Review & Track Premiere: Red Mountains, Slow Wander

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

red mountains slow wander

[Click play above to listen to the premiere of ‘Stone’ from Red Mountains’ Slow Wander. Album is out Sept. 1 on All Good Clean Records.]

With their steady rhythmic roll, jam-sounding foundations and tonally warm psychedelic affect, one almost expects the heady sounds of Red Mountains to originate from Munich, rather than the northern climes of Trondheim, Norway — nearly seven hours up from Oslo by rail — but their sound, perhaps informed by the Scandinavian Mountain chain running through their hometown, has its roots in soulful heavy rock just as much as airy drift. To wit, their second album and first for All Good Clean Records is the nine-track Slow Wander, which follows the Nasoni-issued 2015 debut, Down with the Sun (review here), and while one notes aesthetic continuity in the cover art by the esteemed Samantha Muljat — who seems to have done a number of short, digital releases for the band as well — the 47-minute offering takes decided action in moving them stylistically ahead from where they were two years ago.

Recorded outside Trondheim at Sørgården Studios with Spidergawd guitarist/vocalist Per Borten at the production helm, Håvard Soknes on the mix and Magnus Kofoed mastering, Slow Wander is maybe somewhat devious in its title in that even at its most drifting, on a cut like the vast, airy sway of “Oak” or the subsequent 10-minute blues-psych sprawl of “Endless Ocean,” there’s a clear sense of purpose maintained. And that bears fruit elsewhere in the more solidified songwriting process of vocalist/guitarist Magnus Riise, guitarist/vocalist Jostein Wigenstad, bassist Sverre Dalen and drummer Simen Mathiassen, who seem to take cues from UK heavy rockers Stubb in the soulfulness and hooks of the bouncing centerpiece “Stone,” “Cellar Door” and the earlier “Rat King,” which though slower and somewhat darker in its atmosphere contains arguably the catchiest chorus of the bunch.

Where the album ultimately succeeds is in establishing a balance between its two sides — the more rocking impulses and the wider-breadth jamming — and in conveying a direct sense of purpose in doing this. There’s no sense that anything on Slow Wander is happening by accident, whatever the name of the record might otherwise indicate. Rather, if one takes the title as advice from the band instead of a description of their own actions as regards its making, then Red Mountains are perhaps giving their listenership the best way possible to make its collective way through the tracks. From opener “Home” — like the starting point of a board game — onward through “Rat King” and “Oak” and “Endless Ocean,” Slow Wander earns not just a fleeting glance from its audience, but a real savoring experience.

red mountains

That’s not to say one should slow down playback or take a break from one track to the next and thereby miss out or undercut the flow between them, which is one of Slow Wander‘s most appealing aspects across what would seem to be its A and B sides, but just that the progression of the album as it unfolds is worth more than a passive listen, and the more one engages with moments like the echoing solo that tops the midsection of “Home” or the languid payoff deep into “Endless Ocean,” or the crunchier riffing on the penultimate “Acid Wedding” — which seems as well to sneak a guest vocal performance from Borten into its second half — the more those moments and the rest of the release repay that effort with satisfying detail of songcraft and execution. No question Red Mountains have an organic basis from which they’re working in that this material is born of jams, but whether it’s the rolling vibe of “Fog” or the nod-ready payoff of “Cellar Door,” there’s been an obvious commitment made and energy dedicated to shaping that basis into coherent, deceptively varied songs.

An argument could be made that in that process, Red Mountains are playing to style. I’m not sure I disagree, given how willful their sense of craft comes across in “Stone,” “Rat King,” “Home,” etc., but when one considers Slow Wander in light of Down with the Sun before it, the trajectory they’re on would seem to be toward a more individualized take on heavy psychedelia. Further, if playing to style is going to result in the chance to bask in the kind of immersion that “Endless Ocean” offers, then go right ahead. There is a grammar of aesthetic for any genre-based output, and Slow Wander demonstrates plainly that Red Mountains have been schooled via their influences in what they’re doing.

But again, the increase in production value between the debut and the follow-up, the precise placement of these songs — turning vinyl convention on its head with the more open material up front and the rockers in back — and even the overarching symmetry of answering the opener “Home” with the closer “Returning,” as though they knew the listener would finish the record and then immediately go back to the start to make their way around the board again, all of this shows a directed consciousness from RiiseWigenstadDalen and Mathiassen. Fortunately for them and for anyone who would take their second long-player on in a more than cursory manner, their chemistry carries through the structures they’ve built, and while it may not be a revolution in style, Slow Wander is a friendly, open-armed welcome to the converted and a forward step that affirms the potential of their debut and would seem to hint toward even broader reaches to come. There is nothing more one could reasonably ask of Slow Wander than to be precisely what it is, and in setting those terms, Red Mountains begin to lay claim to sonic territory of their own.

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Red Mountains on Bandcamp

All Good Clean Records on Thee Facebooks

All Good Clean Records website

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

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

the-obelisk-quarterly-review-fall-2015

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

Fall 2015 Quarterly Review #31-40:

We Lost the Sea, Departure Songs

we lost the sea departure songs

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

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We Lost the Sea on Bandcamp

Dark Buddha Rising, Inversum

dark buddha rising inversum

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

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Dark Buddha Rising at Neurot Recordings

Red Mountains, Down with the Sun

red mountains down with the sun

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

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Nasoni Records

Black Space Riders, Refugeeum

black space riders refugeeum

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

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Black Space Riders website

Lamprey, III

lamprey iii

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

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Lamprey on Bandcamp

Godsleep, Thousand Sons of Sleep

godsleep thousand sons of sleep

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

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Rock Freaks Records

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

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

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

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Slow Joe Crow and the Berserker Blues Band on Bandcamp

Monobrow, A Handwritten Letter from the Moon

monobrow a handwritten letter from the moon

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

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Monobrow on Bandcamp

Denizen, Troubled Waters

denizen troubled waters

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

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Argonauta Records

Witchsorrow, No Light, Only Fire

witchsorrow no light only fire

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

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Candlelight Records

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audiObelisk Transmission 051

Posted in Podcasts on August 25th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

The last one was so late, it seemed only fair to get back on track and do this one early. Not that you’re sitting and waiting with baited breath for the next podcast, I know — not deluding myself to think otherwise — but it keeps me sane to stick to some imaginary/arbitrary feeling of timeliness that changes more often than not, so I’ll just say up front that I appreciate your indulgence. Wow. Sometimes these imaginary conversations get pretty heavy.

Speaking of heavy — and speaking of masterful segues! — the new podcast has plenty of it. The second hour actually gets pretty pummeling, what with the Ahab track and all, so I made sure a little extra psychedelic stuff got in at the front. Dig that Red Mountains track. Their album’s coming out on Nasoni, which should be all the endorsement you need. I’m also very much into the Pyramidal space jam, and if you get to hear it, that Brian Ellis & Brian Grainger record (El Paraiso is putting it out) is a gem. Think a more psychedelic Six Organs of Admittance, all instrumental.

Some killer samplings to be had here, so I won’t delay further. Hope you enjoy:

First Hour:
0:00:00 Tony Reed, “Still Born Beauty (Necromandus ’73)” from The Lost Chronicles of Heavy Rock Vol. 1
0:04:02 All Them Witches, “Dirt Preachers” from Dying Surfer Meets His Maker
0:07:43 Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Waiting for Blood” from The Night Creeper
0:12:33 Red Mountains, “Sleepy Desert Blues” from Down with the Sun
0:19:58 T.G. Olson, “Heavy on Your Head” from The Boom and Bust
0:23:18 Pyramidal, “Motormind” from Jams from the Sun Split with Domo
0:33:30 Brian Ellis & Brian Grainger, “Treesmoke” from At Dusk
0:37:53 Vinnum Sabbathi, “Hex II: Foundation Pioneers” from Fuzzonaut Split with Bar de Monjas
0:45:18 Spelljammer, “The Pathfinder” from Ancient of Days
0:53:41 Derelics, “Ride the Fuckin’ Snake to Valhalla” from Introducing

Second Hour:
1:02:03 Ahab, “The Weedmen” from The Boats of the Glen Carrig
1:16:56 Lost Orb, “Low Ebb’s Lament” from Low Ebb’s Lament
1:34:10 Hotel Wrecking City Traders, “Droned and Disowned” from Split with Hey Colossus

Total running time: 2:00:41

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 051

 

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