DESERT STORMS AND SKELLINGTONS

APRIL REWIND: THE RETURNS OF RECORD STORE DAY, DESERT STORM AND JULIAN COPE. BUT CALEB SCOFIELD DEPARTS.

It was a wet one, but apart from rain, what happened in April?

Record Store Day 11
We love record shops. Never visit a new town without sniffing them out, never pass the chance to frequent the local, and this is why Record Store Day feels like it should be a big deal but ends up being a bit … contrived frothing over forged rarities? Like a weird-o Christmas Day for reco)))rd shoppers. Weird because the list is dished out by $anta well ahead of the day, weird because the toys have been specially made for the event, weird because none of the toys are trulymadlydeeply drawn from your own well. And if you convince yourself into chasing something from this monopoly of taste, and said thing makes it into the shop that day and you’re able to lay fingers on it, you get the privilege of paying through the nostrils. Some Christmas. If you buy CDs and dare not to have a turntable, forget it – zero specials for you, because you are not part of the Record Store Day M.O. It’s a vinyl-only club, a 7–12-inch exclusivity zone roped off from the Greater Good that is music in physical formats. In shops.

So, 2018 played out exactly the same as 2017, just different records to gloss over once the queues had gone. Tom Waits offered a momentary flutter when the Orphans cover loomed, but it was Bawlers, the zero-interest one of the three,. Anyway, just like last year, salvation came from the vinyl sale box where Cannots by Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker popped up – didn’t even know such a thing existed, so it’s a welcome and timely discovery given that Walker’s new album is imminent. Ace find from proper browse. Bye-bye Record Store Day. Hello record shop, next week, as usual.

Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker - Cannots LP

This year’s RSD pick-up. From 2016

DESERT STORM: Sentinels
Much more rewarding than RSD’s general waxploitation was Sentinels by Oxford’s own Desert Storm. Fuck me, this is solid. And big. And assured. And if you like your rock to be, er, metallic and groovus, Sentinels should be on your list. When I last saw Desert Storm I vowed to catch up with their albums but, like an arse, I didn’t. Didn’t go beyond Forked Tongues, which is why Sentinels feels like a huger jump. This, surely, is Desert Storm fully formed. The sometimes caricatured vocal tics of the Forked days have gone and Matt Ryan now gives us proper gruff metal range more like the live shows, veering from gut-low ferals to Jaz Coleman anthemics to part-spoken calm. Kingdom of Horns does this brilliantly, a quietly drifting trip that swings a 180 to the other extreme and back.

Tracks like Drifter will no doubt satisfy the Clutch crowd, but Sentinels is more metallic and the closing two tracks, Convulsion and Capsized, showcase Desert Storm’s star quality in 2018. Check the former’s multi-riff orgy – part doomed stoner, part thrash, part Entombed-sized roll – then cruise on Capsized’s slick downtuned power to a closing solo soar worthy of Crippled Black Phoenix. Check it all here, best of luck, fellas.

JULIAN COPE: Skellington 3
He’s back! Last time, it was personal (Skellington 2, 1993). 25 years on, we get the third instalment, a new batch of the Drude’s so-called orphan songs and ‘acid campfire spirit’. If you know Skellington, you’ll know Skellington 3. Stripped down, often acoustic, sometimes off-key yet oft-times Cope-classic melodic (Parallel University, Very Krishna, Catch Your Dreams Before They Slip Away), it’s a ramshackle shot of a fast-moving Cope in songwriter mode. As ever, head to Head Heritage.

Hardcore bass loss
If you’re on the Hydra Head email list, you’ll have seen the subject line that came through around a month ago: The Caleb Scofield Memorial Fundraising Preorder. Then you’ll have done a double take. Memorial? Sadly, yes. The bass player for Cave In, Old Man Gloom and Zozobra passed away on March 28th after a car accident a road toll. He was 39. There goes the blood of some core Hydra Head noisery, all vital to the world of heavy. White Silence: crank it up to deafening.
’til next time.

DRUDE FONK AND DC TRIBUTES

MARCH REWIND: NEW COPE, NEW CRYSTAL

A couple of new releases from the past month or so to get us going in this March Rewind.

Julian Cope: Rite At Ya

Julian Cope: Rite At Ya

Cope: Rite on

Coming off the back of Drunken Songs, the Archdrude and his heritage Heads slipped another mind-number of a Rite-off our way this month… Rite At Ya. The last one, in 2006, was Rite Bastard. If you don’t know the Rite score, it’s an ongoing series of semi-fonk longflows in a metronomic, ultra pared vein where Not Much Happens except groove – minimal – and time – maximal. These self-styled meditational headspaces have no peaks, dips, breakdowns or pick-ups, just endless miles of sly stone-wheel trundle and tangerine dreams. Rite at Ya’s title track will nibble 20 minutes of your life without you even noticing, while the closing Ringed Hills of Ver tells you what Underworld might sound like if they got stuck on a one-note drone and added nothing. Rite on the level, the clue’s in the subtitle: Monotonous Meditations from the Back of Beyond (1993–2016). Check it here if you so fancy the most calming of trips.

Crystal Fairy: Crystal Fairy

Crystal Fairy

Pure cut

Does this band pack some crackle or what? With Teri Gender Bender on voice – shades of Karen O – atop King Buzzo’s heavy weaponry and, of course, the Dale Melvin Omar Volta Rhythm Section, Crystal Fairy are surely as pure a super-quart as we’re gonna get all year. Undeniably Melvins in its riffsome tonnage, as Drugs on the Bus and Secret Agent Rat amply show, yet concise and sharp and free of obtuse indulgence, Crystal Fairy flies with a punkish energy that wastes absolutely none of its 40 minutes 19 seconds. Another great Melvins rebirth… one for senile animal lovers.

RSD10

It’s the 10th anniversary of Record Store Day this month. Here’s the list. Nothing. Crucial. Except Dope, maybe. Think I’ll give up on hoping for something to come out of these lists every year, coz every year it feels like a list of specials that are special because they were made special for an event that was labelled special. How circular. Let’s just get down to the record shop, that beacon of noise and beauty and community, and CELEBRATE IT the shop both with and without RSD vy-nil. 

DC tribute

Which musical DC are we paying tribute to, Washington? Nah. Other end of the alphabet. Last week’s gig was an AC/DC tribute – the AC/DC Experience at the Oxford O2.

‘tribute band’. Right…

The tribute circuit always seemed to me to be a credibility-sapping Other World that ran parallel to the real one, but that thought was banished and swapped for a full-blown leap (to be explained) through a lightning-bolt portal to an AC/DC experience, tribute style. And you know what? These guys are a blast. The Scott-Johnson frontman hits the highs with ease while an Angus Young takes himself off the stage at every chance – in the crowd, up on the side tables, up on the bar, cap and blazer thrown off, the whole lot. Never stops moving, never stops playing either.

With the exception of Thunderstruck (which is awesome, natch), none of the set is more recent than Back in Black so it’s wall-to-stage-to-bar-to-wall classic-era anthems: Sin City, Whole Lotta Rosie, Highway to Hell, Back in Black, Hell’s Bells, Dirty Deeds, Touch Too Much, High Voltage…. the stuff that puts smiles on everyone’s faces, and I mean everyone – including my stepson Jan (age 12), who is the reason we are here in the first place. His First Rock Gig, first proper bit of live rock action. Seemed to me to be the right place to start the apprenticeship and he loved every minute. Even got devil horns in his face from the Angus – and threw them right back. Not gonna get that at Wembley, are you?

So if you’ve got young sons, daughters, nieces and nephews who wanna rock, or maybe even a bunch of drunk mates who wanna rock, the AC/DC Experience make it happen. THANKS LADS, great night.

’til next time!

 

SLEEP: Dopesmoker

THE RETURN OF SLEEP

Southern Lord’s physical release of The Clarity marks the start of some proper Sleep activity this year, so what better prep for rock’s heaviest slumber than a nod or ten to the unstoppable Dopesmoker? This review was first written for Julian Cope’s Head Heritage Unsung back in 2004 so the time references are a bit out now, but that don’t matter … it still stands true, the bong remains the same.

*****

Now spreading its hefty gut over 3 sides of vinyl is the fully restored, who-ate-all-the-pies mix of Dopesmoker, the last album by cult doom/stoner trio Sleep.

Although the tale of its original recording and subsequent non-release has long since passed into underground lore, it deserves a hazy recap.

As the follow-up to Sleep’s Holy Mountain from 1993, this was supposed to be the band’s third full-length release. After spending a couple of years on the record, Sleep eventually dished up the mouldy fruits of their hard-smoked labours to London Records: a single track clocking in at over an hour. That, in itself, might not have been a problem (for the label) had their been some light and shade, some variety or even, dare we say it, a recognisable concept… but no. This is Sleep – the really deep, molten-eyelids stuff that’s just a stoner’s throw from Coma Tose Island. And that means one riff (pretty much) equals one song equals one hour, the simplest equation in the history of rock. Didn’t add up for the label, though. They refused to release it, Sleep refused to change it and a deadlock ensued; the threesome split and the album remained on the shelf, cementing Sleep’s legendary status. Rise Above did manage to put out a shortened version called Jerusalem but, finally, in 2003, Tee Pee Records did the honours. Here’s what the sleeve notes say:

Dopesmoker is an alternate version of Jersualem that we felt our fans might enjoy. This early version, as yet unheard, contains a more dynamic recording and a heavier mix. So get high, crank it up and listen with open ears and mind…”

Sleep's Dopesmoker

Dopesmoker uncut

So… let’s get started, eh?

Well, nearly. Dopesmoker almost doesn’t start at all. Beginning with a slow, arthritic guitar line that just about musters the energy to lumber out of bed, it sounds a wee bit lost, trying to work out where it should go and which path to follow. Once the rolling percussion kicks in, however, a massive revelation comes to pass: “Fuck it. I AM the path.” And from thereon, there are no questions – you go with it, or you don’t: The Riff has been set free, swaggering ahead with all the ludicrous brilliance of a hundred-mile tractor ride, and that is what sucks you into the vinyl… the compelling absurdity of an hour-long opus that warps the fabric of time itself. Never mind Superman flying the opposite way around the planet – too many rotations of this platter and the world would stop for good. Aside from the occasional solo, lyrical interlude or brief excursion into more subtle terrain, Dopesmoker just keeps going… and going …and going. Not in an interminable, ultra doom slo-mo sense because Chris Hakius’ busy drum fills give it urgency, or at least the illusion of urgency. Nope, this obstinate mass of Sabbath-inspired heaviosity is an exercise in endurance, momentum and constancy. Even when the needle nears the very end of its marathon run, there is no cornball climax or pyrotechnic finale, just a soft fadeout which suggests the Sleep guys could have carried on for another couple of earthly rotations. In fact, they probably did. I like to think so.

But there’s more to this album than one gargantuan ode to weed. Closing the record on side four is Sonic Titan, a live track with a groove so loose it almost shits itself, guitar strings flapping like flares in a force 10. Doom garage, anyone? At 9 minutes, it’s a mere slip of a toon.

Stubborn? Stupendous? Absolutely, but the sublimely ridiculous never went down this well. If thick guitars, repetition and maximum mileage are your bag, succumb to the temptation of Sleep. Your body needs it.

PIGS, OHHMS, FAIRIES AND BEER

JANUARY REWIND: NEW HEAVIES FOR 2017

Been a busy month for new discoveries so excuse the gush of these short sharp first impressions but they’ve given January a bit of a jump start, y’ know? A frisson for the short freeze.

PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGSthe-wizard-and-the-seven-swines

Pigs. One pigs is not enough (grammar violation overruled) for some people, which is how you end up with Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs as a band handle. Doesn’t look quite so bad when written down here, but when you’re scanning the DAB text scroll to catch the name of the band whose rough-arsed rollock has fully pricked your ears, it’s an infinite porker drag. What the fissing puck is all this pigs shit???

Worth the wait though, so it’s a big snouty thanks to Gideon Coe for playing whatever the track was in the first place, because without that introductory exposure to pigsx7, I’d have been forever deprived of The Wizard and the Seven Swines, their 22-minute one-tracker from 2013. Does Fugazi ire, Sleep heft and Thee Oh Sees scorch tease thy aggro-prog garage psyche cravings? Then check the Pigs, meet The Wizard and keep all ears peeled for new album  Feed the Rats.

HEAVY RESISTANCE: OHHMS

You know how some stuff, when you first hear it, is so massive and all-enveloping that it begs, nay commands, you to drop down for heavy duty worship to the Rok Godz?

OHHMS is that stuff. Long swollen subterranean Yob-bery that peddles a mainline in transcendent rifferolla, the Bloom/Cold EPs add up to a massive 60+ minutes for four just tracks – go for the total immersion entry point of The Anchor and see if you ain’t sold on Cold. New album on the way, and Jeezus HC only knows how The Cellar is gonna contain their oversized moltenalia when they hit Oxford on February 13th. CANNOT WAIT. Support comes from Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, by the way.

TWO MELS, A GENDER BENDER AND A MAN FROM MARS

Melvins have been obscenely collaborative in recent years, and now they’ve got another ID on the go though it’s not under the Melvins banner. Nope, the Buzz n Dale show have hooked it up with Mars Volta’s Omar Rodriguez Lopez and Teri Gender Bender to form Crystal Fairy, and if the album is anything like the tracks played by Henry Rollins on his Iggy Pop 6 Music sit-in then it’s gonna be tight like (a) Senile Animal. Album due out v soon on Ipecac.

ALCO POP: BEER-FUELLED DRUDENESS

The return! Of the former Lord Yatesbury! Yep, Julian Cope is BACK with a new album: Drunken Songs, a record celebrating Cope’s official embarkation on a Beer Trip that was launched in Armenia a few years back. W-anchored at the back by an oversized Road to Tralee and inspired in part by the funeral song that Cope wrote for himself – As the Beer Flows Over Me, first appearing on Psychedelic Revolution but rerecorded here – Drunken Songs finds the Drude in light mood musically, all mellotron-ic melody and Black Sheep-ish acoustica. He’s on tour as well so don’t miss this highly focused rambling, man – see you in Cardiff for that one.

ADAMS UN-AMPED

Finally, Do you still love me? by Ryan Adams – ace acoustic-only tuneage, nailing that gentle downer vibe.

’til next time!

Julian Cope on 6 Music

ARCH DRUDE IN FOR IGGY POP

We’ve had some stellar radio stand-ins on 6 Music for Jarvis Cocker of late, and this week we get the Arch Drude packing the Iggy Confidential slot on Friday 22nd, 7pm, for two hours of psychedelia – a must-listen, surely. Who knows what qualifies as psychedelic in Cope’s hefty book – I mean, Sleep’s Dopesmoker DEFINITELY, though that ain’t gonna make it onto a two-hour Friday night trip – but we may well get sunburned freak outs, acid fry-ups and sunnO)))shine daydreams cocktailed with the likes of Roky Erikson, Sky Saxon, Can, early Floyd and prime Love.

Floyd and Love have gotta be a cert for the playlist surely, because they’ve inspired and named Cope’s location-free festival that’s happening Right Now, every day this month, wherever YOU are:

SydArthur Festival

Buddhist appropriation entirely intended, SydArthur is a tribute to tenyearsgone Syd Barrett and Arthur Lee who passed away just 28 days apart in July/August 2006.

As ever, Cope needs little encouragement to evoke the Cosmic Order, the ancients, the gnostics and the sha-manics in rock n roll, and so the SydArthur Festival – a festival of the mind, of the head – is now a Thing on Head Heritage. Check the calendar and note that JC’s broadcast is George Clinton’s birthday. Parliafunkadelic on the playlist?

Line all of this up next to Uncut magazine’s fine fine fine Arthur Lee/Love feature last month and you can’t help but fire the Love revival machine so an in-through-the-side-door review may be on its way v soon.

Tune in Friday, turn it ON.

New noise One Three One

REWIND MARCH: Urthona soundtracking, Mike Patton Freakzone and MegaDave’s thirteen faves 

Very late round-up of some March bitz so let’s just GET – ON – WITH – IT. Without shouting, sorry.

After waiting like a dum-dum for the Urthona out-of-stock message to vanish on the Arch Drude’s Head Heritage Merchandiser page, I shook off my Total Bell head and went a-virtual hunting for Urthona Plays Atlantis?, another soundtrack to Julian Cope’s One Three One novel: yep, I went to the Source – Urthona’s own campband site. And guess what? Said CD is very-much-there, very-much-in-stock…pretty obvious when you think about, but I didn’t. Anyway, released back in January, this 37-minute two-tracker is livewire drone sculpting writ large, as you’d expect from Urthona’s self-styled heavy rural-ism. Bruxo is windswept soothing with semi-ambient sunburst, while Reppu is barbed and howling, a bringer of the sinister ’til it blows itself out on Pagey violinbow moans to kiss the mellow once again. Top-o’-the-moors stuff. If you know Urthona then no great changes (good, we like it that way), and if One Three One’s epic Vesuvio floated your whatsit last year, be sure to check Atlantis? right here. And – stock arrival alert (finally) – here.

Mike Patton John Kaada 

Kaada Patton are back! Not with More Romances from Johnny and Mikey, but the scarier sounding Bacteria Cult. They were interviewed – no, they spoke to each other and it was broadcast as an interview – on Stuart Maconie’s Freakzone at the weekend, and while the set-up sounds as natural as plastic, you gotta tune in, right? MIKE PATTON, on the wireless! ‘Interview’ is here, around 44 minutes in, and if you stick around in the F-zone there’s a new Enslaved track aired. Stick around even longer and there’s a Saturday night delve into Patton’s Many Many Bands on the Freakier Zone, April 10th. A fine excuse to visit that sprawling Patton back catalogue again.

Daveus Mustaineus Quietus

Of course, he’s not quiet – he knows not how – but this feature in Quietus was a pretty cool read: Mustaine and 13 of his fave formative albums. Words spoken like a fan, and man-of-the-year Bowie and classic Zep in the mix as well.

’til next time!

DRUDION no more!

No more Address Drudion! What are we gonna do????

For around 14 years the Arch Drude, aka Julian Cope, has been posting his monthly missives and under-the-underground reviews with the shamanic, preachin’-revolution flamboyance that only he can bring to a page.

Now he’s closing that particular chapter of his rock ‘n roll voyage – March 1st saw the last of his Monthly Drudions on Head Heritage as family Cope pack up and move on. Go check his last post if you haven’t already.

And if you fancy a trawl through some of the best essay-length record reviews this side of Lester Bangs, go check the Album of the Month feature from the Unsung section too.

For 10 years, Cope put a monthly review of an unsung (unappreciated, unrecognised, underground) record up, pulled from anywhere in the previous 50 years. Oriented towards the heavy/noise/psyche end of things, it’s an inspirational rock source from a great writer who’s a music FAN, and many of the reviews were compiled in his Copendium tome of a couple of years back.

While we’re on the subject of Cope, don’t forget the On This Deity blog by his wife Dorian – the link is at the bottom right of this page, or if you can’t be bothered going all the way over there, have a look at it right here.