ROTW: Chapel Perilous!

Two Records Of The Week on Rocket Recordings in a row? Eh, why not? Actually, not even sure if this one is in the shops yet (so out of the loop!) but it's on Bandcamp, so... also it's always an easy pick, to go with Gnod. This new one, Chapel Perilous, does not disappoint. In Gnod we trust!

It begins with "Donovan's Daughters," a harrowing 15 minutes of pulsating, rhythmic, repetitive noise-laden skronk-rock aggression that's part This Heat, part Swans/Godflesh... It lurches and grinds, getting more and more droned and blowned out as it goes. The final track on this album, "Uncle Frank Says Turn It Down," also hops on that feedback maniac crazy train, bashing it out without restraint, whilst the intervening three tracks, "Europa," "Voice From Nowhere" and "A Body," go deep and dark into a much more spaced out drone/dub zone, with echoing clank and spooky spoken word adding to the alienating atmosphere.

So, basically, just a heads up for all the Gnod heads who might not have heard about this one yet. And also, if you're gnew to Gnod, this is one well worth checking out...


ROTW: Bonnacons Of Doom!

Droning epic arty hypnorock, anyone? Folks across the pond might know this Liverpool, UK collective from their occasional live performances, reportedly always mysterious, masked, ritualistic. Their anonymity has allowed an ever-shifting cast of musicians to participate, including members of Mugstar and Forest Swords, we're told. Now, whatever lineup that's currently behind those masks and cloaked in those black robes has recorded a full-length LP for Rocket Recordings, and it's quite excellent.

Really, Bonnacons Of Doom's self-titled debut is more or less just what we'd hope a psych-damaged avant-doom-ish outfit claiming acid house DNA and having hauntological New Weird Britain allegiances would sound like... repetitive noise rock riffing, primitive beats, liturgical chant, witchy wordless female vox, and plenty of strange, occult, WTF? vibes, yeah!

Speaking of WTF, just what the heck is a bonnacon, anyway? Well, Wikipedia tells us:
"The bonnacon (also called bonasus or bonacho) is a legendary creature described as a bull with inward-curving horns and a horse-like mane. Medieval bestiaries usually depict its fur as reddish-brown or black. Because its horns were useless for self-defense, the bonnacon was said to expel large amounts of caustic feces from its anus at its pursuers, burning them and thereby ensuring its escape."
Um, okay then. Glad we asked.

Via Bandcamp, the majestic skronk of opening track "Solus" can be heard now; presumably more of the tracks will be available there too, once the official release date of Friday, May 18th is upon us:

[Addendum: if we were to pick more than one Record Of The Week this week, like we wuz oft prone to do at aQ, we'd have to go with the cinematic drone bliss of Rausch, the latest from Pop Ambient pioneer Wolfgang Voigt's Gas project!]


ROTW: Uncertainty Is Bliss!

We all were disappointed that Swedish heavy metallers In Solitude called it quits not long after producing their 2013 masterpiece Sister. Perhaps they never would have topped it... But those curious to hear something new and somewhat In-Solitude-Sister-ish, the German trio Black Salvation has just released their second full-length, via Relapse. Black Salvation features former In Solitude drummer Uno Bruniusson, who also plays with dirty Dutch rock n' rollers Death Alley and Chilean doomsters Procession and even was in the live lineup of Swedish true metallers Wolf at one point (drummers, always in demand!).

Black Salvation is a retro-tinged, trippy heavy psych doom band... yes, there isn't exactly a dearth of such bands in the current scene, but Black Salvation manage to be just a little bit different. And really, really good. It's heavy, but also full of what can only be described as spacey, jangle-y echoey death rock, that's quite catchy and/or mesmeric. Totally freaky, garagey, gothy darkness that some of the time sorta sounds like In Solitude meets Shocking Blue! Also 'RIYL' such disparate acts as: The DoorsThe Bad SeedsSeremonia, Fraction, The Cult, Stillborn...


ROTW: Kolme Toista!

Our obsession with all things Finnish continues unabated, with this, the most recent release, via Nuclear War Now!, from Finnish outsider death metal power trio Oksennus.

Over the course of close to five years, these demented death metal weirdos from Joensuu have a created a truly singular body of work, falling somewhere between the raw primitivism of classic first wave death metal, and the twisted audio imaginings of their most way-out Finnish brethren, metallic and otherwise.

We were immediately smitten by the band’s bizarre aesthetic, one that's somewhat of an anomaly in the world of metal, for sure. Their releases are always adorned with simple black ink line drawings on stark white backgrounds, the images rather un-metal and confusionally brilliant: some sort of eggbeater-shaped carrot / onion hybrid, three eyeball-carrots with lightning bolts coming out of the top, a fish barfing out their vomitous logo, a skull-tipped root vegetable mandala, a strange horned demon playing lightning bolt recorder with his third eye (below his two, center-of-the-forehead ears) and a barfing yogi sitting atop an extremely prickly version of the band’s logo. This was definitely one of those instances where we were already all in before hearing a single note of music.

This latest release from Oksennus consists of one 39 minute track, divided into three 13 minute 'movements.' The sound is definitely death metal, but a particularly virulent, caveman strain. The production is muddy and noisy, and the playing seemingly rudimentary, but locked into endlessly hypnotic, headbanging grooves, occasionally even blossoming into strangely psychedelic stretches of krauty hypnorock, the guitars weaving shimmering webs of unlikely melody beneath the endless motorik drum and bass churn. Similarities to fellow Finns Ride For Revenge are most definitely not lost on us. But where RFR is more pummeling and caustic, Oksennus seem more subterranean and tenebrous, and at times it's almost like there’s some weird experimental psych band buried beneath all of that death metal murk... But death metal they are, at their core, and they’ve got the deep, bellowed death grunts to prove it, drifting over the ever shifting metallic morass like ominous (and of course, strangely shaped) black clouds, except when they transform into garbled, anguished ramblings or hypnotic monk-like chants, even further subverting the very metal-ness of Oksennus’ damaged death metal explorations.

Also, if there was any doubt to the group’s “Finnish-ness” (although trust us, there’s not!), live photos seem to suggest that at least one member plays some sort of unicycle-guitar (?) and in one press photo, they are posed with a trumpet and some tiny hammers!


ROTW: My Sixteen Little Planets!

The press materials accompanying this archival release make a big deal about the alleged similarities between it and Ash Ra Tempel guitarist Manuel Göttsching's better-known Inventions For The Electric Guitar LP that came out in 1975, around the same time this "mythical" album was recorded. Göttsching is accused of having appropriated techniques actually invented by M.A.L.'s Daniel Malempré. The claim is made that "in early 1974, Göttsching's label received a tape sent by M.A.L. – same design, same configuration, almost the same tracks [as Inventions For The Electric Guitar]." Hmmm... who knows the truth? GöttschingRolf-Ulrich Kaiser? And you know what, we don't really care that much about all that.

But what we do care about is that track five here, "Thor," is some serious seventies drone-doom! Sounds like a hippie solo psych-guitar version of SUNNO))). Droney, spacey, heaviness maaaannn. And the other tracks are cool too – all far-out home recordings circa 1972-1976 from one Belgian guy with guitar, effects, and 4-track (specifically: Fender Stratocaster 1964, pedal Wah-Wah Cry Baby, and Sony TC-630 reel-to-reel recorder).

Released by Sub Rosa on cd and in a truncated version on vinyl with only eight tracks (planets) instead of sixteen, for those who'd like to pay a little extra for half as much music. Both are available from Forced Exposure, where you can also find sound samples...


Sleeping in on Record Store Day feels pretty good

Ah, Record Store Day. The one day of the year that makes Andee and I really glad that we're NOT still running aQuarius. Nope, we don't miss doing (having to do) RSD. Probably anybody who works or has worked in a record store in the last ten years knows what we mean.

Now, RSD wasn't all bad, of course, there was a lot of fun and excitement on the day itself – it's certainly a rush to do that crazy amount of business in a single day. And if customers enjoyed it, we can't complain about that either. We were certainly grateful for their support. But... RSD has its downsides, definitely. Major stressful, anxiety inducing, economic, existential and aesthetic downsides. Not gonna get into all of that here, if you really wanna know, you can ask either Andee or myself, and risk triggering our RSD-PTSD, at which point we'll likely go on at tedious length about the many problems with Record Store Day and why we would have stopped doing it ('officially' at least) at aQ if we'd ever figured out a good way to do so – something easier said than done, for a number of reasons that we could also explain.

We're certainly not the only ones who found RSD to be not all it's cracked up to be. If you want to read an anti-RSD screed, one of the most recent comes from Chicago's Numero Group. This posting says a bunch of stuff that we totally agree with, and they're even a label (who we think tend to benefit a lot more from RSD than stores do). We could add dozens of other gripes, but you get the idea... we're not big fans of RSD as it has been constituted, though the idea of a Record Store Day is of course a nice one.

Thus, while today is pretty much the last day either of us would want to try to go shopping at a record store (though if you feel otherwise, please go for it!), in appreciation of all wonderful record stores past and present, we wanted to share something that (a perhaps less jaded) Andee wrote way back in 2009 upon the occasion of the second annual Record Store Day. It originally appeared in a fanzine packaged with the Thrill Jockey RSD compilation Records Toreism, but now Andee has revised it a bit for publication on the blog over at Pandora's website. It's all about how shopping at and working in record stores has shaped Andee's life (in a good way!). Record stores forever, every day!!!


ROTW: Spiritual Jazz Vol.8 Japan!

Ten years ago, the London-based Jazzman label launched this great series of comps devoted to 'Spiritual Jazz' from the sixties and seventies, what they describe as "esoteric, modal, and deep jazz from the underground." Think Pharaoh Sanders and Philip Cohran, but more obscure selections, for sure. We reviewed six volumes in the series on the aQuarius list, and while we never made any of 'em a Record Of The Week, we probably should have. As the series progressed, individual volumes delved into different scenes and aspects of Spiritual Jazz – you had your European cats, your American expatriates in Europe, a vocals-oriented volume, and then last year an installment concentrating specifically on Islamic inspired spirituality in jazz.

Released last month, now here's the most expansive entry in the series yet (eight sides of vinyl, or double cd), focusing on Japan's abundant and impressive progressive jazz underground circa 1961 to 1983, compiled with the assistance of Tokyo-based jazz collector and DJ, Yusuke Ogawa. Comes complete with liner notes in English and Japanese, and even boasts a mock obi, nice!

The only artist on here we were all that familiar with already was guitarist Masayuki Takayanagi's New Directions For The Arts, who contribute a fantastic piece called "Sun In The East" from their 1972 Free Form Suite album, not quite as intense and outside as Takayanagi can get* but still definitely amazing, gorgeous deep stuff (as is the rest of the compilation). It's one of the ones you can check out below.

*For a taste of really freaked out Takayanagi, our #1 recommendation is the 1970 recording released on PSF under the title Call In Question, which aQ once described as: "Some of the heaviest 'jazz' ever... The drummer should be in a hardcore band, the guitar player makes Sonny Sharrock sound like a wimp, and the bass and sax are equally intense... Noise guitar way ahead of its time. Beautiful, beautiful noise."