Quarterly Review: Howling Giant, Rose City Band, The Tazers, Kavrila, Gateway, Bala, Tremor Ama, The Crooked Whispers, No Stone, Firefriend

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

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

You know what? We’re through the first week of the Quarterly Review as of this post. Not too bad. I feel like it’s been smooth going so far to such a degree that I’m even thinking about adding an 11th day comprised purely of releases that came my way this week and will invariably come in next week too. Crazy, right? Bonus day QR. We’ll see if I get there, but I’m thinking about it. That alone should tell you something.

But let me not get ahead of myself. Day five commence.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Howling Giant, Alteration

howling giant alteration

Let the story be that when the pandemic hit, Nashville’s Howling Giant took to the airwaves to provide comfort, character and a bit of ‘home’ — if one thinks of live performance as home — to their audience. With a steady schedule of various live streams on Twitch, some playing music, some playing D&D, the band engaged their listenership in a new and exciting way, finding a rare bright point in one of the darkest years of recent history. Alteration, a crisp four-song/20-minute EP, is born out of those streamed jams, with songs named by the band’s viewers/listeners — kudos to whoever came up with “Luring Alluring Rings” — and, being entirely instrumental from a band growing more and more focused on vocal arrangements, sound more like they’re on their way to being finished than are completely done. However, that’s also the point of the release, essentially to showcase unfinished works in progress that have emerged in a manner that nobody expected. It is another example from last year-plus that proves the persistence of creativity, and is all the more beautiful for that.

Howling Giant on Facebook

Blues Funeral Recordings website

 

Rose City Band, Earth Trip

Rose City Band Earth Trip

Vaguely lysergic, twanging with a non-chestbeating or jingoistic ’70s American singer-songwriter feel, Rose City Band‘s Earth Trip brings sentiment without bitterness in its songs, engaging as the title hints with nature in songs like “Silver Roses,” “In the Rain,” “Lonely Planes,” “Ramblin’ with the Day,” “Rabbit” and “Dawn Patrol.” An outlet for Ripley Johnson, also of Wooden Shjips and Moon Duo, the “band” isn’t so much in Rose City Band, but there is some collaboration — pedal steel here and there, as on “Ramblin’ with the Day” — though it’s very much Johnson‘s own craft and performance at the core of this eight-song set. This is the third Rose City Band long-player in three years, but quickly as it may have come about, the tracks never feel rushed — hushed, if anything — and Johnson effectively casts himself in among the organic throughout the proceedings, making the listener feel nothing if not welcome to join the ramble.

Rose City Band on Facebook

Thrill Jockey Records website

 

The Tazers, Dream Machine

The Tazers Dream Machine

Johannesburg, South Africa’s The Tazers are suited to a short-release format, as their Dream Machine EP shows, bringing together four tracks with psychedelic precociousness and garage rock attitude to spare, with just an edge of classic heavy to keep things grooving. Their latest work opens with its languid and lysergic title-track, which sets up the shove of “Go Away” and the shuffle in “Lonely Road” — both under three and a half minutes long, with nary a wasted second in them, despite sounding purposefully like tossoffs — and the latter skirts the line of coming undone, but doesn’t, of course, but in the meantime sets up the almost proto-New Wave in the early going on “Around Town,” only later to give way to the band’s most engaging melody and a deceptively patient, gentle finish, which considering some of the brashness in the earlier tracks is a surprise. A pleasant one, though, and not the first the three-piece have brought forth by the time they get to the end of Dream Machine‘s ultra-listenable 16-minute run.

The Tazers on Facebook

The Tazers on Soundcloud

 

Kavrila, Rituals III

Kavrila Rituals III

Pressed in an ultra-limited edition of 34 tapes (the physical version also has a bonus track), Kavrila‘s Rituals III brings together about 16 minutes of heavy hardcore and post-hardcore, a thickened undertone giving something of a darker mood to the crunch of “Equality” as guitars are layered in subtly in a higher register, feeding into the urgency without competing with the drums or vocals. Opener “Sunday” works at more of a rush while “Longing” has more of a lurch at least to its outset before gradually elbowing its way into a more careening groove, but the bridge being built is between sludge and hardcore, and while the four-piece aren’t the first to build it, they do well here. If we’re picking highlights, closer “Elysium” has deft movement, intensity and atmosphere in kind, and still features a vocal rawness that pushes the emotional crux between the verses and choruses to make the transitions that much smoother. The ending fades out early behind those shouts, leaving the vocals stranded, calling out the song’s title into a stark emptiness.

Kavrila on Facebook

The Chinaskian Conspiracy on Bandcamp

 

Gateway, Flesh Reborn

gateway flesh reborn

Brutal rebirth. Robin Van Oyen is the lone figure behind Bruges, Belgium-based death-doom outfit Gateway, and Flesh Reborn is his first EP in three years. Marked out with guest guitar solos by M., the four-track/25-minute offering keeps its concentration on atmosphere as much as raw punishment, and while one would be correct to call it ‘extreme’ in its purpose and execution, its deathliest aspects aren’t just the growling vocals or periods of intense blast, but the wash of distortion that lays over the offering as a whole, from “Hel” through “Slumbering Crevasses,” the suitably twisting, later lurching “Rack Crawler” and the grandeur-in-filth 12-minute closing title-track, at which point the fullness of the consumption is revealed at last. Unbridled as it seems, this material is not without purpose and is not haphazard. It is the statement it intends to be, and its depths are shown to be significant as Van Oyen pulls you further down into them with each passing moment, finally leaving you there amid residual drone.

Gateway on Facebook

Chaos Records website

 

Bala, Maleza

Bala Maleza

Admirably punk in its dexterity, Bala‘s debut album, Maleza, arrives as a nine-track pummelfest from the Spanish duo of guitarist/vocalist Anx and drummer/vocalist V., thickened with sludgy intent and aggression to spare. The starts and stops of opener “Agitar” provide a noise-rock-style opening that hints at the tonal push to come throughout “Hoy No” — the verse melody of which seems to reinvent The Bangles — while the subsequent “X” reaches into greater breadth, vocals layered effectively as a preface perhaps to the later grunge of “Riuais,” which arrives ahead of the swaggering riff and harsh sneer of “Bessie” the lumbering finale “Una Silva.” Whether brooding in “Quieres Entrar” or explosive in its shove in “Cien Obstaculos,” Maleza offers stage-style energy with clarity of vision and enough chaos to make the anger feel genuine. There’s apparently some hype behind Bala, and fair enough, but this is legitimately one of the best debut albums I’ve heard in 2021.

Bala on Facebook

Century Media Records website

 

Tremor Ama, Beneath

Tremor Ama Beneath

French prog-fuzz five-piece Tremor Ama make a coherent and engaging debut with Beneath, a first full-length following up a 2017 self-titled EP release. Spacious guitar leads the way through the three-minute intro “Ab Initio” and into the subsequent “Green Fire,” giving a patient launch to the outing, the ensuing four songs of which grow shorter as they go behind that nine-minute “Green Fire” stretch. There’s room for ambience and intensity both in centerpiece “Eclipse,” with vocals echoing out over the building second half, and both “Mirrors” and “Grey” offer their moments of surge as well, the latter tapping into a roll that should have fans of Forming the Void nodding both to the groove and in general approval. Effectively tipping the balance in their sound over the course of the album as a whole, Tremor Ama showcase an all-the-more thoughtful approach in this debut, and at 30 minutes, they still get out well ahead of feeling overly indulgent or losing sight of their overarching mission.

Tremor Ama on Facebook

Tremor Ama on Bandcamp

 

The Crooked Whispers, Dead Moon Night

The Crooked Whispers Dead Moon Night

Delivered on multiple formats including as a 12″ vinyl through Regain Records offshoot Helter Skelter Productions, the bleary cultistry of The Crooked Whispers‘ two-songer Dead Moon Night also finds the Los Angeles-based outfit recently picked up by Ripple Music. If it seems everybody wants a piece of The Crooked Whispers, that’s fair enough for the blend of murk, sludge and charred devil worship the foursome offer with “Hail Darkness” and the even more gruesome “Galaxy of Terror,” taking the garage-doom rawness of Uncle Acid and setting against a less Beatlesian backdrop, trading pop hooks for classic doom riffing on the second track, flourishing in its misery as it is. At just 11 minutes long — that’s less than a minute for each inch of the vinyl! — Dead Moon Night is a grim forecast of things to come for the band’s deathly revelry, already showcased too on last year’s debut, Satanic Whispers (review here).

The Crooked Whispers on Facebook

Regain Records on Bandcamp

 

No Stone, Road into the Darkness

No Stone Road into the Darkness

Schooled, oldschool doom rock for denim-clad heads as foggy as the distortion they present, No Stone‘s debut album, Road into the Darkness, sounds like they already got there. The Rosario, Argentina, trio tap into some Uncle Acid-style garage doom vibes on “The Frayed Endings,” but the crash is harder, and the later 10-minute title-track delves deeper into psychedelia and grunge in kind, resulting in an overarching spirit that’s too weird to be anything but individual, however mmuch it might still firmly reside within the tenets of “cult.” If you were the type to chase down a patch, you might want to chase down a No Stone patch, as “Devil Behind” makes its barebones production feel like an aesthetic choice to offset the boogie to come in “Shadow No More,” and from post-intro opener “Bewitched” to the long fade of “The Sky is Burning,” No Stone balance atmosphere and songcraft in such a way as to herald future progress along this morose path. Maybe they are just getting on the road into the darkness, but they seem to be bringing that darkness with them on the way.

No Stone on Facebook

Ruidoteka Records on Bandcamp

 

Firefriend, Dead Icons

Firefriend Dead Icons

Dead Icons is the sixth full-length from Brazilian psychedelic outfit Firefriend, and throughout its 10 songs and 44 minutes, the band proffer marked shoegaze-style chill and a sense of space, fuzzy and molten in “Hexagonal Mess,” more desert-hued in “Spin,” jangly and out for a march on “Ongoing Crash.” “Home or Exile” takes on that question with due reach, and “Waves” caps with organ alongside the languid guitar, but moments like “Tomorrow” are singular and gorgeous, and though “Three Dimensional Sound Glitch” and “666 Fifth Avenue” border on playful, there’s an overarching melancholy to the flow, as engaging as it is. In its longest pieces — “Tomorrow” (6:05) and “One Thousand Miles High” (5:08) — the “extra” time is well spent in extending the trio’s reach, and while it’s safe to assume that six self-recorded LPs later, Firefriend know what they want to do with their sound, that thing feels amorphous, fleeting, transient somehow here, like a moving target. That speaks to ongoing growth, and is just one of Dead Icons‘ many strengths.

Firefriend on Facebook

Cardinal Fuzz store

Little Cloud Records store

 

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Album Review: Terry Gross, Soft Opening

Posted in Reviews on January 19th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

terry gross soft opening

Terry Gross, the person, is the host of the interview show Fresh Air on National Public Radio. It’s produced at WHYY in Philadelphia and syndicated through the NPR network of stations to over 600 outlets. It’s a very popular show, and Gross has a very particular way of exhaling while saying its title.

Terry Gross, the band, hail from San Francisco (local station KQED) and are a three-piece featuring guitarist/vocalist Phil Manley (also Trans Am), bassist/vocalist Donny Newenhouse and drummer Phil Becker, who jam. Oh my goodness how they jam. And indeed, they do bring a breath of fresh air to the form of doing so. The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — is that since all three are part owners of El Studio, which is Spanish for… the studio, the band started as a way for them to test out equipment and have fun presumably during downtime when no one else was using the space. So coy. But my, they do jam. A song tracked in late 2016 surfaced the next year and that was it until a series of lockdown jams appeared across months in 2020, reportedly mined from years’ worth of recordings.

These ultimately make a procession leading toward Terry Gross‘ Thrill Jockey-issued debut full-length, Soft Opening. At a manageable 38 minutes, the LP brings together three songs that work off impulses from heavy psychedelic expanse à la Earthless to sunnier West Coast skate vibes and an underlying touch of noise rock gone melodic that only adds to the energy and chemistry to rampantly on display. Two extended pieces, opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Space Voyage Mission” (19:21) and “Worm Gear” (13:32) make up the bulk of the outing, and side B rounds out with the shorter “Specificity (Or What Have You)” (5:55), which condenses the pairing of instrumentalist sprawl and structured verses that the first two tracks make.

“Space Voyage Mission” launches duly cosmic, with Becker working subtle jazz on the snare while Manley trips out and Newenhouse channels the motorik across the first five-plus minutes. There’s a trip-out on effects while the drums still move behind, but the whole thing feels more consumed as they move toward the seven-minute mark. Then Becker stops the drums and Manley introduces ‘the Riff.’ Da-dum, da-dum, da-dum, da-dum dum dum. Newenhouse teases bass entry twice before actually coming in with the drums, and the band launch the first harmonized verse like surf-grunge, but that riff is pure West Coast noise, even if much-transposed onto what Terry Gross want it to be. A guitar solo stretches out over what’s quickly become the central rhythm, and they give that groove its due for the next few minutes until the next comedown signals a change to come.

Once more, it’s an excursion into effects driving the gradual-then-sudden change, and you can’t quite hear the pedal click at 11:42, but it’s there as the guitar thickens and surges forward with drums for propulsion behind it. A quick few lines of vocals from Manley and Newenhouse and then Terry Gross are off into improvised-sounding space-psych revelry, eschewing prog-tinged indulgences while remaining exploratory in vibe and hypnotic in spirit, looping rhythm and lead stretches as they weave into, out of and back into a fade before capping with just the lead, looped, on a long fade. Side A, accomplished.

terry gross

On the most basic level, “Worm Gear” works similarly. There’s a long instrumental opening that gives way to standout riffage and righteous vocals, then much soloing and feeling-of-way-through the finish. But the structure is different, the beginning stretch longer, the ending stretch shorter, and the mood is different as well, with fiercer distortion and play on tempo evoking doom without ever really tipping over into it beyond a basic sense of lumber. Less devotedly space rock than “Space Voyage Mission,” if one thinks of a worm digging in dirt, then the earthbound, grittier nature of “Worm Gear” should make sense. As with the opener, roots in punk and noise are signaled through the underlying groove, but Terry Gross have changed the central ideology of these things and reshaped them into what they want them to be.

The slowdown — blessings and peace upon it — follows a change first signaled by Newenhouse in drawing out the bassline. They get loud, then crash out and between 9:15 and 9:20 move into a purely Sabbathian riff that’s not meant to be anything more than that, but of course is. Vocal echo adds to the largesse before the guitar takes off on a solo with the bass mirroring its melody and the drums holding down the drawn-out flow, and by the time they’re through that — the vocals there, then gone — the willfully filth-coated distortion is locked in and the overarching nod is brought to full, crashing fruition like a dust storm in your brain that suddenly disappears.

That leaves just the sub-six-minute “Specificity (Or What Have You)” to begin with a dogwhistle of intent in the drum tension moving behind the initially shimmering guitar that first subsides as the winding bassline comes into focus, then returns in thicker-toned declaration. They’re not two minutes in before Manley and Newenhouse are together on vocals in what’s inarguably the most straightforward verse/hook on Soft Opening, turning to cosmic grunge via effects and the consistent shove of Becker‘s drum progression. Just when you think they’re going to go far out for the remainder, the voices return and a chorus of sorts emerges, and that’s carried into a finish in a way that’s plotted but still feels organic.

Well, the gear works.

So does the band.

Soft Opening — as opposed to a “grand opening” — functions with the chemistry between ManleyNewenhouse and Becker at its core. These three are obviously not strangers to each other and have clearly honed their instrumental conversation to a point where one element plays off the others — be it the guitar, bass or drums — in such a way as to bolster all three. Entirely possible that Soft Opening is a one-off and it’s however many years before Terry Gross do another record, if they ever do, or it might be three months before the next round of sung-over jams is brought to bear. Either way, the work they’ve done in these three tracks refreshes familiar turns with a sense of personality and finds its niche in the spaces between genre even as it pulls from different aspects thereof.

Terry Gross, Soft Opening (2021)

Terry Gross on Thee Facebooks

Terry Gross on Bandcamp

Thrill Jockey Records website

Thrill Jockey Records on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records on Instagram

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Plankton Wat Sets Feb. 26 Release for Future Times

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 12th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Plankton Wat, aka Dewey Mahood, formerly of Eternal Tapestry, has been putting out solo psychedelic instrumental offerings for the better part of 20 years, and noting that is my clever, ears-to-the-ground-always-on-the-ball-never-miss-a-thing way of telling you his work is new to me. The umpteenth Plankton Wat LP, dubbed Future Times, is set to release on Feb. 26 through Thrill Jockey, and if the advance-posted track “Nightfall” (at the bottom of the post) doesn’t hit you immediately, don’t fret and don’t give up on it. Give it another go. It might take that second time for the vibe to really set in, but there’s a soothing aspect to it that, once it comes through, is righteously affecting. I dig it, so I’m posting about it.

Preorders are up if you’re the type to get stuff done in advance. And if so, cheers on that. Some of us are always playing catchup.

From the PR wire:

plankton wat future times

Contemporary psych explorer Plankton Wat (Dewey Mahood, ex-Eternal Tapestry) announces new album Future Times due out February 26th, 2021

Future Times elevates Mahood’s psychedelic instrumentals to higher planes, finding hope in the turbulent events of 2020 and drawing strength from the natural world

Listen to first single “Nightfall”:
https://planktonwat.bandcamp.com/album/future-times

One of the most prolific and inventive guitarists in the contemporary psychedelic underground, Portland multi-instrumentalist Dewey Mahood has announced his latest solo album as Plankton Wat, Future Times, due out February 26th. First single “Nightfall” sees Mahood sculpt a cinematic, new psychedelic and beautiful pastorale, building from distorted guitar figures and smouldering synthesizer drones to peaks of lysergic bliss.

Mahood’s music exists in constant communion with nature. From acclaimed albums with heavy-psych mainstays Eternal Tapestry to his prolific solo excursions, Mahood’s work has always been defined by his restless exploratory spirit and reverence for the environment. As Plankton Wat, his expressionist compositions exude a supernatural grace and patience, reflecting the resplendent beauty and mythical energy of the West Coast’s wild places. Mahood’s masterful and distinct guitarwork consistently blurs the confines of the instrument, at once texturally and melodically rich. Future Times elevates Mahood’s psychedelic instrumentals to new planes, encompass both the wild, seeking energy of free-improvisation and the deliberate arrangements of more traditional composition.

Plankton Wat – Future Times tracklist
1. The Burning World
2. Nightfall
3. Modern Ruins
4. Dark Cities
5. Teenage Daydream
6. Sanctuary
7. Future Times
8. Defund The Police
9. Wind Mountain

Pre-order Plankton Wat’s Future Times: http://thrilljockey.com/products/future-times

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https://planktonwat.bandcamp.com/
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Plankton Wat, Future Times (2021)

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Terry Gross to Release Debut LP Soft Opening Jan. 29

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 9th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

terry gross

See? This is what Thrill Jockey does. Here’s some other fucking awesome band with some other fucking really cool sounding release and then blah blah blah there’s an album and it’s gonna be awesome and here’s a song and it’s awesome and it’s just one more awesome thing and wow I guess your life is just better now because of all this awesome shit right? I mean seriously. What gives?

Do you have any idea how frustrating that is? Some of us are out here working really hard at being miserable bastards, day in and day fucking out, and then here comes a band named Terry Gross after a fucking NPR host and the song is like spacey and jammed out but still has this core of songwriting and it’s really good and makes you want to hear more and then all of a sudden you realize you’re like interested in life and stuff and maybe even a little inspired by it to not be such a shit 24 hours a day seven days a week and then things just get better because it’s all really just a matter of perspective anyway and maybe you’re just tired and you need a nap or to hydrate or maybe you just fucking have low blood sugar or something and it’s not that bad and maybe the nap works and then the song’s still good and whatever fuck you okay fine life is great alright everything’s beautiful. Fine. Fine.

PR wire:

terry gross soft opening

Acclaimed guitarist/vocalist Phil Manley (Trans Am, Life Coach) leads new Bay Area trio Terry Gross

Terry Gross’ debut full-length Soft Opening Out on Jan. 29th, 2021

Terry Gross is an engrossing trio composed of guitarist Phil Manley (Trans Am), bassist Donny Newenhouse, and drummer Phil Becker. The trio are also connected as owners and engineers at Bay Area recording spot El Studio, where they began improvising together as a way to test the boundaries and gear of the studio. Their loose, organic chemistry burgeoned into a deep camaraderie and a sound both expansive and exacting. The three experienced musicians crafted their first full-length album through the pure joy of playing together with no expectations. With the tapes rolling on their rehearsals, the band captures the exuberance of live performance and elevates those recordings through a deft use of the studio as their collective instrument. On their debut LP Soft Opening, Terry Gross channels their cosmic powers and considerable chops into a gleefully mesmerizing odyssey fit for an arena.

Soft Opening took shape over the course of 2016-2019, with Terry Gross writing and refining their songs. “Space Voyage Mission” and “Worm Gear” parallel one another as sinuous jams that pulse with adamantine fervor. Each mountainous epic churns spellbinding repetition and simplicity into dizzying gallops that take hairpin turns into sinewy riffing and elysian vocal melodies. Phil Manley’s guitar takes on a constellation of tones across “Space Voyage Mission” with drifting delays soaring over the Newenhouse and Becker’s driving rhythm section which all succumb to frothing overdrives that spin the song into entirely new pastures. The hypnotic throb of “Worm Gear” grows all the more enchanting as Newenhouse and Becker add subtle shifts to the single-chord barrage. “Specificity (Or What Have You)” contrasts these two in its more traditionally pop-oriented structure while retaining its predecessors wide-eyed energy and delves further into the album’s lighthearted-yet-earnest take on sci-fi tropes from space and time travel to the singularity.

As Terry Gross, Phil Manley, Donny Newenhouse, and Phil Becker are sonic scientists traversing the borderlands of rock. Soft Opening captures the simple joy of a no-holds-barred trio in stunning detail, transporting the listener into the splendor and freedom of rock.

1. Space Voyage Mission
2. Worm Gear
3. Specificity (Or What Have You)

Terry Gross are:
Phil Becker – Drums
Phil Manley – Guitar/Vocals
Donny Newenhouse – Bass/Vocals

https://www.facebook.com/grossterry/
https://terrygrossband.bandcamp.com/
http://www.thrilljockey.com/
http://www.facebook.com/thrilljockey
http://www.instagram.com/thrilljockey

Terry Gross, Soft Opening (2021)

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Holy Sons to Release Raw and Disfigured Oct. 30

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 4th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

holy sons (Photo by Mark Petit)

Kind of astonishing how much Emil Amos‘ work remains his own. That is to say, he’s known for Grails and for playing drums in Om, but Holy Sons is his in a way that neither of those outfits could be, and his utter mastery of songwriting is on display throughout the forthcoming Raw and Disfigured — due Oct. 30 on Thrill Jockey. You can hear it in “Lady of the Hour,” streaming below. Sure, he gets adventurous with arrangements a but — it’s a double-album, you’d better hope he does — and he has a few friends helping out along the way, but it’s right there. It’s the song. The song is the primary factor in what’s happening. It’s a song by a songwriter who sat down to write a song. If you think that notion is either simple or not beautiful, you are mistaken.

The album details are copious, but at its heart, Raw and Disfigured is a collection of these songs, with both an intimacy and a breadth that is the mark of what Amos brings to this outlet.

From the PR wire:

Holy Sons Raw and Disfigured

Holy Sons announces panoramic new double album Raw and Disfigured Out on Oct. 30th, 2020

Listen to single “Lady of the Hour”:
https://holysons.bandcamp.com/track/lady-of-the-hour

Holy Sons, the project of multi-instrumentalist and singer Emil Amos, has announced the ambitious, panoramic double album Raw and Disfigured, out Oct. 30th. Along with the announcement, Holy Sons has shared the album’s first single “Lady of the Hour”, a vista of sweeping pastoral layers and melodies that grasp towards hope rather than resignation.

Under the name Holy Sons, as well as with bands Om, Grails, and Lilacs and Champagne, Amos harnesses boundless sonic textures to embellish delicately crafted songs. His music balances cues from classic and indie rock traditions with a tenderness and sense of foreboding through unparalleled artistry. Raw and Disfigured showcases Amos’ mastery of songcraft through a seemingly impossible combination of subtle yet potent gestures, bold arrangements and resolute vulnerability resulting in songs as beautiful as they are crushing.

The recording of Raw and Disfigured took place largely at Sonic Youth’s studio Echo Canyon West. Amos, who plays the bulk of the instruments and sings the majority of the vocals throughout the album, is joined on a few pieces by drummer Steve Shelley (Sonic Youth), as well as album and WFMU in-house engineer Ernie Indradat.

The album draws thematically from the archetypal tale of Quasimodo and classic ghost story imagery to illustrate the “hero’s journey” in the time of a coming apocalypse. From the opening swells, Amos creates a sense of mystery and tension. Melodic sections pierce through the thick fogs of unease with gliding choral harmonies and guitar lines. Rich vocals draw you into an exotic atmosphere of mystical musical sounds, while classic lilting guitar lines entice you further. Raw and Disfigured proves the enduring power of the rock ballad without dwelling on the nostalgic tropes. The ballads of Holy Sons are ballads for these dark times.

Raw & Disfigured tracklist:
1. The Loser that Always Wins
2. Lady of the Hour
3. Cast Bound King
4. Hand that Feeds
5. Permanent Things
6. Four Walls
7. Held the Hand
8. Lost in the Fire
9. Transformation
10. Slow to Run
11. Reach Out and Touch Something
12. Cóiste Bodhar
13. Nights Like This
14. Up on that Hill
15. Backslider’s Wine
16. Bloody Strings

Pre-order Holy Sons’ Raw and Disfigured: http://thrilljockey.com/products/raw-and-disfigured

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http://www.thrilljockey.com/artists/holy-sons
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Holy Sons, “Lady of the Hour”

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Sumac to Release May You Be Held Sept. 18

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

I could live a thousand years and never be cool enough to have my opinion about a Sumac record mean jack shit to anyone. Their albums have gotten such a mountainous slosh of press hyperbole that really anything I have to say just adds to the laudatory din. If I’m like, “Hey, this Sumac record is pretty good,” in a forest, do the trees appreciate the insight? No, because they’ve all been cut down to make the fancy glossy magazines that have doused superlatives on the band since their inception. I’ll be lucky if I get to hear it before it’s released.

I dig Sumac though, and the records earn that cloying cred, so I’ll still likely find some way to write about May You Be Held. I’ve Quarterly Reviewed their other LPs, so yeah, that seems about right. Enough space to say, “Golly this is important and forward thinking,” without going on too long and making an ass out of myself. To myself.

Be informed:

sumac may you be held

SUMAC announce sprawling new album May You Be Held Out on Sept. 18th, 2020

Expressionistic metal ensemble SUMAC have announced their new album, May You Be Held, out September 18th. Picking up where the band left off with 2018’s critically acclaimed Love in Shadow, the trio of Aaron Turner (ISIS, Old Man Gloom), Brian Cook (Russian Circles), and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) push further into the extreme polarity of their sound with their latest collection of long-form composition and free-form exploration. Meticulously detailed and complex one moment, rudimentary and repetitive the next, and completely untethered and unscripted at seemingly random intervals—May You Be Held is an album that fluctuates between extreme discipline and control on one end and an almost feral energy on the other.

“As an artist in this time of significant upheaval, society seemingly having reached the end of its current iteration, it’s of critical importance to absorb and interpret this process of dissolution – and of the transformation that hopefully follows it” says Turner. “While I don’t believe we’re on the brink of collective destruction precisely now, this is clearly a pivotal stage in the story of humankind – and there is something that feels right about this music at this exact and very uncertain moment.”

SUMAC’s work has always been about transition between different states of being. Our sense of normal, and indeed our sense of life, is now being shaken. We don’t know what is coming next. We are looking for pointers towards the future, as well as things to hold onto in the moment. This is a fundamental aspect of May You Be Held’s larger theme. Musically, it’s about continual unification and divergence, and is imbued with the uncertainty inherent in that cycle. In that uncertainty there is also hope, frustration, madness, and a desire for connection. All this too is part of this moment in our history—everything happening at once, the simultaneous emergence of humanity’s best and worst characteristics. Lyrically, May You Be Held follows the humanistic themes explored on Love in Shadow, partially informed by Turner’s navigation of fatherhood and family life. “It’s clear humans have figured out many ways over the centuries to acclimate to adverse circumstances, and even to thrive in them,” Turner says. “My hope for our family, humanity and future generations, is that we find our way by doing what we have always done—invent, adapt, band together, and ideally, hold each other up through love and kindness.”

May You Be Held was recorded throughout 2017, 2018 and 2019 by Kurt Ballou at Robert Lang Studios, Matt Bayles at The Unknown, and at House of Low Culture.

SUMAC – May You Be Held tracklist:
1. A Prayer for Your Path
2. May You Be Held
3. The Iron Chair
4. Consumed
5. Laughter and Silence

Pre-order SUMAC’s May You Be Held: http://thrilljockey.com/products/may-you-be-held

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Sumac, St Vitus 09?/?07?/?2018 (2020)

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Days of Rona: Patrick Forrest of Eye Flys

Posted in Features on April 14th, 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

eye flys patrick forrest

Days of Rona: Patrick Forrest of Eye Flys (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

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?

As a band, Eye Flys has had a few things happen because of this crisis. Our planned Euro tour with Full of Hell and Primitive Man was cancelled, which included an appearance at Roadburn Festival. Our touring was limited as it was this year already because of prior obligations, so it definitely hurt us. Future short touring plans we were squeezing in for early summer are in question right now also. Not sure how it will play out, or when we’ll be able to get out again. Our LP Tub of Lard was released just before that tour was to happen, and at the beginning of the subsequent lockdown. So that effected our LP release also. As far as personally, we are all doing okay in lockdown in our homes right now, and are safe with our significant others/loved ones.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

There is a “Shelter in Place” and order for “non-essential” businesses to close, social distancing, and to stay inside unless you need to go out in Philadelphia. Locally, people here are starting to take it more seriously I think maybe, but not everyone unfortunately. There are still people hanging in parks and stuff like it’s another day off. Everyone needs to take this more seriously and stay the fuck inside if we want to help. Me and my girlfriend are safe and healthy in my small West Philly apartment right now with my five cats. I have a porch here, so we try to give each other space and time to do other things to stay occupied. I’ve been trying to stay busy with music, playing drums and skateboarding. Take walks close by if it’s safe, etc.

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

I’m a union stagehand in Philadelphia so, the impact has been tremendous. I typically work in the field of events, concerts/rock shows, A/V, etc. I have a house job at a local venue here that was gearing up for its busiest season ever. Things started to slowly get cancelled and around the 13th of March, then all the work for us literally vaporized overnight. I’m very fortunate to have a union job and organization in place to help me, and able to collect unemployment and keep health benefits. I am worried about the effects it will have on the industry when we do come out of this. Will it hit the ground running and be crazy busy to make up for lost time? Will people be too unsure to come out to events? It is effecting music for sure. People’s ability to tour, record, or just play music together, and write. The one positive I see is musicians at home using this time to stay in and focus on writing and creating. So maybe when this is all over we’ll have a ton of new great music to check out.

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

STAY THE FUCK INSIDE.

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Quarterly Review: Ocean Chief, Barnabus, Helen Money, Elder Druid, Mindcrawler, Temple of Void, Lunar Swamp, Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, Emile, Saturno Grooves

Posted in Reviews on March 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

I’m not saying I backloaded the Quarterly Review or anything — because I didn’t — but maybe subconsciously I wanted to throw in a few releases here I had a pretty good idea I was gonna dig beforehand. Pretty much all of them, as it turned out. Not a thing I regret happening, though, again, neither was it something I did purposefully. Anyone see A Serious Man? In this instance, I’m happy to “accept the mystery” and move on.

Before we dive into the last day, of course I want to say thank you for reading if you have been. If you’ve followed along all week or this is the only post you’ve seen or you’re just here because I tagged your band in the post on Thee Facebooks, whatever it is, it is appreciated. Thank you. Especially given the global pandemic, your time and attention is highly valued.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ocean Chief, Den Tredje Dagen

ocean chief den tredje dagen

The first Ocean Chief record in six years is nothing if not weighted enough to make up for anything like lost time. Also the long-running Swedish outfit’s debut on Argonauta Records, Den Tredje Dagen on CD/DL runs five songs and 59 minutes, and though it’s not without a sense of melody either instrumentally or vocally — certainly its guitars have plenty enough to evoke a sense of mournfulness at least — its primary impact still stems from the sheer heft of its tonality, and its tracks are of the sort that a given reviewer might be tempted to call “slabs.” They land accordingly, the longest of them positioned as the centerpiece “Dömd” seething with slower-Celtic Frost anxiety and the utter nastiness of its intent spread across 15-plus minutes of let-me-just-go-ahead-and-crush-that-for-you where “that” is everything and “no” isn’t taken for an answer. There’s respite in closer “Den Sista Resan” and the CD-bonus “Dimension 5,” but even these maintain an atmospheric severity consistent with what precedes them. One way or another, it is all fucking destroyed.

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Barnabus, Beginning to Unwind

barnabus beginning to unwind

Come ye historians and classic heavy rockers. Come, reap what Rise Above Relics has sown. Though it’s hard sometimes not to think of the Rise Above Records imprint as label-honcho Lee Dorrian (ex-Cathedral, current With the Dead) picking out highlights from his own record collection — which is the stuff of legend — neither is that in any way a problem. Barnabus, who hailed and apparently on occasion still hail from the West Midlands in the UK, issued the Beginning to Unwind in 1972 as part of an original run that ended the next year. So it goes. Past its 10-minute jammy opener/longest track (immediate points) “America,” the new issue of Beginning to Unwind includes the LP, demos, live tracks, and no doubt assorted other odds and ends as well from Barnabus‘ brief time together. Songs like “The War Drags On” and “Resolute” are the stuff of ’70s-riff daydreams, while “Don’t Cry for Me My Lady” digs into proto-prog without losing its psych-folk inflection. I’m told the CD comes with a 44-page booklet, which only furthers the true archival standard of the release.

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Helen Money, Atomic

helen money atomic

To those for whom Helen Money is a familiar entity, the arrival of a new full-length release will no doubt only be greeted with joy. The ongoing project of experimental cellist Alison Chesley, though the work itself — issued through Thrill Jockey as a welcome follow-up to 2016’s Become Zero (review here) — is hardly joyful. Coping with the universality of grief and notions of grieving-together with family, Chesley brings forth minimalism and electronics-inclusive stylstic reach in kind across the pulsating “Nemesis,” the periodic distortion of her core instrument jarring when it hits. She takes on a harp for “Coppe” and the effect is cinematic in a way that seems to find answer on the later “One Year One Ring,” after which follows the has-drums “Marrow,” but wherever Chesley goes on Atomic‘s 47 minutes, the overlay of mourning is never far off.

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Elder Druid, Golgotha

elder druid golgotha

Belfast dual-guitar sludge five-piece Elder Druid return with seven tracks/39 minutes of ready punishment on their second album, Golgotha, answering the anger of 2017’s Carmina Satanae with densely-packed tones and grooves topped with near-universal harsh vocals (closer “Archmage” is the exception). What they’re playing doesn’t require an overdose of invention, with their focus is so much on hammering their riffs home, and certainly the interwoven leads of the title-track present some vision of intricacy for those who might demand it while also being punched in the face, and the transitional “Sentinel,” which follows,” brings some more doomly vibes ahead of “Vincere Vel Mori,” which revives the nod, “Dreadnought” has keys as well as a drum solo, and the penultimate “Paegan Dawn of Anubis” brings in an arrangement of backing vocals, so neither are they void of variety. At the feedback-soaked end of “Archmage,” Golgotha comes across genuine in its aggression and more sure of their approach than they were even just a couple years ago.

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Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter

mindcrawler lost orbiter

I know the whole world seems like it’s in chaos right now — mostly because it is — but go ahead and quote me on this: a band does not come along in 2020 and put out a record like Lost Orbiter and not get picked up by some label if they choose to be. Among 2020’s most promising debuts, it is progressive without pretense, tonally rich and melodically engaging, marked out by a poise of songcraft that speaks to forward potential whether it’s in the coursing leads of “Drake’s Equation” or the final slowdown/speedup of “Trappist-1” that smoothly shifts into the sample at the start of closer “Dead Space.” Mindcrawler‘s first album — self-recorded, no less — is modern cosmic-heavy brought to bear in a way that strikes such a balance between the grounded and the psychedelic that it should not be ignored, even in the massively crowded international underground from which they’re emerging. And the key point there is they are emerging, and that as thoughtfully composed as the six tracks/29 minutes of Lost Orbiter are, they only represent the beginning stages of what Mindcrawler might accomplish. If there is justice left, someone will release it on vinyl.

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Temple of Void, The World That Was

Temple of Void The World that Was

Michigan doom-death five-piece Temple of Void have pushed steadily toward the latter end of that equation over their now-three full-lengths, and though The World That Was (their second offering through Shadow Kingdom) is still prone to its slower tempos and is includes the classical-guitar interlude “A Single Obulus,” that stands right before “Leave the Light Behind,” which is most certainly death metal. Not arguing with it, as to do so would surely only invite punishment. The extremity only adds to the character of Temple of Void‘s work overall, and as “Casket of Shame” seems to be at war with itself, so too is it seemingly at war with whatever manner of flesh its working so diligently to separate from the bone. Across a still-brief 37 minutes, The World That Was — which caps with its most-excellently-decayed nine-minute title-track — harnesses and realizes this grim vision, and Temple of Void declare in no uncertain terms that no matter how they might choose to tip the scale on the balance of their sound, they are its master.

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Lunar Swamp, Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp Shamanic Owl

Lunar Swamp have spawned as a blusier-directed offshoot of Italian doomers Bretus of which vocalist Mark Wolf, guitarist/bassist Machen and drummer S.M. Ghoul are members, and sure enough, their debut single “Shamanic Owl,” fosters this approach. As the band aren’t strangers to each other, it isn’t such a surprise that they’d be able to decide on a sound and make it happen their first time out but the seven-minute roller — also the leadoff their first EP, UnderMudBlues, which is due on CD in June — also finds time to work in a nod to the central riff of Sleep‘s “Dragonaut” along with its pointed worship of Black Sabbath, so neither do they seems strictly adherent to a blues foundation, despite the slide guitar that works its way in at the finish. How the rest of the EP might play out need not be a mystery — it’s out digitally now — but as far as an introduction goes, “Shamanic Owl” will find welcome among those seeking comfort in the genre-familiar.

Lunar Swamp on Thee Facebooks

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Huge Molasses Tank Explodes, II

Huge Molasses Tank Explodes II

The nine-track/42-minute second LP, II, from Milano post-this-or-that five-piece Huge Molasses Tank Explodes certainly finds the band earning bonus points based on their moniker alone, but more than that, it is a work of reach and intricacy alike, finding the moment where New Wave emerged from out of krautrock’s fascination with synthesizer music and bring to that a psychedelic shimmer that is too vintage-feeling to be anything other than modern. It is laid back enough in its overarching affect that “The Run” feels dreamy, most especially in its guitar lines, but never is it entirely at rest, and both the centerpiece “No One” and the later “So Much to Lose” help continue the momentum that “The Run” manages so fluidly to build in a manner one might liken to space rock were the implication of strict adherence to stylistic guidelines so implicit in that categorization. They present this nuance with a natural-seeming sense of craft and in “High or Low,” a fuzzy tone that feels like only a welcome windfall. Those who can get their head around it should seek to do so, and kudos to Huge Molasses Tank Explodes for being more than just a clever name.

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Emile, The Black Spider/Det Kollektive Selvmord

Emile The Black Spider Det Kollektive Selvmord

Set to release through Heavy Psych Sounds on the same day as the new album from his main outfit The Sonic Dawn, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is the debut solo album from Copenhagen-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Emile Bureau, who has adopted his first name as his moniker of choice. Fair enough for the naturalism and intended intimacy of the 11-track/39-minute outing, which indeed splits itself between portions in English and in Danish, sounding likewise able to bring together sweet melodies in both. Edges of distortion in “Bundlos” and some percussion in the second half’s title-track give a semblance of arrangement to the LP, but at the core is Emile himself, his vocals and guitar, and that’s clearly the purpose behind it. Where The Sonic Dawn often boast a celebratory feel, The Black Spider/Det Kollective Selvmord is almost entirely subdued, and its expressive sensibility comes through regardless of language.

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Saturno Grooves, Cosmic Echoes

saturno grooves cosmic echoes

Sonic restlessness! “Fire Dome” begins with a riffy rush, “Forever Zero” vibes out on low end and classic swing, the title-track feels like an Endless Boogie jam got lost in the solar system, “Celestial Tunnel” is all-thrust until it isn’t at all, “Blind Faith” is an acoustic interlude, and “Dark Matter” is a punk song. Because god damn, of course it is. It is little short of a miracle Saturno Grooves make their second album, Cosmic Echoes as remarkably cohesive as it is, yet through it all they hold fast to class and purpose alike, and from its spacious outset to its bursting finish, there isn’t a minute of Cosmic Echoes that feels like happenstance, even though they’re obviously following one impulse after the next in terms of style. Heavy (mostly) instrumentalism that works actively not to be contained. Out among the echoes, Saturno Grooves might just be finding their own wavelength.

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