The Obelisk Presents: The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014

Posted in Features on December 26th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Dudley-Street,-Seven-Dials.-Gustave-Doré-(1832-83) top 10

Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll. That’s still going on. Please feel free to submit your list.

Making and releasing a first full-length album is a special moment in the life of any band, and that’s why I wanted to single out some of the best debuts of the year. I’ve never done this before, and so maybe with a top 10 I’m testing the waters a bit, but it seemed a worthwhile project anyway. It was a long (inner) debate about whether or not to include EPs and singles here too, but in the end, it just seemed to work better with albums.

Not to take anything away from shorter releases, but putting out a debut EP is much different than a debut LP. First of all, a debut LP can come after several EPs or singles or demos or whatever and still be considered first. What a first album says to the listener is, “Okay, we’ve come this far and we’re ready to take this step.” Some bands, once they start putting out albums, never go back to EPs. Others who’ve been around for 30 years still release demos every now and then, but even so, a group only ever gets one crack at their first album, and it can be one of the most important things we ever do.

Compared to how many come out any given month, year, century, etc., very few debut long-players ever wind up being classics, and who knows what the future might hold for any of these acts on this list, but that not knowing and that excitement are part of the fun.

Let’s get to it:

the-well-samsara

The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014

1. The Well, Samsara
2. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass
3. Spidergawd, Spidergawd
4. Atavismo, Desintegración
5. Blues Pills, Blues Pills
6. Steak, Slab City
7. Comet Control, Comet Control
8. Elephant Tree, Theia
9. Black Moon Circle, Black Moon Circle
10. Temple of Void, Of Terror and the Supernatural

A couple honorable mentions. First to Valley of the Sun‘s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk, which I still didn’t know what to do with the release date for. Officially 2014, but kinda released in 2013 too. I was back and forth on it. Also Wasted Theory‘s burly debut, Monolord‘s Empress Rising, Child‘s Child, the Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart sprawling one-song LP from Sylvaine.

Some notes: Actual time spent listening played a big role in the structuring of this list. More so than the Top 30 of 2014, I would say. The Well‘s Samsara and the self-titled debut from The Golden Grass featured pretty high on that list as well, and that’s because both of them were records that I continually went back to and found satisfying after they came out. In both bands I think there’s significant stylistic potential, but more importantly, they both came out of the gate with their mission solidified and ready to roll.

With Spidergawd‘s Spidergawd, the progressive take on classic heavy rock boogie was blinding, but righteous. Their second album is due early next year on Stickman and I’ll have more on it to come in the weeks ahead. Atavismo‘s Desintegración hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Just four songs, but the atmosphere was gorgeous enough that after listening I went back and asked the band if I could host a stream in hopes that more people would hear it. Fortunately for anyone who listened, they were kind enough to comply.

On sheer impact alone, I think Blues Pills‘ Blues Pills warrants inclusion on this list, but in my own listening, I put on the top four so much more often that I couldn’t really justify placing it any higher. But in terms of a first album coming out and really propelling a band to the next level, I think for a lot of people it’s probably the debut of the year. Fair enough. Steak‘s Slab City found the London four-piece physically and stylistically right in the heart of the California desert and their passion for that place and its sound came across heartfelt on the recording, which only heightened the appeal.

And while I’m still sorry to see Quest for Fire go, the debut from offshoot Comet Control helped ease that sorrow neatly with a blend of driving heavier space rock and psychedelic vibing. Cool album, bodes well. You could say the same for Elephant Tree‘s Theia, I suppose. Their take on psychedelia melded with screamy sludge successfully where I think a lot of bands would’ve fallen flat trying the same thing, and that’s definitely something noteworthy in an initial offering, particularly one not preceded by an EP or other kind of release.

To round things out, two very different records. Black Moon Circle‘s self-titled took a popular stylistic course — melding heavy rock and psychedelic jamming — and showed the trio beginning to make it their own. That’s something I hope will continue on their second outing, which, like that of Spidergawd, is coming on quick early in 2015. And finally, Temple of Void‘s extreme, deathly take on doom courted genres smoothly and delivered its punishment with efficiency while holding together a coherent atmosphere of darkness and aggression. It was a sadistic joy to behold.

If you missed it, there were a couple debuts included on the Top 20 Short Releases of 2014 list as well — Gold & SilverWrenDeath Alley, and so on — so if you’re looking for more of that kind of thing, you don’t have to look too far. I hope if there was a debut album this year that particularly caught your attention, you’ll let me know in the comments.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On Wax: Spidergawd, Spidergawd

Posted in On Wax on October 9th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

spidergawd-spidergawd-lp-and-cover-and-cd

A spirit of reverence is immediate, even before you put on the self-titled debut full-length from Norway’s Spidergawd. The vinyl — now in its third pressing, as I understand it — comes courtesy of Crispin Glover Records, and is presented in bright red, 180g form, housed in a blue transparent plastic sleeve. Already we see the interplay of color that the album itself will proffer. Its striking, thick-glossy-stock pagan-futuristic cover art follows suit, the tracklisting and recording info hidden inside, waiting to be found, and the whole package, which also includes a CD, is housed in a clear plastic sleeve that boasts the band’s logo for a layered-over effect when the put together. Spidergawd‘s music is as intricate a take as I’ve heard on ’70s-style boogie, with at-times manic progressive rhythmic turns matched to upbeat, classic heavy forward motion, and clearly the 12″ was meant to be a multi-sensory experience. Even unto how the texture of the sleeve feels in your hands, it offers more than just the audio.

The name Motorpsycho won’t be as immediately familiar to Americans as to Europeans, but the rhythm section of the long-running prog pioneers features here, bassist Bent Sæther and drummer Kenneth Kapstad joining guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Per Borten and saxophonist Rolf Martin Snustad in the spidergawd-spidergawd-lp-sleeve-and-recordTrondheim-based Spidergawd, the self-titled also boasting pedal steel from Roar Øien and trumpet from Kim Alexander Eriksen. The horns are used well beginning from side A opener “Into Tomorrow,” accenting the chorus of the album’s shortest cut without being overdone, adding to the excitement of the song itself, Borten‘s vocal command — readily on display throughout — and the instrumental chemistry between the guitar, bass and drums. “Into Tomorrow” is a forward, driving heavy rock song with an ear toward ’70s rock, but nothing on Spidergawd‘s Spidergawd is particularly retro-sounding, the production clear and full and not necessarily geared toward playing up a vintage style, though “Blauer Jubel” or “Southeastern Voodoo Lab” definitely lean more into that influence stylistically.

Even aside from Kapstad‘s gonna-put-on-a-clinic-and-still-sound-like-I’m-having-fun drumming, there’s a lot about the LP that’s easy to get into. Borten‘s guitar jangles and swaggers over Sæther‘s twisting fuzz jam, and though Spidergawd obviously have the chops to pull off the blinding shuffle of “Blauer Jubel,” technical prowess isn’t shown off at the expense of songwriting. “Master of Disguise” sees fit to out Graveyard Graveyard, a tense verse opening to a raucous, full-speed-ahead chorus of classic pursuit, and even if they hadn’t built such momentum over the course of “Into Tomorrow” and “Blauer Jubel,” the play of guitar and bass in the solo section — that low end tone — is a firm signifier these cats mean business. Still keeping a modern production, they update the best aspects of classic heavy rock and deliver a style both familiar and their own wrapped in virtuosic performance and variability, the horns returning on “Southeastern Voodoo Lab” to help round out side A in swinging fashion, pushing toward a guitar-led blues-solo apex with Kapstad pulling back to a half-time crash before once more joining the air-tight rush for a return to the verse.

A flip to side B brings more surprises in the form of the 14-minute “Empty Rooms,” an extended heavy psychedelic jam that begins with a solid minute-plus of Snustad‘s echoing sax before the guitar and bass begin to swell into the mix. Fuck, it’s righteous. They bring the volume up and hold a ringout as Kapstad‘s snare drumrolls a quick build, and Borten starts the vocals of the first verse aboutspidergawd-spidergawd-back-cover-and-cd four minutes after the song began, backed by Sæther‘s bass. They take off from there, once again at barnburner speed, and a solo at around eight minutes in brings a tempo change to a more languid groove, the bass and guitar fuzzed out in a descending progression toward what would seem to be a finish before start-stop chugging revives the movement, bass once more serving as the foundation for the guitar and Soundgarden-gone-psych compressed vocals that carry past the 10-minute mark. A jazzy, airy, unhurried solo caps over the last couple minutes, the sax gone, pedal steel buried deep in the mix but there enough to be in conversation with Borten, and the jam gradually fades out past its 14th minute, a jarring last minute swell signaling the shift into closer “Million Dollar Somersault,” its title and its initial bassline reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age but ultimately working on a different plane, like the embodiment of everything hyper-stylized indie rockers fall short of conveying, ultra-swinging and poised even as its noisy apex approaches, fittingly grounding after “Empty Rooms” but still way, way out there, coming to a sudden finish as the needle returns, daring you to go another round.

Spidergawd have a couple singles under their belt on Crispin Glover, but this is their first full-length. One doesn’t want to get into they’re-gonna-be-huge kinds of hyperbole, both because it’s useless and because it ultimately detracts from conveying the actual value of the album, but there’s nothing Spidergawd sets out to do that its six tracks don’t accomplish, and front to back, the record breathes life into ’70s influenced heavy, showing there’s more to be done than simply trying to ape the sound as best as possible. I’ll say flat out it’s a hell of a record. If you don’t take my recommendation to heart, I hope it finds you some other way.

Spidergawd, “Into Tomorrow”

Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks

Crispin Glover Records

Tags: , , , , ,

audiObelisk Transmission 040

Posted in Podcasts on September 26th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

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

This one’s beamed in from a universe of all good times. I don’t want to walk around tooting my own horn like I actually did anything, but you’ll pardon me if I say that once you get on board here, you might not want to jump back off. The flow is up and down, alternately drawn out and rushing, and right up to the last song which is a bit of a return to earth, the second hour is the most spaced out it’s ever been around these parts. I’m way into it. I hope you’re way into it.

Like last time, I tried to get a mix of excellent stuff upcoming with other recent items you might’ve missed. One of these days I’m gonna do another one of these where I talk, but this is straight-up track into track the whole way through and I think it moves really well that way. Please feel free to grab a download or hit the stream and dig in and enjoy.

First Hour:
The Melvins, “Sesame Street Meat” from Hold it In (2014)
Fever Dog, “One Thousand Centuries” from Second Wind (2014)
Lo-Pan, “Eastern Seas” from Colossus (2014)
Witchrider, “Black” from Unmountable Stairs (2014)
Alunah, “Awakening the Forest” from Awakening the Forest (2014)
Craang, “Magnolia” from To the Estimated Size of the Universe (2014)
Slow Season, “Shake” from Mountains (2014)
Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, “Guillotine” from The Shining One (2014)
The Proselyte, “Irish Goodbye” from Our Vessel’s in Need (2014)
Flood, “Lake Nyos” from Oak (2014)
Lord, “Golgotha” from Alive in Golgotha (2014)

Second Hour:
My Brother the Wind, “Garden of Delights” from Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One (2014)
Spidergawd, “Empty Rooms” from Spidergawd (2014)
The Myrrors, “Whirling Mountain Blues” from Solar Collector (2014)
Witch Mountain, “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour the Hymn)” from Mobile of Angels (2014)

Total running time: 1:54:28

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 040

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,