Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Best Of 2017 List

Without further ado, here is the Nerve Salad Best Of 2017 List. It is in NO particular order. I WILL say that Sugarfoot - The Santa Ana is at the top of my list, if numbered by importance. It's been a great year, and a huge thanks goes out to the bands on the list (especially the ones that patiently dealt with my questions while writing reviews.)

1. Psychic Temple - IV

2. Living Colour - Shade

3. Devil Electric - S/T

4. Onionface - Roll Over Dog... And Run!

5. Motorpsycho - The Tower (& California EP)

6. Sugarfoot - The Santa Ana

7. Hair Of The Dog - This World Turns

8. Devil's Witches - Velvet Magic

9. Hippo Campus - Landmark

10. Demons - Embrace Wolf

11. Clouds Taste Satanic - The Glitter Of Infinite Hell

12. Trading Licks - Out Of Time

13. Elara - Deli Bal

14. Spaceface - Sun Kids

15. Ex People - Bird

16. Mt. Mountain - Dust

17. Spidergawd - IV

18. Dead Cross - S/T

19. Here Lies Man - S/T

20. Relaxer - Unreal/Cities

(These last 5 are honorable mentions)

21. Taiga Woods - S/T

22. T.G. Olson - Foothills Before The Mountain

23. Adrift For Days - The Sleepless Grey

24. The Necromancers - Servants Of The Salem Girl

25. Botanist - The Shape Of HE To Come

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Laverge - Handle This

Let's get down to business:
Spain has good stuff happening.

I can't stand using the term "foodie". It's so silly-sounding. It just makes me feel like I'm a little kid that can't say my "big boy words" yet. I prefer the term: "Lover of fine cuisine". I really like to see what the other parts of the world are eating.
The Spanish are known for many fine things.The Paella, for instance. This caught my attention, as a young teen, back in the '90s when it was mentioned (numerous times) on the TV show Northern Exposure. A couple of characters literally lamented over it as being something they "needed" in episodes, or simply wishing they had their Paella dish. So, I've eaten Paella. Looking back at those times I had eaten it, I often wonder if I'd actually gotten the real deal, or I got the Americanized "we'll use what we've got on hand" version.
I learned that some believe the Paella may or may not have originated in Valencia, Spain, while others believe that it was first created in a village outside of Valencia. So I looked up recipe after recipe to find the right one. There are several varieties to choose from, with some being more authentic than others, or more regional than others. Let's go through the proper make-up of a Paella:

Firstly, it has to have class. It needs to scream out: "I'm awesome simply because I exist!" in front of several people, but have the humble decency to know where it came from.
It needs an air of mystery. Threads from a high quality imbuement favor what makes up the bulk of the dish, complimented by a simple blend of flavors, yet complex enough for the palate to start doing subtraction and addition.
It needs girth and heft. Something that carries the weight of the flavors, yet adds their own distinct touch. It's got to leave you feeling full, and with a feeling that you experienced something, rather than just filling the hungry void.
It needs an identity, a personality. Paella is made all over the world. If we are going to borrow the recipes, we need to put a spin on it that separates it from the original. The truth is, no matter how "traditionally" we try to create such a thing, nobody except the originators will make it the same way. Perhaps even the original Paella has no idea what it was, anyway.
It needs complexity. Most Paella dishes I've seen have more than one kind of main ingredient. Many different things make up the entirety of a normal Paella. These come from the sea, the air, and the land. This adds the wonderful quality of having a different texture with each bite. Such complexity allows the meal to be enjoyed even more, and confounds the mind enough make a person think about it long after experiencing it.

I took all of these principles into consideration, threw them into my special, patented SHRIMPP () Processor (SHRIMPP = Stoner, Heavy Rock, Indie, Metal, Psych/Prog). It calculated and assessed. It made a few "boopity-boop, beep-beep" noises, and then spat this out:

 Laverge. From Valencia, Spain. It appears that they have appealed to the Paella principles, as stated before. These guys have class. They come in strong with a new album called Handle This. Listening once will be the grand realization of their classiness. It's a little spicy, in a good way. Heats up the palate. They have a definite set of influences that you can pick out immediately.
They have mystery. The songs are well-done, but the surrounding additions to the whole of the dish are fresh and crisp. You wonder how they mixed the flavors so well.
They have heft. The weight of the songwriting carries the album, and the musicianship borders with a light touch of sweetness over the initial spiciness.
They've got personality. They borrow from a few different recipes, each touch combining into a surprisingly unique dish that stands on its own. An interpretation of several elements, thrown into a special blend and coming together in a tasty array, suitable for gourmands of all palates everywhere.
They have complexity. This combination of different textures and flavors makes it a satisfying engagement.
Overall, the band nods toward an accessible alternative rock sound.
In essence, they takes cues from recipes by Queens Of The Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, etc. You can scoop up the influences like creamy turrón. However, there is an underlying deviousness in there that shows the complexity of the grand feast. You get this whimsical aftertaste that sneaks in like a bright paprika. A "what was that I just had?" sort of feeling that comes over you after you have an unusual flavor. You truly feel like something sneaked into your cupboards and replaced your normal herb sachet with something a little more vivid.

Perhaps it would be best to ask the band what their favorite recipe for Paella is before I go completely off the deep end with gourmet comparisons. The obvious truth is that I know nothing of REAL Valencian cuisine. After having a taste of the music that comes from that (extremely old) city in recent years, it's no doubt that the fine traditions kept alive in their food are also kept alive in their music. Laverge have a recipe they have crafted into a fine thing, worthy of the finicky palates that all share the same revolving globe. It's tasty.

Bandcamp 'em

Facebook 'em

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Lark's Tongue - Peoria Psychedelia

Sometimes a band comes around and causes issues in your life. Existential quandaries begin to surface.
"Just how truly in touch with reality am I?"
"Why does music like this slip past me?"

Lark's Tongue come from Peoria, Illinois. Made up of members of Minsk & Men Of Fortune (among others), they appear to be stealthily putting out music for a number of years. They can be classified in the "stoner rock" section, but really have little in common with the genre. It's a spacey affair. Slow, beautifully menacing, and swirling with neon psychedelia. Within the dark aeon they inhabit, concessions are made to hang up a sludge-y backdrop and allow the musicians to systematically beat the dust from it with their respective instruments.

 Their first EP came in the form of a 7" called "The Rope/Tucson, Arizona"

This was followed by a split with Men Of Fortune. Within the first ten seconds from the first Lark's Tongue track, you start asking those questions from before. It becomes obvious that this is a band you have not heard the likes of.

If you were not struck blind by the time you get to listen to their next split LP with Across Tundras (who are another story altogether), you will be. Songs like "Aluminum" ease you in to the Lark's Tongue sound, with its beauty-in-darkness feel. Reverb-drenched guitars cascade like stark white snow into a world of monochromatic blue. Sharing the journey are two heavy tunes from T.G. Olson & crew in Across Tundras. This really couldn't be a better fit considering both bands are equally incorporeal.

"Narrow" comes in, a gorgeous, crystalline glacier magnifying idyllic ages past. A slow-creeping monolith, reading bygone days like an ancient, immortal scribe. Progressive and layered, jagged and dense, this album is a culmination of what had gone before, but now wears of cloak of wisdom. Synths lope along doggedly while heavy funereal guitars fill the path with a soft morass. Laminations of voices loom over the album like monastic stewards. The album can be quite a bucolic trip when used in the right ways and allowed to utter its incantations within the proper surroundings.

All fancy stuff aside, there is talk of Lark's Tongue releasing new material in 2018. During this time, it might be wise to familiarize yourself with the rest of their albums. I'm finding that this prog/psych/drone band from Peoria, Illinois are a band that I should have discovered some time ago. Don't get yourself into the same bind when they put out a new album. Let Lark's Tongue cause some issues in your life.

Find Their Faces In A Book

Camping With The Band

Monday, December 4, 2017

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland

I'm not necessarily reviewing this album. It does not need review. There are quite a few out there for you to read and enjoy. And the album is available to listen to as we speak. You can listen to this, knowing full-well that you're safe with KG&TLW.

This post is to push the release of Polygondwanaland in this LP format. This is nothing new. This has been released on various variants from various labels. You can most likely get yourself a crazy glow-in-the-dark swamp dill pickle swirl, with a fruity pebbles splatter, and a hand-dipped hot dog-scented cover. Maybe not, but there are a ton of "limited" releases out there.
I like this one:
Diggers Factory and the band are offering this LP, numbered + limited for only 1 measly little Euro. In the words of the band:
"This album is FREE. Free as in, free. Free to download and if you wish, free to make copies. Make tapes, make CD’s, make records."

It would be wise to jump on this limited release right now.

Get It Here! Don't wait on this one!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Demons - Embrace Wolf

Reviewing the latest offering from Norfolk, VA's Demons becomes an exercise in adjectives and synonyms for the words: Pummeling. Punishing. Brazen. Crushing.
To start this off properly, let's just say that Demons released an EP (with Spartan Records) that goes by the name of The Great Dismal. I liked it, okay? It was SUPER good. I mean, it had a lot of things going on trapped within a space of just six songs. Lots of influences would poke their heads out and sniff the air a little, only to retreat back into their cozy little holes. The whole thing was worth repeat listens just because of all the little bits and pieces you could lasso from it. I knew the band was still gravitating toward a sound they had already conquered, but didn't quite know the scope of their ascension.

Embrace Wolf comes out of nowhere, making mincemeat out of your face. It has this crazy old school post hardcore feel to it, but swings a nail bat full of noise rock screeching. Like AmRep and Touch And Go bands getting into a gang fight, but then agreeing to make noises in the night.
The album starts with the instrumental (telebrothy), setting the pace for the roller coaster we're about to get on.
"Always Your Own" grabs you by the collar and shakes you around with some heavy down-tuned riffs and a sneering hardcore attitude. I'm feeling the effects of fingers pointed as hard as they can.
"wish" kicks in with some drums played in your backyard.  Mid-paced, laced with darkness and a finger pointed so hard, it makes your own hand hurt.
"Nobody Loves You The Way You Are" makes me feel like I'm in the early days of "post-hardcore", "noise rock"... like I said: AmRep/Touch And Go feelies. The guitar pierces through the veil of sound like a syringe full of early '90s. This is not to say they are derivative... not in the slightest. These tunes are fresh and clean. They feel like songs you needed to hear NOW.
"Dig" clocks you in the jaw with a slow-cooker full of meanness. The howled vocals induce gooseflesh, while making you want to cower in a corner. Unconventional, twisty-turny riffs churn away in search of the next skull for trepanation.
"Decibel Farmer" knows who you are, and it knows where you live. And it also knows how hard it can point the finger, and exactly who it's pointing at. It also gives us our first breath of air after being manhandled throughout the entirety of Side A. We're treated to an interlude, of sorts. But it does not last long.
"17:9" hits hard, fast, and leaves you with finger holes in your face.
"Arranged Marriage" is the most "melodic" of the bunch. But it still has that twisty-riff grime that just won't wash off.
"Assured Retribution"... careful with those riffs, guys. This one makes the whole album. Back when I was hearing snippets of Embrace Wolf in-studio (via FB posts), this riff showed up and reared its head long before I heard the album. I wasn't prepared for that clock-cleaning. So... I dub this one the Nerve Salad personal favorite track from the LP.

Embrace Wolf is a brutal beatdown, but still gives you back the "oomph" to pick yourself up and wipe your bloody nose. You walk away a little wiser, a little tougher, and ready for the next time some band cold-cocks you when you're not looking.

My grandmother always told me not to make faces because it will "stick like that".  I made a few mean faces & scowls while listening to this album, but I think I was so happy to hear it, they never stuck that way. I love you Grandma, but I'm not so sure you were right about that.

Order from:

Spartan Records HQ

Visit Their Faces

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Relaxer - Unreal/Cities

I tend to forget to take vitamins. It's not like I intentionally do it. I just get going so fast in the AM, that the very idea of having to take them just escapes me. Those days that I don't forget, I notice something different. Like an overlapping bounciness, or a milder reaction to the events of the day. You can get by with NOT taking them, but there is a definite difference in your world when you DO.

Akron, Ohio's Relaxer has that effect on me. There is some kind of crazy difference in the world when they show up. I would have survived without hearing it, but now I'm not so sure. Since I first had a dose, I think it's going to be a part of my regimen.

This is indie/stoner/prog. I don't know any other way to describe it, and the last thing I want to do to any band is compare them to some other band. The best thing to do for any situation is just listen. Members of Relaxer are/have been members of other known bands (The Party of Helicopters, White Pines, Teeth of the Hydra, Sofa King Killer, Royal Bangs , etc.), and if you do some research, you will find that these other bands don't have much to do with Relaxer. I notice that Relaxer can be crazy to listen to sometimes. These are busy dudes. The music is hugely spastic, and the guitars rip around like a buzzsaw. Synth blasts roll in from Planet X, and the prog arrangement ensures your compliance.

I'm finding Unreal/Cities to be a stellar album. It's music that I would not have heard had I not fallen into the rabbit hole. Thankfully I fell right on top of one of my favorite surprise albums of 2017.

Relaxer have another album as well (Lasers), which has a slightly more chilled-out element to it. They came back with a  more anxiety-driven blaster of an album that feels like it ends as fast as it begins, at which point you're catching your breath while you pick out your favorite parts.

Take your damn vitamins.

Get A Book On Faces

Bandcamping Trips

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 '70s 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.

Camp With The Band

Visit Their Faces

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

Sugarfoot - The Santa Ana

Let me start by saying that this album is one I have listened to more than any other album this year, or the past three years. I love it that much. And I'm not really a country music fan at all. Southern Rock, yes, power pop, yes. Psych rock, yeah. Country, nah...
But as of June 2017, this is the Top Album Of The Year. 
Sugarfoot are from Norway... made up of members of Motorpsycho, The Pink Moon, Deleted Waveform Gatherings, Too Far Gone, and a bunch of other prominent bands. It's a different world out there, that's for sure. As such, we figure that this would mean we are all stuck in our little musical holes, separated by endless miles of ocean. 
This just isn't the case with Sugarfoot. They traveled a long way to record their latest album. From Trondheim, Norway to Joshua Tree.
This seems to help them capture a certain sound. They take one look at a rattlesnake, one glance at a Saguaro, lift up some rocks to discover a few scorpions, and they divvy up their sound accordingly.
The pedal steel runs the show, but the songwriting and musicianship are the kings.

The album begins with "The Nightingale", which is honestly a psychedelic rock tune. A little CSN&Y, a little Yes, a little America, a little Tonight's-The-Night-esque Neil Young. Hooks that kill. "All Dried Up", a song about smoothing out the edges of loneliness, is yet another psych rock/alt-country tune, and one of my favorites on the album. "A Repossessed Blues" comes in complaining about the heat with a fun rhythm, awesome lyrics, and a great chorus. "A Hungry Man" is the album's single, and it's a strong one. "Schmogne" might be the one song I can't get out of my head for more than a minute. A song obviously inspired by their trip to the USA, they sing about being on an airplane and seeing where it takes them. A super country-ish track that stands out lyrically. "My Buzzing Telephone" has this vibe I can only describe as Midlake-meets-The Smiths, its minor-keyed lamentations of old flames and broken promises...
"Blisters On My Mind", about settling down with a "good one", is a power pop-influenced ditty and jumps in throwing a few uplifting melodic uppercuts into the previously-established moodiness. "Already Counting" begs the question: 'Where did it all go wrong?' while a fading loved one watches his family fight over his "stuff". Picking up the pace is "Coastal Postcard", a rockin' Southern-inspired tune about minding one's own business and having one's own fun, with some real honky tonk hammering. "Snakes And Ladders" is an ode to lost loves and and regaining one's soul back. "A Cog In Your Wheel" tosses a few Neil Young-y grooves and blue collar romance. "Mighty Pharaoh" gives us a little Doors groove, and a few trippy psych rock glances. The album finishes off with the title track "The Santa Ana (Hats Off To Shakey)", the longest song on the album. At 15 minutes, you would think that it would take a while to get through... when this album is over, you'll play it again to let it all sink in even more.

Sugarfoot... what we have is a band that has looked towards American music and interpreted it in such a way that it comes off as something completely different and new. It's not country music, but you could set a few tunes in front of your country pals, and they would be into it (if they have taste). It's not rock music, but you could easily play these tunes in a setting that requires rock tunes. It's not power pop, but you would be crazy to think that there are no influences there. It's not Southern Rock, but you might as well put this in your mix. What we have are odes to blue collars, green collars, and music. Can you listen to this while plowing the fields? Absolutely. Can you listen to this while commuting to the bank? Sure. Can the coal miners listen to this? Of course. There's some James Gang, some Eagles, some 70s psych, and some down-home folk music, maybe even a little early Wilco, probably some CS&N.... you can truly pick out each and every proper influence but still never put your finger on an overall sound.
Sugarfoot released this album, and they became one of my favorite things to come out of Norway in recent years (including Orango, who single-handedly took Southern Rock and made it into a completely new and amazing thing... Norway knows). There is real musicianship here. These guys take their sound seriously.

Just one more thing:
I'm an American. I have Norwegian roots. Rich ones. My whole family is made up of Scandinavians, with one Icelandic exception. My grandfather was a true Nordic countryman. I can't speak Norwegian at all.. I can only read or hear it and translate it slowly. I pride myself in my English from time to time. I like to play with words like toys. English words. That's all I know. When I hear Sugarfoot's lyrics, I get a little envious. How is it that Norwegians have such a poetic grasp on the English language, better than the slangy nonsense spoken in my own homeland? In other words, the music is great, but those are some good lyrics, too. Lyrics that are better than any other American country music lyrics I've heard. Not to mention, these are songs that are actually written by the people that perform them.
Sugarfoot's "The Santa Ana" is in my list of favorite albums ever...
Upon discovery, you might find it necessary to pick up the other Sugarfoot albums:
- "This Love That We Outwore"
- "Big Sky Country"
- "Different Stars"

Give these albums a listen, and soak it all in. This is not country music. It's not Southern Rock. It's not psych rock. It's not power pop. It's music. It's everything.

Check it out!

Buy A Copy Here
And Here! 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Spaceface - Sun Kids

Spaceface. Transmissions received from Memphis, TN, Earth.

Some psych bands give me a symptom. This psych band gives me the antidote. If you have any ills or woes of the same issues, then this is the kind of thing you were missing in your life. Feeling low? Take as needed aurally for pain. Psych Rock Elite.  

Guitarist Jake Ingalls plays for the band The Flaming Lips, which makes sense. Bassist Matthew Strong is a guitar tech for The Flaming Lips. Such a connection makes this quite a hidden gem. This is dreamy pop psych of the same caliber. Their new LP "Sun Kids" (released April 21, 2017) has a nice "psychotropic/stellar travel" sort of thing happening with it. Each song is uniquely laced with its own trance-inducing cocktail. Sometimes one can pick out a certain influence or particular year they might be channeling, but little nuances keep this in its place. Nothing really sounds kitschy at any point in the album. It freshens up pretty quick after each track.

These guys have been quietly putting out little bits of music here and there for a few years. Their live shows consist of lights and lasers, glittery things, and shiny things. They're doing stuff.

For those that can do the right searching, they have some wax pressed of the Sun Kids LP, along with a few other lathe cut singles & various swag. Meanwhile, check 'em out here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Elara - Deli Bal

Just jeez. I can't think of many other things to say about a band like this. Just... jeez.
Elara is Elara Sunstreak Band. They are DANIEL WIELAND :Bass & Vocals
FELIX SCHMIDT: Guitars & Effects
MARTIN WIELAND: Drums & Percussion. They are from Germany. And this is enough.
I personally found these guys while digging around. Just normal rabbit-hole Bandcamp shoveling. By the time I got through the first song, I was completely hooked.
We're talking about stoner rock. We're also talking about psych rock. We're talking about classic rock. We're talking about prog rock. It's a lot of talking for one band.
I've seen a reviewer mention a little comparison to the band Elder. I can see that. But I also can't see that, as well.
Here's how it would compare to a band like that:
1. They have jammy parts.
2. They have psych parts.
3. They have long songs.
4. They have true inspired melody.
5. They are good at their jobs.
6. They like it heavy as much as they like it not-so-heavy, too.

The comparisons are there, but the same could be said about any band. Essentially, this is a band that is doing their own thing, and apparently growing all the while. Their previous effort "Follow The Waters"showed signs of what we were going to expect with Deli Bal. It seems like they had a lot of time for jam sessions. These sessions turned into songs. It shows in the way the songs flow on Deli Bal. I can't list any particular track on the album that would stand out. I think each song on here is a journey, and each song can be considered a "stand-out" by the individual listener. So I'm not going to cheat anybody out of this journey. I do have personal favorite tracks on the album, but that will probably change depending on my mood.
We're talking about a band hugely influenced by a lot of great music.
The musicianship is something of note. The songs can be long, but they are so good at their instruments, it stays incredibly interesting throughout. Guitar solos are meandering and melodic. Drumming is tight and direct. Bass playing is gluey and well-balanced with the noodle-y guitar. Vocals are in the right places. Everything fits.
This band is in the psych rock elite, and they are still so new to the scene. With a few recordings under their belt, each sounding more mature than the last, I'm anxious to see what they come up with next. This is prematurely in my "Best of 2017" list, and I'm pretty sure that's okay.

Check It Out Here

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Glaswegians - Severance


I think my brain hurts.

Did somebody just play a glockenspiel? Were those finger cymbals? Guitars and clarinets? Xylophones and cowbells? Is that an autoharp?

Am I still on Earth?

Vancouver, BC brings us some Avant Garde of the highest order. It's indescribable, literally. To know this, you just have to hear this.
Befuddling, otherworldly, multi-instrumental prog. There is so much going on here, you might as well strap yourself in for the duration while you pick apart each new thing it throws at you. It's not so much an orchestral barrage, but a great album of lush ultra-layered vignettes.

Get It Here

Two Pirates And A Dead Ship

 Portugal. Ahhh Portugal. Ocean-loving, friendly people, beautiful countrysides, pleasant weather, floral-scented breezes, salty air... wait. Hang on. I've never been to Portugal, actually. I admittedly don't know a thing about it. I do know that the music coming out of Portugal certainly gives me this feeling. I think I want to visit Portugal someday, based on this fact alone. Sounds silly, but there might be something to this.

I'm thinking about birds today. Birds of Portugal can certainly be interesting. Here's a cool fact:
The Sacres area of Portugal is a huge hotspot for birders. The area is a migration route for all kinds of rare birds like the Black Vulture and the Horned Grebe. People can spot many European, North American, and South American birds all hanging out at the same time. The region's history of birding is a rich one.

Two Pirates And A Dead Ship come from Bairrada, Portugal, which, if I'm doing my research correctly, is one of the largest producers of fine Portuguese wines. The cooler, oceanic Mediterranean-esque climate apparently makes for some interesting grape flavors. These well-grown Baga grapes bring rich, dark fruity wines with a high tannin content, and a classy appeal. The grapes themselves are fermented as a whole cluster rather than removing the stems. This puts these grapes on the higher end of the tannin gamut. The region's history of viticulture is a rich one.

So, there is an essence here. Something not quite apparent until you piece it all together:
Birds + Portugal + Wine + The Ocean = Pirates, right? I'm probably just grasping. But I DO know that Bartolomeu Português was the one who originally created what eventually became known as the "Pirate's Code", and he was from Portugal, and a pirate. Portugal's history of pirates is also a rich one.
Yo Ho Ho, and a bottle of Bairrada wine!

This band brings jams a-plenty. Mostly-instrumental stoner rock, with enough reverb-y and squishy parts to walk the plank into psych-infested waters. Like many of the great bands I hear from Portugal, they do have a slight "salty" influence which translates well into the psych/stoner rock they bring to the table. The album really begins to pick up and doesn't let go until the end. "The Worst Is Yet To Come" sounds a little like a warning. I'm not heeding this warning, if they are talking about the next album they put out. These guys are doing things that certainly don't portend anything bad to come from them. A promising release from this young Portuguese trio. AHOY!

Get it here

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Get 'Em On The Tube

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Cambrian Explosion - The Moon EP

From Portland, Oregon comes Cambrian Explosion with their maddeningly great The Moon EP. 

This is really good. Trust me. Psych Rock madness, teetering on being a bit stonery here and there. It zig-zags around from gorgeous melodies to dark passages into galaxies unknown. There's something vaguely European about them, and I was very surprised at where they are from. Just check it out, and also be surprised.

I tend to gravitate towards the psych rock often. In doing that, I find that there are a lot of bands out there that use the "psych" as part of their job descriptions. Many of these bands do not play psych rock after all. 
This is not one of those bands. Pure melodies of sovereign Psych. In the presence of such nobility, it would be wise to listen well.



Thursday, April 13, 2017

Over The Ocean - Be Given To The Soil

I'd like to take this time to extend a personal apology to Norfolk, VA's Over The Ocean for not finding them sooner. Besides being not what I expected AT ALL, it's an incredible work. This feels like the end of Summer, the last scoop of ice cream, the final episode. It's melancholy, beautiful, spacious, bleak, and hopeful. And the heaviness of the rhythm is pretty stabby. Not your typical rock band. They are equal parts darkness, cold mornings (mournings), expressed wisdom and experience..
The whole album starts off on a rather cold note with "Herons". It really has this subdued, thoughtful feel to it that sets up the mood of the rest of the album nicely. "Riverbed" opens with lines: "my friend died in a car crash... it's a hard thing to understand"... creating the air of dreary days, losses, and sun going down. "God In My Own Image" slaps you in the face with harsh vocals, whispers, and clean singing, and spiritual questioning in a very cohesive manner, allowing the breadth of the whole album to culminate right there in one song.
The following 8 tunes wind down in such a way that the album can be listened to over and over again without one barely noticing. Lots of ambient soundscapes, noisy movements, echo-ey passages, and the trusty guitar screeching. "Air In My Lungs" is a delicate acoustic song, played with emotion... sounding a little like it was recorded in a tiny box, devoid of breathing holes.
"Kiss The Ground" comes in grasping onto the tiny threads remaining from "Air In My Lungs", and holds it there, giving way to the quiet slow rock of "Owl". "Arguing Philosophies" runs the show with another powerful slap of heavy emotive rock (NOT using the term 'emo' here, or ever). The album finishes off with "Ecology", "In The Darkness", and "Someone Has To Bleed", all of which blend together into an airy, cold, misty environment. 
What have we learned here? Over The Ocean is worth your time. In this day, many rock bands get lumped into some category or another. It would be easy to say that this band is an emo band, or an indie rock band, or a post rock band. It would be easy to say that this band also just plays music. To lump Over The Ocean into any kind of category would be a serious injustice to the band. When you hear music by people that actually mean it, you can tell. And this is one of those bands.