Posts Tagged ‘Prog’

Ty Segall on Aphrodite’s Child – 666

As long as Hidden Gems has been a series, I’ve had a few folks on the shortlist for contributions. Pretty close to the top has always hovered Ty Segall, long a fixture here at RSTB, but also an understandably busy acquisition for the feature. As Ty’s latest, First Taste, approaches next month he’s found some time to think on a rare gem of psychedelic proportions while also giving a bit of insight into how it may have helped shape his new album’s sound. While First Taste might not reach double-fold prog lengths like Freedom’s Goblin its still mining an off-kilter pop sensibility, rooted in psych touches and prog embellishments. This time around the entire record is boiled down to sharp, punchy track lengths, a quality that also informs the third LP from Aphrodite’s Child. The band, and its harrowing, biblical epic 666, served as one of the first outlets for synth master Vangelis, but it’s equally a showcase for sharp-toothed soothsayer Demis Roussos. Though the band’s album spanned four sides of vinyl, they shook prog conventions by keeping the tracks rather tight, spurning the instinct towards improvisation, but not the instinct towards delightful excess. Check out how this album came into Ty’s life and the impact it’s had on his work.

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De Lorians – “Toumai”

Ah it seems the psych gods are smiling on this week. Japanese prog-jazz disruption unit De Lorians have a new gem out and its accompanied with a hell of a video. The band’s been touting their Zappa love, and that came crushing through on the first single, “A Ship of Mental Health,” but “Toumai” is a different animal. The 8+ minute crusher weaves and wobbles through psych and jazz, bumping into corners and melting through modes that are as indebted to the silken swing of Placebo’s 1973 as it is to The Soft Machine’s blow through Switzerland 74 a year later. The song’s only further enhanced by liquid mind meld paint splatters of the video. This is gonna be one of the essentials for 2019. Get in on the ground floor.



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Oh Sees – “Poisoned Stones”

Another dosed droplet from the upcoming Oh Sees confirms that the band is headed ever further down the prog wormhole and it suits them just fine. “Poisoned Stones” is a shorter shakedown than the previous taste of Face Stabber, but its no less packed with tumbling drums, yowling guitars, and shell-shocked keys than the epic run of “Henchlock.” The band augments their psychedelic pursuits with a video locked into an 8-bit battle with reality. The clip’s a third-eye thumper that fits the song’s chaotic crunch quite nicely. Check the clip and look for Face Stabber (side note: how did it take Oh Sees all of seventeen albums to hit on Face Stabber as an album title?) on August 16th.



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Dire Wolves

The ‘cosmic sound’ might just be coming to a head with the release of Dire Wolves’ latest LP. Grow Towards The Light. Aligning themselves again with Beyond Beyond is Beyond, the record represents a bit of a lineup shift for the band. This marks their first without noted psych-folk stalwart Lau Nau on main vocals, but her shoes have been ably filled by regular member Georgia Carbone, who shifts this record towards the celestial – singing the album in her own invented language of bewitching moans and soaring incantations. Thrumming behind her, the band do their own part to elevate Grow Towards The Light to infinite proportions. As ever, bandleader and vibrational North Star Jefferey Alexander winds his guitars around limber and languorous nodes, stretching the passages beyond mere psychedelia and into a freeform headspace that sutures together folk, jazz, and prog on top of a lysergic backbone.

Further adding to the glorious din, Arjun Mendiratta’s (Village of Spaces) violin bobs and weaves between Carbone’s vocals, playing off them in acrobatic tangles throughout the album. Taralie Peterson (Spires In The The Sunset Rise) brings stabs of sax, charring passages into an amber ombré that melts the margins of the band’s vortex. The record is a tempest of sound – rhythms and grooves develop but just as often the players are fighting for space in the storm – wrestling with time and tempo and leaning hard into the whirlwind fray. At times the record is harrowing and haunting, biting into the brain with more than one set of teeth, but its not all flash and a friction.

The band lounges in verdant vibes as well, letting the oasis of “Water Bearing One” cool the wounds of the previous songs like a calming gel. “Discordant Angels,” while less outwardly comforting, lets up the gale force to saw a psych-folk spiritual out of the ruins. The song’s mournful shores provide a welcome shelter, but it winds up devastating in its own right – hanging heavier on the heart than the surrounding slashers. Standout, “Spacetime Rider” brings a dose of space rock, leaning into one of their most inviting grooves before the band winds up the whirlwind once more. Dire Wolves have an intimidatingly vast catalog, but if you’re a newcomer looking for a place to start, you’d do well to begin with Grow Towards The Light. It’s a not only one of the band’s strongest sets, it’s a top turner for 2019 as well.


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Plastic Crimewave Syndicate

Its been a little while since a Plastic Crimewave project barreled down the halls of Raven, but Krakow and co. were always instrumental in the development of the site. Back when Steve was rolling with Plastic Crimewave Sound, the band contributed to the site’s first compilation. Now the Sound has crumbled and the Syndicate has risen, but the same thread of acid-scratched psychedelia remains. Massacre of the Celestials opens with a yowl of guitar and a veneer of fuzz caked on so thick its hard to wade through the wreckage. Those guitars find their way through though, streaking sickness all over the inflammatory opener “Bound to Seek.’ From there the band dives into the murk, digging their sound deep into a puddle of sludge-psych that’s heavy, leaden and loud as hell.

There’s power in that porridge of sound still and the Plastic Crimewave that barrels out of it crests and demolishes all that stands in its path. Add in a squirm of sax, some spaced-phasing that knocks the mind into astral projection, and the record chomps down some Hawkwind vitamins with the best of ‘em. What I’ve always loved about Krakow’s brand of psychedelic soup is that he’s never even thought twice about pushing it too far. Effects? Double down until you can barely see the light from the haze. Guitar scorch? Make it hurt. Make it third degree. The songs tie together under a banner of excess, but in general its like wading through a surrealist stew that’s sticky, mossy, murky, and humid enough to bring on a fevered froth. Whether you’ve been following the choose-your-own psychedelic adventure with Krakow from the beginning, lapsed and returned, or just toeing in now Massacre is as good as any a place to start. Jump in an swim in the deep end of delirium with them and don’t just try not to think as the temporal shift hits its stride.



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Black Mountain

Black Mountain’s latest record thickens up its mustache and heads to puberty for an ode to newly minted freedom in the form of a driver’s license and a set of keys (rabbit’s foot not included). The album is named after the ’85 Dodge Destroyer that songwriter Stephen McBean’s been fixing up in the wake of his late life adoption of driving following a lifetime spent away from the wheel. It’s a paean to the open road, to the sort of symbiosis between man and machine that apparently forms when the engine’s revved and the paint is lacquered on the right shade of performance orange. Coupled with a lineup change that folds in new and returning members and an adoption of the crux between prog’s dirt weed swan song and the rise of metal’s caveman party pound, the album gives Black Mountain a good shake around the foundations.

Now I’m probably not the one to go pining for automobile anthems. Despite living among the scenic views of NY’s weekend escape route of choice, I still see cars as somewhat of a necessary evil. This is heresy as someone born in the shadow of Ford’s stomping grounds as well, but I’d just as soon hop a subway if it were always a choice. I drive a Civic, and it the motor rumbles the way that McBean’s pining for, I’d damn well get it checked. But I certainly understand the notion of needing cars to escape, to get freedom. Small town roots always leave the scar of tire tracks on your back as the only way to get some air of your own. Even if the smell of exhaust doesn’t boil your blood, there’s a sense of anticipation in getting a moment to oneself without anything but gas money holding you back.

Lyrical theme aside, the band is nailing the new direction that coincides with the troubled teen trappings they’ve employed here. There’s dirt under their nails from scratching Deep Purple into the back row of desks. There’s just the right amount of tatter on the cuffs of their denim jacket and this thing hasn’t washed its hair for a good four days. As much as the album evokes the love of the car, its also a love letter to the car as listening experience, which is actually something I can get behind. They’ve stuffed Destroyer full of the kind of anthems that rattle the windows while hotboxed teens park in the back lot. They find the sweet spot between volume and spaced synths that pair well with lying on the hood staring at the stars and wishing away the last year of high school so that you can finally be free of this damn town. They’ve created an album that sums up the center line metronome that taps along to the tempo. As much as the album is about that rumble beneath the pedal, its about giving a finger to authority, and that’s something we can all get behind.




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Dominique Guiot – L’Univers De La Mer

The crew over at WRWTFWW have always been true to their masthead, exploring any facet of the musical landscape that catches their fancy. Earlier this year they set sights on French prog and cosmic synth artist Dominique Guiot’s 1978 album L’Univers De La Mer. The album, inspired by undersea exploration, skews a bit from the wide-eyed wonder of Jaques Cousteau scores, adding a sense of danger to the mellotron’s quaver and a medieval bent to some of the more pastoral passages. The record employs minimoog, clavinet, guitar, and organ alongside the seaside call of the mellotron, and while the damp inspiration remains in tact, the styles change as Guiot sees fit – winding through space-odyssey jazz and dense prog to tracks.

Guiot’s vision comes close to that of Sven Liabek, whose undersea scores were a vanguard of the ‘70s. Again though,, as with Cousteau’s scores, Liabek was a bit less heavy on the throttle than Guiot. The sci-fi keys kick in giving the album a kinship with Eloy or Embryo at their heaviest. Its a beautifully engrossing gem of an album that’s worthy of rediscovery, given the limited nature of its original issue. Just as good for meditative bliss as it is for head-trip excursions to the inner most reaches of the soul. Highly recommend dimming the lights and letting this one float over the eyelids.



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Badge Époque Ensemble – “Undressed In Solitude”

Centering around the works of Maximillian “Twig” Turnbull (formerly Slim Twig), Alia O’Brien (Blood Ceremony) and a host of live players who’ve been backing U.S. Girls on the road over the past year, Canadian collective Badge Époque Ensemble creates a heady mix of jazz, psych, tropicalia and prog. The last U.S. Girl album was noted for its expansive sound and blistering live show, much of which is owed to the players here. Along with Twig, the band stretches out hitting the sweet spot of ‘70s soul-jazz under the sway of pharmaceuticals. On lead single “Undressed In Solitude” the band adds the vocals of James Baley to give the affair a midnight aura. The track stretches past the eleven-minute mark and fully embraces the boundless visions of Isaac Hayes’ unrestrained late ’60 / early ‘70s run. You just know this one is going to kill on stage. The record is out June 7th on Telephone Explosion.




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Kanaan

On their debut, Norwegian trio Kanaan embrace a lineage of prog, psych, and metal that melts together into a powerful album that’s able to broadside the listener while remaining nimble on its feet. The band’s equally comfortable picking through the twists and turns of The Eleventh House as they are with bottom-heavy burners like Sabbath and The Flower Travellin’ Band. They use the album’s length to work their way towards the leaden boots of the latter over time, steadily shedding layers of intricacy in exchange for fuzz and fury. “A. Hausenbecken” finds the band bending their metal into sculptural shapes – still rusted and barbed, but beautifully striking from a distance. As Windborne wears on the beauty is somewhat subsumed by force and forged into a blunt instrument, though even that blunt instrument is decorated with a splash of painted and etched symbols that can’t help but haunt.

Like much of the El Paraiso Catalog, the band isn’t content to sit still stylistically. They echo Causa Sui’s absorption of prog’s high-minded, over-arching themes, Mythic Sunship’s blend of jazz and psych into a primal force, and even Futuropaco’s attention to rhythm. The latter they dip into on the motorik middle ground of “Harmonia,” which, as the title might suggest, plays into the Kosmiche touches of the referenced German lightspeed travelers. The track serves as a sweat respite in the middle of the album, a moment when the knots of the first two tracks are untied and a bracing point before the album’s second side tears into a growl of heaviness. Yet another worthwhile pickup from this Norwegian stable of cosmic shamans and prog denizens.



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Sparrow Steeple

Philly’s Sparrow Steeple cloak themselves in an aura of psychedelic mysticism that plucks from the psych-folk and prog rock camps equally. Much like the worldbuilding bluster of Wolf People or Black Mountain, the band makes it seem perfectly plausible to run guitars through a melted fuzz wormhole, tack on blooze blasted harmonica and sing about Leprechauns, Wizards, Wolfmen and Whispering Woods. While most modern psychedelia has left behind the Seventies’ penchant for injecting their works with a fascination with fantasy, the band tumbles through their fanciful references with the renewed confidence of lit nerds who’ve updated from heavy stacks of Tolkien to the painted panels of Gaiman, Remender, and Marjorie Liu.

The band holds roots in Strapping Fieldhands, who’d dug through similar territory albeit with a bit fuller lineup, and the skillset of that band lends itself nicely to the Steeple’s jaunty, pub-swum anthems. The album feints for harder hills on opener “Roll Baby” – probably the closest they really get to the rail-rocked classic chargers of Steven McBean – then they begin to seep into wandering troubadour folk as the album draws on. Adding layers of clanging bells, stomps, and claps, the album sounds like it was caught live on tape outside of a tavern about 4 in the morning. Seems like the only thing missing is a holler to “keep it down ya bastards, we’re sleepin in here” as the album wafts to a close on smells of hay and horse fields.

The band is keeping the idea of the drinking song alive, opting for jovial more often than not but, they do go in for the occasional cracked-sky warnings (“Leprechaun Gold”) and potion potent head-swimmers (“Stabbing Wizards”) too. There’s something of a mischievous Syd Barrett Mad Hatter winkiness to a lot of their lyrical content, but they sweep listeners up in the moment so that it hardly seems out of place and before long, you find yourself singing along. While probably not for every head out there, the album’s got a growing appeal that lets an indulgence in the fantastical seem like it might be ready for normalization. Everyday’s begging for a cloak and some Moondog horns in Sparrow Steeple’s world, might as well grab a pair yourself.



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