7/20/2018

ROTW: Stereo Master!


“What's in a name? That which we call a rose,
   By any other word would smell as sweet”


But what if that rose was a band, and what if that band was called Bilbong Baggins? Would it sound as sweet? If you’re a longtime reader of the old aQ list and/or this WDYLI? blog, then the answer is probably 100% yes. So many of our favorite bands came to our attention solely based on having a ridiculous moniker, and we are rarely disappointed. I guess the idea is that a mind demented and warped enough to come up with a baffling band name, is probably also gonna come up with the music to match.

Which brings us back to Bilbong Baggins. A mysterious group that the label who put out this cassette (Atrocious Gnosis, also an amazing name for a label) describes as “Cryptic Doom about wizards, bugs and drugs”, and as if that didn’t already potentially promise too much, their description finishes by simply saying: “Better than Sabbath.” Which is true, assuming you wish Black Sabbath sounded more like Rusted Shut, and that Ozzy sounded more like some hybrid of Keiji Haino and a dying wildebeest, and that the guitar riffs sounded more like maybe some of the strings were missing and probably all of the tuning pegs were sheared off in a fit of noise-doom freakout, but the band decided ‘fuck it’ and continued on sans strings, tuning pegs and any real tuning at all.

That’s not to say there aren’t some solid riffs, there most definitely are, but they’re rendered in various shades of ‘fucked up’, the vibe being WAY more basement drug jam that epic doomage. “Weednado” sounds like weirdo country fuck-ups Jon Wayne crossed with Captain Beefheart, peppered with some crappy, almost Brainbombs-ish trumpet bleats. “The Wizard Approaches” gets heavy, but seemingly the heavier the guitars get, the more unhinged and over the top croony the vocals become, but it does definitely veer into some serious stumble-doom territory. Meanwhile album closer “The Horn Of The Ancient Alpine Elders” sounds like disembodied bits of black metal mixed with weird floorcore noisejams, a little Faxed Head handicap-core and a lot of lo-fi clatter and crumble.

Throughout the rest of the record, in between the above highlights, the band explores minimal, 4-track plod rock, fractured outsider psych, hushed bedroom folk damage and – on “Birds Of Death”, maybe our favorite jam here – some awesomely ham-fisted organ/synth noise-prog. That's rendered with the keyboard component cranked, and constantly jittering and jerking from note to note. That track eventually gets all tangled up with more horns and turns into a pretty mesmerizing weirdo psych jam.

And the oozing, rotten cherry on the top of the whole thing is the amazingly amateur high school binder, ballpoint pen cover art. Ta da, Record Of The Week.

So if you like your doom decidedly UN-doomy, and if you like your fucked up, basement-brawl, bruised and bloodied noise rock just a little bit doomy, or if you just dig stuff like Rusted Shut, Drunks With Guns, Puffy Areloas, Twin Stumps, Brainbombs, Drunkdriver, Homostupids or No Balls, but ONLY if that stuff is recorded on a busted up Walkman in a pile of broken bottles at the bottom of a smelly old trash can and fronted by a drunk and disgraced Vegas crooner, then Bilbong Baggins just might be your sweet smelling rose.

It’s probably also worth mentioning that the Atrocious Gnosis label is run by a longtime aQ pal, who is also the genius behind Book Of Sand, who has a new record out called Postmodern Witchcraft on Auris Apothecary, which recasts BoS’ previously more black metal sound in the form of creepy reverb drenched garage rock. Sounds weird maybe but it’s so beautiful and pretty much perfect. Obviously HIGHLY recommended as well…

7/11/2018

ROTW: Liquid Crystal Despair!

Our Record Of The this Week comes from Portland, Oregon's JonnyX And The Groadies. It makes sense that we flipped for these guys big time back in the day (they started off as a punk band in the late '90s and put out their first proper full-length in 2005). Originally described to us circa that album's release as being 'party black metal,' they actually kind of lived up to what could have potentially been a fairly unappealing sonic combo concept. Plus, they were called JonnyX And The Groadies! And as much as we may have (maybe surprisingly) had an aversion to what we call 'costume rock,' something about the Groadies' look – a glam metaller, a scientist, a bearded rocker and a skeleton (!) – when combined with their epic, over the top synth-soaked black metal influenced cybergrind, was kind of irresistible and pretty goddamn genius.

It’s been a while since we heard from JXTG (eight years!) and they’ve now rebranded themselves as purveyors of 'Lazer blackened trans-dimensional cosmic-thrash,' which is surprisingly pretty accurate, especially as it concerns their latest release, Liquid Crystal Despair, a head-spinning sci-fi concept record about, well… shit, we have no idea what it's about actually… crystals probably, and despair… um… and liquids? But sonically, it's a dizzying mix of furious blasting beats, space-y electronics, raspy blackened vocals, epic melodies, all wreathed in a killer production and laced with the sort of oddball detail that made them so original and unique in the first place.

It’s pretty ambitious too, with moments of moody ambience, haunting piano passages, stretches of gloomy dungeon synth, some almost Viking metal sounding majesty, swirling, squelchy electronics, and wild programmed rhythms. But all of that is in service to a sound that solidly places them in some solid black-thrash company. The songwriting is top notch, with the sound easily shifting from furious buzzing, to crushing bombast, to moody, metallic mesmer… A reviewer online compared it to some kind of mix between Celtic Frost and Hawkwind, and besides being something we would (and should) have said about them, it’s pretty spot on! Hear for yourself via their Bandcamp page, where, aside from digital, you can buy the physical album on either 12" vinyl, chrome cassette tape, or CD-R:

7/08/2018

NWOFHM 101, part two

While we didn't post a ROTW last week due to the patriotic holiday, at least I managed to finish this – at long last, what folks have been quietly clamoring for (I can only assume, having no evidence either way): the follow-up post to part one of my New Wave Of Finnish Heavy Metal primer.

Part two covers a bunch more crucial bands in the so-called NWOFHM movement, which is, as previously discussed, a bit of a joke hatched by our friends from Finnish neo-krautrock legends Circle. Yet, a lot more than a joke.

In the more than a year-and-a-half (!) since I posted part one, we've seen the release of a few more efforts in the NWOFHM realm, including a Circle album, Terminal, on mostly metal label Southern Lord, and more recently an excellent new Pharaoh Overlord, Zero. Then there was the Danko Jones/Circle side project Iron Magazine who put out a 12" last year, and also, more recently, the second Split Cranium 'crossover' collaboration featuring members of CircleIsis, Converge, Mammifer and Old Man Gloom. Perhaps most notable, though, was the first release in six years from Steel Mammoth, Atomic Oblivion! None more NWOFHM than them, so as promised, they'll kick off this 2nd part of our NWOFHM 101 primer, here goes...

STEEL MAMMOTH!!! Probably Jussi & Co.’s flagship act when it comes to pure NWOFHM stuff (and “post-grunge” stuff too). The sheer metalness of their name, album titles, song titles, cover graphics, adds up to NWOFHM heroes. Steel Mammoth is a joke wrapped in a riddle inside an iron fist wearing a velvet glove, etc., etc.

The band is fronted by the signature voice of the NWOFHM, Ville Pirinen aka Garfield Steel. He’s a quirky Finnish indie rocker and visual artist with a bunch of different bands on his C.V. that predate his involvement in the NWOFHM scene, such as the blues rock/synth pop of Black Audio, which you can definitely hear a bit of in Steel Mammoth. Also, Pirinen currently is part of one of thee best bands in the current wave of ‘female-fronted occult rock’ bands, Seremonia – a subject for another post someday. Check out Seremonia though if you’re at all into bands like Blood Ceremony and The Devil's Blood - they’re by far the most legitimately psychedelic of the lot! Another guy from Seremonia is in Steel Mammoth too, Ilkka Vekka, who is also behind the psychedelic/noise/industrial project Haare.

As far as Steel Mammoth goes, all their albums and eps are essential NWOFHM listening, here’s but a taste, beginning with "Nuclear Barbarians" off of their 2007 debut:


This next track, "Extinction," from their third album Nuclear Ritual (2009), is a big fave too. When we reviewed that release on the aQuarius list, we compared this album-ending eight-plus minute song's lumbering stoner/doom riffage to Witchcraft and Jex Thoth, and went on to say that it "eventually morphs into an extended lysergic jam worthy of Circle in its krautiness, with a bassline that Rick Rubin woulda loved on Bloodsugarsexmagic, that never seems like it will end and when it does you'll want to start it again... With results like this, Steel Mammoth are doing something right, even if they're playing metal 'wrong'." Check it out:


And finally, here's a video of a track from 2011's Nuclear Rebirth, the second in the trilogy of vinyl-only albums that has seen Steel Mammoth evolving into sounding like an actual metal (or metalpunk) band, a super thrashy and gnarly one at that:




AKTOR!!! A collaboration between Jussi and the almost equally prolific Chris "Professor" Black of Dawnbringer and High Spirits fame. It sounds like an '80s keyboard infused, sci-fi frazzled version of High Spirits in a lot of ways, trading the positive pop metal sound of that band for something equally poppy but more paranoid, definitely heavily influenced by Blue Öyster Cult circa The Revölution By Night and even Club Ninja. Plus a dose of Angel Rat era Voivod and, I dunno, maybe even some Return To Forever. And, 'cause of the BÖC thing, this band may perhaps remind some folks of Sweden's Ghost as well.

So far, Aktor is responsible for one wonderful full-length in 2015 and, before that, a 7" single from 2013. Here’s the A-side of that single:


Good news though – Aktor have a new 2018 album coming out SOON, teaser track here:




ARKHAMIN KIRJASTO!!! Jussi, again, with support from one of the other Steel Mammoth guys, takes the NWOFHM into Nordic black metal territory, sort of a la Darkthrone and Satyricon. But way weird and psychedelic and Lovecraftian (the band's name in English is "Arkham Library"). They've put out two 7" singles and a full-length album, and in the aQuarius review of the latter we noted that "if their tongues are in cheek here, they're well hidden." Serious rockin' death/black metal business happening here. In fact, it's the least metal tracks on there that sound the most typically NWOFHM. Here's a taste, a video for the opening track on their Torches Ablaze (2012) album:




OK, so that wraps up our run down on thee NWOFHM essentials so far! However, stay tuned someday for part three of this primer, where I'll dig into the 'roots of the NWOFHM' (inspirations and influences) and also discuss some other contemporary non-Finnish bands that kind of fit into the NWOFHM sound, like Realmbuilder. Or perhaps I'll save those for an eventual part four... which could include mention of the non-Circle-related, actual New Wave Of Traditional Heavy Metal from Finland (NWOTHMFF?) including Iron Griffin, Lord Fist, Angel Sword, Rotör and more.

But, before we go today, if you have another 18 minutes to spare, and haven't already wandered down some YouTube hole as a result of the above, gonna leave you with this 'bonus track' – an up close and personal documentary segment about the life and art of Garfield Steel himself, from Sami Sänpäkkilä's 'A Day In The Mouth' series:


All hail the NMOFHM! (–Allan)

6/26/2018

ROTW: RTK!!


Heads up, folks, nothin' new (or old) this week, not even the 73-track super deluxe Appetite For Destruction reissue, is gonna beat this – a double CD or triple LP freekout of rare vintage material from these hypnotic UK garage fuzz jammers, including the tracks from their debut split 7", all newly compiled and remastered from the first three releases they put out on Rocket, circa 1998-2002.

It includes a 'Conga'd Out' version of their classic (and classically titled) "Spliff Riff" and also a track named "Neu75" so you know it's gotta be good. One of the cuts, "KRT," takes up two whole sides of vinyl (or most of the 2nd disc in the compact disc set). It and the rest of this collection are the definition of sprawling, glorious, drugged-out, and fuzz-filled (natch).

Released by The Heads' own Rooster Rock label, you can pick this up from Midheaven mailorder, where you'll find a few sound samples to check out – if such checking out is even necessary before purchase of anything to do with The Heads. Or dive into a couple of the tracks via YouTube, below:


6/21/2018

ROTW: The Water, The Stars!

Andee's such a big, big fan of this band, whose 2013 debut we made an aQuarius Record Of The Week (we closed up shop before reviewing their second album, unfortunately), that he volunteered to write this big, big review of their brand new third LP (on Lauren Records) for the band's website. Thus, this is a surefire WDYLI ROTW pick, too! Read on and check out what might be your new favorite indie rock album...


It’s been almost exactly two years since Sacramento musical mesmerists Sun Valley Gun Club released their practically perfect, self-titled sophomore album. That record was absolutely my favorite album of 2016, and remains one of my favorite records to this day, getting almost as much play in 2018 as when I first heard it. The only times I ever really stopped listening really, were the occasional desperate attempts to try to avoid getting sick of those songs, which I quickly discovered was something I didn’t really need to worry about at all!

So when I first discovered there was a new SVGC record, I was pretty excited. I had been hearing the band perform some of these songs live for a while, but when gathered all up together, as The Water, The Stars, they revealed themselves to be yet another pitch perfect collection of classic indie rock, filtered through SVGC’s unique sonic lens: a hook-heavy hybrid of languorous twang and noise pop crunch, each song impossibly catchy on its own, but even more compelling as part of the whole. Like with the previous album, I had to fight the urge to simply listen to individual songs over and over and over endlessly. But honestly, I didn’t really fight all that hard...

The opening track “If You Would Only Wait” perfectly encapsulates the Sun Valley Gun Club sound, a galloping blast of jangle and crunch, driven by distorted vocals, fuzzy guitars and some dizzyingly loose-limbed drumming. Hooks everywhere, the bridge as catchy as the verse, the verse as catchy as the chorus, the band deftly delivering the occasional feedback drenched squall or slipping into syncopated, almost metallic heft. And of course, one of the most distinctive parts of SVGC’s sound, their tendency to take what is essentially a pop song and stretch it WAY out at the end, letting it transform into something much more psychedelic and dreamily droney, a sprawling, hazy and heavenly psych jam that could stretch out forever, and I would not mind one bit.

As if the opener wasn’t good enough, “She Is Gone” might be one of the best songs SVGC have ever written, which is saying a lot for a band whose catalog is essentially made up of coulda/shoulda/woulda been stone cold classics. Laconic vox draped over woozy jangle, a sweetly slacker indie rock that finds the perfect middle ground between Pavement and Built To Spill, laced with some of the most divine background harmonies, the whole song demonstrating the band’s unparalleled pop-song mastery, still channeling the nineties, but making that sound wholly and totally their own.

And that’s just two songs in. The rest of the record unfurls just as dramatically, from the slow burn of “Falling Apart”, replete with spidery guitar melodies and a seriously crushing breakdown, again liberally laced with feedback and impossibly catchy hooks, to “Goodbye Columbus”, which sounds like a twangier take on unsung San Diego math pop crew Heavy Vegetable, to the last-call mope pop, countrified slow-jam of “Years After All”, an hypnotic see-saw between the Beatles-beholden Weezer-shred of San Francisco pop legends the Ovens, and a drowsy and drunken, sleepy smolder, laced with lush horns that lend the song an almost funereal Calexico vibe, all dusty and dusky.

As the record draws to a close, the sound winds down as well, “Time” takes the mumbled country of the late great Souled American, and lets it blossom into late night, Wilco-worthy dirge pop, the group effortlessly infusing that last-call melancholy with the sort of pathos more often paired with sonic bombast, instead of subtle, subdued songsmithery. And finally, the record closes with “I Saw A Pigeon,” lush with organ and horns, another sweetly maudlin dirge, that slowly builds to a fierce finale, a bombastic big finish: swirling squalls of guitar shred, raspy emotive vox and soaring horns. It’s like the final number of some big production, indie rock musical, that just as quickly fades into silence with one final peal of feedback.

As a whole, The Water, The Stars ambitiously expands on the group’s already impressively expansive sound, exploring a more diverse sonic palette: electric piano, slide guitar, organ and those aforementioned horns, as well as displaying the group’s ever-evolving songwriting and arranging. SVGC manage to make all of these songs sound oh so warm and familiar, but somehow at the same time, manage to make that familiarity impossibly exciting and unpredictable.

Since the very first time I heard Sun Valley Gun Club, I was totally perplexed that somehow, this band was not hugely popular. I’d see them play in front of 50 or 100 people, but the sound seemed impossibly incongruous to me. It was the sound, and the songs, of a band that should be playing huge festivals, selling out multiple nights at midsize venues, a group who should have music writers everywhere slavering, and blogs and magazines losing their ever loving shit. And every song on every one of their records should be finding their way onto mixtapes and playlists and should probably never, ever leave your stereo. The Water, The Stars only reinforces that impression, along with my belief, that Sun Valley Gun Club could very well, and SHOULD very well, be your new favorite band.

6/19/2018

ROTW: x6 (playing catch-up)

Hey, sorry, we skipped posting a Record Of The Week last week. To make up for that, here are six picks from the past six months of releases that really coulda, shoulda also been ROTW selections here already:

Brownout Fear Of A Brown Planet (Fat Beats)
The Austin, Texas Latin funk band that made two great albums of groovy, horn-section-enhanced Black Sabbath covers now brings us an album of Public Enemy songs... 'nuff said!


Fondation Les Cassettes 1980-1983 (Bureau B)
Collection of material from obscure early '80s cassette releases by this husband-wife ambient synth pop duo from France, who had previously played in such experimental/prog acts as Zed, Musica Elettronica Viva and Spacecraft. Beautiful stuff. Bureau B sure can dig 'em up...


Mind Spiders Furies (Dirtnap Records)
The fifth album from these electronic garage punk faves is, as always, awesome, and more blippy-bloopy-bouncy than before. They do a cool cover of a Grauzone song, even! Brings back some Six Finger Satellite memories...


Pharaoh Overlord Zero (Hydra Head/Ektro/Full Contact)
Latest hypnotic and idiosyncratic example of "NWOFHM" from this crucial Circle-side project. Guest starring Antti Boman (Demilich) and Hans Joachim Irmler (Faust) – and yes, mesmeric krautrock mixed with extreme Finnish weirdness is what this is all about.



Profligate Somewhere Else (Wharf Cat)
Black leather dim neon glow techno pop boy-girl duo (formerly boy solo) that can be both hauntingly atmospheric and harshly abrasive... oh, and also rhythmically and melodically compelling.


Tomb Mold Manor Of Infinite Forms (20 Buck Spin)
Thee best death metal album so far this year and probably of the rest of this year, too. You wanna argue about it? Heck even if you do, then you must be into death metal enough to at least admit this second proper full-length from Toronto's rotting, rocking and ruling Tomb Mold is pretty freaking sick and brutal, eh? If not, take our word for it.

6/06/2018

ROTW: Mouvement!

Not brand spanking new (it came out back in February) and in fact this "Black Metal" (yeah let's put that in quotes, and you can add "Death Metal, Doom, Drone, Psychedelia" to that as per their Discogs page) band has an even newer release out since, from April, a 12" vinyl only collaboration on Utech with saxophonist Mats Gustafsson that's also great, BUT for those who may have missed this and have any sort of affinity for out-there extreme metallish weirdness we wanted to give this second proper Chaos Echœs full-length some belated ROTW attention.

Featuring in their ranks two brothers, both former members of a French technical death/black metal band called Bloody Sign whose final album from 2010 was titled Chaos Echoes, the band Chaos Echœs is what happens when blackened death metal goes experimental. While it doesn't sound like jazz (despite their motto being a Wayne Shorter quote, "To hell with the rules, I am going for the unknown" and of course the above-mentioned association with a saxophone player) it is somewhat improvised and freeform sounding, the tracks as atmospheric and endless as their wordy, obscure song titles. It's compelling like an unbidden vision of the unknown. Uneasy listening, both ambient and aggressive, it's a trance-inducing experience of extremity that both Aluk Todolo and Ævangelist fans should appreciate. Get their 2015 album Transient first, perhaps (also on NWN!) and then sink into this one. Or vice versa, doesn't matter.

Check Mouvement out via Bandcamp, below, and listen for the following: left speaker guitars, effects, ebow, noises, oscillations, organistrum, harmonium, piano, overtone flute, whispers, vocals, drums, bells, crotales cymbals, hammered dulcimer, organistrum, daf, sansula, snare effects microphone, overtone flute, death whistle, whispers, vocals, bass, effects, bow, whispers, vocals, right speaker guitars, effects, ebow, oscillations, piano, whispers, vocals.

5/30/2018

ROTW: Ipan In Xiktli Metzli, México Mágico Cósmico, En El Ombligo De La Luna!

It's Tuesday Wednesday (whoops) so here we are again with another exciting WDYLI? Record Of The Week pick: Ipan In Xiktli Metzli, México Mágico Cósmico, En El Ombligo De La Luna. Newly reissued by Mr. Bongo, this 1981 album from Mexican multi-instrumental folk musician and ambient explorer Luis Perez is a wonderful, unique artifact of musical imagination informed by Perez's dedicated ethnomusicological research into the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica and abetted by late 20th century technology. It evokes the “cosmic magic of Mexico” via an array of flutey bird twitter, ceremonial-sounding hand percussion, stately horns, spoken invocations and space-age electronics.

The shimmer and pulse of ‘70s-era synthesizers blend with sounds sourced from Perez's collection of traditional, ancient instruments. As the wooden clatter of percolating rhythms echoing jungle chatter mixes with the cosmic synth vibrations, this becomes all the more fantastical and fascinating. Imagine, maybe, Morton Subotnick making a Mayan or Aztec themed exotica album! Also it's a little bit László Hortobágyi, a bit Atrium Musicae de Madrid, and a bit Jon Hassell “Fourth World”-y too. Quite special, so good.



5/23/2018

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...


5/16/2018

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! You can read Andee's very aQ-ish review of it on the Pandora Blog, btw.]

5/09/2018

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...

5/02/2018

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!

4/24/2018

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...

4/21/2018

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!!!

4/18/2018

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."

4/10/2018

ROTW: The Prophet's Blood Is Boiling!


Originally from Tel Aviv, now based in Berlin, drummer/producer Arik Hayuk (one half of 'doom-tech' duo Gainstage) offers up a solo vinyl 12" slab of 'drum n' drone' under the moniker Arikon... Doom-tech? Drum n' drone? Yessssss, sounds Record Of The Week-ishly good to us!

Fascinated by decay and distortion, on this debut Arikon creates monstrously doomed-out and disjointed electro-acoustic 'techno' music that's crunchy, crackling and ominous to an exquisite degree. Self-constructed percussion instruments are involved as well as samples and other electronics. Pummelling, pounding, plodding, polyrhythmic, every beat an explosion – it's the sort of sound that could appeal to fans of Cut Hands (who have remixed Gainstage) as well as those of Author & Punisher. Necro Deathmort, too. And some heavier, out there dubstep.

Out this Friday the 13th on Portals Editions. Bandcamp this way or wait for FE to get copies.

Here's a taste – "Nahash Akalaton," track 7 on the record, the rest are just as good or better, even:

4/03/2018

ROTW: The Album!


From the above album, for your consideration, "Professor Whiskers" (note: you have to stick with it a minute!):


Australian absurdist comedy collective Aunty Donna could get a WDYLI? Record Of The Week nod for this demented track alone but the rest of their debut album, The Album, is pretty great too, full of lots more sick, silly, WTF? humor. Surreal, sometimes a bit juvenile, very funny stuff. Really funny stuff that walks that fine line right next to stupid and kind of dares you to laugh. And they do a good job with the music side of it too, with techno pastiche, rap parody, and the Sparks-y bits in tracks like "Professor Whiskers." (Watch out, we know from experience that it can get stuck in your head.)

If this had come out back when aQuarius was around, we know it would have been played to death in the store and we'd have been forced to make it a ROTW by default (such albums as Great Phone Calls and Tenacious D's debut were ROTW's at aQ back in the day, after all).

The Album comes out this Friday, but we're not sure that the physical cd release will be available in the States then, maybe just as an import?

3/28/2018

ROTW: Spiny Normen!


Whoops, we forgot what day it was. Well, this is our Record Of The Week, not Record Of The Tuesday, anyway… So, this time, if y’all haven’t met before, we’d like to introduce you to Spiny Normen.

Named after a mythical giant hedgehog from a Monty Python sketch,* the band Spiny Normen were a bunch of long haired community college students from Houston, Texas in the mid-to-late ‘70s, who were deep into English prog rock and heavy psych, a la Van Der Graaf Generator, King Crimson, Black Sabbath, etc. Inspired by such bands, as well as copious pot and acid, these trippy teenagers came up with their very own progressive, heavy, experimental sounds.

The RidingEasy label dug up a track by 'em called “The Bell Park Loon” for their Brown Acid: The Second Trip compilation in 2016 (that excellent series of seventies acid rock rarities is already up to Vol. 6, btw!) and have now just put out an entire Spiny Normen album, with that song and lots more radness, recorded circa 1979 but unreleased until now.

Check out the video (above) that’s been made for that comp track with what looks like vintage Super 8 footage of the band, and then imagine a whole album along the same lines – it’s quite good! Also, did we mention, FLUTE! (Plus vintage Vox Jaguar electric organ, fuzzy guitars, Mellotron, timpani, lots of echo effects, etc.)

Or don’t imagine, listen below... and you’ll forget what day (and decade) it is, too...


RIYL: Van Der Graaf GeneratorKing CrimsonBlack Sabbath, Sproton Layer, Gnidrolog, Los Dug Dugs...

*And they're not the only band to take their name from that particular Python sketch, see also Ethel The Frog.

3/20/2018

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 with her 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, this album is 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 really became a bit of a hit for us, astonishingly 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...

3/13/2018

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.


3/06/2018

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...

2/27/2018

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.

2/20/2018

ROTW: MULTIVERSE!

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.

2/13/2018

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...

2/07/2018

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.

1/30/2018

ROTW: Bat Fangs!


Real quick, Record Of The Week this week is a fun one we've been looking forward to ever since hearing a couple songs off of a 7" teaser last year. The self-titled debut long player on Don Giovanni Records from this big riffing, power poppin' all girl duo, Bat Fangs, is an undeniable good time if you like to rock.

These two wicked ladies – one from the fab Ex Hex and the other from Flesh Wounds – kick out the catchy, tuff (with two ff's, yes) tuneage, very '70s and '80s hard rock inspired, we can't help but think of the Runaways, and we just can't get enuff (with two ff's, too).

Yes, we've been bitten, we're smitten, so it shall be written. Check out the video for "Rock The Reaper," above, and listen to the track "Wolfbite" on Bandcamp, below...

1/23/2018

ROTW: Howling Sycamore!

Our Record Of The Week today (well, it comes out this Friday) is the self-titled debut from something called Howling Sycamore, on Prosthetic, and it's a situation where at first the both of us were like, woah, gotta check this out just 'cause the band's lineup is so... unexpected... and then, on top of that, it turned out to be really an amazing album.

Which maybe should be expected, 'cause it's an international project featuring Davide Tiso, the main guy from eccentric, jazzy Italian avant-black metallers Ephel Duath, teamed up with folks including saxophone player Bruce Lamont from Yakuza, German drummer Hannes Grossmann who used to be in Necrophagist and Obscura, and, most crucially to our ears, none other than JASON MCMASTER, best known to the masses (or at least MTV viewers back in the day) as the vocalist for Dangerous Toys... but his association with Texan tech-thrash pioneers Watchtower is probably what lead him to this gig. He's also in true metallers Ignitor, and appears to make his living fronting a host of classic rock/metal tribute acts.

Weird combo, eh? There's even a guest appearance from Kevin Hufnagel (Gorguts, Dysrhythmia). We won't call it a 'supergroup' exactly 'cause these folks aren't exactly household names, except in our households, maybe yours... Anyway, definitely got our attention and then, wow, they deliver – it's like a blackened Van Der Graaf Generator in parts, almost, with blast beats, truly non-sucky saxophone, and Jason McMaster's tour-de-force vocals, which range all over the place, versatile and melodic and let's say, thespian, definitely in command. He really makes this; his performance is maybe an argument that all 'extreme metal' would be better with real singing, especially if it's as intense and over the top as his. And also that all avant-rock could be so much more metal with the likes of McMaster on board.

Yeah, McMaster of course kills it with the studded-leather-armband shrieking, and that's an awesome component of this right there, but we were also impressed with all the unusual parts where he doesn't sound as metal, too. They could have made a pretty good ol' prog album minus the extreme metal elements, actually – tracks like "Chant Of Stillness," relying pretty much on just some interestingly melodic vocals and acoustic guitar, prove it.

Recommended weirdness! Especially if you like VDGG, John Zorn, black metal, Watchtower, and being surprised.

1/16/2018

ROTW: Book Of Sound!

Gonna reach back to a late November release for today's Record Of The Week... The latest from the Brooklyn-based, south side of Chicago-bred Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, on Honest Jon's, really, really, really lives up to the group's name, and brightened our day upon hearing it.

The Spiritual Jazz component of the band's ancestry sure shines through on these compositions that groove with gravitas and joy, sans drums but with horns galore, also with uplifting, droning vocals, synth, acoustic guitar, and more in the mix.

"Solstice," below, is one of our faves. Please give it and the rest of the album a listen – when you do, allow each track some time to sink in and work its magic – and you'll see that the band's name is indeed the best, most basic blurb anyone could come up with to recommend this particular release, anyway. (It's available from Forced Exposure, and they have sound samples on their site.)

By the way, when we mention 'ancestry,' that's 'cause that the group is composed of brothers, seven of 'em, all sons of the late jazz great Phil Cohran, who played with Sun Ra and co-founded the AACM, a interesting bit of info that somehow the both of us only just found out about, even though this isn't the first HBE album we've been into. Guess we should check out the documentary film.

1/09/2018

ROTW: Monster Manual!

So, just imagine you're a hard working, wandering monster, lurking in one of the levels of some dark dungeon someplace. It's damp, it's drafty, it's a life both dangerous & dull. Wouldn't it be nice if someone cared? Cared enough to write a song just for you, all about you? A catchy ditty you could hum to yourself as you wait for the next party of "heroes" to show up and try to murder you for something they call "XP," whatever that is? Well, good news, now someone has written a song about you, that is, if you're one of the 26 classic D&D monsters paid musical tribute to on our Record Of The Week this week, which was released on limited edition vinyl not long ago by Frequency Rare and Peterwalkee Records.

Friend rock? Yes, O.K., so it is, we mean, singer/guitarist "Simon" from Simon LeBron does happen to be a friend of ours. But San Francisco's Simon LeBron is also a band who have made a record based on the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual!! Therefore, the awesome D&D theme of this way outweighs any niggling notions of nepotism.

Seriously, these 26 tracks, alphabetically A-Z, each one a concise and creative blast about a specific monster from the pages of the Monster Manual (hence song titles like "Carrion Crawler," "Dragon, Black," "Pegasus, Pegasi," and "Rakshasa"), make for a really rad platter of oddball indie rock. The band cites Rudimentary Peni, Frank Black and the Plastic Ono Band as influences, along with the writings of Gary Gygax, et. al., by the way. So this goes to show ya that "D&D" music doesn't have to be metal, or dungeon synth, or RenFaire fare...

We'll admit that when we first heard about this project, we may have had some misgivings, and not because of the "friend rock" thing. No, we were worried it was going to be a little too cutesy, or, what's the word...? Dorky. But no, the Simon LeBron trio, along with recording engineer Phil Manley (whoops, another friend, there) have crafted a really strong collection of songs. It's stuff that, even if you're not immediately, nostalgically ensorcelled by the subject matter, any fan of, say, GBV-esqe, eccentric indie garage pop goodness will enjoy.

Copies of the vinyl will soon be available from Midheaven Mailorder. Digital via Bandcamp, below.

1/02/2018

ROTW: Diggin In The Carts!

Well, this is awesome!

The subtitle "A Collection Of Pioneering Japanese Video Game Music" alone put this in contention for Record Of The Week, almost before we'd even heard it.

Three or so years ago, the Red Bull Music Academy (never gonna drink the stuff, but gotta hand it to 'em for their brand's often obscure music related activities) produced a six-episode online documentary series about the history and lasting legacy of '80s Japanese video game soundtracks & their composers. Now, a companion compilation has been released by the UK's Hyperdub label, carefully co-curated by Hyperdub's Kode9 and documentarian Nick Dwyer.

This assortment of 34 mesmeric, loopy miniatures offers quite a variety of sounds and styles, amazingly so considering the strict limitations imposed upon the composers by the 8- and 16-bit technology of the day, which if anything spurred 'em to greater creativity.

Of course this has some retro-nostalgic appeal, but these themes still sound fresh and stand on their own, compelling repeat listens from folks (us) who have never played or even heard of most of the games being scored. The catchy melodies can be chippy-chirpy or pseudo-symphonic; some tracks are energetically uptempo (or downright hectic), others more moody & atmospheric. Tadahiro Natta's piece from Xak II is even kinda heavy, like some sort of proto- "chipdoom" perhaps.

A delightful sonic trove of incidental, overlooked electronic music to dig into for sure!