Kadabra Premiere “Settle Me” Video; Ultra Preorder Available

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on July 22nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

kadabra

Newcomer trio Kadabra make their debut on Sept. 17 with Ultra, on Heavy Psych Sounds. The Spokane, Washington — not actively burning at the moment but maybe blanketed in not-the-good-kind smoke? — unit of course bear some moniker resemblance to Kadavar, and hey, that’s fine, but if we’re talking early ’10s heavy as comparison points Ultra vibes way more like first-record-era Mars Red Sky and Asteroid jamming in a massive temple carved out of an underground cavern, and if you can’t get down with that, you need to move on with your life. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Garrett Zanol (Blackwater Prophet, Indian Goat), bassist Ian Nelson (Bad Motivator) and drummer Chase Howard (Vanna Oh), the crux of Kadabra lies in the blend of tonal weight, melodic float and hazy atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean Ultra centerpiece/highlight hook “Bean King” doesn’t move or that closer “Settle Me” (video premiering below) can’t reinvent “The Zoo” by Scorpions into a languid flow while the band stands around and maybe has a smoke in the clip. Have vibe, will travel hopefully travel when the restrictions lift. You get a seven-track/44-minute showing on Ultra, howling and nodding from the outset on “Graveyard,” but not dumb, not retread and not just riffs. There’s melody here, and depth, and roll. It won’t be unfamiliar to many who take it on, but hell’s bells it’s a good time.

“Graveyard” begins the procession of heavy chill hitting its stride in shimmering melody at its midpoint before tapping the wah and making it count and shifting into an airier jam underscored by Nelson‘s bass. If that’s gonna be a pattern, right on. Both “Faded Black”kadabra ultra and “Eagle 20’s,” which follow immediately, top seven minutes, and the former unfolds mellow and languid enough to single-handedly justify the PR wire’s comparison to Dead Meadow below, but there’s more than sleepy sungazing going on too as it trips out, grounded by its heft but still psychedelic, picking up speed late and feedbacking into a fade ahead of the companionably bright start of “Eagle 20’s.” The momentum from the finish of “Faded Black” is held up, but the abiding spirit is still liquefied, the boogie warm as “Eagle 20’s” stretches out over the 7:47 that makes it the longest track on Ultra and the assumed cap for side A, a showcase for Howard on drums, and the warmth in the sounds there, as well as Zanol‘s repeated lines, but really a whole-band feel, since Nelson‘s low end is a steady presence. The aforementioned “Bean King,” then, (presumably) opens side B, with vocals in layers and a post-Sleep cadence recounting stonerized narrative over insistent start-stop heavy push in the verse, a straightforward structure playing well to make it a quirky highlight, veering off for a solo, coming back around, playful and heavy in kind.

The plunge has been taken, the vibe set by the early subdued pacing, and so as “Death” builds on the starts and stops of “Bean King” with a meatier stomp, bringing that noted Asteroidian melody to the fore, Kadabra have already won. Penultimate cut “Coyote” offers due spaciousness and a kick of swagger, some shuffle in answer to its open verse lines, and goes psych in its layered solo later, straightening out for a clean-then-noisy finish that emphasizes the point of side B of Ultra as a victory lap. It’s ineresting that the band notes below “Settle Me” was the last song they wrote for the record. It’s the richest in terms of harmony, and it carries that swing and swagger of “Coyote” before it. It’s abundantly clear Kadabra wrote it after they had a good idea of what they were doing — and also after they decided what they were doing was some hot shit, which, granted, it is — and it ties together the relaxed groove of the first half of the record with the speedier push of the second, wrapping the whole thing around a mega-fuzz guitar line that, again, kind of brings Scorps to mind, and in no way is that a complaint. They fade out at the end, and stay that way — part of me was hoping it was a false ending; would be classic — and the message sent is received: more to come. Here’s hoping, anyhow.

Easily digable for the converted, and one of the best debuts I’ve heard this year — a lot of killer first records in 2021; here’s to pandemic productivity — Kadabra shouldn’t be tossed off because their name reminds you of someone else, and among the ever-packed roster of Heavy Psych Sounds, they legitimately bring something of their own to the label and to the style of molten riffery they play. Can you get to this? Yes, and you should. If you want a bottom line, that’s it.

Enjoy the video:

Kadabra, “Settle Me” official video premiere

Kadabra on “Settle Me”:

“Settle Me” is the last song we wrote for the album ULTRA. The song rides the steady swampy flow of psychedelia while racing into a heavy, fuzzed turbulence.

Settle Me is the second single taken from the KADABRA debut album ULTRA.

The release will see the light September 17th via Heavy Psych Sounds.

ALBUM PRESALE: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/

USA PRESALE: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/shop-usa.htm

Kadabra from Spokane, Washington U.S., delivers the eerie psyche crawl of acts like Dead Meadow and the heavy fuzzed riff grime of Black Sabbath. In fall the of 2020, they tracked their debut album with Dawson Scholz, and it is set to release this fall on Heavy Psych Sounds Records.

Written throughout the 2020 global pandemic, Kadabra’s debut album “Ultra” presents an aesthetic that nears that “classic rock” charm and energy. The group has meshed together the droned flow of psychedelic clamor with an abrasive fuzzed riff drive. In the fall of 2020, they tracked “Ultra” with a friend, Dawson Scholz, and it is set to release this fall on Heavy Psych Sounds Records.

TRACKLIST:
Graveyard
Faded Black
Eagle 20’s
Bean King
Death
Coyote
Settle Me

KADABRA is:
Garrett Zanol (Vocals/Guitar)
Ian Nelson (Bass)
Chase Howard (Drums)

Kadabra on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds on Instagram

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

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Quarterly Review: Amenra, Liquid Sound Company, Iceburn, Gods and Punks, Vouna, Heathen Rites, Unimother 27, Oxblood Forge, Wall, Boozewa

Posted in Reviews on July 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-fall-2016-quarterly-review

You’ll have to forgive me, what the hell day is it? The url says this is day eight, so I guess that’s Wednesday. Fine. That’s as good as any. It’s all just 10 more records to my brain at this point, and that’s fine. I’ve got it all lined up. As of me writing this, I still haven’t heard about my busted-ass laptop that went in for repair last Saturday, and that’s a bummer, but I’m hoping that any minute now the phone is going to show the call coming in and I’ll just keep staring at it until that happens and I’m sure that will be awesome for my already brutalized productivity.

My backup laptop — because yes, I have one and will gladly argue with you that it’s necessary citing this week as an example — is a cheapie Chromebook. The nicest thing I can say about it is it’s red. The meanest thing I can say about it is that I had to change the search button to a caps lock and even that doesn’t respond fast enough to my typing, so I’m constantly capitalizing the wrong letters. If you don’t think that’s infuriating, congratulations on whatever existence has allowed you to live this long without ever needing to use a keyboard. “Hello computer,” and all that.

Enough kvetching. Too much to do.

Quarterly Review #71-80:

Amenra, De Doorn

Amenra De Doorn

I’ve made no secret over the last however long of not being the biggest Amenra fan in the universe. Honestly, it’s not even about the Belgian band themseves — live, they’re undeniable — but the plaudits around them are no less suffocating than their crushing riffs at their heaviest moments. Still, as De Doorn marks their first offering through Relapse Records, finds them departing from their Mass numbered series of albums and working in their native Flemish for the first time, and brings Caro Tanghe of Oathbreaker into the songs to offer melodic counterpoint to Colin H. van Eeckhout‘s nothing-if-not-identifiable screams, the invitations to get on board are manifold. This is a band with rules. They have set their own rules, and even in pushing outside them as they do here, much of their ideology and sonic persona is maintained. Part of that identity is being forward thinking, and that surfaces on De Doorn in parts ambient and quiet, but there’s always a part of me that feels like Amenra are playing it safe, even as they’re working within parameters they’ve helped define for a generation of European post-metal working directly in their wake. The post-apocalyptic breadth they harness in these tracks will only continue to win them converts. Maybe I’ll be one of them. That would be fun. It’s nice to belong, you know?

Amenra on Facebook

Relapse Records website

 

Liquid Sound Company, Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul

Liquid sound company psychoactive songs for the psoul

A quarter-century after their founding, Arlington, Texas, heavy psych rockers Liquid Sound Company still burn and melt along the lysergic path of classic ’60s acid rock, beefier in tone but no less purposeful in their drift on Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul. They’re turning into custard on “Blacklight Corridor” and they can tell you don’t understand on “Who Put All of Those Things in Your Hair?,” and all the while their psych rock digs deeper into the cosmic pulse, founding guitarist John Perez (also Solitude Aeturnus) unable to resist bringing a bit of shred to “And to Your Left… Neptune” — unless that’s Mark Cook‘s warr guitar — even as “Mahayuga” answers back to the Middle Eastern inflection of “Blacklight Corridor” earlier on. Capping with the mellow jam “Laila Was Here,” Psychoactive Songs for the Psoul is a loving paean to the resonant energies of expanded minds and flowing effects, but “Cosmic Liquid Love” is still a heavy rollout, and even the shimmering “I Feel You” is informed by that underlying sense of heft. Nonetheless, it’s an acid invitation worth the RSVP.

Liquid Sound Company on Facebook

Liquid Sound Company on Bandcamp

 

Iceburn, Asclepius

iceburn asclepius

Flying snakes, crawling birds, two tracks each over 17 minutes long, the first Iceburn release in 20 years is an all-in affair from the outset. As someone coming to the band via Gentry Densley‘s work in Eagle Twin, there are recognizable elements in tone, themes and vocals, but with fellow founders Joseph “Chubba” Smith on drums and James Holder on guitar, as well as bassist Cache Tolman (who’s Johnny Comelately since he originally joined in 1991, I guess), the atmosphere conjured by the four-piece is consuming and spacious in its own way, and their willingness to go where the song guides them on side A’s “Healing the Ouroboros,” right up to the long-fading drone end after so much lumbering skronk and incantations before, and side B’s “Dahlia Rides the Firebird,” with its pervasive soloing, gallop and veer into earth-as-cosmos terradelia, the return of Iceburn — if in fact that’s what this is — makes its own ceremony across Asclepius, sounding newly inspired rather than like a rehash.

Iceburn on Facebook

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Gods & Punks, The Sounds of the Universe

gods and punks the sounds of the universe

As regards ambition, Gods & Punks‘ fourth LP, The Sounds of the Universe, wants for nothing. The Rio De Janeiro heavy psych rockers herein wrap what they’ve dubbed their ‘Voyager’ series, culminating the work they’ve done since their first EP — album opener “Eye in the Sky” is a remake — while tying together the progressive, heavy and cosmic aspects of their sound in a single collection of songs. In context, it’s a fair amount to take in, but a track like “Black Apples” has a riffy standout appeal regardless of its place in the band’s canon, and whether it’s the classic punch of “The TUSK” or the suitably patient expansion of “Universe,” the five-piece don’t neglect songwriting for narrative purpose. That is to say, whether or not you’ve heard 2019’s And the Celestial Ascension (discussed here) or any of their other prior material, you’re still likely to be pulled in by “Gravity” and “Dimensionaut” and the rest of what surrounds. The only question is where do they go from here? What’s outside the universe?

Gods & Punks on Facebok

Abraxas on Facebook

Forbidden Place Records website

 

Vouna, Atropos

vouna atropos

Released (appropriately) by Profound Lore, Vouna‘s second full-length Atropos is a work of marked depth and unforced grandeur. After nine-minute opener “Highest Mountain” establishes to emotional/aural tone, Atropos is comprised mostly of three extended pieces in “Vanish” (15:34), “Grey Sky” (14:08) and closer “What Once Was” (15:11) with the two-minute “What Once Was (Reprise)” leading into the final duo. “Vanish” finds Vouna — aka Olympia, Washington-based Yianna Bekris — bringing in textures of harp and violin to answer the lap steel and harp on “Highest Mountain,” and features a harsh guest vocal from Wolves in the Throne Room‘s Nathan Weaver, but it’s in the consuming wash at the finish of “Grey Sky” and in the melodic vocal layers cutting through as the first half of “What Once Was” culminates ahead of the break into mournful doom and synth that Vouna most shines, bridging styles in a way so organic as to be utterly consuming and keeping resonance as the most sought target, right unto the piano line that tops the last crescend, answering back the very beginning of “Highest Mountain.” Not a record that comes along every day.

Vouna on Facebook

Profound Lore website

 

Heathen Rites, Heritage

heathen rites heritage

One gets the sense in listening that for Mikael Monks, the Burning Saviours founder working under the moniker of Heathen Rites for the first time, the idea of Heritage for which the album is titled is as much about doom itself as the Scandinavian folk elements that surface in “Gleipner” or in the brief, bird-song and mountain-echo-laced finish “Kulning,” not to mention the Judas Priest-style triumphalism of the penultimate “The Sons of the North” just before. Classic doom is writ large across Heritage, from the bassline of “Autumn” tapping into “Heaven and Hell” to the flowing culmination of “Midnight Sun” and the soaring guitar apex in “Here Comes the Night.” In the US, many of these ideas of “northern” heritage, runes, or even heathenism have been coopted as expressions of white supremacy. It’s worth remembering that for some people it’s actually culture. Monks pairs that with his chosen culture — i.e. doom — in intriguing ways here that one hopes he’ll continue to explore.

Heathen Rites on Facebook

Svart Records website

 

Unimother 27, Presente Incoerente

Unimother 27 Presente Incoerente

Some things in life you just have to accept that you’re never going to fully understand. The mostly-solo-project Unimother 27 from Italy’s Piero Ranalli is one of those things. Ranalli has been riding his own wavelength in krautrock and classic progressive stylizations mixed with psychedelic freakout weirdness going on 15 years now, experimenting all the while, and you don’t have to fully comprehend the hey-man-is-this-jazz bass bouncing under “L’incontro tra Phallos e Mater Coelestis” to just roll with it, so just roll with it and know that wherever you’re heading, there’s a plan at work, even if the plan is to not have a plan. Mr. Fist‘s drums tether the synth and drifting initial guitar of “Abraxas…il Dio Difficile da Conoscere” and serve a function as much necessary as grooving, but one way or the other, you’re headed to “Systema Munditotius,” where forward and backward are the same thing and the only trajectory discernible is “out there.” So go. Just go. You won’t regret it.

Unimother 27 on Facebook

Pineal Gland Lab website

 

Oxblood Forge, Decimator

Oxblood Forge Decimator

Not, not, not a coincidence that Massachusetts four-piece Oxblood Forge — vocalist Ken Mackay, guitarist Robb Lioy, bassist Greg Dellaria and drummer/keyboardist Erik Fraünfeltër — include an Angel Witch cover on their third long-player, Decimator, as even before they get around to the penultimate “Sorcerers,” the NWOBHM is a defining influence throughout the proceedings, be it the “hey hey hey!” chanting of “Mortal Salience” or the death riders owning the night on opener “Into the Abyss” or the sheer Maidenry met with doom tinge on “Screams From Silence.” Mackay‘s voice, high in the mix, adds a tinge of grit, but Decimator isn’t trying to get one over on anyone. This blue collar worship for classic metal presented in a manner that could only be as full-on as it is for it to work at all. No irony, no khakis, no bullshit.

Oxblood Forge on Facebook

Oxblood Forge on Bandcamp

 

Wall, Vol. 2

wall vol 2

They keep this up, they’re going to have a real band on their hands. Desert Storm/The Grand Mal bandmates and twin brothers Ryan Cole (guitar/bass) and Elliot Cole (drums) began Wall as a largely-instrumental quarantine project in 2020, issuing a self-titled EP (review here) on APF Records. Vol. 2 follows on the quick with five more cuts of unbridled groove, including a take on Karma to Burn‘s “Nineteen” that, if it needs to be said, serves as homage to Will Mecum, who passed away earlier this year. That song fits right in with a cruncher like “Avalanche” or “Speed Freak,” or even “The Tusk,” which also boasts a bit of layered guitar harmonies, feeling out new ground there and in the acousti-handclap-blues of “Falling From the Edge of Nowhere.” The fact that Wall have live dates booked — alongside The Grand Mal, no less — speaks further to their real-bandness, but Vol. 2 hardly leaves any doubt as it is.

Wall on Facebook

APF Records website

 

Boozewa, Deb

Boozewa Deb

The second self-recorded outing from Pennsylvania trio Boozewa, Deb, offers two songs to follow-up on Feb. 2021’s First Contact (review here) demo, keeping an abidingly raw, we-did-this-at-home feel — this time they sent the results to Tad Doyle for mastering — while pushing their sound demonstrably forward with “Deb” bringing bassist Jessica Baker to the fore vocally alongside drummer Mike Cummings. Guitarist Rylan Caspar contributes in that regard as well, and the results are admirably grunge-coated heavy rock and roll that let enough clarity through to establish a hook, while the shorter “Now. Stop.” edges toward a bit more lumber in its groove, at least until they punk it out with some shouts at the finish. Splitting hairs? You betcha. Maybe they’re just writing songs. The results are there waiting to be dug either way.

Boozewa on Instagram

Boozewa on Bandcamp

 

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Year of the Cobra Announce West Coast Live Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 25th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Think maybe we’ll get some new Year of the Cobra soon? That’d be cool. Their last record, 2019’s Ash and Dust (review here), was their best yet, and they went on tour in Europe to support its release through Prophecy Productions. The Seattle duo are no strangers to road work, but even if their thinking in that regard hasn’t changed, the world in which they’re operating has. Still, it’s more than welcome to see them getting once more into the fray even if I won’t actually get to see them perform. Hey, maybe you will. Or a couple other lucky Sacramento types. Who knows?

They’re calling it a mini-tour, which by their standard is fair enough, but one way or the other it’s select dates along the West Coast — a Seattle show at El Corazon tucked in amid a couple travel weekends — and maybe that’s an initial putting-out of feelers to see what the situation is in venues, with humans, and so on. Again, legit. One imagines that the last year-plus has left Year of the Cobra particularly antsy to play, since it’s kind of second nature to them — or was, anyhow. Whatever. Get your vaccine and go see bands and buy shirts and records and all that stuff. I hope these gigs go well and Year of the Cobra do more soon. If they wanna add a Parsippany, New Jersey, date anytime, I’ll book the Mt. Tabor Firehouse and invite a couple friends (note: I don’t really have friends). We can get Tabor Pizza and beers from Hoover’s.

Until then:

year of the cobra shows

We’ve all weathered the storm, now let’s party extra hard! We’ve missed you, come out to a show and say hi! More shows to announce soon!

8/13 – Bremerton, WA. – The Manette Saloon
8/20 – Nevada City, CA. – The Brick
8/21 – San Francisco, CA. Bottom of the Hill
8/22 – Sacramento, CA. – Holy Diver
8/27 – Seattle, WA. – El Corazon
9/10 – Bellingham, WA. – The Shakedown
9/11 – Portland, OR. – The High Water Mark

https://www.facebook.com/yearofthecobraband/
https://yearofthecobra.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/prophecyproductions/
https://prophecy-de.bandcamp.com/
https://en.prophecy.de/

Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust (2019)

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Kadabra Releasing Ultra Sept. 17

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 18th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

kadabra

Well, now I get it. Sept. 17 is three months from yesterday, so there’s still a bit of time for the plot to unfold, but Kadabra make a bold first showing in the initial single from their upcoming debut album, Ultra. Set to issue through Heavy Psych Sounds, the record is up for preorder now and is led off by “Graveyard,” which one can hear below in its post-Mars Red Sky melody ‘n’ wah weighted roll coupled with a spaciousness that’s pure Pacific Northwestern mountaintop all the way. I dig it, man. I dig it. The label’s earned a lot of trust with international pickups over the last few years, so I was expecting to dig it when the signing was announced last week, but that doesn’t make doing so any less satisfying now that there’s some audio to accompany.

Three months is a long time.

Preorders are up now though, if you’re the type to take care of things early, and I dig the album art with the stained glass and all that. I’ll hope to have more to come on Ultra once, you know, I hear it and so on.

The PR wire has this:

kadabra ultra

KADABRA share first single off upcoming debut album ‘Ultra’ on Heavy Psych Sounds; preorder available now!

Spokane, Washington stoner rockers KADABRA sign to Heavy Psych Sounds for the release of their debut album ‘Ultra’ on September 17th, and premiere the first single “Graveyard”.

Written throughout the 2020 global pandemic, KADABRA’s debut album presents an aesthetic that nears that “classic rock” charm and energy. The group has meshed together the droned flow of psychedelic clamor with an abrasive fuzzed riff drive. In the fall of 2020, they tracked their debut album with their friend Dawson Scholz, and it is set to release this fall on Heavy Psych Sounds Records. ‘Ultra’ will be released on September 17th, 2021 through Heavy Psych Sounds, and available to preorder now on various vinyl formats, CD and digital.

KADABRA Debut album ‘Ultra’
Out September 17th on Heavy Psych Sounds
PREORDER: https://www.heavypsychsounds.com/

TRACKLIST:
1. Graveyard
2. Faded Black
3. Eagle 20’s
4. Bean King
5. Death
6. Coyote
7. Settle Me

In 2020, a year wrecked with cultural dissent and a global pandemic, fellow musicians and long-time friends Garrett Zanol (Blackwater Prophet) and Ian Nelson decided to start their own band. After retaining the talents of their favorite local drummer Chase Howard, the group got to work on writing an album that illustrates their current climate. KADABRA delivers the eerie psyche crawl of acts like Dead Meadow and the heavy fuzzed riff grime of Black Sabbath. In the fall of 2020, they tracked their debut album with Dawson Scholz, for a release this fall on Heavy Psych Sounds.

KADABRA is:
Garrett Zanol (Vocals/Guitar)
Ian Nelson (Bass)
Chase Howard (Drums)

https://www.instagram.com/kadabra_band/
heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com
www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/

Kadabra, “Graveyard”

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Kadabra Sign to Heavy Psych Sounds; Debut LP This Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

So what do we have to go on here? Not a ton. The existence of a band and a quick clip from Instagram that looks to be a test-press vinyl being played recorded by a phone. Mystery abounds. At least for another few days until, when Heavy Psych Sounds launches preorders for Kadabra‘s forthcoming debut album, a first song and presumably more details about said album will be made public. I haven’t heard any more than you have on this one, and since the band formed just last year with Garrett Zanol (Blackwater Prophet, Indian Goat) on guitar/vocals, Ian Nelson (The Ongoing Concept) on bass and Chase Howard (Skunktopus) on drums, there’s indeed not a lot out there. Few labels, however, have earned the kind of trust in recent years Heavy Psych Sounds has earned, and if they’re saying give ear to a new band, that’s notable. Here’s me noting it.

The PR wire had the preliminary announcement, heralding more next week:

kadabra

Heavy Psych Sounds to announce a new band signing: KADABRA

We’re incredibly stoked and honored to announce that the US based heavy-psychedelic-fuzz band KADABRA is now a new member of the HPS family

Heavy Psych Sounds will release the band’s debut album this Fall

DEBUT ALBUM PRESALE + FIRST TRACK PREMIERE START: JUNE 15th

In 2020, a year wrecked with cultural dissent and a global pandemic, fellow musicians and long-time friends Garrett Zanol and Ian Nelson decided to create a band that would pull influence from a few of their favorite musical acts. After retaining the talents of their favorite local drummer Chase Howard, the group got to work on writing an album that illustrates their current climate.

Kadabra from Spokane, Washington U.S., delivers the eerie psyche crawl of acts like Dead Meadow and the heavy fuzzed riff grime of Black Sabbath. In fall the of 2020, they tracked their debut album with Dawson Scholz, and it is set to release this fall on Heavy Psych Sounds Records.

KADABRA is:
Garrett Zanol (Vocals/Guitar)
Ian Nelson (Bass)
Chase Howard (Drums)

https://www.instagram.com/kadabra_band/
heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com
www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kadabra (@kadabra_band)

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Friday Full-Length: Akimbo, Jersey Shores

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 4th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

By the time Akimbo got around to releasing 2008’s Jersey Shores, their reputation preceded them among those who knew them at all. Shored up by a stretch of outings that included 2003’s Elephantine, 2004’s City of the Stars, 2006’s Forging Steel and Laying Stone and 2007’s Navigating the Bronze after their 2002 debut, Harshing Your Mellow, the Seattle-based noise trio had worked with Amalagate Records and tastemaking imprints like Seventh Rule Recordings and Alternative Tentacles before signing to Neurot Recordings for what would be a one-off and their sixth full-length. And though their work happened in quick succession to this point — Akimbo wanted little for intensity on any level throughout their time together; their ethic, ‘Live to Crush’ (see also: ‘eat beer, shit riffs’) would become the title of their final ode to fuckall in 2013 — their underpinning in hard punk was never so fleshed out as on this narrative six-track/46-minute offering.

The inspiration behind Jersey Shores was/is duly violent. In the beach town of Matawan, New Jersey, in early July 1916, there were a series of five shark attacks that, aside from inspiring Jaws and much modern pop culture fear of Great Whites, were the story of the summer along the Eastern Seaboard. As Akimbo put it in the memorable first line of the album, “Don’t forget the tides” — something you might say to somebody going out for a quick swim in the Atlantic, though subtly ominous as well. In that song, titled “Matawan,” it’s Charles Vansant, and he and subsequent victims Charles Bruder and Lester Stillwell, are duly memorialized in the tracks “Bruder Vansant” — fair enough to combine the Charleses — and “Lester Stillwell,” which round out side A.

In addition to the theme around which the material is based — side B pulls back from the direct storytelling with “Rogue,” the career-highlight-riff “Great White Bull” and the 12-minute closing title-track — what Jersey Shores does better than the vast majority of albums across various styles that try the same thing is to embody the ocean. Drummer Nat Damm‘s work is presented with due bombast in the Chris Evans production, and there’s that sense of the room that comes through in the best of West Coast noise when it’s organically delivered, and in the interplay between the basslines of Jon Weisnewski and the guitar of Aaron Walters, there’s a blend of bounce and drift that comes through in the meandering beginning of “Matawan” that serves as an atmospheric foundation for everything that follows. akimbo jersey shoresOf course there’s plenty of crush (they were living for it, remember) in that track and the sinister-sounding “Bruder Vansant” and the how-to-do-payoff-right 11-minute course of “Lester Stillwell,” not to mention the back half of the album, but the setting is the shore and the summertime, and Akimbo manage to keep hold of that throughout the entire procession of brash, weighted pummel that ensues.

“Lester Stillwell” might be the broadest reach Akimbo put forth during their time together, building from silence to low-end-led punk thrust to maddeningly tense chaos to gallop and ripper guitar soloing to its ultimate crashout and a mournful, minimalist stretch of bass and guitar in its last minute. On CD, the punch that follows with the onset of “Rogue” isn’t to be discounted, and it comes largely from Weisnewski‘s bass while the guitar freaks out in a way that’s somehow post-Soundgarden but not at all that thing at the same time. I honestly don’t even know why I’m making that comparison but it’s strong Kim Thayil in my head so I’m rolling with it. Either way, “Rogue” is suitably bruising, but in its mounting volume, one still finds the central rhythmic crux of Jersey Shores as established in “Matawan,” and as it caps with distorted lumber, the shift into the initial crashes and ultimate fuzz assault of “Great White Bull” is emblematic of the purposefulness Akimbo have been working with all along.

It is not a riff easily forgotten. “Great White Bull” thrashes in the water, offering grim crescendo for the record as a whole across just four minutes of maximum-go shove, ending with the line “Mercy has no home among the waves,” which is and feels very much like the conclusion of the narrative, even if the title-track is still to follow. Instrumental and built up like so much of Jersey Shores before it from a relatively subdued start — a comedown well earned after “Great White Bull” — “Jersey Shores” offers more choice guitar and bass work in its early going and quiet further in somewhat meandering, improv-feeling art-rock fashion before wiping the slate at 4:59 with a full-bodied kick of a lumbering riff, giving methodical answer to the album’s most chaotic moments en route to a finish of residual bass, and, at last, waves. The band will drift back before the 12 minutes are up, some quiet guitar for an epilogue, but the sense of being returned to a kind of natural order is palpable.

The level of achievement across Jersey Shores was and remains something distinct and aside from the majority of Akimbo‘s work. They had progressed in sound for sure leading up to it, but Jersey Shores was beyond the band’s stated ethic, and though they toured hard for it as they always did, it was somewhat telling that Live to Crush, when it came out in 2013 on Alternative Tentacles, did so as a posthumous release. That last statement from Akimbo stripped away the atmospheric focus of Jersey Shores, got back to the punk, as it were, whereas some of the melodic tendencies made their way into Weisnewski and Damm‘s new project, Sandrider, whose self-titled debut (review here), had shown up in 2011.

That first Sandrider, as well as 2013’s Godhead (review here) and 2018’s Armada (review here), was produced by Matt Bayles, who also helmed Live to CrushAkimbo‘s final show was in Aug. 2012, in Seattle, with Tad Doyle‘s Brothers of the Sonic Cloth supporting. That would’ve been a monstrous gig to see.

If you don’t know Jersey Shores, it might not be the most representative of Akimbo‘s LPs to dive into — City of the Stars or even Navigating the Bronze might be better places to start with the band — but this record was something special and it remains so 13 years after the fact.

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

Oh hi.

Well, The Pecan is back to school as of yesterday after fracturing his tibia, what, three weeks ago? Four? I don’t know. Reality shifts so much every day. It’s been three and a half years of being blindsided every morning, trying to ride that wave to the best of my ability, and finding myself barely up to the task on my best days. Last night I slept pretty hard. So did he, from what I saw on the monitor in his room. Kid’s a good sleeper, but he has to basically collapse from fatigue before he stops moving at all.

Stressful week for The Patient Mrs., though she did turn in an article long in the making yesterday and she seemed to feel good about that. Posi-vibes in the house are welcome. Things have been tense really since before the Pecan’s leg — I seem to recall something about a fractured skull? — but the pouring-not-raining aspect of double-you-tee-effs gets to be draining after a while. I’ve been working on raising my voice less at the child. Mixed results. Sometimes he needs his full name said in a more commanding tone in order to snap his attention from the thing he’s trying to destroy, whatever it might be. Just surprising him with that snap is enough sometimes if you can follow quickly enough with a redirect.

He’s also a master of the redirect. He’ll ask you what something is 50 times — he doesn’t do the standard ‘wh’ questions, but will say, “That’s a…” and leave you to fill in the blank forever — in order to get out of going to take a rest or get a diaper or whatever it is he doesn’t want to do.

I love him desperately. Yesterday the intensity around here was significantly reduced by his spending a couple hours at pre-K. All the more since it was raining. He needed to go back no less than his going back was needed generally. And we got his school pictures, which are so amazing I can’t. Even. Just can’t. I screamed when I saw them and I’m still screaming, they’re so wonderful.

Tomorrow night, Sun Voyager are playing Rushing Duck Brewery in NY. Same place I saw them in September. If the weather holds, I’m going to go. They’ve got one of the cats from Ghost Funk Orchestra sitting in on second guitar and their new record is a banger, so yeah, I’m on board. I’ll take pictures and write a review. Just like old times. I think The Patient Mrs. might come as well. It’s not too far a trip. Some nice enjoyment-of-company beyond the evening-standard Star Trek viewing, though there’s precious little I’d trade that for, generally speaking.

Next week, a Robots of the Ancient World video premiere, a Witchcryer track, Delving review (I hope), plus videos for Rosy Finch, Cavern Deep and Or Anthony. Very multimedia around here these days. Ebbs and flows.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Gonna be hot in the Northeast and it’s already humid as crap out, so don’t forget to hydrate. Watch your head. All that stuff.

And before I go, special thanks to everybody who has picked up The Obelisk merch from the new round of printings by Made in Brooklyn. There’s another t-shirt on the way.

FRM.

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Friday Full-Length: Alice in Chains, Dirt

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 28th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

From the first “I” of “Them Bones” to the last “you” of “Would?,” Dirt is a once-in-a-generation album, and for the band who made it, a once-in-a-lifetime achievement. Released in 1992 through Columbia Records — stop and imagine that for a second — as part of great major label Seattle-underground mining project that became known as the grunge movement, Dirt was the second Alice in Chains full-length behind 1991’s Facelift (currently receiving a deluxe box set issue for its 30th anniversary, one expects no less for this next year), and like few releases of its era, continues to resonate a sense of the genuine darkness underlying its purposes. I can no more feign impartiality about this record than I could a member of my family; I’ve lived with it for 29 years. Dirt was the third CD I ever owned behind The Beatles‘ Past Masters Vol. 1 (which I found in a drawer) and Metallica‘s Master of Puppets, and even at 10 years old, I understood it was something special. I remember seeing the “Them Bones” video on Headbanger’s Ball. Hearing the songs on the radio. I saw Alice in Chains at Lollapalooza ’93 in Waterloo, NJ. This album was a defining feature of my pubescence.

The sound of Dirt was churning, heavy, deceptive in its rhythmic intricacy — Sean Kinney‘s drumming is among the most underrated in commercial heavy/hard rock; he should be discussed in the same breath as Danny Carey — and of course melodic, defined by the crucial vocal arrangements between guitarist Jerry Cantrell and frontman Layne Staley. With Mike Starr‘s bass beneath Cantrell‘s guitar — mixed low in early ’90s fashion but still subject to highlight moments like the beginning of “Rain When I Die” or the penultimate “Angry Chair” — and the by-now-classic-style heroics of the solos and riffs throughout, Dirt manages to be both a performance album highlighting the best its players could bring to the table at the time and a songwriting album, packed with the kind of tracks that most groups would be lucky to feature one of in a career, let alone on an album. The advent of Nirvana on rock radio may have spearheaded grunge, but it was the brooding, darker turns of Alice in Chains that gave the sound its credibility, as well as set in motion an influence spanning generations of low-in-the-mouth singers almost none of whom could come close to Staley‘s style or emotive reach.

Dirt is of its era in being a 57-minute-long CD. “Would?” appeared on the Singles soundtrack, and I don’t even know how many videos were ultimately made for its songs. “Would?” was one, and “Them Bones,” and “Rooster” and “Angry Chair.” “Rooster” would become something of a defining success for Alice in Chains — they still make t-shirts; I almost bought one this week — which is somewhat ironic since it was one of the pieces that most departed from the album’s unstatedalice in chains dirt theme of heroin addiction, specifically that which would ultimately claim Staley‘s life. A more purely Cantrell composition, and about his own father, its militaristic story was a lot less fraught to tell in a time when the US hadn’t just spent 20 years at war for nothing.

“Rooster” remains a good song, but it’s by no means the best on Dirt, and I’m sure we could — frankly, I’d love to — have a great time debating what is. The propulsive kick of “Them Bones” or “Dam That River” at the outset? The depressive “Rain When I Die” and pushing-toward-unplugged “Down in a Hole?” The seeming chaos of “Sickman” and the too-high-but-somehow-held-together “Junkhead”? The lines there — “Are you happy? I am, man/Content and fully aware/Money, status, nothing to me/’Cause your life’s empty and bare,” separating addicts not as outcasts but as “an elite race of our own,” the “our” there pivotal not only for what it said about the speaker in the song but for its implication toward the listener — still brutal. The brazenly suicidal “Dirt?” The rawer shove of “Godsmack?” And in the closing trilogy of “Hate to Feel,” “Angry Chair” and “Would?,” is there a flawless moment? How many mixtapes can you shove a single track onto? I damn near found out with “Hate to Feel.”

The nostalgia factor is, period. I can’t and won’t try to get away from it. I wonder how a younger listener — someone in their early 20s approaches Dirt, what they hear in it. I hear Gen-X’s heroin crisis for sure, and the loss of Staley in 2002 — a hard decade after this album’s release — and a lifetime of associations. I’ve lost friends and relatives to opiates, and I’ve said on multiple occasions that if not for the stabilizing force of having met my wife when I was 15, I’d have probably been right in there as well. And I don’t say it lightly. It’s a hard album to work out the separation between art and artist — its feel is so confessional lyrically — but as it should be, Dirt‘s abiding appeal is in its songs, whatever the context might be in which a given audience hears them.

Alice in Chains of course toured the universe supporting this record. They were headliners at the aforementioned Lollapalooza, along with Primus, and they deserved to be. In 1994, they released the Jar of Flies EP, which was the second mostly-acoustic short-form work they’d done behind earlier-1992’s Sap (discussed here), and though they’d return in 1995 with their self-titled third album (discussed here), and that’s not actually that long a break, it sure felt like forever waiting for that to show up at the time. That record pulled back on some of Dirt‘s sheer impact in favor of a more atmospheric approach, and was by all accounts mostly composed by Cantrell with him in a more forward position vocally owing to Staley‘s ongoing drug addiction, but was nonetheless both the grimmest work the band would ever do and still resolute in its craft. It was the end of the Staley era, and for a while, the band, who would eventually return in the mid-aughts before putting out Black Gives Way to Blue in 2009 with vocalist and rhythm guitarist William DuVall (also of Cantrell‘s solo group and Comes with the Fall) joining as the fourth member alongside Cantrell, Mike Inez (who had also played with Seattle legends Heart in the interim) and Kinney.

Reborn as a recording and touring act, Alice in Chains followed Black Gives Way to Blue with The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here in 2013 and 2018’s Rainier Fog (discussed here), the latter of which brought them to the point of having released as many albums without Staley as with him, and having developed a dynamic between Cantrell and DuVall that was more than mere reminiscence of things gone by, however obligated they might be (and rightly so, I wouldn’t say otherwise) to continue to perform Alice in Chains‘ ’90s work on stage. No getting away from the classics.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading. And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Magnetic Eye Records‘ Dirt [Redux] compilation (review here), which came out late last year and featured artists from the heavy rock sphere taking on Dirt track for track. Well worth the headfirst dive.

New Gimme Radio show today. 5PM on their app. Thanks if you can listen.

I’ve been trying desperately all week to keep my email under 40 unread/needing response. It’s currently at 50, so you can tell how well it’s been going. A couple press releases need doing-something-with. A few responses just aren’t going out. I can’t do everything, and I hate not getting back to people — especially people taking the time to send music because they possibly give a crap what I might have to say about it — but I made the decision long ago that if it was writing or email, I need to be doing the thing that has people reaching out to me in the first place. But still, email, Facebook messages, Instagram messages. That stuff piles up and gets overwhelming. I’m fortunate for it, I know. I remember when nobody got in touch.

Of course, having a three year old with a broken leg did not make the week any easier. We’ve been doing stuff all the while though. Yesterday we went to the Turtle Back Zoo, which is a Northern New Jersey cultural institution as far as I’m concerned. I went there as a kid too, and it’s way nicer now. The Pecan and I rode the train a couple times, rode the carousel, he rode the pony twice. I pushed him in the stroller — which I’m too tall for, so I have to lean forward to push it without kicking the wheels; it’s a pain in the ass (and back) and I do not particularly care for the stroller on principle, though there is some appeal in having him strapped into a thing rather than running all over the place, and given the busted shin, it’s the best option I’ve got — and put him on my shoulders for a while. He’s clearly less uncomfortable than he was a week ago at this time, which was just fucking miserable, and just starting to put weight on the foot and walk a bit while holding hands. He’s not ready to traipse around the zoo yet, but he can go from the stairs to the couch in the living room with help. We’ll get there. He’s certainly enjoying the time off from school.

It’s a holiday on Monday but I’m posting anyhow because Memorial Day is jingoistic bullshit. Maybe doing a video premiere? I’m not sure. Haven’t heard back. If not that, I’ll probably do myself a favor and review the Monster Magnet covers record. The rest of the week is fairly well packed with stuff. It’ll be good. I’m also filling out the next Quarterly Review, which currently looks to be six days minimum. I’ve got a seventh in with a question mark. Hope to start that June 28 and just let it roll through the July 4 holiday, but that requires some scheduling with The Patient Mrs., because, well, writing about 10 records a day for a week gets time-consuming.

And video interviews coming up in the next couple weeks with Heavy Temple (that’s tomorrow; I wanted to review the album first) and All Souls. The latter I really just wanted to give their livestream another plug, anything to help out, but I haven’t talked to Tony Aguilar since the Totimoshi days, so I’m looking forward to it just the same. It’ll be him and Meg Castellanos together. I like doing couple interviews haha. It somehow reinforces my fantasy of starting a podcast with my wife. Not about music, necessarily. I think it would more likely be about politics/news, likely with a good dose of Star Trek.

Dream for another day.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Hydrate, watch your head, all that stuff.

FRM.

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Vouna Post “Highest Mountain”; New LP Atropos Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 19th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

vouna

Some records, they come your way, you put on a track, you skim through, blah blah blah, you check it out, you go, “okay, I get it,” and you move on, either to “this is cool” or “nah.” Vouna‘s Atropos is the other kind of record, which is the kind you put on, maybe with the intention of skimming through, and then you leave it on and just let it go because frickin’ awesome and demands nothing less than full attention even when, say, you’re supposed to be listening to something else to review it at just that particular moment. Sorry, other record(s), I’ve got someplace to be.

That place is “Highest Mountain,” as it happens, the nine-minute lead single from Atropos and one of the five songs on what’ll be the second Vouna long-player when Profound Lore does the honors this July 16. I’ll hope to have more on it before then, but for now I guess I should probably finish listening to it first. Or maybe I shouldn’t, because it’s kind of making the rest of the planet feel lightweight in comparison right now. Just a little further…

Info from the PR wire:

vouna atropos

VOUNA ANNOUNCE NEW FULL-LENGTH, DROP POWERFUL SINGLE

Olympia, WA’s VOUNA – featuring multi-instrumentalist and composer Yianna Bekris – has announced a new full-length album titled, Atropos, to be released on July 16, 2021 via Profound Lore Records. Bekris unveils a towering and singular doom metal wonder in a unique visioning reminiscent of My Dying Bride, Sub Rosa, Paradise Lost, and Evoken. Upon the thick foundation of doom, multiple musical textures intertwine into her sound: atmospheric black metal, dungeon synth, dark-wave, film scores, and Rebetiko. It is through these woven sonic tapestries that Bekris creates vivid atmospheres expressing the myriad emotions surrounding death, mourning, and suicidal ideation. Atropos, named for the Greek fate who cut the thread of life thus determining the final fate for mortals, not only conveys the inevitability of death, but also explores its contrasting and dynamic nature through immersive compositions representing despair, loneliness, anxiety, peace, and dignity.

Today, VOUNA has released the first single off of Atropos titled, “Highest Mountain”. The powerful track displays 9+ minutes of soaring and crushing doom, black metal, goth, and a triumphant resolve.

About the track, Bekris comments: “This song is about someone who is dying and wants to be buried at the peak of the highest mountain as their final wish. I have always been fascinated with mountains, and I even named this project after them (Vouna meaning mountains in Greek), and it seems like such an honor to be buried at the top of a tall mountain. It isn’t necessarily about a specific mountain that exists.”

“Highest Mountain” is streaming now.

Along with the full-length announcement, the release of “Highest Mountain”, track listing, album artwork by Amjad Faur, Bekris has also revealed guest appearances on the forthcoming full-length, including an appearance from Wolves In The Throne Room’s Nathan Weaver. Digital pre-order for Atropos is available now via Profound Lore Records.

Track listing:
1. Highest Mountain
2. Vanish
3. What Once Was Reprise
4. Grey Sky
5. What Once Was

Album Details:
Recorded at the Owl Lodge in 2020 by Yianna Bekris with assistance from Nathan Weaver and Aaron Weaver. Drum recording: Ethan Camp with assistance from Alex Doherty. Mixing by Greg Chandler at Priory Recording Studios. Mastering by Dan Lowndes at Resonance Sound Studio.

Guests:
Entrail (Entrail): violin on “Vanish”
Caitlin Fate (Organelle, Vouna): electric lap steel on “Highest Mountain”
Autumn Kassel (former Vouna synth player): synth interlude on “What Once Was”
Asia Kindred Moore (Sangre de Muerdago, Solace): harp on “Highest Mountain” and distorted harp on “Vanish”
Nathan Weaver (Wolves in the Throne Room): additional vocals on “Vanish”

Album Artwork by: Amjad Faur
Promotional Photo by: Dreaming God

VOUNA is:
Yianna Bekris

https://www.facebook.com/VOUNAMETAL
https://www.instagram.com/VOUNABAND/
https://vouna.bandcamp.com/
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.instagram.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com

Vouna, “Highest Mountain”

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