Quarterly Review: Papir, Kosmodemonic, Steve Von Till, Sex Blender, Déhà, Thunder Horse, Rebreather, Melmak, Astral Magic, Crypt Monarch

Posted in Reviews on July 6th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

Day two already, huh? It’s a holiday week here in the States, which means people are on vacation or have at least enjoyed a long weekend hopefully without blowing any body parts off with fireworks or whatnot. For me, I prefer the day on rather than the day off, so we proceeded as normal yesterday in beginning the Quarterly Review. “We now return to our regularly scheduled,” and so on.

There’s a lot of good stuff here, as one would hope, and since we’re still basically at the start of this doublewide edition of the Quarterly Review — 10 down, 90 to go — I won’t delay further. Thanks for reading.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Papir, Jams

papir jams

Two sessions, three days apart, three pieces from each, resulting in six tracks running just about 80 minutes that Papir are only within their rights to have titled simply as Jams. With this outing, the Copenhagen-based psychedelic trio present their process at its most nakedly exploratory. I don’t know if they had any parts pre-planned when they went into the studio, but the record brims with spontaneity, drums jazzing out behind shimmering guitar and steadily grooving basslines. Effects are prevalent and add to the spaciousness, and the sessions from whence these songs came, whether it’s the key-led four-minute “20.01.2020 #2” or the 20-minute opener “17.01.2020 #1” — all tracks sharing the same date-and-number format as regards titles — feel vibrant and fluid in a way that goes beyond even the hazy hypnotics of “20.01.2020 #3.” Papir‘s instrumental dynamic is of course a huge part of what they do anyway, but to hear their chemistry come through in freer fashion as it does here can only be refreshing. I hope they do more like this.

Papir on Facebook

Stickman Records website

 

Kosmodemonic, Liminal Light

Kosmodemonic Liminal Light

Brooklyn outfit Kosmodemonic exist almost exclusively within genre border regions. Their second album, Liminal Light, fosters an approach that’s too considered not to be called progressive, but that owes as much to the cosmic doom of YOB as to black metal as to noise rock as to Voivod as to any number of other various ores in the metallic sphere. In their sprinting moments or in the consuming dark grandeur of centerpiece “Ipomoea,” they are pointedly individual, and cuts like “Drown in Drone” and the later slammer “Brown Crown” owe much to sheer impact as to the cerebral underpinnings of their angularity. Liminal Light is vicious but methodical, and feels executed with a firm desire to catch the audience sleeping and then blindside them with a change, be it in moving from one song to another or within one song itself, like when the penultimate “Chains of Goddess Grove” rears back from its lurching movement and spews thrashier fire in its final minute. Put these moments together and you get a record that challenges on multiple levels and is unflinchingly worth the effort of close engagement.

Kosmodemonic on Facebook

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp

 

Steve Von Till, A Deep Voiceless Wilderness

Steve Von Till A Deep Voiceless Wilderness

The sixth solo offering from Neurosis guitarist/vocalist Steve Von Till is a first for being completely instrumental. The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — goes that Von Till wrote the music for 2020’s No Wilderness Deep Enough (review here) late during jetlagged nights alone on his wife’s family’s property in Germany, where her family has lived for 500 years, only to later be convinced by producer Randall Dunn to write lyrics and record vocals for the songs. A Deep Voiceless Wilderness, as the title hints, pulls those vocals back out of these re-named pieces, allowing elements like the quiet textures of keyboard and piano, horns and mellotrons to shine through in atmospheric fashion, layers of drone intertwining in mostly peaceful fashion. It is the least guitar-based record Von Till has ever done, and allows for a new kind of minimalism to surface along with an immersive melodic hum. Subdued, meditative, exploratory, kind of wonderful.

Steve Von Till website

Neurot Recordings store

 

Sex Blender, Studio Session I

Sex Blender Studio Session I

Based in Lviv, Ukraine, instrumentalist krautrock bizarros Sex Blender have two full-lengths behind them, and Studio Session I takes the consumingly fuzzed “Diver” from 2018’s Hormonizer and three cuts from 2020’s The Second Coming and turns them into a stirring 44-minute set captured on video for a livestream. Reportedly some of the arrangements are different, as will certainly happen, but as someone being introduced to the band through this material, it’s easy to be struck by the palpable sense of glee with which Sex Blender present their songs. “Crimson Master” is the shortest of the bunch at just over six minutes — it’s the only one under 11 — but even there, the manipulated keyboard sounds, drum fluidity and undercurrent of rumbling distortion push Sex Blender into a place that’s neither doom nor prog but draws from both, crawling where the subsequent “Rave Spritz” can’t help but bounce with its motorik drums and intertwined synth lines. May just be a live session, but they shine all the same.

Sex Blender on Facebook

Drone Rock Records website

 

Déhà, Cruel Words

Déhà Cruel Words

Déhà‘s third long-player Cruel Words was originally issued in 2019 and is seeing a first vinyl pressing on Burning World Records. The Brussels solo outfit has released no fewer than 17 other full-length outings — possibly more, depending on what counts as what — in the two years since these songs initially surfaced, but, well, one has to start someplace. The 2LP runs 75 minutes and includes bonus tracks — an acoustic version of opener “I Am Mine to Break,” a cover of The Gathering‘s “Saturnine” and the piano-into-post-metal “Comfort Me II” — but the highlights are on the album itself, such as the make-Amenra-blush 12-minute crux of “Dead Butterflies,” wherein a lung-crushing weight is given patient drama through its prominent keyboard layers, or the goth early going of “Pain is a Wasteland,” which seems to brood until it finally can’t take it anymore and bashes its head (and yours) into the wall. Surprisingly methodical for the manic pace at which Déhà (né Olmo Lipani) works, it makes artistry of its arrangement as well as performance and is willfully overwhelming, but engaging in that.

Déhà on Facebook

Burning World Records website

 

Thunder Horse, Chosen One

Thunder Horse Chosen One

Big riffs, big grooves, big hooks, Thunder Horse‘s second long-player, Chosen One, sees the San Antonio, Texas, outfit inherit some aspects from the members’ past outfits, whether it’s the semi-industrial vocal style of Stephen Bishop on “Among the Dead” or the classically shredding solo work of Todd Connally. With Dave Crow on bass and Jason “Shakes” West on drums, Thunder Horse elbow their way into a nod quickly on Chosen One and hold their ground decisively, with Dehumanizer-esque tones and flourish of keys throughout that closes in lead position on the outro “Remembrance” in complement to the strumming, whistling “Texas” a short while earlier. Even when they shuffle, as on the second half of “Song for the Ferryman,” Thunder Horse do it heavy, and as they did with their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), they make it hard to argue, either with the atmosphere or the sheer lumber of their output. An easy record to dig for the converted.

Thunder Horse on Facebook

Ripple Music website

 

Rebreather, Pets / Orange Crush

Rebreather Pets Orange Crush

Heads up children of — or children of children of — the 1990s, as Youngstown, Ohio’s Rebreather effectively reinterpret and heavy up two of that decade’s catchiest hooks in Porno for Pyros‘ “Pets” and R.E.M.‘s “Orange Crush.” Taking songs that, if they ever left your head from rock radio, will certainly be right back in there now, and trying to put their own spin on them is ambitious, but Rebreather have no trouble slowing down the already kinda languid “Pets” or emphasizing the repetitive urgency of “Orange Crush,” and the tonal weight they bring to both honors the original versions as well as who Rebreather are as a band, while showcasing the band’s heretofore undervalued melodies, with call and response vocal lines in both cuts nodding to their sludge/noise rock roots while moving forward from there. They chose the songs well, if nothing else, and though it’s only about 10 minutes between the two cuts, as the first new Rebeather material since their 2018 self-titled EP (discussed here), I’ll take the two covers happily.

Rebreather on Facebook

Aqualamb Records website

 

Melmak, Down the Underground

Melmak Down the Underground

Spanish duo Melmak — guitarist/vocalist Jonan Etxebarria and drummer/vocalist Igor Etxebarria — offer an awaited follow-up to their 2016 long-player Prehistorical (review here) and demonstrate immediately that five years has not dulled their aggressive tendencies. Opener “Black Room” is a minute-long grindfest, and though “Scum” finds its way into a sludgy groove, it’s not far behind. “Poser” starts out as a piano ballad but turns to its own crushing roll, while “The Scene” rumbles out its lurch, “You Really Don’t Care” samples a crying baby over a sad piano line and “Ass Kisser” offers knee-to-the-face bruiser riffing topped with echoing gutturalism that carries the intensity into the seven-minute, more spacious “Jaundiced,” which gives itself over to extremity in its second half as well, and the closing noise wash of “The Crew.” What we learn from all this is it would seem Melmak find the heavy underground wanting in violent terms. They answer that call in bludgeoning fashion.

Melmak on Facebook

Melmak on Bandcamp

 

Astral Magic, Visions of Infinity

Astral Magic Visions of Infinity

Ostensibly a solo-project from Dark Sun bassist Santtu Laakso, Astral Magic‘s debut LP, Visions of Infinity, features contributions from guitarist Martin Weaver (Wicked Lady, Doctors of Space) and Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (Doctors of Space, Øresund Space Collective), as well as Samuli Sailo on ukulele, and has been mixed and mastered and released by Heller, so perhaps the plot thickens as regards just how much of band it is. Nonetheless, Astral Magic have all the cosmos to work with, so there’s plenty of room for everybody, as Visions of Infinity harnesses classic Hawkwindian space rock and is unafraid to add droning mysticism to the ever-outward procession on “Ancient Mysteries” or “Onboard the Spaceship,” to grow playful on “I Was Abducted” or bask in cosmic serenity on “Winds of Time” and “Wizards.” Off we go, into the greater reaches of “out there.” It’s a fun ride.

Astral Magic on Facebook

Space Rock Productions website

 

Crypt Monarch, The Necronaut

Crypt Monarch The Necronaut

Costa Rican trio Crypt Monarch offer their debut full-length in the form of the three-song/36-minute The Necronaut, the sound of which makes the claim on the part of the band — bassist/vocalist Christopher De Haan, guitarist Jose Rodriguez, drummer/vocalist J.C. Zuñiga — that it was made live in a cabin in the woods easy enough to believe. Though mixed and mastered, the 15-minute opener “Morning Star Through Skull” (15:41) and ensuing rollers “Rex Meridionalis” (10:12) and “Aglaphotis” (10:08) maintain a vigilant rawness, laced with noise even as De Haan and Zuñiga come together vocally on the latter, clean singing and gurgles alike. It is stoner metal taken to a logical and not entirely unfamiliar extreme, but the murk in which Crypt Monarch revel is dense and easy to get lost within. This, more than any single riff or lumbering groove, speaks to the success of the band’s intention in crafting the record. There is no clearly marked exit.

Crypt Monarch on Facebook

Electric Valley Records website

 

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Delving Fall European Tour Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 29th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

delving nick disalvo

If you watched/read the recent interview with Delving‘s Nick DiSalvo — the video of which is also embedded below — you already knew that a tour announcement was forthcoming, but really, isn’t it nice to see? Am I going to go to one of these shows? No. Sadly there are no trips to Luxembourg slated in my immediate future (I say that sincerely). But still, it’s refreshing to be able to post a list of tour dates not just for established acts — though DiSalvo brings a pedigree with him via fronting Elder for the better part of the last 15 years — but for a new project as well. Spring comes to planet Earth. New life out of all the chaos and death, and so on.

Delving‘s debut album, Hirschbrunnen (review here), is likewise refreshing and engaging and all that good stuff, not beholden to a sense of heft, but not entirely removed from one either, transposing the proggy flow of Elder to an instrumentalist context that lets itself be driven by other forces, keys, synth, etc. It’s out on Stickman, and while I won’t get to Luxembourg this time around, the fact that DiSalvo is taking Delving on the road even in this initial feel-it-out capacity speaks to his intention to keep the band going as more than a one-off. That’s also good news.

Dates follow, along with ticket links:

delving tour

DELVING – FALL TOUR 2021

I’m beyond excited to announce some tour dates for delving coming up in a few months! Hope to see you at one of the shows below.

Thank you to Artourette for the beautiful tour poster! We’ll definitely be printing some of these for the upcoming run.

26.11. DE – Leipzig, Moertelwerk
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingleipzig

27.11. DE – Berlin, Urban Spree
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingberlin

28.11. PL – Pozna?, Klub pod Minog?
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingpoznan

02.12. DE – Munich, Sunny Red
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingmunich

03.12. IT – Bologna, Freakout Club
Tickets: https://bit.ly/3d7OZZT

04.12. IT – Milan, Bloom
Tickets: https://bit.ly/3xKaxn9

05.12. CH – Aarau, KIFF
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingaarau

08.12. DE – Karlsruhe, Die Stadtmitte Karlsruhe
Tickets: https://bit.ly/3wWBrrW

09.12. LUX – Esch-Alzette, Kulturfabrik Esch-sur-Alzette
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingluxembourg

10.12. NL – Haarlem, Patronaat Haarlem
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvinghaarlem

11.12. DE – Essen, Cafe Nova
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingessen

12.12. DE – Hamburg, Hafenklang
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvinghamburg

https://www.facebook.com/delvingmusic
https://www.instagram.com/delving_music/
https://delving-music.bandcamp.com
https://www.stickman-records.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Stickman-Records-1522369868033940

Delving, Hirschbrunnen (2021)

Delving Interview with Nick DiSalvo, June 15, 2021

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Video Interview: Nick DiSalvo on New Project Delving, Elder Recording and More

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 17th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

delving nick disalvo

Founding Elder guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo released the debut album from his don’t-call-it-a-solo-project Delving last week. Titled Hirschbrunnen (review here) and issued through Stickman Records, it’s an excursion into stylistic and instrumental freedom that brings new textures of synth, electronics and layered guitar to some methods familiar and unfamiliar to the context of his prior work. Classically progressive in some ways, touching on heavy in others, it is a pandemic-era exploration that, DiSalvo notes, was born of the restlessness of being off tour but was a long-simmering back-burner concept. Always wanted to do a thing? No time like lockdown.

Immediately, Delving is brought into coexistence with DiSalvo‘s main outlet. Elder will hit the studio in Hamburg in August to begin their next LP even as Delving — which was recorded at Big Snuff in Berlin — looks to do a kind of mini-tour this Fall, feeling out a process of playing live at least in Germany. Hirschbrunnen, which takes its name from a statue in Rudolph Wilde Park near where DiSalvo lives in Berlin, embraces its distinctions. Part of the point of the thing is to be a home for material that, to DiSalvo‘s ear, is separate from Elder in its form or fluidity.

I asked him outright if he was tired of writing heavy riffs. He didn’t prevaricate in saying no, but it’s likewise clear that pushing back on internal and external expectations of Elder as a “heavy” band — which they are, even on last year’s Omens (review here), which introduced a new drummer and an even more progressive sound — and being free to create outside of those expectations was refreshing in his work on Delving. Though instrumental in its entirety, that sensibility comes through the songs without question. They go where they want, even if Hirschbrunnen is presenting a nascent form of these ideas.

There will be more Delving, and Elder will have that new record as well, and return to touring when possible — they’ve already had a few confirmations for 2022. Those are things you’ll want to know. Beyond that, I hope you dive in here and enjoy.

We start off talking about yerba mate, as one will.

Thanks for reading and watching:

Delving Interview with Nick DiSalvo, June 15, 2021

Delving‘s Hirschbrunnen is out now on Stickman Records. You can hear it on the player below and get more info at the links.

Delving, Hirschbrunnen (2021)

Delving on Facebook

Delving on Instagram

Delving on Bandcamp

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Facebook

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Album Review: Delving, Hirschbrunnen

Posted in Reviews on June 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

delving hirschbrunnen

For a quarantine-era project, Delving isn’t necessarily all that insular. The outfit — stylized all-lowercase: delving — offers clues right on its face, from the colorful artwork depicting a fountain in Rudolph Wilde Park in Berlin, Germany, to the fact that the title Hirschbrunnen translates to “stag fountain,” to the fact that the moniker chosen is describing the exact process of what’s happening in the music. Think of the idea of “delving,” and the fact that the name of the band is lowercase. There’s something humble about it, and even in the eponymous second track, something tentative that dissipates the deeper you go into, say, the three-minute motorik psych rocker “Einstürzende Plattenbauten” or the concluding “Vast,” an 11-minute expanse that moves between willful drift and the record’s most weighted crush. So perhaps Delving is driven in part by an abiding awareness of its own craft, and fair enough for that.

For multi-instrumentalist Nick DiSalvo, who’s best known for his work as founding guitarist/vocalist and principle songwriter for Elder, that awareness is well earned, and even as far into progressive rock as his main outfit has pushed — 2020’s Omens (review here) brought them to a new level in that regard — Delving nonetheless represents a pushing back or pushing aside of expectations and a refreshing creative freedom that comes through even in the tonal clarity of the guitar and the keyboard bounce of opener “Ultramarine.”

To make the album, DiSalvo recorded with Richard Behrens (Heat, ex-Samsara Blues Experiment, FOH for Kadavar, etc.) and Emanuele Baratto (who also mastered) at Big Snuff Studio, and as DiSalvo handles the bulk of guitar, bass, drums, keys, etc., himself, Elder bandmate Mike Risberg also steps in to add guitar to Hirschbrunnen‘s three longest tracks, “The Reflecting Pool” (9:30), “Hirschbrunnen” (9:34) and the aforementioned “Vast.” These songs, with “Ultramarine” starting the record at just under eight minutes, are interspliced with comparatively shorter pieces, whether that’s “Delving” (7:01) or “Wait and See” (7:13) or “Einstürzende Plattenbauten” (3:40), adding to the feeling of movement between one cut and the next, however individual the explorations within might prove.

And the personalities within Hirschbrunnen do vary, whether it’s “Delving” adding forward rhythmic momentum to the textural foundation “Ultramarine” sets forth, or the piano and basslines of “The Reflecting Pool” tying together with the Mellotron (or Mellotron-esque guitar; one has been fooled before) and hypnotic guitar progression in the second half of “Wait and See,” the keystone surge of which serves as a fitting and purposeful-seeming centerpiece to the record as a whole. Those looking for some commonality with Elder will find it in that moment, as well as in DiSalvo‘s winding style of guitar in “Delving” itself, reminiscent of some of the breaks in his main unit’s more recent works, and here and there throughout if you really feel like digging — but to do so is to miss part of the point of the project as a whole.

While Elder have not wanted for exploration — their The Gold & Silver Sessions EP (discussed here) boasted plenty in 2019 — Delving ultimately holds more in common with 2014’s Azurite & Malachite (review here), on which DiSalvo also worked with Risberg, under the banner of Gold and Silver. Aside from the instrumentalism, the two projects share a progressive foundation, but where Delving departs from its conceptual semi-predecessor is perhaps even more in its willingness to not be “heavy” in the sense of weighted low-end distortion and crash, and to allow its parts to flesh out melodically along an organic course of their own.

delving nick disalvo

These aren’t exactly jams, though “Einstürzende Plattenbauten” has some spontaneity to its guitar and it’s not alone in that — the prevailing spirit of the release is exploration, after all, and particularly where Risberg sits in, there’s more opportunity to flesh out what’s there in the basic tracks. “The Reflecting Pool” is accordingly spacious in its finish, and the shimmer into which the title-track makes its way carries all the refreshing spirit of, yes, running through a park fountain in the middle of yet another record temperature summer. Escapism? Maybe, but at least as much about the going itself as the being gone.

As regards descriptors, it’s low-hanging fruit to call Hirschbrunnen atmospheric, though it is that. But in this case, that doesn’t necessarily mean quiet or droning or ambient so much as able to convey a sense of place, mental or physical, though following the what-if-Earthless-but-one-person kraut shove of “Einstürzende Plattenbauten,” “Vast” brings out a grand-style culmination that has its subdued stretches. In the context of the preceding six tracks, which alternate between patient and pointedly impatient in their structures, “Vast” still represents a next-stage far-outness, and though its payoff lacks nothing for heft, it’s still a departure in form.

It might be fair to point to those two final inclusions as showcasing the truest potential of Delving as a project distinct from Elder in terms of where and to what they might lead creatively, but the truth is that potential is writ large across the album as a whole and the end is just a convenient summary. If Delving is to be an ongoing project with its own development or a periodic aside for DiSalvo or, like Gold and Silver, an outlet whose progressive stylizations were eventually worked into Elder‘s songwriting, it remains to be seen. In a time so marked by upheaval of one’s normal processes, DiSalvo is hardly alone in finding a new and somewhat-different avenue of expression.

With familiar elements and individualized nuance, where Delving ends may be a mystery, but it begins here, and as an initial offering, Hirschbrunnen demonstrates not only its own potential, but how comfortable DiSalvo has become in his own skin as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Even without vocals, these tracks stand on their own, not entirely separate from his work elsewhere, but neither entirely of it, inhabiting multiple spaces carved out as they go. Humility may have driven calling the “band” Delving, but the greater creative process of which this project is a part is broad and only growing more so with time.

Delving, Hirschbrunnen (2021)

Delving on Facebook

Delving on Instagram

Delving on Bandcamp

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Facebook

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King Buffalo Post “Silverfish” Video From The Burden of Restlessness

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 28th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

king buffalo (Photo by Mike Turzanski)

We’re inching inexorably closer to the June 4 release of King Buffalo‘s third album, The Burden of Restlessness (review here). “Silverfish” is the second and likely final single to come ahead of the record itself, and it brings out some of the moodier atmospherics that perpetuate throughout the release, the feeling of internalizing covid-era isolation as a state of being, almost Kafka-esque in the lyric complementing its multi-legged tension of riff. It’s short at under three minutes, and of course in the video you don’t get a sense of how it ties into the songs around it, either “Locusts” before or “Grifter” after — both also documents of the time of their making and emblematic of the album’s overall progressive crux.

But still, it’s another slice of the whole, and all the more satisfying with the visual effects in Mike Turzanski‘s accompanying video here, turning the cracks duly inward while also emphasizing the interpersonal connection between players in the band perhaps as a means of reaching out from one human being to another. As the band has announced their first round of touring for 2021 — and there are more dates to come — and news to be told of the second of their three intended albums for 2020, things would seem to be proceeding according to plan for King Buffalo, which, you know, is nice that it’s going that way for anybody at this point.

Is The Burden of Restlessness album of the year? I won’t pretend to know. I’ve got two more King Buffalo LPs to listen to before I’ll be willing to make that determination, let alone anything anyone else puts out. You know I keep a running list though, and it’s certainly right on there. We’ll see how the rest of 2021 shakes out.

Enjoy the video:

King Buffalo, “Silverfish” official video

From the new album, ‘The Burden of Restlessness’ available June 4th. Pre-order now: https://kingbuffalo.com/get-it-now

Directed by Mike Turzanski

The Burden of Restlessness was written and recorded by King Buffalo in Rochester, NY at the Main Street Armory in December of 2020 & January 2021. Produced, engineered & mixed by Sean McVay, and mastered by Bernie Matthews. The artwork was created by Zdzislaw Beksinski with cover fonts by Mike Turzanski and album layout by Scott Donaldson.

2021 Tour Dates (Tickets on sale NOW at kingbuffalo.com)
9/10 Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
9/11 Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
9/14 Los Angeles, CA @ Moroccan Lounge
9/15 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
9/17 Seattle, WA @ Barboza
9/18 Vancouver, BC @ Fox Cabaret
9/19 Portland, OR @ Lola’s Room
11/5 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
11/6 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
11/11 Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Café
11/12 Detroit, MI @ Loving Touch
11/13 Indianapolis, IN @ HI-FI
11/14 St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
11/16 Madison, WI @ The Bur Oak
11/17 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry
11/18 Milwaukee, WI @ Colectivo
11/19 Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
11/20 Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom

King Buffalo is:
Sean McVay – Guitar, Vocals, & Synth
Dan Reynolds – Bass & Synth
Scott Donaldson – Drums & Percussion

King Buffalo, The Burden of Restlessness (2021)

King Buffalo BigCartel store

King Buffalo website

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King Buffalo on Instagram

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Thee Facebooks

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Album Review: King Buffalo, The Burden of Restlessness

Posted in Reviews on May 11th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

king buffalo the burden of restlessness

From the time Rochester, New York, trio King Buffalo announced in March that they’d be releasing three full-lengths over the course of the next 12 months — #3recordsin2021; a challenge as much about logistics in pressing and distributing schedules, if not more so, as about recording the material itself — with each one recorded in a different circumstance, anticipation has justly run high. The first of them, which is both part-one-of-three and the band’s third standalone long-player in its own right — a pivotal arrival for any act — is The Burden of Restlessness, which collects seven tracks across 40 minutes of existence plainly derailed. That is to say, had 2020 not played out as it did in times of pandemic and sociopolitical unrest, King Buffalo‘s third LP would invariably be a much different outing.

The Burden of Restlessness captures the tension of paranoia and fear in its sharp guitar chugs, the notion of things going wrong but proceeding apace in its odd time signatures, churning and roiling grooves and the melancholy and languishing brought on by lockdown and lack of direction in its lyrics, as well as the inward and outward frustration brought on by the decaying of American political norms, the country nearly confronting its troubled history with racism in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, as well as the right wing anti-progress cacophony that eventually manifested in the (arguably successful) terrorist putsch on the US Capitol in January.

These things are real and brought to life throughout The Burden of Restlessness, which tightens some of the more open, jammier spirit King Buffalo has brought to bear across prior releases — they put out an EP, Dead Star (review here), last year to coincide with subsequently canceled tours; Live at Freak Valley (review here) followed months later, presenting their 2019 set at the German festival of the same name, then supporting their 2018 sophomore album, Longing to Be the Mountain (review here) — into a concise progressive aggression, at times reminiscent of earlier Tool, as with some of the lead work on “Locusts” or the thudding culmination of the penultimate “The Knocks,” but one way or the other a streamlining of purpose and expression on the part of the band, as ever comprised of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson.

While the overarching three-album storyline remains untold, there is nothing that feels incomplete about The Burden of Restlessness. The darker themes are telegraphed by the album cover courtesy of Zdzislaw Beksinski and the band — McVay also helmed the recording and mixed — extend the thoughtfulness of their presentation to the material, telling of confusion without becoming confused in the telling. The synths that came to prominence in Dead Star and seemed to foreshadow where King Buffalo might have been headed with their next long-player are shouldered out of the foreground by the intensity of “Burning,” as the album’s opening line, “I turn my head from the stars,” feels like a direct and willful contrast to the title-track of their debut, 2016’s Orion (review here), which began with the call to the constellation, “Orion can you hear me?” The ensuing chorus, “Another year lost in the wasteland/Another day drowns in dust/Another one dead in the wasteland,” picks apart the passage of time in pandemic quarantine, familiar surroundings made ominous with a looming specter of death outside. Perhaps it’s a processing of trauma happening throughout The Burden of Restlessness, but the perspective is individual.

King Buffalo

On a thematic level, King Buffalo are no strangers to lonelier or more depressive fare, but as the third verse of “Hebetation” finds McVay narrating, “Every night I close my eyes/I lie awake and try to pacify a listless mind/Nothing’s changed at 35/Still every night I dream a million different ways for me to die,” and the later “Silverfish” talks of “slithering away, from everything, and everyone,” the images are striking and real. In terms of point of view, the metaphor-laced approach holds consistent in what might be considered the more outward-facing “Locusts” and “Grifter,” which seem to speak to police brutality — “Hand of the shield/Suppressing the field” — and the cult of personality surrounding the American right wing’s descent into fascism — “He promises deliverance, day after day/Releasing only pestilence, and festering decay” — respectively.

The lyrics are essential here, of course, with McVay and Donaldson collaborating throughout, but it’s in the pairing of the final two tracks, “The Knocks” and “Loam,” that the full storyline of The Burden of Restlessness finds its self-contained resolution, regardless of what’s to come on King Buffalo‘s intended fourth and fifth long-players. “The Knocks” pushes as close to bottom as the band gets, “As I press my ear against the floor/A knocking beckons from the barricade on the door/I can hear it pounding more and more/Don’t think that I can take no more, don’t think I wanna live no more,” and “Loam” complements with an earned hopeful feeling, bringing the title-line in the context of, “I’m shedding the burden of restlessness/To rise from the loam of the nothingness,” the last lyrics and a far cry from the turning-eyes-from-the-sky setting out in “Burning.”

McVay in the position of producer/engineer is nothing new for King Buffalo, as he also helmed 2018’s Repeater EP (review here), Orion and Dead Star, but in addition to bringing lyrics into focus in new, pointed ways, The Burden of Restlessness is all the more complete for the manner in which the lyrics and instrumental progressions play off each other. To listen to Reynolds‘ bassline — he remains the secret weapon in King Buffalo‘s arsenal; low-key, keeping it all together as the drums push inextricably forward and the guitar stretches out — beneath the soaring lead of “Locusts,” or to chart the build of “The Knocks” or find the synth balanced into the midsection of “Loam” for melodic emphasis is to understand the individualized dynamic that King Buffalo have honed over the last seven years, and in encapsulating that as they have, The Burden of Restlessness fulfills its apparent promise in portraying the troubled time of its creation.

It is both a culmination of horrors and the initial steps beyond them, and the turn it makes in sound is no less full than anything they’ve done before; they are adjusting the balance of elements that have worked in their favor all along. I at this point have precious little insight as to how The Burden of Restlessness will play into the next King Buffalo full-length, or if it is intended to at all. Will that album pick up from this one, move into a different aspect of their style, readjust the balance again, and so on? Unknown. But not knowing doesn’t make the band’s overarching project any less exciting, and in making them a less predictable outfit as it does, The Burden of Restlessness can only be considered a success. It not only realizes a bridge between progressive heavy rock and psychedelia in a manner that is their own, but perhaps serves just as an initial stretch in an even wider blossoming of sound and craft. No matter what the next one or the one after brings, The Burden of Restlessness is one of 2021’s best and a fittingly otherworldly document of this surreal era.

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King Buffalo to Release The Burden of Restlessness June 4; Preorders Available & Song Streaming; Tour Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 30th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

King Buffalo

Rochester, New York, heavy psych trio King Buffalo take on the darker side of quarantine with The Burden of Restlessness, their third LP, set to release on June 4. Their most progressive album rhythmically is also their more aggressive thematically, and the album’s tracks do a damn fine job of living up to the album’s name. If you happened to be alive last Spring, you probably felt some of that burden yourself. Or you actually got sick, which as I understand it was worse.

Not that the pandemic is over, mind you.

As discussed in the recent interview with drummer Scott DonaldsonThe Burden of Restlessness will serve as one of three full-lengths King Buffalo will issue in 2021/early 2022, with the next one to be recorded next month. I’ll have more on that to come. In the meantime, preorders are up for The Burden of Restlessness, which will be released through the band in the US and through Stickman Records in Europe. And hey, they’ve got tour dates! Will they happen? Maybe!

As per the PR wire:

king buffalo the burden of restlessness

KING BUFFALO RELEASE THIRD RECORD, THE BURDEN OF RESTLESSNESS, ON JUNE 4TH & ANNOUNCE TOUR DATES

Preorder: kingbuffalo.bigcartel.com

King Buffalo’s third full-length record, The Burden of Restlessness, will be released on June 4, 2021. The widely-hailed progressive heavy rock trio will have vinyl & CD preorders available on April 2, via kingbuffalo.bigcartel.com.

This the first of three full-lengths they will release throughout 2021.

REPEAT: THREE

Their most focused progressive offering to-date, The Burden of Restlessness will self-release throughout North America and see European issue via Stickman Records.

Self-recorded in late 2020 and early 2021 by guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson, The Burden of Restlessness continues to push King Buffalo’s progressive aspects forward into new avenues of melody and exploration.

At the same time, it is not mistitled. There are deep undercurrents of frustration and even an aggressive pulse that coincide with the spaciousness for which the band has been so widely lauded since their 2016 debut, Orion. Guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay drops what’s bound to become one of the record’s signature lyrics in opener “Burning” when he declares, “Another year lost in the wasteland,” and more succinct summaries of canceled plans and rescheduled, lost or damaged lives are hard to come by.

“The Burden of Restlessness was written over the course of what most would consider a pretty stark and stressful time period. The end result is our darkest, most aggressive, and most intimate work to date. We are extremely proud of what this record became.” – Sean McVay

Followers of King Buffalo will find the band’s time was not at all wasted. While some of the synthesizer-driven elements of early-2020’s Dead Star EP have been stripped back, the rhythmic complexity in The Burden of Restlessness is yet more new ground the band are claiming as their own. They do so with confidence and a creative depth of atmosphere that comes through in more than just the effects being used, and the urgency in their material is unmistakable.

“Since Covid stopped all touring, we’ve been hard at work and made the commitment to not waste the opportunity. We’re excited to share the first of three records of 2021, which has expanded our sound in a lot of different ways. We hope you enjoy it and we look forward to eventually playing these songs live.” – Scott Donaldson

The Burden of Restlessness was written and recorded by King Buffalo in Rochester, NY at the Main Street Armory in December of 2020 & January 2021. Produced, engineered & mixed by Sean McVay, and mastered by Bernie Matthews. The artwork was created by Zdzis?aw Beksi?ski with cover fonts by Mike Turzanski and album layout by Scott Donaldson.

The Burden of Restlessness Tracklist:
1. Burning
2. Hebetation
3. Locusts
4. Silverfish
5. Grifter
6. The Knocks
7. Loam

2021 Tour Dates (Tickets on sale NOW at kingbuffalo.com)
9/10 Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
9/11 Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
9/14 Los Angeles, CA @ Moroccan Lounge
9/15 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
9/17 Seattle, WA @ Barboza
9/18 Vancouver, BC @ Fox Cabaret
9/19 Portland, OR @ Lola’s Room
11/5 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
11/6 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
11/11 Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Café
11/12 Detroit, MI @ Loving Touch
11/13 Indianapolis, IN @ HI-FI
11/14 St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
11/16 Madison, WI @ The Bur Oak
11/17 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry
11/18 Milwaukee, WI @ Colectivo
11/19 Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
11/20 Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom

King Buffalo is:
Sean McVay – Guitar, Vocals, & Synth
Dan Reynolds – Bass & Synth
Scott Donaldson – Drums & Percussion

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Review & Track Premiere: Motorpsycho, Kingdom of Oblivion

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 25th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

motorpsycho kingdom of oblivion

[Click play above to stream ‘The Waning Pt. 1’ from Motorpsycho’s Kingdom of Oblivion. Album is out April 16 on Stickman Records and Rune Grammofon.]

The heavy prog Kings in the North — Trondheim isn’t Tromsø, but it’s far enough up — Motorpsycho return on the relative quick after wrapping up a trilogy between 2017’s The Tower (review here), 2019’s The Crucible (review here) and 2020’s Spellmannprisen-nominated The All is One (review here) with the new 70-minute 2LP Kingdom of Oblivion, a record that seems to speak to current times without necessarily being of them stylistically. Also without not. Trust me, it makes sense.

Now, to be sure, Motorpsycho are beyond review. I could say anything here and it doesn’t matter. To new listeners, their massive, decades-spanning discography might seem insurmountable, and indeed it might very well be a lifetime project of listening. Even their post-Heavy Metal Fruit (2010 and on) catalog is a mountain to climb, and perhaps an intimidating prospect.

More than that, though, Motorpsycho know what they’re doing and they have for some time. Kingdom of Oblivion enacts this massive span of work, but also makes it genuinely digestible with each side functioning as a piece of the whole. But with Motorpsycho, there’s just about no way founding members Bent Sæther (bass, lead vocals) and Hand Magnus “Snah” Ryan (guitar/vocals) as well as Swedish import drummer Tomas Järmyr, with the band since 2017, aren’t going to deliver the album they wanted to make.

Even as they’ve consistently explored varying textures and sides of alternative rock, indie, classic heavy riffs and vibes — dig that solo three minutes into “The United Debased” — and keyboard-laced progressive serenity, among others, they’ve carved out an identity that is wholly their own and is maintained on Kingdom of Oblivion. Motorpsycho said they wanted to make a heavier record. So guess what? They did.

Of course it’s not that simple even on its face, but with any new Motorpsycho release, the assumption going into it is that the listener is being placed in the hands of masters, and that’s basically how it works out across Kingdom of Oblivion‘s span. These players are not fools and they do not make foolish decisions in terms of craft. They cast purpose across the punchier beginning the record gets in “The Waning Pt. 1 & 2” and “Kingdom of Oblivion” and the folkish harmonies of the subsequent “Lady May 1,” the experimental atmospherics of “The Watcher (Including the Crimson Eye)” and “Dreamkiller” after “The United Debased” (which, yeah, fair), as they make ready to dig into the post-jazz “Atet” and revive the more rocking progressions on “At Empire’s End,” offsetting with acoustic stretches as they careen between styles and motivations.

Kingdom of Oblivion, which on headphones functions with a smoothness that’s outright beautiful in how it uses bass to emphasize melody as well as rhythm alongside the guitar and drums, is patient in its execution and refuses to go anywhere it doesn’t want to go, but that doesn’t at all mean Motorpsycho are doing only one thing throughout, because they’re simply not. Even in the earliest going — which is unquestionably where the harder hitting material lies and is the first impression the band wanted to make as a lead-in for all that follows — the songs aren’t entirely singular in their purpose as the second part of “The Waning” picks up motorik in the second half of that 7:30 track and the title-track meets its early fuzz with later wash of keys ahead of the guitar solo that borders on orchestral.

motorpsycho

None of these moves are particularly unexpected for Motorpsycho, but that doesn’t make the journey less thrilling, and their embrace of a heavier push early gives the subsequent semi-extended pieces like “The United Debased” (9:04), “At Empire’s End” (8:36) and “The Transmutation of Cosmoctopus Lurker” (10:56) — each one featuring on its own side like the showcase work it is — all the more of a dynamic range to work from. Same goes for the acoustic work throughout and other more classically progressive moments.

“Lady May 1” feels like a nature-worshiping take on Simon & Garfunkel (that’s a compliment) and though “Dreamkiller” surges from its minimal beginning to striking heft, it flows easily to the wandering guitar of the two-minute “Atet” ahead of the grooving volume trades and engrossing payoff that “At Emipre’s End” provides, backed by “The Hunt,” a folkier jaunt that teases Tull-ish storytelling without going all-in with the flute and leg kick. Fair enough.

The softest and quietest Motorpsycho get on Kingdom of Oblivion is on side D, where the subdued “After the Fair” and the closer “Cormorant” surround on either side of “The Transmutation of Cosmoctopus Lurker.” As for the quizzically named longest cut on the record itself, it is duly dizzying in its riffs and solo work and melodically grand, vocals hitting an apex in the midsection leading to a guitar-and-keys chase that is, yes, head-spinning in King Crimsony tradition. They bring it down, threaten to build it up again, then leave it to quietest bass and ambience to cap, with silence as prelude to “Cormorant”‘s avant, far-off marching finish. An epilogue well earned, and they know it.

Here’s the thing. Yes, Motorpsycho put out a lot of records. Can’t be denied. I won’t pretend to have heard all of them. Yes, they have a history that goes back to 1989. Yes, it’s a lot. What matters more than quantity of the work they’ve done/do, however, is of course the quality of that work, and with Kingdom of OblivionMotorpsycho emphasize that the most essential moment is not the past but the present.

Motorpsycho are creating pivotal heavy progressive and psychedelic rock right now. Not in 1989. Not in 2015. Now. Before you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of taking on listening to them, not knowing where to start and so on, stop for a second and take it one thing at a time. Kingdom of Oblivion, oddly enough since some of it was recorded at the same time, works as an entry point even better than the prior trilogy because while one can hardly call it restrained across its run, it nonetheless brings to light so much of what makes Motorpsycho the crucial and influential band they are. I’m not saying ignore history and context altogether, but Kingdom of Oblivion stands on its own and is worth experiencing in that light.

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