Cortége Announce Fall Tour Dates Supporting New Album Capricorn

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

cortege

Austin-based Western-style heavy post-rockers Cortége are gearing up for the slated Sept. 27 release date of their new album, Capricorn, and after the record comes out, they’ll embark on the ‘Fall Capricorn Tour ’19,’ the naming for which I guess is pretty straightforward. Because I was curious — and ignorant, can’t forget that — I actually had to look up when the zodiac sign of Capricorn runs from and to. If you’re curious, it’s Dec. 22-Jan. 20. Okay. The tour, on the other hand, is from Oct. 12-Nov. 3. That makes it part-Libra, mostly-Scorpio. Does this matter? Probably not, but it’s kind of fun.

Anyway, I’ve kind of dug into the record at this point and it’s moody as you’d expect, but has the vibe down pat. They’ve been streaming a track that you can hear below, and yeah, it’s just the right kind of bum-out.

Here’s word from the PR wire:

cortege tour

Post-Western Doom/Drone Duo Cortége Announce ‘Capricorn Fall Tour 19’

Post-Western Doom/Drone Duo Cortége will embark on the ‘Capricorn Fall 19 Tour’ in October. Tour dates are below.

Exploring the wide dynamic between the two players,Capricorn is a monster work and the most musically varied recording to date. Although keeping the traditional instrumental theme throughout, the album explores the story of a misguided and waylaid explorer of space and his experiences in a foreign world. Complete with a fully illustrated comic book insert to help listeners along in the story and an accompanying music video directed by Lake Travis Film Festival founder and director Kat Albert, the record takes the band’s deepest influences to a wide and poignant actualization.

Now with their first international dates booked and an sprawling East Coast tour scheduled in support of Capricorn for the late Fall, the band readies themselves to cover more ground than ever before.

The vinyl LP version of Capricorn features beautiful transparent white vinyl, and includes a comic book by Dan Marschner detailing the story and concept of the album via gorgeous illustrations inspired by sci-fi pop art of decades past.

10/12 Austin, TX Skull Mechanix
10/13 Tulsa, OK Whittier Bar
10/15 St. Louis, MO Foam
10/16 Chicago, IL The Owl
10/17 Detroit, MI PJ’s Lager House
10/18 Toronto, ON Grand Gaerrand (w/ The Well)
10/19 Ottawa, ON Avant-Garde Bar
10/20 Montreal, ON Katacombes (w/ The Well)
10/22 Boston, MA O’Brien’s Pub
10/23 Wallingford, CT Cherry Street Station
10/24 Philadelphia, PA Century
10/25 New York, NY Gussy’s Bar
10/26 Frederick, MD Guido’s Speakeasy
10/27 Washington, D.C. Velvet Lounge
10/29 Raleigh, NC Slim’s Downtown
10/30 Columbia, SC Curiosity Coffee
10/31 Jacksonville, FL Jack Rabbits
11/1 Tallahassee, FL The Bark
11/2 New Orleans, LA Banks St Bar
11/3 Lafayette, LA Freetown Boom Boom Room

Cortége will release debut album Capricorn on September 27 on CD and vinyl LP. Members Mike Swarbick and Adrian Voorhies (ex-Canyon of the Skull, ex-Humut Tabal) create a listening experience that is at once heavy, experimental, and utterly cinematic, a primary feature thereof the captivate tones of tubular bells, as well as Roland string synthesizer, Moog Taurus synthesizer, and waterphone.

Cortége is:
Mike Swarbrick – Bass Guitar, Synthesizers, Percussion & Tape Delay
Adrian Voorhies (ex Canyon of the Skull, ex Humut Tabal) – Drums

cortege.bandcamp.com/
facebook.com/cortegeatx/
instagram.com/cortegeatx/

Cortége, Capricorn (2019)

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Zhora Announce Irish Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

zhora

I know you’re supposed to write zhOra like that, with the big ‘o’ and the little ‘z,’ but somehow I just couldn’t make myself do it in the headline. It would be the same starting a sentence. Zhora. Look, they’re a cool band and all, but grammar can only bend so far before it ultimately breaks, you know what I’m saying?

No, probably not. Fine.

Zhora, or, if you prefer, zhOra, will be doing a quick run of Irish dates next month with Sail and Everest Queen, and I’m posting the tour info not so much because I expect everybody to make their travel plans and get to Belfast or Dublin or Cork or Limerick in time for a show, but because it gives me an excuse as well to post the video for “Ruthless Bastards,” the punishing vibe of which is very much suiting the kind of day I’ve had. I hope yours has been better, or if not, you find similar catharsis.

Have at it:

zhora shows

We are playing our final run of Irish dates for the year this October. We are joined by some old and new friends.

Oct 24th | Voodoo Belfast
Oct 25th | Sin É Dublin
Oct 26th | Fred Zeppelins, Cork
Oct 27th | Siege of Limerick*

Everest Queen are from Stevenage in the UK and have been good mates of ours for a few years now. We played Bloodstock Festival together back in 2017 along with some awesome UK tours. They are the best of people and they live for riffs. It’s there first time in Ireland and we know they are going to go down really well.

Sail hail from Somerset and are also hitting Ireland for the first time. It’s also our first time gigging together and we cannot wait to see their dense, stoney sludge music performed live with an awesome Irish crowd behind them.

The Siege weekenders are always phenomenal so we are really buzzing for this one. Cheers to everyone that has come to all the shows this year, bought a t shirt and just had a good laugh. We have had an awesome run and look forward to welcoming the darker months in style with all of our mental friends all over this mad country.

zhOra Line-up:
Colin Bolger, Tom Woodlock, Alan Hanlon, Ian O’Meara

https://www.zhorasludge.com
https://www.instagram.com/zhoraireland/
https://www.facebook.com/zhOramusic/
http://zhora1.bandcamp.com/

zhOra, “Ruthless Bastards” official video

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Hellhookah Post “Greed and Power” Video; New Album The Curse Coming Soon

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

hellhookah

Lithuanian doom two-piece Hellhookah are gearing up to release their second album, titled The Curse, sometime in the coming months. When’s it out? I don’t know. Who’s putting it out? I don’t know. Is there a new video streaming for the track “Greed and Power” right now? Why yes, yes there is. And so we see what really matters. The doom.

And Hellhookah — as anyone who heard their 2016 debut, Endless Serpents (review here), can attest — have plenty of doom to offer. They remain traditionalists in the genre, playing to a familiar style of post-Iommi riffs and lumbering-but-on-lockdown grooves. Guitarist/vocalist Arnas Gricius and drummer Gintare Staneviciute have already demonstrated their affinity for the classics, most especially Saint Vitus, and so “Greed and Power” brings forth some new ideas, pushing the vocals forward in the mix and seeming to offer a more aggressive take. Set to a massive guitar tone and complementary roll of crash cymbal, the slog of “Greed and Power” should ultimately be no less a doomed delight than was the first record, but the route they take to get there has shifted somewhat in character and delivery.

That’s only fair for a second record, and in conjunction with that, it’s also worth mentioning the production uptick evident in the “Greed and Power” recording, with further depth of tone in the guitar and an organic feel to the drums. I don’t yet know how “Greed and Power” might relate to the rest of The Curse from whence it comes, but it seems like we’ve got time before the record comes out, and the lead single provides plenty of fodder for intrigue, which is exactly what one would hope it would do.

Video and band bio follow. Please enjoy:

Hellhookah, “Greed and Power” official video

Hellhookah is a Lithuanian two-piece band formed in 2012 by Arnas (guitars/vocals) and Gintar? (drums). Band have started playing live in the January of 2014. In 2016 Hellhookah signed with independent U.S. label NoSlip Records to release their debut album “Endless Serpents” on CD and 180g LP. Since 2016 band has played many shows at various gigs and festivals around Europe including Germany, Austria, France, Belgium, Finland, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Now Hellhookah is also working on their second album and booking new tour dates.

Hellhookah on Thee Facebooks

Hellhookah website

Hellhookah on Bandcamp

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Ether Feather Premiere “New Abyss” Video; Debut Album out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ether feather new abyss video

Sleeper hit. Ether Feather‘s debut album, Devil – Shadowless – Hand, isn’t the kind of record people hear, but it’s the kind of record they wish they’d heard later, and whatever pomp may or may not surround its arrival, the eight-track/37-minute oh-so-vinyl-ready outing digs into a heavy desert rock weirdness that owes surprisingly little allegiance to that style or any other, instead rolling out with an amorphous, go-where-it-wants sensibility that results in the dream-tone-into-chug of opener and longest track (immediate points) “Falconer,” while ditties like “Interstellar” and the later drift-jam “New Abyss” and the clunk-punk geometry-jazz “Haggard Hawk” do what they wilt to serve the song in question. The tendency throughout seems to be toward experimentalism on the part of drummer/vocalist Dylan Ryan, guitarist Tim Young and bassist Sylvia Black — none of whom arrives without pedigree, as you can read below — but that experimentalism is likewise drawn into the purpose of songwriting, and not simply thrown out to the listener in as-is fashion.

That holds true even on the lead guitar and maybe-synth exploration “Dawn of Orion,” which follows the crunchy post-grunge texture of “Cayenne” with two minutes that would otherwise be an interlude if they didn’t add so much to the proceedings on the whole in terms of vibe ahead of the closing duo “Your Half in the Middle” and “The Ultimate Halcyon,” which both resolve themselves in raucous fashion but aren’t at all limited to rush or pummel in their approach. Particularly in the latter, one is reminded of some of Rob Crow‘s vocal melodicism, but if what that actually means is Ether Feather are bizarre and progressive, then take it as you will. Their first album is less a direct statement of intent than the laying claim to a swath of ground for future expansion — which is to say, I don’t think they’re going to get any less weird over time. But that’s only good news, as what they bring to that in terms of craft is an engaging fleetness of rhythm and a strong presence in terms of tone and personality. Again, sleeper hit. I know there’s a lot of stuff out there, and Devil – Shadowless – Hand might take a couple listens before it sinks in, but meeting it on its own level is worth the effort in the end.

As further persuasion, Ether Feather premiere their cinematic video for “New Abyss” below. I’m pretty sure they’re out there where Kirk fought the Gorn — so yes, Cestus III — and that’s awesome, but beyond that, consider it as evidence of how haphazard Devil – Shadowless – Hand isn’t that they’d put together a clip for a track and use it as the genuine opportunity to tell a story that it is, not simply playing the track in their rehearsal space, but directing a narrative that works to complement the song in mood and style. I’m a firm believer in happy accidents, and I’m sure there are a couple on the Ether Feather record, but there’s no lack of consideration surrounding.

Enjoy the video:

Ether Feather, “New Abyss” official video

What resides in the ether? Floating like a lead balloon in Ether Feather’s inverse universe is the meeting point between Black Sabbath, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Kyuss and Captain Beefheart.

The Los Angeles trio’s sound is a weighty, swinging brand of desert rock influenced heft informed by elements of No Wave, free jazz and post-punk. It’s not jammy for jam’s sake, nor is it neo-jazzbo navel gazing – it’s crafty and astute, head-bobbing thud with a flair for tasteful melodic quirks.

Ether Feather is the brainchild of L.A.-by-way-of-Chicago drummer/vocalist Dylan Ryan, who has also played with Man Man, Cursive, Red Krayola and more. The newly minted trio includes guitarist Tim Young (guitarist on the Late Late Show and studio player: Todd Rundgren, Mike Patton, Fiona Apple) and bassist Sylvia Black (Lydia Lunch.) The band arose from a previous incarnation called SAND, featuring Ryan and Young, which had released two albums in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Ether Feather is:
Tim Young, Guitar
Sylvia Black, Bass
Dylan Ryan, Drums & Vocals

Ether Feather, Devil – Shadowless – Hand (2019)

Ether Feather on Thee Facebooks

Ether Feather on Instagram

Ether Feather on Bandcamp

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Draagyn Share Debut Single “Majesty”

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

A little bit of ripping progressive black metal, you say? Don’t mind if I do. Bolstered by some piano, rife with melody and folkish elements Draagyn‘s debut single “Majesty” is a broad and clear statement of intent on the part of the newcomer outfit. In true — or tr00, if you prefer — black metal style, info on the whos and whats and wheres is sparse in favor of universe-collapsing-on-itself-style descriptors, and fair enough, but the bottom line is that as a first public track, “Majesty” lives up to its title in melodic poise and intensity alike. It’s eight minutes long and I guarantee it sounds not at all like anything else I’m posting today.

And while I’ll admit I’m something of an eyerolling fan of some of black metal’s theatrical presentation, the line in the PR wire info below about releasing additional music “as it sees fit” is pretty fantastic. Here’s hoping the band sees fit soon.

Audio’s at the bottom, but dig that headline too. Right on:

draagyn

DRAAGYN EMERGES FROM THE DEPTHS OF A BLACKENED ABYSS TO LIGHT THE WAY FOR DEVIANT SOULS ON DEBUT SONG, “MAJESTY”

To be clear, this isn’t metal. In fact, it’s the end of times. The chilling moment right before you die. It’s something to be loved, feared and hated at the same time. An intense cataclysm, clawing and writhing its way from the blackened abyss. It’s to be adored or recoiled in disgust with no compromise in between. A grotesque, iconoclastic deity that should be worshipped or burned at the stake. A magnificent terror caught in the crossroads between heaven and hell that lights the way for the damned amidst eternal darkness. It’s artistry for the outliers and outlaws; for those with reckless abandon and exclusive fetishes. This is Draagyn.

With its first offering, “Majesty,” Draagyn parts a dead sea with an 8-minute opus of juxtaposing sound, beginning with an ethereal prelude, before all out collapsing into a torrent of violent darkness and immense doom. Bound by no rules and apathetic to any preconceived notions as to what is considered “music” or “art,” Draagyn manifests a supreme intensity and fearless brilliance which knows no limits.

Draagyn will release additional music in the near future, as it sees fit.

https://www.instagram.com/_draagyn_/
https://soundcloud.com/draagynmusic

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Cortége to Release Capricorn Later This Month; Track Streaming Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

cortege

What seems like a pretty straight-ahead take on Earth‘s drone rock circa HEX: Or Printing in the Infernal Method takes a turn as Austin, Texas, duo Cortége make their way deeper into “Horizons,” the lead streaming track from their upcoming debut album, Capricorn. Synth and bells and who the hell knows what else take hold in a more amorphous-feeling setting, less ‘of place’ than ‘formerly of place,’ and thus all the more ethereal. It’s an enticing lead-in for the album — though it’s not the opener — which will see issue on Sept. 27 as the two-piece of Mike Swarbrick and Adrian Voorhies self-release on CD and LP to coincide with a yet-unannounced East Coast tour that, presumably, will take them into Canada as well. Side note: the album is dedicated to the rhythm section from The Who. Curious as to why.

Either way, you know how I go on all the time about how there are all different kinds of heavy and something doesn’t necessarily need to be loud or aggressive to bear a feeling of weight? Well here you go.

From the PR wire:

Cortege Capricorn

Austin, TX’s Cortége Brings Post-Western Doom/Drone on Forthcoming Debut Album ‘Capricorn’

Post-Western Doom/Drone Duo Cortége will release debut album Capricorn on September 27 on CD and vinyl LP. Members Mike Swarbick and Adrian Voorhies (ex-Canyon of the Skull, ex-Humut Tabal) create a listening experience that is at once heavy, experimental, and utterly cinematic, a primary feature thereof the captivate tones of tubular bells, as well as Roland string synthesizer, Moog Taurus synthesizer, and waterphone.

Exploring the wide dynamic between the two players,Capricorn is a monster work and the most musically varied recording to date. Although keeping the traditional instrumental theme throughout, the album explores the story of a misguided and waylaid explorer of space and his experiences in a foreign world. Complete with a fully illustrated comic book insert to help listeners along in the story and an accompanying music video directed by Lake Travis Film Festival founder and director Kat Albert, the record takes the band’s deepest influences to a wide and poignant actualization.

Now with their first international dates booked and an sprawling East Coast tour scheduled in support of Capricorn for the late Fall, the band readies themselves to cover more ground than ever before.

The vinyl LP version of Capricorn features beautiful transparent white vinyl, and includes a comic book by Dan Marschner detailing the story and concept of the album via gorgeous illustrations inspired by sci-fi pop art of decades past.

Cortége will hit the stage for a CD release show on September 27 at Skull Mechanix Brewing in Austin, TX with Sheverb and Bridge Farmer, which will include the live premiere of an official video directed by Kat Albert (Lake Travis Film Festival).

Pre-order Capricorn: cortege.bandcamp.com/album/capricorn-2

FFO: Earth, Hawkwind, Bell Witch, Ennio Morricone, King Crimson

Track Listing

1. Aurora
2. The Watch
3. Occultation
4. Horizons
5. Capricorn

Album Credits:
Produced by Cortége
Engineered by Kevin Sparks III in Austin, Texas
Mastered by Margaret Luthar at Chicago Mastering Service
Photography & Layout by Thomas Blom
Additional artwork by Jim Webb
This record is dedicated to John Entwistle & Keith Moon

Cortége plays Serek basses and Sonor drums

Cortége is:
Mike Swarbrick – Bass Guitar, Synthesizers, Percussion & Tape Delay
Adrian Voorhies (ex Canyon of the Skull, ex Humut Tabal) – Drums

cortege.bandcamp.com/
facebook.com/cortegeatx/
instagram.com/cortegeatx/

Cortége, Capricorn (2019)

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Pelegrin, Al-Mahruqa

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

pelegrin al-mahruqa

[Click play above to stream Pelegrin’s Al-Mahruqa in full. Album is out Friday, Sept. 13.]

The fluidity Parisian three-piece Pelegrin conjure throughout their self-released debut album, Al-Mahruqa, finds them easily crossing lines between styles like post-rock, prog and heavy psychedelia, and as their first outing, it blends them with marked poise. Comprised of five tracks running a total of 40 minutes, it is a purposefully immersive listen, drawing its audience in throughout the nine-plus minutes of opener “Majoun” — named for a Moroccan fruit and nut confection often used as a hash jam edible — and moving with grace through “Farewell,” “The Coldest Night,” “Dying Light” and the closing title-track, each one adding to the story arc of the album as a whole while creating a sense of journeying further through its psych-infused desert expanse. The title Al-Mahruqa seems to be taken from the name of a Syrian village, and given some of the sonic influences at play throughout, that seems a fair enough place for guitarist/vocalist François Roze, bassist Jason Recoing and drummer Antoine Ebel to end up, though of course one has to consider the civil war that’s raged in Syria since 2011.

Whether that’s taken into account on Al-Mahruqa — one would wonder how it couldn’t be — the French trio do well in establishing the voyage early in “Majoun,” which opens with a smattering of voices and a percussion-laden departure over winding, ebow-style guitar in Middle Eastern minor key. An immediate touchstone on paper would be Om, and perhaps in some way they’ve been a conceptual influence, but the actual experience of Al-Mahruqa shares little in common with that Al Cisneros outfit, other than perhaps a gaze directed at the region and an overarching interest in the mystique surrounding desert spiritualism. “Majoun” unfolds in heavy rolling fashion with deceptive smoothness, almost catching one off guard by the time it’s made its full impact, a drop-out after five minutes causing reflection on how far one has already come, and indeed how far there still is to go through the energy buildup that follows and pays off in a hard-hitting shove only to give way to a call to prayer that leads directly into the drifting guitar at the outset of “Farewell.”

Already, Pelegrin have made their intention plain. Al-Mahruqa is not at all lacking for character, but neither is it simply letting things happen. I have no doubt some of these parts and stretches were born in the studio or rehearsal space in off-the-cuff fashion — Roze recorded and mixed, while Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump mastered — but whether it’s the louder post-rocking sun-bake-into-desert-triumph that marks the early crescendo in “Farewell” or the more patient and masterful roll that ensues when the cycle comes around again, no single element feels haphazard. Even when the effects seem to create a wash, that wash has a purpose serving the overall song the album of which it’s a part. Given that general level of consideration, it’s perhaps less of a surprise to see it extend to the structure of the record as well, which alternates between longer and shorter tracks in such a way as to maximize the flow between them without the listener getting too caught up in one expectation or the other.

With “The Coldest Night” as the centerpiece, Pelegrin embark on a pivotal stage in their travels with a due sense of increased heft, rightly considering their interaction with those making the trip along with them as they thicken the fuzz in Roze‘s guitar and the thud in Ebel‘s drumming — Recoing‘s bass isn’t lacking weight either, since we’re on the subject. Still, it’s the floating lead over top that takes hold just before the eight-minute mark that lets one know they’ve gotten to where they’re going, and it’s that lead guitar that remains floating on the fade after the rest of the layers have made their way out. And when that goes? Footsteps. How could it possibly be anything else? Pelegrin have made the point thoroughly by the time “The Coldest Night” is through that they’re going from one place to another, taking the listener from one place to another, but those footsteps only reinforce it.

And as the penultimate “Dying Light” touches on a post-metallic march with a still-gentle verse overtop that takes off into a solo, there’s a somewhat more aggressive undertone — it’s in the drumming as well as the 5:21 song nears its midpoint — but the atmosphere stays consistent with “The Coldest Night” and the material preceding both through its measured pace and through its melodic insight. These are no less prevalent as themes through Al-Mahruqa than the concept that bears out across its tracks, but of course less explicitly stated. “Dying Light” caps with lead and rhythm layers of guitar in conversation with a formidable nod of a groove, drifting at their finish into what sounds like a field recording of ritual chanting and percussion, in turn giving way almost immediately to “Al-Mahruqa” itself.

As the only cut to top 10 minutes, the closer earns immediate distinction among the rest of the album — not to mention it’s the title-track — and with additional percussion alongside the drums and a more uptempo initial stretch, it holds to that sense of ritual that closed “Dying Light.” They slow it down soon enough and play back and forth across volume shifts and across an instrumental hypnosis that works well in crafting an otherworldly vibe, but it’s ultimately a heavy, crashing march that rounds out the capstone of Al-Mahruqa, that terrestrial ending followed by the sound of a rainstorm and then a noise that could either be water going down a drain or a door closing scraping on rock. Something concluding, whatever it is. Pelegrin leave a likewise heavy silence when “Al-Mahruqa” is done, giving a due reminder that in fact their journey is only beginning — this is their first album. What it might lead to, I couldn’t say, but the collision of elements and styles at play throughout is only loaded with potential for future expansion of style, arrangements, and general reach, though even if nothing of the sort takes shape, it remains plenty full-sounding as is. Still though, something here makes one think that perhaps Pelegrin are a band with a clear progression in mind. An effect of all that journeying, perhaps.

Pelegrin, Al-Mahruqa (2019)

Pelegrin on Thee Facebooks

Pelegrin on Bandcamp

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Review & Video Premiere: Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on September 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

sun blood stories haunt yourself

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Sun Blood Stories’ video for ‘See You on the Other Side.’ Haunt Yourself is out Sept. 20.]

The fourth full-length from Boise, Idaho’s Sun Blood Stories continues the forward progression of purpose and creative scope that has played out in their work over the last six years. It has not been that long since the trio unveiled their third LP, 2017’s It Runs Around the Room with Us (review here), and yet the 12-track/45-minute Haunt Yourself unveils a fluidity and a personality all its own, marked by a soul and emotionalism in the vocals of slide guitarist Amber Pollard and guitarist Ben Kirby (both also add bass synth to the recording) and a floating post-rock psychedelia that is admirably given shape through the drumming of Jon Fust (also keyboards). As has been their wont on past offerings, they find footing in an early hook — thinking of tracks like “The Great Destroyer” from the last record or “West the Sun” from 2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here); their debut, The Electric Years, came out in 2013 and was more formative — this time moving from the swirling fog of “TIME” at the outset to the interwoven vocals and forward rhythm of “Up Comes the Tunnel” (video posted here), wherein their sound hits arguably the thickest point it will on the entirety of Haunt Yourself.

With this, they set up a broad and experimentalist range the richness of which is not to be understated, from the emotional crux of songs like “No One Can Hear You Dream,” with its repetition of “In the end we all will…” whether the answer is burn, die, and so on, or “All the Words in Meaning” (video posted here) just before it with its vocal lashing out or the earlier “Everybody Loves You,” on which the resounding feel is less comforting than the title, Pollard seeming to take on the role of that voice in your head that tells you how much better off everyone would be if you were gone. “Everybody loves you,” you see, “When you’re dead.” This is its own kind of aural brutality apart from any sonic impact Haunt Yourself may or may not make — and the bulk of the album is striking in its patience and gentle delivery — but if you ever needed a lesson in conjuring emotional weight, here it is.

That’s not necessarily new territory for Sun Blood Stories, but their progression has made them more pointed in their approach, such that pieces like the bluesy “At Once in All Directions” or even the ultra-fluid jam in the early cut “See You on the Other Side” that follows “Everybody Loves You” both serve an overarching intent that covers Haunt Yourself as a whole, and the album resulting is built from the conversation between the songs that comprise it. Something something whole, something something sum of parts, but if my assessment is trite, that doesn’t necessarily make it less true as regards the front-to-back listening experience. And make no mistake, front-to-back is how Haunt Yourself should be taken. Each track seems to have a singular purpose, but those never veer too far from the overarching goals of the record as to disconnect from it. Ever-conscious of flow, Sun Blood Stories make this even easier by dividing the tracklisting into three three-song sections, each beginning with its own interlude.

sun blood stories

Those pieces, “TIME,” “LIKE” and “SMOKE,” never go much past two and a half minutes, but together work not only to provide an underlying theme to Haunt Yourself, but also to bring the album into context of their past, as Twilight Midnight Morning featured the cut “Time Like Smoke” as well. And whether it’s in “See You on the Other Side” or the penultimate “Approaching Shadow,” the sense of drift throughout Haunt Yourself is especially prevalent, but at no point do Sun Blood Stories let it go anymore than they choose to. That is to say, while even the cover art speaks to a notion of working against traditionalist structure — something time (like smoke) has proven the band to be quite adept at — they never lost sight of where they want the listener to be throughout the proceedings. Given the breadth of “All the Words in Meaning,” “No One Can Hear You Dream” and “At Once in All Directions” in the record’s middle third, that’s an accomplishment unto itself, but moments like Kirby coming forward in “At Once in All Directions” or Pollard doing the same with a somewhat buried highlight vocal performance on “7 Swords” do a lot to orient anyone who’d take on Haunt Yourself, and that proves to be another way in which the songs each enhance the listen of the album as an entire work.

Following the final interlude piece “SMOKE,” “7 Swords” leads the way into the Western airiness of “Approaching Shadow,” one of only two songs to top six minutes — the other is “No One Can Hear You Dream,” longer at 6:40 — and the 2:21 closer “Shimmer Distant,” a layered-vocal Pollard/Kirby duet that feels like an epilogue after the payoff of “Approaching Shadow” and ends with a final volume swell that cuts out to silence. It’s a fair enough and still somewhat unexpected ending for Haunt Yourself, giving the feeling of answering back the earlier explorations without discarding the psychedelic flavor thereof.

This is emblematic of a maturity in Sun Blood Stories‘ approach, which one would expect for a band on their fourth record, having solidified their lineup and seemingly figured out who they want to be as a group as much as any of us figure out who we want to be ever in any context at all — at least the direction they want to go, perhaps? One way or the other, the individualized progression they’ve undertaken suits them beautifully, and both in the chemistry of the performances between KibyPollard and Fust and the atmosphere that comes across so thickly amid still-memorable songcraft, Haunt Yourself succeeds on every level of expression it engages, and as the fruit of the three-piece refining their processes as established across the work they’ve done since making their debut, it speaks to the root creativity so central in driving it. I won’t predict where they might go next time out, except to say forward along their own path, and all the better for that.

Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself (2019)

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