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.

EVIL BLIZZARD

REWIND FEBRUARY: NORTHERN STORMY, RUSSIAN FRENCH CONNECTIONS AND RUSTIC LONGFORMS

As we find ourselves frosted up in a Siberian super-ice, what else is there to do but check a few curios and new sounds from the past month? Winter puns fully intended, and if you seek stately gothic grandeur to soundtrack the whitened vistas wherever you are, you can do a lot worse than try Paradise Lost’s Medusa – worked well this morn on a rare drive to work, especially track 4: The Longest Winter. HAVE IT.

EVIL BLIZZARD: FAST FORWARD/REWIND

With all eyes focused on the freeze from the east, we took our opticals off a blizzard from the north … Evil Blizzard. From Preston. With a two-track cassette. Trading in the kind of mania that pigsx7 revel in, these two tunes come off like a PiL/Heads space explosion fired by a Relax-ing Frankie bass thrust (Fast Forward/Rewind) and Killing Joke’s tribal fury (Knock Knock Knock). Sci fi clatter-psyche for 2018, check the Evil maskies right here.

Evil Blizzard: Fast Forward Rewind cover

Tapes of wrath: Evil Blizzard

SHORTPARIS: Beceno

From Russia with glove … shady flickers. Perfect. Hear the voice and recall Beth Gibbons, then it clicks – we’re occupying an electro doom crossover space not unlike Portishead’s Third, but with more scope for going right off the rails. Album downloaded from bandcamp, eager to hear what Shortparis do on a longplayer. Thanks to Mary Anne Hobbs for playing it in the first place.

ELEPHANT9: Actionpack1

Snowegian, innit? The Most Arresting Fusion Award for February goes to this Norwegian three-o who, like countrymen Motorpsycho, live on Rune Grammofon and do a heavy line in prog jazz fusion, at least on this track. You gotta check the drumwork. Cobham Billy, much?

DOPE: DOPE ON DRUGS

The latest escapee from Head Heritage is an album by Dope – that is, Julian Cope and a bunch of his un-usual suspects, including Holy McGrail, ploughing another Rite/Black Sheep furrow of elongation, lo-fi and hi-reps, but we know the slow-burn score for these things by now. Leave Yourself Behind starts with a s.t.a.r.c.a.r. excess but drops it for a quarter-hour chant over a reduced Psycho Killer bass line. The Binding of Loki digs a Rite At Ya groove for even longer but pulls you in, if you let it. Essential? No, not yet, and perhaps not ever, but your inner drude compels you to check and here it is. Decide for yourself.

URTHONA: DESTRUCTION RULES

A far more satisfying Cope-related excursion comes from Urthona and, as ever, they take you OUT … side. Their drone does not oppress. Their drone is Of The Land – frozen moor tops, rusted heath, jagged outcrops, grey-full skies and glacial – yes, let’s use that overused g-word – glacial carve-outs. Tantric, tundric ebbs, this time enriched with non-axe instrumentation. Can’t explain this stuff, you feel it or you don’t, so give Invocation of the Ghosts of the Battle of Roundway Down a go and maybe check these few words on a previous Urthona outing while you’re out-there.

STEPHEN O’MALLEY & ANTHONY PATERAS: iii

Can’t touch this: Malley time. This track, a colossal no-flow from new album Reve Noir, does cut-and-splice for a voyeuristic flit between crackles, hums, pulses and guitar fragments. Glitchy and insular and inhabited by ghosts, get the proper story and snatch an excerpt on Soundohm.

Right then, we’re done – some first impressions from February. Stay warm.

’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!

 

COPELESS IN CARDIFF

FEBRUARY REWIND: LOST GIGS, THRASHERS’ ROMANCE AND BOWIE’S LAST PLAN

Beer-fuelled tunes, trusty mellotron, acoustic guitar – possibly some lurid shade of green or orange – and piss-funny visionary tales from a shamanic rock-onteur perma-decked in shades n’ leathers with lashings of YEAH MAN! optimismo…that’s what you’re heading for when you get a ticket for J Cope 2017. Out on tour in support of Drunken Songs, he’s wrapping it all up at the Globe in Cardiff on Feb 26, which is where we find ourselves reading a just-posted note that sez NO GIG.

Shit.

And without the Archdrude on stage, there’s not much else to report from February. Let’s hope all is well in the Cope camp.

LOVING THE DISEASE

When did you last hear Caught in a Mosh on daytime radio? Never? Then treat yourself to a nice little old-school buzz with Mark Radcliffe’s Valentine Day show with Scott Ian and Frank Bello. Top fellas, ace chat, find it at 1 hour 35 minutes into the show, listen on a weekday afternoon for max pleasure (expires March 14th). Death Angel, Pantera, Sepultura and Slayer also played, as are Powermad – straight outta 1989, vintage frash par excellence.

NO PLAN FOR BOWIE

The last tracks recorded by David Bowie finally got their non-Lazarus physical release this month. No Plan, Killing a Little Time and When I Met You all follow the Blackstar vibe, and Killing… is especially turbulent heavy like the reworked Sue. What an ending.

Otherwise, it was Drore and OHHMS blowing out the Cellar that was the Oxford highlight and we’ve already covered the gig, so that’s it for now a very short REWIND, time to get outta here.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

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.

(d)Rude awakenings

REWIND JANUARY

We’re flying into 2015 and the new releases are piling up ALREADY. Who knew that Venom have a new album out? Not me, but at least Phil Alexander did – ta for shoving it out there on Planet Rock last week (Saturday night, repeated on Wednesdays if you wanna check his weekly dispatch of new and classic rawk). Napalm Death have got a new one out as well. Is 2014 really so-last-year already? Is it too late to mention John Garcia and Boris? Given the tardiness of this slipsliding Rewind, probably yes, but you’ll have to wait a few lines because we’re starting with summat new. January 2015 brought a bit of excitement for experimental/drone fiends when Stewart Lee, standing in for Stuart Maconie on the Freakzone one Sunday night, played an excerpt of a too-long-for-radio track by VESUVIO, an underground commune band from Naples back in the 70s.

Vesuvio are not real.

Vesuvio do not exist, yet they’ve just put a record out.

WTF??? Yeah, bit of a head-scrambler that one, but when you know that Julian Cope is one third of Vesuvio (Stephen O’Malley and Holy McGrail make up the whole), and that Vesuvio are one of the invented bands in Cope’s One Three One novel – Dayglo Maradona, Make Fuck and Nurse with Mound are some of t’others – then things start to make, not sense exactly, but the beginnings of sense.

And, with those longhairs at the helm (I’m assuming McGrail is not shorn of scalp), you can guess the musical direction: three tracks of elemental earth-crust ambience that unfolds, percussion-free, over 54 drone-out minutes. The last of those tracks, Resin A, is listed as a bonus and it’s true that the other two tracks, Pompeii (side 1) and Herculaneum (side 2), are the real deal here. Escapist and vast and totally out-fucking-side in its scope, Vesuvio flirt with the likes of Urthona, McGrail himself and mebbe even Carlton Melton, which means that – if you accept their 70s origins – Vesuvio predate these other arteests by about 30 years … shit. Better not think about that for fear of being time-warped in the head. But if you’re a fan of the Arch Drude’s ambient metal sprawl-outs, this is pretty crucial stuff and you can get it over on Head Heritage.

Back to last year briefly for a quick word about a couple of albums. Did John Garcia’s solo effort make the top end of any critics’ lists? If not, it should have. Not flash, not avant and definitely not a Kyuss rehash, it’s a rock solid, class effort by a guy who knows what he does best: even-paced desert grooves and quietly addictive riffs, topped off – of course – by that voice, so don’t forget about him.

And finally, Noise by Boris. Did anyone else feel underwhelmed by Noise on first listen? I did, fearing it was another throwaway slice of fast ‘n catchy Boris-lite, but there’s enough heaviness ‘twixt the hooks to make it a keeper. Heavy Rain’s gargantuan post-rock crawl, Angel’s 18-minute ace and Quicksilver’s after-the-thrash fadeout – check the last three minutes for a definition of heavy beauty – are among a fistful of highlights, and while Noise might not challenge Feedbacker in the greatness stakes, it does at least sound like the Boris we know: MASSIVE. A flawed hit, then.

Well, time’s run out on us and we didn’t get any words on 2014 highs by Yob, Mogwai and Melvins, but that’s the way it’s gonna be (yeah, yeah-yeah …).

’til next time!