Review & Track Premiere: River Cult, Chilling Effect

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

river cult chilling effect

[Click play above to stream “Neo Dog” from River Cult’s Chilling Effect. Album is out May 1 through Nasoni Records (LP) and Tee Pee Records Annex (DL).]

River Cult feel like a band-in-waiting for the hype machine to take notice. They are as yet likewise underrated and loaded with potential. Chilling Effect is their second LP behind 2018’s righteous debut, Halcyon Daze (review here), and a well-received 2016 EP, and the three-piece use it as an opportunity to organically present a sound that spans decades as fluidly as it spans tracks. Uniting through an overarching loose and psych-prone tonality and vibe, they conceive a vision of heavy that’s adherent to a ’70s-style power trio ethic of putting the live performance to tape in as meaty fashion as possible, while 11-minute opening title-track and longest inclusion (immediate points) could hardly feel more modern, with guitarist Sean Forlenza offering a vocal pattern that calls to mind All Them Witches even as the massive jam that ensues sets the stage for the thickened, slowed Fu Manchu roll of “Left Hand Path,” the Nebula-esque strut through “Neo Dog” and the heavy psych instrumentalism of the penultimate “Red Return” ahead of “Fool’s Gold,” which rounds out with a surprising post-punk-goes-grunge shimmer.

Concerning their overall craft and range, they are likely a few years ahead of their time, but with the sure presence of groove from bassist Anthony Mendolia and drummer Tav Palumbo behind Forlenza‘s riffing and airier leads, there is never a misstep when it comes to transitions within and between the songs. This is true even as “Fool’s Gold” hits the brakes on its swirling solo and moves into a doomier slowdown before shifting back toward more molten fare and ultimately capping Chilling Effect not much with a scorching apex — which they’d be well within their rights to do, given the proceedings as a whole — but with an expanse of residual amp noise and hum, hypnotic in its drone, a lower-end echo and complement to the keyboard flourish that begins the outing in the title cut. One way or another, the name of the record would seem to be no coincidence.

So be it. If the measure of River Cult‘s sophomore full-length is to be the record’s ability to have an effect of the mood of the listener or at very least its own atmosphere in terms of how one might relate to it, then Chilling Effect can only be considered a success. At the same time, it’s hardly void of movement, even if one counts the most basic level of tempo alongside the shifts from one element of style to another. As “Chilling Effect” emerges from that initial keyboard line, it does so around a fuzzy groove that’s comfortably paced and makes a fitting bed for Forlenza‘s proclamations. A doubtful influence, but there’s some of the natural density that drove defunct North Carolinian acts like Caltrop and Black Skies in the aughts, picking up on a nascent heavy Americana that came to fruition in this past decade at the behest of other acts. River Cult never quite touch that line either, but in the wailing guitar and spoken lines that set up the solo as “Chilling Effect” oozes through its midsection, there’s a bluesy shade being drawn just the same.

river cult

In River Cult‘s hands, however, it becomes the foundation of the aforementioned jam, an instrumental outward motion that brings into emphasis the bolder ideology of putting the longest song first on the record — the safe thing to do would be otherwise. As it is, the feedback of “Chilling Effect” fades seamlessly into the creeping opening progression of “Left Hand Path,” which unveils its sludgy sleeze early and holds to it for the duration. Mendolia makes it a high point of low frequencies. Even as the noisy guitar solo arrives late and the drums pick up in kind, the bassline is a repetitive and hypnotic joy, giving further credence to the laid back delivery of the verses before. The rumble resumes after the solo and a cold stop brings to the digital version the arrival of “Neo Dog,” which is something of a departure in being about half as long as the shortest of what surrounds at just 3:11, but makes up for runtime in attitude and its alternating between swing and push, neither refusing to give ground as it winds to a stylized, stage-ready bop of a conclusion.

With that, River Cult put themselves to the task of pushing deeper and deeper into side B. Leads are layered in “Red Return” and the song forms around welcome returns to a drifting line of guitar, quiet and nodding all the more as it starts to meander in blues fashion after four minutes in, coming to a full stop before a snare snap from Palumbo brings the three-piece into a faster closing section, this one marked by a wash of noise that continues in abrasive fashion even after the drums and bass cut out as the guitar seems intent on breaking whatever manner of amplified conveyance it’s being run through.

The initial turn of “Fool’s Gold” is rightfully jarring coming out of that, but as River Cult shift into more densely-toned riffing — recalling the heft of “Left Hand Path” — they do so around a particularly Sleep-y progression, which soon gets translated into a floating lead that becomes the ground for the Forlenza‘s last solo, returning to guide the band through their final quiet stretch ahead of one more dose of mega-fuzz before the last 90 seconds or so drone into an oblivion that comes not with the long fade one might expect, but a sudden, cold finish that stands in defiance of much of Chilling Effect‘s chilling effect. Perhaps that’s the band’s way of shocking their audience out of the trance they’ve incited, but in any case, the prevailing sentiment throughout the 35-minute stretch is one that, even in its most thrillingly savage moments, exudes a casualness and a raw chemistry that can only help earn the attention River Cult are proving to be due.

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Days of Rona: Claudia Crespo of Ode to Doom

Posted in Features on April 1st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. — JJ Koczan

ode to doom claudia crespo

Days of Rona: Claudia Crespo of Ode to Doom (Manhattan, New York)

How are you dealing with this crisis? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is your health so far?

As the producer/promoter who runs Ode to Doom, I had to cancel our bi-monthly show in March, which obviously was necessary. Bands were getting nervous. I was getting nervous. I felt torn, because part of me wanted to keep the show going, for the venue, for myself, for the two bands that still wanted to play. As the days got closer to the show, I realized how serious the situation really was, so I did what I thought best and canceled. Two days later, the governor of NY officially closed down non-essential establishments and that was that. As of now, the next Ode will be on May 20th, but to be honest, that’s still up in the air.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

New York bars and venues are required by law to remain shut and so that’s pretty much it (until further notice). Only essential businesses are allowed to remain open, like grocery stores.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

I think the doom metal community has a way of sticking together through the tougher times, at least that’s what I’ve noticed, and this situation is no different. I feel a real sense of community despite shows being canceled. People are helping bands who have had to cancel tours due to the virus, they’re helping bands promote their merch, etc. It’s a difficult time indeed but I think we’re trying to do the best we can. I’m trying my best to take it one day at a time, that’s all you can really do. On a personal level, it’s definitely tested my sobriety but I’m managing. I do a little journaling and meditation everyday.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

To keep going one day at a time. That’s really all you can do. You’re not alone, we’re all in this together. One essential is connect with others, through FaceTime, through music, through sharing music, and remember to breathe. This will get better.

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Friday Full-Length: The Brought Low, Right on Time

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

They took my neighbor out last night on a stretcher. Ambulance, lights flashing. It was dark over here by then — maybe 8:30PM — so the walls started turning red and blue like we were having a rave of plague anxiety. Older lady. Maybe she fell. She did seem to have bad knees. I don’t know.

That’s what all the pandemic sci-fi literature/pop culture gets wrong. The waiting for what’s coming by those not on the frontlines. The not knowing. There are things happening so fast around us — but locked in our houses, what are we trying to do? We’re trying to clean. We’re doing laundry. The Patient Mrs. and I are trying to keep The Pecan entertained, decently fed. We’re constantly reading the news, quoting statistics at each other, but we’re also just trying to get through another day. We’re asking whether we want the diner or pizza for takeout. I’m grinding coffee for the morning. She’s working. I’m writing reviews.

Life.

You never hear about that waiting, or the worry that’s hiding behind the day-to-day. Consider Cormac McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic The Road. How cheap that story seems. They don’t even know what happened to collapse society. It was just gone and okay fine so off we go. Are you kidding me? Nothing in life happens like that. It happens like this. People start dying in numbers we can’t even conceive, so you know what? We don’t conceive them. We see them, we tell ourselves, “that’s awful,” and we make cookies. Those who have to go to work, do.

My sister got laid off yesterday from her corporate gig of long-standing. Sucks, of course, but she’s healthy, experienced and frighteningly competent, so I’m not worried for her. If she doesn’t get rehired to this job, she’ll get another as soon as there are jobs to get. With three million unemployment claims last week, obviously she’s not alone. Your bosses and your bosses’ bosses do not care if you live or die. That’s not their job.The Brought Low Right on Time

We don’t know how many people will get COVID-19. We don’t know how well sheltering in place will work. Maybe by August we’ll all be dancing madly backwards at Psycho Las Vegas, breathing hot desert air through our unaffected lungs and headbanging through our reborn appreciation for being alive. It’s impossible to know what’s coming.

The Brought Low, above, are comfort music for me. Right on Time came out through Small Stone in 2006, and the NYC trio were on top of their game. 14 years later, these songs continue to smoke, and the band — massively underrated — put out one record after it and continue to do periodic shows after a few years away. This was their second and I don’t know if they’ll make a fourth album, but I love these songs and so wanted to close out the week with them, even if I didn’t include the usual critique-style blah blah blah.

I reserve the right to do another Friday Full-Length with Right on Time at some point under more normal circumstances — because not only do I love it, but I think it holds up on the merits of its songs, performance and aesthetic; “Dear Ohio,” “A Better Life,” “Vernon Jackson,” “Shake Down,” “Blues for Cubby,” all of it — it just didn’t seem to work this week.

Not that much did. The wheels came off around Wednesday and I was never really able to get it going again. I made it through the Quarterly Review, but shit, Enslaved announced their new album title this week and I wasn’t even able to get that posted. It’d take me like 20 minutes, max, to put that together, and nope. Just didn’t have it in me, didn’t have time. It has been a difficult, difficult week. I’m sleeping a lot. Even this morning, I slept until 5:30. Tried to get up earlier and couldn’t. And I’ve been sleeping when The Pecan takes a nap, which is like two hours in the afternoon.

Hard days. We go for runs in the morning, he and I, and that seems to help him even out. But he misses doing things, clearly. Gymnastics class, swimming class, daycare. Quarantine has been tough on him, and he’s really just too young to understand what any of it means, so all he knows is he can’t even go see grandma’s dogs and he doesn’t know why. I feel for him, and I feel for The Patient Mrs., who of course is the force keeping the entire household together, as always. She is the center around which my universe spins.

Be healthy. Be smart. Do what you can to enjoy your days, to enjoy each other. If you have someone, hold them. If you’re alone, reach out to someone else. Even if it’s texting, that contact makes a difference. Hell, drop me a line. I’m around. Be well.

Back next week. It’s front-to-back packed.

FRM.

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Quarterly Review: The Cult of Dom Keller, Grandpa Jack, Woven Man, Charivari, Human Impact, Dryland, Brass Owl, Battle City, Astral Bodies, Satyrus

Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Ah, the Wednesday of a Quarterly Review. Always a special day in my mind. We hit and pass the halfway point today, and I like the fact that the marker is right in the middle of things, like that sign you pass in Pennsylvania on Rt. 80 that says, “this is the highest point east of the Mississippi,” or whatever it is. Just a kind of, “oh, by the way, in case you didn’t know, there’s this but you’re on your way somewhere else.” And so we are, en route to 50 reviews by Friday. Will we get there? Yeah, of course. I’ve done this like 100 times now, it’s not really in doubt. Sleeping, eating, living: these things are expendable. The Quarterly Review will get done. So let’s do it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

The Cult of Dom Keller, Ascend!

the cult of dom keller ascend

They’re not going quietly, that’s for sure. Except for when they are, at least. The Cult of Dom Keller send their listeners — and, it would seem, themselves — into the howling ether on the exclamatory-titular Ascend!, their fifth LP. Issued through Cardinal Fuzz and Little Cloud records it brings a bevvy of freakouts in psych-o-slabs like “I Hear the Messiah” and the early-arriving “Hello Hanging Rope” and the building-in-thickness “The Blood Donor Wants His Blood Back,” and the foreboding buzz of “We’re All Fucked (Up),” peppering in effective ambient interludes ahead of what might be some resolution in the closing “Jam for the Sun.” Or maybe that’s just narrative I’m putting to it. Does it matter? Does anything matter? And what is matter? And what is energy? And is there a line between the two or are we all just playing pretend at existence like I-think-therefore-I-am might actually hold water in a universe bigger than our own pea-sized brains. Where do we go from here? Or maybe it’s just the going and not the where? Okay.

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Cardinal Fuzz on Bandcamp

Little Cloud Records on Bandcamp

 

Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie

Grandpa Jack Trash Can Boogie

Brooklynite trio Grandpa Jack are working toward mastery of the thickened midtempo groove on their second EP, Trash Can Boogie. Led by guitarist/vocalist Johnny Strom with backing shouts from drummer Matt C. White and a suitable flow provided by bassist Jared Schapker, the band present a classic-tinged four tracks, showing some jammier psych range in the 7:47 second cut “Untold” but never straying too far from the next hook, as opener “Ride On, Right On” and the almost-proto-metal “Imitation” show. Finishing with “Curmudgeon,” Grandpa Jack ride a fine line between modern fuzz, ’90s melody and ’70s groove idolatry, and part of the fun is trying to figure out which side they’re on at any given point and which side they’ll want to ultimately end up on, or if they’ll decide at all. They have one LP under their collective belt already. I’d be surprised if their next one didn’t garner them more significant attention, let alone label backing, should they want it.

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Woven Man, Revelry (In Our Arms)

woven man revelry in our arms

There’s metal in the foundation of what Woven Man are doing on their 2019 debut, Revelry (In Our Arms). And there’s paganism. But they’re by no means “pagan metal” at least in the understood genre terms. The Welsh outfit — featuring guitarist Lee Roy Davies, formerly of Acrimony — cast out soundscapes in their vocal melodies and have no lack of tonal crunch at their disposal when they want it, but as eight-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) shows, they’re not going to be rigidly defined as one thing or another. One can hear C.O.C. in the riffs during their moments of sneer on “I am Mountain” or the centerpiece highlight “With Willow,” but they never quite embrace the shimmer outright Though they come right to the cusp of doing so on the subsequent “Makers Mark,” but closer “Of Land and Sky” revives a more aggressive push and sets them toward worshiping different idols. Psychedelic metal is a tough, nearly impossible, balance to pull off. I’m not entirely convinced it’s what Woven Man are going for on this first outing, but it’s where they might end up.

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Woven Man on Bandcamp

 

Charivari, Descent

charivari descent

Whether drifting mildly through the likes of drone-laden pieces “Down by the Water,” the CD-only title-track or “Alexandria” as they make their way toward the harsh bite at the end of the 11-minute closer “Scavengers of the Wind,” Bath, UK, heavy post-rockers Charivari hold a firm sense of presence and tonal fullness. They’re prone to a wash from leadoff “When Leviathan Dreams” onward, but it’s satisfying to course along with the four-piece for the duration of their journey. Rough spots? Oh, to be sure. “Aphotic” seethes with noisy force, and certainly the aforementioned ending is intended to jar, but that only makes a work like “Lotus Eater,” which ably balances Cure-esque initial lead lines with emergent distortion-crush, that much richer to behold. The moves they make are natural, unforced, and whether they’re trading back and forth in volume or fluidly, willfully losing themselves in a trance of effects, the organic and ethereal aspects of their sound never fail to come through in terms of melody even as a human presence is maintained on vocals. When “Down by the Water” hits its mark, it is positively encompassing. Headphones were built for this.

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Worst Bassist Records on Bandcamp

 

Human Impact, Human Impact

human impact human impact

Bit of a supergroup here, at least in the underrated-New-York-art-noise sphere of things. Vocals and riffy crunch provided by the masterful Chris Spencer (formerly of Unsane), while Cop Shoot Cop‘s Jim Coleman adds much-welcome electronic flourish, Swans/Xiu Xiu bassist Chris Pravdica provides low end and the well-if-he-can-handle-drumming-for-Swans-he-can-handle-anything Phil Puleo (also Cop Shoot Cop) grounds the rhythm. Presented through Ipecac, the four-piece’s declarative self-titled debut arrives through Ipecac very much as a combination of the elements of which it is comprised, but the atmosphere brought to the proceedings by Coleman set against Spencer‘s guitar isn’t to be understated. The two challenge each other in “E605” and the off-to-drone “Consequences” and the results are to everyone’s benefit, despite the underlying theme of planetary desolation. Whoops on that one, but at least we get the roiling chaos and artful noise of “This Dead Sea” out of it, and that’s not nothing. Predictable? In parts, but so was climate change if anyone would’ve fucking listened.

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Ipecac Recordings store

 

Dryland, Dances with Waves

dryland dances with waves

The nautically-themed follow-up to Bellingham, Washington, progressive heavy/noise/post-hardcore rockers Dryland‘s 2017 self-titled debut album, the four-song Dances with Waves EP finds the thoughtful and melodic riffers working alongside producer/engineer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, etc.) on a recording that loses none of its edge for its deft changes of rhythm and shifts in vocals. There’s some influence from Elder maybe in terms of the guitar on “No Celestial Hope” and the finale “Between the Testaments,” but by the time the seven-minute capper is done, it’s full-on Pacific Northwest noise crunch, crashing its waves of riffs and stomp against the shore of your eardrums in demand of as much volume as you’ll give it. Between those two, “Exalted Mystics” moves unsuspectingly through its first half and seems to delve into semi-emo-if-emo-was-about-sailing-and-death theatrics in its second, while “The Sound a Sword Adores” distills the alternating drive and sway down to its barest form, a slowdown later setting up the madness soon to arrive in “Between the Testaments.”

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Brass Owl, State of Mind

brass owl state of mind

Brass Owl foster on their self-released debut full-length, State of Mind, a brand of heavy rock that maintains a decidedly straightforward face while veering at the same time into influences from grunge, ’70s rock, the better end of ’80s metal and probably one or two current hard or heavy rock bands. You might catch a tinge of Five Horse Johnson-style blues on “No Filter – Stay Trendy” or the particularly barroom-ready “Jive Turkey,” which itself follows the funkier unfolding jam-into-shredfest of “The Legend of FUJIMO,” and the earlier “Hook, Line & Sinker” has trucker-rock all over it, but through it all, the defining aspect of the work is its absolute lack of pretense. These guys — there would seem to have been three when they recorded, there are two now; so it goes — aren’t trying to convince you of their intelligence, or their deep-running stylistic nuance. They’re not picking out riffs from obscure ’80s indie records or even ’70s private press LPs. They’re having a good time putting traditionalist-style rock songs together, messing around stylistically a bit, and they’ve got nine songs across 43 minutes ready to roll for anyone looking for that particular kind of company. If that’s you, great. If it ain’t, off you go to the next one.

Brass Owl website

Brass Owl on Bandcamp

 

Battle City, Press Start

Battle City Press Start

From even before you press play on Press Start, the 22-minute debut release from South Africa’s Battle City, the instrumental duo make their love of gaming readily apparent. Given that they went so far as to call one song “Ram Man” and that it seems just as likely as not that “Ignition” and “Ghost Dimension” are video game references as well, it’s notable that guitarist/bassist Stian “Lightning Fingers Van Tonder” Maritz and drummer Wayne “Thunder Flakes” Hendrikz didn’t succumb to the temptation of bringing any electronic sounds to the six-song offering. Even in “Ghost Dimension,” which is the closer and longest track by about three minutes, they keep it decidedly straightforward in terms of arrangements and resist any sort of chiptune elements, sticking purely to guitar, bass and drums. There’s a touch of the progressive to the leadoff title-track and to the soaring lead “Ignotion,” but Press Start does likewise in setting the band’s foundation in a steady course of heavy rock and metal, to the point that if you didn’t know they were gaming-inspired by looking at the cover art or the titles, there’d be little to indicate that’s where they were coming from. I wouldn’t count myself among them, but those clamoring for beeps and boops and other 8-bit nonsense will be surprised. For me, the riffs’ll do just fine, thanks.

Battle City on Thee Facebooks

Battle City on Bandcamp

 

Astral Bodies, Escape Death

Astral Bodies Escape Death

Spacious, varied and progressive without losing their heft either of tone or presence, Manchester, UK, trio Astral Bodies debut on Surviving Sounds with Escape Death, working mostly instrumentally — they do sneak some vocals into the penultimate “Pale Horse” — to affect an atmosphere of cosmic heavy that’s neither indebted to nor entirely separate from post-metal. Droning pieces like the introductory “Neptune,” or the joyous key-laced wash of the centerpiece “Orchidaeae,” or even “Pale Horse,” act as spacers between longer cuts, and they’re purposefully placed not to overdo symmetry so as to make Escape Death‘s deceptively-efficient 36-minute runtime predictable. It’s one more thing the three-piece do right, added to the sense of rawness that comes through in the guitar tone even as effects and synth seem to surround and provide a context that would be lush if it still weren’t essentially noise rock. Cosmic noise? The push of “Oumuamua” sure is, if anything might be. Classify it however you want — it’s fun when it’s difficult! — but it’s a striking record either way, and engages all the more as a first long-player.

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Satyrus, Rites

satyrus rites

Following its three-minute chanting intro, Satyrus let opener and longest track (immediate points) “Black Satyrus” unfold its cultish nod across an eight minutes that leads the way into the rest of their debut album, Rites, perhaps more suitably than the intro ever could. The building blocks that the Italian unit are working from are familiar enough — Black Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Electric Wizard, maybe even some Slayer in the faster soloing of second cut “Shovel” — but that doesn’t make the graveyard-dirt-covered fuzz of “Swirl” or the noisefest that ensues in “Stigma” or subsequent “Electric Funeral”-ist swing any less satisfying, or the dug-in chug of bookending nine-minute closer “Trailblazer.” Hell, if it’s a retread, at least they’re leaving footprints, and it’s not like Satyrus are trying to tell anyone they invented Tony Iommi‘s riff. It’s a mass by the converted for the converted. I’d ask nothing more of it than that and neither should you.

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Album Review: Insect Ark, The Vanishing

Posted in Reviews on March 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

insect ark the vanishing

At the core of Insect Ark is Brooklyn-based composer/multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter, who is and has been the driving force and the creative spearhead of the instrumentalist project since its inception circa 2011. Over the subsequent years and across now-three full-lengths — the latest, The Vanishing (on Profound Lore), was preceded by 2018’s Marrow Hymns (discussed here) and  2015’s Portal/Well (review here) — Schechter has brought to light a deeply progressive and at times decidedly grim vision of post-psychedelic heft. Her work has never sounded more encompassing than it does on The Vanishing, which comprises six songs and runs 41 minutes and was recorded in New York by Colin Marston (of Behold… the Arctopus! and others), and it takes a decisive forward step in expressive from where Schechter was even two years ago. There are a thousand wax-poetry ways to put it, but primarily, what it comes down to is that it’s different.

And well it should be. Where Portal/Well was a purely solo outing, Schechter — whose pedigree includes past and present stints in Swans as well as groups like M. Gira‘s Angels of Light, the underrated Bee and Flower, etc. — subsequently brought in drummer Ashley Spungin to facilitate touring. Spungin contributed to Marrow Hymns but has since been replaced by Andy Patterson (formerly of SubRosa, currently also in The Otolith and Døne), who plays a significant role in the form that the pieces throughout The Vanishing take. That is true when he’s there, as in the opener “Tectonic,” when a steady popping snare serves to underscore the low-end swell of Schechter‘s bass and the accompanying synthesized/effects noise and guitar, and when he’s not there, as in the keyboard-experimental cinema drone of “Swollen Sun” or the prior the wistful and minimalist slide guitar echoes that launch “Danube,” duly evocative of water running as they are. Rest assured, a roll takes hold in “Danube” as well, about halfway into its seven-minute stretch, but it is ultimately in the fluidity of its atmosphere that the presumed side B opener makes its bulk of its impact, and indeed, it’s atmosphere that is most central to Insect Ark‘s third album as a whole.

There are almost two levels on which The Vanishing is functioning at any given time, and in that way, “Tectonic” sets up the course of what’s to come well. At the forefront of the mix is guitar — pedal steel? sometimes maybe — and bass and drums. Even the cymbal washes that populate the open spaces of the 10-minute closing title-track are meant to be forward in their impact; they’re leading the way gradually and patiently through a noise-laden drone-out and back to a more cohesive post-metallic progression that builds to the final apex of the record — so it goes. But beneath those elements, there’s another, broader and more experimentalist path that The Vanishing takes, as Schechter weaves in various noises and effects, synth, maybe-keyboard and who the hell knows what else, and in those details and the stretches where the one plays out virtually on top of the other that this incarnation of Insect Ark seem to be establishing the root of their approach.

Insect Ark (Photo by Chris Carlone)

The narrative (blessings and peace upon it) has it that Schechter and Patterson put these songs together quickly ahead of touring with Oranssi Pazuzu last October, and if it’s the experience of playing them live that has helped them develop the multifaceted character they have, then the crashes and thuds and general crush of “Three Gates” would only seem to be better for it, even if one wouldn’t necessarily expect Insect Ark to follow a similar directive next time out. You’ll note that in three records, Schechter‘s approach and/or collaborations have yet to settle. Whether or not Patterson is a “permanent” member of her project — whatever logistical nightmares her being in New York and his being in Salt Lake City might inspire; the internet is a thing, but still — I have no idea. The only thing to go on is The Vanishing itself, and for the apparent lack of time they had to put them together, the songs they’ve constructed don’t sound anything near rushed either in how they’re built or how they’re played — “Three Gates” and “Philae” and certainly follow “Tectonic” with a tension of their own, but it’s meant to be there — but on the most basic terms, the only thing evident in the Schechter/Patterson creative partnership is potential. They are obviously working off each other’s strengths here.

That too might come from having put The Vanishing together after getting off tour, but it’s part of the album’s personality just the same and thus part of the band’s. That said, a casual listener taking on Insect Ark for the first time doesn’t necessarily need to know any of this. Who’s Dana Schechter? Who’s Andy Patterson? Who recorded? When? Where? Why? It is entirely possible to hear “Swollen Sun” or build of “Philae” and the repetitions of “Three Gates” and be wholly consumed by them purely on their merit as songs, and as The Vanishing only pushes farther out as its moves toward that last crescendo in the title-track — which, yes, ends cold enough to be vanishing suddenly; the root bassline still reminiscent of a “Stones From the Sky” moment even though it caps at the end of a measure rather than within one — it is only more immersive as it goes, and the abiding darkness of the atmosphere is unrelenting.

It is not a record so much of-a-place as of-a-non-place, and so its title seems fitting on that level as well, but it is inherently of the moment in which it was made, and so while it may vanish for at least as long as it takes to put it on again, it nonetheless gracefully presents the what may or may not be the beginning stages of a new phase for Insect Ark in terms of the general mission of the project. An key component of Schechter‘s work — and an appeal of it, frankly — to this point has been a lack of predictability for what might come next, and even should her collaboration with Patterson continue, the same applies. A third record might commonly be where a given band executes the closest realization to-date of what they intended at their founding. Insect Ark would seem to be the other kind of band, for whom the evolution is its own end. Whatever will or won’t follow, The Vanishing is an essential means to that end.

Insect Ark, The Vanishing (2020)

Insect Ark website

Insect Ark on Thee Facebooks

Insect Ark on Bandcamp

Profound Lore Records website

Profound Lore Records on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records on Bandcamp

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Heavy Psych Sounds Fest 2020 Announces New York Show for May 23

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

heavy psych sounds fest 2020 new york banner crop

Don’t act like you didn’t see it coming — and not just because they hate that in New York. Italian imprint Heavy Psych Sounds spread its Fest-y wings along the Pacific Coast last year pretty wide and pretty successfully, so yeah, an Eastern Seaboard date didn’t at all seem out of the question. And you’re doing East Coast, assuming you can get a venue, you’re probably doing NYC. Would I surprised if a Philly date followed or preceded? Nope, especially with High Reeper and Ruby the Hatchet on the bill here, as that’s where they’re based. But you know, one thing at a time. As if.

To be held at the Knitting Factory, the first Heavy Psych Sounds Fest in New York will take place May 23 with Ruby the Hatchet getting their due as headliners and playing alongside High ReeperGeezer — who’ll use the occasion to mark the release of their new album, Groovy — Gozu down from Boston and working their next record, and The Golden Grass, who I hear tell also have new material. If you can remember it afterward, it’s going to be a night to remember.

At some point — and I’m not necessarily looking forward to it — I’m going to have to start referring to Heavy Psych Sounds, which already hosts festivals in L.A. and San Francisco in California as well as in Paris, London, Antwerp and the Netherlands and Switzerland,  as a “Roman empire.” We’re getting close. Just to let you know. One more might do it.

Here’s info from the PR wire. Tickets on sale Friday:

heavy psych sounds fest 2020 new york

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST TO CONQUER NEW YORK IN MAY 2020

Due to the massive success and participation of the heavy rock scene with fans from all over Europe, HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS has just announced to expand and will be running the highly acclaimed FESTS also in NEW YORK on May 23rd !!

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST – NEW YORK
May 23rd, 2020

Brooklyn @ Knitting Factory

featuring
RUBY THE HATCHET
HIGH REEPER
GEEZER*
GOZU
THE GOLDEN GRASS

*Release party of the brand new album Groovy !!

TICKETS ON SALE FRIDAY 13th:
https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/fests.htm

heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com
www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/

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Desertfest NYC 2020 Makes First Lineup Announcement with Corrosion of Conformity, Conan, Stoned Jesus and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Desertfest New York 2020 has made its first lineup announcement, with Corrosion of Conformity, Stoned Jesus, Bongzilla, Dead Meadow, Conan, Crypt Trip, Yatra, Toke, Leather Lung, R.I.P., Huntsmen, High Reeper and The Atomic Bitchwax confirmed. That’s a first North American appearance for Stoned Jesus, and I’ll be honest, I was gonna show up anyway after being there for the inaugural Desertfest NYC this past Spring, but even if I wasn’t, that would be enough to get me on board. Throwing in C.O.C.Dead MeadowConan and The Atomic Bitchwax, along with Bongzilla and, well, everybody, is a righteous bonus. One way or another, you got me early with this one, Desertfest. The calendar was marked. I’ll mark it again just to be safe.

Early-bird tickets are gone, but regular-type tickets are on sale now.

Just off the PR wire:

DESERTFEST NEW YORK REVEALS FIRST ACTS FOR 2ND EDITION TAKING PLACE SEPTEMBER 2020

DESERTFEST NYC 2020 11th – 13th September 2020 | Brooklyn, NY, USA

– TICKETS NOW ON SALE –
http://www.desertfest.nyc

Desetrfest returns to Brooklyn in September 2020, after a wildly successful first edition in April 2019 the globally renowned stoner and doom event solidifies its position in the U.S.A. Adding an additional day at Bushwick venue, The Well from Friday 11th – Sunday 13th September, whilst moving its already cult status pre-party at Saint Vitus Bar to Thursday night. Early-birds have sold out already, but regular 3-day & 4-day passes are now on sale, as the first 13 bands are announced for the second celebration of underground heavy music.

Desertfest NYC is pleased to welcome genre defining legends CORROSION OF CONFORMITY to proceedings, the masters of Southern boogie will bring their signature stomp and impeccable live show to The Well in September 2020. After the recent loss of founding member Reed Mullin, we can’t wait to show C.O.C some serious Desertfest love.

Joining C.O.C across the weekend will be psychedelic stoners DEAD MEADOW, dreamy trips into a galaxy of guitar laden fuzz and the melodic drawl of frontman Jason Simon puts the band in a league of their own when it comes to genre-bending rock’n’roll.
Making the trip from further afield we are pleased to welcome long-time friends of the Desertfest clan, Liverpool’s most revered doom band of the modern age, the battle-hammer of CONAN will make a mighty blow upon New York with the uttermost ferocity. Britain seems like the town next door compared to the distant lands of Ukraine, where STONED JESUS will make the pilgrimage for their long-awaited American debut at DF NYC. Heavily regarded as one of the leading bands in the stoner/doom scene in Eastern Europe, the bands defiant anthem ‘I’m the Mountain’ is close to perfection in eyes, and ears, across the globe.

After their unfortunate tour cancellation in 2019, we are pleased to welcome back riff-centric power trio THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX for a high octane set of thunder-boogie. Some of our favourite people to get loose with, Wisconsin premier party-starters BONGZILLA will fire off a sativa induced bacchanal of sludge. Street-walkin’ sleaze demons R.I.P have honed a sound, look and attitude that is entirely their own and will make no apologies or explanations for how utterly crushing it is. Whatever’s in the water in North Carolina seems to cultivate some of our favourite sounds and you’re damn right in thinking that includes TOKE, old-school 70’s worship comes in the form of doom metal quartet HIGH REEPER – a band who repeatedly turn our heads with their unique take on breaking new ground. Speaking of new ground, Americana doom pioneers HUNTSMEN have grabbed our attention with their fresh take on metal, an exceptional blend of Springsteen-equse melodies with crushing heaviness makes an otherworldly combo. Finally, to round off this excellent first reveal, we’re pleased to play host to the superb, CRYPT TRIP, YATRA and LEATHER LUNG.

3-day passes (The Well only) and 4-day passes which includes access to the pre-party at Saint Vitus, are on sale NOW via THIS LINK

https://facebook.com/events/2433172340128497
https://www.ticketweb.com/event/desertfest-nyc-2020-the-well-tickets/10315455
https://facebook.com/Desertfestnyc/
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_nyc/
http://www.desertfest.nyc/

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Nerveshatter Release “Homecomings” Single; West Coast Dates this Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Three and a half minutes! Perfect for radio! Seriously, imagine that for a minute. I mean, just because I’m thinking about it, I’m going to hop on Nerveshatter‘s Bandcamp page and grab their new single and play it on the next edition of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio, but I mean signal FM broadcast radio. Imagine if actual, tune in, live DJs were playing this kind of thing. Imagine a whole commercial station based around something so weighted and purposefully abrasive. Imagine it thriving.

If you believe in the theory of infinite universes, where every action that’s ever been undertaken by a person, place or thing creates a new reality, that universe must exist somewhere. So does a universe wherein I express that idea more coherently. I wonder what those universes are like.

Nerveshatter head to Arizona and California later this month for a round of shows with Drainage, so the new single is timely, and they’ll be supporting Spotlights at Elsewhere in Brooklyn on Feb. 11. I haven’t been to Elsewhere yet, but it’s getting a lot of shows, so I kind of expect sooner or later I’ll make my way. Something new. Terrifying.

There’s also a universe where I don’t have anxiety issues.

See how fun that is?

Song is streaming below. Enjoy:

nerveshatter homecomings

NERVESHATTER – NEW SINGLE! Out NOW

We give you: “HOMECOMINGS”

Hear it, download it, and share it at Bandcamp NOW. Coming to all platforms soon. Recorded and mixed by Nerveshatter and Neil Cote in Somerville, NJ sometime in 2019. Mastered by Alan Douches at West West Side Music.

lyrics
Took a long road out of hell, man. Bled and sweat all sorrow out of me. Peace is just a passer-by, seems like only out of spite… Godhole, bottomless. Leopard spots, last forever. Changes are suffering. Time might heal, will not sever. Done it before, will again. Circle, pattern, what you will… Wishful thinking that is riddance, we can only trust the pain. I need not, yet go back. Needlepoint. Masochist.

http://nerveshattermusic.bandcamp.com/track/homecomings

To go along with this release we will be taking to the road. The first set will take place on our maiden voyage to the West Coast as a band:

01-30-2020 – Phoenix, AZ
01-31-2020 – Long Beach, CA
02-01-2020 – Chico, CA
02-02-2020 – Oakland, CA
All shows with: Drainage

Followed by:
02-11-2020 – Brooklyn, NY at Zone One at Elsewhere with: Spotlights and Semaphore

Nerveshatter is:
Richard Bukowski – guitars
Tim Haney – drums
Jonathan Cohn – bass
Jan Solo – vocals

https://www.facebook.com/nerveshattermusic
https://www.instagram.com/nerveshattermusic/
https://nerveshattermusic.bandcamp.com/

Nerveshatter, “Homecomings”

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