Øresund Space Collective Sign to The Laser’s Edge; Orgone Unicorn Out July 26

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 27th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


If you’d asked — and you didn’t, I realize — I probably would have put multinational cosmic conglomerate Øresund Space Collective north of 44 albums at this point, but I guess that’s the official count so I’m not about to argue. The improv-minded space jammers have signed to the reactivated The Laser’s Edge to release their new album, Orgone Unicorn, on July 26. Øresund Space Collective with, like, a release date? And a PR wire press release announcing it? Weird.

Given the personnel assembled for Orgone Unicorn, it’s even easier to look forward to the album. The sitar of KG Westman (formerly Siena Root), Wicked Lady‘s Martin Weaver adding drum machine, Saturnia founder Luis Simões adding guitar (and gong!) to the proceedings, along with Scott “Dr. Space” Heller‘s core synth and a cast of familiar/veteran characters jamming out across two LPs, and it’s backed by an outside label? Good for them, man. I don’t know if The Laser’s Edge is going to put out like five Øresund Space Collective and related-project releases a year, but it’s pretty cool to see a band who’ve been around for 18 years get picked up like newbies, and I hope the record does well for them. I generally consider writing about Øresund Space Collective a favor to myself, a chance to depart into pure vibe, so yeah, I’ll likely have more to come on Orgone Unicorn.

Looking forward to it:


ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE: Prolific Scandinavian Instrumental Prog/Jazz Collective Signs With Laser’s Edge; Band’s 44th Title, Orgone Unicorn, To See July 26th Release + Video Clip And Preorders Posted

The progressive music authorities at Laser’s Edge have signed prolific Scandinavian instrumental improvisational progressive/space-jazz group ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE for the release of the band’s impressive forty-fourth title, Orgone Unicorn. Confirming the mammoth album for release July 26th, the label today issues the cover art, preorders, and a video clip taken from the title track.

Founded in 2006 by Scott Heller, aka Dr. Space, ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE is based primarily out of København, Denmark, with roots across Scandinavia, Portugal, and more. A supergroup of sorts, the members of this expansive entity come from a wide array of Scandinavian rock groups, including The Carpet Knights (SE), Mantric Muse (DK), Bland Bladen (SE), Gas Giant (DK), Hooffoot (SE), First Band From Outer Space (SE), Siena Root (SE), My Brother The Wind (SE), Agusa (SE), Tangle Edge (NO), The Univerzals (DK), Papir (DK), Black Moon Circle (NO), among many others.

In 2012, prominent Danish guitarist Claus Bøhling (Hurdy Gurdy, Secret Oyster) played with ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE both live and on three studio albums. In 2018, the band was joined by guitarist Martin Weaver (Dark, Wicked Lady), and 2022 saw the addition of amazing multi-instrumentalists, Mattias Olsson (Ånglagård, Molesome) and Luis Simões (Saturnia).

An exciting live act that always gets the crowd moving and dancing to the improvised progressive grooves, ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE has played well-over one hundred concerts in ten countries. The band has performed at numerous European festivals including the Copenhagen Jazz Festival three times, Kildemose Festival many times, Roadburn Festival, Space Rock Odyssey, Slotsskogen Goes Progressive, Space Force 1, Psychedelic Network, Occultrance Festival, Freak Valley Festival, Burg Herzberg, Roskilde Festival, and Reverence Festival, and even made it to North America to play Psycho Las Vegas.

In their eighteen years of existence thus far, ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE has amassed thirty-two studio albums and twelve live albums, and more. Initially releasing their music through the Swedish label Transubstans, they’ve subsequently partnered with an array of labels, eventually forming their own Space Rock Productions label through which most of their albums over the past several years were released.

Following their illustrious Everyone Is Evil album, released in May of 2023, ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE arrives with their monolithic forty-fourth title Orgone Unicorn, their first for The Laser’s Edge Group. Orgone Unicorn features many of the musicians who played on Everyone Is Evil, with Mattias Olsson, Jonathan Segel (ex-Camper Van Beethoven), Larry Lush, Martin Weaver, Luis Simões, Hasse Horrigome, and KG Westman, joining Scott Heller. The record courses with surreal space passages, with a dark, proggy mood. Along with the array of guitars, bass, synths, keys, mellotron, and more used throughout the record, the percussion showcases interplay between drums, gong, and drum machines.

Recorded at Éstudio Paraíso Nas Nuvens in Central Portugal, Orgone Unicorn was engineered by Larry Lush and Dr Space, mixed and mastered by Jonathan Segel and Dr Space, and completed with cover art by David Graham of Moonboy Art. The 2xLP version comprises five songs, while the 2xCD and digital versions feature two additional songs not on the vinyl – including extended versions of several of the songs – which culminate into an engulfing two hours and sixteen minutes of music.

Laser’s Edge Group founder Ken Golden states, “I’ve been following Scott Heller and the all-star ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE for years. In my mind, they are the premier space rock ensemble. It’s a thrill for us to reactivate our Laser’s Edge label with Orgone Unicorn. Space is the place!”

Scott Heller adds, “It is an honor for ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE to join the ranks of the many great bands that are or have been on Lasers Edge. Great to work with Ken, whom I have known for many, many years. I hope the fans will enjoy this new adventure in sound, as we continue to push totally improvised music into weird and wonderful places.”

A portion of the title track to ØRESUND SPACE COLLECTIVE’s Orgone Unicorn has been issued through a surreal and captivating video clip created by Batu Bintas (Imaginatrix), now playing.

Orgone Unicorn 2xLP Track Listing:
Side A
Skin Walker
Side B
Eno´s Donut
Orgone Unicorn
Side C
Kraut Toe Trip
Side D
Omnia Magnifico

Orgone Unicorn 2xCD Track Listing:
1. Skin Walker
2. Eno’s Donut
3. Orgone Unicorn
4. Red Panda In Rhodes
1. David Graham´s Wormhole Ride
2. Kraut Toe Trip
3. Omnia Magnifico

Mattias Olsson – drums, congas, mellotron, Poly D
Jonathan Segel – guitar, slide guitar, violin, Fender Rhodes
Martin Weaver – Microfreek and Roland drum machines
Luis Simões – gong, guitar, noise box
Hasse Horrigmoe – bass
Larry Lush – Fender Rhodes, mellotron
KG Westman – sitar; mellotron, synths
Dr. Space – Hammond, Mellotron, Modular Synth, Octave Cat, ARP Odyssey, Poly D



Øresund Space Collective, Orgone Unicorn teaser

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Quarterly Review: Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Inter Arma, Sunnata, The Sonic Dawn, Rifflord, Mothman and the Thunderbirds, The Lunar Effect, Danava, Moonlit, Doom Lab

Posted in Reviews on May 24th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


This is it. This one’s for all the marbles. Well, actually there are no marbles involved, but if you remember way back like two weeks ago when this started out, I told you the tale of a hubristic 40-something dickweed blogger who thought he could review 100 albums in 10 days, and assuming I make it through the below without having an aneurysm — because, hey, you never know — today I get to live that particular fairy tale.

If you’ve kept up, and I hope you have, thanks. If not, click here to see all the posts in this Quarterly Review. Either way, I appreciate your time.

Quarterly Review #91-100:

Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space, Enters Your Somas

Lamp of the universe meets dr space Enter Your Somas

Who’s ready to get blasted out the airlock? New Zealand solo-outfit Lamp of the Universe, aka multi-instrumentalist Craig Williamson (also Dead Shrine, ex-Datura, etc.), and Portugal-residing synth master Dr. Space, aka Scott Heller of Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, and so on, come together to remind us all we’re nothing more than semi-sentient cosmic dust. Enters Your Somas is comprised of two extended pieces, “Enters Your Somas” (18:39) and “Infiltrates Your Mind” (19:07), and both resonate space/soul frequencies while each finds its own path. The title-track is more languid on average, where “Infiltrates Your Mind” reroutes auxiliary power to the percussive thrusters in its first half before drifting into drone communion and hearing a voice — vague, but definitely human speech — before surging back to its course via Williamson‘s drums, which play a large role in giving the material its shape. But with synthy sweeps from Heller, Mellotron and guitar coming and going, and a steady groove across both inclusions, Lamp of the Universe Meets Dr. Space offer galactic adventure limited only by where your imagination puts you while you listen.

Lamp of the Universe on Facebook

Dr. Space on Facebook

Sound Effect Records website

Inter Arma, New Heaven

inter arma new heaven

Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma had no small task before them in following 2019’s Sulphur English (review here), but from the tech-death boops and bops and twists of New Heaven‘s leadoff title-track through the gothic textures of “Gardens in the Dark,” self-aware without satire, slow-flowing and dramatic, this fifth full-length finds them continuing to expand their creative reach, and at this point, whatever genre you might want to cast them in, they stand out. To wit, the blackdeath onslaught of “Violet Seizures” that’s also space rock, backed in that by the subsequent “Desolation’s Harp” with its classically grandiose solo, or the post-doom lumber of “Concrete Cliffs” that calls out its expanse after the seven-minute drum-playthrough-fodder extremity of “The Children the Bombs Overlooked,” or the mournful march of “Endless Grey” and the acoustic-led Nick Cavey epilogue “Forest Service Road Blues.” Few bands embrace a full spectrum of metallic sounds without coming across as either disjointed or like they’re just mashing styles together for the hell of it. Inter Arma bleed purpose in every turn, and as they inch closer to their 20th year as a band, they are masters unto themselves of this form they’ve created.

Inter Arma on Facebook

Relapse Records website

Sunnata, Chasing Shadows

sunnata chasing shadows

The opening “Chimera” puts Chasing Shadows quickly into a ritualized mindset, all the more as Warsaw meditative doomers Sunnata lace it and a decent portion of their 11-track/62-minute fifth album with an arrangement of vocals from guitarists Szymon Ewertowski and Adrian Gadomski and bassist/synthesist Michal Dobrzanski as drummer/percussionist Robert Ruszczyk punctuates on snare as they head toward a culmination. Individual pieces have their own purposes, whether it’s the momentary float of “Torn” or the post-Alice in Chains harmonies offset by Twin Peaks-y creep in “Saviours Raft,” or the way “Hunger” gradually moves from light to dark with rolling immersion, or the dancier feel with which “Like Cogs in a Wheel” gives an instrumental finish. It’s not a minor undertaking and it’s not meant to be one, but mood and atmosphere do a lot of work in uniting the songs, and the low-in-the-mouth vocal melodies become a part of that as the record unfolds. Their range has never felt broader, but there’s a plot being followed as well, an idea behind each turn in “Wishbone” and the sprawl is justified by the dug-in worldmaking taking place across the whole-LP progression, darkly psychedelic and engrossing as it is.

Sunnata on Facebook

Sunnata on Bandcamp

The Sonic Dawn, Phantom

The Sonic Dawn Phantom

Among the most vital classic elements of The Sonic Dawn‘s style is their ability to take spacious ideas and encapsulate them with a pop efficiency that doesn’t feel dumbed down. That is to say, they’re not capitulating to fickle attention spans with short songs so much as they’re able to get in, say what they want to say with a given track, and get out. Phantom is their fifth album, and while the title may allude to a certain ghostliness coinciding with the melancholy vibe overarching through the bulk of its component material, the Copenhagen-based trio are mature enough at this stage to know what they’re about. And while Phantom has its urgent stretches in the early going of “Iron Bird” or the rousing “Think it Over,” the handclap-laced “Pan AM,” and the solo-topped apex of “Micro Cosmos in a Drop,” most of what they’re about here harnesses a mellower atmosphere. It doesn’t need to hurry, baby. Isn’t there enough rush in life with all these “21st Century Blues?” With no lack of movement throughout, some of The Sonic Dawn‘s finest stretches here are in low-key interpretations of funk (“Dreams of Change,” “Think it Over,” “Transatlantique,” etc.) or prog-boogie (“Scorpio,” “Nothing Can Live Here” before the noisier crescendo) drawn together by organ, subdued, thoughtful vocal melodies and craft to suit the organic production. This isn’t the first The Sonic Dawn LP to benefit from the band knowing who they are as a group, but golly it sure is stronger for that.

The Sonic Dawn on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Rifflord, 39 Serpent Power

RIFFLORD 39 Serpent Power

It’s not until the hook of second cut “Ohm Ripper” hits that Rifflord let go of the tension built up through the opening semi-title-track “Serpent Power,” which in its thickened thrashy charge feels like a specific callout to High on Fire but as I understand it is just about doing hard drugs. Fair enough. The South Dakota-based five-piece of bassist/vocalist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett, guitarists Samuel Hayes and Dustin Vano, keyboardist Tory Jean Stoddard and drummer Douglas Jennings Barrett will echo that intensity later in “Church Keys” and “Tumbleweed,” but that’s still only one place the 38-minute eight-track LP goes, and whether it’s the vocals calling out through the largesse and breadth of “Blessed Life” or the ensuing crush that follows in “LM308,” the addled Alice in Chains swagger in the lumber of “Grim Creeper” or the righteously catchy bombast of “Hoof,” they reach further than they ever have in terms of sound and remain coherent despite the inherently chaotic nature of their purported theme, the sheer heft of the tonality wielded and the fact that 39 Serpent Power has apparently been waiting some number of years to see release. Worth the wait? Shit, I’m surprised the album didn’t put itself out, it sounds so ready to go.

Rifflord on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Mothman and the Thunderbirds, Portal Hopper

Mothman and the Thunderbirds Portal Hopper

At the core of Mothman and the Thunderbirds is multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Alex Parkinson, and on the band’s second album, Portal Hopper, he’s not completely on his own — Egor Lappo programmed the drums, mixed, and plays a guitar solo on “Fractals,” Joe Sobieski guests on vocals for a couple tracks, Sam Parkinson donates a pair of solos to the cause — but it’s still very much his telling of the charmingly meandering sci-fi/fantasy plot taking place across the 12 included progressive metal mini-epics, which he presents with an energy and clarity of purpose that for sure graduated from Devin Townsend‘s school of making a song with 40 layers sound immediate but pulls as well from psychedelia and pop-punk vocals for an all the more emphatic scope. This backdrop lets “Fractals” get funky or “Escape From Flatwoods” hold its metallic chicanery with its soaring melody while “Squonk Kingdom” is duly over-the-top in its second-half chase soon enough fleshed out by “So Long (Portal Hopper)” ahead of the lightly-plucked finale “Attic.” The specificity of influence throughout Portal Hopper can be striking as clean/harsh vocals blend, etc., but given the narrative and the relative brevity of the songs complementing the whims explored within them, there’s no lack of character in the album’s oft-careening 38-minute course.

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Instagram

Mothman and the Thunderbirds on Bandcamp

The Lunar Effect, Sounds of Green and Blue

The Lunar Effect Sounds of Green & Blue

Given its pro-shop nature in production and performance, the ability of The Lunar Effect to grasp a heavy blues sound as part of what they do while avoiding either the trap of hyper-dudely navelgazing or cultural appropriation — no minor feat — and the fluidity of one piece into the next across the 40-minute LP’s two sides, I’m a little surprised not to have been sick of the band’s second album, Sounds of Green and Blue before I put it on. Maybe since it’s on Svart everyone just assumed it’s Finnish experimentalist drone? Maybe everybody’s burnt out on a seemingly endless stream of bands from London’s underground? I don’t know, but by the time The Lunar Effect make their way to the piano-laden centerpiece “Middle of the End” — expanding on the unhurried mood of “In Grey,” preceding the heavy blues return of “Pulling Daisies” at the start of side B that mirrors album opener “Ocean Queen” and explodes into a roll that feels like it was made to be the best thing you play at your DJ night — that confusion is a defining aspect of the listening experience. “Fear Before the Fall” picks on Beethoven, for crying out loud. High class and low groove. Believe me, I know there’s a lot of good stuff out already in 2024, but what the hell more could you want? Where is everybody?

The Lunar Effect on Facebook

Svart Records website

Danava, Live

danava live

Even if I were generally inclined to do so — read: I’m not — it would be hard to begrudge Portland heavy rock institution Danava wanting to do a live record after their 2023’s Nothing But Nothing (review here) found them in such raucous form. But the aptly-titled Live is more than just a post-studio-LP check-in to remind you they kick ass on stage, as side A’s space, classic, boogie, heavy rocking “Introduction/Spinning Temple” and “Maudie Shook” were recorded in 2008, while the four cuts on side B — “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun,” “Nothing but Nothing,” “Longdance,” “Let the Good Times Kill” and “Last Goodbye” — came from the European tour undertaken in Fall 2023 to support Nothing But Nothing. Is the underlying message that Danava are still rad 15 years later? Maybe. That certainly comes through by the time the solo in “Shoot Straight with a Crooked Gun” hits, but that also feels like reading too much into it. Maybe it’s just about representing different sides of who Danava are, and if so, fine. Then or now, psych or proto-thrashing, they lay waste.

Danava on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Moonlit, Be Not Afraid

moonlit be not afraid

A free three-songer from Varese, Italy’s Moonlit, Be Not Afraid welcomes the listener to “Death to the World” with (presumably sampled) chanting before unfurling a loose, somewhat morose-feeling nighttime-desert psych sway before “Fort Rachiffe” howls tonally across its own four minutes in more heavy post-rock style, still languid in tempo but encompassing in its wash and the amp-hum-and-percussion blend on the shorter “Le Conseguenze Della Libertà” (1:57) gives yet another look, albeit briefly. In about 11 minutes, Moonlit — whose last studio offering was 2021’s So Bless Us Now (review here) — never quite occupy the same space twice, and despite the compact presentation, the range from mid-period-QOTSA-gone-shoegaze (plus chanting! don’t forget the chanting!) to the hypnotic Isis-doing-space-push that follows with the closer as a but-wait-there’s-more/not-just-an-afterthought epilogue is palpable. I don’t know when or how Be Not Afraid was recorded, whether it’s portentous of anything other than itself or what, but there’s a lot happening under its surface, and while you can’t beat the price, don’t be surprised if you end up throwing a couple bucks Moonlit‘s way anyhow.

Moonlit on Instagram

Moonlit on Bandcamp

Doom Lab, Northern Lights

Doom Lab Northern Lights

Much of Northern Lights is instrumental, but whether or not Leo Scheben is barking out the endtimes storyline of “Darkhammer” — stylized all-caps in the tracklisting — or “Night Terrors,” or just digging into a 24-second progression of lo-fi riffing of “Paranoid Isolation” and the Casio-type beats that back his guitar there and across the project’s 16-track latest offering, the reminder Doom Lab give is that the need to create takes many forms. From the winding scales of “Locrian’s Run” to “Twisted Logic” with its plotted solo lines, pieces are often just that — pieces of what might otherwise be a fleshed-out song — and Doom Lab‘s experimentalism feels paramount in terms of aural priorities. Impulse in excelsis. It might be for the best that the back-to-back pair “Nice ‘n’ Curvy” and “Let ’em Bounce” are both instrumental, but as madcap as Scheben is, he’s able to bring Northern Lights to a close with resonant homage in its title-track, and cuts like “Too Much Sauce on New Year’s Eve” and “Dark Matter” are emblematic of his open-minded approach overall, working in different styles sometimes united most by their rawness and uncompromising persona. This is number 100 of 100 records covered in this Quarterly Review, and nothing included up to now sounds like Doom Lab. A total win for radical individualism.

Doom Lab on YouTube

Doom Lab on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Harvestman, Kalgon, Agriculture, Saltpig, Druidess, Astral Construct, Ainu, Grid, Dätcha Mandala, Dr. Space Meets Mr. Mekon

Posted in Reviews on May 23rd, 2024 by JJ Koczan


This is the next-to-last day of this Quarterly Review, and while it’s been a lot, it’s been encouraging to dig into so much stuff in such intense fashion. I’ve added a few releases to my notes for year-end lists, but more importantly, I’ve gotten to hear and cover stuff that otherwise I might not, and that’s the value at a QR has for me at its core, so while we’re not through yet, I’ll just say thanks again for reading and that I hope you’ve also found something that speaks to you in these many blocks of text and embedded streaming players. If not, there’s still 20 records to go, so take comfort in that as needed.

Quarterly Review #81-90:

Harvestman, Triptych: Part One

Harvestman Triptych Part One

The weirdo-psych experimental project of Steve Von Till (now ex-Neurosis, which is still sad on a couple levels) begins a released-according-to-lunar-orbit trilogy of albums in Triptych: Part One, which is headlined by opening track “Psilosynth,” boasting a guest appearance from Al Cisneros (Sleep, Om) on bass. If those two want to start an outsider-art dub-drone band together, my middle-aged burnout self is here for it — “Psilosynth (Harvest Dub),” a title that could hardly be more Von Till and Cisneros, appears a little later, which suggests they might also be on board — but that’s only part of the world being created in Triptych: Part One as “Mare and Foal” manipulates bagpipes into ghostly melodies, “Give Your Heart to the Hawk” echoes poetry over ambient strum, “Coma” and “How to Purify Mercury” layer synthesized drone and/or effects-guitar to sci-fi affect and “Nocturnal Field Song” finds YOB‘s Dave French banging away on something metal in the background while the crickets chirp. The abiding spirit is subdued, exploratory as Von Till‘s solo works perpetually are, and even as the story is only a third told, the immersion on Triptych: Part One goes as deep as the listener is willing to let it. I look forward to being a couple moons late reviewing the next installment.

Harvestman on Facebook

Neurot Recordings website

Kalgon, Kalgon

kalgon kalgon

As they make their self-titled full-length debut, Asheville, North Carolina’s Kalgon lay claim to a deceptive wide swath of territory even separate from the thrashier departure “Apocalyptic Meiosis” as they lumber through “The Isolate” and the more melodic “Grade of the Slope,” stoner-doom leaning into psych and more cosmic vibing, with the mournful “Windigo” leading into “Eye of the Needle”‘s slo-mo-stoner-swing and gutted out vocals turning to Beatlesy melody — guitarist Brandon Davis and bassist Berten Lee Tanner share those duties while Marc Russo rounds out the trio on drums — in its still-marching second half and the post-Pallbearer reaches and acoustic finish of “Setting Sun.” An interlude serves as centerpiece between “Apocalyptic Meiosis” and “Windigo,” and that two-plus-minute excursion into wavy drone and amplifier hum works well to keep a sense of flow as the next track crashes in, but more, it speaks to longer term possibilities for how the band might grow, both in terms of what they do sonically and in their already-clear penchant for seeing their first LP as a whole, single work with its own progression and story to tell.

Kalgon on Facebook

Kalgon on Bandcamp

Agriculture, Living is Easy

agriculture living is easy

Surely there’s some element in Agriculture‘s self-applied aesthetic frame of “ecstatic black metal” in the power of suggestion, but as they follow-up their 2022 self-titled debut with the four-song Living is Easy EP and move from the major-key lightburst of the title-track into the endearingly, organically, folkishly strained harmonies of “Being Eaten by a Tiger,” renew the overwhelming blasts of tremolo and seared screams on “In the House of Angel Flesh” and round out with a minute of spoken word recitation in “When You Were Born,” guitarists Richard Chowenhill (also credited with co-engineering, mixing and mastering) and Dan Meyer (also vocals), bassist/vocalist Leah B. Levinson and drummer/percussionist Kern Haug present an innovative perspective on the genre that reminds of nothing so much as the manner in which earliest Wolves in the Throne Room showed that black metal could do something more than it had done previously. That’s not a sonic comparison, necessarily — though there are basic stylistic aspects shared between the two — but more about the way Agriculture are using black metal toward purposefully new expressive ends. I’m not Mr. Char by any means, but it’s been probably that long since the last time I heard something that was so definitively black metal and worked as much to refresh what that means.

Agriculture on Facebook

The Flenser website

Saltpig, Saltpig

Saltpig saltpig

Apparently self-released by the intercontinental duo last Fall and picked up for issue through Heavy Psych Sounds, Saltpig‘s self-titled debut modernizes classic charge and swing in increasingly doomed fashion across the first four songs of its A-side, laces “Burn the Witch” with samples themed around the titular subject, and dedicates all of side B to the blown out mostly-instrumental roll of “1950,” which is in fact 19 minutes and 50 seconds long. The band, comprised of guitarist/vocalist/noisemaker Mitch Davis (also producer for a swath of more commercially viable fare) and drummer Fabio Alessandrini (ex-Annihilator), are based in New York and Italy, respectively, and whatever on earth might’ve brought them together, in both the heavy-garage strut of “Demon” and the willfully harsh manner in which they represent themselves in the record’s back half, they bask in the rougher edges of their tones and approach more generally. “When You Were Dead” is something of a preface in its thicker distortion to “1950,” but its cavernous shouted vocals retain a psychedelic presence amid the ensuing grit, whereas once the closer gets underway from its feedback-soaked first two minutes, they make it plain there’s no coming back.

Saltpig on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Druidess, Hermits and Mandrakes

druidess hermits and mandrakes

Newcomer UK doomers Druidess nod forth on their debut EP, Hermits and Mandrakes, with a buzzing tonality in “Witches’ Sabbath” that’s distinctly more Monolord than Electric Wizard, and while that’s fascinating academically and in terms of the generational shift happening in the heavy underground over the last few years, the fuzz that accompanies the hook of “Mandragora,” which follows, brings a tempo boost that situates the two-piece of vocalist Shonagh Brown and multi-instrumentalist/producer Daniel Downing (guitar, bass, keys, drum programming; he even had a hand in the artwork, apparently) in a more rocking vein. It’s heavy either way you go, and “Knightingales” brings Green Lung-style organ into the mix along with another standout hook before “The Hermit of Druid’s Temple” signs over its soul to faster Sabbath worship and closer “The Forest Witches’ Daughter” underscores the commitment to same in combination with a more occult thematic. It’s familiar-enough terrain, ultimately, but the heft they conjure early on and the movement they bring to it later should be plenty to catch ears among the similarly converted, and in song and performance they display a self-awareness of craft that is no less a source of their potential.

Druidess on Facebook

Druidess on Bandcamp

Astral Construct, Traveling a Higher Consciousness

astral construct traveling to a higher consciousness

One-man sans-vocals psych outfit Astral Construct — aka Denver-based multi-instrumentalist Drew Patricks — released Traveling a Higher Consciousness last year, and well, I guess I got lost in a temporal wormhole or some such because it’s not last year anymore. The record’s five-track journey is encompassing in its metal-rooted take on heavy psychedelia, however, and that’s fortunate as “Accessing the Mind’s Eye” solidifies from its languid first-half unfolding into more stately progressive riffage. Bookended by the dreamy manifestation of “Heart of the Nebula” (8:12) and “Interstellar” (9:26), which moves between marching declaration and expansive helium-guitar float, the album touches ground in centerpiece “The Traveler,” but even there could hardly be called terrestrial once the drums drop out and the keys sweep in near the quick-fade finish that brings about the more angular “Long View of Astral Consciousness,” that penultimate track daring a bit of double-kick in the drums heading toward its own culmination. Now, then or future, whether it’s looking inward or out, Traveling a Higher Consciousness is a revelry for the cosmos waiting to be engaged. You might just end up in a different year upon hearing it.

Astral Construct on Facebook

Astral Construct on Bandcamp

Ainu, Ainu

ainu ainu

Although their moniker comes from an indigenous group who lived on Hokkaido before that island became part of modern Japan, Ainu are based in Genoa, Italy, and their self-titled debut has little to do sound-wise with the people or their culture. Fair enough. Ainu‘s Ainu, which starts out in “Il Faro” with sparse atmospheric guitar and someone yelling at you in Italian presumably about the sea (around which the record is themed), uses speech and samples to hold most positions vocals would otherwise occupy, though the two-minute “D.E.V.S.” is almost entirely voice-based, so the rules aren’t so strictly applied one way or the other. Similarly, as the three-piece course between grounded sludgier progressions and drifting post-heavy, touching on more aggressive moods in the late reaches of “Aiutami A. Ricordare” and the nodding culmination of “Khrono” but letting the breadth of “Call of the Sea” unfold across divergent movements of crunchier riffs and operatic prog grandiosity. You would not call it predictable, however tidal the flow from one piece to the next might be.

Ainu on Facebook

Subsound Records website

Grid, The World Before Us

grid the world before us

Progressive sludge set to a backdrop of science-fiction and extrasolar range, The World Before Us marks a turn from heretofore instrumental New York trio Grid, who not only feature vocals throughout their 38-minute six-tracker third LP, but vary their approach in that regard such that as “Our History Hidden” takes hold following the keyboardy intro “Singularity” (in we go!), the first three of the song’s 12 minutes find them shifting from sub-soaring melodicism to hard-growled metallic crunch with the comfort of an act who’ve been pulling off such things for much longer. The subsequent “Traversing the Interstellar Gateway” (9:31) works toward similar ends, only with guitar instead of singing, and the standout galloping kickdrum of “Architects of Our World” leads to a deeper dig into the back and forth between melody and dissonance, led into by the threatening effects manipulations of the interlude “Contact” and eventually giving over to the capstone outro “Duality” that, if it needs to be said, mirrors “Singularity” at the start. There’s nuance and texture in this interplay between styles — POV: you dig Opeth and Hawkwind — and my suspicion is that if Grid keep to this methodology going forward, the vocal arrangements will continue to evolve along with the rest of the band’s expanding-in-all-directions stylizations.

Grid on Facebook

Grid on Bandcamp

Dätcha Mandala, Koda

Datcha Mandala Koda

The stated intentions of Bordeaux, France’s Dätcha Mandala in bringing elements of ’90s British alternative rock into their heavier context with their Koda LP are audible in opener “She Said” and the title-track that follows it, but it’s the underlying thread of heavy rock that wins the day across the 11-song outing, however danceable “Wild Fire” makes it or however attitude-signaling the belly-belch that starts “Thousand Pieces” is in itself. That’s not to say Koda doesn’t succeed at what it’s doing, just that there’s more to the proceedings than playing toward that particular vision of cool. “It’s Not Only Rock and Roll (And We Don’t Like It)” has fuzzy charm and a hook to boot, while “Om Namah Shivaya” ignites with an energy that is proggy and urgent in kind — the kind of song that makes you a fan at the show even if you’ve never heard the band before — and closer “Homeland” dares some burl amid its harmonized chorus and flowing final guitar solo, answering back to the post-burp chug in “Thousand Pieces” and underscoring the multifaceted nature of the album as a whole. I suppose if you have prior experience with Dätcha Mandala, you know they’re not just about one thing, but for newcomers, expect happy surprises.

Dätcha Mandala on Facebook

Discos Macarras Records website

Dr. Space Meets Mr. Mekon, The Bubbles Scopes

dr space meets mr mekon dr space meets mr mekon

Given the principals involved — Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, et al, and Chris Purdon of Hawklords and Nik Turner’s Space Ritual — it should come as no surprise that The Bubbles Scopes complements its grammatical counterintuitiveness with alien soundscape concoctions of synth-based potency; the adventure into the unknown-until-it’s-recorded palpable across two extended tracks suitably titled “Trip 1” (22:56) and “Trip 2” (15:45). Longform waveforms, both. The collaboration — one of at least two Heller has slated for release this Spring; stay tuned tomorrow — makes it clear from the very beginning that the far-out course The Bubbles Scopes follows is for those who dwell in rooms with melting walls, but in the various pulsations and throbs of “Trip 1,’ the transition from organ to more electronic-feeling keyboard, and so on, human presence is no more absent than they want it to be, and while the loops are dizzying and “Trip 2” seems to reach into different dimensions with its depth of mix, when the scope is so wide, the sounds almost can’t help but feel free. And so they do. They put 30 copies on tape, because even in space all things digitalia are ephemeral. If you want one, engage your FOMO and make it happen because the chance may or may not come again.

Dr. Space on Facebook

Dr. Space on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Bongripper, Destroyer of Light, Castle Rat, Temple of the Fuzz Witch, State of Non Return, Thief, Ravens, Spacedrifter, Collyn McCoy, Misleading

Posted in Reviews on May 22nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan


I wouldn’t say we’re in the home stretch yet, but this 100-release Quarterly Review is more than three-quarters done after today, so I guess it’s debatable. In any case, we proceed. I hope you’ve enjoyed what’s been on offer so far. Yesterday was a little manic, but I got there. Today, tomorrow, I expect much the same. The order of things, as that one Jem’Hadar liked to say.

Quarterly Review #71-80:

Bongripper, Empty


Eight albums and the emergence of a microgenre cast partly in their image later, it would take a lot for Chicago ultra-crush instrumentalists Bongripper to surprise their listenership, at least as regards their basic approach. If you think that’s a bad thing, fine, but I’d put the 66 minutes of Empty forward to argue otherwise. Six years after 2018’s two-song LP Terminal (review here) — with a live record and single between — the four new songs of Empty dare to sneakily convey a hopeful message in the concave tracklisting: “Nothing” (20:40), “Remains’ (12:04), “Forever” (12:43), “Empty” (21:24). That message might be what’s expressed in the echoing post-metallic lead guitar on the finale and the organ on the prior “Forever,” or, frankly, it might not. Because in the great, lumbering, riffy morass that is their sound, there’s room for multiple interpretations as well as largesse enough to accommodate the odd skyscraper, so take it as you will. Just because you might go into it with some idea of what’s coming doesn’t mean you won’t get flattened.

Bongripper on Facebook

Bongripper BigCartel store

Destroyer of Light, Degradation Years

destroyer of light degradation years

My general policy as regards “last” records is to never say never until everybody’s holograms have been deleted, but the seven songs and 39 minutes of Degradation Years represent an ending for Destroyer of Light just the same, and the Austin-based troupe end as they began, which is by not being the band people expected them to be. Their previous long-player, 2022’s Panic (review here), dug into atmospheric doom in engrossing fashion, and Degradation Years presents not-at-all-their-first pivot, with post-punk atmospherics and ’90s-alt melodies on “Waiting for the End” and heavy drift on “Perception of Time.” “Failure” is duly sad, where the shorter, riffier “Blind Faith” shreds and careens heading into its verse, and the nine-minute “Where I Cannot Follow” gives Pallbearer‘s emotive crux a look on the way to its airy tremolo finish. Guitarist/vocalist Steve Colca has a couple other nascent projects going, guitarist Keegan Kjeldsen and drummer Kelly Turner are in Slumbering Sun, and Mike Swarbrick who plays bass here is in Cortége, but Destroyer of Light always stood on their own, and they never stopped growing across their 12-year run. Job well done.

Destroyer of Light on Facebook

Destroyer of Light on Bandcamp

Castle Rat, Into the Realm

castle rat into the realm

If you take away the on-stage theatricality, the medieval/horror fetish play, and all the hype, what you’re left with on Castle Rat‘s first album, Into the Realm is a solid collection of raw, classic-styled doom rock able to account for the Doors-y guitar in the quiet strum of the gets-heavy-later “Cry for Me” as well as the shrieks of “Fresh Fur” and opener “Dagger Dragger,” the nod and chug of “Nightblood” and the proto-metal of “Feed the Dream” via three interludes spaced out across its brief 32-minute stretch. Of course, taking away the drama, the sex, and aesthetic cultistry is missing part of the point of the band in the first place, but what I’m saying is that Into the Realm has more going for it than the fact that the band are young and good looking, willing to writhe, and thus marketable. They could haunt Brooklyn basements for the next 15-20 years or go tour with Ghost tomorrow, I honestly have no clue about their ambitions or goals in that regard, but their songs present a strong stylistic vision in accord with their overarching persona, resonating with a fresh generational take and potential progression. That’s enough on its own to make Into the Realm one of the year’s most notable debuts.

Castle Rat on Instagram

King Volume Records store

Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Apotheosis

Temple of the Fuzz Witch Apotheosis

With their third full-length and first for Ripple Music, Detroit trio Temple of the Fuzz Witch — guitarist/vocalist Noah Bruner (also synth), bassist Joe Peet and drummer Taylor Christian — follow their 2020 offering, Red Tide (review here), with a somewhat revamped imagining of who they are. Apotheosis — as high as you can get — introduces layers of harsh vocals and charred vibes amid the consuming lumber of its tonality, still cultish in atmosphere but heavier in its ritualizing and darker. The screams work, and songs like “Nephilim” benefit from Bruner‘s ability to shift from clean to harsh vocals there and across the nine-songer’s 39 minutes, and while there’s plenty of slog, a faster song like “Bow Down” stands out all the more from the grim, somehow-purple mist in which even the spacious midsection of “Raze” seems to reside. The bottom line is if you think you knew who they were or you judged them as a bong-metal tossoff because of their silly name, you’re already missing out. If you’re cool with that, fair enough. It’s not my job to sell you records anyway.

Temple of the Fuzz Witch on Facebook

Ripple Music website

State of Non Return, White Ink

State of Non Return White Ink

Among the final releases for Trepanation Recordings, White Ink is the years-in-the-making first LP from Bologna, Italy’s State of Non Return — and if you’re hearing a dogwhistle in their moniker for meditative fare because that’s also the name of an Om song, you’re neither entirely correct or incorrect. From the succession of the three circa-nine-minutes-each cuts “Catharsis,” “Vertigo” and “White Ink,” the trio harness a thoughtful take on brooding desert nod, with “Vertigo” boasting some more aggro-tinged shouts ahead of the chug in its middle building on the spoken word of the opener, and the intro to the title-track building into a roll of tempered distortion that offers due payoff in its sharp-edged leads and hypnotic repetitions, to the 15-minute finale “Pendulum” that offers due back and forth between minimal spaces and full-on voluminosity before taking off on an extended linear build to end, the focus is more on atmosphere than spiritual contemplation, and State of Non Return find individualism in moody contemplation and the tension-release of their heaviest moments. Some bands grow into their own sound over time. State of Non Return, who got together in 2016, seem to have spent at least some of that span of years since doing the legwork ahead of this release.

State of Non Return on Facebook

Trepanation Recordings on Bandcamp

Thief, Bleed, Memory

thief bleed memory

Writing and recording as a solo artist under the banner of Thief — there’s a band for stage purposes — Los Angeles-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Dylan Neal (also Botanist) pulls back from the ’90s-attitudinal industrial and nü-metal flirtations of 2021’s The 16 Deaths of My Master (review here) and reroutes the purpose toward more emotive atmospheric ends. Sure, “Dead Coyote Dreams” still sneaks out of its house to smoke cigarettes at night, and that’s cool forever and you know it, but with an urgent beat behind it, “Cinderland” opens to a wash that is encompassing in ways Thief had little interest in being three years ago, despite working with largely similar elements blending electronica, synth, and organic instrumentation. The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — holds that Neal‘s father’s onset of dementia inspired the turn, and that’s certainly reason enough if you need a reason, but if there’s processing taking place over the 12 inclusions and 44 minutes that Bleed, Memory spans, along with its allusions to James Joyce, Vladimir Nabokov, etc., that does not at all make the work feel anymore lost than it’s intended to be in the post-techno of “Paramnesia” or the wub-and-shimmer of “To Whom it May Concern” that rounds out. I’ll allow that being of a certain age might make it more relatable.

Thief on Facebook

Prophecy Productions website

Ravens, Ravens

ravens ravens

New Jersey’s Ravens mark their first public offering with this seven-song self-titled debut, spacious in its vocal echo and ostensibly led by riffs though that doesn’t necessarily mean the guitar is foremost in the mix throughout. The guitar/drum duo of Zack Kurland (Green Dragon, ex-Sweet Diesel, etc.) and drummer Chris Daly (Texas is the ReasonResurrection, etc.) emerges out of the trio Altered States with grounded rhythmic purpose beneath the atmospheric tones and vocal melodies, touching on pop in “Get On, Get On” while “New Speedway Boogie” struts with thicker tone and a less shoegazing intent than the likes of “To Whom You Were Born,” the languid “Miscommunication” and “Revolution 0,” though that two-minute piece ends with a Misfits-y vocal, so nothing is so black and white stylistically — a notion underscored as closer “Amen” builds from its All Them Witches-swaying meanderings to a full, driving wah-scorched wash to end off. Where they might be headed next, I have no idea, but if you can get on board with this one, the songs refuse to be sublimated to fit genre, and there are fewer more encouraging starts than that.

Ravens on Instagram

Ravens on Bandcamp

Spacedrifter, When the Colors Fade

Spacedrifter When the Colors Fade

Each of the 10 songs on Spacedrifter‘s first full-length, When the Colors Fade, works from its own intention, whether it’s the frenetic MondoGenerator thrust of “(Radio Edit)” or the touch of boogie in opener “Dwell,” but grunge and desert rock are at the root of much the proceedings, as the earliest-QOTSA fuzz of “Buried in Stone” will attest. But the scope of the whole is richer in hearing than on paper, and shifts like the layered vocal melodies in “Have a Girl” or the loose bluesy swing of the penultimate “NFOB,” the band’s willingness to let a part breathe without dwelling too long on any single idea, results in a balance that speaks to the open sensibilities of turn-of-the-century era European heavy without being a retread of those bands either. Comprised of bassist/vocalist/producer Olle Söderberg, drummer/vocalist Isac Löfgren guitarist/vocalist Adam Hante and guitarist John Söderberg, Spacedrifter‘s songwriting feels and organic in its scope and how it communes with the time before the “rules” of various microgenres were set, and is low-key refreshing not like an album you’re gonna hear a ton of hyperbole about, but one that’s going to stay with you longer than its 39 minutes, especially after you let it sink in over a couple listens. So yeah, I’m saying don’t be surprised when it’s on my year-end debuts list, blah blah whatever, but also watch out for how their sound develops from here.

Spacedrifter on Facebook

Spacedrifter on Bandcamp

Collyn McCoy, Night of the Bastard Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Collyn McCoy Night of the Bastard Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Assembled across varied movements of synthesizer ranging from half-a-minute to a bit under four minutes long, the score for the indie horror film Night of the Bastard finds L.A.’s Collyn McCoy (also of Circle of Sighs, bassist for Unida, etc.) performing under his experimental-and-then-some electronic alias Nyte Vypr, and if that doesn’t telegraph weirdness to come, well, you can just take my word for it that it should. I can’t claim to have seen the movie, which is reportedly available hither and yon in the clusterfuck that is the modern streamscape, but ’80s horror plays a big role in pieces like “Shards and Splinters” and the opening “Night of the Bastard” itself, while “If We Only Had Car Keys” and “Get Out” feel even more specifically John Carpenter in their beat and keyboard handclaps. Closer “The Sorceress” is pointedly terrifying, but “Turtle Feed” follows a drone and piano line to more peaceful ends that come across as far, far away from the foreboding soundscape of “Go Fuck Yourself.” Remember that part where I said it was going to get weird? It does, and it’s clearly supposed to, so mark it another win for McCoy‘s divergent CV.

Collyn McCoy website

Collyn McCoy on Bandcamp

Misleading, Face the Psych

Misleading Face the Psych

I hate to be that guy, but while Face the Psych is the third long-player from Portugal’s Misleading, it’s my first time hearing them, so I can’t help but feel like it’s worth noting that, in fact, they’re not that misleading at all. They tell you to face the psych and then, across seven cosmos-burning tracks and 54 minutes in an alternate dimension, you face it. Spoiler: it’s fucking rad. While largely avoiding the trap of oh-so-happening-right-now space metal, Misleading are perfectly willing to let themselves be carried where the flow of “Tutte le Nove Vite” takes them — church organ righteousness, bassy shuffle, jams that run in gravitational circles, and so on — and to shove and be shoved by the insistence of “Cheating Death” a short while later. The centerpiece “Spazio Nascoto” thickens up stonerized swing after a long intro of synth drone, and 12-minute capper “Egregore” feels like the entire song, not just the guitar and bass, has been put through the wah pedal. As likely to make you punchdrunk as entranced, willfully unhinged, and raw despite filling all the reaches of its mix and then some, it’s not so much misleading as leading-astray as you suddenly realize an hour later you’ve quit your job and dropped out of life, ne’er to be seen, heard from or hounded by debt collectors again. Congrats on that, by the way.

Misleading on Facebook

Misleading on Bandcamp

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SonicBlast Fest 2024: New Lineup Additions & Day Splits Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

sonicblast fest 2024 day split banner

With a quick round of lineup adds and the announcement of how the pre-show and three days of the festival-proper will play out, SonicBlast Fest 2024 continues to take shape, and golly it looks like fun. Germany’s Daily Thompson will make the trek westward to herald their new album, Chuparosa, and the everywhere-in-Europe-this-year-apparently duo Earth Tongue from New Zealand will appear in support of their upcoming sophomore LP, Great Haunting. Also new to the bill are Canadian psych-prog forebears Black Mountain and thrash outfit Fugitive, because sometimes you just need a punch in the face.

There are still some names to add, as you can see on the poster below. The day splits put Daily Thompson on the pre-show, and that will be a party. I’d expect at least one of the TBCs there, if not both, to be Iberian bands, as SonicBlast runs deep in support for its own regional underground, and given how packed the fest-Friday (Aug. 9) is, they could go just about anywhere in mixing it up, more thrash, hardcore, noise, psych, doom, stoner, whatever, and make it work. There’s a lot to like, even before you find yourself sitting on the beach in Âncora waiting for whoever to go on.

The below was culled from a couple different social posts, so if it reads weird, that’s why, but I expect you get the idea. Here you go:

sonicblast fest 2024 day splits poster

Daily tickets are already on sale! Check the daily line-ups here 🔥 Looking forward for August!

*this is not in the order of performance

Psychedelic rockers @blackmountainarmy, thrashers supergroup @fugitive_tx (with members of Power Trip and Creeping Death), heavy psych rockers @earthtongue and sonic fuzzers @dailythompson_ will join us in this insane party, this August at Praia da Duna dos Caldeirões

🔥 Daily and full festival tickets are already on sale at BOL (Fnac, Worten, Ctt…), at https://garboyl.bol.pt/ and at https://www.masqueticket.com/entradas/sonicblast-fest-2024

Check all the news at www.sonicblastfestival.com
Artwork by @branca_studio


Daily Thompson, “I’m Free Tonight” official video

Earth Tongue, “Bodies Dissolve Tonight!” official video

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SonicBlast Fest 2024 Adds High on Fire, Slift and More to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 19th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Last year, at what was my first time attending SonicBlast Fest in Âncora, Portugal, where it’s been held the last several years since moving from Moledo, I had a great, great time. Really. When I think every single day in multiple contexts about how I never seem to let myself enjoy anything — a perspective to which this blog stands as ready testament against, what with all the salivating and hyperbole — my time at SonicBlast is among the first counterpoints that comes to mind. I met new friends, I met old friends, I hung out with Dr. Space for like three days, and that dude’s the best. I stood on stage and watched Dozer, singing along and rocking out alongside friendly, welcoming faces. A rare moment overcoming insecurity. The place, the weather, the beach, the people are beautiful. And the music is very loud. For the rest of my life, I get to say I saw Ruff Majik supporting Elektrik Ram. For this I am deeply lucky.

The shape of my 2024 is such that when SonicBlast happens this year –Aug. 8-10, with the pre-show Aug. 7 set to feature Saint Karloff from Norway among others still TBA — I’ll be traveling with family elsewhere. That’s kind of a result of there only being so much summer between school years and my wife’s teaching semesters, so I’m rolling with it. I wouldn’t be so arrogant as to assume I’d be invited back to SonicBlast anyhow, but if the weekend comes and you don’t see me covering the likes of High on FireMargarita Witch Cult (who I think I might need to see), The ObsessedTonsSlift, and so on, it’s not because I didn’t have a good time there last year or wouldn’t be interested in watching Brant BjorkGraveyardColour Haze and/or 1000mods (who ruled at Desertfest NYC and are maybe recording?), Truckfighters and probably four or five surprisingly hardcore-influenced acts on that huge stage, when in fact I very much would. Last year’s edition was unrealistically good. The photo pit was big enough to dance in. They even had chairs. I’d be back there in a second if I could. Maybe 2025 if I’m lucky and the world doesn’t end (again).

Poster by Branca — to whom I wasn’t brave enough to say hi last year, sorry — and the announcement from the festival’s socials follow in blue, as well as links and the High on Fire single in case you don’t want to just scroll down the site to find it in its own post:

SonicBlast Fest 2024

We’re so proud to announce 13 more bands that’ll burn down SonicBlast Fest’s 12th edition!

Welcome the great @highonfireband, who will release the first single from their upcoming album today, @gayesuakyol @sliftrock @thenightbeats @theobsessedofficial @coffin_aus @jjuujjuu @margaritawitchcult @skemer_official @tonsofweed666 @cobrafuma and @silvershark_boogie 🔥🔥🔥

We’re also so glad to announce the first name to our warm-up party, at the 7th august, @saintkarloff ⚡️

Unfortunately Sunami won’t be able to make it to SonicBlast Fest 2024.

*** more to be announced soon ***

🔥 Full festival tickets are already on sale at BOL (Fnac, Worten, Ctt…), at https://garboyl.bol.pt/ and at https://www.masqueticket.com/entradas/sonicblast-fest-2024

Check all the news at www.sonicblastfestival.com
Artwork by @branca_studio


High on Fire, “Burning Down”

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Album Review: Grace and Space, Floatospherofonica

Posted in Reviews on December 27th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Grace and Space Floatospherofonica

Headphones on, folkz — that was a typo but I’m leaving it — because we’re diving in. Or out. Up? Or some fifth dimensional combination of them all plus time, gravity and consciousness? And if we begin with the central question, “What is float?” — in my head that’s very much asked in the vein of Funkadelic’s “What is Soul,” but you may or may not hear it that way and that’s fine — then Grace and Space‘s wildly syllabic Floatospherofonica is both instructive and cosmically worldmaking. Because without float there can be no ‘floatosphere’ from which the properties might be derived to define something as ‘floatospherophonic,’ probably something related to sound, therefore giving rise to an oeuvre or genre of ‘floatospherofonica,’ as the thing representative of the place.

Certainly the 19-minute title-track is a place to start, but it’s not actually where this collaboration between members of California-based acid experimentalists 3rd Ear ExperienceRobbi Robb, credited here with guitar, bass and production, Sam Wilmore on drums and, crucially, Amritakripa on synth, what minimal vocals there are, as well as percussion and banjo — and the galaxy’s own Scott “Dr. Space” Heller, known for his synth wizarding in Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, Doctors of Space and others, as well as past teamups live and/or in-studio with the likes of JOY and Carlton Melton and KG West and on and on.

For Heller, Floatospherofonica arrives as part of an ongoing creative supernova. I asked him to send me his full discography which, thankfully, he kept and was kind enough to lend for my personal reference. A couple stats from it: First, the last time he had fewer than 10 releases out in a single year was 2018. In 2023, Heller contributed to or spearheaded 17 albums with various outfits, among them Albinö Rhino, the aforementioned Øresund Space Collective, Doctors of Space and Black Moon Circle, and extensive solo work as Dr. Space. And that’s actually down from 18 in 2022. It would be an impressively broad catalog for a lifetime. It’s more than most ever do. I am fortunate to call this man a friend.

Grace and Space isn’t the first time Robb — whose history goes back 40-plus years to South Africa’s punk underground and includes Tribe After Tribe and sundry other much-respect-to-you-sir-type collabs; which is to say I’m not trying to shine a light on Dr. Space‘s level of output in the paragraph above and discount what Robb, Amritakripa or Wilmore bring to Floatospherofonica, at all, because the truth is it’s probably the bulk of it — and Heller and Amritakripa have worked together. All three were on 2019’s Ear to Space (review here) by a unit listed as 3rd Ear Experience with Dr. Space, as well as 2021’s Danny Frankel’s 3rd Ear Experience (review here), and their shared openness to improvisation resonates through each of the album’s six pieces spread across a hypnotically-broad soundscape anchored but not defined in its 61 minutes by its two longest inclusions: “Floatospherofonica” (19:19) and “Rabjut” (13:17).

Grace and Space Floatospherofonica CD

These two don’t necessarily define the rest of what surrounds. “Time Disappear” leads off, is six minutes of minimalist acid wash guitar and proggy keyboardery with the most discernably-human vocals, and the title-track follows, with “Not Ever Nowhere” offering a nine-minute meditation set to a casually kosmiche throb of a groove before the shimmer takes it to an ice planet, “Rabjut” perhaps embodying it at some point in the distant future before the more grounded feeling “Hydro Blap” gives brief repositioning ahead of the sprawling krauty drones of “Overture” at the finish. Everything is in conversation here with itself, occupying its corner of a fluid universe and letting it make sense in its own way.

Which is far enough out to circle back around to the original question at the start: What defines ‘float’ as the root of Floatospherofinica? I use the term pretty commonly in reviews, and I know when I say something floats, it’s usually referring to a feeling of something being unlatched to a clear rhythm; in the context of pieces like “Rabjut” and “Not Ever Nowhere” and the synth layers of “Overture” put as the apparent foundation of the project from Amritakripa, there is plenty throughout that meets any standard of ‘float’ I can think of to apply, but that’s not necessarily all that’s happening in its ambience, despite being a prevalent enough notion for the album to work around, maybe willfully contradict in a couple spots.

But even underneath that is the already-noted shared affinity between the two parties involved here — that’s Amritakripa and Robb and Wilmore as a group in 3rd Ear Experience in California, and Heller working in his studio in Portugal — for improvisation and for letting the music wander into its own moment of discovery as much as one can. The cinematic way “Floatospherofonica” brings in its initial keyboard line atop the windy drone behind and unfolds in movements makes me think there was some measure of plan at work, somewhere along the line, even if that’s one layer of synthesizer playing off the layer before just recorded, or Heller answering something Amritakripa is doing, maybe vice versa (I don’t know how much back and forth there was), and so on, but I assure you I don’t know that this wasn’t all just made up as it was tracked and if you told me it was, I can’t really see myself offering much of a fight either way.

The inclusion of vocals at all gives Grace and Space an identity separate from most of what Heller does, and the focus on synth pulls to the side of some of the more guitar-led output of 3rd Ear Experience, though if you’d take any of it on between that band, Grace and Space, or pretty much anything any of these cats are involved in, you should be aware you’re headed into the farther reaches of far out. I’ve said on multiple occasions — usually Friday Full-Lengths and the like — that I consider writing about Dr. Space‘s stuff a favor to myself and that’s the case here too, precisely because this project is so able to find its place as distinct from the rest of it. I don’t know that it will be an ongoing thing and I don’t know that it won’t, and while it’s playing out, I’m perfectly willing to accept the fact that some things you don’t always get to know completely and maybe that’s okay.

Also the universe is a hologram and whales are sentient. Happy trails!

Grace and Space, Floatospherofonica (2023)

3rd Ear Experience on Facebook

3rd Ear Experience on Bandcamp

Øresund Space Collective on Facebook

Øresund Space Collective on Bandcamp

Space Rock Productions website

Space Rock Productions on Facebook

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SonicBlast Fest 2024 Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 20th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Man, you ever feel like you’re crawling to the finish line? I’m doing news catchup the next couple days, and this announcement from SonicBlast Fest came out like last weekend or some such with a first round of lineup adds for the Aug. 2024 edition of the Portuguese heavy festival — it’s the 12th one — and as I sit here with my e’er expanding ass sinking e’er deeper into the couch I feel about as far removed as I could from, let’s say, the glorious nighttime walk across the beach in Âncora that I was lucky enough to be born to eventually undertake after a night at SonicBlast earlier this year.

Not only was it my first time in Portugal and Iberia, period, but I met people I never thought I’d get to meet, saw old friends and made new ones, and for a few days pretty much lived the festival ideal. You get there, see sets, go back, write, drink all the coffee, take pictures, write more, write more, eventually collapse from fatigue, then go home with a rejuvenated spirit. You know, fest life.

Submitted for your daydreams is the initial billing for SonicBlast Fest 2024, with the heavy, stoner, psych and punk and hardcore sides of the festival represented and a solid punch of names with Graveyard, Brant Bjork Trio, 1000mods and Truckfighters. Think this means Deathchant and Sacri Monti will tour Europe together? I do. Think it means Sacri Monti‘s album will be out by then? I hope so. Deathchant, who also played this year, are awesome, by the way.

Here’s news. Tickets are on sale already:

sonicblast fest 2024 first poster

SONICBLAST FEST ’24 – Aug. 8-10

It’s getting hard to breathe… We’re so proud to announce the first bands for SonicBlast Fest’s 12th edition!! Viagra Boys, Graveyard, Wine Lips, Brant Bjork Trio, Sunami, Colour Haze, Home Front, Truckfighters, Poison Ruin, 1000mods, Sacri Monti, Maruja, Deathchant and Máquina will join us at the craziest heavy psychedelic weekend by the ocean ⚡🌊☀️

*** more to be announced soon ***

🔥 Full festival tickets are already on sale at BOL (Fnac, Worten, Ctt…), at https://garboyl.bol.pt/ and at https://www.masqueticket.com/entradas/sonicblast-fest-2024

Artwork by Branca Studio


Colour Haze, Sacred (2022)

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