Hey, how was your weekend? You won’t be surprised to learn mine was full of tunes, which I mark as a win. While we’re marking wins, let’s put one down for wrapping up the longest Quarterly Review to-date in a full 11 days today. 110 releases. I started on July 5 — a lifetime ago. It’s now July 19, and I’ve encountered a sick kid and wife, busted laptop, oral surgery, and more riffs than I could ever hope to count along the way. Ups, downs, all-arounds. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride.
This day was added kind of on an impulse, and the point I’m looking to emphasize is that you can spend two full weeks reviewing 10 albums a day and still there’s more to be had. I’ve learned over time you’re never going to hear everything — not even close — and that no matter how deep you dig, there’s more to find. I’m sure if I didn’t have other stuff scheduled I could fill out the entirety of this week and then some with 10 records a day. As it stands, let’s not have this Quarterly Review run into the next one at the end of September/beginning of October. Time to get my life back a little bit, such as it is.
Quarterly Review #101-110:
King Woman, Celestial Blues
After the (earned) fanfare surrounding King Woman‘s 2017 debut, Created in the Image of Suffering, expectations for the sophomore outing, Celestial Blues, are significant. Songwriter/vocalist Kris Esfandiari meets these head-on in heavy and atmospheric fashion on tracks like the opening title-cut and “Morning Star,” the more cacophonous “Coil” and duly punishing “Psychic Wound.” Blues? Yes, in places. Celestial? In theme, in its confrontation with dogma, sure. Even more than these, though, Celestial Blues taps into an affecting weight of ambience, such that even the broad string sounds of “Golgotha” feel heavy, and whether a given stretch is loud or quiet, subdued like the first half of “Entwined” or raging like the second, right into the minimalist “Paradise Lost” that finishes, the sense of burden being purposefully conveyed is palpable in the listening experience. No doubt the plaudits will be or are already manifold and superlative, but the work stands up.
Mythic Sunship, Wildfire
Mythic Sunship are a hopeful vision for the future of progressive psychedelic music. Their fifth album and first for Tee Pee Records, Wildfire offers five tracks/45 minutes that alternates between ripping holes in the fabric of spacetime via emitted subspace wavelengths of shredding guitar, sax-led freakouts, shimmer to the point of blindness, peaceful drift and who the hell knows what else is going on en route from one to the other. Because as much as the Copenhagen outfit might jump from one stretch to the next, their fluidity is huge all along the course of Wildfire, which is fortunate because that’s probably the only thing stopping the record from actually melting. Instrumental as ever, I’m not sure if there’s a narrative arc playing out — certainly one can read one between “Maelstrom,” “Olympia,” “Landfall,” “Redwood Grove” and “Going Up” — and if that’s the intention, it maybe pulls back from that “hopeful vision” idea somewhat, at least in theme, if not aesthetic. In any case, the gorgeousness, the electrified vitality in what Mythic Sunship do, continues to distinguish them from their peers, which is a list that is only growing shorter with each passing LP.
Morningstar Delirium, Morningstar Delirium
I said I was going to preorder this tape and I’m glad I did. Morningstar Delirium‘s half-hour/four-song debut offering is somewhere between an EP and an album — immersive enough to be the latter certainly in its soothing, brooding exploration of sonic textures, not at all tethered to a sonic weight in the dark industrial “Blood on the Fixture” and even less so in the initial minutes of “Silent Travelers,” but not entirely avoiding one either, as in the second half of that latter track some more sinister beats surface for a time. Comprised of multi-instrumentalists/vocalist Kelly Schilling (Dreadnought, BleakHeart) and Clayton Cushman (The Flight of Sleipnir), the isolation-era project feeds into that lockdown atmosphere in moments droning and surging, “Where Are You Going” giving an experimentalist edge with its early loops and later stretch of ethereal slide guitar (or what sounds like it), while closer “A Plea for the Stars” fulfills the promise of its vocalists with a doomed melody in its midsection that’s answered back late, topping an instrumental progression like the isolated weepy guitar of classic goth metal over patiently built layers of dark-tinted wash. Alternating between shorter and longer tracks, the promise in Morningstar Delirium resides in the hope they’ll continue to push farther and farther along these lines of emotional and aural resonance.
Lunar Funeral, Road to Siberia
Somewhere between spacious goth and garage doom, Russia’s Lunar Funeral find their own stylistic ground to inhabit on their second album, Road to Siberia. The two-piece offer grim lysergics to start the affair on “Introduce” before plunging into “The Thrill,” which bookends with the also-11-minute closer “Don’t Send Me to Rehab” and gracefully avoids going full-freakout enough to bring back the verse progression near the end. Right on. Between the two extended pieces, the swinging progression of “25th Hour” trades brooding for strut — or at least brooding strut — with the snare doing its damnedest by the midsection to emulate handclaps could be there if they could find a way not to be fun. “25th Hour” hits into a wash late and “Black Bones” answers with dark boogie and a genuine nod later, finishing with noise en route to the spacious eight-minute “Silence,” which finds roll eventually, but holds to its engaging sense of depth in so doing, the abiding weirdness of the proceedings enhanced by the subtle masterplan behind it. Airy guitar work winding atop the bassline makes the penultimate “Your Fear is Giving Me Fear” a highlight, but the willful trudge of “Don’t Send Me to Rehab” is an all-too-suitable finish in style and atmosphere, not quite drawing it all together, but pushing it off a cliff instead.
Satánico Pandemonium, Espectrofilia
Sludge and narcosadistic doom infest the six-track Espectrofilia from Mexico City four-piece Satánico Pandemonium, who call it an EP despite its topping 40 minutes in length. I don’t know, guys. Electric Wizard are a touchstone to the rollout of “Parábola del Juez Perverso,” which lumbers out behind opener “El Que Reside Dentro” and seems to come apart about two minutes in, only to pick up and keep going. Fucking a. Horror, exploitation, nodding riffs, raw vibes — Satánico Pandemonium have it all and then some, and if there’s any doubt Espectrofilia is worthy of pressing to a 12″ platter, like 2020’s Culto Suicida before it, whether they call it a full-length or not, the downward plunge of the title-track into the grim boogie of “Panteonera” and the consuming, bass-led closer “La Muerte del Sol” should put them to rest with due prejudice. The spirit of execution here is even meaner than the sound, and that malevolence of intent comes through front-to-back.
Van Groover, Honk if Parts Fall Off
Kudos to Van Groover on their know-thyself tagline: “We’re not reinventing the wheel, but we let it roll.” The German trio’s 10-track/51-minute debut, Honk if Parts Fall Off, hits its marks in the post-Truckfighters sphere of uptempo heavy fuzz/stoner rock, injecting a heaping dose of smoke-scented burl from the outset with “Not Guilty” and keeping the push going through “Bison Blues” and “Streetfood” and “Jetstream” before “Godeater” takes a darker point of view and “Roadrunner” takes a moment to catch its breath before reigniting the forward motion. Sandwiched between that and the seven-minute “Bad Monkey” is an interlude of quieter bluesy strum called “Big Sucker” that ends with a rickity-sounding vehicle — something tells me it’s a van — starts and “Bad Monkey” kicks into its verse immediately, rolling stoned all the while even in its quiet middle stretch before “HeXXXenhammer” and the lull-you-into-a-false-sense-of-security-then-the-riff-hits “Quietness” finish out. Given the stated ambitions, it’s hard not to take Honk if Parts Fall Off as it comes. Van Groover aren’t hurting anybody except apparently one or two people in the opener and maybe elsewhere in the lyrics. Stoner rock for stoner rockers.
Sergio Ch., Koi
There is not much to which Buenos Aires-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Sergio Chotsourian, aka Sergio Ch., is a stranger at this point. In a career that has spanned more than a quarter-century, he’s dipped hands in experimentalist folk and drone, rock, metal, punk, goth and more in varying prolific combinations of them. Koi, his latest full-length, still finds new ground to explore, however, in bringing not only the use of programmed drum beats behind some of the material, but collaborations with his own children, Isabel Ch., who contributes vocals on the closing Nine Inch Nails cover, “Hurt,” which was also previously released as a single, and Rafael “Raffa” Ch., who provides a brief but standout moment just before with a swirling, effects-laced rap tucked away at the end of the 11-minute “El Gran Chaparral.” If these are sentimental inclusions on Chotsourian‘s part, they’re a minor indulgence to make, and along with the English-language “NY City Blues,” the partial-translation of “Hurt” into Spanish is a welcome twist among others like “Tic Tac,” which blend electronic beats and spacious guitar in a way that feels like a foreshadow of burgeoning interests and things to come.
Achachak, High Mountain
Less than a year removed from their debut full-length, At the Bottom of the Sea, Croatian five-piece Achachak return with the geological-opposite follow-up, High Mountain. With cuts like “Bong Goddess,” “Maui Waui,” they leave little to doubt as to where they’re coming from, but the stoner-for-stoners’-sake attitude doesn’t necessarily account either for the drifty psych of “Biggest Wave” or the earlier nod-out in “Lonewolf,” the screams in the opening title-track or the follow-that-riff iron-manliness of “”Mr. SM,” let alone the social bent to the lyrics in the QOTSA-style “Lesson” once it takes off — interesting to find them delving into the political given the somewhat regrettable inner-sleeve art — but the overarching vibe is still of a band not taking itself too seriously, and the songwriting is structured enough to support the shifts in style and mood. The fuzz is strong with them, and closer “Cozy Night” builds on the languid turn in “Biggest Wave” with an apparently self-aware moody turn. For having reportedly been at it since 1999, two full-lengths and a few others EPs isn’t a ton as regards discography, but maybe now they’re looking to make up for lost time.
Rise Up, Dead Man, Rise Up, Dead Man
It’s almost counterintuitive to think so, but what you see is what you get with mostly-instrumentalist South African western/psych folk duo Rise Up, Dead Man‘s self-titled debut. To wit, the “Bells of Awakening” at the outset, indeed, are bells. “The Summoning,” which follows, hypnotizes with guitar and various other elements, and then, yes, the eponymous “Rise Up, Dead Man,” is a call to raise the departed. I don’t know if “Stolen Song” is stolen, but it sure is familiar. Things get more ethereal as multi-instrumentalists Duncan Park (guitar, vocals, pennywhistle, obraphone, bells, singing bowl) and William Randles (guitar, vocals, melodica, harmonium, violin, bells, singing bowl) through the serenity of “The Wind in the Well” and the summertime trip to Hobbiton that the pennywhistle in “Everything that Rises Must Converge” offers, which is complemented in suitably wistful fashion on closer “Sickly Meadow.” There’s some sorting out of aesthetic to be done here, but as the follow-up just to an improv demo released earlier this year, the drive and attention to detail in the arrangements makes their potential feel all the more significant, even before you get to the expressive nature of the songs or the nuanced style in which they so organically reside.
Atomic Vulture , Moving Through Silence
Yeah, that whole “silence” thing doesn’t last too long on Moving Through Silence. The 51-minute debut long-player from Brugge, Belgium, instrumentalists Atomic Vulture isn’t through opener “Eclipse” before owing a significant sonic debt to Kyuss‘ “Thumb,” but given the way the record proceeds into “Mashika Deathride” and “Coaxium,” one suspects Karma to Burn are even more of an influence for guitarist Pascal David, bassist Kris Hoornaert and drummer Jens Van Hollebeke, and though they move through some slower, more atmospheric stretch on “Cosmic Dance” and later more extended pieces like “Spinning the Titans” (9:02) and closer “Astral Dream,” touching on prog particularly in the second half of the latter, they’re never completely removed from that abiding feel of get-down-to-business, as demonstrated on the roll of “Intergalactic Takeoff” and the willful landing on earth that the penultimate “Space Rat” brings in between “Spinning the Titans” and “Astral Dream,” emphasizing the sense of their being a mission underway, even if the mission is Atomic Vulture‘s discovery of place within genre.
Tags: Achachak, Achachak High Mountain, Argentina, Atomic Vulture, Atomic Vulture Moving Through Silence, Belgium, BleakHeart, Brugge, Buenos Aires, California, Celestial Blues, Colorado, Copenhagen, Croatia, Denmark, Denver, Dreadnought, Durban, Espectrofilia, Germany, Helter Skelter Productions, Herborn, High Mountain, Honk if Parts Fall Off, King Woman, King Woman Celestial Blues, Koi, Lunar Funeral, Lunar Funeral Road to Siberia, Mexico, Mexico City, Morningstar Delirium, Morningstar Delirium Self-titled, Moving Through Silence, Mythic Sunship, Mythic Sunship Wildfire, Oakland, Polderrecords, Relapse Records, Rise Up Dead Man, Rise Up Dead Man Self-titled, Road to Siberia, Russia, Satánico Pandemonium, Satánico Pandemonium Espectrofilia, self-titled, Sergio Ch, Sergio Ch Koi, South Africa, South American Sludge Records, St. Petersburg, Tee Pee Records, The Flight of Sleipnir, Unsigned bands, Van Groover, Van Groover Honk if Parts Fall Off, Vu?ipolje, Wildfire