Fascinating Things : Issue 62

in And the summer rolls in with it’s misery inducing mix of ridiculous heat and torrential rain, there’s quite a lot going on but frankly I can’t be bothered getting out of my sweat soaked chair to attend. Instead a ramble through some of the better things that have been sent my way in recent weeks…..

A current obsession is The Drones (no not the ones from Manchester 1976 but the Australian current band). Their recentish album “Feelin’ Kinda Free” manages to do what a lot of people cannot seem to deliver these days which is sound like nothing else that’s prowling around the ether at the moment. The exciting thing (and it takes a lot to get me excited these days) is their unique use of guitars to create new sounds and the adoption of some interesting dance flavoured rhythms on the album. Their back catalogue is equally fascinating and is worth investigating.

From Atlanta, Georgia Gringo Star  (it took a while to sink in with me but the relevance of the name becomes more apparent when you hear the music) have just signed with Nevado Music and have a new album called “The Sides And In Between” out on August 26th.  Pending that they have a single out called ‘Rotten’ which according to the promo:

“presents Gringo Star’s love for nostalgic sounds of rock in the style of The Kinks. Sat between The Shins’ folky twang and Tame Impala’s generosity on the reverb, the melody beautifully shines through the raw psychedelic finish.”

My immediate reaction on seeing the vid was it felt like the The Beatles to some extent, it may have been the Rickenbackers that sparked that thought, or maybe there’s a bit of Yardbirds in there somewhere. The forthcoming album, which I haven’t heard yet, is described elsewhere as a the bands own version of British invasion rock with the sounds of The Animals, Tame Impala and Buddy Holly. I get The Animals reference.

On our record label we have the excellent Bouquet of Dead Crows from sunny Cambridge, and they can seen working as the backing band for Gavin Chappell- Bates who has a single out on the back of his recent album. It is the opening track from the album “Church of Rock and Roll”. Sadly I don’t have a video or a soundcloud at this point but search him out on You Tube and you will see what he is up to.

Alternative electronic producer Dean Garcia, the man behind seminal alternative rock band Curve and electronic dream pop duo SPC ECO, has joined forces with Preston Maddox of post-punk noise-rock band Bloody Knives in a new project, called S T F U. Their debut LP ‘What We Want’, planned for release on July 29, is all about unfolding hypnotic loops that gradually progress to uptempo electronics, trip-hop laden beats, lush noise entwined with shimmering synths, and Maddox’s hazy trance-like vocals. Dreamy with a shoegaze backbone this is epic stuff.

Vogue Dots are Canadian and deliver moody, layered pop styled music…..comparisons with Beth Orton have been made, which means nothing to me, but it sounds nice….

Two years after releasing ‘Best-Selling Dreams’ to wide acclaim around the world, Novanta will soon release his new album “Hello We’re Not Enemies” on Seashell Records. The first single from this release is ‘Goðafoss’. Novanta is Manfredi Lamartina, a musician who is originally from Palermo but has been based in Milan for many years now. On this album, Novanta further evolves his sound, falling effortlessly between shoegaze, post-rock and electronica. Sounds like relentless euro-pop to me…..

Those lovely people at Acid Cosmonaut Records have shared a preview from the second album from DSW.  I got a serious 70s flashback when I heard it, pretty heavy blues rock with a metal undercurrent. Lots of wah-wah going on here….!

Wolves In The Throne Room  re-release their 2006 debut album “Diadem Of 12 Stars” through their own Artemisia Records on 17th June. . Its raw analog sound in many ways pays homage to the band’s varied influences: the harsh black metal of Norwegians Ulver and Emperor or their American counterparts Weakling and Ludicra, the monolithic heaviness of Neurosis and Swans, the sorrowful Funeral Doom of My Dying Bride and in places, the mournful goth of Dead Can Dance.  Described by guitarist Nathan Weaver as the rawest and most “punk” of their five full-length releases Diadem Of 12 Stars was recorded live to tape in Oakland by Tim Green. Joined in the studio by Jamie Myers (Hammers Of Misfortune, Sabbath Assembly) and Dino Sommese (Asunder. Dystopia), every song was recorded in one or two takes and the album was mixed without the aid of a computer. Originally released on a small DIY label and unavailable physically for many years, this reissued version has been carefully remastered by Jason Ward at Chicago Mastering Service. It’s intense stuff but worth the effort if you want a different take on the sub-genre.

After Ian Moss left Hamsters (Manchester)  in early 1981 the band continued with drummer Steve Middlehurst’s wife Tricia taking the vocalist position before she in turn left due to pregnancy . At this juncture , now down to a three piece, guitarist Bobby Williams became lead vocalist . Wayne Edwards found a studio in Middleton and the band was captured for posterity after explaining to the engineer they most definitely were not after a Wishbone Ash sound. Lo-fi, wonderfully cack-handed, and cocking a snook at the wider music world these three tracks are previously unreleased

 

 

 

 

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Heavenly Stones

Wolves In The Throne Room

Celestite

Artemisia Records

7th July 2014

Those of you who will be aware of the orchestral death metal ambience of Wolves in the Throne Room  will be both  familiar and surprised by this latest release from the band.

Celestite sees the band take a deeper excursion into the crystalline synthesizer-driven domains that have long intrigued them. With the aid of producer Randall Dunn, the band unearthed a hidden sound scape that is only loosely tethered to their usual sound, yet is still unmistakably the work of Wolves in the Throne Room.

WITTR_celestiteThe band says : “To make Celestite we delved into the subterranean sonics that are buried in the mix of Celestial Lineage. We isolated them, processed them and took this unearthed soundscape as our starting point. Upon this base we recorded an entirely new album. Some melodies from Celestial Lineage are recognisable, but these familiar sounds appear as ghosts, barely tethered to the original compositions. This new album is an unorthodox foray; a fully instrumental, experimental companion record to Celestial Lineage. We left some work undone with Celestial Lineage. The recording of that album in the Winter of 2011 was a monumental project for us personally, and the creative fire from those recording sessions was still burning. This recording process was an opportunity to journey into our own inner universe to complete that which needed to be completed.”

Paired once again with producer Randall Dunn (Earth, Sunn O))), Master Musicians Of Bukkake), Celestite came to fruition at Avast Studios and the band’s own Olympia-based studio Owl Lodge. While cloistered during the recording sessions they made use of a mammoth arsenal of crumbling vintage equipment including a Serge Modular System, Korg Poly6, Korg MS20, Korg Mono/Poly, Roland Juno 106, Roland Jupiter 6, Roland Super jx10, Jomox Airbase 99, Access Virus and more. The album also features a guest wind ensemble including friends Josiah Boothby on French Horn, Steve Moore (Earth, Sunn O))), Stebmo) on Trombone, and both Mara Winter and Veronica Dye on flute.

The upcoming release of Celestite is doubly exciting for them  as it will mark another new venture for the duo; the inaugural release on their own new label, Artemisia Records. The band states, “Artemisia Records is the imprint the we created to release Celestite and future albums. Most importantly for us, working on this album has revealed a whole new vein of creative energy for WITTR. Now that the long trip of creating this album is finished, our appetite is whetted for future projects, thus we feel it necessary to pre-empt the inevitable chatter that will accompany the release of this record. WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM has not permanently abandoned the guitar and drums! We sense that one day — perhaps sooner, perhaps later — we will be inspired to return to our stacks of amplifiers and cabinets to create new music.”

Since 2002, over the course of 4 studio albums and hundreds of live performances Wolves in the Throne Room have refracted the transcendent and mythic aspects of Black Metal through their own idiosyncratic approach. The resulting essence is music that is intimately linked to the wild lands of the Pacific Northwest of the USA.

The sonic variations displayed here offer potential new audiences for the band – the layers of guitar and synthesizer provide for a sound scape which emerges from it’s Black Metal roots in a blaze of anthemic ambience. As the title implies this is a meditative and inspirational collection of music which allows the listener time for quiet reflection and deep thought.

Recommended.

Photo credit Chris Beug
Photo credit Chris Beug

Baptists, Wolves and Pallbearers

Some tidbits of news that have come my way:

Little Rock, Arkansas doom metal band Pallbearer have completed work on their follow-up to 2012’s acclaimed “Sorrow and Extinction” LP. Entitled “Foundations Of Burden”, the new album sees the present-day doom metal giants create a more expansive, advanced, crushing, and emotionally charged album that takes everything to the next level beyond its predecessor. Musically, the album sees the band strengthen their monolithic melodious structures of doom that have become synonymous with their signature sound. All while incorporating a much more progressive and musically challenging element to their anthems which compliment the huge epic melodies and harmonics even moreso. Where “Sorrow and Extinction” expanded the foundation which Pallbearer laid down with their demo, “Foundations Of Burden” morphs itself into a glorious new vision that is without doubt their most engaging work yet. Recorded and mixed by Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Sleep, Agalloch, The Melvins etc.) at Type Foundry Studios in Portland, Oregon, it  will see its release (CD/LP/Digital) August 22nd in the EU and August 25th in the UK.

L-R Brett Campbell (vocals/guitar), Mark Lierly (drums), Joseph D. Rowland (bass/vocals), Devin Holt (guitars), photo credit Diana Lee Zadlo
L-R Brett Campbell (vocals/guitar), Mark Lierly (drums), Joseph D. Rowland (bass/vocals), Devin Holt (guitars), photo credit Diana Lee Zadlo

As Cascadian duo, Wolves In The Throne Room, prepares for the release of “Celestite” — the instrumental companion to their 2011 Celestial Lineage LP — I can offer a foretaste of the impending album with a stream of its magnum opus, “Celestite Mirror.” With over forty-five minutes of stunning, reworked versions of the powerful black metal anthems that surged on Celestial Lineage, on Celestite, the band takes a deeper excursion into the synthesizer-driven domains that have long intrigued them. With the aid of producer Randall Dunn, they unearthed a hidden soundscape that is only loosely tethered to their familiar sound, yet is still unmistakably the work of Wolves In The Throne Room. The scores of renowned sound-sculptors like Carpenter and Eno merge with the band’s Pacific Northwestern inspirations and through a literal wall of vintage synth gear, the previous album is here fully re-imagined and delivered on a parallel existence to its predecessor. The cover art visually enhances these expansive passages with an otherworldly forest vision, a collaboration created by Rachel Carns and WITTR’s Nathan Weaver. “Celestite Mirror,” the most extensive of Celestite’s works, is a nearly fifteen-minute excursion into exploratory soundscapes as vast and beautiful as the band’s surrounding woodlands.

Celestite will see release in the UK/EU on July 7th through the band’s own new label, Artemisia Records, with digipak CD, gatefold LP and digital download editions pending. Preorders are now available http://artemisiarecords.bandcamp.com/

While Celesite bears new “non-metal” and fully synth-based output, the album does not represent a “change in direction” for Wolves In The Throne Room as a whole.

Vancouver’s Baptists have completed work on their second full length, following their 2013 debut “Bushcraft”. Entitled “Bloodmines”, the album was recorded at Godcity Studios in Salem, Massachusetts with with Kurt Ballou – and shall be released via Southern Lord in the UK/EU in September. Like it’s predecessor, Bloodmines is a fast, exhilarating album of rage, oozing with genuine raw emotion and punk rock fury. Shards of feedback make way for fast powerful riffs and savage vocals, whilst explosive drumming pumps blood around the band’s beating heart. On album tracks like “Vistas”, “Calling” and the title track, “Bloodmines”, the pace changes, revealing powerful, almost anthemic, jagged noise rock songs (much like influential San Diego post-hardcore band Drive Like Jehu) which go beyond the two minute mark. Discordant guitar melodies and abrasive vocal passages are elongated, still volatile but perhaps allowing for further contemplation of the band’s underlying message. Not ones to rest on their laurels, Baptists have found new ways to express their rage and with Bloodmines they have created a memorable and commanding album.

As a taster here is a look at their recent Rain City sessions.

 

 

Some things to look out for……

I’ve been hiding away at a Lancashire match for the last four days and inevitably a lot of things have come in while i’ve been out getting frozen……so here’s a round up of stuff in no particular order……

Tara Jane O’Neil plays the Castle, Oldham Street, Manchester on June 9th – this is from her album “Where Shine New Lights” which is very good……

The Reads have a new album out – they were in my top 30 singles of 2013 with Galaxy Egg – the album is called “Lost At Sea” and comes out in June – the lead track is called “Spitting Feathers

The legendary BL’AST play Star and Garter, Manchester on 25th June and the similarly legendary POISON IDEA play the same venue on 12th August

Death To The Strange are releasing a final cut from their EP – the very moreish “Openshaw Blues”

Recommended albums which are out now or due soon…….

NOMEANSNO – DANCE OF THE HEADLESS BOURGEOISIE (WRONG RECORDS) – re-issue

OUGHT – MORE THAN ANY OTHER DAY (CONSTELLATION)

THEE SILVER MT ZION MEMORIAL ORCHESTRA – HANG ON TO EACH OTHER EP (CONSTELLATION)

RUDIMENTARY PENI – DEATH CHURCH (OUTER HIMALAYAN/SOUTHERN) – re-issue (I don’t think the mix is as good as the original but it’s still an essential album)

USA OUT OF VIETNAM – CRASHING DISEASES AND INCURABLE AIRPLANES (AURORA BOREALIS)

HISS TRACTS – SHORTWAVE NIGHTS (CONSTELLATION) – out 12th May

TORCH RUNNER – COMMITTED TO THE GROUND CD RELEASE (SOUTHERN LORD) – out 12th May

FRIEDEMANN – UHR VS ZEIT (EXILE ON MAINSTREAM) – out 19th May

STEPHEN O’MALLEY, OREN AMBARCHI & RANDALL DUNN – SHADE THEMES FROM KAIROS (DRAG CITY) – out 19th May

NIGHTFELL – THE LIVING EVER MOURN (SOUTHERN LORD) – out 26th May

BUZZ OSBORNE – THIS MACHINE KILLS ARTISTS (IPECAC) – out 2nd June

AMENRA – LIVE II (MY PROUD MOUNTAIN) – out 30th June

WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM – CELESTITE (ARTEMISIA RECORDS) – out 7th July

and finally BORLAND are back with a preview track from their forthcoming album Omar

 

The Weavers Answer

Wolves in the Throne Room

Celestial Lineage

Southern Lord

This arrived a couple of weeks back, and I was intending to get a review out fairly quick but I have been distracted by a veritable tidal wave of new material, however an opportunity to get this finished has emerged so here we go again.

And it’s a suitable soundtrack to the maudlin days of a  damp September greyness in suburbian Greater Mancunia (boundary commissioners notwithstanding)……and you have to some degree understand the history of this band to grasp what it is all about.

Before we start looking at the latest waxing  though I offer you the broad synopsis that this manages to merge black  metal (of the doom variety) with folk, post-rock, ambient and a touch of psychedelia. So I thought I would wade through the back catalogue and do a sort of overview thingy.

Anyway, before we go any further here is the promotional  history lesson for those of you not aware of this band….and I quote…..

“During the Summer of 2002 at an Earth First rendezvous in the Cascade mountains of Washington State, guitarist Nathan Weaver was inspired to create a band that merged a Cascadian eco-spiritual awareness with the misanthropic Norwegian eruptions of the 90’s. Themes of ancientness, apocalypse, connection to place and the struggle to find meaning and spirituality in a mechanical and materialistic world would be woven together in a singular alchemy.”

(…..a slight intejection here for those not grasping the exact meaning of this peroration….in essence the band is attempting to merge folk forms with black metal of the scandanavian ik…….)

“In the spring of 2004, Nathan and his brother, drummer Aaron Weaver, moved to a dilapidated farmstead on the outskirts of Olympia, WA. The creation of their farm-stronghold, called Calliope, would be intrinsically linked to the development of Wolves in the Throne Room. It was during the first long, dark winter living in the collapsed farmhouse at Calliope that the band developed their trance-inducing sound and solidified the burning intent that would animate the band’s music.”

“Since that time Wolves in the Throne Room have become one of the most important and highly regarded bands in extreme music. Over the course of 3 studio albums and hundreds of live performances the band has slowly boiled away the prima materia of Black Metal to distill a unique essence. The transmutation reaches a new level with the completion of Celestial Lineage the clans’ new Astral Black Metal document. In contrast to the bleakly hypnotic architecture of 2008’s Black Cascade, Celestial Lineage expands into a more expansive and visionary territory. The band’s trademark long-form approach to arrangement remains intact, but there is a stronger thread of Popul Vuh-inspired underworld synthscapes and star-lit pulse woven with the intertwining guitar figures.”

“Although it is obviously inspired by European Black Metal, Wolves in the Throne Room create music that is intensely local in its orientation. Certainly, Celestial Lineage is a manifestation of the northwestern landscape, but it also arises out of an underground West Coast tradition formed by successive generations of psychic crusaders: Theosophists, beatniks, the Grateful Dead, Neurosis, the back-to-the-land movement, satanic hippies, tree-spiking anarchist punks. Aaron and Nathan Weaver, the duo behind Wolves in the Throne Room, refract the transcendent and mythic aspects of Emperor and Burzum through this idiosyncratic Cascadian prism. The resulting music invokes a misty dream world. Rain drenched specters looming at the edge of the wood. Echoes from the Astral Plane. Ancient cedar deities robed in moss. A glimpse of a bronze-domed temple among the firs.”

“Celestial Lineage was written and recorded over the course of the first six months of 2011. The Weaver brothers worked with Producer/mystic Randall Dunn (Earth, Boris, SUNN 0))), Cave Singers, Bjork/Omar Souleyman), with whom the band has developed a close relationship since their first collaboration on 2007’s Two Hunters. 3 songs are bejeweled by Jessika Kenney’s liturgical choir and solo voice. Aaron Turner (ISIS) also contributes orations to the maelstrom.”

“The band has said that it is the final record in a trilogy that began with Two Hunters. Syncronistically, It is also the last record that will be recorded at Randall Dunn’s storied Aleph studio, which has been the birthplace of scores of groundbreaking records over the past 10 years.”

“For this release, the band enlisted photographer Ali Scarpulla to create dimension-bending images in the Olympic mountains and around band’s Olympia stronghold. In keeping with the band’s aesthetic, Scarpulla relies on unorthodox analog techniques.”

“The band will begin a series of tours on September 1st. In the US, they will travel with their own PA system thus enabling them to perform in warehouses, groves and collapsed barns rather than the well-worn circuit of clubs and bars. Tours of other continents will follow.”

The discography to date is……

  • Demo  (2004) – extreme in a very intense way – a mad mixture of wall of sound percussion and guitars drenched in riffs with scabrous vocalising – I guess what this sets this apart from the Norwegian lot is the vocals tend to be relatively easy to decipher – and the guitar work leans towards the more complex with some post-rock tropes creeping in once in a while between the scary stuff.
  • Diadem of 12 stars (2006) – the first album proper and the one which got Southern Lord interested. The opening “Queen of the Borrowed Light” is a fascinating blend of wall of fuzz, near melodic riffing and vocal excess -as is the developing motif with the band it is long, one of only four tracks on the album, and it features relatively quieter break out sections where Rick Dahlin and Nathan get into some serious arpeggiating. There is real orchestral feel to this – noting it’s only two guitars and a drummer – implying the use of some pretty mean pedals given the density of the riff-age. The middle two tracks are parts 1 and 2 of the very excellent “Face in the Night Time Mirror” part 1 of which initially adopts a traditional vocal approach among a riot of fuzzed up wonderment juxtaposed with elegiac acoustic strumming, post-rock passages, and then eventually some serious throat damaging howling.  There are elements of part 1 which become so intense as to be categorized as noise rather than metal. Part 2 is just as unforgiving and batters you senseless for the first three minutes before getting into a more complex structural development. The closing 2o minute epic title track lumbers along like a steam driven leviathan and then switches to a more ambient and relaxed section before descending once more into the maelstrom.
  • Two Hunters (2007) the following year saw the first “proper” Southern Lord release – retaining the same line-up of the Weaver Brothers and Dahlin it also featured vocals from Jessika Kenney on tracks 3 and 4. There is definately a more ambient feel to the opening “Dia Arto” which would not be out of place on a post-rock/shoegaze album with its’ layered symphonic guitars – it is also relatively short for a WITT tune at just under six minutes. After that we are back into the tense, dynamic and laminal world of the band. It moves on as an album from “Diadem”  as evidenced by the reflective ambience at the opening of “Cleansing” which has echoes of religious music/plainsong at its heart. The closing track “I will lay down my bones among the rocks and roots” also commences in a relaxed fashion with sparse chords before moving quickly into an all out assault on the senses.
  • Live at Roadburn 2008 (2009) adds Will Lindsay on bass (who would later replace Dahlin for studio work) for a live recording featuring tracks from “Diadem” and “Two Hunters” – a good album to reflect upon how the band deliver the studio recordings in a live session.
  • Malevolent Grain (2009) – A two track vinyl release which acted as an hors d’ouevre for the “Black Cascade” album – consisting of the martial “A looming resonance” with guest vocals from Jamie Myers (of Hammers of Misfortune) which is relatively melodic for WITT. A lengthy tune which descends into a cacophony of white noise and ambient replication in the last three minutes. As a complete contrast the menacing “Hate Crystal” is brutal and unforgiving.
  • Black Cascade (2009) – Nathan’s screams are more to the fore on this recording which is as unforgiving and intense as the groups previous outings. There is definately a developing dynamic with the band which delivers a trancey slow beat under the howling Weaver.
Which leads us nicely into Celestial Lineage, which I have to say is a bit of a belter…..
  • Thuja Magus Imperium – orchestral waves of sound, choral vocalising and modal guitar noodling lull one into a false sense of security – after about 3 minutes the aural assault starts with a gloriously scabrous vocal and then oft repeated guitar figures over manic bubbling drums…..god help the bass drum as it is getting a serious hammering on this track – the wah-wah pedal comes into its own as this beast of a thing lumbers forward like some huge siege engine attacking the walls of your consciousness. What is fascinating is the pink/white noise coming in around the percussion and its distance from the guitars. Seven minutes in the angelic voices and ambient tinkling returns albeit with a brooding menace underlying it…..Fripp like guitar tones descend venomously over this sound-scape to create a post-rock type section which is soon interfered with by the return of the scorched earth vox. The extended coda takes the drums down into a seaside reverie.
  • Permanent Changes in Consciousness – -one of two short (for WITTR) pieces (less than three minutes) on the album. Almost like an outtake from some strange chanting ritual at a monastery…… a repeated sample of something scraped across metal nestles amongst layers of overlapping sound…
  • Subterranean Initiation – dense,  unforgiving,  claustrophobic and utterly marvellous – just over seven minutes of unrelenting guitar distress and percussive maltreatment.
  • Rainbow Illness – the other short piece which is packed with ambient layers and a throbbing insistent bass pulse and a series of emerging sounds….
  • Woodland Cathedral – the birds sing and the guitars roll in over tinkling bells – the album is characterised by big chords making orchestral statements and this is perhaps the most obvious rendition. Jessika adds the “liturgical” vocal presence as towers of guitars teeter precariously over something almost like a church organ but not quite. There is something almost Stockhausen-esque about this – it reminds me of the “Licht” operas in parts, but a touch of Rose Kemp comes through as well.
  • Astral Blood – probably the most “rock” thing on the album, or the closest thing to what might be perceived as mainstream rock,  in that there is a riff of sorts and the drums take a mid-tempo pace – searing second guitar lines add more flavour until the “dark lord” vocals roll in creating another fascinating listening experience.  The closing three minutes are a glorious evocation of the power of rock music to create a sense of wonder with  glorious and triumphal riffs leading to an almost GSYBE conclusion.
  • Prayer of Transformation- a church bell tolls, heavily fuzzed guitars surge, there is a lot of sustain being applied here and I wondered if an E-Bow was bring utilised. The album concludes as it began with a slow, almost painfully so,  paced one beat per two bar march which then develops into another cinematic wall of vibrating guitars and vocals. There is some intent to make the drums a little more coherent in the mix and drive the track. Not sure what is being transformed into what but you definitely get a sense of some sort of metamorphosis.

If you like doom/drone and post-rock then you will love this album. It does seem to form a logical conclusion to the string of previous releases an begs the question where the Weaver brothers are going next.

They play Islington Mill, Salford on 28th October