Nathanael Larochette, Earth and Sky: Horizon Meeting (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 26th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

nathanael larochette earth and sky

[Click play above to stream Nathanael Larochette’s Earth and Sky in full. Album is out July 29.]

First thing to know about Nathanael Larochette‘s solo debut, Earth and Sky, is that it’s actually two albums. Presented across a pair of CDs, one dubbed Earth and the other Sky, the complete offering presents distinct looks between its component parts, as Larochette — the Ottawa-based guitarist known for founding chamber neofolk trio Musk Ox — explores intimate pastoralia via solo classic guitar throughout the six-part initial movement before compiling a massive, 41-minute drone simply called “Sky” for the second. The separation of these two musical personae is worth exploring in itself, and we’ll get there, but the fact that Earth and Sky‘s beginning is fractured, cut up into different pieces — like the land itself — while “Sky” is presented as one larger entity should say something about the conceptual basis on which Larochette is working.

His material is complex, and songs like “Monument” show a bit of the progressive tendency also demonstrated in the likewise new 36-minute single-song full-length from Larochette‘s progressive instru-metal outfit, The Night Watch, even if the project as a whole is more related to Musk Ox for its foundations in quiet acoustic contemplations, just taken to a more pared-back place sonically. “Sky” might be more lush with keys and effects and whatnot, but I’m not sure I’d call the Earth portion of Earth and Sky minimalist in anything beyond its just-guitar, no-vocals arrangement ethic. The textures Larochette brings to life across the six tracks — and really, the seventh as well — remain vibrant and evocative.

Larochette made his solo debut in 2012 with Threshold of Transformation, a 14-track outing melding guitar, glockenspiel, cello, etc. with his own spoken word performance. Obviously Earth and Sky is looking to show a different face these four years later, but a clear expressive undertone comes through nonetheless, bolstered by the clarity of the production and the natural body of the guitar. The presentation is not overblown by any means as “Awaken” slowly takes hold to start the album, but neither is it raw, as the longer stretches of “Oceanic” and the nine-minute “Invocation” demonstrate.

nathanael-larochette

As Larochette weaves the material into and through technically and melodically complex movements without losing the emotional crux underlying, the light reverb on his guitar almost becomes a character in the play. Earth and Sky was recorded and mixed by Simon Larochette in Nova Scotia and London, Ontario, and I’m going to assume that the common last name between Nathanael and Simon is more than just coincidence. Earth and Sky sounds like it was made with a familial touch, and that helps carry through not only the musical flow, but the thematic feel and intricacy of composition as well.

Of course, 37-minutes of solo guitar followed-up by a 40-minute drone exploration is no small ask of an audience, but Larochette meets this fact head on with an easy flow and immersive ambience within his songs, so that when “Slumber” — which no doubt could just as easily have been called “Death” — rounds out the first disc, its sweet wistfulness is no less engaging than was the launch of “Awaken” at the outset. What comes next is the slow unfolding of “Sky,” a departure in form and atmosphere if not entirely in intent. Given that the entire release is instrumental and that its two parts are standalone guitar and an ethereal wash, one might be tempted to combine Earth and Sky‘s pieces, playing both at the same time.

I did precisely that — waiting until “Awaken” picked up about two minutes in before starting “Sky” — and found the impression that both halves made together a deeply rewarding listen. Larochette has referred to the two pieces as “complementary,” but I don’t know if that’s what he had in mind. Even so, with variation of volume and timing, it is another layer of depth added to a work that, on its surface, seems to be simple but ultimately has so much more to offer. Taken on its own, “Sky” brings forward a post-rock sensibility as a central electric guitar figure emerges from the surrounding undulations of tone, but as the two play out together, the experience seems all the more resonant.

Nathanael Larochette on Bandcamp

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Nathanael Larochette website

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Quarterly Review: We Lost the Sea, Dark Buddha Rising, Red Mountains, Black Space Riders, Lamprey, Godsleep, Slow Joe Crow & the Berserker Blues Band, Monobrow, Denizen, Witchsorrow

Posted in Reviews on October 1st, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-quarterly-review-fall-2015

We’re in the thick of it now. It’s hard sometimes putting these things together to remember that each band has worked incredibly hard to put out an album. I’ve been through that process (once), and so I know it can be harrowing at times between acts going back and forth about recording, what’s included, how to release, when, and so on. There’s a lot to cover this week — and we’re not out of the woods yet — but I hope that, just because each review is short, you don’t take that as a sign I don’t have the utmost respect for the effort that has gone into making each of these releases. It can be a tremendous pain in the ass, but of course it’s worth it when you get to the end product. We continue.

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #31-40:

We Lost the Sea, Departure Songs

we lost the sea departure songs

To be blunt, We Lost the Sea’s Departure Songs is the kind of album that immediately makes me want to own everything the band has done, in hard copy, for posterity. The Sydney outfit’s third full-length finds its crux in its two-part closing duo of “Challenger Part 1 – Flight” and “Challenger Part 2 – A Swan Song,” enacting a lush instrumental interpretation of the Space Shuttle Challenger flight and disaster that took place nearly 30 years ago in Jan. 1986. In its progression, patience, flow and discernable narrative thread it is nothing short of brilliant, a lush and sad beauty that serves as a genuinely affecting reminder of the hope for a better future that died with that shuttle’s civilian crew and the era of aspiration that tragedy brought to a close. I think the closing sample is the only time I’ve ever heard Ronald Reagan speak in my adult life and felt something other than anger, and that’s a testament to the ground Departure Songs covers – on the preceding three cuts as well as the final two – and the masterful execution on the part of We Lost the Sea.

We Lost the Sea on Thee Facebooks

We Lost the Sea on Bandcamp

Dark Buddha Rising, Inversum

dark buddha rising inversum

There does not yet exist a name for what Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising bring to bear on the two side-consuming tracks of their Neurot Recordings debut and sixth album overall, Inversum. Self-recorded and presented following some shifts in lineup, the album swells to a massive head of bleak, noise-infused psychedelia, fully ritualized and self-aware but still vibrant as it makes its way further and further down into itself. It is bright black, based so much around contrasting ideas of form and tonality that to listen to it, one almost doesn’t believe that the band are accomplishing what they are on an aesthetic level, but the weight, chants, screams, cavernous feel and nod that “Eso” (24:05) and “Exo” (23:52) enact is ultimately real no matter how nightmarish and otherworldly the impression might be. A work that sounds as likely to digest as be digested, it constructs a temple of its own sound and then burns that temple and everything around it in a glorious final push into charred chaos.

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Dark Buddha Rising at Neurot Recordings

Red Mountains, Down with the Sun

red mountains down with the sun

Few endorsements carry as much weight for me as that of Germany’s Nasoni Records, so when I see that venerable imprint is on board for the release of Red Mountains’ first album, Down with the Sun, expectations immediately rise. The Norwegian four-piece don’t disappoint, calling forth a heavy psychedelia weighted enough to be immersive without really falling into the trap of sounding too post-Colour Haze or Causa Sui, finding a balance right away on opener “Six Hands” between open-vibe and structured songcraft. They toy with one side or the other, getting crunchy on “Rodents” and tripping out into ambient echoing on the penultimate “Silver Grey Sky,” but that only makes the debut seem all the more promising. Particularly satisfying is the scope between “Sun” and “Sleepy Desert Blues,” which is enough to make the listener think that grunge and desert rock happened in the same place. An engaging and already-on-the-right-track start from a band who sound like they’re only going to continue to grow.

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Nasoni Records

Black Space Riders, Refugeeum

black space riders refugeeum

It’s improper to think of Germany’s Black Space Riders as entirely psychedelic if only because that somehow implies a lack of clearheaded consciousness in their work, which as their fourth album, Refugeeum, demonstrates, is the very core tying all the expanses they cover together. As Europe comes to grip with its most dire refugee crisis since World War II, Black Space Riders take their thematic movement from such terrestrial issues (a first for them) and it makes a song like 11-minute centerpiece “Run to the Plains” all the more resonant. Of course, the big-chug groove of “Born a Lion (Homeless)” and the cosmic thrust of the penultimate “Walking Shades” still have a psychedelic resonance, but the balance between the earthly and the otherworldly do well to highlight the progressivism that’s been at work in the band’s sound all along. A considerable undertaking at 61 minutes, Refugeeum is an important step in an ongoing development that has just made another unexpected and welcome turn.

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Black Space Riders website

Lamprey, III

lamprey iii

And so, with their third and final outing, III, Portland, Oregon, trio Lamprey reserve their strongest point for their closing argument. The two-bass trio of bassist/vocalist Blaine Burnham (now drumming in Mane of the Cur), bassist Justin Brown (now bass-ing in Witch Mountain) and drummer Spencer Norman recorded the conclusive six-tracker with Adam Pike at Toadhouse (Red Fang, Mammoth Salmon, etc.) and even the slower shifts of “Harpies” and the decidedly Conan-esque “Lament of the Deathworm” breeze right by. Like their two prior releases, 2012’S The Burden of Beasts (review here) and 2011’s Ancient Secrets (review here), III is a showcase of songcraft as much as tone, and it seems to presage its own vinyl reissue, each of the two halves starting with a shorter piece, the opener “Iron Awake” a notably vicious stomp that sets a destructive vibe that the rumble and weirdo keys and leads that finish out “Gaea” seem to be answering, a quick fade bringing an end to an underrated act. They’ll be missed.

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Lamprey on Bandcamp

Godsleep, Thousand Sons of Sleep

godsleep thousand sons of sleep

If newcomer bruisers Godsleep seem to share some commonality of method with fellow Athenians 1000mods, it’s worth noting that on their debut, Thousand Sons of Sleep, they also share a recording engineer in George Leodis. Fair enough. The big-toned riffing and shouty burl on which Godsleep cast their foundation makes its identity felt in the post-Kyussism of “Thirteen” and stonerly grit of centerpiece “This is Mine,” which follows the extended opening salvo of “The Call,” “Thirteen” and “Wrong Turn,” the latter of which is the longest cut at 9:09 and among its most satisfyingly fuzzed nods. They’re playing to style perhaps, but doing so well, and if you’ve gotta start somewhere, recording live and coming out with a heavy-as-hell groove like what emerges in the second half of “Home” is a good place to start. Godsleep are already a year past from when they recorded Thousand Sons of Sleep in Summer 2014, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a follow-up happened sooner than later.

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Rock Freaks Records

Slow Joe Crow & the Berserker Blues Band, We are Blues People

slow joe crow and the berserker blues band we are blues people

Kentucky-based, cumbersomely-named Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band may indeed live up to the We are Blues People title of their debut EP, but they’re definitely riff people as well. As such, the four-track sampling of their wares draws from both sides on a cut like opener “No One Else,” the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Austin P. Lunn, bassist Patrick Flanary and drummer Thom Hammerheart in the process of figuring out how much they want to lean to one or the other. They round out with a fuzzy take on the traditional “John the Revelator,” but the earlier “Muddy Water Rising” strikes a more effective and more authentic-feeling balance, leading to the slow jam of “Before I Go,” which adds a ‘70s rock vibe to push the bluesy feel even further and expand the palette in a manner one hopes they continue to pursue as they move forward.

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Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band on Bandcamp

Monobrow, A Handwritten Letter from the Moon

monobrow a handwritten letter from the moon

Canadian trio Monobrow follow their 2014 LP, Big Sky, Black Horse (review here) with what’s essentially a new single that finds them continuing to step forward in their approach. Dubbed A Handwritten Letter from the Moon and taking its name from the 8:33 title-track, the Ottawa group’s latest offering finds the instrumental outfit smoothing out the tones a bit, still hitting into raucous grooves, but closer to Truckfighters than their prior brashness. I don’t know if it’s a method they’ll stick to going into their fourth LP next year, but the result is dynamic and suits them well. “A Handwritten Letter from the Moon” comes coupled with “Dyatlov Station 3,” a seven-minute rehearsal-space jam from 2011 that fascinatingly (and I’m sure by no coincidence) showcases some similar classic heavy rock influence. The only real shame of the release is that both these tracks are probably too long to fit on a 7”, since a small platter of vinyl would be a perfect way to hold over listeners until the next album arrives. As it stands, the digital version is hardly roughing it.

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Monobrow on Bandcamp

Denizen, Troubled Waters

denizen troubled waters

French heavy rocking four-piece Denizen issued their decidedly Clutchian debut, Whispering Wild Stories (review here), in 2011, and follow it through Argonauta Records with Troubled Waters, a more individualized 10-track outing that alternates between punkish rawness and classic upbeat grooves. Four years after their first album, their progression hasn’t come at the cost of songwriting, and while they still have work to do in distinguishing themselves in a crowded, varied European market, they deliver the material with an energy and vitality that makes even its familiar parts easy enough to get down with, be it the Southern heavy solo of “Jocelyne” or the meaner bite of “Enter Truckman.” I’ll take the pair of “King of Horses” and “Heavy Rider” as highlights, and remain interested to find out where Denizen head from here, as well as how long it might take them to get there. Four years between records gives Troubled Waters the feel of a second debut as much as a sophomore effort.

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Argonauta Records

Witchsorrow, No Light, Only Fire

witchsorrow no light only fire

Releasing through Candlelight in their native UK, doom metal trio Witchsorrow mark a decade with their third album, No Light, Only Fire. Opener “There is No Light There is Only Fire” seems to nod immediately at Cathedral, with a speedier, chuggier take, and the record proceeds to alternate between shorter and longer tracks en route to the 14-minute closer “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas,” cuts like “Negative Utopia” and “Disaster Reality” sailing a black ship past the 10-minute mark on a rumbling sea of riffs and slow motion nod. They break for a minute with the acoustic interlude “Four Candles” before embarking on the finale, and the respite is appreciated once the agonizing undulations of “De Mysteriis Doom Sabbathas” are underway, using nearly every second of their 14:25 to affirm Witchsorrow’s trad doom mastery and bleak, darkened heft. No light? Maybe a little light, but it’s still pretty damn dark, and indeed, it smells like smoke.

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Candlelight Records

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Fuck the Facts, Amer EP

Posted in Radio on June 26th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

It’s only been two years since the last Fuck the Facts release, but in grindcore that’s an eternity. The Canadian outfit issued the Die Miserable full-length in 2011 on Relapse, and after a subsequent EP and compilation marking, as they put it, Ten Fucking Years (2001-2011), the Ottawa five-piece follow-up Die Miserable this week with the new Amer EP, a suitably blasting collection of seven aggressive pummelers that tops out at a bit over 13 minutes. Seven tracks in 13 minutes. Welcome to grind.

To point out the obvious, it’s not really the kind of thing this site usually covers, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s precisely the appeal. There are elements of heavy tonality in cuts like “Jour de Souffrance,” and closer “Amère” toys with slower, tense pacing en route to a bash-you-over-the-head finale, but my idea in adding Fuck the Facts to The Obelisk Radio is to change things up a bit so that it’s not the same kind of riffs all the time played at the same speed and working under (vaguely) the same influences. Amer is a nuanced collection from the Napalm Death runs of “Vent du Nord” to the ambient ending of “L’Enclume et le Marteau,” and as varied as it is on a song-by-song basis, I figured it would be a good fit precisely because it didn’t really fit at all.

So yeah, at just 1:44, “A Void” might be a quick blip on the ongoing radio stream, but I think there’s enough substance to what Fuck the Facts does that their material stands up to the bevvy of amp-crushers they’re joining in the playlist. With the double-guitars of Topon Das and Johnny Ibay, bass of Marc Bourgon (also vocals), drums of Mathieu Vailandré (also vocals) and Mel Mongeon‘s vocals, the self-recorded Amer is varied, extreme and something you might not see coming when it arrives — all of which argue convincingly enough in its favor that here we are.

Fuck the Facts will begin a European tour next week. Dates are below the Amer player from the band’s Bandcamp page, where the EP is available on 10″ vinyl and cassette:

Fuck the Facts, Amer EP (2013)

FUCK THE FACTS 2013 EUROPEAN TOUR
07/01 ITA Milano Blue Rose Saloon
07/02 GER Leipzig
07/03 GER Berlin Koma F
07/04 CZE Trutnov Obscene Extreme Festival
07/05 HOL Rotterdam Baroeg
07/06 HOL Nijmegen Nothing Changed Fest
07/07 UK Brighton Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar
07/08 UK Leeds The Fox & Newt
07/09 UK Manchester Kraak Gallery
07/10 UK Bristol The Stag and Hounds
07/11 UK London The Unicorn Camden Live
07/12 BEL Brussels DNA
07/13 FRA Lille Le Bistrot de St So
07/14 FRA Toulouse Pavillons Sauvages
07/15 SPA Bilbao Sentinel Club
07/16 SPA Logroño Villatruño Squat
07/17 SPA Zaragoza Arrebato
07/18 SPA Torellò Eclectic Club
07/19 SPA Barcelona TBA
07/20 FRA Luynes Le Korigan
07/21 ITA Bologna Freakout Club

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Fuck the Facts on Bandcamp

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