ROTW: Demons Crawl At Your Side!

We can't let the release last month of a new album from our favorite formerly-one-man melancholic Italian doom act pass by without mention... That's right, there's a new opus from old pal Tony Tears, the cd version via Minotauro, vinyl forthcoming on Blood Rock.

Super atmospheric and spooky in the heavy, psychedelic style of Paul Chain, Demons Crawl At Your Side has got that whole vintage Italian horror film soundtrack meets metallic Sabbath-y sound that we love. Paul Chain associate Sandra Silver even guests on dramatic, haunting female vocals, and there's plenty of spacey, eerie Moog synth creeping on you all over the place, amidst the lugubrious doom guitar riffery. Absolutely possessed of occult vibes, it's all quite wonderfully spacious, dark and mesmeric, but boasts some surprising rockin' moments as well ("Demon Always Stands At The Darkness Of Fear" being one such example).

While nothing could ever surpass the primitive, lonely, almost-outsider charm of Tony Tears' cd debut Voici Dal Passo that we made a Record Of The Week at aQuarius back in 2009 (and became a bit of a hit for us, surprisingly enough), we're pretty pleased with where ol' Tony has gone with his music in the years since, even as he's become less of a loner and brought other likeminded musicians into the fold (this album's lineup includes members of Abysmal Grief and Soul Of Enoch by the way). Bravo, Tony Tears!

RIYL: BlizaroJaculaPaul Chain's Violet Theater, Black Hole, Death SSGoblin...


ROTW: Stellary Wisdom!

Our last couple Records Of The Week have been loaded with synthesizers – the South African bubblegum boogie-synth of Gumba Fire! last week and the spaced-out kosmische cassette-culture synth of The Nightcrawlers the week before that. And at the beginning of the year, we made the Japanese video game synth soundz of the Diggin In The Carts comp a Record Of The Week too. So sue us, we like synth. Now this week, the question is: have you gotten into 'Dungeon Synth' yet?

We definitely had dungeon synth, and proto- dungeon synth, stuff at aQuarius, but mostly before it became a 'thing.' Don't think we ever used the term in any of our reviews (not even when we wrote up the awesome Cave Evil Radio Mix). Now, it's a entire burgeoning, Mortiis-lovin' underground genre of minimalist, medieval-sounding lo-fi electronic music that has a lot in common with DIY one-man black metal bands, but, like, consists of the intros only. Those troo cvlt nerds over at Bandcamp provided a great listener's guide last year, a good place for noobs to dip their toes. And the first act mentioned in that article is the one responsible for our Record Of The Week now – the 'Wampyric Specter' himself, Dutch dungeon synth maestro Old Tower, definitely one of our faves in the genre. The Profound Lore label are obviously also fans and jumped in to bring us Old Tower's first ever cd release (dungeon synth is usually more of a cassette or digital-only phenomenon, so glad to see some now on our favorite format – in this case, appropriately packaged with its "slipcase and booklet on matte cardstock for that old/decrepit feel").

What exactly is so special about Old Tower and new album Stellary Wisdom? Well, absorb about five minutes of the first of the disc's two lengthy tracks, "Deep Within My Somber Castle Halls" and you won't have to ask. Instead you'll be imagining crumbling stone passageways beneath an ancient fortress, lit by flickering torchlight, haunted by the specters of slain warriors, that sort of thing. Like a lot of the best dungeon synth, not surprisingly it's good, solemn ambient organ music for playing D&D – not for fighting battles, so much as for after the battle when your party is taking a 'long rest' to mourn fallen comrades, recover lost hit points and study spellbooks, keeping watch for any horrid wandering monsters that might intrude from the darkness.


ROTW: Gumba Fire!

There are plenty of funky, sunny, feel good grooves here on this awesome new Soundway compilation Gumba Fire: Bubblegum Soul & Synth-Boogie in 1980s South Africa! that comes out this Friday, March 9th on cd and triple 12", featuring 16 tracks fully living up to the description in its subtitle.

Basically if the terms "Bubblegum Soul" and "Synth-Boogie" sound good to you, you'll probably love this, and we think you'll understand why it's our Record Of The Week pick this time 'round as soon as your ears fasten on to the irresistible beat and catchy refrain of this comp's title track "Gumba Fire (Madlakadlaka)" by Ashiko – check it out:

Could spin that one again, and again, and again... but then, when would we listen to the rest of the cuts on this comp, which are awesome too?? Tracks by The Survivals, Stimela, Hot Soul Singers, Zoom, and all all the rest, so good.

For sure, the cover graphics don't lie (see below), it's very '80s sounding indeed, naturally with lotsa Yamaha DX7 as our synth loving pal Lee quickly noted, all of which means this has a certain retro nostalgic charm too, but the South Africa part of the equation means these are tracks that probably you (and certainly we) hadn't ever heard before, so super fresh sounding too, and thus extra ripe for the repeat spins alluded to above.

By the way, what IS a Gumba Fire? We're told that it's "derived from gumba gumba, the term given to the booming speakers of the old spacegram radios that broadcast music into South Africa’s townships and villages. The phrase later evolved into Gumba Fire to refer to a hot party." Aha, okay.

Of course, the unique cultural/political/historical context of this music is also doubtless interesting and relevant, we assume the liner notes delve into all that but we haven't read 'em yet, too busy grooving to the music...


ROTW: The Biophonic Boombox Recordings!

We're pretty stoked about this archival release on Anthology by eighties-era, Philly-area synth unit The Nightcrawlers!

I (Allan) just got the copy I ordered from FE in the mail today, and Andee has ordered himself one too, so we figured that makes it an excellent choice for our Record Of The Week.

Basically, as someone recently wrote, The Nightcrawlers "were like an '80s cassette-culture version of Tangerine Dream before them," and they were pretty good at it too, producing a proliferation of self-released recordings circa 1980-1991. 40+ tapes (and three LPs) of improvised ambient electronics with a definite seventies kosmische "Berlin School" vibe, as filtered through the lo-fi, DIY aesthetic of a bedroom or basement boombox recording.

This double LP or even more expansive (yet less expensive) double cd collection is a great summation of the trio's spacey sounds, and includes a 28 page booklet with liner notes, ephemera, etc. If you wanna hear more, well, there was an earlier double cd compendium of (almost) entirely different Nightcrawlers material called Traveling Backwards that the German label Manikin put out back in 1997, that's how I first encountered 'em (Amoeba bargain bin find!), but good luck finding one for a reasonable price currently, although it is available digitally via that label's Bandcamp page.

RIYL: Tangerine Dream, Tangerine Dream, Tangerine Dream.



Today's Record Of The Week is on a label that I don't think we ever stocked at aQuarius but totally would have/should have: Kraków, Poland's Instant Classic. They have a lot of cool releases, particularly when it comes to post-rocky, neo-krauty style stuff. Maybe someday we'll write about Lotto, Pin Park, Alameda 5, So Slow, et. al., but right now we want to highlight this recent release from October 2017, the second album by a band called BNNT.

'Tis totally rad, experimental noise/jazz/abstract rock heaviness (& atmosphere) from a mostly instrumental Polish duo, with guests including Swedish saxophonist Mats Gustafsson. Sampling, sax, distortion, drone, yeah! Ambient metallic improv with tribal-industrial beats, whoo-hoo!

Comparisons may or may not be of much use, but we'd guess one semi-random 'recommended if you like' citation would include Supersilent. Very scary Supersilent. Like maybe if Supersilent were on Utech. Really, though, just click below, turn it up, check it out...

FYI, the Bandcamp link above is where you'll find the cd and vinyl for sale, for digital-only go to this one instead.


ROTW: Calamita!

Today's Record Of The Week pick is the debut recording from mesmeric 'free rock' power trio Calamita, put out on cd by the Beirut-based indie label (and radio show) Ruptured. It features two Lebanese musicians on guitar and bass, joined by an Italian drummer who also plays in a cool Spaghetti-psych/free improv fusion band called Squadra Omega that we should investigate further.

The drummer chugs along steadily, building upon serious plod with skittery, splattery energy, while the other two cut loose with some spacey and spidery psychedelic skronk on these four long instrumental jams, recorded live in one take.

Technically this came out in late December 2017, available then if you were at the record-release show they played in Beirut, but for the rest of us what remains of the 300 copies pressed will be available from the likes of Cargo UK and Forced Exposure in the very near future.

RIYL: Rhyton, 3 Leafs, Musica Transonic, Ash Ra Tempel, early White Hills...


ROTW: Black Death!

Finally reissued! We've been waiting for this for years, heck from the moment we first heard about it, let alone heard it. But the thing is, as significant and Black History Month appropriate (?) as cult Cleveland band Black Death's 1984 self-titled album is, as perhaps thee first album released by an all-African-American heavy metal group (see footnote below), it turns out this is a fantastic slice of raw n' heavy early '80s metal absolutely regardless of the skin color of the persons involved, full of over the top performances (vocally, especially) and killer riffage with a wild, raucous energy. Think Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate, Cirith Ungol, and some Venom. They don't make 'em like this anymore.

Rumors of a reissue had circulated for years, their original label Auburn was supposed to do it, but at last Hell's Headbangers stepped up and took care of business, doing it on fancy vinyl, cd (for the first time) and cassette (likewise).

Footnote: Black Death's origins date to when they were in high school, circa '77, which makes them contemporaneous with San Francisco's Stone Vengeance, who started in '78, another pioneering "black metal" band, but those guys took 'til like 1990 before releasing even a demo.