The evolution of headphones has been fascinating to watch over the years. Pretty much everyone aged 50 and younger has grown up using headphones, and have owned many, many pairs. Some may remember the crappy headphones that came with the original Walkman and its progeny that would usually break long before the foam covers would wear off. They were an afterthought, although Sony’s 1979 introduction of the 3.5mm “minijack” stereo connector was useful. In some ways things haven’t changed much since then, as headphones associated with portable audio is still considered disposable. Good full size “over the ear” headphones existed of course, but were mostly used by audio professionals and audiophile hobbyists with almost art-deco/mad scientist looking tube amplifiers. Continue reading
I had just finished Neil Gaiman’s latest novel, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane earlier today as I got off the train coming home from work. A couple minutes later I passed by the Music Box Theater and saw that Neil Gaiman was doing a reading a book signing, right there at that very moment. It was sold out so I couldn’t go in, but it’s just as well, as my reaction when I finished was, “that’s it?!” For his first general novel in over eight years since Anansi Boys (2008), I definitely expected more. At 192 pages, it’s slight even next to The Graveyard Book at 320 pages, which was marketed for children. But my disappointment wasn’t that I wished it didn’t end so soon. It’s that I wanted it to end even sooner. Continue reading
Goatess may be a new name, but doom fans have been anticipating this album for years. As long as they don’t expect Chritus and his Swedish bandmates to repeat what they’ve done before, they should not be disappointed with the debut, released this week by hip (if there can be such a thing in the long-suffering doom/psych genre) Finnish label Svart.
Formed by Christian ‘Chritus’ Linderson of Count Raven, Saint Vitus, Terra Firma and Lord Vicar in 2009 (originally named Weekend Beast), this is not strictly traditional doom. While Chritus’ vocals are as Ozzy-esque as ever, the promo materials namedrop Sleep and Kyuss as key influences on this project. I would add Monster Magnet (and in turn, Hawkwind) to that list, with the mid-album psychedelic space-rock excursions. One of the highlights, “Tentacles Of Zen,” starts with a long soundbite from I, Claudius (1976) with John Hurt. The best line, “Copulation on a cosmic scale!” was so good they repeated it. Continue reading
Posted in New Album(s) of the Week, Reviews, Videos/Singles
Tagged Chritus, Count Raven, Doom, Goatess, Kyuss, Lord Vicar, Monster Magnet, psych, Sleep, stoner, Terra Firma
How in the damn hell did I miss this band? For the past year I have been harassing bands like Fellwoods, Dead Man and Elope to put out some new music, as I’ve had an itch for more albums that navigate that fascinating era of 1968-70 when bands floated in a musical neverland between psych and prog while mixing in some folk, proto-doom and modern fuzzy stoner rock sounds. Norway’s Spirits Of The Dead is pretty much the perfect embodiment of that aesthetic. And they’re already on their third album! I blame The Obelisk. H.P. Taskmaster gave The Great God Pan (2011) a solid but not completely enthusiastic review. I missed it and he did not rate the album in his year-end list. Revenge! Kidding, I love The Obelisk, which may not always align with my tastes, but covered this band when I remained in the dark. Their self-titled debut from 2008 is just as great. But despite claims of widespread raves, press coverage has been sparse. Here’s hoping that changes with Rumours Of A Presence, out now on Brooklyn based metal label The End records. I have to say The End have been dropping the ball, given that it was released on June 25, but not available in any of the usual places (Amazon, All That Is Heavy, Aquarius, Bandcamp) other than crappy MP3s on Amazon and iTunes. Per the band’s requirements with the label, the only way to get the CD at the moment seems to be to purchase it in a bundle with the vinyl for $30+. [Update: Previously I thought it was the label's decision. The band can do what they like, but I hate to see them limit their sales, and it doesn't make sense to me that they'd sell compressed MP3s but not full-bandwidth CDs or FLAC. ] Continue reading
Posted in New Album(s) of the Week, Reviews, Videos/Singles
Tagged Dead Man, Doom, Elope, Fellwoods, folk, psych prog, Rumours Of A Presence, Spirits Of The Dead, stoner
A lot has happened in this year’s second quarter. An avalanche of good albums were released and I was suddenly buried in great music. With a demanding deadline at my job, I was barely able to keep up, let alone write about them. In the meantime, an interesting trend has developed with bands not normally overly mainstream reaching the top of the Billboard charts. After the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ warm-up at #5 after it’s April 16 release, Vampire Weekend, Queens of the Stone Age and Black Sabbath all hit #1. What does it mean? Probably not much, as Kanye took over this past week. Just a mini blip of good taste between the likes of Paramore, Michael Bublé, Kenny Chesney and Lady Antebellum. I’ve enjoyed some Kanye West in the past, but just can’t get into Yeezus, too ridiculous and tiresome. There’s way too many amazing albums to catch up on to worry about it.
Spirits Of The Dead – Rumours Of A Presence (The End)
This is a late entry because while the album was supposedly released on June 25, it’s still not available beyond downloads on Amazon and iTunes and an expensive limited edition vinyl/cd bundle. And to be honest I’d never heard them before now, despite having released two other albums in 2008 and 2011. Which is really freakin’ crazy, as they’re right up my alley of psych prog mixed with folk and stoner/doom that I’ve been obsessed with for the past few years. If there are more bands like Spirits Of The Dead, Fellwoods, Dead Man and Elope that I don’t know about, somebody better tell me now before some blood and tears are shed. | Full Review Continue reading
Posted in Bandcamp, New Album(s) of the Week, Rants, Reviews, Videos/Singles
Tagged Blood Ceremony, Cauchemar, Gaytheist, Gozu, Jex Thoth, Kadavar, Motorpsycho, Naam, Primal Scream, Purson, Queens Of The Stone Age, Savages, Spirits Of The Dead, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Vampire Weekend
Jex Thoth remains just as mysterious a half dozen years since they first appeared as Totem. Despite being featured in a lengthy rave in Julian Cope’s lavishly bounded Copendium, very little real information about them is revealed other than that they’ve identified Black Sabbath and Amon Düül II as key influences, and Cope describes them as a “rock goddess” backed by “four enormous Yeti trolls of northern Denmark’s icy Skagerrak coast.” Given the fact that they’re on a Swedish label (I Hate Records) and almost exclusively tour Europe, it would be easy to mistake them as a European band. They are in fact American, based sometimes out of Madison, WI. It wasn’t even clear if the band were still together, with bandleader and singer Jex spending time with Sabbath Assembly. In the years since their 2008 self-titled debut, they’ve been a major inspiration for a load of great bands that merge doom metal and psychedelic influences, often with women on lead vocals. By the end of 2012, it seemed like no less than a kind of occult heavy rock renaissance. After 2010′s tantalizing but unsatisfying three song EP Witness, they’ve returned triumphant and better than ever with Blood Moon Rise. While Jex has proven in the past that she can deliver bluesy wails with the best of the Joplin acolytes, on this album her voice is recorded close and intimate to focus more on emotional nuances complimented by the eerie, psychedelic atmosphere. Take “Into A Sleep,” for example. There’s just a simple, repetitive yet foreboding bass line, spare percussion and some decorative guitar that don’t seem like they would add up to much, but ends up as evocative as the best of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds thanks to Jex’s performance. For a band initially identified as doom metal, there’s nothing that’s exceptionally rocking on this album aside from the nicely thudding “The Places You Walk.” But overall it feels plenty heavy due more to mood and arrangements more than brawn. Not surprisingly the most memorable cuts also have the stickiest vocal hooks (“The Divide,” which is introduced by a satisfyingly plodding doom riff), and melodies (“Keep Your Weeds”). After a couple weeks listening though, just about every cut is a winner, definitely one of the most dynamic, varied albums of its kind this year, leaving me wanting more after every play. Now let’s get to it and buy some albums and show they’re appreciated here before they decide to permanently relocate to Scandinavia. | Buy
Although I’d been busy this year digging deep into 80s post-punk/dark wave and 70s psych-prog and co-running the ILM 1970s album poll, and haven’t reviewed any new albums yet, I have been listening. It has been a slow start this year, lacking any exciting, highly-anticipated releases through March. That’s going to change as of April 16, when an avalanche of great albums is coming. I’ll briefly look at the best of what I’ve heard so far, and give a sneak preview of things to come.
The Crystal Caravan – With Them You Walk Alone (Transubstan)
This Swedish band came out of nowhere for me, or rather, was recommended by Bill Goodman of The Soda Shop. They’ve had two other albums, a 2009 self-titled debut and Against The Rising Tide (2010, Transubstans), and I don’t know how I slept on ‘em. Just listening to them this morning, both are great retro psych and proto-metal influenced high energy heavy rock, a pancake stack of riffs and hooks. Their third album is a definite progression, exploring the creative and psychedelic possibilities of analog synths, adding backing female vocals from Lina Högstrom and expanding on a more soulful, almost twangy side they initially touched on with “Apple Hotel,” territory also explored lately by the great Troubled Horse. It’s a little early to tell, but this could have staying power to make my top 20 by the end of the year. Continue reading