Quarterly Review: Steve Von Till, Cyttorak, Lambda, Dee Calhoun, Turtle Skull, Diuna, Tomorrow’s Rain, Mother Eel, Umbilichaos, Radar Men From the Moon

Posted in Reviews on October 5th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Oh hi there. It’s Quarterly Review time again, and you know what that means. 50 records between now and Friday — and I may or may not extend it through next Monday as well; I think I have enough of a backlog at this point to do so. It’s really just a question of how destroyed I am by writing about 10 different records every day this week. If past is prologue, that’s fairly well destroyed. But I’ve yet to do a Quarterly Review and regret it when it’s over, and like the last one, this roundup of 50 albums is pretty well curated, so it might even be fun to go through. There’s a thought. In any case, as always, I hope you find something you enjoy, and thank you for reading if you do or as much as you do.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough

steve von till no wilderness deep enough

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Steve Von Till on Thee Facebooks

Neurot Recordings on Bandcamp

 

Cyttorak, Simultaneous Invocation of Apocalyptic Harbingers

Cyttorak Simultaneous Invocation of Apocalyptic Harbingers

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Cyttorak on Thee Facebooks

Tor Johnson Records website

 

Lambda, Heliopolis

lambda heliopolis

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Lambda on Thee Facebooks

Lambda on Bandcamp

 

Dee Calhoun, Godless

dee calhoun godless

Following his 2016 debut, Rotgut (review here) and 2018’s Go to the Devil (review here), Godless is the third full-length from former Iron Man and current Spiral Grave frontman Dee Calhoun, and its considerable 63-minute runtime finds him working in multiple directions while keeping his underlying roots in acoustic-based heavy metal. Certainly “To My Boy” — and Rob Calhoun has appeared on his father’s releases before as well — has its basis in familial expression, but its pairing with “Spite Fuck” is somewhat curious. Meanwhile, “Hornswoggled” cleverly samples George W. Bush with a laugh track, and “Here Under Protest,” “The Greater Evil,” “Ebenezer” and “No Justice” seem to take a worldly view as well. Meanwhile again, “Godless,” “The Day Salvation Went Away” and “Prudes, Puritanicals and Puddles of Piss” make their perspective nothing if not plain for the listener, and the album ends with the two-minute kazoo-laced gag track “Here Comes the Bride: A Tale From Backwater.” So perhaps scattershot, but Godless is nonetheless Calhoun‘s most effective outing yet in terms of arrangements and craft, and shows him digging further into the singer-songwriter form than he has up to now, sounding more comfortable and confident in the process.

Dee Calhoun on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

Turtle Skull, Monoliths

Turtle Skull Monoliths

Melodic vocal lines weave together and float over alternately weighted and likewise ethereal guitars on Turtle Skull‘s second album, Monoliths. The percussion-inclusive (tambourine, congas, rain stick, etc.) Sydney-based heavy psychedelic outfit create an immersive wash that makes the eight-song/55-minute long-player consuming for the duration, and while there are moments of clarity to be found throughout — the steady snare taps of “Why Do You Ask?” for example — but the vast bulk of the LP is given to the overarching flow, which finds progressive/space-rock footing in the 11-plus minutes of finale “The Clock Strikes Forever” and is irresistibly consuming on the drifting wash of “Rabbit” or the lysergic grunge blowout of “Who Cares What You Think?,” which gives way to the choral drone of “Halcyon” gorgeously en route through the record’s back half. It’s not the highest profile heavy psych release of 2020, but neither is it to be overlooked for the languid stretch of “Leaves” at the outset or the fuzz-drenched roll in the penultimate “Apple of Your Eye.”

Turtle Skull on Thee Facebooks

Art as Catharsis on Bandcamp

Kozmik Artifactz website

 

Diuna, Golem

diuna golem

In some ways, the dichotomy of Diuna‘s 2019 sophomore full-length, Golem, is set by its first two tracks, the 24-second intro “Menu” and the seven-minute “Jarmark Cudów” that follows, each longer song throughout is prefaced by an introduction or interlude, varying in degrees of experimentation. That, however, doesn’t cover the outsider vibes the Polish trio bring to bear in those longer songs themselves, be it “Jarmark Cudów” devolving into a post-Life of Agony noise rock roll, or the thrust in “Frank Herbert” cut into starts and stops and shouting madness. Heavy rock, noise, sludge, post-this-or-that, it doesn’t matter by the end of the 12-track/44-minute release, because Diuna establish such firm control over the proceedings and make so clear the challenge to the listener to keep up that it’s only fun to try. It might take a couple listens to sink in, but the more attention one gives Golem, the more one is going to be rewarded in the end, and I don’t just mean in the off-kilter fuckery of closer “Pan Jezus Idzie Do Wojska.”

Diuna on Thee Facebooks

Diuna on Bandcamp

 

Tomorrow’s Rain, Hollow

tomorrows rain hollow

“Ambitious” doesn’t begin to cover it. With eight songs (plus a bonus track) and 11 listed guest musicians, the debut full-length, Hollow, from Tel Aviv-based death-doomers Tomorrow’s Rain seems to be setting its own standard in that regard. And quite a list it is, with the likes of Aaron Stainthorpe of My Dying Bride, Greg Mackintosh of Paradise Lost, Fernando Ribeiro of Moonspell, Mikko Kotamaki of Swallow the Sun, and so on, it is a who’s-who of melodic/gothic death-doom and the album lives up to the occasion in terms of the instrumental drama it presents. Some appear on one track, some on multiple tracks — Ribeiro and Kotamaki both feature on “Misery Rain” — and despite the constant shifts in personnel with only one of the eight tracks completely without an outside contributor, the core six-piece of Tomorrow’s Rain are still able to make an impression of their own that is bolstered and not necessarily overwhelmed by the extravagant company being kept throughout.

Tomorrow’s Rain on Thee Facebooks

AOP Records website

 

Mother Eel, Svalbard

mother eel svalbard

Mother Eel‘s take on sludge isn’t so much crushing as it is caustic. They’re plenty heavy, but their punishment isn’t just meted out through tonal weight being brought down on your head. It’s the noise. It’s the blown-out screams. It’s the harshness of the atmosphere in which the entirety of their debut album, Svalbard, resides. Five tracks, 33 minutes, zero forgiveness. One might be tempted to think of songs like “Erection of Pain” as nihilistic fuckall, but that seems incorrect. Nah, they mean it. Fuckall, yeah. But fuckall as ethos. Fuckall manifest. So it goes through “Alpha Woman” and “Listen to the Elderly for They Have Much to Teach,” which ends in a Primitive Man-ish static assault, and the lumbering finish “Not My Shade,” which assures that what began on “Sucking to Gain” half an hour earlier ends on the same anti-note: a disaffected malevolence writ into sheer sonic unkindness. There is little letup, even in the quiet introductions or transitions, so if you’re looking for mercy, don’t bother.

Mother Eel on Thee Facebooks

Mother Eel on Redbubble

 

Umbilichaos, Filled by Empty Spaces

Umbilichaos Filled by Empty Spaces

The four-song/39-minute atmospheric sludge long-player Filled by Empty Spaces is listed by Brazilian solo outfit Umbilichaos as being the third part of, “the Tetralogy of Loneliness.” If that’s the emotion being expressed in the noise-metal post-Godflesh chug-and-shout of “Filled by Empty Spaces Pt. 02,” then it is loneliness viscerally presented by founding principal and multi-instrumentalist Anna C. Chaos. The feel throughout the early going of the release is plodding and agonized in kind, but in “Filled by Empty Spaces Pt. 01” and “Filled by Empty Spaces Pt. 03” there is some element of grim, crusted-over psychedelia happening alongside the outright dirge-ism, though the latter ultimately wins out in the four-minute instrumental capper “Disintegration.” One way or the other, Chaos makes her point through raw tonality and overarching intensity of purpose, the compositions coming across simultaneously unhinged and dangerously under control. There are many kinds of heavy. Filled by Empty Spaces is a whole assortment of them.

Umbilichaos on Thee Facebooks

Sinewave website

 

Radar Men From the Moon, The Bestial Light

radar men from the moon the bestial light

Fueled by avant grunge/noise impulsion, Radar Men From the Moon‘s latest foray to Planet Whothefuckknows arrives in the eight-song/41-minute The Bestial Light, a record alternately engrossing and off-putting, that does active harm when the sounds-like-it’s-skipping intro to “Piss Christ” comes on and then subsequently mellows out with psych-sax like they didn’t just decide to call the song “Sacred Cunt of the Universe” or something. Riffs, electronics, the kind of weirdness that’s too self-aware not to be progressive, Radar Men From the Moon take the foundation of experimentation set by Astrosoniq and mutate it via Swans into something unrecognizable by genre and unwilling to compromise its own direction. And no, by the time “Levelling” comes on to round out, there is no peace to be found, though perhaps a twisted kind of joy at the sheer postmodernism. They should score ballets with this stuff. No one would go, but three centuries from now, they’d be worshiped as gods. Chance of that anyway, I suppose.

Radar Men From the Moon on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records on Bandcamp

 

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Steve Von Till to Release Poetry Book & No Wilderness Deep Enough LP Aug. 7; New Single Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

steve von till (Photo by Bobby Cochran)

The world needs a new Steve Von Till album right now. — this is an actual thought, from my actual brain (such as it is), that I had not one week ago. True, by “the world,” I mean me, but still. I need a new Steve Von Till album right now.

Aug. 7 is the release date for Steve Von Till‘s new LP, No Wilderness Deep Enough, and though I recognize literal millions of people are recently unemployed I’ll still go ahead and note that preorders are open now for both the album itself, and for Von Till‘s first book of poetry, titled similarly to one of his many projects, Harvestman: 23 Untitled Poems and Collected Lyrics. You’ll note in the PR wire info below that the collected lyrics are all from the title-tracks of his solo records, and that No Wilderness Deep Enough brings that tally to five, following behind 2015’s A Life unto Itself (review here) and coming some 20 years after his first, 2000’s As the Crow Flies.

Listening to the first single from No Wilderness Deep Enough, the opener “Dreams of Trees,” I’m particularly intrigued to read below that the album started out instrumental and it was none other than Randall Dunn who encouraged Von Till to add vocals. The depth of the arrangement on “Dreams of Trees,” from the far-back howls of what I probably incorrectly presume are effects to the cello up front, there’s a spaciousness that’s been in Von Till‘s work since his more minimalist early efforts, but as the song unfolds, the piano and electronics come to bear and fill out that space in fascinating ways. I can only wonder and anticipate how that might play out and further develop over the course of the album as a whole.

And it’s been a while since I’ve had something good to read.

The PR wire has all the details:

STEVE VON TILL Announces New Album No Wilderness Deep Enough

Alongside First Book – Harvestman: 23 Untitled Poems and Collected Lyrics

Both Available August 7, 2020 via Neurot Recordings

Reveals New Single “Dreams of Trees”

Uncertainty abounds, and Steve Von Till’s No Wilderness Deep Enough provides a voice of existential wisdom and experience to offer comfort and perspective in an era of uncharted territory. The album’s six pieces of music shape a hallucinatory landscape of sound that plumbs the depths of the natural world’s mysteries and uncertainties—questions that have vexed humanity since the dawn of time asked anew amidst a backdrop that’s as haunting as it is holistic. It’s music to lose yourself in. Swirling and iridescent blends of ambient, neo-classical and gothic Americana unfold on album opener, “Dreams of Trees” which was released today.

No Wilderness Deep Enough arrives alongside Von Till’s first published work of original poetry, Harvestman: 23 Untitled Poems and Collected Lyrics. The book is a collection of new poetry and lyrics from Von Till’s solo career over the past 20 years. It’s a work of rich text that showcases his deeply felt ruminations on the myriad beginnings and endings of life itself, offering another medium of which to experience his singular artistic perspective. See below for more info and artwork.

Von Till’s charted an extraordinary musical path over the last several decades, from his main duties as singer and guitarist of the boundary-breaking Neurosis, to the psychedelic music of his Harvestman project and the unique folk songs he’s released under his own name. But No Wilderness Deep Enough is truly like nothing you’ve ever heard from him before—an album that’s devastatingly beautiful and overwhelming in its scope, reminiscent of the tragic ecstasy of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ recent work as well as the borderless ambient music pioneered by Brian Eno, late composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s glacial compositions, and the electronic mutations of Coil.

With a foundation of simple melancholy piano chord progressions that came to fruition during jetlagged nights in his wife’s childhood home in Germany, No Wilderness Deep Enough was further embellished with mellotron and electronic treatments in Von Till’s home studio in North Idaho. Viewing the emerging result as an ambient instrumental album, he consulted friend and engineer Randall Dunn (Marissa Nadler, Earth) about adding live cello and french horn and piano in a proper studio. After enlisting Brent Arnold on cello and Aaron Korn on french horn, he challenged Von Till to sing over the music and make it his next solo album — which is exactly what happened, with final work being completed at Tucker Martine’s (the Decemberists, Neko Case) Flora Recording and Playback in Portland.

Lyrically, No Wilderness Deep Enough touches on themes essential to living in the world around us, as well as co-existing with ourselves and others. “It’s about personal longings and loss, and the loves and insecurities we all feel combined with meditations on humanity as a whole,” Von Till explains while discussing his main artistic aims behind the album, as well as his poetic expressions captured in Harvestman. “I’m exploring the great disconnect: from the natural world, from each other, and ultimately from ourselves—trying to find meaning and depth in re-establishing those connections, to find a resonance in purpose and acknowledging the past while looking towards the future and still being in the moment.”

With No Wilderness Deep Enough and Harvestman, Von Till has achieved a sense of mass resonance through his restless artistic exploration—providing art that journeys into the heart of fear and uncertainty in a world where we’ve often known little else. He swan-dives into the darkness of modern life, with the resulting emergence a sonic document of rural psychedelia that transcends the physical world—towards a greater spiritual acceptance that connects naturalism, spiritualism, and the corporeal form.

No Wilderness Deep Enough and Harvestman: 23 Untitled Poems and Collected Lyrics arrives August 7, 2020 via Neurot Recordings. Further information and pre-order details are available here.

No Wilderness Deep Enough Track Listing:

1 – Dreams of Trees
2 – The Old Straight Track
3 – Indifferent Eyes
4 – Trail the Silent Hours
5 – Shadows on the Run
6 – Wild Iron

Harvestman: 23 Untitled Poems and Collected Lyrics
by Steve Von Till

First printing: Limited hardback edition
Beautifully illustrated with linocuts by Mazatl
Published by Astrophil Press at the University of South Dakota

Table of Contents:
23 Untitled Poems
As The Crow Flies
If I Should Fall to the Field
A Grave is a Grim Horse
A Life Unto Itself
No Wilderness Deep Enough

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http://www.neurotrecordings.com
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https://neurotrecordings.bandcamp.com
neurotrecordings.merchtable.com/artists/harvestman

Steve Von Till, “Dreams of Trees”

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