Yawning Man: Rock Formations Reissue Preorder Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 31st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

yawning man

Imagine taking nearly 20 years to put out your debut album and still being ahead of your time. As Yawning Man have steadily grown into a touring and recording act over the last 15 years, the trio-sometimes-more have gradually come to be recognized for their work among the progenitors of desert rock. At the time they first released Rock Formations (discussed here) in 2005 through Alone Records, that was hardly the case. The album was a soundscaping curio, marked out by the guitar tone of Gary Arce and defining pieces like “Perpetual Oyster” and its title-track, but still not really received with the due respect it deserved. One expects a forthcoming LP reissue through Ripple Music will work to change that.

Yawning Man working with Ripple is notable. The band had been and may still be for all I know signed to Heavy Psych Sounds, but it was Ripple that put out the Arce-inclusive Yawning Sons album this year, so following up with a Yawning Man reissue may be a precursor to working a next studio full-length or it may not. Either way, as I said, notable.

And as far as the record goes, at this point it’s inarguable. Reissue it every week until the entire planet has a copy. It’s the ‘Bright Side of the Sun’ of desert rock.

From the PR wire:

yawning man rock formations ripple issue

Ripple Music to reissue YAWNING MAN’s cornerstone debut ‘Rock Formations’ on vinyl this August 6th; preorder available now!

Ripple Music teams up desert rock godfathers YAWNING MAN to reissue their long sold-out cornerstone debut album ‘Rock Formations’ on vinyl this summer. It will be available on black vinyl and limited colored vinyl on August 6th, 2021, with preorder up now!

Ripple Music presents the much-demanded re-release of the first album from the legendary Palm Desert band YAWNING MAN, once known as the favorite band of Brant Bjork and among the biggest influences on Kyuss. Although formed in 1986 by Mario Lalli on bass, Gary Arce on guitar, Alfredo Hernandez on drums, the band only released their debut full-length in 2005 on Alone Records. ‘Rock Formations’ has been called “a melancholic mix of acoustic space rock with elements of surf music as well as middle eastern guitar style,” and it represents the primordial statement from one of the most important bands ever to emerge from the California desert.

YAWNING MAN bassist Mario Lalli declares: “This album truly reflects a point in our evolution as musicians where we touched on a sound that resonated with us to this day, while the band has been together since 1986 this album was essential to our growth and is very dear to us, we are very excited to be working with Ripple Music on this reissue.”

‘Rock Formations’ will be reissued on August 6th via Ripple Music, and available to preorder on:
– Limited Edition Gatefold LP (200 copies pressed on pure white and royal blue color-in-color vinyl with gold splatter + 8-page art book included)
– Worldwide Edition Gatefold LP (black vinyl + 8-page art book included)

YAWNING MAN ‘Rock Formations’ reissue
Out August 6th on Ripple Music –
PREORDER: https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/rock-formations

TRACK LISTING:
1. Rock Formations
2. Perpetual Oyster
3. Stoney Lonesome
4. Split Tooth Thunder
5. Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway
6. Airport Boulevard
7. Advanced Darkness
8. She Scares Me
9. Crater Lake
10. Buffalo Chips

YAWNING MAN is:
Gary Arce – guitar
Mario Lalli – bass
Bill Stinson – drums

https://www.facebook.com/yawningmanofficial/
https://yawningman.bandcamp.com
http://www.yawningman.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://www.instagram.com/ripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Yawning Man, Rock Formations (2005)

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Quarterly Review: Wolvennest, Lammping, Lykantropi, Mainliner, DayGlo Mourning, Chamán, Sonic Demon, Sow Discord, Cerbère, Dali’s Llama

Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

The Spring 2021 Quarterly Review begins here, and as our long winter of plague-addled discontent is made glorious spring by this son of York Beach, I can hardly wait to dig in. You know the drill. 50 records between now and Friday, 10 per day. It’s a lot. It’s always a lot. That’s the point.

Words on the page. If I have a writing philosophy, that’s it. Head down, keep working. And that’s the challenge here. Can you get over your own crap and say what you need to say about 10 records every day for five days straight out? I’ll be exhausted by the end of the week for sure. I’ll let you know when we get there if it feels any different. Till then, let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Wolvennest, Temple

Wolvennest Temple

The second full-length offering — and I mean that: ‘offering’ — from Belgium’s Wolvennest is an expansive and immersive follow-up to their 2018 debut, Void, as the Brussels six-piece offers next-stage extreme cult rock. Across 77 willfully-unmanageable and mind-altering minutes, the troupe caroms between (actual) psychedelic black metal and sheer sonic ritualism, and the intent is made plain from 12:26 opener/longest track (immediate points) “Mantra” onward. Wolvennest are enacting a ceremony and it’s up to the listener to be willing to engage with the material on that level. Their command is unwavering as the the heft and wash of “Alecto” and the ethereal swirl and dual vocal arrangement of “All that Black” show, but while King Dude himself shows up on “Succubus,” and that’s fun, especially followed by the penultimate downward march of “Disappear,” the greatest consumption is saved for “Souffle de Mort” (“breath of death,” in English; it’s not about eggs). In that 10-minute finale, marked out by the French-language declarations of Shazzula Vultura, Wolvennest not only make it plain just how far they’ve brought you, but that they intend to leave you there as well.

Wolvennest on Thee Facebooks

Ván Records website

 

Lammping, New Jaws EP

lammping new jaws

A 15-minute playful jaunt into the funk-grooving max-fuzzed whatever-works garage headtrip if Toronto’s Lammping is right on the money. The four-piece start channel-spanning and mellow with “Jaws of Life” — which is a righteous preach, even though I don’t know the lyrics — and follow with the complementary vibe of “The Funkiest,” which would seem to be titled in honor of its bassline and conjures out-there’est Masters of Reality in its face-painted BlueBoy lysergics over roughly traditional songwriting. Is “Neverbeen” weirder? You know it. Dreamily so, and it’s followed by the genuinely-experimental 40 seconds of “Big Time the Big Boss” and the closer “Other Shoe,” which if it doesn’t make you look forward to the next Lammping album, I’m sorry to say it, but you might be dead. Sorry for your loss. Of you. This shit is killer and deserves all the ears it can get with its early ’90s weirdness that’s somehow also from the late ’60s and still the future too because what is time anyway and screw it we’re all lost let’s ride.

Lammping on Instagram

Nasoni Records website

 

Lykantropi, Tales to Be Told

Lykantropi Tales To Be Told

Tales to Be Told is the late-2020 third long-player from Swedish classicists Lykantropi, following 2019’s Spirituosa (review here) with a warmth of tone that’s derived from ’70s folk rock and vaguely retro in its tones and drum sounds, but remains modern in its hookmaking and it’s not exactly like they’re trying to hide where they’re coming from when they break out the flute sounds. Harmonies in “Mother of Envy” make that song a passionate highlight, while the respective side-endings in “Kom Ta Mig Ut” and “Världen Går Vidare” add to the exploratory and roots-proggy listening experience, the album’s finale dropping its drums before the three-minute mark to allow for a drifting midsection en route to a class finish that answers the choruses of “Spell of Me” and “Axis of Margaret” earlier with due spaciousness. Clean and clear and wanting nothing aesthetically or emotionally, Tales to Be Told is very much a third album in how realized it feels.

Lykantropi on Thee Facebooks

Despotz Records website

 

Mainliner, Dual Myths

Mainliner Dual Myths

Japanese trio Mainliner — comprised of guitarist Kawabata Makoto (Acid Mothers Temple), bassist/vocalist Kawabe Taigen (Bo Ningen) and drummer Koji Shimura (Acid Mothers Temple) — are gentle at the outset of Dual Myths but don’t wait all that long before unveiling their true freak-psych intention in the obliterating 20 minutes of “Blasphemy Hunter,” the opener/longest track (immediate points) that’s followed by the likewise side-consuming left-the-air-lock-behind-and-found-antimatter-was-made-of-feedback “Hibernator’s Dream” (18:38), the noisier, harsher fuckall spread of “Silver Guck” (19:28) and the gut-riffed/duly scorched jazz shredder “Dunamist Zero” (20:08), which culminates the 2LP beast about as well as anything could, earning the gatefold with sheer force of intent to be and to harness the far-out into some loosely tangible thing. Stare into the face of the void and the void doesn’t so much stare back as turn your lungs into party balloons.

Mainliner on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records website

 

DayGlo Mourning, Dead Star

DayGlo Mourning Dead Star

On a certain level, what you see is what you get with the Orion slavegirl warriors, alien mushrooms and caithan beast that adorn DayGlo Mourning‘s debut album, the six-song/35-minute Dead Star, in that they’re suitably nestled into the sonic paraphernalia of stoner-doom as well as the visual. With bassist Jerimy McNeil and guitarist Joseph Mills sharing vocal duties over Ray Miner‘s drums, variety of melody and throatier shouts are added to the deep-toned largesse of riff, and the Atlanta trio most assuredly have their heads on when it comes to knowing what they want to do sound-wise. The hard-hit hi-hat of “Faithful Demise” comes with some open spaces after the fuzzy lumber that caps “Bloodghast,” and as “Ashwhore” and “Witch’s Ladder” remind a bit of the misogyny inherent in witchy folklore — at the end of the day it was all about killing pretty girls — the grooves remain fervent and the forward potential on the part of the band likewise. It’s a sound big enough that there isn’t really any room left for bullshit.

DayGlo Mourning on Thee Facebooks

Black Doomba Records webstore

 

Chamán, Maleza

Chamán maleza

Issued in the waning hours of Dec. 2020, Chamán‘s 70-minute, six-song debut album, Maleza, is a psicodelico cornucopia of organic-toned delights, from the more forward-fuzz of “Poliforme” — which is a mere six and a half minutes long but squeezes in a drum solo — to the 13-plus-minute out-there salvo that is “Malezo,” “Concreto” and “Temazcal,” gorgeously trippy and drifting and building on what the Mendozza, Argentina, three-piece conjure early in the proceedings with “Despierta” and “Ganesh,” each over 10 minutes as well. Even in Maleza‘s most lucid moments, the spirit of improv and live recording remains vibrant, and however these songs were built out to their current form, I’m just glad they were. Whether you put it on headphones and bliss out for 70 minutes or you end up using it as a backdrop for whatever your day might bring, Chamán‘s sprawling and melted soundscapes are ready to embrace and enfold you.

Chamán on The Facebooks

Chamán on Bandcamp

 

Sonic Demon, Vendetta

sonic demon vendetta

Italian duo Sonic Demon bring a lethal dose of post-Electric Wizard grit fuzz and druggy echoed snarl to their debut full-length, Vendetta, hitting a particularly nasty low end vibe early on “Black Smoke” and proving willing to ride that out for the duration with bouts of spacier fare in “Fire Meteorite” and side A capper “Cosmic Eyes” before the second half of the 40-minute outing renews the buzz with “FreakTrip.” Deep-mixed drums make the guitar and bass sound even bigger, and such is the morass Sonic Demon make that even their faster material seems slow; that means “Hxxxn” must be extra crawling to feel as nodded-out as it does. Closing duo “Blood and Fire” and “Serpent Witch” don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said, style-wise, but they feel no less purposeful in sealing the hypnosis cast by the songs before them. If you can’t hang with repetition, you can’t hang, and the filth in the speedier-ish last section of “Serpent Witch” isn’t enough to stop it from being catchy.

Sonic Demon on Thee Facebooks

The Swamp Records on Bandcamp

Forbidden Place Records website

 

Sow Discord, Quiet Earth

sow discord quiet earth

Sow Discord is the solo industrial doom/experimentalist project of David Coen, also known for his work in Whitehorse, and the bleak feel that pervades his debut full-length under the moniker, Quiet Earth, is resonant and affecting. Channeling blowout beats and speaker-throbbing crush on “Ruler,” Coen elsewhere welcomes Many Blessings (aka Ethan Lee McCarthy, also of Primitive Man) and The Body as guests for purposefully disturbing conjurations. Cuts like “Desalination” and “Functionally Extinct” churn with an atmosphere that feels born of a modern real-world apocalypse, and it’s hard to tell ultimately whether closer “The World Looks on with Pity and Scorn” is offering condolence or condemnation, but either way you go, the bitter harshness that carries over is the thread that weaves all this punishment together, and as industrial music pushes toward new extremes, even “Everything Has Been Exhausted” manages to feel fresh in its pummel.

David Coen on Instagram

AR53 Productions on Bandcamp

Tartarus Records on Bandcamp

 

Cerbère, Cerbère

cerbere cerbere

Formed by members of Lord Humungus, Frank Sabbath and Carpet Burns, Cerbère offer three tracks of buried-alive extreme sludge on their self-titled debut EP, recorded live in the band’s native Paris during a pandemic summer when it was illegal to leave the house. Someone left the house, anyhow, and the resultant three cuts are absolutely unabashed in their grating approach, enough so to warrant in-league status with masters of misanthropy like Grief or Khanate, even if Cerbère move more throughout the 15-minute closing title-track, and dare to add some trippy guitar later on. The two prior cuts, “Julia” — the sample at the beginning feels especially relevant in light of the ongoing Notre Dame rebuild — and “Aliéné” are no less brutal if perhaps more compact. I can’t be sure, because I just can’t, but it’s entirely possible “Aliéné” is the only word in the song that bears its name. That wouldn’t work in every context. Here it feels earned, along with the doomier lead that follows.

Cerbère on Thee Facebooks

Cerbère on Bandcamp

 

Dali’s Llama, Dune Lung

dalis llama dune lung

They’ve cooled down a bit from the tear they were on for a few years there, but Dali’s Llama‘s new Dune Lung EP is no less welcome for that. The desert-dwelling four-piece founded by guitarist/vocalist Zach and bassist Erica Huskey bring a laid back roll to the nonetheless palpably heavy “Nothing Special,” backing the opener with the fuzzy sneer of “Complete Animal,” the broader-soundscape soloing of “Merricat Blackwood,” and the more severe groove of “STD (Suits),” all of which hit with a fullness of sound that feels natural while giving the band their due as a studio unit. Dali’s Llama have been and continue to be significantly undervalued when it comes to desert rock, and Dune Lung is another example of why that is and how characteristic they are in sound and execution. Good band, and they’re edging ever closer to the 30-year mark. Seems like as good a time as any to be appreciated for the work they’ve done and do.

Dali’s Llama on Thee Facebooks

Dali’s Llama on Bandcamp

 

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Video Interview: Mario Lalli on Yawning Man’s Live at Giant Rock and More

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on November 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

yawning man mario lalli

Last month, desert rock progenitors Yawning Man issued the audio version of Live at Giant Rock through Heavy Psych Sounds, and on Nov. 20, they’ll follow-up with the video from which that soundtrack was taken. Filmed in the Coachella Valley in front of — you guessed it — a very big rock, the project helmed by Ryan Jones (see also: Stoned & Dusted) and the band is clearly intended to highlight the ties between the desert scenery and the music itself. Shots are fluid and languid, but like the graffiti on the rocks, there’s a sense of life throughout that goes beyond the trio of guitarist Gary Arce, bassist Mario Lalli and drummer Bill Stinson playing in the foreground.

Yawning Man‘s decades-spanning legacy and influence need not be recounted here. Suffice it to say that desert rock as it exists now would not without them. The three-piece were to have had a busy 2020 as they continued to support their 2019 studio album, Macedonian Lines (review here). In addition to having been booked for the Californian editions of the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest, they were set to appear at Monolith on the Mesa, Stoned & Dusted, they did manage to tour in Australia and New Zealand, but were to appear at Keep it Low in Munich, Germany, which no doubt would’ve been part of a European tour and coincided with other festivals.

As an answer to that, Live at Giant Rock finds Yawning Man doing what many other acts have done in trying to make the most of what they’ve got. In the interview that follows, Lalli talks of course about this strange year, the process of making this unorthodox concert film, the creative process for Yawning Man in particular, his work in this band and Fatso Jetson, and more.

Thanks for reading and watching if you do.

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock Interview with Mario Lalli, Nov. 19, 2020

Yawning Man‘s Live at Giant Rock video is out Nov. 20. The audio is available now and streaming below.

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock (2020)

Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks

Yawning Man on Bandcamp

Yawning Man website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

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Yawning Man Releasing Live at Giant Rock CD/DVD; Preorders Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

No brainer. Duh. Yawning Man performing live in the desert. Yes. Again, duh.

Preorders up. Fine. Take my money.

To answer your first and likely only question concerning this release, no Giant Rock is not where Kirk fought the Gorn. That was Vasquez Rocks. Two and a half hours east, according to the googlies.

Maybe you saw this performance air as part of the Stoned and Dusted virtual fest. If you did, you don’t need me to say anymore. If you didn’t, I’ll refer you to the first paragraph above.

From the PR wire:

yawning man live at giant rock

YAWNING MAN: “Live At Giant Rock” album pre-sale available!

Following their recent and memorable performance in the desert, Palm Springs instrumental rock giants YAWNING MAN have announced the release of their “Live At Giant Rock” album and DVD this October 30th, with preorder available now on Heavy Psych Sounds.

A longtime dream has been to capture YAWNING MAN performing in the very environment that so inspired their music. The opportunity arose in 2020 from the challenges artists and musicians faced during the Covid-19 Pandemic, social distancing forcing artists to creatively adapt to alternatives to express themselves musically and visually. Yawning Man ‘s answer to this calling is “Live at Giant Rock”.

This cinematic concert experience is intimately and beautifully captured by videographer Sam Grant in the environment that inspires Yawning Man’s spacious, expansive and cinematic music. Filmed live in the early morning hours of May 18th, 2020 in the visually stunning and mysterious landscape of Giant Rock.

In the spirit of Pink Floyd’s “Live at Pompeii” the performance is shot on location with no audience, just the band performing their instrumental meditations in the rugged beauty of the Mojave Desert. Giant Rock in Landers California has attracted Native American Nomads, Scientists, UFO Researchers, and travelers from all over the world, drawn by its magnetic spiritual energy.

“Live At Giant Rock” will be available on October 30th via Heavy Psych Sounds, and can be preordered now in the following formats:
– Ultra LTD Test Press vinyl
– Ultra LTD White/Blue vinyl (w/ alternative cover)
– LTD Neon Yellow vinyl
– Black vinyl
– Digital
– LTD edition DVD

YAWNING MAN “Live At Giant Rock”
Out October 30th on Heavy Psych Sounds

Preorder US: https://plasticactus.com/yawning-man-live-at-giant-rock/
Preorder EU: http://www.heavypsychsounds.com

TRACKLIST
1. Tumbleweeds In The Snow – 14:53
2. The Last Summer Eye – 8:58
3. Nazi Synthesizer – 7:37
4. Blowhole Sunrise – 17:41
5. Space Finger (CD bonus track)

YAWNING MAN IS:
Gary Arce – Guitar
Mario Lalli – Bass
Bill Stinson – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/yawningmanofficial/
https://yawningman.bandcamp.com
http://www.yawningman.com/
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock trailer

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Big Scenic Nowhere Sign to Heavy Psych Sounds

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I’ve heard the Big Scenic Nowhere EP that was put together for Blues Funeral RecordingsPostWax vinyl subscription series. It’s awesome. All over the place and united through its sense of creative freedom. I wrote the liner notes for it, if that tells you anything, and I might do the same for the album. I’m pretty sure that looking at the below that the bio is adapted from those liner notes, which, hey, is fine by me if it’s fine by everyone else, I guess. Either way, the album — which I haven’t heard yet — will be one to look forward to, and since preorders are starting next frickin’ week, I’m going to guess it’s already in the can, named, signed, sealed, delivered, and so on. That’ll work too. Early 2020? Sounds great. This year’s already been packed to the gills and then some.

From the PR wire:

big scenic nowhere

Heavy Psych Sounds Records&Booking is really stoked to announce a new band signing: *** BIG SCENIC NOWHERE ***

Feat. members of Fu Manchu, Kyuss, Opeth, Qotsa, Yawning Man , Them Crooked Vultures, The Well, Monolord, Mos Generator and more.

We are so proud to welcome a new member to our roster and family: American “super-band” Big Scenic Nowhere !!! A debut album is coming in early 2020..

PRESALE STARTS:
OCTOBER 3rd

SAYS THE BAND: “We are super excited to be working with Heavy Psych Sounds Records. We practically know everyone on the label already. When it comes to this style of music they have a big presence and we feel fortunate to become part of that.”

Anyone familiar with the terms “Stoner Rock” or “Desert Rock” have surely heard the names FU MANCHU or YAWNING MAN. If you’re a die hard fan of the genre, or a causal observer, you know that both bands have been dishing out quality material since the beginning. While stylistically different, both bands occupy legendary status. FU MANCHU’s sun-drenched, stratospheric, fuzz worship sound and YAWNING MAN’s ethereal, ambient delay have never been crossbred until now. It’s certainty a good time to be alive if you’re a fan of either band. We bring you BIG SCENIC NOWHERE…

Like many of the best things in life, the root collaboration behind Big Scenic Nowhere between guitarists Gary Arce of Yawning Man and Bob Balch of Fu Manchu started with tacos.

Bob and Gary have been acquainted since the ‘90s, when Fu Manchu would practice in the garage of the house Gary lived in with other members of the desert scene. Gary remembers coming home from his construction job at the time, working outside in the desert summer, ready to kick back and crack a beer, only to be unable to watch television because Fu Manchu were so loud.

They’d bump into each other over the years periodically and Bob eventually brought Gary in to film a piece for his instructional guitar series, PlayThisRiff.com. After the above-mentioned Del Taco post, it was Gary – whose collaborative efforts have been myriad in outfits like WaterWays, Zun, Ten East, etc. – who finally called Bob to jam.

While the project would grow soon enough to encompass players like Tony Reed (Mos Generator), Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson, Yawning Man), Per Wiberg (Spiritual Beggars, ex-Opeth), Bill Stinson (Yawning Man), Nick Oliveri (Mondo Generator, ex-Kyuss, etc.), Lisa Alley and Ian Graham (both of The Well), Alain Johannes (Them Crooked Vultures, Chris Cornell, Eleven) and Thomas V. Jäger (Monolord), Big Scenic Nowhere is founded on Balch and Arce tossing guitar riffs and leads back and forth, piecing together song parts one movement at a time. Jamming. Sharing music. Developing a chemistry to build something new based on their individual experiences. In this way, Big Scenic Nowhere is the heart of what collaboration should manifest. Something that grows stronger for the cohesion between those who make it happen.

BIG SCENIC NOWHERE is:
Bob Balch (Guitar, Bass)
Gary Arce (Guitar)
Tony Reed (Vocals, Keys, Drums)
Mario Lalli (Bass)
Per Wiberg (Keys)
Bill Stinson (Drums)
Nick Oliveri (Bass)
Lisa Alley (Vocals)
Ian Graham (Vocals)
Alain Johannes (Vocals, Guitar)

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

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Brant Bjork, Jalamanta & Keep Your Cool: Desert Documents

Posted in Reviews on August 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork jalamanta reissue

It’s hard to speak about Brant Bjork‘s Jalamanta (also discussed here) in anything other than hyperbole. 20 years on from its original release through Man’s Ruin Records, it has become a defining document not just for Bjork‘s own solo work, but for desert rock as a whole, and the laid back vision of heavy it helped establish has had an impact second to none even when set against Brant Bjork‘s own massively influential releases as a member of Kyuss and Fu Manchu. The alliance between Bjork and Italian imprint Heavy Psych Sounds that produced digital reissues of all his albums continues to bear fruit in the physical realm as well, as in addition to last year’s new studio offering, Mankind Woman (review here), and earlier-2019’s archival-jam collection, Jacoozzi (review here), Jalamanta and 2003’s Keep Your Cool are next in line to receive a proper reissue treatment on vinyl and CD. Both have new artwork in strikingly different styles by Branca Studio and have been remastered, and Jalamanta is a new mix as well from Bjork and original engineer Tony Mason, and also includes the Blue Öyster Cult cover “Take Me Away” as a bonus track, bringing the total runtime to a gatefold 2LP-worthy 66 minutes.

Keep Your Cool doesn’t go nearly so far in terms of needing a second platter to contain it, but by the time Bjork got around to his third solo full-length in the span of four years, he had clearly figured some things out. Listening to the two records back-to-back — with the acknowledgment that 2002’s Brant Bjork & the Operators was originally released between them — the feel of Jalamanta is more mellow funk and more experimental, whether it’s bringing Fatso Jetson‘s Mario Lalli in to play guitar and sing on “Toot” or riding the clarion riff of “Automatic Fantastic” as a bed for spoken verses, running the into “Lazy Bones” backwards later as “Bones Lazy” and lacing tracks like “Sun Brother,” “Cobra Jab” and closer “Indio” with percussion while “Waiting for a Coconut to Drop” offers standalone guitar and the subsequent “Her Blown Blood” bases itself around a riff as driving as Kyuss ever were at their most forceful. The most memorable impressions Jalamanta made/makes might be in the dug-in grooves found in songs like “Automatic Fantastic,” “Too Many Chiefs… Not Enough Indians” and “Defender of the Oleander,” which set just the right balance between tonal presence, rhythmic swing, memorable craft and drifting melody to become essentially the groundwork for Bjork‘s solo career, of which Mankind Woman was the 12th offering.

Around these, Bjork is able to work to one side or the other, whether that’s the subdued meanderings of “Sun Brother” and “Indio” or the shove in “Low Desert Punk” and “Her Brown Blood.” Between those two sides, one finds a jam like “‘Let’s Get Chinese Eyes'” with its winding and uptempo instrumental progression and newly-refined interplay of guitar layers, while the bonus track cover “Take Me Away” fits right in among the hookier and more rolling material. There remains a natural feel to Jalamanta that has been no less course-setting for Bjork than any other aspect of the record, but with Keep Your Cool, the narrative shifts to a more solidified approach to songwriting and a willful-seeming blend of hard funk and heavy rock that became the embodiment of “low desert punk” as Bjork‘s own term for his style as he embarked in the early aughts on releasing albums through his own Duna Records imprint, Keep Your Cool being the second such outing behind Brant Bjork & the Operators, as well as an early reissue of Jalamanta.

brant bjork keep your cool

The question isn’t really of accessibility, since it’s not like Brant Bjork‘s solo work has ever veered from engaging its audience, but even with the kind-of-sad intro “Hey, Monkey Boy” at the outset, there’s no question Keep Your Cool puts its hooks in forward position, with “Johnny Called,” “Rock-n-Rolé” and “I Miss My Chick” following in succession ahead of the title-track’s two-minute departure into guitar-led desert wandering. But even that seems pared down in comparison to Jalamanta; a more straightforward sonic persona emerging, less trying-it-out and more executing a plan. Consider Keep Your Cool as a two-sided album, with “Hey, Monkey Boy” and the title-track as intros for sides A and B, respectively. The track breakdown is even with four and four, and the salvo that “Johnny Called” begins earns the reissue all on its own, with stage-ready memorable songwriting and a sure-headed conviction of method that Jalamanta — despite its many splendors — simply doesn’t have. There’s a tradeoff, because Keep Your Cool is inherently less experimental, but certainly there’s room in Bjork‘s solo catalog for both sides to find expression as they have for the last two decades.

Side B of Keep Your Cool continues the thread where “I Miss My Chick” left it, wah and handclaps filling out a core riff that is no less quintessential Brant Bjork than that of “Automatic Fantastic,” while “Searchin'” delves deeper into funky vibes with more upfront drums and a spacey guitar line later in the proceedings. The chorus may not be as forward, but the palette is expanding efficiently. One could argue that that started on “I Miss My Chick,” but the second half of the album lives up to the tradition of answering the hooks of the first with a broader reach. That remains true as closer “My Soul” finds its ultra-fluid chill and rolls out across nearly seven minutes that go from a straight-ahead verse/chorus to a finale guitar exploration that, indeed, lives up to the name of the track itself.

Brant Bjork would follow Keep Your Cool with Local Angel (discussed here; reissue review here) in 2004 and seem to pick up precisely where “My Soul” leaves off, but the narrative arc of his solo and solo-ish discography isn’t necessarily so linear, with work in and out of bandleader situations — Brant Bjork and the Bros.Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band — as well as his time with groups like the sadly-shortlived Ché and Vista Chino, despite a consistent growth and refinement of his craft that continues unabated. Quite simply, Jalamanta is a top-three all-time desert rock record, minimum. For even the most cursory exploration of the style, it is essential. Keep Your Cool doesn’t have the same kind of legacy behind it, but its songs show the direction Bjork was taking at the time and more than stand up to the 16 years since their original release. Neither accomplishment is insignificant, and if these reissues expose them to a new audience or give established fans another version of the record to chase down, there’s really no way to lose by having them back in print and fresh in mind.

Brant Bjork, Keep Your Cool (2003/2019)

Brant Bjork, Jalamanta (1999/2019)

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Quarterly Review: Torche, Spillage, Pharlee, Dali’s Llama, Speedealer, Mt. Echo, Monocluster, Picaporters, Beaten by Hippies, Luna Sol

Posted in Reviews on July 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

We meet again. The Summer 2019 Quarterly Review. It’s four in the morning and I’m getting ready to start the day. I haven’t even managed to pour myself coffee yet, which even as I type it out feels like a crime against humanity, such as it is. I’ll get there though.

Wednesday in the Quarterly Review marks the halfway point of the week, and as we’ll hit 30 reviews at the end, it’s half of the total 60 as well, so yeah. Feeling alright so far. As always, good music helps. I’ve added a couple things for consideration to my ongoing best-of-the-year list for December, so that’s something. And I think I’ll probably be doing so again today, so let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Torche, Admission

torche admission

15 years later and Torche‘s sound is still expanding. To that point, it’s never sounded quite as expansive as it does on Admission, their fifth album and second for Relapse behind 2015’s Restarter (review here). There are still plenty of straight-ahead heavy riffs on cuts like “Reminder” or “Slide” or the bomb-tone-laden “Infierno,” but in the title-track, in “Times Missing,” the closer “Changes Come,” “Slide” and even the 1:30-long “What Was,” there’s a sense of spaciousness and float to the guitars to contrast all that crunch, and it effectively takes the place of some of the manic feel of their earlier work. It’s consistent with the brightness of their melodies in songs like “Extremes of Consciousness” and the early pusher “Submission,” and it adds to their style rather than takes away, building on the mid-paced feel of the last album in such a way as to demonstrate the band’s continued growth long after they’d be well within their rights to rest on their laurels. Sharp, consistent in its level of songwriting, mature and engaging across its 36-minute entirety, Admission is everything one might ask of Torche‘s fifth album.

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Spillage, Blood of Angels

spillage blood of angels

If you, like me, believe doom to be the guardian style of classic heavy metal — you could also argue power metal there, but that’s why it’s an argument — Chicago’s Spillage might be the band to help make your case. With their own Ronnie James Dio in Elvin Rodriguez (not a comparison I make lightly) and a connection to the Trouble family tree via founding guitarist Tony Spillman, who also played in Earthen Grave, the band unfurl trad-metal poise throughout their 53-minute second album, Blood of Angels, hitting touchstones like Sabbath, Priest, and indeed Trouble on a chugger like “Free Man,” a liberal dose of organ on “Rough Grooved Surface” adding to the classic feel — Rainbow, maybe? — and even the grandiose ballad “Voice of Reason” that appears before the closing Sabbath cover “Dirty Women” staying loyal to the cause. I can’t and won’t fault them for that, as in both their originals and in the cover, their hearts are obviously in it all the way and the sound is right on, the sleek swing in the second half of “Evil Doers” punctuated by squealing guitar just as it should be. Mark it a win for the forces of metal, maybe less so for the angels.

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Pharlee, Pharlee

pharlee pharlee

San Diego strikes again with Pharlee‘s self-titled debut on Tee Pee Records, a 29-minute boogie rock shove that’s marked out by the significant pipes of Macarena Rivera up front, the shuffling snare work of Zach Oakley (also guitar in JOY and Volcano) and the organ work of Garret Lekas throughout, winding around and accentuating the riffs of Justin “Figgy” Figueroa and the air-push bass of Dylan Donovan. It’s a proven formula by now, but Pharlee‘s Pharlee is like the band who comes on stage in the middle of the festival and surprises everyone and reminds them why they’re there in the first place. The energy of “Darkest Hour” is infectious, and the bluesier take on Freddie King‘s “Going Down” highlights a stoner shred in Figueroa‘s guitar that fits superbly ahead of the fuzz freakout, all-go closer “Sunward,” and whatever stylistic elements (and personnel, for that matter) might be consistent with their hometown’s well-populated underground, Pharlee take that radness and make it their own.

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Dali’s Llama, Mercury Sea

dalis llama mercury sea

Long-running desert rockers Dali’s Llama return with Mercury Sea, their first release since 2017’s The Blossom EP (review here) and their first full-length since 2016’s Dying in the Sun (review here), sounding reinvigorated in rockers like opener “Weary” and the subsequent grunge-vibing “Choking on the Same,” “When Ember Laughs” and the garage-style “She’s Not Here.” Persistently underappreciated, their albums always have a distinct feel, and Mercury Sea is no different, finding a place for itself between the laid-back desert blues and punkier fare on a cut like “Someday, Someday,” even delving into psychedelic folk for a while in the 6:54 longest track “Goblin Fruit,” and a bit of lead guitar scorch bringing it all together on closer “All My Fault,” highlighting the theme of love that’s been playing out all the while. The sincerity behind that and everything Dali’s Llama does is palpable as ever in these 11 tracks, an more than 25 years on from their inception, they continue to deliver memorable songs in wholly unpretentious fashion. That’s just what they do.

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Speedealer, Blue Days Black Nights

speedealer blue days black nights

Speedealer ride again! And just about at top speed, too. The Dallas, Texas, outfit were last heard from circa 2003, and their turnabout is marked with the self-release of Blue Days Black Nights, a fury-driven 10-tracker that takes the best of their heavy-rock-via-punk delivery and beefs up tones to suit another decade and a half’s worth of hard living and accumulated disaffection. The Dallas four-piece blaze through songs like “Never Knew,” the hardcore-punk “Losing My Shit,” the more metallic “Nothing Left to Say,” and the careening aggro-swagger of “Rheumatism,” but there’s still some variety to be had throughout, as highlight “Sold Out,” “War Nicht Genung” and “Shut Up” find the band no less effective working at a somewhat scaled-back pace. However fast they’re going, though the attitude remains much the same, and it’s “fuck you fuck this” fuckall all the way. Those familiar with their past work would expect no less, and time has clearly not repaired the chip on Speedealer‘s shoulder. Their anger is our gain.

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Mt. Echo, Cirrus

mt echo cirrus

Based in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, the instrumentalist four-piece Mt. Echo present a somewhat noisier take on Russian Circles-style heavy post-rock with their nine-song/46-minute debut, Cirrus. Not at all shy about incorporating a noise rock riff or a more weighted groove, the dual-guitar outfit nonetheless spend significant time patiently engaged in the work of atmosphere-building, so that their material develops a genuine ebb and flow as songs tie one into the next to give the entire affair a whole-album feel. It is their first outing, but all the more striking for that in terms of how much of a grip they seem to have on their approach and what they want to be doing in a song like “Lighthouse at the End of Time” with airy lead and chugging rhythm guitars intertwining and meeting head-on for post-YOB crashes and an eventual turn into a harder-pushing progression. Ambience comes (mostly) to the fore in the seven-minute “Monsters and the Men Who Made Them,” but wherever they go on Cirrus, Mt. Echo bring that atmospheric density along with them. The proverbial ‘band to watch.’

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Monocluster, Ocean

Monocluster Ocean

Over the course of five longform tracks on Ocean, Germany’s Monocluster build fluidly on the accomplishments of their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), greatly expanding on the heft and general reach of their sound while, as opener “Ocean in Our Bones” demonstrates, still holding onto the ability to affect a killer hook when they need one. Ocean is not a minor undertaking at 56 minutes, but it dedicates its time to constructing a world in cuts like “Leviathan” and “A Place Beyond,” the giant wall of fuzzed low end becoming the backdrop for the three-part story being told that ends with the 11:43 “Home” standing alone, as graceful and progressive as it is brash and noisy — a mirror in that regard to the nine-minute centerpiece “Guns and Greed” and a fitting summation of Ocean‘s course. They keep this up for very long and people are going to start to notice. The album is a marked step forward from where Monocluster were a few years ago, and sets up the expectation of continued growth their next time out while keeping a focus on the essential elements of songwriting as well. If we’re looking for highlights, I’d pick “Leviathan,” but honestly, it’s anyone’s game.

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Picaporters, XXIII

picaporters xxiii

The third full-length from Argentine trio Picaporters marks another level of achievement for them as a band. XXIII arrives three years after El Horror Oculto (review here) and is unquestionably their broadest-cast spectrum to-date. The album comes bookended by eight-minute opener “La Soga de los Muertos” and “M.I.,” an 18-minute finale jam that would give a Deep Purple live record reason to blush. Soulful guitar stretches out over a vast rhythmic landscape, and all this after “Jinetes del Universo” motorpunks out and “Vencida” pulls together Floydian melo-prog, “Numero 5” precedes the closer with acoustic interplay and the early “Despertar” offers a little bit of everything and a lot of what-the-hell-just-happened. These guys started out on solid footing with their 2013 debut, Elefantes (review here), but neither that nor El Horror Oculto really hinted at the scope they’d make sound so natural throughout XXIII, which is the kind of record that leaves you no choice but to call it progressive.

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Beaten by Hippies, Beaten by Hippies

beaten by hippies beaten by hippies

As their moniker hints, there’s some edge of danger to Belgium’s Beaten by Hippies‘ self-titled debut (on Polderrecords), but the album ultimately resolves itself more toward songwriting and hooks in the spirit of a meaner-sounding Queens of the Stone Age in songs like “Space Tail” and “More is More,” finding common ground with the energy of Truckfighters though never quite delving so far into fuzzy tones. That’s not at all to the band’s detriment — rather, it helps the four-piece begin to cast their identity as they do in this material, whether that’s happening in the volatile sudden volume trades in “Dust” or the mission statement “Rock ‘n’ Roll,” which feels geared a bit to the anthemic but would probably work just as well in whatever pub they happen to be terrorizing on a given evening. Their delivery skirts the line between heavy and hard rock as only that vaguely commercially viable European-style can, but the songs are right there waiting to take the stage at whatever festival is this weekend and blow the roof — or the sky, I guess, if it’s outdoors — off the place.

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Luna Sol, Below the Deep

luna sol below the deep

Guitarist/vocalist Dave Angstrom may be best known in heavy rock circles for his work alongside John Garcia in Hermano, but in leading the four-piece Luna Sol through their 12-song/50-minute sophomore outing, Below the Deep (on Slush Fund Recordings), he proves a capable frontman as well as songwriter. Sharing vocal duties with bassist Shannon Fahnestock while David Burke handles guitar and Justin Baier drums, Angstrom is a steady presence at the fore through the well-constructed ’90s-flavored heavy rock of “Below the Deep” and “Along the Road” early, the later “Garden of the Gods” playing toward a more complex arrangement after the strutting “The Dying Conglomerate” paints a suitably grim State of the Union and ahead of the fuzz-rich ending in “Home,” which keeps its melodic purpose even as it crashes out to its languid finish. Whether it’s the charged “Man’s Worth Killin'” or the winding fuzz of “Mammoth Cave,” one can definitely hear some Hermano at work, but Luna Sol distinguish themselves just the same.

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Brant Bjork, Jacoozzi: Guerrilla Wonderland

Posted in Reviews on April 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

brant bjork jacoozzi

Roll tape. Jam. Repeat. It’s not a new methodology by any means, but it still works, and one imagines the process becomes more complicated when there’s only one person involved. Fortunately for anyone who might find themselves immersed in the Heavy Psych Sounds-issued Jacoozzi, that one person is Brant Bjork, who plays all instruments throughout the release recorded in 2010. It was a productive era for Bjork in the studio and on the road, as the years immediately preceding had seen him touring with his then-band, Brant Bjork and the Bros., as well as putting out LPs at a steady clip like 2006’s serene, acoustic Tres Dias (reissue review here), 2007’s Somera Sól (discussed here) and 2008’s Punk Rock Guilt (though that was recorded in 2005) through his Low Desert Punk Records imprint, and the former Kyuss drummer was still a couple years off from putting his solo career aside to participate in the semi-reunion Kyuss Lives!/Vista Chino circa 2011-2013. It would seem to have been during the making of what became 2010’s Gods and Goddesses (review here) that Bjork, apparently frustrated with how the material was coming together, scrapped everything and instead jammed out Jacoozzi with Tony Mason engineering for what has ended up as 10 tracks and 46 minutes of mostly-instrumentalist heavy chill mastery.

And like its cover art with an image of Bjork — ex-Kyuss as noted, also formerly of Fu Manchu and by 2010 already with no fewer than eight solo/bandleader full-lengths under his belt — staring directly at the camera, surrounded by an aura of muted shades like a ’70s wall hanging, Jacoozzi is about as dead-ahead and stripped-down as he’s ever gotten. As an entire work, it oozes vibe, and even the 44-second drum bed “Five Hundred Thousand Dollars” has a sleek groove, but it is definitely a collection of individual movements rather than something written as a single entity. It’s a different process of capturing the moment, then, not about bringing in a collection of pre-written songs and putting them down to establish an overarching feel, but getting there from another direction, piecing together jams one component at a time until finally a song like the mellow highlight “Black and White Wonderland” is built to where it needs to be.

That there are no vocals on the bulk of the material feels on one level like a missed opportunity at times — one imagines an improv rant over the tense wah guitar of “Oui” or a couple verses added to “Lost in Race” would’ve added to the effect rather than detracted from it — but it speaks to the circumstance in which the record was made and the fact that it likely wasn’t intended to be a record at all. It was Bjork expunging ideas in the studio, and getting stuff out of his head either as some kind of catharsis or to save and make into songs later before returning to work on Gods and Goddesses. Thus it is the nature of even the jazzy electric piano in “Mixed Nuts” or the cool-toned mood-setting in opener and longest track (immediate points) “Can’t Out Run the Sun” to be what they are and to feel like ideas waiting to be fleshed out. Jacoozzi isn’t a traditional Brant Bjork record, as much as that exists. At its core, it’s very much a drum album. The first element that enters on “Can’t Out Run the Sun” is a quiet tom progression, and “Mexico City Blues,” “Five Hundred Thousand Dollars” (which is only drums), “Oui,” and vocalized closer “Do You Love Your World?” all lead with drums one way or the other.

brant bjork

The only song that starts with guitar is the penultimate “Polarized,” which swells in with Hendrixian fuzz feedback before its slow ride cymbal backbeat takes hold and continues to wind its way forward in that fashion for all of its four minutes, with keys and bass and drums behind it. Other cuts like righteously on-the-beat “Guerrilla Funk” (premiered here) and the sleek “Mixed Nuts” and “Lost in Race” bring the drums and guitar, etc., in at the same time, but either way, it’s still drums at the foundation of the material, and that’s somewhat inevitable given how it was recorded, essentially constructed on top of improvised drum parts. Given an infinity of time, money and interest, might Bjork have turned all of these jams into full-fledged verse/chorus songs? I don’t know. Does it matter? Jacoozzi works as well as it does precisely because it’s not that, and it gives a different and heretofore largely unseen look at the process by which Bjork creates. It’s a single creative burst from nine years ago. One should not go into it expecting the same kind of fleshed-out songcraft as Bjork featured on last year’s Mankind Woman (review here), but if that bit of necessary context makes Jacoozzi a fan-piece, then the album is only an argument in favor of fandom.

Brant Bjork is no stranger to carrying a record on his own. The majority of his landmark 1999 solo debut Jalamanta (discussed here) was him alone, and certainly other outings along the way have been as well. Of those, it seems to make the most sense to liken Jacoozzi to Tres Dias. Not necessarily in terms of sound, but idea. Tres Dias was a mostly-unplugged collection of songs, some of which were older, some were newer, but all were given a new interpretation in a setting that was as intimate as possible. It was a rawer glimpse of Bjork‘s songwriting process than he’d given before. Jacoozzi functions to do much the same thing, but with a different target. “Do You Love Your World?” might be considered “finished,” but if Tres Dias was showcasing the songs, Jacoozzi is showcasing the jams that birthed them. And while Bjork has done plenty of jamming on recent albums, there’s never been a work so purely based around the idea, and that makes Jacoozzi all the more special of a moment to have been caught on tape, and after being shelved for nine years, its arrival is as welcome as it was awaited. It may be an aside, or a kind of footnote in Bjork‘s ongoing creative progression, but damn is it listenable.

Brant Bjork, Jacoozzi (2019)

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