifting of phaseworld

Taking cues from psychedelia almost as much as jangly West Coast noise and punk, Tacoma, Washington’s The Sky Giants offer the 10-track sophomore outing The Shifting of Phaseworld, which finds a balance in songs like “Dream Receiver” between progressive heavy rock and its rawer foundations. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Jake Frye, bassist Jessie Avery and drummer/vocalist/engineer/graphic artist Peter Tietjen are comfortable tipping from one side to the other between and within songs, starting off with the shove of “Technicolor Kaleidoscope” and getting mathy on the later “Half Machine” ahead of the chunkier-riffed “Rhyme and the Flame,” which somehow touches on classic punk even as it hones a wash of distortion that that has to cut through. Closing each side with a longer track in the rolling, airy “Solid State” (6:53) and the frenetic ending of “Simian” (7:38), The Sky Giants stake out a sonic terrain very much their own throughout The Shifting of Phaseworld and only seem to expand their territory as they go.

The Sky Giants on Thee Facebooks

The Sky Giants on Bandcamp


Sacred Monster, Worship the Weird

sacred monster worship the weird

Topped off by the ace screams of vocalist Adam Szczygiel, who taps his inner Devin Townsend circa Strapping Young Lad on “High Confessor” and “Re-Animator,” Sacred Monster‘s debut album, Worship the Weird would seem to cull together elements of Orange Goblin and Bongzilla for a kind of classic-metal-aware sludge rock, the riffs of Robert Nubel not at all shy about digging into aggressive vibes to go with the layers of growls and throatrippers and the occasional King Diamond-esque falsetto, as on “Waverly Hills,” as bassist Guillermo Moreno and drummer Ted Nubel bolster that feel with tight turns and duly driven bottom end. I’ll take “Face of My Father” as a highlight, if only for the excruciating sound of Szczygiel‘s screech, but the swing in closer “Maze of Dreams” has an appeal of its own, and as a Twilight Zone and a Shatner fan, “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” offers its own charm.

Sacred Monster on Thee Facebooks

Sacred Monster on Bandcamp


High n’ Heavy, Warrior Queen

high n heavy warrior queen

Shades of grunge and skate-fuzz fuckall pervade the Sabbathian grooves of High n’ Heavy‘s second album, Warrior Queen, as guitarist John Steele works some doomly keys into second cut “Shield Maiden” and vocalist Kris Fortin moves in and out of throaty shouts on side B’s “Lydia.” They thrash out in the noisy “Catapult” and Nick Perrone‘s drums seem to bounce even in the longer-winded “Lands Afar” and closer “Smell of Decay / Wings and Claw,” on which Mike Dudley‘s rumble backs classically metallic shred in the lead guitar after offering likewise support to the piano in the early going of “Join the Day.” Released through Electric Valley Records, the eight-song/36-minute LP comes across as raw but not without purpose in that, and its blend of tonal thickness and the blend of thrust and nod does well to ensure High n’ Heavy remain unpredictable while also living up to the standard of their moniker. There’s potential here that’s worth further exploration on the part of the band.

High n’ Heavy on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website


Warlung, Immortal Portal

Warlung Immortal Portal

Houston, Texas, four-piece make a quick case for the attention of Ripple Music on their sophomore outing, Immortal Portal, which is slickly-but-not-too-slickly produced and sharply-but-not-too-sharply executed, a professional sensibility in “Black Horse Pike” and the subsequent “The Palm Reader” — which manages to be influenced melodically by Uncle Acid without sounding just like them — ahead of the ’80s metallurgy of “Heart of a Sinner” and the reference-packed “1970.” “We All Die in the End” gives an uptempo swing to the opening salvo ahead of the more brooding “Between the Dark and the Light,” but Warlung hold firm to clearly-presented melodies and riff-led rhythms no matter where they seem to go in mood or otherwise. That ties the drift of the later “Heavy Echoes” to the earlier material and makes the harmony-laced “No Son of Mine” and the organ-ic proggy sprawling finale “Coal Minors” all the more effective in reaching beyond where the album started, so that the listener winds up in a different landscape than they started, still grounded, but changed nonetheless.

Warlung on Thee Facebooks

Warlung on Bandcamp


Rogue Conjurer, Of the Goddess / Crystal Mountain Lives

rogue conjurer of the goddess

Originally released digitally by the Baltimore-based unit in 2017, the two-songer Of the Goddess / Crystal Mountain Lives sees pressing as an ultra-limited tape via Damien Records and finds the three-piece of guitarist/bassist/vocalist Tonie Joy, drummer Colin Seven and organist Donny Van Zandt — since replaced by Trevor Shipley — honing a psychedelic take on doomly riffs and groove. “Crystal Mountain Lives” has a more distinct nod to its central progression, with a wah-drenched break and greater overall largesse of fuzz, but “Of the Goddess” brings an effective almost shoegazing sense to its downer spirit. The first track is also longer, so it has more time to move from that initial impression to its own payoff, but either way you go, Rogue Conjurer bring out their dead ably on the tape, showing influences from heavy psych and beyond as “Of the Goddess” winds its way to its close and “Crystal Mountain Lives” begins its fade-in all over again. No pretense, but a broad range that would allow for some if they wanted.

Rogue Conjurer on Instagram

Damien Records on Bandcamp


Monovine, D.Y.E

monovine dye

Athens heavy rockers Monovine wear their grunge influence proudly on their third full-length, D.Y.E, issued late in 2018 digitally with an early 2019 vinyl release. It’s writ large in the Nirvana-ism of the slurring “Mellow” at the outset and remains a factor through the melodies of “Void” and the later punkery of “Messed Up” or “Ring a Bell,” as well as the toying-with-pop “Me (Raphe Nuclei)” and “Your Figure Smells,” but where Monovine succeed in making that influence their own is by filtering it through a fuzzier presentation. The guitar and bass tones keep a modern heavy feel, and as the drums roll and crash through songs like “For a Sun” and “Why Don’t You Shoot Me in the Head,” that makes a difference in the overall impression the album leaves. Still, there’s little question as to their central point of inspiration, and they bring it out in homage and as a fairly honed mode of expression on closer “Haunt,” which teases an explosion in its melancholy strum and then… well, don’t let me spoil it.

Monovine on Thee Facebooks

Monovine on Bandcamp


Un & Coltsblood, Split

un coltsblood split

A festering 42 minutes of lurching agonies, Un and Coltsblood‘s split taps the best of modern death-doom’s emotionalism and bent toward extremity. Billed as a “tribute to grief: the final act of love,” it brings just two tracks, one per band, as Coltsblood open with “Snows of the Winter Realm” and Un follow with “Every Fear Illuminated.” Both bands proffer a terrifyingly weighted plod and offset it with a spacious ambience, whether it’s Un departing their grueling nod after about six and a half minutes only to build back up over the next six and grow more ferocious until devolving into noise and slamming crashes ahead of an outro of echoing, needs-a-tune-sounding piano, or Coltsblood fostering their own tonal brutalism and casting their lot with death and black metal while a current of airy guitar seems to mourn the song even as it plays out. Each cut is a monument built to loss, and their purpose in conveying that theme is both what unites them and what makes their work so ultimately consuming, as grief is.

Un on Thee Facebooks

Coltsblood on Thee Facebooks


La Grande Armée, La Grande Armée

La Grande Armée La Grande Armée

The blend of drifting guitar and psychedelic wash on opener “El Canto de las Ballenas” earns La Grande Armée‘s self-titled debut three-song EP immediate favor, and the patient execution they bring to the subsequent “Tripa Intergaláctica” and “Normandía,” particularly the latter, only furthers that appeal. The Chilean trio keep a decidedly natural feel to the exploratory-seeming work, and if this is them finding their sound, they seem happy to do it by losing themselves in their jams. All the better someone thought to press record, since although there’s clearly some trajectory behind the progression of songs — i.e., they know at least to a degree where they want to end up — the process of getting there comes across as spontaneous. Guitar pans channels as bass and drums hold down languid flow, and even in the more active midsection of “Tripa Intergaláctica,” La Grande Armée there’s a sense that it’s more about the space being created than the construction under way. In any case, wherever they want to head next, they would seem to have the means of travel at their disposal.

La Grande Armée on Thee Facebooks

La Grande Armée on Bandcamp


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High n’ Heavy Sign to Electric Valley Records; New Album in 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I think we’ve hit the stage of the year when most of the new album announcements will either be for the tail end of November or for next year. Massachusetts’ moniker-as-aesthetic heavy rockers High n’ Heavy have their fourth album in post-production now — presumably that means mixing/mastering, not CGI — and they’ve signed to Electric Valley Records for the release, but I’d be really surprised if it showed up before the end of the year. Nobody wants to do releases in December — traditionally, the music industry goes home for the holidays — and if the record’s not pressed yet because it’s not completely finished, then yeah, let’s say 2019. Pretty impressive however that even so, it’ll be the band’s fourth album in five years when it comes out. The other three, including the latest, which is 2017’s From the Flames, are all name-your-price on Bandcamp.

The label sent the following down the PR wire:

high n heavy

Electric Valley Records is proud to announce the signing of the Stoner Doom band *** HIGH N’ HEAVY ***

High n’ Heavy are a four piece instrument of destruction out of New Bedford, Massachusetts. Formed in late 2014 with The Stooges, Black Sabbath, and Motörhead in mind; their sound has evolved to perfectly embody all of their influences. Mostly playing shows in their native New England, High n’ Heavy has been gathering a following with their electrifying musicianship and high energy live sets.

From the depths of space they came. One by one. From out of the skies they fell. Now, with the magic they possess, they melt the faces of earths people. With thunderous drums, booming bass, screaming guitar solos, and mystical vocals they are… HIGH N’ HEAVY!!!

Their first 3 albums have shown the band to be at home playing everything from the most brutal of doom to the dirtiest of rock n’ roll. With their fourth already in post production, High n’ Heavy are guaranteed to melt faces and break hearts.

High n’ Heavy, From the Flames (2017)

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Live Review: Kind in Massachusetts, 02.28.15

Posted in Reviews on March 2nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

kind 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve only been to No Problemo twice, but my understanding of how it goes is as follows: The taqueria closes, tables are moved, a P.A. is positioned, lights are turned off, a show happens. Somewhere in there, Roadsaw/White Dynomite bassist Tim Catz arrives. Killer tunes over the speaker, two bands on the bill, you’ll no complaints from me. It’s a laid back vibe, and yeah, the gigs don’t exactly start “on time,” but with just two bands and a free show, I’m not about to argue. Last time I was there, Kind also played, as part of an early October 2014 weekender with The Golden Grass from Brooklyn (review here), so their set this past Saturday accompanied by local bruisers Gaskill has something of a Kind (Photo by JJ Koczan)follow-up feel to it, if only because they were in pretty much the exact place I saw them five months ago.

And what a difference five months can make! This was my third time seeing Kind overall, and in roughly half a year’s time, the four-piece of vocalist Craig Riggs (also Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (also Black PyramidBlackwolfgoat, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (also Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (also Elder) have gone from amorphous psych jams to, well, songs constructed out of amorphous heavy psych jams. Admittedly, the vibe’s still pretty open, but Kind‘s material has continued solidifying, and like the last two times I caught them, Saturday night provided an encouraging update of the work in progress. They had a setlist and everything!

That’s not nothing, considering it puts Kind that much closer tokind 3 (Photo by JJ Koczan) making their studio debut, which last I heard was due later this year. Now, Elder are touring in support of their just-released Lore (review here), Black Pyramid are heading to Europe in Spring and have a new 7″ on the way, White Dynomite are supposed to have a release out sooner or later on Ripple Music and Rozamov are headed West in May to play Psycho California, so exactly when Kind might have the time to put together an album is beyond me, but everything I’ve seen them play — from a liquefied effects barrage back in August to the big-riff ending of “German for Lucy” this past weekend — has made me hope they get to it at some point. As much as they’re predestined to be considered one of those bands comprised of dudes from other bands, Kind‘s musical personality differs from anything its component players’ other groups offer. Using a wah pedal and vocal processor, Riggs turns his voice into a melodic drone after verses and choruses give way to exploratory jams, and the mesh between ShepardCorino and Couto is palpablekind 5 (Photo by JJ Koczan) as they telegraph changes across the stage. Or in the case of No Problemo on Saturday, from where table six might be to where table eight was.

What’s become the core of their sound seems to be that blend between more straightforward parts — an indelible instinct for songwriting — and washes of noise. The end of the four-song set, “Angry Undertaker” found Shepard shredding away in a Dave Chandler-style free-for-all, detuning and resting his guitar against a Marshall cabinet that I’m pretty sure was Gaskill‘s while hand-stomping pedals from his knees before setting up a loop and taking a seat at the bench along the wall of the room. Behind his and Riggs‘ feedback and noise, Couto and Corino held down a fervent groove, gradually deconstructed but never totally unhinged. Between the former’s swing and the latter’s heft of tone, the foundation didn’t need much upkeep.

There were six songs on the setlist, and I’m sorry to say that “Pastrami Blaster” wasn’t aired, but along with “Angry Undertaker” and “German for Lucy,” opening duo “Grogan” and “Hordeolum” — which if I’m not mistaken kind 4 (Photo by JJ Koczan)I’ve heard parts of before, albeit in a different context — helped establish Kind‘s vibe that the band would soon, and gleefully, tear into pieces. Since the root of the band is in jamming, Shepard bridging the gap between his experiments in Blackwolfgoat and more heavy rock-minded projects, it’s welcome to see that side persist even as songs take definitive shape. The chaos they create suits them, and I doubt this will be the last time I remark on their growth as a band. Was good to check in. Hope to do so again soon.

Kind on Thee Facebooks

No Problemo Taqueria

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Live Review: The Golden Grass and Kind in Massachusetts, 10.03.14

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

The Golden Grass (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Last time I was in New Bedford — also, incidentally, the first time I was there — was to see William Shatner‘s one-man show over the winter. This would be a different trip. No Problemo is a bar/taqueria that puts on two-band gigs on the regular. They clear out tables on the restaurant side and bands set up in the corner in dim restaurant light, playing through a P.A. set up for the occasion that at least on this night was mostly loud enough to match wits with the bands’ amps. Elder has played there a handful of times as I understand it, and on a chilly, autumnal Friday night, it was Boston’s Kind and Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass kicking off a two-show weekender that would continue/conclude the next night at Brooklyn’s The Acheron. A late start for a cool bill, but good times all around as IKind. (Photo by JJ Koczan) think both bands surprised the assembled crowd.

Down the block, this or that pub punched out digital wub-wub as Kind loaded in gear to set up and get the show started. Notable immediately for the pedigree of their lineup — vocalist Craig Riggs of Roadsaw, the ubiquitous Darryl Shepard of The ScimitarBlackwolfgoatMilligram, etc., etc. on guitar, bassist Tom Corino of Rozamov and drummer Matt Couto of Elder — Kind as their own entity were somewhat different than when I last encountered them at Ralph’s in Worcester (review here). Part of that, no doubt, is owed to the difference of the two rooms themselves, but even from one show to the next, it was easy enough to hear their material solidifying, song processes emerging. They’re still just getting going, but Corino and Couto locked in dense grooves as Shepard, looping his riffs in a sort of bridge between Blackwolfgoat‘s experimental prog/drone and more straightforward songcraft, signaled changes in their weighted jams.

I was reminded of the Kyuss flavor I’d gotten from them last time, though what came across more was the chemistry takingKind (Photo by JJ Koczan) shape among the four players. Riggs and Shepard have been playing in bands a lot longer than Corino and Couto, were bandmates during Roadsaw‘s original run in the ’90s, so to find them working well together is no great surprise, but like any group who decides they’re going to make music together, there’s a certain amount of getting to know each other creatively and on stage that has to happen before they can really be cohesive, and Kind are making their way smoothly through that process. A skull-consuming wash of effects and floor-rumbling low-end doesn’t seem to hurt their cause, or didn’t at No Problemo, anyway. There were times where Riggs‘ voice seemed swallowed up by the distortion around it — echoing reverb laced in only added to that feel — but that only added to the atmosphere of the set overall.

Once they started playing after a quick sound-check, it didn’t take long for The Golden Grass to reinforce why their self-titled debut (review here) had been the soundtrack to my summer. Outside, New England brimmed with cold it-rained-all-day wind and the looming threat of winter’s lockdown ahead, but with smiles on their faces as they ran through “Please Man” and “Stuck on a Mountain” from the album, it was like May all over again. I hadn’t seen the good-time-boogie bringersThe Golden Grass. (Photo by JJ Koczan) since before the record came out, and it was cold and rainy then too, but the months since only seemed to bring them tighter together. The material from the record — the two aforementioned, plus “One More Time,” the jammy “Wheels” and “Tornado” from their initial 7″ — they had down pat, guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney splitting vocal duties and making difficult harmonies sound easy, laughing at their own shuffle while bassist Joe Noval, who won the “shirt of the night” prize uncontested, seemed to pepper in extra fills that built even on what appeared on the album. Accessible to the point of friendliness, they clearly worked hard to project the positive mood in their stage presence as much as in the songs themselves.

Two new cuts were aired, first “The Pilgrim” and then “A Curious Case,” which closed the set. Both are taken from a new 7″ to be released by Svart to coincide with their first European tour next month. “The Pilgrim” started out with a drum jam for which both Rafalowich and Noval took up tambourines and started off slower only to pick up for a motor-groove solo section that went well coming out of and going back into the hook, and I’d be surprised if “A Curious Case” didn’tThe Golden Grass. (Photo by JJ Koczan) wind up on their second album, with its sunshiny ’70s rock vibe and steady mid-paced roll. I’m interested to hear if they mess around with tempo a little more in their next batch of songs, if they can add some speed to that boogie and still keep it smiling, but both “A Curious Case” and “The Pilgrim” augured well for where The Golden Grass might be headed. Having never heard either song before, I left the show with the former stuck in my head, which is never a bad sign.

I know they played with Ancient Sky in Brooklyn, but even just with the two bands, I was glad I showed up for this one. Not much light for extra photos, there are a couple of The Golden Grass after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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Duuude, Tapes! Keefshovel, Demo ’13

Posted in Duuude, Tapes! on March 28th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

When drummer Matt Couto handed me what I was told was the last remaining copy of Keefshovel‘s demo tape from Nomadic Behavior Records the other night, Ichabod frontman John Fadden, who was standing nearby, succinctly (and jokingly) asked, ” A demo tape? What the fuck is this? 1983?” That’s pretty much the root critique of the “tape revival” as a whole. Unlike vinyl, which enjoyed some level of reverence even as CDs came up in the ’80s and ’90s and digital media took hold in the late ’90s and 2000s, tapes were left to the stuff of homegrown noisemakers. Their central usefulness — that is, the ability to be recorded on and recorded over — was undone by CD-Rs and file trading. Romanticism for analog warmth and nostalgia aside, there’s little a tape can offer beyond physical presence that I can’t get from a zip file. It seems a reasonable argument to make that tapes went further away than vinyl did because other formats offered the same appeal in a better form. Vinyl broke songs into sides and sounded better. CDs were later made recordable, and digital files were more convenient. You might as well put out an 8-track. It’s an understandable position.

Yet, in revisiting Keefshovel‘s three-song Demo ’13 (first reviewed here), the cassette does sound different, rougher, meaner than the digital version. Part of that is undoubtedly due to the stereo to which my tape deck is hooked up — call it a mid-fi — but whatever it is, the New Bedford sludgers’ rawness makes yet another case for the validity of tapes as a format. They’re cheap and they sound harsh. What part of that doesn’t work? The label on Keefshovel‘s tape is clearly a sticker, and mine has bends in it. The “demo tape” is a classic medium, and in a time when so much of the focus of aesthetic is on celebrating the past while updating its influence into a modern sphere — so many of the criticisms of tapes could also be made about vinyl as well, and that’s before you even get to bands recording analog, vintage sound and style, private presses, etc. — I guess I just don’t see how tapes are any different. They don’t offer vinyl’s clarity. Big deal. Listening to Keefshovel‘s mp3s again, I prefer the nastiness of “Christmas in Brockton” with the tape’s compression. It’s royal viciousness either way, and only gets more so when the vocals kick in on “A Seed in the Rough,” but as far as I’m concerned, the more format the merrier. At least they got to put it out.

I’ve gone through the tracks before — link above — so I’ll spare you that, but with the black and white art, one-sided J-card and already-gone availability, Keefshovel‘s Demo ’13 taps into a valid and elsewhere-honored tradition that shows itself as vital simply through the reaction its existence can provoke on both ends. Put into two sides, “Christmas in Brockton” and “A Seed in the Rough” face off well with the 10-minute “Germ,” and while I don’t know what the future holds for the band, they were able to situate these three songs in an established modus that, while the continued subject of discussion in itself, has obviously stood the test of time. I’m happy to have gotten a copy.

Keefshovel, Demo ’13

Nomadic Behavior Records on Thee Facebooks

Keefshovel on Thee Facebooks

Keefshovel on Bandcamp

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On the Radar: Keefshovel

Posted in On the Radar on September 11th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

I had the luxury of experiencing Keefshovel‘s classic dual-guitar sludge live before hearing it in studio form. That night a couple weeks back at P.A.’s Lounge in scenic Somerville (review here) found them raw but with a sense of knowing what they wanted to do, the specific kind of abrasion they wanted to interlace with their riffs, where and when to feedback, where and when to crush. They were not at all in a position yet to innovate, but they seemed to have long since gotten underway with the project of establishing their sound. It was equally impressive in volume and intensity.

The digital release of their first demo, simple titled Demo ’13, arrives in much the same spirit. Comprised of three tracks clocking in at just over 23 minutes, it’s full of vicious plod and rumbling heft, beginning with the instrumental opener “Christmas in Brockton.” I’ll confess I was a little disappointed when I listened for the first time and found it wasn’t a reworking of “Christmas in Heaven” from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, but my concerns were soon vaporized by the actual thrust of the track, which hammers slow-chug riffing without sounding hackneyed or redundant. Drumming from Matt Couto (also of Elder) goes a long way in propelling the apex of the opener — even on the recording, he sounds like he’s hitting hard — but it’s the band as a whole that provides the appeal, and that carries through to “A Seed in the Rough” and the extended “Germ” as well.

Both of the latter two feature vocals, which first arrive following an intro build in “A Seed in the Rough” as layers of caustic screams. But for the pace, which is a crawl, my mind immediately went to Swarm of the Lotus in terms of sonic likeness, a layer of cleaner shouts worked in with the screams as stop-start bombast seems to bring down walls all around. “A Seed in the Rough” comes close to seven minutes long and finds at its midpoint a quick guitar lead that seems to signify some interest in future solo chicanery, but the pummel soon continues unabated, a slowdown and massive chugging giving way to further crash and nod as the cacophony reaches its boiling point.

When Keefshovel have driven “A Seed in the Rough” as deep into the skull of their audience as it will go, they make a switch to the 10:34 “Germ,” which works in a similar style but is even more fucked up. A more angular riff than that of “A Seed in the Rough” gives “Germ” another level of corrosiveness, though some emergent melodic interplay in the guitars hints, again, at potential stylistic complexity. “Germ” plays out as the nastiest of the three on Demo ’13, slowing further at four minutes in and dedicating the remainder of its time to playing fast and slower instrumental progressions off each other, lead notes tossed in to draw further interest.

I’d expect that as they continue to develop, Keefshovel will grow into their sludge more and provide an individualized take on the ideas they’re beginning to present here, but even so, these three tracks lack nothing for impact or viscosity. I’ll look forward to the next time I get to see them blast forth from a stage.

Keefshovel, Demo ’13 (2013)

Keefshovel on Bandcamp

Keefshovel on Thee Facebooks

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