Quarterly Review: Sandrider, Witchkiss, Satta Caveira, Apollo80, The Great Unwilling, Grusom, Träden, Orthodox, Disrule, Ozymandias

Posted in Reviews on December 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Good morning from the kitchen table. It’s a couple minutes before 4AM as I get this post started. I’ve got my coffee, my iced tea in the same cup I’ve been using for the last three days, and I’m ready to roll through the next 10 records in this massive, frankly silly, Quarterly Review. Yesterday went well enough and I’m three days into the total 10 and I don’t feel like my head is going to explode, so I’ll just say so far so good.

As ever, there’s a lot to get through, so I won’t delay. I hope you find something here you dig. I certainly have.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Sandrider, Armada

sandrider armada

Armada is the third full-length from Seattle noiseblasters Sandrider, and at this point I’m starting to wonder what it’s going to take for this band to get their due. Produced by Matt Bayles and released through Good to Die Records, the album is an absolute monster front to back. Scathing. Beastly. And yet the songs have character. It’s the trio’s first outing since 2015’s split with Kinski (review here) and follows 2013’s Godhead (review here) and 2011’s self-titled debut (review here) in melding the band’s West Coast noise superiority with a sense of melody and depth as the trio of guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski, bassist/vocalist Jesse Roberts, and omegadrummer Nat Damm course and wind their way through intense but varied material. “Banger” has been tapped for its grunge influence. Eh. Maybe in the riff, but who cares when there’s so much more going on with it? “Brambles” is out and out brutal but still has a hook, and cuts like “Industry” and the closing “Dogwater” remind of just how skilled Sandrider are at making that brutality fun. If the record was six minutes long and just had “Hollowed” on it, you’d still call it a win.

Sandrider on Thee Facebooks

Good to Die Records website

 

Witchkiss, The Austere Curtains of Our Eyes

witchkiss the austere curtains of our eyes

Goodness gracious. Cavernous echo accompanies the roars of guitarist Scott Prater that are offset by the more subdued melodies of drummer Amber Burns, but even in the most spacious reaches of 11-minute second cut “Blind Faith,” Witchkiss are fucking massive-sounding. Their debut album, The Austere Curtains of Our Eyes, presents an especially crushing take on ritualistic volume, sounding its catharsis in a song like “Spirits of the Dirt” and sounding natural as it trades between a rolling assault and the atmospheres of its quieter moments. With the departure since the recording of bassist Anthony DiBlasi, the New York-based outfit will invariably shift in dynamic somewhat coming out of this record, but with such an obvious clarity of mission, I honestly doubt their core approach will change all that much. A band doesn’t make a record like this without direct intention. They may evolve, and one hopes they do just because one always hopes for that, but this isn’t a band feeling their way through their first record. This is a band who know exactly the kind of ferocity they want to conjure, and who conjure it without regret.

Witchkiss on Thee Facebooks

Witchkiss on Bandcamp

 

Satta Caveira, MMI

Satta Caveira MMI

Argentinian instrumentalist trio Satta Caveira make a point of saying they recorded MMI, their second or third album depending on what you count, live in their home studio without edits or overdubs, click tracks or anything else. Clearly the intention then is to capture the raw spirit of the material as it’s happening. The eight songs that make up the unmanageable 62-minute listen of MMI — to be fair, 14 of those minutes are opener “Kundalini” and 23 are the sludge-into-jam-into-sludge riffer “T.H.C.” — are accordingly raw, but that in itself becomes a component of their aesthetic. Whether it’s the volume swell that seems to consume “Don Santos” in its second half, the funk of closer “Afrovoid” or the drift in “Kalifornia,” Satta Caveira manage to hone a sense of range amid all the naturalism, and with the gritty and more aggressive riffing of the title-track and the rush of the penultimate “Router,” their sound might actually work with a more elaborate production, but they’ve got a thing, it works well, and I’m not inclined to argue.

Satta Caveira on Thee Facebooks

Satta Caveira on Bandcamp

 

Apollo80, Lizard! Lizard! Lizard!

apollo 80 lizard lizard lizard

Vocalized only by spoken samples of astronauts, the thrice-exclamatory Lizard! Lizard! Lizard! is the debut EP from Perth, Australia, three-piece Apollo80, who are given mostly to exploring an outpouring of heavy molten vibes but still able to hone a bit of cacophony following the “godspeed, John Glenn” sample in second cut “FFH.” There are four songs on the 26-minute offering, and its spaciousness is brought to earth somewhat by the dirt in which the guitar and bass tones are caked, but it’s more the red dust of Mars than anything one might find kicking around a Terran desert. Unsurprisingly, the high point of the outing is the 10:46 title-track, where guitarist Luke, bassist Brano and drummer Shane push farthest into the cosmos — though that’s debatable with the interstellar drone of closer “Good Night” — but even in the impact of “Apollo” at the outset, there’s a feeling of low-oxygen in the atmosphere, and if you get lightheaded, that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

Apollo80 on Thee Facebooks

Apollo80 on Bandcamp

 

The Great Unwilling, EP

the great unwilling ep

The prevailing influence throughout the untitled debut EP from Minnesota’s The Great Unwilling is Queens of the Stone Age, but listening to the layer of wah intertwine with the solo on “Sanguine,” there’s more to their approach than just that, however dreamy the vocal melodies from guitarist Jesse Hoheisel might be. Hoheisel, bassist Joe Ulvi and Mark Messina present a clean four tracks and 20 minutes on their first outing, and for having been together for about 18 months, their songwriting seems to have a firm grasp on what they want to do. “If 3 was 7” rolls along at a heavy clip into an effectively drifting midsection and second half jam before returning to the initial riff, while “Current” leads off with a particularly Hommeian construction, and soon gives way to the flowing pace and apparent lyrical references of the aforementioned “Sanguine.” They finish with the dirtier tonality of “Apostasy” and cap with no more pretense than they started, bringing the short release to a close with a chorus that seems to finish with more to say. No doubt they’ll get there.

The Great Unwilling on Thee Facebooks

The Great Unwilling on Bandcamp

 

Grusom, II

grusom ii

A prominent current of organ alongside the guitars gives Grusom‘s aptly-titled second album on Kozmik Artifactz, II, a willfully classic feel, and even the lyrics of “Peace of Mind” play into that with the opening lines, “I always said I was born too late/This future is not for me,” but the presentation from the Svendborg six-piece isn’t actually all that retro-fied. Rather, the two guitars and organ work in tandem to showcase a modern take on those classic ideas, as the back and forth conversation between them in the extended jam of “Skeletons” demonstrates, and with a steady rhythmic foundation and soulful vocals overtop, Grusom‘s craft doesn’t need the superficial trappings of a ’70s influence to convey those roots in their sound. Songs like “Dead End Valley” and “Embers” have a bloozy swing as they head toward the melancholy closer “Cursed from Birth,” but even there, the proceedings are light on pretense and the atmosphere is more concerned with a natural vibe rather than pretending it’s half a century ago.

Grusom on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Träden, Träden

traden traden

Having originated as Träd Gräs och Stenar, the group now known as Träden is the product of a psychedelic legacy spanning generations. Founder Jakob Sjöholm has joined forces with Hanna Östergren of Hills, Reine Fiske of Dungen and Sigge Krantz of Archimedes Badkar to create a kind of supergroup of serenity, and their self-titled is blissful enough not only to life up to Träd Gräs och Stenar‘s cult status, but to capture one of its own. It’s gorgeous. Presumably the painting used on the cover is the cabin where it was recorded, and its eight tracks — sometimes mellow, sometimes more weighted, always hypnotic — are a naturalist blueprint that only make the world a better place. That sounds ridiculous, I know. But the truth is that for all the terrible, horrifying shit humanity does on a daily basis, to know that there are people on the planet making music like this with such a genuine spirit behind it is enough to instill a bit of hope for the species. This is what it’s all about. I couldn’t even make it through the Bandcamp stream without buying the CD. That never happens.

Träden on Thee Facebooks

Träden on Bandcamp

 

Orthodox, Krèas

orthodox kreas

Last year, Spanish experimentalists Orthodox released Supreme and turned their free-jazz meets low-doom into a 36-minute fracas of happening-right-now creativity. Krèas, a lone, 27-minute track with the core duo of bassist Marco Serrato and drummer Borja Díaz joined by saxophonist Achilleas Polychronidis, was recorded in the same session but somehow seems even more freaked-out. I mean, it’s gone. Gone to a degree that even the hepcats who claim to appreciate free-jazz on anything more than a theoretical level (that is, those who actually listen to it) will have their hair blown back. The rest of the universe? Well, they’ll probably continue on, blissfully unaware that Orthodox are out there smashing comets together like they are, but wow. Challenging the listener is one thing. Krèas is the stuff of dissertations. One only hopes Orthodox aren’t holding their breath waiting for humanity to catch up to what they’re doing, because, yeah, it’s gonna be a while.

Orthodox on Thee Facebooks

Alone Records webstore

 

Disrule, Sleep in Your Honour

Disrule Sleep in Your Honour

Danish bruisers Disrule run a brash gamut with their second album, Sleep in Your Honour (on Seeing Red). Leading off with the earworm hook of the title-track (premiered here), the album puts a charge into C.O.C.-style riffing and classic heavy rock, but shades of Clutch-y funk in “Going Wrong” and a lumbering bottom end in “Occult Razor” assure there’s no single angle from which they strike. “(Gotta Get Me Some) Control” elicits a blues-via-Sabbath vibe, but the drums seem to make sure Disrule are never really at rest, and so there’s a strong sense of momentum throughout the eight-song/29-minute EP, perhaps best emphasized by two-minute second cut “Death on My Mind,” which seems to throw elbows as it sprints past, though even shouted-chorus closer “Enter the Void” has an infectious energy about it. If you think something can’t be heavy and move, Disrule have a shove with your name on it.

Disrule on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

Ozymandias, Cake!

ozymandias cake

First clue that all is not what it seems? The artwork. Definitely not a picture of cake on the cover of Ozymandias‘ debut album, Cake!, and accordingly, things don’t take long before they get too weird. “Jelly Beans” hits on harshest Nirvana — before it goes into blastbeats. “Mason Jar” scathes out organ-laced doom and vicious screaming, before “Hangman” gets all danceable like “All Pigs Must Die” earlier in the record. The wacky quotient is high, and the keyboards do a lot to add to that, but one can’t really call “Doom I – The Daisies” or the later “Doom II – The Lilies” anything but progressive in the Devin Townsend-shenanigans-metal sense of the word, and as wild as some stretches of Cake! are, the trio from Linz, Austria, are never out of control, and they never give a sense that what they’re doing is an accident. They’re just working on their own stylistic level, and to a degree that’s almost scary considering it’s their first record. I won’t claim to know where they might be headed, but it seems likely they have a plan.

Ozymandias on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

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Shadow Witch Welcome New Drummer Scott Wadowski

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Hey, I like trivia as much as the next guy — assuming, that is, that the next guy isn’t really all that into trivia either — so here’s one for you. Shadow Witch‘s new drummer, Scott Wadowski, is listed below as having a 25-year history of recording and playing out. Cool. But enigmatic as they reliably are, Shadow Witch doesn’t go on to say what bands Wadowski‘s actually been in. Well, some cursory interwebular research produced the name Rumblehead as being a Connecticut-based act in the mid-’90s in which Wadowski was involved. I immediately of course looked for music but found none — that’s not to say it’s not out there somewhere, just that I didn’t find it — but I did stumble on an article from the Metro section of the New York Times from 1994 that talks about the band rehearsing in a self-storage facility. It’s got quotes from a bandmate of Wadowski‘s as well as Thurston Moore and Ian MacKaye. Check it out here.

Apropos of anything? Surely not, but Shadow Witch are nothing if not eclectic, and I know that if my band got a mention in the Times 24 years ago, I’d still have the article framed on a wall, so hey. I’ve heard, and had, way lamer claims to fame. Wadowski and his new cohorts in Shadow Witch will record a new album in 2019 to follow-up 2017’s Disciples of the Crow (review here). More on that, but probably not more trivia, as we get there.

The band’s announcement is short and sweet:

shadow witch

Scott Wadowski, a Central CT based power playing drummer, with over 25 years experience performing and recording in studio, playing in a wide range of styles including hard rock, metal, symphonic and progressive, and thrash.

Scott , known lovingly as Wad, is a Leo who likes long barefoot walks on beach…;)

SHADOW WITCH is:
David Pannullo (bass)
Scott Wadowski (drums)
Earl Walker Lundy (vocals, mellotron, samples)
Jeremy H. Hall (guitars)

https://www.facebook.com/shadowwitch.band/
https://shadowwitch.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SaltOfTheEarthRec/
www.saltoftheearthrecords.com

Shadow Witch, Disciples of the Crow (2017)

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King Buffalo Post “Cosmonaut” Video; Last Shows of 2018 This Week

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

king buffalo (Photo by Mike Turzanski)

Just a bit of gorgeousness to make your day better. Because it’s precisely the kind of nerd I am, I’ve already been thinking of where to place King Buffalo‘s second album, Longing to Be the Mountain (review here), on my year-end list. Hey, you know, the poll goes up this Friday on here, so I’m not actually that early. But they’re pretty high up, and the more I listen to the record, the more that number seems to climb. The record hits such a perfect balance of the ephemeral and the ethereal, a cosmic lushness and an earthy undertone of groove playing out across its wide-ranging but still cohesive span. It is vast and welcoming in equal measure. I’m not sure yet where it’ll finally end up, but yeah, it’ll be up there somewhere among the bigger covers when the list goes live next month.

They have two shows left this year — Albany and Boston — and I haven’t heard much about tour plans for 2019, but it’s easy to imagine something’s in the works. Europe, maybe? Another US run? Whatever it is, King Buffalo are pushing themselves into new territories in sound and presence with Longing to Be the Mountain, and clearly the mission is to share that with as many people as possible.

Like the song “Cosmonaut” itself, I’ll keep it relatively short and leave it there. Some more info and those show details follow the video, courtesy of the PR wire.

Enjoy:

King Buffalo, “Cosmonaut” official video

We wanted to thank everyone for their overwhelming support for our new record Longing to Be the Mountain! We’ve already well surpassed our expectations and it’s only been out just over a month. We’re completely DIY, so to see so many people sharing and spreading the word means everything to us. We’re currently planning tours for 2019 across North America, Europe and beyond, so we hope to see you all soon. Stay tuned friends.

We’ve SOLD OUT of both the Deluxe and Standard Edition Vinyl, so we’ve put up a 100 copies of the Tour Edition while we wait for a repress. Grab a copy or some other merch and show your support for King Buffalo!

We only have two more shows for the rest of 2018. Don’t miss them!

King Buffalo live:
11/29 Albany, NY @ The Low Beat
11/30 Boston, MA @ O Briens Pub

King Buffalo is:
Sean McVay – vocals, guitar, synth
Dan Reynolds – bass, synth
Scott Donaldson – drums

King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain (2018)

King Buffalo BigCartel store

King Buffalo website

King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks

King Buffalo on Twitter

King Buffalo on Instagram

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Thee Facebooks

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Orodruin Post Ruins of Eternity Cover Art; Set Feb. 2019 Release Date

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Hey, crazier things have happened, but to call a proper sophomore full-length from Rochester, New York, doom loyalists Orodruin long-awaited is underselling it. The former four-piece/now-trio will be past the 20-year mark when and if in fact their second album, Ruins of Eternity arrives in Feb. 2019, as guitarist John Gallo (also Blizaro, solo work, etc.) has newly reconfirmed. Their last EP, In Doom was issued in 2012 — one remembers getting a copy at Days of the Doomed II (review here) in Wisconsin that year — but their lone long-player to-date is 2003’s Epicurean Mass (discussed here), and that was 15 years ago.

They’ve been a well-kept secret in doom ever since, in 2004 issuing the collection Claw Tower …And Other Tales of Terror and sporadic other outings along the way but mostly playing periodic shows with other bands coming through or hitting fests like the aforementioned Days of the Doomed. Even that was some years ago at this point though, and I have to wonder what a new Orodruin might sound like 15-16 years after Epicurean Mass, just how much of the Paul Chain/Goblin influence from Gallo‘s solo work will have made its way into the proceedings, if any. And just the basic construction of it. More than a decade and a half later, if Ruins of Eternity is an hour long, you’d have to say that’s justified.

Well, we might find out in February. I wouldn’t mind. Shadow Kingdom Records, which is home also to Pale Divine and Iron Void among other choice trad doomers, has reportedly signed on to do the release, and fair enough. The band actually posted the cover a while back and said the record would be out in February, but I happened to catch Gallo putting it out again with the mini-update on the status you see below, so it’s good to keep track of where they’re at. Here’s the art and the quick word:

orodruin ruins of eternity new cover

“It is planned to be released February of 2019. Wrapping up vocals then mixing.”

Orodruin is:
Nick Tydelski : Guitar
Michael Puleo : Bass, Vocals, Drums
John Gallo : Other Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/orodruinofficialband/
www.shadowkingdomrecords.com
www.facebook.com/shadowkingdomrecords
https://shadowkingdomrecords.bandcamp.com/

Orodruin, Epicurean Mass (2003)

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Feature: King Buffalo Interview… Me…?

Posted in Features on October 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

king buffalo

Before we get to anything else, I want to say this: I am really, really, really uncomfortable with this whole idea.

I mean it. I’ve been kicking myself in the ass since it was brought up. King Buffalo are about to putout their second full-length, Longing to Be the Mountain (review here), on Oct. 12, and the record’s just great. 2018 has produced a glut of fascinating, exciting and kickass albums, but especially when it comes to potential lasting appeal, I’ll put King Buffalo up against any of them, including Sleep. Big words, I know, but I’m serious. At this point, I’ve been doing this long enough to know when a release is going to stick.

So it’s kind of a big deal. I didn’t get to do a track premiere for Longing to Be the Mountain or the album stream, which I assume will be on some cooler site with a wider reach next week. Okay. That happens to me all the time, and the truth is, King Buffalo neither owe me anything nor are exactly an unknown quantity around these parts. If you’ve been reading for any length of time, you might recall their early-2018 EP Repeater had a track stream with the review, and I hosted the premiere of their debut LP, Orion, when that came out in 2016. I’ve also covered them in live reviews, their 2016 digital live release Live at Wicked Squid Studios (review here), their 2015 split LP with Lé Betre (review here) and their 2014 demo (review here), and it goes back further than that if I felt like searching out more links. But I think I’ve made the point. In terms of reaching an audience, King Buffalo have “done” The Obelisk. They’re a known quantity, and with a record like Longing to Be the Mountain, which has the potential to catch ears not already familiar with the band, it deserves as much of a chance as possible to do that.

This interview, where drummer Scott Donaldson asks me questions and I answer instead of how it should be, which is the other way around, was not my idea. It wasn’t. Please know that. It was pitched to me and I was hemming and hawing on it until I spoke to my wonderful and brilliant wife, The Patient Mrs., and she told me in her sweet, diplomatic way to get over myself and do it. I did the latter, obviously not the former, and I still feel a little bit like my fragile writerly ego is being placated for the stream I didn’t get to do. I don’t deserve to be interviewed — least of all on this site! Jesus. It feels so self-indulgent. I’ve had a couple rare occasions where I’ve been fortunate enough to have someone want to talk to me about what I do, and that’s always massively appreciated, because absolutely, I’ll run my mouth (or at least my fingers on the keyboard) if you’ll let me. But to have to then post it myself? Oof.

That’s a bummer way to start a piece that’s actually pretty fun, with silly questions and silly answers and whatnot, but all I can do is be honest about where I’m coming from, and even after I did the interview and sent it back, the thought of putting it up on my own, here, has continued to feel weird and self-indulgent. They call me “important.” Cringe.

So I’ll throw The Patient Mrs. under the bus. It was her idea.

Thanks for reading. Here’s the Q&A, which I titled myself:

jj obelisk

Longing to Be Relevant: A Wrong-Sided Conversation with King Buffalo

So in an exciting twist, I (Scott from King Buffalo) have the privilege to interview one of the most important gentleman in the entire stoner, psych, and doom etc. community, Mr. Obelisk himself, JJ Koczan. If you don’t know JJ, then you’ve probably been listening to your Spice Girls cassette on repeat and should stop reading now. For everyone else, on to the interview……..

Besides “The Pecan,” what do you view as your greatest achievement?

The truest answer I can give you is my relationship with my wife. We’ve been together since I was 15 years old. It’ll be 21 years in about a week as I write this, and I’m so incredibly lucky to have her in my life. Through high school and college and into professional life, through grad school — which for her was about a decade-long process — and beyond, she’s this amazing, brilliant, beautiful person and she’s absolutely the core around which the rest of my existence revolves. To see her in a new way this past year as she’s become a mother to The Pecan has been even more astounding, but there was never a doubt in my mind she’d nail it, because that’s what she does. She’s kind and sincere, far more patient with me than I deserve, and she says things like, “I think you should go to Norway,” which is about as much as I could ever ask of a partner in life.

More to the point I think of what you’re asking, probably best of all as relates to The Obelisk is the fact that people tell me words I’ve written have mattered to them. Usually that’s in the form of, “Hey dude I found such and such band on your site thanks!” and I really dig that and feel incredibly fortunate for it, but every now and then someone actually says something about the writing itself and that means a lot to me because such a big part of that project is that the voice it all comes from is my voice. I’m writing like I speak. I interrupt myself all the time. I jump from thought to thought. I have run-on sentences. I think in repetitive lists, etc. When that touches somebody and they feel strongly enough about it to let me know, whether it’s an email or a note on social media or coming up to me at a show, that’s a pretty astounding feeling.

If you could go on tour with one band, during any time period, dead or alive, who would you choose?

I’ll give you two that could’ve actually happened. I had a chance to tour Australia and New Zealand with Kings Destroy and Radio Moscow a couple years ago and I couldn’t do it because I didn’t have the money. It’s someplace I’ve always dreamed of going and the KD guys are good friends and I’ve been on the road with them and Radio Moscow before, so it’s all a familiar group to be with, and I just couldn’t get the cash together for a flight. I’ve never made much money, and I have no savings or anything like that, so it just wasn’t an option. They got to meet the cats from Beastwars and to see Arc of Ascent — I’m a huge fan of Craig Williamson (also of Lamp of the Universe and Datura), so that would’ve been amazing — but it just didn’t happen. My understanding from the guys afterward was it was a pretty rough tour, but I still regret it. A lot. Just to go there, in that context.

A year or two later, there was a chance The Patient Mrs. was going to get a grant to go to Australia and do research — she’s a college professor — and it looked like a lock. I got in touch with the guys from Hotel Wrecking City Traders and they put together like this whole festival thing in Melbourne that I presented because I was going to be there and everything, and again, the trip fell through. I missed that show. It was put on because I was coming and I didn’t make it. Still stings.

When Lo-Pan played Roadburn a few years ago and they had Adrian Zambrano on guitar, there was some talk about me joining them on the road for a week or two in Europe after. I could hardly think of a more righteous opportunity, but again, money. That’s the reason I haven’t been to Desertfest in a half-decade, it’s the reason I missed SonicBlast Moledo in Portugal and Freak Valley in Germany this year, both of which I was invited to — see also: baby — but yeah. I don’t make any money from The Obelisk and it’s times like that where it really hits home.

What’s the worst band name you’ve ever heard?

Any of them that I’ve forgotten. There are a lot of generic stoner-band names out there, but I actually don’t mind that, because it’s part of a whole aesthetic. It’s like fuzz riffs, or kind of slower rolling grooves. It’s part of the thing. There are a couple shitty names out there — I got called a “whinny liberal” (sic) on Instagram once for saying Black Pussy was a shitty name. Since then, I’ve wanted to start a band called Whinny Liberal, but am restrained, as ever, by lack of both talent and time.

Marry, Fuck, Kill – Lemmy, David Bowie, Prince and why?

Fuck Prince. Obviously. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Plus he was like a Seventh Day Adventist or something, so he was probably a total freak in bed. Isn’t that how it always goes with fundamentalists? They don’t celebrate Xmas, but they’ll break out the sex-swing and make a holiday of any occasion?

Marry Bowie. If you’re getting married, you want stability, and Bowie and Iman stood the test of time.

Kill Lemmy. HOWEVER. After you kill him, you take his brain and put it in a cyborg Lemmy so he can live forever and still never quite reach the microphone on stage. Who keeps making those things so tall?

Who’s the most underrated singer / lyricist of all time?

Paul McCartney. He’s also the most overrated.

You’ve been tied to the railroad tracks by Boris Badenov, and there’s a train hurtling towards you. You’re surrounded by your music collection, and you’re able to break loose, but only have time to save 5 albums. What albums do you save?

I would certainly hope to be saved by Moose and Squirrel before the train hits, but if we’re talking my collection, I’d take mostly stuff that was gifts. I’ve got a signed Enslaved CD that was sent to me by Nuclear Blast because they weren’t getting a lot of press in the States at the time. That has sentimental value. I’ve got a bunch of Sabbath and Beatles bootlegs and a couple Type O Negative bootlegs that I bought decades ago that I’d save. I’d save the copy of Saint Vitus’ Lillie: F-65 that Season of Mist used my quote on the front-sticker for, I’d save whatever of the Man’s Ruin Records stuff I could grab, and I’d save the original copy of Alice in Chains’ Dirt I swiped from my older sister when I was like 10. I don’t know if that’s five or 50, but it’s some of the stuff I have that has value to me beyond whatever cash I may have paid for it.

Why do people say “cheese” before being photographed?

Traditionally I think because to say “cheese” stretches out the sides of the mouth and provides a natural smile. It’s not true, though. In my experience — and this may just be my own bitchy resting face — saying cheese draws the sides of the mouth downward, so you’re not smiling for the camera, you’re just looking like you’re having your face pulled. But who the hell smiles for a camera anyway when you can make a weird face or just be metal and scowl. That’s probably my preference.

A monkey is shot into space and comes back to earth with all the knowledge of the cosmos. He will only talk to you, and will allow you to ask one question. What is it?

Why bother? Fuck that selfish monkey. He should probably get a press conference together and start unraveling the mysteries of the universe to everyone instead of one question to my ass. You know what my one question would be? “Why are you such a prick that you’re unwilling to share this vast knowledge you’ve acquired?” Monkey should be too busy in a lab somewhere curing cancer and on the fucking senate floor saving democracy from imperial populism to answer my shitty question in the first place. “Hey monkey, how ‘bout those riffs, huh?”

A lot of websites, blogs, magazines and livejournals have come and gone since The Obelisk’s inception. What drives you to be able to continue on this journey?

Compulsion. I need it so much more than anyone else needs it that it’s laughable. I started The Obelisk after the magazine I worked for went under and I wanted to keep my contacts and I still had a stack of stuff to review and nowhere to put it. So my buddy Slevin put together a WordPress for me and I stumbled through learning how to use it. Since then, it’s consumed such a major portion of my identity that I don’t know what I’d do without it. I’m “JJ from The Obelisk” for so much of my day. At this point, it’s what I schedule my life around. I wake up at two or three in the morning to write before the baby gets up so I can get work in before I have to go be daddy, and if I don’t, I’m out of my mind the entire day. I have a very, very compulsive personality. It makes me a complete asshole in many situations, but it means that when I do something like this, I do it all the way. I’m dedicated to developing a critical aesthetic and all that, and I believe strongly in the music and whatever role I play in talking about it as I do, but the simple truth is I need it. It’s been long enough and it’s a big enough part of my life that I can’t really be who I am without it.

If you could form a supergroup out of any musicians from the past and present, who would you pick?

Nah, you never really know how a supergroup is going to work out, and I feel like if you pick a band with “stars” from other bands, often it’s ego-driven and kind of falls flat. I’ll just take my Shrinebuilder record and the Munchen Sessions from when Los Natas jammed with Stefan Koglek from Colour Haze and be happy with that.

Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?

Fun fact about me: I love peanut butter. You nailed this question. Peanut butter anything — I’m in. It’s the fastest way to my heart. These days I grind my own from dry roasted, unsalted peanuts — because I want to taste peanuts, not salt — and I usually stop the food processor before it’s all the way smoothed out. It’s not “crunchy” like in the Jif or Skippy sense, where there’s like half a nut just mysteriously inserted into otherwise smooth peanut butter, but if I can get it to where it’s got a bit of texture and still get the good oils out from the peanuts and bring out that flavor, I’m happy. I also recently started grinding almond butter as an alternative. Different process, takes longer, but also yields satisfying results.

You’re the smartest man alive, you’ve just built a machine that can travel through time and teleport you to any destination. Where do you go, and why?

I’d travel to a dimension outside of conventional hours and give myself more time to write

Then I’d go back to when I was like 15 and tell myself to go see Kyuss and White Zombie on tour together. And Sleep whenever.

Lastly, if you had to describe how awesome King Buffalo is in one word, what word would you choose?

As regards your new album, “breakthrough” is the single word that most comes to mind, but I think generally the forward step you’ve taken has been to make your sound more your own while also developing your songwriting, upping the level of presentation via production, and generally showcasing the lessons you’ve learned both from Orion and from the touring you’ve done since that record came out. These are some of the things I think can be most admirable from a band going from one LP to a follow-up. I knew you guys were onto something the first time I heard the demo, but Longing to Be the Mountain is a special album. You should be proud of it.

In all seriousness though, thank you so much for all you do JJ. Most outlets overlook upcoming bands. It’s because of your ears and fingers that I’ve been turned on to a lot of great music. I look forward to seeing who you find next. –Scott (The guy that hits stuff in KB)

In all seriousness, Scott, this feels weird and I’m not entirely comfortable talking about myself in this way on this site. It feels like a total ego trip and I’m not into it. But I’m doing it because it’s you, and because it’s King Buffalo and because when I told The Patient Mrs. about it and said I probably wasn’t going to do it, she said I should.

Alright, the baby’s waking up. I gotta go. Thanks for taking the time.

King Buffalo, Longing to be the Mountain (2018)

King Buffalo, “Quickening” official video

King Buffalo BigCartel store

King Buffalo website

King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks

King Buffalo on Twitter

King Buffalo on Instagram

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Thee Facebooks

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Kayo Dot Sign to Prophecy Productions; Playing Prophecy Fest in Brooklyn

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

As Prophecy Productions continues its ascent as a US-based entity, one can hardly argue with its selection of targets. The latest pickup from the German-expat imprint is New York’s post-everything avant garde troupe Kayo Dot. Led by founding frontman and principal crafter-of-whatnots Toby Driver, the band is now some 15 years removed from their 2003 debut, Choirs of the Eye — and thank you very much, that’s my “you are old” reminder for the day; gotta have at least one — and continue their commitment for fiercely progressive fare and a will toward experimentation with varying styles and sounds. Their latest album, 2016’s Plastic House on Base of Sky, came out in 2016.

Not sure whether this deal extends as well to Driver‘s solo output. He issued Madonnawhore last year, which collected a series of brooding and ambient tracks that would likewise be a fit on Kayo Dot‘s new label, but either way, Kayo Dot will be appearing at Prophecy Fest USA in Brooklyn this November, alongside 1476AlcestYear of the Cobra and others. Details on that are here.

And here’s the announcement of Kayo Dot signing, via the PR wire:

kayo dot

AVANT-GARDE POST-ROCK BAND KAYO DOT JOINS PROPHECY PRODUCTIONS

*BAND TO PERFORM AT “PROPHECY FEST USA” IN BROOKLYN, NY IN NOVEMBER*

The critically acclaimed New York based avant-garde post-rock band Kayo Dot has officially joined the roster of Prophecy Productions. The news comes in advance of the band’s upcoming performance at the inaugural 2-day Prophecy Fest USA in Brooklyn, NY at Knitting Factory on November 2nd. Tickets are available here: https://bit.ly/2M3SpgB

“I’m very happy and optimistic about working with Prophecy going forward. Forming a relationship with Prophecy and also becoming more closely connected with some of the major players in the European metal scene has brought up a lot of feelings that, although I haven’t engaged with in many years, still feel like home and family. We’re extremely excited to have this opportunity to bring our music to a wider audience and contribute to this universe in a positive, unique, and progressive way, and we thank Prophecy and everyone involved for believing in us, and we thank Jonathan at The Flenser for encouraging us to make this move.” – Toby Driver

The endlessly eclectic project, spearheaded by composer and producer Toby Driver, was formed in 2003 by the members of the legendary ethereal metal band, Maudlin of the Well, marking a giant, inspired evolutionary leap. Since then, Kayo Dot’s muse has shown its face through slow and massive cascades of guitars and violins, avant-garde jazz and fusion, post-rock, experimental metal and psychedelia – soaring and exploring through all facets of their music.

Kayo Dot’s members and collaborators come from a huge range of backgrounds; DIY punk kids to the most erudite conservatory-educated New York performing musicians. Frontman Toby Driver’s list of collaborators includes names like Randall Dunn (WITTR, Myrkur, Sunn 0))), Secret Chiefs 3 (Trey Spruance of Mr. Bungle), John Zorn, G. Stuart Dahlquist (Burning Witch, Asva), among many others. The diversity of collaborators feeds Kayo Dot’s ability to twist and turn, leaving a listener wanting more with no limits on how it will evolve, all the while creating sounds that are both timeless and contemporary.

http://www.kayodot.net/
https://www.instagram.com/kayodotofficial/
https://twitter.com/kayodotofficial
https://www.facebook.com/kayodot.official/
https://kayodot.bandcamp.com/
http://en.prophecy.de/

Kayo Dot, Plastic House on Base of Sky (2016)

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King Buffalo, Longing to be the Mountain: Storm with Eyes

Posted in Reviews on September 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

king buffalo longing to be the mountain

From the echoing sounds of birds that begin ‘Morning Song’ to the final drifting guitar lines of ‘Eye of the Storm,’ King Buffalo‘s Longing to be the Mountain is nothing less than a band taking their approach to a new level. The Rochester, New York, trio of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson teased this progression earlier this year with the Repeater EP (review here) and its sprawling title-track, but even that 13-minute opus didn’t quite give away the full reach of the second long-player to come. Now some five years removed from their 2013 demo (review here) and having also released a split with the defunct Lé Betre (review here) in 2015, the three-piece follow-up 2016’s Orion (review here), which was the best debut released that year, by taking a progressive step forward in songwriting and performance.

Longing to be the Mountain benefits from the time King Buffalo spent on tour not only in consideration of these factors, but in its very makeup — it was recorded with All Them Witches guitarist Ben McLeod producing (Grant Husselman engineered, McVay mixed, Bernie Matthews mastered), with whom King Buffalo have toured more than once, and its cover art is by Adrian Dexter, who is also known for his work with Elder, with whom King Buffalo are Euro-labelmates on Stickman Records as well as former tourmates. Even before one hits play and McVay‘s bluesy guitar sleeks its way into “Morning Song,” the value of experience shows itself, and in the graceful patience of the 10-minute opener, with McLeod‘s acoustic and McVay‘s electric layers intertwining, there’s a sense of serenity at the beginning of the six-song/42-minute journey that seems to last much longer in the best way possible, even as Reynolds adds further heft to the melody and Donaldson‘s bouncing hi-hat assures there’s a sense of motion to underscore all the methodical heavy psychedelia surrounding. It is a dynamic the first album more than teased, but which King Buffalo now deliver with earned confidence, and along with the memorable craft they show throughout the shorter, post-opening salvo of “Sun Shivers,” “Cosmonaut” and “Quickening,” and the breadth in the final pair of the title-track and the aforementioned “Eye of the Storm,” both of which also top 10 minutes in length, that chemistry between the three of them helps to make Longing to be the Mountain one of the best albums of 2018.

Each of the three longer-form cuts — that is, “Morning Song,” “Longing to be the Mountain” and “Eye of the Storm” — makes its way to a rousing payoff, but there are distinctions nonetheless in the personalities among them. “Morning Song” makes the turn somewhat drastically, with the guitars and drums dropping out to let Reynolds present the nodding groove on his own before the full band returns to surge forward. The title-track moves from its synth beginnings through a build of proggy noodling into a sort of pre-apex midsection before receding and pushing forth again in its eighth minute, while “Eye of the Storm” begins with immediate motion thanks to Donaldson‘s drumming and maintains that active feel through crunchier riffing in the first half that carries through a heavier jam into a final build and then the payoff that pulls back to let the album quietly make its way out led by the gotta-hear-it bassline. These subtle differences in structure belie the superficiality of Longing to be the Mountain having two modes of working — i.e. longer and shorter songs — and make it plain that the band are engaged not in the execution of one formula or another, but the exploration of varied ideas and modes of expression.

king buffalo (Photo by Mike Turzanski)

McVay‘s emergence as a frontman is notable for the performance he gives on guitar and vocals throughout, conveying emotion and poise alike on “Morning Song” and being no less at home riding the cascading riff of the subsequent “Sun Shivers” or giving a human presence to the psychedelic wash late in “Cosmonaut,” but the truth is Donaldson and Reynolds are no less crucial to the impact of the material, and even McLeod‘s acoustic guitar seems essential in “Cosmonaut” for providing an earthy underpinning to all of McVay‘s ethereal, floating tone. As the psych-via-grunge of that track gives way to “Quickening,” the band showcase a proggier style of composition, with a tense line of guitar and a resultant fluidity that comes across as something of an answer to All Them Witches‘ “Alabaster,” and give an especially hypnotic push en route to the album’s best stretch of lead guitar, singing out with a heightening melodic awareness and adding to the overarching impression of creative growth at hand. It’s quick perhaps in comparison to some of the stretches to come in the title-track and “Eye of the Storm,” but not at all to be discounted for its depth of songwriting. Again, a new level for King Buffalo.

And they back it up with two songs that, together, comprise nearly half the runtime of the album as a whole. “Longing to be the Mountain” makes a hook of the titular lyric, and expands the ideology of “Quickening” with an underlying rumble and spacious synth/keyboard added to not only provide an introduction, but to flesh out the dual-layer post-midpoint solo just ahead of a stop from which the band — McLeod included — pivot to the rhythm that will carry them through the crescendo and out, via fading feedback, to the more active start of “Eye of the Storm.” Its title delivered in the first verse, the closer feels more immediate, but with hints of vocal harmony from McVay and a gradual movement from one part to the next, there’s still an element of the patience of “Morning Song” and “Longing to be the Mountain” at work.

The double-payoff keeps it from being simply an afterthought following the title-track, and perhaps telling, the jam at the end — again, Reynolds‘ bass; yes — sounds more or less like it could keep going rather than wander into its fadeout as it does. I’m not sure I’d say that’s an intentional message saying there’s more to come, but it gets the point across either way that the evolution they’ve undertaken as a unit isn’t necessarily finished, and like Orion before it, Longing to be the Mountain is both a significant achievement on its own and a herald of what may yet be in store from King Buffalo. Whatever the future brings, for the smoothness of its flow between varied songs marked out by choice performances, for its deep-running sound and resonance of tone and emotionalism, and for the obvious heart that’s been poured into every second of its making, Longing to be the Mountain is a search that seems to find that what it’s looking for was there all along. It is a record that feels like home.

King Buffalo, Longing to be the Mountain (2018)

King Buffalo, “Quickening” official video

King Buffalo BigCartel store

King Buffalo website

King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks

King Buffalo on Twitter

King Buffalo on Instagram

Stickman Records website

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Shadow Witch Seeking Drummer; New Album to be Recorded

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Kind of an odd situation for Shadow Witch, but Shadow Witch are kind of an odd band, and that’s part of their appeal. The Kingston, New York, four-piece are getting ready to record the follow-up to their sophomore full-length, Disciples of the Crow (review here). They’ve given the new album the title Under the Shadow of a Witch, and they’ll record with drummer Doug “Beans” Thompson, but then after that, Thompson‘s leaving the band and they’re looking to bring someone else in.

So what Shadow Witch need is a drummer not to play on the album, but to pick up with live shows thereafter and, presumably, record with them next time around. If you’re a drummer, that gives you the chance to get to know the other guys in the band before rather than stepping into a situation where they have a bunch of completed songs and you have to catch up to them. It’ll require learning the material, but it would anyway. Like a lot of what Shadow Witch does, it makes a weird kind of sense.

Replacing Thompson in the lineup won’t be easy, but as fascinating a band as Shadow Witch are, especially live, I have no doubt they’d be able to find someone.

Here’s their announcement:

shadow witch

New York’s SHADOW WITCH are sadly on a search for a new drummer. Doug “BEANS” Thompson (MURPHY’S LAW, BROOKLYN) with whom the band recorded and toured their second release DISCIPLES OF THE CROW, is having to leave the band for personal/family reasons.

The band is currently working on their next release “UNDER THE SHADOW OF A WITCH,” an album singer/lyricist Earl Walker Lundy says was written during an intense and torrid affair.

“All the songs are thematically tied to love as witchcraft, with obsession, addiction and loss as the outcome. We’re recording the album with Doug, but are in need of a replacement of his caliber to follow up with touring, and to move forward with the band. It’s an enormous challenge.”

SHADOW WITCH is:
David Pannullo (bass)
Doug “Beans” Thompson (drums)
Earl Walker Lundy (vocals, mellotron, samples)
Jeremy H. Hall (guitars)

https://www.facebook.com/shadowwitch.band/
https://shadowwitch.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/SaltOfTheEarthRec/
www.saltoftheearthrecords.com

Shadow Witch, Disciples of the Crow (2017)

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