SWERVEDRIVER live

OXFORD O2, 22 May 2015

This is awkward.

On stage, Dearly Beloved. In front of them, NOTHING. Beyond the nothing, at the back of the room, punters. Must be a bad smell coming off that band coz it’s a big gap and it feels like a void, yet it doesn’t deter DB from hitting it like headliners. Maybe they’re used to big spaces. They are from Canada.

The problem here isn’t the music (and there’s no repulso whiff either, thank feck). It’s age. See those whip-thin 19-year-olds ready to Destroy the Void with kinetic energy and mass kickass? Exactly. Not bloody here, are they? This is a Swervedriver gig, which means that when Dearly Beloved look out from that stage, they see history: the early middle agers. Poor bastards.

But if they’re gutted they don’t show it, impressing with short multi-riff tracks, stacks of gear shifts and upfront bass that’s warmthickwarm with Royal Blood yet flanked by guitars for a proper desert-punk attack. Listening to their Enduro album, recorded down at the Joshua Tree with Dave Catching and a walk-on from no less a maestro than Chris Goss, they do not disappoint on CD either.

With Swervedriver, you know exactly what you’re gonna get: tunes and melodies roughened just enough by pedal-action, volume and distortion. Simple enough, innit? Not much looks to have changed since they were on this very stage in 2008 except that they’ve now got a new record out, Mick Quinn from Supergrass is standing in on bass patrol and everyone here is seven years balder/fatter/greyer or, at the very least, just seven years older. Adam Franklin still looks to me like he should be in Clutch, but the local rag has a different band in mind.

I picked up the Oxford Mail today,” says the soft-spoken frontmanfella. “It had a Swervedriver feature that we did.”

[slight pause]

“They printed a picture of the Thurston Moore Band.”

Nice. Still, no-one here’s in any doubt about who Swervedriver are and for a sizeable few it’s a chance to live it up like 1995. Me, I’m just after a few of those glory-day faves at High Volume – not diehard enough to be chasing the new album, but a chance to hear Raise/Mezcal gems live and loud? Shityeah, and when For Seeking Heat, Deep Seat and Rave Down land pretty early it’s clear we’ve got a crowd-pleaser ahead. Son of Mustang Ford spikes the pace and Franklin still looks right at home coaxing mini storms from that frayed Jazzmaster, so much so that you just start to wonder and hope … maybe they’ll cut loose with a full-squall never-ender? Will they? But it’s a distant hope because tonight’s not the time. Tonight’s about the tunes, and on that front the best is definitely saved til last with a brace of Mezcal highs – locomotive surf-psyche beaster Last Train to Satansville (their greatest 6 minutes 45, no?), and the woozily muscular Duel to finish. THIS is why you come and see Swervedriver live: a Mezcal Head finale and muted hearing for the walk home. Mission accomplished.

UNDERSMILE live

The Wheatsheaf, Oxford, May 9 2015

Is this going to be Undersmile‘s big year? Already they’ve done the Roadburn Festival in the Netherlands, and new record Anhedonia has gone top of the Terrorizer charts by bagging its Album of the Month accolade in the current issue. This, surely, is Big News, and with rumours flying that tonight may well be their only Oxford gig of 2015, there’s a feelgood homecoming buzz about the Wheatsheaf. Lotta smiles, lotta chatter.

But before Witney’s super-strength export close this Buried in Smoke event, we’ve got a support set from Essex troupe Earthmass – and with a name like that you just gotta deliver, right? But before we can find out, singer/guitarist Chris Houghton makes for the mic for a quick word.

I know you metallers are a sentimental lot so I just wanted to say that … well, my nan died yesterday.”

Oh … bummer. ‘sheaf crowd twitches. Not sure what to do with this information.

“So this is for her. She never actually heard us play, which is probably for the best. It would have fucking killed her.”

And once first track Awake/Crisis cruises from sparse intro to bruised-up pounding, you know he’s right coz Earthmass do spacious post-metal the Isis way: clean bits, raging bits, gut-growling downtuned crunch, mebbe even a scrape of Tool’s discordant prog spook. Very nice, Earthmass chaps. Very nice indeed. Looking forward to giving that Collapse CD some heavy rotation.

But if mid-tempo riffage is just TOO DAMNED FAST for your slothmetal tastes, and instrumental breaks just TOO DAMNED CHEERFUL for your subterranean nightmare vision then you can always always always turn to

u   n   d   e   r   s   m   i   l   e .

Yeah. The pace stops here and when they step up, they say nothing. Not. A. Word. All those pre-gig smiles and chit-chat are long gone when Hel and Taz, white dresses catching spectral light, take centre stage side by side and the band prepare to unfurl Sky Burial: haunting, drowning, none heavier. Probably. Atacama Sunburn, possibly tonight’s peak ‘mare centrepiece, showcases the extremes of their expanding sound as delicate post-rock quiet makes way for scream-in horror harmonies from the depths of the grim. Fearsomely intense, Undersmile utterly inhabits its own world, locked in while we look on like cult metal Stockholm Syndrome captives. As one punter puts it on the way out, ‘There’s no-one like ’em. They’re in a field of one.’

Second that. An acquired taste yes, but no-one  and that means, no-one  does doom quite like Undersmile.

Anhedonia by Undersmile and Collision by Earthmass, out now.

More Oxford gigs and stuff at Buried in Smoke

Oxford: the doom inspires

REWIND MARCH

April’s in. March is out. What happened? The return of one of the slowest, heaviest bands in the land, that’s what: UNDERSMILE. And if you’ve ever been within a mile or eleven of their nightmare doomcrawl, you’ll know that’s no exaggeration – last year I stood within a few feet when they supported Beehoover and felt utterly punished by the set’s end. Not exactly pleasurable, yet weirdly compelling … if torpid glacier is a pace you’re partial to. Either way, it was pretty damned cool to see them nab Nightshift’s front cover in March, and it’s an all-round good read so check it out – the band are funny and friendly (everything the music is not), there’s a new word for our vocabulary and you’ll find some highly impressive, though not remotely big-headed, namedrops of Billy Anderson, Dylan Carlson and Mr 2.13.61 himself, Henry Rollins. Why the Big Interview status? Oh yeah: Undersmile have got a new album looming. It’s called Anhedonia.

But you’ll find no review here coz it’s not out til a bit later in April so, as a warm up, let’s turn to 2013’s Wood and Wire. I’ll admit that I haven’t squared up to the Narwhal debut, mostly because I’ve been too scared, but this split album is shaping up to be a proper entry point to the world of Undersmile. For starters, it’s not just them – it’s a split album with Coma Wall, who are … Undersmile? Yes. In disguise. As ACOUSTIC BALLADEERS, faaaaa’ckinnelll!!!

Except there’s no b*ll*dry on show here, I made that bit up. Coma Wall are acoustic though, and the three tracks here – each of them 6 minutes plus – have the same addictive downer harmonies that recall Alice in Chains’ Sap EP, yet the low cello drone and slow-pick banjo on the standout track You Are My Death (it WILL stick in your head) turns the vibe dial to Rustic Americana. Love it. No wonder Dylan Carlson’s been sniffing around.

The flip to Coma Wall’s melancholic drift is Undersmile’s amplified hit: bog-slow and Dopesmoker-huge, the inyerface clarity is well removed from the stoner end of doom, not just because of the recording itself (co-produced by no less than Justin Greaves) but also because Undersmile don’t do that blues-based Sabbath-rooted derivative riffing thing. They don’t chug, not here at least, and they definitely don’t swing or groove. Undersmile pound and lurch, dragging things down with those moaning dead-souls-in-harmony vocals. Sure it’s monotonous on first listen but with extra reps, you find the spaces and the range. The Slint-like unease (Killer Bob), the Neurosis tension (Hives). And it grows, absolutely. Undersmile are no easy ride but one thing’s for sure – they stand apart in this heaviest of rock divisions, and Wood and Wire’s split format could be your way in. Did the job for me.

Digital download of Wood and Wire available at Shaman Recordings, it’s well cheap

Undersmile interview with Oxford’s Nightshift is in the March issue, page 4 of the PDF. Album review on page 5.

Last bit …

6Music went underground on March 21 when John Doran, editor of online sprawl The Quietus, guested on Maconie’s Freakier Zone for a 30-minute special on SUBTERRANEAN WORLDS. Not all of it’s essential but if you’re poking abut the iPlayer it’s worth checking for these two reasons: Lustmord’s ambient industrial menace, and the Butthole Surfers dementedness. Because you don’t really get this stuff on air very often, do you?

And that’s that. ‘til next time!

A pessimistic best-of-2014

REWIND DECEMBER: DC revivals, a cellar-bound phoenix and the heaviest music blues … things haven’t gone well

Festive greets and merry new years to anyone casting an eye over this page, even if you’ve got here by mistake. What tunes are you spinning over the hols? I don’t know about you but this time of year always brings about a change in listening choices over here. Plenty of storyteller stuff – Bob Dylan, Mark Lanegan, Tom Waits, Nick Cave – piling up alongside some warming Americana, cooling Icelandic/Scandi moods like Bjork and Cult of Luna, and an unhealthy dose of classic rock/metal by the bands we (I) grew up listening to, aka the DNA years.

And now that there’s an album called Rock or Bust grabbing a few acres of coverage in the music press, it’s AC/DC that are top-of-mind in the old band stakes. When was the last time you played For Those About to Rock end-to-end? Can’t remember? Then here’s what to do: crack open that blackengold gatefold, stand in front of the speakers and let its ten-track purity fire you back to simpler times. Sure, there are a couple of fillers, but with such stellar fare as Evil Walks, COD, Inject the Venom and Spellbound pressed into the wax, not to mention the triple A-grade quality of THAT title track, you’ve got a dead cert for a winter/Christmas playlist. Snowballed is even more of a seasonal bonus.

Before nominating a best-of-2014, what else has been going on?

Crippled Black Phoenix were in Oxford at the Cellar this month for a gig that was, sadly, a mite under-attended … by the band. To quote Commander Justin Greaves on this, the eve of a European tour:

‘You might have noticed we’re a couple short. The guitarist and bass player didn’t show up to rehearsals, they’re not here so … we’re gonna have to mix it up a bit. No guitar solos tonight. Well, not many.’ He introduces Arthur (?) on bass, who’s had to learn the songs in an afternoon.

Does it ruin the mood? Nah. I mean yeah, the solos are a soaring highlight when the Phoenix are in full flight (as they were at the Wheatsheaf a couple of years back) but, even without them, CBP’s modus operandi – expansive jams, Meddle-esque Floyd, Isis weight – is impossible to resist and a damn good show. Let’s hope they get everything resolved.

Right then. Best of 2014. It’s top 50 end-of-year mania in the real press, but we’re gonna cut that down by, I dunno, 47 or so, and mention a couple of highlights.

Earth: Primitive and Deadly. Mentioned this briefly <a title="REWIND<in the last Rewind so no need to witter further here. Immerse yourself.

Robert Plant and the Sensational Spaceshifters: Lullaby … and the Ceaseless Roar. The Spaceshifters’ time is now, as anyone who saw their Glastonbury or Glastonbury Abbey or BBC Maida Vale gigs knows – they’re in the zone and having a ball with their kaleidoscopic tapestry of the trad, the tripped and the trance via north Africa, north America, desert blues and, of course, Plant’s own sprawling roots and thirst for musical adventure. With a truly global spirit at work, they’ve grabbed Mighty Rearranger’s cross-culture essence and given it some serious float. Having read how the band put this record together, I bet there are hours of outtakes, loops, offcuts and jams that would be mindblowing … what do you reckon? Multi-disc Lullaby Sessions for 2015? We can but wish.

Time for our last 2014 highlight in this festive break.

Did someone say ‘season of good cheer’?

Hardly. Not with an album called Things Haven’t Gone Well. Not with track titles like Failure, It’s Not Going to Get Better, Hopelessness and Worthlessness, and everybody’s favourite Christmas knees-up, Tremendous Misery Sets In.

Welcome to Music Blues, the 2014 solo project by Harvey Milk’s Stephen Tanner.

Is he taking the piss with all that? Probably not. The album was written during times of personal crises and depression, but despite the none-more-bleak titles and the squalid cover art, there’s triumph and – dare we say – optimism in the widescreen wrecking-ball slams metered out by Tanner’s Harvey-heavy slo-mo instrumental surges. If the hugeness of Boris (the massive bonus track on Smile, say) and Melvins (Lysol) has you grinning with jaw-dropped loonacy, Music Blues will surely do the same.

Of course, there are bags of albums missed this year but so what? Can’t catch ’em all, there’s always next year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

AUDIOSCOPE 2014

Zero familiarity with any of this year’s line-up except New York’s junk electronic freakonauts Silver Apples means that Audioscope 2014 looks set to be a non-stop tale of the unexpected. Saturdays don’t get much better than this, and at 3.10 we see The Doomed Bird of Providence.

Let’s just repeat that name one more time: THE DOOMED BIRD OF PROVIDENCE.

Magnificent. Sounds like a bunch of Wheatsheaf-stained mantra-rock hairies, but they’re actually a septet of Oz/London (nick)cave-dwellers with a ramshackle line in Celt stomp and shanty swing. Take the hey-ho from Saint Nick’s Supernaturally, add a bit of Murder by Death and you might be somewhere near.

Earthling Society: with guitar trebled and wah-wahed to the max over blues-ish rhythm and cosmicspacerock keyboards, the Society open with their version of Alice Coltrane’s Journey in Satchidananda and pitch themselves as a quintessential Audioscope band. Better when they ditch the vocals and just rock out, you can see why they supported Julian Cope circa Dark Orgasm – there’s more than a whiff of the Archdrude’s back-then penchant for guitar excess, not to mention Brain Donor’s chasmic numbskullery.

After a swift pint down at the Bookbinders, we get ready for Wrangler.

Who?

WRANGLER.

Who?

Stephen Mallinder from Cabaret Voltaire.

Shit, really??? Seminal name #1 of Audioscope 2014 then, and Wrangler do NOT disappoint. Retro-futurist industrial beats, dirty synths and near-dalek vocals make for a seedy brand of heavy electronica that’s got the Cabaret creep but with added rock-band thrust. Loud and ballsy, we like this lot. We like this lot A LOT. Audioscope 2014 is most definitely hotting up.

You Are Wolf cool the mood, but that’s a compliment … we are, quite simply, powerless to resist. Nothing like the ‘Bjork-does-folk’ tag in the programme, singer Kerry Andrew cuts a quietly captivating presence and compels everyone to listen – as in, really listen. With her storyteller’s charm and made-on-the-spot loops, and the band’s sparse yet experimental folk backdrop, you enter a world in every song. For the last track, she persuades everyone to join in (‘You’ve got to sing or it’ll be rubbish!’) while the loops build and build. You Are Wolf: biggest surprise of the day.

Telescopes up next. Big contrast and, once the initial thrill of high volume passes, big boredom. Telescopes are definitely louder and less tuneful than imagined, but all that early promise gets pissed away in their interminable search for a magic moment. Probably because they went up their own arse to look for it.

But no matter, that’s the fun of the fair, right? Some you get, some you don’t. Now it’s past 8pm and seminal name #2 is in the room:

JONNY GREENWOOD!

No, I mean SILVER APPLES!

But Jonny Greenwood IS here, such is Silver Apples’ revered status as electronic rock pioneers from way out left. And while no-one would dispute the timeless legacy of SA’s junk-lab space throb, tonight’s show is, in truth, a tribute to a once mighty force. Reduced volume robs the music of its disorienting power and carousel madness, and the sight of a slight (but sprightly) Simeon – born in 1938, go work it out – at the helm is nearly as weird as the music he makes. Still, the always-awesome Oscillation burns a killer earworm back into the head, and the man Simeon appears in fine fettle. Cheers to that, to long life, and to the very existence of their otherworldly oddness.

After the good-natured but muted Silver Apples, and the endless-aimless Telescopes, we’re in need of an action shot.

Matt Elliott, of Third Eye Foundation, is … not the guy to do it. Sorry. Just too slow, quiet and acoustic for this hour of the day, and we’re in danger of flagging. The yawning starts. Need a sit down. Back aches a bit. Only three things can save us: a blinder from Public Service Broadcasting (I’m not confident), a mini mince pie from the merchandise stand, and a massive bag of chips.

Pie (mince) and chips (loads) duly scoffed, we are upright and awake. Can the headliners deliver? For some people, PBS are THE reason for coming to Audioscope 2014. For others – me included – Silver Apples are/were the no-brainer attraction, and the fact that the room has emptied somewhat since Simeon/The Simeon departed kinda proves the point.

Jonny Greenwood has vanished.

But all caution is unfounded because Public Service Broadcasting deliver exactly the right kind of energy with tight guitar/banjo licks running over danceable moto beats and, of course, their public service films whizzing past in the background. For most of the set, I watch the band – all two of them – and let the films pass by without too much attention. For the last track, I watch the film – about people climbing Everest – and find that the music scores the drama spot-on. Is this true of every track? I should watch again.

Whether their film-nerd shtick has longevity is another matter, but tonight, Public Service Broadcasting put smiles on faces and prove themselves well worthy of top billing. Nice one.

And so ends another eclectic Audioscope: brilliant, again. Raising good money for Shelter, again. Now excuse me while I go play Wrangler’s LA Spark CD. Again.

 

Audioscope reviews of 2013 and 2015 here, and Audioscope’s Music for a Good Home 3 CD

 

 

AUDIOSCOPE – Music for a Good Home 3

When you go to the Audioscope all-dayer and your eyes wander across the posters advertising Audioscope’s past, they soon snap into sharp focus at the names who’ve taken the closing slot over the years – names like:

Califone, Damo Suzuki (twice), Karma to Burn, Wire, Don Cabarello, Clinic, Deerhoof, Four Tet, Six By Seven.

Impressive, no? And that’s before you scan down to the other bands on those bills such as Arbouretum, Explosions in the Sky, Grumbling Fur, Nought and so on and on and on.

So while you marvel at that rock procession, you kick yourself for what you might have missed over the years. My big miss was NOT seeing Damo Suzuki in 2012, opting instead for an Oxford gig of ‘avant metal and free jazz, Black Sabbath meets Sun Ra’.

It wasn’t though. It was fucking earache. Attended by about 9 people. Worst of all, we couldn’t even leave because the venue was too small for a discreet exit: we were trapped. Trapped by metallic free jazz. By the set’s end, even the drummer sensed our escapist longing and rejected the band’s suggestion of an encore. SENSE PREVAILED. But he was overruled … and the band played on.

But let’s get back to the beauty of Audioscope. Once you get rid of the flashbacks and look around the event – now tucked upstairs at the Jericho Tavern – you again try and square it with the names on those posters.

How can an event that’s this unassuming, this low key, manage to bag bands of that stature year after year?

And yet, somehow, it does. That’s the magic. Punching well above its weight, Audioscope is surely the Bruce Lee of one-day festivals.

Now we have the latest Audioscope album, Music for a Good Home 3, and it’s an even bigger version of those live line-ups. A website link is on its way but first, check this for an opening one-two from the album:

Amon Tobin. John Parish.

Shit me, is that alone worth the price of entry or what??? Tobin’s cooling, gothic downbeats Twin-Peaking into Parish’s sliding Americana is as sublime a start as you could want, and it all ends 29 tracks later – yep, 31 tracks for a bargain 7 quid – with a ragged, 18-minute grope towards lo-fi salvation by Magik Markers, the spirit of Crazy Horse and Brain Donor infusing their tech-free reps.

Elsewhere on the record there’s a stack of goodness to digest. Grumbling Fur, Arbouretum’s David Heumann, Wolf People and Six by Seven count among the higher-profile bands, yet the pleasure of this expansive comp is unearthing the stuff you don’t know or haven’t heard. Karhide’s explosive chase/attack, Dirty Beaches’ beat-less drones and Barn Owl’s intense immersive swell are just a few new discoveries, for me at least, but that’s just the beginning. What about Danny Paul Grody’s timeless acoustic fingerpickings? Or Chrome Hoof’s eccentric precision metal?

Time to send you on your way, methinks – get the full listing for Audioscope: Music for a Good Home 3 right here and download the album. You’ll enrich your life and do your bit to help others too, because Audioscope’s proceeds go towards Shelter.

Then spread the word and tell your friends to buy it, ‘coz compilations this good really shouldn’t go unheard.

See Audioscope reviews for 2013, 2014 and 2015

PULLED APART BY HORSES: live, Art Bar Oxford, April 2014

Short, fast, sweaty and screamy. Four words that could mean anything (keep it to yourselves though, eh?) but here, in Oxford’s Art Bar, they mean only one thing – Pulled Apart By Horses are on stage and they’re scorchin’ it.

‘Was that you? Did you just catch him? Good one. That’s the only reason we do this, you know … to watch you lot. I mean, we really like playing but we love watching you lot.’

So sez guitarist James Brown after yet another bit of spectacular/drunken moshgymnastics takes the band’s pre-tour pledge ‘to get sweaty with you guys’ to new levels of body-slammin’ bonhomie. That’s what Pulled Apart By Horses do, see. Stoke the heat with their punk-edged multi-riff attack, flick a match and set the whole thing off. By the time V.E.N.O.M. sears the room three tracks in, it’s game over: PABH have won the night, somehow making everyone feel like they’re mates with the band. How? Is it the grounded banter? Or the jagged anthems and ferocious pace? Or the fact that the band are enjoying this every bit as much as we are, inviting the Art Bar mob to hang out and do some drinking after the gig?

It’s all of that. Pulled Apart By Horses sound viciously sharp on record but even then, you sense they can rip it up EVEN MORE when they nab a stage and have a few bodies to bounce off, and tonight proves it – they’re one of those bands you’ve just got to go and see live, simple as that. High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive is nuts, and when I Wanna Be Your Dog gets the Horses makeover ahead of a crowd-surfing ceiling-hanging finale from singer Tom Hudson, you can’t help thinking that Iggy himself would give ‘em the nod.

Riotous good fun and – most definitely – a real cool time.      

BEEHOOVER – live@Wheatsheaf, March 25 2014

‘We’ve got a new one for you … but mostly it’s the same old shit’.

That’s how Caravan of Whores introduce themselves on tonight’s Buried in Smoke event, but when it’s high grade no-messing-about shit dealt primarily from the Road to Kurti stash, there’s nowt to grumble about. New track Blackout (I think) fits the Caravan MO pretty damned well. Spacey bits are spacier, heavy bits are more chargin’ and apart from drummer Jamie losing a stick halfway through Your God is Dead, it’s a job well done.

Rising locals Undersmile are in no danger of such stick-losing accidents. That would be like driving a milk float up Shotover Hill and getting done for speeding – it just ain’t gonna happen. No, their mournful harmonies and so very very loud-and-slow anti-groove is a nightmare soundtrack pulled from the Khanate school of doom. It is relentless. Brief relief comes when they wind it up – yes, UP – to a mid-tempo hurtle past the finish line after some Godflesh-inspired menace.

Following Undersmile’s punishing slo-mo we get a total contrast: Beehoover. Shoeless, sockless drum-and-bass action from Germany and these guys don’t hold back. At no point does this sound like just two people. No way.

With bass amplified and no guitar to get in the way, you get echoes of that thick warm Kyuss woomph but it’s not fat, woozy or dusty … it’s superlean and shifting fast. No nod-outs or loose jams here. Ingmar Petersen plays bass like rhythm AND lead, with a progger’s itinerary of riffs, patterns and shifts. And the drums? Same full-on deal. Claus-Peter Hamisch seems to switch every time Petersen does, a joint lead attack that’s totally locked in. They play hard and give it everything, and the only band that really comes to mind with this kind of sound and set up is latter-day Melvins rhythm-meisters Coady Willis and Jared Warren, aka Big Business.

How Beehoover come across on CD I’ve yet to find – 2013 album The Devil and His Footmen didn’t arrive in time for the gig – but live, they’re tonnes fuller and more propulsive than on Exile on Mainstream’s Worship the Riff label sampler a few years back.

The one downside to this great line-up tonight is the attendance. Only partially filled at best, even that meagre crowd thins once Undersmile exit, and it’s criminal that bands as strong as this – and especially Beehoover – weren’t seen by a few more rock-loving bods.

 

 

 

 

 

CARAVAN OF WHORES – Road to Kurti

The Caravan rolls into Oxford this week to kick off a night of heaviness at the Wheatsheaf, supporting Undersmile and Beehoover, so it’s about time we snuck in a warm up for the Oxfordshire three-piece. Time to get on the Road … to Kurti.

And where does it lead?

To a four track, 30-minute nugget of doom-ish riffs and space trippin’ expansions, that’s where. I’ve been listening to this 2012 release loads since seeing them support Naam last year and at first, I thought the dooooomy-ness held sway. Sticky blackened riffs on Mr Bendyman and Your God is Dead are airless and sunshine free … Wino comes to mind (sort of), as does the cold-air essence of 80s Celtic Frost (sort of).

Oh, and so do four geezers (sorry Geezer) from the black country who unwittingly spawned this whole thing anyway. You know how Masters of Reality was the first Sabbath record to sound consistently just too slow, like your turntable was spinning a couple of revs under the magic 33? That’s where Road to Kurti’s riffs are pitched: leaden enough to lurch with a wee bit of drag, no doubt intoxicated by Into the Void’s daddy-of-them-all stoner spirit.

But what really elevates this EP is the stuff that isn’t riff-based. The stuff that breaks down and stretches out. Anyone who’s a sucker for those spacious head-nodding jams that cast off their earth shackles and make for some higher orbit – the cosmic side of Kyuss, Dead Meadow, Monster Magnet and the like – will find pure drifting satisfaction here.

Check the thick warm bass way up front in the mix on opener Drug Queen, then spend the next half hour wallowing in ego-less guitar (from the magnificently named John Slaymaker), dirgey riffs and some mightily hyperactive drum action which, after repeat plays, grabs your ears to the point that you’ll soon start having your favourite FILLS, never mind riffs (hello Mr Bendyman). And you don’t normally say that about drummers in so-called doom bands, which just shows how much more is going on here.

So then: Caravan of Whores. You wouldn’t name a taxi company after them, but as far as the psyche/prog end of doom or the dark side of the desert goes, they’re a name to call on. They deliver. Looking forward to the next batch of tunes, fellas.

BORIS / CHOUKOKU NO NIWA – More Echoes, Touching Air Landscape

One of the bestest buzzes when you’re raiding the racks of your favourite/local record shop is when you see something you didn’t know existed by one of your fave bands.

Cue More Echoes Touching Sir Landscape, spotted and then seized from the pre-loved (used) section in Oxford’s Truck Store.

Boris? THE Boris? Slug metal, psych drone, garage fuzz overlords from Japan?

Oh yeah. It’s them alright. The initial 1999 release date clues us in as to how they’re gonna reveal themselves on this split CD – I predict sloth and goo – and sure enough, Kanau Part I is 14 minutes of droning thrum that’s not so much a build up as a slow down: an adjuster. Part I slows the world so your clock runs to Boris time.

When Part II begins, it’s heavy as only Boris can be. Ludicrous. When a snaking colossus of a bass line announces the band’s arrival proper, they’ve got you – again. Coz when you’re up against such sheer fucking ENORMITY, what can you do but grin and give in?

The rest of Part II is Atsuo-dominated as his speed bash leaves all doom ‘n chug way back, pulling us fast through spacegun-zap psychedelia and classic riffage. Kanau might not be Feedbacker singular or Sun Baked Snow Cave extreme – it’s too up, too rock-out for that – but it IS Boris, breaking out of the pure-slow-heavy and well worth adding to your stash.

But while Boris are the big name draw here, Choukoku no Niwa are the big find.

Who?

Exactly. I have no idea and, tempting though it is to give in to the google god and revel in right-now certainty instead of savouring a little mystery, that’s the way it’ll stay. At least til we’re done here*.

So what do we get? 24 minutes of fluid long-form rock, that’s what. Tom toms and congas, rolling rhythms and a circular bass-riff – like Primal Scream’s Exterminator but with more sway, less menace – bring a thickened-up Can to mind while on-off guitars flow, moan and wail but never shriek. There’s no Acid Mothers frazzle or Mainliner blowout here. Groove – immersive and endless – is king.

 

BORIS/CHOUKOKU NO NIWA – More Echoes, Touching Air Landscape

Inoxia Records, 1999 (reissued 2006)

Choukoku no Niwa – Fukurou (24.07)

Boris – Kanau Part I and Part II (26.08)

 

*I looked. Briefly. But nothing useful came up …