Saturday, January 14, 2017

Waves And Particles...

Ak'chamel - Transmissions from Boshqa (2016)

We last heard from Ak'chamel back in 2015 with their quick album The Man Who Drank God.  Impressions were pretty favorable, as the band expressed themselves in interesting and uncommon ways, and to be honest, I've kind of been wondering what they'd been up to.  I'm glad to receive signs of life with their new album, Transmissions from Boshqa, which again keeps tracks on the short side, though they break the three-minute mark more than a couple of times on this go-round.
The music maintains the band's intriguingly alien nature, not just from the eastern/aboriginal modes and usage of instruments beyond the guitar/bass/drums staples, but also thanks to the semi-lo-fi production and its strange meshing of smooth edges with strange head-space. The very acoustics are put to work in the efforts to unsettle listeners and guide them into the music's captivation, and the album as a whole has something of a hypnotic effect that made it difficult to analyze it for reviewing instead of just going along for the ride.
Like Ak'chamel's last release, this one's available on cassette, this time through the Artetetra label. It's certainly not an album for everyone (thank goodness), but those who are open to some unusual flavors in their music for bad times should be able to get some stirring stimulus out of it.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Have A Nice Life, Mamaleek, Nurse With Wound, Opium Warlords, Wyatt E.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Grungy Hands Grasping...

Static Tension - Out of Reach EP (2017)

Hailing from Ohio, “progressive grunge” band Static Tension is heavy on the grunge.  Fans of Meantime-era Helmet take note, I haven’t heard a non-Pacific Northwest grunge band hit the nail on the head this hard in a long time.  First track “PSM” comes out hitting hard before rolling into an early Alice in Chains-style double-tracked vocals romp.  These guys would be right at home on an old Thrasher driving grunge comp.
Second track “Obstacle of Doubt” keeps the train running with more of an early Pearl Jam feel to it.  Third track “Faith to Fault” has a great Up On The Sun-era Meat Puppets riff that drops into a slower route, slipping one foot into Nirvana territory with the chorus.  Really top-notch stuff.
Changing it up, “Down From Three” takes a new approach with clinking palm mutes and rapid fire drums.  “Back Inside” brings us back with a zoned-out chorus pedal and those sweet, sweet double-tracked vocals and a heavy (in a good way) Pearl Jam influence.  It all ends with “Out of Reach”, a slow ballad that slowly turns up the heat, resulting in a nice slow backed guitar solo in the 12s. It’s crazy how on-point the production on this is.  It sounds like something you would find on a sharpied CD-R in your buddy's car and ask “Who is this?!”
~ Dan

For Fans Of; legitimate grunge, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, early Helmet, In Utero-era Nirvana


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Dualistic Tendencies...

Thera Roya - Stone & Skin (2017)

Brooklyn-based Thera Roya have been busy.  After several EPs and splits and near-constant shows in the last couple years, this trio is ready to roar onto the scene officially with their first full-length album, Stone & Skin.  As the name suggests, this is a work of dualities.  Vocalist Ryan Smith shifts between clean crooning and distant screams; guitars delight with both glassy tremolo picking and more traditional chugs; dreamy reverb meets trundling bass.  Their offering of post-sludge pays homage to some genre greats, but this effort is, in the end, all their own.
The album opens with a slow, sinister build-up leading ever higher and higher.  The expectation is for the world to end in a high-powered collision of sound, but Thera Roya surprises with something more subdued and thoughtful.  The rising edge gives way not to a deafening climax, but instead rolling drums leading to a haunting, catchy mid-tempo riff.  The melody is inviting while the production—open and spacious—keeps the listener engaged at a distance.  This reliance on riffs is the cornerstone of Stone & Skin and something the guys never stray far from, despite their self-ascribed 'post-' leanings.  These aren't highfalutin compositions with far-ranging meanderings down dark alleyways, but rather straightforward sludge jams with occasional forays into the conceptual space.  These ambitions are never more obvious than at the LP's middle track, "Hume & Ivey", which opens with audio from a physics educational film, circa 1960, called Frames of Reference.   "You're used to seeing things from a particular point of view, that is, from a particular frame of reference," the titular Ivey intones.  "Things look different to us under different circumstances."  While I appreciate Thera Roya's commitment to a theme, I'm not sure the rest of the track—a solid if unadventurous crunch of a song—ever quite reaches those lofty aspirations.  It's a satisfying listen regardless.
The back half of the album settles into something a little more subdued and instrumental: they've brought you into the fold, now it's time to spread out and explore the depths.  This is where Stone & Skin really shines.  The instruments, which to this point had by and large occupied different spaces, finally come together to produce a driving, meditative finish that feels earned.  Those who find themselves missing post-metal giants Isis would do well to avail themselves of Thera Roya.
~ Chris

For Fans Of; Isis, Cult of Luna, Rosetta, Neurosis, Pelican


Saturday, January 07, 2017

From Cathedral Soil...

The Munsens - Abbey Rose EP (2016)

Having left fans in suspense since the release of their Weight of Night EP back in December of 2014, The Munsens are finally back again with Abbey Rose, a four-song EP running about forty minutes.  "You're Next" rolls things out into action with a smoky-toned bass riff, and as the drums rise to action, the song grows teeth, picking up swaying momentum to the rhythms and gnashing vocals.
The title track carries on from there with similar energy and instrumental style, taking a slip into tonal meditation towards its center.  Again, the band makes it flow right into the next track, "To Castile", before carving it into a new shape, this time of angry vibes simmering beneath the riffs' surfaces.  When that aggression does break free of its restraint, the band surges forward with it, driving and grinding down until the impetus is spent, and the chords slump back into restful recharging.  I love the way the melody grows back from there, finding new mood as the guitar goes psychedelic, and it only makes me want to see a live performance all the more, to hear how twisted things get in the improvisation of the moment.
Lastly, "The Hunt, pt. II" feels like a revisiting of elements from all the preceding songs, reworking their combination into something which caps off the experience in a powerful way.  The main riff is a real beast here, and the band rides it with fine style as they throw in tone garnishes and extra noodling.
It's an impressive EP (though I'm having a tough time not thinking of it as at least a mini-album), with the whole of it almost feeling more like one long-ass song split into four parts for easier consumption.  However you wanna look at it, it's some damn fine doom of a more serious bent than most modern doom bands (especially those in Denver, Colorado, where The Munsens make their home).  You can get it in digital or cassette form from the group's BandCamp page, so if heavy doom is something you dig, don't let this one slip past you.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Bell Witch, Coffin Torture, Disenchanter, Heavydeath, Jupiterian


Friday, January 06, 2017

Fishing For Dreams...

Le Maschere di Clara - Lynch EP (2015)

Now this is interesting. Featuring a David Lynch quote, this EP wouldn’t be out of the place in any Lynchian project.  Though the EP was recorded in London, Le Maschere Di Clara hails from the city of Verona in northern Italy.  Part deconstructed rock 'n' roll, part jazz, part experimental electronic, the band harkens back to the days of Sleepy Time Gorilla Museum.
First track “Freak” thunders out of the gate, drums blazing back with distorted bass.  This rhythm section wouldn’t be out of place on the first Mayyors EP.  A violin enters, covering the melody/vocal section, and this three-piece is under way.
“Istanbul” starts out hard where the last left off, but then drops into surprising melodica.  Then it picks up the pace, everything spirals together, and before you know it you’re on the floor floating.  Anybody who gave up on the darker side of post-rock is going to love this.
Third track “Pow Wow” starts with a dusty grand piano riff, while drums slowly beat heavier and heavier, and violin creeps up, tying everything together.  As violin swirls around, smashing crash symbols and a distorted bass hold down the rhythm leading into the closing track, “Solar”.  Our piano returns to pick up where it left off and we’re blasted off into space.  Things get heavier on the experimental side, but never get foggy before this EP coalesces into an incredible ending to an incredible EP.
(Ed. note:) Though the EP came out back in late 2015, we're giving it a look now because it's getting a limited run (300 copies) on CD, thanks to Toten Schwan Records, Ghost Factory Records, and Riff Records, so if you like what you hear, consider getting a physical copy to show support for the artist.
~ Dan

For Fans Of; Sleepy Time Gorilla Museum, Red Sparrows, early Russian Circles, Mayyors


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Deep-Cooked Flavor...

Frozen Planet....1969 - Electric Smokehouse (2017)

It's been a while since we've heard from the Australian giants in FP69, going back to last year's Lost Traveller Chronicles, Volume Two, so it was a delight to get notice of this new album's incoming release.  Sure, it'll be just under a couple of weeks until the full thing is officially available (release date is January 11th, mark it down), but this one's good enough to deserve the advance notice.
In keeping with their previous material, there's a heavy psych rock base to the new album, and from the first track ("Ascendant"), the good times are a go, with soft-flanging guitar and swoops of gnarly feedback leading the way through rhythmic grooving and interludes of simply savoring the sweet tones.  That free spirit carries on through the rest of the songs, hitting a fine point between unpredictability and sweeping listeners up in the momentum, warping sonic valleys and chill melodic cruises taken in stride.
In some of the giddier stretches, it's easy to imagine the band's members throwing quick grins at each other in their free moments while jamming away in the studio.  There's a sense of immediacy and vibrant vitality to the tunes that seems far too uncommon in modern psych bands, let alone those of the heavier inclination.  And no matter how wild things get, feeling like they're just about to rip free of the musicians' control, they careen it back on track or off into a new spin.
It's just a damn good album, one that manages to excite both in the moment and in thinking back over its whole form; it's also going to set an incredibly high bar for the rest of 2017's albums to meet.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    13th Floor Elevators, Iron Butterfly (Ball-era), Salem's Pot, Terminal Cheesecake, ZQKMGDZ