Quarterly Review: Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Dopethrone, Anandammide, Tigers on Opium, Bill Fisher, Ascia, Cloud of Souls, Deaf Wolf, Alber Jupiter, Cleen

Posted in Reviews on May 16th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


It is an age of plenty as regards the underground. Between bands being able to form with members on different continents, to being able to record basically anything anywhere anywhen, the barriers have never been lower. I heard an all-AI stoner rock record the other day. It wasn’t great, but did it need to be?

The point is there’s gotta be a reason so many people are doing the thing, and a reason it happens just about everywhere, more than just working/middle class disaffection and/or dadstalgia. There’s a lot of documentary research about bands, but so far I don’t think anyone’s done a study, book, bio-doc, whatever about the proliferation of heavy sounds across geographies and cultures. No, that won’t be me. “Face made for radio,” as the fellow once said, and little time to write a book. But perhaps some riff-loving anthropologist will get there one day — get everywhere, that is — and explore it with artists and fans. Maybe that’s you.

Happy Thursday.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Nell’ Ora Blu

uncle acid and the deadbeats nell ora blu

My favorite part of the press release for Uncle Acid‘s Nell’ Ora Blu was when founding guitarist/vocalist and apparent-auteur Kevin Starrs said, “I know something like this might have limited appeal, but who cares?” Though it was initially billed as an instrumental record and in fact features Starrs‘ trademark creeper vocal melodies in a few of its 19 tracks, the early “Giustizia di Strada/Lavora Fino Alla Morte” and pretty-UncleAcidic-feeling “La Vipera,” and the later march of the seven-minute “Pomeriggio di Novembre Nel Parco – Occhi Che Osservano,” catchy and still obscure enough in its psychedelia to fit, and “Solo la Morte Ti Ammanetta,” though most of the words throughout are spoken — genre cinephiles will recognize the names Edwige French and Franco Nero; there’s a lot of talking on the phone, all in Italian — as Starrs pays homage to giallo stylization in soundtracking an imaginary film. It’s true to an extent about the limited appeal, but this isn’t the first time Uncle Acid have chosen against expanding their commercial reach either, and while I imagine the effect is somewhat different if you speak Italian, Starrs‘ songwriting has never been so open or multifaceted in mood. Nell’ Ora Blu isn’t the studio follow-up to 2018’s Wasteland (review here) one might have expected, but it takes some of those aspects and builds a whole world out of them. They should tour it and do a live soundtrack, but then I guess someone would also have to make the movie.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats on Facebook

Rise Above Records website

Dopethrone, Broke Sabbath

Dopethrone Broke Sabbath

If “fuck you” were a band, it might be Dopethrone. With six new tracks spread across a sample-laced (pretty sure Joe Don Baker is in there somewhere; maybe “Truckstop Warlock?”) and mostly-crushing-of-spirit-and-tone 39 minutes, the crusty Montreal trio of guitarist/vocalist Vince, bassist Vyk and drummer Shawn pound at the door of your wellness with their scum-sludge extremity, living up to their reputation in gnash and nastiness for the duration. The penultimate “Uniworse” brings in Weedeater‘s “Dixie” Dave Collins for a guest spot, but by the time they get there, the three-piece have already bludgeoned your bones with album-centerpiece “Shlaghammer” and loosed the grueling breadth of “Rock Slock,” so really, Collins is the gravy on the pill-based bottom-hitting binge. From opening single “Life Kills You” through the final punishing moments of “Sultans of Sins” — presumably a side B mirror in terms of heft to “Slaghammer” — and the choice Billy Madison sample that follows, Dopethrone offer a singular unkindness of purpose. I feel like I need a shower.

Dopethrone on Facebook

Totem Cat Records store

Anandammide, Eura


Where even the melancholy progression of “Song of Greed” is marked by the gorgeousness of its dual-vocal melody and flowing arrangement of strings, guitar, and strings, Eura is the second full-length and Sulatron Records label-debut for Parisian psych-folkies Anandammide. At the core of the diverse arrangements is songwriter Michele Moschini (vocals, synth, organ, guitar, drums), who brings purposefully Canterburyian pastoralia together with prog rock tendencies on “Phantom Limb” and the title-track while maintaining the light-touch gentility of the start of “Carmilla,” the later flow between “Lullaby No. 2” and “Dream No. 1,” or the gracefully undrummed “I Am a Flower,” with synth and strings side-by-side. Though somewhat mournful in its subject matter, Eura is filled with life and longing, and the way the lyrics of “Phantom Limb” feel out of place in the world suits the aural anachronism and the escapist drive that seems to manifest in “The Orange Flood.” Patient, immersive, and lovely, it sees ruin and would give solace.

Anandammide on Facebook

Sulatron Records webstore

Tigers on Opium, Psychodrama

tigers on opium psychodrama

An awaited first full-length from Portland, Oregon’s Tigers on Opium, the 10-song/44-minute Psychodrama builds on the semi-sleazed accomplishments of the four-piece’s prior EPs while presenting a refreshingly varied sound. The album begins as “Ride or Die” unfolds with Juan Carlos Caceres‘ vocals echoing in layers over quiet guitar — more of an intro, it is reprised to deliver the title line as a post-finale epilogue — and directly dives into garage-doom strut with “Black Mass” before a Styx reference worked into “Diabolique” makes for an immediate, plus-charm highlight. The parade doesn’t stop there. The Nirvana-ish beginning of “Retrovertigo” soft-boogies and drifts into Jerry Cantrell-style melody backed by handclaps, while Thin Lizzy leads show up in “Sky Below My Feet” and the more desert rocking “Paradise Lost” ahead of the farther-back, open swing and push of “Radioactive” giving over to “Wall of Silence”‘s ’70s singer-songwriterism, communing with the “Ride or Die” bookend but expanded in its arrangement; capper-caper “Separation of the Mind” paying it all off like Queens of the Stone Age finding the Big Riff and making it dance, too. On vocals, guitar and keys, Caceres is a big presence in the persona, but don’t let that undercut the contributions of guitarist Jeanot Lewis-Rolland, bassist Charles Hodge or drummer Nate Wright, all of whom also sing. As complex in intent as Psychodrama is, its underlying cohesion requires everybody to be on board, and as they are, the resulting songs supersede expectation and comprise one of 2024’s best debut albums.

Tigers on Opium on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Bill Fisher, How to Think Like a Billionaire

Bill Fisher How To Think Like A Billionaire

Self-identifying as “yacht doom,” How to Think Like a Billionaire is the third solo full-length from Church of the Cosmic Skull‘s Bill Fisher, and while “Consume the Heart” and “Yell of the Ringman” tinge toward darkness and, in the case of the latter, a pointedly doomly plog, what the “yacht” translates to is a swath of ’80s-pop keyboard sounds and piano rock accompanying Fisher‘s guitar, vocals, bass and drums, a song like “Xanadu” sending up tech-culture hubris after “Ride On, Unicorn” has given a faux-encouraging push in its chorus, rhyming “Ride on, unicorn” with “In the valley of Silicon.” Elsewhere, “Overview Effect” brings the cover to life in imagining the apocalypse from the comfort of a private spaceship, while “Lead Us Into Fire” idolizes a lack of accountability in self-harmonizing layers with the thud that complements “Intranaut” deeper in the mix and the sense that, if you were a big enough asshole and on enough cocaine, it might just be possible Fisher means it when he sings in praise of capitalist hyperexploitation. A satire much needed and a perspective to be valued, if likely not by venture capital.

Bill Fisher on Facebook

Bill Fisher website

Ascia, The Wandering Warrior

ascia the wandering warrior

While one could liken the echo-born space that coincides with the gallop of opening cut “Greenland” to any number of other outfits, and the concluding title-track branches out both in terms of tempo and melodic reach, Ascia‘s debut long-player, The Wandering Warrior follows on from the project’s demoes in counting earliest High on Fire as a defining influence. Fair enough, since the aforementioned two are both the most recent included here and the only songs not culled from the three prior demos issued by Fabrizio Monni (also Black Capricorn) under the Ascia name. With the languid fluidity and impact of “Mother of the Wendol” and the outright thrust of “Blood Bridge Battle,” “Ruins of War” and “Dhul Qarnayn” set next to the bombastic crash ‘n’ riff of “Serpent of Fire,” Monni has no trouble harnessing a flow from the repurposed, remastered material, and picking and choosing from among three shorter releases lets him portray Ascia‘s range in a new light. That may not be able to happen in the same way next time around (or it could), but for those who did or didn’t catch the demos, The Wandering Warrior summarizes well the band’s progression to this point and gives hope for more to come.

Ascia on Bandcamp

Perpetual Eclipse Productions store

Cloud of Souls, A Constant State of Flux

Cloud of Souls A Constant State of Flux

Indianapolis-based solo-project Cloud of Souls — aka Chris Latta (ex-Spirit Division, Lavaborne, etc.) — diverges from the progressive metallurgy of 2023’s A Fate Decided (review here) in favor of a more generally subdued, contemplative presentation. Beginning with its title-track, the five-song/36-minute outing marks out the spaces it will occupy and seems to dwell there as the individual cuts play out, whether that’s “A Constant State of Flux” holding to its piano-and-voice, the melancholic procession of the nine-minute “Better Than I Was,” or the sax that accompanies the downerism of the penultimate “Love to Forgive Wish to Forget.” Each song brings something different either in instrumentation or vibe — “Homewrecker Blues” harmonizes en route to a momentary tempo pickup laced with organ, closer “Break Down the Door” offers hope in its later guitar and crash, etc. — but it can be a fine line when conveying monotony or low-key depressivism, and there are times where A Constant State of Flux feels stuck in its own verses, despite Latta‘s strength of craft and the band’s exploratory nature.

Cloud of Souls on Facebook

Cloud of Souls on Bandcamp

Deaf Wolf, Not Today, Satan

Deaf Wolf Not Today Satan

Not Today, Satan, in either its 52-minute runtime or in the range of its songcraft around a central influence from Queens of the Stone Age circa 2002-2005, is not a minor undertaking. The ambitious debut full-length from Berlin trio Deaf Wolf — guitarist/vocalist Christian Rottstock (also theremin on “Silence is Golden”), bassist/vocalist Hagen Walther and Alexander Dümont on drums and other percussion — adds periodic lead-vocal tradeoffs between Rottstock and Walther to further broaden the scope of the material, with (I believe) the latter handling the declarations of “Survivor” and the gurgle-voice on “S.M.T.P.” and “Beast in Me,” which arrive in succession before “The End” closes with emphasis on self-awareness. The earlier “Sulphur” becomes a standout for its locked-in groove, fuzz tones and balanced mix, while “See You in Hell” finds its own direction and potential in strut and fullness of sound. There’s room to refine some of what’s being attempted, but Not Today, Satan sets Deaf Wolf off to an encouraging start.

Deaf Wolf on Facebook

Deaf Wolf on Bandcamp

Alber Jupiter, Puis Vient la Nuit

Alber Jupiter Puis Vient la Nuit

Five years on from their also-newly-reissued 2019 debut, We Are Just Floating in Space, French instrumentalist heavy space rock two-piece Alber Jupiter — bassist Nicolas Terroitin, drummer Jonathan Sonney, and both of them on what would seem to be all the synth until Steven Michel guests in that regard on “Captain Captain” and the title-track — make a cosmic return with Puis Vient la Nuit, the bulk of which is unfurled through four cuts between seven and 10 minutes long after a droning buildup in “Intro.” If you’re waiting for the Slift comparison somewhat inevitable these days anywhere near the words “French” and “space,” keep waiting. There’s some shuffle in the groove of “Daddy’s Spaceship” and “Captain Captain” before it departs for a final minute-plus of residual cosmic background, sure, but the gradual way “Pas de Bol Pour Peter” hits its midpoint apex and the wash brought to fruition in “Daddy’s Spaceship” and “Puis Vient la Nuit” itself is digging in on a different kind of vibe, almost cinematic in its vocal-less drama, broad in dynamic and encompassing on headphones as it gracefully sweeps into the farther reaches of far out, slow in escape velocity but with depth in three dimensions. It is a journey not to be missed.

Alber Jupiter on Facebook

Foundrage Label on Bandcamp

Up in Her Room Records on Bandcamp

Araki Records on Bandcamp

Cleen, Excursion

cleen excursion

There’s something of a narrative happening in at least most of the 10 tracks of Cleen‘s impressive debut album, Excursion, as the character speaking in the lyrics drifts through space and eventually meets a perhaps gruesome end, but by the time they’re closing with “A Means to an End” (get it?), the Flint, Michigan, trio of guitarist/vocalist Patrick, bassist Cooley and drummer Jordan are content to leave it at, “I just wanna worship satan and go the fuck to sleep.” Not arguing. Their sound boasts an oozing cosmic ethereality that might remind a given listener of Rezn here and there, but in the post-grunge-meets-post-punk-oh-and-there’s-a-scream movement of “No One Remembers but You,” the punkier shove in the first half of “Year of the Reaper,” the dirt-fuzz jangle of “Aroya” and the sheer heft of “Menticidal Betrayal,” “Sultane of Sand” and “Fatal Blow,” Cleen blend elements in a manner that’s modern but well on its way to being their own in addition to being a nodding clarion for the converted.

Cleen on Facebook

Electric Desert Records website


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Quarterly Review: Megaton Leviathan, Merlin, Stonerhenge, Guiltless, MR.BISON, Slump & At War With the Sun, Leather Lung, Citrus Citrus, Troubled Sleep, Observers

Posted in Reviews on March 1st, 2024 by JJ Koczan


So this is it, but before we — you and I, not at the same time but together nonetheless — dive into the final 10 records of this well-still-basically-winter-but-almost-spring-and-god-damn-I-wish-winter-was-over Quarterly Review, how about a big, deep breath, huh? There. In occupational therapy and other teach-you-how-to-keep-your-shit-together circles, deep breathing is spoken of like it’s a magic secret invented in 1999, and you know what, I think it was. That shit definitely didn’t exist when I was a kid. Can be helpful though, sometimes, if you need just to pause for a second, literally a second, and stop that rush in your brain.

Or my brain. Because I’m definitely talking about me and I’ve come to understand in time not everyone’s operates like mine, even aside from whatever I’ve got going on neurologically, sensorially, emotionally or in terms of mental health. Ups and downs to that, as regards human experience. There are a great many things that I’m useless at. This is what I can do, so I’m doing it. Put your head down, keep working. I can do that. 10 records left? Easy. You might say I did the same thing yesterday, and that was already my busiest day, so this is gravy. And gravy, in its various contexts, textures, tastes, and delivery modes, is delicious. I hope you heard something new this week that you enjoyed. If not yet, there’s still hope.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Megaton Leviathan, Silver Tears

Megaton Leviathan Silver Tears

I’ll confess that when I held this spot for groundfloor now-Asoria, Oregon, dronegazers Megaton Leviathan, I was thinking of their Dec. 2023 instrumental album, Magick Helmet, with its expansive and noisy odes to outsider experimentalism of yore, but then founding principal Andrew James Costa Reuscher (vocals, guitars, synth, bass, etc.) announced a new lineup with the rhythm section of Alex Wynn (bass) and Tory Chappell (drums) and unveiled “Silver Tears” as the first offering from this new incarnation of the band, and its patient, swirling march and meditative overtones wouldn’t be ignored, however otherwise behind I might be. Next to Magick Helmet, “Silver Tears” is downright straightforward in its four-plus minutes, strong in its conveyance of an atmosphere that’s molten and maybe trying to get lost in its own trance a bit, which is fair enough for the hypnotic cast of the song’s ending. The lesson, as ever with Megaton Leviathan, is that you can’t predict what they’ll do next, and that’s been the case since their start over 15 years ago. One assumes the new lineup will play live and that Reuscher will keep pushing into the ether. Beyond that, they could head anywhere and not find a wrong direction.

Megaton Leviathan on Facebook

Megaton Leviathan on Instagram

Merlin, Grind House

merlin grind house

They put their own spin on it, of course, but there’s love at heart in Merlin‘s take on the classic “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” jingle that serves as the centerpiece of Grind House, and indeed, the seven-song late-2023 long-player unfolds as an intentional cinematic tribute, with “Feature Presentation” bringing the lights down with some funkier elevator vibes before “The Revenger” invents an ’80s movie with its hook alone, “Master Thief ’77” offers precisely the action-packed bassline and wah you would hope, “Endless Calamity” horror-soundtracks with keyboard, “Blood Money” goes west with due Dollars Trilogy flourish, and the 12-minute “Grindhouse,” which culls together pieces of all of the above — “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” included — and adds a voiceover, which even though it doesn’t start with “In a world…” sets its narrative forth with the verve of coming attractions, semi-over-the-top and thus right on for where Merlin have always resided. Interpreting movie music, soundtracks and the incidental sounds of the theater experience, isn’t by any means the least intuitive leap the Kansas City four-piece could make, and the ease with which they swap one style for another underscores how multifaceted their sound can be while remaining their own. If you get it, you’ll get it.

Merlin on Facebook

Merlin on Instagram

Stonerhenge, Gemini Twins

stonerhenge gemini twins

After what seem to have been a couple more group-oriented full-lengths and an initial solo EP, Minsk-based heavy rockers Stonerhenge seem to have settled around the songwriting of multi-instrumentalist Serge “Skrypa” Skrypničenka. The self-released Gemini Twins is the third long-player from the mostly-instrumental Belarusian project, though the early 10-minute cut “The Story of Captain Glosster” proves crucial for the spoken word telling its titular tale, which ties into the narrative derived Gemini myth and the notion of love as bringing two halves of one whole person together, and there are other vocalizations in “Time Loop” and “Hypersleep,” the second half of “Starship Troopers,” and so on, so the songs aren’t without a human presence tying them together as they range in open space. This is doubly fortunate, as Skrypničenka embarks on movements of clear-eyed, guitar-led progressive heavy exploration, touching on psychedelia without getting too caught up in effects, too tricky in production, or too far removed from the rhythm of the flowing “Solstice” or the turns “Over the Mountain” makes en route its ah-here-we-are apex. Not without its proggy indulgences, the eight-song/46-minute collection rounds out with “Fugit Irreparable Tempus,” which in drawing a complete linear build across its five minutes from clean tone to a distorted finish, highlights the notion of a plot unfolding.

Stonerhenge on Facebook

Stonerhenge on Instagram

Guiltless, Thorns


Guiltless make their debut with the four songs of Thorns on Neurot Recordings, following on in some ways from where guitarist, vocalist, noisemaker and apparent-spearhead Josh Graham (also ex-Battle of Mice, Red Sparowes, Neurosis visuals, etc.) and guitarist/more-noisemaker Dan Hawkins left off in A Storm of Light, in this case recording remotely and reincorporating drummer Billy Graves (also Generation of Vipers) and bringing in bassist Sacha Dunable, best known for his work in Intronaut and for founding Dunable Guitars. Gruff in the delivery vocally and otherwise, and suitably post-apocalyptic in its point of view, “All We Destroy” rumbles its assessment after “Devour-Collide” lays out the crunching tonal foundation and begins to expand outward therefrom, with “Dead Eye” seeming to hit that much harder as it rolls its wall o’ low end over a detritus-strewn landscape no more peaceful in its end than its beginning, with subsequent closer “In Radiant Glow” more malleable in tempo before seeming to pull itself apart lurching to the finish. I’d say I hope our species ultimately fares a bit better than Thorns portrays, but I have to acknowledge that there’s not much empirical evidence to base that on. Guiltless play these songs like an indictment.

Guiltless on Facebook

Neurot Recordings website

MR.BISON, Echoes From the Universe

mr.bison echoes from the universe

The latest check-in from the dimension of Italian four-piece MR.BISON, Echoes From the Universe is the band’s most realized work to-date. It’s either their third LP or their fifth, depending on what counts as what, but where it sits in the discography is second to how much the effort stands out generally. Fostering a bright, lush sound distinguished through vocal harmonies and arrangement depth, the seven-song collection showcases the swath of elements that, at this point, has transcended its influence and genuinely found a place of its own. Space rock, Elderian prog, classic harmonized melody, and immediate charge in “The Child of the Night Sky” unfold to acoustics kept going amid dramatic crashes and the melodic roll of “Collision,” with sepia nostalgia creeping into the later lines of “Dead in the Eye” as the guitar becomes more expansive, only to be grounded by the purposeful repetitions of “Fragments” with the last-minute surge ending side A to let “The Promise” fade in with bells like a morning shimmer before exploring a cosmic breadth; it and the also-seven-minute “The Veil” serving as complement and contrast with the latter’s more terrestrial swing early resolving in a an ethereal wash to which “Staring at the Sun,” the finale, could just as easily be referring as to its own path of tension and release. I’ve written about the album a couple times already, but I wanted to put it here too, pretty much just to say don’t be surprised when you see it on my year-end list.

MR.BISON on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Slump & At War With the Sun, SP/LIT

slump at war with the sun split

You’d figure with the slash in its title, the split release pairing UK sludge upstarts At War With the Sun and Slump, who are punk-prone on “Dust” and follow the riff on “Kneel” to a place much more metal, would break down into two sides between ‘SP’ and ‘LIT,’ but I’m not sure either At War With the Sun‘s “The Garden” (9:54) or the two Slump inclusions, which are three and seven minutes, respectively, could fit on a 7″ side. Need a bigger platter, and fair enough for holding the post-Eyehategod disillusioned barks of “The Garden” and the slogging downer groove they ride, or the way Slump‘s two songs unite around more open verses, the guitar dropping out in the strut of “Dust” and giving space to vocals in “Kneel,” even as each cut works toward its own ends stylistically. The mix on Slump‘s material is more in-your-face where At War With the Sun cast an introverted feel, but you want to take the central message as ‘Don’t worry, England’s still miserable,’ and keep an eye to see where both bands go from here as they continue to develop their approaches, I don’t think anyone’ll tell you you’re doing it wrong.

At War With the Sun on Facebook

At War With the Sun on Bandcamp

Slump on Facebook

Slump on Bandcamp

Leather Lung, Graveside Grin

leather lung graveside grin

They know it’s gonna get brutal, the listener knows it’s gonna get brutal, and Massachusetts riff rollers Leather Lung don’t waste time in getting down to business on Graveside Grin, their awaited, middle-fingers-raised debut full-length on Magnetic Eye Records. An established live act in the Northeastern US with a sound culled from the seemingly disparate ends of sludge and party rock — could they be the next-gen inheritors of Weedeater‘s ‘ I don’t know how this is a good time but it is’ character? time will tell — the 40-minute 11-songer doesn’t dwell long in any one track, instead building momentum over a succession of pummelers on either side of the also-pummeling “Macrodose Interlude” until “Raised Me Rowdy,” which just might be an anthem, if a twisted one, fades to its finish. I’ve never been and will never be cool enough for this kind of party, but Leather Lung‘s innovation in bringing fun to extreme sounds and their ability to be catchy and caustic at the same time isn’t something to ignore. The time they’ve put in on EPs and touring shows in the purpose and intensity with which they execute “Empty Bottle Boogie” or the modern-metal guitar contortions of “Guilty Pleasure,” but they are firm in their purpose of engaging their audience on their own level, and accessible in that regard. And as raucous as they get, they’re never actually out of control. That’s what makes them truly dangerous.

Leather Lung on Facebook

Magnetic Eye Records store

Citrus Citrus, Albedo Massima

citrus citrus albedo massima

A new(-ish) band releasing their first album through Sulatron Records would be notable enough, but Italy’s Citrus Citrus answer that significant endorsement with scope on Dec. 2023’s Albedo Massima, veering into and out of acid-laced traditions in what feels like a pursuit, like each song has a goal it’s chasing whether or not the band knew that when they started jamming. Drift and percussive intrigue mark the outset with “Sunday Morning in the Sun,” which lets “Lost It” surprise as it shifts momentarily into fuzzier, Colour Haze-y heavy psych as part of a series of tradeoffs that emerge, a chorus finish emphasizing structure. The Mediterranean twists of “Fantachimera” become explosively heavy, and that theme continues in the end of “Red Stone Seeds” after that centerpiece’s blown out experimental verses, keyboard drift building to heft that would surprise if not for “Lost It” earlier, while “Sleeping Giant” eschews that kind of tonal largesse for a synthier wash before “Frozen\Sun” creates and fills its own mellow and melancholy reaches. All the while, a pointedly organic production gives the band pockets to weave through dynamically, and melody abides. Not at all inactive, or actually that mellow, Albedo Massima resonates with the feel of an adventure just beginning. Here’s looking forward.

Citrus Citrus on Instagram

Sulatron Records webstore

Troubled Sleep, A Trip Around the Sun & Solitary Man

troubled sleep a trip around the sun

Two initial tracks from Swedish newcomers Troubled Sleep, released as separate standalone singles and coupled together here because I can, “A Trip Around the Sun” and “Solitary Man” show a penchant for songwriting in a desert-style sphere, the former coming across as speaking to Kyuss-esque traditionalism while “Solitary Man” pushes a little further into classic heavy and more complex melodies while keeping a bounce that aligns to genre. Both are strikingly cohesive in their course and professional in their production, and while the band has yet to let much be known about their overarching intentions, whether they’re working toward an album or what, they sound like they most definitely could be, and I’ll just be honest and say that’s a record I’ll probably want to hear considering the surety with which “A Trip Around the Sun” and “Solitary Man” are brought to life. I’m not about to tell you they’re revolutionizing desert rock or heavy rock more broadly, but songs this solid don’t usually happen by accident, and Troubled Sleep sound like they know where they’re headed, even if the listener doesn’t yet. The word is potential and the tracks are positively littered with it.

Troubled Sleep on Facebook

Troubled Sleep on Bandcamp

Observers, The Age of the Machine Entities

observers the age of the machine entities

I’m not sure how the double-kick intensity and progressive metal drive translates to the stately-paced, long-shots-of-things-floating-in-space of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but Observers‘ debut, The Age of the Machine Entities, is sweeping enough to bridge cynical headscratching. And of course there were the whole lightspeed freakout and we-invented-murder parts of Arthur C. Clarke’s narrative as well, so there’s room for All India Radio‘s Martin Kennedy, joined by bassist Rich Gray, drummer Chris Bohm and their included host of guests to conjure the melodic wash of “Strange and Beautiful” after the blasting declarations of “Into the Eye” at the start, with “Pod Bay Doors” interpreting that crucial scene in the film through manipulated sampling (not exclusive to it), and the 11-minute “Metaphor” unfurls a subtly-moving, flute-featuring ambience ahead of the pair “The Star Child” and “The Narrow Way Part II” wrap by realigning around the project’s metallic foundation, which brings fresh perspective to a familiar subject in the realm of science fiction.

Observers on Facebook

Observers on Bandcamp

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Full Album Premiere & Review: Minerall, Bügeln

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 24th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

minerall bugeln

This Friday, Jan. 26, marks the debut from the new heavy psych jam outfit Minerall. Issued through Sulatron Records and titled Bügeln, which is German for ‘ironing’ (see cover), the collection features expansive improvisation-rooted breadth presented across two side-consuming pieces as the trio of guitarist Marcel Cultrera (also Speck), drummer Tommy Handschick (also Kombynat Robotron and the decidedly more crushing Earthbong) and the indispensable Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (Zone Six, Sula Bassana, on and on) on bass and synth feel their way through a course of rousing cosmic rock and hypnotic dronescaping. Between the two-part “Bügeln/Unerforscht” (‘iron’/’unexplored’ in translation) at 22:07 and the subsequent “Sachebene” at 21:26, the live-recorded album sounds duly organic in its rollout and offers some of its most lush and engrossing moments in its most subdued stretches.

The story as I understand it is that SchmidtHandschick and Cultrera came together with producer Yannick Aderb at Studio Buffbergen for a two-day session on Jan. 27 -28, 2023 (a year ago), that doubled as a birthday party. A celebration, in other words. It’s easy enough to read that mindset into the audio if one is so inclined, though the context here is open enough that if they said they recorded it at the top of a mountain in a thunderstorm, I’m not sure it wouldn’t also work for a narrative.

But “Bügeln/Unerforscht,” which was recorded on the 28th, makes a suitable opener as its more active first half draws the listener in with a lightly-insistent space rock push that would probably still be mellow in many other situations but here is complemented/contrasted by the textures that follow as the drums step back, Schmidt moves from bass to synth and the guitar likewise drones out. Krautrock, expanded-definition heavy, and through “Sachabene,” mineralla molten, heroic-dose lysergic middle ground that finds balance between the two ends of “Bügeln/Unerforscht” — these things all come into play to crate a complete picture of scope and dynamic.

I don’t know if all this stuff was made up on the spot or if anybody came in with a part they’d dreamed about the night before, but even the stillest moments on Bügeln carry the vitality of their moment of creation — that spark of life, if you want — and though they’re presented in reverse order of how they happened, the fluidity Minerall capture in and between the two pieces shouldn’t be discounted and is nothing if not emblematic of the component players’ pedigrees.

Is all of this a long way of saying, “Hey, check out the jammers jamming?” Could be, and there’s definitely a they’ve-done-this-kind-of-thing-before sense to Minerall‘s dynamic. If you think of jazz players sitting in on open jams, different groups combining and players coming and going, Minerall‘s first and reportedly not last LP has some of that sensibility — just a thing that happened over a couple days and/or nights — but is all the more special for what came out of that fleeting time. Immediately it holds a character of its own in its widescreen vista, with sounds that can bristle with tension or dwell at rest as they will, and as Bügeln arrives, one can only wonder what’s in store for that birthday party this year.

Not just a studio project or the one-off they might’ve otherwise been, Minerall have a couple live shows booked for February in Germany. You’ll find those dates and more info below, courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Minerall, Bügeln album premiere

PRE-SALE of the vinyl (incl dl code) on NOW at Sulatron Records: www.sulatron.com/xoshop/lng/en/vinyl/minerall-buegeln-lp-dl.html

In the spring of 2023, musicians from three of the most creative psych bands in the German-speaking world came together for a session at Buffbergen Studios in Hanover. Birthdays were celebrated and hours upon hours of music were recorded.

Through a broad spectrum of common ideas, the jams range from hard riffs to spherical ambient soundscapes and enchant not least through the interplay of synthesizer and space echo. “Bügeln” is now the first work of this creative process. An endless jam with hypnotic dynamics, carried by bass and drums, the three musicians lose themselves in the spheres of space echo only to land again after 45 minutes. Minimally edited at the beginning and end, this work is a non-reproducible snapshot that will be released on vinyl exactly one year after the recording session.

Recorded by Yannick Aderb in his Studio Buffbergen.
Mastered by Eroc. (www.eroc.de)
Coverdesign by Sula, bandpic by Marcel.

LP on black 180 grams recycling wax made in Germany, plus download code, limited to 500 copies! Distributed by Echodelick Records (USA), Clearspot (in NL, worldwide) and Broken Silence (in Germany, for Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, UK, Scandinavia, Japan, USA)

1. Bügeln/Unerforscht 22:07
2. Sachebene 21:26

Minerall live:
08.02. Hamburg, Bar 227
09.02. Göttingen, Vinyl Reservat
10.02. Halle (Saale), G.i.G.

Minerall is the project of Marcel Cultrera (Guitar, Speck), Tommy Handschick (Drums, Kombynat Robotron, Earthbong) and Sula Bassana (Bass, Synth, Zone Six, Interkosmos…).

Minerall on Bandcamp

Sulatron Records on Facebook

Sulatron Records on Instagram

Sulatron Records website

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Quarterly Review: David Eugene Edwards, Beastwars, Sun Dial, Fuzzy Grass, Morne, Appalooza, Space Shepherds, Rey Mosca, Fawn Limbs & Nadja, Dune Pilot

Posted in Reviews on December 1st, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Well, this is it. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to do Monday and Tuesday, or just Monday, or Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or the whole week next week or what. I don’t know. But while I figure it out — and not having this planned is kind of a novelty for me; something against my nature that I’m kind of forcing I think just to make myself uncomfortable — there are 10 more records to dig through today and it’s been a killer week. Yeah, that’s the other thing. Maybe it’s better to quit while I’m ahead.

I’ll kick it back and forth while writing today and getting the last of what I’d originally slated covered, then see how much I still have waiting to be covered. You can’t ever get everything. I keep learning that every year. But if I don’t do it Monday and Tuesday, it’ll either be last week of December or maybe second week of January, so it’s not long until the next one. Never is, I guess.

If this is it for now or not, thanks for reading. I hope you found music that has touched your life and/or made your day better.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

David Eugene Edwards, Hyacinth

David Eugene Edwards Hyacinth

There are not a ton of surprises to behold in what’s positioned as a first solo studio offering from David Eugene Edwards, whose pedigree would be impressive enough if it only included either 16 Horsepower or Wovenhand but of course is singular in including both. But you don’t need surprises. Titled Hyacinth and issued through Sargent House, the voice, the presence, the sense of intimacy and grandiosity both accounted for as Edwards taps acoustic simplicity in “Bright Boy,” though even that is accompanied by the programmed electronics that provides backing through much of the included 11 tracks. Atop and within these expanses, Edwards broods poetic and explores atmospheres that are heavy in a different way from what Wovenhand has become, chasing tone or intensity. On Hyacinth, it’s more about the impact of the slow-rolling beat in “Celeste” and the blend of organic/inorganic than just how loud a part is or isn’t. Whether a solo career under his name will take the place of Wovenhand or coincide, I don’t know.

David Eugene Edwards on Instagram

Sargent House website

Beastwars, Tyranny of Distance

beastwars tyranny of distance

Whatever led Beastwars to decide it was time to do a covers EP, fine. No, really, it’s fine. It’s fine that it’s 32 minutes long. It’s fine that I’ve never heard The Gordons, or Julia Deans, or Superette, or The 3Ds or any of the other New Zealand-based artists the Wellington bashers are covering. It’s fine. It’s fine that it sounds different than 2019’s IV (review here). It should. It’s been nearly five years and Beastwars didn’t write these eight songs, though it seems safe to assume they did a fair bit of rearranging since it all sounds so much like Beastwars. But the reason it’s all fine is that when it’s over, whether I know the original version of “Waves” or the blues-turns-crushing “High and Lonely” originally by Nadia Reid, or not, when it’s all over, I’ve got over half an hour more recorded Beastwars music than I had before Tyranny of Distance showed up, and if you don’t consider that a win, you probably already stopped reading. That’s fine too. A sidestep for them in not being an epic landmark LP, and a chance for new ideas to flourish.

Beastwars on Facebook

Beastwars BigCartel store

Sun Dial, Messages From the Mothership

sun dial messages from the mothership

Because Messages From the Mothership stacks its longer songs (six-seven minutes) in the back half of its tracklisting, one might be tempted to say Sun Dial push further out as they go, but the truth is that ’60s pop-inflected three-minute opener “Echoes All Around” is pretty out there, and the penultimate “Saucer Noise” — the longest inclusion at 7:47 — is no less melodically present than the more structure-forward leadoff. The difference, principally, is a long stretch of keyboard, but that’s well within the UK outfit’s vintage-synth wheelhouse, and anyway, “Demagnitized” is essentially seven minutes of wobbly drone at the end of the record, so they get weirder, as prefaced in the early going by, well, the early going itself, but also “New Day,” which is more exploratory than the radio-friendly-but-won’t-be-on-the-radio harmonies of “Living for Today” and the duly shimmering strum of “Burning Bright.” This is familiar terrain for Sun Dial, but they approach it with a perspective that’s fresh and, in the title-track, a little bit funky to boot.

Sun Dial on Facebook

Sulatron Records webstore

Echodelick Records website

Fuzzy Grass, The Revenge of the Blue Nut

Fuzzy Grass The Revenge of the Blue Nut

With rampant heavy blues and a Mk II Deep Purple boogie bent, Toulouse, France’s Fuzzy Grass present The Revenge of the Blue Nut, and there’s a story there but to be honest I’m not sure I want to know. The heavy ’70s persist as an influence — no surprise for a group who named their 2018 debut 1971 — and pieces like “I’m Alright” and “The Dreamer” feel at least in part informed by Graveyard‘s slow-soul-to-boogie-blowout methodology. Raw fuzz rolls out in 11-minute capper “Moonlight Shades” with a swinging nod that’s a highlight even after “Why You Stop Me” just before, and grows noisy, expansive, eventually furious as it approaches the end, coherent in the verse and cacophonous in just about everything else. But the rawness bolsters the character of the album in ways beyond enhancing the vintage-ist impression, and Fuzzy Grass unite decades of influences with vibrant shred and groove that’s welcoming even at its bluest.

Fuzzy Grass on Facebook

Kozmik Artifactz store

Morne, Engraved with Pain

Morne Engraved With Pain

If you go by the current of sizzling electronic pops deeper in the mix, even the outwardly quiet intro to Morne‘s Engraved with Pain is intense. The Boston-based crush-metallers have examined the world around them thoroughly ahead of this fifth full-length, and their disappointment is brutally brought to realization across four songs — “Engraved with Pain” (10:42), “Memories Like Stone” (10:48), “Wretched Empire” (7:45) and “Fire and Dust” (11:40) — written and executed with a dark mastery that goes beyond the weight of the guitar and bass and drums and gutturally shouted vocals to the aura around the music itself. Engraved with Pain makes the air around it feel heavier, basking in an individualized vision of metal that’s part Ministry, part Gojira, lots of Celtic Frost, progressive and bleak in kind — the kind of superlative and consuming listening experience that makes you wonder why you ever listen to anything else except that you’re also exhausted from it because Morne just gave you an existential flaying the likes of which you’ve not had in some time. Artistry. Don’t be shocked when it’s on my ‘best of the year’ list in a couple weeks. I might just go to a store and buy the CD.

Morne on Facebook

Metal Blade Records website

Appalooza, The Shining Son

appalooza the shining son

Don’t tell the swingin’-dick Western swag of “Wounded,” but Appalooza are a metal band. To wit, The Shining Son, their very-dudely follow-up to 2021’s The Holy of Holies (review here) and second outing for Ripple Music. Opener “Pelican” has more in common with Sepultura than Kyuss, or Pelican for that matter. “Unbreakable” and “Wasted Land” both boast screams worthy of Devin Townsend, while the acoustic/electric urgency in “Wasted Land” and the tumultuous scope of the seven-plus-minute track recall some of Primordial‘s battle-aftermath mourning. “Groundhog Days” has an airy melody and is more decisively heavy rock, and the hypnotic post-doom apparent-murder-balladry of “Killing Maria” answers that at the album’s close, and “Framed” hits heavy blues à la a missed outfit like Dwellers, but even in “Sunburn” there’s an immediacy to the rhythm between the guitar and percussion, and though they’re not necessarily always aggressive in their delivery, nor do they want to be. Metal they are, if only under the surface, and that, coupled with the care they put into their songwriting, makes The Shining Son stand out all the more in an ever-crowded Euro underground.

Appalooza on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Space Shepherds, Washed Up on a Shore of Stars

Space Shepherds Washed Up on a Shore of Stars

An invitation to chill the beans delivered to your ears courtesy of Irish cosmic jammers Space Shepherds as two longform jams. “Wading Through the Infinite Sea” nestles into a funky groove and spends who-even-cares-how-much-time of its total 27 minutes vibing out with noodling guitar and a steady, languid, periodically funk-leaning flow. I don’t know if it was made up on the spot, but it sure sounds like it was, and though the drums get a little restless as keys and guitar keep dreaming, the elements gradually align and push toward and through denser clouds of dust and gas on their way to being suns, a returning lick at the end looking slightly in the direction of Elder but after nearly half an hour it belongs to no one so much as Space Shepherds themselves. ‘Side B,’ as it were, is “Void Hurler” (18:41), which is more active early around circles being drawn on the snare, and it has a crescendo and a synthy finish, but is ultimately more about the exploration and little moments along the way like the drums decided to add a bit of push to what might’ve otherwise been the comedown, or the fuzz buzzing amid the drone circa 10 minutes in. You can sit and listen and follow each waveform on its journey or you can relax and let the whole thing carry you. No wrong answer for jams this engaging.

Space Shepherds on Facebook

Space Shepherds on Bandcamp

Rey Mosca, Volumen! Sesion AMB

rey mosca volumen sesiones amb

Young Chilean four-piece Rey Mosca — the lineup of Josué Campos, Valentín Pérez, Damián Arros and Rafael Álvarez — hold a spaciousness in reserve for the midsection of teh seven-minute “Sol del Tiempo,” which is the third of the three songs included in their live-recorded Volumen! Sesion AMB EP. A ready hint is dropped of a switch in methodology since both “Psychodoom” and ” Perdiendo el Control” are under two minutes long. Crust around the edge of the riff greets the listener with “Psychodoom,” which spends about a third of its 90 seconds on its intro and so is barely started by the time it’s over. Awesome. “Perdiendo el Control” is quicker into its verse and quicker generally and gets brasher in its second half with some hardcore shout-alongs, but it too is there and gone, where “Sol del Tiempo” is more patient from the outset, flirting with ’90s noise crunch in its finish but finding a path through a developing interpretation of psychedelic doom en route. I don’t know if “Sol del Tiempo” would fit on a 7″, but it might be worth a shot as Rey Mosca serve notice of their potential hopefully to flourish.


Rey Mosca on Bandcamp

Fawn Limbs & Nadja, Vestigial Spectra

Fawn Limbs & Nadja Vestigial Spectra

Principally engaged in the consumption and expulsion of expectations, Fawn Limbs and Nadja — experimentalists from Finland and Germany-via-Canada, respectively — drone as one might think in opener “Isomerich,” and in the subsequent “Black Body Radiation” and “Cascading Entropy,” they give Primitive Man, The Body or any other extremely violent, doom-derived bludgeoners you want to name a run for their money in terms of sheer noisy assault. Somebody’s been reading about exoplanets, as the drone/harsh noise pairing “Redshifted” and “Blueshifted” (look it up, it’s super cool) reset the aural trebuchet for its next launch, the latter growing caustic on the way, ahead of “Distilled in Observance” renewing the punishment in earnest. And it is earnest. They mean every second of it as Fawn Limbs and Nadja grind souls to powder with all-or-nothing fury, dropping overwhelming drive to round out “Distilled in Observance” before the 11-minute “Metastable Ion Decay” bursts out from the chest of its intro drone to devour everybody on the ship except Sigourney Weaver. I’m not lying to you — this is ferocious. You might think you’re up for it. One sure way to find out, but you should know you’re being tested.

Fawn Limbs on Facebook

Nadja on Facebook

Sludgelord Records on Facebook

Dune Pilot, Magnetic

dune pilot magnetic

Do they pilot, a-pilot, do they the dune? Probably. Regardless, German heavy rockers Dune Pilot offer their third full-length and first for Argonauta Records in the 11-song Magnetic, taking cues from modern fuzz in the vein of Truckfighters for “Visions” after the opening title-track sets the mood and establishes the mostly-dry sound of the vocals as they cut through the guitar and bass tones. A push of voice becomes a defining feature of Magnetic, which isn’t such a departure from 2018’s Lucy, though the rush of “Next to the Liquor Store” and the breadth in the fuzz of “Highest Bid” and the largesse of the nod in “Let You Down” assure that Dune Pilot don’t come close to wearing down their welcome in the 46 minutes, cuts like the bluesy “So Mad” and the big-chorus ideology of “Heap of Shards” coexisting drawn together by the vitality of the performances behind them as well as the surety of their craft. It is heavy rock that feels specifically geared toward the lovers thereof.

Dune Pilot on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

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Quarterly Review: Tortuga, Spidergawd, Morag Tong, Conny Ochs, Ritual King, Oldest Sea, Dim Electrics, Mountain of Misery, Aawks, Kaliyuga Express

Posted in Reviews on November 30th, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Generally I think of Thursday as the penultimate day of a given Quarterly Review. This one I was thinking of adding more days to get more stuff in ahead of year-end coverage coming up in December. I don’t know what that would do to my weekend — actually, yes I do — but sometimes it’s worth it. I’m yet undecided. Will let you know tomorrow, or perhaps not. Dork of mystery, I am.

Today is PACKED with cool sounds. If you haven’t found something yet that’s really hit you, it might be your day.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Tortuga, Iterations

TORTUGA Iterations

From traditionalist proto-doom and keyboard-inflected prog to psychedelic jamming and the Mountain-style start-stop riff on “Lilith,” Poznań, Poland’s Tortuga follow 2020’s Deities (discussed here) with seven tracks and 45 minutes that come across as simple and barebones in the distortion of the guitar and the light reverb on the vocals, but the doom rock doesn’t carry from “Lilith” into “Laspes,” which has more of a ’60s psych crux, a mellow but not unjoyful meander in its first half turning to a massive lumber in the second, all the more elephantine with a solo overtop. They continue throughout to cross the lines between niches — “Quaus” has some dungeon growls, “Epitaph” slogs emotive like Pallbearer, etc. — and offer finely detailed performances in a sound malleable to suit the purposes of their songs. Polish heavy doesn’t screw around. Well, at least not any more than it wants to. Tortuga‘s creative reach becomes part of the character of the album.

Tortuga on Facebook

Napalm Records website

Spidergawd, VII

spidergawd vii

I’m sorry, I gotta ask: What’s the point of anything when Spidergawd can put out a record like VII and it’s business as usual? Like, the world doesn’t stop for a collective “holy shit” moment. Even in the heavy underground, never mind general population. These are the kinds of songs that could save lives if properly employed to do so, and for the Norwegian outfit, it’s just what they do. The careening hooks of “Sands of Time” and “The Tower” at the start, the melodies across the span. The energy. I guess this is dad rock? Shit man, I’m a dad. I’m not this cool. Spidergawd have seven records out and I feel like Metallica should’ve been opening for them at stadiums this past summer, but they remain criminally underrated and perhaps use that as flexibility around their pop-heavy foundation to explore new ideas. The last three songs on VII — “Afterburner,” “Your Heritage” and “…And Nothing But the Truth” — are among the strongest and broadest Spidergawd have ever done, and “Dinosaur” and the classic-metal ripper “Bored to Death” give them due preface. One of the best active heavy rock bands, living up to and surpassing their own high standards.

Spidergawd on Facebook

Stickman Records website

Crispin Glover Records website

Morag Tong, Grieve

Morag Tong Grieve

Rumbling low end and spacious guitar, slow flowing drums and contemplative vocals, and some charred sludge for good measure, mark out the procession of “At First Light” on Morag Tong‘s third album and first for Majestic Mountain Records, the four-song Grieve. Moving from that initial encapsulation through the raw-throat sludge thud of most of “Passages,” they crash out and give over to quiet guitar at about four minutes in and set up the transition to the low-end groove-cool of “A Stem’s Embrace,” a sleepy fluidity hitting its full voluminous crux after three minutes in, crushing from there en route to its noisy finish at just over nine minutes long. That would be the epic finisher of most records, but Morag Tong‘s grievances extend to the 20-minute “No Sun, No Moon,” which at 20 minutes is a full-length’s progression on its own. At very least the entirety of side B, but more than the actual runtime is the theoretical amount of space covered as the four-piece shift from ambient drone through huge plod and resolve the skyless closer with a crushing delve into post-sludge atmospherics. That’s as fitting an end as one could ask for an offering that so brazenly refuses to follow impulses other than its own.

Morag Tong on Facebook

Majestic Mountain Records store

Conny Ochs, Wahn Und Sinn

Conny Ochs Wahn Und Sinn

The nine-song Wahn Und Sinn carries the distinction of being the first full-length from German singer-songwriter Conny Ochs — also known for his work in Ananda Mida and his collaboration with Wino — to be sung in his own language. As a non-German speaker, I won’t pretend that doesn’t change the listening experience, but that’s the idea. Words and melodies in different languages take on corresponding differences in character, and so in addition to appreciating the strings, pianos, acoustic and electric guitars, and, in the case of “Welle,” a bit of static noise in a relatively brief electronic soundscape, hearing Ochs‘ delivery no less emotive for switching languages on the cinematic “Grimassen,” or the lounge drama of “Ding” earlier on, it’s a new side from a veteran figure whose “experimentalism” — and no, I’m not talking about singing in your own language as experimental, I’m talking about Trialogos there — is backburnered in favor of more traditional, still rampantly melancholy pop arrangements. It sounds like someone who’s decided they can do whatever the hell they feel like their songs should making that a reality. Only an asshole would hold not speaking the language against that.

Conny Ochs on Facebook

Exile on Mainstream website/a>

Ritual King, The Infinite Mirror

ritual king the infinite mirror

I’m going to write this review as though I’m speaking directly to Ritual King because, well, I am. Hey guys. Congrats on the record. I can hear a ton going on with it. Some of Elder‘s bright atmospherics and rhythmic twists, some more familiar stoner riffage repurposed to suit a song like “Worlds Divide” after “Flow State” calls Truckfighters to mind, the songs progressive and melodic. The way you keep that nod in reserve for “Landmass?” That’s what I’m talking about. Here’s some advice you didn’t ask for: Keep going. I’m sure you have big plans for next year, and that’s great, and one thing leads to the next. You’re gonna have people for the next however long telling you what you need to do. Do what feels right to you, and keep in mind the decisions that led you to where you are, because you’re right there, headed to the heart of this thing you’re discovering. Two records deep there’s still a lot of potential in your sound, but I think you know a track like “Tethered” is a victory on its own, and that as big as “The Infinite Mirror” gets at the end, the real chance it takes is in the earlier vocal melody. You’re a better band than people know. Just keep going. Thanks.

Ritual King on Facebook

Ripple Music website

Oldest Sea, A Birdsong, A Ghost

oldest sea a birdsong a ghost cropped

Inhabiting the sort of alternately engulfing and minimal spaces generally occupied by the likes of Bell Witch, New Jersey’s Oldest Sea make their full-length debut with A Birdsong, A Ghost and realize a bleakness of mood that is affecting even in its tempo, seeming to slow the world around it to its own crawl. The duo of Samantha Marandola and Andrew Marandola, who brought forth their Strange and Eternal EP (review here) in 2022, find emotive resonance in a death-doom build through the later reaches of “Untracing,” but the subsequent three-minute-piece-for-chorus-and-distorted-drone “Astronomical Twilight” and the similarly barely-there-until-it-very-much-is closer “Metamorphose” mark out either end of the extremes while “The Machines That Made Us Old” echoes Godflesh in its later riffing as Samantha‘s voice works through screams en route to a daringly hopeful drone. Volatile but controlled, it is a debut of note for its patience and vulnerability as well as its deep-impact crash and consuming tone.

Oldest Sea on Facebook

Darkest Records on Bandcamp

Dim Electrics, Dim Electrics

dim electrics dim electrics

Each track on Dim Electrics‘ self-titled five-songer LP becomes a place to rest for a while. No individual piece is lacking activity, but each cut has room for the listener to get inside and either follow the interweaving aural patterns or zone out as they will. Founded by Mahk Rumbae, the Vienna-based project is meditative in the sense of basking in repetition, but flashes like the organ in the middle of “Saint” or the shimmy that takes hold in 18-minute closer “Dream Reaction” assure it doesn’t reside in one place for too much actual realtime, of which it’s easy to lose track when so much krautgazey flow is at hand. Beginning with ambience, “Ways of Seeing” leads the listener deeper into the aural chasm it seems to have opened, and the swirling echoes around take on a life of their own in the ecosystem of some vision of space rock that’s also happening under the ground — past and future merging as in the mellotron techno of “Memory Cage” — which any fool can tell you is where the good mushrooms grow. Dug-in, immersive, engaging if you let it be; Dim Electrics feels somewhat insular in its mind-expansion, but there’s plenty to go around if you can put yourself in the direction it’s headed.

Dim Electrics on Facebook

Sulatron Records webstore

Mountain of Misery, In Roundness

Mountain of Misery In Roundness

A newcomer project from Kamil Ziółkowski, also known for his contributions as part of Polish heavy forerunners Spaceslug, the tone-forward approach of Mountain of Misery might be said to be informed by Ziółkowski‘s other project in opener “Not Away” or the penultimate “Climb by the Sundown,” with their languid vocals and slow-rolling tsunami fuzz in the spirit of heavy psych purveyors Colour Haze and even more to the point Sungrazer, but the howling guitar in the crescendo of closer “The Misery” and the all-out assault of “Hang So Low” distinguish the band all around. “The Rain is My Love” sways in the album’s middle, but it’s in “Circle in Roundness” that the 36-minute LP has its most subdued stretch, letting the spaces filled with fuzz elsewhere remain open as the verse builds atop the for-now-drumless expanse. Whatever familiar aspects persist, Mountain of Misery is its own band, and In Roundness is the exciting beginning of a new creative evolution.

Mountain of Misery on Facebook

Electric Witch Mountain Recordings on Facebook

Aawks, Luna

aawks luna

The featured new single, “The Figure,” finds Barrie, Ontario’s Aawks somewhere between Canadian tonal lords Sons of Otis and the dense heavy psych riffing and melodic vocals of an act like Snail, and if you think I’m about to complain about that, you’ve very clearly never been to this site before. So hi, and welcome. The four-song Luna EP is Aawks‘ second short release of 2023 behind a split with Aiwass (review here), and the trio take on Flock of Seagulls and Pink Floyd for covers of the new wave radio hit “I Ran” and the psychedelic ur-classic “Julia Dream” before a live track, “All is Fine,” rounds out. As someone who’s never seen the band live, the additional crunch falls organic, and brings into relief the diversity Aawks show in and between these four songs, each of which inhabits a place in the emerging whole of the band’s persona. I don’t know if we’ll get there, but sign me up for the Canadian heavy revolution if this is the form it’s going to take.

Aawks on Facebook

Black Throne Productions website

Kaliyuga Express, Warriors & Masters

Kaliyuga Express Warriors and Masters

The collaborative oeuvre of UK doomsperimental guitarist Mike Vest (Bong, Blown Out, Ozo, 11Paranoias, etc.) grows richer as he joins forces with Finnish trio Nolla to produce Kaliyuga ExpressWarriors & Masters, which results in three tracks across two sides of far-out cosmic fuzz, shades of classic kraut and space rocks are wrought with jammy intention; the goal seeming to be the going more than the being gone as Vest and company burn through “Nightmare Dimensions” and the shoegazing “Behind the Veil” — the presence of vocals throughout is a distinguishing feature — hums in high and low frequencies in a repetitive inhale of stellar gases on side A while the 18:58 side B showdown “Endless Black Space” misdirects with a minute of cosmic background noise before unfurling itself across an exoplanet’s vision of cool and returning, wait for it, back to the drone from whence it came. Did you know stars are recycled all the time? Did you know that if you drop acid and peel your face off there’s another face underneath? Your third eye is googly. You can hear voices in the drones. Let me know what they tell you.

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Album Review: Zone Six, Full Mental Jacket

Posted in Reviews on November 1st, 2023 by JJ Koczan

zone six full mental jacket

Long-running German heavy psych constructionists Zone Six have remained steadily active since returning in 2015 with what was then their first album in 11 years and now is the better part of a decade old, Love Monster (review here). With a home on bassist/synthsist/organist/producer Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt‘s Sulatron Records imprint (Schmidt also plays/has played in Sula Bassana, Electric Moon, Krautzone, Weltraumstaunen, Liquid Visions, on and on), and releases through labels like Acid Test, Headspin, Deep Distance and Panchromatic Records, the trio have been more productive in terms of studio releases than they ever were in their initial run, which began in 1997 with their self-titled debut (reissue review here) showing up in 1998 and never really all the way stopped, save perhaps for a few years in the early-’10s.

The three-song Full Mental Jacket is the follow-up to 2020’s Kozmik Koon (review here), with the lineup of Schmidt, guitarist Manuel Wohlrab (also of post-metallers Yanos) and drummer Bernhard “Pablo Carneval” Fasching (Electric MoonSula Bassana) offering 39 minutes of plotted but exploratory instrumentalism arranged longest to shortest across “Slingshot” (19:54), “Full Mental Jacket” (10:00) and “Chrono Trigger” (9:55), with progressive and psychedelic atmospheres at the forefront of their intention and a massive cosmic wash held in reserve for when they need it, though they’re certainly hypnotic and immersive before they get there as well.

Consuming side A in its entirety, “Slingshot” sets Full Mental Jacket quickly off at a speedy clip and a progression of buzzy guitar and bass that, if perhaps it didn’t also have synth winding intermittently around it, could just as easily be goth rock. A groove they ride until a break three minutes in, it will reemerge after the classy kosmiche interlude, marked by the echoing soprano sax of Gottfried Klier and the “ghost guitar” of Rainer Neeff (KrautzoneThe Pancakes), both sitting in for guest spots, but jazzy snare and intricacy in the bass to match the layers of guitar as they build up assure momentum isn’t lost for the divergence.

Over the next few minutes, they gradually solidify the drift, finding themselves in a nodding resonance circa minute-nine leading to the rising of the first big wash of the record, with the guitars, sax, effects and synth pushing further out in unforced but not too slow meter, recovering some more of the piece’s earlier intensity as that riff is brought back after 17 minutes in after a sudden snap. Cymbal splash punctuates the charge, synth resumes wrapping itself around the mix in full three-dimensional fashion, and they cut to a drone to finish, ambient sci-fi keyboard setting a cinematic-but-weird-cinema mood at the outset of the title-track before the guitar begins the procession of “Full Mental Jacket” in earnest.

A sustained line of organ runs a thread of melody across the initial span of the 10-minute side B leadoff, placed in the mix above the pulsating guitar and swinging drums. Among the other lessons of “Slingshot” is that Full Mental Jacket, however loosely structured or departed from verse/chorus patterning it might be, is still based on composition. That’s true of “Full Mental Jacket” and “Chrono Trigger” as well, but the centerpiece feels somewhat closer to jamming at its root. The organ continues to feature as it plays through a melody in complement to the guitar, but even the rhythm behind it comes across as exploratory, if not made up on the spot (and likely not), then open in its approach to prior-written parts.

zone six

Almost exactly at the midpoint, the snare pops to announce a change in the guitar, and the expanse takes a turn toward heavy post-rock in layers of guitar across channels, drums responsible for grounding the movement into the payoff, which surges forward at around 6:45. “Full Mental Jacket” doesn’t unfold its crescendo with the same speed as “Slingshot,” but it’s noisier and Zone Six spend more time looking out from atop the aural mountain they just climbed, the air around them duly light on oxygen as “Full Mental Jacket” recedes into beeps like a truck backing up and other sonic leftovers to bid farewell and bring about the deceptively smooth intro to “Chrono Trigger.”

Whether or not the members of Zone Six or the band collectively are fans of ’90s-era SquareSoft role-playing games on Super Nintendo, I don’t know, but “Chrono Trigger” shares its name with one, and like that game’s adventure narrative, there’s a bit of magic in the closing piece of Full Mental Jacket as well. The bass sets the foundation, fluid but cohesive, as the band conjure a broad space and place themselves within it. Lead notes follow a pattern answered by the drums or synth back in the distance, and a more meditative psychedelia finds its shape. But before the listener even realizes what has happened, this has been going on for more than three minutes and the trio are fully dug into the proceedings.

Shades of My Sleeping Karma meet the band’s own chemistry as the synth marks a change to the next part, drums and keys moving to the front while the guitar steps back, effects swirling again to bring them into focus at the start of the album’s final build at around five minutes in, with a pedal-click push of volume just before the six-minute mark. As with “Full Mental Jacket” and “Slingshot,” the apex of “Chrono Trigger” is a wash of guitar, keys, effects, cymbals and who knows what else, but Zone Six are calm within the tumult. They skillfully guide Full Metal Jacket to its end point; a fade that feels shorter bringing a heavy-feeling silence.

The overarching vibe of Full Mental Jacket comes through as perhaps darker than one might expect, but it is only more satisfying for defying that expectation, and while the individual tracks each bring something different to the whole, the band also unite their work in direction, chemistry and tone. But what they do with those is create whole spaces in which to dwell (albeit temporarily) and, within them, explore these new ideas and textures. The result is a blend of jam-based heavy psych and heavier post-rock that belongs to Zone Six alone as it is born of their individual influences and their will to evolve more than a quarter-century on from their first launch, and frankly, the galaxy is lucky to have it.

Zone Six, Full Mental Jacket (2023)

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Quarterly Review: Motorpsycho, Severed Satellites, Edena Gardens, Delco Detention, The Gray Goo, Shit Hexis, Oromet, Le Mur, 10-20 Project, Landing

Posted in Reviews on July 21st, 2023 by JJ Koczan


I’m drinking coffee out of a different mug today. It may not surprise you to learn that I’m particular about that kind of thing. I have two mugs — one from Baltimore, one from Salem, Mass. — that are the same. They are huge, blue and black, and they curve slightly inward at the top. They can hold half of a 10-cup pot of coffee. I use one of them per day for a pot in the morning.

Not today. The Pecan gifted me a Mr. Spock mug — he’s in his dress uniform, so it’s likely based on the TOS episode ‘Journey to Babel,’ where we meet his parents for the first (our time) time — and it’s smaller and lighter in the hand, will require an extra trip up to the kitchen to finish the pot, but I think she’ll be glad to see me use it, and maybe that’ll help her get a decent start to the day in a bit when she comes downstairs.

Today’s the last day for this week of QR, but we dive back in on Monday and Tuesday to close out. Hope you find something you dig, and if I don’t catch you at the closeout post for the week, have a great weekend.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Motorpsycho, Yay!


Long-running and prolific Norwegian prog rockers Motorpsycho have proven time and again their stylistic malleability across their north-of-100-strong catalog of releases, and comprised of 10 tracks running 42 minutes of acoustic-led-but-still-lushly-arranged, melodic and sometimes folkish craft. If you ever needed an argument that Motorpsycho could have been writing simplified, ultra-accessible, soundtrack-to-your-summer fare — and I’m not sure you have — Yay! provides that, with a classic feel in the harmonies of “Sentinels” and “Dank State,” though the lyrics in that last cut and in pieces like the leadoff “Cold & Bored,” the later isolated strummer “Real Again (Norway Shrugs and Stays at Home)” and in the lost-love-themed “Loch Meaninglessness and the Mull of Dull” have a cynical current to their framing contrasts that the outwardly pretty face lent to it by the Paul Simon-style lead vocals from Bent Sæther (also guitar, mandolin, omnichord here and more elsewhere). If the record is a gimme for an audience looking for a more earthbound Motorpsycho, then the arrival of the 7:46 “Hotel Daedalus” is where they give a nod to the heavier heads in their fanbase, with one of several guest spots from Reine Fiske (Dungen, Träden, etc.) and a shift in the balance between electric and acoustic guitar and synth at the foreground. Standout as that is, it’s also consistent with the spirit of Yay! more generally, which is built to be more complex in emotion than it presents on its face, and the work of masters, whether they’re writing longform prog epics or sweet closer “The Rapture,” which paints the change of seasons through an image of unmelted leftover snow “sulking in the shade.” One should expect no less than that kind of reach and attention to expression, and one should never engage Motorpsycho with expectations beyond that.

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Stickman Records store

Det Nordenfjeldske Grammofonselskab site


Severed Satellites, Aphelion

Severed Satellites Aphelion

“Apollo,” which was the first single released by Severed Satellites, opens the Baltimore instrumentalists’ first EP, Aphelion, as well, its uptempo blues-informed groove an enticing beginning before “Lost Transmissions” digs further into riffer nod. With five tracks running 27 minutes, Severed Satellites — guitarist Matt Naas, keyboardist Dave Drell, bassist Adam Heinzmann and drummer Chuck Dukehart, the latter two both of heavy rockers Foghound, among others — offer material that’s built out of jamming but that is not itself the jam. Songs, in other words. Recorded by Noel Mueller at Tiny Castle Studio, the EP proves solid through “Lost Transmissions” and the bassier “Hurtling Toward Oblivion” with its ending comedown leading into the coursing keyboard waveform at the start of “Breaking Free From Orbit,” which is the longest inclusion at 7:21 and uses most of that extra time in the intro, building afterward toward a ’70s strutting apex that puts energy ahead of largesse before the keys lead the way out in the two-minute outro “Reaching Aphelion.” Through the variety in the material, Severed Satellites showcase a persona that knows what it’s about and presents that fluidly to the listener with a minimum of indulgence. A rousing start.

Severed Satellites on Facebook

Severed Satellites on Bandcamp


Edena Gardens, Live Momentum

edena gardens live momentum

The collaboration between baritone/bass guitarist Martin Rude, drummer Jakob Skøtt, both also of Danish psych-jazz and psych-as-jazz explorers Causa Sui, and guitarist Nicklas Sørensen of molten-but-mellow jammers Papir, Edena Gardens issue their first and perhaps not last live album in Live Momentum, a three-song set taped at Jaiyede Jazz Festival — their first onstage appearance — in 2022 and pressed concurrent to the second Edena Gardens studio full-length, Agar (review here) while still not so far removed from their 2022 self-titled debut (review here). “Veil” from the sophomore LP opens, with a thicker guitar sound and more active delivery from the stage, a heavier presence in the guitar early on, hinting at Link Wray and sounding clear enough that the applause at the end is a surprise. Taken from the self-titled, “Now Here Nowhere” is more soothing and post-rocking in its languidity — also shorter at seven minutes — an active but not overbearing jazz fusion, while side B’s 17-minute “Live Momentum” would seem to be the occasion for the release. Exploratory at the start, it settles into a groove that’s outright bombastic in comparison to the other two tracks, brings down the jam and pushes it out, growing in volume again late for a slow, howling finish. What should be a no-brainer to those who’ve heard the band, Live Momentum portrays a side of Edena Gardens that their ‘proper’ albums — which is also where new listeners should begin — hasn’t yet shown, which is no doubt why it was issued to start with. Only fortunate.

Edena Gardens on Facebook

El Paraiso Records store


Delco Detention, Come and Get It!


Following up 2022’s What Lies Beneath (review here) and the intervening covers collection, Cover Ups, and the Crack the Lock EP, prolific Pennsylvania heavy rock outfit Delco Detention, led by the son/father duo of Tyler and Adam Pomerantz return with their Come and Get It! is suitably exclamatory fashion. The nine-track collection is headlined by a guest guitar spot from EarthlessIsaiah Mitchell on “Earthless Delco” near the album’s middle, but stop-bys from familiar parties like Kevin McNamara and Mike DiDonato of The Age of Truth and Jared Collins of Mississippi Bones, among others, assure diversity in the material around the foundation of groovy heavy rock. Clutch remain a strong influence — and the record finishes with a take on “I Have the Body of John Wilkes Booth” — but the fuzzy four minutes of the penultimate “Rock and Roll God” and the swing in opener “Domagoj Simek Told Me Quitters Never Smoke” continue to show the band’s growth in refining their songwriting process and aligning the right performers with the right songs, which they do.

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The Gray Goo, Circus Nightmare

the gray goo circus nightmare

The second full-length from Montana heavy-funk shenanigans purveyors The Gray Goo, Circus Nightmare, sounds like there’s a story to go along with every song, whether it’s the tale of “Nightstocker” no doubt based on a 24-hour grocery store, or the smoke-weed-now anthem “Pipe Hitter” that so purposefully and blatantly takes on Sleep‘s “Dragonaut,” or even the interlude “Cerulean” with its backward wisps of guitar leading into the dreamy-Ween-esque, Beatles-reference-dropping “Cosmic Sea,” or the Primus-informed absurdity of “Alligator Bundee,” which leads off, and the garage punk that caps in “Out of Sight (Out of Mind).” Equal parts brilliant and dopey, “BEP” is a brief delve into surf-toned weirdness while “Wizards of the Mountain” pays off the basement doom of “Pipe Hitter” just before with its raw-captured slowdown, organ included in its post-midpoint creep and “Cumbia de Montana” is perhaps more dub than South American-style mountain jamming — though there’s a flute — but if you want to draw a line and tell me where one ends and another starts, I won’t argue. Bottom line is that after an encouraging start in last year’s 1943 (review here), The Gray Goo are more sure of themselves and more sure of the planet’s ridiculousness. May they long remain so certain and productive. Heavy rock needs more oddballs.

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The Gray Goo on Bandcamp


Shit Hexis, Shit Hexis

shit hexis shit hexis

It’s like they packed it with extra nasty. The seven-song/27-minute Shit Hexis is the debut offering from Saarbrücken, Germany’s Shit Hexis, and it stabs, it scathes, it skin-peels and not in the refreshing way. Flaying extreme sludge riffs presented with the cavernous echo and murky purposes of black metal, it is a filthy sound but not completely un-cosmic as “Latrine Odins” feedsback and lumbers through its 92 seconds, or “Erde” drone-plods at terrifying proportion. On paper, Shit Hexis share a mindset with the likes of Come to Grief or even earlier Yatra in bringing together tonal weight with aesthetics born out of the more extreme ends of heavy metal, but their sharp angles, harsh tones and the echoing rasp of “Le Mort Saisit le Vif” are their own. Not that fucking matters, because when you’re this disaffected you probably don’t give a shit about originality either. But as their first release of any kind, even less than a half-hour of exposure seems likely to cause a reaction, and if you’re ever somewhere that you need people not to be, the misanthropic, loathing-born gurgling of “Mkwekm” should do the trick in clearing a room. This, of course, is as the duo of guitarist/vocalist Mo and drummer Pat designed it to be, and so, wretched as it is, their self-titled can only be called a success. But what a vision thereof.

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Bleeding Heart Nihilist Productions website


Oromet, Oromet

oromet oromet

That Sacramento, California, two-piece Oromet — guitarist/vocalist/layout specialist Dan Aguilar and drummer/bassist/synthesist/backing vocalist/engineer Patrick Hills — have a pedigree between them that shares time in Occlith accounts for some of the unity of intent on the grandly-unfolding death-doom outfit’s self-titled three-song Transylvanian Recordings debut full-length. Side A is dedicated solely to the opener/longest track (immediate points) “Familiar Spirits” (22:00), which quiets down near the finish to end in a contemplative/reflective drone, and earlier positions Oromet among the likes of Dream Undending or Bell Witch in an increasingly prevalent, yet-untagged mournful subset of death-doom. “Diluvium” (11:31) and “Alpenglow” (10:07) follow suit, the former basking in the beauty in its own darkness and sounding duly astounded as it pounds its way toward a sudden stop to let the residual frequencies swell before carrying into the latter, which is gloriously tortured for its first six minutes and comes apart slowly thereafter, having found a place to dwell in the melodic aftermath. Crushing spiritually even as it reaffirms the validity of that pain, it is an affecting listening experience that can be overwhelming at points, but its extremity never feels superfluous or disconnected from the sorrowful emotionality of the songs themselves.

Oromet on Instagram

Transylvanian Recordings on Bandcamp


Le Mur, Keep Your Fear Away From Me

Le Mur Keep Your Fear Away From Me

Each of the four tracks of Le Mur‘s fourth record, Keep Your Fear Away From Me, corresponds to a place in time and point of view. That is, we start in the past with 15-minute leadoff “…The Past Will Be Perfect…” — and please note that the band’s name is also stylized all-caps where album and song titles are all-lowercase — moving through “Today is the Day/The Beauty of Now” (9:27) in the present and “Another Life/Burning the Tree/I See You” (11:19) confirming the subjectivity of one’s experience of self and the world, and closer “…For the Puzzles of the Future.” (12:12) finishing the train of thought by looking at the present from a time to come. Samples peppered throughout add to the otherwise mostly instrumental proceedings, focused on flow and at least semi-improvised, and horns on the opener/longest cut (immediate points) sets a jazzy mindset that holds even as “Another Life/Burning the Tree/I See You” forays through its three-stage journey, starting with a shimmy before growing ever-so-slightly funky in the middle and finishing acoustic, while the (electric) guitar on “…For the Puzzles of the Future.” seems to have saved its letting loose for the final jam, emerging out of the keyboardy intro and sample to top a raucous, fun finish.

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Aumega Project website


10-20 Project, Snakes Go Dark to Soak in the Sun

10-20 project snakes go dark to soak in the sun

Pushing through sax-laced, dug-in space jamming, Tunisia’s 10-20 Project reportedly recorded Snakes Go Dark to Soak in the Sun during the pandemic lockdown, perhaps in a bid just to do anything during July 2020. Removed from that circumstance, the work of the core duo of guitarist Marwen Lazaar and bassist Dhia Eddine Mejrissi as well as a few friends — drummer Manef Zoghlemi, saxophonist Ghassen Abdelghani and Mohammed Barsaoui on didgeridoo — present a three-track suite that oozes between liquid and vaporous states of matter across “Chutney I” (25:06), “Chutney II” (14:32) and “Chutney III” (13:00), which may or may not have actually been carved out of the same extended jam. From the interweaving of the sax alongside the guitar in the mix of the opener through the hand-drumming in the middle cut and “Chutney III” picking up with an active rhythm after the two pieces prior took their time in building quietly, plus some odd vocalizations included for good measure, the 52-minute outing gets its character from the exploratory meld in their arrangements and the loose nature with which they seem to approach composition generally. It is not a challenge to be entranced by Snakes Go Dark to Soak in the Sun, as even 10-20 Project seem to have been during its making.

10-20 Project on Facebook

Echodelick Records store

Worst Bassist Records store

We Here & Now Recordings store


Landing, Motionless I-VI

landing motionless i-vi

If one assumes that “Side A” (19:58) and “Side B” (20:01) of Landing‘s are the edited-down versions of what appeared as part of the Connecticut ambient psych troupe’s Bandcamp ‘Subscriber Series Collection 02’ as “Motionless I-III” (29:56) and “Motionless IV-VI” (27:18), then perhaps yes, the Sulatron Records-issued Motionless I-VI has been markedly altered to accommodate the LP format. The (relatively) concise presentation, however, does little to undercut either the floating cosmic acoustics and drones about halfway through the first side or the pastoral flight taken in “Side B” before the last drone seems to devour the concept with especially cinematic drama. Whereas when there are drums in “Side A” the mood is more krautrock or traditional space rock, the second stretch of Motionless I-VI is more radical in its changes while still being gentle in its corner turning from one to the next, as heard with the arrival of the electric guitar that fades in at around six and a half minutes and merrily chugs through the brightly-lit serenity of what might’ve at some point been “Motionless V” and here is soon engulfed in a gradual fade that brings forward the already-mentioned drone. There’s more going on under the surface than at it — and that dimension of mix is crucial to Landing‘s methodology — but Motionless I-VI urges the listener to appreciate each element in its place, and is best heard doing that.

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Sulatron Records store


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Album Review: Speck & Interkosmos, Split LP

Posted in Reviews on March 13th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Speck Interkosmos split lp cover

Maybe there’s some secret improv-based heavy psychedelic jam group on Facebook or something where everyone talks about the proper water temperature for tea and how to build delay pedals and cosmic synthesizers out of common items found around the household — or, you know, they played a show together or something — but however Speck and Interkosmos know each other, they’re a good fit.

Speck are from Vienna, Austria, and Interkosmos hail from various locales in Germany. Both explore space through spontaneous excursions of aural weaving, shaping organic vibes with electric means, finding their way as they go and making that process — at least on this shared full-length release issued through Sulatron Records — the basis of their expression. The explorations, abidingly mellow but not at all staid or unipolar, are the point, in other words. And with Speck‘s “The Metz Session” (23:16) on side A and Interkosmos unfurling “Beyond Hibernation” (22:32) on side B, it’s about as packed as a 12″ platter can be with dug-in, out-there brainmelter kosmiche-ism, both bands aware and ready to incorporate the tenets of space rock, but refusing to subsume their impulses to the tenets of genre.

Taken as an entirety, the split heralds a vitality of approach shared across both outfits, while each showcases a personality and progression of its own, working largely instrumentally — there’s some conversation at the end and a “woo!” in the second half takeoff in “The Metz Session”; no argument — to carry them ever deeper toward the center of lysergic creativity, the root of all things, maybe the weird 400-mile-wide iron ball said to rest at the core of the Earth, and so forth. Wherever they’re headed, it’s not unimportant, but the focus is on how they get there rather than a landing spot.

That said, Speck do offer a rousing, blaster crash wash and ripper solo shred — dig that punker snare too amid the push — starting around 21 minutes into “The Metz Session,” devolving the piece named after its recording circumstance into noise before capping with residual undulations of echoing guitar, then sharing a good laugh after. The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Marcel Cultrera, bassist Lisa Winkelmüller and drummer Patrick Säuerl jammed out “The Metz Session” as the first part of a video series (with sound and video helmed by Sebastian Hödlmoser and Lukas Sukal, respectively), and begin with the drums tapping themselves to life on the ride cymbal before launching a relatively uptempo beat as the foundation. Guitar and bass join, and before the extended piece is even a minute in, everyone is present and accounted for in a stretch deceptive in its tension but still fluid enough for the band to ride it as long as they do.

It’s an exciting start. Not so much in a way that has you waiting for the payoff — the song’s 23 minutes long, and the patience to let Speck unfold it as they see fit is an inherent ask — but in a way that offers rewards even before they get to the already-noted finish, whether that’s Cultrera‘s solo after the three-minute mark, expansive and shimmering over the somewhat-understated-for-now bass from Winkelmüller or the turn to deeper-distorted chug at around five minutes in that shifts almost immediately to a more drifting comedown, drums stopping and turning at 5:43 to mark the beginning of the next stage. With wah to spare, Speck work their way into another build, and at 9:28 they start to more directly coalesce around a fuzzy cosmic thrust that is all the more sweeping when the guitar howls out its acid-drenched lead atop the now-solid groove beneath.

More chug and a furious round of crashing follows, but the stretch is relatively shortlived, shifting before the 13-minute mark into a long opposite-of-a-build unmaking — highlight bass work included after 14 minutes in — that brings “The Metz Session” eventually down to just floating guitar as the setup for the all-the-way-back return of volume splurge that finishes. Do I need to use the word “dynamic” when dynamic is the whole point? I don’t know, but Speck offer full-spectrum audio anyhow, and the laughter and chat at the end offers a palpable sense of exhale, putting the listener even more in the room with the band for the session recorded in 2021, just about two years after they formed.

Speck (photo by Florian Lehner)


To contrast, Interkosmos are an entity reborn, and perhaps that’s where the title “Beyond Hibernation” comes from, since their only prior release, the extended full-length Hypnotizer, came out in 2008 (there was also a 2016 remaster). Whatever the case, the trio of guitarist Sergio Ceballos (also Mohama Saz, RIP KC way back when, etc.), guitarist, synthesist/sampler, recording engineer, mixer and label head Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt (ex-Electric MoonKrautzone, Zone SixSula Bassana, Weltraumstaunen, etc.), and drummer Bernhard “Pablo Carneval” Fasching (Electric MoonSula Bassana‘s Dark Days LP, and so on) are short neither on pedigree nor chemistry, lacing “Beyond Hibernation” with an ambient backdrop of synth around which the guitars curl and reshape themselves according to the whims of the moment.

A more gradual beginning has some kind of sampled echoing loop fading in even before the guitar starts to wake up, serene and less raga than the notion of waking up implies. The drums start soft shortly before 90 seconds in, more the presence of a thud at first than anything so rampantly active, but there’s a space-jazz sensibility to the rhythm behind the post-rock drift and entwining swirl of the guitars, and when taken together, it is duly entrancing. Again, it’s the drums that signal the shift into business-proper, at 3:24 establishing a more forward beat, still gentle but solidified, and the current of that groove pulls Ceballos and Schmidt along as well, threatening space rock takeoff at about five minutes in with the synth rising in the mix, but keeping to its course, not forcing “Beyond Hibernation” to go someplace it doesn’t seem to want to go; band and song working together to make the thing what it is.

Hitting another echelon in minute six, they’re underway and headed into the unknown with an ultra-flowing movement, calm on the surface in the synth and space-noodling guitar but decisively busier on the drums as they dig into the part and let it go, gradually reshaping it until as they approach the 12-minute mark, it seems almost like the guitar is noting the tension that’s come about in the piece itself not because they’re in a build, but because it’s starting to sound like the jam is coming apart. It’s not, actually, of course, but that danger is there as the drums fade back momentarily to regroup. By 12:45, they’re back at it in constructing a new procession, trying one way, then another, before at 14 minutes they seem to rally and find their way into a more angular manifestation, guitar and snare bouncing playfully and almost bluesy, lighthearted.

They hit into the twisting path of guitar and maybe-bass-or-just-other-guitar that at 17 minutes in enters a build in earnest and the somewhat understated — at least it’s not as noisy as Speck‘s was — crescendo for side B, which both feels earned and rests easily as the culmination of the release as a whole, particularly with the residual layers of guitar and synth and the flourish of cymbals that accompany the settling-down at the very end, a corresponding “woo!” thrown in as if to underscore the excited sentiment put forth on side A, though this time it was an audience response, as the “Beyond Hibernation” was recorded in 2008 at Space Farm Ahoi Festiva in Austria, with overdubs added last year.

In its very last seconds, not looking at the clock but just listening on headphones, there is a sense that Interkosmos might pick back up and keep going, but no, thepy don’t. The fact that “Beyond Hibernation” was captured on stage suits the feel of the split in general — live creation is the throughline of both sides, it’s the context that differs — but there’s no appreciable dip in sound quality from Speck (who were in a studio) to Interkosmos either, and that bolsters continuity as well. To be perfectly honest, however, if Speck doesn’t draw you in at the outset, by the time Interkosmos take over, you’ve probably already checked out.

There is, then, a kind of for-the-converted mindset to the proceedings, but aside perhaps from the intimidation factor of taking on longform jammy psych instrumentals for the first time, the barriers to entry are negligible, if not entirely absent. All gates open. Both Speck and Interkosmos welcome their audience (figurative and literal) with steady immersion, and if you’re not careful, you might find yourself back in reality when it’s done wondering where you’ve just been. And maybe that’s the ideal anyhow, since getting lost in it and taken by the moment as it happens could hardly be truer to what each act presents in their given time is the result of the players doing much the same, submerging in the musical conversation taking place right then, come what may in terms of the actual realized material. Boldly impulsive, the split underscores the appeal of psych-jamming more generally in that, and whether one actively follows along or allows the totality to speak to the subconscious, the only wrong answer in terms of how to approach it is to ignore.

Speck, “The Metz Session”

Interkosmos, “Beyond Hibernation”

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