The Obelisk Questionnaire: Yianna Bekris of Vouna

Posted in Questionnaire on August 2nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

vouna

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Yianna Bekris of Vouna

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

I have a project called Vouna that I use as an outlet for my musical creativity. I compose, perform, and record all Vouna’s music, and in the live lineup I sing and play guitar. I’ve been writing little doomy songs on my own for a long time, just for the hell of it. I decided that it would be something I would share with other people after my former bands went on hiatus and that was the start of Vouna as it is today.

Describe your first musical memory.

Driving in the car with my dad while he blasted cassettes that he recorded off the radio in Greece.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

I think all the moshing I did while watching death metal bands in my teen years is the reason I’m still alive today.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I try to be open-minded when presented with empirical evidence and sound arguments. I do think it’s possible there is more than what can be tested empirically but for me empiricism still reigns supreme, and that has yet to be truly challenged for me. Although sometimes the music that comes to me feels like it’s a transmission from another universe.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

In my case, I create art as a compulsion and it often doesn’t feel like it’s leading anywhere aside from me becoming more competent in enacting an impulse.

How do you define success?

There isn’t really a catch-all definition in my opinion, but I usually feel like something is a success because of some feeling of accomplishment or fulfillment or because some quantifiable metrics were satisfied. I’ve found that the feeling of success can be ephemeral or an illusion.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

I’d prefer not to answer this question, I’ve seen some fucked up shit.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

My next album. After a long time of feeling like I was spending too much effort figuring out how to interface with a computer I was able to establish a flow that felt more natural while recording this album, Atropos. I think having a new comfort in the format and manner in which I create music for Vouna will allow me to be more effective in translating whatever is going on in my head to songs.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

“Art makes life worth living.”

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Spending more time in the mountains this summer.

https://www.facebook.com/VOUNAMETAL
https://www.instagram.com/VOUNABAND/
https://vouna.bandcamp.com/
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.instagram.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com

Vouna, Atropos (2021)

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Quarterly Review: Amenra, Liquid Sound Company, Iceburn, Gods and Punks, Vouna, Heathen Rites, Unimother 27, Oxblood Forge, Wall, Boozewa

Posted in Reviews on July 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

You’ll have to forgive me, what the hell day is it? The url says this is day eight, so I guess that’s Wednesday. Fine. That’s as good as any. It’s all just 10 more records to my brain at this point, and that’s fine. I’ve got it all lined up. As of me writing this, I still haven’t heard about my busted-ass laptop that went in for repair last Saturday, and that’s a bummer, but I’m hoping that any minute now the phone is going to show the call coming in and I’ll just keep staring at it until that happens and I’m sure that will be awesome for my already brutalized productivity.

My backup laptop — because yes, I have one and will gladly argue with you that it’s necessary citing this week as an example — is a cheapie Chromebook. The nicest thing I can say about it is it’s red. The meanest thing I can say about it is that I had to change the search button to a caps lock and even that doesn’t respond fast enough to my typing, so I’m constantly capitalizing the wrong letters. If you don’t think that’s infuriating, congratulations on whatever existence has allowed you to live this long without ever needing to use a keyboard. “Hello computer,” and all that.

Enough kvetching. Too much to do.

Quarterly Review #71-80:

Amenra, De Doorn

Amenra De Doorn

I’ve made no secret over the last however long of not being the biggest Amenra fan in the universe. Honestly, it’s not even about the Belgian band themseves — live, they’re undeniable — but the plaudits around them are no less suffocating than their crushing riffs at their heaviest moments. Still, as De Doorn marks their first offering through Relapse Records, finds them departing from their Mass numbered series of albums and working in their native Flemish for the first time, and brings Caro Tanghe of Oathbreaker into the songs to offer melodic counterpoint to Colin H. van Eeckhout‘s nothing-if-not-identifiable screams, the invitations to get on board are manifold. This is a band with rules. They have set their own rules, and even in pushing outside them as they do here, much of their ideology and sonic persona is maintained. Part of that identity is being forward thinking, and that surfaces on De Doorn in parts ambient and quiet, but there’s always a part of me that feels like Amenra are playing it safe, even as they’re working within parameters they’ve helped define for a generation of European post-metal working directly in their wake. The post-apocalyptic breadth they harness in these tracks will only continue to win them converts. Maybe I’ll be one of them. That would be fun. It’s nice to belong, you know?

Amenra on Facebook

Relapse Records website

 

Liquid Sound Company, Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul

Liquid sound company psychoactive songs for the psoul

A quarter-century after their founding, Arlington, Texas, heavy psych rockers Liquid Sound Company still burn and melt along the lysergic path of classic ’60s acid rock, beefier in tone but no less purposeful in their drift on Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul. They’re turning into custard on “Blacklight Corridor” and they can tell you don’t understand on “Who Put All of Those Things in Your Hair?,” and all the while their psych rock digs deeper into the cosmic pulse, founding guitarist John Perez (also Solitude Aeturnus) unable to resist bringing a bit of shred to “And to Your Left… Neptune” — unless that’s Mark Cook‘s warr guitar — even as “Mahayuga” answers back to the Middle Eastern inflection of “Blacklight Corridor” earlier on. Capping with the mellow jam “Laila Was Here,” Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul is a loving paean to the resonant energies of expanded minds and flowing effects, but “Cosmic Liquid Love” is still a heavy rollout, and even the shimmering “I Feel You” is informed by that underlying sense of heft. Nonetheless, it’s an acid invitation worth the RSVP.

Liquid Sound Company on Facebook

Liquid Sound Company on Bandcamp

 

Iceburn, Asclepius

iceburn asclepius

Flying snakes, crawling birds, two tracks each over 17 minutes long, the first Iceburn release in 20 years is an all-in affair from the outset. As someone coming to the band via Gentry Densley‘s work in Eagle Twin, there are recognizable elements in tone, themes and vocals, but with fellow founders Joseph “Chubba” Smith on drums and James Holder on guitar, as well as bassist Cache Tolman (who’s Johnny Comelately since he originally joined in 1991, I guess), the atmosphere conjured by the four-piece is consuming and spacious in its own way, and their willingness to go where the song guides them on side A’s “Healing the Ouroboros,” right up to the long-fading drone end after so much lumbering skronk and incantations before, and side B’s “Dahlia Rides the Firebird,” with its pervasive soloing, gallop and veer into earth-as-cosmos terradelia, the return of Iceburn — if in fact that’s what this is — makes its own ceremony across Asclepius, sounding newly inspired rather than like a rehash.

Iceburn on Facebook

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Gods & Punks, The Sounds of the Universe

gods and punks the sounds of the universe

As regards ambition, Gods & Punks‘ fourth LP, The Sounds of the Universe, wants for nothing. The Rio De Janeiro heavy psych rockers herein wrap what they’ve dubbed their ‘Voyager’ series, culminating the work they’ve done since their first EP — album opener “Eye in the Sky” is a remake — while tying together the progressive, heavy and cosmic aspects of their sound in a single collection of songs. In context, it’s a fair amount to take in, but a track like “Black Apples” has a riffy standout appeal regardless of its place in the band’s canon, and whether it’s the classic punch of “The TUSK” or the suitably patient expansion of “Universe,” the five-piece don’t neglect songwriting for narrative purpose. That is to say, whether or not you’ve heard 2019’s And the Celestial Ascension (discussed here) or any of their other prior material, you’re still likely to be pulled in by “Gravity” and “Dimensionaut” and the rest of what surrounds. The only question is where do they go from here? What’s outside the universe?

Gods & Punks on Facebok

Abraxas on Facebook

Forbidden Place Records website

 

Vouna, Atropos

vouna atropos

Released (appropriately) by Profound Lore, Vouna‘s second full-length Atropos is a work of marked depth and unforced grandeur. After nine-minute opener “Highest Mountain” establishes to emotional/aural tone, Atropos is comprised mostly of three extended pieces in “Vanish” (15:34), “Grey Sky” (14:08) and closer “What Once Was” (15:11) with the two-minute “What Once Was (Reprise)” leading into the final duo. “Vanish” finds Vouna — aka Olympia, Washington-based Yianna Bekris — bringing in textures of harp and violin to answer the lap steel and harp on “Highest Mountain,” and features a harsh guest vocal from Wolves in the Throne Room‘s Nathan Weaver, but it’s in the consuming wash at the finish of “Grey Sky” and in the melodic vocal layers cutting through as the first half of “What Once Was” culminates ahead of the break into mournful doom and synth that Vouna most shines, bridging styles in a way so organic as to be utterly consuming and keeping resonance as the most sought target, right unto the piano line that tops the last crescend, answering back the very beginning of “Highest Mountain.” Not a record that comes along every day.

Vouna on Facebook

Profound Lore website

 

Heathen Rites, Heritage

heathen rites heritage

One gets the sense in listening that for Mikael Monks, the Burning Saviours founder working under the moniker of Heathen Rites for the first time, the idea of Heritage for which the album is titled is as much about doom itself as the Scandinavian folk elements that surface in “Gleipner” or in the brief, bird-song and mountain-echo-laced finish “Kulning,” not to mention the Judas Priest-style triumphalism of the penultimate “The Sons of the North” just before. Classic doom is writ large across Heritage, from the bassline of “Autumn” tapping into “Heaven and Hell” to the flowing culmination of “Midnight Sun” and the soaring guitar apex in “Here Comes the Night.” In the US, many of these ideas of “northern” heritage, runes, or even heathenism have been coopted as expressions of white supremacy. It’s worth remembering that for some people it’s actually culture. Monks pairs that with his chosen culture — i.e. doom — in intriguing ways here that one hopes he’ll continue to explore.

Heathen Rites on Facebook

Svart Records website

 

Unimother 27, Presente Incoerente

Unimother 27 Presente Incoerente

Some things in life you just have to accept that you’re never going to fully understand. The mostly-solo-project Unimother 27 from Italy’s Piero Ranalli is one of those things. Ranalli has been riding his own wavelength in krautrock and classic progressive stylizations mixed with psychedelic freakout weirdness going on 15 years now, experimenting all the while, and you don’t have to fully comprehend the hey-man-is-this-jazz bass bouncing under “L’incontro tra Phallos e Mater Coelestis” to just roll with it, so just roll with it and know that wherever you’re heading, there’s a plan at work, even if the plan is to not have a plan. Mr. Fist‘s drums tether the synth and drifting initial guitar of “Abraxas…il Dio Difficile da Conoscere” and serve a function as much necessary as grooving, but one way or the other, you’re headed to “Systema Munditotius,” where forward and backward are the same thing and the only trajectory discernible is “out there.” So go. Just go. You won’t regret it.

Unimother 27 on Facebook

Pineal Gland Lab website

 

Oxblood Forge, Decimator

Oxblood Forge Decimator

Not, not, not a coincidence that Massachusetts four-piece Oxblood Forge — vocalist Ken Mackay, guitarist Robb Lioy, bassist Greg Dellaria and drummer/keyboardist Erik Fraünfeltër — include an Angel Witch cover on their third long-player, Decimator, as even before they get around to the penultimate “Sorcerers,” the NWOBHM is a defining influence throughout the proceedings, be it the “hey hey hey!” chanting of “Mortal Salience” or the death riders owning the night on opener “Into the Abyss” or the sheer Maidenry met with doom tinge on “Screams From Silence.” Mackay‘s voice, high in the mix, adds a tinge of grit, but Decimator isn’t trying to get one over on anyone. This blue collar worship for classic metal presented in a manner that could only be as full-on as it is for it to work at all. No irony, no khakis, no bullshit.

Oxblood Forge on Facebook

Oxblood Forge on Bandcamp

 

Wall, Vol. 2

wall vol 2

They keep this up, they’re going to have a real band on their hands. Desert Storm/The Grand Mal bandmates and twin brothers Ryan Cole (guitar/bass) and Elliot Cole (drums) began Wall as a largely-instrumental quarantine project in 2020, issuing a self-titled EP (review here) on APF Records. Vol. 2 follows on the quick with five more cuts of unbridled groove, including a take on Karma to Burn‘s “Nineteen” that, if it needs to be said, serves as homage to Will Mecum, who passed away earlier this year. That song fits right in with a cruncher like “Avalanche” or “Speed Freak,” or even “The Tusk,” which also boasts a bit of layered guitar harmonies, feeling out new ground there and in the acousti-handclap-blues of “Falling From the Edge of Nowhere.” The fact that Wall have live dates booked — alongside The Grand Mal, no less — speaks further to their real-bandness, but Vol. 2 hardly leaves any doubt as it is.

Wall on Facebook

APF Records website

 

Boozewa, Deb

Boozewa Deb

The second self-recorded outing from Pennsylvania trio Boozewa, Deb, offers two songs to follow-up on Feb. 2021’s First Contact (review here) demo, keeping an abidingly raw, we-did-this-at-home feel — this time they sent the results to Tad Doyle for mastering — while pushing their sound demonstrably forward with “Deb” bringing bassist Jessica Baker to the fore vocally alongside drummer Mike Cummings. Guitarist Rylan Caspar contributes in that regard as well, and the results are admirably grunge-coated heavy rock and roll that let enough clarity through to establish a hook, while the shorter “Now. Stop.” edges toward a bit more lumber in its groove, at least until they punk it out with some shouts at the finish. Splitting hairs? You betcha. Maybe they’re just writing songs. The results are there waiting to be dug either way.

Boozewa on Instagram

Boozewa on Bandcamp

 

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Vouna Post “Highest Mountain”; New LP Atropos Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 19th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

vouna

Some records, they come your way, you put on a track, you skim through, blah blah blah, you check it out, you go, “okay, I get it,” and you move on, either to “this is cool” or “nah.” Vouna‘s Atropos is the other kind of record, which is the kind you put on, maybe with the intention of skimming through, and then you leave it on and just let it go because frickin’ awesome and demands nothing less than full attention even when, say, you’re supposed to be listening to something else to review it at just that particular moment. Sorry, other record(s), I’ve got someplace to be.

That place is “Highest Mountain,” as it happens, the nine-minute lead single from Atropos and one of the five songs on what’ll be the second Vouna long-player when Profound Lore does the honors this July 16. I’ll hope to have more on it before then, but for now I guess I should probably finish listening to it first. Or maybe I shouldn’t, because it’s kind of making the rest of the planet feel lightweight in comparison right now. Just a little further…

Info from the PR wire:

vouna atropos

VOUNA ANNOUNCE NEW FULL-LENGTH, DROP POWERFUL SINGLE

Olympia, WA’s VOUNA – featuring multi-instrumentalist and composer Yianna Bekris – has announced a new full-length album titled, Atropos, to be released on July 16, 2021 via Profound Lore Records. Bekris unveils a towering and singular doom metal wonder in a unique visioning reminiscent of My Dying Bride, Sub Rosa, Paradise Lost, and Evoken. Upon the thick foundation of doom, multiple musical textures intertwine into her sound: atmospheric black metal, dungeon synth, dark-wave, film scores, and Rebetiko. It is through these woven sonic tapestries that Bekris creates vivid atmospheres expressing the myriad emotions surrounding death, mourning, and suicidal ideation. Atropos, named for the Greek fate who cut the thread of life thus determining the final fate for mortals, not only conveys the inevitability of death, but also explores its contrasting and dynamic nature through immersive compositions representing despair, loneliness, anxiety, peace, and dignity.

Today, VOUNA has released the first single off of Atropos titled, “Highest Mountain”. The powerful track displays 9+ minutes of soaring and crushing doom, black metal, goth, and a triumphant resolve.

About the track, Bekris comments: “This song is about someone who is dying and wants to be buried at the peak of the highest mountain as their final wish. I have always been fascinated with mountains, and I even named this project after them (Vouna meaning mountains in Greek), and it seems like such an honor to be buried at the top of a tall mountain. It isn’t necessarily about a specific mountain that exists.”

“Highest Mountain” is streaming now.

Along with the full-length announcement, the release of “Highest Mountain”, track listing, album artwork by Amjad Faur, Bekris has also revealed guest appearances on the forthcoming full-length, including an appearance from Wolves In The Throne Room’s Nathan Weaver. Digital pre-order for Atropos is available now via Profound Lore Records.

Track listing:
1. Highest Mountain
2. Vanish
3. What Once Was Reprise
4. Grey Sky
5. What Once Was

Album Details:
Recorded at the Owl Lodge in 2020 by Yianna Bekris with assistance from Nathan Weaver and Aaron Weaver. Drum recording: Ethan Camp with assistance from Alex Doherty. Mixing by Greg Chandler at Priory Recording Studios. Mastering by Dan Lowndes at Resonance Sound Studio.

Guests:
Entrail (Entrail): violin on “Vanish”
Caitlin Fate (Organelle, Vouna): electric lap steel on “Highest Mountain”
Autumn Kassel (former Vouna synth player): synth interlude on “What Once Was”
Asia Kindred Moore (Sangre de Muerdago, Solace): harp on “Highest Mountain” and distorted harp on “Vanish”
Nathan Weaver (Wolves in the Throne Room): additional vocals on “Vanish”

Album Artwork by: Amjad Faur
Promotional Photo by: Dreaming God

VOUNA is:
Yianna Bekris

https://www.facebook.com/VOUNAMETAL
https://www.instagram.com/VOUNABAND/
https://vouna.bandcamp.com/
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.instagram.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com

Vouna, “Highest Mountain”

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Quarterly Review: Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Cruthu, Sólstafir, ILS, Bismut, Cracked Machine, Megadrone, KLÄMP, Mábura, Astral Sleep

Posted in Reviews on October 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

We’ve reached the portion of the Quarterly Review wherein I would no longer know what day it is if I didn’t have my notes to help me keep track. I suppose it doesn’t matter — the day, that is — since it’s 10 records either way, but I’d hate to review the same albums two days in a row or something. Though, come to think of it, that might be a fun experiment sometime.

Not today. Today is another fresh batch of 10 on the way to 60 by next Monday. We’ll get there. Always do. And if you’re wondering, today’s Thursday. At least that’s what I have in my notes.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. I

bell witch aerial ruin Stygian Bough Volume 1

The collaborative effort Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin and their 64-minute full-length, Stygian Bough Vol. I — the intention toward future output together hinted at in the title already confirmed by the group(s) — is a direct extension of what Aerial Ruin, aka Erik Moggridge, brought to the last Bell Witch album, 2017’s Mirror Reaper (review here), in terms of complementing the crushing, emotionally resonant death-doom of the Washington duo with morose folk vocal melody. Stygian Bough Vol. I is distinguished by having been written by the two-plus-one-equals-three-piece as a group, and accordingly, it more fluidly weaves Moggridge‘s contributions into those of Bell Witch‘s Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman, resulting in an approach like if Patrick Walker from Warning had joined Thergothon. It’s prevailing spirit is deep melancholy in longer pieces like “The Bastard Wind” and “The Unbodied Air,” both over 19 minutes, while it might be in “Heaven Torn Low I (The Passage)” and “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll)” that the trio most effectively bring their intent to life. Either way, if you’re in, be ready to go all the way in, but know that it’s well worth doing so.

Bell Witch on Thee Facebooks

Aerial Ruin on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

Cruthu, Athrú Crutha

cruthu Athrú Crutha

Traditional doom with flourish both of noise and NWOBHM guitars — that turn in the second half of opener “Transformation” is like a dogwhistle for Iron Maiden fans — I hear Cruthu‘s second album, Athrú Crutha, and all I can think of are label recommendations. The Michigan outfit’s 2017 debut, The Angle of Eternity (review here), was eventually issued on The Church Within, and that’d certainly work, but also Ván Records, Shadow Kingdom, and even Cruz Del Sur seem like fitting potential homes for the righteousness on display across the vinyl-ready six-song/39-minute outing, frontman Ryan Evans commanding in presence over the reverb-loaded classic-style riffs of guitarist Dan McCormick and the accompanying gallop in Matt Fry‘s drums given heft by Derek Kasperlik‘s bass. Like the opener, “Necromancy” and “Dimensional Collide” move at a good clip, but side B’s “The Outsider” and closer “Crown of Horns” slow things down following the surprisingly rough-edged “Beyond the Pale.” One way or the other, it’s all doomed and so are we.

Cruthu on Thee Facebooks

Cruthu on Bandcamp

 

Sólstafir, Endless Twilight of Codependent Love

Sólstafir endless twilight of codependent love

Whereas 2017’s Berdreyminn (review here) existed in the shadow of 2014’s Ótta (review here), Endless Twilight of Codependent Love brings Iceland’s Sólstafir to a new place in terms of their longer-term progression. It is their first album with an English title since 2005’s Masterpiece of Bitterness, and though they’ve had English-language songs since then, the mellow “Her Fall From Grace” is obviously intended to be a standout here, and it is. On the nine-song/62-minute course of the album, however, it is one impression of many, and in the raging “Dionysus” and post-blackened “Drýsill,” 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Akkeri,” richly atmospheric “Rökkur,” goth-lounging “Or” and worthy finale “Úlfur,” Sólstafir remind of the richly individual nature of their approach. The language swaps could be reaching out to a broader, non-Icelandic-speaking audience. If so, it’s only in the interest of that audience to take note if they haven’t already.

Sólstafir on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

ILS, Curse

ils curse

Curse is the first long-player from Portland, Oregon’s ILS, and it’s a rager in the PNW noise tradition, with uptempo, gonna-throw-a-punch-and-then-apologize riffs and basslines and swaps between semi-spoken shouts and vicious screams from Tom Glose (ex-Black Elk) that are precisely as jarring as they’re meant to be. I don’t think Curse is anyone’s first time at the dance — Glose, guitarist Nate Abner, bassist Adam Pike or drummer Tim Steiner — but it only benefits across its sans-bullshit 28-minute run by knowing what it wants to do. Its longest material, like the title-track or “Don’t Hurt Me,” which follows, or closer “For the Shame I Bring,” rests on either side of three and a half minutes, but some of the most brutal impressions are made in cuts like “It’s Not Lard but it’s a Cyst” or leadoff “Bad Parts,” which have even less time to waste but are no less consuming, particularly at high volume. The kind of record for when you want to assault yourself. And hey, that happens.

ILS on Thee Facebooks

P.O.G.O. Records on Bandcamp

 

Bismut, Retrocausality

bismut retrocausality

Apart from the consciously-titled three-minute noiseblaster finale “Antithesis” that’s clearly intended to contrast with what comes before it, Bismut‘s second LP for Lay Bare, Retrocausality, is made up of five extended instrumental pieces the shortest of which is just under 13 minutes long. The Nijmegen-based trio — guitarist Nik Linders, bassist Huibert der Weduwen, drummer Peter Dragt — build these semi-improvisational pieces on the foundation they set with 2018’s Schwerpunkt (review here), and their explorations through heavy rock, metal and psychedelia feel all the more cohesive as a song like “Vergangenheit” is nonetheless able to blindside with the heavy riff toward which it’s been moving for its entire first half. At 71 minutes total, it’s a purposefully unmanageable runtime, but as “Predvídanie” imagines a psych-thrash and “Oscuramento” drones to its crashing finish, Bismut seem to be working on their own temporal accord anyhow. For those stuck on linear time, that means repeat listens may be necessary to fully digest, but that’s nothing to complain about either.

Bismut on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Cracked Machine, Gates of Keras

Cracked Machine Gates of Keras

UK instrumentalists Cracked Machine have worked relatively quickly over the course of their now-three albums to bring a sense of their own perspective to the tropes of heavy psychedelic rock. Alongside the warmth of tone in the guitar and bass, feeling drawn from the My Sleeping Karma/Colour Haze pastiche of progressive meditations, there is a coinciding edge of English heavy rock and roll that one can hear not so much in the drift of “Temple of Zaum” as in the push of “Black Square Icon,” which follows, as well as the subtle impatience of the drums on “October Dawn.” “Move 37,” on the other hand, is willfully speedier and more upbeat than much of what surrounds, but though opener/longest track (immediate points) “Cold Iron Light” hits 7:26, nothing on Gates of Keras sticks around long enough to overstay its welcome, and even in their deepest contemplations, the feeling of motion carries them and the listener effectively through the album’s span. They sound like a band realizing what they want to do with all the potential they’ve built up.

Cracked Machine on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

PsyKa Records website

 

Megadrone, Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae

Megadrone Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae

From cinematic paranoia to consuming and ultra-slow rollout of massive tonality, the debut offering from Megadrone — the one-man outfit of former Bevar Sea vocalist Ganesh Krishnaswamy — stretches across 53 minutes of unmitigated sonic consumption. If nothing else, Krishnaswamy chose the right moniker for the project. The Bandcamp version is spread across two parts — “Transmission A” (21:45) and “Transmission B” (32:09) — and any vinyl release would require significant editing as well, but the version I have is one huge, extended track, and that feels like exactly how Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae was composed and is supposed to be heard. Its mind-numbing repetitions lead the listener on a subtle forward march — there are drums back in that morass somewhere, I know it — and the piece follows an arc that begins relatively quiet, swells in its midsection and gradually recedes again over its final 10 minutes or so. It goes without saying that a 53-minute work of experimentalist drone crushscaping isn’t going to be for the faint of heart. Bold favors bold.

Megadrone on Thee Facebooks

Megadrone on Bandcamp

 

KLÄMP, Hate You

klamp hate you

Sax-laced noise rock psychedelic freakouts, blown-out drums and shouts and drones, cacophonous stomp and chaotic sprawl, and a finale that holds back its payoff so long it feels cruel, KLÄMP‘s second album, Hate You, arrives less than a year after their self-titled debut, and perhaps there’s some clue as to why in the sheer mania of their execution. Hate You launches with the angularity of its 1:47 title-track and rolls out a nodding groove on top of that, but it’s movement from one part to another, one piece to another, is frenetic, regardless of the actual tempo, and the songs just sound like they were recorded to be played loud. Second cut “Arise” is the longest at 7:35 and it plays back and forth between two main parts before seeming to explode at the end, and by the time that’s done, you’re pretty much KLÄMPed into place waiting to see where the Utrecht trio go next. Oblivion wash on “An Orb,” the drum-led start-stops of “Big Bad Heart,” psych-smash “TJ” and that awaited end in “No Nerves” later, I’m not sure I have any better idea where that might be. That’s also what makes it work.

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Mábura, Heni

Mábura heni

Preceded by two singles, Heni is the debut EP from Rio de Janeiro psychedelic tonal worshipers Mábura, and its three component tracks, “Anhangá,” “III/IV” and “Bong of God” are intended to portray a lysergic experience through their according ambience and the sheer depth of the riffs they bring. “Anhangá” has vocals following the extended feedback and drone opening of its first half, but they unfold as a part of the general ambience, along with the drums that arrive late, are maybe sampler/programmed, and finish by leading directly into the crash/fuzz launch of “III/IV,” which just before it hits the two-minute mark unfurls into a watershed of effects and nod, crashing and stomping all the while until everything drops out but the bass only to return a short time later with the Riff in tow. Rumbling into a quick fade brings about the toking intro of “Bong of God,” which unfolds accordingly into a riff-led noisefest that makes its point seemingly without saying a word. I wouldn’t call it groundbreaking, but it’s a first EP. What it shows is that Mábura have some significant presence of tone and purpose. Don’t be surprised when someone picks them up for a release.

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Astral Sleep, Astral Doom Musick

Astral Sleep Astral Doom Musick

It’s still possible to hear some of Astral Sleep‘s death-doom roots in their third album, Astral Doom Musick, but the truth is they’ve become a more expansive unit than that (relatively) simple classification than describe. They’re doom, to be sure, but there are progressive, psychedelic and even traditional doom elements at work across the record’s four-song/43-minute push, with a sense of conceptual composition coming through in “Vril” and “Inegration” in the first half of the proceedings while the nine-and-a-half-minute “Schwerbelastungskörper” pushes into the darkest reaches and closer “Aurinko ja Kuu” harnesses a swirling progressive spread that’s dramatic unto its last outward procession and suitably large-sound in its production and tone. For a band who took eight years to issue a follow-up to their last full-length, Astral Sleep certainly have plenty to offer in aesthetic and craft. If it took them so long to put this record together, their time wasn’t wasted, but it’s hard to listen and not wonder where their next step might take them.

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Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin to Release Collaborative Stygian Bough Volume 1 June 26

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

Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin (Photo by Lauren Lamp)

Certainly Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin are no strangers to each other. As the PR wire details, Erik Moggridge, who is Aerial Ruin, has guested on Bell Witch releases since their outset, perhaps most gloriously on 2017’s gorgeous and excruciating Mirror Reaper (review here), so what making their collaboration official in the matrimonial sense would seem to indicate is mostly a change of mindset and perhaps writing process. Still, those who listened to that record — and if that’s not you, it’s not too late! — will have some decent idea of what Stygian Bough Volume 1 is going for in terms of basic feel, as the streaming track “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll)” would seem to hint.

One can only look forward to appreciation the beauty in darkness to come with the album’s arrival, and having seen these two entities share a stage before, should the opportunity arise again, it won’t be one to miss.

The PR wire brings Adam Burke cover art and speaks thus:

bell witch aerial ruin Stygian Bough Volume 1

BELL WITCH AND AERIAL RUIN ANNOUNCE COLLABORATIVE RECORD STYGIAN BOUGH VOLUME 1 – OUT JUNE 26 ON PROFOUND LORE

REVEAL “HEAVEN TORN LOW II (THE TOLL)”

Renowned doom duo Bell Witch fully integrate themselves with dark folk elegist, Aerial Ruin. The collaborative effort, titled ‘Stygian Bough Volume 1’ is a collection of five transcendent, hauntingly beautiful songs that defy categorization.

On Stygian Bough Volume I, members Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman of renowned doom duo, Bell Witch fully integrate themselves with dark folk elegist, Erik Moggridge of Aerial Ruin. Genuine collaborations are rare yet these two found a way to become one, resulting in a hauntingly beautiful record.

While Moggridge has been a part of Bell Witch’s sonic fingerprint on all their prior records, perhaps most notably for his vocals on their previous acclaimed full-length, Mirror Reaper, he’s now part of the very fabric that makes up the five, emotional and strikingly heavy songs that comprise Stygian Bough Volume 1.

The addition of guitar to the bass and drum-only dynamic came naturally as the threesome discussed potential models for their joint effort. Ulver’s unorthodox folk album Kveldssanger came up as did Candlemass’ mile marker Nightfall. But the real fuel to Stygian Bough Volume I was the Bell Witch track, “Rows (of Endless Waves)”, which was not only Moggridge’s first appearance with Bell Witch but also a track that has deeply resonated with Desmond over the years. With the approach in place, Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin collectively wrote five desolate yet mystical songs that defy categorization. From the mournful “The Bastard Wind” and the crepuscular “Heaven Torn Low I (the passage)” to the monstrous “Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)” and the liturgical gloom of “The Unbodied Air,” Stygian Bough Volume I is an album of deep, dark undertows and careful respite.

The themes explored by Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin were independently tackled from different angles but were mainly from similar spaces. Whereas Bell Witch plumbed the depths of purgatory—a place of atonement between life and death—across three full-lengths, Moggridge’s Aerial Ruin have centered on the loss of the self and the spiritual places the vacancy ultimately leads to. For Stygian Bough Volume I, Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin topics of choice intersect and complement, continuing in spirit but with a broader vantage point where “Rows (of Endless Waves)” left off.

“Stygian Bough is a reference to the theme of The Golden Bough,” observes Desmond. “The book’s theme is centered on the rites of a temple in ancient Italy where slaves were transformed into kings by slaying he who reigned as such after successfully stealing the Golden Bough from the sacred tree within the temple. Within that notion, a different sort of slavery was brought upon the newly crowned king, as he must understand sooner or later that his fate would ultimately be the same as his predecessor. In short, the golden bough made a king out of a slave only to find they were now enslaved to a different sort of tyranny, always stalking them from the darkest shadows of their imagination. From this perspective, the “golden bough” is better understood as a deception casting darkness. Thus, Stygian Bough.”

Adds Moggridge: “They presented that song [“Rows (of Endless Waves)”] to me in a mostly instrumental form with the idea that it’s about a ghost trapped on rows of waves that can’t reach the land. I ran with this idea and started to think of the ghost of a king who, if he reached land could be reborn and rule again. The king is also a larger metaphor for humanity who rules over the planet and other species. On this new album our ghost upon the waves flees not towards the land but towards death. The narrative, as much as it exists, is loose and not linear and definitely stream of consciousness. There are cyclical and spherical qualities to the journey where death, desolation, and the spirit are reflected in myriad ways.”

Stygian Bough Volume I sees its release June 26 via Profound Lore Records. For pre-orders and additional information on limited pressings and exclusive variants, visit here. Stygian Bough Volume I was recorded and mixed by Randall Dunn at Avast Recording Co. in Seattle. Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin then took the full-length to mastering ace Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service in Chicago. The result is a full-length of profound lows and delicate highs — fitting for Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin’s quiet/introspective and heavy/loud dynamic. As for the triumvirate’s next steps, they plan on touring in support of Stygian Bough Volume I when it’s safe to do so. Stay tuned for tour updates.

Stygian Bough Volume 1 Track Listing:
1 – The Bastard Wind
2 – Heaven Torn Low I (the passage)
3 – Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)
4 – Prelude
5 – The Unbodied Air

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Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll)”

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Days of Rona: Dana Schechter of Insect Ark

Posted in Features on April 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

Insect Ark dana schecter (Photo by Chad Kelco)

Days of Rona: Dana Schechter of Insect Ark (Berlin, Germany)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

Luckily our health is good so far. Everything besides getting sick or caring for those who are seems relatively unimportant. I suppose we’re dealing the same as many bands — waiting to see how, if, and when things will fall back into place. Andy and I are across the world from each other right now — I’m in Berlin, he’s in Salt Lake City — and on a normal day we’re across the country anyway. We’ll hopefully tour this Fall, but it’s too soon to say. Yes it sucks. Our new album came out just as the virus was hitting.

It’s hard for smaller bands to recover from something like this, since we left for the Europe tour on Feb 29 and had to pull the plug after four shows and go home. Getting Andy back to the US on short notice wasn’t easy, and I decided to stay in Berlin. A year of planning, ultimately with a massive loss of money/time… I haven’t really moped or licked my wounds re: how we’ve been so unlucky, because all people everywhere are feeling the same. Of course it’s massively disappointing, at best. But so many people are struggling much harder than I am, harder than ever before, and it’s on a massive scale — I know that I am lucky, relatively speaking. No kids, no house or car payments, etc. I’ve gotten by on almost nothing for a long time, so I can adapt to some extent.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Here in Berlin — at least so far [April 16] — it’s less strict than in other EU countries, like Italy, Greece or France, where you need a letter to leave the house or risk hefty fines by the police. Here, I can take a bike ride or walk, food shop, i.e., the basics. No public gatherings of any kind over two people. Keep six feet away from others when in public. People here are pretty compliant. I’m glad I’m not home (NYC) though, and it’s heartbreaking to watch the US struggling from afar. Some days it is beyond comprehension how we will all get past the challenges we are facing. And I’m utterly ashamed and furious at the USA’s reckless handling of the situation.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

I’ve been seeing many creative friends saying that they’re having trouble being creative or productive. Even with the sudden luxury of free time, it’s hard to feel motivated when the day has no shape and making plans is such a questionable pursuit. And of course there are the thousands of events and tours that were canceled or are being rescheduled. I was supposed to do three consecutive Swans tours starting next week, which have mostly been pushed to next year now. It’s like a full year of our lives is being chopped out and a black box fills the calendar for days and days and days. There is a massive amount of uncertainty and the whole “business model” of touring and releasing albums feels extremely unstable and questionable right now.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

We will make it back somehow. We live on the margins anyway, so with any luck this will be just a waiting game. I hope we can all try to be grateful for what we have… hold onto the good memories to get us through, don’t lose hope, and vote the bastards out of office before they get us all killed.

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Friday Full-Length: Worm Ouroboros, Come the Thaw

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The notion of heaviness in music has nearly as many definitions as it has bands who claim representation through it on one level or another. That is to say, it’s broad. It’s only grown more so with time, and when I hear an album like Worm Ouroboros‘ 2012 sophomore outing, Come the Thaw, it’s hard not to be reminded of just how far the idea can range. Of course, all these categories of subcategories, aesthetic ideals and microgenres are amorphous anyway. They can be whatever one wants them to be, at least as much as the argument can be justified.

To wit, Come the Thaw is a richly progressive collection. It brings together six songs across a fluidly constructed, thoughtful and resonant 50 minutes. Since its primary emphasis is on atmosphere, it wouldn’t feel right to call it “prog” as a genre tag, but I don’t know if it would necessarily be incorrect. And loud or quiet, its gracefully-delivered songs are most certainly heavy, turning guitar, bass, vocals and keyboards into spacious chamber doom marked out by the intertwining vocals of bassist Lorraine Rath (ex-Amber Asylum) and guitarist Jessica Way (also Barren Harvest), with not-always-there-but-dynamic-when-called-upon drumming by Aesop Dekker (Agalloch, Vhöl) for backing. There are more aggressive stretches, fuller tonal impacts, but primarily, it is a weight of emotionality and presence alone that makes Come the Thaw so overarchingly heavy.

Recorded and mixed by Greg Wilkinson at Earhammer Studios in Oakland, California, in the band’s native Bay Area, and mastered by Justin Weis at Takworx, and with cover art by RathCome the Thaw followed two years after Worm Ouroboros made an impressive self-titled debut (review here). It was offered up by Profound Lore, which at that time already had established its place among the most forward-thinking contingent of upstart independent imprints, and as one recalls arrived with little ceremony, which seems appropriate. It isn’t a record for everyone. Even as the nine-minute side B leadoff “When We Are Gold” kicks into its more straight-ahead guitar/bass/drum push in its second half, paying off the build played out subtly across the first part of the song, its mournful feel is far removed from what one might call welcoming, groove though it does before collapsing again to quiet guitar and voice.

That song is an effective mirror for the album’s opener and longest track (immediate points) “Ruined Ground,” which pushes beyond the 10-minute mark and also “gets loud” for a bit in that span, its execution remaining worm ouroboros come the thawslow and wistful in kind with the ambience already put forth by the trio and setting up the kind of post-whatever-you-got building progression of “Further Out,” which follows and is nothing if not aptly named, taking the ringing, almost gothic guitar of Bauhaus or The Cure and stripping it of drama or pop and stretching it to suit longer-form and atmospheric purposes. While not at all psychedelic, it is otherworldly, and its last minute feels like a willful act of letting go into “Release Your Days,” which is almost entirely driven by the voices of Rath and Way, though there is some relatively minimal guitar and bass accompaniment.

Frankly, that’s all they need. The two singers work so well together that even with nearly nothing else save a few melancholy lines here and there, “Release Your Days” is a standout from Come the Thaw for more than just its shift in approach. As one side turns to the next, “When We Are Gold” brings through “Withered,” which by default is the most outwardly loud/heavy inclusion, nonetheless maintaining the patient feel of the songs prior as it does. That is, it’s not in a rush to get to the louder guitar and it doesn’t feel like it should be. Dekker‘s drums begin a smooth-shifting build and at 3:45 — almost exactly halfway through the track’s 7:32 run — Way‘s guitar clicks into a fuller tone and the album’s most substantial roll takes hold. Rath‘s basslines underscore a layer of lead and distorted wash, and the song moves back in its final minute to a bookending stretch of quiet guitar, emphasizing the point that there is craft at work from Worm Ouroboros, even if it’s functioning on its own structural level.

That wasn’t really in doubt, given the outright commitment to stylistic expression being renewed in each of these pieces, but the finale, “Penumbra,” underscores the point just the same, with cymbal washes, tense bass and guitar and a vocal that seems to rise and recede from and into an encompassing emptiness. It’s a few minutes in before even the softer guitar figure takes hold, and Dekker peppers in some quiet tom thuds here and there, but the point is clearly made once more in the atmosphere and in the vocals, which rise to a final high note before cutting out and ending the record entirely. It is beautiful and sad, like difficult conversations.

Each half of Come the Thaw has three songs. Each begins with its longest track, moves its shortest, and ends with one in between. It might not seem like it when one just puts the album on and listens straight through front-to-back, but there is a sense of construction in Worm Ouroboros‘ second full-length, and it is a foundation on which the band put forth an artistic and emotional challenge to themselves and to their audience. Again, it’s not a record for everyone. It is a kind of heavy, a kind of extremity, that refuses to work on any level other than its own, refuses to compromise its mission, and is all the more commendable for that.

Worm Ouroboros released a follow-up in late 2016 called What Graceless Dawn (review here) and continued to play live on the West Coast through early 2019, admitting the decreasing frequency of shows even in announcing dates. I don’t know if they’ll do another record or if Worm OuroborosCome the Thaw and What Graceless Dawn will remain a trilogy of works, but even if that’s the case, Worm Ouroboros‘ studio efforts are a resounding testament to the many shapes that sonic heaviness takes and that “impact” in terms of sound need not necessarily just be a question of volume or tempo. Come the Thaw creates and inhabits a world of its own. From where I sit, it’s pretty heavy stuff.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

You might remember when Heavy Psych Sounds did those Nebula reissues I ran a series of interviews and full album streams to coincide? Starting next week I’ll be doing the same with the three Dozer records the label is putting out. I’m stoked. Also look for a Sorcia stream and maybe a Candlemass review if I can convince Napalm to actually send a download of the tracks instead of the promo stream. Used to be CDs  in the mail. Then it was downloads, and that sucked. Now you have to go begging for downloads or keep 75 Haulix tabs open. Soon you won’t get music to review, it’ll just be the cover art and a band bio. People wonder why reviews are shitty.

Speaking of shitty reviews, I’ll probably try to write about the Ozzy record next week as well. Not that that’ll necessarily be a bad review — I don’t know, I haven’t written it yet — but yeah.

Couple quick plugs then I’m out:

New episode of the Gimme Radio show today, 5PM Eastern. Listen on the app or http://gimmeradio.com. I’d recommend the app.

Podcaster Dylan Gonzalez of Diary of Doom was kind enough to invite me for an interview that wound up as a two-parter. First part is up and here if you get to check it out. Thanks either way. I haven’t listened yet — can’t really stand the sound of my own voice — but thanks if you do: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-4yhnb-d568e0.

That’s all I’ve got. I could go on about the coronavirus, the bummer Democratic primary, the overwhelming state of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch or any number of baseball or Star Trek-related things that would be a lot of fun to talk about, but let’s face it, if you’re still reading this sentence, you’ve done me enough favors as far as I’m concerned. I’d rather not take advantage of your goodwill.

This week, anyhow. Ha.

— Ah shit, just got an email for a project I let slip through the cracks. I was supposed to write liner notes for the Stone Machine Electric 7″ and just blew it on the timing. Fuck. I suck at this. Always some reminder. This is why I’ve pulled back on writing bios and the like. Clearly that’s the right choice, rather than committing to something because I think it’s cool and I’d like to do it and then letting people down. Sucks. Hell of a way to end the week.

Please have a great and safe weekend. Have fun, be safe, don’t touch your face too much (apparently), and be kind to each other.

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Album Review: Insect Ark, The Vanishing

Posted in Reviews on March 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

insect ark the vanishing

At the core of Insect Ark is Brooklyn-based composer/multi-instrumentalist Dana Schechter, who is and has been the driving force and the creative spearhead of the instrumentalist project since its inception circa 2011. Over the subsequent years and across now-three full-lengths — the latest, The Vanishing (on Profound Lore), was preceded by 2018’s Marrow Hymns (discussed here) and  2015’s Portal/Well (review here) — Schechter has brought to light a deeply progressive and at times decidedly grim vision of post-psychedelic heft. Her work has never sounded more encompassing than it does on The Vanishing, which comprises six songs and runs 41 minutes and was recorded in New York by Colin Marston (of Behold… the Arctopus! and others), and it takes a decisive forward step in expressive from where Schechter was even two years ago. There are a thousand wax-poetry ways to put it, but primarily, what it comes down to is that it’s different.

And well it should be. Where Portal/Well was a purely solo outing, Schechter — whose pedigree includes past and present stints in Swans as well as groups like M. Gira‘s Angels of Light, the underrated Bee and Flower, etc. — subsequently brought in drummer Ashley Spungin to facilitate touring. Spungin contributed to Marrow Hymns but has since been replaced by Andy Patterson (formerly of SubRosa, currently also in The Otolith and Døne), who plays a significant role in the form that the pieces throughout The Vanishing take. That is true when he’s there, as in the opener “Tectonic,” when a steady popping snare serves to underscore the low-end swell of Schechter‘s bass and the accompanying synthesized/effects noise and guitar, and when he’s not there, as in the keyboard-experimental cinema drone of “Swollen Sun” or the prior the wistful and minimalist slide guitar echoes that launch “Danube,” duly evocative of water running as they are. Rest assured, a roll takes hold in “Danube” as well, about halfway into its seven-minute stretch, but it is ultimately in the fluidity of its atmosphere that the presumed side B opener makes its bulk of its impact, and indeed, it’s atmosphere that is most central to Insect Ark‘s third album as a whole.

There are almost two levels on which The Vanishing is functioning at any given time, and in that way, “Tectonic” sets up the course of what’s to come well. At the forefront of the mix is guitar — pedal steel? sometimes maybe — and bass and drums. Even the cymbal washes that populate the open spaces of the 10-minute closing title-track are meant to be forward in their impact; they’re leading the way gradually and patiently through a noise-laden drone-out and back to a more cohesive post-metallic progression that builds to the final apex of the record — so it goes. But beneath those elements, there’s another, broader and more experimentalist path that The Vanishing takes, as Schechter weaves in various noises and effects, synth, maybe-keyboard and who the hell knows what else, and in those details and the stretches where the one plays out virtually on top of the other that this incarnation of Insect Ark seem to be establishing the root of their approach.

Insect Ark (Photo by Chris Carlone)

The narrative (blessings and peace upon it) has it that Schechter and Patterson put these songs together quickly ahead of touring with Oranssi Pazuzu last October, and if it’s the experience of playing them live that has helped them develop the multifaceted character they have, then the crashes and thuds and general crush of “Three Gates” would only seem to be better for it, even if one wouldn’t necessarily expect Insect Ark to follow a similar directive next time out. You’ll note that in three records, Schechter‘s approach and/or collaborations have yet to settle. Whether or not Patterson is a “permanent” member of her project — whatever logistical nightmares her being in New York and his being in Salt Lake City might inspire; the internet is a thing, but still — I have no idea. The only thing to go on is The Vanishing itself, and for the apparent lack of time they had to put them together, the songs they’ve constructed don’t sound anything near rushed either in how they’re built or how they’re played — “Three Gates” and “Philae” and certainly follow “Tectonic” with a tension of their own, but it’s meant to be there — but on the most basic terms, the only thing evident in the Schechter/Patterson creative partnership is potential. They are obviously working off each other’s strengths here.

That too might come from having put The Vanishing together after getting off tour, but it’s part of the album’s personality just the same and thus part of the band’s. That said, a casual listener taking on Insect Ark for the first time doesn’t necessarily need to know any of this. Who’s Dana Schechter? Who’s Andy Patterson? Who recorded? When? Where? Why? It is entirely possible to hear “Swollen Sun” or build of “Philae” and the repetitions of “Three Gates” and be wholly consumed by them purely on their merit as songs, and as The Vanishing only pushes farther out as its moves toward that last crescendo in the title-track — which, yes, ends cold enough to be vanishing suddenly; the root bassline still reminiscent of a “Stones From the Sky” moment even though it caps at the end of a measure rather than within one — it is only more immersive as it goes, and the abiding darkness of the atmosphere is unrelenting.

It is not a record so much of-a-place as of-a-non-place, and so its title seems fitting on that level as well, but it is inherently of the moment in which it was made, and so while it may vanish for at least as long as it takes to put it on again, it nonetheless gracefully presents the what may or may not be the beginning stages of a new phase for Insect Ark in terms of the general mission of the project. An key component of Schechter‘s work — and an appeal of it, frankly — to this point has been a lack of predictability for what might come next, and even should her collaboration with Patterson continue, the same applies. A third record might commonly be where a given band executes the closest realization to-date of what they intended at their founding. Insect Ark would seem to be the other kind of band, for whom the evolution is its own end. Whatever will or won’t follow, The Vanishing is an essential means to that end.

Insect Ark, The Vanishing (2020)

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