Quarterly Review: The Pilgrim, Polymoon, Doctors of Space, Merlock, Sun Dial, Saturn’s Husk, Diggeth, Horizon, Limousine Beach, The Crooked Whispers

Posted in Reviews on October 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Well, the weekend’s over and it’s time to wrap up the Quarterly Review. Rest assured, I wrote the following during my copious weekend leisure time, resting on the side of a heated Olympic-size pool with a beverage nearby. It definitely wasn’t four in the morning on a Sunday or anything. If I haven’t gotten the point across yet, I hope you’ve found something amid this massive swath of records that has resonated with you. By way of a cheap plug, I’ll be featuring audio from a lot of these bands on the Gimme Metal show this Friday, 5PM Eastern, if you’re up for tuning in.

Either way, thanks for reading and for being a part of the whole thing. Let’s wrap it up.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

The Pilgrim, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back

the pilgrim from the earth to the sky and back

Lest he be accused of laziness, Do you want to complete your paper with help with phd proposal? Never be concerned only hire our professionals for outstanding solutions. Gabriele Fiori — also of If they really think that I need help writing an essay even ready to pay for essay writing and are sure that I have to when you actually do your homework but leave it at home for me, Black Rainbows, Contact our Website For Writing Essays world to get awesome papers written by writing experts | We guarantee attractive prices | With us, you will submit Killer Boogie and the head of the writing the perfect essay click Research cv writing service york stalin research paper Heavy Psych Sounds label, booking agency and festival series — made his solo debut as Essential Features of the Best custom essay 10 per page. Yes, it is a difficult task to find a good essay website because there are so many and it is taxing to The Pilgrim with Spring 2019’s Watch Euthanasia Research Paper Outline by Zxusertkyr4418 on Dailymotion here Walking into the Forest (review here). Joined by Our website will help you with http://busemcicek.com/?essay-about-yous, term papers, or research papers. Just contact us! All of the academic essay writings and other papers Black Rainbows drummer MYiNK Creative Writing Tips Gcse focuses on helping businesses stand out with professional brand development, content marketing and enticing original Filippo Ragazzoni, professional resume help Help Writing Research Paper Abortions best essay collections correlation methology dissertation Fiori ups the scale of the journey with the second English Essay Writing Service. Starting to write an essay can be easy or difficult depending upon the nature of the topic. http://www.bt-kunst.de/preview2018.php?doctoral-dissertation-scholarship-minority. The Pilgrim LP, Ks2 Creative Writing Services at affordable price Avail Here. Expert PhD level Dissertation Writers helps you for your Dissertation writing. …From the Earth to the Sky and Back. Richer in arrangement, bolder in craft and more confident in performance, the album runs 14 songs and 50 minutes still largely based around an acoustic acid rock foundation, but with a song like “Riding the Horse” tapping ’70s singer-songwriter vibes while “Cuba” touches on Latin percussion and guitar and “Space and Time” journeying out near the record’s end with waves of synthesizer, it seems Literature Review Outline Sample - We ship fast and offer best deals on prescription drugs. Buy your medication from the comfort of your armchair. The Pilgrim isn’t so willing to be pigeonholed. So much the better.

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Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

There is an undercurrent of extremity to the debut release from Get a whopping 20% (FIRST TIMER'S) Discount when you order our write my essay for me service. http://www.schwarzenberg.at/?1054 with an authentic UK essay writing service in 2017. Polymoon, who hail from the psychedelic hotbed that is Tampere, Finland. The six-song/42-minute Forest Succession Homework Help - Dissertations, essays and academic papers of best quality. Stop getting bad marks with these custom dissertation tips Instead Caterpillars of Creation turns in opener “Silver Mt.” to fervent guitar push or from freaked-out cosmic prog into drifting post-universe exploration, setting the stage for the dynamic that unfolds throughout. The wash early in the second half of “Lazaward” is glorious, and it’s not the first or the last time All worried students looking for Term Papers For 10 are at right place; Thank God, I found dissertationstore.co.uk, Polymoon go to that adrenaline-pumping well, but the serenity that caps that song and seems to continue into “Malamalama” in closing side A is no less effective. “Helicaling” mounts tension in its early drumming but finally releases it later, and “Neitherworld” gives Caterpillars of Creation‘s most fervent thrust while closer “Metempsychosis” rounds out with a fitting sense of dissipation. As a first album/first release, it is particularly stunning, and to make it as plain as possible, I will think less of any list of 2020’s best debut albums that leaves out Polymoon.

Polymoon on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records website

 

Doctors of Space, First Treatment

doctors of space first treatment

The two-piece comprised of Martin Weaver (ex-Wicked Lady) and synthesist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, etc.) position First Treatment as their proper studio debut, and it certainly hits its marks in galaxial adventuring well enough to qualify as such, but the duo have been on a creative splurge throughout this year — even in lockdown — and so the six songs here are also born out of the work they’ve been doing since releasing their debut single “Ghouls ‘n’ Shit” (video premiere here) late last year. The album launches with “Journey to Enceladus,” which boasts drum programming by Weaver and though one of the movements in the 21-minute “Into the Oort Cloud” is based around beats, the bulk of First Treatment is purely a work of guitar and synth, and it basks in the freedom that being so untethered inherently brings. Running an hour long, it’s improvisational nature isn’t going to be for everyone, but Heller and Weaver make a strong argument that maybe it should be.

Doctors of Space on Thee Facebooks

Space Rock Productions website

 

Merlock, That Which Speaks

merlock that which speaks

Who’s ready for a New Wave of PNW Fuckery? That’s right folks, the NWOPNWF has arrived and it’s Spokane, Washington’s Merlock leading the sometimes-awfully-punk-sometimes-awfully-metal-but-somehow-also-always-sludge charge. Aggressive and damning in lyrics, swapping between raw screams, grows, shouts and cleaner vocals and unhinged in terms of its genre loyalties, That Which Speaks seems to find the “melt faces” setting wherever it goes, and though there’s a sense of the four-piece feeling out what works best for them stylistically, the sometimes frantic, sometimes willfully awkward transitions — as in second cut “Prolapse” — serve the overall purpose of undercutting predictability. Eight-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Idolon” stomps and shoves and gnashes and nasties its way through, and that’s the modus across what follows, though the scream-along headbanger “Vessel” somehow seems even rawer, and though it ends by floating into oblivion, the start of “Condemnation” heavy fuckin’ metal to me. You never know quite where Merlock are going to hit next, and that’s the joy of the thing. May they remain so cacophonous.

Merlock on Thee Facebooks

Merlock on Bandcamp

 

Sun Dial, Mind Control: The Ultimate Edition

sun dial mind control

Long-running UK psychedelic rockers Sun Dial — led by founding guitarist/vocalist Gary Ramon — released Mind Control in 2012. Sulatron Records picked it up in 2015, and now, five years after that, the same label presents Mind Control: The Ultimate Edition, a 2CD version of the original LP-plus-bonus-tracks reissue that brings the total runtime of the release to a well-beyond-manageable 98 minutes of lysergic experimentation. A full 20 tracks are included in the comprehensive-feeling offering, and from early mixes to alternative takes and lost tracks, and if this isn’t the ‘ultimate’ version of Mind Control, I’m not sure what could be, notwithstanding a complete-studio-sessions box set. Perhaps as a step toward that, Mind Control: The Ultimate Edition gives an in-depth look at a vastly underappreciated outfit and is obviously put together as much for the label as by it. That is to say, you don’t put out a reissue like this unless you really love the original record, and if Sulatron loving a record isn’t enough endorsement for you, please turn in your mushrooms on your way out the door.

Sun Dial on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Saturn’s Husk, The Conduit

Saturns Husk The Conduit

Immersion is the goal of Saturn’s Husk‘s third long-player, The Conduit, and the Riga, Latvia, instrumentalist trio accomplish it quickly with the fluid riffs that emerge from the drone-based intro “Death of Imaginary Lights” and the subsequent 10-minute opener “Black Nebula.” At nine songs and 63 minutes, the album is consuming through the welcome nodder “The Heavenly Ape,” the especially-doomed “The Ritual” and the more mellow-float centerpiece “Spectral Haze,” while “Mycelium Messiah” brings more straight-ahead fuzz (for a time) and drones on either side surround the 10:35 “Sand Barrows,” the latter serving as the finale “A Shattered Visage” quoting Percy Bysshe Shelley and the former “City of the Djinn” running just a minute-plus but still doing enough to reset the brain from where “Mycelium Messiah” left it. Almost functioning as two albums side-by-side with “Spectral Haze” as the dividing point, The Conduit indeed seems to join various sides together, with a depth to coincide that invites the listener to explore along with it.

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Saturn’s Husk on Bandcamp

 

Diggeth, Gringos Galacticos

diggeth gringos galacticos

Landing a punch of classic metal to go along with its heavy-bottomed groove, Diggeth‘s Gringos Galacticos — one supposes the title ‘Spacecrackers’ was taken — was released by the Dutch trio in 2019 and receives a US limited vinyl edition thanks to Qumran Records. One finds some similar guitar heroics to those of Astrosoniq‘s more straightforward moments, but Diggeth‘s focus remains on hookmaking for the duration, offering hints of twang and acoustics in “In the Wake of Giants” and tipping a hat southwestward in “Three Gringos,” but “Straight-Shooter” is willfully breaks out its inner Hetfield and even as the penultimate “Unshackled” departs for a quieter break, it makes its way back in time for the big finish chorus, adding just a touch of Candlemass grandiosity for good measure before the harmonica-laced closing title-track rounds out with its dynamic spacey weirdness, the name of the album repeating itself in an answer to the Stephen Hawking sample that started the voyage on its way.

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Qumran Records website

 

Horizon, The White Planet Patrol

horizon the white planet patrol

Cursed Tongue Records has the vinyl here, and Three Moons the tape, and the CD will arrive through Aladeriva Records, La Rubia Producciones, Aneurisma Records, Surnia Records and Violence in the Veins — so yes, Horizon‘s third album, The White Planet Patrol is well backed. Fair enough for the Kyuss-via-BlackRainbows vibes of “End of Utopia” or the initial charge and flow of “The Backyard” that sets the Alicante, Spain, trio on their way. “King Serpent” and “Death & Teddies” bring well-crafted fuzz to bear, and “Blind World” effectively layers vocals in its chorus to coincide, but the more laid back roll of the title-cut is an unmistakable highlight. Shades of mid-paced Nebula surface in “Meet the Forest” later on, but Horizon are part of a tradition of heavy bands in Alicante and they know it. The smoothness of their tone and delivery speaks volumes on its own in that regard, never mind the actual songwriting, which also leaves nothing to be desired.

Horizon on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Limousine Beach, Stealin’ Wine + 2

Limousine Beach Stealin Wine

Debut EP from Limousine Beach out of Pittsburgh, and if the three guitars involved don’t push it over the top, certainly the vocal harmonies get that particular job done. You got six minutes for three songs? Yeah, obviously. They scorch through “Tiny Hunter” to close out, but it’s in the leadoff title-track that Stealin’ Wine + 2 sees the Dave Wheeler-fronted outfit land its most outrageous chorus, just before they go on to find a middle-ground between KISS and Thin Lizzy on “Hear You Calling.” The harmonies open and are striking from the outset, but it’s in how they’re arranged around the standalone parts from Wheeler (also Outsideinside, ex-Carousel) that the outfit’s truest potential is shown. Issued through Tee Pee Records, Stealin’ Wine + 2 is the kind of thing you’d pick up at a show in a normal year and then feel way ahead of everyone else when the LP finally hits. Not a normal year, obviously, but Limousine Beach are serving due notice just the same. In six minutes, no less.

Limousine Beach on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records website

 

The Crooked Whispers, Satanic Melodies

the crooked whispers satanic melodies

I’m sure a lot of records show up at Satan’s door with notes, like, “Dear sir, please find the enclosed submitted for your approval,” but it’s not hard to imagine Beelzebub himself getting down with the filth-coated sludge and rolling doom unfurled across The Crooked Whispers‘ debut offering, Satanic Melodies, marked by hateful, near-blackened screams from Anthony Gaglia and the plodding riffs of Chad Davis (Hour of 13, et al). The title-track is longest at 8:23 and in addition to featuring Ignacio De Tommaso‘s right-on bass tone in its midsection, it plays out early like Weedeater sold their collective soul, and drifts out where earlier pieces “Sacrifice” and “Evil Tribute” and “Profane Pleasure” held their roll for the duration. Stretches of clean-vocal cultistry add to the doomier aspects, but The Crooked Whispers seem to care way less about genre than they do about worshiping the devil, and that unshakable faith behind them, the rest seems to fall into place in accordingly biting fashion.

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The Crooked Whispers on Bandcamp

 

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Album Review: Electric Moon, You Can See the Sound Of… (Expanded Version)

Posted in Reviews on August 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

electric moon you can see the sound of

Look carefully at the front cover of Electric Moon‘s You Can See the Sound Of… and you’ll note, in small letters at the top, the words ‘Extended Version.’ And so it is. The original, limited-to-500-copies edition of You Can See the Sound Of… (review here) was pressed to white 10″ vinyl and issued at Roadburn Festival in 2013 to coincide with a residency from Electric Moon guitarist/synthesist/noisemaker Dave Schmidt, aka Sula Bassana. At the time, Electric Moon consisted of the core duo of Schmidt — who also runs Sulatron Records — and bassist/effects-specialist/sometimes-vocalist/graphic-artist “Komet Lulu” Neudeck, as well as drummer Michael Orloff, who had taken over from original drummer Pablo Carneval, who, in turn, has since rejoined the band. At the time, Electric Moon were embroiled in an absolute creative flood, and between 2010 and 2012 they’d done no fewer than (and likely more than) 10 releases between splits, live recordings and studio offerings.

Their foundation in improvised heavy psychedelic exploration, in space-rock-infused jamming, and the fact that they were releasing through Schmidt‘s own imprint as well as respected purveyor Nasoni Records, which by then was well familiar with Schmidt‘s solo work under the Sula Bassana banner, helped foster this relentless pace, and though they wouldn’t keep it up forever — how could they? — they were able to establish a reputation for the quality of their work as well as for the frequency with which it showed up. Even now though, multiple Electric Moon releases in the span of a year isn’t a surprise. To wit, they’re already set next month to follow You Can See the Sound Of… (Extended Version) with a live album captured at the 2019 Freak Valley Festival in their native Germany. But it is the standard of performance and chemistry they set that continues to make it such a joy to follow their progression from one outing to the next, and the original edition of You Can See the Sound Of… has always been a standout for me as a fan of what they do.

The three songs that appeared on that 2013 EP, “The Inner Part,” “Your Own Truth” and “No Escape From Now” are now featured as side A of You Can See the Sound Of… (Extended Version), and they remain a synesthetic pleasure to behold, from the bright shimmering, swirling greens of the lead cut to the Sonic Youth-gone-surf experimental feel of “Your Own Truth,” with Neudeck‘s semi-whispered vocals holding sway over a tense drum progression and a guitar line that is hypnotic enough to not give away the fact that it’s building to a more fervent payoff of fuzz in the song’s second half. By then they’ve already set the trajectory across the six minutes of “The Inner Part,” instrumental and expansive with a strong rhythmic foundation under Schmidt‘s floating guitar lines. It is no less the root of Electric Moon‘s approach than it is the basis for the dynamic of any number of power trios — bass and drums lock the groove, guitar wanders as it will — but given the keys to this particular spaceship, Electric Moon do not at all fail to make it their own.

electric moon you can see the sound of original cover

And as with the best of their work, it doesn’t feel like it could be any other way as “The Inner Part” and “Your Own Truth” make way for the 11-minute “No Escape From Now,” which unfurls gradually, seeming to use multiple dimensions of its mix to set the drums deep within the soundscape of the guitars and effects, maybe-vocals coursing intermittently through the first half of the track in what might be spoken form manipulated by pedals/synth or might just be the band tapping into the hearing-voices subconscious of their listenership. Seven years after the fact, it’s still unclear, and that’s part of what makes it work so well. It’s not like Electric Moon are going to sound dated; time isn’t really a factor here, and the context in which this material is occurring isn’t one that depends on the moment in which it occurs, based on improv though it is. Once it’s out there, it’s timeless, because in a way, once it’s out there its time has already passed.

To that end, I’m left curious as to why the three songs that appear on the back half of You Can See the Sound Of… (Extended Version) didn’t make the cut initially. Side B — comprising “Windhovers” (6:15), “The Great Exploration of Nothing” (4:56) and “Mushroom Cloud No. 4” (11:19) — is taken from the same studio session, and is set up as a mirror for side A in terms of the runtime of each piece. The second here is a little longer, the third a little shorter, but still within a minute of each other from one side to the next, and while it’s true that in the case of the later songs — those added on to the new version of the release — that’s being done with fadeouts so that they’re in line with the originals, that does nothing to undercut what they bring to the proceedings in terms of atmosphere.

“Windhovers” sets itself to a patient drumbeat and gives some semblance of a post-rock vibe early — if it was the quiet midsection of an Amenra song, no one would blink — and executes a more linear build than anything on side A, while “The Great Exploration of Nothing” turns to more of an outward lumber, putting the bass forward as Schmidt seems to move back and forth to keys and Neudeck takes the lead as the guitar otherwise might. The result is almost a verse/chorus structure — at least a play back and forth — but of course that’s not where Electric Moon are at.

They push through and into a noise wash jam on “Mushroom Cloud No. 4” and cap hinting at a guitar line that could easily (and probably did in the studio) just keep going for some indeterminate amount of time. That is the band in their wheelhouse, touching multiple niches in terms of sound, but holding a flow and reach that is too much their own to be anything else. As a reminder of what they were up to at this point, You Can See the Sound Of… (Extended Version) brims with psychedelic vitality, but one should not discount the work they’ve done since — on 2017’s Stardust Rituals (review here), for example — because the breadth that is so palpable in this material has only continued to expand.

Electric Moon, You Can See the Sound Of… (2013)

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Electric Moon on Bandcamp

Electric Moon website

Sulatron Records website

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Days of Rona: “Comet Lulu” Neudeck of Electric Moon & Worst Bassist Records

Posted in Features on April 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

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

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

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

electric moon lulu neudeck

Days of Rona: Lulu Neudeck of Electric Moon & Worst Bassist Records (Germany)

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

At the moment, we are separated from each other, as our drummer is living in Vienna, Austria. We really miss each other and also are sad about the so far canceled shows.

Dave [“Sula Bassana” Schmidt] and me are also at the edge at the moment, cause this situation really affects our labels Sulatron Records and Worst Bassist Records. Means, distribution does not sell so much anymore due to closed record stores, it’s not possible to ship records worldwide at the moment ’cause of the shutdown of flights and restrictions, and of course playing no shows also affects, so there is not much income at the moment, which brings us struggles quickly.

Health is okay, no one infected with covid-19 (yet). The only thing is my cronical disease which puts me on the risk-list in getting critical with covid-19. So, fingers crossed, won’t get that shit.

So we’re doing music everyone on his own at the moment. Which brings also many new ideas. But we all can’t wait to meet again, playing together. We also have plans for a fourth bandmember and can’t wait to rehearse with him, so Corona really crossed some plans…

But, most important thing is we all stay healthy!

At the moment, the days are somehow running quick and slow at the same time.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

At the moment, we have the restrictions to meet up with people, only family members are allowed. Also, it is allowed to walk outdoors but you may not rest anywhere. Building groups is forbidden, not more than two people are allowed walking together.

You have to keep a distance of two meters of each other, also in supermarkets, and they only let a certain amount of people in to make sure it’s possible to keep that distance.

Shops which are not really necessary for the system to go on, are all closed down, like record shops, book shops, tattoo and so on, only supermarkets, pharmacies and banks are opened. Now they are talking about the obligation of wearing masks in public, people get the advice to make their own ones and not buying medical supplies as there is a lack of it.

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

It is weird, outside, somehow all looks normal but everything is different than before. Streets are empty. People are stressed in supermarkets, or are totally making fun of the situation, but go for tons of toilet paper. It’s a surreal feeling, I try to go into a supermarket as rarely as possible.

But nature seems to feel happy right now, the air smells better, it feels surreal to be outdoors, surreal beautiful, birds sing louder than usually –- this maybe seems as if because of the silence in the streets. Like a silence before a storm…

In music I feel a big shift within the connection between each other. I’m totally impressed of the support by all the people to the bands and small labels. It feels huge in my heart to get such a response.

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

We’re in this together, take care of those who might need your help! And: Don’t lose the humour…

www.electricmoon.de
https://electric-moon.bandcamp.com/
www.facebook.com/ElectricMoonOfficial
www.sulatron.com
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Zone Six, Kozmik Koon: What’s in a Name?

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

Zone Six Kozmik Koon

To immediately address the giant psychedelic-neon-rainbow-swirl-pattern elephant in the room: the title of the latest Zone Six LP is, yes, Kozmik Koon. In addition to apparently being Persian for “ass” — thank you, internet — the fact that the word “koon” and more commonly the iteration thereof spelled with a ‘c’ is a racist slur in the US makes it something of an eye-catcher in far from the best way. I’ve been hesitant to review the album because, well, it’s called Kozmik Koon. I’ll come right out and say I don’t think Zone Six are trying to be racists or discriminatory in any way. I haven’t met guitarist Rainer Neeff (also The Pancakes), but I’ve been in touch with drummer/synthesist/keyboardist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (also of Electric Moon, Krautzone, etc., and the head of Sulatron Records) he and bassist/synthesist/sometimes-vocalist/noisemaker “Komet Lulu” Neudeck (also of Electric Moon and Krautzone) are hippies. Jammers. I’m going to go out on a limb and give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t know other countries’ slurs and that the title Kozmik Koon, as they have said, derives from the fact that where they live has a lot of raccoons. Combine that with homage to Kozmik Ken who runs Kozfest, and boom, Kozmik Koon. The initial optic? Not great. But with even a modicum of digging, it’s readily explained by the band where they’re coming from, and sometimes across different languages misunderstandings happen. I’ve always wondered how to say “ass” in Persian.

With cover art by Ulla Papel, who also did the cover for Electric Moon‘s 2012 outing, Doomsday Machine (review here), and who’s also Lulu‘s father, Kozmik Koon is the second Zone Six studio LP since the band made a return after 11 years with 2015’s Love Monster (review here). They’ve had a few live outings, including 2017’s Forever Hugo (review here) and Live Spring 2017 (review here), as well as a 2018 split with New Zealand’s Arc of Ascent (review here), but a studio album from Zone Six doesn’t happen every day, and indeed, Kozmik Koon collects five tracks comprised of recordings produced and mixed by Schmidt from a period between 2015 and 2018, resulting in a 44-minute long-player that’s distinguished particularly for its emotional resonance despite being almost if not entirely instrumental — that is, if there’s voice here, it’s atmospheric singing mixed into the slow-churning space-rock fray, rather than clear lyrics in verses. Nonetheless, across the two longer-form openers “Maschinenseele” (12:53) and “Kozmik Koon” (10:58) and the closer “Song for Richie” (13:52) — which opens with a sample of Timothy Leary’s “turn on, tune in, drop out” speech and is dedicated to a friend of the band who passed away — as well as the two shorter pieces that separate that initial salvo from the finale, “Raum” and “Still,” both of which hover around three and a half minutes, Zone Six harness a progressive sense not only of composition in Neeff‘s guitar work but in the lush melodies in electric piano, synth, Mellotron, and so on, that surround.

zone six

There are moments that feel referential in the keyboard line in the later reaches of the title-track and in the soaring guitar of “Song for Richie,” but Zone Six‘s primary impact is hypnotic and their modus cleverly avoids some of jam-based heavy psychedelia’s most prevalent traps in terms of structure. First and foremost, it doesn’t get stuck in a linear build. NeeffNeudeck and Schmidt bring together plenty of dynamic throughout, from the explorations of “Maschinenseele” to the drone-minded centerpiece “Raum,” but it’s not just about starting quiet and getting louder as they go. Rather, the longer pieces that comprise the bulk of the record each seem to find their own way through shifts of volume and meter, and the feeling is organic as they move toward and into more active and more ambient sections. It is less pointedly improv-sounding than what Schmidt and Neudeck do with Electric Moon, but the depth of the mix is such that a feeling of spontaneity persists just the same, with the drums as a careful anchor punctuating the drift of “Maschinenseele” and the uptempo space rock in the first half of the title-cut, which hits with enough of an underlying Hawkwindian spirit to remind of some of The Heads‘ outbound scorch. These are not vibes easily tamed, and Zone Six are only so interested in taming them in the first place, but the album is, again, not without purpose, and its emotional expression, particularly in the quiet “Still” and “Song for Richie,” comes across in palpable fashion even without the direct aid of lyrics.

“Still” has a bouncing keyboard line that’s still somehow wistful and calls to mind a more patient take on ’70s prog, but devolves into effects ahead of drifting into silence before “Song for Richie” starts with a volume swell of guitar drone, and very much turns out to be a piece led by Neeff‘s soloing. There’s little doubt that “Song for Richie,” as well as “Kozmik Koon” and the opener before it are based on jams, and “Still” and “Raum” have an in-studio-experimentalist vibe as well, but they have been fleshed out with effects and synth and keys, and thereby carry more of a worked-on feel rather than the straight-ahead rawness that sometimes persists in the style (nothing against it), adding to the underlying feeling of intent. Though mastered by Eroc, perhaps the real credit should go to Schmidt on establishing the mix of all the elements at play. A vast sonic breadth is laid out across “Maschinenseele” and only continues to spread wider as the LP plays out, and even as “Song for Richie” pushes through its apex at around 10 minutes in, there is as much depth to factor in as there is sheer energy of performance. It is that much more, then, for the listener to dive into, and whether one chooses to lose one’s head in its trance-inducing, let-me-lead-you-from-this-place-to-another-place psychedelic meander, or to peel through the layers of nuance and drone and “which manner of synthesizer just made that noise again?,” Kozmik Koon delivers the kind of engagement one could only expect from masters of the form, and with a history stretching back some 23 years, Zone Six are most certainly that. What’s in a name? Plenty. But there’s even more when one actually listens.

Zone Six, Kozmik Koon (2019)

Zone Six website

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Electric Moon, Hugodelia: Space Comes to Feldkirch

Posted in Reviews on June 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

electric moon hugodelia

The opening title-track of Electric Moon‘s latest live album, Hugodelia, pretty much tells the story. Not literally telling, since like the vast majority of the German psych-exploration trio’s work, it’s instrumental, but still, it gets the point across. “Hugodelia” itself is a 20-minute stretch that seems to start out with the band — guitarist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, bassist/occasional vocalist “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and drummer Pablo Carneval — kind of getting their bearings, almost like they’re waking up, and then that’s it: they’re gone.

Real gone.

It would be hard to overstate how much of a treasure in psychedelic heavy jamming Electric Moon have become over the decade they’ve been together. Fueled by Sula Bassana‘s effects-soaked guitar — and released on his label, Sulatron Records — the band are one of few whose reach extends to the genuine heart of lysergic creativity. The tonal flow and effects wash conjured by Sula and Lulu is not to be taken for granted, and though they’ve seen a couple drummers come and go, including Carneval, who was there at the outset, left, and came back, the chemistry he brings to the lineup proves itself essential quickly on “Hugodelia” and the live 2LP’s subsequent three extended tracks, four if you count the digital-only bonus cut “Ween.”

A 65-minute set, give or take, Hugodelia came to life in Austria on the night of the final concert at Graf Hugo, a venue in Feldkirch, on the western boarder with Switzerland, and the sense of homage comes through plainly in the offering itself. In listening, “Hugodelia” doesn’t just set the mood for open creativity and mellow-heavy vibes. It also carries the sense of homage that rings through the entire proceedings, as that jam wraps at 20:30 and leads into “Transmitter,” which goes to 20:34, and the two shorter, complementary side-consumers “Cellar Grime” (12:37) and “Cellar Slime” (10:25), both of which feature guest guitar from Erich Coldino, who was one of the promoters for the venue. It seems fitting to have Coldino take part directly in what’s clearly already a special occasion for the band, and his post-rocky lines come through Sula‘s amp to fill out a melody alongside the chugging space rock rhythm of “Cellar Grime” like, indeed, he was meant to be there. Like they planned it all along.

And yeah, they probably did, but Electric Moon‘s stock and trade is still at least somewhat based around improvisation and capturing the moment as it happens. They are one of few acts out there — Denmark’s Øresund Space Collective come to mind as another, but Electric Moon are more consistent in terms of their lineup — who so purposefully base what they do around jamming. That is, plenty of bands jam, but Hugodelia demonstrates once again that Electric Moon are able to capture the listener’s attention and imagination by letting go and seeing where the music takes them in a way that nearly no one else can.

electric moon

Even before Coldino sits in, “Hugodelia” and “Transmitter” offer 41 minutes of a kosmiche supreme, the momentum of the opener carrying well into “Transmitter” as Sula‘s guitar noodles early over a plotted-seeming rhythm held together by Lulu and Carneval and the band builds toward a post-midsection spaceout that arrives with Hawkwindian motorik thrust before winding through a nebular field of bright colors and hallucinatory serenity. I’ve said this about Electric Moon live records before, and I’ll probably say it again when the next one comes through — any minute now — but if it weren’t for the audience cheering between songs, they would be viable as studio releases. In terms of sonic clarity and a feeling of purpose behind them, they want for nothing. Electric Moon are not a band who go through the motions live in order to support an album. Each show, especially those that eventually are pressed to LP and/or CD, is part of the overarching mission to the heart of the sun.

Thus Hugodelia is a two-fold event. Coldino finds his place quickly enough in “Cellar Grime” and the more linear, drift-into-wash “Cellar Slime,” which follows, but the strength of the rhythm section in keeping the flow and groove steady is a highlight unto itself, particularly of the finale. It is difficult not to put too much narrative to it — it was their last time in this place that clearly they enjoyed playing, the last show there at all, reportedly, and the guy who booked it was taking part; clearly emotions would have been riding high — but that too speaks to the evocative nature of Electric Moon‘s work and their ability to convey feelings through cosmic jamming. It’s not just ambience for its own sake. It’s as deep as the listener is ready to go with it.

By now, 10 years on from their outset, that should be pretty deep. For the band, Hugodelia is one more check-in — a live album in a series of given under various titles and artwork packages also put together by Lulu — but what it also makes plain is the level of soul put into what they do. “Ween,” which was tracked in Vienna, is a 23-minute-long bonus track, and it starts off with a hypnotic, molten progression even before the drums enter as the three-piece gradually, with expert patience, embark on a journey to and through a crescendo of stratosphere-shattering energy and cap with residual comedown noise. Another day at the office for Electric Moon, maybe, but still so vital to understanding where they’re coming from and what it’s their intention to capture in sound.

This is the part where I tell you not everyone’s going to get it. And it’s true. It’s always been the case with Electric Moon, psychedelia as a whole, and, in fact, everything. But what distinguishes Hugodelia among the universe surrounding is how much reward is offered for active engagement with it. How much the listener gleans from listening. The bottom line — such as one can perceive direction amid such aurally-induced vertigo — is that Electric Moon continue to hone an approach that is something truly special in or out of heavy psych, playing with a character that has only grown richer and more immersive over time, and presenting it with a charge that is purely their own. Hugodelia is a welcome reminder.

Electric Moon, Hugodelia (2019)

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Lamp of the Universe, Align in the Fourth Dimension: Finding Inner Space

Posted in Reviews on May 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Lamp of the Universe Align in the Fourth Dimension

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Hamilton, New Zealand-based multi-instrumentalist Craig Williamson founding Lamp of the Universe as his primary solo outlet. At the time, he was best known as the guitarist of underrated pre-social-media heavy psychedelic rockers Datura, but in the years since, in addition to founding the trio Arc of Ascent at the dawn of this decade, he’s become a guru of mantra psych, acid folk and, of late, effects-swirling cosmic serenity. Lamp of the Universe is still identifiable from its 1999 debut, The Cosmic Union (review here), not the least because of Williamson‘s enduring penchant for sitar and his vocal style, but as one might hope over the course of 11 albums, the scope has increased for Lamp of the Universe, and the latest full-length for Sulatron Records, Align in the Fourth Dimension, puts emphasis on inward and outward exploration, with Williamson blending guitar and keys, percussion and voice, and always a lush and languid sense of melody that finds songs like “Light Receiver” and the later “Absolution Through Your Third Eye” poised and thoughtful works of assured execution.

Really, the same could be said of the eight-track/46-minute release as a whole. It’s the work of someone who has long since mastered the form but continues to refine processes naturally over time while keeping a central creative identity, shamanic in this case, but not at all overwrought or cartoonish. In some ways, Align in the Fourth Dimension, particularly in its acoustic-led side-closing tracks “New Forms” on side A and “Seasons of Love” on side B, calls back directly to the beginnings of the project in terms of the atmosphere created, somehow minimalist and spacious at the same time, but Williamson‘s arrangements have fleshed out. Layers of effects or keys/synth of various stripes give Lamp of the Universe a broader range, and even though opener “Visitors” is among the shortest inclusions at 4:39 — the CD-only penultimate cut “Call from Beyond” is the only one shorter, by a full minute — the context its backing waves of modular synth undulations and solar wind, eventual string-mellotron drama and slow-delivered vocal lend to the beginnings of Align in the Fourth Dimension is resonant enough to affect everything that follows. This, of course, is precisely the idea.

I don’t know at what point Williamson bought the organ that features so prominently on second track “Rite of Spheres” — seems to me it was a few albums ago — but it was the right choice. Still, it’s the drums that really make the difference. Williamson will generally employ some manner of percussion, but it’s not always a traditional drum set. Cymbals and snare and kick drum with quick fills maybe on a floor tom (?) give “Rite of Spheres” its pervasive sense of movement beneath the organ line and watery vocal. The drums are far back in the mix until the three-minute mark, when they come forward following a cymbal sweep and propel and electric guitar solo that puts even further emphasis on the full-band feel before the last fadeout leads to “Light Receiver.” With just a shaker for percussion, “Light Receiver” is a wash of melody in mellotron and guitar and sitar, etc., with an especially memorable chorus that holds to the rhythmic style of delivery one has come to expect from Lamp of the Universe, and it comes paired with the ultra-immersive “New Forms,” which feels more linear in its execution, but is gorgeously hypnotic while answering back the ambient spirit of the opener at the same time.

lamp of the universe

It’s by no means still, but the intertwining of acoustic guitar, soft eBow-sounding electric and effects, along with a purposeful-seeming lack of percussion, seems only to make it all the more gracefully fluid. As noted, it’s how the first half of Align in the Fourth Dimension ends, and the subsequent “The Leaving” begins side B with a likewise peaceful spirit, acoustic strum, vocals and organ flowing easily over the early going of the song only to turn more dramatic past the three-minute mark with the arrival of a fuzzy plugged-in solo, distant cymbal splash and general uptick of energy. It’s the organ and acoustic guitar though that hold sway when all is done, and “The Leaving” goes smoothly into “Absolution Through the Third Eye,” which sees the return of hand percussion and sitar along with a backing drone filling out the mix ahead of an echoing electric guitar lead that’s a subtle highlight of the album in its entirety not so much for what’s played as how it’s presented so seamlessly with its surroundings. The verse returns after with all the more a sense of drift, and makes its way eventually out, leaving “Call from Beyond” to push as far into minimalism as Lamp of the Universe will go.

Obviously, a big part of the appeal for Lamp of the Universe as an ongoing entity is Williamson‘s skill at varying arrangements for his material and his tack as a multi-instrumentalist. Working mostly alone if not always entirely alone, he’s able to bring either breadth of scope or deep-running intimacy to his craft in a way that is continually engrossing. With “Call from Beyond,” it’s the latter. Just him and his acoustic guitar. A bit of echo, but it seems to be mostly a single layer throughout, and I’d be surprised if at least the basic performance track wasn’t done live. As a “bonus” to the CD, it’s a standout, and placed well ahead of the finale and longest inclusion, “Seasons of Love,” which at 8:49 conjures a reach entirely its own with percussion, synth, acoustic guitar, more eBow, harmonized vocals and a flow unto itself that nonetheless makes a fitting conclusion to Align in the Fourth Dimension as a whole.

There is a linear flow that ties together Williamson‘s output as Lamp of the Universe that one can trace back across the last two decades, and for an ongoing project like this, it can be intimidating for a new listener to dig in. The age-old “where to start” dilemma. That’s fair. With 11 albums, who the hell knows. The truth, however, is that it doesn’t matter. And even less here than with many others. The overarching style and sound of Lamp of the Universe is welcoming enough that whether Align in the Fourth Dimension is someone’s first experience or they bought Heru from Williamson on MySpace in 2005, it isn’t going to make a difference. It’s about cosmic freedom — certainly not about to play the elitist. So, while time is often thought of as the fourth dimension and Williamson here aligns with it in a way that evokes a sense of infinity beyond what a human might conceive, I’ll just note that now would be as good a moment as one could ask for to get on board.

Lamp of the Universe, Align in the Fourth Dimension (2019)

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Quarterly Review: Stuck in Motion, AVER, Massa, Alastor, Seid, Moab, Primitive Man & Unearthly Trance, Into Orbit, Super Thief, Absent

Posted in Reviews on March 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Let the games begin! The rules are the same: 10 albums per day, this time for a total of 60 between today and next Monday. It’s the Quarterly Review. Think of it like a breakfast buffet with an unending supply of pancakes except the pancakes are riffs and there’s only one dude cooking them and he’s really tired all the time and complains, complains, complains. Maybe not the best analogy. Still, it’s gonna be a ton of stuff, but there are some very, very cool records included, so please keep your eyes and your mind open for what’s coming, because you might find something here you really dig. If not, there’s always tomorrow. Let’s go.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Stuck in Motion, Stuck in Motion

stuck in motion self-titled

The classic style cover art of Swedish trio Stuck in Motion‘s self-titled debut tells much of the story. It’s sweet-toned vintage-style soul rock, informed by Graveyard to some degree, but more aligned to retroism. The songs are bluesy and natural and not especially long, but have vibe for weeks, as demonstrated on the six-minute longest-track “Dreams of Flying,” or the flute-laden closer “Eken.” What the picture doesn’t tell you is the heavy use of clavinet in the band’s sound and just how much the vintage electric piano adds to what songs like “Slingrar” with its ultra-fluid shifts in tempo, or the sax-drenched penultimate cut “Orientalisk.” Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Max Kinnbo, drummer Gustaf Björkman and bassist/vocalist/clavinetist Adrian Norén, Stuck in Motion‘s debut successfully basks in a mellow psychedelic blues atmosphere and shows a patience for songwriting that bodes remarkably well. It should not be overlooked because you think you’re tired of vintage-style rock.

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Stuck in Motion on Bandcamp

 

AVER, Orbis Majora

aver orbis majora

Following up their 2015 sophomore outing, Nadir (review here), which led to them getting picked up by Ripple Music, Australia’s AVER return with the progressive shove of Orbis Majora, five songs in 50 minutes of thoughtfully composed heavy progadelica, and while it’s not all so serious — closer “Hemp Fandango” well earns its title via a shuffling stonerly groove — opener “Feeding the Sun” and the subsequent “Disorder” set a mood of careful craftsmanship in longform pieces. The album’s peak might be in the 13-minute “Unanswered Prayers,” which culls together an extended linear build that’s equal parts immersive and gorgeous, but the rest of the album hardly lacks for depth or clarity of purpose. An underlying message from the Sydney four-piece would seem to be that they’re going to continue growing, even after more than a decade, because it’s not so much that they’re feeling their way toward their sound, but willfully pushing themselves to refine those parameters.

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Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Massa, Walls

massa walls

Flourish of keys adds nuance to Massa‘s moody, heavy post-rock style, the Rotterdam-based trio bringing an atmosphere to their second EP, Walls, across five tracks and 26 minutes marked by periodic samples from cinema and a sense of scope that seems to be born of an experimental impulse but not presented as the experiment itself. That is, they take the “let’s try this!” impulse and make a song out of it, as the chunky rhythm of instrumental centerpiece “Expedition” or the melodies in the prior “#8” show. Before finishing with the crash-into-push of the relatively brief “Intermassa,” the eight-minute “The Federal” complements winding guitar with organ to affect an engaging spirit somewhere between classic and futurist heavy, with the drums holding together proceedings that would seem to convey all the chaos of that temporal paradox. Perhaps it was opener “Shiva” that set this creator/destroyer tone, but either way, Massa bask in it and find a grim sense of identity thereby.

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Alastor, Slave to the Grave

alastor slave to the grave

The first full-length from Swedish doomplodders Alastor and their debut on RidingEasy Records, late 2018’s Slave to the Grave is the four-piece’s most expansive offering yet in sonic scope as well as runtime. Following the 2017 EPs Blood on Satan’s Claw (review here) and Black Magic (review here), the seven-song/56-minute offering holds true to the murk-toned cultism and dense low-end rumble of the prior offerings, but the melodic resonance and sense of updating the aesthetic of traditional doom is palpable throughout the roller “Your Lives are Worthless,” while the later acoustic-led “Gone” speaks to a folkish influence that suits them surprisingly well given the heft that surrounds. They make an obvious focal point of 17-minute closer “Spider of My Love,” which though they’ve worked in longer forms before, is easily the grandest accomplishment they’ve yet unfurled. One might easily say the same applies to Slave to the Grave as a whole. Those who miss The Wounded Kings should take particular note of their trajectory.

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RidingEasy Records website

 

Seid, Weltschmerz, Baby!

seid-weltschmerz_baby-web

If Norwegian space-psych outfit Seid are feeling weary of the world, the way they show it in Weltschmerz, Baby! is by simply leaving it behind, substituting for reality a cosmic starscape of effects and synth, the odd sample and vaguely Hawkwindian etherealism. The centerpiece title-track is a banger along those lines, a swell of rhythmic intensity born out of the finale of the prior “Satan i Blodet” and the mellow, flowing “Trollmannens Hytte” before that, but the highlight might be the subsequent “Coyoteman,” which drifts into dream-prog led by echoing layers of guitar and eventually given over to a fading strain of noise that “Moloch vs. Gud” picks up with percussive purpose and flows directly into the closer “Mir (Drogarna Börjar Värka),” rife with ’70s astro-bounce and a long fadeout that’s less about the record ending and more about leaving the galaxy behind. Starting out at a decent clip with “Haukøye,” Weltschmerz, Baby! is all about the journey and a trip well worth taking.

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Sulatron Records website

 

Moab, Trough

moab trough

A good record tinged by the tragic loss of drummer Erik Herzog during the recording and finished by guitarist/vocalist Andrew Giacumakis and bassist Joe Fuentes, the 10-track/39-minute Trough demonstrates completely just how much Moab have been underrated since their 2011 debut, Ab Ovo (discussed here), and across the 2014 follow-up, Billow (review here), as they bring a West Coast noise-infused pulse to heavy rock drive on “All Automatons” and meet an enduring punker spirit face first with “Medieval Moan,” all the while presenting a clear head for songcraft amid deep-running tones and melodies. “The Will is Weak” makes perhaps the greatest impact in terms of heft, but heft is by no means all Moab have to offer. With the very real possibility this will be their final record, it is a worthy homage to their fallen comrade and a showcase of their strengths that’s bound someday to get the attention it deserves whenever some clever label decides to reissue it as a lost classic.

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Primitive Man & Unearthly Trance, Split

primitive man unearthly trance split

Well of course it’s a massive wash of doomed and hate-filled noise! What were you expecting, sunshine and puppies? Colorado’s Primitive Man and Brooklyn’s Unearthly Trance team up to compare misanthropic bona fides across seven tracks of blistering extremity that do Relapse Records proud. Starting with the collaborative intro “Merging,” the onslaught truly commences with Primitive Man’s 10-minute “Naked” and sinks into an abyss with the instrumental noisefest “Love Under Will,” which gradually makes its way into a swell of abrasive drone. Unearthly Trance, meanwhile, proffer immediate destructiveness with the churning “Mechanism Error” and make “Triumph” dark enough to live up to its most malevolent interpretations, while “Reverse the Day” makes me wonder what people who heard Godflesh in the ’80s must’ve thought of it and the six-minute finishing move “418” answers back to Primitive Man‘s droned-out anti-structure with a consuming void of fuckall depth. It’s like the two bands cut open their veins and recorded the disaffection that spilled out.

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Unearthly Trance on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Into Orbit, Shifter

Into Orbit Shifter

Progressive New Zealander two-piece Into OrbitPaul Stewart on guitar and Ian Moir on drums — offer up the single Shifter as the answer to their 2017 sophomore long-player, Unearthing. The Wellington instrumentalists did likewise leading into that album with a single that later showed up as part of a broader tracklist, so it may be that they’ve got another release already in the works, but either way, the 5:50 standalone track finds them dug into a full band sound with layered or looped guitar standing tall over the mid-paced drumming, affecting an emotion-driven atmosphere as much as the cerebral nature of its craft. Beginning with a thick chug, it works into more melodic spaciousness as it heads toward and through its midsection, lead guitar kicking in with harmony lines joining soon after as the two-piece build back up to a bigger finish. Whatever their plans, Into Orbit make it clear that just because something is prog doesn’t mean it needs to be staid or lack expressiveness.

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Into Orbit on Bandcamp

 

Super Thief, Eating Alone in My Car

super thief eating alone in my car

Noise-punk intensity pervades Eating Alone in My Car, the not-quite-not-an-LP from Austin four-piece Super Thief. They call it an album, and that’s good enough for me, especially since at about 20 minutes there isn’t much more I’d ask of the thing that it doesn’t deliver, whether it’s the furious out-of-mindness of minute-long highlight “Woodchipper” or the poli-sci critique of that sandwiches the offering with opener “Gone Country” immediately taking a nihilist anti-stance while closer “You Play it Like a Joke but I Know You Really Mean It” — which consumes nearly half the total runtime at 9:32 — seems to run up the walls unable to stick to the “smoke ’em if you got ’em” point of view of the earlier cut. That’s how the bastards keep you running in circles, but at least Super Thief know where to direct the frustration. “Six Months Blind” and the title-track have a more personal take, but are still worth a read lyrically as much as a listen, as the rhythm of the words only adds to the striking personality of the material.

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Learning Curve Records website

 

Absent, Towards the Void

absent towards the void

Recorded in 2016, released on CD in 2018 and snagged by Cursed Tongue Records for a vinyl pressing, Absent‘s Towards the Void casts a shimmering plunge of cavernous doom, with swirling post-Electric Wizard guitar and echoing vocals adding to the spaciousness of its four component tracks as the Brasilia-based trio conjure atmospheric breadth to go along with their weighted lurch in opener “Ophidian Womb.” With tracks arranged shortest to longest between eight and a half and 11 minutes, “Semen Prayer,” “Funeral Sun” and “Urine” follow suit from the opener in terms of overall approach, but “Funeral Sun” speeds things up for a stretch while “Urine” lures the listener downward with a subdued opening leading to more filth-caked distortion and degenerate noise, capping with feedback because at that point what the hell matters anyway? Little question in listening why this one’s been making the rounds for over a year now. It will likely continue to do so for some time to come.

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Quarterly Review: Thou, Liquid Visions, Benthic Realm, Ape Machine, Under, Evil Triplet, Vestjysk Ørken, Dawn of Winter, Pale Heart, Slowbro

Posted in Reviews on December 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

We meet again! The second week of this amply-proportioned Quarterly Review begins today as we move ever closer toward the inevitable 100-album finish line on Friday. There is an incredible amount of music to get through this week, so I don’t want to delay for too long, but as we look out across the vast stretch of distortion to come, I need to say thank you for reading, and I hope that you’ve been able to find something that’s kicking your ass a little bit in all the right ways so far. If not, well, there are 50 more records on the way for you to give it another shot.

Here goes.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Thou, Magus

thou magus

How can something be so raw and forward thinking at the same time? Baton Rouge’s Thou might be the band of their generation who’ve added the most to sludge in terms of pushing the style in new directions and shaping genre to their purposes. Magus (on Sacred Bones), their fourth or fifth full-length depending on whom you ask, is an overwhelming 75-minute 2LP of inward and outward destructive force, as heavy in its ambience as in its weight and throat-ripping sonic extremity, and yet somehow is restrained. To listen to the march of “Transcending Dualities,” there’s such a sense of seething happening beneath the surface of that chugging, marching riff, and after its creeping introduction, “In the Kingdom of Meaning” seems intent on beating its own rhythm, as in, with fists, and even a stop-by from frequent guest vocalist Emily McWilliams does little to detract from that impression. Along with Magus, which rightly finishes with the lurching threat of “Supremacy,” Thou have released three EPs and a split this year, so their pace runs in something of a contrast to their tempos, but whether you can keep up or not, Thou continue to press forward in crafting pivotal, essential brutalizations.

Thou website

Sacred Bones Records website

 

Liquid Visions, Hypnotized

Liquid Visions Hypnotized

Sulatron Records‘ pressing of Liquid Visions‘ 2002 debut, Hypnotized, is, of course, a reissue, but also the first time the album has been on vinyl, and it’s not long into opener “State of Mind” or the grunge-gone-classic-psych “Waste” before they earn the platter. Members of the band would go on to participate in acts like Zone Six, Wedge, Electric Moon and Johnson Noise, so it’s easy enough to understand how the band ties into the family tree of underground heavy psych in Berlin, but listening to the glorious mellow-unfolding-into-noise-wash-freakout of 15-minute closer “Paralyzed,” the appeal is less about academics than what the five-piece of vocalists/guitarists H.P. Ringholz (also e-sitar) and Kiryk Drewinski (also organ), bassist Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (also Fender Rhodes and Mellotron), drummer Chris Schwartzkinsky and thereminist Katja Wolff were able to conjure in terms of being both ahead of their time and behind it. As the album moves from its opening shorter tracks to the longer and more expansive later material, it shows its original CD-era linearity, but if an LP reissue is what it takes to get Hypnotized out there again, so be it. I doubt many who hear it will complain.

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Benthic Realm, We Will Not Bow

Benthic Realm We Will Not Bow

The second short release from Benthic Realm behind a 2017 self-titled EP (review here) finds the Massachusetts-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Krista van Guilder (ex-Second Grave, ex-Warhorse), bassist Maureen Murphy (ex-Second Grave) and drummer Dan Blomquist (also Conclave) working toward a refined approach bridging the divide between doom and darker, harder hitting metal. They do this with marked fluidity, van Guilder shifting smoothly between melodic clean singing and harsher screams as Murphy and Blomquist demonstrate like-minded ease in turns of pace and aggression. The penultimate semi-title-track “I Will Not Bow” is an instrumental, but “Save us All,” “Thousand Day Rain” and closer “Untethered” — the latter with some Slayer ping ride and ensuing double-kick gallop — demonstrate the riff-based songwriting that carries Benthic Realm through their stylistic swath and ultimately ties their ideas together. If they think they might be ready for a debut full-length, they certainly sound that way.

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Benthic Realm website

 

Ape Machine, Darker Seas

ape machine darker seas

Maybe Ape Machine need to make a video with cats playing their instruments or something, but five albums deep, the Portland outfit seem to be viciously underrated. Releasing Darker Seas on Ripple, they take on a more progressive approach with songs like “Piper’s Rats” donning harmonized vocals and more complex interplay with guitar. It’s a more atmospheric take overall — consider the acoustic/electric beginning of “Watch What You Say” and it’s semi-nod to seafaring Mastodon, the likewise-unplugged and self-awarely medieval “Nocturne in D Flat (The Jester)” and the rocking presentation of what’s otherwise fist-pumping NWOBHM on “Bend Your Knee” — but Ape Machine have always been a band with songwriting at their center, and even as they move into the best performances of their career, hitting a point of quality that even producer Steve Hanford (Poison Idea) decided to join them after the recording as their new drummer, there’s no dip in the quality of their work. I don’t know what it might take to get them the attention they deserve — though a cat video would no doubt help — but if Darker Seas underscores anything, it’s that they deserve it.

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Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Under, Stop Being Naive

under stop being naive

Stockport, UK, three-piece Under bring a progressive edge to their pummel with their second album, Stop Being Naive (on APF), beginning with the deceptively thoughtful arrangement of crushing opener and longest track (immediate points) “Malcontent,” which unfurls a barrage of riffs and varied vocals contributed by guitarist Simon Mayo, bassist Matt Franklin and drummer/keyboardist Andy Preece. Later cuts like “Soup” and “Grave Diggers” tap into amorphous layers of extremity, and “Happy” punks out with such tones as to remind of the filth that became grindcore in the UK nearly 40 years ago, but while “Big Joke” rolls out with a sneer and closer “Circadian Driftwood” has a more angular foundation, there’s an overarching personality that comes through Under‘s material that feels misanthropic and critical in a way perhaps best summarized by the record’s title. Stop Being Naive is sound enough advice, and it comes presented with a fervent argument in its own favor.

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APF Records webstore

 

Evil Triplet, Have a Nice Trip

evil triplet have a nice trip

Trimming the runtime of their 2017 debut, Otherworld (review here) nearly in half, Austin weirdo rockers Evil Triplet present the six-song/38-minute single LP Have a Nice Trip on Super Secret with classic garage buzz tone on “A Day Like Any Other,” a cosmic impulse meeting indie sneer on opener “Space Kitten” and a suitably righteous stretch-out on “Aren’t You Experienced?” — which is just side A of the thing. The pulsating “Open Heart” might be the highlight for its Hawkwindian drive and momentary drift, but “Pyramid Eye”‘s blown-out freakery isn’t to be devalued, and the eight-minute capper “Apparition” is dead on from the start of its slower march through the end of its hook-topped jam, reminding of the purpose behind all the sprawl and on-their-own-wavelength vibes. A tighter presentation suits Evil Triplet and lets their songs shine through while still highlighting the breadth of their style and its unabashed adventurousness. May they continue to grow strange and terrify any and all squares they might encounter.

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Super Secret Records website

 

Vestjysk Ørken, Cosmic Desert Fuzz

Vestjysk orken Cosmic Desert Fuzz

To a certain extent, what you see is what you get on Vestjysk Ørken‘s debut EP, Cosmic Desert Fuzz. At very least, the Danish trio’s three-tracker first outing is aptly-named, and guitarist/vocalist Bo Sejer, bassist Søren Middelkoop Nielsen and drummer Thomas Bonde Sørensen indeed tap into space, sand and tone on the release, but each song also has a definite theme derived from cinema. To wit, “Dune” (11:41) samples Dune, “…Of the Dead” (9:13) taps into the landmark George Romero horror franchise, and “Solaris” (14:15) draws from the 1972 film of the same name. The spaciousness and hypnotic reach of the latter has an appeal all its own in its extended and subtle build, but all three songs not only pay homage to these movies but seem to work at capturing some aspect of their atmosphere. Vestjysk Ørken aren’t quite rewriting soundtracks, but they’re definitely in conversation with the works cited, and with an entire universe of cinema to explore, there are accordingly no limits as to where they might go. Something tells me it won’t be long before we find out how deep their obsession runs.

Vestjysk Ørken on Instagram

Vestjysk Ørken on Bandcamp

 

Dawn of Winter, Pray for Doom

Dawn of Winter Pray for Doom

I have no interest in playing arbiter to what’s “true” in doom metal or anything else, and neither am I qualified to do so. Instead, I’ll just note that Germany’s Dawn of Winter, who trace their roots back nearly 30 years and have released full-lengths on a one-per-decade basis in 1998, 2008 and now 2018 with Pray for Doom, have their house well in order when it comes to conveying the classic tenets of the genre. Issued through I Hate, the eight-track/51-minute offering finds drummer Dennis Schediwy punctuating huge nodder grooves led by Jörg M. Knittel‘s riffs, while bassist Joachim Schmalzried adds low end accentuation and frontman Gerrit P. Mutz furthers the spirit of traditionalism on vocals. Songs like “The Thirteenth of November” and the stomping “The Sweet Taste of Ruin” are timeless for being born too late, and in the spirit of Europe’s finest trad doom, Dawn of Winter evoke familiar aspects without directly worshiping Black Sabbath or any of their other aesthetic forebears. Pray for Doom is doom, because doom, by doomers, for doomers. The converted will be accordingly thrilled to hear them preach.

Dawn of Winter on Thee Facebooks

I Hate Records website

 

Pale Heart, Jungeland

pale heart jungleland

Semi-retroist Southern heavy blues boogie, some tight flourish of psychedelia, and the occasional foray into broader territory, Stuttgart three-piece Pale Heart‘s StoneFree debut long-player, Junegleland is striking in its professionalism and, where some bands might sacrifice audio fidelity at the altar of touching on a heavy ’70s aesthetic, guitarist/vocalist Marc Bauer, key-specialist Nico Bauer and drummer Sebastian Neumeier (since replaced by Marvin Schaber) present their work in crisp fashion, letting the construction of the songs instead define the classicism of their influence. Low end is filled out by Moog where bass might otherwise be, and in combination with Hammond and Fender Rhodes and other synth, there’s nothing as regard missing frequencies coming from Jungleland, the nine songs of which vary in their character but are universally directed toward honing a modern take on classic heavy, informed as it is by Southern rock, hard blues and the tonal warmth of yore. A 50-minute debut is no minor ask of one’s audience in an age of fickle Bandcamp attentions, but cuts like the 12-minute “Transcendence” have a patience and character that’s entrancing without trickery of effects.

Pale Heart on Thee Facebooks

StoneFree Records website

 

Slowbro, Nothings

Slowbro Nothings

UK instrumentalist three-piece Slowbro‘s full-length debut, Nothings, brings forth eight tracks and 51 minutes of heavy-ended sludge rock notable for the band’s use of dueling eight-string guitars instead of the standard guitar/bass setup. How on earth does something like that happen? I don’t know. Maybe Sam Poole turned to James Phythian one day and was like, “Hey, I got two eight-string guitars. So, band?” and then a band happened. Zeke Martin — and kudos to him on not being intimidated by all those strings — rounds out on drums and together the trio embark on cuts like “Sexlexia” (a very sexy learning disability, indeed) and “Broslower,” which indeed chugs out at a considerably glacial pace, and “Fire, Fire & Fire,” which moves from noise rock to stonerly swing with the kind of aplomb that can only be conjured by those who don’t give a shit about style barriers. It’s got its ups and downs, but as Nothings — the title-track of which quickly cuts to silence and stays there until a final crash — rounds out with “Pisscat” and the eight-strings go ever so slightly post-rock, it’s hard not to appreciate the willful display of fuckall as it happens. It’s a peculiar kind of charm that makes it both charming and peculiar.

Slowbro on Thee Facebooks

Creature Lab Records website

 

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