Monday, 21 May 2018

EYE ~ OUT OF BODY ......... review


Faced with no information on a band's personnel, instrumentation or past history what is the humble reviewer/blogger to do? Well one option would be to make up something epic like this is a band whose members are the offspring of a coupling between men and Russian she-wolves and their instruments are made from the bones and guts of prey animals, or maybe we could say that they were political prisoners who formed a band while imprisoned in a Russian gulag/labour camp and after a daring escape are now  making music in the underground sewers of their home city. Trouble with that option is that there is a good chance the band in question will read this and Desert Psychlist will be looking down the wrong end of a law suit. The other option is just to tell it how it is and confess that Desert Psychlist knows nothing of this band other than they play exhilarating psychedelic stoner doom, that their name is EYE, they come from Murmansk, Russia and that they have an absolutely killer album now residing over on Bandcamp entitled "Out Of Body"


Droning effects and feedback introduce first track "Transformation" before things settle down and the band fall into a heavily psyched swirling doomic groove, which reveals something else about EYE that we didn't touch on in our intro piece, and that is they contain among their numbers a truly impressive vocalist. Strong of voice and with a slightly stilted, almost Germanic delivery she (for it is a she) battles hard to be heard over a huge wall of guitar fuelled fuzz and distortion, growling bass and thunderous percussion yet she succeeds magnificently and in doing so takes everything to another level. This level is maintained and at times exceeded as the band follow up "Transformation" with four more songs of swirling, swooping lysergic stonerized doom, the band adding eastern hues to "Out of Body", utilising male/female harmonised mantras,dual lead and traded vocals on the excellent "Moment Balans", going full on stoner on "Smoke Weed" then finishing in a blaze of gothic tinted doomic splendour with the spine-tingling and atmospheric "Circle of Suffering".


Heady, trippy, tinted in gothic hues and with an undercurrent of menace and brutality "Out of Body" is an album that mesmerises, mystifies and pummels all at the same time and if  EYE continue on their current path it may not be too long before we may actually find out who they are and what instruments they play.
Check 'em out …..

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 19 May 2018

SPIRAL SKIES ~ BLUES FOR A DYING PLANET ..... review


Those of advanced years may remember a little combo going by the name of Curved Air, if you are in fact too young to recall them Curved Air were (and occasionally still are) a prog rock/folk hybrid fronted by a stunning vocalist named Sonja Kristina. Although Curved Air never really set the music world alight they did manage to garner a hit single in the shape of "Back Street Luv" (1971) which reached a quite respectable #4 in the UK singles charts. Now you may be wondering why Desert Psychlist is mentioning a 70's cult band in a review concerning a Swedish band formed in 2014, well the answer is simple Spiral Skies have picked up Curved Air's prog/folk baton and are currently running your way with it and if your not convinced then give their latest album "Blues For a Dying Planet" (AOP Records) a listen..


Desert Psychlist doesn't know whether Eric (bass), Daniel (drums), Jonas (guitar), Dan (guitar) and Frida (vocals) used Curved Air's mix of prog complexity and folkish whimsey as the blueprint for their sound or if they are even aware of their British counterparts existence but it is hard, if you've heard both bands, not to make a comparison. If ,however, you are coming to this review with no prior knowledge of Curved Air, or for that fact Spiral Skies, then your in for a treat on both scores.
Let's begin with the voice up front and centre stage of Spiral Skies sonic attack, a voice that carries with it imagery of floral dresses and straw hats yet is supported by a musical backdrop that screams black leather and spandex. Frida's vocals soar and swoop over the intricate and complex grooves executed beneath them yet you could not describe her vocals as ethereal or waif like, her strong powerful voice possessing a folky grittiness that is perfectly in tune with the retro(ish) grooves they decorate. Those grooves come at you from a good number of directions with stoner rock, hard rock and their well dressed cousin classic rock all represented here in one form or another, but it is that mix of prog and folk which is the overriding factor that pulls them all together. Jonas and Dan's guitars weave an intricate web of scorching Celtic flavoured solo's and harmonies, chunky powerchords and delicate arpeggios in and around Frida's vocals while underneath Eric and Daniel keep things grounded and on point with big growling bass and solid but flexible percussion, all five members combining to create a truly glorious, if not totally original, cacophony.


If the words Sweden, Celtic, harmonies and retro have not already got you reaching for the buy button for "Blues For A Dying Planet" then consider these words instead AWESOME, SUPERB and ESSENTIAL
Check it out ….

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Friday, 18 May 2018

THOUGHT EATER ~ BONES IN THE FIRE ......... review


Bass guitars, those cumbersome and heavy instruments that hold down a songs bottom end and are usually wielded by musicians with severe back problems, usually range from those of the four string variety up to those of eight, Thought Eater's bassist, Darin Tambascio, however prefers to make things a touch more complicated for himself by opting for a bass with no less than twelve strings. It is the sound of this unusual instrument combined with the sonic texturing of Douglas Griffith's guitar and the complex and powerful drumming of Bobby Murray that makes Thought Eater's new release "Bones in the Fire" (Grimoire Records) such a mouth-watering prospect.


Well let us get one thing out of the way first, "Bones in the Fire" is an instrumental album, now if instrumental music is not your thing then you may want to stop reading now but if you do then you are likely to miss out on some truly inspirational jams shot through with rich veins of post-metal and prog-metal texturing. To be honest there is not a lot NOT to enjoy about the six songs Thought Eater present us with here, the bands blend of complexity and good old metallic bluster is as intoxicating as it is breath-taking and in places recalls the metallic edge UK  proggers King Crimson brought to us with their iconic opus "Red". From the heavily fuzzed first notes of opener "Bones in the Fire (Part1)" to the serene acoustics and string effects of closer "Umwelt" the band do not miss a chance to impress and astound, shifting grooves like some shift their stance, throwing in a complex jazz progression here a brutal riff  there and doing so without once losing sight of each songs core elements, blending structure and chaos together in a blazes of instrumental magnificence.


Hopefully you of the anti-instrumental brigade ignored Desert Psychlist's suggestion earlier to stop reading and stuck with this review of Thought Eater's "Bones in the Fire", wondering what all the fuss is about and intrigued to hear what a twelve string bass sounds like.. well now is the time to find out.
Check it out .....

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 17 May 2018

LA IGLESIA ATOMICA ~ GRAN MURO DE COMA ...... review


Sometimes you need to live with an album before reviewing it, taking time to really appreciate its finer points, its nuances, shades and colours, really allowing it to sink into your psyche, to the point where you almost feel part of the music you are listening to. That is how it was ( and still is) with La Iglesia Atomica's latest release "Gran Muro de Coma" and why you the reader have had to wait until now to read Desert Psychlist's thoughts on it.


"Gran Muro de Coma" is a conceptual piece based around the continuing flight through the vast expanse of space of NASA's Voyager 1 delivered in three movements of exhilarating psychedelic rock. The first of these movements "Viajero" (English translation: The Wanderer) begins with a sample of  Voyager 1's launch countdown amidst a swirling backdrop of screeching dissonant guitar effects which is slowly joined by the bass and drums in a revolving and evolving hard rock/psych groove. The band continue along this path ,evoking in musical imagery Voyager 1's spinning trajectory out of Earth's orbit, until slowly shifting down the gears and moving into a more sedate and lysergic groove. Here is where things get really interesting with shards of splintered chordal guitar colouring chiming ,chirping and screaming over backdrops of liquid bass, intricate percussive patterns and textured keyboards, the band creating a swirling, swooping soundscape that places the listener in the driving seat of a craft that has no drivers seat. "Nube de Oort" (English translation: Oort Cloud) visualises in music Voyager 1's journey through that halo of icy objects, thought to be the source of many of the universes comets. There is a chaotic element to the grooves found here, an element of menace and danger befitting of the environments the music tries to portray, moments also of tranquillity and serenity that balance and buffer the songs intensity and insanity."Hijo del Sol" (English translation: Son of the Sun) closes the album and depicts in sound Voyager 1 coming face to face with the Great Wall of Coma, the supercluster of galaxies at the edges of our own galaxy, and presenting itself as an ambassador of our home star, our Sun. As you would expect from a track that depicts such an iconic event there is grandiosity and epic quality to the grooves to be found here, triumph, awe, confusion and apprehension are all portrayed in a series of shifting grooves that stretch from brutal to serene to funky all of which are executed with an astonishing level of musical vision and breath-taking musicianship.


"Gran Muro de Coma" is an astonishing album put together by a band who have, like the space craft in this album, travelled a long, long way to get where they are today. So was it worth all the heartbreak and tears, breakups and reformations that La Iglesia Atomica have been through in their twenty year life span? Well on the evidence of this album the answer to that has to be a resounding YES!
Check it out .... 

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

ELECTRIC PUSSY ~ HEROIN ...... review



Controversial themes combined with questionable artwork maybe the reasoning behind Ukrainian groovsters Electric Pussy preferring to keep a low profile and releasing very little information on their instrumentation or personnel . One thing we can tell you though is that the band have just recently released a very interesting and totally schizophrenic album entitled "Heroin"


"Satan" kicks things off with discordant heavily fuzzed guitar crunching out thick reverberating chords that circling menacingly in the air,  chords and riffs that carry the groove for a full four minutes before being joined by sparse but solid percussion Vocals then enter the fray and those that might be expecting something a little feral and growly are in for a surprise because we are faced here instead by a vocal almost devoid of tone, monotone weary mumbles that at first are a little disarming and just damn weird but after a while seems apt and fitting for the grooves they are surrounded by. Electric Pussy are nothing if not brave and they demonstrate this courage by tackling one of heavy rock's most iconic anthems next in the shape of Led Zeppelin/Jack Holmes' "Dazed and Confused", the band staying pretty close to the original but adding in their own little dissonant twists and turns along the way as well as replanting Robert Plant's original bluesy howls with those aforementioned monotone mumbles, it's a little weird , a little wacky but strangely it works. Title track "Heroin" follows and continues on a similar Zeppelin-esque path, the band laying down a heavy circular bluesy groove decorated with swirling lead colouring and of course those highly distinctive vocals. Final track "Last Trip" finds the band heading off into psychedelic territories with swirling guitar solo's swooping and swirling around each other, mixing textures and colours in a kaleidoscope of dissonant groove over a backdrop of solid steady percussion, it's breathtaking stuff that breaks all the known rules and a few that a haven't even been made yet.


"Heroin" is one of those albums that is likely to split opinion within underground rock community, there will be those that love it's uncompromising ugliness, its discordant noisiness and its left of centre weirdness and there will be those that hate every second of it, finding it loose, sloppy, chaotic and unlistenable. The truth, in Desert Psychlist's opinion, is that "Heroin" is all these things and more and that is why this album is so enjoyable, frustrating and brilliant all at the same time.
Check it out .....

© 2018 Frazer jones

Saturday, 12 May 2018

HIGHBERNATION ~ HIGHBERNATION ........ review


The definition of a riff according to the Oxford Dictionary is ..."a short repeated phrase in popular music and jazz, typically used as an introduction or refrain in a song". That definition, although correct, seems a little dismissive and throwaway for something that is more or less been the heartbeat of every rock, blues and pop song ever recorded. No genres of music have been more reliant on "the riff" than those at the more heavier end of the rock spectrum, especially those bands working within the metal, doom, stoner and hard rock arenas where the power of the riffs are almost as important as the songs they reside in.
Edmonton, Alberta trio Highbernation, MJ (drums), MR (guitar/vocals) and RG (bass) may prefer to hide their identities by using just initials but they certainly know a thing or two about laying down a riff having filled their debut release "Highbernation" with a ton of them.


Highbernation refer to their particular sonic groove as "reefer fuelled doom metal", stating their influences as stemming from such stoner doom luminaries as Sleep and Electric Wizard. It is not hard to hear elements from both those influences mentioned manifesting themselves within the three songs the band present here but this is not to say Highbernation are copyists. Highbernation are a band who like to riff, a band who believe if a riff is good enough then it doesn't matter if it consists of two notes or ten they are going to play it until fingers bleed and  muscles disintegrate and in this respect their are similarities but where Highbernation differ from their contemporaries is in the subtle psychedelic nuances they scatter around their mix of slow to mid paced riffage. Those nuances and lysergic hues present themselves both in MR's vocal execution and his occasional (and here we DO mean occasional) lysergic guitar solos, his strong, slightly gothic vocal tones, delivered with a hint of reverb, giving first two songs "Uncle Indica" and "Motherfuzzer" an almost ethereal feel despite the heaviness brought to the table by RG's monsterous bass lines and MJ's thundering percussion. On final track "Wasted Faith" the band allow us a peak at another side of them, the trio hitting into a groove that is just a little less stonerized and a lot more doomic and one that sees MR tailor his vocals accordingly, losing the reverb that gave his voice its ethereal quality and adopting a more traditional doomic tone. The songs ten minute plus span also allows the band to experiment a little, throwing a brief but delightfully executed lysergic section into the mix as well as some Sabbath-esque time shifts and tempo changes.


"Highbernation" shows a band who although may not be quite the finished article yet (there are a tad too many rough edges for that) nonetheless exhibit a high level of potential and promise for the future, a band worth keeping our eye on.
Check it out ..... 

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Monday, 7 May 2018

SERGEANT THUNDERHOOF ~ TERRA SOLUS ...... review


It's with a certain amount of shame and embarrassment that Desert Psychlist has to admit that although championing Somerset, UK's Sergeant Thunderhoof since first hearing their 2014 debut "Zigurat" we have somehow never actually reviewed one of their albums. Thankfully we now have the chance to remedy this oversight thanks to the release of their third full length album "Terra Solus" (releases May 12 2018)


"Another Plane" opens "Terra Solus" and begins with drummer Darren Ashman laying down shimmering percussion around a pulsing bass drum beat accompanied by an eerie drone effect before the hammer goes down and he is joined by Mark Sayer's guitar and Jim Camp's bass in a monstrous chugging hard rock groove. Enter vocalist Dan Flitcroft telling in strong, slightly grizzled tones of "blistered hands" and "cosmic winds" his clean powerful voice and occasional impassioned howl adding an extra level of gravitas to the songs themes of desperation and resignation". "Stella Gate Drive" follows and sees the band hitting into a pelvis thrusting, chest beating hard rock groove touched up with a little glam/sleaze rock'n'roll swagger. Sergeant Thunderhoof ease off the throttle slightly for their next track "The Tree and the Serpent" a song that blends psychedelic colouring and soulful indie rock texturing around a clean, superbly executed vocal melody. This lysergic vibe is carried on into following track "B Oscillation" an instrumental that sees Sayer,Camp and Ashman adding a little rock funkiness to the equation with Sayer's guitar, not so much soaring over Camp's growling bass and Ashman's wall of percussion, but more weaving in and out of them in a myriad of six-string colouring. "Diesel Breath" uses the lyric "take your foot off the gas let's take it slow" but in truth for the majority of the song the band do anything but, coming out of the traps on a raucous wave of heavily fuzzed riffage and insistent rhythms with Flitcroft mixing his vocal attack between clean melodic and grainy rock roar. At around the three quarter mark the groove segues into lysergic territory with Sayer layering shimmering psychedelic hues over and around Camp and Ashman's sympathetic rhythms before the songs initial raucousness returns and takes things to the close. "Priestess of Misery" is up next an atmospheric torch-like opus that soars and swoops on a sea of gnarly doomic riffage and pummelling percussion, Sayer, Camp and Ashman combining to create a dark swirling bedrock of emotive and powerful groove for Flitcroft to decorate with his strong and distinctive vocal tones. "Half A Man" brings things down a notch or two and is a beautiful folk tinted ballad that finds Flitcroft crooning melancholic and melodic over a gentle backdrop of acoustic colouring. The band close proceedings with "Om Shaantih" a song that is part devotional, part lysergic and wholly stunning, a song that blends eastern themes and motifs with those of a more western nature without once compromising on groove, a song that that says, in a shower of bright psychedelic hues, that there is nothing this band can't attempt and there is nothing they can't pull off.


Class is the first syllable of the word "classic" and classic is the first word of the term "classic rock" and what Sergeant Thunderhoof deliver with "Terra Solus" is some damn fine class classic rock. Desert Psychlist supposes there will be those who find the term "classic rock" a touch derogatory for a band who many consider as being an underground hard/stoner rock band but we are using the term not as a genre description but as an observation of the quality of musicianship and songwriting to be found within the grooves of Sergeant Thunderhoof's latest offering and in that respect "Terra Solus" can truly be described as "classic"
Check it out ....

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 5 May 2018

DESERT ALTAR ~ DESERT ALTAR ..... review


Desert AltarPiper Neddenien (vocals), Michael Potts (guitar), Zach Snowden (guitar), Ed Fiero (bass) and Mike Arjona (drums), a doomic five piece with occult rock leanings from Richmond, Virginia, state their intentions as wanting to "make America riff again". Well if the bands first, self titled, album. "Desert Altar" is anything to go by then they are off to a great start.


Richmond, Virginia may not be known for its deserts but that hasn't stopped Richmond residents Desert Altar from peppering their songs with references to those hard, unforgiving expanses nor, in fact, from using the word "desert" in their name. It has to be said however that apart from their name and those scattered references "Desert Altar" is an album that conjures up images of mist shrouded castles and dark looming mountains rather than rolling dunes and endless vistas, the music and lyrics contained within its grooves having a very doomic, occult quality. Desert Psychlist was trying hard not to make comparisons with other bands from a similar sound spectrum in this review but elements of Blood Ceremony's occult/horror scores and The Devil's Blood's satanic grooves all make their presence felt here. Piper Neddenian sings songs of loss, longing and old magic across backdrops of thrumming dark riffage and thundering rhythm, her strong, clean and clear tones not so much soaring above the dark cacophony beneath them as floating majestically atop it. Neddenian's soulful vocal outpourings are superbly supported throughout the album by a band of tight and highly skilled musicians with Fiero's bass and Arjona's drums supplying the meat and potatoes of rhythm and groove that drive each song while guitarists Potts and Snowden supply the seasonings and spices that decorate them.


"Desert Altar" is a stunning debut from a band who are just starting to climb the ladder and if this a snapshot of what is to come it will not be long before these guys are sitting at the top table with their contemporaries Blood Ceremony, Kroh and Devil Electric who work in a similar doom/occult rock arena.
Check 'em out .... 



© 2018 Frazer Jones

Friday, 4 May 2018

SUN VOYAGER ~ SEISMIC VIBES ...... review


Some music was just made for listening to in a warm weather environment and "Seismic Vibes", the latest release from Brooklyn trio Sun Voyager, is the perfect soundtrack for long hot days spent beneath cloudless blue skies.


Ok Sun Voyager may have not set out with the intention of making a feel good summer album with "Seismic Vibes", especially as they pepper the album with songs with titles such as "Caves of Steel", "Stellar Winds" and "God Is Dead", but intentional or not that's how this album comes across. Even stranger is the fact that the warm weather vibe is not exactly reflected in the music, the band's musical attack is insistent and heavy (though not brutal) and is most definitely pitched at the more raucous end of the psychedelic spectrum. So what it is it about this release that makes you start thinking of putting on light clothing and taking a stroll in the warmth of the sun? Well it's all about the vocals, there is something totally smile inducing and life affirming about the hazy melodies and harmonies that are executed throughout "Seismic Vibe" that, when combined with the little twists of keyboard colouring and texturing throw in here and there, just seems to scream warmth and sunshine. Even when Sun Voyager are getting down low and slow on a doomic groove like "Psychic Lord" there is still that feeling that the clouds will part and the sun will come shining through despite all the dark gnarled riffage and pummelling rhythms the band throw at the song.


Sun Voyager's "Seismic Vibes" is this years feelgood hit of the summer, albeit a very gnarled and heavy one, they may not have meant it to be but what you intend and what you end up with are not always the same thing.
Check it out ....

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 3 May 2018

WHITE DWARF ~ THROUGH THE HAZE ..... review


Teenagers eh, surly mini adults with loads of attitude and enormous chips on their shoulders thinking the world owes them a living and demanding attention when they haven't actually done anything! Well that's the usual view of our next generation but Desert Psychlist has discovered three such adolescents from Denver, Colarado who are actively doing something and doing it damn well!
White Dwarf are a three piece stoner/psych/doom band comprised of Issak Rhynes (guitar/vocals), Vaughn Morrison (drums) and Emilio Eslinger (bass) who, although barely old enough to shave, have just released an album titled "Through The Haze", an album that can give some of the scenes older, more wizened veterans more than a run for their money.


"Through The Haze" begins its journey into our hearts and minds with "The Witch" it's ominous and atmospheric intro of reverberating guitar, droning bass and occasional percussion slowly building in intensity and volume until reaching the point of no return and exploding into a rich and thick doomic refrain. Guitarist/vocalist Rhynes adds to this onslaught of groove raw. slightly strained vocal colouring screaming "You don't deserve what's been given to you" and "I can't wait to see you die" with a voice filled with a gravitas and maturity way beyond its years. Things take a dramatic left turn at around the songs halfway mark and the listener is suddenly thrown into a whirlpool of swirling doomic psych that finds Rhynes  taking things to the close, utilising every effect and trick at his disposal, in a dazzling display of six-string pyrotechnics underneath which Eslinger and Morrison attempt to keep things grounded with booming liquid bass lines and tumultuous percussion. "High Mountain" follows and  finds the band heading down a more traditional stoner doom path with Morrison laying down a backbeat of  deliberate and heavy pounding percussion around which Eslinger weaves low growling bass.  As well as filling every available space with crunching chords and swirling psychedelic solo's Rhynes here tailors his voice with a certain amount of echo giving the song an almost ethereal vibe much befitting its lyrical theme. Eslinger introduces next track "The Devil's Rejects" with some stunning bass work over which Rhynes adds touches of fractured guitar texturing with Morrison sitting just underneath complimenting the two guitarists with shimmering and restrained rhythmic accompaniment. The song slowly picks up pace but this time the band hold back from unleashing their full fury preferring instead to keep things low key and on one level something which is also reflected in Rhynes vocal, the guitarist/vocalist opting for a cleaner less aggressive tone to tell his story. "The Colossus" brings "Through The Haze" to a close with a song that although not obviously so, given its initial weighty doomic groove and mantra-like a vocals, is most definitely rooted in the blues, not convinced ...then just check out Rhynes scorching blues drenched solo in the final quarter played over Eslinger's walking bass line and Morrison's rock steady backbeat for proof.


Kids eh you take your eyes off 'em for five minutes and...... they make an album of stonkin' tunes you just can't ignore and need to listen to over and over again....little buggers!
,Check 'em out ....

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

VITREOUS EARTH ~ PASSING VISIONS ...... review


The villagers are massing outside Stonerking Towers, the home of Desert Psychlist, with torches in hand and a mixture of fury and fear etched across their faces, emboldened by the presence of a cowled priest who shouts of blasphemy and sacrilege, the maddened crowd try to storm the towers ornate heavy wooden doors, hoping to somehow put an end to the dark satanic sounds spewing forth from the towers uppermost floors..... well not exactly. The truth is its nine thirty in the morning and the Psychlist has, for the third time, spun Californian trio Vitreous Earth's excellent debut release "Passing Visions" and an irate neighbour has had enough and has started banging on the wall.


"Passing Visions" may not be the album Desert Psychlist's soul/dance loving neighbour is about to rush out and purchase anytime soon but for those of us with a darker more underground metal bias Vitreous Earth's new release may well be considered manna from heaven (or hell for that matter). From the didgeridoo like guitar effect that opens first track "Smoke Serpent" to the sudden full stop that closes "Witch's Hole" the listener is treated to unrelenting waves of dark, disturbing but totally engrossing stonerized metal and blackened grunge. Miguel Rodriguez's earthshaking growling bass lines, supported by Travis Wall's thunderous percussion, shift the grooves on songs like "Lion's Den", "Resin Kiss" and "Thirst" between the frantic and the low and slow without missing a beat or a note, their rhythmic telepathy allowing guitarist/vocalist Eric Reichert the freedom to express himself with a mixture of neo-classical noodling, bluesy shredding and good old fashioned metal crunch throughout, filling the spaces between his solo's and riffs with big, slightly cracked and raw vocals. This is never more effective than on the atmospheric and Nirvana-esque "Sincerely" a song that puts a metallic twist on the old quiet/loud/quiet grunge aesthetic and is, for Desert Psychlist ,the highlight of an album full of highlights.


Put "Passing Visions" on your favourite mode of listening turn it up loud and sit back and bask in its dark subterranean glory but remember keep one eye on that window there just may be a priest out there with a baying mob at his back heading in your direction. You've been warned!
Check it out .....
  © 2018 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

RIPPLES OF THE MIND ~ THE RIPPLE FAMILY .... review


Let's get things clear from the start and tell you that "Ripples of the Mind" is a compilation album and that The Ripple Family are not actually a band, well that last piece is not entirely true as The Ripple Family are a band but not in the traditional  musical sense of the word. To explain this Desert Psychlist needs to tell you a little about the label behind this compilation and how this release came into being.
Todd Severin, main man/head honcho at Ripple Music is a man who cares about music and in particular hard rock but he is also a bit of rare commodity in the music biz because Todd not only cares about the bands and musicians that make the music he loves but he also cares about those that buy it. In fact with Ripple's excellent subscription service, Todd has made it easier and cheaper for fans/followers to afford everything Ripple releases, and they release a lot. Alongside his work with the label Todd has also made it part of his remit to have a connection with his customers/followers via the labels excellent blogspot  "The Ripple Effect" and Facebook forum "Waveriders Unite", it was a post on this last one that started the whole "Ripples of the Mind" ball rolling. When it was suggested to Todd that he should compile a release comprised of the more lysergic orientated songs from the labels roster of artists he didn't scroll past or dismiss the suggestion with a flippant comment, no he turned the whole thing back around and asked the "Waveriders" to choose what should go on the compilation and that he would then release the results.
So here it is a stunning collection of psychedelic performances, lysergic laments and tripped out tunes chosen by a "band" of like minded brothers and sisters and performed by a "band" of  Ripple artists.


Here's just a sample of what to expect from "Ripples of the Mind".....

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Monday, 30 April 2018

TREVOR'S HEAD ~ SOMA HOLIDAY .... review


The UK's underground rock scene is currently a seething hot bed of musical activity with bands like Desert Storm, Sergeant Thunderhoof, Green Lung and Witch Tripper all releasing albums that are not only being lauded here, on this little island we Brits call home, but also internationally. Whether Surrey trio, Trevor's Head, Aaron Strachan (bass, vocals, percussion, gliss), Matt Ainsworth (drums, vocals, keys & synths, flute, percussion) and Roger Atkins (guitar, vocals, percussion), have quite reached that level of global recognition is debatable but if their latest release "Soma Holiday" (APF Records) is anything to go by then it won't be too long. 


A band citing among their influences the mid to late 70's punk of Black Flag, the grainy desert dabbling of Kyuss and the proto-sludge of the Melvins may fool someone reading this into thinking that Trevor's Head would have a very American sound but although there are American elements to be found within the bands sound there is also an undeniable and overriding quirky sense of Englishness to be found here too
First thing you will notice about "Soma Holiday" is how big it is, thirteen tracks big to be precise, fear not though as boredom thresholds will not be a reached here as the band never hang around in one genre, style or groove long enough for that to occur. "Lung" opens "Soma Holiday", a short intro piece with the sound of someone inhaling and exhaling being slowly replaced with a swathe of keyboard colouring and synthesised sound  that then slams into "Sleepstate" a raucous rip-roaring groove fest that hurtles along at 100 mph with vocals trading back and forth over a backdrop of insistent rhythm and growling fuzz broken only by a mid -section of swirling lysergic grooviness. "Did you ever go to war" screams the lyric to next track "Verbal Hygiene" a full on angsty punk fuelled workout that explodes out of the traps like Usain Bolt on steroids. "Billion Dollar Fart" follows a similar punkish path but this time with its tongue placed firmly in its cheek. "Ghost" finds the band putting aside their punkish leanings for a second or two and diving headlong into more restrained waters with Atkins teasing a myriad of colours from his fretboard over an absolutely delicious Strachan bass line superbly supported by Ainsworth's busy and solid drum work. What sets Trevor's Head apart from their contemporary's is their clever use of vocal interplay, not so much in harmonising (though they do this well too) but in utilising the different vocal tones available to them and playing those tones off against one another resulting in a delightful call and response type scenario, something that works extremely well here. "Harvest Ritual" finds Trevor's Head hitting a more traditional stoner/desert groove while "Clerical Error" has a more grunge/alternative dynamic. The band briefly visit hardcore territory with "Writers Block" before taking off into the hard rock/stoner/progressive mixture that is "I Can't Believe It's Not Better" where mid -song Ainsworth pulls a rabbit from his hat with a stunning flute contribution that is sudden, delightful and totally unexpected. "Departed" finds us sitting around the campfire while the band entertain us with a charming mixture of lead and harmonised vocals over a backdrop of acoustic guitar interplay and eastern tinted hand percussion while "Boomeranxiety" sounds not unlike something that missed the cut on The Rocky Horror Show's soundtrack, all quirky vocals and off- kilter rhythms. "Bomb" is up next and sails along on a more traditional heavy rock/stoner groove but this being Trevor's Head it is not long before you start noticing little deviations appearing here and there, this is a band who do not like to play by the rules. The band finish things up with "Welcome (The Unburdening)" an eclectic tome that toys with elements of complex prog, dense sludginess and heavy rock bluster before fading out on a wave of laid back ambience, do not hit hat play/pause/stop button just yet though as after a long period of silence a hidden track suddenly surfaces which Desert Psychlist will not review here as some surprises need to be just that .....surprising!


Quirkiness has not always been the property of Josh Homme and his Queens of the Stone Age and Desert Sessions projects, we Brits have always toyed with the off-kilter and left of centre in our musical history, The Who, Queen and even Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath would often throw in a few left turns to confuse and confound their fan bases, Trevor's Head continue that tradition with "Soma Holiday" an eclectic mix of styles and grooves that revels in it own diversities and eccentricities .
Check it out .....

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 29 April 2018

LET IT BREATHE ~ LET IT BREATHE ........ review


Let It Breathe a trio from North Mankato, Minnesota are no strangers to Desert Psychlist the band having came to our attention four years ago via their debut EP "River Wizard", a decent well paced debut that, had its production been a little more polished and thicker sounding, may well have squeezed its way on to some of that years best of lists. Four years later with a slew of gigs under their belts, a little more knowledge of how to refine their sound in a studio environment and the backing of a very good record label the band return with their first full length album "Let It Breathe" (STB Records).


The muddy-ish production that held back Let It Breathe's debut EP "River Wizard" has been well and truly addressed on "Let It Breathe" and it was something that needed to be done, especially for a band whose greatest asset is the clear, clean shoegaze-ish vocal melodies and harmonies they like to counterbalance their fuzz drenched riffs and distortion dipped grooves with. Here the production is big, crisp and clear accentuating those vocals and putting an extra element of oomph into those raucous refrains and punchy, pummelling rhythms. This is nevermore evident than on first track "Bucket of Bullheads" an infectious, swirling affair, built around a pulsating bass motif backed by incredibly impressive drumming and coated in crunching chordal guitar colouring and swirling lead work. Over this bone rattling display of pure groove and in fact the rest of the album are laid clean melodious vocals and it is these vocals that set Let It Breathe apart from others plying their trade within the stoner/doom scene. If your looking for whiskey ravaged throaty tones or cookie monster growls well I'm afraid your out of luck here because what this band bring to the table throughout their first album are honeyed harmonies, mellow melodies and perfected polyphony all set against a background of gnarly riffage and pounding percussion.


So if you want some thing a little less abrasive than the usual stoner, sludge and doom fare but you still hanker for something that's still got plenty of balls and fire then look no further you've just found it in "Let It Breathe"
Check it out ... 

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Friday, 27 April 2018

GREEN DESERT WATER ~ SOLAR PLEXUS ..... review


Detroit's Small Stone Records have had their problems in the past, especially when in 2014 a flood almost wiped out their offices and nearly destroyed their whole operation, but the label that has over the years introduced us to such underground luminaries as Sasquatch, Wo Fat, Roadsaw and Greenleaf are nothing if not resilient and slowly but surely the label has fought its way back and with their mantra of releasing quality over quantity are now clawing their way back to the top.
The latest band to be given the "Small Stone" treatment are a trio from Oviedo, Northern Spain with a penchant for old school hard rock/proto-metal grooves with a well defined stoner edge who go by the name Green Desert Water. The band, Juan Arias Garcia (bass), Kike Sanchis (guitar/vocals) and Miguel Alverez (drums/backing vocals), first came to Desert Psychlist's attention with their hard rocking and bluesy debut EP "Green Desert Water" which we described on their Bandcamp page as "Smooth and classy blues rock", the band return now with their latest offering "Solar Plexus" (Small Stone Records) and we have no intention of changing that opinion.


As connoisseurs of 70s classic/hard rock will already know the music of that period was birthed in the UK ,a place far removed from its blues based roots in the USA, with bands like Led Zeppelin, The Jeff beck Group and early Peter Green led Fleetwood Mac taking what was an overlooked musical medium, amplifying it to earsplitting proportions and effectively reselling it back to its original owners. However it wasn't long before American bands cottoned on and started to experiment with the blues themselves but as the USA contains a huge diversity of people and cultures it wasn't long before some of those cultures started seeping into the music they were creating and moulding a new sound entirely. Two of these cultures to ingrain itself into the music were from the country/folk music of the southern states  and the soulful R'n'B of the inner cities with bands like the Allman Brothers Band, Grand Funk Railroad, and Mountain, among others, incorporating these influences into their grooves some of which were glaringly obvious some of which were latent and underlying . It is from this pool that Green Desert Water draw their sound, filling their fuzz drenched bluesy grooves and proto-metal ramblings with an undercurrent of southern country strut  and soulful swagger that although doesn't smack you around the face with a cowhide glove are nevertheless still there. "Open Your Wings" kicks things off nicely, a barnstorming proto flavoured workout that struts and swaggers towards its climax on a wave of crunching riffage and pounding percussion, lightened only by Sanchis' soulfully executed clean, powerful vocals and swirling solos's . "Chaman" and "The Deepest Sea" follow and both are notable for their fuzz drenched circular refrains, pushed hard by Alverez busy solid percussion and Garcia's grizzled fuzz drenched bass, both songs taken to another level by Sanchis distinctive and  delightful vocals. Sanchis voice although bereft of any vestige of southern "twang" to match the southern edge of the grooves surrounding it is nonetheless a thing of wonder, his vocal may not have the soulful timbre and all out power of a Steve Marriott or a Glenn Hughes but he more than matches them for weary gravitas and undiluted passion. Those vocals are used to great effect on the albums next track "Souls of the Woodland" a brooding and atmospheric number with a loose blues core that is not only the perfect showcase for Sanchis' incredible voice but also highlights his prowess as a guitarist, his solo's and riffs taking on a life of their own as they swoop and soar above Alverez and Garcia's tight rhythmic undertones. "Mother Moon" is up next and begins with the band crunching through the gears on a wave of rasping riffage and rhythm then suddenly laying out for Sanchis voice and Alverez's  bass drum to carry the song, then just as suddenly exploding again. The song carrying on in this vein until segueing into a storming instrumental mid section that showcases each members individual skills before finishing the way it started in an explosion of gloriously grainy proto groove. Final song and title track "Solar Plexus" rounds things off nicely with an undulating slice of distortion dipped proto madness that dips and soars in equal measure while at the same time visiting a myriad of styles along the way, styles that include lysergic funkiness, southern bluesiness and good old fashioned hard rocking fuzziness.


It's a win, win situation for Desert Psychlist here, not only do we see Small Stone Records maintaining the levels of quality over quantity they are internationally renowned for but we also get an album from a band who's star is most definitely in the ascendancy. Green Desert Water and Small Stone Records, a match made in heaven.
Check 'em out .....


© 2018 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 22 April 2018

US AS CARAVAN ~ BUILT ...... review


Those brave few who first began experimenting with hallucinogenic substances like LSD, psilocybin, mescaline and certain strains of wild mushrooms in the mid to late 60's may not have been aware at the time the effects their use would have on popular culture, especially when it came to music. With their minds expanded musicians started transposing their visual and auditory experiences into the sounds they were making, creating soundscapes with their music that had a certain freedom and an almost an almost transcendental quality. The reverberations from those early days of lysergic experimentation and musical exploration still abide to this day and nevermore so than in the music of today's underground rock scene where the word psychedelic may have been abbreviated to "psych" but is still as out there and experimental as the day it first came on to our radar.
One band embracing that spirit of musical adventure and bringing it up to date for a new generation are Chicago's Us As Caravan a three piece band who blend shoegaze(ish) texturing and  lysergic colourings with fuzz drenched riffage and thunderous rhythms, something that can be heard on their stunning new debut "Built".


As any vinyl/CD buying, or even digital buying, music fan will tell you, sometimes an albums artwork can tell you more about the music inside than a thousand words will and the startling yet simple water colour and crayon painting that adorns "Built" tells you to expect something a little different, a little off-kilter and fresh.
Things start off well straight from the off, a warm liquid bass motif, accompanied by gradually increasing fuzz and feedback, introduces first track "Wave Goodbye", the song then exploding  into a heavily tripped out and hazy blues groove. This however is not the sort of blues groove your gonna hear coming out of some back street blues club played by old men in well worn suits telling you how their baby done them wrong, no this is a heady, trippy blues groove driven by gnarly bass and pounding drums, coated in strong clean, slightly indie vocals then decorated with layers of dirty fuzz and crackling distortion, it is still the blues but with a twist. "Damn Sure" follows and this time the band propel us down more spacey hard rock corridors with guitarist/vocalist Alex dialling his six string settings to phased and his vocals to melodic indie. The song has a strong heavy psych vibe made stronger by drummer Luis' incessant and exemplary use of the more shimmering and crashing components of his kit and Jimmy's ever present booming, growling bass. Next up is "So Called Man" a song that sees the band running the psychedelic flag to the top of the pole and truly embracing their more lysergic leanings. Swirling and hazy with colourful fractured guitar chords vying for space with soaring solos and glistening harmonics it almost feels as though the two previous songs have been gradually leading up to this point and the band now feel ready to cut free and fly. And fly they do with next offering "Chew The Fat" a song that floats and punches in equal measure, its undulating groove visiting elements of  hard rock, spacey psych and hazy blues as it winds along it's merry but terminally stoned way. "Sunfalcon" closes "Built" with a hard driven, heavily fuzzed, phased and distorted psychedelic rocker coated in powerful hazy vocals that has a vibe that suggests the band got together and decided they wanted to go out in a blaze of glory, all guns blazing and hell for leather, something they more than achieve here.



Us As Caravan are a stunning band unafraid to go out on a limb occasionally, a band who deliver a sound that is structured yet has fluidity and freedom, a band who should be mentioned in the same sentences as similar psych/blues trailblazers All Them Witches and Youngblood Supercult, a band you should check out.....

© 2018 Frazer Jones