Friday Full-Length: My Brother the Wind, Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 16th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Like a lot of two-guitar records, My Brother the Wind‘s debut, Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet, is all about the bass. Released in 2010 through Transubstans Records, the debut outing from the Swedish outfit formed in Västra Götaland on the Swedish west coast is pretty unassuming on the face of it. The cover art doesn’t tell you much, and though colorful with red and blue making purple in the middle in a way that also kind of symbolizes the musical coming together happening in the songs, the spindly nerve-looking design and black background give a darker, less shimmering impression than the material itself. Nothing against the artist, mind you, but what you see isn’t necessarily what you get when it comes to the entire spectrum of the at least partially improvisational psychedelic craft on display.

And for a debut album, Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet has a somewhat complex history in the coming together. Its 2010 arrival situates it in a break for guitarist Nicklas Barker‘s other band, the Borlänge progressive rockers Anekdoten, whose stretch between 2007 and 2015 without putting out a full-length accounts for the entirety of My Brother the Wind‘s three studio/one live LP discography. Taking their name from the 1970 offering from Sun Ra and His Astro Infinity Arkestra, as well as that record’s opening track, My Brother the Wind aligned Barker with fellow guitarist Mathias Danielsson, perhaps best known for his work in Gösta Berlings Saga, but also of Makajodama and Øresund Space Collective, as well as the rhythm section of bassist Ronny Eriksson and drummer Tomas Eriksson, both also of Magnolia at least at one point or another.

The coming together of the dramatis personnae really only matters because of what they did during their time — to wit, science reminds us that dudes in bands often form bands with dudes from other bands — and on the six tracks, 59 minutes of Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet, that’s to create a swath of spacey, pastoral and engaging instrumentalist heavy psychedelia. You can hear from the outset in opening track “Karmagrinder” how much of the impetus of the band is the interplay between Barker and Danielsson, and fair enough. Both guitarists seem keen to explore, and their tones complement each other in headphone-ready fashion, while underneath, Ronny Eriksson‘s bass provides highlightMy brother the wind twilight in the crystal cabinet runs of its own for those who’d seek glories in the lower frequencies.

Count me in. In the subsequent “Electric Universe,” they’ll dig into some more classic space rock — blah blah motorik, blah blah obligatory Hawkwind namedrop, etc. — but the dynamic is not unlike the solo section of a classic power trio: the drums hold everything together, the bass fleshes out the groove and does some showy runs of its own, and the guitars go where they want to go. I don’t know what the balance is in the songs between what was improvised off the top of their heads, but Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet reminds that the most important element in that equation — the trio made four in this case, obviously — is instrumental chemistry, and improv or not, My Brother the Wind‘s material is rife with it. You can hear it in the later reaches of “Karmagrinder” and the intertwining cosmic shred of “Electric Universe,” but also in the quieter stretch of the title-track, shorter than either of the two preceding cuts at just under four minutes long, and followed by the free(k)-jazz 1:47 outlet “Precious Sanity,” the latter an obvious splurge in the studio — a thing that happened while recording — and fun for the sense of the experience it gives.

I generally think the idea of the “format wars” are garbage. A thing to argue about on the internet. But with Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet, in the 2LP version, the side split between C and D is between the last two inclusions — “The Mournful Howl of Dawn” and “Death and Beyond” — and that makes sense to me somehow. Mind you, earlier in the outing, I’d be grumbling at having to get up to flip the platter over after the 13 minutes of “Karmagrinder” — how’s anybody supposed to get dishes done listening to vinyl? — but given the meandering hypnosis wrought by “The Mournful Howl of Dawn” (13:08) and the consuming freakout that is “Death and Beyond” (16:47), it’s worth having an extra breath between the two that doesn’t happen when hearing the album in a digital or linear format. There’s nuance in the noodling of both that’s worth specific attention, and even unto the way “Death and Beyond” takes off in its 11th minute, building to a head and giving way soon enough to the drift that, presumably, serves as the titular ‘beyond,’ the lesson being given is one of dynamic and organic methodology. Nothing My Brother the Wind are doing is magic, but they kind of make it sound that way, in stretches vital and serene.

As noted, My Brother the Wind produced three studio albums between 2010 and 2014: Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet, 2011’s follow-up, I Wash My Soul in the Stream of Infinity and 2014’s Once There Was a Time When Time and Space Were One (review here). The first two were issued on Transubstans, while the third came out on Free Electric Sounds — you’ll note full-lengths two and three had brighter, more lush cover art — and their live album, Live at Roadburn 2013, was on Burning World Records and also came out in 2014. It was their last work to-date. I have to think that if they were going to do another record now, it would come out through El Paraiso Records. One would hope, anyway.

Instrumentalist heavy psych, or jazz-influenced psych, or wherever you want to situate it, can easily be fodder for a mental checkout, and that’s valid. There’s nothing wrong with escapism (to a point). But whether Twilight in the Crystal Cabinet serves that purpose or the more academic, sit-and-pick-it-apart-style experience, or even just active enjoyment of what these players accomplished together in a room over a decade ago, the life in this music is worth companionship. That’s all.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Thank you if you’ve been reading the Quarterly Review at all. We hit 100 reviews today and I’ve got the last batch of 10 already in progress to go up on Monday, so that’ll be it. I’ve added a few of those releases to my best of lists, which, out of 110 records, frankly, I should damn well hope so.

I got my laptop back yesterday afternoon. Drive crashed. Boom. The guy who repaired it managed to recover all the data. He remarked on how much shit I had on the drive; it was 1TB, about two-thirds full, didn’t seem unreasonable to me but apparently it took him two days to sort it all out. When he did, he installed a new drive on the computer, but it’s 500 gigs instead of 1TB. In trade, he also gave me a 500 gig external that had all the non-system stuff — albums, docs, etc. — that was on the machine before on it.

Thus I am denied the satisfaction of removing 110 albums from my desktop into the “Albums” archival folder after this Quarterly Review wraps up on Monday, which I will tell you outright is some no-justice-in-the-universe level bullshit.

I’m looking at 2TB drives now to replace the 500 gig, because really, what am I, a child? 500 gigs is nothing. There’s cloud storage, but you know what? I’ve had a record leak with my watermark on it before (when, no, I didn’t leak it), and that’s a hassle I never need again in my life. I’m not saying I’m important enough that someone’s gonna hack into my Dropbox and spread that shit around — I’m not — but the interwebs is full of people doing stuff for lulz and I’m a no-fun kind of guy. I’d much rather keep it to myself and run the (evident) risk of crashing a drive, which seems less likely with more space rather than less, which I have now.

Or the same amount of space, differently organized. An external HD. Wonderful. One more thing for The Pecan to grab and be like “this is?” while dropping it or throwing it or just ripping it out from the machine or stepping on it or spilling something on it or whatever the fuck. Something. Always something. I can’t really have my computer open while he’s around.

Which, if you’re wondering (you’re not, I know) is one of the reasons I got up at 1:30 this morning to start writing this post. The other was it was too warm in the bedroom.

We’re in CT for the next couple days. It is stressful here. A small space. An active kid. No real buffer between my man the invincible and the Long Island Sound. Lovely view if you like fighting with a toddler trying to escape so he can jump in the ocean without being able to swim.

Fighting with a toddler about everything. Ugh.

I had oral surgery on Monday. They put a rod in that seems to be healing okay — antibiotics, all that — and then I’ll get a crown put on and apparently that’s it. The Pecan had a cold. We kept him home from camp Monday and Tuesday. Watched a lot of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, which is about all he really wants to see at this point. Fine. Let the worst thing that happens be he’s the first human being ever to walk the earth with a shred of emotional literacy. Seems like a high aim, frankly. He certainly won’t have gotten it from my ass.

But so we did that Monday, less Tuesday — more reading, which is good — and after going to the doctor on Tuesday and checking in there for the looming specter of plague and all that, he went back to camp Wednesday and scratched a kid and was pushing and to hear them tell it kind of continued to be a jerk Thursday morning. He’s still congested, getting over the cold, so I blame that. He fell asleep in the car yesterday on the way up here from NJ — a normally two-hour trip took four, so there was plenty of time to nap — so I chalk it up to tired, still under the weather, etc. Knowing that doesn’t make living with him any easier.

Which I assume is the case because I didn’t watch enough Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood when I was his age.

He resents the shit out of me. He’s not yet four years old. I fail him every day, and myself. At what would be an impressive rate were it not so sad.

But at least I got my computer back.

No Gimme show this week. Next week. Turned in the playlist Wednesday, all Quarterly Review stuff. It’ll be good.

Great and safe weekend. I hear we’re going to a sculpture park. Will bring water. Have fun whatever you’re doing. Be safe. Watch your head. Hydrate. It’s 4AM. I’m gonna go take a cold shower.

FRM.

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Friday Full-Length: Hills, Master Sleeps

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 23rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Much like the elusive Theory of Everything in physics, with Hills‘ universal psychedelic premise is underlined by almost unaccountable gravity. Released in 2011 through Intergalactic Tactics and Transubstans Records following a 2009 self-titled debut, Master Sleeps basks these 10 years later in its breadth of influence and establishes its aesthetic on a per-track basis, presenting two vinyl sides of resonant, spaced-out intergalactic fare with an awakened nature that’s nothing if not contradictory to the title. It’s a record about which much was said at the time by the in-the-know-telligencia, and that’s cool, because it’s cool, and, hey man, cool, but any and all past hype aside — it’s amazing how the years turn these things into wisps of recollection; the fervent talking-up of records fading to echoes even as attention spans are criticized for their shortness; hypocrites to a hyperlink, everyone — it’s a cool record and to deny it is to deny oneself the pleasure of a 35-minute, mostly instrumental outward journey of jams and in-on-it-early-next-gen heavy psych. Suffice it to say, if this shit was due in June instead of a decade gone, you’d still see as much desperate preening of feathers in order to curry its vaunted favor. And fair enough.

I have the CD, which was the Transubstans version, that I apparently picked up later in 2011, but I’ll be damned if Master Sleeps doesn’t hold up. It was ahead of the game on vinyl structuring, presaging the larger-platter-as-format-of-record (pun absolutely intended) explosion by a year or two, and each of its two sides brought three tracks in a nearly even break of structure to what seems to be utterly fluid throughout the listening experience, opener “Rise Again” and closer “Death Shall Come” creating a loop from one to the other that feels all the more geared to encourage multiple listens in a kind of sonic reincarnation. Accordingly, the more you hear Master Sleeps, the more you hear in it. First? Swirl. “Rise Again” fuzzes and unfolds a careening spaciousness that calls out early space rock and psych drift with shoegaze vocals buried in the mix à la The Heads where you wonder if anything’s really being said or you’re just imagining it and does it really matter anyway. I don’t know.

True to the band’s moniker, the air gets thinner the higher you climb, both into “Rise Again” and across side A and B as a whole, ascending from longer tracks to shorter toward the middle of the record — hills master sleepsthe two shortest cuts, “Claras Vaggvisa” and “The Vessel,” close side A and open side B, respectively — then longer again at the finish. In case, the sick hypnosis of “Rise Again” holds firm even as Hills wander elsewhere, “Bring Me Sand” tapping Mideast scales and rhythmic patterns in classic fashion, a marked turn from the preceding opener but that’s the point. There’s a heavier burst in the middle — watch out for it — but they’re never so volatile as to lose control, and the far-off-ness of “Claras Vaggvisa,” which an organ line as its most forward factor backed by some quieter but foreboding tom hits and vague, manipulated voice echoes, is intentionally drifting and atmospheric and, yes, weird. Delightfully, delightfully weird. Weird as means and end both, but golly that’s fun.

Even more when “The Vessel” kicks into action, bringing that organ up in volume and putting a reignited kosmiche thrust behind it, the drums still having a chance to swing as they nonetheless push forward amid the channel-shifting, amorphous-sounding guitars. Next time someone asks you what “molten” sounds like, it sounds like Hills playing “The Vessel” on Master Sleeps. There’s a sample there, who knows what, but the point is the jam, and the jam sounds like they took a regular song and melted it into so much lysergic goo. True, they find some shape in the second half, coalescing around a dreamy guitar figure to cap, but the breaking-down-of-elements had to come first. The finish in “The Vessel” makes a suitably right-on lead-in for the soft-boogie drum foundation of “Master Sleeps” itself. Guitars, bass, organ all follow the bounce those drums lay out, grooving casual-like through the initial section of the longest piece of the album that shares its name, and as they jam through, they seem to acknowledge the funk they’re making — a bit of cowbell here, a bit of wah there, some easy-soul vocals, all very deep in the procession, all very spacey, very improv-feeling. And yeah, this sounds like what’s next, still. A band and a record out of time, maybe, leaving everybody else to chase their warp trail around the other side of the planet where some trap or other is set but our sensors can’t get a reading, Cap’n.

That’s right. It’s the kind of record that might make you lapse into fan-fic. No regrets. There’s nothing missing from “Master Sleeps,” and for those Stateside, one might find its inherent swagger similar to the always-off-the-cuff musings of Endless Boogie, but there’s a personality at work here too, and the band are having fun exploring almost in spite of themselves. Thus the drones and chants of “Death Shall Come” arrive to put not just a memento mori on the party they just incited, but an end to the LP as a whole, a patient unfurling across the song’s first half leading to a surprise of a crash about three minutes in as guitars intertwine in loosely mystical fashion and the dirge truly comes together, hitting an apex still somewhat undersold but nothing less than it needs to be to highlight just how individual each part of Master Sleeps is and likewise just how intensely the pieces feed the whole.

Rocket Recordings picked up Master Sleeps in 2013 and likewise stood behind the band’s 2015 outing, Frid, and their 2017 Alive at Roadburn LP, captured the year before at the festival where I’d been lucky enough to see them (review here). The band aren’t so much active at this point, but Rocket has newly issued a debut outing from psych-jazz outfit Djinn, which boasts membership from Hills and sibling purveyors Goat. And that’s not nothing, as you can hear on Bandcamp.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Distractible, so the internet is probably the worst place for me to be. So it goes. Those eight-year-old SNL clips aren’t gonna watch themselves when I should be writing.

This week… was a thing that happened? I guess the highlight was when I talked to Genghis Tron and they weren’t jerks. I really like that record. Stick around in the interview long enough and you’ll hear me tell them it’s my album of the year so far, and it is. I know there’s a lot to come from some big names, but it’s a high standard just the same, and they’ve set it, and yeah, it’s just always a relief to talk to someone you haven’t interviewed before (actually I’m not 100 percent that I never interviewed them back in the day, but close enough) and they don’t ruin the record by being a dick. That hasn’t happened to me in a while, for which I’m thankful.

Next week I’m doing a cool thing. On Monday. I’m already kind of nervous about it. I’m also interviewing Tommi Holappa from Greenleaf in a couple hours — also quite cool — and I’m kinda nervous about that too, but I know damn well already he’s a good guy based on copious past experience, so no actual worries there other than the usual I’m-talking-to-a-human-being type. Need to send him the Zoom link. I’ll get there.

But the cool thing Monday. Can’t talk about it. Very cool though. Hoping to post about it Tuesday, but timing might be weird, so it may be Wednesday before I get there. So Monday looks like a Snail album review with a video premiere — hey that’s pretty cool too! — and then Tuesday will either be Cool Thing or the Greenleaf interview, and Wednesday is whichever of those two didn’t run on Tuesday. I’ve also got two premieres lined up for Thursday and one for Friday, so the week’s spoken for in its entirety, and that takes us through the end of April. Time both drags and flies. Nothing makes any sense.

Far out.

The Pecan starts tee-ball tomorrow for the first time. We bought him a glove last week, then this week we bought him a glove he can actually squeeze closed, though he hasn’t quite worked out the mechanism of doing so yet. That kid fucking hates me. Oof. Rough week. Everything’s a fight. Everything. The Patient Mrs. comes down the stairs and it’s like he flips a switch and is good to go. She goes back to work and he’s back to whining and bitching about fucking everything. All week. Dude does not believe in union breaks. I’m hoping it’s a phase but I’ve seen zero evidence to-date that it might be. To wit, I couldn’t stand my father pretty much from the outset and now he’s dead, so there you go. Find me a point to anything.

I’d like to record some vocals this weekend for nascent-project, but I’m not sure I’ll get the chance. The weekends lately are the worst. I end up with less time than the weekdays because there’s no preschool in the morning. What a wreck. Sundays are awful, and I still refuse to do anything on Saturday because god damn, give me a day, but then I spend half of Saturday thinking about all the crap I need to get through on Sunday and it’s just a waste anyway and then Sunday’s still a pain in the ass. I guess if you have two kids, or, god forbid, more, you just cancel the rest of your life and that’s what you do. One kid, there’s still some semblance of an existence beyond that kid, so you’re kind of struggling to keep yourself sane. Or you’re negligent as fuck, and certainly there’s an appeal to that as well.

I don’t know anything. I’d like to write a book of essays about it and call it Daddy Issues, but I’m sure that’s taken.

I’ll go shower. That will help.

Have a great and safe weekend. Hydrate, watch your head, all that fun stuff. Back Monday.

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Friday Full-Length: Barr, Skogsbo is the Place

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

The first thing you hear — and it’s quick, but it’s there — is birdsong. Swedish mushroom folk serenity-bringers Barr released their debut album, Skogsbo is the Place (discussed here), in 2008 through the Transubstans Records-affiliated imprint Sakuntala. MySpace era. I bought it, as you can read in that link, after sampling an MP3 from the now-gone All That’s Heavy webstore, and digging further into the entire affair thereafter. It has proven almost infinitely listenable — the kind of record that calls you back over time, or even just pops into your head somewhere along the line while you’re listening to something else; a source of sonic coincidence. That’s what happened this week and prompted the revisit, but for all the time I’ve spent hearing it, I’m not sure I ever bothered to look up what or where Skogsbo is until now.

I’ve listened to enough Scandinavian metal to know “skog” is “forest” in English, and that makes sense with the cover art of Skogsbo is the Place, and in the east of Sweden, there are a bunch of places with the designation. Bus stops, little spots. A nature preserve south of Gothenburg that would be a pretty good candidate, but the band were based in Stockholm and Finspång, so who knows. “Skogsbo,” the word, translates to “forest estate,” so fair enough. I guess it could just be a cottage in the woods belonging to someone in the band — vocalist Andreas Söderström (also harmonium, glockenspiel, dulcimer), vocalist/guitarist Patrik Andersson, vocalist/flutist Hanna Fritzson, vocalist/guitarist Marcus Palm, bassist/cellist Svante Söderqvist, pianist Patric Thorman, percussionist Fredrik Ohlsson — or it could just as easily be a made-up place that doesn’t really exist. It doesn’t make the record any less transporting either way.

“Summerwind” is the opener that gets underway with that birdsong noted above, and that’s not the last nature-sound throughout. The folkish impression is immediate with harmonium and acoustic guitars backing soulful, sweetly melodic vocals, and that presence of arrangement, who’s singing or who’s playing what at any given moment, will change from song to song — Fritzson taking lead vocals on centerpiece “Calling My Name” and the title-track that follows, or or the meandering duet vocals over piano barr skogsbo is the placeof “Words Would Do,” others intertwining at various points between “Summerwind,” “Words Would Do” and “He Ain’t a Friend, He’s a Brother.” Those three serve as the immersive lead salvo that marks one’s passage into these woods, lines like, “I watch the sunrise/It soothes me,” and “Far, far away” and “Let everyone surround you” standing out over arrangements likewise lush, be it the cello sneaking into the end of “Summerwind” and “He Ain’t a Friend, He’s a Brother,” flute amid the harmonies of “Calling My Name,” the subtle snare shuffle on the penultimate “Moonfall” or the return of cello on “Sister,” the closing track which builds in its finish and pulls itself apart leading to captured forest-at-night audio — there’s a cough and some speech as well — before “Lovers Alone” ends the proceedings as a semi-secret track, no less gorgeous for being tucked away as it is.

One wouldn’t call Skogsbo is the Place long at 43 minutes, in no small part because its songs are so wonderfully engaging, but they’re not necessarily short in the way one finds a lot of neo-folk operating. “Words Would Do” at four and a half minutes and the lyric-less title-track at three minutes are the two shortest cuts (“Lovers Alone” might actually be shorter, but it’s somewhere around three minutes as well), and everything else tops six. “Moonfall” stretches to 6:53 and uses its time well to build into a melodic payoff that’s still more about the journey than the destination, and certainly “Summerwind” and “He Ain’t a Friend, He’s a Brother” and “Calling My Name” and “Sister” prove memorable enough with their understated hooks and classic feel that while I can’t really say anything that at any point involves a glockenspiel isn’t indulgent on some level, it’s an indulgence well worth making. Like precious few albums I’ve encountered since, Skogsbo is the Place has the ability to carry the listener along its course, and with particular attention paid to atmosphere and the overarching organic presentation, there’s no regrets in going where it goes.

It was one of the first records I wrote about for this site that wasn’t outwardly heavy but carried a presence of tone and melody and/or an emotional heft to coincide with its abidingly natural psychedelia. It’s not acid folk in the sense of being coated in reverb or blissed out on effects or any of that kind of thing. I think there’s electric guitar on there, but it’s surrounded by acoustics, 12-string, and the diversity of the vocal arrangements to the point that it’s clearly not intended to be a primary factor. Some of the songs sound like the strum came first, others the vocals, others other things. That spirit of song-happening-to-artist is rampant throughout, and the more I hear Skogsbo is the Place, the more it feels like an album I’ll continue to come back to, like visiting an old friend, or a brother. Time changes your context of appreciation, but some records continue to speak to the person you’ve become as well as the person you were. 13 years isn’t eternity, but when I think of the amount of music I’ve come across in that time, Barr‘s debut feels all the more special.

The band’s 2012 follow-up, Atlantic Ocean Blues (discussed here), gave up some of the intimacy of the first offering in favor of breadth, marked in particular by the fuller, jammier take on “He Ain’t a Friend, He’s a Brother” that made its way onto the release. To be perfectly honest with you, I keep that album on my phone in case of emergencies, so I’m not going to say a bad word about it or the resonance it shares with its predecessor. To the best of my knowledge, Barr haven’t done anything since, and whether theirs was a two-album course or if they ever do anything else, I consider myself fortunate to have this music in my life.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

I woke up this morning before four. I haven’t slept well all week, that helps nothing. Yesterday was a turnaround point though. The morning was wretched. We’ve been trying to push on potty training with The Pecan, and just… no. He’s flat-out refused it, and it’s made the house a miserable place and me miserable and stressed and I finally yesterday decided fuck it. I took a xanax in the morning and by the time I put him upstairs for a rest — he doesn’t nap anymore, but goes upstairs for an hour or 90 minutes or however long in the afternoon, and just kind of chills out with himself, plays, whatever; it’s a pattern that benefits everybody; Daniel Tiger has a whole song about a quiet rest being good for you — did some vocals for nascent-heavy-industrial-project, worked on more posts for today and by the time that was done, I’d decided that’s it. I don’t care anymore.

I don’t care when he pisses in the toilet. I don’t care when it happens. Means nothing in the grand scheme of his life. I’ll change his fucking diapers for as long as it takes. I don’t care anymore. It’s not worth the struggle or the stress, or him losing his mind or holding in poop for two days because he feels bad about going in his diaper but is terrified of the potty. I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t care that much. I’m sorry. There’s part of me that feels like I should rip off his diaper, refuse to put another one on, push him out of the nest, and so on, but seriously, fuck it. Maybe I’ll give don’t-be-a-prick a shot and see how that goes.

Yesterday afternoon? Much better. I felt like I’d pushed a weight off my shoulder and because I wasn’t miserable, he wasn’t either. We played and read books and he pissed in his diaper and it was fine. The day proceeded. We had dinner.

He’s been off from school all week. Spring break. We’ve had some real hang-out time. I’ve been spoiled sleeping mornings by him going to school, and there continues to be a big difference in my head between getting up at 5AM or before (I beat the alarm a couple days this week, including today) and getting up at 6AM or even later. Maybe I’ll nap later if I can.

I can’t. I have an interview this afternoon that I rescheduled from yesterday because I was such a mess and then kind of zoned out on meds.

I have more writing to do. Another news post I’d like to have go up today — that’ll be six posts; always gotta pack stuff in on Friday, I guess — and then the second of my two interviews for the Roadburn ‘zine. I put together the Steve Von Till piece yesterday or the day before. Wednesday, it was. The Patient Mrs. took The Pecan out of the house so I could get some time, I wound up transcribing that and Tau both. Still need to write up Tau. That was a cool chat. Seems like a nice guy. Steve Von Till I hadn’t talked to in a long while, so that was interesting as well. He’s kind to put up with my stupid fucking questions about process.

Hey, I like process.

The birds are out and yelling at the sun to rise, so The Pecan will be up soon. It’s almost six. I’m gonna try and get that other post done before it’s breakfast time and then, I don’t know, finish my coffee? That’d be cool. I can’t seem to sit still these days.

Am I the only one super-anxious about shows coming back? Not because of the plague, but because of the shows themselves? I’m not worried about wearing a mask or social distancing, but I’m not sure I ever want to leave the house again either. I miss live music, but there’s so much other bullshit about shows I don’t miss. People, most venues, taking pictures, the work of writing up a live review and knowing that no one’s going to care about it, driving there, driving back, losing basically two days because I was out so late, the pre-show anxiety, the post-show fatigue.

It feels like so much, like the prospect of having that in my life again is overwhelming. I wasn’t dude-at-three-shows-a-week anymore anyway — I did my fucking time — but still. The thought of being out and around. It’s troubling in a way I didn’t anticipate when the world went into lockdown last year and concerts evaporated.

If you have any thoughts, I’d appreciate. On that happy note, thank you for reading. Have a great and safe weekend. Don’t forget to hydrate — so important — and watch your head. New merch up next week, I think.

FRM.

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Quarterly Review: Tia Carrera, Inter Arma, Volcano, Wet Cactus, Duskwood, Lykantropi, Kavod, Onioroshi, Et Mors, Skånska Mord

Posted in Reviews on July 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

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Day four. I should’ve known we’d hit a snag at some point in the week, but it happened yesterday afternoon when Windows decided I desperately needed some update or other and then crapped the bed in the middle of said update. I wound up taking my laptop to a repair guy down the road in the afternoon, who said the hard drive needed to be wiped and have a full reinstall. Pretty brutal. He was going to back up what was there and get on it, said I could pick it up today. We’ll see how that goes, I guess. Also, happy Fourth, if America’s your thing. Let’s dive in.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Tia Carrera, Visitors / Early Purple

tia carrera visitors early purple

They had a single out between (review here), but the two-song LP Visitors / Early Purple is Tia Carrera‘s first album since 2011’s Cosmic Priestess (review here). The Austin, Texas, three-piece — which now includes bassist Curt Christianson of Dixie Witch alongside guitarist Jason Morales and drummer Erik Conn — haven’t missed a beat in terms of creating heavy psychedelic sprawl, and as the side-consuming “Visitors” (18:32) and “Early Purple” (16:28) play out, it’s with a true jammed sensibility; that feeling that sooner or later the wheels are going to come off. They don’t, at least not really, but the danger always makes it more exciting, and Morales‘ tone has been much missed. In the intervening years, the social media generation has come up to revere Earthless for doing much of what Tia Carrera do, but there’s always room for more jams as far as I’m concerned, and it’s refreshing to have Tia Carrera back to let people know what they’ve been missing. Here’s hoping it’s not another eight years.

Tia Carrera on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

 

Inter Arma, Sulphur English

inter arma sulphur english

I can’t help but think Inter Arma‘s Sulphur English is the album Morbid Angel should have made after Covenant. And yes, that applies to the harmonies and organ of “Stillness” as well. The fourth full-length (third for Relapse) from the Richmond, Virginia, outfit is a beastly, severe and soulful 66-minute stretch of consuming, beyond-genre extremity. It punishes with purpose and scope, and its sense of brutality comes accompanied by a willful construction of atmosphere. Longer pieces like “The Atavist’s Meridian” and the closing title-track lend a feeling of drama, but at no point does Sulphur English feel like a put-on, and as Inter Arma continue their push beyond the even-then-inventive sludge of their beginnings, they’ve become something truly groundbreaking in metal, doing work that can only be called essential to push forward into new ground and seeming to swallow the universe whole in the meantime. It’s the kind of record that one can only hope becomes influential, both in its purpose toward individualism and its sheer physical impact.

Inter Arma on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Volcano, The Island

volcano the island

So you’ve got Harsh Toke‘s Gabe Messer on keys and vocals and JOY guitarist/Pharlee drummer Zach Oakley on guitar, and bassist Billy Ellsworth (also of Loom) and Matt Oakley on drums, plus it seems whoever else happened to be around the studio that day — and in San Diego, that could be any number of players — making up Volcano, whose debut, The Island (on Tee Pee) melds Afrobeat funk-rock with the band’s hometown penchant for boogie. The songs are catchy — “10,000 Screamin’ Souls,” “Naked Prey,” “Skewered,” “No Evil, Know Demon”; hooks abound — but there’s a feeling of kind of an unthinking portrayal of “the islander” as a savage that I can’t quite get past. There’s inherently an element of cultural appropriation to rock and roll anyway, but even more here, it seems. They make it a party, to be sure, but there’s a political side to what Afrobeat was originally about that goes unacknowledged here. They might get there, they might not. They’ve got the groove down on their first record, and that’s not nothing.

Volcano on Instagram

Tee Pee Records website

 

Wet Cactus, Dust, Hunger and Gloom

wet cactus dust hunger and gloom

Sometimes you just miss one, and I’ll admit that Wet CactusDust, Hunger and Gloom got by me. It likely would’ve been in the Quarterly Review a year ago had I not been robbed last Spring, but either way, the Spanish outfit’s second long-player is a fuzz rocker’s delight, a welcoming and raucous vibe persisting through “Full Moon Over My Head,” which is the second cut of the total five and the only one of the bunch under seven minutes long. They bring desert-jammy vibes to the songs surrounding, setting an open tone with “So Long” at the outset that the centerpiece “Aquelarre” fleshes out even further instrumentally ahead of the penultimate title-track’s classic build and payoff and the earth-toned nine-minute finale “Sleepy Trip,” which is nothing if not self-aware in its title as it moves toward the driving crescendo of the record. All throughout, the mood is as warm as the distortion, and Wet Cactus do right by staying true to the roots of desert rock. It’s not every record I’d want to review a year after the fact; think of it that way.

Wet Cactus on Thee Facebooks

Wet Cactus on Bandcamp

 

Duskwood, The Long Dark

duskwood the long dark

A follow-up EP to Duskwood‘s 2016 debut long-player, Desert Queen, the four-track The Long Dark is a solid showcase of their progression as songwriters and in the capital-‘d’ Desertscene style that has come to epitomize much of the UK heavy rock underground, taking loyalism to the likes of Kyuss and topping it off with the energy of modern London-based practitioners Steak. The four-piece roll out a right-on fuzzy groove in “Mars Rover” after opening with “Space Craft” and show more of a melodic penchant in “Crook and Flail” before tying it all together with “Nomad” at the finish. They warn on their Bandcamp page this is ‘Part 1,’ so it may not be all that long before they resurface. Fair enough as they’ve clearly found their footing in terms of style and songwriting here, and at that point the best thing to do is keep growing. As it stands, The Long Dark probably isn’t going to kick off any stylistic revolution, but there’s something to be said for the band’s ability to execute their material in conversation with what else is out there at the moment.

Duskwood on Thee Facebooks

Duskwood on Bandcamp

 

Lykantropi, Spirituosa

Lykantropi-Spirituosa

Sweet tones and harmonies and a classic, sun-coated progressivism persist on Lykantropi‘s second album, Spirituosa (on Lightning Records), basking in melodic flow across nine songs and 43 minutes that begin with the rockers “Wild Flowers” and “Vestigia” and soon move into the well-paired “Darkness” and “Sunrise” as the richer character of the LP unfolds. “Songbird” makes itself a highlight with its more laid back take, and the title-track follows with enough swing to fill whatever quota you’ve got, while “Queen of Night” goes full ’70s boogie and “Seven Blue” imagines Tull and Fleetwood Mac vibes — Flutewood Mac! — and closer and longest track “Sällsamma Natt” underscores the efficiency of songwriting that’s been at play all the while amidst all that immersive gorgeousness and lush melodicism. They include a bit of push in the capper, and well they should, but go out with a swagger that playfully counteracts the folkish humility of the proceedings. Will fly under many radars. Shouldn’t.

Lykantropi on Thee Facebooks

Lightning Records website

 

Kavod, Wheel of Time

kavod wheel of time

As Italian trio Kavod shift from opener “Samsara” into “Absolution” on their debut EP, Wheel of Time, the vocals become a kind of chant for the verse that would seem to speak to the meditative intention of the release on the whole. They will again on the more patient closer “Mahatma” too, and fair enough as the band seem to be trying to find a place for themselves in the post-Om or Zaum sphere of spiritual exploration through volume, blending that aesthetic with a more straight-ahead songwriting methodology as manifest in “Samsara” particularly. They have the tones right on as they begin this inward and outward journey, and it will be interesting to hear in subsequent work if they grow to work in longer, possibly-slower forms or push their mantras forward at the rate they do here, but as it stands, they take a reverent, astral viewpoint with their sound and feel dug in on that plane of existence. It suits them.

Kavod on Thee Facebooks

Kavod on Bandcamp

 

Onioroshi, Beyond These Mountains

onioroshi beyond these mountains

Onioroshi flow smoothly from atmospheric post-sludge to more thrusting heavy rock and they take their time doing it, too. With their debut album, Beyond These Mountains, the Italian heavy proggers present four tracks the shortest of which, “Locusta,” runs 10:54. Bookending are “Devilgrater” (14:17) and “Eternal Snake (Mantra)” (20:30) and the penultimate “Socrate” checks in at 12:29, so yes, the trio have plenty of chances to flesh out their ideas as and explore as they will. Their style leans toward post-rock by the end of “Devilgrater,” but never quite loses its sense of impact amid the ambience, and it’s not until “Socrate” that they go full-on drone, setting a cinematic feel that acts as a lead-in for the initial build of the closer which leads to an apex wash and a more patient finish than one might expect given the trip to get there. Beyond These Mountains is particularly enticing because it’s outwardly familiar but nuanced enough to still strike an individual note. It’s easy to picture Onioroshi winding up on Argonauta or some other suitably adventurous imprint.

Onioroshi on Thee Facebooks

Onioroshi on Bandcamp

 

Et Mors, Lux in Morte

et mors lux in morte

Whoever in Maryland/D.C. then-four-piece Et Mors decided to record their Lux in Morte EP in their practice space had the right idea. The morose death-doom three-songer takes cues from USBM in the haunting rawness of “Incendium Ater,” and even though the 19-minute “House of Nexus” comes through somewhat clearer — it was recorded to tape at Shenandoah University — it remains infected by the filth and grit of the opener. Actually, “infected” might be the word all around here, as the mold-sludge of closer “Acid Bender” creeps along at an exposed-flesh, feedback-drenched lurch, scathing as much in intent as execution, playing like a death metal record at half-speed and that much harsher because they so clearly know what they’re doing. If you think it matters that they mixed stuff from two different sessions, you’re way off base on the sound overall here. It’s patch-worthy decay metal, through and through. Concerns of audio fidelity need not apply.

Et Mors on Thee Facebooks

Et Mors on Bandcamp

 

Skånska Mord, Blues from the Tombs

skanska mord blues from the tombs

When Sweden’s Skånska Mord are singing about the deep freeze in album opener “Snow” on the Transubstans-released Blues from the Tombs, I believe it. It’s been seven years since Small Stone issued their Paths to Charon LP (review here), and the new record finds them more fully dug into a classic rocker’s take on hard-blues, rolling with Iommic riffs and a mature take on what earliest Spiritual Beggars were able to capture in terms of a modern-retro sound. “Snow” and “Simon Says” set an expectation for hooks that the more meandering “Edge of Doom” pulls away from, while “The Never Ending Greed” brings out the blues harp over an abbreviated two minutes and leads into a more expansive side B with “Blinded by the Light” giving way to the wah-bassed “Sun,” the barroom blueser “Death Valley Blues” and the returning nod of closer “The Coming of the Second Wave,” stood out by its interwoven layers of soloing and hypnosis before its final cut. It’s been a while, but they’ve still got it.

Skånska Mord on Thee Facebooks

Transubstans Records website

 

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Friday Full-Length: Graveyard, Graveyard

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Even though it came out three years later, Graveyard‘s 2007 self-titled debut was the album that showed retro heavy didn’t just belong to Witchcraft. Yeah, I know that’s an easy narrative and there were other bands out there at the time digging into the heavy ’70s sound for inspiration, but frankly, not at this level, and even Graveyard‘s fellow Swedes had begun by then to pull away from the proto-doom rock of their first outing by ’07. The two groups were further linked by a common lineage in Norrsken, with guitarist/vocalist Joakim Nilsson and then-bassist Rikard Edlund having played in that outfit alongside Witchcraft‘s Magnus Pelander from 1996-2000 and produced several demos and singles as well as appearing on the tributes Bastards Will Pay: A Tribute to Trouble (discussed here) and Blue Explosion: A Tribute to Blue Cheer (discussed here) in 1999. But not only were Graveyard on the earlier end of Sweden and greater Europe’s retroist movement, and not only did they play a significant role in putting it into motion, but they showed there was more to it than Pentagram worship.

I’ll readily admit that the first time I saw them, in 2010 at Roadburn Festival (review here), I didn’t get it. I’d heard the self-titled, then three years old after coming out in the States on Tee Pee and in Europe on Transubstans. They were too cool-looking for me. Everything just seemed too perfect, it felt like a put-on for cool kids that just didn’t sit nearly as well with me as falafel I went outside and ate instead of watching them through the open doorway of the old Green Room at the 013 in Tilburg. I was wrong, of course. Not that Graveyard weren’t fashion-conscious in a way that even Witchcraft would never be and that Germany’s Kadavar would raise to yet another level, but I just got a mistaken impression. It was the end of a long weekend. I was tired. So it goes. Those more clued in to what Nilsson, Edlund, drummer Axel Sjöberg, guitarist Jonatan Ramm and guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Truls Mörck were creating in terms of vibe dug it plenty. The problem, in short, was me. As ever.

By then, Graveyard were already due for a follow-up to Graveyard that wouldn’t arrive for another two years. That long stretch between a first album and a second one would crush a lesser band graveyard self titledlooking to capture some audience share, but with Graveyard, it seemed only to let the nine-song/39-minute long-player — crafted with a focus on vinyl, which was rare in 2007 — simmer as a burgeoning social media word-of-mouth spread its legend. Graveyard became a thing you knew if you were in the know, and their boogie blues rock was perfectly suited for building a cult following. Capping with the mega-hook of “Satan’s Finest,” the album was a clarion to the converted that wasn’t to be missed, and whether it was the shuffle in Sjöberg‘s snare on “Thin Line” or the swapping out of lead vocals for side A closer “Blue Soul” and side B’s “As the Years Pass by the Hours Bend” and the bass/percussion arrangement in the penultimate “Right is Wrong” that seemed so distant from the rush that began the album on “Evil Ways,” there was so much to dig about what Graveyard were doing that even if you got sucked in by the vintage-style production of the whole outing, you were still only getting part of the story. It was at least as much about the band’s songwriting and performance, if not more so, than the aesthetic they so purposefully donned to present it.

“Evil Ways” and “Satan’s Finest” — the start and the finish — were powerful enough in themselves, and managed to embrace cliché enough to be fun while other tracks took a more emotionalist direction that, in hindsight, foreshadowed some of Graveyard‘s and particularly Nilsson‘s delving into soul-driven fare on subsequent offerings. But the self-titled’s more raucous moments, on the short side B leadoff “Submarine Blues” or the bouncing-down-stairs rhythm of “Lost in Confusion,” as well as the fluidity in “Blue Soul,” were a new branch of heavy rock springing up right in front of the listener, and they were received accordingly. I don’t think it’s a hard argument to make that Graveyard became one of the most essential heavy rock bands of this decade in the wake of this debut, and what they’ve gone on to accomplish in the years since — signing to Nuclear Blast to finally release the landmark sophomore full-length Hisingen Blues (review here) in 2011, followed on a quick turnaround by 2012’s Lights Out (review here), touring the universe and then releasing 2015’s more mature Innocence and Decadence (review here) and 2018’s Peace (review here) — is matched by an elite few who might still be considered underground acts.

When Graveyard announced they were calling it quits in 2016, it seemed fair enough. After four records, they’d never hit a snag, and as they’d taken on a more modern production sound and toured hard for about half a decade, it was understandable they might have burnt themselves out. The breakup didn’t take, and when they got back together, with Oskar Bergenheim on drums in place of Sjöberg (since of Big Kizz) and Mörck back in the band on bass instead of guitar, with Ramm and Nilsson as the remaining founders, the revamped rhythm section changed the character of the band. That was evident on Peace, though the songwriting was consistent and arguably the broadest it had ever been. I don’t know what the future holds for Graveyard, except perhaps more touring — they announced last week they’ll be on the road with Clutch in Europe for a quick run this December — and headlining festival gigs if they want them, but listening back to their self-titled, it’s astounding how vital and assured this band was of what they were doing.

There are no shortage of acts out there who aim toward and eventually capture some sense of individuality. Who you put on and immediately know what you’re listening to. Graveyard would prove identifiable by the time the three and a half minutes of “Evil Ways” were done and wherever they’ve gone in terms of their sound, they’ve never lost that. While of course the context of their career since helps, I don’t think you can really look at their debut as anything other than a pivotal moment for this generation of heavy rock.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Gonna keep this quick if I can. A plug:

Today at 1PM Eastern is The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. It’s the first time it’s airing in its new timeslot. I hope you get the chance to listen, and if you do, I hope you dig it. Please, if you can check it out, I’d very much appreciate it. I should be in the Gimme chat for it as well if you want to say hi.

Then later on tonight, The Patient Mrs., The Pecan and I are flying to Ireland. It’s been a hell of a week. We loaded and brought a truckload of stuff — including CDs, the packing of which was a task both mentally and physically — to the house in New Jersey where we’ll be living by the end of this summer, on Tuesday. We were there for Wednesday hanging out with family and whatnot, then came back north yesterday to Massachusetts so The Patient Mrs. could go to a farewell work party, and today we have a bunch of running around to do and packing to go on this trip, which is one of the last things she has going for Bridgewater State University: a study-abroad excursion to Ireland with another professor and 15 students. I’m going basically so she doesn’t have to be away from the baby for two weeks, though it means flying on a red-eye with an 19-month-old, stuffing him onto a bus multiple times and sleeping in the same room with him, which we haven’t done in a little over a year. It’s going to be… interesting. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about all of it.

Fortunately, we’re bringing his headphones. He has a little pair of blue wireless over-ears that The Patient Mrs. bought on Amazon. I loaded a micro-SD with the Beatles catalog and it’s an immediate calm-down for him. He can be in the midst of an absolute shit-fit and you put the headphones on him and it snaps him out of it. It’s astounding. Dude loves it. I just have to make sure he doesn’t get to “Revolution 9.” I don’t think children should be exposed to such horrors.

The plan though is to stop in and visit Slomatics though while we’re in Belfast, so I’m looking forward to that, and I may hit a record shop somewhere along the way. We’ll see. I don’t really know. I haven’t even looked at shows as compared to our itinerary or anything, mostly because I have no idea what our itinerary is. I’m really just along for the ride and the child-care on this one.

Because I love flying so much.

But it’s Ireland until June 6, then back to MA, then down to Jersey to see Solace with a bunch of other badass bands on June 8, then back to MA June 13 for more dental work — the saga continues! — then south to NJ, then further south for Maryland Doom Fest, then up to CT for a bit to cover babysitting my niece and nephew, and somewhere in there maybe we’re going to redo the kitchen in NJ before we actually move in? Oh yeah, and the place in Massachusetts goes on the market today, so if this place sells we’ll have to be out by some appointed closing date, then actually sort finances with buying the house in NJ and do that, finish packing — ugh, vinyl — and actually move. It’s a ton of shit, and completely overwhelming. That’s what it is.

All you can do is keep your head down and keep working.

But putting my head down, I notice on the baby monitor that The Pecan is up. Coming on 6AM, so that’s fair. Gonna go grab him and start the day. Laundry to do and whatnot.

Have a great and safe weekend. Forum, radio, merch at Dropout.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

 

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Skånska Mord Release Blues from the Tombs May 17; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Swedish heavy rockers Skånska Mord released their self-titled EP in 2014 on Transubstans Records, but it’s been seven years since their last full-length. Their second LP, Paths to Charon (review here), came out in 2012 on Small Stone full of ’70s-via-’90s vibes, and this Spring they’ll issue Blues from the Tombs as a long-in-the-making third album.

Time has not dulled their affinity for classic heavy, as the posted track “Blinded by the Light” demonstrates. You can hear that, of course, at the bottom of this post, beneath the album info for Blues from the Tombs, which was posted by the label on thee social medias.

Have at it:

skanska mord blues from the tombs

SKÅNSKA MORD – new album BLUES FROM THE TOMBS out May 17 on VINYL & CD from TRANSUBSTANS RECORDS

Five years after their self-titled release on Transubstans Records, SKÅNSKA MORD return with yet another hard-hitting release, promptly named “Blues From The Tombs”.

The unique sound that makes SKÅNSKA MORD stand out in today’s scene is present on every track on the new album. While other acts may focus entirely on creating either heavy blues soundscapes, or paying their tribute to the progressive rock bands of the 70’s, SKÅNSKA MORD is not afraid of mixing the two in their own manner. “Blues From The Tombs” is delivering heavy grooves as per the band’s high standard, while enthusing the listener with tempo changes, incredible solos, tight rhythm sections together with the strong voice of Janne Bengtsson. From the doomy elements of “The Coming Of The Second Wave” to the dynamic psychedelia of “Sun”, there is only one thing to conclude; if you enjoy listening to music with the same passion as these guys are playing it, then this album is for you.

Skånska Mord is:
Jan Bengtsson
Petter Englund
Patric Carlsson
Patrik Berglin
Thomas Jönsson

https://www.facebook.com/skanskamord
http://www.transubstans.com/

Skånska Mord, “Blinded by the Light”

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Quarterly Review: Hornss, Khemmis, Fox 45, Monolith Wielder, No Man’s Valley, Saturna, Spotlights, MØLK, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Moon Coven

Posted in Reviews on December 26th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

2016 ends and 2017 starts off on the right foot with a brand new Quarterly Review roundup. The first time I ever did one of these was at the end of 2014 and I called the feature ‘Last Licks.’ Fortunately, I’ve moved on from that name, but that is kind of how I’m thinking about this particular Quarterly Review. You’ll find stuff that came out spread all across 2016, early, middle, late, but basically what I’m trying to do here is get to a point where it’s not March and I’m still reviewing albums from November. Will it work? Probably not, but in order to try my damnedest to make it do so anyway, I’m making this Quarterly Review six full days. Monday to Monday instead of Monday to Friday. 60 reviews in six posts. Sounds like madness because it is madness. Let’s get started.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Hornss, Telepath

hornss telepath

San Francisco trio Hornss debuted on RidingEasy Records with 2014’s No Blood No Sympathy (review here) and further their raw genre blend on Telepath, their half-hour follow-up LP delivered via STB, melding heavy punk and metallic impulses to a noisy, thick-toned thrust on songs like “Atrophic” and the bouncing “Sargasso Heart” while opener “St. Genevieve” and the penultimate “Old Ghosts” dig into more stonerly nod. The latter track is the longest inclusion on the record at 3:26, and with 11 cuts there’s plenty of jumping between impulses to be done, but the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mike Moracha, bassist/vocalist Nick Nava – both formerly of desert punkers Solarfeast – and drummer Bil Bowman (ex-Zodiac Killers) work effectively and efficiently to cast an identity for themselves within the tumult. It’s one that finds them reveling in the absence of pretense and the sometimes-caustic vibes of songs like “Leaving Thermal,” which nonetheless boast an underlying catchiness, speaking to a progression from the first album.

Hornss on Thee Facebooks

STB Records store

 

Khemmis, Hunted

khemmis hunted

Easily justifiable decision on the part of Denver’s Khemmis to return to Flatline Audio and producer Dave Otero (Cephalic Carnage, etc.) for their second album, Hunted. No reason to fix what clearly wasn’t broken about their 2015 debut, Absolution (review here), and on the 20 Buck Spin Records release, they don’t. A year later, the four-piece instead build on the doomly grandeur of the first outing and push forward in aesthetic, confidence and purpose, whether that’s shown in mournful opener “Above the Water,” the darker “Candlelight” that follows, or the centerpiece “Three Gates,” which opens as muddied death metal before shifting into a cleaner chorus, creating a rare bridge between doom and modern metal. Khemmis save the most resonant crush for side B, however, with the nine-minute “Beyond the Door” capping with vicious stomp before the 13-minute title-track, which closes the album with an urgency that bleeds even into spacious and melodic break that sets up the final apex to come, as emotionally charged as it is pummeling.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin on Bandcamp

 

Fox 45, Ashes of Man

fox 45 ashes of man

In addition to the outright charm of titles like “Doominati,” “Coup d’étwat,” “Murdercycle” and “Urinal Acid” (the latter a bonus track), Rochester, New York’s Fox 45 offer fuzzy roll on their Twin Earth Records debut full-length, Ashes of Man, the three-piece of Amanda Rampe, Vicky Tee and Casey Learch finding space for themselves between the post-Acid King nod of “Necromancing the Stone” and more swing-prone movements like the relatively brief “Soul Gourmandizer.” Playing back and forth between longer and shorter tracks gives Ashes of Man a depth of character – particularly encouraging since it’s Fox 45’s first record – and the low-end push that leads “Phoenix Tongue” alone is worth the price of admission, let alone the familiar-in-the-right-ways straightforward heavy riffing of “Narcissister” a short while later. Very much a debut, but one that sets up a grunge-style songwriting foundation on which to build as they move forward, and Fox 45 seem to have an eye toward doing precisely that.

Fox 45 on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

 

Monolith Wielder, Monolith Wielder

monolith wielder self titled

Double-guitar Pittsburgh four-piece Monolith Wielder make their self-titled debut through Italian imprint Argonauta Records, bringing together Molasses Barge guitarist Justin Gizzi and Zom guitarist/vocalist Gero von Dehn with bassist Ray Ward (since replaced by Amy Bianco) and drummer Ben Zerbe (also Mandrake Project) for 10 straightforward tracks that draw together classic Sabbathian doom with post-grunge heavy rock roll. There’s a workingman’s sensibility to the riffing of “No Hope No Fear” and the earlier, more ‘90s moodiness of “Angels Hide” – von Dehn’s vocals over the thick tones almost brings to mind Sevendust on that particularly catchy chorus – but Monolith Wielder’s Monolith Wielder isn’t shy about bringing atmospherics to the Iommic thrust of its eponymous cut or the penultimate “King Under Fire,” which recalls the self-titled Alice in Chains in its unfolding bleakness before closer “Electric Hessian” finishes with a slight uptick in pace and a fade out and back in (and a last sample) that hints at more to come.

Monolith Wielder on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

 

No Man’s Valley, Time Travel

no man's valley time travel

The stomp and clap intro “The Man Who Would be King” casts an immediately bluesy hue on No Man’s Valley’s debut album, Time Travel (LP release on Nasoni), and the Netherlands-based five-piece seem only too happy to build on that from there. It’s a blend outfits like The Flying Eyes and Suns of Thyme have proffered for several years now between heavy psychedelia and blues, but No Man’s Valley find a niche for themselves in the dreamy and patient execution of “Sinking the Lifeboat,” a highlight of the eight-track/33-minute LP, and bring due personality to the classic-style jangle-and-swing of “The Wolves are Coming” as well, so that Time Travel winds up more textured than redundant as it makes its way toward six-minute piano-laden finale “Goon.” Once there, they follow a linear course with a post-All Them Witches looseness that solidifies into a resonant and deeply engaging apex, underscoring the impressive reach No Man’s Valley have brought to bear across this first LP of hopefully many to come.

No Man’s Valley on Thee Facebooks

Nasoni Records website

 

Saturna, III/Lost in Time

saturna lost in time

Barcelona classic rocking four-piece Saturna seem to avoid the boogie trap when they want to, as on the more rolling, modern heavy groove of “Five Fools,” and that keeps their World in Sound/PRC Music third album, III/Lost in Time, from being too predictable after the opening “Tired to Fight” seems to set up Thin Lizzy idolatry. They dip into more complex fare on “Leave it All,” somewhere between Skynyrd leads, Deep Purple organ-isms topped with a rousing hook, but keep some shuffle on songs like “Disease” and the earlier “All Has Been Great.” Highlight/closer “Place for Our Soul” seems to be literal in its title, with a more subdued approach and harmonized vocal delivery, and listening to its more patient delivery one can’t help but wonder why that soul should be relegated to the end of the album instead of featured throughout, but the songwriting is solid and the delivery confident, so while familiar, there’s ultimately little to complain about with what III/Lost in Time offers.

Saturna on Thee Facebooks

World in Sound website

 

MØLK, Hate from the Bong

molk hate from the bong

Especially with the title of their second EP set as Hate from the Bong, one might be tempted to put Belgian outfit MØLK immediately in the same category of malevolent stoner/sludge metal as the likes of Bongripper, but frankly they sound like they’re having too much fun for that on the five-tracker, reveling in lyrical shenanigans on the politically suspect “Stonefish” and opener “Methamphetamine.” Make no mistake, they’re suitably druggy, but even Hate from the Bong’s title-track seems to keep its tongue in cheek as it unfolds its post-Electric Wizard echoes and tonal morass. That gives the five-piece an honest vibe – they’re a relatively new band, having released their first EP in 2016 as well; why shouldn’t they be having a good time? – to coincide with all that thickened low end and vocal reverb, and though they’re obviously growing, there isn’t much more I’d ask of them from a debut full-length, which is a task they sound ready to take on in these songs.

MØLK on Thee Facebooks

MØLK on Bandcamp

 

Psychedelic Witchcraft, The Vision

psychedelic witchcraft the vision

Italian cult rock outfit Psychedelic Witchcraft have proven somewhat difficult to keep up with over the last year-plus. As they’ve hooked up with Soulseller Records and reissued their Black Magic Man EP (review here), their full-length debut, The Vision, and already announced a follow-up compilation in 2017’s Magick Rites and Spells, the band consistently work to feature the vocals of Virginia Monti (also Dead Witches) amid semi-retro ‘70s-style boogie, as heard on the debut in cuts like “Witches Arise” and “Wicked Ways.” At nine tracks/34 minutes, however, The Vision is deceptively efficient, and though they’re unquestionably playing to style, Psychedelic Witchcraft find room to vary moods on “The Night” and the subdued strum of “The Only One Who Knows,” keeping some sonic diversity while staying largely on-theme lyrically. To call the album cohesive is underselling its purposefulness, but the question is how the band will build on the bluesy soulfulness of “Magic Hour Blues” now that they’ve set this progression in motion. Doesn’t seem like it will be all that long before we find out.

Psychedelic Witchcraft on Thee Facebooks

Soulseller Records website

 

Spotlights, Spiders EP

spotlights spiders

Following the heavy post-rock wash of their 2016 debut album, Tidals, Brooklynite two-piece Spotlights – bassist/guitarist/vocalist Sarah Quintero and guitarist/synthesis/vocalist Mario Quintero – return on the quick with a three-track EP, Spiders, and set themselves toward further sonic expansion. The centerpiece “She Spider” is a Mew cover, electronic beats back opener “A Box of Talking Heads V2” and the spacious closer “Joseph” is a track from Tidals remixed by former Isis drummer Aaron Harris. So, perhaps needless to say, they hit that “expansion” mark pretty head-on. The finale turns out to be the high point, more cinematic in its ambience, but still moving through with an underlying rhythm to the wash of what one might otherwise call drones before becoming more deeply post-Nine Inch Nails in its back half. How many of these elements might show up on Spotlights’ next record, I wouldn’t guess, but the band takes an important step by letting listeners know the potential is there, adding three wings onto their wheelhouse in three tracks, which is as efficient conceptually as it is sonically immersive.

Spotlights on Thee Facebooks

Spotlights on Bandcamp

 

Moon Coven, Moon Coven

moon coven self-titled

This self-titled second full-length from Malmö, Sweden-based Moon Coven begins with its longest track (immediate points) in “Storm” and works quickly to nail down a far-reaching meld between heavy psych and riffy density. Issued through the much-respected Transubstans Records, it’s a nine-track/50-minute push that can feel unipolar on an initial listen, but largely avoids that trap through tonal hypnosis and fluid shifts into and out of jams on cuts like “The Third Eye,” while centerpiece “Haramukh High” provides a solidified moment before the organ interlude “The Ice Temple” leads into the mega-roll of finisher “White Sun.” What seems to be a brooding sensibility from the artwork – a striking departure from their 2014 debut, Amanita Kingdom – is actually a far more colorful affair than it might at first appear, and well justifies the investment of repeat visits in the far-out nod of “Conspiracy” and the swirling “Winter,” which goes so far as to add melodic texture in the vocals and notably fuzzed guitar, doing much to bolster the proceedings and overarching groove.

Moon Coven on Thee Facebooks

Transubstans Records

 

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audiObelisk Transmission 060

Posted in Podcasts on December 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk podcast 60

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Consider this your usual disclaimer that, like any of this site’s coverage of year-end whatnottery, this podcast is by no means attempting to capture all of 2016’s best tracks. It is, however, over four hours long, and frankly that seems like enough to ask. If you decide to take it on and sample what I found to be some of the best material to come down the line over the last 12 months, please know you have my thanks in advance. For what it’s worth, it was a lot of fun to put together, and that’s not always the case with these.

But about the length. I’ve done double-sized year-end specials for a while now. It’s always just seemed a fair way to go. And the last few at least have been posted the week of the Xmas holiday as well, which for me is of dual significance since it just so happens four hours is right about what it takes to drive from where I live to where my family lives, so when I look at this massive slew of 34 acts, from the riff-led righteousness of Wo Fat and Curse the Son to the crush of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and SubRosa to the psychedelic reaches of Zun and Øresund Space Collective (who probably show up in podcasts more than anyone, oddly enough), I also think of going to see my family, which has become my favorite part of the holidays.

Whatever associations you might draw with it, I very much hope you enjoy listening. Thanks for taking the time.

Track details follow:

First Hour:

0:00:00 Wo Fat, “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind” from Midnight Cometh
0:09:35 Greenleaf, “Howl” from Rise Above the Meadow
0:14:57 Elephant Tree, “Aphotic Blues” from Elephant Tree
0:20:49 Brant Bjork, “The Gree Heen” from Tao of the Devil
0:26:27 Sergio Ch., “El Herrero” from Aurora
0:29:44 Child, “Blue Side of the Collar” from Blueside
0:35:31 Geezer, “Bi-Polar Vortex” from Geezer
0:43:59 Zun, “Come Through the Water” from Burial Sunrise
0:49:27 Baby Woodrose, “Mind Control Machine” from Freedom
0:54:11 Curse the Son, “Hull Crush Depth” from Isolator
0:59:31 Borracho, “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away” from Atacama

Second Hour:

1:05:50 Scissorfight, “Nature’s Cruelest Mistake” from Chaos County
1:09:19 Truckfighters, “The Contract” from V
1:16:30 Spidergawd, “El Corazon del Sol” from III
1:21:24 Fatso Jetson, “Royal Family” from Idle Hands
1:26:13 Worshipper, “Step Behind” from Shadow Hymns
1:30:57 Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” from Y Proffwyd Dwyll
1:39:42 Druglord, “Regret to Dismember” from Deepest Regrets
1:46:34 Moon Coven, “New Season” from Moon Coven
1:52:03 Gozu, “Tin Chicken” from Revival
1:59:49 Year of the Cobra, “Vision of Three” from …In the Shadows Below

Third Hour:

2:06:53 The Munsens, “Abbey Rose” from Abbey Rose
2:14:56 Lamp of the Universe, “Mu” from Hidden Knowledge
2:21:26 1000mods, “On a Stone” from Repeated Exposure To…
2:26:45 Church of the Cosmic Skull, “Watch it Grow” from Is Satan Real?
2:30:43 Vokonis, “Acid Pilgrim” from Olde One Ascending
2:37:35 Slomatics, “Electric Breath” from Future Echo Returns
2:43:02 Droids Attack, “Sci-Fi or Die” from Sci-Fi or Die
2:47:20 King Buffalo, “Drinking from the River Rising” from Orion
2:56:51 Comet Control, “Artificial Light” from Center of the Maze

Fourth Hour:

3:06:37 Øresund Space Collective, “Above the Corner” from Visions Of…
3:22:51 Naxatras, “Garden of the Senses” from II
3:33:14 SubRosa, “Black Majesty” from For this We Fought the Battle of Ages
3:48:23 Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, “Escape Through the Rift” from Tranquonauts

Total running time: 4:07:32

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 060

 

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