Posts Tagged ‘Rocket Recordings’

Design Inspiration: Chris Reeder

There have been plenty of touchstone labels around here, but I’d wager to say that Rocket Recordings is up there in the top ten that get referenced on the site. Their take on psych and metal is always interesting and always quality, but aside from just digging up some of the best band, the label also embraces a spotless design aesthetic that I’ve always been attracted to. This comes largely in part from label heads Chris Reeder and John O’Carroll, who both contribute sleeves to their stable of releases. Design in psych and metal can either be transcendent (see Design Inspiration: Arik Roper) or drag the releases into parody. Reeder and O’Carroll fall squarely in the former camp, elevating their releases to art pieces visually as well as aurally.

Reeder and O’Carroll both agreed to contribute picks to Design Inspiration, but I’ll focus first on Chris Reeder. His sleeves have a clean design that’s crisp and classic at the same time, rendering them iconic each time. If you’re familiar with the output of Goat, GNOD, Lay Llamlas, Pigs x 7 and Hey Colossus, then you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about. Chris dives into five of his all time favorites, but leaves the caveat: “It is really hard to pick only 5 sleeves as so many have meant so much over the years, but on the day I wrote this piece these are the 5 that I wanted to talk about.”

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RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs

Newcastle’s Pigsx7 tear another hole in the fabric of reality with their sophomore LP for Rocket Recordings. The impossibly named band takes another swipe at their potent mix of Monster Magnet sludgelord psychosis bonded to the give no fucks, take no prisoners mentality of Motorhead. While that seems like a rather tall order to live up to, the band keeps pace here for six monstrous tracks that come on with the apocalyptic heat of a Mad Max location scouting. The songs on King of Cowards, based loosely on the idea of deadly sins and moral corruption, swing wild with a looser feel than those on their predecessor Feed The Rats. The band convened in the Italian countryside to commune with the dirt before laying down these tracks and the country air and lack of neighbors seems to have let them crank the throttle quite a bit and work out a sense of improvisation that licks the knife edge with a sense of danger.

The band brings ex-Gnod drummer Chris Morley into the fold this time around and his animalistic beat works to fuel the band’s appetite for action. While they keep those doom clouds rumblin’ they’re tethered much closer to to Terra Firma this time, scratching the pavement rather than rippling through the godheads themselves. Pigsx7 are still not ones for brevity, but they’re keeping it under the ten minute mark everytime, coming nowhere near Rats’ sidelong ozone-choker bookends. That sense of movement and change works well for the band. While they’re built for epics, its nice to see them tighten the belt on the record, no doubt saving some of the cosmos-scratching jams for the stage when they engage the longer numbers from KoC.

The relatively compact run times allow them to laser focus their brutality, hefting iron-ore riffs with ungodly strength and pummeling the listener until they wear away the rough ends into a numb shell. When Pigsx7 lay into your brain, they aim to knock at least a little something loose. Honestly, in this year, a little sonic lathe to tear off the top layer feels like a good idea. We’re all sinners in the Pigs’ eyes, and penance feels good.



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Goatman on Robert Fripp / Carlos Garnett

When Goat’s World Music found its way out I was immediately smitten, and certainly not alone it would seem. The album has marked many lists over the years and serves as the jumping off point for Goat’s dense catalog of borderless psychedelia. Now, with a solo album of Afro-funk rhythms and psych-folk freakouts of his own on the schedule I asked the band’s shrouded Goatman to weigh in on some overlooked fodder from the past. While the feature usually focuses on one album, there are, in fact, no rules to Hidden Gems. With that Goatman unearthed two gems from his past that he found intrinsically linked in space and time and by proximity of discovery. With that in mind he explores the impact of Robert Fripp’s League of Gentlemen and Carlos Garnett’s Black Love.

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Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – “Cake of Light”

UK sludgelords Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs return with a new album on the docket for Rocket. The band is still marrying the vocal intensity of Lemmy at his sharpest and most abrasive with the twenty-foot heat wave of Monster Magnet and the relentless char of Corrosion of Conformity. The record examines the impulses behind sin and guilt, jumping off from their moniker’s obsession with sevens to explore the most notorious association with the number. The first single, the amusingly named “Cake of Light” is anchored to a juggernaut of a riff, bashing the eardrums with the hammer of fuzz as wielded by the gods of rumble themselves. If the oppressive heat hadn’t knocked the wind out of you last week, then this track will surely do the week creeping into this week.


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Lay Llamas

Heading into Nicola Giunta’s second outing for Rocket there’s a sense that the Italian artist has reached further and deeper than he has previously under the Lay Llamas moniker. Where his previous outing saw fit to ruminate in the Krautrock kiddie pool, Thuban embraces an immersive psychedelic experience, roping in African polyrhythms, snaking Thai funk, German Progressive sweat and late ‘90s UK psych-pop. The tapestry he weaves out of those pieces makes it clear that Giunta’s record shelf runs deep, and while emulating (and to some extent, yes, appropriating) these sounds can often place an artist on a precarious perch, Giunta layers his influences like samples, finding the common threads in his preferred sounds and tightening the seams until they fit snug.

Given his curatorial bent and label affiliation it should come as little surprise that there is a crossover kinship between Giunta and Goat. The bands met while playing shows together and hit it off well enough for Giunta to snag a vocal contribution from band members on “Altair,” a tack that can’t help but sound like Goat as a result. Though the album is largely Giunta’s own, having parted ways with Lay Llamas previous steady vocalist Gioele Valenti, there’s a collaborative air to the record that accentuates its patchwork quality. Aside from the aforementioned Goat drop in, Mark Stewart of The Pop Group and members of Clinic also find their way to the grooves of Thuban and Giunta makes the most of the input of his influences.

Unlike his Swedish counterparts who might take it a step too far in the cosplay department, trying on their inspirations in full regalia, Lay Llamas have created an album that’s obsessed with the cornucopia of sounds blooming from the subcontinent but crafting that interest into a collage rather than an homage. The record winds up dark and danceable, brooding, apocalyptic and shambolic. With Thuban the band has succeeded in marrying the deep crates of Andy Votel’s Finder’s Keepers label with the sound-sculpture progressive pop of The Beta Band. More than just a sum of its parts though, the record works these into a flow that’s cinematic in its approach, never sticking too hard on one particular facet of the sounds he’s clipping and arcing from pop sunrise to a danger-imbued sunset by the album’s close. Thuban elevates Lay Llamas beyond the ones to watch pile and into endless repeat bin for all time.



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Goat – “Let It Burn”

Music from Goat, recorded and intended for use in a film about burning a giant straw goat? Seems like a perfect excuse to feature the Swedish psych collective to me. “Let It Burn” was recorded for use in the film Killing Gävle, a documentary about the custodians of a straw goat placed in the town square of the titular town of Gävle at Christmastime. The goat is in constant peril of being burned by mischievous pagans which, sure, makes perfect sense. Don’t erect a giant symbol of the old world gods without expecting true believers to get all effigy on it. The track in question is pure Goat, roiling on polyrhythmic drums flanked by flutes and doused in both fuzz and folk guitars. Essentially, if you’ve found joy in Goat’s catalog up to this point then a somewhat meta song about pagans going full Burning Man on a giant wicker likeness of the band’s namesake seems right in order.

The b-side here is a mellow comedown, buzzing with drones and buttered with sax, it’s a different side of the psych warriors that shows them reveling in cosmic jazz without the hectic sweat of their usual rhythmic pummel. The song is a portion of a freeform studio jam, so it almost seems given there’s bound to be a “Friday Pt. 2” at some point down the pike. Unfortunately, the physicals were scant on this one, so either battle the Discogs goblins for a copy or be happy with the digital drop on this. Either way, it’s a prime slice of one of Sweden’s most excellent exports.



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Bonnacons of Doom

The ephemeral Bonnacons of Doom have built their reputation in the live setting – making ritual, costume and anonymity part of their show. While they might not be the first psych band to don robes and masks, they’re certainly coupling the pageantry with potency for a psychedelic storm that’s heavy and haunted. This time around the lineup consists of members of Forest Swords, Mugstar and Youthmovies – all of whom decamped to Hookworm’s Suburban Home studios for a crusher mostly composed in one take. On tape the band’s aesthetics have little bearing on the experience, unless you as a listener are prone to fixing a mental image of the band in place for the duration of a record. Stripped from the visual trappings their music still holds firm though, retaining a sense of rite and ritual, blending drone, an appropriate amount of doom and religious vibrations into an album that’s fraught with visceral punch.

The label is not so off base to compare the band to Amon Duul II, they’ve got the same impulse to draw out improvs into ecstatic lengths, but there’s definitely a level of growling fury that might not have found its way into Duul’s work. Singer Kate (off with the surnames here) heightens the stakes on the agony vs ecstasy dynamic that burrows deep into Bonnacons work, pushing her vocals into non-syllabic acrobatics that singe as hard as the solos. BoD utilize the build and release model like any good Doom acolytes, and the payoffs are well worth it here but don’t just come for the clearcut burn. The band prove that their meditative thrum and cataclysmic comedowns in the aftermath of guitar destruction can be just as entrancing. The band’s debut arrives fully formed, leaving behind any claims of gimmickry on stage. What’s left of your eardrums you can mop up on the way out.

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Gnod

Gnod’s last album was full of righteous indignation, sparked by the toxic fumes of Brexit and Trump, it was a searing manifesto of rebellion that called for bucking the system, underpinned with the kind of noise hurricane that rightly accompanies such sentiments. Their follow-up remains, at least tonally, in line with the pounding rock typhoon they unleased on that album, dipping toes slightly into the caustic post-punk and harsh noise masks they’ve donned before but welling up the same level of intensity that spiked the blood pressure last time ‘round. On Chapel Perilous though, they ditch a great deal of the straight-forward, sonic turpentine execution that marked Just Say No… ‘s beating heart.

This time the band aren’t operating as the first line dissenters, they’re leaning into the chaos that’s become the daily bread. Their intensity and anger is shot through a disorienting prism, bouncing the blindingly heavy hues across an endless web of mirrors via gummy dub touches, clattering repetitious beats and acid bath guitars. There’s still a gnashed tooth, clenched fisted attack but on Chapel Perilous Gnod act as a conduit for the fears that are arising around us seemingly by the moment. The band is plugged straight to the alarmingly quick descent into dystopian ideals that have come one after another these days and they’re just as adrift, still angry but now swinging wildly rather than acting as a battering ram set to topple the gates.

This can be felt most prominently in the gale force opener “Donovan’s Daughters,” a fifteen-minute ripper that builds to cathartic screams of “I don’t know where this is going.” The track shines an x-ray on every panic attack moment had while scrolling through the day, building to boil until the tension can’t hold. Dread’s been a good friend to Gnod over the years but they’ve rarely wielded it as well as they have here. Sandwiched between that opener and the similarly riled “Uncle Frank Says Turn It Down,” the band trades in itchy instrumentals that claw at the base of the skull and the respirator drones of “A Body”. If Just Say No… was a call to arms, this album is a distress call bouncing off the beacons with little hope that anyone’s going to answer.



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Lay Llamas – “Holy Worms / Silver Sun (Red Sun – Negra Branca Remix)”

On the first single from his global psychedelic stewpot of an album, “Silver Sun,” Nicola Giunta draped the German Progressive paradigm in shades of late ‘90s electronic psych, dredging up allusions to The Beta Band and Clinic. On the album’s second point of entry, “Holy Worms,” he embraces a multicultural funk that puts him in leagues with his labelmates in Goat, pinning a tangle of polyrhythms to a ‘70s afrofunk guitar line and a vocal workout that stretches through Talking Heads territory, but gets caught short in a haze of narcotic bliss.

This second single, in its most digital of forms, also happens to come with a standout flip side that digests the original version of “Silver Sun” and mangles it into a completely different animal. Remixed by Gnod’s Marlene Ribiero masquerading as Negra Branca, the “Red Sun Remix” shaves off Giunta’s psych-pop romp appeal and delves darker, amping up the rhythms until they pound at the eardrum. Ribiero also brings in a chorus of female vocals to replace Giunta’s originals. They breathe the mantra “Red Sun, Green Sun” in calming contrast to the panic attack psych bubbling throughout her version and it becomes an oracle of calm inside a virtual storm of a track.

She shaves down the acidic sax solo that adorned Lay Llamas original, saving only a few panicked bleats to whinny away over the chaotic atmosphere brewing below. The reconfiguration slides Giunta into a much more lysergic territory gnashing Krautrock’s teeth on a mash of dub and gospel with a free jazz storm threatening in the distance. Great remixes can often lay the original to waste, but here Negra Blanca simply prove that while the pop sheen adorning Lay Llamas new album is welcome, sometimes you gotta go deep into the cave to find the psychedelic heart.




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