Monday, July 09, 2007

Blastitude Gives Holy Mountain the Full Treatment.

The not easily impressed spares some kind words for all the latest and greatest releases on the Holy Mountain label.
Full online article.

An Unholy Fountain of CD Albums From HOLY MOUNTAIN
That's right, so far in 2007, Blastitude HQ has received SEVEN brand new CDs from the Portland, Oregon based Holy Mountain label. I could be totally predictable and say that the best one of the bunch is the s/t by Blues Control, because everybody loves Blues Control, and it is another goddamn good album by them. It's not as perfect as Puff, of course, but that's a good thing, because not having to be perfect allows the band to goof around a little, have fun, change things up. Not only are they are able to open this self-titled album with the self-titled title-track "Blues Control," a 2-minute broken/stupid distorto bass and drum sample groove with absurd imitation-talk-box fog-vocals, they are able to follow that goofery up with one of their finest works ever, the languid and utterly pleasant instrumental murk-pop of "Boiled Peanuts," a perfect '2nd album' lead-off single. (See the band's MySpace page for other 'singles' and 'B-sides.') They're having so much fun on this album that they not only title a song "The Blue Sheep," they make it sound like the kind of keyboard-led cheese sandwich that someone would sing karaoke over at a restaurant/bar actually called The Blue Sheep -- and it's still a killer psych track. "Frankie's Problem" shows up again, maybe or maybe not the same version that was their MySpace 'debut single' and/or on their first cassette. Is this song gonna follow 'em around forever? Has it always had those insane clocktower bells in it? And just when you think they've tried everything, along comes album-closer "No Sweat," a 9-minute multi-suite epic in which they try everything else, complete with surprise two-minute astro space drums coda. So yes, out of all these new Holy Mountain releases, Blues Control covers the most ground -- but it's the self-titled disc by White Lichens that digs the deepest. This band is the Chicago trio collabo between Lichens, the heavy drony solo guise of Robert A.A. Lowe, and White Light, the absurdly heavy drone duo of Matt Clark and Jeremy Lemos. Not that the results are summarily heavy on this disc -- the musicians are smart enough to pull back a little and let the bombs detonate in slow motion. Take the moment from the track "Stolas, or Stolos" (don't ask, they're all named after demons from an occult book, with entire pages reproduced for the track listing) when, after almost a minute of huge silence, someone plays a chilling and crawling slide guitar riff that kinda makes the whole album all by itself as a sort of centerpoint, a locus of control for everything before and after. Too bad the track is only 4 minutes long, but at least opener "Cimejes, or Simeies, or Kimaris" and closer "Bael" are both well over the 15-minute mark, and both made up of exquisite low amp burn tone blend, with more where that came from..... And for a whole different way of mining the vein of extended heavy rock jamming, there's the Zodiacs and their album Gone, so raw-fi and obvious in its lack of pre-composed music that at first I was surprised that an actual label released it. But on my second listen, I could no longer deny that what the guitar and organ were doing had some serious burn/fire/damage metaphorical capability. The sound is basically maxed-out biker blues and who cares if the players (James "Wooden Wand" Toth, Keith "Hush Arbors" Wood, Clay "Davenport" Ruby) actually ride motorcycles or not, there is metaphorical motor acid in this music and it will fuck you up when you metaphorically drink it..... The Shining Path (San Diego, CA) and La Otracina (Brooklyn, NY) have also served up albums of fried and heavy mega-extended jams for Holy Mountain this year, but where Zodiacs come at it from 'biker rock' these two are more 'krautrock' and 'fusion prog', respectively. The Shining Path are the "rock" guise of the experimental duo Monosov/Swirnoff (who have records on Eclipse), and from the experimental world they import a lot of twisting thickets of strange electronics. Of course it's mostly backed up by plenty of pedal-to-the-floor highway-star drumming, because this is a "rock" project. That's why the LP edition also comes with a free copy of the CD inside, because "it's what you'll want to listen to wielding a golf club with your upper body outside the sunroof of your car as you steer with your feet." Their music does fly the freak flag, with memorably loud electronic settings driven by various rockin' beats, edited into five or so medium/long crusher/scorchers, no problem there -- it just errs on the side of 'great sounds, no songs', without the frothing commitment of the Zodiacs. La Otracina, on the other hand, have got the sounds, songs, and the froth, and they've really gone for something massive with their album Tonal Ellipse of the One. Not only is it far more composed than the Zodiacs and Shining Path CDs, it's composed in an extended/exploded 'fusion jazz' sense that ends up being just as wrecked. These five long tracks are credited to the duo of Adam Kriney on drums and Tyler Nolan on guitar and bass. They are joined on every track by Ninni Morgia on guitar (if I'm understanding this interview correctly, his parts were overdubbed later), and a couple other musicians on a couple other tracks, but it all really rolls together as one constant duo/trio prog jam, with the band taking great care to develop its transitions, and also willing to play around with some rather thrilling Teo Macero-style edits. Nolan's bugged-out heavy echo-bass guitar plays slowed-down Keith Emerson riffs that grow into melodic-prog drool crescendos, which Morgia wails over like some sort of wild Richard Pinhas Jr on a made-for-cable film soundtrack. Meanwhile, Kriney bats it all along with unflagging fiery-muso free-jazz drum accompaniment, and it builds and builds into a big oceanic bubblebath of prog excess with appropriate titles like "Nine Times The Color Red Explodes Like Heated Blood" and "Sailor of the Salvian Seas," and I'm telling you, it all really grows on you. 3rd best of the batch, to say the least.... and two more to go, both in a more classic song-based style: Mammatus with some progressive hard rock songwriting from the Santa Cruz scene, and DJ Cherrystones, aka Gareth Godard of London England, with a DJ mix of various bad-ass pop/prog/psych eclecticities from the last 30 years. These are both very enjoyable albums, though The Coast Explodes, the second album by Mammatus, did take a couple listens to grow on me. At first I was comparing 'em to their wild and loose neighbors Comets on Fire and Residual Echoes, and they sounded a little stiff to me, their long and weighty compositions requiring more rigor and patience than I expected. But pretty soon I caught on to the intelligent intricacy of their songs, and how they balanced it with a steady beach-stoner rock undertone that stoked the familiar. And finally, as you may have guessed, the Cherrystones Word compilation by DJ Cherrystones is tons of fun. His liner notes are great fan testimony, like when he talks about playing some Lard Free during one of his sets and making the on-tour Wolf Eyes guys do double takes. There are also lovingly selected tracks on here by Dead Moon, The Deviants, Chrome, Nosferatu, 1980s George Brigman (just to prove that it's as good as 1970s George Brigman), and other epic progressive bands that I've totally never heard of before, like Fusioon, Roger C. Reale & Rue Morgue, Kontakt Mikrofoon Orkest.... you get the idea. Hot stuff from one record lover to many others, and the same goes for all of this generous fountain from the Mountain. (And for some more Holy Mountain-related record love, i.e. fan testimony, dig all the 'playlist' style record reviews Mr. HM has been posting in the "news" section over at

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