Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Bong Wish - EP

I'm late to the Beyond Beyond Is Beyond Records party. A label that puts out releases that defy most genres, but shares a wonderful solidarity with all things psychedelic.
One of their latest offerings is a 4-song cassette from Boston, Massachusetts' Bong Wish

Incense and peppermints cloak the aura of this EP. Music that sounds as though it was recorded in an era that never existed. Bandleader Mariam Saleh has a voice that brings to mind Renaissance's Annie Haslam, Grace Slick, Vashti Bunyan, etc.

When we start talking about psychedelic folk, we can go on and on about the "who's who" and the "what's what" of bands and artists. Some groups of yore had a more defined sound like the minstrel-y lilts of Mellow Candle, or the more rock-influenced flair of the aforementioned Renaissance.
And while I mention these groups for their vocalists, they really have little to do with this indecipherable musical sphere called Bong Wish. 

We start with "My Luv", a song that appears to be about a beloved pet (and, unless I can't hear lyrics correctly, hypnotist Karen Hand?). Could be a miniature dragon, could be a bearded dragon. Might be a Siamese cat named Latka.
"Saturn Spells" calls forth the psych folk ghosts of yesteryear. A tune on the darker side of things. Perhaps the darker side of some undiscovered galaxy with some other Saturn that we have not named yet. Flutes flit around like cosmic butterflies, guitars jangle from atop a distant stone slab, on a distant mountain, in a distant purple marshmallow cosmos.
The third song "Conversation With Business People" has a free vibe that continues for the length of the track. A '70s New Wave experiment in grooves turned into a PSA about the virtues of living freely as an extroverted introvert (it's a thing).
"In The Sun" completes the trip with an orchestral lullaby.

Each of these tunes is its own entity. It will be interesting to see what a whole album will be like. Meanwhile, these four songs are intoxicating enough to be listened to many times over. The EP, as a whole, has a cumulative effect on the mind. At first listen, this will befuddle and confuse you, but you will be drawn further into the swirly cosmic headspace with each listen. Multi-instrumental psych with a "trippy" assertion, closing in on you like a unexpectedly warm and snuggly, yet unpredictable, viper.

Bong Wish, with four songs, might very well turn the tides on the psych folk coterie. Looking forward to more of these hallucinatory sounds.

Put A Face In Your Book 

Camp With The Band

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Trading Licks - Out Of Time

Let's say you once had this really awesome green paisley couch. I mean, this sucker was comfy. AND stylish, to boot. It was perfect for relaxing with your Siamese cat Latka, watching M.A.S.H., and sipping a glass of Tang. At some point, the band members of Trading Licks (Valencia, Spain) will have stopped by, rolled a joint with you, and talked about how much they don't like disco while you laughed the night away at episodes of Get Smart and Mork & Mindy. Am I jumping too many eras? Don't worry... it'll all make sense later.

I take one look at these dudes, and they remind me of this kid I used to know back in school. He was the "mysterious" kid that listened to Iron Maiden and punk bands. Growing up in the '80s, people that liked Judas Priest, had "Eddie" posters on their walls, had the DK patch on their jean jacket, opened up the front of a Trapper Keeper to slide a picture of King Diamond in there, or casually wrote "Celtic Frost" on their schoolbooks were simply another mystical race of alien/human hybrids that rarely came around. The ones you knew were always in detention when you got in there. There they were, furiously carving "Peace Sells... But Who's Buying?" into the desk with a smuggled pocketknife. The truth was, underneath all that tough exterior was a real music fan, digging through countless piles of garbage to find the one thing that speaks to them. It speaks to them in such a way that it defines their very character.

Trading Licks had their character defined by these same means. They obviously pilfered through enough old music to find the thing that speaks to them, and THROUGH them. They take cues from classic psych, The Cult, Led Zep, Thin Lizzy, etc. In other words, you're going to find something you like nestled within. At some point, you'll give in to the riffs, anyway. This is one of those bands that, upon first listen, might not appeal to you right away. You might feel as though you're not meant for this type of music. Like, this must be part of some sub-genre of rock that you're just not privy to. We all know that's a terrible way to think. Just listen to the album once, and something will jump at you before you get the urge to shut it off. Eventually, VOILA! You've enjoyed the whole album and are now preparing to play it again.

Now, when coming from such a vast ocean of influence, many things can become muddled and spotty. This just does not happen with Trading Licks. They burrow their way into a sound they can eat off of, it's so pristine. This is a group of talented young guys interpreting rock music and using it as a way to bend the rules of a "classic sound". It's good for the stoner rock folks, the psych rock folks, and the hard rock folks. So basically what we have is a great melodic hard rock band with '60s psych and stoner influences.

Trading Licks are destined to melt a few faces somewhere along the way. Let's hope they get this album on a piece of vinyl soon. Classic-inspired rock that has be heard to be believed. If this band does not become huge within a year, I will do each of these things I hate, per song on the album:
1. Claim Boston as my favorite band.
2. Eat asparagus and hot dogs on white bread toast.
3. Watch PETA videos.
4. Get a "Vanilla Ice kissing Trump" tattoo.
5. Play "Brown-Eyed Girl" in a band, and mean it.

After listening to this album a few times, you'll be really sorry you got rid of that green paisley couch. Trading Licks will need a place to sit, but I'm sure you'll have that covered when they eventually drop in for a visit.

Faces With Books

Monday, September 18, 2017

Kampusch Klub - EP 1

Kampusch Klub bring psychedelic post-doom/drone from Fribourg, Switzerland. The wonderfully-produced 4-song EP runs through the scope of everything contained within the genres. 

Let's get right down to the nitty gritty here:
This album is weird. I was hesitant at first, because I typically just don't listen to "atmospheric drone metal", or "post"-much of anything these days. But, man... this one stuck out like a beacon. The music contained within is like a barrage of experimental Psychedelic/Krautrock with a post-doom veneer. Maybe some Einstuerzende Neubauten sugar mixed in with their Minsk cakes. Perhaps Today Is The Day was hanging out with The Swans, started taking lithium and subsequently began writing music for David Lynch films. Somehow this band seems to go beyond these influences. 
I honestly can't say one way or another what the band is going for with these four tracks. Like I said: It's weird. Nothing about any of these songs stays in one place for long. They slowly build into a crescendo of shouts, harangues, and oceanic turbulence. Much of this comes out as moody, pent-up, and subversive, in a good way. In such a way that it grows on you with each listen.
The EP opens with "Closed Eyes". Right away we are treated to some nostalgic organs and a chilled-out groove. Again, this is all a phase that the song is going through. The mood begins to churn into a frothy, rabid hunt for resolution through caveman bellowing and haunted lamentations.
Next up is "Everything Must Go". This is easily the "lightest" number in the bunch. Beginning with a minor-keyed guitar strum, accompanied by tinkly synth taps, and rounding out with the murky gloom of dense doom.
"Fool In A Pool" is a tri-tonal noise rock foray that brushes shoulders with Earth, but still precariously blends the Kosmische mish-mash. It's a stand-out track on the EP, in my opinion.
"Psycho Killer" is the final track on the EP. This is not the same "Psycho Killer" by the Talking Heads. In the same vein as the other tunes, it starts out as though it were an interlude, but quickly transforms into a wild ride through some psych/doom universe. Ending with a crash into the Denisovans Phil-Disharmonic Orchestra.

Kampusch Klub are kind of different. They're obviously influenced by a lot of things, and it comes out in their music. This could sit well with many different folks.
My personal critique of the album would be the vocals. While this gentleman (known as D - voice + keys) sounds like a hulking beast and definitely adds to the overall sound of the band, I could see Kampusch Klub truly reaping glories by maybe later adding a more melodic edge to the vocals. Not that they would need to worry about what I, as a reviewer, would have to say in that regard. They're doing just fine without some whiny crooner messing their songs up. But, in all fairness, I would have to say that if they kept this sound up, and in later albums could include a broader range of vocal styles, they could easily explode into the psych/doom world with little effort other than just by doing what they do.

Kampusch Klub are recommended for those that want to branch out from what they normally listen to, while still being able to appeal to the heavy music fan within. In that regard, I'd say this album is a great way to get you to pull out all of your old records while you chip away at the multitude of influences that loom in the distance, eventually gnashing what's left of their cavemen dentition.
Doom on, gentlemen. Doom on.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Onionface - Roll Over Dog... And Run!

Ottawa, Ontario's Onionface came out of left field with this one. I've heard some heavy hitters before, but this one busted the bat. Certain albums just have that "Ka-BANG!" to them.

I was browsing and sifting, like I do, one day. I get lost down the rabbit hole pretty often. I don't know how I wind up somewhere, but I usually get there after trudging through endless lengths of turds. I wallowed in the filth for quite a long time, while going further into the hole. Then the whole thing opened up... Onionface was there, beckoning me closer with a bass drum, busking for thuds with a message in electrical tape. I would oblige. 

Now, there's something about a band that starts out with the quieter numbers and builds up as they go. This is a slow burn album, no doubt. Even so, the first track "Goodbye, Take Care" eventually gets a chip on its shoulder. "Dirty Water", a little bluesy weight, a little light groovy, and heavy on the heavy, with a chant-along outro. "Golden Lips" kindly hands over the fuzzy riffs, superb vocals, and attitude. Some dark purple Hammond-y organs show up and psych the event out with fresh milky chords. It's warm.

"Ramblin'" is the song I might request at Karaoke. If you needed a song to start your day out, you could always give this a try. It rocks in several ways. We get treated to a few solos, some salty vocals, and a cheeky delivery. "Long Haired Bald Guy", your personal bedtime theme, creeps in all nasty-like while playing from underneath a huge box. "What's that big box in the yard, and why does it keep getting closer to the house?"

"I'm Alright", might have graduated (with honors) from Wah University, but it could still out-drink your Uncle Lush, AND win a bar fight.

"Tightrope Walker" and "Remember When" boogie on with a feverish frenzy. "Birdman" pulls off some punk slaps, but you like it, and you almost feel the need to bounce around and tear phone books in half. 
"White Cactus" is a tune that got me into the band in the first place. I saw the name of the song, and remembered back to when one of my students was saying he was just getting into "stoner rock", and  he thought "White Cactus" would be a cool name for a band. It stuck out. So I listened to that one first. It gave me the rock-n-roll fuzzies.

Onionface keep it fun, but there's a real attitude in their boogieing that sets them up for appreciation in the stoner rock circuits. I'm hoping for these guys to open up in that fanbase. We're hungry for this percolator rock. Nasty, cocksure, groovy, in-your-face loud rock, spewing brazen punk energy and raucous fervor, gaining more velocity with each track. Dropped like a planetoid-esque ball of fire onto the Earth, spreading its intensity throughout the land, confounding the geological eons into an unrecognizable slurry.. This is the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. Worth every stinkin', lousy penny. 

Put Their Face In Yr Book 

This One Time, At Bandcamp 

Friday, August 25, 2017

King Bong - Sand ≈ Return

When I was a kid, I used to listen to a lot of metal. When I say "a lot", I mean that's all I listened to. When 90s death metal and black metal first hit the scene, I was able to get everything I needed just by looking at the album cover (and quite often, the band logo). This pretty much has always been the case. But then there were those visionary bands that did away with convention, in their music AND their cover art. When you look at those Arik Roper, Roger Dean, Dan Seagrave, Michael Whelan, or Dave Patchett covers... you know the ones: The ones that take you places. You could sit there for the entire length of the album while staring at the cover, allowing it to whisk you away into some faraway land. Each song is a new adventure, new place, or stone turned in that land. Something about these covers makes the music contained within all the more vital to the whole experience.
King Bong is one of those bands that got me on the cover alone. A band that defies category by simply playing music. Sure, I heard their previous albums "Alice In Stonerland" and "Rivolta Dada", among others. Each album of theirs is a different journey, that's for sure. They are the psych/stoner/jam/avant garde masters. But this album has something just a little different happening. One thing you will notice in particular is that these songs feel like crafted songs. Their previous albums have great pieces of musical work, but have an obvious "jam it live" feel to them. "Sand ≈ Return" makes a few minor changes, and uses some studio trickery to seal the deal.

I never could get past their name before listening. I mean: "King Bong". That's a tough shirt to wear to your mother-in-law's house. If there is anything we need to learn from all of this, it's to never judge a band by their name, in the same way we don't judge a book by its cover. There's only one problem with this: King Bong, a band that should not be judged by their name, made an album that CAN be judged by its cover.

I like a few video games, but I'm certainly no gamer. I spend exactly two hours a year playing games. I like the ones that really draw you into the world around you rather than the shoot-em-up soap operas. Shadow Of The Colossus has that feel to it. Another game called Journey has a similar feel, but the landscape and the overall "vibe" of the game is quite different than what one would expect from the usual hack-n-slash. In Journey, you are in a desolate, desert world, seeking a resolve in your lonely travels. Each area leads you one step closer to an answer as to what the hell you are even supposed to be doing. Every moment, and every occurrence in the land has a mystical quality that binds you to the adventure.

The same could be said about King Bong's latest album: "Sand ≈ Return". There is something foreboding and dark behind the fantastic artwork.
One look at the cover, and I was done for. It looks like something out of the game Journey. It truly appears that the artist (who has other covers and art out there... it's all really incredible) may have been influenced by the game... but possibly not. Sand dunes, eroded and shaped by time and wind, all within a very alien landscape. The colors within and without the album sleeves are all selected for the feeling they instill, rather than a flaccid attempt to look "psych-y" with stars and androgynous twins and moons and other overused subjects. It looks like the artist checked out of reality for short time while the colors were being laid. That being said, the music contained within is a mirror image of the outer presentation. You are hearing the story while looking into it.

The band brings the stoner/psych from Milano, Italy. They appear from out of a tumultuous sandstorm, bearing gifts of herbs and spices. The music contained within is a perfect match for the cover art. Imagine being swept into a mystical desert land just to find that your only way out is to connect melodic passages with fuzzy guitar riffs and rhythmic grooving. By keeping one's self hydrated properly, and well-imbued with sacred incense, the album becomes an adventure... a "Journey", if you will. Four songs that drive the caravan forward towards the next oasis.
"Marathon des Sables" begins with some Middle-Eastern-ish rhythms over breathy jazz chords and tickly noodling. The entire song begins to roll a huge stone uphill with ease. The heavier it gets, the easier it seems to roll. It reaches its apex and the stone transforms into a bird called عمو اردکِ بزرگ
This apparently means "Uncle Great Duck" in Persian, but I only used Google, and that never counts for anything worthwhile. It really treats you to a complete meal of psych, jazz, and stoner. By this time, you'll be thinking "jazzy" thoughts, and realizing that this band is, at their absolute best, an avant garde, psychedelic jazz project (with some super stonery moments). 5 minutes in, the guitar somehow transforms into this Chick Corea/Zappa-meets-shredder kind of thing. And then the journey becomes a wild ride, galloping after a strange, huge bird, flapping away into the distance. "Capacocha (Llullaillaco Dreamin')" follows quickly behind its predecessor with a huge scoop of Mr. Bungle-esque lollygagging, which makes my life that much more awesome having heard something like it.
The 17-and-a-half minute epic "Biondo (Lo Sai Di Chi Sei Figlio Tu?)" completes the LP with even more greatness in the same manner at which this entire album is presented. I've said it before: Avant Garde Psych Stoner Jazz.
King Bong were a huge Bandcamp surprise for me. Fine, fine psych, unfettered from the standard menu. Four courses, complete with an herbal sachet to use as you see fit. No matter what order you consume them in, or how much you consume, it's likely you'll be right back on the chowline when it's over. Dreamy, drizzled, and decadent helpings of gourmet psych rock cuisine.
Incidentally, due to the aforementioned album cover, and its likeness to a familiar game, I decided to play the game while listening to the album. To my total astonishment, it all fit into place like it was supposed to be there. Maybe it's like the old "Dark Side Of The Moon/Wizard Of Oz" thing, messing with people's heads, but it worked for me.

Check 'Em Out On Bandcamp
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Monday, July 31, 2017

Hair Of The Dog - This World Turns

Certain bands simply stop by the house and hang out for a bit.

Other bands set up camp in the living room, follow you to work, join you for dinner, and hang out with you during road trips.
Hair Of The Dog is one of those bands that makes an impression on your life within 30 seconds of a song.
They've exploded like an atomic bomb and sent sharp, melodious shrapnel everywhere. I'm still picking pieces of awesomeness from places I didn't even know I had.

A recent discovery, but they've already got some miles with me. Thanks for the vacation soundtrack!

Hair Of The Dog's trajectory begins in Scotland. Three gentlemen churning away at their instruments with the fury of a very proficient army. With two awesome albums under their belt ("Hair Of The Dog", and "The Siren's Song", both of which are riff-heavy, 70s classic rock-meets modern stoner rock, with a touch of alt-rock), they've completely outdone themselves with "This World Turns".
It's an album they worked on. They really worked at this one. After listening to their previous albums, you can tell that they had some new experiences in their life when going in to create this one. It's deep on a few levels.
Beginning with the title track, we'll find that there is no escape from the initial blast. It seriously hammers down with riffs so heavy, you'll break a sweat. A pummeling tune with riffs that get a choke hold on you and box away at your ears.
"Keeping Watch Over The Night" comes in instantly following the previous track in such a way that it blends seamlessly.
"Ctrl-Alt-Delete" shows a little thrash influence mixed in with their stoner grooves.
"The Colors In Her Skin" is a serious heavy hitter. This song will probably make you climb walls.
"In Death's Hands" is a hard rock ballad with panache, which leads into:
"4AM", the first stoner rock song that I got a little misty over. I've played this one for my wife, and she agrees that it's truly a heartfelt song. Many of us stoner rock dudes can relate to the subject matter of the tune.

What are Hair Of The Dog? They seem to draw influences from many places. They're another one of those bands I have a hard time reviewing properly. Hair Of The Dog are classic-inspired hard rock, they're blues-y stoner rock, psych rock, etc. But, most importantly, Hair Of The Dog are your new favorite band.

"This World Turns" is a pretty heavy album.. watch yourself. Before you know it, you could be picking out bits of sharp, hooky hard rock, and absorbing melodic heavy metal into your bloodstream. The best way to avoid the aftermath is to simply play it again.

Get It Here

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017


Australia's Hashshashin come out throwing sand everywhere. Glowing drone sand. The kind of sand you could wash your car with. And probably should.
Hashshashin is:
Evan McGregor - drums, percussion, didgeridoo
Cameron Macdonald - bass
Lachlan R. Dale - bouzouki, guitar, field recordings" (and Art As Catharsis guru)
Made up of members of Squat Club, Serious Beak, Five Star Prison Cell and Adrift for Days, these guys mean bizznizz. Already getting comparisons to Secret Chiefs 3, I's say that gives them a pretty good start.So for fans of SC3, OM, Consider The Source, and other Middle Eastern-inspired experimental prog, this is probably the thing you've been looking for.

I get really thirsty when I listen to this album. Should come with a warning: "Do Not Listen With Less Than 12 Ounces Of Hydrating Liquids". Also remember to brush the sand out of your hookah before use. PSAs aside, what we have here is heavy proggy experiments with Eastern-ish melodies, and occasionally crossing vast deserts to seek other tonal and rhythmic influences. A jewel.

Check 'Em Out... Bring Water. 

Books Of Faces