Ararat Post “02Kid” Video; Announce New Lineup

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 22nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

ararat 02kid

Just when you think you’ve got “02Kid” figured out, that’s when the keyboard hits. The first time I heard it, I thought a song started playing in a different browser tab or something, but no, it’s there, and as the emergently amorphous Buenos Aires-based outfit headed by Sergio Chotsourian (aka Sergio Ch.) move on from their 2023 fifth LP, La Rendición Del Hombre (review here), the new song comes coupled with word of a re-revamped lineup that brings Gaston Gullo to the drummer role and finds Chotsourian on bass and vocals alone, where the album also featured his work on guitar.

Change is nothing new for Ararat, and if you count the violin added to La Rendición Del Hombre by Federico Terranova or 2022’s Volumen IV (review here), this isn’t their first time as a duo either. As Chotsourian‘s post-Los Natas oeuvre has grown more experimental, from his acoustic-rooted solo work to varied projects like Ararat, Brno, Soldati, and so on, it’s not really a surprise to see that show up in Ararat‘s sound as it arguably has since their 2009 debut, Musica de la Resistencia (review here) — though that creative reach has gotten broader — but what is new here is the shape that takes. Stripped to its barest parts in bass and drums, much of “02Kid” feels like a rehearsal demo that effectively resets the band. They’ve gone to ground, aurally speaking.

But that’s fair enough too when the context is so open. That is to say, Chotsourian has covered a lot of ground with Ararat, from some of his heaviest, most doomed work to-date to the rawer rumble of Volumen IV, which feels relevant here in terms of the bass/drums construction of the band and a similar focus on low end and nod at the foundation. As to how “02Kid” might speak to what to expect from Ararat going forward, I won’t hazard a guess. It could be “02Kid” is part of an album already in the can — it would make a great candidate for the second of however many tracks included — or it could be a one-off to test out the chemistry of the Chotsourian/Gullo collaboration. All I know is it’s five minutes of new Ararat, there’s a video, and you’ll find it below.

It’s wait and see beyond that, but Chotsourian is prolific enough that it never seems egregiously long to find out where he’s headed next. Until then, enjoy:

Ararat, “02Kid” official video



Ararat, La Rendición Del Hombre (2023)

Ararat on Facebook

Sergio Ch. website

South American Sludge on Bandcamp

South American Sludge website

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Santoro Release Lost Delta Krieg Commando EP From 2005

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 7th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

In 2001, the three members of Buenos Aires heavy rockers Los Natas released their self-titled debut as Santoro, collaborating with frontman Jose “El Topo” Armetta, known for his work in the more metallic/aggressive Demonauta and Massacre. I guess after the record, both parties — the trio and Armetta — went back about their business, but there was a second album started in 2005, and now that’s been released as a five-songer EP called Delta Krieg Commando that hints at where the sophomore outing might’ve gone had it been completed.

It’s special to hear now in no small part because Los Natas seem to be the last band who ever existed not reuniting (even The Beatles put a song out last year), and so having Sergio Chotsourian, Walter Broide and Gonzalo Villagra together on a yet-unheard recording — even one that so raw — is welcome. After this, Chotsourian — now of solo work, Ararat, Soldati, BRNO, South American Sludge Records and various other projects and collabs — and Armetta would work together in the nascent, post-metallic outfit Venosidad (this post from 2009 links to their MySpace; fun), but at least nothing was ever made public. Who knows, maybe there are more CDRs in whichever box Sergio found these. Life’s short and mostly miserable. You gotta take what you can get.

And of course it hasn’t been that long since Chotsourian‘s latest solo release as Sergio Ch., as the single “Shesus Christ” (posted here) arrived in December. I’d point out that he’s working on new songs, but why even? He’s always working on new songs. That’s how you do this. Constantly.

Hail South American heavy:

santoro delta krieg commando

new release!
santoro ep
“delta krieg commando”
recorded circa 2005
3 unreleased songs + 2 songs in their original master cut

it was meant to be santoro’s second album, but never [finished]. i finally undusted the cdr master tapes and blew it out. los natas + el topo (local metal legend from bands massacre and dragonauta).

1. El Rey Del Miedo 05:35
2. the Warrior 03:25
3. Pompeya Drag Queen 05:33
4. Barridos Por El Viento 04:16
5. El Collar Del Perro 06:13

Recorded, mixed and mastered by Patricio Claypole at Estudio el Attic. Artwork by Sergio Ch. Produced by Patricio Claypole. South American Sludge Records.

Jose “el Topo” Armetta – Vocals
Sergio Ch. – Guitarra & Vocals
Gonzalo Villagra – Bass
Walter Broide – Bateria

Santoro, Delta Krieg Commando (2024)

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Sergio Ch. Releases New Single “Shesus Christ”

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 6th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Maybe I’m crazy, but with the headphones on and Sergio Chotsourian backing his own strum with a bit of keyboard to anchor the measures of the song, I get just a little bit of the Rolling Stones in “Shesus Christ.” Not enough to be a defining feature or some such, but I’m not sure that’s something I’ve ever encountered in his output before. At this point, expecting anyone other than Chotsourian to define his own work — the odd cover aside — would be a misstep as regards the Buenos Aires-based figurehead of South American heavy, whose tenure in Los Natas helped unfurl a generation of other acts and whose solo output has grown into a stylistically open interpretation of emotional and atmospheric ideas that still, somehow, you can get away with calling folk.

One never knows quite what to expect — and at the risk of repeating myself, that’s the fun of it — and in part for that, and in part because he does what he does, Chotsourian is someone for whom and for whose work I have a deep respect. Obviously I came to the catalog through Los Natas, but that’s the beginning of a world waiting to be explored, and he’s only grown more adventurous in sound since that band was laid to rest. He’s also busy as well. Soldati have a recent collection I’m pretty sure. There’s always a steady stream of Natas reissues — even capitalism has its upsides — and Ararat are back at it as well. All this concurrent to solo stuff makes Chotsourian a singular figure in the heavy underground the world over. It’s not just about being prolific, or having longevity, or trying different styles. It’s all of that and the will behind the creative growth that I find inspirational.

The song is at the bottom of this post, both the Bandcamp stream from which you might be inclined to launch your own excursion into the Sergio Ch.-sphere, and the video that was put together by the man himself. Because after everything else, of course.

Please enjoy:

Sergio Ch Shesus Christ

[S.A.S. 128]




Sergio Ch., “Shesus Christ” official video

Sergio Ch., “Shesus Christ”

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Album Review: Ararat, La Rendición Del Hombre

Posted in Reviews on August 2nd, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Of all the projects Buenos Aires-based auteur Sergio Chotsourian might visit in a given year, between the heavy rocking Soldati, his solo work as Sergio Ch., the gothy Brno, releases through South American Sludge Records, archival whatnot from his time fronting Los Natas, various collaborations — hell, he even has two books out — Ararat is probably the most open in terms of scope. It can be just about anything. He takes advantage of this on the band’s fifth long-player, La Rendición Del Hombre, which arrives on a quick turnaround from 2022’s Volumen 4 (review here) and is issued through Interstellar Smoke and South American Sludge.

Already, when the project began with 2009’s Musica de la Resistencia (review here) on MeteorCity, Ararat were a departure. Those used to seeing Chotsourian on guitar might’ve been surprised to find bass as his main instrument, and the weighted lurching atmospheres were fleshed out with experimentalist fervor, arrangements of piano and so on for a folkish sensibility drawn from his own Armenian roots and meshed with influences picked up along the way.

In the almost 14 years since that first offering, Ararat have never been the same thing twice, and sure enough, the five songs and 34 minutes of La Rendición Del Hombre lives up to that standard of unpredictability. Chotsourian — who produced, mixed and mastered at Death Studios and handles guitar, bass, keys and vocals where applicable — pairs with violinist Federico Terranova as the only other contributor to the record. With no drums behind them and minimal percussion otherwise, the two dive into acoustic folk instrumentalism on opener “Ramen de Cordero” (2:56) and the centerpiece “Zulma Fadjat” (3:13) and work in a similar vein on the concluding title-track (4:02), but with a particularly emotive vocal from Chotsourian accompanying.

These pieces are offset by two extended cuts, dubbed “Eleven” (11:03) and “Twelve” (13:06), so that the procession alternates from short to long, each adding to the depth of what came before it. The hard-strummed style of guitar and raw sound that begins “Ramen de Cordero” will likely ring familiar with those who know Chotsourian‘s solo output — his latest LP is 2022’s The Red Rooster (discussed here) — and when it enters early, Terranova‘s violin is not at all out of place in winding itself around that guitar progression. I would believe the violin was improvised, if not the guitar, but the immediately, the feel is exploratory. As with all of La Rendición Del Hombre, the lack of drums makes it somewhat anchorless, but that’s very clearly part of the intention, for both the three shorter songs and the two epics sandwiched between them.

Immersion is the goal, as much perhaps for Chotsourian and Terranova as for their audience. “Ramen de Cordero” is rhythmic thanks to the noted hard strum of guitar, but comes across as a meditative path one is supposed to follow, something lost waiting to be found that turns out not to be tangible at all. The magic was in you, or at least in the strings of the instruments. A decidedly plugged rumble of low end starts “Eleven,” quiet and with flourish of guitar alongside, leading to a thicker distortion and an organ drone after the first two minutes. The impression is spacious even as the music itself is an intimate, individualized drone folk; something Chotsourian has done before in bringing together styles traditional and adventurous, but never quite in this way. “Eleven” cycles through again, this time with the organ under the quiet bass — continuity! — and a return of the vocals only in the last minute as the track slow-marches itself out.

Organ is the last element to fade out of “Eleven,” and the strike of guitar at the beginning of “Zulma Fadjat” feels like a purposeful reorientation. This time, Terranova follows the guitar closer, following its angular weaving pattern before taking off into soloist revelry. The sound is folk instrumental — celebratory music, but with a darker undertone — with the violin creating a sense of nostalgia as only it could, and no real room for vocals anyway in its memorable course, less improv-feeling than was “Ramen de Cordero” and showing that in a cold finish from Terranova and Chotsourian together.

Sergio ch ararat

Both “Eleven” and “Twelve” remind of 2012’s II (review here) in form and structure, the bass and vocal melody, though there are noteworthy differences of arrangement and execution. Still, with the low tone of Chotsourian‘s bass returning, it is a mode-switch easily made, and where 11 years ago, songs like “Caballos” or “La Ira del Dragon (Uno)” would have kicked in with full-on weight and doomly nod, “Twelve” follows suit from its predecessor in meeting the denser tone with organ, seeming to pick up the march from the end of “Eleven” where it left off and moving it forward into patient resonance, vocal drawl and a stop that brings acoustic (I think) guitar not to solo as one might imagine, but to reside deep in the mix and feel its way through a Caucasus-esque, East-leaning movement before the march resumes.

Another pointed strum and maybe that same guitar part — only backward — returns as the less-distorted bass makes its way through the quieter last of “Twelve” five or so parts, taking the place of organ and becoming a rhythmic focal point. There’s a spoken vocal or a sample that might be ChotsourianTerranova, or someone else entirely, that gives over to the noted backwards guitar near its transition into “La Rendición Del Hombre,” which comes across like a moment of arrival for the record in putting Chotsourian‘s voice and Terranova‘s violin together where neither “Ramen de Cordero” nor “Zulma Fadjat” did so, and that turns out to be the place to which La Rendición Del Hombre has been leading all along: an atmospheric, melancholy contemplation of melody, layered vocals starting at 2:32, consistent with what came before it but organically extrapolated further and skillfully placed as the final destination of the shifting approach, letting the emotion of Chotsourian‘s voice and the inherently wistful violin serve as the ‘heavy’ where “Eleven” and “Twelve” might have conjured a wall of tone.

I suppose La Rendición Del Hombre is an experimental release, or at least it would be for the relative few artists who’d be brave enough to compose and issue it, but Chotsourian is at home in either volume context, and while it’s easy to imagine “Eleven” or “Twelve” revisited in a full-band arrangement at some time in the future, their interpretation here draws a line between Ararat and Chotsourian‘s solo fare in a way that hasn’t been done before and that should be appreciated by those who’ve followed his output for however long. Newcomers who don’t mind getting a little weird (and sad) should have no trouble though, but those seeking a more heavy rock-based sound might consider Volumen 4 or 2014’s Cabalgata Hacia la Luz (review here), but however one approaches it, La Rendición Del Hombre reinforces the project’s capacity for breadth and is a standout example among many of Chotsourian‘s forward-thinking craft.

Ararat, “Eleven” official video

Ararat, “Ramen de Cordero” official video

Ararat, La Rendición Del Hombre (2023)

Ararat on Facebook

Sergio Ch. website

South American Sludge on Bandcamp

South American Sludge website

Interstellar Smoke Records webstore

Interstellar Smoke Records on Facebook

Interstellar Smoke Records on Instagram

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Sergio Ch. Posts “El Manantial”; The Red Rooster Coming Oct. 14

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 4th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Ever prolific and experimental, Sergio Chotsourian — aka Sergio Ch., as I know you know — will digitally release his latest solo album, The Red Rooster, on Oct. 14 through Spotify, Bandcamp, etc. That’s next week, which I also know you know. Vinyl is set to follow for the nine-tracker early next year in continued collaboration with Interstellar Smoke Records, and of course Chotsourian‘s own South American Sludge imprint has a hand in putting it out as well.

As, frankly, it should. You’ll note Chotsourian — who earlier this year surprised with an unexpected fourth Ararat album, Volumen 4 (review here), and whose pedigree includes not only that band and his solo work, but also Brno, Soldati and, once upon a time, South American desert rock trailblazers Los Natas — plays all the instruments on the song “El Manantial” that’s streaming below ahead of the new record’s release, and recorded it. Self-sufficiency is nothing new for him, either in terms of aesthetic or the practicalities of writing, performing and producing music.

“El Manantial” has a pretty bass-heavy sound that puts it in my mind in alliance with Ararat‘s general feel. I don’t think it’s a song that band has done, but it’s tempting to add a “yet” to that, since Chotsourian has certainly bled material over from one project to another, sometimes resulting in a completely different listening experience. I have said “why do I recognize this?” many times through the years. Generally, there’s a reason.

I’ve paid respect to Chotsourian‘s general ouevre over the last, I don’t know, 20 years now?, and no regrets, but I’ll note that especially as he’s opened new avenues for expression in solo work and collaborations, including those with his own family, his breadth as an artist has likewise flourished. One more thing I know you know: the same cannot be said of everybody who was once signed to Man’s Ruin. As an artist, he is unto himself.

So here’s a bit about the track and, of course, the track, which is why we’re here in the first place:

Sergio ch




Sergio Ch., “El Manantial”

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Quarterly Review: Sergio Ch., Titanosaur, Insect Ark, Never Kenezzard, The Kupa Pities, Warpstormer, Ricardo Jiménez y Antonio Ramírez, Children of the Sün, Desert Clouds, Gondhawa

Posted in Reviews on January 19th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Getting to the halfway point of a Quarterly Review is always something special. I’m not trying to say it’s a hardship reviewing 50 records in a week — if anything it’s a relief, despite the strain it seems to put on my interpersonal relationships; The Patient Mrs. hates it and I can’t really fault her for that since it does consume a fair amount of my brain while it’s ongoing — but some days it comes down to ‘do I shower or do I write’ and usually writing wins out. I’ll shower later. Probably. Hopefully.

But today we pass halfway through and there’s a lot of killer still to come, so plenty to look forward to either way. The day starts with an old favorite I’ve included here basically as a favor to myself. Let’s go.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Sergio Ch., La Danza de los Tóxicos

Sergio Ch La Danza de los Tóxicos

Comparatively speaking, La Danza de los Tóxicos is a pretty straightforward solo offering from Soldati/Ararat/ex-Los Natas frontman Sergio Chotsourian, whose ealrier-2021 full-length, Koi (review here), featured both of his children, one rapping and one joining him on vocals for a Nine Inch Nails cover. Perhaps it’s in reaction to that record that this one feels more traditionalist, with Chotsourian (aka Sergio Ch.) still finding 11 minutes to drone out instrumentalist style on closer “Thor Hammer” and to sample Scarface at the start of “Late Train,” but in his guy-and-guitar ethic, a lot of this material sounds like the roots of things to come — Chotsourian has shared songs between projects for years — while keeping a balance between exploratory vibe and traditional structures on pieces like “Skinny Ass,” “La Esquina” and “88.”

Sergio Ch. on Facebook

South American Sludge Records on Bandcamp


Titanosaur, Absence of Universe

Titanosaur Absence of Universe

Coated in burl and aggressive presentation as well as the occasional metaphors about stellar phenomena and hints/flourish of Latin rhythm and percussion, Titanosaur‘s fourth long-player, Absence of Universe, sees multi-instrumentalist, producer and vocalist Geoff Saavedra engaging with aggressive tonality and riff construction as well as the various instabilities of the moment in which the album was put together. “Conspiracy” feels somewhat self-explanatory from a lyrical standpoint, and both opener “The Echo Chamber” and “Shut Off the Voices” feel born of the era in their theme, while “So Happy” seems like a more personal perspective on mental health. Whatever a given song’s subject throughout the nine-track/42-minute offering, Saavedra delivers with a heavy rock born out of ’90s metal such that the breakdown in “So Happy” feels natural when it hits, and the rush of finale “Needed Order” seems like an earned expulsion of the tension so much of the record prior has been building, incluing the chugging force of “I Will Live Forever” immediately prior.

Titanosaur on Facebook

The Swamp Records on Bandcamp


Insect Ark, Future Fossils

insect ark future fossils

Future Fossils would seem to take its name from the idea of bringing these tracks together in some effort toward conservation, to keep them from getting lost to time or obscurity amid the various other works and incarnations of Insect Ark. The first three songs are synth-only solo pieces by Dana Schechter, recorded in 2018, and the final piece, “Gravitrons,” is a 23-minute live improvisation by Schechter and then-drummer Ashley Spungin recorded in New York in 2016. The sense that these things might someday be “discovered” as one might unearth a fossil is fair enough — the minimalism of “Gypsum Blade” has space enough to hold whatever evocations one might place on it, and while “Anopsian Volta” feels grounded with a line of piano, opener “Oral Thrush” seems more decidedly cinematic. All this of course is grist for the mill of “Gravitrons,’ which is consuming unto itself in its ambience and rife with experimentalist purpose. Going in order to have gone. As ethics go, that one feels particularly worth preserving.

Insect Ark on Facebook

Consouling Sounds website


Never Kenezzard, The Long and Grinding Road

Never Kenezzard The Long and Grinding Road

Sludge and grind come together on Denver trio Never Kenezzard‘s The Long and Grinding Road, and through what seems to be some modern metallurgical miracle, the album sounds neither like CarcassSwansong nor Dopethrone. After the pummeling beginning of “Gravity” and “Genie,” the interlude “Praer” and the subequent channel-panning-screamer “Ra” expand an anti-genre take as bent on individuality of sound as they apparently are on clever wordplay. “Demon Wheel” has a genuine heavy rock thrust, and “Slowburn” and the looped clock noise of “11:59:59” provide buffers between the extended cuts “Seven Statues” (11:31) and “The Long and Grinding Road” (14:55) itself, which closes, but by then the three-piece have established a will and a way to go wherever they want and you can follow if you’re up for it. So are you? Probably. There’s some underlying current of Faith No More-style fuckery in the sound, something playful about the way Never Kenezzard push themselves into abrasion. You can tell they’re having fun, and that affects the listening experience throughout the purposefully unmanageable 57 minutes of the album.

Never Kenezzard on Facebook

Never Kenezzard on Bandcamp


The Kupa Pities, Godlike Supervision

The Kupa Pities Godlike Supervision

There’s a thread of noise rock that runs throughout Godlike Supervision, the debut full-length from Munich-based four-piece The Kupa Pities, and it brings grit to both the early-Clutch riffing of lead cut “Anthology” and the later, fuzz-overdose “Queen Machine.” It’s not just about aggression, though there’s some of that, but of the band putting their own spin on the established tenets of Kyuss-style desert and Fu Manchu-style heavy rocks. “Black Hole” digs into the punkish roots of the former, while the starts-and-stops of “Dance Baby Dance” and the sheer push of the title-track hint toward the latter, even if they’re a little sharper around the edges than the penultimate “Surfing,” which feels like it was titled after what the band do with their own groove — they seem to ride it in expert fashion. So be it. “Black Hole” works in a bit of atmosphere and “Burning Man” caps with a fair-enough blowout at the finish, ending the album on a note not unfamiliar but indicative of the twists The Kupa Pities are working to bring to their influences.

The Kupa Pities on Facebook

The Kupa Pities on Bandcamp


Warpstormer, 1

warpstormer logo

A newcomer trio, London’s Warpstormer brings together guitarist Scott Black (Green Lung), drummer Matthew Folley and bassist/vocalist Richard J. Morgan (ex-Oak), and their aptly-titled first EP, 1, presents four bangers of unrepentantly brash heavy rock and roll, channeling perhaps some of earlier Orange Goblin‘s boozy-wrecking-crew vibes, but on “Ride the Bomb” digging into post-hardcore and metal as well, the abidingly aggro sense undercut by a quiet stretch holding its tension in the drums as well as the drunken quiet start of “Devourer,” which gets plenty bruising by its finish but is slower in procession certainly than were “Here Comes Hell” and “Storm Caller” at the outset. They’re in and out and done in 19 minutes, but as what otherwise might be a demo, 1 gives a look at where Warpstormer are coming from and would seem to herald future incursions to come. I’ll take it. The songs come across as feeling out where the band wants to be in terms of sound, but where they’re headed, they’re headed with due charge.

Warpstormer on Facebook

Warpstormer on Bandcamp


Ricardo Jiménez y Antonio Ramírez, Génesis Negro

Ricardo Jiménez y Antonio Ramírez Génesis Negro

Génesis Negro perhaps loses something in the audio-only experience. To wit, while Ricardo Jiménez Gómez is responsible for all the music on the album, it’s the illustrations of Antonio Ramírez Collado, bringing together in Blake-esque style mysticism, anatomy, and ideas born of research into early Christian gnostics, that serve as the root from which that music is sprung. Instrumental in its entirety and including a reprint of the article that ties the visuals and audio together and was apparently the inspiration for exploring the subject to start with, its 43-minute run can obviously offer the listener a deeper dive than just the average collection of verse/chorus songs, and no doubt that’s the intention. Some pieces are minimal enough to barely be there at all, enough to emphasize every strum of a string, and others offer a distorted tonal weight that seems ready to interpret any number of psychedelic spiritual chaos processes. If you want to get weird, Ricardo Jiménez y Antonio Ramírez are way ahead of you. They might also be ahead of themselves, honestly, despite whatever temporal paradox that implies.

Sentencia Records on Facebook

Sentencia Records on Bandcamp


Children of the Sün, Roots

Children of the Sün Roots

Tracks like “Leaves,” “Blood Boils Hot,” and “Thunder” still rock out a pretty heavy classic blues rock vibe, but Swedish outfit Children of the Sün — as the title Roots would imply in following-up their 2019 debut, Flowers (review here) — seem to dig deeper into atmospheric expression, emotive melodies and patience of craft in the 13-track/44-minute offering. From the the mellow noodling of “Reflection” at the start, a piano-led foreshadow for “Eden” later on, to the acoustic-till-it-ain’t “Man in the Moon” later on, the spirit of Roots feels somewhere between days gone by and days to come and therefore must be the present, strutting accordingly on “The Soul” and making a pure vocal showcase for Josefina Berglund Ekholm, on which she shines as one has come to expect. There are moments where the vocals feel disconnected from the instrumental portions of the songs, but where they go, they go organically.

Children of the Sün on Facebook

The Sign Records on Facebook


Desert Clouds, Planexit

desert clouds planexit

Is that flute on “Planexit,” the opener and longest track (immediate points), on Planexit, the latest outing from London-based grunge-informed heavy rockers Desert Clouds? It could well be, and after the somewhat bleaker progression of the riffs prior, that escape into melody comes across as well-placed. The band are likewise unafraid to pull off atmospheric Nick Cave-style storytelling in “Wheelchair” and more broodingly progressive fare in “Deceivers,” leaving the relatively brief “Revolutionary Lies” to rest somewhere between Southern heavy, early ’90s melodicism and a modern production. Throughout the 45-minute LP, the band swap out various structural ideologies, and while I can’t help be immersed in the groove and bassline of “Deceivers,” the linear build and receding of the penultimate “Pearl Marmalade” feels no less essential to the impact of the record overall. Behold a band who have found their niche and set themselves to the task of refining its parameters. As ever, it works because songwriting and performance are both right on.

Desert Clouds on Facebook

Mandrone Records website


Gondhawa, Käampâla

Gondhawa - Käampâla

Comprised of Clement Pineau (drums, kamele n’goni, vocals, percussion), Idriss Besselievre (vocals, guitar, sanxian), Paul Adamczuk (bass/guitar, keyboard) and Margot GuilbertGondhawa bring forth a heavy psychedelic cultural sphere throughout the still-digestible six tracks and 37 minutes of Käampâla, with the French trio’s penchant for including instrumentation from Africa or Asia alongside the more traditional guitar, bass, drums, keys and vocals resulting in a lush but natural feeling psychedelia that seems to be all the more open for their readiness to jam outside whatever box expectation might put them in. The title-track feels like Mideastern prog, while the subsequent “Assid Bubu” shreds out an echoing lead over a slow-roller of a stoner-jam nod. Their willingness to dance is a strength, ultimately, and their inclusion of these arrangement elements, including percussion, comes across as more than dabbling in world music. They’re not the first to look beyond their effects pedals in manifesting psych rock, but there’s not a lot out there that sounds like this.

Gondhawa on Facebook

Stolen Body Records website


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Sergio Ch. Premieres “Lirium” Video from New Album Koi

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 15th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Amid a slew of others in the works, recent and forthcoming, across an ever-increasing range of projects, Buenos Aires-based experimentalist/heavy songwriter Sergio Chotsourian — aka Sergio Ch. — released his latest solo full-length, Koi (review here), in June through his own South American Sludge imprint. The album came out at the end of June, and already to coincide Chotsourian has produced five videos for its songs, with the gravelly “Lirium” — premiering below — as the sixth. To say the guy is in a productive period is to put it mildly, but over the last five or six years, that’s just kind of how it’s become for the former Los Natas frontman, whose work in AraratSoldati, with the label, and on his own has made him a staple and a figurehead of the Argentine and greater South American underground.

If you can keep up with his work, congratulations. I do my best in that regard, but after 25 years since the first Los Natas record, Chotsourian sets perhaps a more ambitious pace than ever. The clip for the closing track from Koi, a cover of Nine Inch Nails‘ “Hurt” featuring his daughter, Isabel Ch., came out just a couple weeks ago — his son Rafael features at the end of the prior song, “El Gran Chapparal,” as well; no video yet — and “Lirium” follows in a kind of visual meditation that’s fitting for the track’s descending piano line and throaty vocal, a folkish feel but richly atmospheric with backing drones adding an ethereal presence. That piano line is different when you actually listen, but it takes me back earliest Ararat, and I remember it being striking when 2009’s Musica de la Resistencia (review here) showed up with “Dos Horses,” so strikingly different from what would turn out to be the last Los Natas album, Nuevo Orden de la Libertad (review here), despite arriving just a couple months later and sharing different interpretations of its songs.

Perhaps that’s emblematic of the ongoing creative conversation Chotsourian is having across with work with the various sides of his own process. He’s done plenty piano/synth/etc. since, of course, and songs show up on one solo record, then find their way morphed onto another, or redone as a Soldati or Ararat track, or wherever the whim suits. That lack of predictability makes his output more exciting to hear — again, for those who might be able to keep up — but it’s just as much the restlessness that is his own as well as any particular sonic element or interpretive method. The expressive need.

You’ll find “Lirium” premiering below. I’ve also included “Hurt” and the Bandcamp stream of Koi, for good measure.


Sergio Ch., “Lirium” official video premiere


isabel & Sergio Ch., “Hurt” (Nine Inch Nails cover) official video

Sergio Ch., Koi (2021)

Sergio Ch. on Facebook

Sergio Ch. on Instagram

South American Sludge Records on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: King Woman, Mythic Sunship, Morningstar Delirium, Lunar Funeral, Satánico Pandemonium, Van Groover, Sergio Ch., Achachak, Rise Up Dead Man, Atomic Vulture

Posted in Reviews on July 19th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Hey, how was your weekend? You won’t be surprised to learn mine was full of tunes, which I mark as a win. While we’re marking wins, let’s put one down for wrapping up the longest Quarterly Review to-date in a full 11 days today. 110 releases. I started on July 5 — a lifetime ago. It’s now July 19, and I’ve encountered a sick kid and wife, busted laptop, oral surgery, and more riffs than I could ever hope to count along the way. Ups, downs, all-arounds. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.

This day was added kind of on an impulse, and the point I’m looking to emphasize is that you can spend two full weeks reviewing 10 albums a day and still there’s more to be had. I’ve learned over time you’re never going to hear everything — not even close — and that no matter how deep you dig, there’s more to find. I’m sure if I didn’t have other stuff scheduled I could fill out the entirety of this week and then some with 10 records a day. As it stands, let’s not have this Quarterly Review run into the next one at the end of September/beginning of October. Time to get my life back a little bit, such as it is.

Quarterly Review #101-110:

King Woman, Celestial Blues

king woman celestial blues

After the (earned) fanfare surrounding King Woman‘s 2017 debut, Created in the Image of Suffering, expectations for the sophomore outing, Celestial Blues, are significant. Songwriter/vocalist Kris Esfandiari meets these head-on in heavy and atmospheric fashion on tracks like the opening title-cut and “Morning Star,” the more cacophonous “Coil” and duly punishing “Psychic Wound.” Blues? Yes, in places. Celestial? In theme, in its confrontation with dogma, sure. Even more than these, though, Celestial Blues taps into an affecting weight of ambience, such that even the broad string sounds of “Golgotha” feel heavy, and whether a given stretch is loud or quiet, subdued like the first half of “Entwined” or raging like the second, right into the minimalist “Paradise Lost” that finishes, the sense of burden being purposefully conveyed is palpable in the listening experience. No doubt the plaudits will be or are already manifold and superlative, but the work stands up.

King Woman on Facebook

Relapse Records website


Mythic Sunship, Wildfire

Mythic Sunship Wildfire

Mythic Sunship are a hopeful vision for the future of progressive psychedelic music. Their fifth album and first for Tee Pee Records, Wildfire offers five tracks/45 minutes that alternates between ripping holes in the fabric of spacetime via emitted subspace wavelengths of shredding guitar, sax-led freakouts, shimmer to the point of blindness, peaceful drift and who the hell knows what else is going on en route from one to the other. Because as much as the Copenhagen outfit might jump from one stretch to the next, their fluidity is huge all along the course of Wildfire, which is fortunate because that’s probably the only thing stopping the record from actually melting. Instrumental as ever, I’m not sure if there’s a narrative arc playing out — certainly one can read one between “Maelstrom,” “Olympia,” “Landfall,” “Redwood Grove” and “Going Up” — and if that’s the intention, it maybe pulls back from that “hopeful vision” idea somewhat, at least in theme, if not aesthetic. In any case, the gorgeousness, the electrified vitality in what Mythic Sunship do, continues to distinguish them from their peers, which is a list that is only growing shorter with each passing LP.

Mythic Sunship on Facebook

Tee Pee Records website


Morningstar Delirium, Morningstar Delirium

Morningstar Delirium Morningstar Delirium

I said I was going to preorder this tape and I’m glad I did. Morningstar Delirium‘s half-hour/four-song debut offering is somewhere between an EP and an album — immersive enough to be the latter certainly in its soothing, brooding exploration of sonic textures, not at all tethered to a sonic weight in the dark industrial “Blood on the Fixture” and even less so in the initial minutes of “Silent Travelers,” but not entirely avoiding one either, as in the second half of that latter track some more sinister beats surface for a time. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists/vocalist Kelly Schilling (Dreadnought, BleakHeart) and Clayton Cushman (The Flight of Sleipnir), the isolation-era project feeds into that lockdown atmosphere in moments droning and surging, “Where Are You Going” giving an experimentalist edge with its early loops and later stretch of ethereal slide guitar (or what sounds like it), while closer “A Plea for the Stars” fulfills the promise of its vocalists with a doomed melody in its midsection that’s answered back late, topping an instrumental progression like the isolated weepy guitar of classic goth metal over patiently built layers of dark-tinted wash. Alternating between shorter and longer tracks, the promise in Morningstar Delirium resides in the hope they’ll continue to push farther and farther along these lines of emotional and aural resonance.

Morningstar Delirium on Instagram

Morningstar Delirium on Bandcamp


Lunar Funeral, Road to Siberia

lunar funeral road to siberia

Somewhere between spacious goth and garage doom, Russia’s Lunar Funeral find their own stylistic ground to inhabit on their second album, Road to Siberia. The two-piece offer grim lysergics to start the affair on “Introduce” before plunging into “The Thrill,” which bookends with the also-11-minute closer “Don’t Send Me to Rehab” and gracefully avoids going full-freakout enough to bring back the verse progression near the end. Right on. Between the two extended pieces, the swinging progression of “25th Hour” trades brooding for strut — or at least brooding strut — with the snare doing its damnedest by the midsection to emulate handclaps could be there if they could find a way not to be fun. “25th Hour” hits into a wash late and “Black Bones” answers with dark boogie and a genuine nod later, finishing with noise en route to the spacious eight-minute “Silence,” which finds roll eventually, but holds to its engaging sense of depth in so doing, the abiding weirdness of the proceedings enhanced by the subtle masterplan behind it. Airy guitar work winding atop the bassline makes the penultimate “Your Fear is Giving Me Fear” a highlight, but the willful trudge of “Don’t Send Me to Rehab” is an all-too-suitable finish in style and atmosphere, not quite drawing it all together, but pushing it off a cliff instead.

Lunar Funeral on Facebook

Helter Skelter Productions / Regain Records on Bandcamp


Satánico Pandemonium, Espectrofilia

satanico pandemonium espectrofilia

Sludge and narcosadistic doom infest the six-track Espectrofilia from Mexico City four-piece Satánico Pandemonium, who call it an EP despite its topping 40 minutes in length. I don’t know, guys. Electric Wizard are a touchstone to the rollout of “Parábola del Juez Perverso,” which lumbers out behind opener “El Que Reside Dentro” and seems to come apart about two minutes in, only to pick up and keep going. Fucking a. Horror, exploitation, nodding riffs, raw vibes — Satánico Pandemonium have it all and then some, and if there’s any doubt Espectrofilia is worthy of pressing to a 12″ platter, like 2020’s Culto Suicida before it, whether they call it a full-length or not, the downward plunge of the title-track into the grim boogie of “Panteonera” and the consuming, bass-led closer “La Muerte del Sol” should put them to rest with due prejudice. The spirit of execution here is even meaner than the sound, and that malevolence of intent comes through front-to-back.

Satánico Pandemonium on Facebook

Satánico Pandemonium on Bandcamp


Van Groover, Honk if Parts Fall Off

Van Groover Honk if Parts Fall Off

Kudos to Van Groover on their know-thyself tagline: “We’re not reinventing the wheel, but we let it roll.” The German trio’s 10-track/51-minute debut, Honk if Parts Fall Off, hits its marks in the post-Truckfighters sphere of uptempo heavy fuzz/stoner rock, injecting a heaping dose of smoke-scented burl from the outset with “Not Guilty” and keeping the push going through “Bison Blues” and “Streetfood” and “Jetstream” before “Godeater” takes a darker point of view and “Roadrunner” takes a moment to catch its breath before reigniting the forward motion. Sandwiched between that and the seven-minute “Bad Monkey” is an interlude of quieter bluesy strum called “Big Sucker” that ends with a rickity-sounding vehicle — something tells me it’s a van — starts and “Bad Monkey” kicks into its verse immediately, rolling stoned all the while even in its quiet middle stretch before “HeXXXenhammer” and the lull-you-into-a-false-sense-of-security-then-the-riff-hits “Quietness” finish out. Given the stated ambitions, it’s hard not to take Honk if Parts Fall Off as it comes. Van Groover aren’t hurting anybody except apparently one or two people in the opener and maybe elsewhere in the lyrics. Stoner rock for stoner rockers.

Van Groover on Facebook

Van Groover on Bandcamp


Sergio Ch., Koi

Sergio Ch Koi

There is not much to which Buenos Aires-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sergio Chotsourian, aka Sergio Ch., is a stranger at this point. In a career that has spanned more than a quarter-century, he’s dipped hands in experimentalist folk and drone, rock, metal, punk, goth and more in varying prolific combinations of them. Koi, his latest full-length, still finds new ground to explore, however, in bringing not only the use of programmed drum beats behind some of the material, but collaborations with his own children, Isabel Ch., who contributes vocals on the closing Nine Inch Nails cover, “Hurt,” which was also previously released as a single, and Rafael “Raffa” Ch., who provides a brief but standout moment just before with a swirling, effects-laced rap tucked away at the end of the 11-minute “El Gran Chaparral.” If these are sentimental inclusions on Chotsourian‘s part, they’re a minor indulgence to make, and along with the English-language “NY City Blues,” the partial-translation of “Hurt” into Spanish is a welcome twist among others like “Tic Tac,” which blend electronic beats and spacious guitar in a way that feels like a foreshadow of burgeoning interests and things to come.

Sergio Ch. on Facebook

South American Sludge Records on Bandcamp


Achachak, High Mountain

Achachak High Mountain

Less than a year removed from their debut full-length, At the Bottom of the Sea, Croatian five-piece Achachak return with the geological-opposite follow-up, High Mountain. With cuts like “Bong Goddess,” “Maui Waui,” they leave little to doubt as to where they’re coming from, but the stoner-for-stoners’-sake attitude doesn’t necessarily account either for the drifty psych of “Biggest Wave” or the earlier nod-out in “Lonewolf,” the screams in the opening title-track or the follow-that-riff iron-manliness of “”Mr. SM,” let alone the social bent to the lyrics in the QOTSA-style “Lesson” once it takes off — interesting to find them delving into the political given the somewhat regrettable inner-sleeve art — but the overarching vibe is still of a band not taking itself too seriously, and the songwriting is structured enough to support the shifts in style and mood. The fuzz is strong with them, and closer “Cozy Night” builds on the languid turn in “Biggest Wave” with an apparently self-aware moody turn. For having reportedly been at it since 1999, two full-lengths and a few others EPs isn’t a ton as regards discography, but maybe now they’re looking to make up for lost time.

Achachak on Facebook

Achachak on Bandcamp


Rise Up, Dead Man, Rise Up, Dead Man

Rise Up Dead Man Rise Up Dead Man

It’s almost counterintuitive to think so, but what you see is what you get with mostly-instrumentalist South African western/psych folk duo Rise Up, Dead Man‘s self-titled debut. To wit, the “Bells of Awakening” at the outset, indeed, are bells. “The Summoning,” which follows, hypnotizes with guitar and various other elements, and then, yes, the eponymous “Rise Up, Dead Man,” is a call to raise the departed. I don’t know if “Stolen Song” is stolen, but it sure is familiar. Things get more ethereal as multi-instrumentalists Duncan Park (guitar, vocals, pennywhistle, obraphone, bells, singing bowl) and William Randles (guitar, vocals, melodica, harmonium, violin, bells, singing bowl) through the serenity of “The Wind in the Well” and the summertime trip to Hobbiton that the pennywhistle in “Everything that Rises Must Converge” offers, which is complemented in suitably wistful fashion on closer “Sickly Meadow.” There’s some sorting out of aesthetic to be done here, but as the follow-up just to an improv demo released earlier this year, the drive and attention to detail in the arrangements makes their potential feel all the more significant, even before you get to the expressive nature of the songs or the nuanced style in which they so organically reside.

Rise Up, Dead Man on Facebook

Rise Up, Dead Man on Bandcamp


Atomic Vulture , Moving Through Silence

Atomic Vulture Moving Through Silence

Yeah, that whole “silence” thing doesn’t last too long on Moving Through Silence. The 51-minute debut long-player from Brugge, Belgium, instrumentalists Atomic Vulture isn’t through opener “Eclipse” before owing a significant sonic debt to Kyuss‘ “Thumb,” but given the way the record proceeds into “Mashika Deathride” and “Coaxium,” one suspects Karma to Burn are even more of an influence for guitarist Pascal David, bassist Kris Hoornaert and drummer Jens Van Hollebeke, and though they move through some slower, more atmospheric stretch on “Cosmic Dance” and later more extended pieces like “Spinning the Titans” (9:02) and closer “Astral Dream,” touching on prog particularly in the second half of the latter, they’re never completely removed from that abiding feel of get-down-to-business, as demonstrated on the roll of “Intergalactic Takeoff” and the willful landing on earth that the penultimate “Space Rat” brings in between “Spinning the Titans” and “Astral Dream,” emphasizing the sense of their being a mission underway, even if the mission is Atomic Vulture‘s discovery of place within genre.

Atomic Vulture on Facebook

Polderrecords on Bandcamp


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