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Black Rainbows

I’ll admit it, I have a soft spot for Stoner Metal when done right. Too much sludge and it gets bogged down, too many blistering riffs and it hews too close to 80’s cheese, but when its that right mix of pounding drums and smoke thick guitar, fuzzed to hell and riding tempos like sand dunes into oblivion, then its perfect for blasting through the speakers on any given afternoon. Italy’s Black Rainbows are five albums deep at this point and offshoot band Killer Boogie throws down some serious riffs as well, so its clear that by now propulsive force Gabriele Fiori knows his way around the dank corners of 70’s metal worship. On his latest, Stellar Prophecy, there’s plenty of mile high guitars, stacked and smoking with the mix of Black Sabbath/Blue Cheer stomp that’s expected, but he’s gone the mile roping in the mystical qualities and prog instincts that charmed bands like Wolfmother into the hearts and minds of public consciousness back in the early aughts. For sheer the volume blasted swirling psychedelic bedroom warriors out there this is a perfect fit. This one’s for the blacklight poster set, hiding out and letting volume eradicate any of the day’s wrinkles and worries.




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S to S – S to S

Proof there’s still gems to be found in an age of countless reissues and rarities. S to S were a Belgian band that straddled the bounds of hard rock and proto-punk. Their sole album was recorded in ’77 and released in ’78 on their own Overcome label in an edition of just 300 copies. The band formed out of the ashes of Etna, another Belgian band that brothers Fulvio and Mirco Cannella were in prior. When that band folded the brothers decided to pare down their setup and push into a power trio with drummer George Abry. The sound was rooted in pounding drums, fuzz riffs that could peel paint and a pace that pushed them well past the normal late 70’s boogie blues knockoffs.

Exchanging studio time for help building the studio itself, they hooked up with producer Michel Dickenscheid who had a huge hand in shaping the fuzz sound by building a set of fuzz pedals used on the album. The band nudges themselves into late Hawkwind territory, finding that sweet spot where Lemmy got a bit more leeway before splitting himself to form Motörhead. There’s also a bit of Leaf Hound’s smoke hangover in there as well and The MC5 at their more reigned in. The band weren’t fans of the logo added to the LP jacket, a move made by their manager at the time and with its connotations of the SS, and I can see why they’d chafe to that as well. The dispute over the logo delayed the album’s release. Once the album was released they pressed on through the 80’s, though with multiple lineup changes and no other official release. This one stands as a nugget lost to time and perfect for those proto-punk enthusiasts who think that the well is running dry these days.



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Messa

This Italian foursome is picking up the yoke of doom and pulling the cart into the half light of a blood moon. The band’s debut Belfry on Aural Music is a crushing blast of apocalypse scented metal that’s given a bit of a reprieve from becoming leaden by the coven croon of their singer, who goes by the singular Sara. The band uses the term Scarlet Doom and that’s not off base, the guitars grind with the sulfurous heat of High On Fire and the opener “Alba” is straight out of the Sunn o))) tome of seismic ramble but there’s light in the mix and the vocals keep Belfry from sliding into the cavern of sludge that can sometimes earmark the genre. They have a crossover appeal to psych folk’s harvest rituals, though pushed into much darker territory. The band also seem to feel this kinship, citing a love for Pentagram and letting the closer, “Confess,” strip back the cinder smoke of of the rest of the album to just pair vocals and guitar for a quiet slide into the mire.

Messa kneel at the altar of doom metal but they don’t always stay, there’s plenty of heavy thrash on “Hour of the Wolf” that pushes tempos and knocks a few of the thunderheads out of the sky. “Blood” dabbles with woodwind and brass buzzes that dip even further into the psych-folk connection and tip into psychedelics as well. The band really is pulling from all edges and painting them black with doom’s influence, and that willingness to experiment makes this feel like a refreshing update on riff worship and self-serious hooded doom bands, not that the band don’t feel deadly serious in their incantations, they just feel like they have a richer well to tap.


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Honey Radar

Jason Henn’s Chain Smoking On Easter was pretty limited in its release but it planted a seed that spread and left a trail of singles in its wake, finally letting on to a bigger stage for Blank Cartoon. The new album is a smudge of pop-sike, gnarled garage pop and short sketches of songs that bring to mind Guided by Voices as produced by Tim Presley from White Fence. There’s plenty of catchy fodder here, with earworms for days in tracks like “Caterpiller” and “Fort Wayne Mermaid” and its the kind of album that snags the hearts of plenty of paisley pop fiends waiting for someone to jumpstart the smoke hazed memories of the movement.

The singles have popped up primarily on Third Uncle but also on venerable litmus Chunklet and Brooklyn indie magnet What’s Your Rupture? who’ve put out the full length as well. The album bounces its themes and styles with a flicker of whimsy, like flipping late night TV dials through psych addled ad jingles and Top of the Pops re-runs squeezed through the UHF static. There are definitely more moments that stick to the wall than fall through the hiss and its easy to see that Henn’s got a knack for melody and an equal impulse for experimentation that comes to a head nicely over the course of Blank Cartoon. This one seems to be flying a bit under the radar lately but its the kind of record that fills collector’s crates and bubbles up in lost gem lore.


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Warm Soda – “Renegade Mode”

I’m still a sucker for Matthew Melton’s brand of power pop tipped with danger and denim and feeling every bit like the soundtrack to your summer crush. After several solid LPs, he’s got a new single in the pipe (out for a bit I admit but still crushing nonetheless). The A-side has a bit more sneer than is usually attached to Warm Soda’s often dreamy-eyed pulse; there’s a stomping beat, punctuated with an organ squirm. Its got just a touch of the old Snake Flower feeling to it and that’s not a bad thing at all. There’s less acrid asphalt melt than his old band had but still a bit of that hot leather burn to it. The b-side is a true Soda jam though, its got that hazed billow and soft slam that’s riding high on a bass line that struts through the halls like it owns the damn place. Both tracks are more than welcome around here anytime and there are still some choice bits of limited vinyl on hand over there.


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The Myrrors

The Myrrors have crept up slowly into the ranks of high desert warriors of psych and on their third album they’ve solidified their position as ones to watch in the lysergic pantheon for 2016. Entranced Earth comes on with less force than their previous endeavor, but builds strong, breaking into a heavy percussive toil for “Liberty Is In The Streets” and stretching out in endless expanses on the title track. The band mixes a bit of Eastern roil with the open skied, laid back ramble of luminaries like Brightblack Morning Light, whose desert aura they emulate here. They lace tracks with a meditative, shamanistic thrum, bubbling calm in some places that that’s balanced by an uneasy, disorienting tide on the namesake centerpiece and closer “Surem Dervish.”

The clash of flutes and churn of dissonance breaking into peaceful pools brings to mind another high pillar of modern psychedelia, and there’s more than one instance where this album reminds me of Ghost’s catalog, in particular the expansive Lama Rabi Rabi. In a year built solidly on great psychedelic records, this one has a slow growing capability that’s pushing it steadily to the front. Its not as burn-it-to-the-ground as King Gizzard or as lush as Kikagaku Moyo, but instead its built on a platform of creeping calm and slow menace that’s played out in precised measures over the folds of its two sides. This seems to be the tipping point for The Myrrors, from here on our eyes should be on them to keep up the momentum.




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The Summer Hits – Beaches and Canyons: 1992 – 1996

Its always nice to dig deeper into the origin of some longtime favorites. The Summer Hits were an early band of brothers Brent and Darren Rademaker, who among their litany of underrated bands (Further, Shadowland) also each split to independently form two major arms of early aughts alt-country; with Brent going on to form Beachwood Sparks and Darren going on to form The Tyde. Here they’re decidedly less amber hued than they’d become at their peak. The Summer Hits fell more in line with The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s ties to gauzy rock and Loop’s faded grind, though there’s still an occasional bit of jangle here and there. Mostly though its rife with a mid 90’s mix of distortion and dissonance that echoes the sentiments of paisley and shoegaze that came before them.

The band released no album during their tenure, only a handful of 7″s on labels like Christmas, Small-Fi, Silver Girl and Volvolo. They also released a split on 1000 Guitar Mania, who would release a Further EP along with E6 staples like Dressy Bessy, The Apples In Stereo and Of Montreal. This collection was put together for Record Store Day by Medical Records and, in true fashion of the band’s history, it hasn’t flown off the shelves. But most people’s loss is a boon to those whose local stores wouldn’t think of stocking this nugget. The label’s still got a stash and its, along with that Bardo Pond release, one of the rare reasons to celebrate the gluttony of a one day vinyl barrage. Lots to explore here. The production’s rough but the riffs are fine.




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The Cosmic Dead

This is one of those albums with a disconnect to the US that makes it frustratingly hard to obtain and therefore, pretty much glossed over in general. Glasgow space rock unit The Cosmic Dead have been buring ozone for quite a few years but its been since their 2014 album Easterfaust since they’ve had a full runner in the works. They’ve followed that beast up amiably with Rainbowhead, clocking in with four improvised pieces that push the needle to burn with amp frizzle fry and, locked bass groves and synth warbles that put them well over into cosmic territory.

The band works its way towards the epics at the end of the tunnel, dipping into the psych swirl on opener “Human Sausage” and its mellower companion “Skye Burial” Then they tumble full barrel into the 13 and 18 minute cappers that show them at full strength, knives out, and bowing at the pulpit of Hawkwind and Amon Düül. Its these two that make the whole ticket worthwhile, they writhe and retch with an internal heat that radiates out like heatsick fever from the speakers. The lock groove is hypnotic and intense and its hard to figure out why your breath is gone by the closing notes of “Inner C,” but then they follow it with the squirming face melt of the title track, “Rainbowhead,” which burns it all to the ground, leaving only some singed twigs to tell the tale of The Cosmic Dead’s campaign of fury. These are not an easy commodity to come by Stateside, but well worth the pursuit and for any Space Rock heads out there, a pretty essential parcel.


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Zig Zags

Zig Zags are back with a follow up and its fodder for those that loved the first. If you were a metal kid that fell in with the punks, then every inch of Running Out of Red is prime listening. The album is raw, but with a knife edge. Producer Chris Woodhouse gives the album a spit sheen that glints off the jacket studs of the heaviest head in the pit. At its heart, though, the album is soaked in beer and sweat and denim and something tells me that the L.A. crew would have it no other way. There’s plenty who pack in the heavy riffs, especially in Castle Face’s ever expanding roster, but Zig Zags are bringing the fiery solos and and the raised fist rumble like no one else in that stable.

The genius of Running Out Of Red is that every song seems like it could soundtrack a chase sequence in Maximum Overdrive. The band’s been to the alter and made an offering and now they’re just bringing back unburdened garage metal for those who want speed and spit and to just not think for 30 minutes of unadulterated shred. I can practically smell the studio in each take, and that grease caked, leather punch has been sorely lacking of late. If this year’s general turmoil is any indication of entropic slide into the void, Zig Zags seem like a pretty good soundtrack for the chaos. Note perfect to burn it all down.




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Kikagaku Moyo

I’ve had this one on rotation ever since it arrived and, even as a big fan of Kikagaku Moyo’s past catalog, its the most entrancing work they’ve done yet. The band’s work to date always found a delicate balance between subtlety and psychedelics, but here they tip the scales much further towards pastoral than ever before and the delicate touches pool their sound with a gorgeous coat of sheen. “Kogarashi,” the first taste of the album that slipped away early this year, still remains a highlight, winding fluid, traveling guitar passages with the lush cool air of cave echoed vocals. The band still pushes the amps into the fire now and again, but in the mold of some of the best simmering psychedlics, the moments that they hold back glow a bit brighter than the rest.

House In The Tall Grass shows the band’s familiarity with the softer side of the ’60s, and while there are notable touches of Japanese luminaries The Apryl Fool, Jacks and even later greats like Ghost, the band has called on a less obvious touchstone for inspiration, Bruce Langhorne’s soundtrack to The Hired Hand. If you’re not familiar, the reissue on Scissor Tail is a must for fans of country psych and acoustic guitar, not to mention psychedelic ’70s soundtracks. And though its more in line with Fahey, its not a stretch to see that its gentle ramble has a thumbprint here. The whole album has a subtle grey fog around it. Its got a cold and damp quality that echoes that lonesome traveling feeling.

Though don’t let that assessment fool you, the dampness and loneliness is by no means a deterrent, they are a celebration of sweet melancholy and Kikagaku Moyo is nailing the emotion on this album. The gorgeous folds of of House In The Tall Grass hang heavy and when the album does light those fires, they burn all that much brighter in contrast, then they’re all swept out in the morning by the gentle hum of closer, “Cardigan Song.” Its one of the best I’ve heard this year for sure and getting better with each listen.



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