Over eight hours of (aQ) hits!

Happy New Year, folks! And good riddance to 2016, ugh. As we all know, 2016 was not the best of years and aQuarius closing was the least of it. As we look forward (with hope and/or trepidation) to 2017, maybe it's more fun to look back... before 2016 that is...

I (Allan) was browsing in Amoeba the other day, and was surprised to find a copy of this incredibly rare, limited edition cd-r in the 'various artists' section of their experimental cd bin. At the bargain price of just $2.99, I had to pick it up, especially since I realized I didn't actually already have a copy myself. In fact, it took me a few seconds after I spied the cover to even recall what the heck it was...

Back in 2010, aQuarius had a big 40th Anniversary party, and we made a massive commemorative 'mix tape' for the event, in the form of a data cd-r of mp3's – 118 tracks, approximately 8 hours and 20 minutes of music! Pretty sure Andee compiled it, with input from the rest of us. We made just sixty numbered copies available to party-goers. (This one is #18/60.)

It featured a whole bunch of crucial faves we'd hailed on the aQ list between 1995 and 2010, everything from Os Mutantes to Philip Jeck to Uz Jsme Doma to Neutral Milk Hotel to Kathy McGinty to Beyond Dawn to Hatebeak to Boards Of Canada to The Bee Gees, and (of course!!) quite a few selections from The Conet Project, as well as choice cuts from The Ghost OrchidSounds Of North American Frogs, and Sounds Of American Doomsday Cults.

We mixed in some one-hit wonders at the shop like The Jones Machine and Jud Jud, as well as highlighting tracks by longtime staples of the aQ catalog like the mighty Circle, the Thai Elephant OrchestraVillage Of Savoonga, and the Ethiopiques series. And you'll find not just one but two f'ed up cover versions of Iron Maiden songs. So many obscure faves and favorite obscurities. While not totally comprehensive (it'd have to be another 8, or 10, or 20, or 100 hours long) it's still a pretty spot-on 'greatest hits' of a lot what we were listening to and raving about at aQ back in the day. Needless to say, our eventually forthcoming 'big book of aQ reviews' will include our write-ups about ALL of these, without a doubt.

Fyi, the text on the back of this disc's Conet-homage packaging reads as follows:

"aQ40: To commemorate the 40th anniversary of aQuarius recOrds, we've gathered up some of our all time favorite tracks from throughout the store's long and storied history, songs and sounds that defined the store, and helped make aQuarius one of the most idiosyncratic sources for far our sounds in the world. Many of these gems were aQ Records Of The Week, most of them are long out of print, and all of them are amazing! A sprawling sonic mix tape for our beloved friends and customers around the world. aQ would be nothing without all of you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your years of love, loyalty and support. And of course for loving music as much as we do!"

So, anyway, after stumbling across this quite awesome (imho) aQ40 mega-mix cd-r at Amoeba, I got the idea to edit it into a continuous, seamless mix (since it was just a playlist of individual mp3s before) and put it up on the internet to share with everyone. I split it into four parts of roughly two hours each to make uploading (and listening to) it a little easier. Here it is, enjoy – you can click through to Mixcloud to see the full track listings for each of the four parts, if you like:


Jammers of misfortune


When we reviewed this Belgian unit’s previous disc, Sowberry Hagan, on the aQuarius list four or five years ago, for some reason we omitted to discuss their (ironically?) hyper-masculine name. That could have been the only review of them ever not to talk about how they chose to be called Ultraphallus. Well, gonna mention it now, if only to let you know that if you were to assume on account of their moniker that their music was especially aggro, ugly and crude, that would be an ultra-fallacy (sorry). While they are quite heavy and noisy, there’s an artier, and sometimes softer side to the Ultraphallus equation too (arty enough for the Sub Rosa label now, following an association with Riot Season).

Practitioners of a peculiar style of downer experimental sludge rock, Ultraphallus’ music on The Art Of Spectres can be a difficult, doomed-out listening experience, referencing a variety of diverse, deviant musical influences (a few they cite include the Swans, Autechre, "death-metal," and the Residents!) and rarified cinematic obsessions. For instance, one brief 1:23 interlude here is titled “The Death Of Mark Frechette,” memorializing an event which I googled so you don’t have to – Frechette, the star of Antonini’s cult classic Zabriskie Point, died in 1975 at the age of 27 in a prison weightlifting accident. Ouch.

Elsewhere, though, the album's morbid, ominous atmospheres are a bit more epic than that, Ultraphallus doing everything in their considerable power to create emotionally weighty, creepily cinematic soundscapes. A fundamental framework of shaking, shuddering drone-distortion and trance-inducing percussive pummel tends to run throughout these seven tracks, over which strange, often distressed singing occasionally intrudes. The vocals never really get deathly like you might expect; instead their stylings range from weirdly whispery to almost warbly melodic. The proceedings are also laced with electronic effects, disembodied trumpet, rhythmic reveries, and surprising moments of ambient bliss - providing more of a moody and unusual context for the slow, lumbering, ultraphallic sludgery of the guitars. RIYL: Oxbow, SwansOld Man GloomToday Is The DayThe BodyHey ColossusGnod... (–Allan)


Slamz Jail special edition: Bölzer


On November 25th, the stylish, sludgy Swiss death metal duo Bölzer finally released their debut album following a few well-regarded eps. Compared to those eps, the eagerly awaited, but backlash-beckoning full-length has less in the way of "Wolfshook"-worthy riffs and more in the way of, um, shall we say controversial clean vocals. 

The present inmates of Slamz Jail take a listen and try to figure out what to make of it, first impressions...

Kirk: Have any of you sick metal fucks heard the new Bölzer? Lots of clean crooning.

Allan: I've been so curious, it's gotten pretty much universally bad reviews – makes me think I might like it!

Kirk: Yeah exactly! It's out officially now. You can stream it wherever. I think maybe the songs are a little long and drag a bit but they are really catchy and pretty and sad. Lots of wolf-howl croon.

Andee: The vocals are pretty painful, which makes me think Allan WILL like it.

Kirk: You think so? When I saw them live doing old songs and new the clean vocals made perfect sense. It flowed seamlessly. But the new one has basically no "metal vox.”

Andee: You know I love bad vox, but those seem bad BAD... to be fair, I've only heard one song, will check out the whole thing today.

Harry: Gonna give it a sneaky spin now.

Kirk: Curious to know what Harry thinks. My biggest complaint is just the song length.

Harry: Listening to first song...now. Enjoying the spooky Boy Scout whistling intro. This sounds immediately extremely good to me.

Kirk: That's good to hear. It's kinda got that Mithras spacey feel.

Harry: It does! But a bit more epic in the traditional metal sense of the word.

Kirk: Totes.

Harry: I think the vox are really cool.

Andee: You would.

Kirk: Yeah I don't know why people don't like ‘em.

Andee: You would too.

Harry: I dare say the vocals are putting hair on my chest in a somewhat Hellenic fashion. Lol.

Andee: This might be the most ridiculous 'metal' song i've heard in a while:

That OOOH AHHHH chorus. Woah.

Kirk: It's great!

Allan: Yeah, not bad at all, pretty cool actually... And listening to some more of the tracks on Hero right now, while I'm not ready (yet) to say it's a brilliant work of genius, it seems at least as good or better than a LOT of 'extreme metal' stuff out there that people seem to like – if different. And, honestly, I'd much rather listen to vocals like these on this album than 95% of the samey harsh/guttural/growling 'vokills' on most death and black metal releases.

Andee: Told ya! ...Things I like more than the new Bölzer: the new Witchery, the new Denouncement Pyre, and maybe surprisingly, the new Norma Jean.

Kirk: Dear god Andee.

Andee: Also the new Tomb Mold tape. New Adaestuo, new Crest Of Darkness is great too, and new KYY (rad Finnish BM)...

Allan: What's Tomb Mold? Sounds cool from the name.


Allan: I like it... but the Bölzer is better.


Got the heels, but not the squeals


Above: possibly thee best name and logo ever?
So, Andee and I are naturally in the habit of sending each other links to check out of interesting discoveries on Bandcamp or YouTube that we just stumbled upon – mostly metal bands for whatever reason (but generally not the sort of metal you’ll find in Slamz Jail – that stuff's more appropriate to Andee and former aQ-er Kirk’s special bromance). And then we’re always thinking, hmmm, hey, guess one of us ought to make a blog post out of this or that one, y’know, do a review. Though, admittedly, not all the things we choose to share with each other really need all that much written about ’em – probably just saying, “Hey this is cool [or weird, or whatever] so check it out and give it a listen” would be sufficient, as it is for us.

For example, this, the debut studio album from '80s styled Austrian heavy metal act High Heeler, something I recently ran across randomly and sent to Andee, saying: “Hey, here’s one for you – I don't think the band is all that great (they sorta sound like Cauldron with an Austrian accent) but it's kinda cool and they perhaps have the best name/logo EVER, what do you think?”

Andee’s response: “Haha, that logo DOES rule. You're right. not the best, but pretty solid. Kinda dig the leads. Reminds me of the Scorps a little. Vocals a little tough to take…oh yeah, vocals are kind of a deal breaker. Even the gang vocals are a bit off. Too bad. If they had a really rad eighties style wailer, it'd be a whole 'nother story…”

To which I can only add, yep, too bad. Since I do love the whole idea of a band called High Heeler making retro glam/sleaze metal with NWOBHM influences, and their logo's so perfect for that. Plus, there’s even somebody in the band who spells their name "Andee," how ’bout that! That’d be Andee Overtone, one of the guitarists. Alongside C.C. Stiletto (axe), Dynamike (artillery), and Poison Poser (voxx, bass, album cover painting). Aha, right there with those jokey monikers you can see maybe the problem is that these guys just don't take what they're doing seriously enough – but that’s weird, since apparently the band has been around since 2000, having released an assortment of demos, eps, splits, and a surprising number of live VHS videotapes in the fifteen years prior to this full-length album. Clearly, they're into the humor of what they do, but it also must mean more to them than just some yuks to be at it for that long. Unfortunate that ol’ Poison Poser isn't a better singer but I wonder if maybe the band is his brainchild and thus it would be kind of tough for him to relinquish the frontman role?

Ah well, you know what, I might still pick up a copy when/if I find it for cheap – I'm a sucker for a cool name & logo plus I've got a bit more tolerance for questionable 'clean' singing in traditional heavy metal bands than Andee does (whereas, he's much more accepting of hard-to-take harsh vokills in extreme metal bands that I am, generally speaking.)

...Next up in cool trad metal bands, bad bad vocals: Scalare. OMG! (–Allan)


Decriminalized smoothness


I’ll admit to having attempted to inhale once or twice in my life, long ago, with mixed results; but Andee doesn’t even drink (although, he has been known to overdo it a bit with the NyQuil when he’s got a cold). So we’re basically two drug-free individuals, bordering on straight edge in Andee’s case. I mention this just in order to say, this isn’t the first time we’ve wondered what it means that we find that a LOT of the music we both enjoy is rather overtly drug-oriented (influenced by drugs, encouraging the use of drugs, meant to be listened to on drugs, etc.). Maybe that’s not surprising, of course, since the Venn diagram overlap of ‘drugs’ and ‘music’ is a big fat one. But still, we wonder, why do we spend so much listening time in that zone? Are we hoping for a ‘second-hand smoke’ effect of some sort? Is there something that we’re missing out on, since we love the likes of Monster Magnet and Electric Wizard so much, not to mention being into bands with names like Bongripper, Harsh Toke, and Salem’s Pot, without ever getting high? (Allan also likes the ‘80s German NDW band Spliff a lot, but that’s another story).

So, when Swedish psych label Subliminal Sounds put out an album by a band called, simply, Hashish, figured that’d be one we’d probably dig too, imagining some primitive krauty drum circle thing, and/or blown out heavy stoner jamming, but it turns out that Hashish ain’t heavy or hippy like that. Nope, this is a different sort of dope music, that’s more like some sort of new age exotica, smooth and soothing, Hashish laying down a very blissful brand of space funk that’s just this side of cheesy, with percolating grooves (someone gave that drummer some) propelling the listener through lusciously synth-sizzled, serene, sunny soundscapes. Whoosh. Hashish have plenty of glide in their stride, and zip in their zap, on such cuts as “Outer Spaced” (some stoned boom bap there, with shades of “Blow Your Head” style synthesizer action). Mostly instrumental, with occasional vocoder interjections, and female vocals on “Fly Away,” A Product Of Hashish is a synth trek that folks who appreciate the (amazing) West Coast album by Studio just might want to investigate, the vibes are kinda convergent.

The main guy here is a fellow named Stefan Kéry, who was in freeky ‘80s garage psych revivalists The Stomach Mouths, by the way, and also in a band/project called Zonk whom I only know from their cover of “Sweet Leaf” on a Swedish Sabbath tribute comp - so no wonder I thought Hashish might sound like another Skogen Brinner, or Dungen, but they fit more with the strain of Subliminal Sounds releases like Ìxtahuele that celebrate an important proto-psychedelic music genre: exotica (see Patrick Lundborg’s book Psychedelia - An Ancient Culture, A Modern Way Of Life, pages 103-126, for more on that subject). The more I listened, the more I liked - and remember, it was only the music working on me. Groovy. (–Allan)


Japan bashing


Woah, it’s a glorious, distorto din of absolute exuberance outta this Tokyo two-piece! Scroll down and see for yourself in the live footage below.

Now, I pretty much picked this up because of the title of the disc (and 'cause the band is Japanese, of course that’s crucial, oh and plus I found a copy for cheap) but had I been paying better attention I’d have known that last year Thrill Jockey put out a 7” single on which Gagakirise collaborated with Eye from the Boredoms, and before that, in 2014, they had a cassette release on the esoteric Ormolycka label; either of those facts indicating that Gagakirise probably has something going on.

I should try to check out those recent releases, since this 20 minute mini-album, which actually came out seven years ago in 2009, is pretty darn rad, with songs that sound something like Lightning Bolt blowing up, a total garage shred explosion of catchy, curly, chaotic riffery, that’s heavy and spazzy, with a very 'sprong-y' guitar sound and hella ummphh - Hella and the Ruins being two other two-pieces one could easily name check to some degree in describing these guys, who have also got a bit of the noisiness (if not the grindiness) of another Japanese band with black long hair, Sete Star Sept.

The first five tracks here are a blast, and then, just when you think it couldn’t get any more nutzoid, a remix from Bong Ra collaborator Maruosa, “Ultimate Fantasy Of Ultimate Fantasy Of Ultimate Fantasy," closes things out with an extra BPM-freaked dose of jumbled, processed craziness. At which point, it’s definitely a press play again (and again) proposition, just to keep the rush going. (-Allan)


Party time and more...

Hey folks, especially the local to San Francisco ones, we’re finally having a farewell-to-aQuarius party and you’re invited - please come! It’ll be at the Make Out Room (on 22nd Street, around the corner from the old aQ/current Stranded on Valencia) on Sunday, December 4th.

It’s a late afternoon/early evening event, starting at 3pm or so and going ’til 8pm, with a couple of great bands (and friends of ours) performing around six or seven - namely lovelorn lo-fi indie pop janglers Swiftumz, and Metallica-loving noise popsters the Tony Molina Band (ex-Ovens). Figure those two will be happy/poppy/fun enough to lift our spirits at this aQ wake… So please come and hang out with various ex-aQ staffers, fellow former customers and assorted music nerds to mourn the end of an era while also celebrating the good times we had and all the crazy music with which we’re mutually obsessed. You can also bug Andee and Allan in person about progress on our big aQ book project... It's a free event, but sorry, it's not all-ages, though. Facebook event page here.

Also, on FB: our old customer/pal Dan Vallor (aka trippy soundscaper Clarinette) just set up a cool Friends Of Aquarius Records group on Facebook, to function as both a memorial to the store and also another way for former aQ-fans to connect, reminisce, and maybe even network about their own new musical projects and releases. Very awesome, thanks Dan! And thanks everybody who has already joined up and especially those posting photos and sharing memories of the shop.

Lastly and leastly - fyi, the Slamz Jail page on this site has recently been updated. Check it out if you dare. (Glad to see at least two people have found it amusing thus far!)


Happy Halloween!

NWOFHM 101, part one

nwofhm logo
Sorry, got a little sidetracked over this past month (I, Allan, just got married, for one thing) but all right, okay, it’s about time for another post here!

So, one thing we’ll surely want to do in putting together our ‘big book of aQ reviews’ is to shine a spotlight some specific categories of music that were of special aQ-interest, perhaps even organizing the book around chapters devoted to different unusual micro-genres or what have you, kind of like how some of our ‘in-between lists’ were curated. For example, we had a whole section in our bins devoted to music from Finland - but to get even more ‘micro’ and specific, how about this subset of music from Finland that was popular at aQuarius: NWOFHM. Which, for any non-formerly-devoted-aQ-list-readers out there, may require some explanation.

Of course, we all love the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal, aka the NWOBHM, which was a real thing, starring bands like Iron MaidenDiamond HeadVenomAngel Witch, early Def Leppard, etc. And, we love the NWOFHM too - that’s the New Wave Of Finnish Heavy Metal, which is not so much a real thing, not exactly. It's one of our very favorite made-up genres though, one which sprang from the mischievous, musically genius mind of our pal and fellow metalhead, Jussi Lehtisalo from the band Circle - with some help from his equally demented cohorts. It’s not exactly metal, not really, though NWOFHM bands all make copious use of various signifiers usually associated with the heavy metal genre, in terms of lyrics and visual imagery (leather, spikes, songs with titles like “Battle Of The Axehammer” and “Steel Tormentor”, and, um, “Metal Infant”), sometimes in the music as well (with distorted guitar riffs & screaming vocals). There are certainly examples of NWOFHM that verge into being quote-unquote actual metal but some of it merely occupies an irregular orbit around the idea of metal, from a distance, while managing to be something very metal and very not metal at the same time. In fact, some of the best NWOFHM is remarkably gentle, pleasant, and (in its own quirky way) quite poppy. Certainly much of it is rather more, shall we say, whimsical sounding than most of the ‘real’ metal we usually consume. But that doesn’t mean you can’t bang your head to it as well.

By nature an extremely confusional style of music, the NWOFHM is difficult to sum up in a simple ‘best of’ kind of way, so all the more reason for us to attempt it… So, here goes, the Why...Do You Like It? Guide To The Top Fifteen Or So NWOFHM Tracks In The Universe Ever Yet, That We Could Find On Youtube, presented band-by-band, in no particular order (or rather, in a particular order that I can't really explain that easily):

CIRCLE!!! There’d be no NWOFHM without Circle, but this long-running, unguessably creative outfit is not exclusively a NWOFHM band, if we take NWOFHM to be descriptive of an actual style of music and not simply Circle's marketing slogan. However, they’re the logical place to start, as the NWOFHM was invented by these guys, though Circle was making music long, long before they started (jokingly?) referring to any of their stuff as NWOFHM. All the various NWOFHM bands are Circle offshoots, and Circle themselves are responsible for many essential examples of self-proclaimed NWOFHM music, especially on such genre-befuddled albums as Sunrise (2002), Tulikoira (2005), and Katapult (2007). The latter of which Jussi described to us as being supposedly Circle’s “60’s Black Metal” album - both psychedelic and grimly metallic, maybe. And lots else besides, of course. With song titles like “Torpedo Star Throne” and “Skeletor Highway” (metal, eh?) but also “Snow Olympics” and “Fish Reflection” (not so metal-sounding, those). And in fact, one of my fave NWOFHM cuts by Circle, comes off of Katapult and is called, believe it or not, “Understanding New Age”, though it’s probably thee most metal thing on whole album. Couldn’t find a YouTube clip for it though, so here’s the dark & disturbing “Fish Reflection” instead, check it out:

Now for a couple more killer NWOFHM tracks from the Circle catalog, that help to explain why Circle, despite their kraut/space-rock origins and unmitigated eclectic WTF?-ness, have earned themselves an entry in the Encyclopedia Metallum.

From Tulikoira, “Tulilintu” - listen to facsimile metal god Mika Rättö belt it out on this one:

And from 2008’s Hollywood, another very metal Circle cut called “Sacrifice”, sung by guest vocalist, Jussi’s hero Bruce Duff of obscure late ‘80s LA alt-metal band Jesters Of Destiny:

Next band up, KRYPT AXERIPPER!!! The first exclusively NWOFHM side-project any of us at aQ encountered, circa 2007, in the form of a 4-song cd ep called Mechanical Witch presented as if it were a reissue of a piece of ‘80s vinyl. In truth, Krypt Axeripper is the duo of Jussi and Mika from Circle (Jussi as “Krypt” singing and playing the stringed instruments, Mika as “Rattfinder” on drums). Too bad they never followed up with a full-length (someday?) but the ep is perfect as is. All four songs are great, super catchy and poppy but pretty darn metal too, in that whimsical way I mentioned. Supposedly influenced by Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol and Cloven Hoof, here's a sample, “Possessed (By Trees)”:

Then, there’s the mighty PHARAOH OVERLORD!!! This group is exists as Circle’s sometimes-heavier alter-ego, who started off doing a “circular” version of desert / stoner rock on their 2001 debut. Heavy & fuzzed out but not NWOFHM, really. But like anything Circle related, they soon mutated in unpredictable ways, eventually doling out dark psychedelic drone and Stooges-y stomp. And on album number four, titled #4 (2006), they created what may stand as the ultimate heavy metal / hypno-rock hybrid, with such epic, eerily metallic tracks as “Now We Know," “Ridin’,” “Secret Chamber,” “See Me Evil,” “Demons In The Rising Sun” and “Dark Side.” All of it utter chugging ümlaüted awesomeness. Here’s “Ridin’” - gotta love the delightful video someone appropriated for it:

Of the whole album, though, this is maybe my favorite cut, “Demons In The Rising Sun,” especially when the song hits about the 4:15 mark:

But then that’s followed by the 8+ minute instrumental “Dark Side” which will drag you (willingly) to hell… so good!!

Then a few albums later, after various detours into everything from noisy improv to druggy dirgey spacerock, Pharaoh Overlord unleashed the hard rockin’ Out Of Darkness (2011), a truly batshit yet solidly metal/stoner/prog masterpiece with an array of guest vocalists (including, yet again, Bruce Duff). From that album, the cut might be the most “circular” yet also more intensely metallic, closest to the stuff on #4, is “Devastator”, a track that kills ‘em all over and over and over again:

Headbanging speed metal biker mayhem, yeah! And yes, that album cover is the best.

One more from Out Of Darkness, the title track, with Sam Velde of Night Horse / Obliterations on vocals:

MERCEDES HELL!!! and MOTORSPANDEX!!! Now, besides Krypt Axeripper, there have been several one-off NWOFHM acts, bands with interchangeable memberships, we assume, that did a single vinyl-only single release each on Ektro’s Full Contact imprint: Mercedes Hell, Tractor Pulling, and Motorspandex. All worthy NWOFHM jammers. All those bands, along with the trio of Kangas-Lehtisalo-Tuomi, also appeared with new songs on a super limited edition cassette that Ruton put out in 2015 called NWOFHM Attack Vol.1, which sadly somehow I lack a copy of, consigning me to NWOFHM poser-dom, dammit. (Jussi, please put this out on cd!)

However, here's “Kingdom Together” from the A-side of the Mercedes Hell 7”, featuring chants of “Reality!” and “Rock and Roll!” - like the whole ep, it's a propulsive track that comes close to a lot of what Circle’s Katapult sounded like, really:

The very similar Motorspandex also rules, heck here’s four of the seven tracks from their 7”:

Ok, stopping here for now. Please stay tuned for Part Two of this guide, someday soon. Yet to come, tracks from what might be the ultimate NWOFHM band, the prolific, puzzling Steel Mammoth. Plus: AktorArkhamin Kirjasto, and more, including perhaps some discussion of what we might consider the “roots of the NWOFHM.”

Until then, enjoy this bonus video: footage of Circle doing “Rautatie” live at Supersonic Fest in 2011... Taking the piss perhaps, and taking it over the top, most definitely, but amazing. Check out Mika’s moves (and outfit). Also note Jussi’s Lizzy Borden T-shirt. Settle in, it’s 15 minutes of radness:

All hail the NWOFHM!!! (-Allan)


Works in progress

First off - as may be obvious - we switched up the template for this here blog site. Got rid of the one we’d originally picked, which had turned out to be kinda buggy, so now hopefully functionality will be improved (especially re: commenting). Definitely still experimenting with the look, we’ll be futzing around with it for a while, and hopefully improving it, so don’t be alarmed if it appears a bit (or a lot) different the next time you visit!

And then - The Book. That’s our big project, currently in its very earliest stages. Right now we're just trying to envision what it’s gonna look like: How big it’ll be, what format (hardcover? softcover? something to display on your coffee table? to read on the toilet?), how many of the many thousands of aQ-reviews we can fit in, which ones to include and then how to organize ‘em all… The reviews that we select will then need to be edited (slightly), re-proofread, fact-checked, and annotated - yep, we’re planning on appending a sentence or two in italics or something to some (most?) of them, giving them more context, or putting them in a now-perspective, like, “What were we thinking? This album is terrible!” or “Why didn’t we mention the hidden bonus track?” or "Utterly don't remember this record at all but it's obvious I wrote the review, what's wrong with me?" Stuff like that. But better.

Under consideration also are other value-added features, like mini-essays on sub-genres and best-of-lists and bits from guest contributors and a cd compilation or download or 7”… Lots and lots to think about. Input & ideas encouraged, please let us know what you’d like it to be like.

But that’s getting way ahead of ourselves. Right now, still conceptualizing. To just get a grasp on the scope of the project & all the material we’re gonna be working with, we figure we need to start re-reading ALL the the reviews from the lists #1 through #502. That’ll take a while! To begin with, we’ve dug up the big three-ring binders that we used to have on the counter long ago in the shop, that were stuffed with print-outs of the first 250-or-so lists. That’s five large binders just for those lists alone - quite a stack:

So, we’re now carefully going through 'em and taking notes on releases/reviews that jump out as being essential, stuff that’s gotta be in the book (The Conet Project! SensationalSounds Of North American Frogs! Kathy McGinty! Feuhler! The Electric Lucifer! Shevalreq!), also getting ideas about possible ways to group reviews together if we go that route, how much revision is gonna be necessary, etc., etc.

It’s a weird moving-forward and yet at the same time diving-back-in feeling - been stirring up lots of nostalgia readin’ through these binders. Fun, though, and it's been reminding us to listen to a lot of things we hadn’t in a while, which is always good.

Also super good - we’re pleased to report that an ideal aQ-lovin’ indie rock luminary (and New York Times best-selling author) has already agreed to write the foreword, and we have also lined up a talented person to do the design! (Names withheld for now just to be secretive and in case somebody changes their mind.)

Also, not regarding the book, but also speaking of progress, congrats to our successors Stranded for getting their brand new website up recently and putting out their first few weekly email updates these past several Fridays. Not quite the old aQ-list, but they did include some fresh reviews in each update, some written by former aQ-staffers, so that’s a start!

And our pal Ken's long-in-the-works documentary about aQuarius is also progressing (he's probably happy we gave him an ending!), he's recently been posting some clips from it online, like this one...

Lastly, nothing to do with progress, but we thought we'd stick this tidbit in here as well: Kirk just alerted us that the new album that just came out by next-level rap group Clipping. includes samples from The Conet Project. (Hopefully they’ll have better luck with that than did Wilco.)


Boards of Chaos

Following up on that last post - here’s something to check out if you're interested in an even more demoniacal take on a Dick Dale type of sound, as brought up by a commenter (whose comment, by the way, due to some annoying Blogger glitch, can't be seen anymore*). Said commenter reminded us of the existence of a number of "1960’s Trve Kvlt svrf music" tracks that have been posted on YouTube by bands with names like The Darkthrones, The Mayhems, and The Emperors. Yes, black metal covers done surf style!

We're pretty sure that at first they were the work of one person, playing real instruments, and then some other folks decided to get in on the fun, using MIDI (which has its own special charm). Either way, they're all pretty cool, complete with amusing parallel-universe band histories and track titles, i.e., "Californian Hunger", "Surfin' Moon", "I Am The Surf Wizards", etc. Kinda makes you realize just how many black metal 'hits' there are, with so much recognizable melody, and yeah they sound totally rad as surf tunes. Such grim reverb!

Perhaps you've heard these already, they've been around for a while, several years... In fact, long ago, Andee even attempted to make contact with the person(s) responsible, hoping to put a compilation disc of 'em out on his label tUMULt, but unfortunately got no response… So, they remain internet-only tracks, ah well. Here are a couple examples, and if you poke around on YouTube you'll find a bunch more:

*It seems that some folks who were nice enough to comment already, found their comments double-posted, and then, when they tried to delete the duplicate, both were deleted, AND on top of that now nobody can comment or even look at comments on those posts anymore, it's all messed up. At least in the browsers we’ve tried. D’oh. C'mon, Blogger/Google! It’s a free platform, but still. We're thinking that if we switch the template we're using that might fix the problem, we'll see...


Surf 'til death


I became a fan of surf music long before I got into metal, after hearing "Wipe Out" by the Surfaris as a kid. And I have always thought that there's a bit of a connection - instrumental surf music is mostly guitar-centric, often speedy, with the "ripping" qualities that I found I later also prized in metal. Still, it was a surprise to see that instrumental guitar slinger Davie Allan, famed for doing soundtracks with his band the Arrows for B-grade biker exploitation flicks back in the sixties (like The Wild Angels), now has a release out on extreme metal label Relapse! Even stranger, it's a split EP with the prolific Joel Grind, of one-man retro thrash outfit Toxic Holocaust. WTF??

Joel Grind seems like a cool guy and all; I've wanted to like his stuff, but Toxic Holocaust aways fell short for me, even though it for sure always looked the part. I will confess, however, to loving some tracks, especially "It's Fucking Happy Time," from the D-beat Street Rock n Rollers album by Tiger Junkies, Joel Grind's not-terribly-PC collaboration with the guy from Japanese sleaze thrashers Abigail. But anyway, what's Joel Grind doing on a split with Davie Allan? Well, guess what, he's ALSO playing surf music, and his tracks (they each do two instrumentals) are remarkably rad.

First up are Davie's cuts, both the sort of fuzzed-out rippers you'd expect from this past master of cycle-delic rockin', his guitar having plenty of vroom-vroom to it, while the beats are gonna get the beach-blanket go-go girls dancing. One of 'em has kind of got a rhythm reminiscent of "Please Don't Touch" (the '50s tune later popularized and metalized by Headgirl aka Motorhead & Girlschool), and the other is a perhaps a bit of a "Peter Gunn" variant, nothing wrong with that.

Then Joel Grind offers up two tracks of his own, and damn if he doesn't hang just fine with Allan, despite his relative inexperience in the surf genre. With rapid pulse and sinister vibe, you can hear how they're really sort of metal songs (listen close, is that a guitar effect or a blackened vokill grunt?), done surf-style, which works great, as I would have expected.

All in all, a pretty cool, unexpected blast of, uh, surf-sludge music? The biker/horror imagery (nice art direction here, btw) also helps to explain why this makes sense on Relapse. So, points for presentation, points for being a wonderfully WTF? pairing - and heck, this is probably the best thing I've heard from Joel Grind yet, wouldn't mind a whole album of him doing these sort of surf/biker instrumentals. (-Allan)


Out of the womb...


Man, it's been like almost three months since I've written a review… Let's ease back into it… Here's something I was super excited to get, the full-length debut on Castle Face from Geelong (Australia) rockers Orb. No, not The Orb, just Orb. No techno here, nope – it's riff-tastic, fat and fuzzy heaviness in early '70s style, from one of those modern-day bands that're all about Blue Cheer and Black Sabbath, nothin' else. Was already into 'em thanks to the cassette, Womb, they put out on Tasmania's killer Heavy Chains Records And Tapes label last year, so it was neat to see Dwyer & Co. scoop 'em up for Castle Face stateside. Maybe that had something do with King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, also bringing the psych rawk from Down Under, being on Castle Face as well, dunno.

Anyway, this is garagey enuff for Castle Face (recorded by dude from Total Control), but much heavier than their usual fare, like I said these guys are all into Geezer Butler-y bellbottomed bass lines and shivery guitar wailin' worthy of Leigh Stephens and/or Randy Holden… The vocals, done in a fairly lackadaisical Ozzy-esque chant-speak style – a bit like Om or the aforementioned King Gizzard really – are perhaps the weakest aspect of this, but that's not a big problem since this band relies more on the instrumental jammage anyway, stuff that sounds f'n awesome when you crank it up, whether they're whomping ass with boot-stomping riffs or getting into loose-limbed groovy grooves complete with breakbeat worthy percussion action. Oh, and then there's the way the disc wraps up with some bleep-blurp sci-fi trippiness, sounding like a stoned Silver Apples, that's cool too.

All in all, Orb's Birth is a fun, fuzz-filled forty minutes for anyone with a predilection for the whole retro-proto-metal thing. RIYL: Fuzz, Blue Cheer, King Gizzard, Dzjenghis Khan, Dead MeadowSleep's Holy Mountain. (–Allan)


And, as it ends, so it begins...

Hey friends! Welcome to the new blog of ex-aQ overlords Allan & Andee, where we're going to try to remain connected with all our friends and former customers from ye olde aQuarius days. We'll be updating you with news about our upcoming big-book-of-aQ-reviews project, and it's quite likely we'll also be using this blog as an outlet to continue to share with you all our rants and raves about music we've been listening to, as the mood strikes! That is, if we still have it in us to write even MORE reviews. We'll see what develops... please stay tuned. Thanks!!!