Quarterly Review: Elara Sunstreak Band, Lost Breed, T.G. Olson, Acid Reich, White Powder, Hellish Form, Mosara, Tombstunner, Moanhand, Appalooza

Posted in Reviews on July 12th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

Second week, locked in and ready to roll. The message of today is that the Quarterly Review goes where it wants when it wants. If I’m steering this ship at all, it’s in only the most passive of ways. I hope you had a good weekend. I hope you spent it listening to killer music. I hope you managed to get all your reviews done. Ha.

So much good stuff to come this week. I’m looking forward to diving into it. And you know what? I did end up adding the extra day, so the Summer 2021 QR will go 11 days instead of 10, bringing it to 110 releases covered. Pretty sure that’s the longest I’ve ever gone.

Better get to it.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Elara Sunstreak Band, Vostok I

Elara Vostok 1

True, Elara Sunstreak Band‘s second album and first for Sulatron Records, dubbed Vostok 1, is not a minor ask at four songs and 72 minutes. But by the time you’re through the 19:44 opener/longest track (immediate points) “Nexus,” the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Daniel Wieland, drummer Martin Wieland and guitarist/sitarist/synthesist Felix Schmidt have set their course outward and they continue to surprise along the way, from the shimmering Elder-style progressive guitar work in the title-track to the guest vocals of Felix Seyboth nodding at Blind Melon in the crescendo of sitar-laced closer “Orange October.” Even “On a Drink With Jim” manages to thrill with its blend of the terrestrial with the spacious, let alone its Doors homage as hinted in its title. These nuances meld with an overarching hypnosis to create a satisfying depth of presentation on the part of Elara Sunstreak Band, and it becomes all the more a far out journey worth taking.

Elara Sunstreak Band on Facebook

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Lost Breed, Speak No Evil

Lost Breed Speak No Evil

Classic doom metal from experienced practicioners of the art. Speak No Evil is kind of a curious release. Vinyl only as yet, and self-released by the band, it answers back to the group’s initial Hellhound Records run in the 1990s and also their 1989 Wino Daze demo that featured Scott “Wino” Weinrich on vocals around the same time he left Saint Vitus and restarted The Obsessed. Weinrich appears on vocals and lead guitar throughout the first half of Speak No Evil, fronting the catchy opener “My Way Out” as well as “Thrift Store Girl,” “Cradle to the Grave” and the double-kick-laced “Doom,” which is nothing if not aptly-titled, while guitarist Pat Lydon sings on “Snakebite,” the less outwardly political “Wake the Dead,” “Siren Song” and “Stalker,” the pairing of which feels intentional. One might think the two sides/two-frontmen thing would make the release uneven, or the fact that it was recorded across two coasts, but nah, it’s doom either way and these guys know what they’re doing. Don’t sweat it. Do hope it gets a wider release.

Lost Breed on Facebook

Pat Lydon on YouTube

 

T.G. Olson, T.G. Olson

T.G. Olson T.G. Olson

Though it’s been a minute as he’s reprioritized Across Tundras, embarked on other projects, relocated to Iowa, farmed, and so on, T.G. Olson has still put out enough records under his own name that to have one arrive as a self-titled is significant in itself. Sure enough and somewhat ironically for someone who’s done so much him-and-guitar work in the past, the nonetheless-unassuming 35-minute eight-tracker features more personnel and broader arrangements than one might expect. That’s hardly a detriment, as even the layers of voice on “Steal a Day” come through as benefitting from the attention to detail, and the harmonica-inclusive twang of “Scythe” has its blues all the more emphasized for the clarity of its strum, while closer “Downer Town” invites a singalong. Personnel varies throughout, but the contibutions of Abigail Lily O’Hara (vocals), Ben Schriever (guitar, bass) and Caleb R.K. Williams (synth, guitar, banjo) — all of whom feature in the latest incarnation of Across Tundras as well — aren’t to be understated, as identifiable as Olson‘s songcraft is at the core of this material.

Across Tundras/T.G. Olson on Bandcamp

 

Acid Reich, Mistress of the Perpetual Harvest

Acid Reich Mistress of the Perpetual Harvest

John McBain, Tim Cronin and Dave Wyndorf — in Dog of Mystery together at the time — would go on to form Monster Magnet a short time after, seemingly on a whim, Acid Reich‘s freakout Mistress of the Perpetual Harvest was put to tape in their rehearsal space as one of a number of “fake” weirdo projects. Listening to these five tracks, including likewise irreverent takes on “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun” and “Amazing Grace,” the feel here is like an acid psych treasure trove of Jersey Shore fuckery. Joining the trio were Ripping Corpse‘s Shaune Kelley and Joe Paone of hellSausage, and by their own admission, the audio’s a mess. It’s an archival tape dug up from 1989 — if you’re thinking you’re getting high fidelity, you’re missing at least one of the points of putting it out in the first place. Laced with acid culture samples that may or may not have been added after the fact, this is the first official release this material has ever gotten, and it’s nasty, raw, demo fare that, if it wasn’t so blown into the cosmos you’d call it punk rock. If that doesn’t sound right on to you, it’s probably your loss.

Guerssen Records on Bandcamp

Guerssen Records website

 

White Powder, Blue Dream

white powder blue dream

Based in Austin, Texas, and operatin as the four-piece of guitarist Jason Morales (also Tia Carrera), bassist Win Wallace, keyboardist Ezra Reynolds and drummer Jeff Swanson, White Powder recorded their whoa-this-shit-is-awesome mostly-instrumentalist debut LP, Blue Dream in 2014 and only now is it being at last pressed to vinyl. Given their chosen moniker, the 46-minute/nine-song session is perhaps surprisingly laid back, with the keys/synth and guitar coming together in mellow-prog style atop not-entirely-languid-but-not-overly-insistent grooves; all parties seeming geared toward immersion as much of self as for their listenership, be it in the piano of “Connemara” or the later fuzzer “Rula Jabreal,” where ripplng organ lines top the popping-snare rhythmic tension until the guitar pushes it over the edge of volume swell and wash. Some classic heavy for good measure in “Alice Walker,” but Blue Dream works best taken in its entirety, and listening to it that way, one only hopes they manage to do another in seven years or so. Or seven months. That’d work too. Extra points for the sleek-as-hell soul vocals in the Steely Dan cover “Dirty Work” on side B.

White Powder on Spotify

White Powder on Bandcamp

 

Hellish Form, Remains

Hellish Form Remains

Quarantine-era cross-country duo Hellish Form earn a Khanate comparison on their debut release, Remains, for their sheer unwillingness to pull back from the grueling, punishing tension they create in the slowly unfolding opener/longest track (immediate points) “Your Grave Becomes a Garden.” The dirge is so much forward that it makes the post-Bell Witch lead guitar mourning feel like an afterthought, and the screaming, echoing vocals shared between multi-instrumentalists Willow Ryan (Body Void) and Jacob Lee — who both recorded their parts at home — are a harsh reminder of the existential chaos serving as the background to these songs’ making. “Ache” is shorter and puts synth more forward, and “Shadows with Teeth” thicker and nastier if that’s possible, but through them and the 10-minute finale “Another World,” the feeling of dread, fear, and loss is palpable, and Remains is a fitting name for a record that feels so much like an aftermath.

Hellish Form on Facebook

Translation Loss Records website

 

Mosara, Mosara

Mosara Mosara

Mosara emerge from Phoenix, Arizona, with a sound that just as easily could’ve come down from the mountains as out of the desert, and that’s by no means a complaint. Big riffs promulgate their eight-song self-titled debut LP, and they bring forth aggro sludge undertones alongside lumbering rollout, rawly-captured in the recording but not lacking presence for that, as the mounted chug of “Cypher” demonstrates. Is it heavy enough to crash your hard drive? I’m not trying to lay blame on Mosara‘s riffs or anyone else’s, but apparently there’s only so much assault modern technology can take before falling victim. We’ll call that computer a sacrifice to the eight-minute “Earth God,” its crashing drums and deceptively spacious mix creating a cavernous largesse in spite of the barebones vibe that persists across the span, “Clay and Iron” and “Majestik XII” establishing the atmosphere early but not the full sonic reach of the band, whose plunge is made all the deeper by the High on Fire-style drive of “Oumuamua.” Doesn’t have to be a revolution to fuck you up.

Mosara on Facebook

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp

 

Tombstunner, Call to the Void

Tombstunner Call to the Void

I don’t know if Grand Rapids, Michigan, yet has an officially designated “scourge,” but I’d be happy to see Tombstunner end up with the title. The band’s debut album, Call to the Void, reminds at once of fellow sneering Midwestern chicanery-bringers Bloodcow and also of early ’90s, Blind-era C.O.C., their tones refusing to give themselves over to one side or the other of the argument between metal and heavy rock. Marked out by considered and sometimes willfully clever lyrics, the record strikes with plenty of groove — plenty of “strike,” for that matter — and not an ounce of pretense on pieces like “ASH” or the later “Contempt’s Concrete,” which touches on harsher fare, but again, isn’t really keen to leave its rock foundation behind. They probably make the right choice in that. Eight-minute capper “The Last Ride” is catchy and weighted in kind, seeming to pack as much as possible into its finale as though to let there be no uncertainty the band has more to say. Fair enough. There’s growing to be done, but Call to the Void‘s untamed sensibility is ultimately a strength, not a weakness.

Tombstunner on Facebook

Tombstunner on Bandcamp

 

Moanhand, Present Serpent

moanhand present serpent

Sometimes there’s nothing like a good scream. Moscow-based Roman Filatov has one. The lone figure behind Moanhand can growl, and unlike many harsher metal vocalists, he can also sing, and does so readily across his band’s first album, Present Serpent, but god damn, that’s a good scream. Enviable. Comprised of six tracks, Present Serpent is as progressive as it is extreme, as doom as it is any number of other microgenres, and despite the formidable and varied nature of his performances throught — second track “The Charmthrower” has more scope than many bands do in an entire career arc — he does not fail to put songwriting first ahead of either technique or impact. Present Serpent will not hit a nerve with everyone, but the lumbering “Raw Blessings” and the atmosludge metal of finisher “The Boomering of Serpents,” calling back to opener “Serpent Soul (A Tale of Angels’ Slaughter)” in semi-blackened throb, just leaves me wondering why the hell not. On the level of Moanhand‘s forward potential alone — never mind any of the actual songs — it is a staggering debut.

Moanhand on Facebook

Moanhand on Bandcamp

 

Appalooza, The Holy of Holies

appalooza-the-holy-of-holies-cover

The percussion nuance and guitar lick nodding at Morricone in opener “Storm” amid all the post-Alice in Chains vocal arrangements should be a signal of the reach France’s Appalooza bring to their second LP and Ripple debut, The Holy of Holies. To wit, the subsequent “Snake Charmer” is off and careening almost immediately on its own path, and it’s commendable on the band’s part that where they go on the burlier “Reincarnation” and the more spacious “Nazareth” and the centerpiece “Conquest” — which starts out particularly hard-hitting and by the time it’s done is given over to standalone acoustic guitar without sounding disjointed in getting there — remains so seemingly even-handed in its delivery. Their material is considered, then. It proves no less so through the brash/tense “Azazael,” the desert-but-not “Distress” and “Thousand Years After,” which is a melodic highlight even among the many other surrounding. Tasked with summarizing, closer “Canis Majoris” answers “Conquest” with melancholy and heft, its ending satisfying in an emotional context in additing to being a well earned sonic payoff.

Appalooza on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

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Review & Video Premiere: Saturnia, Stranded in the Green

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on March 10th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

saturnia stranded in the green

[Click play above to stream the premier of the video for ‘Fibonacci Numbers.’ Saturnia release their new album, Stranded in the Green, March 26 on Sulatron Records.]

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Lisboa-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Luís Simões founding Saturnia, and the Portuguese institution of psychedelia marks the occasion with the release of its seventh full-length, Stranded in the Green, through Sulatron Records. A veteran of Elektrohasch Schallplatten and Cranium Music, Simões has always kept Saturnia pretty close to himself in terms of lineup, going back 20 years to the band’s debut, The Glitter Odd, and sure enough, in addition to producing/recording here over a period of two years between 2018-2020 and mixing last August, he handles vocals, electric, acoustic and 12-string guitar as well as a swath of other instruments — Hammond, Philicorda, Rhodes, piano, synthesizer, gong, chimes, drums, bass, various effects, keyboard samples, tampura and acoustic sitar among them. In terms of other personnel throughout the nine-song/56-minute offering, Simões welcomes only two others: Ana Vitorino speaking on the intro “Pan Arrives,” and Winga bringing djembe to the subsequent “Keep it Long.” Certainly any number of solo albums have involved more players. Simões even designed the cover art, with his own pictures as well as those by João Bordeira. So yes, a personal feel is somewhat inevitable.

Stranded in the Green, though, is as much about breadth and atmosphere as it is personal expression. It is not bedroom psychedelia, and those familiar with SaturniaSimões‘ most recent prior outing was 2018’s The Seance Tapes (review here), which reworked older material — shouldn’t expect it to be. Rather, despite quiet moments like the beginning of the near-14-minute centerpiece “Super Natural,” Simões uses the album in semi-narrative fashion to portray a communion with nature. The pagan representation of Pan in “Pan Arrives” is fair enough ground for the beginning of the record, and while sitar rock and uptempo ’60s-fashioned heavy psych are the initial impressions in “Keep it Long,” the subsequent “Fibonacci Numbers,” with its vague keyboard impressionism, quieter melody and patient execution kept to an underlying movement with a simple tom progression during the verse, and the drift-dream-int0-mellotron that is “Smoking in the Sun” — which admittedly may well be the very core of the record’s functioning storyline, further tying in with “Super Natural” and second-half-of-album cuts like “When I’m High” and the closer “Just Let Yourself Go” — soon show that the beginning is only the beginning, as it were, and that Saturnia are undertaking the songwriting, the showcase of craft and melody and rhythm, even the arrangements, as a kind of ritual in nature. Stranded in the Green, with all its expanse and atmosphere, is effective in maintaining this overarching purpose.

And with the word “stranded” in the title, there is a modern, COVID-era sense of isolation as well. After “Super Natural” has swelled and receded and one-man-jammed its lush and gorgeous landscape directly into the clearer piano line laced with synth and sitar drone that comes with “When I’m High,” the pairing of “Perfectly Lonely” and “Butterfly Collector” recedes into minimalist backwards guitar and subdued cymbal wash in the former track. It’s more substantial than an interlude at nearly four and a half minutes, but if one was to place a bet as to which portion of Stranded in the Green was conceived and executed under quarantine — a kind of willfully meandering experimentalism that’s deeply personal despite the lack of vocals — “Perfectly Lonely” would be a solid pick. Whether or not that’s actually the case, I don’t know, but that’s how it reads, and with a return of birdsong accompanied by chimes leading to Rhodes (I think), rolling drums and a fluid synthy vibe, “Butterfly Collector” expands on that ambience with 7:45 of escapist immersion. As so many people did for so many months, it seems simply to explore the space around it, going for a walk, reengaging with the colors that go so often taken for granted.

saturnia

By the time “Butterfly Collector” comes around, Stranded in the Green has already pushed the boundaries of a single LP — it’s worth noting that the Sulatron LP version omits “Perfectly Lonely” and “Just Let Yourself Go,” which appear on the CD — but the journey is the point, and certainly the shifts in arrangement and general mood are enough to hold more fickle attention spans. “Butterfly Collector” is the closer of the vinyl, and its concluding wash and minor-key mystique in the parting lines serves that function well, but “Just Let Yourself Go” manages to do well in summarizing the outing just the same, with a nodding rhythm beneath returned sitar drone and a bluesy lead line at the outset, synth/effects swirl peppering in, and more of the unmitigated instrumental flow that has served Simões so well throughout. It wouldn’t be fair to call the album incomplete without it, but it is one more example of Simões‘ ability to pull together a full-band atmosphere and still maintain the intimacy of a solo affair; the central dynamic around which the album is based. That is to say, it can sound “Perfectly Lonely” while still creating its own special kind of wash.

A quarter-century after its founding, maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise that Simões is capable of engineering that balance, but that doesn’t make the listening experience any less satisfying, and for sure there is an aspect of refinement and continued growth in the processes on display throughout. It’s possible that engaging with older songs helped inspire Saturnia to move forward with these tracks, or that lockdown played a role there as well, but Stranded in the Green is that much stronger for it in manifesting its expressive purpose. There is an element of escapism — or at very least there can be — in terms of hearing it. One might be tempted to turn off one’s mind, relax, and float downstream. But Simões isn’t so much dropping out here as tuning in to the world around him, and that sense of interaction is as infectious as any chorus contained within the songs themselves. Thus, when met with its due consideration, Stranded in the Green is the kind of album that might make colors seem brighter afterward.

Saturnia on Thee Facebooks

Saturnia website

Sulatron Records on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records website

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Quarterly Review: Boris, DVNE, Hydra, Jason Simon, Cherry Choke, Pariiah, Saavik, Mountain Tamer, Centre El Muusa, Population II

Posted in Reviews on December 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Kind of a spur of the moment thing, this Quarterly Review. I’ve been adding releases all the while, of course, but my thought was to do this after my year-end list went up, and I realized, hey, if I’ve got like 70 records I haven’t reviewed yet, maybe there’s some of that stuff worth considering. So here we are. I’ve pushed back my best-of-2020 stuff and basically swapped it with the Quarterly Review. Does it matter to you? I seriously, seriously doubt it, but I believe in transparency and that’s what’s up. Thought I’d let you know. And yeah, this is going to go into next week, take us through the X-mas holiday this Friday, so whatever. You celebrate your way and I’ll celebrate mine. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Boris, No

boris no

As a general project, reviewing Boris is damn near pointless. One might as well review the moon: “uh, it’s big and out there most of the time?” The only reason to do it is either to exercise one’s own need to hyperbolize or help the band sell records. Well, Boris doesn’t need my push and I don’t need to tell them how great they are. No is 40 minutes of the widely and wildly lauded Japanese heavy rock(s) experimentalists trying to riff away existing in 2020, delving high speed into hardcore here and there and playing off that with grueling sludge, punk, garage-metal and the penultimate “Loveless,” which is kind of Boris being their own genre. Much respect to the band, and I suppose one might critique Boris for, what?, being so Boris-y?, but there really isn’t a ton that hasn’t been said about them because such a ton has. I’m not trying to disparage their work at all — No is just what you’d expect as regards defying expectation — but after 20-plus years, there’s only so many ways one wants to call a band genius.

Boris on Thee Facebooks

Boris on Bandcamp

 

DVNE, Omega Severer

DVNE Omega Severer

Kind of a soft-opening for Edinburgh’s DVNE as an act on Metal Blade Records, unless of course one counts the two songs on the Omega Severer EP itself, which are post-metallic beasts of the sort that would and should make The Ocean blush. Progressive, heavy, and remarkably ‘next-wave’ feeling, DVNE‘s awaited follow-up to 2017’s Asheran may only be about 17 and a half minutes long, but it bodes remarkably well as the band master a torrent of intensity on the 10-minute opening title-cut and answer that with the immediately galloping “Of Blade and Carapace,” smashing battle-axe riffing and progressive shimmer against each other and finding it to be an alchemy of their own. Album? One suspects not until they can tour for it, but if Omega Severer is DVNE serving notice, consider the message received loud, clear, dynamic, crushing, spacious, and so on. Already veterans of Psycho Las Vegas, they sound like a band bent on capturing a broader audience in the metallic sphere.

DVNE on Thee Facebooks

Metal Blade Records website

 

Hydra, From Light to the Abyss

hydra from light to the abyss

There’s no questioning where Hydra‘s heart is at on their debut full-length, From Light to the Abyss. It belongs to the devil and it belongs to Black Sabbath. The Polish four-piece riff hard and straightforward throughout most of the five-track offering (released by Piranha Music), and samples set the kind of atmosphere that should be familiar enough to the converted — “No One Loves Like Satan” reminds of Uncle Acid in its initial channel-changing and swaggering riff alike — but doomly centerpiece “Creatures of the Woods” and the layered vocal melodies late in closer “Magical Mind” perhaps offer a glimpse at the direction the band could take from here. What matters though is where Hydra are at today, and that’s bringing riffs and nod to the converted among the masses, and From Light to the Abyss offers no pretense otherwise. It is doom rock for doom rockers, grooves to be grooved to. They’re not void of ambition by any means — their songwriting makes that clear — but their traditionalism is sleeve-worn, which if you’re going to have it, is right where it should be.

Hydra on Thee Facebooks

Piranha Music on Bandcamp

 

Jason Simon, A Venerable Wreck

jason simon a venerable wreck

Dead Meadow guitarist/vocalist Jason Simon follows 2016’s Familiar Haunts (review here) with the genre-spanning A Venerable Wreck, finding folk roots in obscure beats and backwards this-and-that, country in fuzz, ramble in space, and no shortage of experimentalism besides. A Venerable Wreck consists of 12 songs and though there are times where it can feel disjointed, that becomes part of the ride. It’s not all supposed to make sense. Yet what happens by the time you get around to “No Entrance No Exit” is that Simon (and a host of cohorts) has set his own context broad enough so that the drone reach of “Hollow Lands” and sleek, organ-laced indie of closer “Without Reason or Right” can coexist without any real interruption of flow between them. The question with A Venerable Wreck isn’t so much whether the substance is there, it’s whether the listener is open to it. Welcome to psychedelic America. Please inject this snake venom and turn in your keys when you leave.

Jason Simon on Bandcamp

BYM Records website

 

Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse

Cherry Choke-Raising Salzburg Rockhouse-Cover

You won’t hear me take away from the opening psych-scorch hook of “Mindbreaker” or the fuzzed-on, boogie-down, -up, and -sideways of “Black Annis” which follows, but there’s something extra fun about hearing Frog Island’s Cherry Choke jam out a 13-minute, drum-solo-inclusive version of “6ix and 7even” that makes Raising Salzburg Rockhouse even more of a reminder of how underrated both they are as a band and Mat Bethancourt is as a player. Look no further than “Domino” if you want absolute proof. The whole band rips it up at the Austrian gig, which was recorded in 2015 as they supported their third and still-most-recent full-length, Raising the Waters (review here), but Bethancourt puts on a Hendrixian clinic in the nine-minute cut from 2011’s A Night in the Arms of Venus (review here), which is actually less of a clinic than it is pure distorted swagger followed by a mellow “cheers, thanks” before diving into “Used to Call You Friend.” A 38-minute set would be perfect for an vinyl release, and anytime Cherry Choke want to get around to putting together a fourth studio album, well, that’ll be just fine too.

Cherry Choke on Thee Facebooks

Cherry Choke on Bandcamp

 

Pariiah, Swallowed by Fog

Pariiah swallowed by fog

It’s a special breed of aggro that emerges as a result of living in the most densely populated state in the union, and New Jersey’s Pariiah have it to spare. Bringing together sludge tonality with elder-style New York hardcore lumbering riffs on their Trip Machine Laboratories tape, Swallowed by Fog, they exude a thickened brand of pissed off that’s outright going to be too confrontation for many who take it on. But if you want a middle finger to the face, this is what it sounds like, and the six songs (compiled into four on the digital version of the release) come and go entirely without pretense and leave little behind except bruises and the promise of more to come. They’re a new band, started in this most wretched of years, but there’s no learning curve whatsoever among the members of Devoid of Faith, The Nolan Gate, Kill Your Idols, Changeörder and others. I’d go to Maplewood to see these cats. I’m just saying. Maybe even Elizabeth.

Pariiah on Bandcamp

Trip Machine Laboratories website

 

Saavik, Saavik

saavik saavik

So you’ve got both members of Holly Hunt in a four-piece sludging out with spacey synth and the band is named after a Star Trek character? Not to get too personal, but that’s going to pique my interest one way or the other. Saavik — and they clearly prefer the Kirstie Alley version, rather than Robin Curtis, going by drummer Beatriz Monteavaro‘s artwork — are damn near playing space rock by the end of “He’s Dead Jim,” the opener of their self-titled debut EP, but even that’s affected by a significant tonal weight in Didi Aragon‘s bass and the guitar of Gavin Perry, however much Ryan Rivas‘ synth and effects-laced vocals might seem to float overhead, but “Meld” rolls along at a steadier nod, and “Horizon” puts the synth more in the lead without becoming any less heavy for doing so. Likewise, “Red Sun” calls to mind Godflesh in its proto-machine metal stomp, but there’s more concern in Saavik‘s sound with expanse than just pure crush, and that shows up in fascinating ways in these songs.

Saavik on Thee Facebooks

Other Electricities on Bandcamp

 

Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual

mountain tamer psychosis ritual

There’s been a dark vibe all along nestled into Mountain Tamer‘s sound, and that’s certainly the case on Psychosis Ritual, with which the Los Angeles-based trio make their debut on Heavy Psych Sounds. It’s their third full-length overall behind 2018’s Godfortune // Dark Matters (review here) and 2016’s self-titled debut (review here), and it finds their untamed-feeling psychedelia rife with that same threat of violence, not necessarily thematically as much as sonically, like the songs themselves are the weapon about to be turned on the listener. Maybe the buzz of “Warlock” or the fuckall echo of the prior-issued single “Death in the Woods” (posted here) aren’t out there trying to be “Hammer Smashed Face” or anything, but neither is this the hey-bruh-good-times heavy jams for which Southern California is known these days. Consider the severity of “Turoc Maximus Antonis” or the finally-released screams in closer “Black Noise,” which bookends Psychosis Ritual with the title-track and seems at last to be the point where whatever grim vibe these guys are riding finally consumes them. Mountain Tamer continue to be unexpected and righteous in kind.

Mountain Tamer on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

 

Centre El Muusa, Centre El Muusa

centre el muusa centre el muusa

Hypnotic Estonian psychedelic krautrock instrumentals not your thing? Well that sounds like a personal problem Centre El Muusa are ready to solve. The evolved-from-duo four-piece get spaced out amid the semi-motorik repetitions of their self-titled debut (on Sulatron), and that seems to suit them quite well, thanksabunch. Drone trips and essential swirl brim with solar-powered pulsations and you can set your deflectors on maximum and route all the secondaries to reinforce if you want, there’s still a decent chance 9:53 opener an longest track “Turkeyfish” (immediate points, double for the appropriately absurd title) is going to sweep you off what you used to call your feet when that organ line hits at about six minutes in. That’s to say nothing of the cosmic collision later in “Burning Lawa” or the just-waiting-for-a-Carl-Sagan-voiceover “Mia” that follows. Even the 3:46 “Ain’t Got Enough Mojo” lives long enough to prove itself wrong. Interstellar tape transmissions fostered by obvious weirdos in the great out-there in “Szolnok,” named for a city in Hungary that, among other things, hosts the goulash festival. Right fucking on.

Centre El Muusa on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Population II, À La Ô Terre

Population II a La o Terre

The first Population II album, a 2017 self-titled, was comprised of two tracks, each long enough to consume a 12″ side. Somehow it’s fitting with the Montreal-based singing-drummer trio’s aesthetic that their second long-player, À la Ô Terre, would take a completely different tack, employing shorter freakouts like “L’Offrande” and “La Nuit” and the garage-rocking “La Danse” and what-if-JeffersonAirplane-but-on-Canadian-mushrooms “À la Porte de Demain” and still-more-drifting finisher “Je Laisse le Soleil Briller” amid the more stretched out “Attaction,” the space-buzzer “Ce n’est Réve” while cutting a middle ground in the greaked-out (I was gonna type “freaked out” and hit a typo and I’m keeping it) “Il eut un Silence dans le Ciel,” which also betrays the jazzy underpinnings that somehow make all of À la Ô Terre come across as progressive instead of haphazard. From the start to the close, you don’t know what’s coming next, and just because that’s by design doesn’t make it less effective. If anything, it makes Population II all the more impressive.

Population II on Thee Facebooks

Castle Face Records website

 

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Video Interview: Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt of Electric Moon

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on December 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

ELECTRIC MOON

The vitality on display throughout Electric Moon‘s Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019 is no less an instrument at the band’s disposal than the guitar, bass, drums and various effects and synth swirling about. Atop solidified, space rock-derived beats, the German outfit are in their element to a degree that’s striking even in the context of their many live releases. With Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt on guitar and synth, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck on bass and sometimes vocals, and Pablo Carneval on drums, the band’s well-honed live chemistry does nothing to take away from the exploration at the heart of their approach to heavy, resonant psychedelia.

Schmidt, who also runs Sulatron Records out of his home, stands among the psych/space luminaries of his generation. With a pedigree that includes outfits like Zone Six, Liquid Visions and Weltraumstaunen, as well as the synth-based take that has flourished in his solo work done under the Sula Bassana moniker, he has helped bridge classic progressive and krautrocks with modern, forward-thinking creative methodologies. In Electric Moon, the goal is immersion of self and listener alike — both become a party to something greater, an unspoken conversation between players and each other, players and audience, and ultimately the audience with and to itself.

We rescheduled this interview a couple times, but when I spoke to Schmidt, he was in his music room at home, surrounded by keyboards and vintage synths and amplifiers, some of it still semi-packed from a recent move. He had spent the day before engaged in an environmental protest to preserve a stretch of old-growth natural forest being destroyed to make way for the Autobahn, and detailed his work in that regard as well as where he’s at with his various projects. As you make your way through the video below, note the fact that Electric Moon — now a four-piece with Joe Muff on guitar — managed to sneak a gig in this past October in Marburg at the Bright Mountain Festival before Germany went back into lockdown, playing on a hilltop at an outdoor, limited capacity festival.

In a normal year, that would’ve been part of a tour or a series of festivals, but of course this has been no normal year. Still, Sulatron has kept up with releases as well, reissuing work from Electric Moon and putting out records from Permanent Clear Light and UK “lost classic”-type psych rockers Sun Dial, whose work I was particularly keen to discuss with Schmidt. The story he told there was a highlight of the conversation. I hope you’ll agree.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Electric Moon a couple times over the years. Even if you haven’t, it goes back to the vitality noted above. As with few acts, that is a common thread in everything they do.

Enjoy the interview, and thanks for reading and watching.

Electric Moon Interview with Dave Schmidt, Dec. 7, 2020

Electric Moon‘s Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019 is out now through Sulatron Records and Rock Freaks.

Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019 (2020)

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

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

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

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

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

Quarterly Review #51-60:

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

the pilgrim from the earth to the sky and back

Lest he be accused of laziness, Gabriele Fiori — also of Black Rainbows, Killer Boogie and the head of the Heavy Psych Sounds label, booking agency and festival series — made his solo debut as The Pilgrim with Spring 2019’s Walking into the Forest (review here). Joined by Black Rainbows drummer Filippo Ragazzoni, Fiori ups the scale of the journey with the second The Pilgrim LP, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back. Richer in arrangement, bolder in craft and more confident in performance, the album runs 14 songs and 50 minutes still largely based around an acoustic acid rock foundation, but with a song like “Riding the Horse” tapping ’70s singer-songwriter vibes while “Cuba” touches on Latin percussion and guitar and “Space and Time” journeying out near the record’s end with waves of synthesizer, it seems The Pilgrim isn’t so willing to be pigeonholed. So much the better.

The Pilgrim on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

There is an undercurrent of extremity to the debut release from Polymoon, who hail from the psychedelic hotbed that is Tampere, Finland. The six-song/42-minute Caterpillars of Creation turns in opener “Silver Mt.” to fervent guitar push or from freaked-out cosmic prog into drifting post-universe exploration, setting the stage for the dynamic that unfolds throughout. The wash early in the second half of “Lazaward” is glorious, and it’s not the first or the last time Polymoon go to that adrenaline-pumping well, but the serenity that caps that song and seems to continue into “Malamalama” in closing side A is no less effective. “Helicaling” mounts tension in its early drumming but finally releases it later, and “Neitherworld” gives Caterpillars of Creation‘s most fervent thrust while closer “Metempsychosis” rounds out with a fitting sense of dissipation. As a first album/first release, it is particularly stunning, and to make it as plain as possible, I will think less of any list of 2020’s best debut albums that leaves out Polymoon.

Polymoon on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records website

 

Doctors of Space, First Treatment

doctors of space first treatment

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

Doctors of Space on Thee Facebooks

Space Rock Productions website

 

Merlock, That Which Speaks

merlock that which speaks

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

Merlock on Thee Facebooks

Merlock on Bandcamp

 

Sun Dial, Mind Control: The Ultimate Edition

sun dial mind control

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

Sun Dial on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Saturn’s Husk, The Conduit

Saturns Husk The Conduit

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

Saturn’s Husk on Thee Facebooks

Saturn’s Husk on Bandcamp

 

Diggeth, Gringos Galacticos

diggeth gringos galacticos

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

Diggeth on Thee Facebooks

Qumran Records website

 

Horizon, The White Planet Patrol

horizon the white planet patrol

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

Horizon on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Limousine Beach, Stealin’ Wine + 2

Limousine Beach Stealin Wine

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

Limousine Beach on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records website

 

The Crooked Whispers, Satanic Melodies

the crooked whispers satanic melodies

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

The Crooked Whispers on Thee Facebooks

The Crooked Whispers on Bandcamp

 

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

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

electric moon you can see the sound of

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

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

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

electric moon you can see the sound of original cover

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

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

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

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

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

Electric Moon on Thee Facebooks

Electric Moon on Bandcamp

Electric Moon website

Sulatron Records website

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

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

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

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

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

electric moon lulu neudeck

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

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

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

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

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

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

But, most important thing is we all stay healthy!

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

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

www.electricmoon.de
https://electric-moon.bandcamp.com/
www.facebook.com/ElectricMoonOfficial
www.sulatron.com
https://fb.com/worstbassistrecords
https://worstbassistrecords.bandcamp.com/

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Zone Six, Kozmik Koon: What’s in a Name?

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

Zone Six Kozmik Koon

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

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

zone six

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

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

Zone Six, Kozmik Koon (2019)

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